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First chapter of my dystopican thriller, The Red Hand

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#1 DanHaas


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Posted 03 July 2015 - 05:00 PM

John Wren heard his motel neighbor's door click shut, as her door did three times a week, right about six AM. He stirred sugar into his tea. He knew what he'd hear next, and heard it: Kate's bare feet bounding down the stairway, one tread at a time. Taking his cup, he stepped out onto the balcony -- really an open air hallway -- of the threadbare seaside efficiency that had been his home for the past two months. He saw her cross the sandy parking lot at a trot, to the break in the old split rail fence, then toward the beach through the overgrown lot next door. He liked Kate. She was about the only thing in this crazy world that made any real sense to him.

He peered at the top of Windsong's mast in her slip and gauged the wind. Less than five knots, he decided. West north west.

There were small dunes along this stretch of the Hamptons, some with meager beach grasses holding them together. As Kate turned along the beach, she started to open out her stride, but a man stepped out from behind one of those grassy dunes and appeared to be pointing a gun at her. She stopped in her tracks. Then she went down, writhing. Dropping his tea, John raced down the stairs. He'd heard no shot; he had no idea what a Taser was. As he streaked across the parking area, he noticed a sedan racing across the side lot, barreling over the uneven ground toward Kate and the stranger. It stopped a short way from her and a second fellow jumped out and helped the first drag her into the back seat. Her wrists seemed to be tied together.

John dashed through the gap in the fence and headed for the car at a flat-out run. The first man shoved Kate head first and followed her in. He was definitely now holding a gun to her head. The driver jumped in his open door, saw John coming, and hit the gas, his door slamming closed.

John lunged at him through the open window, getting ahold of his neck in a headlock. John's feet were unable to keep up, and he was drug along. Kate extracted the curved knife from the sewn-in sheath in her cut-off jeans. She always carried that knife.

The gunman in the back pointed the pistol at John. Kate scooted her butt down and shot her left foot up, pinning the gun and the man's extended hand to the headliner. The gun went off. Kate kicked the hand with her other foot, then stabbed the man on his far side. Pulling the knife toward her, she sliced her captor open horizontally, just below the diaphragm. Then she reached right in, both hands inside of him, and cut upwards into the lung and heart area. The gunman had struggled with her while being disemboweled, but when her blade reached its goal, he had nothing left but a little cough. Bright, foamy red blood trickled from his mouth and he died with his eyes and mouth open.

The car bounced over a hole, the driver choking and blinded, and the car hit a smallish pine tree. This stopped it dead, throwing John's body forward. His headlock on the driver was secure; the driver's neck snapped on impact. John's back screamed with pain. His arm felt broken. Dust filled the air.

Kate jumped out of the car, the gun in her hand, and ran toward the motel. I need my laptop, she was thinking. And a few other things. Once she got through the door, fumbling with the key, she started throwing things into a large carry-all, a beach bag. She stopped to use the bloody knife to cut the plastic wrist restraints off with a single mighty swipe. She threw in the gun and the knife. Retrieving another gun in a holster out of her night stand, she shoved it in the front pocket of her shorts. John appeared in her doorway, breathless, and stared at her bloody legs, arms, and lap. She pulled him inside and closed the door.

"Is the driver dead?"

"Yes. His neck is broken."

"You're sure?"

John nodded. He kept looking at her bloodied hands and feet.

"Oh shit," she said. "I need some clothes!" She went to the dresser, took a few things out, a pair of sneakers from the closet, adding them to the now overstuffed bag. "Come on." Checking across the way before she fully opened her door, they both went around to John's wide-open front door, into the same little one-bedroom efficiency as her own. Kate knew John's place well; she'd been over there quite a few times, helping him with things that baffled him and sometimes terrified him, at least in the beginning. "Get your laptop, too, and the charger." She pulled out his center desk drawer and removed the large checkbook that was there, putting it in a backpack from beside the desk. Kate held it open so John could put the laptop in. "Your wallet," she said.

"Kate. What are we doing? We're safe. Those guys are dead!" She was shaking her head. But he went on. "We have to call the authori..."

"Those ARE the authorities, Galen!" she cut him off, pointing in the general direction of the car outside. "Now please. Where is your wallet? You may need it." He retrieved it from a side drawer of the desk. She spun around and went into the kitchen, grabbed his ring of keys from a bowl on the counter. Then she crossed over to the front window and parted the curtains a little. She slipped one arm of the backpack onto his shoulder. "And you need shoes. Go grab a pair of shoes."

She looked out the window again, then opened the door, peeked her head out, scanning the hall both ways. "Did nobody hear the shot?" she asked, more to herself than anyone. John was back. "Come on!" she said quietly. She headed out the door. "We're taking your car," she said as they approached the bottom of the stairs, and moved to the Jeep Cherokee. Unlocking the doors with the clicker, she said under her breath as she slung the big bag onto the passenger side floor, "This thing better start."

