BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Monday, July 1, 2013

Excerpt & Special Deal: The Condor Song by Darryl Nyznyk

Today I have an excerpt from a legal thriller inspired by the 1960s and 70s Sierra Club battle with Walt Disney over a proposed ski resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, home to the endangered condor. Author Darryl Nyznyk lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with his wife, Loretta. After practicing law for 20 years, Nyznyk became a full-time writer and teacher. He is also the author of the holiday novel, "Mary’s Son; A Tale of Christmas". For more information, please visit www.crossdovepublishing.com.



Today, July 1st, for every copy of the book purchased from Amazon Darryl will donate $1 to The Sierra Club. The book is available in kindle and paperback format. Read on for an excerpt.

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The Condor Song




 Darryl Nyznyk
     



Cross Dove Publishing, LLC
Redondo Beach, California





© 2013 Darryl Nyznyk. Printed and bound in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system—except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Web—without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, please contact Cross Dove Publishing, LLC, PO Box 7000-97, Redondo Beach, CA 90277-8710.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, or persons, living or deceased, is purely coincidental. We assume no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein.

First printing 2013

ISBN 978-0-9656513-9-4
LCCN 2012946884



Dedication

To my mother, Vera:
thank you for the determination to hold truths dear
and the work ethic to stay the course through the struggle.

To my father, Leo:
thank you for the sense of life’s whimsy and
the understanding that “it will all work out” if you
keep moving forward.

To both my parents:
thank you for life’s guidance, complete loyalty,
unflagging support, and the joys of a happy family.


