|Photo by Mike Love|
So I have decided that Mondays will be my Personal Blogfest Day...Yay! Wherein I can post whatever I feel like, complete with permission to lurk around Flickr for appropriate photos, and call it "working."
I may decide to include a Mr. Linky, so whoever feels like joining on future Mondays is able. Be sure to link to your HOME page, as your entry will change every week. Post whatever you like...whatever you want to share or get feedback on.
So, today's entry in Personal Blogfest Day, is from my current WIP, Bayou Blue. Jake Ayers and Riley Drake are following evidence from a chemical plant explosion to the home of a potential witness, Dauby La Roche. He lives in the deep swamp, accessible only by boat. Randy is her brother, who she thinks is wrongly accused. Oh, Pilkey and Ida are Dauby's family.
Chapter Ten (excerpt)
If the outside porch was bad, the inside was worse. Spoiled food and dirty clothes stunk up the room and Jake had to step over a pile of take-home containers by the door. He flipped the light switch and a floor lamp with no shade flicked on in the corner.
Riley eased her way in wrinkling her nose as she did.
“Looks like a slum apartment,” she commented.
Jake nodded. “That’s about right.” He pointed to a door across the room next to the ripped couch and TV tray. “Bedroom.”
He pushed the door in, scanned the room, and walked over to slide open the closet. Wire hangars and cardboard boxes inside, no clothes. He saw posters rolled up and leaning in the corner of the closet. A box on the shelf overhead held spiral notebooks, he pulled one out, saw the math calculations in it and put it back. Something here; he definitely needed to talk to Dauby.
He heard Riley searching the kitchen, opening drawers and cabinets, and debated telling her about the notebooks.
Later, he decided.
Entering the kitchen after her, he looked in the fridge. Some basics, nothing more. The house felt empty. He opened a door near the fridge, saw it was a pantry and felt the wall for a switch.
Riley ducked under his arm and reached up to yank the chain dangling from the ceiling bulb. Her hair smelled like vanilla and he flashed on how her body felt nestled against his when he’d caught her.
He cleared his throat and stepped back. “Pantry.”
“No one’s here.” She picked up a box of snack cakes and shook it between them. “Just junk food and trash.”
“He’s here,” Jake muttered. “No place to go without a boat.”
Riley followed him back out of the kitchen and back to the front room. The place was small. No where to hide, not even a crawlspace. Jake walked to the last door, the bathroom. He pulled it open and froze, his hand going to the gun at his waist.
Dauby lay crumpled on the floor of the tiny room, his head at an odd angle to the toilet; blood on the rim. His eyes wide open, staring at the wall. A length of clothesline wrapped around Dauby’s neck.
Jake bent down, put his fingers to Dauby’s neck, and came away. No pulse, but not cold. This just happened. He pulled the gun from his waistband and held it down by his thigh as he rose back up.
He felt Riley come up behind him and heard her gasp.
“Back up, Riley,” Jake said and took her with him as he walked them back to the front room. She went easy, grabbing onto his shirt, her eyes wide as she stared over his shoulder at Dauby’s body.
Jake scanned the windows for movement outside, his brain buzzing with adrenaline. He’d seen scratch marks on Dauby’s neck and the broken mirror. There’d been a struggle; maybe minutes before they showed up.
He pushed Riley with his body toward the wall near the front door, kept her there with his shoulder as he peered outside. She didn’t move. She didn’t talk. She just stood next to him with an ashen face. He put his fingers to his lips, mouthed for her to stay. She nodded.
Jake craned his neck to see around the door with one eye. Ten yards away, some egrets tore out of the tree line squawking behind them. Movement there, furtive, in the bushes. Jake tore out of the house in a crouched run, his gun going out in front as he ran to a grouping of dead trees ten yards from the house. He pushed up on them flattening himself to the bark and looked at the egret nest again. His eyes picked up some twitching branches a few yards further, and he took off in that direction.
He glanced behind as he ran, scanned back to the house looking for Riley, didn’t see her, but caught a flash of red near the side of he house. A baseball cap. He turned, skidding on the balls of his feet in the dirt and lunged back toward her shouting over the angry egrets. “Riley!”
