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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Get Hooked On "From Ashes to Honor"

Excerpt from Loree's book "From Ashes to Honor." (any spacing issues were caused by me when pasting)


Prologue
They cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and He delivered them from their distress.
Psalms 107:6


New York City
8:40 A.M.
September 11, 2001

As on every morning, the sweet scents of cinnamon and
mocha mixed with drugstore aftershave and pricey cologne.
And, as on every morning, Austin ordered a large black coffee
with a shot of espresso.

A strange vibration rumbled above the whir of blenders,
busily whipping milk into froth for cappuccinos and lattes. A
New York City trash truck, or another fender bender? he wondered
as his cell phone chirped. It only took a quick glance at
the caller i.d. to inspire a low groan.
Eddy smirked. “Your brother?”

“Third time this week.”

“Sheesh. And it’s only Tuesday.”

Becky, the counter girl, held out one hand. “That’ll be a
buck fifty, cutie pie.”

Austin handed her two singles and told her to keep the
change.

“Let me guess,” Eddy said. “He wants you to get a safer job,
one with a more predictable schedule, so you can spend more
time with your mom.”

"Bingo. All I can say is, thank God for unlimited minutes.
The two messages he left yesterday?” Austin pocketed the
phone and cut loose with a two-note whistle. “To call ’em long
is an understatement.”

"You know what they say about paybacks.”

“What?”

“Well, all I can say is, rambling messages must be in the
Finley DNA.”

“Bite me,” Austin said, grinning as Becky handed him his
coffee.

“No, seriously, Finley.” He looked left and right and waved
Austin closer, as if preparing to divulge a state secret. “Listen
up, dude. There was a big story about birth order on the news
this morning.” He shrugged. “This stuff with Avery? It’s all
’cause he sees you as his baby brother.”

“Aw, gimme a break. He’s five stinkin’ minutes older than
me.”

“Big difference, five minutes. Made him ju-u-ust older and
wiser enough to become a hot shot Wall Street investment
banker.” He gave Austin the once-over, from close-cropped
blond hair to spit-polished black shoes. “And develop the opinion
that he needs to watch over you. Y’know, since you’re only
one of many tiny little cogs that make the City’s gears—”
Austin chuckled. “Yeah, well, you can both bite me.”

Becky wiggled a forefinger at Eddy. “Your turn, honey pot.”
He leaned a forearm on the counter and frowned. “Holy
moly, Beckster, you gotta quit partyin’ all night, ’cause—shooeee
and wowza, dudette—you are some kinda green around
the gills this mornin’!”

She blew a baseball-sized purple bubble and popped it with
her front teeth. “Some days it’s hard to believe you found a
woman willing to marry you.”

Eddy snickered, then ordered decaf with double cream, pretending
not to hear as Austin and the rest of his cop pals agreed
with Becky. The good-natured taunting came to a halt when
a second rumble shook the windows and rattled the mugs,
stacked pyramid fashion on glass shelves behind the counter.
For a blink in time, the West Street Coffee Shop fell completely
quiet. Then a chorus of buzzing cell phones, radio bleeps, and
the sputtering of dispatchers summoning all available personnel
to the World Trade Center ended the eerie silence.

Amid the clamor of cops and firefighters charging into the
street, Austin disregarded a second call from his twin. Tossing
Eddy the keys to their cruiser, he growled “You drive for a
change. I’m afraid I’ll take my bad mood out on some ‘Got my
license in a gumball machine’ sightseer at Battery Park.”
Siren blaring and lights flashing, they peeled away from the
curb. “Smart decision,” he said, honking and shaking a fist at
the slow-moving taxi that blocked him from the destination,
just half a mile away.

Emergency vehicles, city buses, cabs, and limos joined
the rows of cars and delivery vans that rolled to a dead stop.

“What’s the holdup?” Eddy demanded. “Can’t those clowns see
that the light is green?”

“I hate these stupid tests. It’d make a lot more sense for the
big shots at city hall to do stuff like this when the roads aren’t
clogged with traffic.” Austin shook his head. “But no-o-o, we’ve
gotta put on a good show for the tourists.”

“Guess we can’t complain about getting paid to sit on our
duffs.”

“Yeah? Well, I can complain, about these exhaust fumes for
starters.”The radio buzzed and hummed with steady static, and
Austin beat a fist on the dash. “Oh. Great. Now this piece of
junk decides to die, leaving us clueless about what’s going on
at WTC.”

“I hate to break it to ya, pard, but you were clueless before
we—” Eddy draped his upper body over the steering wheel
and looked up. “What—Is—That?”

Squinting, Austin scrubbed the inside of the windshield
with the heel of his hand. “Turn on the defogger, genius.”
But the murk was outside. Fierce, roiling white smoke
stained the blue early-autumn sky. “I have a feeling this is no
ordinary test,” he said grimly. “We’d better hot-foot it the rest
of the way.”

“You’re right. Ain’t like we’re gonna block traffic.”

Side by side, the partners jogged toward the Towers, and
the closer they got, the harder it became to see through the
smog.

“Must be one heckuva fire to make a mess like this.”
In his pocket, Austin’s cell phone buzzed, and he ignored
it for the third time in five minutes. When he got hold of his
twin later, man, was Avery gonna get a piece of his mind.

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