Like the Unicorn, He Was Believed to be a Myth….

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A Prophet…or an Experiment Gone Horribly Wrong?

Today’s excerpt is from Chasing the Wind, my favorite of my works. It took Collin and me ten years to write and revise, during the worst period of our lives, but we stuck with it–even when agents and publishers who wanted to work with us insisted we had to turn it into something I didn’t want it to be in order to sell it. Early on, it was a screenplay. I finally realized we would have to self-publish it in order to make it the story I really wanted to write, so in 2008, that’s what we did. Then a few years later, I told Collin we had to rewrite it, switching from third-person point-of-view to multiple first-person POVs. We did, and it was re-published by Creativia. The ebook edition is available via Amazon at a special promotional price–$.99–now through Wednesday!

This is the story of Lynne Raven, a Biblical archaeologist with a failed marriage and a yearning for motherhood, and Connor Mackenzie, a mysterious benefactor with an incredible secret he has yet to discover himself….

 

CTW 2014

Caitlin Hammond

The woman was hysterical.

Her husband wasn’t in much better shape. He could barely talk, struggling to answer my questions in fragmented sentences. Their six-year-old daughter had been abducted from their backyard. There were no witnesses, and an exhaustive search of the neighborhood turned up nothing.

“I don’t understand how this could have happened,” the child’s father said, choking on every other word. “She only let Mandy out of her sight for a minute.”

He looked over his shoulder at his inconsolable wife, being tended by a neighbor. “She’s always been an overprotective mother,” he said, lowering his voice. “Mandy’s our miracle baby.”

“How so?” I asked, taking notes. In the years I’d been with the FBI, I’d found child abduction cases to be the biggest test of my objectivity. If somebody took my kid, I’d probably hunt them down and kill them. Kidnappers and pedophiles should always be turned over to the parents. The courts might let them go. But you didn’t hear that from me.

“We’d been trying to have children for years, almost as long as we’ve been married,” the distraught father went on.  “We both come from big families and wanted kids of our own, but it just wasn’t happening.”

“Is your daughter adopted?” my partner, Jack Farlow, asked.

He shook his head. “No, no,” he said. “She’s ours. We went to a fertility clinic when we couldn’t conceive. It took everything we had, all of our savings, but Mandy’s worth it.”

“You had difficulty in having a child,” Jack said slowly. “Who was at fault?”

The man was at first puzzled, then angry. “What kind of question is that?” he asked. “What has it to do with Mandy being missing?”

“Probably nothing, maybe everything, depending on the circumstances of her birth, sir,” Jack said. “Did you use an egg or sperm donor?”

The man shook his head. “No,” he said. “Mandy’s ours, one hundred percent. She was conceived by in vitro, but we used our own…you know.”

“We have to ask,” I apologized. “If your daughter were not biologically yours, then we would have to consider the possibility that the biological parent might have taken her.”

“We’re her parents, no one else,” the man insisted. His face reflected his deep fear for his child’s safety. “Please bring our baby home. Please.”

***

“I only turned my back for a moment,” the distraught teacher repeated over and over. “I never left the schoolyard!”

A six-year-old boy had been abducted outside a prestigious Seattle school for gifted children. No one saw it happen, even though there were several children in the schoolyard, being picked up by their own parents. Everyone was being questioned.

“We understand, Mrs. Harwood,” I said in an attempt to calm her.

I don’t understand!” The emotional outburst came from the child’s mother. “You were responsible for him! You were supposed to be watching him!”

“I was watching him!” the teacher attempted to defend herself. “I was watching all of them! I only turned away for a moment!”

“Long enough for someone to take my son!” the angry mother shot back at her.

“Easy, Mrs. Wyndham,” Jack urged. “She won’t be able to remember anything if you keep attacking her.”

Charlotte Wyndham turned to the window, hugging herself tightly as if trying to shield herself from the chill of fear that consumed her. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She said her husband was in Paris on business. He’d booked a flight as soon as she called him, but he could not be there before the next morning.

“We only had each other, until Noah was born,” she said. “Neither of us have any other family, and we both wanted children. When we couldn’t get pregnant on our own, we sought out the experts. It took us three years and thousands of dollars to have Noah, but he’s worth every penny. If anything happens to him….”

