Today begins a new feature here. I'll be posting my novel, Rehearsal: A Different Drummer in serialized format, with a new addition every Sunday (barring major interruptions). To be notified of additions, sign up for email updates with the form in the links section. This novel is protected by United States copyright laws, so do not copy/paste/reproduce any sections from this serialization (other than one-two sentences to share with author/title acknowledgement to draw friends to the blog). The book is available in PRINT and now in EBOOK formats.
I decided to put this out publicly in order to introduce readers to my characters, the story line, and my writing style. If you enjoy the novel, I would appreciate a purchase or a library request. I do have them available personally signed, as well. Check the series website for details:
Rehearsal -- http://www.lkhunsaker.com/Rehearsal-TheSeries.htm
Please feel free to discuss the book by section here in the comments and I'll be around to join in. No spoilers, please!
Note: This serialization may end at any time, and posts removed, at author's inclination, particularly if I find it posted elsewhere online.
(language, mild violence, adult situations)
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears,
however measured or far away.”
Henry David Thoreau
BOOK ONE *** Overture
“Hey sweetie, wanna dance?”
Duncan raised his arm to wipe sweat rolling under his chin onto his sleeve and threw her a glance, not bothering to turn the bar stool in her direction. Shagged brown hair topped her average-height frame; she was not much shorter than he was, he supposed. A modern girl, including her willingness to approach him in such a direct manner. “Thank you, bu’ I am workin’.” He looked back to check on his ordered beer, smoke choking his mouth and throat.
She moved closer. “Not at the moment, you’re not.”
Returning his eyes, he noted a tenacity in her expression and body language. A quality he liked, to a certain extent. “Well, y’ are right. At the moment, I am tryin’ t’ cool off a bit. Then I am goin’ back t’ work.” A trickle of sweat rolled down the side of his face from underneath the damp hair falling over his forehead, and Duncan leaned forward to pull the bottom of his T-shirt up, rubbing it across his face and letting it fall again.
Accepting the mug that finally came across the bar, he took a large swallow, the coolness against his hand echoing the stream of liquid pouring down his throat.
The girl cuddled into his shoulder. “Are you ever here when you’re not working?” Fingers with painted nails touched his arm.
Ignoring a snigger from the new bartender, he again raised the mug to his lips, allowing time to consider an answer. “Now and then.” The chill of the glass distracted him from the girl’s flesh pushing against his and the muskiness of her cologne.
She broke through, sliding both hands around his fingers and the heavy mug, pulling it from him. “So maybe you’ll dance with me another night?” Sipping his beer, she kept her eyes on his. Narrow eyes. Lashes painted longer than natural matching thick black lines extending from the corners; the brushed-on green of her lids attempting to extend the brownish-green of her pupils. It didn’t work well.
She rubbed a finger around the edge of the mug, hinting.
Duncan considered the offer. She looked fake, but not snobbish. And who was he to be too particular? “Maybe.”
She grinned, pushing the drink back toward him.
He watched her move away, flaunting the beer to her table of friends, repeating the conversation, he figured, making it more than it was. He never understood the infatuation girls had with guys in local bands. Hell, this wasn’t even a good local band. His mates were okay guys, as far as it went, but barely third-rate musicians. It didn’t seem to matter. They were only background noise for pick-up lines and attempts at relaxation by intoxication in the dark out-of-the-way bar.
Dark was helpful. It disguised the niched plank floor and scratches in the old wood tables with only patches of varnish left as pointless protection. Duncan could imagine his mother cringing about him playing at the little dive, though it was better than many he’d played. For the most part, it was kept clean, though likely not clean enough for her. He was just as glad she didn’t know how he was living – day to day, city to city, jumping from one third-rate band to another while doing whatever other cash jobs he could find.
Ordering another beer, he watched the small crowd, studying the ones he recognized as regulars and the few he didn’t. Mostly, he played to the same group every weekend. It was only a paycheck. There wasn’t one, he imagined, who would even know if he played a wrong chord now and then. They weren’t listening, not more than enough to go through the motions of dancing. Their drummer was at least decent. They kept a good beat going.
A movement from the table of Thiel College students caught his attention. They were always easy to spot, dressed too well for the bar full of locals and holding their chins higher than necessary. One of them rose to retrieve his drink from the bar instead of barking an order at the girls serving. He was the only male at the table without a cigarette hanging from his mouth or fingers. Worst part of playing in bars, the damn cloud of nicotine.
The guy was heading in his direction. Duncan turned back, waiting to catch the bartender. “Is tha’ beer comin’ tonight?”
“Make that two. And a wine spritzer. After his, of course.”
Wine spritzer. For the girl at the table sitting sideways in the chair with her legs crossed and her shoulders straight, Duncan guessed.
“How long have you been playing?”
Glancing up to make sure the college guy was talking to him, he answered … barely. “A while.” He looked away again.
“Obviously. I meant, how many years?”
“Why?” Duncan raised his hands in a questioning gesture at the new bartender. He would have to go back and play before he ever got it, at this pace.
