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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Signal to Noise (an excerpt of a work in progress)

I've finished the first draft of my current novel, Signal to Noise, which I hope to release by October 1.  Here's an excerpt from the middle of the story - involving the Chief of Police, Dale Blodgett, and the hapless zoologist Tyler Vaughan, who have found themselves investigating a series of disappearances in the little town of Crooked Creek, Oregon.

Signal to Noise will be available as an e-book from Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes&Noble (Nook).

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Dale left Dorrie’s Bar and Grill a little before seven-thirty, and drove off in the dusk up toward the shadowy bulk of the Three Sisters. By the time he got to Tyler’s trailer, the light was fading fast. He pulled into the weed-overgrown gravel driveway and crunched to a stop, and then sat there for a moment, looking at the light streaming out from inside.

A hand pushed aside curtains, and Tyler’s face appeared in the window, and then disappeared. A moment later, as Dale was climbing out of his car, the front door opened, and a wiry-haired mutt the size of a calf came bounding down the front steps and out into the yard. Two enormous paws were planted in the middle of his chest, and Dale, despite his weight, went over backwards like a bowling pin, right through the still-open car door, smacking the back of his head on the roof on the way down. He heard Tyler calling, frantically, “Goddammit, Ahab! Bad dog! You’re not supposed to assault a police officer!”

Dale felt the pressure on his chest suddenly lessen, and sat up, wiping the dog slobber off his face with one hand and rubbing the back of his head with the other. Tyler had Ahab by the collar and had dragged him a little way off. Tyler was leaning over, yelling right into Ahab’s face, “One of these days, you’re really going to hurt someone! You are such a big oaf!” The dog, Dale observed, was still wagging happily. “Now, sit!” Tyler yelled, and Ahab sat, his tail sweeping the ground with unabated good cheer.

“Jesus, Dale, I’m sorry,” Tyler said, coming over and helping Dale to his feet. “He’s not dangerous, he’s just dumb.”

“No harm,” Dale said. “I’m okay.”

“What brings you here tonight?”

“I just thought it might be smart to keep an eye on you, after what happened to Rainey. Judy Kahn told me you have the last copy of the photograph from your camera – I don’t want you to disappear because of it.”

Tyler patted the pocket of his jeans. “On a flash drive, right here,” he said. “I’m not taking any chances.”

“It’s not smart to carry it around everywhere,” Dale warned. “If you disappear, so does it.”

“I’m not going to disappear,” Tyler said.   “You don't have to worry about me."

"Judy told me that your computer reappeared.”

“That was just bizarre,” Tyler said. “I still haven’t figured that part out. Why would Slender Man return my computer?”

“I have no idea,” Dale said. “Unless he was just being considerate, it’s hard to explain.”

“So, is that why you came by to see me? Because if so, I have to tell you that don’t know anything more now than I did this afternoon.”

“No, it’s not that.” Dale gave Tyler a thoughtful look. “Judy told me she thought you were likely to go charging in and try to rescue Rainey.”

“She told you that?”

“Yeah.”

Tyler considered. “Honestly, I probably would, if I knew where to charge in to.”

“That’s what Judy said.”

“I’ve been pondering all day if there’s a way to figure out where she’s being held. I don’t have any clue.”

“Good, and I plan on keeping it that way.”

Tyler’s eyebrows went up. “You have an idea about where she is?”

Dale scowled. “I am not gonna tell you.”

“You do know!” Tyler said triumphantly.

“How do you know that?”

“Well, otherwise, why would you have said that you’re not gonna tell me where to go?”

“Look, Tyler,” Dale said, in an exasperated tone of voice, “you just sit tight here. Play with your dog, watch a movie, then go to bed. Put that flash drive somewhere safe. Don’t forget to lock your doors. You’re not gonna play detective, not on my watch.”

“But Dale, Rainey’s…”

Dale held up a hand. “No.”

Tyler looked deflated, and said, “All right. I’ll chill.”

And Dale thought, Man, he IS like a golden lab.


After leaving Tyler’s, Dale drove back down to the village, and did a slow circuit of the streets. He deliberately drove past Kevin Torgeson’s house, then Kathleen Standish’s, then Phil Collette’s. All of the houses were lit from within, but showed no particular sign of activity. At around nine-thirty he decided to make one more pass by Tyler’s house, and as he drove up he was relieved to see Tyler’s rusty blue Civic still parked next to the trailer, and the living room light still on.  

Awesome. He’s still here. I’m gonna check in with him, then maybe give a quick run up to the Three Sisters Lodge, although what the hell I’ll say to Maureen if I see her, I don’t know. Then I’m gonna go home and go to bed – he’ll have to look after himself for the rest of the evening.

Dale got out of his car, and walked up the steps to the door, and knocked.

There were three deep-throated woofs from the other side, then silence.

No one answered the door, so he knocked again. This elicited a prolonged volley of barking, but no human sounds at all.

Frowning, Dale reached down and twisted the door handle. It was unlocked. This time, he was ready for the canine assault, and he opened the door and quickly stepped aside. Ahab launched himself out, barking merrily, and ambled about the front yard for a while. He finally came up to Dale, sniffed his pant leg in an experimental fashion, and then wagged. Dale reached down and scratched him behind the ears.

“Tyler, you home?” Dale called, and then stepped inside.

There wasn’t much to the trailer – a living room, disorderly and cluttered with books and papers, a little bedroom, and an even smaller kitchen, where the remnants of several previous meals still sat in the sink. Ahab walked up to the bin of dog food, and looked from it to Dale with hope in his eyes.

Dale ignored the attempted canine telepathy. He gave one more call.

“Tyler, you here?”

No one answered. Nothing in the trailer looked amiss – but Tyler Vaughan was gone.

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