She popped her head out of the door, saw his face, and ran towards him her head whipping back every few steps; looking over her shoulder, scared.
Jake motioned with his arm to the boat, pointing as he ran. “Get to the boat, get safe,” he panted and she nodded, veering away from him and went slipping and sliding on her butt down the embankment.
To his right, Jake ran alongside the broken-down railing along the porch, his shoulder skimming the wood as he slowed and crouched, listening. Near the back of the house, metal pipes banged and crashed; a shout of pain. Jake rounded the corner, sighting across his gun as he spied the rusty pipes some still tumbling down over a red baseball cap.
Behind him the boat’s motor turned over, the splash of water slapping onto the wood dock; Riley pulling away. Good.
Up in the mangroves, near the thicket, a man climbed on all fours; fighting to get over the crest. Jake sprinted forward yelling. “Stop.”
The figure froze and Jake saw a flash of white face obscured by dry branches. The man turned back clawing up the hill. Jake tripped his way through the fallen pipes, his pants getting snagged by a rusty pipe; he went down. Scrambled to his feet and went down again.
Cursing under his breath he planted a palm on the side of the house and leveraged himself as he jumped over the last of the pipes. He hit the ground, went down into a crouch ready to run…
And pain exploded through his skull.
Jake went sideways, the blow glancing off his head the full force of it slamming into his shoulder. He tried to spin, to get his legs under him, gun hand coming up, but another blow aimed right this time took him down.
He saw the pipe rise again and he jerked; firing a wild round. A startled gasp to his side and he heard the pipe’s hollow clang as it hit the others. Jake couldn’t see straight, couldn’t track the legs running away. He brought a hand to his eye; it came back bloody. He saw blood on the grass and dropped to his knees, his head spinning.
Panting through the pain, Jake heard an airboat started up far away. They were gone.
He picked his way back through the pipes to the front of the house. The adrenaline bitter in his mouth, he spit as he looked across the saw grass to the water. The canopy boat bobbed in the middle of the waterway, Riley leaning over the railing looking scared, but safe.
He waved his hand over his head. “You okay?”
She nodded, her face registering relief then concern the closer he got. Her hands went to her mouth, eyes wide. “What happened?”
Toughie and Rick arrived, and ten minutes later, Jake’s third deputy, Dan DePaul brought one of the volunteer firemen, Girard, on an air boat. Everyone stood on the porch and watched Girard stitch the gash in Jake’s scalp while they waited for the state police to show up. La Foudre didn’t have its own crime lab. The coroner, who was also the owner of the only mortuary, was out of town. Jake hated the state police.
Riley, still on the canopy boat, sat on the deck with her legs folded up her chest, hugging her knees. She looked spooked.
Jake eyed the afternoon shadows and let out a sigh; two hours gone.
“Can you track my finger?” Girard held his index finger in front of Jakes face and wiggled it.
“I’m fine,” Jake muttered. “It’s a rip in my skin, not a crushed skull.”
“You feel dizzy or disoriented?”
“Does irritated count?”
“He’s fine,” Girard said dryly. He pulled a chemical ice pack from his paramedic’s bag, cracked it against his leg, and handed it to Jake. “You won’t come in for an x-ray?”
Jake scowled at his feet, feeling stupid and angry. He shook his head.
Girard shrugged and started packing up his stuff.
Jake got up, pressed the icepack to his head and motioned for Toughie to follow him. They walked down the porch stairs to the patch of saw grass nearest the water.
“You see inside?”
Toughie nodded, his grey eyes narrowing at Jake. “Yeah.”
“What do you think?”
Born to a boat-racing family, he got his name from the many crashes he’d survived and still went back. Toughie stood a foot shorter and twenty pounds heavier than Jake. Once a meaty guy, he’d gone wobbly with age. At fifty, he was the oldest deputy that worked for Jake, and the smartest.
“Could be two things; either he tried to kill himself and panicked at the last moment or someone tried to hang him and he got out from under them.”
