In Dark Places is a current WIP that I’m continuing to stitch together. It was my 2010 NaNo Novel, and, while I got to just over 77K words, they all weren’t words that I was fond of, and work continues. While I finish up Red Tash’s book and send out the interview questions (will be posted tonight!), check out this excerpt from In Dark Places.
The story is set in 1913 at an Interior Alaska copper mine. Toby Caddock is a 19-year-old who comes up to Kupfer, Alaska and works under crew boss Tin Hansen. The first three chapters are linked here as pages. While Tin, Toby, and the rest of the crew are working South Adit and staying at the Upper Ridge Bunkhouse, Jenny Strand, the girl Toby’s sweet on, comes up to collect Toby’s draw as they agreed. Toby, so taken with Jenny, had promised to marry her and take her away with him once his term of service at Kupfer is complete. Jakub, the clerk in the store who hails from Poland, is suspicious of the woman with whom Jenny arrives…..
“Your name?” Mr. Koertig asked as he distractedly removed his glasses and pulled a cloth from his coat pocket. He wiped at his glasses, shooting a furtive glance at Jakub who stood, unmovable, beside him, his dark eyes fixed on the two women who stood on the opposite side of the counter.
“Is well, Mr. Koertig?” he asked quietly, his eyes fixed, narrowing, on Dorothea who met his gaze serenely.
“Yes, of course, Jakub,” Mr. Koertig replied without looking at him.
Jakub nodded gravely, but did not move.
“Jenny,” Jenny started quietly as she moved closer to the counter. “Jenny Strand.”
Koertig looked up abruptly and pushed his glasses back against his face.
Jakub felt his smile twitch as he glanced at Mr. Koertig.
“Strand?”Koertig muttered as he blinked. He shook his head.
“If I may,” Jakub said kindly as he turned from the counter, taking Koertig’s arm and drawing him closer. He leaned down to the pay clerk. “Toby Caddock,” he said in a
whisper before he straightened.
“Oh, yes,” Koertig agreed, his voice losing none of its nervous edge, “Mr. Caddock mentioned you might be coming to Kupfer, Miss Strand.” He hesitated, watching as Jakub fixed his gaze back upon Dorothea who continued to smile easily at him. “I
will, of course, need you to make your mark on the appropriate paperwork.” Again, Mr. Koertig hesitated. He drew a breath. “I’ll put everything in order then, shall I?” Koertig nodded and turned, striding quickly back into the store’s main office.
Jakub turned his dark eyes to Jenny and smiled kindly. “Is there anything you need from the store, Miss Strand?” he asked.
“Oh, no,” Jenny replied with a nervous smile. “I’m here because I promised Tob–” Jenny blushed suddenly and Jakub’s eyes softened. “Mr. Caddock,” she said by way of correction. “I promised Mr. Caddock that I would collect his draw.”
“Mr. Caddock is a good man,” Jakub said, his voice falling lower.
“Yes,” Jenny said with a nod. “A good man.”
Jakub glanced over his shoulder, watching as Mr. Koertig continued to gather the necessary paperwork in the office. He watched as the pay clerk adjusted his glasses, squinting down at a page briefly before straightening and moving toward the large safe built into the back wall of the office.
“Wait, please,” Jakub said, his dark eyes shining at Jenny before he turned and moved away from the counter, toward the side room where the dry goods were stored.
“I think everything is in order, Miss Strand,” Koertig said as he bustled from the office with a warrant and an envelope. He motioned her to the far end of the counter where they could converse privately. He looked intently at Jenny through the lenses of his glasses.
Dorothea looked up and around at the shelves that spanned floor to ceiling behind the
counter. She turned an appraising eye to the inventory and moved away from the counter toward the center tables that were stacked with sundries and bolts of cloth. Wordlessly, she felt the fabric of several of the bolts through her fingers. The conversations droned on around her.
“Sweets for the sweet.”
Dorothea inclined her head slightly at the sound of Jakub’s voice further down the counter. She cast a furtive glance at Jenny who reddened and extended a hand across the counter to Jakub. She watched has Jakubtook her hand and kissed it gallantly, turning it over in his own and clasping it warmly. Dorothea watched as his eyes lingered on the ring that shone against her finger.
“A good man,” Jakub said again, nodding as he smiled at Jenny.
“Yes,” she agreed again as she withdrew her hand.
Dorothea watched as Jenny slipped an envelope into her handbag.
“Thank you, Mr. Koertig,” Jenny smiled. “You’ve been most kind.”
Koertig’s hand swept up the warrant Jenny had signed and fidgeted with his glasses briefly, checking her signature before nodding once and chancing a smile at the young woman across the counter from him. “It is quite all right, Miss Strand.”
“Ready, Dori?” Jenny asked brightly as she turned from the counter.
Dorothea’s fingers hesitated on an elaborate brocade before she smiled and straightened. “Ready, Jenny,” she replied.
Jakub’s eyes followed Jenny Strand as she swept across the store and pulled open the
door. The bell above the door rang brightly. Dorothea glanced back at Jakub
briefly before she turned and followed Jenny toward the door. He watched in silence as the door closed behind the two women.
“An odd pair, that,” Koertig observed briefly as he glanced down at the warrant once again.
“Sir,” Jakub started, his eyes not moving from the door, “might I have leave to visit the
“Assay?” Koertig muttered. He glanced around the store front, assessing the number of clerks that scurried to fill the orders of the customers who continued to stream in and out of the front doors. “Yes, Jakub.”
Before Koertig had actually given him leave, Jakub had begun untying his apron. He pulled it over his head and folded it carefully, setting it beneath the counter. Jakub strode quickly to the back room, retrieved his coat and hat, and hurried out the front door, closing it abruptly, causing the bell to ring sharply.
Josiah Craig straightened, his eyes narrowing at the Assay Building door that opened
suddenly and closed sharply. A tall, thin figure, wrapped tightly against the winter cold unfolded itself, drawing up to its full height, its dark eyes meeting those of the mining engineer who stepped back from his work counter.
“Jakub,” Josiah said, his voice conveying his surprise at seeing the store clerk in his
office. Josiah felt his lip twitch into a smile as he moved toward Jakub. “What are you doing here?”
Jakub unwound his scarf and pulled his hat from his head before he said, urgently, “I fear I have need of you, Mr. Craig.”
Josiah hesitated. “Need of me?” he repeated. He watched silently as Jakub shifted restlessly on his feet.
“No,” he said suddenly. He shook his head. “Is not right. Is not right—how you say?”
Josiah stepped around his work table, his hand sweeping up a rag to clean his hands. He waited as Jakub searched for the correct words.
“A problem,” Jakub said finally.
“At the store?” Josiah asked. “A problem at the store?”
Jakub shook his head. “Miss Strand.”
Josiah hesitated. “She’s come to Kupfer?” Josiah could not keep the astonishment out of his voice. He watched, his eyes widening as Jakub nodded stiffly.
“Yes, sir,” he replied. “Just now she has left the store with Toby Caddock’s draw.”
Josiah blinked. He looked away from Jakub. “Indeed,” he muttered.Jakub watched as Josiah continued to hesitate. He took a breath and attempted a smile. “That is good
news, Jakub–”Josiah drew back as Jakub took an urgent step forward. He shook his head.
“Not Miss Stand,” he said, his voice falling lower. Jakub’s eyes pleaded for Craig’s understanding. “The other…”
COFFIN HOP 2011 CONTINUES!