Here is chapter one of Kindred, book two of the Earthshaker Series- Does contain information from Tracker- book one- so if you don't want any spoilers for that, you may not want to read this. If you have read Tracker, read on!
I slowly lowered myself into the computer chair, staring at the note card and picture that were identical to what I'd received nearly six months ago. The basement bedroom, which had seemed so cozy and safe a few minutes earlier, suddenly seemed to hold an ominous chill. I shivered slightly as I looked at the picture. The man was familiar. According to the note, the victim had been with my father six months ago when he'd tried to abduct me. He and my father were guilty of so much more, and I wasn't sorry they were dead. There had been times when I’d dreamed of killing my father myself. At the same time, I couldn't allow the man known as Kindred to keep killing people to thank me.
Kindred, the mysterious ‘ghost’, who’d been at the Farm when I was abducted last November, obviously appreciated that I'd freed him from Trevor Mason the previous fall, but how long would he haunt me? The steps creaked and I jumped slightly when Hannah called, "Jason? Can I come down?"
I sighed. Despite the time that had passed since my ordeal at Trevor's hands, I still needed advance warning any time someone came downstairs. My nerves were raw and I had very little control of my abilities once I got startled. "Jason?" Hannah's voice came again, and I realized I hadn't answered her yet.
Hannah and Alice Farrow were my closest friends, and I’d known them since I was thirteen, only a few months after I’d run away from my father. They were the first people I’d told about my abilities, and it had been the first time I’d called myself a Tracker. My brother and the children I’d protected while living in the streets were the next to find out, followed by more people than I wanted to know, unfortunately including Trevor Mason. Last November he tried to make me into something I do not want to be; a slave to use as he wanted. He’d even given me a new nickname, one I wasn’t very fond of: the Earthshaker. Unlike me, he focused on the more destructive aspect of my abilities, the power that allowed me to destroy buildings and cause earthquakes.
"Come on down, Hannah," I yelled back. It bothered me that Hannah and Alice could no longer move freely in their own house, but they wouldn't listen any time I mentioned the possibility of leaving. For my little brother Sam’s sake, I was grateful. For my own…well, that was slightly more complicated.
Hannah entered my room and sat on the edge of the bed. "Are you okay, Jason? You disappeared down here after getting the mail, and you look like you've seen a ghost," she pushed a strand of long hair behind her ear and looked at me in concern.
It was a look I'd become familiar with over the last few months. I'd seen it from all of my friends since last fall, more so since I'd admitted my inability to watch out for the kids. It had been one of the hardest decisions of my life, but with Alice and Dan's help we'd been able to get Paul, Jeffrey and Ginny placed with Dan and his wife as a semi-permanent foster situation. The captain at their precinct had helped smooth the way for them with Social Services, so they hadn’t gone through too much trouble to get the placement Okayed. The children wouldn't be moved as long as Dan and Judy were willing to care for them.
My brother, Sam, was the only one to remain with me at Alice and Hannah's home. I refused to be separated from him, and he practically threw a fit when the possibility was mentioned. It wouldn't happen...ever. "Jason?" Hannah's voice showed no impatience; only her worry that I still wasn't back to normal.
"I'm okay, Hannah," I assured her apologetically. "I just need to go talk to Alice. Could you keep an eye on Sam for me?" My brother was upstairs, getting things ready for when he and the other kids would begin attending school the next week. They'd been getting tested to see what level they were at, and would be entering the school right after the fourth quarter, when summer school was in session. They were a bit behind, but I had confidence that my kids would catch up by the time school started in the fall. Jeffrey was my only real concern. He had some kind of learning disorder, or so it seemed to me.
Hannah nodded. "I'll watch him, but we're supposed to be meeting Dustin down at the park to study."
"Right," I said with a wince. Dustin and Agent Mark Jones were the most recent people who’d learned about my powers. Both had been through necessity, since my abilities had been out of control after my ordeal at Mason’s hands. Control was something I worked on in my free time. I didn’t want to ever accidentally damage property just because I was afraid or angry.
In addition to practicing with my more dangerous abilities, I'd started taking a couple classes through the college this semester, one of which was with Dustin and Hannah. It was my own attempt to get to some semblance of normal, but it was so different from what I was used to that it only highlighted the contrast between me and everyone else. Nobody there knew what I’d been through except Hannah and Dustin. I spent a lot of time trying to cover up my scars to avoid the other students seeing them. "I'll try to get there, but I'll probably be late. Could you bring Sam down to the park with you? He'd love to play some basketball or catch with Dustin."
"Sure. You feel like telling me what's going on?" Hannah asked with narrowed eyes.
I hesitated. "Maybe after I talk to Alice." She looked at me skeptically. Based on my behavior lately, I couldn't blame her. Despite moving forward with my life I had to admit—even if only to myself—that I had not dealt with what had happened to me. Instead I tried to push it down and ignore it, pretending to everyone else that everything was back to normal. Apparently my acting needed work. Everyone around me could still tell that I wasn't really okay. "I'll tell you later," I repeated, grabbing a light spring jacket and moving to the stairs.
