Hopefully I’m not jinxing myself by releasing this sneak peek of this long overdue project. I’m still in final edits with books two and three, but I’m at a point where book two is looking close to “done.”
The following is chapter one from The Great Turning: Into the Turn, book two of The Great Turning trilogy.
Seems like every edit round we find typos and errors we missed the previous round, and since the three books are tied together, I don’t want to screw anything up.
Book two chronologically takes place before book one and covers the backstory of how The Great Turn happened, as well as Zola, Russ, and Ted’s families and how they came to be where they were located.
T-minus 20 days…
“Come on, kids—you’re going to be late.” Dr. Katherine Jameson-Dixon grabbed the remote to turn off the network anchors droning on the kitchen TV, but her husband intercepted her.
“Hey, I’m listening to that.” Robert was still sucking down the last of his cereal.
“Fine.” She fought the urge to smash the remote onto the granite countertop and somehow managed to set it down gently. “Ashley, Allen, move it!”
She had to dodge Hagrid, their little dust mop of a dog, a brown and cream Shih Tzu mix they’d adopted four months earlier for the kids. Hagrid currently sat at Robert’s feet, hoping for the bit of food he always dropped for the dog, even though Robert wasn’t supposed to.
She’d tried to like Hagrid, but he hadn’t liked her back, much to her dismay.
Hagrid loved the hell out of the kids and Robert, though.
He only tolerated her.
“We’re fine on time, Katie,” Robert said. “It’s okay.” He’d already given Hagrid his morning walk and their neighbor, Kelly, a stay-at-home mom, would walk him around noon when she took her dog out.
Katherine struggled not to grab the remote and shove it down Robert’s throat. Early on, years ago, she’d found his laid-back ways calm and soothing. That had been when it was just the two of them, no kids, and they were early in their careers.
Now, it annoyed the hell out of her. Especially when she was trying to get the kids ready for school
“If you want to get going,” he said, “go ahead. We’ll be okay. I’ll take them to school today.”
And you’ll get them to school twenty minutes late, too.
But she didn’t say that.
Allen finally bopped into the kitchen. “Did they say something about NASA on TV?”
Katherine practically shoved her son’s lunch at him. “Don’t worry about what they’re talking about on TV, okay? You’re going to be late. Where is your sister?”
“I’m here.” Ashley finally rounded the corner into the kitchen. She would be twelve in two weeks, and Allen had just turned ten.
I can’t deal with Robert’s bullshit and two tweens, much less teens.
That was way too much stress and not nearly enough Xanax.
“Hurry up and eat,” she snapped.
“Seriously, Katie, we’ll be fine,” Robert said. “Right, gang?”
“Right!” her spawn chimed in unison.
Sometimes, it felt like the three of them had banded against her. Four, counting Hagrid.
Forget sometimes. Mostly it felt like she was the lone bastion of stability and common sense in their increasingly crazy home. Robert certainly wasn’t helping any.
She checked herself.
Maybe my PMS is hitting me really hard this month.
“Okay, fine.” She kissed the kids and grabbed her own lunch. “I should have left ten minutes ago, anyway. I have three procedures this morning.”
“Mom, can we go to the archery range this weekend?” Ashley begged. “Please?”
Katherine shot her husband a dark glare. “Your brother,” she muttered at him before turning to her daughter. “I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Dale Dixon was three years younger than Robert, forty going on fourteen. He’d not only sent Allen a real bow and arrow set for his birthday, but also sent one for Ashley as well.
Dale had also “helpfully” provided a list from the Internet of places in the Long Island area who had archery ranges.
Robert shrugged at her. “I don’t know, kids,” he said, his focus returning to the TV. “I know you’re eager to use them, but it depends on how things go at work for both of us this week. We won’t make you any promises. Don’t bug us about it, either, or it’ll be a no.”
At least he was backing her up.
Sort of. It was pleasantly unexpected.
Frankly, she’d expected him not to, to turn on her and give them wild assurances that sure, they could go gallop off and play Robin Hood and his merry band of freaks in some weird, dirty back alley on Long Island.
After giving the kids another kiss each she finally leaned in to peck Robert on the cheek before heading out. She didn’t drive to work if she didn’t have to take the kids to school, even though she had a car. They were rare New Yorkers with not one but two cars, and if it wasn’t for their careers, they couldn’t afford them.
Her office was over in North Hills and on a bad day the city bus still got her there in under thirty minutes without the added aggravation of having to find parking. Robert would take the kids to school and then drive to his office outside of Queens.
