This was one of my books that came to me in a dream and had finished within a couple of weeks. Sometimes ideas just hit me like that.
The following scenes is one of my favorites because it shows the depth of Cheyenne's character and the trauma she's had to endure, as well as introduces my favorite character, Chief Longfellow.
I hope you've all had a chance to check out the tour and can join us along the way. Here is the snippet. Enjoy and we'll see you somewhere out in the WWW sometime over the next month!
Dr. Cheyenne McCarthy arrived at her office early as usual. It was a ritual with her—a necessary one of many. As long as she could remember, she’d struggled with the simplest tasks that her friends had accomplished with ease: It took her forever to learn how to write properly; she was easily confused with tasks that had too many steps; and she wasn’t always able to effectively verbalize her thoughts. She was clumsy, uncoordinated, and unable to sit still for too long. And on top of all of that, there were many school days where she had been sent home from school for disturbing the class due to her reactions to certain tasks or activities.
It wasn’t her fault. She just didn’t know how to tell anyone that there was too much noise or there had been a smell that had bothered her that no one else had detected or understand how that one flickering light in the corner of the room bothered her enough to steal her concentration from her schoolwork. None of the other kids seemed to have those issues. Teachers and her parents just told her to work harder and, “Stop being so sensitive!” If they’d only known!
She’d never been officially diagnosed with anything when she was younger but, then again, no one ever took the time to figure out whether her strange behaviors and odd reactions to people, situations and events stemmed from something serious or were just personality traits she’d inherited from her birth family. Back then there was no such thing as an Individualized Education Program or ‘IEPs’ or any other assessments for kids with sensory issues. And because her adoption was ‘Closed’, no one knew for sure.
All she’d understood was that she got overwhelmed too easily by the information bombarding her day in and day out. Nothing was filtered out. Every noise, every smell, every sensory stimulus assaulted her, magnified hundreds of times over from what ordinary people felt. A simple touch burned like fire on her skin. She often felt she had no control over what her body could or couldn’t do so routine, the familiar, was essential for her functioning.
She’d learned to cope her way and things seemed to work out fine. It wasn’t until she was obtaining her Graduate degree in Forensics that she’d finally figured out what was going on. One of her fellow graduates did her Dissertation on conditions that affect the nervous system and guided Cheyenne to the specific sensory integration therapy she needed. Of course, it would have been helpful to have had the information when she was younger because even with therapy, she found it difficult to regulate her body.
Her nervous system was her worst enemy most days. Well, second to that psycho out there who still wanted vengeance, even though he’d already taken the love of her life away from her.
She approached her office and noticed the door was ajar and the light on. Puzzled, she slowed. Her door was always shut. But maybe her secretary came in early today, too. She juggled her coffee and briefcase in one arm and gently pushed the door wider.
“Mornin’ and welcome back, love,” lilted Perry Fulton, his Irish accent swirling around his words. “Doncha look particularly glowing today.”
Cheyenne released a relieved breath. “Perry, you gave me a scare. And that’s one hell of a Welcome Back,” she smiled and gave him a hug. “But it’s always nice to see your mug.”
Perry had been William’s partner. He’d been the one who’d introduced them to each other. Perry had always had a soft spot for Cheyenne and she for him. But they’d chosen different people to marry, with the unspoken promise to remain close friends. He’d taken a special interest in her the past few months, though—like a protective older brother—especially after finding out about the baby.
Perry reminded Cheyenne of a rugged but handsome Columbo—wrinkled clothes, rustled black hair, big stogie between his thick fingers, never seeming to know what was going on. Most of it was an act, though. She figured it kept other people on their toes—they were never quite sure whether he was serious or not. And she loved him to bits.
Perry chuckled and gestured to her belly. “May I?”
“Sure,” Cheyenne moved a bit closer. Suddenly her belly jutted out and rippled just for Perry.
“Whoa.” He laughed. “A future soccer all-star in the waitin’ then?”
Cheyenne put her hand on top of his. “Yeah, it seems to move the most when I’m not. Let’s just say I don’t get much sleep.”
A silence lingered and became uncomfortable. Perry nodded, taking his hand away.
“Well…” he said with a cough. “I'm here a bit early ‘cuz we need your expertise. Some of our boys are bringing in an ole Native guy…a Chief…who apparently has some info about our lurking friend. Heard you’ve seen his granddaughter. What’s her name now…um…Marie Longfoot? Longhorn?”
“Maria Longfellow.” Cheyenne had counseled Maria’s mother, Jodie.
She was helping Jodie find resources in the city so she could leave the Reservation, and her abusive relationship, behind. All Jodie wanted was a new life for her, Maria, and the unborn baby she was expecting; but her husband wasn’t going to let go without a fight, threatening the lives of all three of them if she left him. Little Maria had stopped talking from the stress. Although Cheyenne had never met Jodie’s husband, she came to think of him as scary enough to follow through with his threats—abusive, chauvinistic and possessive. She really hated custody cases and counseling child witnesses. They were the worst cases to be involved in. She didn’t do many of those cases anymore, thank God. Since her return from leave, she turned her main focus to forensics.
“Yeah, Longfellow, that’s it,” said Perry. “Boys are bringing him in before they take him to holding. Nothing serious. Protesting outside the precinct and resisting arrest. You know, we’ll hold him for a bit to teach him a lesson. Says he’ll only talk to you.”
