Sunday, 29 November 2015

4Q Interview with Author Chuck Bowie plus an excerpt from AMACAT

4Q Interview is pleased to have Chuck Bowie of Fredericton, NB, as our featured artist this week. This is Chuck’s second visit to the Scribbler. If you missed the first one, click on this link to read more of his bio or you can check out his web site which is listed below.

The Scribbler is taking a different approach to the 4Q today and adding an excerpt from Chuck’s latest release—AMACAT—following the interview.

4Q: I have had the pleasure of meeting Sean Donovan, your ‘thief for hire”, in your first novel – Three Wrongs, a highly enjoyable tale. I’m looking forward to reading your newest work. Tell us about AMACAT.

CB: AMACAT is an acronym for the three crimes that are committed in this second novel in the series. It stands for A Mask, A Cask and A Task. There are actually four crimes including two ‘tasks’. One happens just before the novel begins, so I’m cheating (but in a good way, I hope!)
My man Donovan is a thief for hire. He’ll go anywhere in the world to steal things for people, and he’s paid very well to break the law. In AMACAT, however, he’s using his skills to get his friends and a sister out of trouble. Somehow, he still finds a way to make money, though, because his conscience is a complicated mechanism.
I like applying multiple storyline arcs, or narrative arcs to tell mini stories that weave in and out of each other. For instance, in AMACAT, an acquaintance Donovan meets in Book 1 is being framed for a crime in her workplace: The Canadian Embassy in London. While they are ‘on the lam’, Donovan and his new friend, Beth, try to return a stolen mask in France, as well as searching for a missing barrel of wine, the titular ‘Cask’.
In Book 1: Three Wrongs, I’ve written a classic thriller. AMACAT, while adhering to the concept and format of a thriller, has moments within it that are a bit lighter in tone. For instance, there is a chase scene, but it’s on a cruise ship. And the chase takes two days on the boat! I had a lot of fun sewing the very tense scenes in among the occasional lighter scenes. And, as with Three Wrongs, I still make mention of food, wine, music and of course, travel.

4Q: The premise of a “thief for hire” is intriguing.  What inspired this character?
CB: In my previous career as a consultant for the Feds, I accepted a one-month assignment to work in Romania. I woke up one morning in a gorgeous four-star hotel—the second best one in the country—and the sun was shining, the weather was perfect, and the dogs and orphans were playing in the street under my window.
I thought to myself: what if someone was alone in a strange country where nobody knew him, and he had no conscience and a desire to make money by any means necessary? What circumstances might place him in that situation, and what skills would he have, if he wanted to take advantage of his circumstances? I began writing Three Wrongs that evening.
One thing I take pride in, is I make every effort to write what I know. In other words, I give myself permission to write about Bucharest (or London, Paris, or New Orleans) because I’ve been there. I know what it looks like, its peculiarities and eccentricities, so I feel like I can capture the personality of a place. Because I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
I wasn’t trying to write thrillers before this series, but Donovan came along and insisted that I write him. So I did. He’s become a ‘friend’ of mine now. Ha!

4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory with our readers.

CB: When I was growing up, in a military household and later in a
rural home, no matter where we lived, there were always weapons around. I am the middle child of a large family, but we were all taught the consequences of mis-handling weapons and dangerous items. Some of the things I had access to at twelve-years-old included a bow and (hunting, or tipped) arrows, numerous hunting rifles—some vintage, some modern, pellet pistols, bb-guns, all manner of hunting and throwing knives, etc, including the famous Bowie Knife. And I owned my own machete!
However, I was a curious child and also found a WWII bomb in the attic, a heavy jar of mercury, a chemistry set, hatchets and axes; I can’t even remember all the dangerous stuff I had access to. And I had access to hundreds of books at home and thousands of books in nearby libraries. I believe these were part of my formative years, and when writing, I try to be creative in the ways my characters get killed or injured. It’s morbid, but such fun when it remains in the imagination, I think. One reviewer flattered me by worrying how I learned how to kill people so imaginatively. I laughed at that.

