When Hell Freezes

When Hell Freezes

by Sharon E. Linden


Publisher CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Published in Romance/Romantic Suspense, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Romance, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

1908 a young woman is murdered on the bridge over the dam in Hell, Michigan but the crime is never reported, never investigated. 74 years later a young woman moves into the cottage overlooking the bridge, over the dam. She witnesses the murder of Mae Beth Fox in her dreams. Now, revealed, Mae Beth's death brings love and peace to a family torn apart over decades.

Sample Chapter


March 26, 1907: 3:22 AM.

No one hears her screams.

A heavy icy mist hangs above the Mill Pond. The foot bridge over the dam appears ethereal, icy, glowing softly in the light of the moon. Intermittent shadows dance across the railings and deck boards as the moon above peers through torn, wispy clouds. The whoosh of the water falling over the dam is muted as if the dead quiet at this hour has swallowed all sound. The scene is surreal.

Step back, observe the beauty. Rise above the scene as in a dream. In a dream you will be shielded from the cold. A light snow has covered the ground. The falling flakes are large and fluffy. The first covering melted because the ground was warmed by the March sun throughout the day. As the air temperature dropped through the evening and early night the snow has found comfort; it will stay for a while; at least until the sun rises again to prove spring will be forthcoming.

The scene is peaceful, serene, quiet; now. Just over an hour ago music and revelry from the Tavern through the stand of trees played havoc with the quiet; silence.

Look…as the path through the trees opens out of dark shadows into the moonlight foot prints are visible in the snow. Follow the prints and it appears they are coming from the Tavern heading toward the bridge; quick, purposeful steps, driven by the cold perhaps.

Look again, following the footprints it is evident everyone is not home, asleep in a warm bed at this late or early hour. At first glance it appears to be a couple dancing on the bridge or maybe just embracing; a last kiss before ending in a warm bed together, maybe. They must be in love. What other reason is there to be standing on the icy dam bridge at this hour. Perhaps the couple had been dancing at the Tavern. But the footprints…only one set; a small set of prints, a petite set of prints; most likely they are the ladies prints. Perhaps this is a planned rendezvous.

The lighted lanterns are no longer glowing, the piano keys are resting under their oaken dust cover and the violin strings are silent in the case lying on the bench. The doors are bolted after the evening of frivolity and drinking and brawling has ended. Perhaps the couple dancing on the bridge arranged one last turn, one last dance before retiring to bed in a lover’s tangle.

The man steps forward moving the woman into a graceful dip. The lady bends slowly as he cradles the small of her back with a hand. Her hands reach up to gain balance, holding onto his raised hand. They must be in love. What other reason is there to be here now, on this cold icy bridge?

No need to spy on them for too long. The scene is clear. Observe with ease. They do not know we are here…watching.

Now the man’s hands move from the women’s back to the nape of her neck. He buries his fingers under her long, auburn locks. He grasps and tugs, pulling her head back. Will he end their dance, their embrace with a kiss? Will he move to place his lips over hers with passion and desire?

Wait…wait…dancing…a couple dancing, embracing in love; look again, look closer. Do you see it, can you hear it. This man and this woman are not dancing; they are not embracing in love. Look again.

Can you hear it? Can you hear the pain and fear in the woman’s voice? Listen. Is your heart beginning to race now as her heart must be racing? Listen. She is whimpering. She is not moaning with desire. She is begging. She is struggling. The man is nearly twice her size. Do you see it now, can you hear it now? Can you grasp the reality of her situation? The man is pressing and bending her against the rail of the bridge. This is not a lover’s dance. As her eyes peer over his shoulder…do you see it? Fear, definitely fear…not love, not love at all and if you could see his eyes you would see the truth. His eyes hold pure evil. The dance between this couple is not a lover’s dance. It can only be a dance of death…her death.

The tavern, the Grist Mill Tavern through the trees closed at two thirty. The last patron staggered away, searching for his horse and carriage at three o’clock. The woman, whose footprints are in the snow, is the proprietor of the Tavern. She locked up and left for her cottage above the dam…she left the Tavern alone.

