Hi, Everyone! My new time travel mystery Inherit the Past has been out for exactly one week now. I thought you might like to read a portion of the first chapter. The chapter is broken up into three scenes, each in a different main character’s viewpoint.
Here is the first one, a scene with Lotte Furst and Margrit Kimmel in Margrit’s home in Bavaria. I hope you like it. You can purchase the book on Amazon.com. It’s coming soon to Barnes and Noble’s website, too.
MAY 26, 2009—
THE COPPER TEA kettle’s whistle turned shrill from neglect, steam hissing from its gooseneck spout like smoke from an old man’s pipe. Lotte, unable to ignore the cacophony any longer, gave her hostess a pained sideways glance.
“Mein Gott!” Margrit said, seeing her friend’s look of distress and finally taking notice of the screaming kettle.
“I forgot about the kettle. I will get our tea.” She made a feeble attempt to get up, but landed back on the seat of her wooden chair with a heavy thud and with strands of her flyaway white hair coming loose from her bun and flopping over her eyes. She blew at her errant hair and when that didn’t help, she pulled the wayward strands aside with her hand.
Lotte shook her head in disgust. “Nein. I will get it. You rest.”
Margrit nodded, folded her hands on her apron, and closed her eyes.
Three oil lanterns provided sufficient lighting for Lotte to maneuver around Margrit’s kitchen without any problems, but she grumbled under her breath all the same, removing two ancient porcelain teacups from the pale blue cupboards near the stove, and shaking her head again. The dishes as well as the house had been in Margrit’s husband’s family for generations. Some pieces of the dish set had been destroyed during bombing raids in World War II more than sixty years ago when Karl’s family had temporarily lived in Berlin. The remaining dishes were covered with cracks and crazing from age and years of use. Karl, having been devoted to Margrit whether or not she deserved it, had once bought her new dishes—beautiful fine china that Lotte would have been grateful to receive—but not Margrit. Margrit had refused to use the new set of dishes, the same way she’d refused then and now to use electricity that Karl had installed in the old cottage. Hmph. Would she give the unused set to her only friend? Of course she would not. She’d packed it away in a crate in the cellar where it would remain until she died.
Lotte filled the cups with boiling water and tea bags. She opened the antique ice box, which wasn’t all that cold, and took out a jug of fresh cow’s milk from Margrit’s own cows, pouring a generous amount into both cups. “You really must paint these cupboards. Soon there will not be any paint left on them. They really look dreadful.” She refrained from mentioning the slivers of lead-paint dropping into food and drink, or that eating and drinking from these old dishes made with lead could be deadly.
“What did you say, dear?”
Raising her voice an octave, Lotte repeated, “I said you need to paint your cupboards. They look dreadful.”
“I do not have money to waste on paint. I am not rich like you. Besides, I am old and tired and no one other than you and I see it, anyway. Why do you care? You only come around once in a fortnight, if that much.”
After that exchange, they sat in silence for several minutes. Lotte stared at the lantern on the countertop beside the stove, then lowered her gaze to the pile of small logs on the floor. Hairy spiders crawled around on them. A worm wiggled out from between two of the logs. She shuddered, turned her head, and looked up. Tarnished copper pots and pans hung under a shelf attached to the wall. Margrit never bothered to clean or polish them, yet she wondered why Lotte always brought food prepared at her own home when she came for dinners. Tonight, she’d brought her specialty, a beef rouladen stuffed with a mixture of smoked pork belly, chopped onion, and chopped cucumber.
Between bites of food, Lotte asked, “How did you get those bruises?”
Margrit raised and looked at her right arm. “It is nothing. I fell down.”
“Again? On the stairs? How many times in the past three months have you done that?”
“That is not good, Margrit. Not good at all. Why not make a bed on the settee downstairs?”
Margrit didn’t answer, instead taking another bite of the pork belly. Lotte clenched her jaw, wondering how she would ever broach the subject she’d come here to talk about. She ate a bite of food herself and then said, as casually as she could, “Did you ever find the addresses you were looking for? The ones for your grandchildren. The last time I was here you mentioned you wanted to write to them.”
“Ja. I found some of Monika’s old letters. She wrote her children’s addresses in one of them.”
“Fortuitous for you that you are a packrat and kept those letters, though you do realize those addresses are probably outdated. It has been twenty years.”
Margrit scrunched her eyes, as if thinking, but then waved her hand dismissively. “People do not move around much.”
“Maybe not here in Germany, but I have heard people move around a lot in the U.S.” Margrit didn’t respond. “So, you are still planning to write to them and tell what we did to Karl and Monika?”
“Ja. Lotte, I cannot go to my grave without confessing my sins to someone. I am not going to last much longer. I can feel it in my bones.”
Lotte didn’t doubt that her friend’s bones were correct. Her long-time friend’s hair had completely gone white and was thinning badly. She looked at least ten years older than Lotte, although they were near the same age.
“Do not do it, Margrit. You will be gone, but I will still be here. I will have to pay the consequences. And . . . well, think about the dangers if people found out about . . . .”
“It is my decision. I already wrote the letters. I will take them to town tomorrow and put them in the post.”
Thinking quickly, Lotte replied, “Of course you are assuming your grandchildren know German and can read your old-style German handwriting.”
That seemed to give Margrit pause for a moment, a frown wrinkling Margrit’s wrinkles. “Oh, dear. I did not think . . . oh wait, I remember Monika used to talk of scholars who could decipher ancient tablets and such. Surely the children can take the letters to someone to translate, if they cannot read them.”
Children? Heavens, Margrit’s grandchildren must be pushing forty. Lotte shook her head. “All right, I suppose you are right. But you only go into town on Wednesdays. That is four days from now. You can give the letters to me and I will see them safely to the post office. It will save you the extra trip.”
Margrit squinted at her. “You would throw the letters away. I am old, but I am not stupid.”
Lotte clenched her jaw. The whole conversation was giving her a headache and making her heart race. Stubborn old hag. Why can she not leave it alone? She took a deep breath and held it, then she blew it out and closed her eyes for a few seconds, trying to calm down. That is better. No need to panic. Those grandchildren of hers will not bother coming here. They showed us years ago that they are not interested in family. She opened her eyes and sat up straight. “You could not even get up to pour water into teacups a little while ago. How are you going to walk into town tomorrow? Better give me the letters.”
Margrit crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head.
Available now in Paperback and Kindle versions.