As I learn about the ins and outs of book promotion I realize that there are a plethora of new writers out there saying “read my book it’s the best.” Which makes it difficult to know from the short cover description if it really is. That realization made me realize as an up and coming author it’s important to let readers have a sample of your work. So, with that in mind I am providing two free sample chapters to my young adult/adult novel “Passing Ships are not Always Quiet” right here, right now. I hope you enjoy it enough to pick up a copy and enter a review on Amazon.com for me. Thanks to everyone for your time and consideration.
Passing Ships are not Always Quiet
By Elizabeth Leer
Bliss turned upside down
As he rode his new Christmas bike down the snaking dirt road along the cliff side, dust flew from his tires like leaves in the wind. The shiny silver frame looked like a streak of lightening against the backdrop of the turquoise seaside. His short brown hair ruffled off his head like a preening parakeet. John was in his own heaven, riding as fast as his legs would peddle, on this gorgeous sunny Wednesday morning. He was thinking how great it was to be outside on his own without his little brother, Andy, tagging along. John realized this was the first time he had had to himself since they moved to Seacliff three weeks ago. He loved his little brother, but playing with a five year old was not what a twelve year old boy really wanted to do. And, Andy was a chatty, inquisitive five year old, so it was always one question after another for John to try and answer. It was nice not to have to listen to anything, but the wind in his ears and the waves on the beach. John wasn’t going to waste a minute of it and rode even faster than before. As he sped along he thought to himself, what a perfect day. Little did he know how upside down things would soon turn.
Sheila’s yellow hair glistened in the sun as she hung the sheets on the line to dry. She remembered how her grandmother always said they smelled better with the scent of sunshine on them, and that made for better dreams. Sheila brushed a strand of blonde hair from her face, which the breeze continued to use to tickle her nose, and bent to pick up another sheet. Her tiny hands could barely squeeze the clothespins hard enough to open them around the folded corner of sheet and the rope that made up the make shift clothesline. As she hung the last corner of the last sheet, she stood back and gazed at the waves as they splashed against the shore. The sea air was thick in the breeze leaving a coating of salt on her face. The morning overcast had burned away and the sun was beginning to burn hot on her bare shoulders. Sheila thought that it was particularly warm for a December morning, but didn’t mind. She loved the fresh smell of the ocean and the feel of the sun’s warmth on her face. She spent a lot of time indoors helping with the guests of her grandmother’s tiny bed and breakfast. So, she tended to move more slowly when she was hanging laundry. Little did she know that today’s lollygagging, as grandma called it, would change her life forever.
The old Oldsmobile’s tires skid around the bends as it sped away down the narrow, windy dirt road. Faster and faster it went without a concern for what might happen. Gordon was far too used to driving like this after having too many beers and no sleep. Nothing could happen with him behind the wheel. He was invincible. He could make the fifteen mile drive from Benny’s bar to the front door of his father’s guest house in under fifteen minutes, with his eyes closed. This day was a bit hairier than others with all the extra holiday celebrating last night. But, nothing he couldn’t handle. He had been up for twenty-four hours straight partying and playing poker, and been drinking heavily for the last twelve of them. One strong cup of Benny’s coffee and he was fine to drive. It was only fifteen miles. That is how Gordon thought. That is why he didn’t even notice when he rounded the bend, near the big oak tree, at forty miles an hour, while adjusting the radio and sent John and his bike flying over the edge. The radio was so loud he didn’t hear John’s shouting at him as his bike crashed over the edge and onto the small ledge beneath. If John had went over a few feet farther down the road, he would have been sent flying down the cliff side onto the rocks below. But, Gordon had no clue of any of this. His focus was on how fast he could get home and by how much he could beat his record.