"Sure. See ya," She said with a sigh. I stopped in the living room to tell Sam where I was going. My little brother had been kidnapped and beaten by Trevor's gang a few days before they'd gotten to me. An undercover FBI agent, Mark Jones, had saved his life, but he'd still been in bad shape. Jones had also been the one to find me after Kindred had dragged me out of the shed and into the woods at the Farm.
Somehow Sam had gotten through his ordeal with less mental anguish than I had. It could have something to do with all the time he'd been spending with Dustin. He was in school studying Psychology, and was a stable male role model for my brother. Sam talked to him, and Dustin did what he could to talk him through his issues.
He'd offered the same option to me, but...I just couldn't. I didn't want to air my problems to someone I'd only met a few months ago. My brother didn't have nearly the same trust issues as I did; a fact for which I was extremely grateful. Sometimes I was a bit envious of his ability to open up and share his feelings with others.
"Jase?" Sam was looking at me curiously, and I realized that once again I had zoned out.
"Sorry, Sammy. I'm back. You're going to go to the park with Hannah and Dustin. Maybe if you ask nicely he'll play some basketball with you."
Sam's face lit up, his concern from a few moments ago was gone. I felt a flash of jealousy that someone else could put that happy look on my brother's face. All I'd managed lately was to get looks of confusion or concern. Sam ran up and gave me a hug.
"What was that for?" I asked with a chuckle.
Sam shrugged. "Just wanted to make you smile, you looked really serious and a little sad."
My smile dropped slightly, but I allowed it to show again when he looked up at me. "Thanks bud," I said ruffling his curly brown hair. "I'm gonna get going now. The bus will be at the corner soon."
"Okay. Love ya, Jase!" My brother grinned and ran into his room, most likely to grab the basketball Dustin had bought for him a few weeks back.
"Love you too, little brother," I said softly as I pushed the door open to leave the house.
I barely made it to the bus stop in time, but I rushed on just as the driver was closing the doors. The bus was nearly empty, and the few people there were ignored me as I moved to the back of the bus. I knew from experience that if I hadn't pulled the jacket on before leaving the house, I'd have gotten quite a few looks. The scars from what Mason had done were very visible, and even when I wore a T-shirt, the burn scar from the brand showed under the left sleeve. Because of that, and a multitude of other scars, I rarely went outside without wearing long sleeves.
I forced myself to stop thinking about that event, and focused on the current problem. Alice and Dan would not be happy. We'd spent the last five months trying to find out who my father's accomplice had been, and find him before Kindred got to him. Because of my belief that he'd been in jail, Zach Bierman had not even entered my thoughts as a possibility.
The bus pulled up in front of the Police Station and I got off, getting a few curious looks from passengers who wondered why I needed to go to the police. The sun was quite warm, so entering the cool lobby was a relief. I went straight to Alice's desk, where she was bent over paperwork. She rubbed her neck and glanced up at me before I could say anything. "Jason," the detective said, searching my face for clues to why I was there. "What happened?"
I fished the card and picture out of my pocket and Alice visibly paled. "Kindred again?" she asked. I had told her about the enigmatic man who'd dragged me out of Trevor's shed of horrors and to the woods. After he'd killed my father, she had tried to get me to stay out of the investigation, but I couldn't. Eventually she stopped objecting.
"Yeah. He got to my father's accomplice before us," I said with a shrug. I saw the look Alice exchanged with her partner, but I couldn't pretend to care that my childhood tormentors were dead. I also couldn't allow Kindred to continue killing people as thank you gifts. It was really starting to freak me out. Where would he stop? Was he done?
"He also added a warning to this note," Dan added, coming up behind Alice and reading over her shoulder. "Do not look for me, or there will be consequences," he read with a frown. "Not very specific, but oddly formal."
"It's clear enough," I said. "We need to catch him."
Alice frowned, and I guessed at what she was about to say. "You don't need to be involved," she said, confirming my suspicion. "You should try to relax and work on your classes..." her voice trailed off as I shook my head.
"You have a better shot with my help. This guy is dangerous and he needs to be stopped." I clenched my fist at my side and the ground under the station rumbled in agreement as my power manifested from my anger.
"So where do you want to start?" Alice asked me. Dan looked at her in surprise. He'd heard the rumble, and obviously saw it as a reason for me to not be involved. The older man and I had come to an understanding. I trusted him to take care of the kids, but it was Alice’s opinion I valued more than his. When she voiced a concern about my involvement, I might listen. Or not. It really depends what kind of mood I’m in. Most of the time, I preferred to do my own thing. I ignored him and considered Alice's question carefully.
Unfortunately, as of yet, I had no clear idea of how to proceed. "I have no idea. But I'm sure we'll think of something.""But will it be in time?" Alice asked. "Will we come up with a plan before or after Kindred kills again?"
End of chapter one- Please let me know what you think :-)