Monday, February 24, 2014

More of Merlin's Legacy, Chapter 2

Well, I am working on the outline/chapter breakdown of this novel for this series I'm trying to get into. First eight chapter are (sort of) plotted, and hopefully will have three or four more done before the end of the week. Right now, it's just as much research as plotting, as I have to get an idea about locations and background. About the series background, there have been a few discussions with the author behind the series, but I have only a few basic facts and basic character background for the series' main characters to work with.

To keep this from being a real short blog entry, here's more of Merlin's Legacy, Chapter 2. Keep in mind that is is a first draft you're seeing and some, if not all, will be rewritten:


We walked into a small lobby, where we were met by a short plump woman, dressed in colonial garb. “Thank you, Sheriff,” she said. “I was afraid those two were up to no good.”
“No charge,” Walker said with an easy grin. “Sandy, I want you to meet Roger Merlin, Lucian’s great-nephew.”
Sandy smiled at me. I judged her to be in her mid-forties, blue-eyed, cherubic face, with wisps of blonde hair escaping from under her white cap.. Her handshake was strong though.
“Roger, this is Sandy McIntyre. Her family has owned this inn for nearly two hundred years.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” she said. She looked at Walker. “Table for two?”
He nodded and she plucked two menus from a rack near a doorway. “Follow me.”
The dining room of the inn matched the exterior. The modern was seamless blended into Colonial styling, making you feel as if you had taken a step back to the time of George Washington. The stone walls matched the exterior, with large landscapes hanging on them. Wood was everywhere, the floor, ceiling beams, tables and chairs, all dark with age and wear. Light was provided by small table lamps made to look like lanterns and a pair of chandeliers hanging over the center of the dining room. Recorded music, soft classical was audible over the murmuring of the patrons and employees.
Sandy led us to a table that was next to a window looking out over Pilgrim’s Cove. After she left, we took a couple of minutes to look over the menu. “So,” Walker said, “Have you been up here before?”
I shook my head. “I went to Vermont once, to visit my sister who was in college, but I've never been up here before.”
“You didn't know your Great-Uncle was living up here?”
“Not a clue. I talked to dad and he talked to his brothers. No one in the family had heard from him in ten years. Even before that, he wasn't around much.”
“Must have been a shock to you when you learned he’d died.”
I frowned. “Sheriff, what’s going on? I don’t like the direction these questions are going.”
He placed his menu down, put his hands on the table, and looked at me. “All right. Lucian Merlin was murdered nearly two weeks ago.”
I stared at him in disbelief. “Murdered?” I said woodenly.
Walker nodded. “He was found at the base of Table Rock. At first, we thought he’d just fallen, but the autopsy discovered he’d been shot, then fell.”
I slumped back in my chair and stared at him blankly. Who would do such a thing?”
“We don’t know. The investigation is still open.”
I didn't know what to say. Before I could say anything, a voice said, “Hi, Sheriff.”
I looked up and found myself staring at the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.
That may sound like hyperbole, but not to me. Tall, willowy, with light brown hair peeking out from beneath her cap, she was a girl that you couldn’t help but notice. Her face had the beauty of the girl next door, rather than the a model’s, but it was just as stunning. Her eyes were deep green and I found myself drawn into them.
A loud cough cut through my fascination and I quickly yanked myself back into the presence of Walker and the inn. Walker was smiling, and the poor girl looked embarrassed. “Donella,” the sheriff said, ‘This is Roger Merlin, Lucian’s great-nephew. Roger, this is Donella Nesbille. She and her aunt rent a house from Lucian.”
“O-oh,” I stammered. I hunched down in my chair, wishing I could disappear. “Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too,” she said. “What are you doing up here?”
“I’m. . .er. . .I’m here to w-wrap up my uncle’s estate,” I said, trying not to sound lame and failing.
“You’re wearing Lucian’s ring,” Donella said.
I looked at the ring, which hadn't left my finger since I’d put it one the week before. “It was with the letter Mister Windicott sent me.”
“Could I look at that letter?” Walker asked.
I glanced up at Donella, who was shifting from foot to foot in impatience. “Why don’t we order first?’ I said.
Walker smiled again. “All right.”
