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Monday, June 30, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #12

Vincent watched her as he opened the envelope by feel. Inside was a photo -- an old-style Polaroid, by the thick, square stiffness. He wasn't sure what he waited for as he watched her, trying to anticipate her purpose. Then he looked at the photo and felt just like he did when he saw Josh and Geneva smiling in the photo on top of the stack of data in the Spike Center folder. Like the floor had dissolved underneath him and the lights had gone out for a moment. Like he fell downward and backwards through time, and the sands of memory that engulfed him threatened to suffocate him.
All five of them, twenty-five years younger, filthy from a successful mission, gathered around a table in some backwater dive. Snow, Javelin, Shadow, Daedelus, and Midas. Vincent marveled at the callous hardness in their faces, could hear the boisterous voices as they raised their glasses in a toast, splashing bad beer over each other and the cluster of glasses that filled the table from three previous rounds of drinks. All of them young, strong, full of life and fury, and for a brief moment united in celebrating their success. Handsome in a glaring, dangerous way. So young, unscarred.
He remembered the thin, hungry girl who took their picture with an old Polaroid before they knew she was there. He remembered how Snow had cursed her and Shadow laughed, using charm to try to get her to hand the picture over without having to pay for it. That was what the poor child did to earn a living -- take photos of people having a drunken good time and get them to pay too much for it. Despite her terror, the girl had understood that they wouldn't pay for the photo and they wouldn't let her leave with it, and she had run. Daedelus/Josh went after her, chasing her out of the bar, and came back with the photo less than ten minutes later.
Vincent's hand shook, remembering how Snow had vanished from the table a short time later. When they left the bar maybe an hour later, he stepped out of the shadows with the camera in his hands and a cold smile on his face. Vincent hadn't thought until just that moment what Snow had probably done to the girl to get the camera. He liked torturing children. When the powers-that-be sent him on solo jobs, they knew he would get the job done if the targets had children he could torment and "play with" after he had murdered the parents.
Funny, how Darcy had been able to match him up with the man in the photo, despite the years, the bad lighting, the filth, and the fact that his lack of soul showed so clearly. Vincent slid the old photo back in the envelope and handed it back to her.
       "What did your dad tell you about us, about the men in that picture?" He found some amusement in the realization that he didn't want Joan to see the photo.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #11

In response, Darcy held out her left hand. She was right-handed. Vincent held out his left hand, and had to consciously keep his arm extended when the girl grasped his wrist and turned his arm to reveal the underside, the skin slightly lighter -- enough to reveal his tattoo in red and black ink on his bicep, just above the cup of his elbow.
Vincent had thought about removing the tattoo for years. The insignia -- a stylized Omega wreathed in flames -- had been designed by someone among the powers-that-be who had tried to program him to be a heartless, cold-blooded killing machine. He had considered it like a brand, proclaiming the ownership someone had tried to take on him, body, mind and soul. The tattoo was marred by a thin line of scar tissue right down the middle, from where he had dug out the subcutaneous transponder that let his trainers/owners track him down no matter where he went in the world.
"Dad has the same tattoo, the same scar," Darcy said. Her hand grasping his wrist started to tremble. Vincent snatched at it when she let go and tried to pull away.
"What'd he tell you?" he asked, keeping his voice soft.
Behind Darcy, Joan waited, watching him, arms spread slightly, as if she thought the girl would try to run and she had to stop her.
"He doesn't know you're here. What do you know about him?" She licked her lips and had to visibly fight to meet his gaze. "Were you telling the truth, that you're a Christian?"
"Only thing keeping me sane, sometimes. What has your dad told you about me -- about us?"
          "Not much." She reached into her sweatpants pocket, pulled out a square envelope, and handed it to him.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #10

