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Welcome to Lazarus
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-338-7
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 261 Pages
Published: March 2006
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

En route to a reporting job in Little Rock, car trouble forces Bob Smith to spend the night in Lazarus, Arkansas. Suspecting the town is hiding some bucolic Fountain of Youth, his curiosity and investigating skills take him close enough to the town’s secret to fall victim to it. He manages to get away with his life, his car repaired well enough to get him to Little Rock, and a twenty-four hour gap in his memory only to be drawn back by nightmares and puzzling deja vu flashes to Lazarus where he finds the love of his life and danger as he hunts for those lost hours.

Bob Smith arrives at his new reporting job and enjoys his work and the opportunity to learn more about photography. In spite of a disturbing stop en route to Little Rock which left a twenty-four hour gap in his memory, he uses his camera to mask his intentions of finding out what happened to him in Lazaras and pursue the story his gut feeling insists is there. He meets a beautiful girl who steals his heart, not knowing her very presence is synonymous with danger or that the people who helped him get away with his life are still hovering, trying to protect him. Fascinated to the point of enchantment, he stays until his mentor who taught him photography comes looking for him. They face a 200 year old nemesis, a couple of muscle men the mafia would love, and a bomb before they can send up a flare and celebrate a happy ending - or hopefully, a beginning!

Welcome to Lazarus (Excerpt)


Bob turned his attention to the door, his stomach feeling like it was dropping on a fast elevator ride. He smiled as his left hand caressed the surface of the sun warmed door, his right hand holding the key to - what? A scientific breakthrough, a story worthy of a Pulizer, a sip from the Fountain of ourh, or just a local legend, nothing more than a hoax...


CHAPTER ONE

LORD!

Bob ran a finger around his collar and loosened his tie, watching the road signs along the freeway. The heat and the air conditioner seemed to be fighting it out, and the air conditioner was losing. He questioned his sanity for driving when he could have been sitting in an air-conditioned bus.

He had been freelancing, writing articles and anything else he could pick up in the way of work, when the chance at a job in Little Rock offered him enough permanence, if not money, to entice him into the unpredictable Arkansas weather.

There should be a better word for this than hot! This humidity is something else! He wiped his face with a handkerchief, catching sight of a distant road sign.

At least, having no one to notify and not much in the way of possessions, all I?ve got to do is get there, if this antique of mine will make it.

He smiled to himself. Have heap, will leap!

The sign turned out to be a state line marker and the exit sign just beyond promised fuel and food in a couple of miles.

I?m in Arkansas now, thank goodness for that next exit. I?m ready for a drink of damn near anything, as long as it’s got plenty of ice in it.

He pulled into the right lane to exit and frowned, sucking in his breath. Wisps of smoke appeared, coming up over the hood of the car.

That looks like trouble. There’s fuel at this next exit, maybe my luck will hold long enough to find a mechanic who knows what he’s doing and not trying to make enough to retire on every deal.

The sign as he left the freeway read, Welcome to Lazarus.

Just beyond was a group of buildings. A neat and efficient looking post office nestled among large, old-looking trees, a Dairy Delight centered in a big parking lot, and at a little distance up a hill, he saw the promised service station.

Eyeing the wisps of smoke, he pulled into the Dairy Delight lot. He stood beside the car holding the door open, hoping the stop and cooling off would help whatever might be wrong.

As if anything could cool off in this heat, I feel like I?m done medium well, myself!

He rolled down the window and slammed the door. He pulled at the back of his shirt, which was already beginning to stick to him and headed for the Dairy Delight’s service window.

A teenaged girl saw him and slid open the window. "Yes, sir?"

Bob pointed. "Give me a biggee cola like that picture. Better make that two."

The heat wrapped around him again when the window closed, but he felt better for the brief respite and didn?t see any more smoke coming from the car. He turned at the sound of the window opening again.

"That will be four dollars and twenty cents, sir."

Bob hunted for change, then peered inside as he handed the girl his money.

"Is there any place at all to sit in there?" he asked hopefully.

