Don't Write What You Know;
Write What You Care About -- Passionately!
- F. Lynn Godfriaux
Mattie Lamont Tyler loses both parents in an apparent car accident, then finds herself estranged from her only sibling when her sister Angela elopes with a new boyfriend. But Mattie, a photojournalist with (ironically) a phobia of guns and violence, is blind to dangers around her until Angela ends up on the critical list in an ICU six hundred miles from home and Mattie's husband, a Southern Ute who appears to be a quiet, unassuming weather forecaster, stops answering his cell.
Before she can figure out what's going on, Mattie is kidnapped by Hawk, a ruthless stranger with accusations Mattie does not understand. Her own survival and the lives of her loved ones depend on whether Mattie can see beyond her "blind eye" into unknown inner strength.
From the plains of Oklahoma to the mountains of Southwest Colorado, Blind Eye sweeps the reader into a frantic race against greed, lies, and pre-meditated murder.
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George Digby Lamont blinked but his vision wouldn’t clear. Butterflies filled his chest, fluttering around his heart with uncomfortable heaviness. He glanced at his wife, Ginnie, who seemed lost in thought as she gazed out the passenger window of their Land Rover.
Should he say anything? Pull over? Find an emergency facility?
He returned his attention to the two-lane highway and blinked several times in an effort to clear the blur in front of him. Flat, empty, brown Kansas prairie spread under an expansive Kansas blue sky. The January midday sun held no warmth. He rubbed the front of his thick plaid long-sleeved shirt as the discomfort in his chest increased. Sweat beaded his forehead and he fumbled with the collar buttons to ease the sudden constriction around his throat. He didn’t understand what was wrong. He’d felt fine this morning when they started their trip to visit their daughter Mattie in Colorado. And though in his sixties, he’d never had heart-related problems.
He heard Ginnie moan and snapped his head in her direction. Her color looked awful. His eyes widened with alarm as she slumped over.
“Ginnie!” He tried to yell, but his voice barely made it beyond his lips. The sudden blast of a truck horn jerked his attention to the two-lane highway and he squinted, frantically trying to clear his worsening vision. Rubber bands wrapped tighter and tighter around his chest until he couldn’t breathe. He caught a whiff of the sweet pickles he and his wife had been eating, felt his head begin to spin, heard again the thunderous, deafening blare of a truck horn.
Screeching tires, exploding glass, and impacting steel ripped the afternoon air as the oncoming eighteen-wheeler slammed head-on into the careening Land Rover.
I can’t believe this.
The thought became a boulder that took up all the room in my head, then rolled slowly, painfully into my chest and stomach. I gazed through the tinted glass of the long, black limousine that belonged to the funeral company and wondered how everything outside could be light and normal when everything inside me was dark and strange.
The limousine crawled down Main Street in Shawnee, the small Oklahoma town where my sister Angela and I had spent our youth, where our parents had raised us with love, gentleness, and joy. It seemed as though every car in town joined the slow procession to the cemetery. Jeremiah, my husband of almost seven years, slipped an arm around my shoulders, pulling me close. His warm, solid body enveloped mine, and I leaned into his black leather jacket and wished he could lift the boulder away from my heart. Angela, motionless within the folds of her knee-length black wool coat, huddled against the opposite window. Long, thick, chocolate brown hair hid her pale face. A glance down at her nails, normally long and beautifully polished but now bitten to the quick, told me she felt the same boulder in the pit of her stomach.
My only recollection of our parents’ graveside service was the January wind that lashed through my outer protection and froze my inner boulder into a massive chunk of ice. Even Preacher Pat’s Irish lilt and consoling words could not penetrate the cold that engulfed me. Voices grated like nails on a chalkboard as friends filed by, hugging me close and patting my hands. The wind whipped my short black hair around my face, into my normally clear, ocean green eyes, pushed me with invisible power until I almost fell over. Jeremiah’s gentle hands steadied me, then guided Angela and me back to the long, black car. Black, like the void sucking me into a pit never to let me out again. Black tires crunched along gravel until they reached thin black pavement, made the slow procession through town, the end of the awful trip no better than the beginning as we pulled up alongside the front staircase of our parents’ estate.
