Friday, January 03, 2020

Writing: Next Novel

I've been promising it, and here it is: the cover for my next book. I think the cover artist outdid herself. I've been through many revisions myself, did more after input from my first reader (my wife), then had it edited (twice) by an editor, and as soon as it's ready, you'll be able to read it--probably sometime in February.

Meanwhile, here's the first scene to pique your interest. Enjoy.

Dr. Kathy Hoover stood at the back door, but soon found that shouting “Go do your business” to her canine companion had little effect.  She was anxious to return to the office, but the dog didn’t seem to understand. She really hadn’t wanted to take the time to come home at lunch, but Darren was out of town, and Kathy forgot to let Archie out this morning before she left. If she didn’t want to clean up a mess on her return home, she figured it was best to go at lunch time and take care of that chore. 
Finally, patience and the passage of time accomplished what she couldn’t manage by exhortations, and the deed was done. The dog at the center of all this seemed to sense that Kathy was leaving now. He whined to signal his disapproval. The master was at home and Archie was ready for playtime. 
She looked down at the dog and shook her finger. “No time for play. I’ll be back this evening. Now be good.” She wasn’t certain the golden retriever understood, but when she turned toward the kitchen, the dog lay down quietly. Kathy headed for the garage but didn’t quite make it before the doorbell stopped her.
Kathy paused and listened to the door chime’s reverberation fade. The local TV news had run a feature just yesterday about packages disappearing from porches. What if… She sighed and reversed direction. It would only take another minute or two for her to open the front door, check to see if FedEx or UPS had left a package, and bring it in if one were there.
Kathy looked through the pane of glass beside her front door and saw a panel van just pulling away. It wasn’t the familiar dark brown of UPS, nor did it bear the blue and orange logo of FedEx. And it didn’t look like a Postal Service delivery truck. Didn’t she read that Amazon had their own delivery service in some areas? Were those vehicles marked in some way? Whoever brought it, she might as well look at what they’d left.
She unlocked the door, took one step onto her front porch, and saw a small box lying on the stoop. The package was about the dimensions of a shoebox, wrapped in plain brown paper, with her name on a label. Otherwise, it bore no address, no return data, nothing to indicate the carrier. Strange. 
Kathy reached down to pick up the box. Now that the dog was taken care of, she needed to get back to the office. Then again, she couldn’t turn loose of the situation with the box. She wasn’t expecting a delivery. Had Darren ordered something without telling her? No, that would be totally out of character for him. If he’d purchased anything, whether a small household gadget or a new car, he would have discussed it with her. Even if he’d done it on his own, he would have alerted her to expect it. 
She really needed to go right now. But her curiosity fought with common sense, and her curiosity won. Before she could change her mind, Kathy took the package inside and headed for the kitchen, where she rummaged in the “junk” drawer until she found a pair of scissors with one blade partially broken off. Using the intact half of the instrument, she removed the plain wrapping and cut through the tape that held the box closed. When there was no explosion, she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. Kathy dug through the packing peanuts in the box until she found what it contained—a cell phone. 
By now, the dog had become interested in Kathy’s actions. He stood, stretched, and trotted to station himself beside her, where he watched with his head canted to one side.
Meanwhile, Kathy hesitated over the package. Had Darren arranged for a loaner phone to be sent to their house while his was being repaired? But she’d talked with him just last evening on his cell phone, and it was working then. And wouldn’t a loaner or replacement be an iPhone such as they both used? This was nothing like that. Matter of fact, she’d never seen one exactly like this one. 
Kathy looked at her watch and decided she’d deal with this after she got back home this evening. She was about to put the phone back into the box when it started to vibrate in her hands. She almost dropped the instrument. Surely this was a mistake—probably a wrong number. The caller ID was no help. It showed a blocked number. She decided to ignore the phone, but found it impossible. Kathy finally pushed the button to answer the call.   
The voice she heard had a mechanical quality. The caller obviously was using a voice changer of some sort. Nevertheless, the words were clear enough. “Dr. Hoover. Don’t hang up. This is deadly serious. Carry out my instructions or your husband will die.” 
She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. But this didn’t appear to be a mistake. The phone had been delivered to her house. The voice addressed her by name. 
So far as she knew, her husband was in Washington, DC, attending a conference. Yet the voice was threatening his death. Kathy’s first thought was to call Darren and check on him.
The next words that came through the phone made her wonder if whoever was behind the voice could read her thoughts. “Don’t bother calling your husband. No one will answer his cell phone.” 
“But…”
            The voice continued as though Kathy hadn’t responded. Maybe it was a recording. Probably so. “I’ll call you later with more instructions. Keep this phone with you at all times. If you do as I say, perhaps you’ll see your husband again.”
            Just as Kathy prepared to ask a question, there was one more message from the electronic voice. “Don’t tell anyone about these instructions. And if you’re thinking of replaying this message for the authorities or anyone else, don’t bother. It will erase itself in ten seconds.” 
            A click in her ear signaled the end of the call. Kathy stood for another minute, holding the dead phone, wondering how she’d gotten into the middle of all this.

11 comments:

Jackie Smith said...

Congrats, Richard! Can't wait to read it!
Blessings on you in 2020!

Richard Mabry said...

Just finishing the last revisions, then off to the printer. I'll let everyone know when it's coming out.

Priscilla Bettis said...

Excellent intro! Yikes, poor Dr. Hoover and her dear husband!

Richard Mabry said...

My wife deserves the credit for the scenario--I just ran with it.

Gail H. said...

Wow, you’ve definitely gotten my attention!

Lauri Harris said...

Can’t wait to read it!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Gail and Lauri--I hope you enjoy it.

Cindy said...

Always love your books and look forward to reading this one too!

Richard Mabry said...

Cindy, I appreciate it.

Patricia Bradley said...

Wow! This is great! I can't wait for it to come out.

Richard Mabry said...

Hope you like it.