Outtabounds (2)

Ebook CoverBecause this is the first adult novel I’ve published in several years, the people asking questions about it are several years older than those I usually work with. And I’ve included an excerpt from the prologue to give readers a taste of what this one’s all about:

Prologue

Twenty-three years earlier . . .

TEN-YEAR-OLD Jeffrey Christopher crouched over his skis as he raced down the snowy hillside. A bump appeared on the side of the trail and he shot toward it, tucking his poles beneath his arms like an Olympic racer. He waited until the last instant, then pushed up with his knees and popped into the air, whooping with excitement. He landed in an explosion of snow, zigged and zagged to slow himself, then turned his skis and braked to a stop.

He turned and looked uphill.

“C’mon, Dad, hit it!” he shouted. “Hit it!”

James Christopher knew he’d be taking the jump the moment he saw Jeffrey heading for it. The boy loved watching his father fly through the air as much as he loved being airborne himself. James wasn’t really  interested in bumps and jumps anymore–growing old sometimes did that to a man–but risking life and limb (and watching his father do the same) seemed hard-wired into his son’s DNA. It made the boy smile. And that was all the reason James Christopher needed to take the jump.

He was Jeffrey’s hero and he knew it. Jeffrey once told a friend his dad was “the best skier in the world!” After that, James would have taken an Olympic ski jump blindfolded rather than disappoint his son.

He bent his knees as he made his approach, then hopped and popped into the air. He splayed his arms and legs–a classic spread-eagle–and landed cleanly. He braked hard, spraying Jeffrey with an icy shower of fresh, frosty, sparkling powder.

“Yes” Jeffrey exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. “That was great!”

James smiled. He looked back up the hill for a moment, then turned back to his son. “So where do you want to go?”

“Loose Moose!” Jeffrey said without hesitation.

“Sounds good,” James agreed. “Let’s go.”

James took a moment to catch his breath as Jeffrey planted his poles and pushed off. He knew before asking that they’d be hitting Loose Moose. It was their signature run. Narrow monkey trails snaked through the pine forest on both sides of the creamy corduroy, and father and son both enjoyed darting between the trees, ducking beneath snow-laden branches, hopping fallen logs, and slicing through piles of loose powder before blazing back onto the groomed run again.

James breathed deeply–the air seemed unusually thin this morning–as he followed Jeffrey down the slope. Whenever they skied together, James insisted on Jeffrey taking the lead. He enjoyed watching the little firecracker, for one thing. But he also preferred being uphill in case the boy took a spill. It was much simpler to reach him that way than if–

James gasped, abruptly overcome by a wave of nausea and dizziness. He wedged his skis to slow himself, suddenly confused and out of breath. His chest began to burn, felt as if it were being crushed. He braked to a stop and bent over his skis as he tried to catch his breath. His head swam. His ears rang and his chest flamed. He could feel his heart pounding.

He had no way of knowing it, but an aneurysm–a weak spot in the aorta below his kidneys–had burst and begun spilling blood into his abdomen. The result of a genetic defect, the aneurysm had gone undetected for years. But now–weakened by a recent infection and aggravated by the stress of hard skiing–it had given way.

His heart began pumping faster to compensate for the diminishing volume of blood. The extra fluid in his abdomen created pressure against adjacent veins and arteries, further slowing the circulation of blood and depriving his body of oxygen.

Searing pain slashed through Christopher’s chest and he fell to the snow, gasping and clutching at his coat.

Jeffrey turned to look back uphill just as his father collapsed.

“Dad!”

The boy slammed to a stop, popped off his skis, and struggled to run back up the slope. He sank to the top of his ski boots with every stop in the soft snow but didn’t quit. He clawed his way up the hill with all the speed he could muster.

“Dad!”

By the time Jeffrey reached him, his father was unconscious.

“Dad!”

Confused and frightened, Jeffrey shook his father, then shook him again, desperately trying to wake him. There was a shushing sound and he looked up to see a skier slicing down the hill. The boy stood and frantically waved down the passing skier.

“There’s something wrong with my dad!” the boy cried as tears coursed down his cheeks. “Please, you’ve got to help him!”

The skier took one look at the man lying crumpled on the snow. He could see blood trickling from the corners of the man’s mouth and knew the situation was more serious than a broken leg or a sprained ankle. Certainly beyond any help he could offer. He knew he could stop … but he didn’t know first aid.

But he knew where to find someone who did.

“Stay here,” he said. “I’ll get the ski patrol.”

Before the boy could respond the skier planted his poles and shot down the hill, relieved to have a task he could handle.

Jeffrey knelt beside his father feeling lost and alone and more frightened than he’d ever been in his young life.

Hot tears seared his eyes.

“Dad,” he whispered between sobs. “Oh, Dad …”

 

So that’s the first half of the prologue. (I hope it grabbed your attention!)

Outtabounds

My newest thriller (and my first adult novel for several years) is just about ready for release. It’s called Outtabounds, and it’s about a legendary ski patroller who–after he’s fired from a large, destination resort, and with his knowledge of avalanches and explosives–decides to take revenge upon the patrol, the mountain, and the resort. I’ve been working on it for a long time–years, actually–and I’m jazzed to finally have it done.

