I am getting closer to publishing 1943. I was shooting for November, but it is looking more like December now. (I knew I shouldn’t have set a date…) Meanwhile, here is an excerpt to get you all excited about the book.
Our hero, Mac, has been searching for the two people mentioned earlier in the book (see a sample of that here). In the saddlebags of the old Harley-Davidson WLA motorcycle, he had found a photo of Betty and a V-Mail letter written by her fiance, Alvin, in Italy during WWII. His friend, Buster has badgered him into looking for more information on the two. At this point, he has discovered a lot about Betty, but the missing piece of information about her is where she is today, and is she even still alive over 70 years later? From clues in the photo and letter, he has deduced she once lived in New Orleans, but that is as much as he has been able to figure out.
To clear his head, he takes a ride on the old Harley on Rim of the World Drive in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California. (Been there and it is beautiful.) He stops and during the course of the stop, Mac has a conversation with his deceased wife, Jill—or at least that is what he thinks is happening. She seems to be speaking to him through her little dog, Pug. Here is the scene.
Mac had always found riding a motorcycle therapeutic, and maybe it would work this time? If nothing else, a ride would allow him to get his mind off his failure to solve a case. Thirty minutes later, he and Pug were up on Rim of the World Drive and leaning into the curves and feeling the wind in his face. There, on the bike, he was in another world, one unencumbered with the cares of this world, but one that felt an awful lot like pure freedom. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.
But as he continued along, dragging the footboards in the tight turns and pushing the old Harley harder than he should in his attempt to forget—Betty came back to him. Giving into her, he pulled over on a lookout, the same place he had that long conversation with Jill only a few days before, and shut the bike down. With the kickstand down, he stepped off and away from the bike, pausing to look at it for a long moment. What had started out to be a fun project a few years before, that blasted bike and everything related to it had become a nagging obsession, one he could get no rest from. He loved it and hated it at the same time.
He slipped the backpack off his back and let Pug out to run free. The little dog promptly relieved himself on a nearby guardrail post. Mac turned away from the Harley and stepped over the guardrail and sat on the rail under the shade of a scrub pine. He looked out at the vast expanse of southern California spread out before him in the valley below, staring out into the distance, looking but seeing nothing. Pug went under the guardrail and took a seat beside him. The two sat there quietly, each in his own world.
“What am I going to do, Jill? I can’t find the answers I need. Betty remains hidden from me.”
“Then go find her,” she replied.
He came to his feet. Pug jumped up and stepped away, his eyes focused on Mac.
“Find her? How am I supposed to do that?” he said pacing and waving his hands in the air to give emphasis to his words.
A car passed, and the two kids in the back saw him doing that. They looked at each other, and the older girl made circular motions with her index finger beside her temple.
“You’re a detective, aren’t you?” Jill replied.
Mac threw up his hands in surrender. “What? I’m out of clues. I can’t find her.”
“Of course you can. You’re my husband, the same man who claimed to be the world’s greatest detective who can solve any mystery.”
“Jill, give me a break here. I have nothing to work with. I’m at a dead end,” he said as he continued his pacing and wild gesturing with his hands, once stopping to kick a rock over the edge of the lookout to express his frustration.
Pug backed away.
“You may not be able to find her here, but what about there?”
“There? New Orleans? Don’t you understand? I have nothing left to work with. Nothing.”
“Buster is right, you are a stubborn man—but that’s one thing I loved about you—you never gave up. Why are you quitting now?”
Mac sat heavily on a guardrail and put his head in his hands. “I’m lonely, Jill. I want you back.”
“You can have me but only in your heart. The time has come for you to go find someone else, someone who can give you the peace and happiness you need and deserve—and you can give her the peace and happiness she needs and deserves.”
He spun and looked at Pug. “Betty?” But Jill didn’t answer the question. Long moments of silence ticked by. “Jill,” he called out, but she didn’t answer. “Jill, are you there? Speak to me!”
“Go find her, Mac,” whispered the voice.