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"Are you okay? It's okay if you're not okay. Low levels of okay would be just fine."

Delia Chastain stared at her brother Ray as he rambled on before saying, "Stop it. I'm fine."

"Really?" he asked. "You just got back from your ex-fiancee's funeral."

"I wasn't even going to go until you made me," Delia pointed out. "Besides, Chuck and I broke up three years ago. I am beyond over it."

"Breaking up with someone is very different from that person dying," he said.

"I know that Ray, but trust me, I'm fine."

"All right," he said with a sigh. "I have to go to work, but if you feel a nervous breakdown coming on, I'm only one phone call away."

"Yeah, go help people who actually asked for it," Delia said. "I'm sure some old lady needs her cat rescued out of a tree."

"I'm a cop, not a firefighter Delia," Ray said.

"I'm sure the cat won't care."

With a sigh he said, "Bye Delia," as he walked out the door.

Meanwhile, Chuck's younger brother Jamie looked out at the beautiful mountains near his home. It wasn't something he did often, and at that moment he wasn't paying much attention to the great view outside his living room window anyway. He just stared off into space, thinking about one of the last times he saw his brother.

Chuck had moved out of his family home years ago, but he would sometimes show up, usually early in the morning, with his laptop in tow as if he'd never left. He wrote mystery novels, very popular ones in fact, and whenever his deadlines were looming, Jamie could expect him to show up at home or the family's vineyard or even outside his school. Chuck would usually end up taking Jamie places. Sometimes they would go to the comic book store and sit on the floor for hours reading. Other times they'd find out which of the new releases at the movie theater had the worst reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and then watch it Mystery Science Theater 3000 style. During a showing of "Norbit" a few years ago, they were asked to leave the theater. Usually though, they would just talk.

That particular morning Jamie found his brother outside on the patio typing away.

"When did you get here?" Jamie asked.

"Six I think," Chuck replied, his eyes glued to his computer screen.

"What's my namesake been up to these days?" he asked.

The main character of Chuck's novels, intrepid PI James St. Cloud, wasn't up to much. He was stuck at the beginning of a crucial scene, and he told his brother that. With a sigh he closed his laptop.

"What the hell are you wearing?" Chuck exclaimed when he noticed his brother's unfamiliar outfit.

"I told you, I'm on the baseball team at school," Jamie said. "Why are looking at me like that?"

"I thought you were joking," he said.

"Why would I do that?"

"Jamie, I know you better than almost anyone, and I've never seen you express an interest in baseball until now."

He shrugged and said, "I was just playing around at school, and apparently I've got a pretty sick fast ball."

"What about your art?" Chuck asked. "Have you painted anything lately?"

"No, not really," Jamie admitted sheepishly.


Jamie said, "You know, most artists don't get famous until after they die. Vincent Van Gogh died poor, alone and missing an ear. Maybe I wanted to try something that didn't exile me to social Siberia."

With a sigh Chuck asked, "Who's the girl?"

"There's no girl all right. I just want to try something different."
"That's fine, but..."

Jamie cut his brother off and said, "I have to get to practice. See you later," before running off.

His trip down memory lane was interrupted by his mother.

"I just got a call from the vineyard," she said. "You'd think today of all days I wouldn't have to go down there, but they're claiming it's an emergency. Will you be okay by yourself for a few hours?"

"Yeah, it's okay."

The definition of workaholic, Marie Henderson was almost always at the vineyard. It didn't surprise Jamie that she found an excuse to immerse herself in work the day of her oldest son's funeral. He didn't like it, but he couldn't do much about it.

"Order a pizza if you get hungy," she said.

And then she was gone.

He'd never felt more alone in his life.


Meanwhile another workaholic was hard at work. Delia had begrudgingly taken the day off work for Chuck's funeral, but that didn't stop her from going over legal briefs at home. How else would she become the youngest partner ever at Stern and Lockwood Associates? But she couldn't concentrate. She kept reading the same passage over and over again.

She went to get herself a glass of wine to relax, but then she realized the only wine in her house was a bottle of Henderson Estates merlot. A fantastic wine, but one with many tarnished memories attached to it.

