This is an experiment.
I'm going to post the first three chapters of my book, And Then You Fall, on my blog for anyone to read.
Why? Because I'm hitting a publisher/agent brick wall and I'm at a loss for what I'm doing wrong.
I'm going to post the first three chapters of my book, And Then You Fall, on my blog for anyone to read.
Why? Because I'm hitting a publisher/agent brick wall and I'm at a loss for what I'm doing wrong.
If I get some good feedback I will continue to pursue publication.
After a tumultuous year, the last thing assistant police Chief Bobby Maguire needs in his small town is more problems. However, between his stalker ex-girlfriend and a drug-dealing cult, that’s exactly what he gets. Being propositioned by the intriguing new bartender is an unexpected twist and once he gets a taste of her, he’s well and truly hooked.
Cassidy finally found her happy place. As the brew master of the new local bar she’s excited to share her talents with Maguire’s Corner. Getting involved with the infamous Bobby Maguire should’ve been a momentary, albeit intoxicating, distraction, but when he makes himself at home in her heart? She never saw that coming.
When he’s accused of murder, Bobby’s luck goes from bad to worse. With the cult leader enraged over the police shooting his son he retaliates against the whole town and Bobby must find a way to save himself, help his family, and get the chance to prove to Cassidy he’s more than his reputation.
Note: These chapters have not been professionally edited.
Note: These chapters have not been professionally edited.
And Then You Fall
Heather M. Gardner
“Where the hell are all my units?”
Bobby Maguire had worked with Police Chief Jack Munro a long time, but anyone could recognize the tension in his boss’s voice over the radio. The Maguire’s Corner Police Department had a small window to take down this drug operation because, according to their ‘not-completely-trustworthy’ source, the dealers they’d finally located were about to close up shop and relocate.
“Rear Unit in position.”
Officer Nick Ward responded first. Three other officers rounded out Nick’s team and they held position around the back of a dilapidated farmhouse, watching the doors and windows for activity. At this point, the worst thing that could go wrong would be getting caught by the drug dealers while they were still setting up their raid.
“K-9 Unit in position.”
His voice quiet and calm, Officer Sean Rafferty replied through the earpiece. The new guy, along with his German Shepard Mick, had proven to be an important addition to the Maguire’s Corner Police Department. The dog’s very first sweep of the lockers at the high school had uncovered small baggies full of heroin, leading them to this bust.
His boss’s voice resonated through his earpiece in a short heated burst that could scorch the ears of the most seasoned cop. Bobby knew the chief had serious reservations conducting this evening raid, a plan that had the potential to go wrong at any moment, which meant Jack might call an audible and pack the whole thing in.
“Rifleman in position, Chief.”
Hidden in a clump of maples, Bobby stood with the barrel of his gun resting on a low branch. Most of the leaves had already fallen off the tree and he had an unobstructed view of all but one side of the house. He tilted his head right and left, his neck cracking. He checked his rifle again. Through his scope he could see Rafferty and Mick crouched down in the tall grass toward the front corner of the structure.
“Officer Douglas, please report.”
“Front Unit is in position, Chief. Thermal camera shows five suspects standing inside the main room. There is a sixth suspect alone in a room on the north side of the building.”
“What’s he doing?” Jack asked.
“He appears to be taking a crap.”
“Thank you. Everyone hold.”
It’s not that the chief thought the team couldn’t handle this kind of operation. They’d been trained on conducting raids, response tactics, close quarters combat, and contingency plans. But, Jack wouldn’t relax until all the bad guys were in cuffs and all the good guys were headed home.
“We go in five….”
Bobby’s adrenaline spiked and he took slow breaths to control the surge. His sharpshooting skills put him further from the action than he liked. He missed charging through the front door with the team. Still, he could feel the intensity in the chilled air. The anticipation.
His grip tightened on his rifle. Staring through the scope he made calculation adjustments in his head. Wind, distance, temperature. The position of his team. The location of the drug dealers.
His gut clenched. Breathe. Focus. Observe. Take out any stragglers.
