Sunday 9 August 2015

Guest author Chuck Bowie of Fredericton, New Brunswick.

The South Branch Scribbler presents it's second guest in the New Brunswick authors series for August and September.

Chuck Bowie graduated from the University of New Brunswick in Canada with a Bachelor Degree in Science. He lives on the East Coast of Canada, an hour North and East of Maine. Growing up as an air force brat, his writing is influenced by the study of human nature and how people behave, habits he picked up as his family moved nineteen times in his first twenty one years. Chuck loves food, wine, music and travel and all play a role in his work.
 His writing will often draw upon elements of these experiences to round out his characters and plotlines. Chuck is involved in the world of music, supporting local musicians, occasionally playing with them and always celebrating their successes. Because he enjoys venting as much as the next fellow, Chuck will at times share his thoughts with a brief essay, some of which can be found on his website.
He is working through the fourth novel in the suspense-thriller series: Donovan: Thief For Hire. His newest is entitled Steal It All, and follows Three Wrongs and AMACAT. He is now writing the fourth, as-yet untitled.
Chuck is married, with two adult musician sons. He and his wife Lois live in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Following is an excerpt from Amacat:
                                                Chapter One
                                         Prince Edward Island
A single track of sunshine elbowed its way through the crack in the curtains, creating a warming sundial effect on the pickled hardwood cottage floor. Peggyand John Whiteway awoke to their perfect Prince Edward Island morning. Johntried to offer up a ‘Good morning darling,’ but the ensuing crackle of his voicemade him pause and change the greeting to an accusation: ‘You got me drunk lastnight!’ He couldn’t muster the requisite indignity so the words became just…words. Instead, he peeked inside the coverlet and silently thanked his wife foragreeing to his ‘no pajamas’ rule while on vacation.
The shower was splendid. He loved a long, lingering shower—he was averaging two a day this week in an effort to keep the beach salt off. And theowners of the property, bless ‘em, had dropped off another wicker basket with acarafe of coffee, fresh croissants, and a map to a different island destination. They had done so every morning so far; he had casually mentioned it to a neighboringcottager and thus knew it was a perk the folks next door didn’t receive, whichmade the treat even sweeter. It was the best vacation John had ever had. There’s something special about the simple pleasures.
“Honey, don’t knock the simple pleasures,” he called out over the spray of steaming water.
In the background the cell phone was jacked up on the docking station. It was The Hold Steady, playing Barely Breathing. Her son Aaron had loaded up Peggy’s phone with songs before they left. A bit of a downer song, although he loved it, just not first thing in the morning.
“Hey!” he yelled. “Turn that crap off.”
In reply, she entered the bathroom and flushed the toilet, leaving without saying a word. He stepped to the far end of the shower to escape the rush of cold water, smiling as the song continued to amplify through the wall.
John ate the last almond paste croissant while Peggy showered. Afterward they tidied up the place. The cottage was located north of Charlottetown, in what he  called the artsy-beachy area. It was their second straight summer at Brackley Beach, the second of many, he hoped. The loft was fairly tidy so it took but a moment to pick up the pair of wine bottles and the pillows he and Peggy had reclined upon in front of the enormous floor-to-ceiling windows the evening before.
On the main floor the dishes were already in the sink—”I promise I’ll do them when we get back, Pegs.”—so they had merely to get set up for the day. He’d loaded the back pack; found that errant pair of sunglasses, argued good-naturedly about the need for four bottles of water and the relative merits of Vans runners versus sandals, and off they went to explore the beach. The giant red dunes in the nearby national park were their destination this morning.
They turned off the main highway about a mile before the national park gates. Peggy couldn’t pass the Owl’s Retreat art gallery without stopping, so she tugged at John’s shirt the moment she spied the shop sign. John parked the Prius and headed straight for the smaller door to the left of the main entrance. It led to the little cafĂ© on the side of the gallery and he grabbed his third coffee of the morning.
          While Peggy wandered off to the koi ponds and garden at the back of the gallery, John stood in front of the framed heron that had caught their eye earlier in the week. He debated whether the pleasure they would derive from looking at it long after their vacation would be worth the bother of lugging it onto the plane back to Minnesota. Peggy sauntered back and asked him if he wanted to buy it.
Then, as couples will, they discussed whether the convenience of buying it now (and worrying about it possibly getting stolen from their trunk later in the day) outweighed the bother of stopping by the gallery at the end of the day. It was, as Pegs noted, a good five minutes out of their way, since they were coming back from a different direction that evening. Ten minutes, actually, if you counted both ways, which she obviously did.
John could tell she didn’t really care what the decision was, but if he didn’t make a decision soon, the banter would degenerate into bickering, and he didn’t want to go there. So he pretended to care and told her he really wanted to buy it now. He was pleased when she said “Up to you, babes.” Problem solved. A bubble-wrapped minute later and the trundled parcel was safe in the trunk, sitting beside the back pack with the water, extra T-shirt sneakers, a couple of murder mysteries, towels, and a wrap for Peggy’s hips in case they ate at a fancier restaurant for lunch. Pegs was becoming a bit self-conscious about the extra couple of pounds she had put on this past year. John couldn’t see it but Pegs assured him they were right there, the bastards. She brought the wrap even on the hottest days. Just in case.
Inside the park they pulled over on the water side of the road, closest to the dunes that were the star of this recreation area. The weather was unfolding perfectly so they expected to meet people on the dunes or at least on the beach. Initially, however, they were alone.