As we drifted to a halt, a man wearing a charcoal gray wool overcoat appeared from the endless line of parked cars and strode to the left rear passenger door. He reached for the handle when the limo doors unlocked, opened Angela’s door, and leaned down.
“My poor, dear Angela, come with me.” Avoiding eye contact with both Jeremiah and myself, he helped my sister from the car. The collar of his heavy coat hid his face so I didn’t get a clear look at him, but I felt Jeremiah tense. The stranger wrapped a protective arm around my sister then slammed the door shut. I watched through the tinted glass as he steered her away and wondered how he had known which side Angela would be on.
“Who was that?” I asked as we rose from the car, feeling Jeremiah’s strong hands steady me when the wind threatened to blow me over again.
“I think it prudent we find out.” The curtness in his voice startled me, his black eyes narrowing on the two figures ascending the broad steps that led to the front entrance.
My husband, Jeremiah Black Bear Tyler, a full-blood Southern Ute, stood slightly over six feet and had the build of a distance runner. He rarely answered questions, listened more than he talked. He did not use contractions, a characteristic which made his personality seem formal.
Jeremiah slipped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me close, protecting me as we climbed the stairs to the house I had called home for most of my twenty-eight years.
William, the family butler since Angela and I were old enough to walk, met us just inside the front entrance. The aged, bent little man hugged me with surprising strength. Flowers and potted plants crowded the large entryway, leaving only a narrow path along the broad hardwood floor. An undulating body of friends, colleagues, and strangers crowded the large room to our left. I didn’t want to talk to any of them, so I stood there and stared at the plants.
William’s shiny pink bald head nodded towards the sea of colors. “Anna and I will see to these, Miss Mattie. Don’t you worry.” He ducked his head from my stare, but not before I saw the wetness on his face. He took our coats, and Jeremiah coaxed me into the throng. Muted sounds of familiar music whisked me away from the present torment, and the boulder lifted just a little from my heart as I slid into a fog of memories.
My father, George Digby Lamont, born into immense southern wealth, left the Lamont Alabama plantation to pursue degrees in piano at the University of Oklahoma. He met my mother, Virginia Marigold Tessence Campbell, on the Norman university campus as she was working on her last doctoral piano recital. Together they devoted their lives to university and private teaching, local and regional performing, and raising and loving Angela and me. Music echoed through this house throughout my youth, continued after I married Jeremiah and we moved to Colorado. It had been a wonderful, warm, welcoming, way of sharing their love of life and music.
Gut-ripping truth forced itself back into my thoughts. Mom and Dad were gone, and it was someone else’s music that filled the house now, sounding tinny, contrived. It grated on my ears, and I wanted them to stop it and leave. I wanted everyone to stop whatever they were doing and leave. Mom and Dad, Grandpa George, Uncle Bernard, all of them dead within the last three years. Too much death, too many loving people taken away from me too soon.
Bodies overflowed every room, engaged in a muted cacophony of conversations and music. Waiters in OU colors of crimson and cream maneuvered their way through the crowd, balancing trays of wine and finger foods. Smiling (I hoped politely), I acknowledged well-wishers and looked around for my sister. Jeremiah and I entered the large dining room that adjoined the front room. Renovated hardwood flooring contrasted warmly with deep green, floor-to-ceiling drapes and tall, old-fashioned windows. Tall ceilings added grandness, made the room seem spacious despite the crowd. I caught sight of Angela and the stranger standing against the opposite wall from where we stood. Jeremiah paused and I leaned into him, then watched the stranger bend to place a kiss on the top of my sister’s long, dark hair. He seemed about my height, which neared five feet ten inches. He looked stocky, muscular rather than fat, and his thin, dark, crudely cut hair threw his features out of balance. Thick glasses made his eyes too small for the rest of his clean-shaven, acne-scarred face. I didn’t like the way his eyes shifted about, ignoring whoever was talking with him. The dark, expensive, three-piece suit he wore appeared custom-tailored, but for some reason I felt his attire did not match his personality. Maybe it was the scarring on his face. As usual I was forming a prejudice based on looks. My photographic nature, seeing everyone through the viewfinder.
His head turned and our eyes met, then he glanced away. I must have squared my shoulders because I felt Jeremiah shift. Together, we wandered over in their direction.
