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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Here's my entry, the first chapter of Avenging Angel

Cari and I mapped out several of these books, as she mentioned in her blog the other day. My first story in the series is about a woman whose talent at touch healing is sometimes more of a curse than a gift. The crystal skull entrusted to her by her grandmother is somehow tied to that gift, but she doesn't discover its history or true potential until she meets up with others like her, women of great power, and all bearing the crystal skulls that were their long-ago ancestors' legacies, one that comes from Atlantis itself. I'll post Cari's winner in a separate post.


So here's the question for today: what was the name of the dead child in the mudslide? Post your answer here, and you'll be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift certificate. You'll be able to use it right away, or save it until January, when you can buy Lucky Chica, my next book from St. Martin's Press! But hey, I'll totally understand if you want to spend it on some summer reading.

For tomorrow's blog, travel on over to Tracy Montoya's blog.

“He’s dead, doctora. You did your best.”

Angel Gallegos stared at the little boy’s body, dirt-streaked and broken, by the tree in which he’d been trapped when the mudslide had swept his village away.

His eyes were closed, and his face and chest were white where she’d splashed him with water from her canteen, looking for signs of injury. The rest of him was mired in the brown muck that covered every inch of the surrounding countryside, what was left of it. In a day, the smell would be almost unbearable.

“No, he’s going to make it,” she said. It was soon enough. She gritted her teeth, willing Enrique to leave.

Enrique Moria, the Honduran Servicios de Emergencia tech, looked at her with pity. “You’re tired, doctora. You’ve been working since yesterday. How about some sleep? I can bring you a cup of hot soup and a pillow.“

She looked down at the dead boy. He looked to be about six. His parents were probably dead too, killed in the mudslide that had brought the hill above them into their village. Who would take care of him if he lived?

He’d been alert when she’d been brought to him, one of the few survivors of the disaster, but he’d faded quickly, probably from internal injuries. Enrique had stuck close, and she hadn’t been able to check him out the way she wanted toĆ¹without witnesses.

The rest of her team was working at a nearby school. There was hope that some of the kids were alive in the concrete block structure. So far, she hadn’t heard any of the relieved shouts that accompanied a live find. The boy could live, but she had to get rid of Enrique.

She bit her lip. It tasted like mud and she spat to one side, clearing her mouth of the gritty stuff.

“Okay, bring me some soup and a pillow. I’ll be right here.”

The man grinned and scurried off the debris pile, then squelched through mud towards the tents, avoiding the areas marked with flags that signaled deep mud pockets.

She looked around. Everyone alive was busy. The dead that had been pulled from the dark, thick slime were lined up beside the road, covered in tarps. No one was looking towards her.

This would be her one chance. She put a hand on the boy’s face. He skin was already cooling, but there was enough warmth left. She pushed against his face, then leaned over him, her other hand on his belly, pressing down.

She felt his organs shift under her palm. He’d been hurt badly. She sensed internal bleeding, and opening the inner sense, the portal to her so-called gift, she saw his ruptured liver and willed it to heal. Beneath her palm, the boy’s chest fluttered.

#

Enrique Moria balanced a Styrofoam cup of beef broth and a sandwich in one hand and a bottle of tepid water in the other as he made his way across the debris to the American doctora.

She was a saint. Never resting. Never complaining. She’d gotten right to work the minute she’d left the helicopter. Her Spanish was a little off, but at least they could understand each other.

The death of the little boy had been a big blow to her, probably because there had been so much hope at first. He sighed. One never got used to the mudslides, but they were part of life in Nicaragua, especially after the big rains that came with the hurricanes.

He watched as she knelt over the boy’s body, one hand pushing the hair from his eyes, the other resting lightly on his belly. She looked like a woman who needed children of her own.

Enrique stopped, his heart pounding. The boy’s eyes were open, and he was smiling up at her.

The soup fell to the ground. “Un milagro,” he yelled. “The boy’s alive!”

Aid workers digging in other areas came racing towards them.

Dr. Gallegos looked up. She looked exhausted. She pulled back as she was engulfed with helpers. She staggered to her feet and left them to their work.

Enrique caught her as she fell. She smiled up at him wearily.

“Guess I needed that soup.” Her eyes closed.