“Score!” said Pegs.
John was glad they had worn sandals. The couple had mounted the thirty-foot rise of loose red dunes only to find a higher, more impressive set. They dropped into the swale between the two sandy ridges, and then rose back up to view the water through the lens of an amazing island morning. As a kid in the lackadaisical sixties he had been given a jar of liquid mercury no child today would be allowed near. The sensation of sinking his bare toes into the night-chilled sand that morning felt just like when he had stuck his bare finger into that cold, dense liquid.
The sun had risen well past the top of the dunes on their left but still cast long shadows across the leeward side of the empty beach. A minute earlier the night chilled sand from the shaded part felt like a cool liquid. Now the sun-warmed sand felt like a different material altogether.
The beach stretched on and on in both directions. They could see a few families far off in the distance, but otherwise they were alone with two miles of beautiful red-sandy playground. He pointed to the families in the distance.
“Sorry, Baby-cakes; no nude sunbathing this morning.”
“Yeah, like that was going to happen.”
Once again John smiled as she patted him on the shoulder. It was a great day.
“Okay. Enough with the climbing. Let’s go down there and make sand castles and solve mysteries. Did you bring a good book?”
He took her hand and led her down the water side of the dunes, red sugar-sand feeling like a cool silk on his ankles where the sun hadn’t yet got to it, and they strode onto the best beach in Canada.
John stopped at the base of the dunes to study the marram grass that had been planted to reduce the erosion. Peggy took the backpack and went on ahead to pick a spot on the sand between the ever-shortening morning shadows and the water. He took the lens cap off his Nikon and bent down to take a few photos; this grass would be a beautiful border for his garden back in St. Paul. Surely the garden shops back home had a non-marine version of this.
He thought of that quote: ‘God gave us memory that we may have roses in December.’ “Or marine grass from Canada in Minnesota,” he muttered.
            Something made him look up, to where Peggy was standing. She had headed down to the water’s edge having dropped the backpack a few feet behind her. Something had caught her attention. A peevish thought entered his head, disturbing his unclouded mood: If we sit that close to the water this early in the day, it might be a little too breezy. Why doesn’t she just come back halfway up the beach? It would be warmer, offer softer sand and the dunes would keep us out of the breeze.
As if in reply, Pegs screamed. It began as a wail, but she obviously felt only her best effort would do under these circumstances and her voice went up a few decibels and a few notes. A half a mile downwind the little boy and girl turned their heads in one motion and stared up the beach, at his wife. John began to run.
* * * *
“Dammit, this is why I came to Canada, to get away from this shit.”
John refused the invitation to sit and paced the great room of his cottage, eyes glued to the floor.
“If I wanted murders and, and…mayhem, I’d have stayed home!”
His eyes finally rose up to meet the RCMP officer in charge of Queens County, Prince Edward Island.
“Because believe me when I tell ya, we got m-murders back home. I don’t need ‘em following me on vacation!”
John’s voice was rising, uneven and his face was blotchy and red.
“Shut up, honey.” Peggy had gotten control and was now unexpectedly calm.
“There’s not a lot we can do about…”
John stopped to glare, looking but not seeing. He raised the palm of a soft hand as if to halt any interruptions.
“…Because I expect to dig my god-damned toes in the sand and not dig up bodies with ‘em. Especially bodies that I recognize! What the hell is this? Detroit?
No, it’s supposed to be this gentle storybook place…”
At this point John ran out of steam. Peggy leaned forward without getting up and patted John on the back of his bare calf. After standing patiently for several minutes, acknowledging his witness’ need to vent away a little of his shock and, yes, fear, Inspector Ian MacIsaac stepped forward and took control of the discussion. He glanced at his notepad and began.
“Mister and Missus Whiteway, is it? I’m going to tell you my understanding of what transpired, and you can stop me if I make any errors in what took place, when it happened or your observations during the course of your morning. Now, I would ask you to jump in if anything, anything at all is different from your impression of what happened. John, I really appreciate your cooperation in this matter and I am truly, truly sorry for this, ah, interruption of your holiday.”
The Inspector took a deep breath. “Shall we begin?”
He pointed to a nearby teak chair into which John reluctantly sunk, and the Inspector followed suit by dropping his bulk into the mate of John’s chair. He started to speak but something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. He looked over to John’s wife.
Peggy had raised a tentative finger as if she was pointing crookedly at the teak and wicker fan above them. She began, faltered then started again in a hesitant voice, all the while smoothing her shorts with the flat of her hands.
“I…I was wondering if we saw who, who we saw. Was it…?”
Inspector MacIsaac gave her a look as if to ask why it really mattered who the body had been before being murdered. But he merely offered that when the red beach sand was pushed away from the rest of the victim’s face and naked body, it did indeed look like the Hollywood actress Nadia Kriss, but that he couldn’t possibly confirm or speculate who in fact the woman was. He then leaned forward, rested an elbow on one knee and from his notes proceeded to tell the story of how Mister and Missus Whiteway from St. Paul, Minnesota walked straight into the shit on what up until that moment had been a perfect Prince Edward Island vacation day.

Thank you Chuck for sharing the beginning of what will be a marvelous tale. Buy Amacat here .
Next week in the series of New Brunswick Authors, you can meet Pierre Arseneault of Moncton.


1 comment:

  1. New Brunswick may be a 'tiny" province but we're big on talent. Thanks to all who have generously participated.


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