The Choice is Made! Introducing Sidetracked ~ A Mystery by Dellani Oakes Part 1

I got a bit more feedback this time. Thank you all who helped me out. Two books, Sidetracked and Alton & Velda got an equal number of votes, so I discussed it with my son, and decided to post Sidetracked this time. For those of you who wanted Alton & Velda, I will post it once this novel is done.

Sidetracked began as a challenge from author friend, Karen Vaughan. She encouraged me to try a cozy mystery. I didn’t expect it to be particularly easy, because cozy mysteries aren’t supposed to contain sex or bad language. (Well, there went that idea.) She suggested, as an alternative, I should simply write a mystery. I thought I could probably handle that, and I’ve been wanting to try one, so I set out on the first of November with a happy heart. By page 11, it turned a bit downbeat. By page 20, it was dark, then it got rather grim. All that aside, it’s a great book, and I’m very proud of it. ~ Dellani

sidetracked 2

Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Prologue

Early morning dew speckled the grass and hung heavy in the air. Ready for her run, she stretched all the stubborn muscles that had tightened up overnight. Even though it was early, the sun not even up, there was a muggy heat to the air. Shoes tied just right, light jacket over her crop top and shorts, she headed to the door, keys and cellphone in her pocket. Earbuds plugged into the phone, she was ready to jog. AWOL Nation’s Sail began as she reached the street. Starting at Silver Palm Drive, she headed east toward US-1, about two miles away. She ran twice a day, early mornings and evenings. It helped her focus, ridding her mind of distractions. She was close to her goal now, closer than she’d ever been.

Vulfpeck’s 1612 started as she reached the first cross street. Liking the jazzy tempo, she punched the air, matching her steps to the song’s beat. She didn’t notice the dark van following her, couldn’t hear the noise of the motor over the music. When the van pulled up onto the grassy verge between the bike path and the street, she saw it. Curious, her steps slowed, and that was her undoing. Dark clothed figures jumped out. One grabbed her, another covered her mouth with duct tape. Together, they lifted her struggling body. She was no match for the men, they simply tossed her into the back of the van, slammed the door and took off. More duct tape secured her hands and feet.

No one saw her. No one would notice she was gone. As she bumped along in the van, she knew they’d been sent to silence her. Sobbing with frustration, she sensed that these would be her last moments. Determined to fight them for every victory, she prepared for the ordeal she knew was coming. Hers would not be a quiet, nor an easy, death. But she would confront her end with courage. They wouldn’t make her beg.

The van pulled up behind a low, cinder block house. It looked virtually colorless in the gray light of dawn, but she knew where she was. She didn’t know what was worse, the fact they intended to kill her, or that they would kill her here. The ignominy of her situation, knowing her last breaths would be taken in the one place she despised the most, filled her with regret.

The men carried her inside. The stench met her nose, worse than ever, if such a thing were possible. Throwing her on the kitchen floor, they did unspeakable things, with the television blaring in the front room. When they’d had enough of pleasuring themselves at her expense, the torture began. One of them got off on it so much, he violated her again, choking her. Her last sight was his face blurring above her, cumming as he choked the life from her.

~*~

“Mom! Where are my Vans?”

“Where did you leave them, Aiden?”

“If I could tell you that, I’d know. Oh, shit…. Never mind. Found ’em.”

“Honey, where are my car keys?”

“Check yesterday’s pants.”

“Got ’em!” her husband called. “Boys, move it along!”

“Can I drive, Dad?” Burl asked.

“No, Dad. Please, for the love of God, do not let him,” Corin, the youngest, entreated. “I want to get to school alive.”

“I’m a very good driver!” his older brother fussed.

“Yeah. You and Rain Man. Great in the driveway.”

“Lunches?” Deirdre said over the mayhem.

“Going to McDonald’s,” Aiden said. “Riding with Lance and his girlfriend.”

“Can I go?” Corin asked as they headed out the door.

“Oh, sure. We want the lame ass freshman along.”

“He won’t even let me go,” Burl whined. “Why would he let you?”

