- Author: Charles Royce
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By Charles Royce
Copyright © 2019 by Chutter Hill Publishing, Nashville, TN
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
This novel, Naïve, is the first book of a trilogy. The next book, Transparent, will offer another story from a different perspective, with some repeating characters and overlapping timelines, while the finale, Synchronicity, will bring both stories to a climactic end.
This edition of Naïve copyright © 2019 by Chutter Hill Publishing
Excerpt from Transparent copyright © 2019 by Chutter Hill Publishing
Published in the United States of America.
Excerpt regarding visible wavelength hyperspectral imaging is paraphrased from an interview with Dr. Meez Izlam for the Northern Echo, October 29, 2013.
Names: Royce, Charles, author
Title: Naïve, a novel / by Charles Royce
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Transparent by Charles Royce. This excerpt has been written for this edition only, and may not reflect the final content of the upcoming edition.
For my mother, who I miss every single day.
GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT TO:
My beautiful partner Chris, who, even though my writing is far from his genre, is never slow to give me insight and praise for accomplishing my goals. I love you and am so happy to share this life with you.
My mother-in-love, Carol Smith-Merkulov, whose experience in criminal law and devotion to this process has helped in ways I will cherish forever.
My editor Jamie Chavez. You, my longtime friend, are the real deal. Your humor, expertise, and attention to detail is just what I needed to push me further. I have learned so much and love working with you. Your talent and your fingerprints are all over this book.
My friends who took the time to read fledgling drafts of this novel—Matt, Ruben, Jennie, Jonathan, Chris and Carol—your encouragement and love are what keeps me going. I adore each one of you!
To Kelly Oechslin: I started creating this trilogy about ten years ago and put it down because it was too hard. Thanks to your inspired talent, I gained the courage to revisit this world and fell in love with it all over again. You showed me, all of us, how to be a bona fide author. Thank you.
To Pete Wilson: You spoke directly to my heart when you asked us all to remember our early passions, the ones we’ve had since we were children. For me, those passions were singing and writing. I cannot begin to tell you how much the truth of your words has manifested in me. Thank you.
To my family and friends who’ve seen me through it all, and loved me because of it. You know who you are.
C h a p t e r 1
Ghost sits in front of his computer, counting his money as if it were the last on earth.
The room is dark, although it is mid-afternoon. He is huddled at a desk in front of a cracked, mustard-yellow wall interrupted only by a single tiny window, haphazardly covered by black velvet curtains. Light trickles in above and below, revealing only the slightest details of him and his workspace.
A sea of splotchy pigmentation drowns his body, leaving only tiny islands of light pink skin. Wiry white-blonde hair bursts from his scalp straight toward the sky, as if scrambling to escape its host. Thin freckled arms sneak past the openings of a dingy white tank top. A tattoo on his left shoulder blade is a childlike drawing of a skinny house with a pointed roof and a curved wavy base. A thick horizontal line runs straight across the middle of the strange icon, giving nublike arms to what resembles a ghost in the most minimal of ways. Underneath the illustration is a strange mix of Italian and French, incoherent, partially eaten away by a circular scar.
He lays a third stack of hundred-dollar bills on top of two others.
“Daddy!” A ten-year-old voice cries out in an all-too-familiar screech from down the hall.
Ghost mumbles under his breath, then jerks the top bill out from underneath its currency strap. He shoves it in his pocket and returns the remainder to the pile, making sure all corners meet perfectly. He wants to answer his son, but he knows he must log in to his email first. Part of the deal.
He turns to his laptop, an obsolete behemoth by worldly standards, an extravagant necessity by his own. The screen is blurred by filth and neglect, barely alive, yet manages to breathe an eerie glow, outlining Ghost’s body from the waist up. He begins to type.
C h a p t e r 2
“No! NO! Don’t you do this!” Micah screams, pounding on his husband’s blood-soaked chest. “Don’t, don’t, please God, please!”
He is straddled over Lennox’s naked, almost-lifeless body, screaming and pounding. Over and over.
“Baby, please! Don’t. Please God help me, please God PLEASE!”
Micah rolls up his sleeves. He places his hands together and forces his weight onto Lennox. Lennox gurgles, but then his body goes limp. Sensing that what he’s doing is working, Micah presses down with the disoriented strength of a madman, over and over. Over and over.
The day they first met.
The wedding day.
Their life flashes before Micah’s eyes as he continues the chest compressions over and over.
Over and over.
Over and over.
“Stay with me! Please God.”
Micah continues to press. He is only five-feet-nine-inches, but with solid muscular density. He begins to feel his weight crushing Lennox.
He slows down. He stops and lets out a deep sigh, releasing the only breath he’s taken for the last few moments. He unclenches his hands. Lennox does not move again.
Out of breath, Micah sits back and looks around his living room for his phone. He moves his legs in order to stand but slips in the crimson pool that has collected around them.