"Good morning!" the young woman sang out. Her wide-boned face glowed from scrubbing and no make-up. Her long hair was pulled back in a single braid, hanging over her shoulder almost to her waist. She slung a blue motorcycle helmet into the corner by the stairs and tossed a heavy key ring into it.
"How's it going, sunshine?" Vincent said, crossing the room to the wall rack where three katanas hung on display.
"Morning comes earlier every day. How come the earlier the sun comes up, the longer I want to sleep?" She grinned at him, nearly upside down as she bent over to unlace her boots.
"Lazy." His single word, heavy with scorn, earned a giggle.
In the doorway, Joan cocked an eyebrow at him and turned to take a closer look at Darcy. Vincent noted her reaction, pleased that she was immediately intrigued by this girl. He hoped they became friends quickly.
Darcy might need Joan's friendship and support in the days to come.
"Say that when I have a sword in my hand." Darcy stood and levered her boot off her left foot with the toe of her right boot.
"Big words for a little girl." Vincent tossed a katana across the intervening space.
Darcy swooped up underneath it and caught it with a resounding smack against her palm. Grinning, she toed off her socks and advanced onto the practice mats. She shifted her grip to two-handed and held the sword parallel with the floor, chest-level, waiting.
"That's Joan, by the way," Vincent said, gesturing toward the office door with his chin. "And her fuzzy shadow, Ulysses."
"Hi," Darcy said, never taking her eyes off her teacher.
"Hi yourself," Joan murmured.
"I just hired her to help out here when I move over to the Center. Maybe later we'll see just how good you are compared to her. She might just wipe the floor with your sorry little butt," he continued, grinning.
"Don't try to distract me, Vincent," Darcy said with a chuckle. "It worked last time, but it won't work again."
"She's such a good student. Check out her technique, Joan, and see what she's doing wrong."
           Joan murmured agreement as she slid down to the floor and settled down cross-legged to watch. Vincent swung, twisting his body sideways to alter the angle of descent. Darcy met the blow with an upward swing and danced out of the way. Ulysses lay down next to Joan, his head on her thigh, and she absently rubbed his back as she watched the sparring.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #9

The days slid by faster than she thought possible, when she was so worried about Roger. Darcy thought she would hate continuing her lessons with Vincent, both because he didn't know how she worked, what Roger had told her about swordplay and self-defense, and because she knew she would be constantly comparing him to Roger. It was easier going to the dojo than she anticipated. Part of it was because Vincent made sure to update her on what he knew of the search for Roger. Anything Saundra told him, he passed on to her.
She liked Vincent. He presented an appearance of being big and dangerous and lethal, but she saw him with some of the children who came with their mothers for exercise classes. He would do simple magic tricks for them, or walk them through seemingly complicated martial arts maneuvers, sometimes flipping them up in the air so for a few seconds it seemed as if they flew. By the end of the first week at the dojo, some of the bolder children would sneak up on him with squirt guns or to shout "boo!' and run away, squealing with delight when he pretended rage and then chased after them. He always caught them, turning the chase into a wrestling match, but the children always ended up on top, bouncing on his chest or his back. The mothers loved him. Darcy sometimes thought several of them would quite gladly fall in love with him if he ever showed any interest.
Twice when she arrived a little early for lessons, she found him sitting on the steps out front, reading his Bible. Once Saundra asked her to come to the dojo to fill in for Vincent. When Darcy got there, the other women in the class told her that an ex-boyfriend who refused to be ex had followed one of the women to the dojo. He had a gun. Vincent disarmed him, tied him up, called the police, and then took the woman and her children to a women's shelter where they could go to vanish.
         It was the most natural thing in the world to vent to Vincent when she showed up for a lesson, still fuming about a problem that had struck the Center the evening before. Darcy hadn't meant to tell him about it -- she had learned early that discretion was necessary in the kind of work her parents did -- but Vincent noticed right away that her thoughts were elsewhere and asked her what was wrong. Before she knew it, she was sitting on a stack of mats with her borrowed katana resting on her knees, spilling the details of yet another casualty of the slander hitting the Spike Center.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #8

She pulled the door open and let out a squeak of surprise when she came face-to-face with Doug, who was pushing the door open. For three seconds they stared at each other, wide-eyed.
"Uh -- sorry." Doug raked the fingers of one hand through his hair. "Grandma got on me about -- about before."
"Doug--"
"I was wrong. Grandma says everybody is a victim of some scheme to make this place fold." Two spots of red lit his cheeks and he couldn't look her in the eyes anymore. "She said I'm being hard on Roger because maybe I'm jealous."
"Jealous of what?" Her voice cracked. She grabbed his hand, dragged him into the office, and closed the door. The last thing she wanted or needed was someone to overhear this conversation if it was going where she thought it was going.
"You know." He stole a glance at her and looked away, pretending great interest in the tack board on the far wall.
Darcy almost said, "Uh, no, tell me," but her throat closed up and her face felt hot.
Thanks, God! Maybe Doug really is interested. Enough to be stupid. Please, don't let him be that stupid, though, okay?
"I guess Martha overheard us fighting," she said instead.
"Didn't hear, but she saw enough, and then she put me through the third degree." He let out a shaking breath and met her eyes again for a moment. "She said we just have to trust God to bring justice and trip up the enemy with his own plans, and if I was going to twist things around and see Roger as a rival, then I was insulting you and I was--" He choked.
"What?"
         "You know how Grandma is. Testosterone poisoning causing brain damage. Along with a lot of hormones." He shrugged, but even though the red flush in his cheeks spread out, he grinned and met her eyes now and didn't look away.