“I’m cuter than you.”

“Goodbye!” Deirdre called, blowing kisses.

“Bye, Mom!” the boys chorused.

Her husband, Fred, stopped at the door and gave her a kiss. “Bye, darling. See you in a few.”

“Love you.”

“Love you,” he replied, giving her another kiss.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

Advertisements

Choices 6 Game Junkies

man holding black game controller

Photo by Anton Porsche on Pexels.com

In order to help your choice of book along, I’m including the first typed page of each. I’m not going beyond the first typed page, though. Just the first 500 words or so – even if it stops in the middle of a sentence. It will be fun! Trust me.

Presented in order they are listed in the post.

CHAPTER ONE

The line at Game Junkies extended out the door and down the mall corridor. Colby Thatcher stopped in his tracks, blue eyes wide behind round, wire-frame glasses. He’d never seen such a mass of humanity unless it was a new game release. He stared a full minute before he realized someone was waving at him. Three of his friends stood in the line. Two were grinning widely, smart phones clutched in their hands.

“Wait until you see!” Stan Fitz said, hopping excitedly in place.

Stan was nearly seven feet tall. His lean, gangling frame moved oddly, like he was a marionette guided by a puppet master on crack. He giggled, waving his phone under Colby’s nose.

Gavin Carter eyed their friend with forbearance, but his dark brown eyes twinkled.

The only one who didn’t show enthusiasm was Avery. Dressed in skinny jeans, sporting a lip ring, nose ring and multiple earrings, she hunched over with her hands in her pockets. Her blue streaked red hair escaped from under her Rasta striped beanie. She looked bored and somewhat disgusted.

“If I didn’t have to be here, I wouldn’t,” she snarled before Colby could speak. “But I have to get game time. They’re doing buy one get one because of the upcoming game launch.” She elbowed Stan who had hopped on her foot. “These two are impossible.”

“We saw her first,” Stan said. “Then all these others showed up.” He frowned, jerking a thumb at the line.

“Maybe if you hadn’t sent a massive text to everyone on your phone, it wouldn’t have happened,” Avery growled. “It’s your own damn fault. Get off me!”

She elbowed Stan again. Given the difference in their heights, the sharp jab got him in the nuts. Gasping from pain and surprise, he backed off. Avery smirked, satisfied that she had disciplined him appropriately.

“Nicely played,” Gavin said with a smirk of his own. He and Avery exchanged a knuckle bump.

“What’s going on?” Colby appealed to Avery.

Tossing her head, setting her hoops rattling, Avery glared up at him. She was tiny, maybe five feet tall if she stood up straight. Her slender frame and small breasts, in combination with her baggy shirts and bulky jackets, often got her mistaken for an adolescent boy.

“You really don’t know?”

“You live in a cave?” Gavin asked him. “We sent you the text.”

“Phone’s dead,” Colby said. “It got sent through the wash again. I’m waiting for a replacement.”

Avery grabbed the sleeve of his hoodie, pulling him toward her. She opened a text message with her

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

Those are the choices. Which will it be?

Choices 5 Blacksmith’s Heart

action animal bronco bucking

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In order to help your choice of book along, I’m including the first typed page of each. I’m not going beyond the first typed page, though. Just the first 500 words or so – even if it stops in the middle of a sentence. It will be fun! Trust me.

Presented in order they are listed in the post.

CHAPTER ONE

Enid Parker was an addict who never wanted to admit she had a problem, because all of them were completely legal vices. However, the combination of cigarettes, alcohol and prescription pain medications she took eventually landed her in the hospital with a near fatal stroke. Goaded by her family and doctors, she decided to take a rest cure in New Mexico.

The Lazy J Dude Ranch appealed to her, but she was unable to go alone. Every assistant she’d hired had ended up leaving after a few days. Enid was very demanding. Never having been very even tempered, she was worse than ever. Frustrated by her inability to cope alone, her independent nature made living with her hell. She couldn’t pay anyone enough to stay on with her, so she turned to family.

