Past Sins – Chapter One, Part One

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Past Sins, available now in e-book on Amazon.

“Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,

And then thou must be damned perpetually,

Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,

That time may cease, and midnight never come.”

Christopher Marlowe 1564-93 Doctor Faustus (1604)

Ethan swung the pickup door shut, harder than necessary. The small boom echoed off stone and plaster and wood. He took a deep breath, shoving his hands deep into his pockets. After a moment he yanked them out, frowning at the black, oily dirt smeared across his skin. Reaching past the flat tire lodged between crates in the truck’s bed, he snatched up the same greasy cloth he’d used earlier to scrub at his hands again.

Late. Not his fault, but late anyway. Being late smacked of unprofessionalism, an impression he’d rather avoid. At any time, but especialy with a new client.

Gravel crunching beneath his work boots, he marched across the driveway to a porch in need of painting and mentally tallied that repair. As he mounted the steps, he noted the fieldstone could use repointing. Several windows required reglazing and painting, too. The shutter on the window beside the door hung slightly askew.

Tick, tick, tick went the repairs through his mind, settling into place on his mental notepad.

He lifted a hand to rap on the door, goose bumps raising the hair on his forearms. It had to be at least eighty-five out in the sun, but the air beneath the porch roof was damned cool. The shadowed fieldstone caused that. Untouched by sunlight, it held and radiated cold.

Observing the door’s peeling paint, he knocked impatiently. While waiting for a response from within, he counted backwards from ten. It had been a day when everything that could have, had gone wrong, topped by the nail in his tire. Not Perry Madison’s fault. He needed to be smiling when she answered the door.

Except she didn’t. He knocked again and after a minute longer discreetly tried the knob. Locked.

The narrow sidelight window beside the door reflected moving leaves behind him. Ethan peered through the panes, trying to be nonchalant about it. The foyer revealed a well-used rug and an antique table holding car keys but no purse. Maybe she’d forgotten the appointment and gone out with someone for the afternoon?

He sighed. It wasn’t like he needed the work. No, what he needed was a hot shower and clean clothes.

Still, he made no move to return to his vehicle. Wrestling a small wire-bound notebook from his back pocket he tore out a sheet, leaning on his thigh to write a note. He slid the note between the doorframe and the door above the knob, hoping it wouldn’t blow off. Not likely, unless another storm came up. Right at the moment the air felt as still and heavy as oil. Even the momentary chill he’d felt had vanished.

The porch boards creaked beneath his feet as he turned toward the steps, echoing in vibration from one end to the other. He stopped, leaning his weight a few times on the ball of his foot, concerned about the joist’s integrity beneath. Movement at the far end caught his eye. Oh, yeah, this porch would have to come down or be completely overhauled. A white rocker had begun a slow rocking from the shifting boards. Not a good sign.

Ethan stepped down and crossed the yard. Despite the home’s neglected condition, the gardens were meticulously tended, weeded and freshly mulched. He’d performed preliminary research on the property and the woman who had been living here had passed on the year before, so perhaps the new one hadn’t deliberately disregarded the condition, only required someone else to effect much-needed repairs.

He strode over to the nearby barn and stuck his head inside the open doors, calling out. The barn housed only a lawn tractor and garden tools. He called again, for good measure. A large bird exploded from its roost in the rafters and shot over his head. Coming up from an instinctive crouch, he pivoted on his heel to try to catch a glimpse before it flew into the woods. Nothing showed in the hazy sky above the treetops. Narrowing his eyes to scan the branches below he spotted something drifting a distance away along a trail.

Not something. Someone.

“Hello!”

If she heard him, she gave no sign. He headed across the rough grass toward the trees. Apparently Perry Madison had opted for a stroll in the woods on this deucedly hot day. Maybe she wasn’t one to wear a watch, to give a damn about the time or the fact she had scheduled a meeting with him. Annoyed, but determined, he stepped into the shade beneath the trees, catching sight of her again.

“Hello!”

She disappeared over the rise. Increasing his pace, he followed. Before long he noted the occasional footprint on the damp path, the depression of a hard-soled shoe. There had been a moment, a brief one, when he thought he might be seeing things. Things that maybe others wouldn’t. And he didn’t want that again. He’d turned his back on all that years ago.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2. Thanks for stopping by!

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