Old habits die hard. Just ask Cynthia Howell. Her unusual and quite illegal method of coping with stress started innocently enough with best friend and fellow dental student, Andy Caulfield. They had become quite adept at justifying their lapses in moral character. Upon graduation, it was agreed that their indiscretions would remain secret. Until now, when Cynthia receives an ominous letter, simply reading: You said it would be over. With these words, Dr. Andrew Caulfield – renowned maxillofacial surgeon, former best friend and author of the note – has unknowingly sealed his fate. Dr. Cynthia Howell, is a woman living on the edge. As a wife, mother, daughter and pillar of her community, she finds the burden too heavy to carry. Debt has become her unwelcome companion. She volunteers her time and services at a free clinic and is devoted to her ailing mother, who is slowly dissolving into the abyss of dementia. Cynthia needs a release and knows only one way to achieve it. Upon the arrival of the mysterious note, she concludes that, old friends or not, this has now become a matter of survival. And, not Andy Caulfield’s. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself rooting for the “bad guy” in this story with an unusual twist. Yes, Dr Cynthia Howell has issues, but who doesn’t these days?
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have always loved writing, but, like a lot of people, chose a “safe” career. After receiving my Bachelor of Science degree in Dental Hygiene with a Minor in Psychology from Loyola University of Chicago, I spent the next twenty-five(ish) years working in a private dental practice setting and raising my four children. One day, my son kicked me off the computer, created a blog site and ordered me to write. He was my relentless muse, leaving me no choice. I then collaborated with my good friend, fellow writer-wannabee and lover of murder and suspense, Petrina Collins, and, together, we sat down to write the story of an unusual killer.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
We decided to write about what we know best. How to commit murder? Not exactly, though we have seen EVERY SINGLE EPISODE of every real-life crime show – not as research, but just because the stories fascinate us. What we DO have are backgrounds in the medical/dental/pharmaceutical industries. Using that experience and Casey’s growing up the daughter of a Chicago Police Sergeant, our characters and story-line for NUMB were crafted. We wanted a serial killer that didn’t fit the usual profiles, which materialized into Dr. Cynthia Howell, DDS, the mom-next-door drowning among the stressful issues with which we all struggle. She just releases her stress differently than the rest of us. Sometimes in the ways we wish we could… One of my favorite Cynthia lines: “Watching Shannon arrogantly stride back to her seat, Cynthia desperately wished for two things:a private moment with Victoria Shannon, and a loaded syringe.”
Andy Caulfield felt his blood drain. Slowly setting down his steaming coffee, he carefully glanced across the kitchen table at Kate. Had she noticed the almost imperceptible shift his world had suddenly taken? She appeared unaware, completely engrossed in the Arts section of the morning paper, and was only brought back to the moment when she heard his chair sharply push away from the table.
“I just remembered; I have to get into the office a little early today,” he casually announced, tucking the rest of the newspaper under his arm.
“This early? It’s six-fifteen,” she asked, stealing a peek at her watch.
“Yeah, I can’t believe that I forgot that I have to send out information for the Continuing Ed seminar coming up. I’m supposed to have a mailing list ready today, and haven’t even started.”
“Well, can I at least make you some toast or something to put in your stomach?”
“No, I’ll grab something on the way. Sorry. I’ll call you later.”
* * *
Perspiring profusely, he sat, unable to move, in the parking lot outside his office. He regretted not having a change of clothes with him. This can’t be happening, he thought. He looked again at the paper.
Police determined that the unidentified body was that of a homeless man, at first thought to have succumbed to hypothermia. An autopsy, however, revealed a tiny puncture wound in the man’s neck, raising questions as to the true cause of death. It was learned that he had been on his way to see Dr. Cynthia Howell, a participating dentist in a free care program. “When he failed to show, I called the shelter, which had scheduled his appointment. They seemed surprised, saying he’d left long before. To be honest, I thought he might have made a pit stop on the way for a little ‘liquid courage.’ People often do that, you know. Anyway, he never showed up.”
A tiny puncture wound in the neck. Dr. Cynthia Howell. A homeless man. How convenient. Could this be what he thought it was? Was there something he should do? A call to the police with his suspicions seemed an over-reaction and, quite honestly, not an option. After all, he didn’t have any proof. Worse, that might shed an unwelcome light on his own past. There had been moments over the years when long-past memories crept into his consciousness, dimly nestling in the perimeter of awareness. Guilt nudged. And he almost surrendered on occasion. Almost. Probably just a coincidence, he convinced himself. He had become quite adept at burying the past. One thing he knew for sure: There was no way in hell she was going to bring him down and ruin everything for which he’d worked so hard. Their indiscretions were years ago. Decades ago. He had moved forward and never looked back. Besides, no one was really hurt. No one that didn’t deserve it, anyway. No, the police could not be brought into this. He’d have to handle it on his own.
Andy headed into the office carrying his now-cold, coffee, with a plan. Usually, he was not the first to arrive in the morning. However, he did like the quiet reward the effort afforded. Walking in, flipping on lights as he went, he couldn’t help but beam with pride. His practice had grown into a small empire. The facility was first-class all the way, from the reception room, which had been featured in Architectural Digest, to the state-of-the-art sterilization lab, to the spa-like operatories in which he performed his magic. He was at the top of his game. As an oral surgeon, he was also an MD and had been featured in various newspaper accounts and trade publications for his masterful reconstructive surgeries on patients, ranging from victims of horrific accidents to those suffering from disease. He created new faces. He gave hope to the hopeless. Pulling wisdom teeth was pocket change. Yes. He’d decided. Cindy Howell was not going to bring him down. Settling in at his desk, he drafted a simple email designed to grab her attention.
Casey Quinn and Petrina Collins are neighbors by chance and great friends by choice. LIVING THE DREAM ON A BOX WINE BUDGET is Casey Quinn and Petrina Collins’ first book. It is a collection of short humorous essays about family life (their families, in fact). Their second book, and first novel, NUMB, is a departure from that genre, as it tells the story of one woman’s unconventional and quite illegal method of coping with stress.
After graduating from Loyola University of Chicago with her Bachelor of Science degree in Dental Hygiene and Minor in Psychology,Casey Quinn spent the next twenty-five years working in a clinical private practice setting, while raising her four children. She currently lives in St. Charles, IL with her husband, and anywhere from one to three children, as their single lives dictate. It is Casey’s sincere desire to one day be an empty-nester…
Petrina Collins boasts a colorful college resume. She began her undergraduate studies at Illinois State University (which she had confused with the University of Illinois, thus leading to bewilderment when she was deposited onto the Normal, IL campus). Soon after the start of school, she concluded that Illinois did not offer the climate she felt was conducive to her academic pursuits, so she fled to the sunny skies of Florida to continue her studies at the University of Southern Florida. Petrina is happy to say that she did, eventually, graduate with her degree in Education, leading to the disturbing realization, on her first day as a teacher, that she had made a huge mistake. She then stumbled upon her career of twenty-five years in the corporate world of pharmaceutical sales and currently holds the position of District Sales Manager. She currently lives in St. Charles, IL with her husband and two children she hopes will one day move out. That last sentence is open to interpretation…
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