John had followed her down the steps, saying, "Kate. Kate. Wait." As she went to get in the driver's side, he took her by the arm. "Stop." She could hear the would-be abductors' car engine, still running, seventy-five feet behind her.

She turned to him, and with a flick of her wrist, broke his grasp. Her face expressed deadly intent. She controlled her volume, but her intensity knew no bounds. She screamed, quietly, through clenched teeth, "Galen, GET in the FUCKING CAR!" and turned again to the open door. John went around to the other side, and got in. The car fired right up. Kate made an unhurried exit from the parking lot, turned right, and right again when she hit Montauk Highway, heading east.




The old man was truly old -- over a hundred years old -- but he didn't look a day over seventy, and a healthy, youthful seventy at that. He eased down comfortably to the park bench, and looked out over Long Island Sound, hands on his knees. It was one of those days when the sky and sea was a monochromatic backdrop of the big picture, and yet the star of it; the water was speckled with shimmering morning diamonds.

To his left and somewhat behind him, under a great oak tree, was a shiny new red pickup truck, one of those muscular-looking, too-tall ones. Behind it by about fifty feet, not under the tree, sat his 1960 Ford half-ton. Built like a truck. No plastic. Well, maybe a little -- the radio knobs or something. Original green paint, and in pretty good shape. There was a spot worn through the paint where he'd rested his arm all these years, when the window was down. Fifty-five years he'd owned it, since it was a baby.

Sean didn't do flashy; he went for quiet. Didn't like to draw attention to himself. So he wasn't going to buy one of those new things. Trouble was that his old truck, which ran perfectly, and which he liked just fine, was such a classic by now that it did draw attention to him. Just yesterday, he had a young fella offer to buy it at a gas station. Maybe he could find a '91 or something.

An acorn dropped from the tree onto the roof of the shiny red truck with a surprisingly loud pop. Sean Donnelly turned a little on the bench to see it, and watched it roll off to the street, over on the passenger side. Before long, another acorn dropped into the bed, and another one followed immediately onto the hood, with another sharp pop.

A Lincoln pulled up directly behind Sean's bench, and a rear door opened. The old man didn't turn, as he usually would. He heard words exchanged between the boy and his mom (who was Sean's daughter) and there was probably a kiss in there, somewhere. The boy got out and closed the door, and the driver pulled away.

Theodore, who they called Ted, picked up right away on his grandfather's unusual stillness, and came around the bench and sat beside him. "Whatcha doin', grandpa?"

"Shhh," the old man said. He paused a moment and said, "I'm concentrating. I'm willing that acorn to fall on that red truck."

Ted didn't know what to make of that, so he just sat quietly. "Which acorn?" he finally said.

"That one right there. You see the diamond-shaped spot where the sky shines through?"


"Right there. Near the top of that, at two o'clock. Now let me concentrate."

Ted waited.

Pop! An acorn fell and hit the windshield. Ted's eyes grew wide as Sean turned to face him. His mouth opened.

Then his eyes narrowed. "Let me try," he said, and leaned forward, scrunching his hands between his knees.

After a moment, the old man said, "Now, you have to pick just one. Are you looking at just one?"

"Yes," the boy replied. "Let me concentrate." A moment later, an acorn fell into the bed of the pickup, and Ted looked up at his grandfather triumphantly. Beaming.

Sean tousled the boy's red hair. "You're pretty smart for eleven years old."

The boy simply stood and faced his grandfather, and put his hand on his shoulder.

"Are you ready to go fishing?" Sean asked. Ted nodded, but kept his hand on his grandfather's shoulder.

"When confronted with a superior enemy," the boy said, "consider projecting a power you do not have."

Sean listened until the boy finished, then laughed a quiet but hearty laugh, and tousled his hair again.

"You quote me back to myself!" he said, with delight. "I think I wrote that more than fifty years ago!" He looked beyond the boy to the Sound. "Much more. Hmm." He stood up and started walking with the boy to his truck. "Actually," Sean muttered, partly to himself. "I think Liam wrote that one."

"It's in the Wisdom," the boy said, sauntering alongside.

"We wrote that for your uncles. And for you."

#2 Tom Preece

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Posted 08 July 2015 - 06:07 PM

Well so far I would want to read more, but right now I don't intend to be in the crit partner track.  I've got three stories in development and I'm trying to sell the fourth.

#3 DanHaas


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Posted 18 July 2015 - 07:17 PM

thanks, Tom!  Best wishes on your writing and pitching!!  :) 

#4 thom71gt


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Posted 26 August 2015 - 09:42 AM

I recommend joining Critique Circle and submitting this there.

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