And here I am again, folks, with another Bold and Blatant Self-Promotion post. Harbinger is the third book in my Wake-Robin Ridge series, and deals with the legend of the Black Dog (or Ol’ Shuck as he’s known in the North Carolina mountains) as a harbinger of death. Take it from me, you don’t want to wake up to the sight of Ol’ Shuck sitting on your doorstep!😮 Even though it’s a bit longer than usual, I hope you’ll enjoy the excerpt I chose, and will be curious to find out how this beginning impacts Rabbit and his family. Thanks for reading!
Beware the Black Dog!
“. . . he felt the wet slide of the dog’s burning hot tongue on his face, and the scrape of its razor sharp teeth against the top of his head. A white-hot agony of crushing pain followed, as the jaws began to close.”
The wine-red trillium that carpets the forests of the North Carolina Mountains is considered a welcome harbinger of spring—but not all such omens are happy ones. An Appalachian legend claims the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as he’s often called, is a harbinger of death. If you see him, you or someone you know is going to die.
But what happens when Ol’ Shuck starts coming for you in your dreams? Nightmares of epic proportions haunt the deacon of the Light of Grace Baptist Church, and bring terror into the lives of everyone around him. Even MacKenzie Cole and his adopted son, Rabbit, find themselves pulled into danger.
When Sheriff Raleigh Wardell asks Mac and Rabbit to help him solve a twenty-year-old cold case, Rabbit’s visions of a little girl lost set them on a path that soon collides with that of a desperate man being slowly driven mad by guilt.
As Rabbit’s gift of the Sight grows ever more powerful, his commitment to those who seek justice grows as well, even when their pleas come from beyond the grave.
Early June, 1994
North Carolina Mountians
With a loud whoosh, the doors pulled closed on the big, yellow bus, and it rumbled down the old, two-lane highway, leaving the shrieks and laughter of the last few kids hanging in the muggy air. Sissy Birdwell stood on the dusty berm, waving goodbye to friends she wouldn’t see again until the fall, and watched the bus disappear around the curve.
Reluctant to start the mile-long hike up the narrow, red clay road toward her home, she kicked aimlessly at some pebbles and twigs. Part of her was happy her mother had finally agreed she was old enough to walk home alone. After all, she was eight years old now, and certainly able to find her way to their house, which waited at the very end of the steep track. Another part of her shivered at the thought of the lonely, winding road ahead, which curved higher and higher through the thick woods, until it reached their clearing near the top of the ridge.
She would never tell her mama this, but the dark beneath the trees scared her. She was afraid of bears. And coyotes. And snakes. And lots of other things that might want to share the road with her on an early June afternoon. But nobody in the whole Birdwell family would understand that, not even the women. They’d been part of these mountains forever, and she was sure nothing scared them at all.
Of course, she could wait around for the second bus, then walk home with her brother—but that would be like admitting she was still a baby. No way she’d do that. So she squared her shoulders, and trudged up the drive toward home, refusing to look at the dusty trees and bushes that crowded close on either side. Instead, she pictured the litter of tiny pups their hound had presented them with last week, and tried to guess if any might have opened their eyes today.
Thinking about cuddling those precious babies with their sweet puppy breath warm on her face made Sissy walk a bit faster, kicking up puffs of reddish dust from the dirt road. As she rounded the first broad curve, she saw a lone figure coming toward her. Even from a distance, the way the sun glinted on his coppery hair told her it was Cadey Hagen, the son of their nearest neighbor, but what he was doing on their drive, she wasn’t sure. The Hagen cabin was a good ways down the eastern slope of the ridge.
“Hey, Sissy. You just gettin’ home from school?”
“Hey, Cadey. Yeah. Sorry you missed the last day party.”
He snorted. “Who needs them ol’ cupcakes, anyway? ‘specially if you gotta eat ‘em in a room full of stupid little kids.”
“Wasn’t all little kids. All the grades were there, an’ the cupcakes were pretty good, too. Why’d you skip it?”