4Q: What can your fans look forward for Chuck Bowie? What about Sean Donovan?
CB: I began by trying to write a single novel: Three Wrongs. Encouraged by my agent and publisher, I began the sequel: AMACAT. It was such fun to discover a brief encounter with a character in the first book became a major character in Book 2. Book 3: Steal It All drops as an eBook sometime around Christmas and I’m halfway through Book 4, tentatively entitled The Body On The Underwater Road, which is set in Niagara On The Lake and St. Andrews By The Sea.
Book 2 has a major narrative arc set in Prince Edward Island, which was fun for me, since I write international thrillers. But many of my readers are American and enjoy reading about Canada, because it’s international to them. Book 3 returns to England, with a visit to Romania, so that’s great fun for me. My publisher is encouraging me to write more novels in this series, and since for me ideas are easy to come by, I expect I will. My thief Donovan is seeking redemption from the business of theft for hire, but redemption appears to be taking its good old time for him!

I’m already thinking about Book 5, so, we’ll see. 

Chuck Bowie is currently writing the fourth novel in the Donovan: Thief For Hire series. You can read bits and bobs from him via social media:
Twitter: @BowieChuck
Or you can find him on FaceBook as well.

His novels can be found at Westminster Books in Fredericton, Tidewater Books in Sackville, Chapters or Amazon, or from his publisher: MuseItUp Publications. 

Here is an excerpt from the second novel in the series: AMACAT. In this scene, Beth and Donovan are hiding out in a hotel.



Covent Garden, London

Beth woke first, skipping the semi-conscious state and flying immediately to a quickened, fully alert state. She lay on her side, eyes slits, watching this stranger sleep in the bed across from her. She’d spent a few hours in REM sleep, filled with dreams of running through the back alleys of London, men in black trench coats leaping at her from behind garbage cans and down from fire escapes. She couldn’t catch her breath, and at the end of each alley, Donovan would open a door, calling to her. “In here! Quickly,” he’d whisper. But every door kept taking her to a new alley, with more trench coats to chase her. So she awoke, sweaty and exhausted, in  that most interesting of paradoxes: a hotel room containing two beds, each housing a stranger.

But Donovan slept on, a deep, trancelike coma of a sleep, the kind you arrive at, if you’re lucky, after having remained awake for thirty-six hours. She watched him for a while, asking herself how, in this Marianas Trench of misfortune into which she had careened, she could conjure up someone like him. He had known her for all of fifteen minutes, over a year ago. He didn’t really owe her anything of substance; why was he even bothering with her, let alone going on the lam with her? A thought crossed her mind, one that made her catch her breath. Was he involved, somehow? Wasn’t it convenient that he appeared out of nowhere to advocate for her? But then she calmed. She’d called him. She’d chosen to meet at the Fin and Fowl.

Beth glanced over to where his jacket lay, the front jutting at an odd angle. I wonder what’s in his pocket. He’s still asleep; I could just…take a peek. Pretend I’m picking it up…and…take a quick look. She stared at him, stole a glance at the clock, dared to take half a glance at the coat lying on the floor and then forced her slit-eyes back onto her companion, dead to the world and barely a yard away from her nose. Beth slowly drew the covers back and placed one foot on the floor, and then another, not daring to take her eyes from his face. She backed over to the article of clothing, fumbled down to pick it up and acted as if she was going to hang it up. Another glance back to Donovan, who was still out of it. She felt something solid within the cloth of the jacket, and kept on walking to the bathroom.

Once behind the door, she took out an envelope with nothing written on the outside, opened it and looked inside. There was well over an inch of bills: hundred pound notes, serial numbers in no particular order. Folding the flap back exactly the way it had been, she studied the envelope itself. There were no markings on it whatsoever. Beth put it back in the pocket, her mind overflowing with questions. She sat on the cover of the toilet, jacket folded neatly and placed sideways across her lap, smoothing the folds, mind racing. What now? It was then the bathroom door flew open and Donovan, wide awake, peered in.

* * * *

Donovan woke from a dreamless sleep and looked across at an un-made bed. The bathroom door was closed, but there was something missing besides Beth. Shoes, pants, shirt. No jacket. Fully awake, he headed for the bathroom and, without knocking, threw it wide open. Beth stared back, knees touching and toes touching, eyes wide and bare forearms goose bumped. She stared straight ahead, at the front of his shorts, dropping her eyes to his bare feet, and then up to greet his calm gray eyes that crinkled at the edges.

