Chapter 1 – 8th Grade is Over
The light from the windows are very soothing. The sky is bright blue and it is getting warm outside. The room seats about 30, or 40 students and the classroom is very modern and very high tech. There is a 70 inch plasma screen mounted on the wall behind the teachers desk. In the background the school bell is ringing and it is the last day of school for the summer. The teacher tells the students to have a great summer and congratulation’s us on passing the 8th grade and she also says, “you students are now freshman in high school”. All the students cheered and grabbed our belongings and headed out the door.
I hurry out the door and out into the hallway. The hallways of the school are packed with students and they are happy that it’s the last day of school and summer time is here. I am walking pretty fast to get outside and get down the steps to get out to the bike racks so I can hurry and unlock my bike. There are a lot of students at this school that rides their bikes, so if you don’t get there before everyone else does you can be standing there for 5 to 10 minutes longer waiting on everyone to get out of your way. I made it to the bike racks before a lot of students do and unlock my bike. My bike is a hybrid type that you can ride it on the street, or you can ride it off road. Now when I say off the road I mean you can ride it on some dirt trails, but not like you would with a mountain bike. I get on my bike and I start peddling my bike home. I can’t wait to get home and get on my computer to start working on building my first computer game, I have been working on it for a few months, but I am having trouble coming up with ideas
That woman smelled of trouble the first time I saw her. If I’d known just how much trouble that’d be, I probably would’ve cut and run right then. Probably.
Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have noticed her at all, except it was eight bells, station day. That was too early for my evening crowd, and too late for the poor sots who’d been in here when Bayliss and his Sec team arrived. The usual run of deckhands and pickpockets hadn’t made it up from Hell yet, because dockside shifts on Bogue Dast Station didn’t change for another hour. So both my bar and the corridor outside it were close to empty when she stopped to read the ‘Rick’s Bar’ sign flashing above my hatch.
The in-draft wafted her scent to me clear as good air: worry, tinged with fear. Nothing unusual in that kind of scent, not down here on V Deck. Nothing unusual in her, either. Her graying hair looked home-cropped, her face gray-tired. Not at all the kind of woman who usually starts gin joint blood matches. She was wrapped in one of those big black greatcoats, the kind favored by quacks and faith healers all across the Commonwealth rim. That coat could mean trouble – folks on the wrong end of quackery don’t usually live long enough to finish paying their station fees. And another unexplained death in my vicinity was the last thing I needed just now. Only that wasn’t what got my attention. What perked my ears was that somehow she made me think suddenly of warm kitchens and sweet smells and my wife’s good cooking.
“You want help with the clean up?” Calhoun, the younger of my two visiting clansmen, lifted a silver-tipped ear in question. Thanks to Bayliss, my bar was empty except for them. Well, them and a couple of shipless drunks snoring on the counter.
The sound of his voice made the woman squint in at us. Maybe it was the way we all three perked ears at her that put her off. Or maybe it was the amber gleam of our eyes in the dimness of the bar. Lupan night eyes always make human-onlys nervous for some reason.
Whatever the cause, she moved on. But I had a feeling she’d be back. I wasn’t sure I liked the feeling. I told myself it didn’t matter. Calhoun was right. I needed to get the place cleaned up before the evening crowd showed. I shook my head and ruffled the mane between his ears to let him know I appreciated the offer.
“You sure?” That was Khouros, elder clansman and Exec on the Orpheus, one of the few Lupan ships that still put in here at Bogue Dast Station. Beneath the silver sweep of his ears, his eyes took in the tumble of chairs and glassware littering the floor. The fine mane covering his head and shoulders had thinned since last I’d seen him, and the silver tips of his wolf-ears had dulled to gray, but his amber eyes were still clear and his fangs as sharp as ever.
“Yah, I’m sure. Thanks, but I’ve got it.”
“Wasn’t asking about the clean-up.” Khouros’ ears dipped in warning. “Word is that maintenance found another slaver drifting outside one of the locks.” He lifted an ear, questioning. “You sure you don’t want a berth out on Orpheus?”
There was a thought that made the hairs in my under-mane tingle. I shot a glance at the lumps slumped over the counter. They were still snoring, but that didn’t mean they were asleep. Or that they weren’t Bayliss’ spies. In case they were I made a show of studying the ragged scars along the backs of my fingers, mementos of where my captors had ripped my talons out
Susie was jolted awake from a deep slumber. Confused, she sought the window and confirmed the dark of night. She lay still, searching the room with her eyes. All was normal, and yet a chill ran through her. Her son mentioned a big cat in the area, a danger to everything outside. Susie froze, held her breath and strained her ears listening for sounds – animal sounds – any sounds. Through the vented window the cool night air smelled of pine trees. No noise ventured forth. The bed was warm and comfortable, and sleep called to her, even as her conscience demanded she discover what woke her. She needed to see for herself that everything was safe and secure.
She pushed back the covers when she heard it: Boom . . . boom . . . boom.
