Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Book - Driftwood Painter

UPDATED: So, some of you know that I am writing a book, and have asked what it is about. Well, here is a clip from the prologue. Tell me what you think.

“Are you sure their phone was disconnected? Maybe they just aren’t home,” Barnes asked Mrs. Franklin on this cold, foggy autumn morning.

“I’ve tried several times, and each time the message was the same, ‘sorry the number you are trying to reach is no longer in use.’”

Then, with a loud clang, the chain snapped tight as the growling Rottweiler’ frothing mouth came to an abrupt stop, just inches from Deputy Barnes and Mrs. Nadine Franklin. Mrs. Franklin screamed as they both jumped back to the sidewalk. They hadn’t noticed him coming around the corner, from the back of the house when they passed through the gate, which hung on the fence by a single hinge.

“Whoa there, puppy dog!” Barnes said under his breath. Sweat immediately appeared on his temples. “Where did you come from?” he said from behind the fence.

Mrs. Franklin put one hand to her chest and the other to her mouth. “We could have been killed,” she said. “Oh Lord, I saw my life just flash by.”

It took Barnes, a veteran of the police force for 15 years, a few moments to catch his breath and compose himself, too. He walked over to the driveway, then back to where Mrs. Franklin stood frozen in her shoes.

“How are we going to get past that?” Nadine asked, pointing to the now barking dog.

“It looks like we can reach the front door if we go up the driveway,” Barnes said, pointing to the cat that didn’t seem to concerned. “I think the cat might have a better idea of where Fido can go.”

“Oh Lord, those poor girls,” Nadine said under her breath about Kate and Karen James. “Those poor helpless little girls.”

“Isn’t Fido a little extreme as a pet for two little girls? Isn’t there something in the ‘Foster Parenting’ rulebook about owning a ‘killer dog’?” Deputy Barnes asked.

“...only if it isn’t vaccinated or licensed. However, there are rules about having a secured, fenced in yard ... with no broken gates.”

“Remind me again, why we are here,” Barnes said with a smirk on his face.

“To check on two little girls, that I placed in this family about a month ago,” she said with a hesitant voice. “I thought they were an acceptable couple, but we got a call last night from one of the neighbors, who heard a lot of yelling and some glass breaking from inside the house.” Then after hesitating, added, “I feel so awful.”

“And what are the names of the couple that took them into their home?”

“Edward and Olive Gray ... and the girls’ names are Kate and Karen James, ages ten and seven ... poor things,” she added as her eyes began to burn from the tears that flooded them.

There were two cars sitting on jacks in the driveway and an old Chevy van at the curb. Except for the path that they now recognized was worn down from the dog, the yard hadn’t been tended to in weeks. Tall weeks had well taken the place of any grass that might have been under them. Several old tires and an old washing machine also adorned the front yard.

The dog continued to bark as Deputy Barnes and Mrs. Franklin carefully walked up the driveway, between the cars, staying close to the house. At the top of the driveway, they stayed close to the house, where they were able to walk safely up the steps to the porch. They were both relieved that the dog’s chain wasn’t long enough for it to reach them.

Without loosing the cigarette from her lips, a lady dressed in a shabby bath robe and furry pink, slippers yelled as she opened the door, “Darn it, Buck, will you shut the hell up?”

She was startled when she turned around to go back in and saw Barnes and Frankiln standing on the porch, too.

Grabbing the cigarette from her mouth, she said, “Oh, I’m sorry. Can I help you?” she asked, then recognized Nadine, “ ... oh hello Mrs. Franklin. Is there something I can help you with?” Olive’s voice was shaking.

“Mrs. Gray, can we come in?” asked the deputy, who by this time had his handkerchief out and was wiping the back of his neck. Though Mrs. Gray was in front of him, Barnes looked past her, through the cloud of smoke and the odor of stale beer, making mental notes of the condition of the house.

“Uh, is ... is there something wrong?” she stuttered, obviously nervous.

Deputy Barnes heard a door slam shut, then saw Mr. Gray come marching around the corner, and to the front door.

“What the hell’s going on?” he barked in the direction of Mrs. Franklin. Then noticing Mrs. Franklin said, “Oh, hi. What brings you and ” then looking at Deputy Barnes badge, “him here.”

“Can we come in?” Barnes asked again, with more force this time as he opened the outer screen door.

“Of course you can,” Mrs. Gray sheepishly said as she got a nod from her husband. “Can I ... uh, can I get you something to drink?”

As they moved into the living room, Barns answered, “No ma’am. Why don’t you and your husband just take a seat over here,” Barnes said as he pointing to the tattered couch.

Instead of following the others, Nadine marched straight down the hallway to the girls’ bedroom.
She was a taken back as she opened the door, that appeared to have a hole kickin int the base of it, and walked into the darkened room. “Oh my God. This can’t be the same room I inspected just a month earlier,” she yelled back to Barnes. There were several holes in the walls, and the furniture that was once there had been replaced by a single broken bed and a chest with two of the four drawers missing. The floor was a mess and the clothes hamper was full.

“Girls? Kate ... Karen? It’s Mrs. Franklin,” she whispered gently. A quiet whimpering coming from the closet caught her attention. Walking over to it, she slowly opened the door and found the girls cowering in corner. Both were frozen in fear. Kate was clutching an old stuffed bear that had bells in its ears and one eye missing. She also held a piece of driftwood she had painted a simple picture of the cabin on it, and kept as a reminder of their summer vacations with their grandparents. Karen had one are tightly wrapped through Kate’s, while the other held tight to a small blanket and ‘Mr. Floppy’ – her stuffed bunny.