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Chapter One

The first chapter of my work in progress will be included as a special addition to the paperback of Breakdown when that appears in December. However, as a thank you to everyone who stopped by the site after my last message, I’m letting you have a sneak preview of the first 2 pages here.

The sun scorched my back through my thin shirt. It was late September, but out on the prairie the sun still beat down with a mid-summer ferocity.

I tried the gate set in the front of the cyclone fence, but it was heavily padlocked; when I pushed hard to see if it would open enough for me to slide through, the metal burned my fingers. A camera and a microphone were mounted on top of the gate post, but both had been shot out.

I backed away and looked around the empty landscape. I’d been the only car on the gravel side road as I’d bumped my way down from the turn-off in Palfry. Except for the crows circling and diving into the brown cornstalks across the road, I was completely alone now.  The only other person I could see was a farmer some half mile distant, creating a dust cloud with his tractor. I felt tiny and vulnerable under the blue bowl of the sky. It closed over the earth in all directions, seeming to shut out air, to let in nothing but light and heat.

Nebraska Cornfield in the 2012 Drought

Nebraska Cornfield in the 2012 Drought

Despite dark glasses and a visored cap, my eyes throbbed from the glare. As I walked around the house, looking for a break in the fence, little purple smoke rings danced in front of me.

Abandoned House

Possible Meth Lab

The house was old and falling down. Glass had broken out, or been shot out, of most of the windows. Someone had nailed slabs of plywood over them, but hadn’t put much effort into the job: in several places the wood swung free, secured by only a couple of nails. Behind the plywood I could see pieces of cardboard or tatty cloth stuffed around the broken panes.

The steel fence had revolving spikes on top to discourage trespassers like me. Signs at several intervals warned of guard dogs, but I didn’t hear any barking or snuffling as I walked the perimeter.

In front, the house was close to the fence and to the road, but in the back the fence took in a large stretch of open land. An old shed had collapsed in one corner. A giant pit filled with refuse, and stinking of chemicals, had been dug near the shed.  Jugs, spray cans of solvent, and all the other fixings of a meth operation fought with coffee grounds and chicken bones for top stench.

It was behind the shed that I found the opening I needed. Someone had been before me with heavy steel cutters, taking out a piece of fence wide enough for a person to walk through upright. The cuts were recent, the steel along the pointed ends shiny, unlike the dull grey of the rest of the metal. As I passed between the cuts, the skin on my neck prickled with something more than heat. I wished I’d brought my gun with me, but I hadn’t known I was coming to a drug house when I left Chicago.

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  • Mia

    Last night I dozed off while reading Breakdown in bed. Waking with a start when the book clattered onto the floor, I switched on the radio to hear the news that some far-right US politician, arguing against abortion, had suggested that a woman couldn’t become pregnant as a result of being raped because in the case of a ‘legitimate rape’ (legitimate?) the good Lord in his wisdom would reach into her uterus and put a stop to conception. In my sleep-befuddled state, I imagined for a moment that I must still be reading Breakdown, as opposed to hearing actual news on the BBC World Service. Wasn’t Breakdown criticised by some readers for the implausibility of its plot and its caricaturing of the US far right?
    Mmm. Am much enjoying it, by the way.

  • the Bag Lady

    Damn. I have absolutely no self-control! Had to read this, and it was great! Now I am really excited about the book!

  • Pen

    What an exciting intriguing piece of writing Sara! Can’t wait now but will have to.

  • bookwitch

    Whereas before you weren’t? Bag Lady..!
    ; )

  • the Bag Lady

    Haha, bookwitch! Should perhaps have typed it as “reeeeeaaally excited”?

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