Enrique’s eyes turned back to the miraculous boy who had seemed dead only moments before. He seemed to be in pain, but gracias a dios, he lived.

He picked up the doctora, who was too light, too thin, and followed the stretcher to the hospital tent.

The beautiful doctora had dark circles under her eyes, making her look like a ghost. If she didn’t rest, she would be just as dead as the poor souls who had been trapped by the mud. He watched as a medic slipped an IV needle into her arm, as if this happened all the time.

Seconds later, the shooting began.

#

Angel stood in the cramped aisle of a 757, waiting to deplane at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.

A little boy stood in front of her, back pressed into a woman’s ample backside. He stared up at Angel, face alight with interest.

She held onto the back of the seat next to her, still a little woozy even after two days in the hospital, but anxious to get back home, if just until the next phone call.

The airplane’s narrow corridors were jammed with weary passengers and overstuffed luggage. Faces craned to catch any sign of movement from First Class, but so far, no one’s features looked any more cheerful. Atlanta was only feet away, but she may as well have been back in Nicaragua.

“Is that mud in your hair?” The boy stared up, clearly fascinated by her dirty hair.

“Yeah, kid, it’s mud.” Angel wondered if Felipe Gonzalez, the little boy she’d rescued on the mountain, would ever ride in a plane. He’d survived. Poor Enrique had not.

“My Mami washes my hair,” the little boy said.

“Great. My Mami’s in heaven,” Angel answered. She was rewarded for her candor by an evil look from the kid’s mother, who balanced a pilot case that could have doubled as a coffin for her kid. Maybe that’s how she stayed sane.

After a while, the line started to move, and Angel managed to catch a breath of untainted air.

She didn’t mind flying, but it was awkward and uncomfortable for her to be close to so many people. When they had finally deplaned, she shot the kid a smile and hurried towards the baggage claim area. Despite increased security, she was always anxious to get to her bags.

Her wait was thankfully short, and she grabbed her suitcase as it came rolling off the belt. Her green ballistic backpack was on her shoulder. She never let it out of arm’s reach.

“Dr. Gallegos? Angelica?”

She turned to face the speaker, a red-haired guy with a white plastic ID badge slung around his neck, the Homeland Security seal prominent, next to his photo.

She peered at it. “Hoskins? What can I do for you?” She wasn’t concerned by his presence. People looked for her all the time. Maybe because she hated to answer her cell phone.

“Did you get the message about the earthquake in ‘Frisco?”

“No. I’ve been working a hurricane in Nicaragua. How soon do I need to be out there?” She thought wistfully of her bed. Clean sheets. Hot showers. Shampoo.

“Now.” Hoskins seemed relieved that she wasn’t freaking out.

She sighed. “Fine. Did you book my flight?”

He looked frightened for a moment. “Yes, it’s Delta 309. You’ve got two hours.”

“Cool. I’ll sleep.” She shouldered her bag and headed back to the security line.

“FEMA sent me to make sure that you were taken care of. You can bypass security.”

“Right.” She’d heard it before. FEMA wanted their number one disaster worker to be happy. How happy could she be when they were going to work her to death? She tried to think that she’d get lonely by herself in her Atlanta apartment. That all she needed was in her backpack. She reached a hand behind her and felt for the reassuring shapes in the green bag.

“What can I do for you?” Hoskins was trailing her like an anxious mother. Angel was beyond motherly concern, not having seen her mother in twenty years.

“You can leave me the hell alone, thanks anyway.”

He stopped.

She did, too, and turned to face him. “This happens all the time, Hoskins. Just go home. I’ll live.”

He didn’t move. His left hand twitched. A thick gold band encircled his ring finger.

“I’ll bet you’ve got a cute little wife,” she said. “Maybe a kid? They need you. Go home.”

Then the turkey did her in. His expression turned to pity. “Good luck,” he whispered. He turned and walked away stiffly.

“Right,” she said, chest tightening as she said it. She had a beer, got on the plane to San Francisco, and slept all the way to the West Coast.

#

Angel worked best during daylight. Sometimes she was sleepy, sometimes not. Her work schedule took her all over the planet, and though she was always welcome when she arrived, it was never a happy occasion. She hated to work in the dark, though. Even floodlights bothered her. This site was lit like a Friday night football field. The roar of power generators compensated for the eerie quiet that surrounded her. Except for the occasional creak of settling metal, there was no sound.

