Tongue Wagger - Lone Wolfe Protector by Kaylie NewellWelcome to Wolfe Creek. My name is Ara. I live in Wolfe Creek. I am known as Aunt A. There is a story behind that. There are many stories in Wolfe Creek — some of them are sad, some funny. Some of them are stories of madness, of violence. Some are ordinary. Yet they all have about them a sense of mystery — the mystery of life. Sometimes, the mystery of death. The mystery of the woods. The woods surrounding Wolfe Creek. To introduce this story, let me just say it encompasses the All — it is beyond the “Fire”, though few would know that meaning. It is a story of many, but begins with one — and I knew someone who knew her. The one leading to the many is Aimee Styles. Aimee is the one.

Okay so I stole and adapted that from Twin Peaks but that is exactly the feel I had reading Kaylie Newell’s Lone Wolfe Protector. It took me back to the days when I first began watching Twin Peaks. The entire small slightly creepy things going bump in the night. The cast of characters that come and go, leaving you constantly wondering who is and who isn’t suspicious–making everyone suspicious. And the entire where in the Biebers is Aimee Styles?! If this isn’t a mystery for Dale Cooper there never has been one. ~ Sorry Koda Wolfe, but Agent Cooper and I share an appreciation for coffee and cherry pie. That trumps the strong, silent, protective deputy type. 

This is a mystery, but I’m also sorta hanging a horror-suspense tag on it because there is a very dark shadow over this entire book. It’s not a real jump out and rip your spine out of you terrifying, more of a edge of your seat, you know something is coming thing. I won’t talk much about the reveal although I’m sure that by the time the genre labeling, tagging and the Goodreads shelving begins a lot of the mystique will be gone. I will say that as the story unfolded I was on board throughout the current events of the present time; all the things Maggie was discovering about Aimee’s case was interesting. But it felt that the story of Maggie in Wolfe Creek is looking for answers is overshadowed by the flashbacks which are outstanding and the pacing of those flashback is brilliant. All of that was so well-done psychologically I really didn’t like what the book was suggesting regarding the mystery. I really would have prefered if it were a non-fantastical solution. I never say that. I like the fantastical. I just think it would have worked better for the breadcrumbs to have been Jelly Bellies. SURPRISE! It’s not skin cancer! You are drunk.

I don’t know what to recommend as a book but I do recommend Twin Peaks the TV series–season one is fantastic sticks. Season two has David Duchovny in a dress. Fire Walk with Me is really interesting… Sherilyn Fenn is replaced by Moira Kelly as the character Audrey Horne. I had a huge girl crush on Moira Kelly back in the day.

 

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Lone Wolfe Protector Excerpt:

 

The woman, Ara, judging by her name tag, continued undeterred. “We’re happy to have you, honey.” Her curly brown hair was threaded with gray. Her large breasts and plump waist met somewhere in the middle underneath a soft, denim jumper. Grandmotherly. That’s the word that came to Maggie’s mind.

“You’ll unfortunately have to share the main bath, which is down the hall from your room. Is that okay? It’s stocked with plenty of essentials, towels, shampoo and whatnot.”

Maggie signed the debit-card receipt without looking up. “Share with whom?”

“Other guests. And we have a couple of boarders like you, staying on for the next few months.”

“Perfect,” she said, leaning down to pick up the suitcase.

“Your room is upstairs. Second on the left. Jim will carry in the rest of your bags. Just holler if you need anything, okay?”

“Thank you.” Without looking back, Maggie trudged up the spiraling staircase, glancing at the black-and-white photographs on the way up.

The place was old. Actually, old was an understatement.

From what Maggie had found on the internet, she knew The Wolfe Creek Inn had been built in 1883, and had been a working hotel for most of a century. The interior, although it had no doubt seen face-lifts throughout the decades, probably looked much like it had when it first opened. The furnishings were old fashioned, but in good shape; red velvet couches, heavy draperies with gold embroidery, and huge oriental rugs with elaborate designs woven throughout. The hotel was beautiful. Authentic. It even smelled old, in that pleasant, antique-y kind of way.

Hauling the suitcase up another step, Maggie examined the photographs to her left a little closer. Like the hotel itself, they were ancient. Most were pictures of people in turn of the century clothing. Women in long dresses and high, lacy collars. Men in dark suits with beat-up hats pushed high on their foreheads.

But some were less ordinary. And those were the ones that made her balance the suitcase on the step below and lean in to get a better look. Native Americans. Women in elaborate animal-skin wraps, men with feathers hanging from thick braids, half-naked children staring at the camera, wise beyond their years. Maggie looked up at a larger photo in a tarnished silver frame. In it was a young Indian woman wearing a beaded dress. At her side was a handsome white man in an equally fancy suit. His eyes were pale and came across as almost white in the colorless picture. It was obviously a wedding portrait.

