13 September 2021

The Castle Anne Montgomery Book Release Spotlight!

The Castle

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Word Count: 64,000

TouchPoint Press

info@touchpointpress.com

662-595-4162


Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.


Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt. 


One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.


Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.


One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. 


In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.



Anne Montgomery


Anne Butler Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Her first TV job came at WRBLTV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROCTV in Rochester, New York, KTSPTV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE awardwinning SportsCenter. She finished her oncamera broadcasting career with a twoyear stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery was a freelance and/or staff reporter for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archaeological pieces. Her previous novels are A Light in the Desert, The Scent of Rain, and Wild Horses on the Salt. Montgomery taught journalism and communications at South Mountain High School in Phoenix for 20 years. She is a foster mom to three sons, and spent 40 years officiating amateur sports, including football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, musical theater, and playing her guitar.

Contact Information

602.275.6064

annemontgomeryauthor@gmail.com 

https://annemontgomerywriter.com/


The Castle

By Anne Montgomery


NEW DESERT DRAMA TACKLES SEXUAL ASSAULT


Why write a novel about rape? For author Anne Montgomery the reason was personal. While attending college, Montgomery was sexually assaulted. She became a statistic. Today, one out of every six women in the United States will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Like 80% of those victims, Montgomery never went to the police.


“I believed they would have blamed me. I was on a date with a sweet-faced farm boy who played for my university’s football team. I’d had a few drinks. I willingly followed him into his dorm room. What did I expect would happen? So, I said nothing.”


Add to that experience the fact that Montgomery spent 20 years teaching in a Title I high school, where the vast majority of her students lived in poverty. It was during that time she came to understand another sad statistic: Four out of five rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.


“I kept meeting young girls who’d been sexually assaulted, always by a family member or friend. Sadly, many of these teens were ostracized by their loved ones when they came forward, told they were lying, or that the assault was their fault.”


In The Castle [Touchpoint Press, September 13, 2021] Montgomery introduces Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, who is recovering from the gang rape she suffered in the Coast Guard. The reader follows Maggie through her depression, anger, and ultimate healing.


A reporter in TV and print for 15 years, Montgomery investigated the behavior and psychology of rapists, the profile of a victim, and the ways sexual assault survivors can heal. Engaging and influential, Montgomery is available for interviews, Q&A’s, and byline articles around the launch of The Castle  focusing on topics that include:


  • The signs of sexual violence and how to help someone in need

  • Surviving and thriving after sexual violence

  • The need to change the way society addresses sexual assault and its victims

  • Channeling life experience – both traumatic and joyous – through the fictional characters in her work.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE

AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST 


The Castle

Four-Page Summary


Maggie, a National Park ranger of Native American descent, is finally back at the work she loves after a six-month absence, but on the first evening of her return to The Castle—a pueblo carved into the face of a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley—she has a strange encounter. Maggie glimpses a young boy alone outside the visitor center. She chases him through the park and gapes as the child scales the mountain like an animal and disappears into the ancient edifice high above the valley floor. However, when Maggie reports the incident, she is met with skepticism. Her recent hospitalization for depression has even her best friend, Jess Sorenson, a law enforcement ranger who stands six-foot-three and sports close-cropped white hair, more concerned about Maggie than a report about what she assumes is an imaginary lost boy

A search of the Castle grounds finds no child. There are no reports of a missing boy. Maggie’s new boss, Glen, orders her to undergo a psychiatric examination, if she wants to keep her job. She agrees and meets with Dr. Beth Sellers, who has counseled Maggie through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

Though Maggie doesn’t want to go, Jess and her partner Lily Kinnel convince her to travel to a vineyard nearby for drinks and dinner. The waiter, Dave, is charming and attentive, and, as the women leave, a tipsy Maggie hands him her address. Later that evening, Dave appears at Maggie’s apartment and they have sex. 

The next morning, Dave is gone and Maggie is appalled by her behavior. It’s been drilled into her that rape victims are often attacked repeatedly, so how could she have put herself in such a dangerous position?

The rapist reflects on what he knows is soon to come. He remembers the others: a long list of women he’s stalked and raped over the years, a compulsion he has no wish to control, especially since most women don’t report being raped, so he’s never been caught. He relishes the fights and screams and fear, as much as the act itself. As has been the case throughout his life, the need is rising and will soon be overwhelming. 

Maggie returns to the sanctuary of The Castle and the wild desert land surrounding the structure. An interpretive ranger who specializes in botany, Maggie introduces herself to a new group of visitors. “I’m Ranger Maggie. This is my office.” She raises one hand toward The Castle, with its high stone walls nestled in a cave, an impossibly blue desert sky above. “Anytime I’m overwhelmed, I can just go one hundred yards down this trail and forget.” At least, that is her hope.

