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Read Chapter 1 of the soon to be published novel - DENALI

DENALI

The Alaskan Adventures of Percy Hope The Goldfield Trilogy Book 3


^ 1 ^

CHICAGO

“Magnus, you’re alive,” I said at the sight of my friend, who appeared sitting next to me healthy and alert.

He furrowed his brow and said, “There’s much I need to tell you.”

“What do you mean? I asked rubbing the back of my neck, trying to comprehend his presence.

“Death is not the end of us Percy,” he said, gazing out onto the Bering Sea, the last place I saw him before he drowned.

“I don’t understand.”

Magnus turned to me, grasped my hands and pulled me in close and whispered, “When you are called upon, will you come?”

“Come where?”

He released my hands, wrapped his arms around me tightly, and whispered, “I’ll be waiting for you. Please don’t forsake me.”


“Percy, wake up we are pulling into the station,” Liam said, snapping me out of my dream.

I rubbed my eyes and looked out the window at the massive cityscape of Chicago and said, “I just dreamed of Magnus. We spoke.”

“That’s great,” Liam said, pulling down his valise from the rack above our heads.

I nodded, thinking about it for a moment then said, “He asked for my help.”

Liam frowned and said, “Help with what? He’s dead.”

“He wasn’t dead in my dream,” I said with a sigh. “But I don’t know—I guess it was all in my head.”

*

“This looks like it,” I said, grasping onto the trolley’s brass handrail with one hand, while reading the address written within my reporter’s notepad with the other. “Twenty-nine Cottage Grove Avenue.”

“Seems like a nice place,” Liam said, looking out through the window at the two-story home in need of a repairs, as the trolley came to a jarring stop, causing us and the other standing passengers to jerk forward.

I grunted as I lifted our wooden crate filled with gold nuggets while Liam grabbed our valises.

“I’m looking forward to getting rid of this,” I said, stepping onto the cobblestone street.

“Hopefully we can do this quickly,” Liam said. “I’m starving and can’t wait to try the Polish sausage, I hear it’s a specialty of the city.”

I too wanted to move on quickly, and the correspondence with Mr. George Vega, Magnus’s father, suggested that he was eagerly awaiting our arrival. However since we were a day early, I had no idea if he or his wife would be at home. On top of that, we hadn’t reserved a room for the two nights before our scheduled departure to New York City. However, I planned to ask Mr. Vega if he would let Liam and I stay with them. After all, we came with a bounty that was about to make their lives infinitely more comfortable.

Their home was set back from the road, with a narrow stone walkway leading through an overgrown front yard. As we stood before the brownstone’s front door, I placed the crate down, rapped sharply with the wrought iron knocker, and waited.

When no one answered, Liam said, “Try it again.”

I sighed, and just as I lifted the knocker, the door swung open and a man’s disheveled face stuck out.

“What do you want?” he barked.

I stared at the red-eyed, unshaven man and asked, “Are you Mr. Vega?”

“Who the hell are you?” the man said, letting out a belch of whiskey breath that caused me to jerk my head back.

“I wrote to you sir. I’m Percy Hope and this is Liam Kampen. We came from San Francisco to bring you this,” I said pointing to the gold-filled crate nestled between my legs.

He looked me up and down, then as if he had a religious epiphany, his face brightened and he proclaimed, “The gold!”

“Yes the gold,” I said in a whisper, trying not to attract his neighbors’ attention. “Can we come inside?”

Mr. Vega looked past us, making sure no one had overheard, then motioned us in. “Quickly,” he said, shutting the door and sliding over the dead bolt.

The first thing I noticed, besides the smell of alcohol oozing from him, was the musty stench inside. I swallowed, tasting its sourness, and asked, “Is Mrs. Vega here?”

“Oh, no. Didn’t Magnus tell you? She passed away three months ago. Martha had the flu, which turned into pneumonia. Poor thing,” he said, reaching under his shirt to scratch his belly.

I shook my head. “I’m sorry for both of your losses, but Magnus passed over a year ago, so he couldn’t have known.”

Mr. Vega wagged a finger and said, “Ah, that’s right. I got your letter. Ever since my Martha died, I’ve had a hard time keeping things straight in my head. You were with my son when he died?”

