Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Maddie's Gone, first chapter

Hello everyone: Here is the first chapter of Maddie's Gone, which is available on, Barnes&, etc.

Chapter 1

Maddie finds her freedom, then loses it

Maddie pushed the screen door open with her paws.The young Jack Russell terrier had tested that door a hundred mornings but it never popped open—until now.
She stepped onto the front porch, lifted her nose and sampled the riot of smells in the moist air. It had rained all night and now it was tapering off in a drizzle.
The blue sky was pushing aside the rain clouds, allowing sun rays to start drying the streets and wet grass.
Maddie smelled aromas --bitter, sweet, earthy and rotting things, all mixed into a pot of grand adventure.
She hopped down the porch steps and sniffed around the tiny front yard until her nose bumped the bottom of the chain link fence. Maddie glanced back at the front door to make sure the man wasn't around, then launched herself like a spring. She sailed over the fence, using her rear paws to guide her down the other side. She took off at a trot down the sidewalk, her nose just a few centimeters above the pavement. Heading up her own street--Catherine Street--she picked up the smell of garlic, chicken, beef, and the robust scent of steaming coffee as she passed the Cuban restaurant less than a block from her home. She took a left at the corner and moved into new neighborhoods.
Winding through the small, tree-lined streets of Old Town Key West, Maddie found herself in unknown, but comfortable territory: tightly packed homes much like her own--small front yards, small concrete front porches and large, spreading trees with roots breaking through sidewalks. An alley ran the length of each block behind the homes, where families put out their trash and recycling bins. She passed early risers out for a stroll as she made her way through the streets. She'd stop for a moment to greet them before continuing on.
An hour after she left the house, she found herself sniffing along the base of a short wall that bordered the sidewalk. The wall was slightly taller than she was and marked the edge of a large front lawn. She picked up the strong scent of a cat, a large cat by the smell of it. She looked up and froze. Just above her on the wall, a fat, gray cat stared down on her, its eyes wide with surprise. Maddie backed up a few steps, tightened into a spring and leaped at the cat, which had already turned and fled toward its house. Hitting the top of the wall and the lawn, Maddie charged after the streak of feline and followed it as it dashed through a break in the lattice and under the porch. Maddie, her terrier instincts in working order, didn’t apply her brakes but shot right into the darkness under the house.
The cat, which had parked itself just inside the dark, struck out with a heavy, lightning-fast paw that struck Maddie’s face and sent her tumbling in the dirt beneath the porch. The dog quickly recovered her stance and again charged the cat, but the feline was already gone, having run the rest of the way under the house and into the bright sunlight of the back yard.
Emerging into the daylight, Maddie saw the cat sitting on a brick wall at the end of a garden path. The cat gave Maddie a bored look, a look that drives dogs crazy and Maddie was no exception. She growled, but caution postponed her charge. Something wasn’t right. Thirty paces away, her adversary doubled down on her boredom by yawning. Maddie scanned the backyard with her eyes. She saw no doghouse, no chain, nothing to indicate she was on property claimed by another dog. Nor was there any obstruction between her and the cat. Maddie and her adversary stared at each other across the gulf of lawn and garden, sizing each other like prize fighters before the bell. The cat’s tail flicked with growing irritation.
Maddie--no longer contain herself--charged. She bore down and when she reached the base of the wall, she leaped up at the cat, aiming for its midsection. The cat jumped out of the way and Maddie landed on the top of the wall, tried to brake, but she couldn't prevent the skid and slide over the other side. The world disappeared as she fell into a deep hole, landing on her stomach in water. The water wasn't deep, but her head went underwater for a moment until she could regain her footing.
Surprised and frightened, she leapt upward but the water, which came up to her chin, weighed her down. There was no hope of escape. The wall was much too tall. She bounded through the water along the wall looking for an exit point. She ran in circles, splashing inside the cistern, hoping to find a door, something through which to escape. High above her, the sky appeared as a large circle of blue with puffy white clouds floating by. Chin deep in the water, she had no dry place to stand. She was inside a brick cylinder, out of view of the world.
The cat’s face came into view, peering down from the heights.
Seeing the cat, Maddie exploded in a wet, barking frenzy, launching herself again and again at the cat over her head. She jumped and jumped, barking furiously. Exhausted, she stood panting, as water dripped from her bearded chin.
Evidently pleased with itself, the cat batted its tail twice and dropped from view. It walked slowly back to the house without a concern.