He glanced at his jacket, which was folded sideways across her bare legs.


“Cold? No, and I don’t have a funny come-back.”

She took the jacket by its collar and held it out for him. “Don’t worry, it’s all there.” She stared somewhere in the vicinity of his bare chest.
Donovan walked in and sat down on the edge of the bathtub, his left knee grazing her right knee. He gently retrieved his jacket, placing it sideways across his lap, just as she had it a moment earlier.

“Sweetie, remember me telling you last night that you had to go to a debit machine and take out as much as you could, so our purchasing path couldn’t lead people to us? Well, wouldn’t you think I’d have to do that as well?”

Thank you Chuck for being our guest on the Scribbler this week.

Next week, Susan Toy of Bequia returns with her short story, Family Jewels.  Don't miss out on this author's fine storytelling.

Leave a comment if you like. Would love to hear what you think of the Scribbler and our guests.
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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Guest Author Holly Raynes. A Nation of Enemies

Holly Raynes was inspired to write A Nation of Enemies by a family member who was a Titanic survivor and another who escaped from Poland in World War II. Combining lessons from the past with a healthy fear of the modern landscape, this novel was born. A longtime member of the Boston writing community, she has a history of trying anything once (acting, diving out of a plane, white water rafting, and parenting). Writing and raising children seem to have stuck.
The Scribbler is very happy to Holly as the featured guest this week. You don't want to miss out on the thriller - A Nation of Enemies.
An excerpt;

London, England - 2032
So, this is freedom. No sirens pierce the air. Buildings in the distance are whole. Yet the ground beneath his feet feels no different. Dr. Cole Fitzgerald glances past their docked cruise ship, to the horizon. The sky blends into the ocean, a monochromatic swatch of gray. A chill in the air penetrates him, dampens his coat and makes all the layers underneath heavy. When they left Boston, pink-tinged magnolia petals blanketed the sidewalks, blew across overgrown parks and the burnt remains of brownstones. He’d reached up and touched a blossom, still hanging on a limb. It’s remarkable to see beauty amid war.