Friday, June 20, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #7

"You need something to put a smile back on your face. Not that I approve of how your father spoils you rotten."
Darcy snorted, her mouth trembling upwards.
"But just to show you how much your happiness means to me, what say I find you a new master of swordplay to continue your lessons -- just until Roger clears away his troubles? Eh? How does that sound?"
"Well, it sounds like a waste of time, because I know everything will be back to normal tomorrow."
"Indulge a silly old man."
"You're not silly and you're not old."
"Ah, me, such flattery. You do have a way with words, my dear." He slid his arm around her shoulders and they walked around the corner in perfect step. "If I were a younger man, I'd lay my heart at your feet."
"Sounds kind of messy, to me."
He let out a bark of laughter and hugged her closer. "Promise me something while I'm out of town?"
When Darcy was a child, she would have instantly said, "Anything!" After all, he was her Uncle Karl, who gave her treats and made it possible to have adventures her parents couldn't afford, and now paid for her sword and self-defense lessons, and filled her head with stories about all the foreign countries and cities he had visited. Now, however, after the danger and heartache she had seen in the cities she had lived in with her parents, and the rescue missions they had renovated together, Darcy had learned caution. Even with her beloved adopted uncle -- who, now that she thought about it, had been the first to caution her never to make open-ended promises.
"If it doesn't get in the way of my classes and my work here."
"That's my darling girl. Always provide yourself a back door to escape through." Van Mournen stopped them, released her, and turned her to face him. "Check on the treasure room for me?"
"Like you have to ask?"
          "Never assume anything, darling." He winked and patted her cheek. "Swords, even the most elegant and ancient, need regular handling. Until Roger comes back and your lessons resume, take out one each day and do some shadow-fighting, will you? Keep your hand in, learn balance, and let the swords know they're still loved, eh?"

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #6

Joan thought about Vincent's remark about faerie tales. She wondered if he was thinking about Anne, and her tendency to deal with painful subjects by dressing them in faerie tale language. Maybe he was thinking more of George, how childlike he had become. When he wasn't speaking the language of cars or making intricate origami figures, he wavered between a passion for faerie tales and in-depth Bible studies that would leave a seminary professor breathless. Knowing a little more of George's past -- she would never have guessed that Vincent and George knew each other before coming to Quarry Hall -- Joan could understand a little bit the wide disparity in how the damaged, childlike man's mind and soul worked.
"Did you ever think," George said, suddenly appearing at Joan's open door, "that King Midas destroyed everything with his golden touch?"
"Uh -- in the faerie tale, he nearly starved to death because all his food turned to gold," she said, thinking quickly.
"He had to be baptized, and he nearly drowned, to wash away the curse of the golden touch." He nodded solemnly, and something flickered in his eyes, old pain and terror and what Joan feared was rage. It died before she could be sure. "I don't really think it happened yet, do you?"
"Didn't happen?"
"I think Midas still needs to have it all washed away. Make sure you don't get turned to gold when you hold him down in the water, okay?" He grasped her shoulder, squeezing hard enough to make her hiss.
Joan thought of the killer he had once been, code name Snow, a man who had been coming to kill Vincent before someone nearly killed him.
"Okay." She met his eyes and hated the momentary fear she felt for the old man she had always considered pitiable. Somewhere between an adorable, clumsy puppy and a slightly crazy old uncle.
         "Make Vincent be good," he whispered, bending down to hug her hard and fast, before scampering away, back to the service pit he had emerged from nearly an hour before.

Monday, June 16, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #5

"Healing can be danged uncomfortable," Joan said.
"Got that right." Vincent glanced away from the road and met her gaze long enough to wink. "In a lot of ways, I kind of envy George. He doesn't remember who he is, what he used to do. Completely clean slate, clean, pure conscience. He's got that child-like faith Christ tells us to want more than anything."
"I used to wish I could forget a lot of things I had to do to survive," she offered. "Forgetting can be dangerous. If you don't know who wants you dead, how can you be alert for them coming after you?"
"Alert for years, or a short time feeling no fear at all? No more nightmares. No more wondering when someone will pick up that trail you thought you erased. No more being afraid to love someone because your enemies will hurt them to hurt you."
"In Snow's -- George's case -- keep your enemies close, in case he remembers and finishes his job?" Joan said, when he didn’t speak for several minutes.
"It's not like they show on TV, where someone recovers from amnesia and gets his life back. Not when portions of your brain are reduced to scar tissue. The man George is now, that's the man he's going to be until he dies. He's totally sold out to Christ. He'll stay sold out."
"What if he doesn't remember that he's sold out?" she asked after a moment of thought.
"You're definitely in a glass half-empty mood today."
"That's an improvement."
"Yeah?"
         "Up until I met my dad… I didn't even have a glass."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #4