Now, follow her small footprints in the snow leading from the Tavern, through the stand of trees and curving down the short path to the bridge over the dam. Now look closer…a second set of footprints, larger footprints lead up to her prints from a place beyond the tree stand. They are coming from the barn in a small clearing behind the Tavern.

The prints, large and small converge. The woman’s prints stop and turn as she realizes…’someone is coming up behind me’. She is startled but quickly, with urgent purpose her steps lengthen and then she begins to run.

The young woman is alone, helpless. The man’s prints catch up to her steps just before the rise to the bridge. A scuffle is evident in the scattered and disrupted snow cover. It appears as if she fell or tripped or was pushed down.

Now he has overpowered her. They are alone on the bridge. And…no one can hear her screams. The sad fact is even if someone is within ear-shot, her voice is stifled, far less than a whisper because his hands are around her throat compressing and squeezing. He is strangling her to death. No one can hear her screams as he presses her against the hand rail.

‘PLEASSSSE…PLEASSSSE…’ Her words can only be imagined as air hisses past her vocal chords.

It is obvious the man does not hear her words. It is obvious he does not care. His intensions are clear and it is obvious her death will be the end of it.

The young woman cannot speak, she cannot breathe and she cannot scratch or claw hard enough to defend herself. His vice-like grip is more than she can bear. Her mind is foggy by now but somehow she manages to avert her eyes sideways and up toward the porch of the cottage that overlooks the bridge; her cottage. A slight movement catches her eye and her heart flutters with fear and sadness. The woman knows someone is there hiding, watching. And sadly...she knows who is hiding and watching.

The woman holds the eyes of the person who is watching. She begs silently, in her mind. ‘Please…please…turn away. Hide yourself…hide…do not let him see you. Please, please, please turn away. Do not watch…hide, hide now.’

The woman’s heart is broken as she realizes who the only witness to this brutal murder…her own brutal murder is. This horrible dance of death should not be the last vision for the person on the cottage porch. ‘Please, please hide. Turn away and hide.’ Tears blur the woman’s vision as the person on the cottage porch disappears from her site.

The woman is moved into a state of nothingness now, a state of limbo. She is neither here nor there. She no longer feels the crisp, cold March air. She does not feel the hard rail against her spine as the man presses, presses, presses. She does not feel the wet, icy cold planks beneath her feet and she can no longer feel the steely hands of death on her throat. She is floating in a fog. Her pain and her emotions are numb.

Despite this state she manages to avert her eyes to the evil man’s face. He is smiling. He is triumphant, he is happy as her body goes limp. She is gone, she is done, she is dead but…her eyes are not yet black. Her eyes still have some life. She holds his eyes with hers. He can see his reflection in her pupils. He watches his face in her eyes. Slowly, his confident smile leaves. He watches as his expression changes from satisfaction and triumph to a look of confusion and fear. But it isn’t the lingering spark of life in her eyes that worries him. It is the smile on her face. How can she be smiling? Why is she smiling? His smile changes to a grimace.

‘How can you smile? I have killed you. You are dying…you are dead…how can you smile?’ He turns his eyes up to the porch and wonders, ‘did you see someone up there on the porch? Who is there? Is someone watching us?’ He turns back…looking into her eyes…he is worried. ‘Who has witnessed my crime?’

Suddenly his hands spring apart releasing the death grip on her throat; he stands away. The woman slumps down in a lifeless heap onto the bridge planks. But…his hands are burning with pain as if they are on fire. He alternately squeezes his fingers tight then shakes them outstretched blowing on them and shaking them but the burning intensifies.

He staggers to the end of the bridge, tripping over her body. His knees buckle. Instinctively he throws his arms out for protection but the momentum and weight behind the falling is too much. His arms collapse, his head shoulders and chest hit the hard gravel packed ground with dire consequences. Air escapes from his lungs with a painful groan and curse. He quickly rises up on his hands and knees and crawls the short distance to the ponds’ edge, plunging his burning hands into the icy cold water. The burning continues and now the freezing water adds additional discomfort.

Struggling to his feet the once again he shakes his hands side to side in an attempt to increase the circulation to his fingers. Turning, the man looks down to the still crumpled body on the bridge planks.

