Wednesday, September 6, 2017

First Sneak Peek at My Next Book

I've started writing my next book (it'll be a young adult contemporary novel inspired by Shakespeare's Richard III) and I want to share the first chapter with you. I'd love to hear what you think. Keep in mind that it hasn't been edited so there may be a few mistakes in it. :)

* * * 


Promptly at 10:15 PM, Mr. Kelley, the owner of Greenridge’s last mom and pop pharmacy locked the front door of his business, slid into his car, and drove off down the street. The slap of his tires rolling through a puddle of water hit the cold, damp air as he turned the corner out of sight. The flaming orange light from the streetlights streaked across the wet asphalt as a tall, thin figure wearing a hoodie and track pants stepped out of the alley beside the bank and hobbled stiffly to the curb.The figure looked left and right before slowly stepping into the street. He walked gingerly without bending his left knee, and there was a bulge at his left ankle. Any passersby who saw him would undoubtedly remark at his unnatural gait, but there was no one on the street. Downtown Greenridge was dead, even though it was still early.
The figure reached the sidewalk in front of the pharmacy and huffed into the cold air. He watched the condensation from his breath dissipate as a mid-size SUV rounded the corner and zoomed through the standing water. The figure snapped his head downward to prevent anyone in the SUV from seeing his face. Someone in the vehicle hooted out the window as the car passed and sped down the street.
Once the car was gone, the hooded figure turned just enough to look up and down the road. This time there would be no cars; he was sure of it. There was no movement visible in any direction, even though the rain had stopped. The figure rubbed his clammy hands together before lifting the front of his hoodie and pulling out a pair of bolt cutters from his left pant leg. As he did so, a roll of duct tape fell out of his hoodie pocket and rolled a few feet down the sidewalk. The figure mumbled a curse as he went to get the tape, all the while holding the bolt cutters against his chest in case another car came by. The figure fetched the tape and, taking small strips off the roll as quietly as he could, used it to cover the small window pane in the pharmacy door. Once the glass was covered in tape, he wiped his hands on the front of his hoodie one at a time, and then lifted the handle of the bolt cutters up toward the glass. He’d seen it online, and hoped it would work now. Gently he hit the handle of the bolt cutter against the glass and paused to listen. He heard nothing. He hit the glass a second time, harder this time, before again pausing to listen. The tinkling of shards hitting the floor inside the pharmacy was so loud, the figure froze. He was sure someone else could hear it. But who? No one was downtown at this time of night. Still, he stood stock still and looked up and down the street again. The street was empty. He hit the pane one more time, harder still, and the glass fell inward and hung from the duct tape. Carefully, the figure reached in through the broken pane and unlocked the door. It jingled as it opened.
“Crap.” He’d forgotten the bells on the door. The figure shook his head as he stepped into the pharmacy and closed it softly behind him. He clutched the bolt cutters to his chest as he tiptoed through the store and behind the counter. Once more he wiped his hands on his hoodie, eyeing as he did so the metal cage where the prescription drugs were kept. He positioned the bolt cutters at a point near the cage’s lock and, pressing the handle against his abdomen, the figure made his first cut through the metal. The snap of the woven mesh separating made the figure pause and glance around him. The darkness inside the store was reassuring, and the figure repositioned the cutters.
* * *
“Come on.” Dick slammed his hand down on the desk next to the computer, but quickly checked himself. He looked furtively around the library. The handful of other students scattered at the various tables were looking at him, but averted their eyes when his gaze fell on them. The librarian was reshelving books that had been left on the tables yesterday. Dick turned back to his computer. “Keep it down, Dickie,” he muttered. The results of the third round of voting for the McDonald's All-American teams had not yet been posted on the website. They had been told the results would be announced today, and Dick had hoped it would be before school started.He desperately wanted to be chosen. Playing the the All American game was his best shot of receiving a scholarship to college and pharmacy school. Plus, if he made it through to the final round, it might get Howie and Arlo off his back.
Dick scanned the magazine rack, and a headline on a newspaper caught his eye. He loped over to the old, metal rack and retrieved the newspaper from the bottom shelf, and then crossed back to the computer desk and plopping back into his chair.
