Friday, October 18, 2013
First Excerpt of "The Last Ancient"
The following excerpt from The Last Ancient is taken from the middle of chapter one. It’s followed by a back-cover blurb. Special welcome to all you readers coming over from Rita Bay's website fresh off my real life experience with a "monster" in Yellowstone. Enjoy!
Shotguns crow across the windswept prairie of mid-island Nantucket. I swear and fumble my notepad. Scan the sky. Indeed, the staccato cracks are like iron roosters. They announce a sunrise as raw and ruddy as the November leaves rattling in their stunted trees. Twisting, African-looking things that recall whittled broccoli dipped in flaming tar. For hunters, the day has begun.
I gather my creased notepad and shake the sand off the New England Daily Tribune logo. Dr. Driscoll winks at me and says, “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” Between machete slashes at the scrub oak and the branches covering the carcass, she whispers about the feverish late fall and its effect on the island’s various micro-ecologies. She rolls roots and flowers between her fingers and tastes a wizened blueberry. Shotguns crackle from Squam Swamp behind us. I remind her I’m not channeling John Muir for this piece no matter how eloquent her reveries.
She slips into one anyhow. “Oh man, but can’t you see it? The beauty? The history?” Dr. Driscoll squints, hacks at something, and shrugs, continuing, “Wampanoag Indians shucking shellfish around campfires.” Hack. “Quakers praying at the meeting house.” Hack. “Thousands of sheep, just grazing the New World forest into treeless Scottish heathlands.” Hack. “Whalers dragging their kills to shore from longboats – whoa, baby!”
She jumps back, swinging the machete in front of her feet. I peer through my camera lens, snapping photos. Movement? Something big and soundless, deep in the brush, like a disembodied shadow. It’s gone before I flex my trigger finger. I blink away cold stinging sweat and look above my camera into the barbed-wire mesh of scrub oak.
“You saw that?” I say.
“Dude, how could I miss it?” says Dr. Driscoll. “That was an epic rat!”
“Oh. But... Never mind.”
Driscoll gets on one knee beside Fernandez and jots notes in her pad. I point out some coppery feathers on the other side of the clearing. She tells me to be quiet while she’s writing. I ask about the marks on the deer’s back. She says silence is gold. Fair enough.
They don’t know I dropped out of Harvard Medical School my fourth year. I’ve also been on safari in Tanzania. I understand trauma and slaughter. The slash marks in the deer’s neck and shoulders are deep and precise. Its back is torn up. Something mounted it and ripped its head off, like a giant hyena or a wolf or even an exotic hybrid, but with the strength of a bear. The missing limb and heart and the disembowelment are confusing, however. Those look surgical. Meanwhile, the skull looks bashed, cracked open; yup, there are blood stains on the boulder. And the marks on the animal’s back resemble puncture wounds. Click.
A sunray shoots through the sharp woody tangle. Lights up something beside the feathers. It glows like a golden strand of spider web. I point it out, but Fernandez tells me to zip it. I salute him.
A cloud passes over the sun. The golden thread dims. I pluck it from beside the feathers before it disappears. It lights up again in my hand. The thing’s weird resilience and luster is captivating. Probably a hair, but more like a small-gauge acupuncture needle. As I pocket it, something glows blue and then extinguishes in the brush ahead of me. Maybe the sun hit on colored glass or a butterfly or a blue bird.
Twigs snap in the distance. Then more. We share a silent what-the-hell? moment. The rustling and snapping gets louder. Closer. We discern growling. Something is crashing along the path that Dr. Driscoll just carved with her machete. I suck in breath and swivel my head. Fernandez is up, his hand on his Glock. No predators on Nantucket, right, Sergeant? Even Dr. Driscoll’s dusky face goes pale.
The Last Ancient
By Eliot Baker
Pulitzer-nominated reporter, Simon Stephenson knows he must write the story. Billions of lives and dollars are at stake. Maybe he should even kill the mythological creature hunting on Nantucket. That’s what a mysterious French
alchemist physical chemist and Simon’s best
friend, a charming Greek hit man, tell him.
Trouble is, he's falling in love with it. And She doesn't want him to write the story. She wants something else. Something only he can give.
He needs to put it all together. The ancient coins are the key. Someone or something is leaving them at deer mutilations and murder scenes around the island. Looking in places he’d never imagined possible, Simon confronts a diabolical conspiracy woven into his family’s darkest secrets.
Meanwhile, his tennis-champion fiancée is going Defcon One bridezilla, and a gorgeous TV reporter has her own intentions. Battling panic attacks and pursued by a host of nasty characters – some natural, others less so – Simon faces a world where no one is what they seem. Especially not himself.