MENTOR: Dannie Morin

MENTEE: Sonia Hartl


CATEGORY/GENRE: NA Contemporary Suspense

WORD COUNT: 70,000



Nineteen-year-old Tess wants a degree and a life outside her father’s skeezy vaudeville troupe—until he hires Drew, a sexy escape artist. When someone leaves Tess tarot cards threatening Death, she leans on Drew. But his past might lead her straight to a killer.



Tess slipped a hoodie over her scant, sequined costume. Pulling her dark hair into a knot, she hurried toward the main tent. The wind stunk like stale beer. Streetlights from the nearby town twinkled in the distance, and the post-show hangover lingered over the dusty fairgrounds.

She rubbed stiff fingers over the sore muscles in her neck. Earnings should be big tonight. No less than a thousand faces had passed though the Freak Show Museum.

And she needed her cut. Her escape depended on it.

Under the blue-and-white striped canvas, her father, Mac, kicked up clouds of dirt and torn ticket stubs as he paced the floor. Brass buttons on his red, velvet stage coat strained from the pressure of holding in his sizable paunch. The tips of his peppered comb-over curled in the late summer humidity.

Tess took a seat on one of the bleachers that formed a crescent around the makeshift platform they used for a stage. The electric gaslights flickered in time to the sputtering hum of their ancient generator as she waited for the tally. Their take would decide whether they were going to stay another night or pack it up.

Once everyone settled in, Mac cleared his throat and clapped his hands together. “A red-letter day, full house! Our final number? Fifteen thousand dollars!”

Tess did a quick calculation in her head and frowned. Fifteen thousand might’ve been their take from the show, but at least half the audience paid for the Museum. Her father was skimming off the top. Again.




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