‘WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?’ He screeches. ‘Dam you…fuck you…you BITCH. What is this?’

The pain, the burning slowly eases up. Now he is chilled to the bone. As he wraps his arms across his chest, placing his hands inside his overcoat he is shivering so hard it throws him off balance. It is all he can do to keep from falling into the Mill Pond.

He trips and staggers back to stand over her limp, lifeless body. Looking down into her face he fights the urge to strangle her all over again. Actually he is afraid to touch her.

Her jaw is slack and her chin is pulling on her bottom lip giving her a fish out of water look. The smile is gone but he cannot get it out of his thoughts.

‘Why did you smile? I killed you. I killed you with ease. You didn’t have a chance from the second I caught up with you. Bitch…BITCH! Why did you smile? How could you smile?’

The clouds have parted and the moonlight illuminates her face. Her eyes are open…dead open. They are black and glassy and starring straight up at him. Her stare reaches into his soul, pulling him in. He cannot stop looking at her. He cannot divert his stare from her eyes. Once again his reflection is there in her eyes; her dead eyes. He can see his reflection…times two; one image in each eye. He is disgusted with the confusion and fear he sees in his own face. He clenches his jaw and hisses.

‘You bitch…you fucking bitch. Who is the victor in this argument? You are dead. How did you ever think you could threaten me and get on with your life? Your problem is…you did not have murder in your heart. That is the only way you could get rid of me. Murder…it comes easy for me but you could not see it. You could not imagine it. How can you smile?’ Spittle from his mouth glistens across her face.

Squinting now, the man can see a change in her eyes. He can still see his face but something begins to glow in the background. He furrows his eyebrows and looks closer and then he the vision become clear. The man gasps and clenches at his chest.

Standing bolt upright he trips over his own feet and grunts with pain as his tail bone cracks against the cold hard ground and he grunts a second time when his back and head slam down against the cold hard earth. He lies there for a few seconds trying to catch his breath. Quickly he sit up and turns to look behind him…looking to the barn in the clearing behind him. He sees nothing…nothing but the barns silhouette against the dark backdrop of trees.

‘Fire…there is no fire. The barn is not on fire. Your eyes lie.’ He had seen fire in her eyes. That is what startled him. He saw his face and behind his face, surrounding his face he saw fire; the barn is on fire…in her eyes the barn is engulfed in overwhelming, red and yellow and orange flames. But the vision in her eyes…a lie.

‘The barn is not on fire you fucking bitch…you witch. I will not be taken in by you.’

The snow is beginning to fall once again. He looks up. Large, lacy snowflakes lie down on his forehead and cheeks and nose and chin, melting from his body heat. Water drips down following the creases at the corners of his mouth. He swipes a hand over his face.

‘Bitch…BITCH!’ He grumbles with disgust.

Now he must finish the job he started…the job of murder. He rolls to the side straining to rise up on his knees, straining to stand.

Despite the woman’s petite size she is dead weight and her heavy woolen cloak coated with wet snow adds to the weight. With a clumsy effort the big man slings her awkwardly across his chest. The woman’s head hangs limply off his arm and one of her arms drapes and waggles across his thigh. He staggers toward the open barn doors.

Once inside he drops her to the floorboards before lighting a lantern. Off to the side, under the stairway to the second floor he finds an empty barrel and rolls it out, stopping at her feet. He turns the barrel upright and finds the barrel lid and a mallet.

Taking a rest on the bench sitting next to the cold pot belly stove he curses inwardly for not lighting the stove earlier. He could use the heat now.

The man looks down at the lifeless body. Her face is turned away from his stare. He does not want to look into her eyes again. Leaning to one side he finds an empty burlap sack beside the bench and tosses it over her face.

Sitting, breathing deeply to gather his thoughts he recalls his last encounter with the dead bitch, last evening at the Inn. And now…look at her now. ‘You are one fucking, dead bitch, ain’t ya now…hah…AIN’T YA NOW…BITCH.’

His shoulders begin to shake as he lets out with a low, evil chuckle. Then he speaks out, talking to her as if she were still alive.

