Here’s a snippet from A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE, my paranormal suspense (possibly NA, possibly YA) set in 1968. It’s set in 1968 because I began it in 1968. I’m trying not to cry, knowing that a story set in 1968 now qualifies as a “historical”.
ANYWAY, the narrative character, James Michener Franklin, a 17-year-old orphan, hired by elderly “Aunt Missy” Hardesty, meets some of her family when he brings her home.
Secrets Of Life
excerpt from A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE
by Marian Allen
Matthew Walton was on the Board of Trustees for the Refuge, among other things. I’d seen him a couple of times; he was probably in his fifties, meaty but not fat, and his flat-brown eyes were a little on the beady side. He’d done a shoulder-grasping, “Are you a good boy?” job on me a couple of times when I was little. I still felt it when it rained.
What was he doing here?
Aunt Missy saw me staring and said, “This is Matthew Walton, whom everyone knows. He married my late niece Charlotte. And this,” she announced, “is Mitch Franklin. I’ve hired him. I’ll pay him out of my own money, of course; you’ve left me enough for that.”
Mr. Walton’s whole face pinched into a frown. He came toward us. “Hired him for what?”
“Protection from your insane rages, for one thing! I live in deadly fear of your foul temper!”
“I wish.” He looked at me, still frowning. “Don’t I know you?”
“I’m the good boy from the Refuge, sir,” was all I could think of to say, but it clicked.
“Oh, yes. Mitch Franklin. James Michener Franklin; born, 1950. And you’re still –” He stopped himself before he could say still at the Refuge or still not adopted or still an orphan, or whatever foot he’d been about to put in his mouth. As it was, he seemed to think he’d gotten a couple of toes past his molars, because his cheeks reddened and he turned away to Aunt Missy.
“Is that where you’ve b –” He stopped again and sniffed. “Smoke! You’ve been smoking in my car! In my new car!” He whirled around, eyes on the floor. I knew what he was looking for. “You took the dogs with you!” He pointed an accusing finger at them. “You didn’t leave because they disappeared again! You took them! In my new car!”
“Contain yourself. I covered your precious upholstery with a towel.” Then she smirked. “I did use the ashtray, though. Better send it to the shop.” She lifted a shoulder as she turned away, sort of a shrug at Mr. Walton, sort of a “this way” to me as she said, “Come along, Mitch, I’m tired; I want to sit down.”
Flickering a glance at the others, I followed Aunt Missy toward a nearer door than the one Mr. Walton had come out of. That glance showed me bafflement on Lydia’s face, irritation and curiosity on Mr. Walton’s. Myself, I was beginning to wonder if my new employer wasn’t more than a little moldy in the cheese.
At the sound of feet on wooden stairs, Aunt Missy stopped and turned. A door opened in the side of the staircase, and a grim-looking man in a lab coat came out.
“Is she back?” he said.
“Andrew!” Aunt Missy opened her arms to the man, and I ground my teeth and asked myself what I had expected. It was a job, and it had been pitched as a job. I had accepted it as a job, so where did I get off resenting the lady’s relatives because they weren’t me?
The man came and hugged Aunt Missy while she said, “Andrew, they’re acting as if I’m not to be allowed out of the house! It’s intolerable! You mustn’t let them bully me!”
“Oh, Aunt Amelia!” Lydia cried, and I had to admit, the injustice of accusing that pastel person of being a bully was all but breathtaking.
Mr. Walton stuffed his hands into his pants pockets and sighed pointedly.
“My son,” he said to me, by way of introduction.
I could see the resemblance: This Andrew guy was about twenty years younger, maybe in his thirties, a little taller and a lot slimmer, but he had the same limp black hair and brown eyes (clear, though, not smoky like Mr. Matthew’s).
“Now, Aunt Amelia,” Andrew said, “we’ve all been worried about you, that’s all. We didn’t know where you’d gone.”
“And your driver’s license has ex-pired,” said Mr. Walton, pronouncing the word as if precision would clue her in to a meaning she had forgotten.
“Would any of you have taken me to the Refuge, if I had asked you? No questions asked? Or would you have quizzed me and argued with me and tried to jolly me out of it until I gave up? Well? Be honest.”
I could see the answer in all their faces. Apparently, so could Aunt Missy. She left Andrew’s side and came to me. I tried not to count it as a coup.
“Mitch, meet my nephew, Dr. Andrew Walton. He’s a physicist.” Whatever that is. “He has a lab in the basement. He studies the secrets of life.”
Oh, really? Secrets of Life in the basement lab, eh? Okay. Yeah.
Dr. Walton laughed, and his thin fierce face sweetened like coffee with two spoons of sugar.
“This is Mitch Franklin,” Mr. Walton told his son. “He’s Amelia’s new hire. Bodyguard, I gather.”
Dr. Walton, looking understandably at a loss, shook my hand. If he wanted an explanation from me, he was out of luck; I didn’t have a clue what was going on here.
Buy A DEAD GUY AT THE SUMMERHOUSE
A WRITING PROMPT BASED ON MY POST: Drop a character into a rich situation without a clue.