Excerpt from LIGHT BRINGER by Pat Bertram

Description of Light Bringer:

Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Excerpt from Light Bringer:

Philip woke in the dark of early morning, forehead damp with perspiration, heart pounding from unremembered nightmares. When calm settled over him, he listened for the sound of Rena’s even breathing on the other side of the thin wall. Hearing only an indigo silence, he rose and went to check on her. Because he didn’t take the time to put on his braces, he made sure to plant one foot on the floor before swinging the other forward.

Rena’s bed was empty.

He found her on the porch, sitting on the single step, her strange cat beside her.

She turned a smile on him, as bright as the starshine.

He sat next to her. “What are you doing out here?”

“Listening to the music of the spheres.” As one, she and the cat tilted their faces to the sky. “Can you hear it?”

He angled his head. He heard crickets chirping nearby, dogs barking in the distance, and farther away a train clattering on its tracks. As he isolated each sound, he set it aside until there were no more noises. Then, as if from some vast remoteness, he heard a faint silvery tone that seemed to swell, bursting into a thousand jewel-bright notes. Every note sounded clean and sharp, a thing unto itself, but melodized into an aural patchwork quilt of intricate design.

After a timeless interval—minutes or hours, he had no way of knowing—heavy clouds rolled in, turning off the sky.

He shivered in the cooling air. Rena inched closer, put an arm around his waist, and nestled against him.

Warmth and sweet harmony enveloped them as if that aural quilt had settled on their shoulders.

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Second Wind Publishing

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

Excerpt from LIGHT BRINGER by Pat Bertram

Description of Light Bringer:

Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Excerpt from Light Bringer:

The trail was a gentle decline, hard-packed, and free of rocks, as if it had been well traveled since time out of mind. It ended at a stream so clear its cobbled bed looked like a mosaic of semi-precious stones. On the other side of the stream, the tall meadow grasses, lavender in the mountain’s shadow, whispered softly among themselves.

Laughing, Rena caught Philip’s hand. “They’re inviting us to come play.” She ran the last few steps toward the edge of the water.

He pulled his hand away, hearing in his mind the sickening sound of ripping ligaments and tendons, and feeling the pain.

Walking carefully, he joined her by the stream.

“Too bad there’s not a bridge,” she said, “but the water isn’t deep. We can wade across.”

He put out a foot, drew it back. “You go. I’ll wait here.”

She nodded in understanding, and took his hand again. “That’s okay. I can go another time.”

They sat on the forested slope, listening to the whispering of the grasses increase in pitch as the day came to an end. After the sun set, they headed home in a rich, warm alpenglow that turned the world to gold.

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Second Wind Publishing

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

Creating the Fictional Town of Chalcedony

I needed a special setting for my latest novel Light Bringer. It needed to be part of the world but isolated, a place where people were free to be themselves without ridicule, where UFOs sightings could have had a major impact, where a secret government-sanctioned project could be hidden. Luckily, I had to look no further than out my living room window.

At the time, I was living in the shadow of the Grand Mesa, in ranching country, and much of that terrain formed the backdrop of my story. Chalcedony is the name of a fictional county sandwiched between Mesa County and Delta County. It is a beautiful place with mountains and valleys, wide-open spaces, cattle and horses, new buildings and old.

But beneath the mountains in this peaceful fictional world, unpeaceful things are happening.

Grand Mesa (The view from my living room window)
~~~

Calcedony County
~~~

Road Into Chalcedony
~~~

Mountain View
~~~

Another view of Grand Mesa
~~~

Chalcedony County
~~~

Luke’s Ranch
~~~

Pasture Gate
~~~

Ranch House in Chacedony
~~~

What lurks beneath these mountains? Read Light Bringer, and find out!
~~~
LBLight Bringer: Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Light Bringer

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

A Barebones Kind of Writer?

As a project for a writing group, we were supposed to post the last sentence of a couple of our chapters, but it was hard for me to find last sentences that say much. It’s usually my second and third to last sentences that have the meat, with a final, very short sentence to deliver the punch, such as these chapter endings from Light Bringer.