The next morning, Maggie—wearing her ranger uniform and stiff-brimmed tan hat—enters Flora’s Bakery. The tinkling of the doorbell announces her arrival. The new baker, Jim Casey, big hands dusted with flour, greats her with a warm smile and fills pink boxes with sweet delicacies that, in the short time he’s been in town, have the locals swooning, his pastries, cakes, and cookies small pieces of sumptuous art.

Maggie leads a tour of visitors when a little girl, Amy, goes missing. The land around The Castle is rugged, filled with unforgiving plants and merciless sharp rocks. After a search, Maggie locates the girl standing atop a stone wall that blocks the river far below. Amy reaches for a butterfly that has flown out over the water. Maggie freezes. Then the child turns and struggles to the ground. Maggie bolts and grabs her. “The boy helped me down,” Amy says, smiling, eyes darting into the trees. Maggie follows the child’s gaze. She sees no boy.

A tall, redheaded man begins boarding in the small row of apartments adjacent to the Castle. Maggie, unwilling to return to her home because of memories that assault her there, is also living in the building. The fact that Brett Collins works on a collection of scuba gear in the high desert is puzzling, until Maggie ascertains that he’s come to do scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a strange cylindrical depression that was once inhabited by the native people and which houses a deep spring filled with biological life found nowhere else on Earth. 

Maggie, who holds a scuba certification from her time in the Coast Guard, and Jess are tasked with assisting Brett with his studies at the well. Maggie takes an instant dislike to him.

The rapist has to choose and plan. The anticipation is a sublime preamble. He’s narrowed the field. The giant lesbian who sports a weapon on her hip and don’t screw with me attitude holds some fascination, but it’s the small, lithe, Maggie—exotic with her half-Native American heritage and wounded soul—that pulls at him.

For several days, Maggie, Brett, and Jess work at the well. Maggie learns that Brett is highly educated and is fascinated with the strange leeches that live in the spring water. Still, she’s uncomfortable around him. When Maggie, Jess, and Lily are out that night, and Jess invites Brett to join them for dinner, Maggie struggles with polite conversation.

Jess and Lily suggest that it might be beneficial for Maggie to volunteer at the rape crisis center that Lily has just opened in a small town nearby, a facility catering to Native America women who are statistically more likely to be raped than other women in the U.S. Maggie struggles with the idea, since she’s a rape victim herself, but she agrees to help.

Dave calls and texts Maggie. He would like to see her again, but she’s uncomfortable with the idea and ignores him. She begins working at the center, but is put off when she discovers that Jim, the baker, is also a volunteer. He, too, is making her uneasy, though she can’t explain why.

Brett tricks Maggie into going into the well. She believes he’s in need of rescue, when, in fact, he just wants her to dive with him. The black leeches swirl in the dark water in a suffocating dance. While he’s apologetic, Maggie is furious and wants nothing to do with him.

The park has not yet opened. Maggie sits alone, still fuming about the stunt Brett pulled at the well. Near the limestone wall, she sees the mysterious boy who signals that she should come toward him. Mesmerized, Maggie walks into the rubble at the base of the cliff. She’s distracted when Glen calls to her saying visitors are waiting. When she looks back, the boy is gone, but she hears crying in the brush and finds a tiny, injured puppy.

Brett, who is working on his scientific reports in the office, helps with the little dog. Maggie is impressed with the kindness he shows the animal and lets some of her anger toward him go. Maggie takes the puppy home and finds flowers from Dave on the porch. She’s frightened when he appears without warning. He apologizes for startling her and leaves.

The rapist can no longer hold off. He waits for Maggie outside the rape crisis center. It’s dark when he places a bag over her head, ties her hands, and tosses her in his truck. He takes her to a secluded desert location and cinches her to a tree limb. The phone in her pocket rings. The distraction angers him. When he grabs the phone, he sees it’s Jess Sorenson texting Lily. He rips the bag away and discovers he’s kidnapped the wrong woman. He leaves Lily hanging in the tree, grateful he had a mask covering his face and furious that, despite the fact both women are small, slim and of Native American extraction, he could have mistaken this woman for Maggie. Lily is found the next morning and recovers.

Maggie is visiting Lily and Jess. They try to ascertain why the kidnapper didn’t rape or otherwise harm Lily. After some discussion, they conclude Maggie may have been the intended target. Law enforcement rangers and police arrive and grill Maggie about her past. She’s too embarrassed to mention her one-night-stand with Dave. Everyone decides it’s best for Maggie to stay the night with Jess and Lily. Maggie asks the officers to contact Brett and let him know where she is, since he’s watching the puppy. 