Hana Sutherland was Enid’s great-niece. At 23, she was fresh out of college and between jobs. When she graduated, she’d had a job with a good computer software company, ground level at $40,000 a year, but it fell through at the last minute. After moving from Houston to Albuquerque, she’d used up what little savings she had and couldn’t afford to move back home. Job hunting wasn’t going well.

Enid’s stroke, though problematic for her, was a blessing in disguise for Hana. She put all her things in storage and flew, at Enid’s expense, back to Houston. From there, they drove to the Lazy J. Enid refused to fly or take a train. Despite her great-aunt’s cranky nature, Hana enjoyed the trip. She was seeing parts of the country that she’d never visited before. She even convinced her aunt to stop at Carlsbad Caverns. Aunt Enid would never admit it, but she enjoyed the tour just as much as Hana.

The trip took about a week, but it wasn’t rushed and Hana wasn’t exhausted when they arrived. In fact, once she had Aunt Enid ensconced in her ranch style cabin, with TV remote, six pack of Fresca and her salt free pretzels, Hana went out for a short walk. The Lazy J was pretty, in a quaint, deliberately rustic way. Everything was carefully planned to remind the guests they were in the Wild West. Each cabin had a hitching post by the front door and geraniums growing in window boxes.

Hana wandered around and she came to a corral near the western side of the compound. She and Aunt Enid were to the southeast. Several guests and ranch hands gathered along the fence, some sitting on the cross beams, others leaning against it. Hana walked over shyly, hands in the

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

Choices 4 Sidetracked

sidetracked coverIn order to help your choice of book along, I’m including the first typed page of each. I’m not going beyond the first typed page, though. Just the first 500 words or so – even if it stops in the middle of a sentence. It will be fun! Trust me.

Presented in order they are listed in the post.

CHAPTER ONE

“Mom! Where are my Vans?”

“Where did you leave them, Aiden?”

“If I could tell you that, I’d know. Oh, shit…. Never mind. Found ’em.”

“Honey, where are my car keys?”

“Check yesterday’s pants.”

“Got ’em!” her husband called. “Boys, move it along!”

“Can I drive, Dad?” Burl asked.

“No, Dad. Please, for the love of God, do not let him,” Corin, the youngest, entreated. “I want to get to school alive.”

“I’m a very good driver!” his older brother fussed.

“Yeah. You and Rain Man. Great in the driveway.”

“Lunches?” Deirdre said over the mayhem.

“Going to McDonald’s,” Aiden said. “Riding with Lance and his girlfriend.”

“Can I go?” Corin asked as they headed out the door.

“Oh, sure. We want the lame ass freshman along.”

“He won’t even let me go,” Burl whined. “Why would he let you?”

“I’m cuter than you.”

“Goodbye!” Deirdre called, blowing kisses.

“Bye, Mom!” the boys chorused.

Her husband, Fred, stopped at the door and gave her a kiss. “Bye, darling. See you in a few.”

“Love you.”

“Love you,” he replied, giving her another kiss.

“Get a room, you two,” Corin yelled, laughing hysterically at his supposed joke. Both brothers socked him. “Ouch! Baby Brother abuse!”

“Shut it, Cor,” they said in unison.

Closing the door, Deirdre Partridge leaned against it. Finally, all three boys in high school. Aiden was a senior, Burl a junior and Corin a freshman. Her boys were evenly spaced, almost exactly two years apart, but Aiden had a late September birthday, which held him back a year. No end of bother for him, especially since he and his brothers were avid golfers, and the younger two were also on the team.

“Not even seven o’clock,” Deirdre sighed. “Just once, I’d like them to get out of the house without me.”

She poured another cup of coffee and turned on her computer. The elderly tower warmed to life. It might be old, and a little surly, but she loved it. It had long been a friend and companion to her, keeping the boys entertained, helping with research papers, or providing her with hours of Netflix viewing. She could do that on

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

For More About Dellani

Choices 3 Poplar Mountain

In order to help your choice of book along, I’m including the first typed page of each. I’m not going beyond the first typed page, though. Just the first 500 words or so – even if it stops in the middle of a sentence. It will be fun! Trust me.