ONE

The John Muir Trail cuts a tortuous track across the rugged peaks of California’s southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Approximately one hundred forty-five miles south of the trail’s head sits the Golden Staircase—a treacherous maze of switchbacks carved into sheer cliffs that fall off sharply to the boulders of Palisades Creek. Vegetation is sparse along the staircase as only small groves of foxtail pines occasionally break the monotony of grey granite. It was in one of those groves that the assassin waited.
      His job this day would be comparatively easy. The former East German snowman had made a fortune in the years since the fall of the Iron Curtain doing exactly what this assignment demanded. There would be no witnesses along this rugged trail. It was late in the year, and only the hardiest of souls would consider venturing into the Sierra Nevada backcountry when snows threatened. Fortunately, his prey was one such soul. The seventy-four year old intended victim would never know what hit him. The seven-millimeter rifle hanging across the assassin’s back would take the old man’s head right off.
      Buck Anderson stepped gingerly along the steepening track, forty pounds of food and pack equipment weighing heavy on his back. An occasional misstep sent loose rock cascading to the frothing waters of Palisades Creek yet barely interrupted his fevered pace to Mather Pass.
      Buck had noticed the charcoal clouds peeking over the ridge at the top of the staircase early that morning as he broke camp in Grouse Meadow. He’d considered staying another night on the meadow’s velvet grasses, but blue skies overhead convinced him he could make it through the pass before the weather turned.
      He smiled as he labored on, his breath coming in shorter gasps. Icy wind impeded his progress, and he realized he might have miscalculated.
      “You’ve got a helluva sense of humor, Lord,” he whispered as he glanced heavenward and smiled. “I should’ve learned by now not to try to outguess you.”
      He was confident he could make it through the pass before the storm broke. The problem was that he wouldn’t be able to do the sightseeing his treks were all about. He had to focus on getting through the pass to shelter. The sights would wait for another time.
      The cold bit at the exposed flesh of his face and hands and pierced his flannel shirt, denim jeans, and thermal underwear. He wouldn’t stop to don his parka, however, until he reached Muir Point, a narrow plateau upon which Buck would take his only rest before putting his head down to make the last push through the pass.
      The assassin pulled his wool skullcap over his face and tugged at his gloves before he lifted the binoculars to the eyeholes. He had trained himself to withstand the hours of waiting his job entailed. Even in the bitter cold, he could handle the waits by continually changing position to maintain circulation. The air this day promised a cold he hadn’t experienced in many years, however, and he knew he’d have to find shelter if his quarry didn’t appear soon.
      As the assassin’s appendages grew numb and he was about to drop the glasses and move to dispel that numbness, he caught sight of movement on the trail two hundred yards below. He waited another instant until his man stepped from behind a large boulder into full view. The assassin placed the binoculars neatly on his pack, removed the glove from his right hand, and lifted the mask from his face. He flexed his fingers against the numbness and swung the seven-millimeter from his back. The biting cold was forgotten as he focused on the narrow plateau upon which his prey would die. He permitted his concentration to waiver only an instant when his victim stopped on that very plateau as if he wished to provide the best possible target. The assassin smiled.
      Buck glanced over the edge. Palisades Creek was like a waterfall at this point, the terrain so steep that the water tumbled over itself and the rocks and boulders three hundred feet below.
      He stretched to his full height, just over six feet, to suck in a lung full of cold air and marvel at the view. He smiled and nodded at the beauty of this place even as the cold cut him, and he decided to don his parka. Buck made a jerking turn, slightly up the slope, to swing his pack to his right arm, remove it, and extract the jacket.
      The crack of the assassin’s rifle shattered the brittle air at the instant Buck moved. The weapon’s projectile struck a glancing blow that sent Buck’s pack hurtling over the edge and spun him around completely. He teetered precariously with his back to the gorge. His left arm reached for balance, his hand clawing air for a hold to prevent his fall, but he found none. He tumbled backwards … in slow motion, each millisecond lasting an eternity as he struggled to stay upright. His eyes scoured the cliff face in search of anything to grab; but he saw nothing, and for a split second, he knew his end had come. Then he struck the ledge. The shock jarred him; bolts of pain shot through his back and neck. His body bounced and started a new descent, but the fall’s slight interruption provided him one last desperate glance, and he spied the root.
      Its two-inch diameter snaked out of the cliff face, curled like a half-moon for three feet in open air, and then bit again into the earth at the end of the ledge upon which he’d bounced. He reached desperately until his fingers locked onto the wayward root. His body continued downward, however, and he closed his eyes in concentration as his body pulled his left arm to its full extension before it crashed against the face of the cliff. He twisted in the gusting wind and swirling snow and then smashed against the rock again. His weight tore at his fingers.