The din of discontent is constant. On the vast dock of England’s Southampton Cruise Port, a few thousand passengers stand in line, all on the same quest to flee the United States. He’s heard that three million citizens emigrate annually. But no one documents whether those people are more afraid of the lone wolves and militias, or of their government bent on regaining control. Cole isn’t sure which is worse. But London is a safe place to start again. They have family here, built-in support. No point in dwelling.
Beside him, Lily’s usual grace and composure are visibly in decline. He reaches out and gently strokes the nape of his wife’s neck, where pieces of her dark hair have strayed from her ponytail. The coat she wears can’t hide her belly, now twenty-nine weeks swollen with a baby girl. Cole wishes he could offer her a chair. Instead she rests on one of their enormous suitcases.
            Their son Ian sits cross-legged on the asphalt and reads a paperback. Throughout the journey, he’s gone along with few complaints. Ten years ago he was born the night The Planes Fell, the night that changed everything. Living in a constant state of fear is all he’s ever known. The joy and devastation of that night was so complete. To become parents at the same time terrorists took down fifty passenger planes…there were no words. It was impossible to celebrate while so many were mourning. 
The mist turns to rain as night comes. Every fifty feet or so, instructions are posted: Prepare left arm for MRS scan; Citizenship Applications must be completed; Use of electronic devices prohibited. Finally they cross the threshold of the Southampton Port Customs and Immigration building. The air is sour with sickness and stress and filth. Dingy subway tiles cover the walls of the enormous hall. Ahead, above dozens of immigration officer booths, a one-way mirror spans the width of the wall. Cameras, security officers, judgment. Cole’s skin prickles.
            In one of numerous queues, they finally near the end. Lily elbows him and juts her chin toward the front of the line. People are scanned and then directed to one of three signs: “Processing,”Return to Country of Origin” or “Hearings.” Bile stings Cole’s throat. He calculated the risk of this trip, turned the possible outcomes in his mind endlessly. But thanks to Senator Richard Hensley and the biochip he legislated, it’s all about genetics, DNA. Black and white.
The immigration officer at desk number 26 does not smile. The man’s shorn, square head sits atop a barely discernible neck. Without glancing up he shouts, “Next.”
            Cole hands him their citizenship applications. 
“Prepare for scanning,” the officer says. Wearing latex gloves, he holds the MedID scanner aloft, as Cole lifts his left arm. The officer scans the biochip, barely discernable under the forearm skin. The process repeats with Lily and Ian.
            “Mrs. Fitzgerald, please come forward again,” the officer orders.
            She trades concerned looks with Cole. “Yes?”
            The officer rifles for something under the desktop and his hands return with some kind of an apparatus. “What is that?” Cole asks.
            “IUMS,” the man says. “In-Utero MedID Scanner. It’s just another version of the MRS.”
            “What are you going to do with it?” Lily asks.
            “Ma’am I need you to lean forward.” He gestures with the scanner in his hand.
            Cole’s mind spins. They opted out of prenatal testing, wanted to enjoy their baby girl before knowing what her genetic future might hold. Despite his research, he’s never read about this technology.
            “New protocol.” The man smirks. He aims the scanner at Lily’s belly.
            “You don’t need a MedID? A blood test?” Cole presses.
            The officer shakes his head. “It’s an estimation but it’s good enough for our purposes.” He swipes the wand across her sweater-covered belly and once again regards the small screen.
With wet eyes, Lily wraps the coat tightly around her. Ian leans into them and the three meld in anticipation. They watch as he stamps each application. From this angle, Cole can’t read it, but he knows. Lily’s MedID number of 67 is eight points from the clean benchmark of 75. There’s a thirty-percent chance she’ll develop leukemia. A fifty-percent chance depression will strike. And a ten-percent chance she’ll be diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, both Cole and Ian are in the clear with MedID scores of 84 and 78 respectively. They have virtually no markers for disease. In the eyes of England’s society, Lily will be a drain on public resources. But what about the baby?
Wearing the same bored expression, the officer says, “Cole and Ian Fitzgerald you’ve been approved and may proceed to the Processing line. Lily Fitzgerald, you and your unborn child have been denied and will immediately return to the United States. Do you wish to make a plea?”  
            “We do.” A wave of nausea hits Cole. “What’s the baby’s number?”
            “The estimate is 74.” The officer taps his device and
reaches below his desk to retrieve a piece of paper from a printer, the medical summary for their family. He hands the paperwork back to Cole and directs them to the “HEARINGS” line. 