Listening to the chatter through his headset, Bobby could picture the entire engagement in his mind. Battering ram to the front door. Five officers enter, fanning out. Shouts of Police, get down. Suspects pushed to the floor and secured. More shouting as the suspect from the bathroom runs for the back door, only to be met by more officers. Multiple calls of Clear while the house is searched room by room.
Bobby scanned the perimeter of the building again. Then again. No movement. No suspects. No problem. Safety on. He removed the magazine and cleared his rifle. At this rate he might still catch the last quarter of the football game by the time they packed up and got out of here.
Swinging around, Bobby shoved the barrel of his weapon back onto the branch. Checking the scope, he slammed the magazine home, racking the first round. Shots rang out, incredibly loud in his ears, yet he couldn’t see anyone.
Where the hell did a seventh person come from? The eyepiece dug into Bobby’s skin as he tucked the piece of hardware in closer. There. Appearing from the far side of the house.
“AC Maguire. Do you have him?”
He followed the movement of the suspect as he took off, away from Bobby on foot. He slowed his breathing, timing the steps of the man, leading him, calculating the distance, changing the angle. Breathe in, finger on the trigger, breathe out, pull the trigger.
The bullet’s impact jerked the suspect sideways and he fell to the ground. Bobby could hear his surprised shout from 150 yards away. Twice the man tried to get back up, to continue his run for freedom, but his injured leg wouldn’t cooperate. The K-9 stood growling over him before he could make a third attempt.
“Suspect in custody.”
Bobby continued to survey the area for a long time before he finally secured his weapon again. He ran his palms back and forth over his short hair. Dammit. How had they all missed him? Blowing out a huge breath, he jogged toward the scene, muttering to himself. Where had that seventh person come from?
The ambulance they’d kept on stand-by had already pulled up to the house and Bobby stopped at the back. Nick sat on the end of the stretcher, blood soaking into his uniform shirt from his upper arm. A very pretty EMT, with long black hair and a pair of giant scissors, cut away his sleeve.
“This guy gonna live, Min?”
“Hey, Bobby. He should be fine with a good scrub and a couple of stitches.”
“Glad to hear that. You okay, Nick?”
“Yeah. Stings like a bitc – sorry, Min. I’ll be fine. I have no idea where that guy came from.”
“You and me both. We’ll figure it out. I’m just glad he shoots worse than you do.”
“You got him, right?”
“Of course, and just for you, he’ll never walk without a limp. Go home after the hospital, Nick. You can write up your report tomorrow.”
Bobby shook his head at the new abbreviation. His fellow officers were still trying out variations of his name and rank since his promotion to Assistant Chief. Jack had settled on AC Maguire, but the guys didn’t like it. Bobby considered himself lucky they weren’t calling him Ass. Chief anymore.
After stowing his equipment in one of the police cars now on scene, Bobby walked to where Jack stood over the man writhing on the ground, holding his knee. His moans were whiney and Bobby toyed with the idea of knocking him unconscious while they waited for the second ambulance. Staring harder at the man, willing him to shut up, recognition dawned on him.
Jack’s frosty gaze snapped to him. He moved a few feet away, motioning Bobby to follow.
“Did you just make a positive ID of our shooter?”
Bobby blew out a breath. “Second-in-command at the Unite Today compound and Drake’s heir-apparent, August Drake.”
This time Jack cursed. Bobby felt his boss’s pain. Nothing good would come from this. The Unite Today group, which everyone in town referred to as the ‘Cult’, normally kept things low key. Everyone knew they were up to stuff, just not what that stuff might be, or if it was in fact illegal. Recently their actions had touched the town in a negative way. One of their members currently sat in the county jail on arson and attempted murder charges.
Bobby rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, now we have our connection between the drugs and the Cult.”
“Do you think Drake is even aware of his kid’s drug operation?”
“I can’t imagine August being the brains behind this. He barely graduated high school and he doesn’t exactly have Drake’s – entrepreneurial skills. So, yeah, I think Drake is running the show.”
“True.” Jack shook his head. “This is going to get complicated.”
“You think when we book his son on drug charges, and attempted murder of a police officer, Drake might take that as a personal insult?”