And something about it gave her the chills.
“Like what you see?”
Startled, Maggie turned. A tall man stood at the top

of the stairs watching her. He leaned casually against the

wall with his hands in his pockets. Her first reaction was of stunned silence. Native American, and beautiful, if that was the right word. Smooth, olive skin. Shoulder-length black hair that caught the fading light of day through the window behind him. His cheekbones were high and pronounced, his eyes, dark and cutting.

She stood there with her mouth open, before remembering to snap it shut again. She didn’t trust men. And certainly not any men in this Podunk town.

“Excuse me?”

He smiled, an unmistakable arrogance gracing his wide mouth. “Those are my great-great grandparents you’re looking at. Good ol’ Gran and Gramps.”

“So?”

“So, you just looked curious, that’s all.” He took a step down, hands still in his pockets. “I could answer any questions you might have. Any at all.”

“No, thanks.” You could always ask him where he was that night a year ago, Maggie.

He continued down the steps, an odd mixture of grace and masculinity. When he brushed by, she caught the scent of the woods, cologne, tobacco, and something else she couldn’t quite place, but that made her entire body tense just the same.

“You let me know if you change your mind,” he said. “I’m in and out of here quite a bit.”

“I’ll do that,” Maggie said grabbing her suitcase. She climbed a few steps before turning around, but he was already gone. Apparently he was not only exceptionally good-looking, but also very quick. She wouldn’t have been able to make it down the stairs in half that time. But then

again, he wasn’t hauling half his closet in a box, either. She narrowed her eyes toward the bottom of the staircase where he should have been, before turning around to head to her room.

Maggie didn’t sleep well, but that was nothing new. Bad dreams plagued her all night long, but when she woke to the precarious light of dawn, she couldn’t remember any of them. They’d vanished like mist over a lake, only their disturbing effects lingering.

She sat up in bed and looked around. The room, like the rest of the Inn, was old fashioned. An antique mirror hung above the dark wood dresser, and several photographs of the hotel itself graced the walls that were painted a cheerful butter yellow. It was chilly, despite the elderly furnace’s efforts to warm the place up. It creaked and popped in the corner as Maggie pulled the white eyelet bedspread up to her chest.

Today was the day. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Now that she was here, she wasn’t entirely convinced she’d made the right decision. But there was no turning back now. She had no idea where to start, but she wasn’t going to leave this place without some answers. She needed them. To move on. To let go.

Throwing back the covers, she hopped across the frigid hardwood floor to her suitcases. Later today, she’d unpack. Get relatively comfortable in the room. But for now, she just wanted a hot shower and a cup of coffee. Grabbing a sweatshirt and some jeans, she made a beeline to the

bathroom down the hall. Not in the mood to meet any other guests or compete for bathroom time for that matter, she was relieved when she didn’t come across anyone else. She showered and dressed quickly, not bothering to dry her hair, and headed downstairs.

A chipper Ara stood behind the counter again. Honestly, everything about this woman seemed genuine. Not that it mattered to Maggie, of course.

“Good morning. Did you sleep well?”

“Okay,” Maggie said. “But I usually don’t sleep great wherever I am.” She shrugged, eager to change the subject. “Do you have any recommendations for breakfast?”

“The Arrowhead Café is very good. They serve comfort food and the likes.”

“Where is it?”

“Back down that way about a block and a half. You can’t miss it. Big sign. Lots of pickup trucks out front.”

Lots of pickup trucks. Could this place get any more Deliverance?

Ara eyed Maggie’s wet hair. “You’ll need a jacket, honey. It’s cold out.”

“I’m okay, thanks.” Maggie walked out, catching the screen door before it slammed.

Gritting her teeth, she dug her hands into her jean pockets. Crap. It was cold. But she’d rather sit on hot coals than go back and get a jacket, or admit she was wrong to anyone. Even sweet Ara, whom she’d really wanted to hug this morning, in spite of herself.

She walked down the side of the road with her chin tucked into her chest. Her damp curls lay against the back of her neck like a wet blanket, and she had to work to keep

her teeth from chattering. A pile of leaves burned nearby, and the smoke stung the inside of her nose.

Making her way to the café, she kicked up clouds of dirt with her sneakers, and wondered what Aimee would have thought about all this. She had a pretty good idea. She’d think Maggie was nuts, just like everyone else. Who else would quit their job and take every penny of their savings to embark on a wild goose chase that had a very good chance of ending no better than it began? Margaret Sullivan, that’s who. Maggie imagined her mother spouting off this last sentence in her most jaunty St. Paddy’s Day voice.

