Cover illustration by Francois Vaillancourt.
“Chizmar’s great gift is that he knows the people on your block—and he knows their darkest secrets. This guy is gold.”
“For some, the impulse lives closer to the surface and instead of fighting it, they embrace it. The worst of them, the truly evil, listenfor it…that tantalizing, deceitful voice from somewhere underneath it all.”
From New York Times bestseller Richard Chizmar, author of Gwendy's Button Box (with Stephen King) and The Long Way Home, comes a thriller that will forever change the way you look at your neighbors and best friends...
When the Tuckers’ next door neighbor mentions someone rang their doorbell late the previous night, Sarah and Kenny Tucker check their home’s security camera and discover something shocking: the doorbell ringer also visited their house and it wasn’t a teenager playing a prank, but instead a terrified young woman with a shackle hanging from her right wrist. She anxiously pressed the doorbell again and again, glancing over her shoulder as if someone was coming for her, before giving up and taking off into the dark.
Almost overnight, she becomes known as The Girl on the Porch—and she’s everywhere. There are updates on all the local networks, national coverage on CNN and Fox News, and the video goes viral on social media. Before long, everyone has seen the harrowing security camera footage.
Kenny and Sarah figure it’s only a matter of time before someone recognizes the woman, but as the days pass and no one comes forward, odd things begin to transpire around the Tucker family: a man intensely watches them at a restaurant and then vanishes, fresh footprints appear in the garden next to their house where no one should have been, a neighbor’s pet is viciously killed and mutilated, and a mysterious man has started following their daughter Natalie...
A rollercoaster ride of compelling twists and turns, The Girl on the Porch demonstrates why Stephen King says Richard Chizmar’s writing is “powerful” and Robert McCammon calls his work “hard-hitting, spooky, suspenseful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.”
“Chizmar (The Long Way Home, 2019) continues to cement his reputation as the genre's best-kept secret, constructing a taut tale that plants danger in an otherwise placid suburb. The story kicks off with a bang, and the tension never relents. Readers who hanker after straight-ahead, fast-paced thrills in the Stephen King style will be well satisfied...”
From Kirkus Reviews:
“A late-night visitor disturbs the peace in this spine-chilling novella from horror writer Chizmar (The Long Way Home, 2018, etc.)… Chizmar delivers some genuinely creepy moments, cleverly capitalizing on readers’ domestic insecurities…”
From Publishers Weekly:
“Set in an unnamed American city, this gripping novella from Chizmar (A Long December) opens with a disturbing scenario… Chizmar successfully builds a nice sense of creepiness.”
From Ridley Pearson:
“Chizmar’s The Girl on the Porch packs a punch. Doorbell videos. Teens. Spooky neighbors. And a mystery not boiling under the surface but blazing in front of your eyes. I read it in one sitting with sweaty palms—just like one of the suspects in the novel. This guy can write! I felt like I was sitting around a campfire hearing a story. One that wouldn’t let me sleep. One that would leave me pacing for hours afraid of the sound of my own footfalls.”
From Michael Koryta:
“The Girl on the Porch is a thrilling, page-turning delight. Richard Chizmar’s voice is the magic; he pulls you in with the storytelling touch of an old friend, and this old friend takes you to some dark places. An all-too-plausible setup leads to an all-American nightmare. Don’t miss this one!”
From Caroline Kepnes, bestselling author of You:
“The Girl on the Porch had me hooked on page one—I devoured it. Chizmar peels the band-aid so slowly that it hurts...taut, deftly paced …we are all potentially guilty and anyone might die at any moment.”
From Riley Sager, bestselling author of Final Girls:
“Creepy as hell! A tense and twisty read that poses this unsettling question: How well do we know our friends and neighbors? In Richard Chizmar’s world, the answer is more complicated—and frightening—than you think.”
From Linwood Barclay:
“If Chizmar’s goal here is to make you suspicious—and fearful—of everyone you know, including those closest to you, mission accomplished.”
From Bentley Little:
“With a pinch of Blue Velvet and a dash of The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, Chizmar’s short sharp story of a terrified suburban neighborhood insightfully illuminates the fears and anxieties lying just beneath the surface of modern American life. The Girl on the Porch is a pitch perfect illustration of Hannah Arendt’s maxim about the banality of evil.”
The Girl on the Porch
Kenny Tucker smelled bacon frying as soon as he hit the stairs and by the time he walked into the kitchen, his stomach was growling up a storm.
Sarah, his wife of twenty-two years next month, stood at the counter, working the frying pan with one hand and tapping away at her cellphone with the other.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” she said, smiling over her shoulder.
Kenny yawned and gave her a peck on the cheek, then sat down at the breakfast nook and took a sip of steaming coffee from the mug that was waiting for him there. He watched as Sarah cracked three eggs into a second frying pan, never once taking her eyes off her phone.
Barely five feet tall, dressed in yoga pants and t-shirt, long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, Sarah was a little ball of energy even at this early hour. Not to mention still beautiful after all these years. Kenny was a lucky man.
“What time did you finally get to bed?” she asked, picking up a spatula and scrambling the eggs.
