Monday, March 10, 2014


While I’m writing my next release, I thought I’d share an excerpt with you. Actually, it’s the first scene. I hope it intrigues you.  Please let me know if you have suggestions.

Here’s the opening:

Chapter One

Savannah, Georgia, 1887

Katie Worthington watched Mary Lou Chitwood’s departing carriage. Her best friend’s blond curls danced with the summer breeze and swaying coach as Mary Lou leaned her head and arm out the window to wave farewell. Katie returned the gesture. The new play they had attended had proven boring and the theatre hot and stuffy, so she and Mary Lou had left at intermission. By then the evening had been too advanced for two young women to go elsewhere. Except for the fun of seeing Mary Lou, Katie resented their evening out had been wasted.

Servant’s half day off, so she used her key and crept inside quietly in case Grandpa had turned in. Sounds drifted to her and she realized her grandfather had visitors. Should she risk intruding to greet them or slip up to her room? Katie paused outside his study and listened.

“Get these damn papers tidied. Can’t have it looking like there was a struggle.”

Unmistakably Uncle Walt, but his voice sounded odd. Cold instead of friendly. Angry instead of jovial. She stepped closer to determine why.

“Old fool never should have challenged us. He had money enough to share.”

The second man sounded like Douglas Banterman, Uncle Walt’s friend and partner. She had never liked Mr. Banterman.

Uncle Walt spoke again, “He won’t give us any trouble now. All we have to do is make this look good.”

A terrible suspicion crept up her spine and sent goose bumps along her arms. What struggle? Surely her clever Grandpa wasn’t the old fool they mentioned. And make what look good? She tiptoed to the study and peeked inside.

“Grandpa?” The words escaped in a horrified rush when she saw the hole in her beloved grandfather’s temple and the gun on his desk. She started toward him but stopped when she saw blood sprayed across the desk and on the nearby wall.

Uncle Walt looked up. His gaze held cold fury. “Kathryn. Your grandfather killed himself. Banterman and I were trying to clean this up and spare you. Go to your room until I call you.” No greeting or soft words of condolence. Instead, his icy tone cut the air like a knife aimed at her heart.

What had happened to her kindly, jovial Uncle Walt? Fear clutched her in its grip and sent frightening thoughts spinning in her mind. Shaking her head, she turned and raced for the front door.

Uncle Walt yelled. “Stop her. Don’t let her leave the house.”

Mr. Banterman caught up with her and grabbed her arm as she reached the door. “You’ll have to come with me now, Miss Worthington.” In his other hand, he held a pistol.

Uncle Walt met them in the foyer. “Get her up to her room and lock her inside. I’ll decide how to deal with her later.” He hadn’t even bothered to meet her gaze.

Deal with her? Katie hated the man’s ominous tone. “What happened to Grandpa?”

Uncle Walt’s glare froze all hope of escape. “I told you he shot himself. If you know what’s good for you, Kathryn Elizabeth Worthington, you’ll go to your room peacefully.”

Only a fool would argue with him now, but she knew he lied. Her heart broke for beloved grandfather’s betrayal by a trusted friend. Pretending a meekness she had never possessed and likely never would, she sobbed and allowed Mr. Banterman to lead her up the stairs.

“My room’s at the end of the hall.” She swiped at her eyes with her free hand. “Poor Grandpa. I didn’t know he was sad or worried.”

“Yeah, well, live and learn.” The man’s tone held neither sympathy nor respect. Without another word, he took the key from the door and locked her inside her room.

Pondering her situation, she sat in her favorite blue moiré chair and thought about the two men downstairs. Uncle Walt wasn’t really related. He’d been her godfather, her own father’s best friend. As such, he frequently visited Granpa’s home and shared many friends in common.

Now he was a powerful Judge. Banterman was a respected attorney. If they said her grandfather committed suicide, no one would question them.

But Grandpa would never shoot himself, especially where she would find him. Strong, healthy, and forceful, he had cared for her since the death of her parents ten years ago when she was twelve. He doted on her, protected her, loved her. He would never willingly abandon her.