He scowled, kicking at the dirt in disgust. “Didn’t skip it. Ol’ Lady Bratton suspended me for the last three days, just cuz she found me smokin’ behind the washroom.”
“Oh. Didn’t know you got suspended. I heard you were in trouble, though. Only I heard it was because you had you a knife at school, and then you smart-mouthed Miz Bratton when she caught you.”
“Well, she deserved it, dang ol’ biddy. Was only an ol’ Buck knife. Everybody carries ‘em. It don’t matter none to me, though. She’s the one gonna be sorry.”
Sissy wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but she’d heard the bigger kids say Cadey was a boy you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of, so she kept quiet.
Oh, he looked innocent enough, with his gap-toothed grin, freckled face, and jug ears poking out from under a thatch of hair that was more red than blond. He reminded Sissy of Opie Taylor, from the television reruns of the Andy Griffith Show, except older. Maybe twelve. She didn’t really believe he’d hurt anyone. Still, something told her not to ask any questions.
They talked about school a moment or two, then Cadey made an announcement. “I got a secret. I’d tell you, but you ain’t old enough to trust with it.”
Of all the things he could have said, implying she was still a little girl was the one guaranteed to get a rise out of Sissy. “Am so old enough! Ain’t nobody can make me tell a secret, Cadey Hagen. Why’re you grinnin’ like that? I wanna know.”
“Just thinkin’. How old are you, anyway?”
“I’m eight, an’ I know how to pinkie swear, an’ everything. I ain’t gonna blab your old secret. Probably isn’t all that good, anyway.”
Now, Cadey was insulted. “Is so. Might be the best secret I ever had. You’d be pretty surprised, I bet.”
They stood, indignant, in the middle of the dirt road, hands on hips, glaring at each other, then Cadey cocked his head. “What’s your real name, anyway?”
“Cecelia Ann Birdwell. Why?”
Cadey looked her up and down. The two of them were a study in contrasts, and Sissy scowled at the boy, as he took in her long black braids, tied with red cotton bows, and her smooth, tan skin, so different from his pale, freckled complexion. Even her tip-tilted black eyes, which clearly showed the Cherokee heritage in her family, contrasted sharply with his bright blue ones. When he finished his inspection, he seemed to have come to a decision.
“Well, Cecelia Ann Birdwell, do you swear you’ll never tell? Hope to die? Lightnin’ strike you in the eye?”
She huffed out a breath. “Yes. I swear I won’t tell nobody, hope to die, an’ lightnin’ strikes, an’ all. Now what’s your big ol’ secret?”
“Come with me, then, an’ I’ll show you.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Sissy Birdwell took Cadey Hagen’s outstretched hand, followed him into the woods … and never came out again.
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Author Marcia Meara
Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years and four big cats.
When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. She enjoys nature. Really, really enjoys it. All of it! Well, almost all of it, anyway. From birds, to furry critters, to her very favorites, snakes. The exception would be spiders, which she truly loathes, convinced that anything with eight hairy legs is surely up to no good. She does not, however, kill spiders anymore, since she knows they have their place in the world. Besides, her husband now handles her Arachnid Catch and Release Program, and she’s good with that.
Spiders aside, the one thing Marcia would like to tell each of her readers is that it’s never too late to make your dreams come true. If, at the age of 69, she could write and publish a book (and thus fulfill 64 years of longing to do that very thing), you can make your own dreams a reality, too. Go for it! What have you got to lose?
Buy Marcia’s Books Here
Wake-Robin Ridge: Book 1
A Boy Named Rabbit: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 2
Harbinger: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 3
The Light: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 4
Swamp Ghosts: Riverbend Book 1
Finding Hunter: Riverbend Book 2
That Darkest Place: Riverbend Book 3
Riverbend Spinoff Novellas
The Emissary 1
The Emissary 2 – To Love Somebody
The Emissary 3 – Love Hurts
Summer Magic: Poems of Life and Love
Reach Marcia on Social Media Here:
Blog: The Write Stuff