She thrust the magazine at Mac. “This isn’t a picture of my parents.”
But the frantic beating of her heart told her it was.

She turned around slowly, and clutched at her chest.
The ghost cat was inside the house.
And so was something else.

Wisdom lay stretched out on the borrowed couch, eyes closed in feline bliss. The skin on its belly rippled gently as if being caressed by unseen fingers. A chuckle reverberated in its chest.

“Shakespeare was right,” Emery said. “‘Hell is empty. All the devils are here.’”

Still, I did manage to find several ending sentences that were a bit longer than most and even made a sort of sense by themselves:

Lying awake, staring at the dust motes dancing in the moonlight, he thought he could hear voices murmuring in the wind.

After the sun set, they headed home in a rich, warm alpenglow that turned the world to gold.

A skinny, hairless cat with luminous silver eyes sat on the porch and stared at them, a quizzical look on its face.

Could it be that they were all following a script of someone else’s devising?

They were met with a burst of color, a song of pure joy that seemed at odds with the harsh environment of the laboratory they had entered.

Hugh shot them a disgusted look, then he and Keith plunged into the light.

Hmmm. I might have to change my opinion about my writing. I always thought I was a barebones kind of writer, but there seems to be a bit of poesy to my descriptions, especially with longer passages, such as this one:

She looked just as he remembered. The lithe body that moved as gracefully and effortlessly as a song wafting on a breeze. The shoulder-length brown hair that glimmered red and gold in the sunlight. The smile, big and bright and welcoming. Only her clothes—a pale green blouse and cotton shorts—struck a discordant note, as if he were used to seeing her in more exotic attire.

“Hello,” she said when he neared. The single word sounded as musical as an entire symphony.

“Hello,” he said, a goofy grin stretching his face. He felt a harmonic resonance and knew, once again, they belonged together.

After several seconds, her smile faded. “Do I know you?”

“Of course. We met . . .”

He gazed at her. Where had they met? Though it seemed as if he had always known her, they must have met somewhere, sometime; but when, in his pathetic little life, could he have met anyone so special? It slowly dawned on him he couldn’t have—not until this very moment.

Ducking his head, he whispered, “I’ve made a terrible mistake. We don’t know . . . We’ve never . . .”

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Second Wind Publishing

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Excerpt from LIGHT BRINGER by Pat Bertram

Description of Light Bringer:

Becka Johnson had been abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Chalcedony, Colorado when she was a baby. Now, thirty-seven years later, she has returned to Chalcedony to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? Why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? Who is Philip, and why does her body sing in harmony with his? And what do either of them have to do with a shadow corporation that once operated a secret underground installation in the area?

Excerpt from Light Bringer:

Where am I? A new foster home?

Philip supported his throbbing head in his hands and wondered if he’d live to adulthood.

Tamping down the pang of self-pity, he raised his head, and everything came clear. Or almost everything.

He knew who he was: the thirty-eight-year-old Philip, dressed in yesterday’s clothes. He knew where he was: the foldout bed in Emery Hill’s den. But he didn’t know how he got there. He remembered being in the car with the creature, flinging himself against the door—no wonder he felt so bruised—and the icy touch on his neck. Had it brought him back here?

He stood, rocking until he caught his balance, then staggered off in search of the coffee he could smell brewing.

When he entered the kitchen, Emery started and dropped the mug he had been removing from a cabinet. It came to rest at Philip’s feet. Wincing, Philip bent to pick it up.

“Jeeminy Christmas!” Emery exclaimed. “You about scared the intellect out of me. What are you doing here? I thought you went back to Denver. See what you’ve done? I’m already turning into a blithering idiot.”

Philip laughed, then cut it off and clutched his head.

“What’s wrong? Hangover?”