Ten minutes after her lessons were supposed to start, Darcy sat on the worn cement steps of the grimy, red brick, three-story building that housed the dojo. The entire first floor was open, all the interior walls removed, surrounded by amber-tinted windows behind metal grillwork, so she could see across from one side to another. She saw the exercise mats, the punching bags, free weights, barbells, racks of equipment, and Roger's office tucked into one corner. However, no sign of Roger. No sign of movement on the second floor, where a dance teacher, yoga instructor, and massage therapists rented rooms. No lights on in the windows of the third story, where Roger had his apartment. She was ready to go behind the building, in the narrow alley between it and the building in back, to climb the fire escape and tap on Roger's window. Darcy didn't want to -- but what if something was wrong with Roger? What if he was sick -- so sick he was still in bed, unaware of how late in the morning it was? She couldn't imagine Roger not calling if he needed to cancel.
Ten more minutes and Darcy pushed her motorcycle around the back of the building and stood on the seat to reach the bottom rung of the fire escape ladder and climb up. The shades were rolled up over the window at the third floor landing, and the security bar across the window was firmly locked into place. There was enough sunlight splashing across the sparsely furnished apartment to see Roger wasn't there. No signs of breakfast dishes. The bathroom door was open. No movement, no signs of life.
Darcy considered climbing up to the roof and trying to force her way in through that door, but it was too close to the edge of the roof. The only way she could think of to get that door open was a running start and throwing all her weight against it. She didn't have much faith in her ability to kick hard and break the lock. She needed something hard -- maybe something sharp -- to break a lock on either the roof door or the window. A shudder worked through her at the momentary thought of using the katana Roger let her use for their workouts. While the blade could do the job, she didn't want to risk it.
       "Moot point," she muttered, as she started down the fire escape again. The sword was inside, and she was outside, and if she could get to the sword then she wouldn't be in the predicament where she needed it, would she?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #3

"I wish we could find whoever is telling all those lies about you and Sam and Tyler and the others," she had said with a sniff, her pretty mouth flattening in hurt and anger. “I’d just like to take them and--" The anger that flared in her eyes, on his behalf, warmed him.
"None of that. Leave it to God to handle this mess."
"I'd rather pray for a big, mean, avenging angel to come down and start banging heads together."
"All have sinned, remember that. If you let them take your peace, then they've already won."
Roger tried to hold onto those words, that wisdom and comfort he tried to give Darcy, but it was hard. Someone with powerful connections was destroying the work of decades with vicious lies, backed up with fabricated evidence. By painting him and the other founders of the Spike Center as hypocrites, drug dealers and pimps, they were hurting more people than just the ones whose reputations had been torn to shreds. If the Spike Center folded, where would all the people turn to for help, who came to them every day for food, clothes, basic medical care, a place to take a shower and feel the love of God through His servants?
When he had returned to his apartment that evening, after another fruitless meeting with the other targets of the slander, Roger had been surprised to find the note from Darcy. His heart had skipped a few beats when he read that she knew someone who might be able to help with the problem. Now, he was only a few moments away from the answer to weeks of increasingly desperate prayers.
"Darcy?" Roger stepped into a room where a thin trickle of moonlight came in through a gap in a grimy skylight. He wondered why she was hiding. "Where are you?"
"Darcy couldn't make it," a man whispered. "So sorry."
          Roger turned, catching a flicker of movement from the corner of his eye. He raised his hands in reflex as the long, gleaming blade whistled out of the darkness. Fire slashed across his neck. He stumbled backwards, clutching at the hot, liquid gushing. His attacker's face appeared in the moonlight, changed into something demonic with the fury that twisted it. Roger gasped, stunned, momentarily distracted by the effort to understand. A baseball bat in the man's other hand swung upwards, smashing into his head. He staggered backwards, stunned, unable to cry out, and tripped over a pile of rubble. Falling, he tried to roll out of the way as the long blade swung down again, finding the other side of his neck with fatal precision.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #2

