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Chapter One ~ The Mistaken by Nancy Thompson


I don’t know how I missed it, that moment I changed, when I somehow became a different man. I’d lived my life— all thirty-three years of it—by a certain credo, a doctrine of conduct that made sense of everything. It defined who I was and kept me on the straight and narrow, and when I looked in the mirror, I saw a good man, decent and honorable. One who followed the rules and stayed within the boundaries of the law, of common decency. My brother often accused me of being too perfect: the perfect son, the perfect brother, the perfect husband. Always the straight arrow, he’d say. To be honest, it’s what everyone saw in me, and I had to agree. That was exactly how I defined myself.

But what if what truly defined a person was stripped away through deceit, stolen by greed, or destroyed by the malice of others? What then?

I certainly never saw any sign that somewhere down deep inside me lurked a monster, an abomination, a bitter man so broken and lost that vengeance seemed the best course, the only road left to follow. I never saw any potential for madness when I looked myself in the eye.

How could I have been so wrong?

Chapter One 

God, I didn’t want to do this. Just thinking about it had my gut tied in knots, but I was out of options. My brother had given me no choice. I was tired of his promises, sick of his attitude, of everything always being someone else’s fault, never his. While my fiancée, Jillian, and I had discussed what I should say to him, I continued to rehearse, point by point, during my short commute home. But who was I kidding? I knew damn well, no matter what I said, my brother would throw every word right back in my face, like he always did. But I didn’t care anymore. After four long weeks, he had overstayed his welcome, and now it was time for Nick to leave.

The confrontation loomed only minutes away, and I was dreading it. And if that wasn’t enough, there was the fog. Cold and persistent, it clung to the road like a drowning man to driftwood. It was the one thing I’d never grown accustomed to here in San Francisco, the summer fog burning off each afternoon only to reappear a few hours later, denser than ever. Add to it the waning twilight and you couldn’t see much at all, just indistinct shapes of black and grey. I could barely make out the colorful Victorian facades standing shoulder to shoulder along my street. The painted ladies simply faded into the mist.

I pulled into my driveway and shifted into park, a long sigh escaping at the thought of what waited for me inside. As I grabbed the roll of blueprints next to me, a movement outside caught my eye, a dark shape on the sidewalk a few doors down, writhing about in the murky shadows. I strained to see what it was, an injured animal perhaps, though it seemed too large for that, at least in this part of The City. Golden Gate Park maybe, but that was blocks away. I snatched my keys from the ignition, shut the door to my truck, and ambled up the front walkway, my gaze fixed on the squirming silhouette. There were no noises or crying that I could hear, but then again, the fog had a way of deadening all sound. After wrestling in the dark with the deadbolt, I shot one last glance over my shoulder then pushed through my front door.

“Nick?” I called out, my keys jingling as I worked them from the lock. “Why are all the lights off?” I switched on the hall light and kicked off my shoes as I waited, but I heard no reply, so I tried once more, only louder. “Nick, you hear me? Where are you?”

A disturbing silence hung in the air, uncomfortable and creepy. Unexpected since my brother was supposed to be home, day and night, no exceptions. He'd recently gotten himself into a heap of trouble, and now there were some large men gunning for a little payback. Par for the course for my little brother. He was always getting into one scrape or another. But this time was different. Nick was scared. Really scared. Scared enough to ask if he could hide out at my place while he tried to straighten out the mess with the men he’d crossed, a gang of Russian thugs from his neighborhood in the Outer Richmond District here in The City. One wrong step, like out the front door, and Nick might not see the light of another day, or so he told me.

I glanced upstairs, but it, too, stood dark and quiet. Something definitely wasn’t right. The hair pricked on the back of my neck, and the knots in my stomach morphed into a swarm of butterflies, all battling to escape. I threw down my keys and blueprints and walked through the house, turning on lights in my path.

“Nick, answer me! Where the hell are you?”

I don't know why I expected a response that third time. Maybe I was just praying for one instead, but the silence was all the answer I received. I stood still, deep in thought, worried about what might have happened. He wouldn’t have left the house, would he? I turned toward the entry hall. Oh God, no. I dashed back out the front door, pausing on the porch as I scanned for the dark form. It was still squirming on the sidewalk, but it appeared even larger now.

The streetlight out front was just beginning to dance to life. Sporadic bursts of pale pink light illuminated two feet as they kicked and twisted in the hazy air. The single shape expanded into three distinct forms—all human—one prone on the ground and two bent above, their arms sawing up and down and back and forth with hands clenched tight into fists.

“Oh, God. Nick!” I sprinted toward them in a panic, anxiety blossoming into fear.

“Tyler!” he wailed, but his cry was cut short by pounding thuds.

The other two men—both built like bulls and panting in exertion—stood up straight. They turned toward me with their fists pulled back. And as the streetlight overhead finally flickered on for good, the one inside my head flashed bright then flamed out.


The rhythm of the monitor was comforting. Static like a metronome, its unnatural droning allowed me to close my eyes in the semi-darkness without worrying I might miss some small sign that Nick was slipping away. His sea-green eyes, a gift from our mother, lay dormant beneath purple, swollen lids stretched taut into slits above the bruised planes of his face, a younger, boyish version of my own.