"No, sir, I?m sorry. There’s a couple of tables at the side of the building, and some benches across the street." The last was said as if she had memorized it.

"Okay, thanks."

The girl went through a door inside and Bob regarded the two concrete tables in the hot sun.

Probably raise blisters on your backside. He cringed at the thought, turning away.

The benches in front of the post office were in deep shade from the ancient- looking trees. With the paper bag in one hand and one of his drinks in the other, Bob started across the street.

All the benches were occupied. He walked slowly, hoping someone would decide to get up and leave him one to himself. No one did.

Not having any choice, he approached the sole occupant of the shaded bench nearest him and stood looking down, feeling like an intruder.

"Mind if I sit here?"

"Nope, suit yourself."

Bob studied the man from the corner of his eye. He appeared to be about fifty-five or perhaps closer to sixty, was wearing sturdy boots in spite of the heat, and bib overalls which had faded to one of the blue shades in the sports shirt he was wearing.

Downing about a third of his drink, Bob managed a tentative smile and stuck out his hand.

"Bob Smith," he introduced himself. "Is it always this hot in Arkansas?"

The man shook hands, smile wrinkles deepening in the weathered face. "No, sometimes it’s hotter. My name’s Dale Carpenter. You visitin? kin hereabouts?"

"No." Bob unwrapped his sandwich as he answered. "I?m on my way to Little Rock. Going to take a reporting job on a newspaper there."

"Oh." His voice dropped a little. "Reporting job ?" his voice trailed off.

Bob wondered if he?d heard a little disappointment in the reaction to his only passing through, but put it down to wishful thinking.

With a little less drawl, his voice sounds like dad’s. He looks like the uncle I might have had if I weren?t the only child of only children. Now who’s doing the wishful thinking? He wondered briefly if one could adopt family other than children, like perhaps an uncle, if you found one who seemed compatible?

A slight breeze rustled the leaves above them. Paper dry, the sound added to the deep shade’s illusion of coolness.

As they talked, several local people passing by punctuated their conversation. Two of them wished Dale Carpenter a happy birthday.

His natural curiosity prompted Bob to ask, "This your birthday? Today?"

Dale looked away. "Yep."

Amused at the short answer, Bob prodded. "How old are you? Or shouldn?t I ask?"

Still looking away as if making up his mind about something, Dale finally confided, "I?m a hundred and twenty-eight."

Bob smothered a snicker. "Not telling, huh?"

"Just did," was the curt reply. "Ain?t no secret."

"Oh, come on, how old?"

Dale Carpenter was not amused. "A hundred and twenty-eight."

"Yeah?" Bob’s expression was as scornful and skeptical as his voice. "Quick, what year were you born?"

"Eighteen sixty-seven," came without hesitation.

Bob did a little mental arithmetic as Dale continued, not as irritated, but still studying the dusty street.

"June it was. Maw was glad to have Paw back from the war with all his arms and legs, and have a couple of good crops behind them. I reckon that’s why I got my invite to join the human race."

"The war," Bob echoed cautiously.

"Yes, the war." He treated Bob to a glimpse of impatience before his eyes returned to the road. "The war between the states, the one you Yankees call the civil war. Humpf! Ain?t nothin? civil about a war!"

"Yeah, you?re right about that." Bob was carefully neutral. "I don?t know if I?d qualify for Yankee or not, being from St. Louis, but I sure can?t argue with that. Nothing civil about a war."

Having carefully agreed with the obvious, he busily gathered up the scraps from his meal and crammed them into the bag to throw away.

He turned around to the trashcan. "Well, have a good birthday."

"Thanks." Dale hesitated, giving him an oddly speculative look as if he wanted to say something else. He didn?t. Turning to leave too, he added only, "Hope the reportin? job turns out good."

Back at his car, Bob looked back at the empty bench as he closed the door.

Takes all kinds to people a planet, I guess. He’s got some kind of hang-up about his age, that’s for sure.