“Jeremiah Tyler.” He sounded unusually curt. My husband’s black crew cut accented his strong facial features, while his black wool sweater and wool dress slacks made him seem taller than he was and more than a little intimidating.
Jeremiah extended his right hand and I glanced at him, trying to figure out whether his curtness was due to the current circumstances or whether he might know this stranger, who seemed more than casual friends with my sister. The stranger hesitated, then gripped Jeremiah’s outstretched hand.
Jeremiah turned to me. “And this is my wife and Angela’s sister, Mattie.”
I smiled and extended my hand, felt the sweat on the man’s palm. His fingers barely touched mine before breaking contact, and I wondered whether he was nervous. And if so, whether Jeremiah was making him feel that way.
“Gary Tacque.” Gary smiled suddenly and slid an arm around Angela’s shoulders, pulling her close, her black designer suit, perfectly proportioned features, and model thinness accentuated by his thick, compact stature. His small green eyes darted my way, then back to Jeremiah. “Angela’s told me all about you.”
“Your name seems familiar. Are you from this area?” Jeremiah edged between the man and my sister, forcing Gary to drop his arm. I took Angela’s hand and started to lead her away when vice-like fingers gripped my shoulder.
“Just where…” Gary’s voice raked my already raw nerves. He coughed, then started again. “Stay with us.” His voice sounded like a demand, his fingers dug into my flesh despite my heavy sweater. I shrugged irritably, and he let go.
“We’ll be back,” I threw over my shoulder.
I led my sister to the music room located across the hall. William had closed the doors to this room, so we were alone when we entered. I shut the door against the noise and the crowd, relished the ensuing silence, then turned towards Angela. Her beautiful, expressive brown eyes looked empty and lost.
“Let’s have it. Who is that guy, and where’d you meet him?” Okay, maybe not the best way to ask about a new boyfriend, but we had just buried our parents. I wanted her close, not distracted by someone else.
Angela avoided eye contact. “He’s a friend.” She seemed really out of it. I leaned in and squinted at her eyes.
“Come on, Angela, you can come up with more than that.”
Angela stared at me, and I wondered whether she had taken some sort of tranquilizer. Not that I blamed her, but the idea of her current state irked me. Angela was four years my junior, had graduated with a Masters in Sociology, and was now a social worker at the community hospital in Norman. At twenty-four she was quiet, an excellent listener, and understood other people’s problems with soothing empathy. But on a normal day she was naïve to the point of clueless when it came to reading people. Her current state made her even more vulnerable. Being a photojournalist and four years older, I had more experience, had been exposed to the baser side of life. I knew her blind eye would be worse than usual, and I wanted to protect her.
“Gary Tacque.” She looked at me.
“Well, yeah. He told me that. I want to know who he is.”
She relented. “He’s a representative for a drug company. I can’t remember the name right off.”
“Where’d you meet him?” My voice sounded as curt as Jeremiah’s. I’d better quit sounding so critical. Emotions were running amok already.
Angela looked away and shrugged her shoulders. “At the hospital. He’s very nice. He doesn’t have many friends because of the way his face looks.”
“You mean nobody knows who he is, which means he may have secrets worth knowing about.” I blurted, then clamped my lips shut. Sounding accusatory wasn’t going to get me very far.
The questions, however, rattled out by themselves. “So, where’s he from? Does he have any family? How long has he worked for the drug company?”
Angela’s chin jutted and her mouth tightened into a thin line. “Mattie, knock off the inquisition, okay? He’s a nice man, and he’s been at my side ever since that awful call from the State Patrol last summer about Uncle Bernard.”
Our Uncle Bernard, Dad’s brother and only sibling, had died in a car crash while driving back to Alabama after spending July Fourth weekend with us.
I leaned against the closed door and tried to back off. “I want to know how involved you are with him, that’s all. I am your sister, and it’s just the two of us now.” Mom had been an only child.
Angela stepped away, opening space between us. “You’re acting like you’re the boss now. Since when is my life suddenly your business?”
I straightened from the door. “Since we buried Mom and Dad,” I answered, trying to control a sudden burst of irritation. “You’re exceptional at sensing other people’s troubles, but you don’t have a clue how to recognize when someone’s pulling one over on you.” Damn it. I shouldn’t have said that. I opened my mouth to apologize.
“Mind your own business and leave me alone.” Angela spun away and tried to step around me to get to the door.