She used the bus ride to try to calm herself and lower her quickly ratcheting stress levels. After plugging her earbuds into her phone she pulled up a soothing playlist before scrolling through her morning e-mails.
It was still sore spot for her that when Robert and Dale’s parents died, they’d left Dale all the property in North Carolina.
Dale was…well, Dale. Crazy. One of those preppers they made silly cable TV shows about. Always broke, apparently, having the nerve to ask for Amazon gift cards instead of gifts for him and his wife and kids.
If their parents had left both brothers the property, Katherine could have pushed Robert to force the sale of it, split the profits fifty-fifty, and Dale could go do whatever it was he thought he was doing.
Nope. Twice in the past five years they’d had to help out by paying the property taxes. Yes, Dale paid them back within months each time.
That wasn’t the point.
Robert, of course, gave in to his little brother—he always did—and that five hundred acres was simply sitting there.
Well, Dale and his wife, Lorna, lived there and homesteaded and stockpiled weapons of mass destruction, or brewed moonshine, or whatever the hell strange hillbilly kinds of things they were doing.
Sometimes, she wondered if Robert was adopted, because the two brothers couldn’t be less alike. It was hard for her to picture him growing up there and being all…farmy.
Katherine hated guns, hated weapons, and it pissed her off Dale had sent her children archery sets without even consulting with them first. It wasn’t like they were harmless toy Nerf guns or something. No, those she wouldn’t have minded. She was liberal, not a jerk.
It wasn’t the first time something like that had happened, either. When Dale had learned Allen wanted to be in Cub Scouts, suddenly her son received a package that looked like something out of a survivalist’s wet dream, including a Buck knife that there was no way in hell she’d let her son have until he was older. Even then she wouldn’t be happy about it.
Considering the child had a memory like a steel trap, Allen asked about it several times a month, wanting to handle it. So she couldn’t even secretly get rid of it and make it disappear.
He would notice it was gone, and he would demand an answer. She’d asked Robert to talk to Dale about that, to not send their children those kinds of “gifts,” but he had hemmed and hawed and never done it, not wanting to hurt Dale’s feelings despite her own feelings on the matter.
She looked up from her phone as the quiet, certain thought sank into her brain.
Yes, she’d talked to an attorney a few weeks back and had the preliminary paperwork to fill out locked in her desk at the office, but she still couldn’t make herself throw away fifteen years of marriage over a crazy brother-in-law.
Not just that.
It was way more than that.
She and Robert barely spoke to each other anymore, and hell, the last time they’d had sex she’d faked it just to get it over with despite the fact that in the early days of their relationship they’d barely been able to peel themselves apart to get out of bed.
Sitting back in her seat, she stared out the window at the dreary morning outside the bus window as the realization sank in that she was done.
* * * *
Robert made sure to rinse his bowl and put it in the dishwasher. No reason to give Katherine one more thing to be ticked off about. Then he turned off the kitchen TV, where the anchor was in mid-discussion about some puzzling and unanticipated change of the President’s schedule that morning, which had resulted in a cancelled trip to Russia. It had thrown journalists working the White House beat into a tizzy of speculation.
“You guys ready?” he asked.
“Yes, Dad.” Ashley could verbally roll her eyes while looking you dead in yours.
He supposed she inherited that talent from her mother, but still, he loved Ashley. Both of the women in his life, who he was sure were trying to incrementally drive him crazy.
They headed out the door, Robert locking it behind them. The kids raced ahead to the elevator, trying to be the one to hit the call button.
Their apartment was on the sixth floor and it was paid for. His job at the investment brokerage had shot their income through the invisible ceiling he’d hoped they’d hit years sooner than he’d expected. Katie made darn good money as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in the private practice she’d co-founded.
They were doing well.
Better than well.
So why do I feel like it’s all about to fall down around my ears?
As they reached the garage and he grabbed the car, he once again considered suggesting marriage counseling. He’d thought when the kids got older that the two of them would start to have more time together, not less.
In fact, it felt like he was the only one in the marriage anymore.
Allen leaned forward and reached between the front seats to hit a preset button on the XM Radio for one of the news channels before sitting back and buckling in. Ashley had already plugged in her earbuds and was listening to whatever on her phone, so she didn’t care.
Robert glanced back at him. “News, huh?”
“I know I heard them saying something about NASA this morning, Dad.”
“He’s not pulling their site up on my phone,” Ashley said, a little louder than necessary. “I’m using it.”
There were worse things for a ten-year-old boy to be than a space nerd.
“News it is, champ.”