***

The woman’s body was found in her car, parked in the driveway outside her Florida home. She was still in the driver’s seat, her seatbelt still in place. She’d been shot in the head at close range. Her five-year-old son was missing, presumably taken from his car seat.

We questioned her husband at length. He was frustrated by the endless probing. “My wife is dead, my child is missing. Why are you wasting time questioning me?” he demanded.

“You found her, sir, ” I said. “We have to start there. With you.”

“She had no enemies,” he said irritably. “None. She got along with everybody. I always envied that about her. She was the peacemaker. I was the loose cannon.”

“Were you a loose cannon with her, Mr. Reynolds?” Jack asked.

“No, of course not.” Roger Reynolds didn’t miss the implication. “What are you asking me?”

“Only if there were any problems between the two of you.”

“You think I killed her?” Reynolds asked incredulously.

“Did you?”

“No, of course not!”

“What about your son?”

“What about him?”

“Were there any problems regarding the child?” I asked.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Reynolds snapped. “Our son was perfect. Perfect.”

 

Lynne Raven

Dear God, how long has it been? As I stood at the window in my hotel room in London, looking at the city below, I found myself feeling like I’d just landed on another planet.

I should probably explain. I’m a field archaeologist. Home is wherever I happen to be excavating—at that time, “home” was Egypt. The only people I see on a daily basis are the members of my team. Restaurants, theaters, shopping—all are rare luxuries. My wardrobe is simple and functional, much like everything else in my life.

As I looked at the royal blue tunic I’d planned to wear that night, I realized I hadn’t worn it in months. It didn’t fit my normal lifestyle. Too feminine for a dig. Thinking about it, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d made the effort to be feminine, to actually look like a woman. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt like a woman, the last time I’d wanted to feel like a woman. Feeling and acting like a woman always seemed to get me into trouble. I had discovered long ago that I got on better with people who’d been dead for a thousand years than I did with the living.

I’m not one to spend a lot of time worrying about my looks. For what? I’ve been divorced over a decade and can’t remember the last time I was on a date. I turned forty that summer, but on the good days, I could still pass for thirty. I had fine lines around my eyes—“archaeologist’s squint,” an occupational hazard more than a sign of aging. I haven’t changed my hairstyle since college—it’s long, dark and threaded with strands of copper from being out in the sun all day, every day. I know I don’t look my age. But there are times I feel it acutely. I got good genes from my parents. Genes that I haven’t been able to pass on to any children of my own. The thought of the children I’d never have and the family I hadn’t seen in a year brought a wave of unexpected sadness I couldn’t shake. It was Thanksgiving in the States. How many years had it been since I’d gone home for Thanksgiving or any other holiday? I told my parents I was too busy, but the truth was that it was too painful to see my three sisters with their children. Seeing what I’d been missing.

I always believed this was the path God had chosen for me. I could never have been satisfied with the life my sisters led back in Missouri. Taking the easy route had never been my style. We all have a purpose. I believed without doubt that mine was to find evidence that would prove the events described in the Bible had actually happened.

As for why I was in London, I hadn’t planned on being here. Three weeks before, I’d been minding my own business, working on my dig in Egypt when that call came, asking me to do a series of lectures in London, to replace a colleague who’d been injured in an earthquake in China. The request surprised the hell out of me, since it came from someone I not only didn’t know well personally, but had been at odds with professionally. What was it Dr. McCallum had called me? Too much of a dreamer to ever be a serious archaeologist. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t about to debate the merits of his request. It had been so long since I’d taken any time off from my work, for any reason…and as much as I loved it, I’d been feeling the need for a break for a long time now. It was a feeling I’d never had before, one I was at a loss to explain, even to myself. Work had been my whole life for…how long? Ever since the divorce.

I was giving serious consideration to adopting a child, maybe two. Not babies. Older kids. Kids who could live the way I live and actually enjoy it. There are lots of kids in the world needing parents. It doesn’t matter if I give birth to my kids or not.