I shifted, blocking her attempt. “Angela, wait. Please. I’m sorry.”
I reached for her, but she turned with such an angry expression that I dropped my hands. Her present demeanor was unlike her. Well, so was mine. I crossed the room to one of two seven foot Steinway grand pianos located near a set of massive French double doors.
I sank down onto the bench Dad had used for years and remembered the childhood piano lessons I had fought. Why had I been so insistent about not learning something my father cared so passionately about? Why had I refused to follow in his footsteps?
Angela laid a hand on the doorknob and threw a look over her shoulder. Possibly she saw the pain and confusion in my face, because instead of opening the door, she turned and drifted over to the other piano and sat down. I watched her lift the lid covering the keys. A slow, single melody line drifted from strings hidden under the massive lid of the seven-foot grand.
“I’m sorry.” I repeated, feeling like I was apologizing to my father as much as I was trying to defuse things with my sister. “I just want to know who this guy is. It’s…you and me now. I…I guess I got mad because he didn’t bother to introduce himself at the car.” My gaze dropped to the exquisite Persian rug that carpeted most of the floor. The soft pile had provided cushioning whenever the two of us slept under the instruments. We had been young, small, innocent.
The wandering melody broke off. “Do you remember how we used to camp out underneath these?” Angela’s voice broke into my thoughts. “It was so cool, lying under there whenever Dad was practicing. Or when the two of them were in here working on a program. I wonder how they ever got anything done, the way we giggled and carried on.”
“I wish you had pursued your music.” I looked up at her, wishing with a fresh wave of despair that I hadn’t been so stubborn about lessons. “I loved listening to you play, too.” She and Dad had worked on two-piano works together during her years in high school. She had been offered full scholarships by several universities, and partial scholarships from two conservatories.
“After I saw how much the therapists helped Jeremiah’s brother, I wanted to try to help people instead.” And because of her decision Angela had stopped playing altogether, grown her nails out, and started dressing like a New York fashion model.
Jeremiah’s younger brother, David Mud Rain Tyler, had Down’s Syndrome. He only answered to Mud Rain, had recently turned fourteen. When I first met Jeremiah eight years ago, Mud Rain had been six years old, non-verbal and difficult to control. Jeremiah had taken him off the Reservation and tried several centers that focused on kids with special needs.
Reluctantly, I silently admitted that Angela had been the one who made the difference. Mud Rain responded to her gentle firmness with astounding progress. I admired her for choosing to work with kids with special needs, but the selfish side of me wished she had pursued her musical talent.
“But you’re so good,” I said, trying to bridge the uncharacteristic gap that yawned between us. “Can’t you find time to pick it up again?”
Angela’s mouth turned downward. “Quit trying to make everything my fault. I’m tired of you thinking you’re always right.”
I frowned, realized my expression matched hers, tried to work the corners of my mouth upward, but they quivered instead. We used to email each other daily. Thinking back on things, I realized our communication had dropped off since Uncle Bernard’s death last summer. Angela and I used to talk about anything (and I do mean anything).
“Nobody makes a good first impression with you, Mattie. You’re too busy looking at them the way they would look through a camera lens. In case you forget, I didn’t like Jeremiah when you brought him home the first time.” Her abrupt change in subject jerked me back to my bluntness about the new man in her life.
She stood and wandered over to where I sat. Leaning her elbows on the closed lid of Dad’s piano, she began tracing imaginary patterns with the bitten end of a fingernail. “I didn’t like him because I knew he was moving and you were going to go with him.”
I glanced away to hide the tears that stung my eyes. Yeah, I remembered that conversation. When a job opportunity opened in Colorado Springs instead of somewhere in Oklahoma, we cried together over how Life was ripping our world apart.
I turned back to her and tried to smile. “Okay, maybe I’m jumping to conclusions. But honestly, he acted sort of rude when he met you at the car.”
Her damp chocolate brown eyes focused on her moving finger. “You’re not interested in getting to know him.”
I leaned on the closed lid of the keyboard and pressed the palms of my hands against my eyes. “C’mon, Angela. That’s ridiculous. Jeremiah and I walked over to meet the two of you, didn’t we?”
“You’re just reacting to what you see. Just because he doesn’t have a GQ face doesn’t mean he’s not a nice guy.”
