Friday, July 6, 2012

REVENANT excerpt: Chapter Seven

It's Day Six of my REVENANT preview week - today features Chapter Seven. Here are links for the first five days pf previews if you'd like to check them out before reading today's preview:


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapters, Three, Four and Five

Chapter Six

Here's Chapter Seven:


The geography of Paskagankee, Maine was deceiving. For a town with such a small population, the landscape encompassed a very wide area, featuring wild, rugged terrain, most of which was heavily wooded and virtually impassable even in the best of weather conditions. Such a large area to patrol made being the chief of the tiny police force a challenge, but was one of the many things Mike McMahon loved about the job.

He had spent the first fifteen years of his career as a patrol officer in the city of Revere, Massachusetts, a blue-collar, hardscrabble city immediately north of Boston, dealing with issues on a daily basis which were often very different than those he faced now. He had left Revere for the chief’s job in Paskagankee after the tragic shooting of a little girl during a hostage standoff on a steamy July evening, determined to make a fresh start and expecting the job to be a relatively easy; a nice change of pace.

What he inherited instead, almost immediately upon his arrival, was a horrific killing spree like nothing he had ever encountered, victims being murdered and their bodies savagely torn apart. Looking back on it now, the nightmare seemed somehow surreal, as if he had imagined the whole thing, but Mike recalled with perfect clarity how he and Sharon Dupont had nearly been killed themselves before being saved by Ken Dye, Professor of Native American Folklore at the nearby University of Maine. Dye had identified the murderer to be not a townsperson, not even a person at all, but rather the remorseless spirit of a Native American mother butchered three centuries earlier. The professor ended the bloodshed only at the cost of his own life, validating his life’s work as he sacrificed himself to the vengeful spirit.

As that nightmare scenario unfolded, Mike and Sharon had bonded like true soul mates, two flawed individuals overcoming their own weaknesses—Mike’s self-flagellation at the accidental killing of seven year old Sarah Melendez during the Revere hostage standoff, Sharon’s life-long problem with substance abuse—to team up with the professor and save the town, literally at the last possible moment.

Mike opened his broken heart to Sharon Dupont despite their nearly fifteen year age difference in a way he had not done with anyone since his divorce shortly after the Revere shooting. It hadn’t been easy; he had sworn he would never expose himself to the pain of lost love again. But when he recognized in her a vulnerability so similar to his own, he found himself drawn irresistibly to her.

And her striking beauty didn’t hurt, either. Without fully realizing what was happening until it was too late, Mike McMahon had fallen for the young officer, regardless of her position as his subordinate on the Paskagankee Police Force.

To Mike their status as a couple was a non-issue. He was quite capable of separating their working relationship from their personal relationship, and he knew Sharon could do the same. Whether it would eventually become an issue for the Town Council he did not know, but had assumed all along it was something they would deal with together, as a couple, if and when the circumstance arose.

Now he thought about the bombshell Sharon had dropped as he drove along the nearly deserted rural blacktop, the Paskagankee Police Ford Explorer sure-footedly handling the gradual rise of the terrain as the road burrowed deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Maybe, after more than six months as a couple, Sharon had come to view the difference in their ages as more of a detriment than she had initially thought it would be.

Their relationship had certainly been an eventful one, between the grisly events of last November and the rehabilitation, both physical and mental, they had both been forced to endure. Perhaps Mike had been nothing more than a stepping stone for Sharon, a way to remain grounded as she progressed through the recovery process. Perhaps now that she was more or less back to normal it only made sense that she would take a step back and reconsider her feelings for him.

If so, Mike certainly understood. In fact, he was happy to have been able to help Sharon regain her bearings, even if that meant now she was ready to be on her own. Understanding didn’t make it any easier to bear, though. His attraction to the rookie officer had grown stronger over time even as he had expected it to wane.

And now, apparently, he was alone again, the second time in barely three years a woman he loved had cast him aside. He felt like there was a hole in his chest where his heart should have been. He shook his head at his own foolishness, forcing his thoughts back to the present, to the reason he was making this drive into the Paskagankee hills on a bright, warm June morning.

As chief of the Paskagankee Police Department, Mike McMahon was expected on occasion to perform the sorts of duties he would have scoffed at as a patrol officer back in Revere—ceremonial appearances, community meetings and the like. Today was one of those occasions, and he pushed his thoughts of Sharon—and their accompanying heartache—to the back of his mind, for the time being at least, concentrating on the task at hand.