Maddie’s heart sank as fear rose from the water into her limbs. She whined, understanding that she was in a fix. She stood in dirty water inside a smooth, brick wall. High above her, the circle of sky now contained anvil clouds. As the morning progressed, the sun rose higher and its power grew stronger, warming the interior of the cistern. At noon, it was at its hottest, and the heat became uncomfortable. In early afternoon, the sun moved out of view, providing some relief.
Into the afternoon Maddie struggled to think of what to do. She barked for help but when no one appeared, she'd be reduced to whining. Tired of standing, she nevertheless could not lay down to rest; the water was too deep for that. So she barked some more, hoping for human help, then whine when no one came.
Then she thought of Julia. She would wait for Julia. She would come for her. She always had.
Julia Harvey awakened to loud and wretched snoring.Turning her head on the pillow, she discovered its source.
Her mouth opened in silent disbelief. It was Jim, the man she’d ordered out of her home two weeks ago. Now here he was, sounding like a pig in all his snorting fury. His mouth hung open, releasing rum vapors into the bedroom with each grating exhalation. He must have come in the house during the night and got into her bed as she slept. It didn’t matter that he was on top of the blankets and fully clothed. His presence was incredibly creepy.
Julia slowly slid out of bed slowly to keep from waking him. Better to let him sleep. It would give her some peace as she drank her coffee. Then she’d kick his ass.
Screw waiting.
"Get out of my bed, you idiot!" Julia screamed. "Who do you think you are, you creep! Get up!"
Jim’s snoring stopped and his eyes fluttered. He rolled away from Julia and went back to sleep.
"I said, get out of my bed!"
Slowly, ever so slowly, the tall young man stirred. Moaning, he sat on the side of the bed and put his feet on the floor. He put his head in his hands and rocked back and forth, moaning some more.
"What’s going on Julia?" Jim said in light greeting, his voice hoarse. He wiped the dried drool from his face and rubbed sleep dust from his eyes. He put his head in his hands and stared at the floor, waiting for his head to clear.
"What’s happening?"Julia cried out. "How dare you come into my home while I’m asleep and lay down in my bed? That’s breaking and entering, you creep! I told you not to come back here. I made myself clear when I kicked you out of here. Now I’m going to call the police."
"No, Julia! Don’t do that," Jim said, now fully awake and on his feet. "I’m sorry, I had nowhere else to go."
Julia has lived in Key West for four years and knew the answer to that excuse. This guy was bad news. She didn’t consider him evil, just a loser. She wasn't going to call the police, but still she’s no fool.
"That’s not my problem," she snapped. "I told you when I kicked you out of here that I don’t like you. I don’t want you near me. This is worse than stalking. I’m surprised Maddie didn’t ..."
She paused. Maddie should be in the bedroom right now. Jumping on the bed and waking her up. She looked at the clock on her side table. It was 10 a.m. She had slept longer than she wanted. Maybe Maddie was in the living room, avoiding Jim.
"Maddie, come here baby!" Julia called, heading from the bedroom to the living room. "Come here, sweetie!" Nothing. No bark in greeting; no toenails clicking on the hallway’s wooden floors, no jingling of her dog tags.
"Maddie?" She walked down the hallway toward the living room, stopping to peer into the bathroom in case she was drinking out of the toilet again; no Maddie. In the living room, she saw Maddie’s toys, including her favorite little rubber ball, but no Maddie.
Julia saw that the heavy front door was ajar. She pulled the wooden door inward and pushed on the outer screen door. It swung free. Un-latched. Dammit! She looked outside. Maddie wasn’t on the porch or in the front yard. Running down the steps in her pajamas, Julia went through the front gate and gazed hopefully up and down the nearly dry street.
She turned on Jim, who had emerged from the house to stand on the porch.
"You left the front door open when you stumbled into my house last night, didn’t you? You let Maddie get out! She’s gone.This is why I told you never to come around here.Whenever you come around, things go to hell."
Julia is so angry she begins to cry. She’s not weak; it’s just her way of relieving tension. Standing on the porch, looking so confused and dumb, Jim is at a loss for words. He wasn’t intentionally an ass, it’s just the way he is. She crossed her arms and looked up into the sky, calming herself.
"Look, Julia, I didn’t even think about Maddie getting out," Jim tried. "I came here because I miss you and I ... just miss you."
"It’s OK, it’s OK," Julia said, ignoring his entreaties. I have to go look for her. She’s got to be nearby somewhere. You have to leave. I am sorry you don’t have anywhere to go, but you have to go."
"I understand, I’m leaving. Thanks for letting me stay over, Julia."
"I didn’t ..." she stopped, trying to control her anger.
Jim walked up to Julia, started to give her a hug, but thought better of it when he saw the look in her face. He walked through the gate and got on his scooter. He drove off down the street.
Julia ran inside the house. In her bedroom, Julia pulled on her shorts, sat on the side of the bed and put on her tennis shoes. No time for socks. She pulled on her T-shirt, grabbed Maddie’s leash, and headed out the door and down the street. She must get her baby back. Jack Russell terriers can cover a lot of
ground and in Key West anything can happen to a pet, including getting hit by a car, getting mauled by other dogs ... Julia didn’t want to think about it.