Local Pharmacy Robbed for First Time
January 9, 2016
Kelley’s Pharmacy in Greenridge was broken into Saturday night around 10:30 PM. The burglar used bolt cutters to access the cage where the pharmacy’s prescriptions were kept.
The owner of the drugstore, Mr. Ewan Kelley, said of the store’s security cameras: “They’re fake. We’ve never needed them since we’ve never been broken into for the ten years we’ve been here.”
The only items stolen from the pharmacy were anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are prescribed for conditions such as delayed puberty, anemia, osteoporosis, endometriosis, and impotence. Steroids are also used to enhance muscle and bone strength to improve performance in competitive sports.
The police department spokesperson announced that they had been able to get photographs of the suspected burglar from a low-resolution ATM camera at the bank across the street. The suspect appeared to be above average height and wearing a gray hoodie and striped track pants.
“It’s a shame,” Mr. Kelley said. “We’ll have to replace the window and the cage where we keep the drugs. It’s such a mess.”
The grainy photo was positioned to the right of the article and captioned, “A burglar broke into Kelley’s Pharmacy late Saturday night.”
Dick’s eyes widened as he sucked in a breath, and then whistled as he exhaled. The hum of the heater reached his ears. It was warm in the library. He looked outside. The sky was gray but the rain that had come on Saturday afternoon hadn’t continued into Monday morning, yet. Dick looked back at the super old MAC computer. When are they going to get new ones? He glanced up at the clock on the wall. 7:15 AM. School would start in 10 minutes. Dick clicked on the search bar and went to Twitter. He scrolled through his feed, but didn't see anything that grabbed his attention. It was mostly people celebrating or grumbling about the players in the upcoming NBA All-Star game.
A golden arch at the bottom of the screen caught his eye. He scrolled down and there it was: the results of the third round of voting. Dick clicked on the link. His heart pounded. He scanned the list. “Yes,” he hissed. He threw his hands in the air and stood up, looking around. The librarian and the other students in the library looked at him with blank faces. Then they returned to their books. Dick’s face flushed as he pulled his arms down to his sides and sank back into his seat.
Dick scanned the rest of the list and his face dropped. Tristan Adams, his biggest competition, had also made it to the final round. And Tristan was his team captain. Crap.
Dick ground his teeth as he shut down the computer.
He slunk out of the library and headed toward his first period class.
As Dick walked past the parking lot, he saw two police cars. The officers swung their legs out of their patrol cars and stopped to retrieve their dogs from the back seats. Dick cocked his head. It's drug sniffing day. He stopped on the sidewalk and pulled a travel-sized Rolaids container out of his pocket. He shook it and listened to the bottle’s contents hitting the plastic, nodded slowly, and turned to jog through the parking lot.
Some people were about to have a garbage day.

* * *
Swish. The basketball fell through the net without hitting the rim. Tristan grinned and turned toward the bleachers where his girlfriend, Annie, sat. He blushed slightly as she met his gaze. They had been dating for three months and having her here at practice still made him self conscious if he thought about it too much.
Annie sat hunched forward and bundled up in her khaki green anorak even though it was stuffy in the gym. Weirdo. She was always freezing. She grinned at Tristan before taking a sip from her bright pink water bottle.
Tristan narrowed his eyes and began to turn back toward the court, but the long, lanky guy sitting next to Annie leaned toward Tristan, catching his eye. Annie’s younger brother, Ren. He was probably at practice to ask questions about the All American team selection process for the school newspaper, The Daily Muskrat.
“Nice shot,” Ren drew out the words as he looked down at the cell phone he held in his lap and began typing quickly with his thumbs. Once he was done typing, Ren looked back up at Tristan. “I bet you're excited that you made it to the next round of voting for the All American West team.”
Tristan nodded and opened his mouth to speak, but Annie interrupted.
“Ren, leave him alone.” She tried to stifle a smile as she cuffed her younger brother in the shoulder with her water bottle. “He doesn’t have time for that right now.”
“No, it’s cool,” Tristan shrugged as he nodded to Ren. “Go ahead, Man.” He dribbled the ball slowly and with control as he stood waiting.
“So, you’re excited,” Ren asked again with a slight upturn of his mouth. With one hand, he rubbed behind his ear where his glasses sat.