Later that evening, Maggie is frightened by a someone at the door. It’s Glen, who says he’s checking up on Lily. Maggie is determined not to be a victim and leaves the next morning. She plans to go about her daily activities in a normal fashion, despite the fact someone may be stalking her.

At The Castle, Maggie meets a new volunteer: an older Native America woman named Beverly. They chat on a bench and Maggie is calmed by her presence. Later, as she has warmed up to Brett, she has dinner with him. They eat Thai food on the porch under the stars with the puppy resting at their feet.

Maggie continues working at the rape crisis center and meets more women who are rape survivors. She’s beginning to understand that, in order to make her life better, she needs to be brave enough to make changes. She’s also feeling more confident as she counsels other survivors.

Brett takes Maggie up to the well for a secluded, night-time picnic. He tells her he must leave soon and then kisses her.

The next evening is the gala. The local archaeological association is holding a formal fundraiser at The Castle for a new facility. Long tables of catered delicacies line the walkways. The winery Dave works for has donated drinks for the event. Dressed in a tux, he’s in charge of the bar servers. Jim manages tables filled with art-like deserts and breads. Maggie arrives in heels and a short black dress and runs into Glen, who offers her some champagne. Brett has not appeared.

The rapist is waiting. Since the blunder with Lily, he realizes it’s time to leave. But he can’t resist one last shot at Maggie. He will rape her tonight then vanish, as he always does.

The gala is a beautiful affair, showcasing a rare event that has the moon bathing the Castle in blue light. Native American flute music wafts through the park. Glasses tinkle and well-dressed people socialize, while writing large checks to the archaeological foundation. Maggie spends time with Jess and Lily, before getting food. She runs into Dave and Jim. She’s disappointed that Brett is nowhere in the crowd.

Maggie tires of all the people. She’s had a lot to drink, so she walks to the edge of the park, removes her uncomfortable heels, and sits on a bench, situated near the cliff wall. Glen approaches with a bottle of champagne. He explains it was given to him by Dave, the man in charge of the beverages, who wanted to make sure the rangers got only the best the winery had to offer. Glen produces a flute, pours Maggie a glass, and walks away.

Maggie falls asleep and wakes to a man calling her name, but she can’t focus and struggles to stand. He’s twenty feet away, but she can’t make out who it is. Still, she understands she’s in danger and runs barefoot into the boulders and brush along the base of the cliff. He follows her slowly, enjoying her fear. Bleeding from the sharp rocks and desert plants, Maggie climbs the wall, hugging the face of the limestone cliff in the blue moonlight. 

The rapist soon tires of the game and goes after her. Maggie, wants nothing more than to sleep. She’s just about to give up and let go of the wall, when a hand reaches out from above and hoists her over the lip of the cave. Confused when she sees no one at the entrance to The Castle, she stumbles inside and collapses.  

The rapist stands over her, angry at the protracted chase, the need to rape stronger than ever. Suddenly, hundreds of bats attack, leaving him bitten and scratched and furious before they launch themselves out of the cave mouth. Maggie, in and out of consciousness, is unable to move her limbs, due to the drug he put in her champagne. He’s shocked when he sees many sets of eyes peering from the darkness of The Castle. The rapist backs up, then screams. Before Maggie passes out, she sees the face of the baker, Jim Casey, staring down at her.

Later, in the hospital, Jess and Lily stand by Maggie’s bed. Jim Casey steps through the door and Maggie panics. Jess tries to calm her, saying that Jim rescued Maggie from The Castle. Maggie insists that Jim drugged and attacked her. Jim leaves. Jess explains that it was Maggie’s boss, Glen, who assaulted her and he’s now dead after falling from the cliff.

Maggie goes to Flora’s Bakery to thank Jim for rescuing her. She then goes to The Castle where she sits alone. Beverly, the volunteer, appears. Maggie is angry to have been a victim again and tells Beverly she’s tired of feeling so alone. Beverly explains that Maggie is part of something bigger than herself. Maggie suddenly sees the ancient people who built The Castle. Some are tending crops, children are playing, women are weaving cotton and making piki bread. Then she sees the boy who smiles and waves. Maggie finds a sense of peace. 

Someone calls her name, informing Maggie that visitors are waiting. She looks back at The Castle grounds and the ancient people are gone. Beverly has also vanished. When Maggie asks about Beverly, she learns there is no volunteer by that name.