The intruder took advantage of the stool next to him being vacated, and planted himself as if he actually belonged in the bar, raising his voice to talk over the recorded music played between sets. “You’re wasting your talent here. You’re a hell of a guitarist.”
Duncan looked over, unable to completely dismiss the compliment, since it wasn’t from a girl this time. He sincerely doubted this guy was hitting on him. “You play?”
“Not much since I started school, but when I can.”
He nodded and turned away. Another beginner looking for pointers, and he had better things to do than waste time on a college student who wanted to learn just enough to pick up girls.
“So, why are you here?”
Duncan’s back straightened. What made this guy think it was any of his business? Holding his thoughts, he stood. He would rather hang with the band than be harassed by some stranger.
The college student stood up beside him and Duncan swung around. “Man, wha’ do you want?”
The guy shrugged. “Just to talk. I don’t get to meet many guitarists of your caliber.” He chuckled. “Actually, I’ve never met anyone who can play like that. I have to wonder why you’re wasting your time here. I mean, with that accent, you’re obviously not from Pennsylvania.”
Hell, the damn accent. How long was it going to take to get rid of it? Anyway, the conversation was done. “I ‘m busy.”
“Your friends aren’t ready to play yet.”
“Look, ge’ lost. I ‘m no’ a guitar teacher, alright?” Starting to move away, Duncan felt a hand grasp his shoulder and he spun, seizing the guy’s arm and twisting it behind his back. “Do no’ push me, man.”
Duncan cursed himself for giving in to his instincts and began judging the group of guys who pushed in toward them – Thiel students coming to the rescue, Duncan’s band mates ready to join in, and regulars jeering for a fight. He wasn’t concerned about the other college kids. They wouldn’t be any trouble to take out, but the guy he was so far still holding was taller, and built bigger, and didn’t seem naïve enough to start something he couldn’t finish.
“I’m Evan Scott. Nice to meet you, too.”
Taken aback by the friendly tone and total non-resistance, Duncan released him and stepped away, studying the guy as he turned. He was maybe a bit taller than Duncan, an inch at the most, 5’10” or so, but had a larger build, probably enhanced by weights. His eyes were a shade darker than his medium brown hair and his clothes were less pretentious than those of his friends, but still decent and coordinated.
“Evan, cream that guy. He’s no match for you.”
A Thiel boy, looking for trouble. Duncan eyed him, and the other two joining in agreement, edging closer. But he kept the most attention on his antagonist, who dismissed the fact that his companions were pushing for a fight and that Duncan’s band mates were moving in, calling insults back. He stood, waiting for a reaction, or an answer. Or trying to decide Duncan’s weak spot.
The trouble-maker moved in. “Hell, I bet he can’t fight any better than he can play. What’s to worry about?”
Duncan grabbed the band’s lead singer to keep him from lunging. “Le’ it go.”
“Let it go, hell. He’s insane. He doesn’t know music worth a shit.”
“So what? Le’ it go.” His voice hardened. “Le’ it go.” The singer wouldn’t go against him; they knew each other at least that well. Neither would the others.
“See? He’s chicken-shit. You could take him out easy.”
Evan Scott chuckled. “I wouldn’t count on that. Brad, go sit down. There’s nothing to fight about.”
“Nothing to fight about? The guy attacked you.”
“No, he didn’t. And it was my fault, not his. Go.”
The guy with the younger face and idiot expression hesitated, throwing looks of disgust at the band. “Not before they do. You know, these locals carry weapons. They’re nothing but common thugs.”
Duncan shoved his band mates away from the college kids. This guy didn’t want to fight, either. There was no point in letting some little punk barely old enough to be away from home push something neither of them wanted.
But he kept pushing.
Evan Scott pushed back, but not physically. “Brad, go away before I personally throw you out of here. And take your henchmen with you.” The authority in his manner backed the others down. Hushed voices passed around the perimeter and Duncan’s band mates calmed but remained wary. The college kids sulked back to their table, yelling another drink order at the waitress before sitting.
Disappointed by the lack of action, the rest of the crowd slinked away. Duncan thanked his mates for the support and sent them back to the pit, waiting for further conversation with this guy while the bar owner approached, holding the two mugs of beer ordered before the confrontation, offering them on the house.
Duncan accepted the second mug, nodding at the friendly hand set on his shoulder. Evan Scott tried to insist on paying. Joe wasn’t going to have it. They had saved him a ton of trouble and expense by not causing a break-up of his bar. And Duncan always got his beer free at Sam’s.
When the owner left again, he put his eyes back on the college kid who didn’t look as much like a kid as the others. So, he could get riled if pushed hard enough, though his friendly eyes would’ve belied that fact. And he apparently had guts, since he sent his own friends away while Duncan’s companions were still standing with him.
Taking a swallow, he relented. “So what is it tha’ you want?”
“As I said, just to talk. And I prefer to know who I’m talking to.”
Duncan studied him a moment longer. He liked this guy’s style. He could give only his first name, as usual, but Evan Scott had given both of his, and he had gone to a lot of trouble to talk to him.
He extended his hand. “Duncan O’Neil.”