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In book one of the series, Sam Harkins, a young man living in modern-day Seattle, discovers he’s in 1930—90 years away from home. Wounded, confused and stalked by a serial killer, he’s on the run again. Ruth Riley, a rural farm girl, arrives in town with a sewing machine and the clothes on her back. Determined to make good, but frustrated in her search for work, she soon learns the word “seamstress” is a euphemism for prostitute. Desperate, discouraged and penniless, she meets Sam on her first night working in a bordello. Separated by nine decades, can their budding love survive? Behind the scenes, a pair of time agents frantically try to recapture Sam while repairing the time threads he’s shredded, but will their patches hold? Millions of lives depend on it.
Yes, this is a passionate love story but also a tale of strong women and the challenges they faced in the first third of the twentieth century and continue to face today. It’s about hard-working women who make the best of a world created and nearly destroyed by men. It’s about how they found love, raised families and kept their heads up as they did things they couldn’t share with their kids, neighbors or husbands.
NOTE: All proceeds from his books are donated to charity.
Editorial Note: Edited for language.
One A Rocky Start
Sam Harkins’ breath punctuated his steps with misty clouds as he power-walked past boarded storefronts in downtown Seattle. The bank sign nagged “Jan. 15, 2016, 7:36 a.m.”
Late and still ten blocks to go. His pace quickened to a jog as he jammed his hands into his Vietnam-era flight jacket. He knew he shouldn’t have stayed up to watch The Sting again for the twentieth time—but he loved it so: the music, the thirties and the great actors—Redford and Newman and his favorite, Robert Shaw. Dodging a bike messenger, Sam crossed against the light, his mind occupied with grandiose plans that would all fall into place like the orchestrated steps of an elaborate sting if he got the job. Right now, that was a capital “IF.”
A cold chill ran down Sam’s spine when he spotted, Penalso, a wiry Tex-Mex boldly selling shit through car windows like a drive-up espresso stand. Sam ducked behind a Metro bus and waited, but just for a moment. He didn’t have time to deal with that asshole, not this morning. How the f*&k did he find me? He must have followed me from Austin. But why?
Sam felt like an idiot believing he could catch a break, but he was not all that surprised at Penalso’s pit-bull tenacity. When Sam lost his job as a computer tech, he understood it wouldn’t be long before he would be pulled back to rejoin the gang’s sullen ranks—like a hungry dog follows along behind a pack of strays. His job interview in California might be his last chance to keep from getting entangled. Sam kept his head down and headed for the diner at the end of the block.
“Sammie boy!” Penalso shouted.
Shit. Sam didn’t turn to look or change his pace. He jaywalked across 6th Avenue, breaking into a full run once he was out of sight. Dealing with someone like Penalso was like stumbling upon a rabid Doberman. Unless you were packing a 9 mm with a full clip and one in the chamber, you walked away slowly until you had a chance to run like hell. While Penalso himself was not that dangerous, he had a tendency to cut his way out of tough situations with a hooked carpet knife. Sam had only his wits to defend himself. Sure, he had a few moves, learned the hard way—behind bars back in Texas, but he usually tried to avoid the rough stuff. As for his wits, he had twice as many as Penalso: most folks did.
When Sam reached the diner, he looked through the window at the clock—his breath fogging the glass. 7:40. He wasn’t sure if he had time to go in. At least I’ve got to say good-bye.
Inside, he was greeted by the usual breakfast smells of coffee, bacon and burnt toast. He took one of the red-topped seats, and only Doris, his mom, looked up. Wiping wet hands on her apron, she looked like she’d had a tough morning.
“Morning, Sam. You’re a bit late. You’d better watch the time.” She poured him a cup of coffee.
“Hey, Mom.” He put his pack down at his feet. “I know. The concierge didn’t wake me and draw my bath.” She doesn’t need to know about Penalso.
“Don’t be smart with me, Samuel,” Doris chided with a thin smile and a raised eyebrow.
“I just came to say good-bye. I don’t have time—”
“Sit. You have time for a hot meal…the bus station’s just around the corner.”
He rechecked the clock. For a moment, it looked like the hands were moving in double-time. Nearly 7:42.
“Your usual, Sam? I can ask José to rush it.”
Sam glanced up again. 7:43 “Yeah. I guess . . . if it’s fast—make it to go.”
“Sure, hon,” she said, turning to the order window and placing the order in gringo Spanish.
An unintelligible reply came from the kitchen.
“I’ll make sure your eggs are done this time,” she said with a wink.
Sam was impressed with her Spanish. Ironically, it was getting better since they had come up from Texas, thanks to the undocumented cook.
“Gracias.” Sam dug in his jacket pocket and pulled out a month-old breath mint (he ate it), a red USB memory stick, his bus ticket and a crumpled schedule. Asking casually, “Have you seen Francine this morning?” he pushed the stick deep into his pocket and scanned the booths in the mirrored wall.
“It’s a bit early for her.”