            “Seventy-four,” Lily whispers. Her skin is ashen.
            One number away from being a clean, cherished 75. It might as well be twenty. Denied is denied. Still, they’re prepared to fight. The rumor is that immigration judges rarely turn away individuals with specialized degrees.
Down the corridor, they enter another section of Immigration as Cole rehearses his speech silently. They join one of the lines, each ending at a glass-encased booth. A digital monitor hangs atop each one with the name of a judge.  
“How do you feel?” Lily asks.
            “Like I’m about to kill someone on the operating table.” Cole reads the name on the booth ahead. “Let’s hope Judge Alistair Cornwall is having a good day.”
            They will have five minutes to make their plea. Gavel-like sounds punctuate the hearings as the lines move ahead simultaneously. Cole’s heart pounds as he clings to his CV, Harvard and Yale doctoral certificates. Sell, sell, sell. I’m a commodity. My family is worth more than numbers.
The gavel sounds. It’s their turn. Cole slides the stack of papers through an opening to Judge Cornwall. Wiry gray eyebrows fan out over the judge’s dark eyes. He glances briefly at Cole, then turns his attention to the documents.  
“Proceed,” says the judge.
“Your honor, I’m Doctor Cole Fitzgerald, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. For the past six years I’ve been on the Bioscience Board there, which has lead the world in testing protein-based drugs targeting cancerous cells.” Cole coughs, glances at Lily. “For five years my wife, Lily, has been on a prophylactic course of medication used to delay or completely stop the onset of Alzheimer’s. Your new scanning system has just informed us that Lily’s carrying a baby girl with an approximate MedID number of 74. But with eleven weeks left in the pregnancy, there are still opportunities to gain that one point needed to give this child a clean number. We’ll make it our priority. I realize the immigration safeguards are in place to insure England’s physical and economic health. And I assure you that the four of us will contribute to the well-being of this country.”  
            The timer sounds. The judge peers over Cole’s shoulder at Lily.
“Mrs. Fitzgerald,” Judge Cornwall says. “You’ve brought quite the trifecta with you.”
“Excuse me, sir?” Lily slides beside Cole.
“Cancer. Alzheimer’s. Depression.”
Her mouth opens, closes.
The judge continues. “Fortunately, cures seem to be on the horizon. But they’re not here yet.” He flips through the paperwork. “After reviewing your case and considering your statement, my decision is to grant you, Dr. Fitzgerald, and your son Ian, temporary visas. However, I am unable to grant both Lily Fitzgerald and the unborn child the same. Mrs. Fitzgerald, your health is cost-prohibitive and as for your fetus, there is already an endless line of children in our medical system.”
The timer sounds. Thirty seconds to argue.
“Please, sir.” Cole’s chest tightens. “My son needs his mother, and I need my wife. Our new child needs a chance. My services to your healthcare system will be of great benefit and I’ll work tirelessly to make sure your investment in me is a wise one. Ian will thrive in your schools. And we’ll treat our daughter in-utero, as I mentioned. She’ll grow up and contribute to your society. I swear she will. Please.”
The final timer goes off.
“But you can’t guarantee it, can you?” Judge Cornwall slides the papers back through the slot. “No one can predict the future and many a parent has been disappointed in the outcome of children. One never knows. I regret to tell you that my decisions are final.”
The gavel sounds. People behind them in line push past to get in front of the judge. In silence, the Fitzgeralds gather their things and move along the white tile floor, marred by a continuous gray smudge. At the entrance to the two final corridors, Lily moves toward the “Return to Country of Origin” sign. She says, “I want you and Ian to stay.”
            “No,” Cole says. “We tried. We did our best. It didn’t work.”
            “It worked for the two of you. You can be safe here.”
            “It’s not an option, Lily.”
            “I’ll go back. Have the baby. Maybe Kate or Sebastian can help us get visas.”     
Cole shakes his head. “You can’t ask an FBI agent to help you do something illegal.”
Ian watches them wordlessly.  
            “This isn’t forever.” Lily reaches for his hand and presses it between hers.
            “What if Ian stayed here with your cousins?” Cole suggests. “He’d be safe while we work things out at home.”
            “No way,” Ian interjects. “What if you don’t come back?”
            A river of people flows around them, arms and suitcases jostling them. The faces around them display raw emotion, nothing hidden: joy, angst, fear, relief. A security officer stationed a few feet ahead of them signals people forward with a waving hand.   
            Finally Lily nods. Defeat burns in Cole’s gut. The three of them wrap arms, touch hair, kiss cheeks, and hold on as they savor the one moment they have left in this safe haven. And then it’s time to go. Once again they pick up their belongings and head in the direction they no longer want to go. Back home.
 Thank you Holly for sharing your work.
For those that are interested you can read more about Holly and where to buy her novel at these links.
Watch here next week when the 4Q Interview features Chuck Bowie of Fredericton, NB and an excerpt from his latest thriller - AMACAT.


Friday, 13 November 2015

Allan Hudson's Wall of War continues......Chapter 1

The Wall of War begins in 1953 with an amateur rock climber making a startling discovery while free climbing in the Peruvian Andes.

The Scribbler has been host to the first four parts of the opening section. You can link to the previous installments if you like. Beginning  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4

The story continues in 2004 with a cast of daring characters searching for the young priest that discovers the gold dagger and aged papers written in a lost language, telling of Incan gold....

Drake Alexander will need every resource to outthink Spanish raiders who are bent on stealing Peru's riches once more.

Wall of War 

The re-discovery of an ancient artefact begins......

