Tuesday Sampler: A Blind Eye by Jane Gorman
August 11, 2015
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Tuesday’s Sampler is an excerpt from A Blind Eye, a mystery from Jane Gorman.
A Blind eye was a semi-finalist in the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards for Works in Progress.
The First Chapter
Łukasz Kaminski tried to roll over, pushing his shoulder against the stone wall, then lay still as a wave of pain passed through him. He curled deeper into himself, toward the wall.
A few minutes later, he opened his eyes and forced himself to try again. He moaned as he moved, the shock of cold air painful against his face and hands. He sat up, leaned forward, and retched. The sound of his spasms filled the narrow street, echoing off the yellow stone buildings.
With a final cough, he rolled away from the steaming mess on the ground and stood, wiping his face with the back of his sleeve. Leaning against the wall, he shivered and hunched his shoulders, tucking his bare hands under his armpits. A freezing mist shrouded the cobblestones around him. Tiny particles of ice covered every surface, catching the dim yellow light escaping from old-fashioned gazowy lamps that sprouted at uneven intervals. A man and a woman hurried toward him, huddled together into one dark, moving mass. Their heads touched as they leaned into each other, their already low voices muffled even more by scarves and high collars.
“Która godzina jest?” He heard a female voice complaining. “Szybciej, szybciej.”
The couple glanced at him as they drew closer then looked away, their faces registering their disgust at the stink of the vomit. Łukasz opened his mouth to speak, but turned his eyes down when he saw their expressions. The clicking of their boots on the cobblestones faded as they turned the bend in the road. He stood for a minute, considering his options, and limped in the same direction.
Walking reduced some of the pain in his legs and back, but his sides felt bruised, and after only a few steps he paused to catch his breath. He shoved his hands in his pockets, then stiffened as his fingers wrapped around the phone. Basia’s phone, dead beyond repair since its immersion in the frozen river. Completely dead.
Grief flooded through him, threatening to overwhelm him. In an effort to maintain control, he focused on trying to remember what had happened to him. He let the phone drop in his pocket, wrapped his arms around his injured body, and kept moving forward. He remembered leaving his apartment, following yet another lead from the investigation that now dominated his life. But whoever had attacked him had succeeded in erasing the memory of what that lead was and where it had taken him.
His path dead-ended at a large town square. A handful of couples and some groups of youth still lingered in the area despite the cold. Nearest him, outdoor cafes were dark and shuttered, tables packed away for the night, shops deserted by their keepers. Across the expanse of the cobblestone and brick paved square, Warsaw’s Royal Castle loomed out of the darkness. Lights placed low on the ground shone up at its facade, setting fire to the red brick and yellow stone of its walls. He walked toward the castle, hoping for solace and warmth in its lights.
A group of young men, the oldest no more than seventeen, turned to watch him. One of the boys, his head shaved almost bald, his skinny form draped in a worn black leather jacket and thin metal chains, stood.
“A co to jest? Hey, mister, you lost?” he asked.
“Lost your mind, maybe,” came from another.
Closing in on him, they continued to taunt him. “Lazy-ass drunkard… loser… old-timer.”
One of them tossed an empty beer bottle behind him as he spoke and it shattered against the street, shards of glass sliding over the frozen surface.
Łukasz flinched at the noise and tried to turn away, but the gang surrounded him, pushing him back and forth between them. Already weakened, he kept his eyes down, hands by his sides, refusing to engage them. Waiting until they lost interest and moved on to find their next target. When the sound of their hobnailed jackboots had faded, he looked toward the castle and the two uniformed policemen who stood there. They seemed not to have noticed the drunk gang of young men. Or hadn’t cared enough to walk over. He stumbled in their direction.
His first attempt to speak failed, producing only a dry, croaking sound. The officers looked over as he was coughing to clear his throat.
“Move along now,” one officer said as he moved toward him, his hand reaching for the nightstick that slapped against his leg. “It’s almost morning and you can’t stay out here.”
His older partner spoke more gently. “There’s a shelter just down the street, grandpa. You can get a warm bed there, maybe even some breakfast.”
“No…” Łukasz finally found his voice. It sounded harsh and scratched. “No, I need your help. Something has happened.”
A look of concern crossed the face of the older officer. “What happened?”
“I’m… I’m not sure.” He bowed his head as he spoke, an unintentional gesture of defeat.
The officer came closer, though still keeping an arm’s length between them. He wrinkled his nose and looked him up and down. “Who are you? Why are you here?”
“That’s just it, officer, I can’t remember.” He closed his eyes, struggling to pull a memory from the haze of his mind. He failed. “I don’t know what happened or how I got here.”
The older officer looked at Łukasz’s hands and face. “He looks like he’s been in a fight. Is that blood?” The officer peered into Łukasz’s eyes. “Are you in pain? Were you beaten?”
“Yes.” He nodded, placing his hand on his side. “Yes, I’m hurt.”
The younger officer growled slightly under his breath, but it was clear now they would have to do something.
“Don’t worry,” his partner said, one side of his mouth turning up into a grin. “Once we get him to the hospital, I’ll handle the paperwork. You’ll still make it home to breakfast with Eva before she has to head out to work.”
Łukasz’s shoulders sagged as he turned to follow the officers to their patrol vehicle. Surely at a hospital he could find someone to help him remember. Streaks of pink and orange chased away the night’s darkness as the officers bent to help him into their car, a glint of early morning sun reflecting off the metal wing of a plane. Though he was closer to finding out what had happened to him, he knew he still didn’t have the one answer he needed. No matter what had happened to him, one thing wouldn’t change. The only thing he cared about. Basia would still be dead.