Six months later, Maggie hangs up her phone, happy that Brett will be visiting the coming weekend. She leaves the rape crisis center where the support group meeting has just ended. She smiles and waves as the other survivors leave. The puppy, named Daisy, jumps into the car and they drive to Maggie’s small house, which has not been opened since her son died so suddenly of meningitis. Maggie unlocks the door and walks inside. 


The Castle

Excerpt



1


“Holy crap!” Maggie dropped the phone. Someone peered from outside the darkened window. A child. Big eyes in a bronze face. “Hey! You can’t….” But the boy—nine maybe ten—disappeared. She heard a laugh, a light tinkling sound like tiny brass bells on the breeze. 

Maggie scrambled for the phone, punched in the number, and made her report. Then she grabbed a flashlight from under the counter and bolted out the back door of the Visitor Center.

A half-moon lit the concrete trail. There was no sign of the boy. The wind pushed through massive Arizona Sycamores, their star-shaped leaves fluttered, the sound mimicking a stream rushing over small river rocks. Maggie rushed down the path. Her Nikes would have served her better than the brown ankle boots that were part of her uniform. 

The laughter came again, this time from the wild land amidst the rocks—huge slabs of fractured white limestone that over the centuries had tumbled down the escarpment. Striving to avoid the vicious prickly pear that dotted the slope and the jagged pieces of stone that could slice skin like a honed blade, Maggie left the safety of the trail and pushed past the mesquite and pungent creosote bushes toward the base of the cliff, boots crunching on the rocky rubble that littered the ground. 

Her gaze drifted up the sheer stone wall to The Castle, a prehistoric edifice almost iridescent in the moonlight. She could make out the small windows and even ancient logs that jutted from the structure, all of which had been felled and carted up the cliff face many hundreds of years earlier. 

Maggie gasped. To her horror, she saw the boy ascending the wall. She flashed on the day she’d scaled the precipice with archaeology students from New Mexico State University. A seasoned climber, she was comfortable in the harness and helmet, but the ladders were touchy. The feel of rock beneath her hands and feet provided a much more solid sense of security. But there were no ladders propped against the ragged limestone now, nor was the child dressed in any protective gear. In fact, he didn’t appear to be wearing clothes at all.

Frozen, she watched the boy mount the wall like an animal, arms and legs working with almost preternatural ease. Then Maggie saw the child hoist himself over the ledge before he disappeared into the cave that held The Castle in its belly.


Gecko


At six-foot-three, Jess Sorenson towered over her friend. She folded the slim spiral notebook and tucked the pad into the back pocket of her uniform pants. Like Maggie, Jess sported a gray button-down short-sleeve shirt and forest green slacks. But Jess was a National Park Service Law Enforcement officer, so she also wore a sidearm.

“You don’t believe me.” Maggie slumped into a desk chair in the office at the Montezuma Castle Visitor Center.

“Look, sweetie…”

Maggie glared.

“I’m just saying that we’ve had a search team out here for,” Jess checked her watch, “five hours now. And they’ve found nothing. And you have to admit….”

“They think I’m still crazy, right?” Maggie jumped from the chair and paced the room, a palm pressed against her forehead.

“I didn’t say that, but….” Jess creased her brow. “You know I have to ask.”

“No, I’m no longer medicated, if that’s what you’re curious about.” Maggie turned toward the east-facing windows of the Visitor Center, where the morning sun had yet to offer even a hint of illumination.

Jess nodded and reached again for the notebook. She jotted the information in blue ink, stuck the pen in her breast pocket, and ran her fingers through short, shockingly white hair. “Maybe you need some more time off,” she said softly.

Maggie closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I know what I saw.”

Jess stared for a long time. “I believe you. But the other guys….” She spread her hands wide.

“I have to work, Jess. Sitting around is doing me no good. I just think too much when I’m alone. When I’m here, I feel better. I can’t go back to the house.”

“I know.” Jess perched on the corner of a nearby desk. “So, what do you want to do? Should we file a report with the local authorities? Ask if any young boys are missing?”

“They’ll send me home.”

“They might.”

“But what if a child is out there injured?” Maggie pointed toward The Castle, unable stop tears from spilling down her cheeks.

“Do you think the child was hurt?”

Maggie blew out a breath and closed her eyes. She pictured the boy scaling the wall like one of the ubiquitous brown lizards that scampered among the rocks, his tinkling laughter playing on the breeze. Suddenly the memory seemed wrong. How could the vision be real? She stared at Jess, frowned, and collapsed into a chair. 

Jess got up, walked over to Maggie, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I’m gonna call the guys off. Let’s get you to bed.”

Maggie lifted her head and peered from bleary eyes. “What about the report?”

“I think we need to err on the side of caution and tell the local folks, just in case. But maybe we can make it sound not so….”

