Friday, August 19, 2011

Gypsy Knights by Two Brothers Metz: Sneak Peek

Fourteen-year-old Durriken Brishen has lost his parents, his grandfather, and though he doesn't know it, his Gypsy culture's dangerous gift.

Taken in and raised on the rails by the first woman to pilot a freight train, Durriken has one remaining connection to his Romani roots: a small wooden box that hangs from the hammer loop of his overalls.

The last gift he received from his grandfather, the box contains the world's first chess set. But a piece is missing: the Red Queen. According to Durriken’s family lore, the complete set awakens the power of Tărie, a mercurial gift that confers unique abilities on each new Master.

When a suspicious fire erupts in the Chicago rail yard, Durriken's escape produces an uneasy alliance, though not without its silver lining. Dilia is a few inches taller, several degrees cleverer, and oh yes – very pretty. While Durriken is uneasy allying with a girl whose parents were convicted of sedition, there's no doubt she is a powerful partner. And while it's not immediately clear to either, her own Guatemalan culture and family history are deeply entwined with the ancient Romani mystery.

Jumping box cars, escaping riverboats, deciphering clues, crossing swords with the brilliant madman Radu Pinch – with great American cities as its backdrop – Gypsy Knights is the page-turning saga of Durriken Brishen and his quest to rediscover his past.

READ AN EXCERPT 

Chapter 11
The Lure of Tárie

July 24, 1965 – Chicago, Illinois


Durriken stuffed the letter into his pocket, slammed the yellow suitcase shut, and wheeled to face Dilia.

“Well?” Dilia asked.

“Well what?” said Durriken.

“Well, what is that letter? Well, why did you run away? Well, what the hell is going on?”

“Right, good questions,” said Durriken. “See you around.” He backed away, keeping his eyes locked on Dilia’s, then turned and walked swiftly down the hall.

“That’s not the way out!” called Dilia. She sighed and darted down the hall after him.

Durriken heard Dilia’s footsteps dogging his tracks. He sped up, turned a corner, entered a stairwell, descended a flight of stairs, and opened another door. Durriken broke into a trot and sped down a basement hallway, the yellow suitcase bumping against one leg, his chess set against the other. Dilia’s steps echoed close behind.

“That’s not the way out,” she called again.

He slowed and stopped.

“Okay, what – do – you – want?” Durriken asked in clipped staccato.

Dilia’s hand slid to the collar of her dress. What she wanted, Dilia couldn’t tell him. He had the chess set, whose Red Queen – her Red Queen – had shown her visions of the two of them, but yet something in the pit of her stomach warned her not to tell Durriken about her chesspiece. Not yet.

“You need help,” she said at last, remembering the startling vision of the sailor boy on the burning mast who might have been his twin.

“I’ve been in worse scrapes. I’ll be fine.”

“Fine? You can’t even get out of the school. You just ran into the basement.”

“Look, I’m flattered you want to help – and I’m sure you’re a very good helper – but I don’t need any help,” said Durriken.

“Where’d you get those chess pieces?”

“What?” shouted Durriken. “What the hell do you care about the…”
The sound of a door slamming echoed down the hallway. Durriken froze. Dilia grabbed his arm. He pulled it away with an angry jerk.

“Get off me,” he said, baring his teeth.

“Shhhh!” Dilia admonished. She grabbed his arm again, and pulled him down the hall and around the corner. She yanked Durriken into a deserted office and closed the door behind her.

“What’s your problem?” he said loudly.

“Shut up!” hissed Dilia, clapping a hand tight over Durriken’s mouth. Durriken’s heart beat wildly and he struggled to breathe under Dilia’s warm hand, dizzied by her scent of fresh laundry and spring flowers.

A metallic tapping, like blows of a distant hammer, began to grow louder. They could make out shuffling footsteps and the distinct tapping of a cane on the linoleum hallway floor.

Durriken and Dilia inched backward, deeper into a dark corner of the office, furthest from the door. The metallic tapping drew nearer, echoing like the beat of an evil heart. Tap. Tap.Tap.

Their imaginings of the man in the hall grew horrible as the seconds dragged on.Periodically, the footsteps stopped. A nearby doorknob rattled. Then he moved on. Searching.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Finally, the tapping slowed and stopped as a hunched shadow darkened the window of their door. Durriken and Dilia held their breath as the doorknob rattled. Angry muttering slid under the doorway as the man in the hall rammed the locked door with his shoulder. He cracked his cane on the floor in frustration. The phantom retreated from the door, swirled his cape around him, and started down the hallway. The tapping resumed, quick with anger, and faded down the corridor, back toward the stairs.

Durriken and Dilia listened breathlessly as the stairwell door squeaked open and hissed slowly closed as the last cane taps drifted through the close underground air. Dilia took her hand from his mouth.

Durriken walked to the door and put his ear to it. After a long pause he tried the doorknob – locked. He dropped his suitcase and turned on Dilia.

“You trapped us in here,” he said.

“You were trapped before,” said Dilia. “This hall’s a dead end. He would have found you.”

“And what if he had?” asked Durriken. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“I just thought…I could help,” said Dilia.

“Good thing you’re not trying to help in a hospital,” snapped Durriken, “all the patients would be in the morgue.”

