Call of the Void

J.T. Siemens
5 min readJan 21, 2024
NeWest Press
NeWest Press

Now a fully-fledged private investigator, Sloane Donovan is bored by her latest task of keeping a debauched starlet alive and out of the headlines as she films a movie in Vancouver.

When she and her partner Wayne Capson are contacted by a grieving mother looking to resurrect the cold case of her missing daughter, Sloane finds herself inexorably drawn into a clandestine world of disappearing girls, illegal narcotics and loose ends dating back forty years.

Careening from the hardest edges of the city to creepy rural backroads where cries go unheard, Sloane’s relentless quest places the people closest to her at risk, while her own personal demons threaten to devour her. Lightning-paced and unputdownable, Call of the Void cements Sloane Donovan’s position amid the new generation of hard-boiled sleuths.

CHAPTER ONE

For a long time, I believed that if I ran fast enough, the dead couldn’t catch up with me.

I was wrong.

But it didn’t stop me from trying.

Feet gliding over rock, root, and earth, my body felt so light that at any moment I might lift off the earth’s surface and fly. With a fresh gust of speed, I caught up to a lanky and bearded runner, his numbered race bib reading 67. As I passed him, he gave a double take, his eyes registering shock at having been passed by a woman.

The trail rose abruptly, and I heard him huffing as he scrambled to catch me. A glance at my watch timer revealed 5:36:10 … 11… 12 …

Crossing a wooden footbridge over a deep ravine, I glimpsed a rushing creek at the bottom.

Flash. An ancient Winnebago abandoned in a snowy forest.

A scream from within.

Coming off the bridge, my knee buckled, and I stumbled against the mossy bark of a Douglas fir. Pushing away from the tree, I kept going, down the trail that suddenly seemed darker, full of menace. Number 67 zigzagged past on the next downhill. “Nice try,” he called back, before disappearing around the next bend.

I shook it off and kept going, feeling the blood pounding in my head and the sear of lactic acid in my legs. In the minutes it took to regain my rhythm, a compact, blonde woman edged past, moments later followed by a taller brunette in a red toque. I trailed them down the steep and gnarly section leading to Deep Cove.

The echoing scream hit me again. My vision juddered and my left foot caught a root. The ground swung up. My wrist took the brunt of the fall, and my forehead smacked against another root. Rolling onto my back, I lay there, stunned and gasping, staring up beyond the spires of the trees at a patch of ash gray sky, a distant bird circling.

Touching my forehead, my fingers came away bloody. I took a deep breath and pushed up, wincing when I put weight on my wrist. If it was broken, nothing I could do about it now. Except get up and move.

Several hundred yards down the trail, the bobbing red toque disappeared where the trail ended, and wooden stairs led down to the pavement.

Adrenaline kicked in and I began to jog, quickly picking up speed until I was again flying straight down the trail. No brakes. Rock and tree blurred past. The weightless sensation returned as my feet skimmed down the stairs. Feet hit pavement and I veered right down Panorama Drive. A row of faces cheered.

Ignore everyone.

Except Red Toque, fifty yards up the road, and the blonde a little farther beyond.

Don’t think, just breathe, breathe and kick.

More cheers, more bodies. Rounding the sweep of road leading to the cove, I caught up to Red Toque, passing her at the same moment as my shoes hit the grass of the finishing stretch.

“Go, Sloane, go!”

I recognized the voice as belonging to my friend Karin.

Breathe and kick, breathe and kick.

Suddenly the screams and shouts went mute, replaced by a shrill whine in my left ear, a vestige of an old injury.

Overtaking the compact blonde fifty yards from the finish, time suddenly seemed to slow, and despite my distorted hearing, my other senses heightened. I noticed the choppy blue waters of Deep Cove, people standing on boats, watching the race. Across Indian Arm, the green mountains of Belcarra rose in the distance. I could smell the smoke from the wildfires that were devastating the province’s interior, hundreds of kilometres away.

The digital timer above the finish line counted: 5:48:41…42…43…

A sea of smiling faces mutely cheered. A gust of wind blew off the water. A flash of a blue-gray face caused my stomach to drop and my shoes to fill with cement. It was like someone had pulled the plug to my power source, slowing my sprint to a shuffle. The other two women passed me metres from the finish.

Amid the crowd in front of the announcer’s podium stood my sister Stephanie, wearing a nightgown and holding her infant daughter against her chest. Charlie wore blue pyjamas and stood at her side, holding his mother’s free hand.

My sister’s accusing eyes pinned me to the spot. So did Charlie’s.

They weren’t cheering.

Because they were dead.

Two other blue-faced women stood further back in the crowd: Geri and Eva, one middle-aged, the other in her late teens. Geri’s eyes carried disappointment, while one of Eva’s was dangling from her mangled face, and the other was just an empty socket.

Squeezing my eyes shut for several seconds, I took a deep breath. When I opened them, all the dead were gone.

The moment I crossed the finish line, Karin rushed up. “Sloane, what’s wrong? Oh my God, you’re hurt!”

“It’s nothing,” I said, just as my legs buckled and I nearly fell.

She pulled my arm over her shoulders and led me toward the medical tent. “You almost won,” she said. “You came so close.”

BUY THE BOOK!

NeWest Press

--

--

J.T. Siemens

Crime Writer. World Traveller. Personal Trainer.