A warm grin moved across Tristan’s face. “Yeah, it's awesome. I’ve worked hard, and it’s paying off.” This was his dream. He was going to make the All American team and get a full ride to UCLA. California, here I come.
Tristan took a few steps away from them and shot the basketball again. This time, it bounced high off the rim before falling through the hoop. Tristan jogged into the corner to retrieve the ball before coming back across the shiny wooden floor to stand at the bottom of the bleachers.
Ren leaned forward on the bleacher seat and spoke in a low voice. “How does it feel that Dick also made it through?”
“Geez, Ren…” Tristan responded in a low voice. He looked around the gym to see who else was around.
“Come on; it’s news,” Ren said with a shrug.
Annie rolled her eyes. “Dick is good,” she said. She shivered and rubbed her arms.
Tristan cocked his head at her and held the basketball under one arm as he spoke. “Dick IS good. He just tends to be a little--”
“He’s an ass,” cut in Howie, as he strode across the court toward where Tristan was standing. He pulled off his school hoodie and threw it on the bleachers at Annie’s feet. “Watch this for me, will you?”
“Sure,” Annie said, taking another sip from her bright pink bottle.
“Who’s an ass? Dick?” asked Arlo, another member of the basketball team, as he joined them.
“Obvi,” Howie said with a nod.
“Action Jackson.” Arlo said with a smirk as he too tossed his hoodie at Annie’s feet.
“Bacon rod?” Howie raised his eyebrows and waited for the nod from Arlo.
“Nice one.” The two guys high fived.
Tristan smirked, but stifled it quickly. That was a good one.
The gym door swung open with a creak, and they all swung around to look toward it.
Dick stood there, water bottle in hand.
Tristan could feel his face redden, and guilt pricked his conscience, even though he hadn’t done anything wrong.
“Clam hammer,” Arlo whispered.
Howie chuckled.
“Shut up, guys,” Tristan huffed under his breath. He nodded to Dick, who frowned slightly as he crossed the court.
When he reached them, Dick fixed a smile on his face and climbed up the bleachers to plop down beside Annie. “Hey neighbor. Are these guys trying to make you the coat lady again?” He pulled his worn hoodie over his head, wadded it into a ball, and shoved it down between the bleachers.
“Yep,” she said, and took a swig from her bottle.
“Whatcha got there?” Dick asked as he leaned toward Annie and took a whiff of her drink. His nostrils flared as he looked up into her face with a grin. “Care to share?”
Tristan took a step toward them, but Annie waved him off.
“No way, Dick,” She sneered as she pulled the bottle out of his reach. “You’d hate it anyway. It’s sparkling water.”
“You’re probably right,” Dick smirked as he leaned back in the bleachers and met Ren’s eyes behind Annie’s back. “Are you here on newspaper business?”
“Yep.” Ren angled his body toward Dick and spoke. “I was asking Tristan how it feels to have made it through to round four, especially in competition with you.”
“What did he say?” Dick started to sit forward, but stopped himself and remained hunched over.
“Chill, Dick,” Tristan said coolly as he began to dribble the ball again. “It’s no big deal.”
“For you, maybe,” Dick mumbled as he leaned back on the bleachers and stretched out his legs before glancing at Annie. She met his eyes for a moment before turning away. She scooted toward Ren and read his phone over his shoulder.
Ren shrugged her off before speaking. “Anyway, how does it feel? Are you excited?” Ren asked again.
“Hell yeah,” Dick said loudly. “It's my ticket out of here.”
“To where?” Ren asked, his thumbs poised over the phone.
Dick glanced at Howie and Arlo before speaking, more quietly this time. “Pharmacy school.”
Arlo snorted.
Tristan glared at him, but didn’t speak.
Ren’s eyebrows shot up and he started typing again. “Really? Wow. I didn’t expect that…”
“Yeah,” Dick said as he jabbed himself in the chest with his thumb. “I’m smarter than I look.”
“Right,” Howie said as he snickered.
Arlo laughed in agreement.
“Dude has an A in chemistry,” Tristan said. “He could give you some pointers, brillo head.” His hand shot out and messed up Howie’s already wind-blown curls.