She walked over to the desk, picked up the receiver to the telephone, and started dialing numbers.

“What’re you doing?” asked Durriken.

“Since, you haven’t done anything wrong, I’ll just call the school and somebody will let us out.”

Durriken took a quick step and yanked the cord from the wall.


Dilia’s full red lips parted in a triumphant smile, her white teeth sparkling against her dark skin. Durriken wheeled, fists balled, his short, muscular frame heaving with sharp breaths.

Dilia straightened her back and tensed for a fight. She stood a head taller.

“Sit still,” he demanded. “I know you want to help, but just let me think for five minutes before you start helping again, okay?”

Dilia brushed past him and retreated to a dark corner. Durriken thumped his back against the door, and slid down to the floor. He sat cross-legged and ran his hands back and forth through his hair. Composing himself, he pulled the envelope from his pocket. He slid a finger along its edge, pressed the yellowed paper to his nose and inhaled deeply. Durriken slipped a finger inside a corner of the envelope flap, and gently pried it open.

Dilia emerged from the shadows, and sat on a corner of the desk, watching Durriken. When Durriken tore open the envelope, a small plain key stamped with the number 1007 fell into his hand. He slipped it into the top pocket of his overalls and pulled the letter from the envelope. Dilia looked on curiously, left to guess at the emotions swirling inside Durriken.

The paper was water-stained and faded with time. Durriken’s eyes scanned the letter.

April 15, 1960
Dear Durriken,

I hope this letter never needs to find you. If it does, that means that I am gone and you are alone. I love you and I’m sorry I had to leave so soon. It was my time. There is a difficult journey ahead. You are strong and your heart is true, but your path will not be easy.I have not always been as strong as I would have liked, but I am strong with Tárie. So are you, though you may not know it yet.

Tárie has shown me that my time here is limited. While I can’t see what the future holds for you, I know that this letter will not find you until you are ready. You are probably a man now,or soon will be.

The night of your sixth birthday, your father and grandfather had a terrible fight about Tárie. They never spoke again. After that day, your Grandfather Brishen was dead to your father. So your father and I told you he had died. I did everything I could to heal the family, but your father and grandfather were too proud.

My greatest regret – after having to leave you alone so young – is that I was too weak to change their minds. They put their beliefs and their pride before their family, and I didn’t stop them. Do not make the same mistakes, Duri.

I planned to tell you the truth as soon as you were old enough. This letter ensures that you will learn your family history, and who you were meant to be, even if I am gone. To succeed, you must accept a heavy burden. You must find your Grandfather Brishen
and learn the old ways. Study Tárie. Feel and understand. Your grandfather needs you near him. Only you can save him and only he can show you who you are.

I write this during dangerous times. Things can only have gotten worse, so I am taking every precaution. I cannot see what dangers surround your grandfather, but I sense they are grave.

Promise you will find your grandfather. He loves you. Just as your father does. And just as I do.

More instructions await you in a safer place. Remember a day when you and your father went alone. Follow the money. Ask for a man named King. That is all it is safe to say here.

All my power goes into you.

Love,
Mom

Durriken wiped his eyes, crumpled the letter, and jammed it back into his bib pocket.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” said Dilia.

Durriken’s heart was an open wound. Every sentence, every thought, every pen stroke in the letter salted the gaping hole in his chest where his heart had been ripped out and thrown, still beating, on the office floor. The lights in the hallway clicked off one by one and the basement sank into darkness.

Durriken rose, walked around behind the desk and picked up the desk chair. He walked back over to the door, raised the chair over his head and smashed it through the glass window.The smell of rotten flowers filtered in from the hallway.

“I need your help,” he said to Dilia at last.

Dilia put her hands on her hips.

“Not until you say…”

“Please,” said Durriken.

“What’s this all about?” she asked.

“This may sound silly, but it’s all about my chess set. And my family.”

“And Tárie?” she said.

Durriken dropped his suitcase and eyed Dilia suspiciously, he was certain she had not seen the letter.

“How do you…”

“I told you. You need my help,” she said.

“It’s my…I need to find my…” Durriken faltered. “I need to get to the railyard. Please.

Help me get out of this school without having to answer any more questions – to anybody.”

“Follow me,” she said.
* * * * *
Twenty minutes later, Dilia poked her head out of a back entrance to Bulliard. She scanned left and right, then stepped out and motioned for Durriken to follow.

“Thanks for your help,” said Durriken.

“You’re welcome.”

“I’ll give you a shot at the trophy again next year.” He took a few quick steps down the alley, turned and walked away backwards. He lifted his yellow suitcase, trophy inside, and tapped it.

“Until then,” he said, doffing his cap.

“Where are you going?” she asked, starting to walk after him.

“Salt Lake City,” he said, quickening his pace.

“Great! I’ve never been,” she said. “Why are we going there?”

“We? Listen, you helped me, and I thank you, but there is no we.”

Durriken began to trot in reverse, opening a gap between himself and Dilia.

“Look, I know you don’t want to hear it, but you need help. My help.” She quickened her pace.

“Maybe,” he said, backpedaling at full speed, “but we’ll never know.” Durriken turnedand disappeared down a side street. Dilia raced down the alley and turned onto the side street, but Durriken Brishen had disappeared without a trace.

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