“Feels like it, but I haven’t been drinking.” Getting a mug for himself and pouring a cup of coffee, he wondered if he’d been drugged. He took a sip of the brew, which seemed strong enough to soften a stone, and barely refrained from spitting it out. “Tomorrow I make the coffee.”

“Fine,” Emery said absently, regarding Philip with narrowed eyes. “I always know when one of my students is in trouble. It’s time you told me what’s going on.”

“I was never one of your students.”

Emery waved away the remark. “Between the two of us we should be able to solve your predicament.”

“I’m not sure there is a solution. Right before I came here, two NSA agents came to my apartment.”

Emery shook his head as if to clear it. “I must have misunderstood. I thought I heard you say NSA agents.”

***

Where to buy Light Bringer:

Second Wind Publishing

Amazon

Barnes & Noble Nook

iStore (on iTunes)

Palm Doc (PDB) (for Palm reading devices)

Epub (Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo)

“A Spark of Heavenly Fire” is a well paced thriller

The following is a review of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and was written by Dellani Oakes.

***

Kate Cummings works in a medical clinic as a patient advocate. Since the death of her husband, she’s led a quiet, uneventful life. All that changes when a jogger in the park falls on her, hemorrhages and dies. This event is strange enough, but when the same symptoms appear in a woman at the clinic, Kate realizes that something more is going on.

At the park, Kate meets Greg Pullman, a reporter for the newspaper. He’s somewhat younger than she, but they click on many different levels. When his fiancee, Pippi O’Brian, dumps him, he finds friendship and solace with Kate.

Together, Kate and Greg begin investigating the odd circumstances surrounding the deaths of the jogger and the woman at her office. As more and more people get ill, the city of Denver finds itself under military quarantine.

“A Spark of Heavenly Fire” is a well paced thriller. Kate and Greg race against time, trying to find the cause of the outbreak as well as survive in the aftermath. The characters are 3 dimensional and believable. The reader feels a link with them, and hope that they will somehow survive.

I highly recommend “A Spark of Heavenly Fire” for anyone who likes a good mystery with a dash of romance. It’s an excellent book and I look forward to reading Pat Bertram’s other novels – “More Deaths Than One”, “Daughter Am I”, “Lightbringer” and “Grief: The Great Yearning” (non-fiction).

Look for all Ms. Bertram’s books at www.secondwindpublishing.com as well as Amazon.com, BN.com and Smashwords.com

“More Deaths Than One” will leave you breathless

The following is a review of my novel More Deaths Than One, and was written by Dellani Oakes. I didn’t bribe her into saying such nice things. I promise.

***

“More Deaths Than One” by Pat Bertram will leave you breathless—first with anticipation, finally with a contented sigh of a job well done. Set in 1988, this well crafted, fast paced novel of love and intrigue spans the globe from Denver, Colorado to Bangkok, Thailand.

Bob Stark is a quiet man. A Vietnam vet, he’s returned to the states after nearly 18 years in Thailand. He came back to his childhood home of Denver because his life in Thailand couldn’t continue. His friend and mentor, Hsiang-li, left on a personal quest to find a golden Buddha in the jungle—the place where he had to bury his wife and child after they were murdered.

Kerry Casillas works nights in the diner Bob frequents. One night, she introduces herself and they get to know one another. Soon after meeting Kerry, strange things start to happen. Bob and Kerry find themselves embroiled in a mystery far beyond their understanding.

“More Deaths Than One” is an interesting tale of one man’s journey to find the truth. The character of Bob Stark is deep and many faceted. He’s quiet, kind and resourceful, showing abilities even he didn’t know he possessed.

Kerry is a fun loving character and the opposite of Bob in many ways. She’s talkative, outgoing and imaginative. She is the perfect partner and counterpart to Bob. She, too, has hidden talents that surprise and please Bob.

The well-paced plot of “More Deaths Than One”, keeps the reader riveted, waiting to discover the many mysteries in Bob’s past. I enjoyed the fact that though I guessed at all of these secrets, I was right about only a few. Bertram truly kept me hopping as I made my way through the book. I like when a novel isn’t so predictable that I know the end before it arrives.