“Crazy?” Maggie finished the sentence. 

“Come on, now.” 

Maggie allowed Jess to help her from the chair. Then she picked up the straw-colored hat with the flat brim and dark leather band that symbolized her profession. Her job was all that mattered now. By making the report Maggie was putting her employment at risk. But what if a child was lost or injured, and they stopped the search because she chose to say nothing? Maggie couldn’t live with that.


Gecko


Maggie dragged herself from bed. After slipping on a pair of khaki shorts and an overly large navy-blue T-shirt bearing the words Plant Lady: I dig dirt, she made a cup of instant coffee, heavily laced with sugar and milk. 

Maggie pushed through the screen door to the tiny porch that fronted her one-bedroom apartment, let the door snap shut behind her, and placed the steaming mug on a round wrought iron table. She’d slept until noon—not a surprise considering her run in with the boy/spirit/hallucination—so the sun was directly overhead. Birds chattered noisily in the surrounding bushes and trees. A speckled brown and white roadrunner, who sprinted about the grounds frequently and exhibited little fear of humans, tilted his head as she sat at the table, then went back to pecking among the rocks in a search for insects and lizards. 

The apartment, one of several in a tidy row, sat on National Park land, just a short walk from The Castle. One of the benefits of being a National Park Ranger was the opportunity to live at work. Maggie had recently requested one of the simple flats—a bedroom, kitchenette, tiny living room, and bath—because the thought of returning to her house on Beaver Creek was overwhelming. Memories lingered there, once vibrant and joyful, now nothing but dust and shadow, thoughts that clawed at her gut like a small rodent anxious to eat its way out. She fingered the ragged scars that bisected her wrists—cuts that were partially concealed by a pair of colorful tattoos—then stared at the cerulean blue of the high desert sky.

Maggie, who’d grown up in the bulging metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona, had enjoyed the small-town feel of the Beaver Creek area, which encompassed the communities of Lake Montezuma, Rimrock, and McGuireville. On the way home from The Castle, she’d pass Vickie’s Grill—where a sign proclaimed you could get good home cooking—the Feed Store, and Candy’s Creek Side Cottage with its colorful kitschy d├ęcor that always made her smile. Further down the road stood the Montezuma-Rim Rock Fire Department, the town post office, and the most popular spot in town, Flora’s Bakery, where indescribably delicious confections came in pink boxes tied with twine. Then Maggie would turn onto the unpaved, dusty lane with the long row of metal mailboxes, mostly black and white and green, some with their red flags at attention, signaling mail within. Maggie’s was the fourth box from the right, turquoise with white flowers and a yellow butterfly that Charlie had insisted on.

Her tiny house was embraced by an ancient Arizona Sycamore, some of the tree’s branches having kissed the earth untold years earlier, after which they’d rebounded into the high desert sky, massive in their height and breadth. She’d felt connected to the tree with the mottled skin—pale green, brown, and white—cool to the touch, verdant star-shaped leaves. She couldn’t wrap her arms completely around the trunk, though she’d tried. 

Charlie had loved the tree. Maggie stopped worrying as he’d grown older, no longer concerned that the boy might fall from the enormous limbs.

Bits of Charlie’s life assaulted her as she sipped her coffee. A hand-painted wooden frame clutching a picture of the two of them, smiling on a hike when he was six. A small pair of boots, laces untied, caked with dried red mud. The collection of minerals on the bedside table, including the strange geometrically-shaped white rocks called pseudomorphs, they’d found sifting through the sandy bottom of the open-pit salt mine in Camp Verde.

Maggie forced the thoughts away, not wanting to think about the house she still owned but dared not enter. For six months she’d stayed away. Jess periodically checked on the property and picked up the mail. Maggie continued to pay the mortgage, but the water and electricity had long since been turned off.

A half an hour and two cups of coffee later, Maggie stared at a Queen butterfly that rested on the wooden porch railing. The creature lazily opened and closed white-spotted orange and black wings, and flitted to a nearby patch of milkweed. 

Maggie jumped, startled by the sound of a vehicle. A late model green Jeep Wrangler pulled to a stop in front of the last apartment in the complex. A tall man wearing a Colorado Rockies baseball cap unfolded himself from the driver’s seat and spoke into a cellphone as he slammed the door. He ended the call and slipped the phone into his back pocket. Then, he opened the rear of the vehicle and hoisted a large silver cylinder to his shoulder. His phone rang.

“What!” He walked up the wooden steps to the apartment. “I’ll call you back.” He put the cylinder on the porch floor and fumbled with a key.

Maggie recognized the object, strangely incongruous in the desert. It was a scuba tank.




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