Thursday teaser excerpt: Wildfires

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This week’s Thursday Teaser excerpt is from an upcoming, yet unfinished mystery novel.

Tara Rezeck Mystery 1

By Scott Bury

Tara’s shoulder slammed into the passenger door as the big old pickup flew around a bend. She wanted to tell Roberto to slow down and speed up at the same time, so she clenched her jaws to prevent herself from biting her tongue as a result of the way the truck’s worn suspension bounced on the rough dirt road.

The air inside was thick with heat and smoke Tara could taste ash in her throat. The heat outside was worse. To the west on the left, Tara could see blue sky through the windshield above the scrub-covered, brown slopes. But on her side, east, grey clouds that faded to black at the horizon blocked the sky. A slope fell away beyond the road’s narrow shoulder, smoke obscuring the vineyards she knew grew there. Opening a window would only let in the smoke, and was already hard to breathe.

Flames from Sonoma County wildfires are seen in close proximity to the
historic Gundlach Bundschu winery in Sonoma on Oct. 9.
(Courtesy of Rafe Tomsett)

No one ever warned me northern California would be this hot, never mind the fires.

Tara gripped the door handle tight as the truck fishtailed. She heard the crunch of tires on the narrow gravel shoulder. Roberto wrestled the wheel, bringing the truck back on course.

Tara risked a glance at him. His brows drew together in a frown and he pressed his normally full lips into a tight, thin line. But there was determination in his brown eyes.

Roberto’s hands were tight on the wheel as he brought them around a sharp bend. The truck didn’t fishtail this time, but the turn made Tara slide across the seat and the seat belt dig into her side. Her hands flew up to the dash just in time to brace herself as Roberto braked hard, then turned sharply to the right onto a paved road.

“Is this—” she said, regretting it as her mouth filled with the taste of smoke.

“The road to the main gate. We got past the road blocks,” Roberto answered without looking at her. He pressed the pedal down and the truck’s engine rumbled. Tara kept one hand braced on the dash, the other holding the door handle as they went around the last curve. She knew there was a gate a quarter-mile ahead, but she could barely see a slightly darker tone to the smoke across the road, let alone the brass plate that read “Rocky Creek Wines.”

“Think the gate’s open?” she asked, moving her left hand to brace against the roof.

“Sure hope so.” Roberto coughed, and Tara answered with her own cough, but it did nothing to ease the burning in her throat. Her eyes burned, but there were no more tears to cut through the ash on her cheeks.

Roberto slowed the truck, and Tara moved her left hand to the dash again. The low stone wall, decorative more than functional, slowly materialized behind the billowing smoke.

Seeing it brought a vivid memory to mind, and she saw the wall on a clear late-summer day, the first time she had seen it, with the ornate wrought-iron gates both wide open. Beyond the wall on a small rise stood a Spanish-style mansion whose terra cotta roof tiles seemed to glow in the California sunlight. She had parked her old Civic in the last place at the far end of the visitor’s parking lot.

She remembered how she had straightened her jacket, pulled the strap of her briefcase higher on her shoulder and flipped her hair back as she strode up the front steps with all the confidence she could fake. Even that slipped away when the handsome maitre d’ put his hand on her shoulder to direct her back onto the porch of the mansion that had been transformed into a restaurant. He pointed toward the back of the estate, past the manicured lawn and swept customer parking lot, toward a much more utilitarian barn at the back of the estate. Tara swallowed, pulled her strap up again and strode toward it.

From a distance, the winery looked like a simple barn, but when she got close she could see it was a modern building, painted to match the yellow and orange of the mansion-restaurant. Set into the ersatz stucco front wall was a wide barn door made of solid dark wood. In its center, a human-size door gaped open. When Tara walked close enough, she could feel conditioned, cool air flowing out.

She leaned in and knocked on the open door. No one said anything. She could hear the hum of some kind of machinery. Smooth concrete floors and light grey ducts and pipes gleamed under halogen lights on the high ceiling. To the left, windows in sheetrock walls showed offices, where a man with dark hair sat, writing with a pencil.

Tara took another deep breath of cool air, stepped up to the office’s interior door and knocked on its frame. The dark-haired man looked up quickly, hazel eyes wide, then relaxing. “Yes? Can I help you?”
His voice was deep and smooth, his tone fast but courteous. Tinged with sadness? Stop imagining things, Tara. You haven’t even met him yet.

“Mr. DaSilva?” She stepped farther into the office, hand extended. “I’m Tara Rezeck.”

About Wildfire

Single mom Tara Rezeck moves to California after graduating from law school, in pursuit of a lifelong dream. Unable to find a position in a Bay-area law firm, she takes a job in the kitchen of a prestigious winery-restaurant in Sonoma County.

When wildfires ravage wine country, Tara evacuates with the rest of the employee—but not the winery owner. His traumatized wife is the one to find his burned body.

The overwhelmed Sheriff’s office wants to classify the death as accidental, but Tara learns there’s also blunt-force trauma involved. When she notices other details that don’t add up, she’s challenged to unveil her legal and investigative skills.

Wildfire will publish on March 22, 2018. Leave a Comment if you’d like to be a beta reader and get a free e-copy when it comes out.

About the author

Pic-ScottBuryScott Bury can’t stay in one genre.

His first published book was The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, followed in 2013 with a “50 Shades” spoof, One Shade of Red, in 2013. Then came the first volume in his Eastern Front trilogy, Army of Worn Soles, a memoir telling the story of a Canadian drafted into the Soviet Red Army in the Second World War.

He has also written four mysteries in the Lei Crime Kindle World (based on characters and settings created by bestselling Toby Neal), two action thrillers in the Sydney Rye Kindle World (based on Emily Kimelman’s bestselling series) and a thriller in the JET Kindle World (based on Russell Blake’s Jet series.)

Wildfires will be the first volume in a brand-new, standalone mystery series featuring legal investigator Tara Rezeck.

Visit Scott’s:

And follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

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About Scott Bury

Comments

  1. Okay. I’m liking this! Looks like you’ve got a winner on the way. Count me in!💘

  2. Sounds amazing- brings back memories of our adventures in California.