 

Excerpt From “Daughter Am I” by Pat Bertram

DAIDaughter Am I: When twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born — she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead. Along the way she accumulates a crew of feisty octogenarians — former gangsters and friends of her grandfather. She meets and falls in love Tim Olson, whose grandfather shared a deadly secret with her great-grandfather. Now Mary and Tim need to stay one step ahead of the killer who is desperate to dig up that secret.

Excerpt:

Mary blinked in the sudden brightness, then blinked again when she saw Iron Sam. He seemed to be the personification of the inorganic being, as Happy called it. His skin looked ashen. Charcoal bags hung below slate eyes. His hair, still thick, still with the deep widow’s peak, had faded to pewter. The only hint of color in his face was the gold tooth visible between slightly parted gunmetal-gray lips.

He glanced up as they entered, but no other part of his body moved. Nor did he speak.

“Hi, Sam,” Lila Lorraine said.

The slate eyes shifted toward her.

“It’s me. Lila Lorraine.”

Iron Sam nodded, the merest inclination of his head.

Happy stepped forward. “Remember me? Happy?”

Again the tiny nod.

Mary wondered if he were paralyzed, but if so, wouldn’t he be in a wheelchair instead of an ordinary wooden chair?

Any compassion she might have felt withered when his eyes met hers. Feeling like a bug impaled on a pin, she gazed at him, unable to look away, unable to move a single muscle. After what seemed like a long time, but must have been only seconds, he turned his attention to Kid Rags, leaving her feeling limp and very thirsty, as if her vital fluids had been sucked right out of her.

With nonchalance Mary could only marvel at, Kid Rags pulled out his flask and offered it to Iron Sam. When Iron Sam nodded toward the plastic cup sitting on the bedside table, Kid Rags poured two fingers of bourbon and handed the cup to him. He sniffed it, inhaling deeply with closed eyes, then took a mouthful and held it a moment before swallowing it. His lips twitched — a smile perhaps? — then he took another sip.

The alcohol fumes mingling with the hospital odors and the stench of decay emanating from Iron Sam’s pores turned Mary’s stomach. She swallowed hard, then swallowed again, knowing she shouldn’t show weakness in front of Iron Sam, and somehow she managed to get her queasiness under control.

He flicked a look in her direction, as if sensing her struggle, then concentrated on his drink once more.

“My name is Mary Stuart,” she said when she could no longer stand the heavy silence. She introduced Kid Rags, Crunchy, and Teach, then explained about her grandparents’ deaths.

“What can you tell me about my grandparents? You might have known them as Jimmy Boots and Gina Dale.”

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Rubicon Ranch: A Collaboration

Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative novel I am writing online with eight other Second Wind authors. 

A little girl’s body has been found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

If you haven’t yet checked the story out, you can find what we’ve written so far at: Rubicon Ranch.  Here is the current chapter, told from the point of view of my character, Melanie Gray, a recent widow who found the child’s body.

Melanie had taken the long way home from the restaurant, winding for hours through Rubicon Ranch, stopping to shoot exotic blooms in landscaped gardens and dainty wildflowers in unkempt yards. By the time she reached Tehachapi Road, she was exhausted. She half expected the sheriff to come after her, but apparently he’d accepted her brush-off as final — if you can call a full-fledged tantrum a brush-off.

Why did he keep getting under her skin? He wasn’t her type. Not that she had a type. Alexander was the only man she’d ever loved, and she’d fallen for him so hard she could still feel the bruises twenty-three years later.

Tears welled up in her eyes as she remembered her husband when they first met. His hazel eyes had blazed with golden lights as he smiled at her, and young fool that she’d been, she’d been dazzled. They had a great life, or so it had seemed. She’d felt safe with him as they traveled the world over. And free. What need had she of a house, a car, kids when she had him?

