Dereck Dillinger and the Shortcut to Oz is my first novel for middle-grade readers.
My next book signing for both books will be in August 2018. Watch for details.
Read chapter one of Dereck Dillinger and the Crystal Ball below:
Book 2 in the Fractured series. Dereck Dillinger and the Crystal Ball will be ready for pre-orders in July, 2018.
My six-year-old sister screamed.
The blue, pink and green horses bobbed up and down to the carnival music that poured from inside the carousel. Jessie stuck her legs straight out as she held the leather strap attached to the plastic horse’s nose. Every time the horse made a complete circle, she waved at me as though she hadn’t seen me in days.
“Hey, Derrick!” She laughed.
“Hey, Jessie!” I waved back, then stood and waited for her to come around again.
From the corner of my eye, I spotted two boys from my school, trying to shoot basketballs into hoops attached to a beat-up backboard. I envied them. I had been about to come to the fair with a few of my friends, but at the last minute, Mom called from work letting me know she would have to stay late at the office.
“Hey, Derrick!” Jessie waved as she went by again.
“Hey, Jessie!” I waved back.
I couldn’t tell Mom no. After we’d lost Dad last year, I had promised her I would step up and help with Jessie.
One of the boys at the basketball hoops—Kent Jackson—looked over and saw me standing by the carousel. Pulling my jacket hood over my head a minute earlier hadn’t worked. He recognized me.
“Hey, Dereck!” Jessie made another round.
This time I lifted my hand in a half-wave, then stuck it in my jacket pocket.
“Dillinger!” Kent always called me by my last name.
“Oh, hey, Kent.” I threw my head back a little. Kent put his arms up against his chest, pretending to hold a baby and then rocked the imaginary infant back and forth.
“My name’s Dereck Dillinger and I’m always babysitting my little sister,” he said in a mocking voice. “Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree tops,” he sang. The other boy, Robert Butler, laughed.
“You win that?” I asked in order to change the subject. I pointed to the stuffed panda Robert carried under his arm.
“Nooo, I thought I’d carry a stuffed polar bear all the way from home.” If sarcasm could kill, I’d be dead.
“Have fun with your baby sister, Dillinger.” My two tormentors laughed and strutted toward the dunking booth. And had Robert called that panda a polar bear? Who was the lame one around here?
Pop! The loud sound startled me. I jumped and looked up. A shower of red and blue sparkles erupted and fell to the ground. The fireworks weren’t supposed to start until nine o’clock. Another round of even brighter colors exploded next. This made people stop and look. Jessie would miss the show if I didn’t get her off the carousel.
The crowd around me uttered ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ as little children pointed to the light show in the sky. Some of the fireworks danced, some zig-zagged through the sky then exploded. Some whistled, and a big one that erupted had a message that wrote itself in midair.
“It’s a dangerous time.” Now how did they do that? Another message appeared in a different one. “Dereck Dillinger, pay attention.”
I looked around. How were others responding to these mysterious messages? People’s faces were lit up with reflections from the sparkles above. I inched over to a man and woman who were holding hands.
“Did you see that?” I asked.
“What?” The man leaned down to me.
“The messages in the fireworks.” I pointed to the latest one that read, “Come quick.”
“Messages?” The man looked confused. I glanced up where I was pointing, but the sparkly announcements were gone.
The woman dragged him away while giving me a dirty glare. I narrowed my eyes and scratched my head. Then the next message exploded. It was the biggest of all and gave me a sharp pain in the pit of my stomach. There, in bright red and green sparkles it said, “We have Jessie.”
“Jessie?” I called out loud. I shot around to the carousel that was still turning and waited for Jessie’s horse to come around. When it finally appeared, it was empty.
“Jessie!” I shouted as I ran to the carousel and jumped up on it.
“Hey now,” the old man who sat at the carousel switch yelled at me. “Get down from there. You crazy? You could get hurt! Hey, you!”
“Jessie!” I circled the carousel, looking each child in the face. I jumped off the ride and ran to the old man whose hand was on a metal lever. “Did you see a little girl? Did she get off the carousel?”
“I’ve seen a million little girls tonight. The ride hasn’t stopped, so no one could have gotten off without someone breaking their neck. If you jump up there like that again, I’ll call the manager, and he’ll throw you out the gate,” he threatened gruffly.
“But my sister was on that horse right there!” I pointed to the pink one.
“Stand back. I’ve got to stop the ride.” He tossed down his cigarette and stomped on it.
The merry-go-round came to a stop as adults walked over to meet children who jumped off into their arms.
“Jessie!” I spun around in circles. Once the carousel was empty, I clearly saw that Jessie wasn’t on board. The operator was right. How could she have gotten off if the ride never stopped?