Being in London would hopefully also provide me with an opportunity to seek the funding I needed to continue the dig. Time was running out and I’d already been rejected by the three private foundations that had funded my previous digs. God, I need a miracle, I silently prayed. That’s what it’s going to take if I’m to continue my work—Your work.

***

I saw him enter the crowded lecture hall. He was hard to miss. He looked so out of place in the sea of conservatively dressed attendees—but it didn’t seem to bother him. He wore faded jeans and a beat-up black leather jacket. He was with a young woman, a petite brunette who looked as aristocratic as he was scruffy. His light brown hair was in desperate need of a comb. His boredom was evident in his body language, the way he shoved his hands down into the pockets of his jacket. I decided I’d lost my audience before I even got to the podium.

“I fail to see why you couldn’t have come to this event alone, Sarah,” he said, annoyed. “You know quite well that I’ve no interest in spending the evening listening to a decrepit old man talk about life in some desolate outpost of Hades, digging up the pathetic remains of people who lived in another millennium.”

The woman shook her head disapprovingly. “If you had even bothered to read the brochure I gave you, you would know that Dr. Raven is a woman,” she told him.

“No difference,” he said with an offhanded shrug. “Frumpy, gray hair in a schoolmarm’s bun, sensible shoes, no doubt.” He looked at his watch. “I’m going to need a pint—or two—to get me through this evening. I’ll be back. Eventually.” He turned to leave the lecture hall and we were face-to-face. He smiled, and his whole face seemed transformed by it. His eyes, blue and intense, instantly softened. “Hello,” he said in a low voice.

The woman came up behind him. “This is Dr. Raven,” she told him.

He extended his hand to me. “Connor Mackenzie,” he introduced himself. His Scottish brogue was unmistakable. I noticed that he didn’t introduce his date.

“Lynne Raven.” I shook his hand. “I left my sensible shoes back at the hotel,” I said, feigning regret.

He looked embarrassed. “You heard that?”

I nodded. “I’m afraid so.”

“I’m sorry—”

“Don’t be.” I smiled. “I get it all the time.” It was the truth. People are always surprised when they discover I’m an archaeologist. They always expect us to look and act like Indiana Jones. I do have the hat and the leather jacket, but no bullwhip. I used to wish I’d had one when I was still married. My ex could have benefited from a good whipping.

“I’m not surprised,” he said. “You certainly don’t look like an archaeologist.”

He wasn’t expecting Indiana Jones. He was expecting a fossil as old as some of my finds.

I laughed. “Having heard your description, I’m relieved to hear I don’t look like one to you.”

He looked me in the eye, which was a little unnerving. “I think you’re quite beautiful,” he said.

I could feel my cheeks flush. I couldn’t remember the last time a man had made me blush. Maybe my ex-husband, but that was another lifetime—one I preferred not to remember. “Good save,” I said, a bit unnerved by the intensity of his stare.

“Are you enjoying your stay in London?” he asked in an awkward attempt at small talk.

“Very much,” I answered, grateful for the change of subject. “I spend most of my time on excavations. This has been heavenly.”

“Where will you go when you leave?” he asked.

“Egypt,” I said. “We’re digging in the Sinai, near the mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.”

He looked amused. “You don’t really expect to find stone tablets—” he started.

I shook my head. “The tablets were taken to Israel in the Ark of the Covenant,” I explained. “They were still in the Ark when it disappeared from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. It’s been rumored that the Ark’s now somewhere in Ethiopia, but no one’s been able to prove it. Much as I would love to be the one to find the Ark, we don’t expect to find it in Egypt. We are searching for evidence of the Exodus in general.”

He laughed. “Have you found the secret to parting the Red Sea?” he wanted to know.

I didn’t hesitate. “Yes. It’s called faith.”

“I’ve heard archaeologists are now using modern technology to aid their work,” he recalled. “Computers, satellites—”

“We do.” I drew in a deep breath, thinking of the equipment I still needed to continue my work. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t helped in this case. We haven’t found anything significant yet. This has turned out to be a long-term project, which means it’s been costly. My funding’s been cut off, and other sources I’ve used in the past have already turned me down. I have to find a new source of funding ASAP. Time is running out, if I’m going to continue my field work.” Why was I dumping this on him? I glanced toward his female companion, who was watching us intently. “I think your girlfriend’s getting the wrong idea.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” he said. “She’s my sister.”