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
“Yeah, so do I.”
The second ambulance approached them and the chief ordered the suspect to be cuffed and escorted at all times. Then Jack read him his rights, personally, while another officer filmed the whole thing. Jack had switched to CYA mode. Cover Your Ass.
The police and Unite Today had steered clear of each other for years. But, with the arsons this past summer, and now this drug problem becoming more prevalent in Maguire’s Corner, there would be no more ignoring each other. The members of Unite Today were now in MCPD’s direct line of sight.
“AC Maguire, let’s wrap this up and clear the scene. I want everything on record as soon as possible and completely by the book. Film as much as we can. No shortcuts, no mistakes.”
“Got it, Chief. I’ll head over to the house to check on their progress.”
“Hey!” August let out a shout as Bobby turned away. “Maguire! Did you pull the trigger?”
Bobby sized up the man handcuffed to the stretcher, considering if he should bother to respond, but decided against it. There wouldn’t be anything he could say that August wouldn’t try to twist.
“Maguire! You know what Drake’s gonna do when he finds out you shot me?”
Bobby kept walking. He had so many great comebacks to that question yet he refused to give the guy more verbal ammunition. Heading to the house, he could still hear August bellowing while they packed him in the ambulance.
Cassidy hadn’t stopped moving since breakfast, which had been hastily eaten over the sink before the sun had come up. She still had plenty to do with the grand opening of the Brewhouse, and her very first beer tasting extravaganza, happening that night.
She’d taken a huge leap of faith and partnered with her friends, the O’Hart twins, to convert an old barn, off County Route One, into a fully functioning brewery/bar/restaurant. They’d accomplished so much in six months and they had a lot to be proud of. Taylor and Tyler had literally done most of the heavy lifting and created a homey, rustic atmosphere for the patrons, a state-of-the-art brewing room for her, and a world class kitchen for their newly hired chef.
In comparison, she’d only brewed a few thousand gallons of her own signature beers into kegs and bottles. It would all be worth it when the doors finally opened to eager customers. After all their hard work, everything was coming together, and that nervous feeling plaguing her, rolled into excitement.
Cassidy needed to put a huge dent in her to-do list before any of those customers would be allowed in at 6:00 pm. There were more stools to assemble and then she could move on to washing mugs and pint glasses. She had a few more things to hang and then give the bar top one last shine.
The bar’s cordless phone buzzed in her back pocket. Reaching for it, she checked the screen and pushed the answer button, wedged the phone between her ear and her shoulder and tightened another screw on the stool.
“Maguire’s Mugs Brewhouse, this is Cassidy.”
“It’s Taylor. Didn’t you know it was me?”
“Yes, I can read the caller ID. I’m just trying different phone greetings. What’s up?”
The three of them had been working so closely for months they were practically living in each other’s pockets and, at times, driving each other slightly nuts.
“Tyler’s got me picking up lunch on my way back from the hardware store. You want?”
“It’s barely past breakfast and you’re already making plans for lunch?”
“It’s not me. It’s Tyler. You know he’s always thinking about his next meal.”
“Of course. What did you guys choose today?”
She flipped the completed stool over and set it on the floor. “Again?”
“We’re creatures of habit.”
“Creatures sounds about right.” The twins had made it their mission to gross her out whenever possible. That included weird foods, showing her every injury they acquired each day, and the worst, sharing every single nasty smell they could create with their bodies. “I’m in. Make sure mine doesn’t have any of that pepperoni on it.”
“You said extra roni?”
“Fine. So, we gonna be ready on time? You need any help in there?”
She looked around the room, pleased with the way it was shaping up. It no longer resembled a run down, abandoned barn. It had warmth and character oozing from every scrubbed corner. “I’m good. I’ve got to go out for a bit and then I’m back to finish up for the tasting extravaganza!”
“How’s the social media looking?”
“Really great. All our curious neighbors are clamoring to get here first.”
“That’s what I like to hear. I’ve got to pick up more light bulbs, some washers, and a door knob. You need to add to my list?”
“Um…some picture hanger thingies.”
“Is that a technical term?”