Even though it was three days past Christmas, the mail load was still heavy with all the letters, cards and packages that were mailed late. This made for a slow delivery day. Billy, the mailman had never been very fast, but today was making him take his time even more. It was such an unusually sunny and warm day for that time of year and he just wanted to enjoy it before the cooler, wetter weather returned. Maybe that is why he didn’t see Gordon’s car coming around the bend headed straight for his stopped mail truck. If he had seen it, maybe he would have been able to move in time. For Gordon there was no time to miss hitting the mail truck. Gordon was going too fast on a blind curve. And, there was no way he could see Billy standing on the other side of the truck putting letters in the Benson’s mailbox. Gordon slammed on the breaks, causing his tires to screech as the breaks locked and his back end fish-tailed around the curve. There was no stopping now and he was too close to the mail truck for anyone on the other side to get out of the way. Gordon’s car slid sideways nailing the mail truck and sending it flying sideways a good four feet, right on top of Billy. The mail truck caught Billy from behind and sent him slamming to the ground as its axle broke and the under carriage came down on Billy’s back. Gordon couldn’t know that Billy was pinned, because he never stopped. He regained control of his old Oldsmobile and sped off down the road patting himself on the back for having been able to pull out of that tail spin. His ego was too large for him to think that someone else might have been hurt. He knew his father would fix things with the authorities over the mail truck. As Gordon thought of how best to describe what had happened to his father for the most sympathy, his thoughts were interrupted by a little girl’s scream and he looked up the hill to see Sheila standing there witness to what had just happened. That is when he looked back and saw Billy laying under the truck. For the first time panic struck in Gordon and he raced even faster down the road to his father’s protection.
Sheila ran in the house to tell her grandmother what she saw, but as usual her grandmother was way too busy to hear what she had to say. The more she tried to get her grandmother’s attention the more irritated her grandmother got. Sheila had come to live with her grandmother five years ago, at the age of seven after her parents were killed in the San Francisco earth quake. She loved it at the B and B, and her grandmother was a very sweet and insightful woman who loved her grand-daughter very much, but at eighty-eight years old both patience and energy had long since left her. It was an extremely busy day with all the holiday guests. That made it a bad day to try and get grandmother’s attention. So, Sheila ran to the phone and called the police to tell them what had happened. Hopefully the one police car that patrolled the hundred and fifty mile radius would be close by. Otherwise it could take hours for it to arrive. One of the draw backs to living in a small rural area was that help was not always right around the corner. Everyone thinks of California as densely populated. What they don’t realize is that the majority of that population is in Southern California around LA, or in the San Francisco Bay area. There is a lot of state in between. Sheila remembered these facts as she dialed and hoped for a quick response. As it turned out, luck was not on her side that day. The patrol car was on a call on the other side of the county. Who knew when it would be there?
The big Oldsmobile skid to a stop in front of the Stockholm mansion. As Gordon climbed out of the car, he could hear the family maid calling to his father, “Mr. Stockholm! Come quick. Young Mr. Stockholm’s car is a mess!” As Mr. Stockholm reached the front porch, he saw that his son’s passenger side rear bumper was completely destroyed and was already mentally preparing to start making the necessary calls to the right people of power to cover up the newest of Gordon’s many incidents, when Gordon jumped out of the car in a complete panic and told his father about Billy. Mr. Stockholm’s plan of action quickly changed and he called to his assistant Randy Myers and told him, “Take Sloppy Poppy and dispose of any evidence that Gordon was involved. Make sure it looks like an unfortunate accident.” Randy Myers was only an assistant by name for appearances. In reality he was Frank Stockholm’s right hand man. He was known as Handy Randy, because he was always there and at the ready to take care of whatever business that might need to be handled without question, no matter how messy or nasty it might be. Randy nodded and walked away without a word.
The Cover Up
Five minutes later Randy and Sloppy Poppy were on the road headed back to the wreckage that sat in front of the Benson’s farm. Randy thought if the Benson’s house had sit closer to the road, they might have seen what had happened and been able to get Billy out from under the mail truck in time. He knew they probably had been working out on the farm and had not seen the wreckage yet. Randy sped down the road faster in order to get there before anyone else could. He looked at Poppy and asked, “You grabbed the bourbon?” Poppy simply replied, “Yep” without even looking over. Randy proceeded to layout the plan of action to Poppy, “The Benson’s mailbox sits about fifty feet from a curve that sits on a steep cliff. When we get there, you jack up the car while I make sure Billy gets his last drink. We’ll pull him out and stuff him back in the driver’s seat. Make sure we have the bourbon bottle in Billy’s hand when we get him in the car. We want it to look like he was celebrating a little longer than he should have.”