We ordered and Donella fled. I watched her walk away and sighed. Walker chuckled and turned back to look at him. “Sorry,” I muttered. “She must think I’m a jerk.”
“She’s a beautiful girl,” Walker said. He motioned to the ring. “Windicott send that to you?”
“Yes.” I reached down for the fanny pack. “I have the letter right here.”
I removed it and handed it over to the sheriff. He took it out of the envelope and read it slowly. After he finished, he folded it and put back in the envelope and handed it back to me. “that explains the ring,” he said. “Charlie’s out of town right now, but he should be back late tonight.”
“What can you tell me about Uncle Lucian?” I asked. “I only met him a few times, and I know almost nothing about him.”
Walker leaned back and looked at me for a few seconds. “Lucian Merlin was the kindest, gentlest man I've even know. Never had a bad word to say about anyone, and was always the first in line when something needed doing.”
“Did he ever marry?”
“Not that I know of. He did mention once that the woman he loved died during World War Two, but never went into any more detail than that.”
“Did you know what he did for a living?”
Walker scratched an eyebrow. “He was a consultant,” he replied. “He did work at all levels of government and private sector, both here and abroad, and was gone several days a month. He never went into any details, but I know the work he did was important.”
Walker then told me several stories about Uncle Lucian that showed his humanitarian side. As the Sheriff told it, there were few in Pilgrim’s Cove that hadn't been touched by Lucian’s generosity in one way or another. When the local Methodist church needed a new roof, Lucian spearheaded the fund drive and contributed a lot of cash, despite Lucian not being a member of any church. When a storm damaged several fishing boats and the owners couldn't afford the repairs, Lucian floated every one of them a loan, and gave them several years to pay it back, without interest. Ever boat owner paid Lucian back within the time frame.
With every story, I felt more and more like I had missed an important person. Donella, looking a little more composed, appeared with our dinners. Steak and mash potatoes for me, chicken breast and a salad for the sheriff. I looked out the window, not wanting to embarrass her again. Then she was gone, and we started eating.
We didn't talk about Uncle Lucian or his case. Instead, Walker filled me on the basics of Pilgrim’s Cove and a little bit about himself. Population was about a thousand full-time residents, though during the height of summer, there could be another three hundred visitors and tourists. Tourism and fishing were the town’s main industries, and the Pilgrim’s Cove Lighthouse was a national historical landmark. Walker himself had been a Boston PD detective before retiring early, moving up here and taking the post of sheriff.  He was married, with three kids.
I returned the favor and told him a little bit about myself. Middle child of three, U of Md grad, but hadn't found the right job before the economy went south, and had been working three jobs to make ends meet. I told him about the thugs who attacked me, and the demand for the letter.
That caught Walker’s attention. “They demanded the letter?”
“Yeah. I didn't have a clue about it until I looked through my mail two days later.”
“Interesting. you had no idea the letter was coming?”
Donella came by with refills, coffee for the sheriff and tea for me. I inhaled slowly, and said, “Miss Nesbille—”
“Donella, please,” she said, “Miss Nesbille is my aunt.”
I inhaled again. “Donella,” I said. “I’m sorry if I caused you any discomfort earlier. I’m not usually so. . .idiotic.”
She gave me a soft smile and said, “Apology accepted.” Then she was gone, off to another table.
I exhaled slowly. Walker chuckled. “I take it you don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Is it that obvious?”
“Yeah, but don’t feel bad. She has that effect on most single men under thirty, and a few over thirty. But I think I should warn you that her aunt is no shrinking violet. She’s a retired FBI agent and fiercely protective of her niece.”
I wilted. “I’m not looking for a girlfriend,” I said in a low voice. “Besides, she probably has a dozen guys lining up to ask her out.”
“You would think so, wouldn't you?” Walker asked.
We finished dinner and I ordered desert, apple pie with home-made strawberry ice cream. Walker begged off, saying that he had to watch his weight. After Donella left to fill my order, he looked at me over his coffee. “What are your plans while you’re up here?”
“I don’t know yet,” I replied. “I have to talk to Mister Windicott and find out exactly want Uncle Lucian left me and go from there.”
He nodded. “No idea what your great-uncle left you?”
“Only what Mister Windicott mentioned in his letter.”