He stifled another yawn. “Not sure, sometime after midnight I think.”
She shook her head. “You’re going to be walking around like a zombie at practice today.”
“Not my fault the stupid kicker choked and the game went into overtime. At least the Steelers won this time.” Kenny was a third generation Pittsburgh fan—hockey, baseball, but especially football—which meant he’d long ago learned to take the good with the bad. He rubbed his eyes. “Breakfast smells great, honey.”
“Ready in two.”
“Thanks. I can’t be late today. I promised to help Tucker Benjamin with his essay before home room.”
“Awfully nice of you.” She slid several strips of crispy bacon onto a plate. “I have to wonder, though, if you’d be quite so eager to help if Tucker wasn’t the starting tight end on the football team.”
Kenny looked up from the newspaper he’d just started reading. “Hey, English teacher first, football coach second. You know that.”
“Of course I do, silly. I was only teasing.” She loaded up the plate with eggs and walked it over to the table and sat down across from her husband. “Poor baby. You get so sensitive when you’re tired.”
He took a big bite of scrambled eggs, chewed a couple times, and then opened his mouth wide, showing her his food.
She laughed. “You’re disgusting.”
“Natalie awake?” he asked, shoveling in another forkful.
“In the shower already. She said she wants to ride the bus today.” Sarah got up from the table, walked back to the stove, and started pecking away on her phone again. “Dammit, how do you fast-forward this thing?” she muttered.
Kenny watched her for a moment. “What’re you obsessing over? You usually avoid your cellphone like the plague this early in the morning. And God forbid if I’m on mine.”
She looked up at him. “Angie texted. Someone rang their doorbell like ten times in the middle of the night last night. Woke up the whole house. When Frank finally dragged himself out of bed and checked the door, no one was there.”
Angie and Frank Urban were their next-door neighbors. Good people, even if Angie was a little dramatic and gossipy for Kenny’s taste. She was a great friend to Sarah, and that’s all that really mattered.
“Probably a prank,” he said. “We did that kind of stuff all the time when we were kids.”
“In the middle of the night on a Thursday?”
“Hell, I can’t remember what I did last week, much less thirty years ago. It was probably drunk college kids.”
“Did you hear Bandit barking last night?”
Bandit was their three-year-old Corgi, currently guarding Sarah’s vegetable garden in the back yard.
Kenny shook his head. “I didn’t hear a thing once I turned off the television and hit the pillow. I was out.”
She stared intently at the phone screen. “He woke me up around three-thirty. I figured he was stalking raccoons from the window again, didn’t really think anything about it until this morning when I got Angie’s text.”
“You think he heard someone next door?
“Maybe. Or maybe he heard someone at our house. You know the doorbell’s been broken for months.”
“I know, I know, it’s on my list.”
“I don’t care about that, honey. It’s just the timing I’m curious about. Angie said it was just after three-thirty when Frank got back to bed. The same time Bandit started barking.”
Kenny pushed away his empty plate. “Maybe he heard something next door. So what?”
“Got it!” she exclaimed, proudly holding out the phone to him.
“Hear me out,” she said, giving Kenny her full attention. “You know the little security camera you installed last year when packages started disappearing from front porches around the neighborhood?”
Kenny nodded. “Right around Thanksgiving.”
“I’ve been trying all morning to figure out how to access last night’s footage on my cellphone. I finally got it.”
“What exactly is it that you’re worried about, baby?”
Sarah shrugged. “I guess just the idea that someone might have been creeping around our house in the middle of the night. Remember a few months ago, when Carly’s friend noticed someone following her when she was jogging? That was pretty late at night and only two blocks away from here.”
“I think you’re being a little paranoid,” he said, getting up from the table and dumping his dirty dishes into the sink.
Sarah sighed and went back to fast-forwarding the security footage. She slowed when the time code hit 3:28am and tapped the Playarrow. A grainy black-and-white image of their empty front porch appeared on screen.
Standing at the sink, Kenny stared at his reflection in the kitchen window and straightened his tie. “Tell Nat I said goodbye and we can all go out and get ice cream after—”
Sarah gasped behind him.
He swung around to face her. “What’s wrong?”
Eyes wide, she furiously tapped the screen, and angled the phone so he could see it. She nudged the Playarrow again with the tip of her finger. The same grainy image of their empty front porch appeared.
“Okay?” he said, confused.
A few more seconds passed—
—and then a young woman hurried onto the porch and rang the doorbell. She was barefoot and dressed in an oversized t-shirt and underwear. Her hair was a mess of tangled knots. Some kind of restraint or shackle hung from her right wrist. The woman anxiously pressed the doorbell again and again, continually glancing over her shoulder at the front lawn and street as if she were terrified someone was coming for her. After twenty-three more seconds of this, the woman gave up and walked away from the door, still checking over her shoulder as she disappeared from view.
Sarah looked up at her husband. “Now what do you think?”
No longer half-asleep, he said, “I think Tucker Benjamin is going to have to write that essay all by himself this morning.”
- François Vaillancourt
- Richard T. Chizmar
- eBook Edition