Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sample Sunday: Chapter 1 Dark Dealings

I have been off the radar here for awhile. It has been an interesting ride both personally and professionally. But one of the things I have accomplished is to finally get Dark Dealings ready for publishing. Unless my laptop explodes (and that's what DropBox is for) I anticipate a Launch Party on Wednesday May 23, 2012 for the eBook formats with print versions available at a later date.
It is an exciting and scary time. Please enjoy Chapter 1 below and by all means TELL YOUR FRIENDS!


Dark Dealings: Magic, murder and monsters on Wall Street and beyond.  

Wall Street has fangs. When international power brokers, creatures hiding in plain sight, threaten  Micaela and those she loves, will this heiress of a Druid legacy deny her power again and let others die?  A thrill ride of money, magic and murder across the globe.


Chapter 1


Samhain         

Her hopes for a nice, normal weekend away from the office died on a dark bend of Massachusetts’ Route 7. Micaela flicked on the high beams, wary of the deer that often darted into the unlit road. She downshifted the Porsche Cayman and guided it around a sharp curve. The crisp air that flowed through the open window smelled of late October snow in the Berkshires. As much fun as it might be to floor it, she wasn’t in any great hurry to get to her grandmother’s farm. A mile later, a shadow at the edge of the road made her slow to a crawl. On the shoulder, a man dressed in bloody shreds of clothes sat hunched over his knees. He looked up and stared into her eyes. His mouth formed words she couldn’t hear.
Reece.
Micaela pulled over and grabbed a halogen flashlight from the glove box. She jumped from the car and dashed back to the place she’d seen her friend to find no one there. A dark stain gleamed in the ray of her flashlight. She touched her fingers to it and then lifted them to her nose. Motor oil. Micaela paced up and down, scanning the brush and road for clues.
“Reece, where are you? If this is some sick Halloween joke, come out now!” she shouted into the darkness. No sign of him or anyone on the road or in the woods beside the two lane highway, no footprints and, thankfully, no blood.
Reece wasn’t the type to pull this kind of stunt. His brother Adam, maybe. But Adam would have already stumbled into the road, doubled over in laughter. She walked slowly back to her car, ears straining for any noise she might have missed. Back behind the wheel of the Porsche, Micaela stared into the night sky. Until five minutes ago, she’d looked forward to time away, even if it meant being in Bridewell for Samhain.
She looked around one more time. No sign of Reece. Her stomach was a basketball-sized knot. If this wasn’t a trick… Damn. She slammed her hand against the steering wheel. It was just a delusion, she thought, spawned by exhaustion. She must have been micro-sleeping behind the wheel. Too many late nights hunched over the prospectus of a recent deal. The alternative was unacceptable. It meant the visions had returned. Why now, why had his spirit, ghost… No, she refused the idea that he had passed over. Then again, Samhain was the time of year when people and spirits moved between this world and the Otherworld. Shit.
She wanted to call Reece from her cell phone, but she’d never programmed any of the Bridewell numbers into her contacts. Dread gnawed at Micaela’s mind for the remainder of the drive to her old hometown.
Over an hour later, she turned off Cerwiden Street and onto the narrow country lane that led to the Rourke-O’Brien Farm. Flashing red lights slashed through the darkness between the gnarled apple trees of the Rourke orchard. She swerved left as she rounded the last turn to avoid the police cruiser stationed near the foot of the drive. The wooden gate, meant to keep sheep in, was pushed open. A patrolman in an orange vest flagged her down. Her dread turned to fear.
“Miss, you’ll have to park on the road.” The strobe from the light bar illuminated his name tag.
“Sean, Sean Murphy… it’s me… Micaela O’Brien. Is my grandmother all right?”
“Jeez, Micaela, I didn’t recognize you. Nice car. Is it new? I haven’t seen you since… ”
“Sean! Is she all right?” He had always been easily distracted, especially by high powered toys.
“Una’s okay. I think. Some kind of accident in the hills behind the farm.”
“Is Reece at the house?” Please say yes, she whispered to herself.
Sean shrugged. “Don’t know.” He waved her through the gate.
Gravel sprayed behind the car as it sped up the driveway. Micaela left the car in the first open space amid the Jeeps and vans. EMTs sipped from Styrofoam coffee cups beside an ambulance.