He felt better after his lunch and the refreshing rest in the shade. He smiled to himself, remembering Dale sitting there with his thumbs hooked under the straps of his overalls. He’s a better straight-faced con artist than I am when I?m working on a story. Must be a heck of a poker player!

He chuckled to himself as he turned the key. His joy was short lived, the car wouldn?t start. Several more tries resulted in only an ominous silence. There wasn?t any more smoke, but the car was deader than last week’s news.

Bob got out and stood looking at the uncooperative heap.

Great! Just great! And I don?t see anything as helpful as a phone anywhere around here.

His eyes searched the Dairy delight lot as well as the area in front of the post office. He pictured himself being towed ignominiously into Little Rock. Some grand entrance! As if I could afford a tow that far!

He slammed the door with the thought that it was all that still worked, and started back toward the Dairy Delight’s service window.

There was no one in sight inside. Bob knocked loudly on the glass window. "Miss? Miss?"

The girl hurried through the door from the back room. "Sorry, sir. I didn?t hear a car, didn?t know you were here."

"There was nothing to hear." Bob kept the sarcasm out of his voice. It wasn?t her fault the car wouldn?t start.

"Do you have a phone I can use, and is there a repair shop around here that you can recommend?"

"No." The answer was apologetic. "There’s a coin phone around the back, but it’s broke. Best mechanic around here is at that station up the hill there." She gestured.

"He’s good, is he?" Bob was doubtful, she didn?t look old enough to drive, to him, but she did seem sympathetic.

He tried to explain. "I don?t know what’s wrong with my car. Has this guy been in business long? What I mean is, I need someone who knows what he’s doing, who’s got enough experience to find out what the trouble is and get it fixed."

"He’s been up there as long as I can remember," was accompanied by a reassuring smile. "And he must be good, because everybody around here takes their cars to him when something needs to be fixed. That’s where my daddy takes his truck when he needs help," she added by way of encouragement.

"That sounds pretty good to me, he must be good if he’s got his neighbors? confidence." He grinned at her and raised his eyebrows, "Your daddy’s truck still running?"

"Yes." She grinned back. "Runs good."

"Okay, I?ll go and talk to him."

He turned and heard the window close behind him. With a last look at his car, he cut across the lot and started up the hill remembering when he?d made the decision to move.

Bob had stood in front of the weathered exterior of the old and respected newspaper’s building. The sturdy facade looked as tough as the profession it housed. He?d glanced at the sign beside the door as he?d entered and went up the stairs to the editor’s office.

The door was open and he was alone. Bob knocked on the door’s facing, hoping he?d have better luck talking face to face than a phone call would afford him.

The editor, a balding man in shirtsleeves, beckoned him in.

"I was in the area and thought I?d check with you," Bob began, ignoring the tight feeling in his chest.

The editor shook his head, his expression dour. "We?ve hit a dry spell news-wise." He smiled slightly. "The help, even clerical, is bored enough to drink that bad coffee in the breakroom, to give you an idea."

"Yeah, that’s desperate, all right." Bob’s smile didn?t quite make it. "You mean there’s nothing at all?"

"Nothing means nothing. Not even a storm anywhere. My top reporter is training the cub I lost my mind and hired in one of my optimistic fits."

He learned back in his chair. "Believe me, if I had anything, you?d have heard from me. Why don?t you take this lull for personal business, or just rest, take some time off?"

Bob saw the boy sitting beside one of the desks in the newsroom and wondered briefly if he should go and warn him about this business. The lack of work always managed to come when he needed work the most. Murphy’s law echoed between his ears. Anything that can go wrong will, and at the worst possible time. It summed up freelancing just right. The editor’s advice taunted him.

Some time off. Yeah, like the next ninety years!

Aloud he?d said, "I?ll think about it. I?ll be in touch."

He had gone directly to the pay phone on the street in front of the building and called about the job that had been offered to him in Little Rock.

So, here I am, dead in the water and melting like a snowball in July. But I know I made the right decision. Now that I?ve given up my glamorous jock, unpredictable life for a job where I can pay my predictable bills, I?ll get there, by George, if I have to push that Dodge!