Only then did I realize that he was still holding my hand. I withdrew it slowly.

“Have you eaten?” Connor asked.

I shook my head. “I’m beat. I thought I’d just get some Chinese takeout after I’m finished here and call it a night.”

He laughed. “A rare trip to the civilized world and you plan to spend the evening in your hotel room? That’s unacceptable.” he said. “Come have dinner with me.”

“I don’t think so—” I started.

“I may be able to save your project,” he suggested.

I was more than a little skeptical. “How?” He didn’t look like he had enough cash to pay for dinner. Except for the watch. The watch he wore looked very expensive. He probably stole it. Or so I thought at the time.

He winked, lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “My trust fund,” he told her.

I nodded slowly. “Right.”

He wasn’t about to give up. “I could surprise you. What have you to lose by hearing me out?” he asked.

I hesitated for only a moment. “All right,” I said finally. Even if he didn’t have the means to save the excavation, there was something so compelling about him, I couldn’t refuse. I didn’t want to refuse.

God help me, I was thinking.

Better Late Than Never? Not Always….

It’s probably pointless to post this, being the last day of the promotion, but what the heck? Why not?

The Unicorns Daughter eCover

I’ve been preoccupied with family matters (my son and collaborator has been making regular trips to the hospital and orthopedic surgeon–fortunately, the news isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been), so I have a good reason for forgetting to post the latest promo for The Unicorn’s Daughter. If you haven’t read it but would like to, the ebook edition is still available on sale at Amazon until 11:59 Pacific Time tonight.

Even without me tooting my own horn, it’s not doing too badly….

Product Details

An Army of Angels: Alex

2 – On the Road to…Where?

I left New York two days later. I arrived in North Carolina on a sunny afternoon in the aftermath of a hurricane. The clear, cloudless sky seemed to mock the devastation nature had inflicted upon the land. The wrath of God, I thought grimly.

SketchGuru_20151007120755

I worked in construction for six weeks, part of a massive effort to rebuild what nature in its fury had destroyed. Hundreds were homeless, living in shelters set up by the Red Cross. My work took me from Kitty Hawk to Cape Hatteras, working in every small town in between. I slept in shelters or on the beach, saving every cent I could for the inevitable, the time when I’d have to move on. I attended a local church near Kill Devil Hills for a time, but found myself disillusioned, more by the clergy there than by the congregation, I went back to studying my Bible independently, sitting alone in the sand along the beach. I often asked myself if it mattered that I was doing this for the wrong reasons as long as it got the right results. Did God care, one way or the other? If there was indeed a God, had He abandoned mankind? If not, where was he now? Why had He allowed so much pain and suffering to go on in this world? One had only to read the newspapers or watch the evening news to see war, crime, famine, disease, homelessness everywhere.

On occasion, I saw it right in front of me.

I came upon the scene as it unfolded: an elderly woman had been evicted from her home. All of her belongings were piled up along the curb. She was clearly distraught. All around her, human scavengers were digging through her things, taking whatever they wanted. No one was trying to stop them or do anything to help her.

“Hey!” I shouted, running toward them. “Get away from there! Leave her alone!”

The people stopped what they were doing. Most of them departed, but some refused to give up the things they’d helped themselves to. I approached the old woman. “You all right?” I asked. She looked like she might collapse. I could tell she’d been crying.

She shook her head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she mumbled. “I got nowhere to go and no way to move this stuff, what’s left.”

“Don’t you have any family?” I asked.

“None that care about me,” she said sadly.

“How long have you been out here?” I took a bottle of fruit juice from my backpack and gave it to her. “Have you eaten?”

“No. I was making breakfast when the sheriff came,” she said. “They made me get out. Threw my eggs out, I think.”

“Have you been out here long?”

“Since about eight this morning.” She looked toward the door, toward what had once been her home. “The people who have stopped, they didn’t come to help, just to take what they wanted.”

“Nobody’s tried to help you?” I asked.

