Preview of Megan’s Cure. The Authors Collection.
September 7, 2013
(I’m hard at work on the finishing touches of the third Enzo Lee mystery thriller novel entitled “Megan’s Cure” which is due out this fall. It stars the San Francisco newspaper reporter who is reluctantly drawn into conspiracies that he must expose. But the story begins in the South. Here is the first chapter.)
LUCY QUAN FINISHED her peanut butter and honey sandwich, licked the last of the sticky residue from her fingers and giggled across the picnic table at her best friend, Megan Kim.
When she swung her legs over the bench, stood up and gave a little wave to Megan – still eating fried rice out of the wide-mouthed thermos that came inside her battered Dora the Explorer lunchbox – Lucy didn’t need to explain where she was going. After two years sharing classes, lunches and walks to school and back home again, both girls knew Lucy was making her usual quick trip to the girl’s bathroom. A careful observer would have been able to set his watch by the event – 14 minutes before the bell signaling the end of lunch.
Lucy walked down the pathway between the tall chain-link fence and the 30-year-old, two-story school with beige, brick walls and oversized windows. Just before she reached the corner of the building, Lucy turned back and glanced at her friend. She saw Megan looking away from her in the opposite direction, toward the street that ran along the side of Langford Brice Elementary School. Lucy saw a white-haired man. He stood on the sidewalk with his hands resting on the waist-high fence. Megan seemed to be talking to him across the 20 or 30 yards that separated the two. It was odd enough to cause Lucy to stop, just for a second, before turning the corner with a flip of her ponytail and continuing on her mission.
She rushed her trip back, disturbed by the change in routine – the strange man – even as she tried to assure herself with innocent scenarios. Maybe he was just someone asking for the best way into the principal’s office. Or, wondering about the name of the school. Lucy’s heart was beating faster than normal when she turned the corner. At the empty table she saw Megan’s lunchbox packed and sitting with the handle up. Dora’s smiling face on the side seemed to be asking her, “Why did you leave?”
Lucy quickly surveyed the other half dozen tables and the yard of the school that held them. She saw that Megan wasn’t among the 50 or so other children sitting with their lunches or playing kickball and four square. Lucy knew she was prone to overreacting. Of the pair, Megan was the cool and confident one who reeled Lucy back to earth when she panicked too soon or jumped to hasty conclusions. She tried to control her breathing as she slowly walked from the picnic table to the place on the sidewalk where she had seen the man.
Lucy stopped at the fence and looked all around her. She looked at the ground, the grass strip on the other side of the fence and the empty cars parked on the street beyond. Nothing. The bell rang. The other kids began moving back to their classrooms. Lucy was in a daze.
“Wait…wait…wait…” She told herself. Maybe Megan had gone back to class early for some reason and just left her lunchbox. The yard was empty when she got back to the picnic table and picked up Megan’s lunchbox.
In her heart, Lucy knew before she entered Mrs. White’s fourth-grade classroom that Megan’s seat would be empty. Her fear of overreacting was replaced now by sheer dread. She sat the lunchbox on Megan’s desk, Dora’s face down. She took her seat across from Megan’s, wrapped her arms tightly around herself, hunched forward and stared at the faux wood grain of her own desk.
Mrs. White was writing something on the chalkboard. After a minute she stopped, turned and looked at the class.
“Lucy,” she said. “Where is Megan?”
Lucy felt her chest constrict until she couldn’t breathe. Her face crumpled and tears quickly ran down her cheeks to her chin. She continued to hug herself, struggling to get air into her lungs. In a moment, Mrs. White was at her side, kneeling down, enveloping the nine-year-old who wept on her shoulder.
The teacher glanced around her. Sitting near the door, Mrs. White saw the red-headed boy who was two inches taller than anyone else in the class and looked three years older, although he was only ten.
“Jack,” she said. “Go get Mr. Rayburn.”
Lucy fought to get the words out.
“She left…she’s….she’s gone,” Lucy said between sobs. “There was…there was…there was a man.”
Mrs. White looked up again. Like the rest of the class, Jack was staring at them. He was frozen in place with his hand on the knob of the door that was half opened. The teacher locked her eyes on those of the tall red head.
“Run!” she ordered.
Please click the book cover to read more about Robert B. Lowe and his thriller, Divine Fury, on Amazon.