She could remember the first day she drank that wine, over four years ago, as if it were yesterday. After a few okay but not spectacular dates, Chuck brought her to his family's vineyard for a picnic.

"This place is..." Delia trailed off.

"Amazing?" Chuck said.

"Sounds about right."

"I love it here," Chuck said. "When I was a kid, my dad used to put me to work during the summers. I know every species of grape, all the recipes. I can even fix some of the equipment."

"I knew I had to bring you here after our last date," he continued. "You said you really want to get to know me before you could decide if you liked me. I know I'm a writer, but I'm not that good at expressing myself. So I brought you some place that I love, a place that's a big part of my life, a place full of memories. You can't read about the sleepovers I had here as a kid on the back cover of my books. And if you Google me, and I know you did, you won't fing out about the time I broke my arm climbing a tree out back, and I was right back up there as soon as I got back from the hospital."

"You don't have to tell me everything if you don't want," she said.

"But I want to, Dee," he said. "I want to tell you everything. I don't know why, but I do."

Delia never liked that nickname, Dee. Chuck only got away with it because he never gave it up no matter how much she insisted she hated it. Anyone else tried it, and with one glare they stopped. But not Chuck. He was so damn persistent it drove her crazy. He asked her out three times before she agreed. She was a law student back then and she didn't think she had time for a boyfriend. But after that date he was her boyfriend, just like that.

But on the flipside, once Chuck was done, he was done. So one day he wasn't her boyfriend anymore, just like that.

All of a sudden, Delia didn't mind drinking that merlot anymore.


When Ray got back from work a few hours later, he found his sister so drunk she could barely keep her eyes open.

"How much have you had to drink?" he asked.

"I don't know... alot," Delia slurred.

"Come on. Let's get you into bed so you can sleep it off."

He took her by the arm and led her into her bedroom.

"I can get into bed by myself," she snapped.

With a sigh, he let her arm go.

"I don't even know why I drank so much," she said, "I just..I don't..I..."
She trailed off, unable or unwilling to complete the sentence.

Ray pulled his sister in for a hug, the only thing he could think to do.

"It's okay," he said. "It's okay."


Late that night, or rather early that morning, a phone call woke up police detective Max Lee.

He said, "What's the deal chief? It's my night off."

"Got another biter," the police chief said.

"I'm not the only one who can handle that," Max said.

"If you let me finish, I could explain."

"Go ahead."

The police chief said, "Thankfully the victim got away, but something about her story was trange. She said her attacker seemed scared. He bit her, freaked out and ran away."

"Well, that's strange."

"Exactly," the police chief said. "Probably a newbie. Might need your help. I know you like helping."

"And you like 'em off the streets."

"It's like you're reading my mind."

The police chief relayed the victim's description as well as the location of the attack, and Max was off.

When he arrived at an abandoned warehouse near the park where the victim was attacked, he stopped his car and just stood there for awhile. He let it all sink in.

Suddenly, he took off running around to the back of the warehouse.

Standing there, covered in blood and cowering behind a dumpster, was the man of the hour.

"Please. Help me."


Date: 2010-05-31 08:01 pm (UTC)
ext_411880: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Holy cow. What a first chapter!

You've got a great story going here already. We're only one post in and you set up the characters so wonderfully, usually only in a couple of lines. I already have a feel for how Delia, Jamie and even Detective Max will react to whatever curve balls you throw their way. (Or will Jamie be the only one allowed to throw curve balls? ^_^)

Brilliant job!

(PS -- do you mind if I add a link to your story on my blog? I think people should be reading this! :))

Date: 2010-06-25 01:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love this story! :)

I love how the characters shine through the dialogue and prose. It's really easy to pick up on their personalities. I can't wait to read more!

I'm adding you to my blogroll now. I hope you don't mind.

Date: 2010-08-16 03:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Very interesting beginning! I agree with the others that you've built your characters well--I feel like I have some inkling of their personalities already, and this is just the first chapter. I'll definitely be back to read the rest of your chapters soon!


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August 2011

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