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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #4

That was a canine yelp. Charli grasped the camera in both hands to steady it and tried not to think about the wolf cub and how badly hurt it had to be that it just sat there and didn’t try to get away from the men. She had been delighted when she heard that the five-wolf pack in the northern part of the wildlife preserve had had cubs this past winter. There were too many options, all of them bad, for how that man had gotten hold of one cub. Where were the other two? Where were the parents, and the rest of the pack?

“Where'd you get it?” the man with the flashlight asked.

“Found it hiding in the back of a den me and Hixon cleared out before he had to take off -- those rangers were getting too close.” The man who had driven the Jeep bent over to look at the cub, then walked away.

The two men with the buck heaved it into the back of the Jeep and one of them grunted loudly and asked, “What'd you save it for?”

“Thought we'd have some fun.”

“Not much left to have fun with,” the man who had carried the guns said. He stepped over and poked at the cub, then yanked his hand back with a curse. The others laughed at him.

Charli hoped the cub tried to bite him.

Cursing again, he drew his foot back to kick. The cub let out a yip like a shriek and flew three or four feet.

“No, no, no,” Charli growled. Her hand shook, but she reached into the holster on her hip and pulled out the flare gun. “Please, God …” She only hesitated a second before pulling it out and pointing her arm straight up in the air.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #3

The last two men stepped into the light from the flashlights, revealing they carried a buck on a pole between them. Charli gripped the trees on either side of her and leaned forward, straining her eyes for details. She muffled a moan as she made out the broken antler tine and the blotch of white on the buck’s neck and recognized the three-year-old she had watched grow up from a wobbly-legged, spotted fawn.

She had her phone out and taking video of the scene below her before she could think. Her hand shook as she imagined what these men would do if they looked up and caught a glimpse of light reflecting from her phone. She kept recording the scene anyway, praying for enough details, enough light, to somehow identify and convict these men. No one looked up, too busy with unloading their kill and settling down to wait.

Headlights appeared on the far side of the clearing just about the same time Charli realized that was what the poachers were doing. She almost couldn’t believe her good luck when a few moments later she heard the sound of an engine, and then a Jeep pulled into the clearing. She got shots of the license plate front and back. The headlights created more light in the scene, giving her clear shots of the features of the original five, and the man who got out of the Jeep and hurried around to open the tailgate, so they could load up.

The first man, who carried the guns, let out a bark of laughter and reached into the back to pull out a sack. He upended it, and something yipped and tumbled out, hitting the ground. Another man came over with one of the flashlights and focused on the lumpy shape, revealing a dark bundle of fur. The man who had driven the Jeep kicked at it, sending it tumbling away a good five feet with a loud yelp of pain.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #2

The clouds split apart and Charli stumbled, momentarily blinded by the angled shaft of moonlight in her face. Her foot twisted and she threw herself backwards, grabbing at tree branches. Turning her head, she froze, seeing the sudden drop-off only inches away from her boot toes. Sweat broke out on her forehead, upper lip, and down her back, and her stomach twisted in nausea. Despite knowing better, she looked down. The ground was only twenty feet away, but for a few seconds as her vision blurred and twisted, it could have been twenty stories. Breathing slowly, deeply, she forced herself to find a spot to focus on, even with her eyes, and fought the vertigo that tried to steal her balance.

Not. Going. To. Fall.

When her legs felt a little more solid and the ground stopped spinning, she moved her left foot back, sliding it along the ground until her heel hit a root. Then she moved her right foot.

The voices suddenly got louder, and lights streaked across the ground below her. They reflected off the slope below her feet, reducing the steepness. She grinned, despite the sweat still chilling her skin, and knew that if she had fallen she would have slid down instead of fallen. Not that she would have wanted to bang up against the rocks and fallen trees littering the slope, but playing dodgem was always better than falling.

She had been wrong in her estimate -- five men. Well, maybe only four had been talking. Two carried big flashlights like nightsticks, casting strong beams far ahead of them. They stopped in the clearing below her and put down the flashlights, stabbing them into the ground so they illuminated the men and whatever they were doing. The third man hauled a long bag larger than a duffel, slung across his back. Charli took another step back and then sank down to rest on her haunches, watching them, trying to fold into as small a shape as possible. That bag looked like it held rifles. These men were definitely not here with permission. If they were poachers, they wouldn’t be happy to know she was watching them right that moment. The smartest thing she could do was hold still and wait for them to walk far away before moving.

Monday, April 20, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #1

The cloud cover brought on night sooner in the day than expected. Charli turned off her flashlight and slowed her steps when she thought she heard voices ahead of her. The cave and growing station were still more than an hour of walking away. She and her mother knew all the rangers assigned to this area, who in turn knew the Carsons had permission to be in the forest. Any strangers she encountered either had no business being in the wildlife preserve at all, or they had gone out of the area they were allowed to be in through accident or arrogance. No matter the reason, she didn’t want to run into anyone and have to explain what she was doing out here, so far from a ranger station or an access road, so late in the day. Nobody knew about the cave that had been set up and equipped as a secondary camp or the meadow in front of the cave and rock face that would soon be set up with the growing trays. Charli preferred to keep it that way.

Letting her ears guide her, she made her way up the slope, feeling her way among the trees with her feet as well as an arm stretched out in front of her. There was little moonlight to see by, and what little penetrated the cloud cover was murky. She caught glimpses of flashlights below her and turned further uphill in response.        
The voices got louder. She estimated at least four men. They sounded a little too happy-loud. With her luck, they were campers who had violated the guidelines and hauled in several cases of beer, right under the noses of the park rangers. It wasn’t that alcohol wasn’t allowed in the wildlife preserve, but rather the bottles or cans it came in. Too many campers tossed their trash and expected it to vanish among the underbrush, instead of packing and hauling it out per the wildlife preserve rules.

Friday, April 17, 2015

COMING: The next Quarry Hall novel: CHARLI

Coming in May from Desert Breeze Publishing:

CHARLI

Charli Carson and her mother live in a wildlife preserve, where her mother, Dr. Rachel Carson, works on breeding plants to recreate medicinal plants lost through the destruction of the rainforests. Charli likes their isolated life, because she is still fighting the nightmares from more than ten years ago when her father was killed and her leg was shattered.

Joan comes from Quarry Hall in search of hope for a cure for her father, who lives under a death sentence from a genetically engineered illness. As she makes friends with the Carsons, enemy forces are gathering to make another try at stealing the research that killed Charli's father.