He talked to Allen during the drive, Ashley occasionally chiming in from where she rode shotgun, proving she wasn’t as broody as Katie insisted she was.
Unfortunately, they were almost at the school by the time Ashley had removed both earbuds and was actually conversing with them.
“When can I get a phone of my own, Dad?” Allen asked as they slowed to make the turn into the drop-off lane.
“Not yet,” he said. “You have your Kindle tablet.”
“It’s not the same.”
“Sorry, kiddo. Ashley’s older and she’s earned the privilege.”
They went to the same private school. Ashley already knew if there was an emergency that she was to get to her little brother, if she could safely do so, and then check in with them.
If she couldn’t do that, then a cell phone likely wouldn’t help Allen anyway.
Before she got out, Ashley hesitated. “Why doesn’t mom like Uncle Dale? He seems really cool.”
“Your mom was raised here in the city,” he said. “She’s got a different personality and way of looking at things, that’s all.”
“But you grew up in North Carolina and you live here and you’re not like she is.”
“I went to school up here,” he said. “It’s hard to explain.” The clock on his dash caught his eye. “Come give me a kiss, guys. You’ve got five minutes before you’re late.”
They each leaned in to kiss him on the cheek before rushing out and down the sidewalk. As always, he waited until they were inside the securely gated courtyard and heading up the stairs before pulling out.
I love Katie. I don’t want to lose her. Or them.
Katie might not like it, but he was going to try to find them a marriage counselor. You didn’t let a fifteen-year-marriage die on the vine without a fight.
* * * *
Robert made it to work and was settling in at his desk when his administrative assistant strode in. Kerwanda’s gaze was sharply focused on the tablet in her left hand, where she was reading something. In her right hand she brandished his cup of coffee, which she set on his desk.
She wasted no time. “You’re ten minutes late.” She wore the barest traces of makeup on her light brown skin, and she always pulled her dark brown hair back into a severe bun he personally thought looked painful.
But she was damn good at her job and kept his ass in line, so as long as she did that, what she wore and how she did her hair were the least of his concerns.
If she wasn’t fifteen years older than him and happily married to an NYPD detective—the second point being more important than the first point—he might be tempted to see if she wanted to have a more than professional relationship.
Not that he’d ever really cheat on Katie, because he hadn’t and wouldn’t. Hadn’t even come close to ever being seriously tempted. But if he was going to be tempted, he’d go after Kerwanda first, because she was intelligent and beautiful and kept his work life running like a Japanese railroad.
Not to mention she kept him in line.
“Good morning to you, too. I’m always at least ten minutes late, so technically, I’m on time. Besides, I had to run the kids to school this morning. What’s up?”
“The Four want a meeting at eleven this morning. I’ve already cleared your calendar and shuffled stuff around.”
She finally raised her gaze and shot him a familiar exasperated look. “Because you have a meeting—”
“I meant why do they want the meeting?”
Now she hesitated, which was completely unlike her. “I don’t know, honestly. Something about an anomaly in the Chinese markets this morning they want to look at. I tried to get more out of Beth, but she practically hung up on me in her hurry to make more calls. It sounds like upstairs is in full-on battle mode, whatever’s going on.”
He groaned. “I don’t even deal with those markets. I’m strictly domestic. They know that.”
“I know. That’s what I told them. If it’s any consolation, it’s not just you, it’s everyone. All the top-tier brokers are being called in.”
She shrugged. “Like I said—battle mode. I’ve never heard Beth sound that short and frazzled before.”
“Crud.” He sipped his coffee and found it perfect, as always.
He was no longer allowed near the single-serving coffeemaker in their break room, because he’d broken three of them. They hated him and spontaneously committed suicide in his presence. Kerwanda and the others in their section of the office had finally put their collective feet down, including a warning sign hanging over it that said OFF-LIMITS TO ROBERT DIXON.
“Any prep work I need to do?”
“That’s what I was working on when you arrived. Beth sent me the files and I forwarded them to you.” She nodded at his work laptop. “They should be there.”
She’d started to head back to her desk when she stopped and turned. “Oh, and your brother called a few minutes ago. Said to please call him back. That it’s urgent.”
“Why didn’t he call me on my cell—oh.” He pulled his cell out of his jacket pocket to realize he’d left it on silent mode and had three missed calls from Dale.
A sick feeling started congealing in his stomach.
Kerwanda smirked. “Remember to turn your phone on in the mornings, idiot.” She closed his office door behind her.
Yeah, he deserved that scolding. Wasn’t the first time he’d forgotten to turn the ringer on. Usually it was Katie yelling at him over it.
