by Kassandra Lamb
I’m playing catch-up this week after traveling last week, so I need to go back and read everyone else’s excerpts. The few I’ve read so far were really great.
Here’s mine from my newest release, Book 3 in the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, about a woman who trains service dogs (Buddy is her mentor dog) for combat veterans with PTSD and other “invisible injuries.” In this book, the veteran, Jake Black suffers from traumatic brain injury. He and his wife have been accused of robbery because the culprits were seen leaving the scene of the crime on motorcycles that look like the Blacks’ bikes.
First the synopsis and then an excerpt from Chapter Three, when the police come to search the house and garage.
Army veteran Jake Black has a new lease on life, thanks to service dog Felix and his trainer, Marcia Banks. Despite a traumatic brain injury, Jake’s able to ride his beloved motorcycle again, with Felix in the sidecar. But his freedom to hit the open road is threatened once more when he and his wife are accused of robbery.
Called in to dog-sit, Marcia can’t sit idly by. She and her mentor dog, Buddy, set out to clear the Blacks’ name, fighting misconceptions about bikers and the nature of TBI along the way. When murder is added to the mix, Marcia redoubles her efforts, despite anonymous threats and her sheriff boyfriend’s strenuous objections, both to her putting herself at risk… and to dragging him along on her wild ride.
Jake had a hand on Felix’s head, listing subtly in the dog’s direction. Jake was a big guy, but Felix was a big dog. His face and body were all Bulldog but his legs were longer, probably from some distant Labrador, or maybe a Weimaraner, in his family tree. He came up to Jake’s knee and had been trained to brace himself to take some of his master’s weight.
Most likely only Janey and I knew that Jake was using the dog to maintain his balance, which would have been a lot easier if the dog were wearing his specialized service vest with its stabilizer bar for Jake to grab.
I considered going inside to find the vest, but Jake’s body language had me worried.
His broad face was as red as I’d ever seen it. I was afraid he was about to have one of the “meltdowns” he’d told me about but I’d never witnessed. Anger control problems are common for people with traumatic brain injury.
The worry in Janey’s pale blue eyes said she had the same concern. Shoving shoulder-length blonde hair, frizzy from the humidity, behind her ears, she placed a restraining hand on her husband’s arm.
Jake shrugged her off. Not a good sign.
He snarled in the face of a dark-haired detective in an ill-fitting business suit. “I don’t care how many pieces of paper you got from some judge. How dare you come in here like a bunch of storm troopers…” He spluttered to a stop as Janey once again tugged on the arm that wasn’t using Felix for support.
He whirled on her—an even worse sign—and teetered dangerously on one foot.
Felix quickly shifted position and braced himself by spreading his legs. Once Jake seemed more stable on his feet, Felix leaned gently against his leg.
The maneuver, a type of deep pressure therapy, was meant to reduce anxiety, but it did little for Jake’s anger.
The firm look in Janey’s eyes did have an effect though. Jake froze, then took a deep breath.
“Come on inside,” she said softly. “Let Detective Wright and his men do their jobs.”
He patted her hand, just as the detective gestured to two deputies that they should head for the garage.
Jake pulled loose from his wife and followed as fast as he could, Felix keeping pace beside him. Detective Wright took off after him.
I followed in their wake, trying to decide whether I should report on the broken window in front of the officers or wait.
At the double-wide garage door, the detective gestured toward the big padlock and hasp on one side. “Unlock it.”
Obviously reluctant, Jake produced a ring of keys and removed the padlock, then unlocked a lock in the middle of the roll-up door. The thunk of metal bars releasing inside.
One of the deputies grabbed the bottom of the door and shoved it up, exposing the Blacks’ three motorcycles and the spotlessly clean workshop area.
A deputy began snapping pictures. “Bring in the trailer,” Detective Wright said to another one.
Janey had caught up with us, huffing a little from the extra weight middle age had bestowed upon her. Her peaches-and-cream complexion paled to ghost white at the detective’s words.
“Wha’?” Jake said, a bit slower to catch on to what was about to happen.
“We’re impounding the bikes.” Detective Wright waved impatiently at one of the deputies in the driveway.
Jake’s fists clenched. I could hear his teeth grinding from three feet away.
Both Janey and I jumped forward and grabbed his arms. Slugging a cop would not improve the situation.