Suicidal men didn’t make plans for the future, did they? Grandpa planned for a trip to the museum’s new exhibit tomorrow. He’d booked a trip for next week on the newly extended Georgia of Central Railroad for Tybee Island and two weeks at their cottage there. 

Puzzling out the death, she recalled that Walt Milligan and Douglas Banterman’s firm handled her grandfather’s estate. And hers from her parents. Math wasn’t her favorite subject, but she could add two and two. And the sum equaled embezzlement and murder.

What if those two said she killed her grandfather? No one would believe otherwise. Is that how they intended to “deal” with her later—to make her their scapegoat? They might even intend to kill her and make it look as if she’d killed Grandpa and then herself. She didn’t intend to give them an opportunity to implement whatever evil plan they concocted.

Images of what might be flashed through her mind. She shook uncontrollably. Her breath burst in and out in gasps. Visions of the worst outcome forced her to make a decision.

Too late to help Grandpa, she must save herself. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Time for action.

Katie arose and gathered essentials into a valise, including the little derringer Grandpa had given her. From the bedside table she grabbed the allowance she stashed in her room. Grandpa was generous, and she never spent all of her funds. She counted quickly. Not enough to get her far, but at least she had something.

Tears still streaming for her dear Grandpa, she slipped out of her pink silk crepe dress and hung it in her wardrobe. In its place she donned a blue sprigged muslin day dress. Sturdy kid halfboots replaced her satin party shoes. When she’d included the minimum necessary to her survival, she opened her window and dropped her luggage.

She paused for a last, longing look at the beautiful room she loved. Not simply because of the soothing shades of blue accented by white. Not because it represented a portion of her fortune spent decorating to her tastes. Not because of the freedom she had enjoyed here.

No, it reminded her of life with Grandpa. She stepped onto the large branch she’d used most of her life as a second exit and climbed down the tree. Katie jumped from the lowest limb and picked up the valise.

Crying softly, she strode swiftly across the grounds. Walt Milligan yelled her name. She turned to see him leaning out her window. There was no mistaking the gun in his hand. Breaking into a run, she slipped into the night.

She wanted to seek out Mary Lou, but hers was the first place Uncle Walt would check. Besides, she couldn’t put her best friend and the Chitwood family at risk from those two men. Katie needed to disappear where no one would find her.  

Where could that be? Think, Katie, think. How could she escape a powerful Federal Judge? He knew her friends, knew where she might run, knew where to look for her.

What seemed like hours later, Katie’s aching feet protested the miles she’d covered. Her eyes were bound to be red and puffy. Having the derringer with her offered a measure of comfort, especially since she’d stopped long enough to slip it from her valise into her pocket.

The seamy part of Savannah she’d reached offered no hope of decent shelter but plenty of danger for a woman alone. Recalling Grandpa’s cautions, she knew not to dally or look as lost and bewildered as she was. She dared not stop and rest or even wash her tear-stained face.

An unkempt fellow staggered toward her. “Hey, girlie, want me to help you carry your bag?”

His companion elbowed him and gave a guttural laugh. “I can help you do a lots o’ things.”  

She longed to run, but hadn’t the strength. Her heart pounded in her ears and a vise gripped her chest. Forcing herself to appear calm, she didn’t look their way or pause. Instead, she strode with purpose toward she knew not where. They called after her but didn’t follow, thank heavens.

But what if they had? She didn’t want to shoot anyone, nor even threaten to do so. She couldn’t shoot at those two for being drunk. She was the interloper, the trespasser here. Besides, her little derringer held only two shots. Not much help if a crowd gathered.

Dawn would break in another hour, then what would she do? Surely she’d reach the edge of town or somewhere she could hide soon. Her clothes betrayed her social status, her valise her transient situation. Where would she hide? Suddenly, she spotted the perfect place to vanish.

Laughing at her good fortune, she walked onto darkened circus grounds.  

Do you like it so far? My beta readers and editor may suggest a few changes, but I believe it will remain basically the same.
Please let me know it you have suggestions!
Thanks for stopping by!

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