I sighed and said, “Yes, I pulled his body from the sea. I’m so sorry, Mr. Vega.”

“Thank you Percy. I assume you were good friends.”

“Yes, I’d like to think so,” I said, not wanting to rehash our relationship over the years, especially the tumultuous ones in Hope.

The last time I saw him, he seemed troubled. My poor boy,” he said shaking his head.

“I understand,” I said, placing a hand on his shoulder to comfort him .

“Come into the kitchen. You boys must be thirsty,” he said and turned.

Liam and I followed him down the dimly lit hallway. Along the way it was easy to imagine how the decor of the home must have looked when his wife attended to its care . Obviously, George had little interest in repairs, maintenance or general tidiness. Artwork hung crooked, an area rug had its corner flipped over, and a coating of dust covered the side table where a vase stood holding a bouquet of dead flowers. Its brown petals scattered about upon the table and more on the floor below.

“Have you boys ever tried Edelweiss beer?” George said, pulling out three bottles from the ice box. “It’s brewed right here in Chicago.”

I shrugged and looked over to Liam who shook his head. George gestured for us to sit at the only two chairs pushed under a cluttered kitchen table with barely enough room to rest our bottles upon.

“What about you? I said, offering George my chair. “I can stand.”

“Nonsense, you boys relax. I’ve been on my ass all day,” he said popping off the tops, allowing them to bounce onto floor, and handed us the bottles.

Liam took a sip. “This is amazing,” he said, licking his lips. “I’d love to serve this in my restaurant.”

George gave him a huge smile, enough to show off his yellow and brown teeth. “So,” he said, rubbing his hangs together, “can I take a look at what you brought me?”

“Sure thing,” I said and fetched the crate still sitting in the vestibule.

I brought it back and placed it on the kitchen floor. “Would you happen to have a crowbar?”

George held up a finger and said, “In the basement, I’ll be right back. You boys enjoy your beer.”

I waited for sounds of the footsteps to fade, then whispered to Liam, “What do you think?”

Liam shrugged. “About what?”

I waved my hands about. “This mess,” I said with a grimace.

“Pfft, who cares?” Liam said with a shrug. “Magnus is gone now. And I’m sure it was much different when his mother was alive.”

“You’re probably right.”

George’s heavy footfalls returned. “Here you go,” he said, appearing from the basement doorway.

“Thank you,” I said, taking the rusty crowbar and bending down to open the crate.

“This is exciting,” George said, shifting his brows up and down.

I pried open the crate, and for the first time since Mr. Biddle, the envoy for the three Lucky Swedes, gave me the gold at Magnus’s grave site, I looked inside and saw the six gold nuggets nestled in loose straw.

“Let me hold one,” George said, with a drizzle of drool escaping from the side of his mouth.

Like handling a delicate egg in a nest, I lifted one out and handed it to him.

As George gently cradled it, I saw the pupils in his eyes expanding as if he was absorbing the gold into his soul. He suddenly recovered and said, “It’s heavier than I thought,” and handed it back to me.

I returned it to its place in the box.

“You boys enjoy your beers, then it’s best you be on your way. I don’t want you to think you need to hang around, just to be polite.”

I glanced over to Liam who offered me a squint and a puckered brow.

“Well, Mr. Vega,” I said with a smile, “we were hoping we could stay with you. Our train for New York City doesn’t depart until Tuesday.”

George picked at a scab on his unshaven neck, causing it to bleed. Unaware of the stream of blood running down his neck he said, “Well, I suppose you can stay in Magnus’s old room.”

I nodded and said, “That would be great. Thank you sir.”

“But you boys should know, I may have some visitors later tonight. It’s probably best you don’t meet them. If you hear a commotion, just ignore us and stay in your room until they’re gone.”

“Sure, no problem,” I said, wondering who could be coming that would cause a ruckus.

I looked over to Liam who smiled, held up the Edelweiss bottle and said, “If you have a few more of these, I’ll stay put until the cows come home.”

George smiled. “I suppose I can rustle up a few more, considering the treasure you brought me,” he said, rubbing his hands together.

“That’s very generous,” I said with a smile.


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