He rehashes the argument, bending it to suit his needs, his side. She cannot argue back now and he likes that. He laughs and slaps his knee and argues and laughs again and again. Then he spits the last words she had said to him, he spits them out at her dead body. He stands over her, spits a wad of saliva onto the burlap sack covering her face and yells out. “When Hell freezes…that’s what you said to me, ‘when Hell freezes’...when I tried to reason with you. But you wouldn’t have it…you wouldn’t have any of it. Well honey….” He struts over to the barn doors and flings them open against the gusting snow storm that has escalated substantially in the last fifteen minutes.

“I do believe Hell is gonna freeze tonight.”

He stuffs her body into the barrel and pounds the lid down with the mallet. As he stands with his hands resting on the top edge of the barrel, looking down at it, the shit-eating grin on his face is suddenly broken, his confidence is suddenly shattered. The big man is visibly shaken. He lifts his hands from the barrel and dances backward. The lantern flickers and the floor boards under the barrel and under his feet begins to warble and quake. The flame from the lantern flutters out as if someone had lifted the glass allowing a breeze to pass through it. Total darkness surrounds him, hiding his pale, white face and the beads of sweat on his brow.

Out of the darkness, emanating from the barrel the man’s ears, his head, his chest and arms…his soul is filled with the last words from the woman’s mouth, the last words she screeched out to him before he brutally strangled her. Her last words burned through him.


The man fell to his knees, covered his ears groaning in pain. “You Bitch…you God dammed BITCH.”


1. May, 1980

Emelia Jason reclines in an easy chair in the quiet, dimly lit hospital room with her legs stretched out and her feet resting on the end of her mother’s bed. She sits forward and bends to pick up a book that had slipped off her lap to the floor; the title of the book…’Fenton’s Death’ by S. Elizabeth. The author name is a pen name used by her mother Genevieve LeGrand.

Genevieve, following the death of her husband and her daughter Francine fifteen years ago was admitted to the nursing home unable to face the compounding effects of these separate but emotionally linked tragedies. After a year in a state of catatonia she awoke but she was no longer Genevieve.

She took on a new persona; she lived in a new world, a made up world as she moved along the hallways and social rooms in the Chelsea Nursing Home. The home became the perfect stage for make believe. Old friends became new friends…fictionalized in a story that her injured emotions could handle. New and old friends alike became characters in her book and in her new life. She willfully changed their lives and sometimes, to save herself from more emotional trauma, she wrote them out of her life. Genevieve refused to live with the pain of her real life memories, so she rewrote her life.

Emelia is one person she rewrote and then she wrote her out. Genevieve could not face her daughter who lived without facing the memory of the daughter who did not live. Fiction became Genevieve’s new reality.

For years Emelia lived with survivor’s guilt. She should have died in the accident that killed her sister Francine and her friend Fenton but she didn’t. There were times when she envied Genevieve’s fantasy world. If nothing else, at least her mother’s departure from reality gave Emelia the freedom to move on. The care facility fulfilled Genevieve’s basic needs; a close family friend lives nearby and Emelia knew she would be notified if her mother’s condition changed.

So here she sits. The family friend, Pastor Griffey called her.

‘Your mother has suffered a stroke. She may not be aware of your presence but you will know. For your sake, you should come to see her.’

Emm knew he was right. She knew she would not forgive herself if her mother died without her last living relative by her side. This is something that is in her control. She should be at her mother’s side and say the words that need to be said even if Genevieve cannot hear them. So…’I’m here with you Mother…I’m here.’

Emm’s eyelids flutter as she is tries to hold back the tears that glisten on her long dark lashes. She had slept fitfully through the night reclining in a chair beside her mother’s bed. The book she had been reading slipped off her lap as she attempted to find a comfortable position. The comfortable position never happened but fatigue found her and she slept at last…sort of.

A damp, white handkerchief is entwined through the fingers of one hand. Emm’s other hand is draped over the limp, near lifeless fingers belonging to her mother. Her mother’s hand is cool and every so often it twitches. Emm wonders…’is she dreaming?’ Maybe she is trying to reach out to someone in her dreams or maybe it is just the neurotic twitch of someone who has had a stroke and is lying in a coma.