In three steps, her four-inch heels were kicked off. She finished the sprint across the brittle late season grass in stocking clad feet. A jack o’ lantern leered from the wood porch while a scarecrow twisted in the wind. She slammed open the screen door and crossed the dark parlor toward the light of the kitchen. The aroma of coffee and baking soda bread filled the kitchen, familiar scents, so different from the sight that greeted her. The crisp linens, flowers and canned fruits and vegetables that usually adorned the counters and shelves were crammed into a cupboard. A kettle screeched on the stove. Dirty dishes overflowed the sink. On the oversized black farm stove, bangers sizzled while the oil danced in the cast iron skillet.
Una Rourke leaned over a massive blue pottery bowl beating the daylights out of the potatoes. Her grandmother was fine, but things must be bad; Una always turned worry into action usually involving food. Micaela wrapped her arms around Una from behind and planted a kiss on her cheek.
“Ah, Micaela, you’re here. Good. Would you get the large platter from the pantry, then slice the soda bread and set it out. The butter is in the fridge.” Una brushed a lock of her still black curls from her face.
“What happened? Sean said there was an accident?” Micaela opened the wood and glass-paned cabinet door and pulled out the pewter bread platter. The knot in her stomach tightened.
“A group of the boys from the enclave were up on the mountain. Reece got separated from them just after dusk. There are teams of searchers looking for him now.” Una spooned the ivory mounds of potato onto a large ceramic platter. “Can you turn down the flame on the bangers, dear.”
“Reece? He’s hunted these hills since middle school. He doesn’t get lost.” He was the son of Chief Deerfield of the Pokanoket enclave, a splinter group of the main tribe near the Cape. He had grown up just outside of Bridewell and knew this part of the Berkshires better than anyone. If he was missing, Grandma had cause to worry. Micaela’s heart sank.
Five men filed in through the back door. In the mudroom, they pulled off suede coats and leather boots. Hunting rifles were balanced against the whitewashed bead board wall. Reece’s younger brother, Adam Red Hawk Deerfield, led the group that included four of Reece’s cousins from the enclave. It was a different entrance from those of their childhood, when the Druids, led by Una, and Pokanoket had played together because the old blood Yankees would have no part of either group. As always, Una’s door was open to all, whenever they needed her.
Behind them, Peggy, Reece’s bride of six months, leaned against the doorframe. She was pale with the shadow of tomorrow’s dark rings under her eyes. They hadn’t spoken since Micaela’s parents had died, but the anxiety that poured from Peggy made Micaela cross the room to hug her. Peggy lurched away, her hands locked at her side and her eyes wide. But Reece must love her and she him, or they wouldn’t have crossed the line between Pokanoket and Yankee to marry. So for Reece’s sake, Micaela reached out.
Peggy’s emotions flooded into Micaela: dread about Reece, concern for the child she carried, regret she hadn’t told Reece, and, after all these years, Peggy’s terror of Micaela’s visions. Micaela gasped and stumbled back. Peggy stared wide-eyed at her.
For ten years, Micaela had tried everything, from psychotherapy to alternative medicine, in the hope of burying the visions and sensations. Except for the occasional nightmare, she believed she had succeeded. She couldn’t… wouldn’t go back down that road. A gift, they called it. Bullshit.
“It’ll be okay, Peg. They’ll find him.” Micaela grabbed the edge of the slate kitchen counter as the room wavered. One of those headaches was around the corner. “You need to take care of yourself, Peggy. You’re no good to anyone sick.”
Peggy searched Micaela’s face. “Are you just saying that or is this something you know?”
Micaela caught Una watching, cautious, waiting for Micaela’s response.
“The only thing I know for sure is that they are doing everything possible to find Reece.” She steered Peggy to a chair. “Can I get you coffee? Some herbal tea?”
“I guess the tea makes more sense. Thanks.”
Henry, Reece’s cousin, laughed. “Hell of a time to give up coffee. Peg’s always got a latte in her hand. Her kindergarten students can already spell caffeine.”
Una’s and Adam’s eyes darted from Peggy to Micaela. It wasn’t Micaela’s place to tell them about the baby.
Adam perched on the counter next to the stove as Micaela poured Peggy’s tea. Six years younger than Reece, he had been the little brother who tagged along on adventures in the woods. Now, he sat there, the image of Reece with the same coal black hair, chocolate brown eyes over arched cheekbones and broad chest.