Recognizing the shots from a rifle, terror grabbed her. She jumped out of bed, grabbed yesterday’s jeans and bumped her hip into the dresser as she pulled them on.
Ten years ago that bump wouldn’t hurt as much. Ten years ago her slim, short stature would not bump the dresser. Her silk gown came off, and she struggled into her sweatshirt as she headed for the stairs. Not sure where she put her cell, she ran down to the kitchen phone. She pressed speed dial for her son’s ranch. As it dialed, Susie peeked out the window over the sink at the dark, silent shadows. The leaves on the apple tree obscured her view so she moved to the larger window. She saw nothing unusual; everything looked normal.
“What in the hell’s going on?” She could see the single pole light illuminating the barn doors. Listening intently she could hear the frantic dogs barking and bouncing against the doors.
Jerry picked up on the second ring. Susie heard the phone being dropped and retrieved, with cloth rustling on the other end. “I’m up. I heard it. Poachers?” he said, his urgent voice still groggy with sleep.
“I don’t know, but it was too damn close.” Susie’s voice shook as she huddled in the kitchen shadows, straining to catch movement outside.
“I’m on my way. Call Sheriff Hobson. And Mom, don’t go outside!” Jerry called into the phone pressing the off key.
“Hurry!” she pleaded to the silence. Susie hung up, hands cold and shaking. Trying to calm herself, she took a deep breath and laid the phone on the counter. She went to the hall closet, pulled out the shotgun and reached for the shells on the top shelf. She loaded the gun by touch and a small bit of moonlight coming in through the window.
Tuesday, May 30, 1893, Newport, Rhode Island
Imagine being sent to a party with a gun pointed at your head. You might look bewitching; you might wear a proper
pale blue gown, with its gathered skirt and off-the-shoulder neckline. You might sport the perfect pair of ivory silk ballroom slippers. Your fiery hair might be dressed in coils and feminine curls.
But inside, underneath the pleats and the padding, knowing about your father’s possible ruin, I bet you’d feel frightened.
You might believe this to be your last party. You might sense your short life flash before your eyes—the leisurely days of riding horses till your thighs ached, the long nights of
preparing French verb conjugations till your fingers cramped up, or helping the Ladies Auxiliary return stray cats to their owners.
Try as you might to shut your eyes to the hard facts, to the sudden unmooring of your destiny, you’d know that when friends asked how you were faring, you wouldn’t say much, hoping you might get by with some idle pleasantries or banalities about the weather.
Chapter One – First Five Years
I went into the foster care system with my oldest biological sister because we were severely neglected. I did not learn the specifics, but it was bad enough to be covered on the news in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I went to my first foster home when I was between two and three years old. My sister who I went into foster care with is two years younger than I am, so this move did not affect her in the same way. Our first foster home was meant to be a temporary placement for my sister and I until we went back to our biological family or got adopted.
Being removed from my biological family had a negative impact on my behavior. I had built strong bonds with some members of my biological family, so losing them caused me great pain that manifested itself in the form of anger. One member of my biological family I had strong bonds with was my maternal grandfather. He would give me a lot of attention and I would get very upset anytime he left. The manner I expressed my anger about being separated from my family were not acceptable. This resulted in punishment for me; I was made to stand in the corner.
My biological sister and I moved into our first adoptive home about a year after entering the foster care system. Our parents had their rights terminated and this was a closed adoption, so there was no further contact with our biological family after leaving our first foster home. Our first adoptive parents were amazing people who had their own biological daughter who was older than I was. The anger I developed within the last year intensified further and I became violent towards both of my sisters.
My first adoptive parents tried their best to help me control my anger, but it was too intense for them to handle without professional help. My first adoptive parents tried many different strategies to help me improve before they resorted to professional help.
A Gruesome Discovery
Duncan adjusted his kilt, nervous energy threatening to overtake his calm exterior. He stepped on the rubbery hose just as the thing moved, wrapping itself around his foot. Teetering, he tried to keep his balance as a wave of dread engulfed him. Without thinking, he held his breath as a means to obliterate the strong odor of wet hay and animal that permeated the air and filled his nostrils.
“Step on the tusk, Sahib!” the boy yelled, tempering his strained tone with a forced smile. The lad’s words triggered the expulsion of air from his lungs, and he gasped for breath, trying to quell his alarm and remember the instructions given to him moments before. Instead, he panicked as the beast’s trunk shifted, and he grasped the animal’s long ivory tooth, clinging for dear life. He never should have agreed to this. The creature had finished off one person already. A barrage of encouragement from others had persuaded him that he’d been given a unique opportunity, something no one present would ever forget, a welcome distraction from morbid thoughts that might taint the occasion.
The pleats on the side of his kilt flounced as the elephant boosted him higher, forcing him to bend at the waist while still clutching a tusk. Compelled to release his hold on the ivory or risk falling, he leaned into the monster and grabbed at an enormous ear. The coarse hair on its leathery hide scratched the exposed skin on his leg like steel wool as the behemoth propelled him further into the air.