Emm decides she had better get up and use the toilet before the day shift starts their rounds. Her stomach is sour because all she has consumed in the last twenty four hours is too much coffee on an empty stomach. The dining room will be open by the time she washes her face and brushes her hair.

She moves her dry tongue around in her dry mouth and groans in disgust. Her teeth have grown hair overnight. A toothbrush and mouth wash are at the top of the list for basic hygiene. A shower and change of clothes will have to wait until she gets some food on her queasy, empty stomach. Emm can only hope her body odor is not too offensive. Fainting from hunger might lead her to becoming a patient here…but on second thought…that might expedite getting her a comfortable bed to sleep in.

As Emm bends to kiss her mother’s forehead a glistening jar filled with smooth stones catches her eye. The jar is sitting at Genevieve’s eye level if she is turned to that side. It brings a smile to Emm’s lips. She found it hidden in a shoebox on the top shelf of the closet while taking inventory of Genevieve’s things. The jar holds her attention for half a minute and Emm would swear, ‘Francine’s face, I can see her face floating there in the glass among the stones’. Francine’s deep blue eyes and blond hair flowing around her flawless complexion are blurred but it is her face as Emm remembers it. Francine was beautiful and Emm misses her every day. She will always have an ache in her heart for Frannie. As the years go by, Emm takes solace that most of the memories are good memories.

Emm reaches out to touch the jar. She hears a quiet, faint moan. Startled, she turns to look down at her mother’s face. Her nose and mouth and eyes are puckering and wrinkling and then she yawns like someone who is trying to awaken from a long night’s sleep. After the yawn has passed Emm notices her jaw and cheeks are no longer slack and lifeless, her mouth is not grossly gapping and there is color in her cheeks. It appears as if the muscles around her mouth and eyes have a purpose of their own. The muscle tone that makes up her facial features looks stronger like that of a someone who is resting as opposed to someone who is dying in a coma.

“Mom…mom…can you hear me? It’s me…Emelia. Are you waking?” Emm whispers. She reaches down to take her mother’s hand and speaks softly as if she doesn’t want to disturb her. “I’m here mom. When you wake, I will be here. Can you hear me Mom?”

Emm set the jar of stones in the bed beside her mother. Immediately Genevieve reaches out to cradle the jar. One hand wraps around it and the other grasps the lid as if to say, ‘this is my jar.’

Hands that were cool to the touch a short while ago are now warm…not too warm but…warm and her fingers are slightly tensed rather than limp.

Emm straightens to get a better look at her mother. She is breathing a little deeper now, not as shallow as before. Emm tugs the jar from her hands and places it on the stand and waits motionless.

‘I need to see Esta. Something has changed. I have some new questions for Esta.’ Emm quietly leaves.

“Will you be having your eggs poached, as usual Miss Emelia?” Emm was in a little bit of a trance. Tony is the week day short order cook. He tries two times to get her attention. “Didn’t see ya here yesterday, are you alright this morning?”

Tony has worked for the Chelsea Nursing Home for twenty years now and he will never leave…voluntarily at least. He especially enjoys helping the family visitors feel at home, as if he has invited them to his kitchen, although he normally does not offer poached eggs to anyone. With Emm being the first and only customer most mornings he is happy to extend her the favor of a special order; a special order for the daughter of a special resident. Genevieve has endeared herself to all at the home over the years of her occupancy; workers and other residents as well have grown to love ‘our Genevieve.’

“Oh…yes…hi Tony…how are you today? Sorry…I’m tired I guess.” She flushes and waves a hand over her face. “Thank you…yes, poached is good…on whole wheat…thank you. I’m over-hungry I think. My stomach informed me this morning that I didn’t eat at all yesterday. I’ll be fine…thank you; poached is good.”

The room will begin to bustle in another half hour, around eight as the visitors and staffs drift in for a morning coffee and breakfast fare. Emm is usually there before seven thirty. She is always hopeful and usually rewarded with Esta’s company at or near seven thirty. Esta starts her day by eight fifteen usually. It is unusual for the pharmacy to have the patients’ AM meds ready before then.