Adam whispered, “I don’t pretend to understand everything that happened to you or why you and Peggy haven’t spoken. But we need any help you can give us; whatever it is. Reece needs you.”
“There are dozens of searchers out there. Someone will find him.” She refilled the kettle and set it back to boil. The aroma of Peggy’s tea drifted up. Lavender, oat, catnip and lemon balm, Micaela blended the herbs just as Una and her mother had taught her. She poured a second cup for herself, although she doubted it would help.
Peggy looked up, tears glittered in her eyes. She’d heard their conversation. “It’s been hours, Micki. Please.”
Reece’s family, members of his tribe, her childhood friends sat at Una’s table, half eaten meals in front of them. Their hunger had been replaced by a greater need. Behind Peggy, Una radiated comfort and warmth. Six pairs of eyes poured their pleas into her soul, colliding with her nightmares.
Micaela set Peggy’s tea on the table and took her own cup out to the back porch. She wrapped her hands around it and inhaled the fragrant steam. The evening dew had hardened into frost. A late October fog crept down the hills and across the lawn. Tendrils of mist sought the house. On the hillside, a beacon from a searcher’s flashlight shimmered in the darkness diffused by the vapors. It would be a bitter night on the mountain.
She had stuffed all the metaphysical shit in a box and shoved it into the darkest recesses of her mental closet. The jump into Peggy’s mind had been a lit match in the closet and Micaela didn’t want to look. Of course, it would be Peggy who opened that door in Micaela’s mind. The look of horror on Peggy’s seventh grade face when Micaela came home after her parents died was diamond-etched in her memory. She could still hear Peggy and her other so-called friends whisper at the lunch table words like “freak,” “crazy,” “just like that girl in the Stephen King movie”. She placed her empty cup beside Una’s garden basket on the white cast iron table.
The screen door creaked. She knew it was Una before she spoke.
“Micaela?” A word. A whisper. A thousand questions.
“What am I supposed to do?” She stood at the edge of the porch and shivered.
Una joined her on the top step and draped an Aran Isle cardigan over Micaela’s shoulders.
“Peggy still thinks I’m a monster. But she needs me to be one now.” Micaela slipped her arms in the sleeves and started pacing. Her hands clenched and unclenched. “Reece, his family, the whole tribe… they were my friends when everyone else treated me like a side show attraction.”
“Reece could be dying up there.” Una’s steady gaze fixed on Micaela’s face.
“You don’t think I know that. It’s what they think I do, right? Know things.” She stared out at the dark hillside and fought back tears of frustration. “What if I don’t know, what if I can’t find him?” What if the vision on the roadside meant she was too late?
“And if you don’t try?” Una smoothed Micaela’s auburn waves the way she had when Micaela was a teenager waking from one of her nightmares.
“I’m not sure I know how.” Micaela slumped against the porch rail.
“You’ll figure it out.” Una kissed her forehead. “You know I’ll be here if you need me.”
Mrs. Ryan rounded the corner of the house; her ceremonial robe embroidered with Ogham and triskeles billowed around her. She had been part of the family and the community for as long as Micaela could remember.
“You haven’t changed, Aunt Evelyn.” Micaela hugged her old dance teacher. Evelyn Ryan wasn't Micaela’s blood aunt, but that had never mattered.
“Any word on Reece?” Mrs. Ryan asked.                                
Micaela shook her head.
“You’ll find him,” Mrs. Ryan said, “Then we will celebrate his rescue and your promotion. Your parents would be very proud of you and the community is too.” By community, she meant the Druid Grove, of course, not Bridewell’s Yankee elite, who barely acknowledged the Irish or the Pokanoket.
“My stuff can wait,” Micaela said. Why she had driven to Bridewell in the first place no longer seemed so important. But tonight was also one of the most important festivals in the Druid Community. As Priestess of the Bridewell Grove, Una Rourke had to be there.
Micaela turned to her grandmother. “It’s Samhain; shouldn’t you two be on your way?”
“I must go.” Una had stopped asking her to attend years ago. “Can you handle things here?”
Micaela rubbed her temples; the tell-tale throbbing had begun. “Of course I can. It’s what I do.” She stared up at the mountains. The full moon floated above the peaks. Reece was out there somewhere.