Someone out there had a really good idea a while back: each Sunday post an excerpt from a book, giving people a peak at something other than the standard couple of chapters. Of course, if you want to read the first couple of chapters they're available over at my website http://www.susanschreyer.com.
This excerpt from Death By A Dark Horse is taken from the scene where protagonist Thea Campbell and friends Delores and Miguel have made a foray to a local biker bar to run down a lead. Thea is convinced the theft of her horse Blackie is connected to the murder of rising dressage star Valerie Parsons, although the police and several others don't seem to share her conviction.
The Broken Axle, a single-story, concrete-block building with few windows, was painted a shade of blue usually seen on playground equipment. Neon signs, lined up under the eaves, proclaimed the brands of beer supposedly available within. The name of the bar was hand lettered across several sheets of plywood, affixed to the roof by an intricate structure of two-by-fours. A single spotlight illuminated the sign. The mist that hung earlier in the cold night air had turned to drizzle, making the seats of the numerous motorcycles parked near the door so reflective they appeared bright blue. Two men, not quite lost in shadow halfway along one of the building's walls, stood in close conversation. A quick exchange was made, a hand to pocket, then a glance in our direction. I looked away. Drugs, probably. Maybe one of them was an undercover cop. Maybe.
I stuffed my hands into my pockets, shrank into the collar of my parka, and stepped closer to Miguel and Delores. If I'd been alone I would have turned back.
Inside the bar was as crowded with bodies as the parking lot was with motorcycles. The din of laughter and shouts that passed for conversation surged around us like the acrid smoke-thick air. A basketball game blaring from the tiny TV over the bar, and the crack of billiard balls provided the only form of music in the place. Miguel led the way, winding past pool tables and around big men who, despite their inclination to study us with unconcealed interest, were disinclined to move. Every nerve in my body vibrated in a state of red alert. I stopped looking around and kept my gaze pinned on Miguel's broad back, only a foot in front of me.
He found an empty table and rounded up three chairs I touched the table top as I sat. Ick. Sticky. An ash tray directly in front of me overflowed with reeking cigarette butts. The stench, mixed with the odor of men who made scant use of deodorant or soap, stung my eyes and coated the insides of my nostrils. I couldn't remember the last time my senses had been so assaulted.
We'd barely sat when a young woman with blonde and hot pink, spiky hair, multiple facial piercings and an empty tray on her hip, slid between two customers and stood at our table regarding us with a bored expression.
"Beer?" she asked.
I was fairly certain we'd heard the entire selection.
"Three," Miguel said.
The girl pushed her way between the customers and disappeared. Miguel scanned the crowd. "I do not see him," he said, obviously referring to our quarry. "I will take a look around. Do not go anywhere." He looked directly at me.
I didn't think he needed to worry. Delores scooted her chair closer to me and glared at the backside of a guy who bumped her. I was hemmed in by similar blue-jean and leather-clad body parts. I wasn't going anywhere -- even if I wanted to.
Several long minutes later Miguel returned and gave a slight shake of his head. The waitress following in his wake kept me from asking him any questions. She held the tray with our three beers balanced on one hand at shoulder height. I put a twenty on the table and she snagged it with the first glass she banged down.
I seized the opportunity. "I wonder if you could tell me whether a friend of ours has been in tonight?"
"Who're you lookin' for?"
"Middle-aged white guy, brown hair, overweight," Miguel said.
"No kidding? He shouldn't be too hard to single out. Only half the guys in here look like that. Take your pick." Little Miss Sarcastic snapped her chewing gum and pocketed the twenty.
"He was here last night, dropped a lot of cash buying his buddies drinks," I added.
She gave me a suspicious once over. "He do somethin' wrong? You a cop?"
"No to both," I said. "We might want to hire him. I hear he drives trucks and sometimes hauls horse trailers."
"I'll let him know you been lookin' for him -- should I happen to see him." She shouldered her way back through the crowd with her empty tray.
"Keep the change," I muttered. We wouldn't see her again. I should have realized anyone here would treat us with distrust. We had no idea what we were doing.
"I think we should leave," Delores said.
I couldn't have agreed more. What a waste of time. Miguel took a couple of swallows from his glass before he got up, but Delores and I left ours untouched.
The moment I stood a strong grip engulfed my upper arm. My heart tried to break out of my rib cage, and my lips turned to ice as the blood left my face. A Sumo wrestler of a man, wearing yards of studded black leather, held me in place with his enormous paw. A dark blue tattoo covered the back of his hand and his forearm. The subject of the artwork was indiscernible, but then again, I wasn't studying it too closely.