Darcy as he had last seen her filled his mind. Her long, dark hair was held back in two ponytails. She wore her favorite green sweatshirt with the roaring lion on it, and scurried through the swinging door into the kitchen, carrying a tub of dirty bowls and spoons almost too heavy for her. Roger had hurried forward to help, and they laughed as they stumbled over to the huge sink to put the tub down.
"Thanks. Rescued me again," Darcy had said with a breathless laugh. Then her smile had faded. "I wish you and the rest would stay. You built this place. We're the newcomers."
"That's why you and your folks are considered innocent. We need all of you to stay and carry on the work until we can clear our names. Be a good little girl and keep safe, okay?"
"I'm not a little girl," she had said with a sigh -- and a flicker of humor in her eyes. "I'm nearly twenty. I can vote. I can drive. And I can go three rounds with you before losing my sword."
"I'm the best swordsman in England," he had interrupted, deliberately thickening the Cornwall accent he had worked hard to lose, so the bullies in his Detroit neighborhood wouldn't bloody him every time he opened his mouth.
           He had followed his favorite childhood tales and took up fencing and then mastery with other swords to ward off the bullies -- many different kinds of bullies. He had held onto the swords, only selling them when the Center needed a boost of financing. Three of his precious swords had provided the funding he needed to start his dojo. If he didn't have his dojo and his students, he didn't know how he would hold onto his peace of mind -- and keep busy -- while he waited for the scandal to be unraveled and the accusations proven false.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

DARCY, Excerpt #1

"Darcy?"
Roger shivered and glanced back over his shoulder. Nothing moved in this section of town except the mist. Black on black shadows. Silence. Not even the wind to talk to him. Jeans and sweatshirt weren't enough in the chill that seemed to flow out of the black mouth of the abandoned factory.
Like a monster, waiting to devour him.
When he had been a boy, he had played in the caves along the coast of Cornwall and pretended to be a knight, rescuing maidens from dragons and ogres and other creatures who enjoyed the damp and sand and darkness. His parents had split when he was eleven, destroying his childhood and shredding his dreams of adventure and daring. Moving from Cornwall to Detroit had been the first step in a long, downward plunge, nearly wiping those dreams out of his soul, yet not completely. Darcy made him remember those days. For her, and her belief in him, he wanted to stay and fight for his reputation and the rescue mission.
Roger shook his head and ran his long fingers through his thinning, graying red curls. When had those memories decided to surface? Since he found the note from Darcy tucked under his apartment door? He wished he had returned soon enough to actually talk to her, but maybe it was better that way. With all the lies being circulated about those heading the ministry, it might be better if no one saw them talking in daylight.
        He just wished Darcy hadn't chosen a place like this. It was one thing for her parents to choose to make their home in the Zone, but another thing for a girl like her to wander around so late at night, alone. True, Darcy was the most talented and natural student of swordplay he had taken on in years, but a white girl riding her motorcycle alone in the Zone after midnight -- that attracted the kind of attention a sword couldn't defend against.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Book of the Month: DARCY

All this month, the month of release, will feature excerpts from DARCY, book four of the Quarry Hall series.

Here's a fun, inside fact:

DARCY is based on a Highlander fan novel I wrote a looooong time ago, titled, "Blade of Innocence." Some of the names have not been changed -- such as Darcy, Josh, and Geneva, and the rescue mission they are helping to renovate, The Spike Center. Other names have been changed -- for instance, most of Vincent's "lines" originally belonged to Duncan MacLeod. Many of Joan's "lines" belonged to either Amanda or Joe Dawson.

It was a lot of fun adapting this fan novel to the Quarry Hall series, and I have to say a BIG thanks to my editor, who caught glitches I didn't, sewing up holes of various sizes in the story line ....

Friday, June 6, 2014

DARCY: The New Quarry Hall Book

The newest Quarry Hall novel is out from Desert Breeze Publishing.

DARCY reveals a little more of Vincent's dark past. When a rescue mission comes under fire with scandalous accusations and the Arc Foundation starts to investigate, Vincent discovers that a former teammate is now in charge of the renovations of the old building. Josh appears to be a changed man, a minister, devoting his life to God's service -- and perhaps making amends for the crimes of his youth. Vincent reserves judgment on that until he has spent some time with Josh and his family and the rescue mission.

The problem is that none of them might have enough time. Someone is out to destroy the mission, and some of the attacks appear to be centered on Darcy, Josh's daughter. An idealistic young woman who is ready to put flesh and blood on the line to do what's right, Darcy is a pure heart. Someone is out to control her life and her heart, and will destroy anyone who gets in his way. Destroying Josh in the process, and the mission he is helping to renovate, is just a bonus in the long-range plan for revenge.