BOOK ONE: REVELATION PUBLICATION DATE MAY 6, 2020 Available for pre-order march 2020 on amazon and ingram.
Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Joanna Ford abandons a twenty-year career and moves to rural Makah Island in the Pacific Northwest to care for her ailing wife. She takes a job at the weekly local paper to pay the bills and it’s as mind-numbing as the endless overcast days. She’d trade all the coffee in Seattle for one more shot at a real story.
When she finally gets that break, she discovers that gravel back roads lead to dark places and devastating secrets. A small community and a way of life forgotten by most lies tangled in a hidden web of deception, drug abuse, and murder. To crack the case and save Makah, Jo will first have to save herself – to learn from her storied past, and then let it go.
Chapter One: What Happened to Brittany and Randy The battered aluminum skiff cut the flat black water of the Puget Sound. Mist clung to the surface of the murky passage, trapped at either side by the jutting outline of evergreen trees against a low sky. The thrum of the outboard was lonely, but not out of place. Any Islander up early enough to miss the stars but catch the sunrise would find it as ubiquitous as a barking dog, a running chainsaw, or a jet passing overhead. Small boats skimming the shores were as familiar to the ear as damp loam and low tide were to the nose.
Distant orange and white lights from Tacoma and Seattle covered the matte underside of the clouds with only enough glow for Randy Fuller to guess at his destination. It was still too early even for the gulls, heron, and buffleheads to be hunting breakfast in the shallows and the tide pools. He coughed and huddled against the chill. His passenger took no notice. He twisted the throttle and slowed the vessel to a crawl as he scanned for the right place to put in, scowled at the white shell beach of the hooked inlet before him. The tide was high and that was simply luck, the first he’d had this morning. If it were out, he would have stuck on a hidden sand bar a hundred feet from shore. His passenger would not notice that, either.
He cut the motor and its dull hum was replaced by the slap of wake along the shoreline. He beached where the rocky sand met a thick stand of crimson madrona trees. Sharp smoke from a hardwood fire caught his nose. The Island was waking. He climbed over the bow, swearing, slipping, and struggling in the deep gravel as he wrestled the boat further ashore, breaking the still with his unwelcome sounds, huffing great freezing clouds into the air. The tide was in, but had already turned. It would not do at all if it took the skiff along with it before he finished his hike through the dense thicket of blackberry and salal.
He stood over the boat and stared at the body wrapped in black plastic contractor bags, duct-taped together; ran a hand back and forth at the base of his neck, then strapped the hiking headlamp over his knit beanie. With another huff he lifted the burden over his shoulder in a practiced motion, muttered, "Sorry, Brittany." Then he began the slow climb into the ravine.
By the time he returned, dawn was breaking. With the heat of day the wind and current would pick up and the skiff couldn’t handle that. It wasn’t made for this kind of work. Randy ripped hard on the starter and tore off into the weak morning light.
The bow pounded up and down on the dark surface of the water. The lifting and the landing drummed away at his hurt. The hum of the motor was persistent. It acted as a meditation, cleared away all errant thoughts. In the clarity only one thing mattered, what he had just done. He’d disobeyed a direct order from Brian Stewart. Why he’d done it didn’t matter, because he knew there wouldn’t be any living with it.
Randy’s gaze stayed fixed on the Tacoma narrows bridge as he cleared the southern point of Makah Island. It hadn’t been built the right way. The massive concrete piers had solid footing, all the way down into bedrock. It was what was above that wasn’t right. Because of those engineering flaws, the bridge deck had vibrated so much once that it finally torn itself apart. But it had been fixed. Randy was the opposite. It was the below inside him that had crumbled - and you can’t fix that.
Ahead of him the first ferry of the morning glided toward the dock at the south end of Makah. It blasted its horn. The sound rang in Randy’s chest, and he was called home. He twisted the throttle half-way, and then, finally, wide open. The little vessel was sent airborne with every ripple on the surface of the passage. The Evinrude strained at its mounts. He held his thick black-rimmed glasses covered in spray to his face. His jaw clacked at every impact as he hurtled through the sweet, chill, morning air toward absolution. The clouds above parted, the red sun cleared the jagged horizon. Crimson fingers of light poured into the world through the silhouettes of black trees and down over the water. When the bow of the skiff collided with the broadside of the ferry, Randy Fuller caught air. He slammed head-first into the MV Olympic, leaving not even a dent; leaving nothing behind but a stain and a smear as his fractured mind, broken spirit, and useless body sank to the silent fathoms below.
book two: tether scheduled for publication early 2021
Chapter One: Beating a Dead Horse
The half-moon split the rural landscape in black and white. Pin lights of stars offered their weak glow as he neared the barn. In the thin moonlight, a shining white X crossed the face of it.
It was just past midnight and the rest of Makah slept easy. The capitalists, the laborers, the artists and their slaves. There were so many small farms just like this on the Island, so many prisons for the wild things these people claimed to love. Hours ago, he’d seen their owner bring the dogs inside the unlit house. That did not mean the domesticated brutes were sleeping.
The wet night-air would be thick if it weren’t so cold, but still, he had waited until the time was right. He proceeded with deliberate footsteps through the knee-high grass. Green with spring rains, it shushed against his pant leg, gentler than his own breathing, the only sound in his ears. Not a cluck from the chickens nor a bump from the rabbit cages. He slipped through the side door of the barn. It was pleasant inside. The horse’s heat and gentle breath filled the darkness with warm, and sweet-smell. He listened to them shift in their stalls. Down toward the end, he heard one struggle to her feet. Her hooves slipped, then crunched on the brittle straw. She whinnied, soft. He clicked on a tiny pocket light and made his way to the end of the aisle littered with hay.
He met her with a treat. A lovely, tart apple. She nodded vigorously. He reached up for a good scratch behind her ears as her big lips slipped over his offering before she took it gentle with her teeth to nibble it down. He waited until she finished, shone the light in the stall. Couldn’t leave even a seed behind.
Now, hurry. No time to delay, to spend with these magnificent creatures. There was more business to attend. He touched foreheads with the beautiful blaze of white marking her ebony body, and he mourned the dead horse. It was how he thought of all the animals he was sacrificing, as already dead.
He took off a glove to feel her velvet as he stroked her nose. He rubbed her powerful shoulder. She chuffed, nudged his chest. He rested his head against hers. “You’ll be free soon, Aggie.”
book three: legacy scheduled for publication 2022
I'm a graduate of the Lighthouse Writers Workshop Book Project and am actively seeking representation and publication opportunities for novel-length works and short stories.