“”Sheriff,” a smooth voice said. Walker’s expression tighten, then relaxed into a neutral mask.”Damien,” he said, his tone a couple of degrees cooler than I expected.
I looked up and found a guy standing there. If this had been California, I would have called him a surfer bum. He was taller than me, well-built, with wavy dirty-blond hair, a chiseled face, and dreamy blue eyes.
“How’s it going?” Damien asked in a tone that was several notes short of genuine..
“It could be going better,” Walker replied.
I felt my hackles rise. Something was bugging me about this guy.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Damien said, his tone losing a couple more notes as he looked at me. His smile was predatory. “And you are?”
If he thought I was going to wilt, he was mistaken. I smiled, making sure I showed teeth. “New to town.”
The smile faulted for a second, then increased. “I’m Damien Brackett, My family owns most of the town.”
My smile increased. “I’m Roger Merlin, and I don’t give a damn who the hell you are.”
I saw the surprise in Damien’s eyes, but he quickly replaced it with a imperious twist of his mouth. “You have no idea who you dealing with.”
“A bully,” I replied.
“Gentlemen,” Walker said, his tone sharp.
Damien looked back at him. “Sorry, Sheriff,” he said.
“Excuse me, Damien,” Donella said. She was standing behind him, my pie and ice cream in hand.
Damien turned to look at her. “Oh sorry,” he said much more smoothly. He stepped back, allowing Donella to place the dessert in front of me. “Want to go out after your shift?”
Donella gave him an icy stare. “No,” she said flatly.
“It’s been two weeks.”
“The lady said no,” I said.
He turned back to look at me. While he was doing that, Donella retreated back to the kitchen. “Stay out of this,” he said. “This is between me and her.”
“Roger’s right,” Walker said, rising to his feet. “I suggest that you leave now.”
Damien looked from me to the sheriff and back again. He looked around and found she’d gone. He stiffened, then turned back and looked at me. “You win this round, Merlin,” he said coldly. “Finish your business and get out of town and back to Maryland.”
“That sounds like a threat,” Walker said.
Damien looked at him. “Merely good advice. Sheriff.” He walked away, and part of me wanted to get up, spin the bastard around and punch him in the mouth.
“Not worth the effort,” Walker said.
“I looked at him. “What?”
“I saw your expression,” he said. “And while it would be gratifying to watch you punch that arrogant son of a bitch, I’d have to arrest you for assault.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I have a low tolerance for bullies. Used to be bullied when I was a kid, until I started taking martial arts. Once I started fighting back, they left me alone.”
“It’s not so simple up here,” Walker said. “The Bracketts own about fifty percent of the land within a dozen mile radius, including the town itself. Old man Brackett isn't too much of a bastard, but Damien makes up for it.” He scowled. “Damien is a wastrel who loves being lazy, booze and girls.”
“Lucian have any problems with him?”
Walker thought for a second. “Haven’t heard anything solid, but I know Damien and his pals started avoiding him about three years ago. That was right after Damien and three of his friends were found naked, painted blue, and duct-taped to the Gazebo in the town square. Couldn't prove that Lucian was behind that and none of Damien’s group cooperated. Never did get any sense out of them about what happened that night.”
“Sounds like Lucian has the right attitude,” I said.
“Lucian never did like bullies.”
“You don’t think that he had something to do with Lucian’s death?”
Walker sighed. “He has a solid alibi. He was at a party his parents had at their house, and half a dozen people can swear he wasn't out of their sight for more than two or three minutes at any time. Solid, respected people too.”
I dipped my spoon into the ice cream. “Do you have any suspects?”
“I can’t say. Ongoing investigation.”
“Of course.” I looked out the window. Night had fallen, and I could see the lights of the town, and the moon’s reflection off the waters of the bay. “It’s beautiful.”
“Wait a few more weeks, when the fall foliage comes in. That is spectacular.”
“I guess so.” I tried to cover a yawn, and failed.
“Long day?”
“Do you have a place to stay?”
“Not yet.”
“You can try the Oates House, on Elm. She runs a bed and breakfast and has a couple of rooms open.”
“Sounds like what I need.”
He gave me directions as I finished up the wonderful dessert. After that, I left a large tip for Donella, settled my bill with Sandy (Which was reasonable) and followed Walker out to the parking lot. I followed him into town and we went our separate ways.


Back to outlining!


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