THE MAZE by Catherine Counlter


by Catherine Counlter


by Catherine Counlter


WIHENEVER I HEAR WRITERS brag about how their editors don’t require any changes to their manuscripts, I’m honestly floored. It’s an editor’s job to be the reader’s representative and thus make the manuscript better. And believe me, a manuscript can always be made better.

I’ve got to be the luckiest writer ever. I don’t have just one editor, I have a three-person hack-and-maim team, and all three of them give me very timely feedback, all with an eye to making my novels the best they can be. My ongoing thanks to Stacy Creamer, Leslie Gelbman, and Phyllis Grann.

I’d also like to thank my husband, Anton, for getting back into the editing saddle after a ten-year hiatus. He’s the Editor from Hell (in the good sense).

And finally, my continuing thanks to Karen Evans with the red Babylonian harlot hair. Without her incredible mental energy, enthusiasm, and support, I would soon find myself in a sorry state.

Life is good.


San Francisco, California May 15


She couldn’t breathe. She was dying. She sat upright in her bed wheezing, trying to control the terror. She turned on the lamp beside her bed. There was nothing there. No, just shadows that kept the corners dark and frightening. But the door was closed. She always closed her bedroom door at night and locked it, then tilted a chair against it so that its back was snug against the doorknob. Just for good measure.

She stared at that door. It didn’t move. It didn’t so much as rattle in its frame. The knob did not turn. No one was on the other side trying to get in.

No one this time.

She made herself look over toward the window. She’d wanted to put bars on all the windows when she moved in seven months before, but at the last minute she decided that if she did she would have made herself a prisoner forever. Instead she’d switched to the fourth-floor apartment. There were two floors above her and no balconies. No one could come in through the window. And no one would think she was crazy because she lived on the fourth floor. It was a good move. There was no way she could continue living at home, where Belinda had lived. Where Douglas had lived.

The images were in her mind, always faded, always blurred, but still there and still menacing: bloody, but just beyond her ability to put them in focus. She was in a large dark space, huge, she couldn’t see the beginning or the end of it. But there was a light, a narrow focused light, and she heard screams. And the screams. Loud, right there on her. And there was Belinda, always Belinda.

She was still choking on the fear. She didn’t want to get up, but she made herself. She had to go to the bathroom. Thank God the bathroom was off the bedroom. Thank God she didn’t have to unlock the bedroom door, pull the chair back from beneath the knob, and open it onto the dark hallway.

She flipped the bathroom light on before she went into the room, then blinked rapidly at the harsh light. She saw movement from the corner of her eye. Her throat clogged with terror. She whirled around: It was only herself in the mirror.

She stared at her reflection. She didn’t recognize the wild woman before her. All she saw was fear: the twitching eyes, the sheen of sweat on her forehead, her hair ratty, her sleep shirt damp with perspiration.

She leaned close to the mirror. She stared at the pathetic woman whose face was still tense with fear. She realized in that moment that if she didn’t make some serious changes the woman in the mirror would die.

To the woman staring back at her, she said, “Seven months ago I was supposed to go study music at Berkeley. I was the best. I loved making music, all the way from Mozart to John Lennon. I wanted to win the Fletcher competition and go to Julliard. But I didn’t. Now I’m afraid of everything, including the dark.”

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Categories: Catherine Coulter