      Buck was dazed and in excruciating pain, yet somehow he knew he had only seconds to assess his situation. His right shoulder was broken; his arm hung useless at his side. The rest of his body appeared intact, however, and that would have to be enough.
      Buck had never taken his physical condition for granted. At seventy-four, his arms and legs were supple and strong from years of rigorous outdoor adventure. His mind, too, had stayed sharp, for oftentimes he’d found himself in trying circumstances that required creative thought and action simply to survive. There was never time to take his physical and mental capabilities for granted. Instead, he thanked God every day for the gifts with which he’d been blessed. As he dangled fingertips from death, Buck struggled to clear his mind. His fingers could not hold much longer.
      His mind played with thoughts of letting go, ending the struggle, and going to his maker. He was prepared for that. He’d been prepared for death for years—not in a defeated way, for he loved the world, but rather at peace, accepting the specter of death if it came despite every effort to survive because he knew death was simply a new beginning.
      In times past, he’d managed to work up the will to survive impossible situations through prayer and the realization that he still had work to do. On this occasion that realization was stronger than any before. He couldn’t die on the rocks of Palisades Creek where his remains would never be found. If this was his time, the world had to know he was murdered, because without that knowledge, people would never search for the reason, and they would never learn what he had discovered.
      Buck’s booted feet scraped the cliff face in frantic search of a protrusion onto which they could hold and relieve the pressure on his numbing fingers. Without the use of his right arm, he had no idea how he would balance and grip, but he gave it little thought. He had to survive. Finally, his right boot caught the lower lip of a crack that ran horizontally through the rock face at knee level. He glanced up at his red-tipped fingers and willed the aching joints to hold just a few seconds longer. His right foot gripped the lip, and he pushed upward with his numbing right leg. The movement relieved some of the load borne by his fingers, and without thought, he flexed his left arm pulling his body up and forward, then released his finger grip and re-caught the root with a full hand.
      In an instant he was standing erect, the ledge upon which he’d bounced at chin level. His left foot continued its own search of the rock wall and soon found a hold that carried him higher still until finally he was waist high and able to lean on the three-foot-wide shelf. With his teeth, he locked onto another smaller root for balance, quickly repositioned his good hand to another firm hold, and threw a leg onto the ledge. Only when he was safely atop the shelf, breathing heavily and leaning back against a stone wall did he begin to understand his predicament.
      It was a gunshot that destroyed his right shoulder and sent him over the edge. He was sure of that. He resisted thoughts of “why” because it didn’t matter now. He had to survive.
      As far as Buck could tell, except for his right arm, his body, though throbbing with pain and cold, was sound. He reached down to the outside of his left boot, lifted the pant leg, and withdrew a large hunting knife from its leather sheath. Whoever had been up there waiting for him in this wilderness would soon be at the plateau’s edge to view his handiwork. If that weren’t enough to convince Buck he’d have to move quickly, the fact he would freeze to death in the growing cold did. His pack and its contents bobbed down-stream in the roiling waters of the creek, beyond rescue. His only hope of survival was to confront the killer.
      Buck scanned the cliff face above him. The Muir Point plateau was a good eight feet above his head. Although several hand and footholds presented themselves, his clear thinking told him it would not work with only one good arm. Even the tree roots from the plateau’s lone Foxtail offered little aid. As his eyes moved beyond the roots, however, he saw the ramp-like path that provided a narrow way to the top.
      “Shit!” whispered the assassin, for once letting his emotions escape his taciturn veneer.
      The old man moved at the exact instant he squeezed the trigger. It wasn’t a clean shot … but he went over. Either his body lay broken amid the churning waters of the creek, or he was hanging precariously to the last threads of a life that would be taken from him shortly.
      Snow fell with greater force, powered by black clouds and a wind that whined angrily. The assassin leaned into the wind and picked his way cautiously down the slope. It was several minutes before he finally stood at the edge of Muir Point, peering over the side. Far below, evidence of the old man’s fallen pack was visible as the rushing waters surged over rocks groping for articles they hadn’t already claimed. Yet there was no sign of the body. Maybe it was already washed away, although somehow, as his eyes followed the creek’s path, he knew that wasn’t the case.
      He leaned out a little further, holding his weapon behind him for balance. He immediately saw the ledge. It was about ten feet below and clearly bore the imprint of a person’s buttocks and legs in the snow. Then, just to the right, he could make out subtle footprints moving up a narrow ramp, and he understood.
      He turned sharply, his weapon poised at his side. With his free hand, he unzipped the top of his snowsuit and withdrew a revolver for the close quarter combat he now anticipated. Before moving toward the rocks lining the plateau, he repositioned the rifle across his back and cinched the strap tight over his chest to keep the clumsy weapon out of the way as he searched for the old man.