He muscled the SUV onto a dirt trail so well concealed by the surrounding vegetation he nearly missed it. The vehicle bumped slowly over the rutted track. The forest loomed, centuries-old trees effectively screening the road from sight of his rear view mirror before the vehicle had traveled twenty feet.

Mike grunted as the Explorer lurched into a massive hole hidden by the natural ground clutter of the forest floor, the truck nearly bottoming out before exiting the other side. Holy shit. He had heard of rich people building out-of-the-way shelters to maintain their privacy, but this was ridiculous. He asked Sharon last night—when they were still officially a couple, he thought ruefully—whether she was familiar with this address and she had just looked at him blankly. And this was a kid who had grown up in Paskagankee and spent virtually her entire life here.

Finally, as Mike turned a corner and crested a small hill, a massive log home rose into his field of vision, materializing as if by magic. The house was clearly new but had been designed and constructed to look old. Mike wondered how much the architect who designed it had been paid. The place was magnificent. Built low to the ground, the log home—there was no way anyone could call this a “cabin”—practically melted into the forest, meshing with the surrounding vegetation and the ancient North Woods so completely he wouldn’t have thought it possible if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes.

The home was all one story, but easily comprised four thousand square feet of rambling living space. The exterior logs had been stained a dark brown, their monotony broken up by banks of large, gleaming windows. A gigantic fieldstone chimney ran up one side of the house, soaring toward the sky, making Mike wonder how big the damned fireplace on the other side of the wall must be. An oversized farmer’s porch ran the length of the home, disappearing around the corners on both sides. For all Mike knew, the porch might encircle the entire place. It certainly looked like it did.

He whistled in appreciation, his problems with Sharon momentarily forgotten. He wondered what this show place had cost to build, then remembered who he was scheduled to meet today and realized cost would, literally, have been no object. Still, for a shelter that was probably only going to be inhabited a couple of months a year, even a guy as rich as Brett Parker must have had to think long and hard before committing the kind of money to the project he obviously had.

The dirt road widened into an approximation of a driveway as it wound closer to the house, and Mike pulled to the side, shutting the Explorer down next to a massive black Lincoln Navigator. Brett Parker’s luxurious vehicle shared the same family tree as the Paskagankee Police Explorer, but that was where the comparisons ended. Mike wondered whether Parker was planning on storing his car here year-round, then decided he must be. Even a big-time software developer like Parker likely wouldn’t want to pay what it would cost to ship the SUV back and forth across the country.

Mike grabbed his hat off the seat, easing out of the Explorer and starting across the driveway toward the log home. As he did, the front door swung noiselessly open and a blocky-looking man with a sullen demeanor stepped onto the farmer’s porch. The man watched impassively as Mike approached, hands jammed into his pockets, saying nothing until Mike had almost reached the front steps.

“Hello, Chief,” he finally ventured.

Mike stuck his hand out. “Mike McMahon.”

The stocky man fished a hand reluctantly out of his pocket and grabbed Mike’s with one huge, fleshy paw. He shook once and then released his grip. “Josh Parmalee,” he grunted. “Security for Mr. Parker.”

“Formerly Seattle PD, correct?”

“Once upon a time,” Parmalee answered. “I retired almost ten years ago to work for Mr. Parker. Best move I ever made, too.”

Mike wondered about that. Parmalee appeared to be a good forty pounds overweight, a big man who had once probably been an impressive physical specimen but who had, over time, let himself go until now he carried more flab than muscle on his frame. Mike wondered if that kind of gradual decline was what the future held in store for him and whether perhaps Sharon had considered that possibility, too, and decided his was a future she wasn’t particularly interested in sharing.

He forced his thoughts back to the present, annoyed with himself. There would be plenty of time to brood later, but for now he had a job to do, even if it was largely ceremonial—meeting the visiting dignitary and reviewing security procedures. Clearly Parmalee wasn’t losing any sleep over his employer’s safety; he looked as though he had just awoken from a long nap.

“This is quite an impressive home,” Mike said.

Parmalee ignored the comment and said, “Come on, let’s take you to meet Mr. Parker.” He turned his back on Mike and walked into the house, leading the way through a sitting room which was larger than Mike’s entire apartment. From there they threaded their way through a formal dining room complete with a massive cut crystal chandelier hanging over a sturdy oak slab dining table set for two. Mike wondered who Brett Parker might be entertaining later. He guessed it wasn’t Josh Parmalee.

