The LARK – is my new contemporary suspense. I’m about half way to completing the full manuscript and you are the first to see this draft chapter. It’s only Chapter One but will give you an idea of the flavour before you get to taste more excerpts as the story unfolds. Hope you like the proposed cover too?
Road Stop – Larkson Now
Laura Larkson punches the music up louder. The beat vibrates in her chest while she sings out of tune to the vocals with the car’s window’s wound down. The summer breeze ripples through her dark hair as she reaches for her sunglasses, cutting the glare from the stark, cloudless sky and the glittering ocean. She rests her right arm on the edge of the open window and is grinning like a fool. Life is good.
She manoeuvres the Ford sedan around the snaking coastal road towards her hometown of Larkson Bay. The small town nestles in the remote cove, hugged by the Pacific Ocean, where rolling surf strokes white powder-sand beaches fringed by ancient native Pohutukawa trees. Their bright red summer blossoms glow against the turquoise horizon. Overhanging branches dip into the high tide as if testing the water for a noonday swim. During the past twenty years, the farming community expanded into a boutique tourist hot spot, crammed with cafés, serving perfect coffee and gourmet meals to out-of-towners. You can still buy a decent meat and cheese pie, too. Local farmers and labourers queue up around lunchtime at the Dog and Spoon for tucker that hits the spot.
Larkson huddles against the northern flank of Warkworth, positioned along New Zealand’s East Coast. Laura’s hometown is a perfect getaway for city dwellers, a bolt-hole from their Auckland city offices early on a Friday afternoon. Beat the commuter traffic and drive just two hours before cruising into the tranquil climes of this magical slice of Kiwi paradise. Laura had enjoyed a wild weekend away with two girlfriends, catching up, the euphemistic term for gossip and laughter, washed down with plenty of dry wine and sweet cynicism.
It’s as close to bliss as Laura ever gets, remembering the shrieks of fun with two of her closest girlfriends. They synchronise their diaries, commit to a policy of sharing forty-eight indulgent hours together twice a year. Body massages, hot tub soakings with manicures while sipping champagne at a city spa retreat kicks-off their great escape.
As Laura floors the accelerator, forcing the Ford up a small rise, the car splutters rolling to a soundless halt at the side of the road. There’s twelve more kilometres to the village, and she’s in no mood to walk in the heat. The fuel gauge shows it’s still half full. She taps the electronic meter glass. She’s seen someone do that in a movie to dislodge a stuck needle. Modern electronics give no heed and the indicator remains in a digitally determined position. Climbing from the driver’s seat, Laura pops the bonnet and peers at the engine, which gives her no comfort either. Moments later she hears an approaching vehicle accelerating away from Larkson village.
The driver swerves his truck and pulls up in a dust cloud stop, right in front of Laura’s car. She instantly recognises him and his ferocious vehicle. It’s her sister’s boyfriend, Samuel Va’a, tall with copper coloured skin, known as Sam-the-sharp-shooter to his mates in the Police force and just plain Sam to Laura and her younger sister Grace.
‘In a bit of strife?’ he asks, climbing out of this shiny black SUV and steps towards Laura, still standing frustrated, in front of her car engine.
Laura snorts. ‘What’re you doing all the way out here? Is Auckland too hot for you?’
‘Nothing’s too hot for me!’ he grins and leans in under the bonnet, reaching his right hand into the engine.
Laura steps closer to Sam, peering at the motor. ‘I hope it’s not serious,’ she pulls a face and explains what happened as Sam rolls up his shirt sleeves, exposing his muscular arms. It’s a pity this Adonis is so emotionally stunted. Initially impressed with her sister’s choice, it hadn’t taken long to figure out Sam came from a dysfunctional background. Not that she knows any details, but his quiet, withdrawn personality always gives her the feeling he is assessing his surroundings, judging everything and storing it away for later.
‘How come you’re not in uniform or has SWAT cottoned onto your lacklustre performance?’
‘Huh. Hilarious. Not. I was with your sister for the weekend. You know the usual routine. Without you there, she couldn’t stand being alone.’
Laura grins. ‘That’s right buddy. I suspect Grace is a lot safer with you out on the job doing your dastardly SWAT Team thing with that pack of over-testosteroned, bulletproof egos, rather than you dossing down at our house.’
‘Awwhhh, come on Laura, thought you went for a city break to reconnect with your self-medicated shrunken soul and get grounded back to the sweet girl you used to be.’
‘Enough lip Captain Fantastic. What the hell’s the deal with my car?’
Sam reaches his large right hand under the bonnet and twiddles with something. Laura guesses it’s a spark plug, the only word she knows belonging to the elusive stuff lurking under the hood.
‘Give it a go,’ Sam instructs.
Laura leaps into the driver’s seat, pulls generic designer sunglasses over her eyes and a split second later, the engine roars into life.
‘Well, there’s more to you than a loaded gun,’ she winks and puts the automatic into reverse. Laura drives off in a cloud of dust, waving and shouting out a big thank you to the tall, bald, muscular man standing in the road. ‘Happy crime solving!’ she laughs as she races past him and disappears around the next bush clad bend in the road.
Enjoy another good week!