Here's a chapter that did not make the final cut into the new novel. I decided it adds nothing to the action of the plot. However, I do like the chapter. And, it gives you a taste of the magic, mystery and menace of the new book...so, here you go!
October 21, 1988
The soft evening air rustled around rough corners at Mallace Mansion, where Carin, wrapped in an old jacket, rocked to and fro on the verandah, watching the light alter through the oak boughs. Fall florals mingled with the aged aroma of tumbled leaves, many-colored and glowing in the evening sun. All about the mansion, they fluttered gold, ochre, and russet, to the ground, as if the oaks were elegant ladies shedding bright evening dresses before a long winter sleep.
Behind her, the great door to the mansion stood open. Carin loved the autumn temperature in Eureka Springs and kept the windows and doors open as much as she wished, which was almost all the time. The arched hall, warmed by the last of the day’s sunlit gusts, felt still but not yet cold. The night chill crept in behind her brother, the warm autumn afternoon. Deep within the house, in the parlor and a certain bedroom, embers stirred under andirons, flickering to life and catching at bits of newspaper, but Carin thought nothing of this.
Her brown hair swung loose behind her, brushed over the back of her rocker. Beneath the ruffle of the gown she wore, her bare feet stretched toe to heel, toe to heel, moving her body in the chair. Only thin thong sandals protected her feet from the gathering chill; Carin did not feel it. Her slight but graceful form hid under the copious jacket. When the sun’s setting glow struck Carin’s face, she closed her deep almond eyes to enjoy its warmth. At one time, Carin would have carried a small tape player with her, sitting with headphones covering her ears. But now she heard the tiny rustle of every fallen leaf; the soft scurrying of the squirrel she knew accompanied the swish of his tail. The wind played music in the trees—her trees—and she no longer wanted the recording of others, the battery-powered canned crooning would never soothe her now.
The light failed in time. A gathering mist drew strength from the evening dark and cold. Beyond the property line of Mallace Estate, outside the containment of its gates of heavy iron, a fog gathered, dense and impenetrable at its center. But the evening darkened, and Carin’s eyes were closed.
Trailing away somewhere below, a car’s red taillights blinked through the gloom, signaling a relieved farewell to steep roads and sudden turns with cliff-like drops characterizing her beautiful, if occasionally treacherous, hometown. Her candle sputtered, and Carin almost opened her eyes, her lips pursed with slight annoyance. The light went out, still but for the forlorn apology of its smoky trail. Carin stayed in her chair, rocking, although she did feel the wet chill on her feet. The air thickened and threatened rain. A rumble sounded in the steep hills behind her home.
Perhaps blown by the breezes carrying the storm sounds to her through the parlor’s open windows, the heavy door creaked on its old hinges until it nearly shut. A frustrated sigh rose and fell beneath the folds of the jacket, which Carin, in spite of herself, grasped more tightly. Warm smells floated to her from the house—a fire in the parlor, tea brewing in the kitchen. The grandfather clock struck the hour. She sat through all eight chimes, rocking to their rhythm now. The darkness fell with misleading finality; after all, it would endure just until sunrise. Yet, no more cars escaped to wink “farewell,” and the squirrel now slept warm under his tail in the hole beneath strong oak roots. Carin’s large eyes opened, adjusting to the dim light as she rose. She hesitated, not wishing to relinquish her autumn evening. The increasing cold caused her to doubt she had many of them left this year-- her first year at Mallace Mansion.
On a sudden impulse, Carin ran down the steps and out into the drive. A few leaves swirled, increasing the chill on her feet as her thin soles crunched the white rocks, the sound crackling startled exclamations in the still air. The squirrel raised his tail and popped out his nose to sniff in alarm. Somewhere on the street, the fog shifted to reveal a dark figure, watching, but Carin did not see him.
Carin turned to face the front of the mansion. She backed a few more steps, searching for something in the aspect looming before her. Mallace Mansion rose as impressive and foreboding as on the day she first viewed it from her mother’s car, peeking through the gates and the oak trees. But Carin tried to imagine her home now as a more welcoming place. She tried to discover it as a visitor might. She did not know how odd this truly was; unlike every past owner, she was not raised within the walls of Mallace Mansion. Carin only knew she must welcome her visitors; she did not take that to mean she should never have any. And she considered that now: visitors. What brought on this sudden whim, this afterthought of hospitality? Carin recalled what month it was: Carin remembered Halloween.
The end of the month approached. Carin considered it with a thrill: trick-or-treat, goblins and ghosts, witches and brew to make sport of what scares you. But the mansion had done with waiting now. The door swung wide, pushing against the draft from the back gardens. It struck the wall behind with force. Carin’s lips twisted in an amused, if annoyed, smile. When she spoke, her voice was soft and clear and teasing. “Alright,” she said, and she laughed, tripping across the stones and up the steps, entering her home.
Carin hurried to the parlor where she knew a warm fire waited for her now. She assumed no one would be on the street in front of her home; Carin thought no one observed her front door swinging unaided to latch itself and lock against the chilly gloom. She was wrong.