Yes, boys and girls, this is the final free peek at R.C. Hancock’s debut novel, “An Uncommon Blue,” so read up and treasure this experience for all it’s worth. Better yet, go out and buy a copy to get the rest of the story!
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From the author: This except is from Bruno’s first trip into the Red Slums. In an effort to avoid the pokers (law enforcement), he accompanies his schoolmate Jeannette to her house. But he wonders if he made the wrong decision…
Jeannette’s “house” was a large, maroon tent with a tarp strung up as a front awning of sorts. A large, dark-haired man sat out front on a milk crate. In his red glowing hand he held a knife the size of my arm and was using it to sharpen a box of pencils.
“Who’s this?” he asked Jeannette in a barely audible voice.
“The guy from the bridge.”
They’d been talking about me? I glanced back the way we’d come. From the higher vantage point I could see the river winding its way through town. The bridge seemed miles away.
I turned back to face the tent. Jeannette had vanished and the man with a knife was now standing.
The man stared at me as if waiting for something. He was not a tall person but had broad shoulders and impressive black stubble from ear to ear.
“Nice tie,” he said.
I took a step back. “Are you her father?”
He shook his head and pointed with his knife to the opening of the tent.
Something didn’t feel quite right. I tried to remember whose idea it had been to come to the Taudis.
The pencil sharpener walked to the tent and held the flap open. I weighed my options. If I ran, the man would catch me in two strides. Defending myself didn’t look too good either. I took a step toward the tent. At least if a gang of Red thugs painted me, I’d be completely unrecognizable to the pokers. I just hoped the Reds weren’t inclined to dispose of witnesses.
“I swear I won’t say anything to the police.”
The large man raised a lip. Was he snarling at me? Jeannette’s face appeared in the tent’s opening. “Aren’t you coming in? Mama wants to meet you.”
I hesitated. I was relieved that Jeannette hadn’t left me, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t all part of the act.
I pointed to Monsieur Scruffy. “Who is this guy?” “That’s my brother Philippe.”
“What’s with the knife?”
“Protection,” the Red said, his face suddenly inches from mine. “you need it in this part of town.”
I swallowed and followed Jeannette into the dark opening.
The tent, while not high enough to stand up in, was wider than it seemed from the outside and meticulously clean. In one corner a stout woman sat cooking something on a propane stove.
“Hello, young man,” she said. And before I could stop her, she hobbled toward me on her knees and kissed both my cheeks.
Jeannette laughed. “That’s my sister on the bed.”
I looked but didn’t see any bed. Instead two sleeping bags lined the wall—one covered with papers and magazines, the other occupied by a slender reclining figure. A book covered her face.
“Say hello, Véronique,” Jeannette said.
“Hello,” came a voice from the other side of the book. “Be polite, dear,” the mother said.
Véronique lowered her book, and I froze.
I had often imagined what my ideal girl would look like. Hair, face, body—all the shallow stuff that guys pretend not to care about. But I’d never imagined there could be a girl that would exceed every one of those expectations. Not just exceed them but blow them out of the water. Compared to Véronique, my imaginary perfect woman looked like the underside of a cow.
“Nice to meet you,” Véronique said, although her expression suggested otherwise.
I opened my mouth to answer but never got the chance. out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. Then something slammed into the base of my skull. I had only half a second to appreciate the pain before it pulled me into darkness.