Excerpt: The Orphan, the Soul Catcher and the Black Blizzard

Author Kimberlee Ann Bastian has stopped by my blog today with an excerpt from The Orphan, the Soul Catcher and the Black Blizzard for her blog tour. Check it out!

“Harry’s Billiards”

From Chapter 7: Summit – Charlie and Bartholomew arrive at Harry’s Billiards for the gang truce Charlie is to negotiate between Victor (the Polish Leader) and Kalvis (the Lithuanian Leader)

“Ah, Kalvis,” welcomes the bald man as he comes up to the short man, greeting him with a friendly hand. “It’s quite da pleasure, been too long.”

The short man takes his eyes off Bartholomew and addresses the bald man, welcoming him with enthusiasm.

“That it has, my friend,” says Kalvis as he shakes the bald man’s hand. “And how have you been, Harry?”

The bald man frowns. “Not well. Business has been slow.”

“Naturally,” says Kalvis, withdrawing his hand to pull down his cufflink. “I see the others have arrived. Have they been waiting long?”

“No,” responds Bartholomew. He squeezes his lips shut realizing the question was not for just anyone to answer.

The short man brings his hawk eyes back on Bartholomew and then to Charlie.

“Morning, Charles,” says Kalvis, his square face holding a rather pleasing, but indifferent expression.

Charlie shivers. No one, except for his mother, could call him by his given name. Under the circumstances, however, he would have to tolerate Kalvis’s use of it a little longer.

“And morning to you, Kalvis,” he replies graciously. “May I introduce my friend, Buck Lipinski.”

Kalvis again looks at Bartholomew, still unsure what to make of the lad. On the outside, he sees the odd Englishman clothing of centuries long ago and his thin physique leading him to believe the boy is nothing more than a rag-a-muffin. Then again, unlike his brutish rival, Kalvis has never been one to judge so quickly. Kalvis smiles and does his best to present himself as a man of warmth. He extends his stubby hand to Bartholomew. For anyone who is important to Charlie is even more important to him.

Bartholomew seizes Kalvis’s hand without hesitation, even though his inner voice screams run away. There is something even more untrustworthy about him, even if his grip is gentler than Victor’s brutish grasp. He knows a coyote in sheep’s clothing when he sees one.

“A pleasure to meet you, Kalvis,” says Bartholomew. He hopes it is all right for him to make a polite introduction. Charlie did not tell him otherwise and Kalvis seems like a man who needs a solid first impression.

Kalvis laughs heartily. “I say, Charlie, a right young gentleman this one you have here.”

“Yes,” says Charlie lightly, keeping his tone even. “I tried talking some street sense into him, but it didn’t take.”

Kalvis’s laugh returns as he lets go of Bartholomew’s hand. “You hear that, Honest Harry, you may have some competition on your hands,” he teases.

“By Jove, Kalvis, I think ya might be right,” chuckles the bald man, the whiskers under his nose quivering.

Bartholomew gives a half smile, not realizing the men are laughing at him.

Charlie on the other hand does understand the point of the jest and does not appreciate them picking on Buck, especially when he cannot defend himself. He could have stood up for him, but remains neutral. He lets out an empty-hearted laugh to join them. It is not one of his most shining moments, but he cannot help failing his good nature. He knows how much of a show Kalvis puts on for him, always trying to make him feel like he can trust him. In addition, Charlie knows it is not wise to stand up to Kalvis in front of others, especially not a rival. And Charlie cannot afford provoking the Lithuanian gang leader.

Charlie waits for the men to quiet before addressing them, but Victor beats him to it.

“I see things haven’t changed, Kalvis, still heckling on those shorter than you,” says Victor as he stands behind Charlie and Bartholomew. His men close in ranks behind him.

Kalvis’s expression changes instantly into a look of apology. His hawk eyes become less piercing and just to spite Victor, he acknowledges his error.

“Excuse, my rudeness, Buck—Charles. I only meant it in good humor, no harm.”

“Certainly, Kalvis, no harm,” says Charlie angry he did not speak up first.

An uneasy silence falls over everyone after that, each man ready to attack and beat another man to a pulp.

Charlie watches Kalvis intently, as his gaze falls on Bartholomew. Lithuanian’s face beams with the makings of a plan, and Charlie can only venture a guess at his intentions. He peers at Bartholomew and lets out a quiet breath. He should not have brought him here. Still, Charlie does take a little comfort in the knowledge he is not alone.

“Shall we, gentlemen?” asks Charlie.

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