Jake nodded. “Sounds right; the scene could play both ways. He could have flailed around trying to get free of the rope or he could have been fighting them off. The shower curtain was bent, but that could be just from his weight.”
“Saw the notebooks too. Looks like Dauby was into some complicated math,” Toughie said with sarcasm. “The posters in the closet? They were blueprints. Can’t tell what kind, but it doesn’t look like plans for a deck to me.”
“The notebooks had the kind of math they use in engineering.” Jake shook his head. “Randy was an engineer. I don’t know, Toughie. Things are getting tangled.”
Toughie took a pack of nicotine gum out of his pocket and shoved a piece in his mouth. “Dauby could barely add. He had that…reading thing, where you see letters backwards?”
“Yeah, I know.”
Jake watched his deputies on the porch. They were good people, honest, but inexperienced. Whether this was an attempt to fake a suicide or something else, whoever attacked him was something his deputies never encountered here in La Foudre before.
“I sent Rick over to the egret nest. Someone threw a pipe over there probably to distract you.”
“It worked.” Jake pulled the icepack away and looked down at it in his hand, squishing it. “Anything over the hill?”
“Nah, you know these swamps. More than a dozen ways in here by boat; could be anywhere.”
“We just missed them, Toughie. Maybe by minutes.”
“Ye-ah,” Toughie said. He looked at Jake with tired eyes. “Bad luck.”
“Minutes,” Jake muttered.
Toughie hooked his thumbs on his gun belt and shrugged. “Now what?” He shot a glance over to the canopy boat and his grey mustache twitched but he didn’t mention Riley.
“We hand the crime scene over to the Staties for now,” Jake said. He blew a breath out slowly, thinking. “We’ll need their forensics for this and they’ll keep us in the loop. We don’t need to run around behind them gathering up the same information.”
“If those notebooks have anything to do with the plant explosion, then we’re in trouble. You said you saw two people out there with you; the one you were chasing and the one who hit you. If you count Randy and now, Dauby, that makes four people in this mess. Now there’s no guarantee that whoever attacked you also killed Dauby, but it’s a good bet. No other reason to be lurking around Dauby’s place like that. Nothing to steal.” Toughie fiddled with the foil pack of gum in his hands and then shoved it in his pocket. “We’re liable to have the FBI and reporters swarming out here again by week’s end.”
“Tell everyone here to keep their mouths shut. Pilkey and his mama probably don’t know about the notebooks. They didn’t see the schematics either, I’m betting. See if we can keep a lid on things long enough to ask around.”
“People are gonna notice Feds skulking around here again.” Toughie spit his gum into the water. “You know what else won’t go unnoticed?”
Jake looked at Toughie, a headache already spreading across his forehead. “That all this started up again the minute Riley showed up here.”
“Wasn’t her.” Jake glanced over at the canopy boat. “She was scared, I saw it. Besides, she was floating out there the whole time.”
“But it would help her family out if it turned out this whole thing wasn’t just her brother.”
“Well, that is what it’s looking like, Toughie. I didn’t beat myself up.” Jake shook his head and it caused a wave of nausea to well up. “We need to find out what’s really in all the stuff in Dauby’s closet and we need to find out where he disappeared to for almost a month.”
Toughie shrugged. “We weren’t invited to the table the last time the FBI got involved. What makes you think it’ll be different if they show up again?”
“We’ll run our own investigation, a parallel one. They have all the science, but we know this place and the people in it. And there was a guy last time, An Agent Bell, that might be easier to work with than the others, but I don’t want this getting away from us, not this time.”
“Okay, then,” Toughie said and nodded. “You sure?”
Jake glanced over at Pilkey and Ida. They stood under a bare tree huddled close together with the blank stare of shock on both of their faces. He nodded to Toughie. “We run them down ourselves; whoever did this.”
Toughie looked over to the water, but he spoke to Jake. “Whoever?”
Jake nodded. “We stop ‘em.”
That is all for this week's Personal Blogfest. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt and feel free to leave a critique in the comments. I'm always looking for feedback. Hope you join me next week with a selection from your own work.
Until next time...Go Write!