Poppy thought to himself as he listened to Randy, that he was not the simple minded muscle head that Randy and Mr. Stockholm thought he was. But, there was no point in saying anything at the moment, because Randy was in full maintenance mode. Maintenance mode is what Poppy secretly referred to what Randy was like when he was dealing with a crisis. Poppy thought it ridiculous that Randy felt it necessary to tell him the plan was to make Billy look drunk and push the car over the cliff, as if it were a drunken driving accident. That was a pretty obvious solution with the current circumstances. Randy and Mr. Stockholm preferred to think of Poppy as a slow minded pile of muscle who would just do whatever he was told without thinking. This was probably because Poppy walked around looking like a complete slob most of the time, with his hair usually uncombed and his shirt untucked, which is where Poppy’s nickname “Sloppy Poppy” came from. In actuality Poppy was quite intelligent. He just chose not to let on that he was because it was easier. When they arrived at the crash site ten minutes later, it was obvious that no one had found Billy yet. That brought a smile to Handy Randy’s face and he told Poppy, “Let’s get a move on. We don’t know how much time we have before someone comes along.” And, they set about their plan.
John was just coming up to the crash site as he saw Handy Randy and Sloppy Poppy piling Billy back into his mail truck and pushing it over the side of the embankment with their car. Seeing this, John ducked behind a clump of shrubs to keep from being seen. John tried to make out as much detail as he could of what was going on from behind the bushes and strained to hear what they were saying. “Make sure you got all the pieces of the jack and wipe away any footprints Poppy,” the tall man who seemed to be in charge said to the shorter chubbier man. John said to himself, “Poppy, remember the name Poppy in a big blue car.”
As Sheila hung up the phone she decided she needed to go see if she could help Billy until the authorities arrived. She went to the bathroom and grabbed the first aid kit and a towel in case Billy was bleeding. It took her longer to get out of the house than she hoped, because one guest after another would stop her and ask for directions to some place, or help with something else. When she finally pulled free and escaped the house, she ran as fast as she could down the long driveway to the dirt road nearly tripping more than once. It would have been shorter to run down the hillside, but it was very steep and she was afraid of falling and hurting herself. It took her at least twenty or thirty minutes to walk the length of road between her driveway and the Benson’s mailbox, a lot longer than she thought it would. She found herself wishing she had not taken the time to answer the guests’ questions, or that she had taken the hill. It had now been nearly an hour since she witnessed the crash and she was worried that she would be too late to help Billy. Maybe the police or paramedics had made it there already. That didn’t seem to be the case as Sheila approached the Benson’s farm. She didn’t see any lights or hear any police radios. What she saw was two men cleaning up the scene of the crash and a boy squatting behind a bush. Sheila nervously and quietly walked up behind the boy and touched his shoulder.
As John was thinking to himself, he was startled by a small hand on his shoulder and the sound of a fallen branch snapping beneath a foot. He turned around startled to find a pair of deep blue eyes staring cautiously at him. Sheila asked, “Who are you and what are you doing here?” John grabbed the girls arm and pulled her behind the shrub with him, saying, “Shhh…don’t let them see you.” Then, he quickly looked back at the two men to make sure they had not heard them. Sheila fell to the ground next to him, and stifled a small scream. They sat there next to one another in silence watching the two men finish one last sweep of the area and drive away. Sheila looked at John and said, “What is going on and where is Billy?”
John replied, “Who is Billy?”
Sheila answered, “The mailman.” John quietly looked toward the cliff and pointed. Sheila began to cry for the first time. She felt a tear start to run down her face and looked at John. “He can’t be. I just saw him get pinned under his mail truck right there. I was coming to help him.” Now, she felt herself getting light headed.
John looked back at her and said, “It was those men. I got here and they were putting him in the truck and pushing it over the edge with their car.”
Sheila asked again, “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
John responded, “My name is John. I just moved to Seacliff. I was chasing down a car that ran me and my bike off the road and this is what I found.” He continued, “You saw the crash?”
“Yes. It was Gordon Stockholm. He hit the truck and kept on going. I screamed and I think he saw me. I ran in the house and called 911, but the police and the paramedics were on the other side of the county at a barn fire, so I came to see if I could help him.” As she finished her sentence she heard the faint sound of a siren in the background. “Listen. I think they’re coming.”