“Only you,” she said sadly.

I noticed a car slowing to a stop several yards away. A little girl who looked to be about eight years old climbed out and grabbed a large stuffed flamingo. “Hey!” I yelled, running after her. “Drop it!”

The child, terrified, dropped the flamingo. She climbed into the car and it drove off. “What are you people teaching you kids?” I shouted after it.

“Leave it alone!”

I turned. The elderly woman was trying to stop a man three times her size from taking her washing machine, but he was ignoring her pleas. I ran back to her. “Hey, buddy–that’s hers!” I shouted.

“She got put out–she ain’t got no rights to nothin’!” the big man argued. “Now get outta my way so I can get this on my truck.”

“You’re not taking it anywhere,” I snapped.

The man turned to face me, towering over me by a good six inches and at least a hundred pounds. “Yeah? You gonna stop me?” he challenged.

“As a matter of fact, I am.”

“This ought to be good.” The man looked amused.

I thought of David and Goliath as I drew back my fist and lashed out with as much strength as I could muster. I imagined the worst as I connected with the other man’s jaw.

The giant hit the ground with a thud.

***

I spent a night in jail. “You’ve been charged with assault,” the policeman who arrested me explained. “The guy you decked lost two teeth and suffered a concussion.”

“Not my fault,” I insisted. “He hit hard because he weighs about as much as a grown rhino. I just knocked him off balance.”

“Right.”

“He was stealing from that poor old lady!” I protested. “You gonna let him get away with that?”

“If you’d called us, we could have stopped him. Taking the law into your own hands is a mistake.” The cop led me to a cell and ushered me in, then locked the door.

SketchGuru_20151008125543

I settled onto the hard metal bench that was jokingly referred to as a cot. No good deed goes unpunished, I thought.

***

It was just before dawn when another officer roused me to announce that I was being released. “You’re free to go, pal,” the officer said as he unlocked the cell. “You’ve become a bit of a local celebrity.”

“Me? Why?” I asked. Just what I don’t need.

“Your knight in shining armor bit netted you coverage by all the local news programs. We’ve been getting calls all night, people wanting to post your bail. The guy you clobbered, on the other hand, got so many angry calls, he dropped the charges.”

I hesitated. “What about the old lady?”

The cop grinned. “Somebody set her up in a new place and moved what was left of her stuff,” he said. “There’s some envelopes at the desk for you, too. People thought you should be rewarded for your actions.”

“Envelopes?”

“Cash. Lots of cash.”

An hour later, I bought another bus ticket and was on my way out of town.

***

I was frustrated.

Whenever I had the chance, I’d go to a public library and log onto one of their computers, resuming my search for Andrew. He seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth. Everyone else involved with the old man’s experiments had been located and hauled in for questioning, but Andrew had vanished without a trace.

Had he returned to London? I wondered. I realized now that I knew precious little about my twin’s life, beyond a few very basic facts: he’d been born in Scotland, raised and educated in London, and had lived in the US from the age of sixteen, when he began working under the tutelage of my so-called father.

Did Andrew have a family? A wife, children? Was he aware of my existence? The most important questions I had for Andrew could only be answered face-to-face.

If I could find him.

***

I wondered where my mother—Dorothea Sadowski—was now. I hadn’t seen or heard from her since the day she left Boston. She had made no attempt to contact me and left no forwarding address. I never understood why, until the day I learned the truth about my birth. I knew she hadn’t left because of the old man’s extracurricular activities. She’d known about his other indiscretions all along. I recalled confronting her about it one night over dinner….

“Why do you look the other way?” I demanded angrily. “He’s got an apartment near the campus. He takes girls there all the time. Everybody knows it, dammit! He’s making a fool of you!”

Dorothea shook her head. “You don’t understand.”

“No, Mother, I don’t,” I said.

“Your father and I, we don’t….”

I stared at her for a moment. “You don’t what?”

“We don’t have an intimate relationship,” she said, embarrassed.

I couldn’t believe it. “You don’t have sex?”

“Alex!”

“If you two don’t have sex, how….” I couldn’t finish.

“You were conceived by in vitro fertilization,” she told me.