Presented in order they are listed in the post.

Poplar Mountain coverCHAPTER ONE

Dorothea Belloit, commonly known as Dollie, walked up the grassy path to the log cabin. Holding her hat in hand, she swung her arms freely, enjoying the sun on her dark brown hair. Her light cotton spring dress blew in the stout breeze that whipped around the curve of the mountain. Smiling, she admired the view. From here, the valley spread out below her, the creek wound along looking more like a snail trail than the rapidly moving mountain stream.

“Lo, Miss Dollie!” Rachel Henry called from the front porch of her split log cabin.

“Lo, Rachel! Is Lucius home?”

“He’s up the holler, Miss Dollie. Kin I fotch him for ya?”

“Yes, please. I need his help down at the school.”

“Sit down, rest a spell. I’ll send one the young’uns for him.” She stood, calling into the house. “Sally, go git Lucius!”

“Yes, Mama!” A barefoot, girl with sand colored braids darted out of the house and ran up the hill as nimbly as a mountain goat.

The women watched her go. Dollie smiled at her companion. Rachel Henry was a slight built woman with golden blonde hair and dancing green eyes.

“She’ll be old enough for school next year, won’t she?”

“Day school, m’bee,” Rachel replied. “Her daddy and me ain’t sure we want her overnight.”

“Oh, she’d do fine in day school. And six is a little young for boarding. Besides, with you so close, there’s no real need for her to board.”

“Reckon Lucius could fotch her most days.”

“Of course he could. They hope to get a bus up here soon.”

Rachel Henry made a rude noise of disgust. “Them new fangled inventions! Don’t trust ’em. Gimme a mule any day.”

“Rachel, cars are hardly new fangled. And they’re such fun. In fact, I just bought a new Studebaker Champion. I named her Bonnie Blue.”

Rachel’s eyes widened and she bit her lip. “A real car, Miss Dollie? Why, that’d be a sight for sure!” Used to trucks, she still puzzled over cars a little.

“When you get a chance, come down with Lucius and I’ll give you both a ride.”

“Not sure Big Earl would like that much.”

Big Earl was Rachel’s husband. True to his name, he was a large man—brutish and slow witted. Dollie often wondered what had attracted the pretty, vivacious, intelligent Rachel to a man as boring

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

 

Choices 2 Raven Willoughby: Origin

Raven Willoughby cover

In order to help your choice of book along, I’m including the first typed page of each. I’m not going beyond the first typed page, though. Just the first 500 words or so – even if it stops in the middle of a sentence. It will be fun! Trust me.

Presented in order they are listed in the post.

CHAPTER ONE

Rough winds tossed the ship over roiling, tortured seas. Icy waves broke across the bow, bathing the wooden planks. Shimmering crystals hung from rope, rail and wheel, glittering in the feeble sunshine. Raven Willoughby stood his ground, clutching the ship’s wheel with both hands, guiding the vessel by pure tenacity and determination. Concentration lagged as the ship went nearly vertical, tipping into the deep trough and he was swept off his feet. The ropes lashing him to his post were the only thing that kept him from going overboard. Raven watched the nose rise once more, as he made the steep slope of the next wave, fighting his way back to the wheel. Upright once more, he clutched the slippery wood and prayed.

How had he come to this? Alone on this death ship? He had no clear memory. Sounds of violence had woken him, rough hands snatched him from his berth, tearing at his clothing, seeking…something. Cast aside, forgotten, near death, he’d fallen into a black stupor. When he woke, he and one man remained. The other fellow, full of evil intent, sought Raven’s death, but met an uneasy end at the tip of Raven’s sword. His foe downed, Raven cut off the monster’s head, pitching him overboard.

