My guest writer this week is working on a novel. I’m delighted to be publishing the opening to his book. Here’s a little bit about Eric Owens:
Eric Owens is a decorated veteran of the Air Force, and a thirty year veteran of the IT industry. He has written industry blogs and is a published nature photographer. He is a writer of historical fiction mystery adventure stories, and lives in Seattle Washington. He loves to read and enjoys hiking in the mountains, and is a lover of coffee.
Here is his first chapter and a little taster of chapter two of book one in ‘The Shadow Trilogy’:
“Why was I sent the letter?”
Susan pulled the last of the weeds, and was heading back to the house when Jennifer came bursting through the backyard gate laughing and shouting. Why is she so happy? Susan could hear her babbling, her dialogue giving only fragments, pacing and jumping, giddy as a child on Christmas morning. She noticed her sister wearing a light wind breaker, jeans and her tee-shirt saying ‘Women Rock’; she was clearly feeling triumphant as she’d received a final letter from her attorney for her recent divorce a week prior.
Walking over to the patio, Jennifer sat on a wooden bench outside on the back porch, at her sister’s home, clutching the letter detailing how her life was about to be altered while Susan passed her entering the kitchen.
Jennifer stared vacuously at the bird fountain standing in the garden amidst the many colorful blooms accenting the lawn, and tugged her thin windbreaker tightly around her slender frame to ward off the chill permeating the morning air. She’d been too distracted this morning to realize she was dressed so inappropriately for a cold morning. She reflected on how different her life was just a month ago.
Contemplating her current situation, she heard the back door swing open admitting her sister, Susan, out onto the porch. She approached the bench where Jennifer sat, still wearing her warm blue fleece robe, hair in a ponytail and make-up free. She gazed sheepishly out at the rising sun which spilled small rays of sunshine across the frosty grass in the yard. In her hands, were two steaming cups of coffee. Susan offered her the welcome cup of liquid warmth. “Here you go, Jen, nothing like hot fresh java to start the morning,” she said, giving her a warm, affectionate smile.
She took the mug her sister offered sipping the hot liquid slow and deliberately, closing her eyes, savoring the warmth. “This is amazing,” she said holding it between both hands willing the heat to warm her entire body. “Thanks, Suz, I needed coffee.”
“Saw you dancing in the garden out there. What’s up?”
“You’re never going to believe this but I received a letter from a law firm in England on behalf of Uncle Tom. I am required to attend the reading of his will.”
“A law firm in England?”
Her sister didn’t respond, but stared out past the lawn. She’d received a letter after the death of her uncle stating she was her uncle’s heir; he’d bequeathed to her a home she didn’t even know existed. To add to the confusion, it was situated in England on a separate continent. Only two months had passed since they had last spoken with him. He’d never said anything about owning a home in England. It was crazy to think she inherited something half way around the world.
Right now Susan didn’t know whether to be excited or jealous. Why had her uncle sent Jennifer a letter about a property she hadn’t known of?
Jennifer’s smartphone came to life, indicating yet another text message. Typing a reply, it vibrated again, another voice mail message. She disliked the endless interruptions, and to pay for all those impersonal people dividing tech toys people thought they couldn’t live without, knowing they were going to break when the warranty ran out. Distraction was a common theme in her life, and her mind kept revisiting the events causing her current state of confusion.
Her emotions became a roller coaster of sadness, confusion and sometimes excitement at the mystery awaiting her. After a few moments of companionable silence, she glanced up at her sister and asked a question she knew she couldn’t answer but still felt compelled to ask. “Why do you suppose our uncle chose me as his heir for an estate I didn’t know of? I’m not certain if I should be excited or not. I don’t understand,” said Jennifer feeling bewildered and uncertain. Both sisters had received letters from Uncle Tom, and both only knew of a house in America.
Glancing at her sister in her periphery, she saw her staring thoughtfully, out past the lawn; she knew from years of living with her that she was contemplating, reflecting a bit before she offered an answer.
Susan was never hasty, always planning and thinking ahead, never quick to judge without considering the variables. So she gets to inherit an estate while I raise kids. All my life, she was the pretty one, the one the guys were drawn to. Of course I can’t say anything about it, to do so will put our sibling relationship at risk.
“My fear of flying is enough for me to not want to leave the US, while you have always dreamed of traveling to Europe. I’m grateful for Uncle Tom’s house in the US,” said Susan.
“Yeah, I’ve always wanted to travel to Europe,” said Jennifer sipping her coffee. “Our family and friends have always known of my passion for European history.”
“Well, Jen, it makes sense our uncle would list you as his benefactor and bequeath you his estate. I think he felt closer to you,” she stated with quiet objectivity and understanding. She paused and then continued.
“You always seemed to understand one another but I can’t offer any insight regarding the mysterious property. Besides, you are a bit of a Nancy Drew, especially when it came to finding lost treasure. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
Glancing at her sister, Jennifer returned a sibling compliment. “You’re pretty smart yourself, Suz!”