I raised my head and stared at her. “Is that what you really think?”
She avoided eye contact. “You’re not trying to get to know him at all.”
I felt like two separate conversations were going on. “Angela, you can’t seriously be thinking that.”
Her finger stopped and she straightened. “You’re just jealous because I’ve finally found someone besides you to be close to. That’s why you don’t like Gary.”
I stood, my legs knocking against the heavy bench. “Hey, I just want to know more about him. Excuse me for being interested,” I retorted.
“He’s good company. We get along. Like Mom and Dad do…did.” Angela released a long, ragged sigh.
“Angela, you’re not even listening to me!” I threw up my hands and turned my back on her. Through the glass of the French doors thrashing branches bent and swayed as invisible, gale-force fingers dragged at them. Tears stung my eyes, trickled down my cheeks. Maybe my reaction had to do with the fact the man had been seeing my sister for a while, and this was the first I had heard about it.
“So why haven’t you called or emailed me about him?” I didn’t turn around, didn’t want Angela to see how upset I was.
When she answered her voice sounded shaky. “You’re always busy, and Gary is always around when I think about calling, and we get distracted doing something else. I’m away from my computer most of the day now. It would help if we could text.” She stopped. I knew what she was going to say next.
“Well, I’m sorry, but I’m not buying another expensive phone to lose or get dropped in a puddle. I’m behind the wheel most of the day anyway.”
“I was going to have you meet him over Christmas, but you didn’t make it down.”
Guilt poked me in the chest. She didn’t have to bring that up. I rubbed my face with my hands, stared out the window again. Low clouds looking like Marley’s ghosts raced across the late afternoon sky.
“Did you get the job?” Angela asked from behind me.
“No. Jason got it.” Not only had I not come down to see family for Christmas, but the job opening I had been hoping to get with the photo shoot had not gone my way.
“You could’ve emailed me about him. My computer is always with me,” I threw over my shoulder.
Angela didn’t offer any comment.
“What…” I trailed off, balking at having to use past tense. “What…did…Mom and Dad think of Gary?”
A long silence followed before Angela replied. “He…hadn’t actually met Mom or Dad yet.”
Alarm bells began ringing in my head, and I whipped around. Too late I realized I was scowling.
Angela glared back. “What? He’s always busy, and I moved to an apartment in Norman so I could be closer to the hospital. Sometimes I don’t get off work until late. I haven’t been living with Mom and Dad since last summer. Whenever I drive up to Shawnee to say hi, I always ask him to come along. He’s tried to come up after his appointments, but they run too late.”
“You didn’t tell me you had moved. Neither did Mom and Dad.” I stopped. Belatedly I realized I had been short on the phone with my parents since Christmas. I hadn’t wanted to hear their ready acceptance and support of my failure to get the position.
Angela’s expression bordered on hostile. “My computer crashed after I got into the apartment. I haven’t gotten it fixed yet. Gary said I must’ve downloaded a virus from the Internet when I was setting it up.”
“You could’ve called me, damn it.” I ignored inner warnings and let emotions take control. “Or did he keep you too busy to do that, either?”
“You know what? You’re being really bitchy about all of this. I’ve been busy. Gary’s been busy. Don’t get on my case for not calling you, when you’re the one who couldn’t spare enough time to come home for Christmas.”
The music room door swung open and Gary’s head popped around the edge. I opened my mouth to tell him to butt out, stalled when I tried to think of a different way of putting it, and lost the opportunity altogether.
“Angela, there you are, sweet pea. I’ve been worried about you.” He stepped into the room. An inexplicable sense of protectiveness washed over me, and I stepped in front of my sister.
“What could you possibly be worried about? She’s here with me, in our house.” My voice echoed, sharp and uninviting, around the acoustically live room.
“A lot has happened since you last saw your sister. I’ve been with her. I know how all of this is affecting her.” He sounded so patronizing I wondered how on earth my sister could possibly be attracted to the man.
Angela walked over to stand beside him. Her action seemed like a choice of sides. Disconcerting, to say the least.
“Nice talking with you.” The tone of her voice said otherwise. I stared in numbed silence as she and Gary disappeared around the door, the polished cherry wood barrier swinging shut with a disturbingly metaphorical click.