She smiled. “It is. It’ll say ‘thingies’ right on the box.”
“Okay. I’ll see you in a couple hours.”
Cassidy worked hard to finish off at least half her list and then cleaned up her mess. She had more to do, but first, she had an errand to run that she’d kept putting off and she no longer had any excuse to ignore it. She texted the twins to tell them she’d be back in an hour and then jumped in her car and drove into town.
Sunday mornings in Bobby’s world were the best, designed for sleeping in, swimming laps, followed by outrageously delicious pancakes at his aunt’s restaurant. Bobby currently held the record for eating the most pancakes at one sitting, ten for those keeping track, but normally he had a regular order with eggs, and extra bacon on the side. There were no greater words in the English language than ‘extra bacon’.
Rolling over in his king size bed, he checked the clock. 6:00 am. Perfect. He dressed in his swim trunks, sweatshirt, and flip-flops, grabbed a towel and his keys and headed to the door. His apartment complex happened to be situated next to the local community center and for a small fee the tenants had complete access to the indoor heated pool and other facilities.
A hold-over from his high school swim team days, Bobby loved to swim and he made use of every opportunity to get in the water. He could swim laps for hours and not get tired of it. He’d tried other cardio exercise, but none of them gave him the same ‘runner’s high’ that he got in the pool.
On this early fall morning, the complex stood empty and the smooth water beckoned. Muscle memory took over his freestyle strokes and his mind began to wander. In the time it took him to complete his routine, he’d figured out the only place August Drake could have stood during the raid to avoid the thermal imaging camera.
August must have been on the other side of the sliding glass doors located on the far side of the building. Only the glass would’ve been able to block him from the camera. Had it been good timing that he’d stood in the only place the camera couldn’t read him or had he been forewarned of their arrival? Another piece of the puzzle to discuss with Jack.
Bobby climbed out of the pool just as the lifeguard showed up. Looking forward to digging into those well-deserved pancakes, he headed back to his place. As he reached his doorway he stopped short at the sight of a small basket on his welcome mat.
The odds of that basket containing muffins? With his luck lately?
The longer he stared at it, the more he thought it might be a baby’s bassinet with a hood and some blue ribbons. Bobby’s gut churned. His head filled with questions. Did the basket have a baby in it? Did he get someone pregnant? Would this be his kid, abandoned on his doorstep? He kneeled down to check under the blanket.
Tugging back the cotton, it became clear that a doll had been wrapped up in the blue blanket. Painfully, the air pushed out of his lungs. Not a real baby. His temporary relief at not becoming a single father dissipated when he noticed the red liquid staining the doll’s clothing. His head dropped, shoulders slumping. He knew who’d left it. This had to be another ‘gift’ from his friendly neighborhood stalker, Theresa.
Bobby stood to unlock his door, then used his swim towel to pick up the basket and bring it inside. He put on a pair of gloves from the police bag he’d grabbed from his garage and using the camera on his phone, he methodically took pictures as he removed everything from inside the basket. The queasy feeling in his stomach returned as he checked through all of it until he found the note he knew she would leave for him.
This could have been our baby, but you killed any possibility of that when you left me. You never gave us a chance. I hate you.
Heartwarming and psychotic. Great. He’d only had a couple of dates with Theresa in the spring before he’d ended things with her. She’d gotten way too attached, way too quickly. She didn’t take the end of their short association very well at all.
Bobby put the basket, and its contents, into a black plastic bag, carried it out to his car, and put it in the trunk with all the other ‘Crazy Waitress Theresa’ memorabilia she’d left him, like the dead flowers and ripped photographs. She should be running out of steam, but this unwanted gift might be the worst thing she’d done so far.
The cost to fix the paint job after she scratched the hell out of his 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 still pained him. Okay, that would be the worst thing she’d done and it had hurt worse than when she sliced his arm with a broken wine glass and he had to get stitches.
Perhaps ignoring her behavior had actually escalated her mania instead of the having the opposite effect. It might be past time to talk to Jack about her. No matter what, his boss would be pissed.
