Guardian of the Realm, the second book of the Red Cliffs Chronicles, has been released on Kiss.
Out of my three books, this one is my favourite. At first, I didn’t plan to do two Red Cliffs sagas, but as I was writing the final chapters of The Two-Blood Legacy, a new story started to emerge. I changed a detail or two in The Legacy, left a couple of hints and clues that things might not be as they appeared to be, and Guardian was born. The biggest problem was that the hero of the future book (along with his best friend) was dead (well, presumably). It’s not easy to resurrect a character, let alone two, without being ‘soup-operatic’, but I think I didn’t fall into that trap. The best thing was, Guardian solidified its predecessor, making The Legacy more credible and convincing.
Writing the second book before completing the first allowed me to have my own version of intertextuality. My characters walk between the stories, and some of them have cameo-appearances in my contemporary collection of stories, connecting my two imaginary words. Those who read my earlier blogs may remember that I’ve been fascinated with the interconnections between works of literature.
Here is Guardian’s opening chapter.
The situation was slipping out of control.
“Mrs. Fontaine, please don’t make this more difficult than it has to be,” Sam Wakefield, Rosenthal’s sheriff, said. “I don’t want to handcuff you, but I will if I have to.”
Charlotte Fontaine squared her delicate shoulders and braced her hands on her hips. “Cuff me? How dare you, Samuel Wakefield? I’ve known you ever since you were knee-high to a duck.”
The formidable sheriff pulled on his best law-enforcement expression. “I’m really sorry, ma’am, but you have to come with us. You’re under arrest.”
That day’s public protest to save a historic city block from destruction, including the popular Cosmopolitan Hotel, seemed to me like a carefully staged event. Nonetheless, I had my own professional and personal reasons for supporting the demonstrations.
It was time to intervene.
“Oh, for chrissake, Sheriff,” I said, “you can’t throw one of Rosenthal’s most popular citizens in jail. This will backfire, you know.”
Sheriff Sam Wakefield (under normal circumstances, my friend), turned to me with a sly grin. “You, on the other hand, are certainly not a prominent Rosenthal citizen. Now please turn around.”
Before I could blink, cold metal closed around my wrists with a click.
The sheriff turned to his deputy. “Officer, escort Mrs. Fontaine to the car. And you, Elizabeth Chatwin,” here he gave me a little push, “you are under arrest for trespassing, creating a public disturbance, disorderly conduct, and reckless endangerment. So far. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you …”
“Great job, Sheriff, arresting two women!” Dr. Ned Prentice shouted as he maneuvered a big sign that read Save the Cosmo! “The city government, including the police, should’ve been on this side of the barricades, helping us save the Cosmo from those urban wreckers!”
Dr. Prentice was Rosenthal’s beloved physician as well as the vice president of the Save the Cosmo! Committee, the group of heritage-passionate Rosenthalers, who’d organized the protest. The president of the committee was my fellow arrestee, Charlotte Fontaine.
The sheriff rubbed his neck. “Give me a break, Doc! The owner wants to sell it; you know that.”
“Then the City could’ve bought it out!” someone else yelled.
“Yeah. It’s common practice for a city government to be in the hotel business. Move over, folks, let me pass.”
A young cameraman from the local TV station was recording the entire interaction, including our arrests. I jerked and kicked a little bit for the sake of some additional publicity for our noble cause.
“We want to save a building that is one of Rosenthal’s landmarks and should be protected as a historic site!” I said, looking straight into the camera. “And now they’re arresting a sixty-two-year-old woman with fragile health! Help us save the—”
Before I could say another word, the sheriff had me in the back of his car.
“I’m sixty, dear,” I heard Mrs. Fontaine say before the young deputy opened the back door of his cruiser and, holding her hand, helped her in.
The flashing lights on, both cars pulled away and toward the police station, a few blocks south.
Looking at me in his rearview mirror, Sam said, “That was low, Elizabeth. Fragile health, my ass. Look at her; she doesn’t look a day over fifty and she’s as healthy as a horse.”
“Ned Prentice’s brother is the judge. Mrs. Fontaine will be at home for her afternoon tea.”
“Yes, she will; you’re right. But you will not, hon.”
“I don’t care. I bet there’s a nice little room in your station where I can camp overnight.” I pressed my forehead against the bars between the front and rear seats. “Sam, you’re not going to charge me with all those offenses, are you?”
“Now, sweetheart, I’m afraid you don’t understand,” Sam said with a suppressed laugh. “You and your mob blocked the busiest street in town during rush hour—”
“Rush hour in Rosenthal? You must be kidding!”
“And placed the city in a virtual state of lockdown.”
“For about twelve minutes, until you and your forces crushed—”
“Forces? It was only me and my deputy.”
“Until you and your deputy crushed our peaceful protest,” I said. “There.”
“For which you never got permission from the city.”
“And why didn’t we?”
Sam signaled and turned left. “Because Lottie was advised not to apply for permission. Elizabeth, nobody in Rosenthal wants to see the Cosmo knocked down, but you can’t expect the city officials or the police to join the demonstrators. Lottie needed some media attention, and she got it. Her arrest was the cherry on top.”
“I was arrested, too,” I reminded him.
Sam winked. “You’re collateral damage.”
He pulled into the police parking lot, cut the engine and turned to me. “The City would buy out the hotel if there was money for that. It’s a historic building. Alas, our budget is smaller every year. Lottie and her committee know that, so they’re determined to find an investor who will restore the Cosmo before it’s too late.”
“The entire Baker Block is in danger,” I said. “It’s not only the Cosmo.” The historic block, which included the Cosmopolitan Hotel, was the heart of the city.
“Lottie’s clever. If she saves the hotel, the block block may be saved as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if she already has an investor in mind.”
“The whole of Rosenthal is helping her, in one way or another.”
“Including you and me. See, I risked the reputation of the police department by ‘crushing’ her protest, and you will get a criminal record.”
Oh my god! Criminal record! “Sam, you’re joking, aren’t you?”
“I have to charge you, for the sake of authenticity. But don’t worry; I bet Lottie’s lawyer’s already in the station waiting for us. He’ll bail you both out. Now let me uncuff you, honey. You must be uncomfortable. By the way, are you free on Thursday night? I need someone to stay with Jacob.”
Sam was the single father of a four-year-old boy. I loved Jacob and always looked forward to spending time with him. “I’ll make sure I am,” I said with a wide smile.
Most of the charges against us were dropped, except for causing a public disturbance. Which would’ve also been dismissed if Mrs. Fontaine, against her lawyer’s advice, hadn’t insisted we’d intended to cause it.
I’d had no such intentions, of course, but since I was the Save the Cosmo!’s professional consultant and Charlotte Fontaine’s friend, it was a matter of loyalty to support her statement.
The lawyer assured us we’d end up with some light community service.
“I’ll give you a ride, and then I’m going home,” I said to Mrs. Fontaine as we left the police station and walked toward my car. “All I need now is a cup of tea and a hot bath.”
“What you need is a glass of wine,” she said and slid her arm through mine. “I’m throwing a party tonight, to celebrate our success, and you’re coming with me.”
This could be a perfect chance to learn more about Mrs. Fontaine’s grand plan. I was part of it, after all.
“Sure,” I said. “But can we stop by my house, just for fifteen minutes? I need to change into something more party-appropriate.”
“No, you don’t,” Mrs. Fontaine said and took a step back, her eyes scanning over my attire: a light beige coat, a knee-length turquoise dress and three-inch-heel pumps in the same color. “You’re already dressed for a party, darling. You were overdressed for the protest.”