Meanwhile, the detective was walking away, acting as if he hadn’t been about to get flattened by a six-two, two-hundred-forty-pound combat vet. He crouched down beside one of the bikes, the black one. Then he gestured to the deputy with the camera and pointed to the side of the bike.
Jake moved forward, dragging us with him.
My eyes followed the detective’s pointing finger to the rounded side of the gas tank, and a ragged long scratch in the black paint.
Jake’s mouth fell open. “No!” he yelled.
I gestured toward the broken window. “Maybe whatever broke the window hit it.”
Everybody’s gaze turned to me, then to the window.
“When did that happen?” Janey said, a touch of wonder in her voice that some rock would dare to penetrate her husband’s sanctum.
“Just before you all got here,” I said. “I checked the outside of the garage earlier and that window was fine. Then Felix started barking and I came out and checked again and…”
The detective was glaring at me. “And you are?”
I gulped a little. “Marcia Banks, dog- and house-sitter.” I told him what little more I knew, including about the guy getting into a white pickup, who might or might not have been hanging around the garage when I arrived.
He was a stony-faced audience but he did let me finish. And he did check the scratches around the lock on the side door, even had the deputy take pictures of them.
All this gave Jake time to calm down. That is until they began to load two of the motorcycles into the large trailer they’d backed into the driveway.
Again Janey and I grabbed his arms. “Let them take them,” she hissed in his ear. “We’ve got no choice.”
He let us hold him back while they loaded Janey’s red three-wheeled bike—she said it was called a trike. I realized that indeed we were only holding him with his permission when he suddenly shook us loose like we were an old shirt he was shedding. “Wait!” He stepped forward.
Felix was beside him in a flash.
I indulged in a moment of maternal pride. That’s my boy, doin’ his job!
Jake was pointing to the black leather bag on the side of his black bike, which was halfway up the ramp. “That’s not my saddlebag.”
The detective held up a hand and the two deputies who’d been rolling the bike up the ramp between them stopped.
Jake walked around the ramp to the other side, Felix practically glued to his jeans leg. “This one too. They’re not my bags.”
The detective stepped forward and made a show of examining the bag on our side. Then he snapped on blue latex gloves, like those the deputies handling the bike were wearing. He leaned forward, tentatively touched the end of what looked like scrape marks in the leather.
He held his finger up close to his face, rubbed it and his thumb together. A few grains of sand caught the sunlight as they drifted to the pavement.
He gestured to a third deputy. “Put a bag around all that.” He pointed to the saddlebag. “We need to analyze the sand.”
Now that he mentioned it, I could see some tawny grains embedded in the leather.
“That’s not my bag,” Jake said emphatically. “Janey get the photo from the living room.”
I knew which one he meant. I’d noticed three photos earlier, front and center on the mantel. Their wedding picture had caught my eye first, with Janey standing tall and proud, forty pounds lighter and drop-dead gorgeous. On the right of it was their daughter, Andrea, smiling and holding a high-school diploma, and on the left, Jake, fifteen years younger and grinning like a kid on Christmas as he stood next to a shiny black bike.
This bike in front of us.
Janey took off at a trot for the house. She was well padded, but she could move pretty fast when motivated.
Buddy and I should have followed. This really wasn’t my business. But I didn’t move.
Curiosity killed the cat. My mother’s voice in my head.
She had a point. My curiosity…okay, my nosiness, had gotten me into trouble more than once. I figured that if I were that proverbial cat, I had about four of my nine lives left.
Janey returned with the photo.
Jake grabbed it and stuck it under the detective’s nose, then threatened to take out said nose by jabbing at the picture with a large index finger. “There! Those are my bags.”
I craned to see but couldn’t make out more than a blur of black and tan, and the younger Jake’s big grin. My throat closed. Life hadn’t treated him all that well since then.
The detective looked at the picture and then at Jake. “Side bags can be changed.”
Then he broke Jake’s heart and endangered his own life by confiscating the photo.
Writing and psychology have always vied for first place on Kassandra Lamb’s Greatest Passions list. In her youth, she had to decide between writing and paying the bills. Partial to electricity and food, she studied psychology. Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe with her characters. The magic portal to this universe (i.e., her computer) is located in Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.
She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, The Kate on Vacation novellas, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, about a service dog trainer and her mentor dog, plus a guidebook for novice writers, Someday Is Here! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your First Book.
Kass’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and she loves hearing from readers! She’s also on Facebook and hangs out some on Twitter @KassandraLamb. She blogs about psychological topics and other random things at http://misteriopress.com.