Cheyenne blew on her half-caf. “Wonderful. I’ve never actually met him. Is he dangerous?”
“Nah,” Perry said, waving dismissively. “Just ranting. Doesn’t seem violent or anything. I’ll be there, darlin’. No worries.” His cell phone blared “Mac the Knife” from his belt. “Fulton, here. That was fast, boys. Great job. Be right down.” He flipped the phone closed then said, “They’re here. Bring your coffee.”
* * * *
Cheyenne’s office was on the top floor of a five-story office building. It was one of the older buildings in the downtown core, still having its original brick and mortar exterior but had been completely restructured inside. Ironically, most of its renters were some of the Province’s most sought after experts and professionals in their fields. From psychologists of all areas of expertise to dentists to physicians to holistic practitioners and even lawyers, it was like a shopping mall for prosecuting and defense attorneys searching for experts for their cases. The main floor consisted of a police station and holding cells. The forensic lab and interrogation rooms were down on the sub-level basement floor, which had the same feel as an underground parking lot. Cheyenne chewed on her bottom lip, tapping her coffee cup with her index finger, as the elevator shook and rattled during its slow descent. She hated basements—the musty smell and how the moistness licked her skin. As the elevator doors slid open, she heard mono-toned chanting. Approaching the main interrogation room, the smell of burnt sage swirled through the hallway, faint at first but overpowering to her once they entered the room. The Chief stopped chanting.
“She is here,” he stated.
Astounded, everyone—three police officers, two ambulance attendants and Perry—looked at Cheyenne.
“Yessir,” said one of the officers. “She’s behind you.”
He turned in her direction and said, “Yes, I know where she is, officer. I feel her.”
He looked right at Cheyenne and she almost dropped her coffee. He appeared to be in his early sixties, no older. His black hair—sprinkled with silver here and there—was pulled neatly into two braids, each falling down to his chest. His wrinkled skin was beautiful maple brown and his eyes, the clearest gray she’d ever seen. They quivered from side to side when Cheyenne spoke, “Chief, I mean no disrespect but…are you blind? I only ask because we’d need to conduct the interview differently. I want you to be comfortable.”
The Chief smiled. “You are a very observant lady. I knew this about you already. I’m fine. If I’m uncomfortable, I’ll let you know.”
Cheyenne pulled out a chair to sit. “Okay, then. Let’s get straight to it. I was told you have some information regarding the shooter in the convenience store murders and you’ll only talk to me. What would you like to share, sir?”
“You are looking for a very evil and cowardly man—a man who preys on the weaknesses of others. He isn’t like other men. Others aren’t going to find him. But you can. You will.”
His eyes, although unseeing, moved around furiously, watching the movie that played only for him. Cheyenne put her coffee down to calm her hands. “Well, Chief, I’ll do my best to find him.”
“He will find you,” the Chief said. He squinted. “You have what he wants.”
He slipped a hand into his pocket and the officers reached for their guns. Cheyenne motioned them to stand down. Chief Longfellow pulled out a picture and held it out to Cheyenne. From where she sat, she recognized little Maria.
“Take this,” he said. “Read what it tells you. Your answers are here.” As she leaned to take the photo, he grabbed her wrist. Her heart lurched. His other hand pressed against her belly.
The policemen drew their guns. “Remove your hands from her!”
The Chief ignored their order. “I had a vision,” he moaned, his lips brushing against her ear. Musk flooded her nostrils; dizziness swept over her. “He will come for you…for him. You have what he wants.”
“Did you hear me, old man? Release her!”
His hand tightened on hers with urgency. “He knows your losses and will use them against you. But remember…what was your enemy in the past will be your greatest ally in the weeks to come.”
“Let her go!”
He released her and slumped back, returning to his meditation chant.
A wave of nausea flooded over Cheyenne as she scrambled to her feet and ran from the room. She spotted a garbage can just as her stomach started convulsing. She broke into a cold sweat, her teeth chattering. The floor under her feet rocked back and forth like a rickety old bridge in the wind. As she clung to the garbage can, Perry ran toward her.
“Cheyenne!” he shouted, throwing an arm around her. “Are ya alright? Did he hurt ya, darlin’?”
Cheyenne instinctively shrugged his arm off as the floor started to feel a bit more solid. “Yes,” she whispered. “I mean, no. He didn’t hurt me. I’m fine. He wouldn’t have hurt me. I didn’t feel threatened.”
“I’m so sorry, Chey,” Perry stuttered. “He’s going down to holding now. If ya wanna take the rest of the morning off…”
“No. I’ll be okay. I have an ultrasound in a couple of hours anyway. I’ll just go home after it.” Cheyenne shakily rose from the garbage can and headed for the elevator.
“Right, then,” Perry said. “I’ll give ya a call later. Just to see how things went and stuff. Right?”
“Fine. Talk to you later,” Cheyenne said as the elevator doors closed.
Feeling the familiar throb in the back of her neck that triggered a migraine, she leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes until the moldy smell of the basement disappeared from her nostrils. She went to put her hands on her belly and realized she was still holding the picture of Maria. Gnawing her bottom lip, she stared at it. Maria looked so sad. There was a man standing behind the girl with his hands on her shoulders. Other blurry people stood around them.
She got off on her floor and rushed to her office. Inside the solitude of her recently Feng Shui-ed office, she collapsed into her chair, threw the picture on her desk then stared at the picture of William.
The Chief had mentioned a son?
He will come for you…for him.