“Are you okay, lady?”
The voice comes from above me, and I look around in confusion. I don’t know where
I am, don’t know what time it is. I don’t know anything.
Two teenage girls hover over me, their skinny bodies wrapped tightly in spandex,
leather, and denim, all liberally studded with metal. They are concerned, though,
their faces serious.
I want to assure them that I am fine, although the concrete is cold beneath me and
my elbow is raw from its rough surface. It’s not like me to cause people worry, but
I cannot make myself speak the words. It is as if my jaw is wired shut, my tongue
made of lead. I shake my head and try to look composed, but I feel the tears on my
cheeks. A downward glance at my hands and clothes reveals the reason for their concern.
I am filthy. My plain black dress is rumpled and muddy, my stockings are snagged
and torn, and I have lost a shoe.
How did I get here? For that matter, where is here? I glance at my surroundings,
which after a moment, I recognize. Monroe Park. That explains nothing, only brings
more questions. How long since Marta’s death, the last clear memory I can muster.
I want to ask the girls what day it is, but nothing comes out. They look at each
other uncertainly. Even sounds for my sorrow are missing. Silent tears, mute grief.
“Janie! What are you doing?”
They turn as two young men approach, each carrying a take-out bag from Burger King.
One looks like a Kid Rock wanna-be, right down to the hat. The other is handsome
and carries himself as if he is well aware of it.
They stop a few feet back from where the girls stand and I crouch. I can smell fries,
and my stomach reacts with a lurch of hunger. How long since I have eaten?
“Get away from her. She’s probably got bugs.”
One of the girls takes a step away. The other, Janie, stands her ground. “She’s crying.
We thought she needed help.”
“She needs help, all right,” Handsome says. “A shower and detox, for starters.”
“She looks cold.”
“There are places she can go. Janie, people like her don’t really want help. They
just want your money so they can buy more booze or whatever.”
“C’mon,” the first boy says. “We got breakfast, but we gotta eat it before class.
Old Lady Mason won’t let us bring food in.”
The boys move off, confident that the girls will follow.
One of them does, but Janie stays behind, apparently reluctant to leave me on the
cold sidewalk. With a glance at her retreating friends, she pulls out her purse and
removes two one-dollar bills. “You can get something on the dollar menu,” she says
with a tentative smile. When I do not reach for the money, she sets it on the ground
in front of me. “I hope you feel better.”
She hurries to join her friends, who have turned to see why she is not with them.
As soon as they see her coming, they turn away, no longer interested in the derelict
by the Stonewall Jackson statue. Kid Wanna-be opens a bag and starts handing out
food as Janie rejoins them.
I hear the rustle of paper as they unwrap their sandwiches.
Handsome discards the bag, casually dropping it on the grass of the park lawn. I
wonder if there might be a stray fry left inside.
I watch them go, dimly aware of what they think I am: a loser.
They are one hundred percent right.
The Loser Mysteries: Book One
An exciting new series
By Peg Herring
Is it possible to be a rescuer when you live among the lost?
Killing Silence, the first of The Loser Mysteries, presents a unique protagonist: Loser, who sleeps on the streets of Richmond, Virginia, washes up in gas station bathrooms, eats when an opportunity comes along, and spends her waking hours in front of the local drug store, watching the world pass by and speaking less than thirty words per day.
When a child is murdered and Loser finds herself in the company of the prime suspect, can she pull herself out of her own pain to help catch a killer? Her investigation is hampered by her inability to hold a normal conversation and her inner demons.
Why should anyone believe her anyway? She is Loser. A nobody. A freak who can barely speak.
Every street person has a story, and Loser is no different. Her past haunts her present.
Besides, Loser has good reason to avoid the police...and it goes way beyond loitering.
Mystery reviewer, P.J. Coldren says, “Killing Silence has an unusual protagonist, one that I want to know more about. Her self-imposed limitations must have a meaning; her backstory should explain it. Peg Herring creates characters that readers care about and stories that keep readers listening. How can anyone self-named Loser solve a murder? Why would anyone give a homeless woman any information? Herring takes her character to places Loser never imagined she'd go. It looks to be a very interesting journey and I'm along for the ride.”
Killing Silence, was rated by Lelia Taylor (Buried Under Books) as one of the Best Mysteries of 2012. “Once in a while, I come across a book that can only be called an unexpected gem. Killing Silence is one of those wonderful surprises. In many ways, it’s a standard mystery but Peg Herring has crafted a novel that is much more than just ‘standard.’”