He pulled up the files Kerwanda had talked about. As he sipped his coffee, he scanned the files’ contents, still confused about why he was being called in that morning.
It literally wasn’t his department.
They had a whole team devoted to Asia and the markets there. Why was everyone being called in for the meeting? Especially when there wasn’t any clear-cut cause for the market volatility, other than China being…well, fricking China.
A few minutes later and he’d already forgotten about his brother’s calls when he received a text from Bill Logewell, also in his department.
Robert didn’t need any clarification. IDK but Ker said it’s all hands.
Having the phone in his hand jostled his memory. He pulled up his brother’s voice mail message, apparently the only one he’d left out of the multiple calls.
“Robbie, please call me as soon as you can this morning. This is urgent. Love you.”
He didn’t like the serious tone of Dale’s voice, either.
For a guy who graduated top of his class at MIT, he can be infuriating sometimes.
He knew Katie didn’t like Dale because of his skewed world beliefs and the fact that he literally got the farm and they got the shaft, so to speak, in terms of inheritance.
Still, Dale was his little brother, even if he had veered off the beaten path into crazy land over the past several years. Dale walked away from a cushy tenured university job teaching structural engineering, all so he could stay home and…homestead.
Better get it over with.
Dale usually texted or e-mailed when he initiated contact. The last time Dale had called him rather than just texting him, and saying it was urgent, it’d been to let him know their parents had died in a car wreck.
God, I hope his kids and Lorna are okay.
A wave of guilt washed over him as he hit the button to call Dale back. From how fast Dale answered, it was as if his brother had been sitting there, waiting for the call.
“Robbie,” he said before Dale could even utter a greeting. “Are you watching C-SPAN?”
“Um, hello to you, too. Since I just got to work, the answer to that would be no.” Still, he rooted through his top desk drawer for the remote. Usually, his office TV was on CNBC or MSNBC, on mute. He hadn’t even had time to switch it on yet.
“Listen to me very carefully,” Dale said. “You need to get Katie and the kids, pack everything you can, rent a trailer, and get down here. Now. Leave no later than tomorrow evening.”
Okay, that pulled him up short. “What?”
“It’s serious, Robbie. It’s the only way you’re going to survive.”
Robert found the remote and switched the TV on, thumbing it to C-SPAN. He also fought the wave of irritation sweeping through him. “Dude, I love you, but I don’t have time this morning for your bullsh—”
“Listen to me! I’m fucking serious!”
Dale never dropped the f-bomb.
And he sounded nearly frantic.
Maybe he needs to be on meds. “Okay, what’s going on?”
“Do you have C-SPAN on?”
“Yeah? What about it?” The view showed the empty chambers at what he supposed was Congress, while across the bottom a crawler announced that NASA officials had been called to a private meeting in the White House that afternoon, while an unscheduled recess had been called for Congress.
“NASA. There’s a reason why there’s a meeting at the White House today.”
Even Robert’s usually placid temper was starting to fray. “Just say it, Dale.”
“You need to get Katie, and the kids, and get out of New York. Now. They won’t be able to contain the news for more than a few days, if that. It’s Wednesday. I expect news of this to leak no later than Monday, once people realize what’s going on and tie everything together. They’ll see the observatory sites aren’t available, and they’ll see people scrambling at launch facilities all over the world prepping to send shit up trying to deflect it. I guess there’s people high up in the Chinese government who are trying to liquidate so they can get the hell out, because the Shenzhen has started bouncing around like crazy today and—”
“What news is going to leak? What the hell are you talking about?”
But that congealing dread in Robert’s guts was starting to feel heavier as he glanced over at his laptop, at the reports about sudden, unexpected, and completely irrational and anomalous trading going on out of the Shenzhen.
Batches of unexpected sales, driving some stocks down and prompting both selling and buying frenzies, which was prompting some odd cascade effects not being seen elsewhere in other markets.
“Robbie, I know you think I’m nuts, but I swear to you, I’m sane and sober and not making this up. A friend of mine works at Mauna Kea. At Caltech’s Keck Observatory. They’ve got fucking armed Secret Service stationed there. Took away their phones and restricted computer access to official functions only. She sent me a coded message through their university servers, plugging me in through a backdoor. She told them she needed me to do calculations for her, and the idiots guarding them didn’t know any better. They didn’t care, because I still hold security clearance from projects I worked on a couple of years ago.”
Robert closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You have three seconds to sum this up. I don’t have time for this tod—”
Dale took a deep breath. “Robbie, we’ve got less than three weeks before a huge asteroid hits the Earth.”