Here’s an excerpt:

NEWMAN Chopperwas twenty-two, with dreams of becoming a paramedic. He was brash, confident, and aggressive to the point of being overbearing. A self-acknowledged expert on every topic, he had an opinion on everything and an over-inflated sense of his own importance.

Newman was known for standing at the top of the ski lifts when he wasn’t busy, feet apart, hands on his hips, smiling at passing guests as if saying, Relax and have a nice day now, folks: Mickey Newman’s on the job . . .

With a grin, Chase remembered the time a patroller radioed for a snowmobile to transport an exhausted guest from a remote hillside. Hearing the call, Newman had gone running for the nearest ‘bile, jumping onto the machine like Batman into the Batmobile. The ‘bile was parked at the bottom of a steep incline and Newman gunned the throttle to make the climb.

Unfortunately, someone had left the ‘bile in reverse. It shot backward, throwing Newman up and over the windscreen. His coat sleeve caught on the throttle and the snowmobile dragged him flapping and flailing across the slope before finally slamming into a tree.

Chase rolled his eyes.

Ah, he thought.

Mickey Newman . . .

JADEN JEX, on the other hand, was as nice a kid as Chase had ever known, though it was said he had the thinking power of a potted plant. Chase had heard one patroller claim the kid had “to think to breathe.”

Jex loved the beauty of the mountains, and he loved gazing about and admiring the view as he skied. It was not unknown for him to become so enthralled with the scenery that he’d forget to look where he was going. The patrol jester claimed there were few trees on the mountain he hadn’t skied into.

Once, while doing avalanche control (and for reasons no one had been able to explain) Jex had been assigned to carry a pack of explosives. It was strictly against patrol policy and common sense to “catch air” while in uniform. But when a tricky jump presented itself, Jex had been too tempted to resist. He flew over the bump, but then caught an edge on the other side. He tumbled head-over-skis down the slope with his pack of explosives, completely out of control and expecting to be blown to smithereens.

When he finally rolled to a stop, he desperately tried to rid himself of the pack–flapping, fighting, flailing in the snow–completely forgetting the waist strap that held the pack secure until he finally fell exhausted to the snow.

The other patrollers laughed themselves silly.

Chase rolled his eyes. Newman and Jex . . .

The two patrolmen, Chase thought, were as different as gravel and grapes, as different was any two men could be. But their hearts and intentions were in the right place.

Ben’s right, Chase thought. It’s going to be an interesting day . . .

 

Look for Outtabounds toward the end of October, 2018.

Shredder

snowboardMy new book “Shredder” is soon to be released. Here is an excerpt:

 

Trennon waited until Wulff had gone, then rode slowly, casually, down the mountain. He was feeling better . . . better than he had in days. And with a start realized he was even smiling.

He thought about it for a moment and realized his head was still throbbing–

Ripley’s busy in there today . . .

–but the whole time he’d been talking with Wulff, he hadn’t even noticed.

Wow, he thought. He’s just like Chessie. . . . He makes me forget my problems.  . . . He makes me forget I have problems.

He breathed deeply, happily, feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.

Wulff . . . a cop!

He couldn’t believe it. For the first time in months Trennon felt like things were working out. Like the enormous black cloud hanging over him since losing his brother had lifted. Like the sun was finally shining again.

He reached the bottom of the hill and hopped back on the lift. It was a quick ride and before he knew it he was on top of the mountain again. He slid to the side and plopped onto a convenient drift to strap in. He was giving his bindings a final tug when someone rode up beside him.

Two someones.

“Well, well, well,” Stoner one said, dropping to the snow beside him. “Look who we have here.”

“It’s our nosy little friend,” Stoner Two said. He plopped on the other side, sandwiching Trennon between them.

Trennon felt his heart drop as he looked from one stoner to the other.

“I think you have something that belongs to us,” Stoner One said. The man’s voice was low but filled with knives.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, I think you do . . . you have something of ours and we want it back.”

“What?” Trennon asked, trying to appear innocent as ice cream. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know exactly what we’re talking about,” Stoner Two said, menace dripping from his voice like goo from a slime-smeared zombie. “So quit acting dumb or things are gonna get ugly.”

“Way too late for that,” Trennon quipped.

“You’re a mouthy little kid, aren’t you?”

“My mouth is legendary,” Trennon said before he could stop himself. He knew this wasn’t the time to be smarting off, but couldn’t keep the words from spilling out.

“Your mouth is writing checks your body can’t cash,” Stoner One said stupidly.

“And yours is saying words it can’t spell.”

Trennon looked back and forth, knowing he was in trouble. And knowing there was no way out of it.

Well, maybe one way . . .

He sat back in the snow as if giving up, then hopped to his feet and onto the slope. He aimed for the steepest part of the run and was twenty yards downhill before the stoners realized he was getting away.

“Hey!” one of the stoners shouted. “Stop!”

Right, Trennon thought. Like I’m really gonna just stop and let you catch me.

