Since I posted an excerpt from the first of my Causality Merchant science-fiction mysteries, I see no reason why I shouldn’t do the same thing with the second. Namely this piece of wonderfulness…
…which features the same central characters. It too remains available as an e-book (but no longer a paperback) at Lulu.com and most other outlets – see the sidebar Lulu logo and book covers, or the Tooty’s Books Available Here page beneath the header to access the better known ones. Right, enough of that mercenary stuff: on with the excerpt…
Wozniak greeted the Brownings in the hallway, and invited them to follow him to the study where they could make themselves comfortable.
They chatted for a while. Wozniak reminded them of how he came to know them, and they in turn related the tale of how they became friends of his brother.
“You know,” Connor said twenty minutes later, from behind a large glass of brandy, the contents of which he swirled admiringly, “we joked that you could be Tom’s double – that time when we watched you win on the coconut shy during the summer fete. Of course we had no idea that you were brothers at the time: We knew you only as Peter.”
“Well that’s fair enough.” Wozniak smiled. “I’m hardly on the electoral role, and I wasn’t sporting a beard at the time. You’d no reason to know my identity. I don’t exactly bandy it about. Of course if you’d spoken with Miss Witherspoon at the general store, you might have put two and two together. I’m known as ‘That Nice Mister Wozniak’ to her and her friends. I know – I should be embarrassed; but I’m not.”
Janice had paused in her preparations for dinner to meet Connor and Amanda, but once the preliminaries were completed she had made her excuses and returned to the
kitchen. Now she returned – shucking off an apron as she did so, and tossing it upon the telephone stand in the hallway before anyone noticed her arrival.
“Ladies and gentlemen.” She announced. “Luncheon is served.”
“Oh goodie.” Amanda was upon her feet first. “I’m absolutely starving.”
No one had turned up their noses at the sight of a hurriedly prepared Prawn Cocktail. It may have been old-fashioned, but under the circumstances – once Tom had explained them to the Brownings – their guests were most complimentary.
Gwen, Dave, and Judith had joined them. Fortunately the dining room table was huge, and they were all able to fit around it with ease.
An hour later, with Judith’s help, Janice was in the process of removing the last of the empty plates to the kitchen counter when a clap of thunder made both women jump. Judith took a look out through the kitchen window.
“Strange.” She said. “It looks like a perfectly clear evening out there. There’s not a cloud to be seen.”
In the dining room a puzzled Wozniak had made the same observation.
Gwen remembered the dog.
“Oh Tom, I’d completely forgotten Wolfie. I left him in the orchard. You know how he hates thunder.”
Tom was dismissive. “He’s a big boy. He can’t run off. He’ll find his way back here if he’s desperate enough.”
Gwen was less certain. “Perhaps I should go fetch him.”
Abruptly the sky lit up for a brief moment – illuminating the interior of the dining room like a thousand flash bulbs going off simultaneously. A deafening clap of thunder followed a split second later.
Gwen’s keenness dissipated. “On the other hand…” She said nervously.
Again Wozniak scrutinized the empty sky. To confirm his observation he opened the French doors, and stepped out onto the patio. Turning through three hundred and sixty degrees he scanned the heavens.
“Not a cloud in the sky.” He said in a puzzled voice. “Tom, you’re more into meteorology than I am: Is it possible to have thunder and lightning without clouds?”
Tom was amused by this. “Since when have I shown the slightest interest in meteorology? I run a small chain of gay bars: I don’t forecast the weather. But in answer to your question – no I don’t think it can.”
Connor Browning spoke up. “I’m no expert, but surely cloud formation is an absolute prerequisite for electrical activity in the atmosphere.”
Janice and Judith chose that moment to enter from the hallway.
“This is a strange to-do.” Janice said. “What peculiar weather we’re having.”
“Unless it isn’t the weather at all.” Dave’s tone sounded ominous.
Judith shot him a warning look.
Wozniak too wasn’t ready to share their secrets with their guests, and quickly made light of the situation.
“Of course – it’s probably the RAF flying low, and trying out some new gizmo. Let’s not worry ourselves about it any more.”
“I’ll second that.” Tom clapped his hands together. “Right – who’s for coffee?”
Seven hands, including Tom’s own, responded by thrusting skywards.
“Excellent.” He smiled warmly, and made for the door. “Amanda – you can assist me.”
Amanda immediately fell into line with him.
“I am at your command, oh master.” She said cheekily.
Then, to the surprise of Janice, she ran a finger down his spine. And as they stepped from the room the same hand completed its journey by gently squeezing a well-toned buttock.
Janice looked to Wozniak. Her message was clear. I thought your brother was homosexual?
Wozniak merely shrugged his reply. You can never be sure of anything with Tom.
No one else seemed to have noticed, or if they had they were playing dumb.
“Oh I do worry about Wolfie.” Gwen fretted by the window. “He could come over all catatonic.”
“Tell you what,” Connor chirped up, “let’s go take a look shall we. If there’s another ungodly bang we can always come scurrying back inside.”
Gwen was most grateful for this support, and readily agreed to venture outside through the French windows.
“See you soon.” Connor waved cheerily to those who remained. “Send out a search party if we don’t return by dawn won’t you.”
Wozniak, Janice, Dave, and Judith all responded with a wave and a smile, but Wozniak felt a chill run down his spine, and his smile fell away.
The others noticed this.
“Causality Merchant alert, Peter?” Dave surmised.
“Maybe.” Wozniak’s expression grew grim. “Two claps of thunder – without a cloud in the sky? It doesn’t feel right.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
Ooh-err, what could this all mean? Sounds ominous. And what about Wolfie – the Rottwieller/Doberman cross? Where has he disappeared to? Could he be….dead? Killed in a most grisly manner? Or am I giving too much away? Buy the (inexpensive) e-book to find out!