Down the Stony End

    Flames consume a half-completed condominium project on the northern California coast, as homeowners and environmentalists chant, "Burn, baby, burn!" Days after the fire, the murdered remains of a prominent environmentalist are found at the bottom of a rocky cliff at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. The murdered man's widow, Claire struggles to pull her life together as she searches to find the people who killed her husband. Her search will lead to disturbing discoveries about her murdered husband and will threaten her life and the lives of her children.

An excerpt from Down the Stony End:

    Claire woke with a start to sun streaming in the window. She sat up on the couch slowly and stretched her neck, which felt very stiff. The last thing she remembered was watching a ludicrous horror film from the 50's called "The Tingler", starring Vincent Price. Now, several talking heads were brightly discussing the morning news. She shook her head, wondering why Marc hadn't awakened her when he came home. It had been very late. Probably he had figured she'd be angry and didn't want to deal with it. Well, he was going to have to face her now.

    She got up and stalked into the bedroom. The bed was undisturbed. She sat down on the edge of the bed and stared at her reflection in the mirrored closet doors. She looked as bad as she felt. There were dark smudges under her eyes, her face was very pale and her hair had come loose from the clip and was sticking out on one side and hanging down in a disheveled mass on the other side. Absently, she removed the clip and ran her fingers through her hair.

    So, it had come to this. He had never stayed out all night before, although he had been coming home later and later. He hadn't even bothered to phone. She buried her face in her hands and began to cry.

    "Mom, Jessica's coughing!" Jason's voice floated down the hall.

    "I'll be right there," she called back to him. She got up, brushed the tears away with the back of her hand and hurried out of the bedroom.

                                    *                                             *                                                     *

    Claire moved through the morning in a daze, mechanically fixing breakfast for the children and getting them settled in front of the television set in the den upstairs. Ordinarily, she tried to discourage them from watching Saturday morning cartoons, but she was grateful for the distraction of the television today. Jason had asked where his father was; Claire had replied that he was "out" and Jason hadn't questioned her further. Claire couldn't believe that Marc hadn't even called.

    She heard the sound of a car's engine laboring up the hill and ran to the front window, hoping to see Marc's red BMW. A black and white police car pulled up in front of her house. Her heart began to pound and she put her hand to her throat. She stared at the car, frozen with horror, and watched two California Highway Patrol officers, a man and a woman, get out and start up the walk.

    Claire threw open the front door and dashed down the path. "What happened?" she cried. The woman officer looked up at her. She was short and stocky, with brown hair pulled back from a round, kind face. Her eyes were a disconcerting shade of light blue-gray and looked translucent, like clear, cold water.

    "Are you Mrs. Christianson?" the officer asked.

    "Yes," Claire replied in a trembling voice.

    "Can we come inside?"

    "Yes, of course, come in." Claire turned and stumbled towards the house. The woman caught up to her and held her by her arm, steadying her. The man followed behind them.

    The woman steered Claire over to the couch and sat down beside her. The man sat in a chair across from the couch. He was small and wiry, with curly flaming red hair cut short, freckles and bright green eyes. He looked very young.

    "I'm Officer Sharon Baldwin and this is my partner, Officer Daniel O'Connor."

    "Hello," Claire said dully. She stared straight ahead. She noticed that the lampshade on the lamp on the table next to Daniel O'Connor was crooked and a picture on the wall behind him was tilted as well. Maybe there had been a slight earthquake. She hadn't noticed one, though.

    Sharon Baldwin cleared her throat. "I'm afraid we have bad news for you." Claire looked at her, into her strange transparent eyes. The officer waited a moment and when Claire didn't respond, continued. "There was an accident, either late last night or early this morning. A car went over Devil's Slide, a red BMW."

    "Your husband drives a red BMW, Mrs. Christianson?" Daniel O'Connor had finally found his voice. She looked at him. "Yes, he does. But there are lots of them around. Maybe it wasn't his."

    "There was one occupant in the car," Sharon Baldwin said. "A male Caucasian between 35 and 40 years old with blond hair. Unfortunately, he did not survive the accident. We found this on his body."

    She reached in her jacket pocket and handed Claire a wallet. Claire opened it and looked inside, although she had recognized it instantly. It was the gray snakeskin wallet she had given Marc for Christmas last year. Inside were several credit cards, Marc's driver's license and some paper money.

    Claire closed the wallet and stared at Sharon, then at Daniel. "It could be someone else. Maybe he was robbed, and the car was stolen.

    The officers looked at each other. "That's a possibility," Daniel O'Connor said. "That's why we need you to come and identify the body, as soon as you can. He's been airlifted by helicopter to the county morgue. We can drive you over there now."

    "Now?" Claire looked at them, panic-stricken. "I can't come now. My children are upstairs. I don't have anyone to watch them."

 Down the Stony End is currently in production and will be available for purchase shortly.

 Please email Kit Bunnell, to reserve a copy.

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