“Shut up,” Howie said, glaring at Tristan as he tried to comb his hair with his fingers before giving up and dropping his hands to his sides. He glanced at Arlo, who gave him a thumbs up.
“All right guys, let’s get moving,” Coach Richmond hollered across the gym. He nodded to Tristan as he marched toward the group of guys. “Three on twos. Count them off, Captain.”
“Right,” Tristan said. “Let’s go, guys.” He tossed the ball to Dick, who caught it easily as he stood up. “Come on, Dick.”
Dick hopped up off the bleachers. “Aye aye.” He saluted Tristan with one hand as he began to dribble the ball with the other.
Howie and Arlo followed them toward center court.
The rest of their teammates moved across the gym from the locker room door and congregated at the center line.
“Tristan Adams,” a loud voice yelled across the gym.
Everyone spun to look.
Principal Hastings stood in the doorway with a police officer at his side. “Come with me, please,” Hastings said, fidgeting with his hands as he spoke.
Tristan furrowed his eyebrows, but jogged over to them. “What’s going on?” He asked.
“Let’s have a chat, in my office.” He grimaced at Tristan, who nodded.
“Let me just get my stuff,” Tristan said. What could this be about? Oh...
Hastings glanced at the officer, who shrugged, then met Tristan’s eyes. “Fine, but do it quickly,” Hastings said, his shoulders slumped.
Tristan nodded slowly and looked over at Annie and Ren, who were standing on the bleachers watching him. Hesitantly, he gave Annie a small smile before jogging out through the door that led to the locker room.
Hastings turned and trudged out of the gym with the police officer striding ahead of him.
“What the crap?” Howie asked as he stood on the court with his arms out, palms up.
Ren shrugged as he stood up. “I’m going to find out.” He jogged after Hastings.
“Wait up,” Annie called to Ren as she stood up and slung her backpack over her shoulder. Quickly, she retrieved a piece of gum from the front pouch of her bag and popped it into her mouth before jumping down from the lowest bleacher bench and power walking after her brother.
Dick watched Annie as she moved out of sight down the hallway, then turned back to Coach Richmond. He squinted his eyes slowly and rubbed his knuckles along his jawline.
“Okay, guys. Focus. I’m sure he’ll be right back.” Richmond clapped his hands and the remaining basketball players took the court.
* * *
Tristan jogged to his locker. His heart was pounding. He raked his hand over his buzzed hair and exhaled loudly. “Crap.” The drug sniffers had found the Smirnoff in his truck. What else could it be? He stuffed his clothes into his backpack and slammed his locker door shut. He took another breath to try to slow his heart down, but it continued to beat wildly. What would happen now? Round four of selection for the All American teams was in ten days, not to mention the state finals. This was supposed to be their year. His year.
Crap.
Slowly, Tristan walked down the row of lockers toward the school hallway. As he opened the door, he saw Annie standing there, leaning against the wall, waiting for him, chewing gum. She stood bolt upright as he approached.
“Do… do you think they…?” She didn’t finish her question.
Tristan nodded. “Yeah,” he said as he took her hand.
Annie grasped his hand tightly and bit her lip as she looked at him. After a moment, she spoke in a hushed whisper. “What will you do? Are you going to tell them...?” Her voice trailed off as she watched his face.
“Naw,” Tristan said as he shook his head. He began walking toward the school office, pulling Annie along with him. After a few steps, she caught up and walked along side him through the now empty school hallways. Almost everyone was gone for the day, having left campus as quickly as they could after the final bell rang. Tristan’s shoes squeaked on the slick linoleum floor as they rounded the corner in front of the office.
Ren was standing outside the principal’s office, waiting, phone in hand.
“Ren, go home,” Annie hissed at him. “This is not the time.”
“But this could be a huge story,” Ren said with a whine in his voice.
“Go home,” Annie repeated. “Now.”
Ren glared at her but slunk away down the hall.
Tristan watched him go, and then focused on Principal Hastings’s office. He froze in the empty hallway, still holding Annie’s hand.
Tristan’s parents were sitting in the principal’s office, waiting for him. Tristan’s shoulders dropped. He knew exactly what was going to happen next.

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