Cassidy parked in the visitor’s lot of a small apartment complex and searched for a sign to tell her where apartment 1013 would be located. Wandering the sidewalks, and admiring the well-kept gardens in their autumn colors, she finally found the right door. Checking her watch, she realized the early hour. Maybe she should wait. Not everyone liked to rise and shine as early as she did.
She quickly knocked before she could change her mind. No one answered. It would really suck if she had to come back. She lifted her fist to knock again and the door swung wide.
Not only did the whoosh of the door being yanked open surprise her, but the sight of Bobby Maguire standing on his threshold in nothing but low-riding swim trunks nearly made her swoon. She clamped her lips shut so she wouldn’t say anything else out loud while ogling his smooth lean-muscled chest.
His gaze took her in head to toe. “Pardon?”
“I’m aware that’s how this whole ‘knock-and-answer-the-door-thing’ works, but you startled me.”
His eyebrows drew together making a cute little ‘v’ over his nose. “Can I help you?”
“Well, I came here to make you a proposition…” She spotted something in his grip. “But, I don’t think you need to be armed to hear it.”
The hand containing a black firearm moved further behind his leg. “I’m about to close this door unless you tell me what you want.”
She should go. Her instincts were usually spot-on. He clearly didn’t want company. On the other hand, she knew she wouldn’t get a chance to return anytime soon. She gathered her courage and declared her intentions before she could change her mind.
“Would you be interested in a little work under the table?”
He shook his head. “You know I’m a cop, right?”
“Art work. I meant art work. You used to draw and sketch stuff.”
Bobby’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “How do you know that?”
“How do I…huh?” He had to be kidding with her, right?
“Ma’am, I’m not sure what your game is, but I need to get moving here.”
“Ma’am?” He’s not kidding. “Wow. Okay. My name’s Cassidy. I was like a year behind you all through high school.”
She pushed her sunglasses up on top of her head to reveal her best feature, her bright silver eyes. They’d been called everything from pretty to surreal to creepy. He stared at her for a long moment. His face didn’t register recognition.
Sure, she didn’t look exactly the same, but she’d like to think she’d kept her youthful appearance even several years out of school. There were a few minor changes. Her thick black hair now touched her waist and had deep purple streaks running through it. Her face had slimmed out, but she still had great curves in all the right places. Her clothing choices probably remained the most unchanged, predominately black, denim and leather.
“I’m sorry. I don’t recall you from school.”
A wave of annoyance flushed her skin. Bobby’s reputation with knowing every woman in town must be all hype. She hadn’t expected to have to remind him that he knew her.
“Wow, again. That figures. So, I’m the Brewmaster at Maguire’s Mugs Brewhouse.”
“The O’Hart’s place?”
She grabbed the ends of her own hair and pulled down hard. If she had a nickel for every time someone called it that. “Yes. We’re calling it the Brewhouse for short. Tyler, Taylor, and I. We’re all partners.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Do you want to hear about my offer or not?”
“Sure.” He took a step closer to her, his chest inches from her nose, smelling like chlorine and well-developed man. He looked in all directions before he stepped back into his house. “Come on in.”
Walking in behind him, she witnessed him placing his gun into a safe installed in the wall. He closed the small door with a snap. Did he always answer the door armed and if so, why? She’d heard all about the trouble his family had gone through in the last year, but she didn’t think it warranted that kind of paranoia.
Curious to know more, she did a quick survey of his living room. Nice furniture. Lots of oak. Framed photos on the mantle. Big screen TV on the entertainment center. Game console. Clean. Too clean for a guy. And the air conditioner had to be on because it felt like winter had come to town - inside.
“You drink coffee, Cassidy?”
She tried not to frown when he put a T-shirt on over all that tanned skin. “Not exclusively.”
His wide grin caused all her girly parts to sigh. She hadn’t known she would be so attracted to this grown-up version of Bobby Maguire, but she never ignored her gut reactions, she embraced them.
“How about now? Would you like some coffee?”
“I’d love some.”
Bobby led her to his kitchen, offering her a seat at the table. He’d expected the worst when he’d opened the front door. Another ‘present’ from Theresa or an unwelcome visit from one of Drake’s henchmen. What a surprise to find such a stunning woman on his welcome mat.