Sam returned his attention to the schedule. For motives Sam didn’t understand, his absentee dad had arranged an interview with his new company in California. He suspected it was just another attempt to screw with his mom. Yes, it was a long way, but Sam looked forward to getting out of this cold, damp city that seemed to be dragging him down into the sewers, along with the brown leaves and endless rain. And now that Penalso had found him, he had another reason to skip.
“Today’s the big day.” Doris refreshed his coffee.
Sam heard the worry in her voice. She had been supportive ever since he was laid off—but he knew she was afraid he would never find another job and end up with the likes of Penalso. She might be right on both counts.
He looked up. 7:44. “Yeah, if I make the eight o’clock bus.” Is that clock right?
“Then we need to get you fed. ¿José, los huveos?”
All Sam could do was wait, and worry, and watch out the window for Penalso—and Francine. And now, the erratic hands on the old clock made it seem like time was moving at half-normal speed. He swallowed another slug of Doris’s simply awful coffee, the cup rattling against the saucer.
Watching people come and go in the mirror, Sam admired a young redhead taking one of the stools. Cute. Have I seen her before? She ignored him, like most of the women his age. A couple of strangers came in and went to the back table where Mr. Zeitnehmer had set up his office. The couple quickly exchanged cash for something handed back in an envelope and settled into a booth. Whatever he’s selling seems to be popular. Some kind of stock deal? Discount tour tickets? Exotic drugs? Mom sure didn’t care. Mr. Zeitnehmer brought in a lot of hungry breakfast customers, and Sam knew the diner sure needed the money.
The cop sitting further down the counter didn’t seem to notice or care. Sam turned briefly toward the windows to see if Penalso was hanging around outside. There was no sign of him, but he noticed that the cop was studying him—he probably knew about Sam’s run-in with the for-profit judicial system back in Texas. Maybe everyone did, as if he were wearing a “Convicted Felon” tattoo on his forehead.
Doris refilled his cup. “You weren’t up all night again watching TCM, were you?”
“No choice. I had stuff to finish.” Like “The Sting” and “The Untouchables.”
“Did you finally get Mrs. Carpintero’s computer fixed?”
“Yeah…yes, ma’am. She had a blown memory stick. I told her she needed a UPS.”
“A UPS package?”
“An uninterruptible power supply, Mom—UPS, a power line conditioner.” He slowly shook his head.
“Oh. What about the other stuff?”
“You mean the malware? That’s her own fault. She and her son wade through the Internet as if it were an elementary schoolyard. The websites she browses are more like gator swamps in Cambodian minefields.”
Sam heard the clock hands snap forward as cold air pushed up his pants legs. 7:45. Geez.
Glancing up, Sam saw a striking brunette come in wearing a short wrap dress over black tights. Francine. Finally. Sam swiveled around and tried to catch her eye. As usual, she didn’t look up. Eyes down with thumbs tapping away at her fancy phone, she found her way toward the booths near the window. Sam’s stomach tightened. Lately, his nocturnal fantasies had featured her in long moonlight walks followed by intimate snuggling and slow, passionate sex. But he hadn’t mustered enough courage to ask her out. And now he was leaving. It was too late. Say something!
“Hiya, Fanny.” The smartass in the back had beat Sam to the punch. “Care to join me?” He offered his table with a flourishing gesture and a leer.
The look she gave him would freeze a Hawaiian volcano in full eruption. “It’s Miss Dancing, to the likes of you.” She took her seat with her back to the boor—but facing Sam.
“You’ll succumb eventually to my charms, darlin’” The interloper slumped back into hiding.
“He must have learned a new word,” Sam mused under his breath. This sleazeball reminded him of the owner of the down-and-out bar in Flashdance, who constantly hit on the pretty, topless dancers. Sam dreaded Francine having to settle for the likes of that creep, and he regretted the way his life was playing out. Perhaps when I get back. If I come back.
William Vaughn, Bill to his friends, has been writing for over forty years. Raised as an Army brat, he’s lived all over the world Kindergarten in Germany, grade school in El Paso, Texas, middle-school in Alexandria, Virginia, high school in Bangkok and college in South Dakota, Kansas and Texas. After a stint in the Army as a helicopter pilot, a tour in Vietnam, and a brilliant career in the computer business, he settled in in Redmond, Washington.
Over the last seven years, he’s focused full-time on fiction—writing six novels. His first three, The Seldith Chronicles were targeted to young-adult readers and intended to treat Harry Potter withdrawal. More recently, he’s completed book three in The Timkers series. Switching genres, these novels are targeted to adult readers. Yes, Bill’s a prolific writer and very well received. He’s a popular contributor to Facebook and provides whatever help he can to new authors struggling with the mechanics and finer details of getting published. He does all his own artwork and covers, and takes virtually all of the photographs.
Links to William’s website, blog, books, etc.
Comments, reviews and any feedback are welcome and encouraged.
NOTE: All proceeds from his books are donated to charity.
**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Karen’s Killer Book Bench readers can order the book 50% OFF at https://www.createspace.com/5147540 for a limited time (September 25-October 9). Use Discount Code: RZ92GPYH.
Thanks, William, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!