Valley of Tears
Swann Saga - Book One
Steve Swann wants a corporate promotion. His wife, Maria, wants space to roam with her pets and to raise their twelve-year-old daughter. The little valley town of Altinoma seems the perfect solution to pursue this idyllic lifestyle until their serenity is shaken when desecrations are found. Life quickly becomes more frightening than nightmares. Within the mountain peaks and woods that surround their new home, an evil lurks, and waits for the time to strike. Young girls begin to vanish. While trying to protect his daughter, Renee, Steve begins his own investigation as each contact with "neighbors" proves to be as alarming as his confrontations with Altinoma's movers and shakers, all forces that could destroy his family.
Who is behind the strange circumstances taking place in this isolated valley? What is behind the disappearances? The answers lead the Swanns on a rollercoaster ride into hidden secrets that infest the not-so-peaceful valley populous. Steve discovers too late that his family has been uniquely imprisoned. They have been chosen to play a pre-defined role in a tale of evil and madness.
Enter this world of impenetrable danger where the truth carries a high price: sexual slavery and death.
Suspense/Thriller novelist J. Troy Seate doesn't simply slip into the genre with his new novel Valley of Tears, he creates a disturbing, yet satisfying impact that will ripple shock waves for some time. Compelling, riddled with subplots, treachery, secrecy, and betrayals, Seate's novel rings with an air of suspense, surprises, and unexpected twists. Wonderfully spooky and spellbinding, Seate weaves a strong, intelligent story disguised in back woods characters who seem out of time and place. Fast paced and at times witty, the pieces of the intricate puzzle come together with a "zing!" that is sure to startle his readers. The country life has rewards…illusions…and consequences.
-- C.L. Carnley,
Publisher and Managing Editor, The Dark Krypt
The clatter of the electric garage door reminded Maria of a rusty gurney rolling down an empty hallway... to an open grave. She looked at her watch. “Steve’s home early.”
She quickly glanced in a mirror. The dark eyes inherited from her Italian mother lacked their usual cheerfulness. What if it’s not Steve? What if a stalker is coming for Renee and me? Morbid thoughts had pursued her throughout the day. Something in the back of a cave within the recesses of her mind where pieces of old nightmares reared their ugly heads when she sensed a conflict coming on.
Maria climbed the stairs to the family room. Her black cat sprawled lazily on the sofa and her two German Shepherds napped in the backyard. All appeared right with the world, except for the gloomy, intrusive thoughts.
She sat down and scratched Simba’s furry head. “Nothing bad can happen to us, huh, kitty?”
An autumn breeze slipped through the window and played against Maria’s face. A slight chill. She again envisioned a grave, dirt thrown on top of a casket. Goosebumps surfaced on her arms. Morose thoughts had not assailed her since... when? “Since Mother died.”
Steve entered the family room wearing a shit-eating grin that told Maria he had news. The cool air followed him inside, sweeping past him into Maria’s soul. He kissed her cheek, then stood over her, hovering close enough for her to pick up the fading scent of aftershave. His closeness made her shiver all the more.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” she returned with a forced smile. “Would you like to sit down and stay for a while? It’s your house, too.”
Steve perched on the edge of a straight-backed Queen Anne chair he had never liked and leaned toward his wife. “How would you like to live in a small town where you can ride horses and have a great view of the mountains?”
Maria played devil’s advocate. “We already have two horses. They’re in the backyard waiting for you.”
Steve’s attempt to relax against the inflexible lines of the Queen Anne chair struck Maria as comical. She studied his expression and wondered if he were about to deliver the punch line of a joke. He’s too predictable to play April fools in September. No, this wasn’t a joke.
“This place is only about three hundred miles from Denver,” he continued.
“Only three hundred miles from Denver?”
“The company wants me to be there in two weeks.”
“Two weeks?” Maria sat upright, kitty’s head and her chill forgotten.
“And I kind of said okay.”
Maria resisted the urge to parrot him again with, “kind of said okay.” Instead, she asked, “When did this happen?” But her obstinate tone expressed, “Have you lost your fucking mind?”
“New Century has opened a plant in Altinoma, Utah, and... are you ready for this?”
Maria didn’t believe she was. Her skin felt prickly, suddenly hot. She unconsciously twisted her wedding ring—the second one to grace her finger. This was a second marriage for both her and Steve and, for the first time, she began to wonder why she had bothered to give wedded bliss another try.
“They want me to take over as General Manager.”
“Altinoma. Sounds like some place to test bombs or hide aliens.”
“Remember that interview a couple of weeks ago? Well... turns out they want to bring the guy from Altinoma into headquarters. They need someone to take over his job and they picked yours truly.”
Maria had never been interested in corporate maneuvering. The forty-year-old woman had her part-time nursing job in a Denver suburb. The rest of her time and energy was devoted to raising their twelve-year-old daughter, Renee, adoring her animals and keeping the household running. “What about my job?”
“This is your chance to become a lady of leisure. But if you want to work, they have a clinic.”
Maria’s head was spinning.
“It’ll be a fifteen percent raise. I’m told there are plenty of wide-open spaces. We can find the affordable hacienda and land we’ve talked about.”
Maria was forming her next question when Renee bounced out of her room and into her dad’s arms. She grinned at Steve and then looked at Maria. “What are you guys talking about? Mom, you look real serious.”
“Your mom’s the sensible one. That’s why she looks this way,” Steve said, imitating Maria’s stern expression.
Maria couldn’t help but smile. Okay. Maybe he’s not so bad after all.
Steve recited his speech to Renee, only this time the version was scripted for a twelve-year-old.
Renee looked perplexed. “Why do we want to live in the country?” she asked.
“Well, there are lots of reasons, but one is so a certain young lady will have room to ride horses.”
“Horses?” His daughter’s eyes widened. “I’ve always wanted a horse.”
“Would a horse take the place of your friends?”
“I only have one friend, really. Maybe Janie could come down the visit sometime.”
“Maybe,” Steve said smiling.
The three of them chatted about Steve’s opportunity and the changes it would make in all their lives. Maria finally warmed to the idea. It did sound like her dream come true: a quieter life in a beautiful setting. Growing up in a back-to-nature environment should be great for Renee... and just in time. The girl would be a teenager in less than a year. Maybe the move would leave her less susceptible to peer-pressure and all the problems that went along with it.
As the faces of Maria’s husband and daughter looked toward her expectantly, she furrowed her brow, and then smiled. “Okay. Okay. When do we move?”
“Yea!” Steve and Renee sang in unison.
Chills and tingles put aside, Maria was soon overwhelmed by the possibilities, but that thing in the back of the cave, some illusive shadow altering its position, was moving through her slowly and gently so as not to cause alarm. Things were different somehow. They had been chosen, but for what purpose she couldn’t fathom.