Book two underway at 50,000 words. Here's a peek at an early chapter (with some spoilers redacted). Feedback welcome.
Wasn’t that a mighty storm?
Wasn’t that a mighty storm in the morning?
—Traditional American folk song
Grace awakened to pounding on her front door. Her heart lurched; it was early in the morning, still dark even in July, and raining like hell with claps of thunder punctuating the night. Who would be knocking at this hour, during a storm?
Well, she couldn’t ignore it. Slipping out of bed, Grace hit the light switch, and immediately realized the power was out. Hell, she thought. Hell, hell, hell.
By the time she made the hallway, she could hear the voice behind the door.
“Grace! Belle amie! It’s me, Suzé! Open up, for God’s sake.”
Relief flooded Grace, followed immediately by concern. What was Suzanne doing at her door at this hour, in this weather?
“I’m coming!” shouted Grace, over a fresh rumble of thunder. Seconds later, she threw open the door to reveal her drenched friend.
“Suzanne! What is going on? Come in . . . get in here, you’re soaked.”
Suzanne was shivering, as much from fear as from the drenching rain.
“Do you have power? Doesn’t look like it,” said Suzanne, surveying the dark house, as Grace started rummaging through the kitchen for a flashlight and towels.
“No. Do you?” asked Grace, holding out two dish towels.
“No. No power, no phone. Grace, I’m scared. Something happened, next door. I tried texting you. Did you sleep through that big clap of thunder? I thought the world had ended. Le jour finale.”
“It did wake me up — it was insanely loud, wasn’t it? But I must have gone back to sleep. Oho, here’s the flashlight. Give me a sec and I’ll find you a better towel and maybe a blanket. You’re freezing, by the look of it. I can’t make you tea, though.”
Grace found a big, white, fluffy towel and put it on her friend’s head, then wrapped the TV-watching blanket from the couch around her shoulders. She found some cold tea in the fridge, and poured them each a glass in the beam of the flashlight.
“What do you do when the power’s out and your phones don’t work?” asked Suzanne, through chattering teeth.
“Honey, try to calm down. We’re okay right now, safe here together. Warm up for a second, then tell me what happened.”
Suzanne took a big gulp of her tea.
“I think there was someone trying to get into (her) house,” she said, then explained what had happened, and described the sound she thought she’d heard.
“Could it have been (her), in the back yard?” asked Grace, digging out candles and matches.
“That occurred to me, but I don’t think so. What would she be doing back there with no flashlight? It was pitch black, except during flashes of lightning. I thought maybe she’d be out there checking her trees, too, but I could see my garage and trees through the back window during the lightning. She’d be able to as well. And there were no lights inside — no candles or anything. What should I do now?”
“We could wait until the phones come back on, and call her. If she doesn’t answer, we could call the police. Or, we could drive down to the police station. It depends how worried you are. You were there.”
Suzanne thought for a minute. “You know, I’ve seldom been so terrified in my entire life, if ever,” she said, slowly. “My head says I may be over-reacting, in the bad weather and everything. But my stomach says something is wrong.”
Grace had to admit to herself that the very last thing she wanted to do was climb into a car in the wild storm and drive downtown, then admit to the police that they were frightened . . .
But Suzé’s gut was pretty reliable. Grace sighed. It was going to be a long morning.
“Let me put on some clothes,” Grace said, finally. “You warm up. We’ll brave the storm and get down to the cop shop.”
“You think it’s the right thing to do?”
“Yes, I do. You’re so often right when things go wrong. Or right. Your feeling about those noises the other day appears to have been bang on. So let’s go. We can’t do anything from here.”
The drive downtown was insane. Rain pelted on and poured down the windshield, rendering the wipers nearly useless. It was dark as hell in the widespread power outage, which had also taken out the street lighting; it was impossible to see anything beyond the car’s headlights — except during ear-splitting, eye-dazzling explosions of lightning.
Grace and Suzanne were forced to shout at each another, it was so noisy. Grace was trying to be Suzanne’s second set of eyes, because driving around broken tree branches — some of them very large — was also part of the stormy obstacle course.
“Shit! There’s another one on your right,” yelled Grace.
“Damn. That was a big one. Do you think we’ll notice in time if a whole tree has fallen across the street?” Suzanne shouted back.
“God, I hope so.”
It was the worst, the longest and the wettest storm in years, the two friends had agreed as they climbed into the car. There had been a spectacular rainfall in the early 1980s, when they were young: nearly one hundred millimetres of rain in just fifty minutes had flooded basements across the city (it was almost as bad out at Suzanne’s parents’ farm) and Grace hadn’t forgotten the aftermath of rescuing her toys and cleaning out the silt and sewage.
The bridge was a river, ending in an enormous puddle at its base. Suzanne determinedly blasted through the two-foot-deep pool, praying the brakes wouldn’t quit on her.
A few blocks later, they finally pulled up in front of the police station. Suzanne stopped the car, and the two women stared at each other.
“What a trip,” said Grace. “Was it as bad getting over to my place?”
“Pretty much,” said Suzanne, earning big points for bravery from her friend. “Thank God we don’t live too far apart.”
They took deep breaths, then pushed the car doors open into the pressing wind, and, heads down, dashed to the front door of the station. They were instantly soaked, again; the rain was so heavy, it was like running through a waterfall.
A cursory evaluation of each other in the vestibule provided the conclusion that nothing could be done about their drenched, makeup-free, drowned-rat-like appearances. Resigned, they approached the desk.
But the young police officer on duty, amazed at their wild and dishevelled appearance if his widening eyes were any indication, could be forgiven if he thought he was being approached by two beautiful but crazy sea creatures. He smiled at the two women.
“Enjoying the weather?” he asked. “Sorry. Seriously. Are you two okay?”