Well, now she had nothing but debts. And doubts. Had Alexander ever loved her as she loved him?

“Are you okay?”

The voice startled Melanie. She scrubbed away her tears and looked around. An old woman with tan, leathery-looking skin and dark eyes shaded by a wide-brimmed straw hat was standing by an open mailbox, envelopes clutched in her hand.

“Are you okay?” the woman repeated as she closed the mailbox.

Melanie curved her lips in what she hoped was a friendly smile. “I’m fine. Just hot.”

The woman brushed a forearm across her brow. “Too hot for this time of day, that’s for sure. Tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter if you can imagine that. Well, at least all this sweat is good for the complexion. Keeps one looking young.”

Laughing, the woman minced up the sidewalk to her front door.

Melanie let the smile drop from her face, glad she didn’t have to pretend to be amused at the woman’s feeble joke. Nothing amused her any more. Not the irony of Alexander dying while texting. He hated texting. Said it was creating a new language and a cult of idiocy. Not the sheriff and his unsubtle attempts at flirtation. Not finding a little girl stuffed in a television set. Had that been someone’s idea of a joke? A fitting resting place for a child who watched too much television?

She hastened up Tehachapi, but her footsteps slowed as she reached Delano Road. This neighborhood had never been welcoming, but now it felt threatening, as if unseen storm clouds were gathering above the custom-made houses.

Maybe, finally, the sheriff was going to investigate the murderer instead of investigating her. Maybe, finally, he was going to turn his predatory gaze in the right direction.

She almost felt sorry for the villain.

Rubicon Ranch: A Collaborative Novel

I am involved in a wonderful project with eight other Second Wind authors. Rubicon Ranch is an ongoing collaborative novel that we are writing online. It is the story of people whose lives have been changed when a little girl’s body was found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was her death an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Each of us writers is responsible for the development of our own characters. My character is Melanie Gray. She has traveled the world with her husband, a world-renowned photographer. Together they authored many coffee-table books (she did the writing, he the photographs). One of the books told about mountains of the world, one about rivers, one about oceans, one about forests, and now they have a contract to do deserts. After they rented a house in Rubicon Ranch to begin their in-depth study of the southwestern deserts, he died in a car accident.

Now, not only does Melanie have to deal with the pain of losing her husband and figuring out what she’s going to do for the rest of her life, she needs to fulfill the publishing contract or she’ll have to reimburse the publishers, which she cannot do because the advance is all but spent. Since she is not a photographer, she roams the desert bordering on Rubicon Ranch, taking hundreds of photos, hoping that a few of them will accidentally end up being as brilliant as her husband’s photos always were. She finds the child’s body and takes photos of the scene after calling 911. At first she is a suspect but once the Sheriff has ruled her out, he requests her help in reading the desert and desert-related clues. Still, the sheriff does not trust her completely, thinking she is hiding something.

Chapter 26: Melanie Gray — by Pat Bertram

Fury, like wildfire flashed through Melanie. Fury at the sheriff for paying his silly games when people were dead, fury at herself for playing his fool.

She’d been flattered that he thought she could help with his investigation, but apparently the only thing he’d been investigating was her and how to get in her panties. And she’d fallen for it. Cripes, what an idiot! All her resolve not to let him get to her had been for nothing.

And that whole seduction scene—”So maybe, when I need you to help me, I won’t have to bully you. You’ll cooperate with me because you understand that getting my job done honestly is the most important thing to me.” Did he believe his own drivel? And anyway, how could she help when he wasn’t doing anything? It had been two days since Riley died. Didn’t they say that if they didn’t catch a killer within the first forty-eight hours that chances are he or she would never be caught? And the sheriff had wasted those precious hours trying to seduce her.