      It was quickly clear his prey had lost everything except the clothes on his back. It was also clear, from the elongated prints of a shambling step he noted at the flat just above the ramp, that the old man was hurt badly or was so cold he could barely move. It was possible he lay dead, frozen in the numbing cold, but the assassin didn’t believe that. He knew the old man was still alive. He knew his prey awaited him.
      Buck pressed deep into the fissure of a boulder, first to protect his body from the increasing wrath of the storm, and second to hide from his pursuer in a place from which he could launch a surprise attack. The fissure was in a large boulder at a level approximately four feet above the ground. It was tucked in behind another boulder, thus creating a darkened cave-like opening with access directly onto the path his pursuer would have to take if he were to find him. Buck’s hope was that the dark would prove impenetrable to his pursuer’s eyes long enough to enable him to attack. His fear was that his mind and body would be too numb to carry it out.
      He recognized the signs of the death-sleep brought on by freezing temperatures and over-exposure. The warm, soothing desire to close his eyes and sleep was overpowering, and it was only his belief that he had to be found that strengthened him to fight a little longer.
      The old man’s shuffling gait left clear signs in the deepening snow. The assassin moved quickly for, despite his caution, there was need of urgency. He needed to complete the kill, dispose of the body, and return to shelter to ride out the storm before he too became a victim.
      The assassin considered the possibility of an attack. It would come from one of the dark places between the large boulders. He adjusted his goggles against the now heavy snow, pressed his right arm to the outside of the nearest boulder and sidestepped warily around it. At the junction of two enormous rocks, he hesitated. This would be the place, he thought. He peered around the corner and into the dark, cave-like opening. He smiled smugly, pushed away from the nearest rock with his weapon in front of him, and stepped across the mouth of the opening. He squinted to adjust to the darkness when suddenly he heard a whistling sound as of some object falling from the sky. He glanced up in time only to glimpse the body that hurtled at him and struck in a rush of feathers and overpowering force. In reflex he squeezed the trigger. The explosion pierced the wind as he stumbled backwards and fell, striking his head.
      Then came the old man. Out of the blackness he flew and fell atop the assassin, who struggled feebly with consciousness. The old man was weak; the assassin could feel it. Yet the blow to his head caused him a moment’s paralysis; a moment he knew would be his last.
      Buck dragged his blade across the assassin’s throat, cutting deep with his diminishing strength as the killer struggled frantically under his weight to cast off the effects of the paralysis. The assassin’s face was a mask of rage as with gritted teeth and bulging eyes he gave up his last breath in a gurgling gust of blood from his throat. His body convulsed once and then lay still.
      Buck pushed himself to a sitting position atop the dead man. His left hand and fingers were numb, almost beyond feeling, but he struggled to remove the assassin’s clothing.
      With one hand, the work was agonizingly slow, but soon he had donned the assassin’s snowsuit and gloves, pulled the stocking cap, face mask, and goggles over his head, and leaned against a boulder rubbing the suit’s warmth into his body. Life returned to his limbs slowly with excruciating pain, but he didn’t mind. It meant he was alive, if only for a short time longer.
      Snow pelted Buck. He peered around a boulder to the path of the Golden Staircase. The raging wind and driving snow obliterated visibility beyond his shelter, and Buck knew the storm was becoming a blizzard. He sank slowly back behind the rock and glanced at the freezing body of the dead man. He was tired and sure that various parts of his own body were frozen. If he did live, he would lose these parts, but that was thought for a later time. Now he needed to get back between the boulders and generate enough heat to survive.
      With his last strength he dragged the body of his assailant to the darkened shelter, and pulled it atop him between the rocks. His eyelids were heavy, his mind exhausted. After several minutes of struggling to stay awake, he knew he would not be able to do so. He smiled and leaned back, casting his eyes skyward into the swirling snow. For an instant, clarity returned and the storm seemed to abate. A line of sight heavenward opened, and he could see the dark shape circling higher on massive wings spread to catch the gusts of savage winds.
      Buck’s smile broadened. He whispered, “Thanks old man,” before the creature disappeared and Buck drifted off to sleep.

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Publisher: Cross Dove Publishing, LLC
Genre: Legal thriller
Format: ebook, paperback
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Buying Link: Amazon
 

3 comments:

  1. I was pitched this book but sadlt couldn't fit it into my review queue. Sounds like a fascinating read though and a worthwhile cause.

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    Replies
    1. I couldn't fit it into my review queue either but I may get it from the library eventually.

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  2. This sounds interesting..thanks for sharing it!

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