Jennifer’s smartphone lit up and showed yet another text message. She began typing a text reply then listened to yet another voice mail message. “Perhaps the lawyers will be able to offer more of an explanation.” As she thought about what Susan had said, and the conclusions reached, she realized how right her sister could be.
Ever insightful, Susan managed to answer her question with the simplest, most obvious explanation. “I’m going to get on the computer and make flight reservations for you.”
“Flight reservations,” said Jennifer with a concerned look at her face. “Hey, Sus—yeah; let me pay for it. It isn’t fair to you, I mean with the kids and everything.” She felt like a burden to her sister.
“Stop worrying. My husband and I are doing fine,” she said, placing her hand on her sister’s arm.
Jennifer’s smartphone showed an email message indicating her reservation for the next morning. “OK, kiddo, you’re all set.” Your plane goes through Chicago with a stop in New York before heading over the pond to England. Maybe this will be an easy thing for you, and it will all be over soon.” Out of concern for her sister she advised her to check for a contact number for Shaldorn, and to call them to let them know she had flight reservations, and would arrive the next morning.
Per her sister’s advice Jennifer called the number in the letter. They advised her a driver would be picking her up at the airport.
The next morning she showered and packed, part excited and part nervous about the whole thing. After getting dressed Jennifer glanced at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, holding the ancient coin she wore as a necklace her uncle had given her. She slid her fingers over the necklace, gently fingering the surface of the ancient coin. Her uncle had told her it wasn’t a replica from some tourist shop but an authentic coin, and it would bring her luck.
She didn’t have lots of relatives scattered around the world. There was just herself, her sister, her mother and now this. What if she did have relatives she’d never met?
The smell of fresh coffee filled the house as her sister entered the room handing her a package and an e-ticket. “OK, here you go, kiddo.”
“Sus…thank you,” her cheeks blushed – her sister was always taking care of her, even into adulthood. “You’re always taking care of me.” Jennifer’s eyes began to water.
“Hey…don’t worry about it. You’re my sister,” she said speaking slowly, her eyes giving away her concern. “Oh, by the way, Jennifer, this came the day before yesterday. I meant to tell you but I guess I got caught up in our conversation about the letter, and your trip.”
She opened the cylindrical shipping tube and pulled out what looked like a document rolled up, with string tied around it and a wax seal.
Looking on with the curiosity of a child eying a birthday present, Jennifer took in a breath. “This is strange. Why would Uncle Tom send me a document with a wax seal?” She raised a brow.
“I don’t know but he always did like history.” Susan peered at it. “It’s one of the things I loved about him.” Her eyes twinkled. Picking it up from the table, she was about to break the seal, when her sister stopped her.
“Wait, look at the seal. Not the kind most people use. It’s not his initials. It almost looks like…” Turning toward the mirror, she felt the coin around her neck. “Oh my God, it’s the same as the seal. But why would our uncle send such a document?” She held it near the wax seal. “It’s the same image as the one on the coin necklace uncle gave me.”
Susan’s eyes widened. “Oh, wow. It is the same. What’s up with that?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’ll give you some privacy,” said Susan padding for the door. “But I’d love to hear the scoop on what’s in the letter.”
Over the pond
Jennifer’s mind span with questions as she broke the seal; slowly she opened the leather scroll lined with parchment paper. It was thick and rough. As she smoothed the page out, she saw that it was old and littered with deep creases than ran across it. Sweeping black letters were written in calligraphy, not quite uniform lines, and a myriad of golden and scarlet clouds decorated the edge of the yellowing surface.
Dearest Jennifer, dated July 30,
I miss you and wish we could spend time together like we used to. William died two months ago and he left his entire estate to me. Can you believe that? I was so shocked but I knew that he always trusted me. I must tell you that my health is not good. I’ve not been feeling well these past days while dealing with the affairs of the estate. This place is very special, Jennifer, and there are many things you need to know. First, the staff here is terrific, you would like them. I’m getting up there in years as you know, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about my life, and yours. I know life has been tough for you at times but it is my hope that things will get better for you soon. Right now I am trying to find a way to pay the taxes on this property, and am having a tough time with it. As you know I am not the jet setter Mr. Success. I’m just a simple old man who was lucky enough to befriend William during the war, and was here when he died. The property here is large and requires a small staff to maintain it. He told me of strange things. I couldn’t believe he would tell me all this but I guess he trusted me enough. I have so much to tell you. Wish you were here. You can trust the staff here except for…someone is coming, I have to go. Please come as soon as you can.
Puzzled even more by the letter Jennifer rolled up the parchment and put it into her carry bag, and headed for the door. Standing on the front porch with her sister they said goodbye.
Here’s the stunning book cover:
If you’d like to see your work in my Guest Writer Spot, please contact me here or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I accept stories, poems, articles – in fact, anything and everything. All you have to do is make sure your prose is no longer than 2000 words and your poems no more than 40 lines.