November 5   2004                                          Ollantaytambo, Peru 

Miguel Pisconte is an affable man. Cherub cheeks and a widening waistline tell of his fondness for good food.  His eyes are bright, brown and always serious.  His glossy black hair, which is much too long for a priest, hangs down on his forehead.  Today his mane is dotted with bits of insulation and plaster dust, his brow is beaded with sweat. Dust particles float in the air like wingless insects, a stale heated aroma of old wood follows them around. He is looking at the ceiling where he has torn down much of the old plaster and laths; he is almost up to the trapdoor which is half way across. He’s glad that he takes after his mother’s family. Even though Jemina Pisconte is a small woman, her brothers are all solidly built men of average height. His carpenter skills, slim as they are, is a trait garnished from his father, Luis. He was never able to master anything mechanical like his Dad or younger brother, Alvaro but he is handy with a hammer and saw.

He studies the water stains on the remaining stretch shaking his head. He has fixed the roof where the water had come in and now he has to repair the damage the extra moisture has made to the ceiling. He realizes how tired he is deciding to rest a bit. He plunks down on the old wooden chair taking off his safety glasses, grabs an open can of Pepsi from the table. He finishes off the cold beverage with one large gulp and closes his eyes for a moment thinking that if he had known beforehand how much work his new parish would demand, he’s not sure if he would’ve accepted the new posting. In reality that isn’t so, he is thrilled to be back in Peru, the land of his birth. His Quechan ancestors have been calling to him for years.

He drops the pry bar he is still holding to the floor amid the broken plaster and wood. Folding his arms, he wiggles down in the chair and relaxes. His thinking drifts like an unmoored boat. He’s been in Ollantaytambo for over a month now. Although he is in charge, a novice priest has been assigned to assist him in tending his flock. Befriending the young man hasn’t been a pleasing experience thus far. When he had met the retiring priest, Father Van Brevoort, a Dutchman, he was amazed at the man’s linguistic skills when he introduced “the new padre” to the small congregation in such precise Spanish. 

A smile worms across Miguel’s face as he remembers the parishioners’ warmth and love towards the elderly priest. He hopes he can win their hearts half as much. He misses the many Mexican friends he had made while in Ciudad Valles, where he had been the novice priest at one time. He misses his family back in Canada; he misses the moody waters of the Atlantic Ocean. He recalls the first sunrise he had witnessed in his new country, his father had woken them all in darkness, his mother, his younger sister Theresa. His brother Alvaro had not been born yet. They had slept in their new home, arriving the night before in the late evening. He remembers the astonishment he felt when Mr. Alexander, his family’s benefactor, led him to his own room, it was unimaginable. He had previously slept with his sister on a worn out cot, in the same room as his parents. It had been the beginning of a truly wonderful new life. He loved the Alexanders.

He can still picture his father when he brought them outdoors that morning; their house was close to the road with the waters of the Cocagne Bay opposite them. They stood off to the side by the driveway at the front of their home. Luis Pisconte huddled them all close together, his arms around his wife Jemina and me his eldest child. Theresa was yawning and leaning against him. Miguel recalls the ancient Quechan prayers his father had spoken in thanksgiving, finishing his benediction in Spanish praising the Christian God’s goodness for bringing them there. The horizon was soon defined by the faintest of grey light. Slowly the flat line of the earth split into roaring orange and reds above, the water below changed its hue from dark to steel blue before the rising fire glazed it also. Miguel will never forget that moment as the sun crested, the lengthy morning rays painting their bodies and he looked up at his father. Giant tears escaped from his closed lids. He must’ve sensed me watching him because he opened his eyes, looked down at me, squeezed me hard and smiled. He didn’t wipe away the tears; he just continued to study the water. We stayed there embracing, thankful and hoping it to be real.

Miguel’s reverie is interrupted by the shouting coming from the hallway; he opens his eyes as he sits up straighter. The words are not discernable yet but they are moving in his direction. It soon becomes evident from the shrillness in her voice, Senora Carmona is upset.  The apologetic baritone of Father Teodoro Delapaz seems insufficient to calm the tiny woman.  He stands wiping more dust from his pants before heading to open the door; they are probably going to his office, he assumes. He kicks an errant strip of broken wood onto the pile of debris as he steps through the clutter. He opens the door just as the pair are outside. His abrupt opening surprises the two causing Teodoro to raise his arms almost in defence, while the Senora clasps both hands to her chest shouting,

Ay! Caramba. Un Fantasma! “

Miguel’s face is white with plaster dust except around the eyes which are dark and imposing where his safety goggles has kept the dirt away.

