Tara over at Midnight Ink is having a "Secret" Blogfest today.
I was really excited because my new work in progress has a heroine with a big secret...one that eventually rips the tiny parish of Bayou La Foudre apart.
I hope you like the excerpt from my latest novel in the works...Bayou Blue.
And be sure to check out the other entries at Midnight Ink.
Bayou La Foudre, Louisiana
I used to think of the ocean as a place of peace until that night on the black water; when the air heated so fast and so furious that the wet steamed right off me. The dark night lit up with a bloom of raging red and orange. The night the sea stole my brother.
I remember how our lifeboat bucked on the water and I clutched the side with aching, sweaty hands. Members of the crew jostled and jockeyed for position on the craft, tending to the wounded. I noticed absently the paint on the hull melted off from the blast and the sickening feeling in my gut when we capsized in the swells.
Overhead, acrid smoke billowed up from the listing structure blacking out the jaundiced moon. Helicopters panned search lights back and forth lighting up the churning waves with frantically jerking beams. All around us flames flared across the water fed by the oil slicking along the surface. Trembling with fear and loss, my brother’s last words clanged in my head.
Don’t believe what they tell you.
The car behind me honked, tearing me out of my thoughts. I waved my apology and tore through the intersection on the yellow light. Skating around a curve, I rolled across the pebbled driveway of the Roustabout Bunkhouse, and slid into a parking space up front.
The worn structure sat huddled under a pair of large Cypress trees. Spanish moss draped over the branches and hung down to the roof, just scraping it with the faded green tendrils. Low in the sky, the sun angled shards of sunlight through the softly swaying leaves. I shut off the engine and sat staring through the windshield at the building’s faded wood façade trying to find the courage to go inside.
My phone buzzed on the seat next to me, the screen heralding my boss at the paper. Joseph Bradley ran San Diego’s North County Chronicle with an iron fist. The fact that one of his reporters didn’t show up for work this fine Monday morning must be driving him nuts.
Digging in my purse for my press credential, I found it and tossed it into the glove compartment of the rented sedan.
Wouldn’t be needing that out here. The less people knew I was back in Louisiana, the better.
I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel and bit my inner cheek. If I turned around now, caught a flight back to California, and just called the head office…
No. Randy deserved to have his stuff packed up by someone who knew him before his name meant death and destruction. Someone who loved him despite what he’d become. I thought about my younger brother and the breath whooshed out of me with the weight of his memory.
I folded and refolded the letter I received in the mail three days before the tragedy. Stained with tears and mottled with the oil of my hands, I knew the contents by heart. Randy’s all-capital handwriting scratched across the page.
I shoved the envelope back in my jeans pocket. Rummaging in my purse, I pulled out a tissue and dabbed at the mascara under my eyes with one hand and I pulled the key out of the ignition with the other. The mascara just wouldn’t stay on my lashes down here. What with all the humidity and crying I did lately.
“Looks like your fan base is still as solid as ever.” A low drawl next to my opened window startled me.
Gasping, I turned to face Sheriff Ayers as he leaned a hip casually on my fender. Dark hair, dark eyes, shadow of scruff along his angular jaw, Jake Ayers was about the only person in Bayou Le Foudre that spoke to me without sneering.
Of course, it was in his job description to deal with trouble judiciously.
I didn’t notice his patrol car until now.
I flashed on the image of him that terrible night; his hand reaching down to me. The helicopter’s whirling blades above him as he dangled on the rescue tether. Right now, the look on his face matched the one from the night he plucked me from the water. I heard somewhere he used to be with the Coast Guard search and rescue team; that he’d volunteered to help that night.
“How do they know so fast?” I peeled my hat off and tossed it in the back seat. “I just flew in two hours ago.”
He tipped his jaw down and peered back at the office from under the brim of his sheriff’s hat.
“You stopped for gas over at the Snack Shack. Penny called her mother, who called her sister…you know how it goes. Everybody knows your brother stayed here.”
I stared past him to the door of the bunkhouse manger’s office. Tension twisted my gut, but I turned to Jake.
“I have a right to my brother’s things.”
Jake nodded, his eyes searched mine, held them. “I know you do.”
Taking a deep breath, I climbed out of the car and reached into the back seat for two cardboard boxes. I followed Jake along the side of the bunkhouse building. We passed dirt brown doors evenly spaced and numbered with peeling black and gold stickers.
Nearing bunkhouse G3, Jake put his arm out, his hand going to the sidearm at his hip. The door hung from its hinges, the smell of urine fanned out from the doorway assaulting me. Jake shined his flashlight into the room then stepped back out.
“They wrecked it,” he said quietly. “Nothing left.”
Shaking my head, I took a step forward and peered into my brother’s room. The cardboard boxes fell from my hands to the dirty cement floor. I took in the room with teary eyes and clenched fists.
His books, torn pages scattered on the floor, looked trampled and wet. The urine stench floated in the room like a toxic miasma gagging me and forcing my hand to my mouth. Randy’s clothes, their shredded remains, tossed on the floor and furniture like dirty confetti. I ran my eyes over the broken remains of my brother’s life and shook from head to toe.
“They p-peed on his things,” I whispered.
Jake put his hand out to me, but I stepped away from him. Turning in the room slowly, my eyes grazed the wall over the door and I froze. Red spray paint scrawled out what my brother meant to these people; who my brother was to the world.
My fingers found the corner of the envelope jutting out from my pocket and my brother’s desperate words flashed in my mind.
I’m in over my head, sis. I don’t know how to stop this.
Jake watched me silently and I shoved the corner of the letter back down into my pocket.
“Why’d you come back here, Riley?” Jake asked. “Why do this to yourself?”
I wanted to tell him about the letter. I wanted to let him know what I intended to do, but I couldn’t tear my eyes from the violent accusation dripping down the wall.
“Because I promised I would,” I whispered.
Jake looked at me, his expression perplexed. “They hate you, Riley. They all do.”
I nodded but didn’t answer. It didn’t matter what they thought.
I knew one true thing. I failed Randy before. I wouldn’t do it again. One way or another, I would make things right.
That is the end of my first chapter. Riley is just getting started with all the trouble she's going to cause...Hope you check back on her later.
Until next time...Go Write!
Photograph by wheat_in_your_hair. Photograph by dawgbyte77.