I perched along the edge of a molded-plastic chair, slumped over my brother’s bedside, with his hand in mine and my forehead pressed against it. My other hand lay draped across Nick’s bare waist, bathed in the warmth of Jillian’s soothing embrace. Nick felt too cold, his breathing shallow and ragged. Drugs dripped steadily into his IV line to keep him still and calm so the pain wouldn’t hinder his recovery. Would this be another long one, like the last time? I prayed not. More like pleading really, bargaining with God, making promises I knew I could never keep. But at the moment, it was all I had. Desperation had me on my knees.

My thoughts drifted; I was exhausted after two sleepless days and nights at his side. Sharp odors and urgent sounds weaved their way into my bleary thoughts, clouding my mind as I recalled sitting at Nick’s side in the same hospital, but at another time, nearly a year ago. The story was the same, though. My brother was fighting for his life yet again.

I jumped as the monitor chirped a disturbance in the steady cadence of his heart. My head popped up, my eyes scanning his nearly unrecognizable face for any sign of pain. Jillian squeezed my hand, and I peered over Nick’s shattered body into the comforting depths of her warm, brown eyes.

“Relax, Tyler, it was nothing. He’s all right. Go back to sleep. You need the rest.”

She smiled reassuringly, but my heart refused to settle back down. I shook my head and rubbed the grit from my eyes, wincing as I brushed against my broken nose, the only remaining sign of my altercation with Nick’s assailants. With a tired sigh, I stood and stretched the stiffness from my back and shoulders. Other than taking the occasional break to alleviate the pressing needs of my body, I had not moved from Nick’s side since he was brought into the Intensive Care Unit at San Francisco General Hospital.

I focused back down and examined his body. It lay riddled with carefully stitched cuts and vibrant bruises, striations of black, purple, red, and yellow that crisscrossed haphazardly across his lean form and gangly extremities. Coated wires leashed his body to the equipment behind his bed, each one blinking or clamoring in a discordant fray, and clear plastic tubes filled with oozing red and amber liquids drained into transparent bags hanging from hooks along the side rails.

“What’s going to happen now, Jill? We’re right back where we started, square one, only worse. He’s worse. For God’s sake, look at him.”

“No, Ty, not really. I know he looks awful. His face took the worst of it.” She ran her finger across his brow, pushing a lock of sun-bleached hair from his battered eye. “But all things considered, he’s not hurt nearly as bad as he was last time.”

Oh God, the last time. I held my hands over my face. My eyes burned; the rims red and angry after so many hours of uncertainty. An earlier glance in the mirror revealed two vivid crescent-shaped bruises, which only further punctuated my exhaustion.

Can he live through this again, I wondered. I dropped my hands, let my shoulders sag, and sighed at both the doubt and memories. Turning away, I walked over to the window and stared out into the darkness of The City beyond. The lights shimmered just as they always had, as if nothing had changed, like the world hadn’t tipped, spinning wildly on its overturned axis.

Jill smacked both palms against her thighs. “Come on, Ty, relax already. You heard the doctor. He said Nick would recover.”

I snickered in doubt. “Recover, sure, but at what cost? We’re here now because of what happened before, and he barely survived that. I can’t imagine what his life will be like now.”

“Well, he did survive, and I know he can do it again. We’ll help him through. We’ll all do it again.”

I bowed my head and drifted back over to Nick’s side. With a deep sigh, I looked her in the eye. “No, Jillian. That’s just it. I don’t think I can do it again. God help me, I don’t.”


Copyright © 2012 Nancy S. Thompson

Also part of Kindle Unlimited

Disclaimer: There will not always be a review with each Chapter One blog post.

*I previously reviewed The Mistaken, and am including it below* 

Nancy Thompson’s breakout novel The Mistaken is takes the reader on a fast-paced thrill ride! Tyler Karras is an upstanding San Francisco contractor who has suffered great loss in his young life. All he had left was his younger brother Nick and the love of his life, Jillian. Nick owes a debt to the Russian underworld and ends up beaten and in the hospital where Tyler meets the head of the Russian mob and sees how deeply buried in it Nick is. After taking a beating himself Tyler resolves to nurse his brother back to health and finally marry Jillian. When a case of stolen identity causes Jillian and Tyler to lose a dream home Jillian seeks revenge on the woman responsible, Erin. Tyler forbids her from asking Nick for help, so she takes it into her own hands and loses. As the events unfold Tyler is drawn deeper into the Russian mob to avenge his wife and find a way to turn Erin over to the men who will make her suffer for her sins. Rage, revenge and alcohol cloud Tyler’s usual law abiding judgement and he mistakenly kidnaps the wrong woman, Hannah, a dead ringer for Erin. Knowing he must right this wrong Tyler struggles to save her, but instead falls for a woman he shouldn’t, crosses men who want him dead and fights almost to the death, for his life. If you are looking for a mind blowing thriller The Mistaken is it! Nancy Thompson leads us through the dark world of the Russian underworld and The Mistaken will leave you breathless by the turn of the last page! Well done Ms. Thompson, well done!

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