She’d fallen for Alexander’s crap and apparently she hadn’t learned anything, because here she was again, playing straight-woman for another unprincipled clown. Alexander, at least, had offered her adventure and marriage, and for a while he had even been faithful. But Seth? What did he have to offer? Nothing. He was married, and he was a taker. He’d take everything she had, which wasn’t much, just her integrity, and she’d be damned before she let him tarnish that with a tawdry affair. She’d seen the look in his eyes when he’d said “And I know you’d rather claw out my eyes and slash my throat than let me touch you.” And that look had belied his words. He seemed to think all he had to do was pretend to know her and she’d fall into his oh, so understanding arms.

“What?” he said, sounding as if he didn’t know exactly what was going through her mind. How could he not? He, Sheriff Seth Bryan, the great detective.

“As if you don’t know.” Melanie spit the words from between clenched teeth.

Seth’s brows drew together in an almost believable though comic look of confusion. “That’s such a typical womanish remark. I thought you were different.”

“You thought I was gullible and naïve. You thought since I put up with Alexander’s philandering, I’d put up with yours, too, but that is not going to happen. Only a fool gets involved with a married man, and whatever you think, I am no fool.”

Seth held up his hands, palms toward her. “Whoa.”

“Being a widow does not make me ripe for the plucking. I don’t need to be serviced like a bitch in heat. Believe me, the last thing I need in my life is a man, especially a married man. Calling it separate maintenance does not make you any less married.”

He flashed his teeth. “So you do like me. You’re protesting too much.”

“Not protesting enough, apparently, or else you wouldn’t have that silly grin on your face.”

He lost the grin. “What’s going on here? I thought we were having a nice meal while we went over the case.”

“You should be going over the case with your deputies. They, at least, seem to understand how inappropriate it is for you to include me in your investigation. Unless I’m still a suspect and you’re trying to get me to let down my guard and confess?”

“I told you, you were never a suspect.”

“As if playing with me, gigging me as you called it, is any better. So let’s discuss the case. What were the results of the autopsy? Was Riley murdered or was it an accident? If she was murdered, how was it done and who did it? Were there drugs in her system? Have you interrogated her parents yet to find out what they’re hiding? Have you found out who the dead man is and what, if anything, he has to do with Riley’s murder? You pretty much ignored me when I said he looked liked Riley, but then, that’s understandable. I never got a good look at the girl. All I saw was her jaw line, her nose, and her eyebrows, so whatever I blurted out after seeing the man’s corpse has to be discounted. Did the same person kill both of them? Or were there two different killers? Or . . .” Melanie paused to grab the thought that flitted through her mind. “Did he kill Riley and someone else kill him?”

Seth picked up his sandwich, dipped an end in the au jus, bit off a piece, and chewed slowly.

Melanie nodded. “That’s what I thought. You’re all talk.” She deepened her voice and mimicked him. “‘We have to solve these murders.’ Yeah, like there really is a we. Well, there was a we, but that was Alexander and me. You and I will never be a we.” A cough shuddered through her torso. She took a long drink of water, hoping she wasn’t coming down with a cold but was merely dehydrated from the strong air-conditioning and her rare monologue.

Seth gave her a searching look, opened his mouth and then closed it again with what sounded like a resigned sigh. She wondered what he’d been going to say and why he thought better of it, then she let out a sigh of her own. It didn’t matter. She had enough to do with grieving and fulfilling her book contract. She had nothing left for the sheriff and his investigation. Whatever he might think, she really didn’t know anything. Well, that wasn’t strictly true. She did know one thing.

She threw her napkin on the table and stood, ready to flee.

Seth gaped at her. “What’s going on?”

“I’m going home, Sheriff Seth Bryan. I’m through with your games. You lied about investigating Alexander’s accident. I saw the photos in the newspaper and I visited the scene of the accident. There was nothing there to indicate that the crash had been anything other than an accident. Perhaps someone had tampered with the car, but the only way to find that out was to investigate the vehicle itself. And you didn’t care enough to check it out.”

***

An additional chapter of the book will be posted every Monday. Please join in the adventure — it should be fun! We don’t even know whodunit and won’t know until the end. You can find the earlier chapters here: Rubicon Ranch

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