Last fall, I had the opportunity to travel to California for a retreat with a group of authors who write with me in Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Series Kindle World. Toby recently relocated from Hawaii to California and a bunch of us jumped at the chance to meet each other, spend time on the Russian River, and write. We ended up being there during the catastrophic wildfires that hit California’s wine country.
We spent the weekend in a strange awareness; watching the news catalog the terrible devastation and personal losses local wineries and residents were facing while knowing that a simple change in the wind would mean evacuation. The air was full of smoke and ash fall.
My author friend, Scott Bury, and I met through the Lei Crime Kindle World Ohana, and had the pleasure of meeting in person during our retreat. I am pleased to share with you his story, WILDFIRE, inspired by the events we witnessed together last year (though we had nothing to do with any murder!)
Wildfires swept across California wine country in 2017, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and killing dozens of people. Law school grad and single mother Tara Rezeck finds herself in the middle of the catastrophe. When she returns to her job at the most award-winning vineyard in Sonoma County, she finds her employer’s body in the ashes.
The question that challenges her brains and her legal training is: was it an accident? Or was his body burned to hide evidence of murder?
You can read the first two chapters for free on Wattpad.
The price goes up on publishing day – reserve your copy of the new California wine country mystery WILDFIRE $0.99
Wildfire: The evacuation center
A haggard looking woman in surgical scrubs and Croc shoes took a look at them. Her eyes widened.
“Take her first. She’s in shock,” Roberto said. “She found her husband dead.”
The woman’s expression softened. She called over a slender nurse in burgundy scrubs and led Veronica away. Charlie followed, his tail low.
“We’re going to somewhere quiet, where she can talk to someone,” said the first nurse.
The slender nurse in burgundy had thick brown hair. A name tag on her chest read “Finigan.” She frowned as she held a stethoscope to Roberto’s chest, then pointed them to one of hundreds of cots arranged in ranks across the concrete floor of what was normally a double basketball court.
Tara slumped onto a cot. Her lungs burned and her legs felt like lead. Her neck was having trouble holding her head up, which ached in front and behind her ears. She coughed, then did her best to suppress it because it hurt her chest.
All around, people stained with soot lay or sat on the cots, or on mattresses on the floor, coughing and moaning. Children cried, adults called across the space and their voices reverberated off the concrete floor and walls.
Tara lay back. Overhead, banners hanging from the ceiling stretched across the court. “Bobcats Peewee Champs” read one. I’m glad they won.
“Gonsalves and Rezeck?” Tara opened her eyes. A heavy-set young man in purple scrubs stood in front of her, holding an oxygen mask. He looked at a clipboard in his other hand. “You Rezeck? Theresa Rezeck?”
“Tara Rezeck,” she answered, coughing.
The man in scrubs squinted at the clipboard. “Oh, yeah. Tara. It looks like ‘Theresa.’ You have smoke inhalation.” She flinched back as he put the clear plastic device up to her face. “Relax,” he said, and she allowed the man to push the mask against her nose and mouth and stretch a strap behind her head.
He turned to Roberto, and attached a little hose under his nose. “Why is his mask different from mine?” Tara asked, triggering another coughing fit.
“It’s what we got left,” the man said. He fitted Roberto’s tubes into his nostrils, then opened a valve on the tank. “Just relax and breathe for a while. You’ll feel better soon, once you get the smoke out of your systems.”
“I need to use the john,” said Roberto.
The technician removed the hose from Roberto’s neck and pointed across the court. “Be right back,” said Roberto.
The technician left two water bottles and left to look after others.
Tara breathed through her nose, expecting to cough again, and was surprised when she did not. The air coming through the mask was cool and clean. She imagined clear vapor pushing black clouds from her lungs.
She looked at her hands. They were stained black. Black streaks smeared her pants and shirt. Her once white shoes were dark grey.
She lay back again, closing her eyes. I wonder how many times the Bobcats won a banner. And what about other ages besides Peewees? Juniors? What are the other ages called? How old are Peewees, anyway?
I wonder if Roxanne will play basketball. Or maybe this is lacrosse. Or hockey. What do kids play in California, indoors?
The noise of the makeshift clinic faded. Poor Alan. I can’t believe he’s gone. Poor Veronica.
How many other people have died in this?
Then her thoughts turned to herself. Where can Roxanne and I live now? How many homes have been destroyed already? Besides Alan, how many people killed?
Maybe coming here was a mistake. Maybe I should go back home to Vermont. Back to Mom and Dad and Bobby.
Bobby. He could be helping. He should be helping. The deadbeat.
That’s not fair. He’s not a deadbeat. He’s paying child support every month.
Roxanne. I miss you, baby.
She sat up suddenly. Mom and Dad!
She scrambled the phone out of her pants pocket and hit speed dial. Her mother answered on the second ring. “Tara! Are you safe?”
After a 30-year career as a journalist and editor, Scott Bury turned to writing fiction with a children’s story, Sam, the Strawb Part, and a story that bridged the genres of paranormal occult fiction and espionage thriller: Dark Clouds. Since then, he has published 12 novels and novellas without regard to staying in any one genre.
In 2012, he published his first novel, the historical magic realism bestseller The Bones of the Earth. His next book, One Shade of Red, was a satire of a bestseller with a similar title.
From 2014 to 2017, he published the Eastern Front Trilogy, the true story of a Canadian drafted into the Soviet Red Army in 1941, and how he survived the Second World War: Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War.
Scott was invited to write for three Kindle Worlds, where authors base novellas on the fictional worlds of bestselling series. For Toby Neal’s Lei Crime Kindle World, he wrote Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying and Echoes.
For Russell Blake’s Jet Kindle World, he contributed Jet: Stealth, featuring the explosive duo of Van and LeBrun.
And for Emily Kimelman’s Sydney Rye Kindle World, he brought Van and LeBrun back for The Wife Line and The Three-Way.
Now, he is beginning a new mystery series with Wildfire, featuring the smart and passionate Tara Rezeck. Wildfire is currently availablefor pre-order on on Amazon (for Kindle e-readers) and Smashwords (for Kobo, Nook and other e-readers).
Find out more about Scott and his writing on his website, ScottBuryAuthor.com.