Today I bring you an excerpt of Defiant Heart by Marty Steere. He is on tour with VirtualAuthorBookTours.com
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From the top of the slope, the sergeant watched flashlight beams reach out through the darkness, occasionally crossing one another as his patrol officers picked their way through the underbrush at the bottom of the embankment.
Lightning flashed, followed a second later by the crack of thunder, and the ground beneath the sergeant's feet shook momentarily. In the instant the hillside was illuminated, he saw the car clearly. It had come to a stop halfway down the incline, about thirty yards below where he now stood, its fall arrested by the trunk of an immense oak. The garish light briefly exposed mangled metal and shattered glass, and it appeared as though the entire frame of the vehicle had been twisted at an impossible angle.
In the pool of light cast by his own flashlight, his corporal appeared near the top of the ridge. The man planted a foot against an exposed tree root and held on to a low hanging branch to avoid sliding back down the hillside. Raising his voice so he could be heard above the sound of the rain, he said, "Three people. A man and a woman. Thirties or forties. And a boy, maybe seventeen, eighteen."
"They're all..." the sergeant paused with the sudden irrational thought that by uttering the word he would somehow dictate the outcome.
"Dead," the corporal confirmed. "Afraid so. No one could have survived that."
A shout from the bottom of the hill drew the sergeant's attention, and, as he watched, the beams below converged on a single spot. One of the patrolmen called out, his voice faint against the roar of the storm. "Found a body."
After a moment, he added, "He's alive."
A miracle, thought the sergeant. Must have been thrown from the car as it had rolled down the embankment. He'd seen that happen in bad accidents before. Fate could be so random.
"Sergeant," his patrol officer shouted from below. "The kid's asking about his parents and his brother. What do I tell him?"
The sergeant closed his eyes for a moment. Oh, God, he thought. Poor kid.
As the train whistle blew, the green of the trees that had been sliding by the windows slowly fell away, and a small wooden building came into view. A sign on the structure read "Jackson, Indiana." On the platform in front stood the solitary figure of an elderly woman.
The door at the front of the passenger car opened, and the conductor stepped through.
"Jackson," he called out, starting down the aisle. When he got to Jon, he nodded and said, "We're here."
Jon raised a hand in nervous acknowledgement, then stood as the train came to a stop and gave a slight backwards lurch. Steadying himself, he reached into the alcove above the seat and retrieved a large brown suitcase. It was old, the sides badly scuffed and the four lower corners worn and discolored. He collected the brown paper sack from the seat next to him. It contained two apples and half a sandwich wrapped in wax paper, all that remained of the food that was in the bag when the lady with the sad eyes had handed it to him as he'd boarded the train in Penn Station. He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. Then, hefting the suitcase, he made his way down the aisle to the door at the rear of the car.
As he stepped out onto the sunlit platform, he saw that the elderly woman was still standing where he'd first noticed her. Though she was looking directly at him, she made no gesture of greeting. He took a few hesitant steps toward her, set down the suitcase, and asked, uncertainly, "Grandma Wilson?"
The woman seemed to wince. She looked away for a moment. Then, gathering herself, she turned. Over her shoulder, she said, "It's not far," and she began walking. Surprised, it took Jon a moment to react. Not sure what else to do, he lifted the suitcase and followed.
They crossed the dirt-packed road in front of the train station and, after a short distance, started up a paved commercial street. The woman walked briskly, and it was an effort for Jon to keep up with her. He was still favoring his left leg. With each step, the suitcase banged into his right knee.
She spoke without turning her head or breaking stride. "You will address me as 'ma'am.' Understood?"
Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post.