The other bodies had joined the creature, thrown in the frigid drink, the evidence of their deaths sinking with them to oblivion. Raven sought only to near land, so he could abandon the ship, and swim to freedom. That desire seemed unlikely, as the cold fingers of the ocean grasped his vessel once more. Encouraged by a slackening of the wind, he squinted at the horizon. Was that land? Had he found solace after all? Could he survive the near freezing waters of the Labrador Sea? He had to try. To remain on the ship when it made port, was suicide. How had one man, alone, lived when all others were dead? He had no explanation, no memory, of the events leading up to now. He remembered that horrible night, and waking up a day later, barricaded in the hold with death pounding at his door.

He recalled the stench of blood. The sound of the door bursting open, the sight of the figure, outlined with the halo of the one remaining lantern limning his body in a ruddy golden haze. Unarmed, he faced Raven. What he lacked in weaponry, he made up for in pure savagery. It was a miracle that Raven escaped with his life. A lucky feint, a mighty swing, and the creature fell. The blow hadn’t killed him. It was the final cut with a sword, severing his head from his unholy body, which had ended the creature’s life. Raven could not call it man. No. It was more, and less, than human. It was an unspeakable sight, one he hoped he’d eventually forget.

Raven had killed before. He was a soldier for many years. It was impossible to face opponents on the battlefield, and not take a life. But this—this was horrendous, though not as dreadful as those others who had died at the creature’s hand. Throats torn out, belly’s ripped apart. Men, women, children,

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

For More About Dellani

Choices 1 Alton & Velda

In order to help your choice of book along, I’m including the first typed page of each. I’m not going beyond the first typed page, though. Just the first 500 words or so – even if it stops in the middle of a sentence. It will be fun! Trust me.

Presented in order they are listed in the post.
alton-cropped

CHAPTER ONE

Alton shrugged, stepping back from the perilous edge. If Velda said she could handle it, he wouldn’t argue. If his travels had taught him nothing else, it was not to judge abilities on appearance.

Noiselessly, the slender maiden dove into the icy, turbulent river. For several heart stopping moments, Alton watched without seeing her. A flicker of movement 20 yards away, near the river’s center, alerted him to her presence. Smiling, he relaxed a little. A splash and flash of silver got his attention. Was there something else in the water? Could it be Velda was under attack?

His warrior’s senses cautioned him against diving into the turgid current, but also nudged him to protect the young woman. Common sense held him back. He was not a strong swimmer, particularly in scale armor. He’d surely founder and Velda would have to save him. That scenario held little appeal.

Minutes passed slowly. Alton stood by the water, eyes examining the surface of the rapids. He didn’t lower his guard or forget his environment, but his attention was divided,, or he would surely have heard the rustling in the bushes sooner. He slid into the shadows, drawing a long dagger from his boot. His dark skin lent itself to concealment. His bronze scale armor helped him blend into the underbrush. He waited, hardly breathing.

A horse in full tack, riderless, walked up to the water to drink. It was coal black with a white sock on its left foreleg. A stallion, he noticed. Kitted out for exploration with bedroll behind the saddle and small panniers on either side. It wore no colors or insignia. The saddle and bridle were unadorned. There was no visible brand on the flank.velda

If there was a horse, there would be a rider. Where he might be, Alton didn’t know, but intended to find out. Velda was in the water, unprotected. He was vulnerable as well. He stayed in the shadows, casting out with his energy, listening to the vibrations. At first, all was normal forest noise. There was the babble of the river, chattering of squirrels, chirping birds, the swish of a fox’s tail followed by the surprised squeak of the rabbit it caught. Leaves rustled in the gentle breeze, pine needles whispered—and someone drew breath, exhaling slowly.

Focusing on that sound, Alton heard the heartbeat tapping. It wasn’t slow, nor was it overly fast. Like his, it was strong and regular. Adjusting his reading further, Alton probed to see if he’d been spotted. The other person breathed normally. There was no scent of trepidation or fear. For the moment, he wasn’t noticed. The rider posed no immediate threat. Still, why would he stand back while his horse drank? It made very little sense to Alton.

A splash and flicker of movement told him Velda was coming back. The rider’s pulse quickened. He’d heard it too. The horse raised its head, water dripping from its mouth. Eyes as black as its hide,

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

For More About Dellani