In celebration of Monday and the fact that my cover design starts today, here is a sneak-peek from my new novel, Necessary Evil.
Read, enjoy, and leave feedback!
From Necessary Evil, launching August 2015:
“Your treasure hunt,” I corrected. “Be honest about it and listen to me. There. Is. No. Treasure. There never was.”
As soon as I said it, I recognized the slip of the tongue and, sure enough, Professor Randall caught it.
“That’s not what Beaumont said in his letter,” he pointed out.
“So you’ve read the Beaumont letter?”
“Then what else do you want?” I exploded. “The man came out and said that the ‘treasure’ was lost in gambling dens all up and down the coast. There is no treasure.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“Don’t believe it? Don’t believe the Beaumont letter?”
Randall looked at me inquisitively. Softly, almost in a whisper, he said, “No. I don’t believe it.”
There was something menacing in his tone, and I threw up my hands again, desperate to look only exasperated and not frightened. “Look, it doesn’t even matter – save yourself some heartache and backache, Mr. Randall, and listen to me: there is no treasure on Chase Farm. There never has been. You’re on a fool’s errand that’s ruined better men than you.”
“You mean,” he said, in the same soft tone, “that it ruined Michael Chase.”
For the second time today, my uncle’s end had been thrown in my face for effect. Now fury replaced fear. If he wanted a fireworks display, I could oblige.
“That does it!”
I grabbed the door knob and threw the door wide open. It bounced against the wall and nearly rebounded on me. I whirled on him and pointed at the doorway, but Randall hadn’t moved. My display of temper didn’t do anything more than make the set expression on his face even more firm.
“That,” I hissed. “Is enough. You get out of my house, Randall. Get out now, or I swear, I will call the police.”
There was another moment of quiet, so deep, so still, that it was frightening in and of itself. Randall - for all his peculiarities, his snobbish, particular exterior - looked so calm, so still that for a moment I thought, I’ve won. He’s leaving.
Just as I completed the thought, he leaned in. His dark eyes bored into mine, and I repressed a shiver.
“Tell me, Warwick,” he asked, ever so softly. “Did that letter achieve its purpose? Has it stopped anybody from digging on your land?”
My mouth went dry and I leaned back against the wall, struggling to ask, “What are you talking about?”
Again, the look of feigned innocence. “The Beaumont letter. You published it in the local and national papers to ward off further trespassers. After all, the death of your uncle wouldn’t have been enough to stop them, not when they’re caught in the throes of gold fever.” His head tilted, almost sympathetically. “His death – it almost destroyed you, didn’t it?”
Ridiculous, I thought, angry at myself for a moment. He doesn’t know anything.
But my hands were shaking.
Randall said, in a tone that was almost sympathetic, “The letter hasn’t stopped them, has it? There aren’t legitimate hunters any more, but the amateurs are worse, aren’t they? Amateurs who are willing to trespass don’t tend to enclose their sites or post warning signs. I bet you’re still finding exploratory holes scattered about the place. Every once in a while, you or one of your staff come across a stranger with a metal detector and have to drive them off with threats about the police. But they’ve caught the scent and they won’t stop until their thirst is quenched. The Beaumont letter hasn’t really solved the problem, has it?”
I swallowed hard. He was right, absolutely right. The Beaumont letter had cut back on the incursions, but not nearly enough.
“You must have been so disappointed,” he said.
“All right!” I snapped, my voice shaking. “All right, I’ll admit it – we published it to stop the intruders. I thought it would help, but it didn’t and they still come. Not as bad as before, but they come. People will insist on believing in Santa Claus as long as they think they can get something out of it. It didn’t work and I’ll admit it. Now will you go?”
I gestured towards the door, but Professor Randall didn’t move. He studied me for a long moment, his dark, fathomless eyes roaming my face, searching for I knew not what.
I didn’t care what he saw. He had managed to touch that which should be left alone, and I was through with being his emotional puppet. I was ready for whatever weapon he cared to throw at me.
I thought I was prepared.
“If I were you, I’d get your money back.”
His voice was soft, even, gentle, but the words struck me as forcibly as arrows from a crossbow. My mouth went dry, my heart slowed to almost a stop. The dreadful calm I felt as I faced him, wide-eyed and an easy target, was almost as frightening as the look of certainty in his eyes.
How does he know?
I stammered. “What are you talking about?”
He sighed and lowered himself back down onto the couch, draping his clasped hands over the armrest. Then he fixed me with that dark-eyed stare again.
“I’m talking about the letter you forged,” he said.