Looking up, Maggie studied the mostly deserted main road through town. It was still fairly early, but shouldn’t there be people out walking? Driving to work? Her footsteps punctuated the strange silence, but did nothing to ease the chills that had popped up along her arms. In fact, her skin prickled everywhere and she shuddered. Slowing, she looked over her shoulder. Nobody.

But the sudden feeling of someone watching had taken hold. The fact that she couldn’t see anyone didn’t matter. She felt them. She glanced at the shrubbery to her left, which as far as she could tell, led straight into the forest. It was dark and wet, with drops of condensation spattering steadily on the blanket of dead leaves below.

“Hello?”

Her voice didn’t sound like her own. Anxiety laced it like poison. It was hard to believe there’d actually been a time when she hadn’t been scared of her own shadow. But things had changed a year ago. She’d changed.

She stood there a second longer, staring into the bushes as if they were going to come alive or reveal a secret only

she would be privy to. Still nothing.
Taking a small step away, and then another, she had to

resist the urge to turn and break into a run.
When Maggie finally got to the café, three blocks over,

her heart had slowed to a normal rhythm again. Looking around, she made a mental note that Ara seemed to be right about a lot of things. The temperature being only one. The parking lot was full of trucks; four-by-fours, twin cabs, lifted, lowered, you name it. The only thing they all had in common was a thick layer of mud coating their oversize tires. And over the mud, a layer of dust, as if the hillbilly fairies had sprinkled it there in afterthought.

So this is where everyone is. Apparently breakfast was an important social event in Wolfe Creek. Bracing herself, Maggie walked in the front door.

Every soul in the café stopped and looked up. After a few uncomfortable seconds, a pretty waitress smiled and gestured toward a table in the corner. “Have a seat.”

Maggie made her way across the room, doing her best to ignore the stares that followed.

She sat and scooted the chair up to the table, where a dog-eared paper menu lay open as if waiting for her to arrive.

“Hi there.”

Looking up, Maggie realized she’d been wrong. The waitress wasn’t pretty. She was absolutely stunning. Her uniform screamed early eighties with its pink collar and matching apron. Ample breasts pushed at the fabric, the buttons looking strained from the considerable duty of holding them in. She wore several gold chains, heavy dangly earrings, and a generous amount of makeup. Her short,

strawberry-blond hair was teased and sprayed, and looked more like a wig than anything else.

“I’ll be your server this morning, hon. My name’s Candi. Can I get you started with some coffee?”

“Please.”
“Coming right up.”
She walked behind the counter, hips swinging like the

pendulum on a grandfather clock. Maggie had always been slender, boyish, and she crossed her arms over her chest self- consciously.

When Candi came back, she set the coffee down, leaned against the table, and eyed Maggie through blue-tinted mascara. “Don’t think I’ve seen you around before. Just passing through?”

Maggie took a sip and burned her tongue. Swearing inwardly, she set the coffee back down and wondered how much she should reveal about her stay in Wolfe Creek right off the bat. This was a small town. People would talk when they found out who she was and why she was here. But they’d find out soon enough, anyway.

“Nope. I’ll be here a while.”
“Where are you staying?”
Maggie looked up and saw Candi’s cheerful smile.

Probably just curious, like most people in a town this size would be. If Maggie wanted answers, she was going to have to talk. Ask questions. Gain some trust. Maybe Candi would be a good place to start. “The Wolfe Creek Inn.”

“Ah,” she said. “Where are you from?”

Suddenly cold, Maggie wrapped her hands around the steaming cup of coffee. “Seattle, originally. My family moved to Portland when I was two.”

“Have you ever been to our neck of the woods before?”

Maggie’s throat constricted like it always did when she thought of her one and only visit to Wolfe Creek. “I have. Last year, as a matter of fact.”

“Last year?”
Maggie nodded.
“When last year?” If Candi meant to push, it wasn’t

obvious. She still wore an amiable expression that Maggie couldn’t help but warm to.

“Last fall. October.”

Candi’s smile faded. And for the first time Maggie noticed the fine lines around her green eyes. “When last October?”

“Right before Halloween. October thirtieth.”

Candi didn’t say a word. Instant recognition lit her face. She knew who Maggie was.

And her reason for being in town.

Copyright © 2014 by Kaylie Newell. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

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Reader, writer, gamer, nerd, and kpop lover; Ms. Ali Cat lives deep in her own imagination within the grand city limits of San Diego, CA. A proponent of afternoon naps, kitten cuddles, and hashtags, she will be voting: #COFFEFFORPOSITIVECHANGE in the next presidential election.
Tongue Wagger – Lone Wolfe Protector by Kaylie Newell
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