“Thank you Tony and please tell me you still have some of that special marmalade for my toast?” She winks at him, bringing a broad smile to his face.

“Yes mam and I promise I will bring a jar of my mama’s marmalade to you soon. She will be making her jams soon…soon Miss Emelia.” Tony answers her wink with a wink in kind.

Emm sits at the usual table where Esta can easily see her and join her. Esta waves as she stands in the short order line awaiting her usual breakfast from Tony. Privacy is not a big issue this time of the morning even in the small dining room. Most people get their orders to go. At the moment there is only one other visitor sitting across the room in the farthest corner. Emm rises to take Esta’s tray and they hug.

“Emmie, Emmie juu should git betta sleep. When juu mama comes awake, juu will need to be rested.” Esta speaks very good English but her Cuban/Spanish accent is quite thick. Emm always appreciates her firm but gentle admonishments.

“You sound so positive she will come out of this? I wish I could be so sure. I…” Emm stops talking. She swallows the lump in her throat before continuing. “I hope so much to be able to tell her ‘I love you’…and talk to her and have her talk to me. I should have never…” Again she falls silent. Emm is not prepared to divulge to Esta what she experienced moments ago. She is not sure how much to believe. She will wait for Esta or other staff to notice a change in her mother’s condition and when they see it and speak of it on their own then she will believe it.

“Juu jess too hard on juu-seff.” Esta places her hand over Emm’s. “Now juu here, that’s what counts. I know dis. Juu listen to your Esta…Esta knows.” Esta looks at Emm over the rim of her eyeglasses as she spreads jam on her toast. Then she spies the book lying halfway out of Emm’s bag.

“I stop in Genève’s room afore I come meet juu an I put the stone-jar back in da draw. She was clutching it. Did juu put it in her hands?”

“How…who put the jar back in mom’s hands? I set it in the bed beside her but before I left the room…I didn’t want it to accidentally fall to the floor so I put it on the night stand.” Emm shakes her head. “How…?”

Esta interrupts Emm as if she hadn’t heard her. “So, how many times juu read da book? Dis yer mama’s book, yes?” Esta once again glances sideways at the book. She raises her eyes over her eyeglass rims once again. “I kin read too. I guess what I read from dat book is little different den wha juu read from dat book. Juu read too much into it Emmie. Juu think too much ‘bout it. Juu mama dint mean to bring hurt on juu or anyone when she write dat book. She only mean to ease her own hurt…for herself. She hide her hurt in dat book, the hurt she can no live with. So she make up a sad story…sadder den her own story. She make up a name to hide behind. Dat her way. She no mean hurt anyone…Esta knows. Yer mama no mean hurt juu. Juu lissen Esta an’ juu put dat book away. Juu shud no hang onta sum’tim dat make juu so sad. Bad karma juu no need.” Esta scolds gently. She furrows her eyebrows and pats Emm’s knee.

“If juu mama no wake from dis…juu will be with her when she passes and she will know dis.” She pats Emm’s hand. “Before she stroke…she cry for juu. Esta knows dis. I see her nearly ever day since she here. Do what juu have to do…she want juu be happy. Juu have juu own sad story. Don’t hide away. Juu deal wit’ sadness by living wit’ it, den juu move on. She would tell juu dis. She know her way not bes’ way. She will tell juu…no hide. She would tell juu how sorry she is for hiding all these years. She would tell juu…she love juu.”

Esta pauses before taking her las bite of marmalade toast. “An’ yes…I notice change in Genevieve dis morn. Juu can speak of your love to her soon I think.”


Excerpted from "When Hell Freezes" by Sharon E. Linden. Copyright © 2016 by Sharon E. Linden. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Sharon E. Linden

Sharon E. Linden

Sharon E. Linden grew up in Hell, Michigan. This profile picture shows 9 year old Sharon enjoying a 'snow day' off from school, throwing a 'Snowball in Hell' as Mayor Erdly Vansickle playfully ducks, posing for the Livingston County Press camera . Miss Sharon E. Linden (S. Elizabeth) retired after 40 years working for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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