He moved to the cabinet to grab clean coffee mugs. For a moment he thought she might be a Unite Today member, but the way she talked changed his mind. Really, she’d had him at ‘proposition’ and ‘under the table’. Something about her had him terribly curious. And those eyes. When her glasses had come off, his heart had skipped a few beats.
Cassidy spun the salt shaker on the scarred oak table. “So, I suppose I should ask if you still sketch?”
“See, here’s the thing. I want a certain look for the beer bottle labels. In my opinion, the labels need to be created specifically for each flavor of beer, not just one general design for our brand. Do you remember that black and white drawing you did of the creek in Maguire’s Corner Park? The one with the willow tree limbs dragging in the water? You entered it in the art show.”
“I drew that, what, seven or eight years ago? You remember it?”
“Mmm hmm. I loved it and I want that sketch-look on all the labels.”
“You’re serious?” Bobby poured coffee into the mugs. “You want me to do the art for the brewery?”
The shaker slipped, spilling some of its contents on the table. “Brewhouse.” Cassidy stood, brushed the grains into her cupped hand, tossed a little over her shoulder, dumped the rest into his sink, and then put the shaker back with its partner when she sat back down. “If you still do that kind of stuff, yeah.”
Who does that? Most people would have just brushed it all onto the floor. He almost laughed out loud, but he thought he might hurt her feelings. “If you’re trying to prevent bad luck, you should throw that over your left shoulder.” He put a steaming mug in front of her. “What do you put in your coffee?”
“Blood of a virgin and the eye of a newt.”
“How about cream and sugar?”
“That works, too.”
He could be imagining that the room seemed brighter with her in it. And more musical with all those dangly earrings she wore. Where the hell had she been hiding? Funny. Sarcastic. Beautiful, yes, but more like exotic or remarkable. Especially those eyes. It’s like they had an inner glow.
He set the sugar, creamer, and spoons in the center of the table. Before he sat down he reached into a kitchen drawer and pulled out paper and a pencil. “Tell me more about your proposition.”
“We’re starting off with our four strongest beer recipes. We’ll add more eventually and change them seasonally. The first priority is to replace the current generic look with your art. You still with me?”
“I think so.”
She pulled a piece of paper from her pocket and unfolded it. “I’ve been jotting down ideas. When I have them. About each beer.” She took a sip of her coffee. “Mmmm. Oh, God, that’s good.” She sipped again. “Yes. You should come tonight.”
“What’s that, now?” She had him half-hard just complimenting his coffee.
“To the beer tasting. I kinda waited forever to get over here and ask you, but tonight would be the perfect opportunity for you to taste all the beers and maybe you’ll get your own ideas.”
“Maybe I will.” He read through her suggestions, ignoring the sizzle of want coursing through him. It wouldn’t do him any good to get mixed up with someone he needed to work closely with. “These should help. You’ve put some real thought into them. I’ll need to take some photos of these landmarks before I start drawing. Then maybe a week or so to sketch. Does that work for you?”
“Absolutely.” Cassidy downed her coffee like a college kid drank beer at a frat party. “Wooh. My second favorite beverage. After we get the labels done I’m going to need a mural done in the bar.”
“Shouldn’t you wait to see what I come up with first?”
“Already know what I like or I wouldn’t be here.”
“What if I haven’t drawn a damn thing since college?”
She raised her eyebrows. “Is that true?”
She stood, her OD green jacket opening enough to reveal her Harley shirt had been tied in a knot at her waist showing a patch of creamy skin over her black denim jeans. Earlier, when she’d grown frustrated with him, a light blush had bloomed across her neck. He wondered how far down that rose color went. He’d bet good money she blushed right before she…
“Let’s be real. Draw for me. If I don’t like them, I’ll tell you the absolute truth. If I do like them, I’ll pay you per label you create for the Brewhouse. The mural will be a separate job. Does this meet with your approval?”
He put out his hand and she grasped it hard. “You’ve got a deal, Cassidy.”
“All right, then, Bobby. If you come tonight, come thirsty.”