And then: Morons . . .

 

He flew down the run, quickly gaining speed, the stoners shouting and spouting obscenities as they tried to catch up. Trennon didn’t know what they’d do if they caught him, but was determined not to let that happen.

Where’s Wulff now that I need him? Trennon wondered cynically. Typical cop . . .

 

He shot down the hill, a rooster-tail of snow spraying up behind him. He thought about racing for the busiest part of the resort on the chance the stoners wouldn’t try anything around a crowd of people.

All those witnesses . . .

On the other hand, who knew what a couple of dumb, angry stoners might do? Besides, if anyone official became involved, Trennon would have to answer some pretty awkward questions himself.

He set his teeth and pushed for more speed. He knew his best chance was to leave the stoners so far behind they’d need the Millennium Falcon to catch up. He crouched over his board–

A speeding skier abruptly shot from the trees, skidding on the ice and cutting him off. Trennon jammed his heels into the ice to keep from losing control, but it was too late. His edge caught and snagged and pitched him forward, face-first into the snow.

“Aaargh!”

His head smacked against the ice, the impact shooting lightning bolts through his head–

“Aaargh!”

–but he quickly shook it off. He rolled over, looking up just as the first stoner reached him. The stoner tried to stop but was sliding too fast, bracing himself for impact. Trennon flinched and cringed just as the stoner ran over him, smashing him flat as a pancake and driving the air from his lungs before falling and tumbling away.

Trennon gasped for breath and tried to sit up, but the second stoner was right there, sliding fast. Trennon curled into a ball to keep from being body-slammed again. The stoner flashed past and Trennon tried hopping to his board, but Stoner One reached a hand out, tripping him up. Trennon fell forward, his helmet slamming against the ice. Bright light flashed behind his eyes. He gasped in pain, but sensed movement and rolled away as Stoner Two dove onto the snow, just missing him.

Trennon had both boots strapped to his board, was basically one-legged. But while the stoners each had one boot strapped in and were dragging their boards around, they at least had one leg free to maneuver with. Stoner Two rose to his knees, lunged at Trennon–

Trennon twisted away at the last instant.

Thought, Enough of this!

He rolled onto his back, looked up as Stoner One dove upon him. Trennon coiled like a spring, kicked out as hard as he could, and drove his snowboard straight into the stoner’s chest, hurling him backward.

“Aaaiyyy!”

The stoner yelled, collapsing like a wet glove.

Trennon didn’t hesitate. He leaped onto his board, pointed the nose downhill, and began hopping to propel himself.

Stoner Two came after him. He was frog-walking with his board, reaching out with both hands like a gore-dripping face-chewer from The Walking Dead. Trennon ducked beneath the outstretched gloves, spun around on his board, and raced fakie down the ice. He looked back to see the stoners strapping in, now more enraged than ever.

 

Trennon felt his head pounding as he raced down the hill.

Man, if they weren’t mad before, they are now, he thought. And then: They catch me, they’ll kill me for sure! 

The trail curved around a slick, rocky ridge. The hillside below was too steep and dangerous to ride, fenced off with orange ropes and CLOSED! signs to keep people from trying. But danger was a relative thing. Compared to a couple of homicidal stoners, a steep, rocky hillside was nothing.

Trennon crouched, then used a bump on the trail as a kicker. He pushed hard with his legs, popped into the air, and sucked his knees up to his chest. He flew over the rope but instantly realized he’d miscalculated. He was higher than he expected, nothing but jagged rocks and gnarly pines below. He was flying fast and falling even faster. He had just enough time to clench his teeth before his board clipped a rock and he plowed into the snow. His knees shot up like pistons, driving the breath from his lungs in a painful whoosh! He flipped and spun and then slammed into the husk of a dead tree.

“Oof!”

He gasped for breath and tried to shake his head clear. It took a moment before he realized he was upside down, twisted like a pretzel, buried in a pile of loose snow and spongy pine branches. He tried to breathe but got nothing but a mouthful of cold snow. He coughed and gagged and fought a moment of panic, then finally managed a lungful of frosty air. He clawed at the snow but was anchored by his snowboard. He had to kick and wiggle and flail at the powder until he was finally able to roll himself upright.

He looked uphill. The stoners had ducked the rope, were searching for a way down through the rocks and trees.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Trennon thought grimly. I win, you suck: you cannot ride, you cannot huck!

The stoners could barely handle a halfpipe, let alone a treacherous, rock-covered face like this one.

Morons, he thought. Probably end up killing themselves . . .

 

It took Trennon nearly half an hour to wind his way through the rocks and trees and cliffs and scarps to the bottom of the suicidal hillside. At one point he even had to remove his board. The snow was too deep to slog through, and he had to use the board to shovel a path through the powder.

Yeah, there’s a reason this place is roped off, he thought when he finally found a flat spot to strap in again.

He picked his way between stands of pines and rocky outcroppings and finally dropped onto a groomed trail. A ski patrolman was standing on the side of the trail, watching.

Right, Trennon thought, knowing he was busted. Now the cops show up . . .

https://amazon.com/author/shanebarker