As a disaster medical worker, Angel worked alongside cadaver dogs, hopeful family members and overworked disaster relief specialists. A mixed bag of folks with equally mixed goals: finish the job, save the living, recover the dead.

It suited her just fine. The best part about disaster relief was that she often worked alone. Even when there were lots of others around, the chaos of a disaster site allowed her to do her job with little interruption.

Today was no different. The earthquake had been serious, and she’d been sent to a portion of an interstate that had collapsed, leaving rubble strewn alone both sides of the pancaked concrete slabs. There were cars inside the flattened expanse, and probably, people.

Angel worked her way through a crevice and stopped. The air was cooler inside. Crawling along the thirty inches of leeway God had left for her to work in, she stopped at a crushed car.

She didn’t turn on her flashlight. She pulled one of her thick leather gauntlets off and placed her hand on the debris, feeling for survivors. Nothing.

She sighed and put her glove back on. No sense risking an injury. Pain would dull her perception. She crawled to the next vehicle, and here she felt a vibration. Excitement made her work faster. She ditched her glove again.

The passenger side glass was crushed, and she shoved her bare hand inside, feeling for living flesh. She hit paydirt on the third try. Warm flesh, although rapidly cooling. Hypothermia or death? Only one way to find out.

She held on, not knowing what she was holding. Thigh, arm? Hard to tell. She closed her eyes and opened to it. It was a man, she saw. Bearded, heavyset. He had extensive wounds: a severed leg and ruptured kidney were the worst of them. He’d bleed to death if she didn’t intervene.

She stroked his skin for a moment, realizing it was an arm, covered in fine hair, with the rolled up cuff of a flannel shirt at the elbow.

He was unconscious, but even the recently dead responded to her. She felt him work to communicate.

Relax, she thought at him. Relax, and heal. Vein by vein, his body restructured itself, using her energy as both blueprint and power source. The leg was the toughest part, and she managed to redo the artery and the bone, but then had to stop. Any more and she’d pass out next to him. She hoped the other doctors would be able to save it.

She felt his soul touch hers, and she caressed it, tucking it in. Wait, she said to it. Wait for help. It’s coming.

She started to withdraw her power, when she felt something touch it, like a finger touching her deep inside. In her mind, she turned to it. Sara, it said to her.

What? Who was Sara? This guy’s wife? Angel felt around, but whatever it had been was gone. Great. Now she was hearing ghosts.











13 comments:

Karin said...

Felipe Gonzalez
Who is Sara?

Milly said...

Felipe Gonzalez.

I hope that the book does get published because I wanted to read more!

Fannie said...

Felipe Gonzalez. I want this series published. The excerpts are awesome. It would be a crime to have these wonderful stories untold. I am enjoying this tour so much. I am meeting authors I hadn't previously known about. Thanks for doing this. I also want to know who Sara is.

CrystalGB said...

Felipe Gonzalez. Sounds like an awesome book.

Jane said...

Felipe Gonzalez. I enjoyed the excerpt. Thanks.

Mona said...

Felipe Gonzalez. The excerpt was very interesting:)

Zulmara said...

Felipe Gonzalez is the name of the little boy...so cool that you would choose Nica...Nica has a special place in my heart...unos de mis mejor amigos vive alla...

Gracias, por el cuento...it is great...I already feel a kinship with Angel...hope the excerpt becomes a story...seems like she has something to teach all of us about living in the here and now...believing in what we cannot explain...being in the moment...

ADELANTE!!!

Zulmara

robynl said...

Felipe Gonzalez,

Virginia said...

Felipe gonzalez. Great excerpt! You left me wanting more. When will this book be published, I want to read it.

Berta said...

Sara is the protagonist of another of the books. As each book progresses, the women who wield the skulls gather, for safety and to learn from each other. Thanks for all of your kind comments. If the series ever gets picked up, we'll let you know!

Besos,

Berta

Pat Cochran said...

Felipe Gonzales.

Love the excerpt!

Pat Cochran

lrwirum said...

Felipe Gonzalez


Great excerpt.

misa ramirez said...

What great series this is going to be. I can't wait to read more!