“It’s no ghost Senora, only me”, says Miguel as he flashes his sociable grin.

“Oh, you startled me, my heart won’t slow down. You should be more diligent Father, scaring an old lady such as myself.” 

She has a small lace handkerchief in her hand waving it to fan her wizened face. Miguel looks into her light blue eyes admiring the seventy year old's vibrant mien. She is still an attractive woman.

“How can we assist you today Senora Carmona?”

Teodoro interrupts Miguel’s query by stating,

“I was telling the Senora that it would be impossible for one of us to be at her sister’s birthday party tomorrow afternoon with such short notice. We have two weddings tomorrow, as you remember Father Pisconte.”

Miguel responds, directing his words towards the elderly lady,

“How marvellous that Senora Ramirez is celebrating another birthday, how old will she be?”

Senora Carmona changes her scowl to a more pleasant gesture, her eyes twinkling at the thought that the new priest remembers her sister’s name. She turns her back to the younger priest and his unaccommodating manner.

“She will be 80 tomorrow. As you may remember Father Pisconte, she has been widowed for many years and with no children, we are her only family. She is very devout and one of your most faithful attendants. I think it is only appropriate that one of you could offer the blessing for our celebratory meal.”

She folds both hands about her small clutch holding them at her waist. She steps back from the two men as if to say, “Well”?

Miguel touches the Senora lightly on her shoulder, guiding her toward to his office.

“Please come with me Senora and have a seat for one moment while my assistant and I discuss our schedule. At what time would the meal be presented?”

As she is led to the second door on the right in the hallway, she says,

“We intend to sup at 6pm so any time prior to that would be adequate”

Miguel makes sure she is comfortable suggesting he will only be a few moments. He returns to the hallway where he sees Teodoro leaning against the wall with a look of discomfort upon his dark face. He looks up as Miguel approaches him. He is about to say something when Miguel forestalls him by saying,

“Wait Teodoro, don’t say anything just yet. Hear me out. Come; let us step into the sanctuary for just a moment.”

He leads the younger priest through the heavy door separating the offices from the main church. He wonders why the man is so disagreeable and intolerant. When the door shuts behind them Teodoro says,

“Father Pisconte, there will be nothing but old women there; it will be a dull, boring encounter. Can we not find an excuse to put her off? I know it will be me that has to attend, am I correct?”

“Listen Teodoro, the Senora’s husband’s family are our wealthiest benefactors. We don’t have the luxury of offending them. Our congregation is shrinking as it is and it is our job to invigorate this parish and make it grow. Now as boring as this event may be it is without a doubt very important to her. I must remind you that the Carmona’s have the most splendid vineyard of all of Peru. They will be serving some of the finest wines fermented in these valleys. Does that alone not tempt you?”

Something akin to guilt causes Teodoro’s brow to wrinkle, he is rubbing his hands, avoiding eye contact with his senior as he says,

“Why do you think the vintage of their wine would be important to me Father?”

“Come on now Teodoro, do you think me so stupid that I wouldn’t notice the missing wine from our own meagre stock. I think you have a fondness for the grape, yes?”

There is no use denying Father Pisconte’s allegation. His blushing cheeks already suggest that he is not innocent. He has been in trouble enough times in his life that he knows it is better to remain quiet.

“So, you do not deny it? Well Teodoro, let me suggest to you that it is not a sin for you, or I for that matter to indulge in the blessings that God has offered us in the way of alcoholic spirits. It is only a sin when it is abused. It is also a sin to steal. I will hear your confession on Sunday but I will offer you your penance now. The weddings will be over by five pm and you will be free to attend the birthday party. So I am asking you, please be kind to the Senora. Now go to the office and make plans with her, then change your clothes and meet me in the dressing room so we can get the ceiling torn down and the debris cleaned up this afternoon. Okay?”

The novice nods in a positive gesture realizing that Father Pisconte is being generous. He also relishes the idea of sampling a vintner’s private collection.

“Yes, Father, I will do as you ask.”

Drop by November 17th to read the rest of Chapter 1.

On Friday, the November 20th post, you will meet Holly Raynes of Boston, Massachusetts. Read an excerpt from her dynamic thriller - A Nation of Enemies.