At the far end of the dining room was a hallway which appeared to run the length of the house. The pair walked wordlessly. At the end of the hallway, Parmalee rapped twice with his knuckles on a closed door, then opened it without waiting for an invitation to enter.

Seated at a desk inside the small study was a man Mike assumed must be Brett Parker, although he had seen few pictures of the media-shy mogul who was one of the twenty richest people in America. Parker was slight of frame, with thinning sandy hair and gold wire-rimmed glasses perched at the end of his nose. Dressed casually in khaki pants and a baby blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, Parker smiled and stood to greet his guest.

“Chief McMahon,” he said. “I’m Brett Parker. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He spoke softly but firmly and seemed much more interested in social niceties than his security man had been.

They shook hands and Mike tried again. “You have a beautiful home,” he said, and Parker smiled. “Thank you. The builders just finished. This is the first time I’ve ever seen it. I wanted to check it out before bringing my family for an extended vacation next month.” Mike recalled reading that Parker was married with one child, an eight year old daughter.

“It’s perfect for our needs,” he continued. “I wanted a place where my family and I could disappear; a place we would be out of the glare of the public eye for as long as we wished.”

“You certainly got that,” Parmalee interrupted with the air of someone who would rather be anyplace else in the world.

Parker chuckled. “Anyway, it’s a pleasure meeting you, Chief. I’ll let you continue your tour with Mr. Parmalee; I’m sure you have plenty more important things to do than spend all day chatting with me.”

He sat back down at his desk and the two men eased out of the office, pulling the door closed and continuing down the hall. “The construction is finished,” Parmalee said, “but the alarm system has yet to be activated. The house is fully wired and will be protected by a hard-wired system with a battery backup, connected directly to your police station, as you know. Additionally there will be a full perimeter warning system which will alert us if anyone steps inside the boundary of Mr. Parker’s ten acres of property.”

Mike nodded. “Pretty heavy security,” he said.

Parmalee grunted. “You don’t get to the position Mr. Parker has in the world of computer software without making a few enemies along the way. It’s a fiercely competitive industry, complete with enough corporate espionage and dirty tricks to fuel a hundred Hollywood movies. I know he looks like an easygoing guy, but Brett Parker is a shark in his world. There are plenty of people who would like nothing better than to harm the man or even get him out of the way entirely.”

“You’re not concerned having him here for the weekend with the security system still offline?”

Parmalee shrugged. “It’s only for a couple of days,” he said. “Just a quick scouting trip, in and out. Almost no one knows he is even out of Seattle. Beside, I’ll have him in my sights the entire time. Anyone wanting to get to Mr. Parker will have to go through me.”

Mike bit his tongue. There was no point alienating Parker’s head of security, but he had little difficulty picturing a determined intruder getting past Parmalee. Despite the man’s impressive size, he had gone somewhat to seed and struck Mike as less than the best the Seattle Police had had to offer even in his better days.

And as far as no one knowing Parker’s whereabouts, Mike had a fair amount of experience dealing with VIP movements from his days in Revere, a good-sized city just outside Boston, and he knew that leaks were inevitable where a VIP’s schedule was concerned. Anyone with an interest in determining the founder of Parker Software’s schedule could do so with relative ease. There was always a secretary or travel agent or even a member of the VIP’s own security team more than willing to part with schedule or travel information for the right price.

By now the two men had circled the house and stood just inside the front door. Parmalee strode outside and across the porch to the driveway, moving with a spring in his step he had not shown to this point. Mike wondered what Brett Parker would say if he knew just how perfunctory his head of security’s “tour” had been. It was plain Parmalee wanted nothing more than to get rid of the local yokel from the Paskagankee Police Department and get back to whatever had been occupying his time before their meeting.

And that was fine with Mike. His job was to come and make nice with the billionaire’s head of security and he had done exactly that. The fact that the security itself appeared sloppy and substandard was none of his concern. Besides, whatever he thought of Parmalee, the man was probably right about one thing—Parker’s visit was just a quick two-day in-and-out. What was the likelihood anything would go wrong?


Tomorrow will feature Chapter Eight.   REVENANT is a 75,000 word novel which works as Book Two in the Paskagankee series and also as a stand-alone supernatural suspense novel. It's priced at $3.99. Thanks for reading!

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