Monday, June 8, 2009

The Dragon's Pool excerpt by Edward C Patterson

In The Dragon's Pool by Edward C Patterson, the third book in the Jade Owl Legacy series, a shadow stalks the lanes and streets, from Gui-lin to San Francisco, from Florence to the Dragon’s Pool. In its wake, Rowden Gray and his China Hands follow a course to right the wrongs of time. The relic is hidden, but stirs in the soul and archaic rituals long since forgotten, but never lost. Some books are closed. Others are open, giving up their secrets. In the darkness, ancient terror awaits. A barren field yields up its magic and . . . the comets return to earth.

The Dragon’s Pool, the next installment of an adventure like none other, looms across the landscape giving even the stouthearted pause to reflect. The stalwart characters of The Jade Owl (excerpt posted on 11/17/08) and The Third Peregrination (excerpt Posted on 2/16/09) are back, and joined by new players and helper bees and . . . yes, villains. It is time for the Tien-xin Rite. It is time to close history’s fissure. It is time to complete the prophesy that dwells beneath Her Majesty’s hem. It is time to count the teeth that emerge from the Dragon’s Pool.

The Dragon's Pool
Publisher: CreateSpace (May 7, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1442170999


Chapter One



The gay kid watched over his shoulder on this dark Castro night, knowing that the men followed him. Anxious, his panic increased along with his pace. No guessing. They were following him. His heart beat double time. His eyes scanned ahead for a safe haven. He hastened. An alleyway was coming up on his right. He could find shelter there, but it could also spell — dead-end. Still, something had to be done. No time for dumb indecision. In the dark alley, he could blend with the trashcans. Perhaps he could discover an unlocked door. Or a fence to leap. His pursuers were hulks — two of them. He, however, was sinewy and young — fifteen in his Nikes. He could outrun them . . . possibly. They were gaining on him, matching his pace. They would bash him . . . no doubt. So he pressed his Nikes to the grayment, and then sprinted into the alley, speed and chance his only hope now.

Darkness could be his friend, except it wasn’t as dark as he supposed. Light threads filtered through the iron slats of the escapement above. Clotheslines hung silhouettes like Spanish moss. Still, he hadn’t shaken the men — thugs grunting threats, probably pissed that their prey had bolted. Why didn’t he leave the club earlier? Too late to wonder now. He always had taken care to avoid the night shadows. This was the Castro, after all. Gay kids were supposed to be safe here, or so he imagined. But when he emerged from the club, he had sensed something amiss. He spied the men across from The Painted Lips . . . and they were waiting. Waiting for something — for someone. But this was the Castro, after all. A gay haven. So he shrugged them off as night revelers tagged up for a tryst. How stupid had he been? These were the night goblins, mongers seeking a gay punching bag. A kid was a perfect mark — young, alone, silky blonde, with a face as smooth as his black leather jacket. The bashers fished — two against one. Coward’s odds. The kid didn’t have a chance. So it was the alley and the filtered light and the cottony Spanish moss.

The kid strained for his night eyes. He assessed the short stretch between this spot and a chain-link fence. That fence would either be a ladder or fly paper. Beyond it was more darkness. However, his pursuers were close behind him. Audible grunts.

"He’s down here."

Now or never. The Nikes pushed toward the fence. Lurch, but then . . . snap. His pants caught on a metallic mass in the shadows — a bicycle. Under different circumstances, this contraption would have served him well, but it twisted his legs with pedals and wheels, spilling him headlong into broken glass and street screed. Dazed. Dizzy. He scarcely heard the grunts now, or the shuffle.

"There. There he is."

The kid inhaled the alley’s urine aroma just as the first blow fell. He couldn’t see his assailants. Blur. Dazed. Dizzy. A sharp knuckle across his cheek. The pain was reminiscent of other pain. He was not a stranger to the pain or to the hatred. However, the last time he had been assaulted, the knuckles were from familiars. Suddenly, boots replaced fists. Kick. Crack. His wind went. His gorge arose, spewing his last beer over his lips. Retch.

"Die, faggot!"

The kid rolled onto his back, meeting another kick.

I must get up, he thought. If he remained a wounded cub, he’d be a headline in the morning. He would beg for his life, but the words wouldn’t form. So he continued to roll, dodging the next kick. He scrambled, crawling like a tadpole. Somewhere in his young spleen, he found his crust, firing his legs out like springs. Pay dirt. The thug tunes changed from mere hatred to unadulterated anger. One of the night goblins doubled-over. Pay dirt.

Good shot, the kid thought. Haul ass, now. He bucked hard, aiming for the chain links. He touched the steel, his fingers laced through the cold strands. He scrambled up, but a clenched claw interrupted his flight. It pressed him into the links.

"That’s the last fucking time you’ll get a chance to shit free," growled the basher.

"Hold him Benny," said the other. "I think this’ll do it."

They pressed the kid’s cheeks against the fence, choking him. So this is how it shall end, he thought. He heard glass break. If he had been the Sunday school going kind, he would have muttered a prayer. If he could have better assessed his situation, he would have known that he was now beyond such things as prayer. The night goblin wielded a broken bottle — a Southern Comfort remnant, long shorn of efficacy.

Hateful slogans. Demonic laughter. The kid heard it and felt a swoon rising. Gasp. They denied him even the urine-bitter air. Suddenly, other sounds. Trembling. Panicky cursing. Hellish screams. Metal pounding — trashcans clashing. Startled, the kid felt air rushing back into his lungs. Dizzy, he slid from the fence, and then tried to whir about, but his legs surrendered. He fell, wondering what had happened to quell the attack.

The kid scanned down the alley.

"Holy shit," he muttered, the words painfully squeezed from his throat.
His pursuers no longer pursued. They had been pelted with a tornado of garbage cans and glass. Benny and his accomplice were sprawled against the graffiti laden wall like the cuss words scrawled illegibly across the bricks. Debris swirled unabated. Still, the kid was mesmerized. The thugs were entwined in bicycle wheels and handlebars. However, what stunned him was a silhouette that loomed over this human trash.

What was this thing? What had wiped the alley clean? What phantom?

The phantom turned, and then moved into the filtered light. It was just a bit taller than the kid, but it appeared to loom to greater heights. It wore a green flowing cape and ruby red tights; and upon its chest emblazoned the silver letter O. The kid knew. He sighed. He trembled.

"The Jade Owl," he whispered.

He had heard the rumors about the crusader of the Castro. Like every gay youngster, he had followed the Jade Owl’s adventures in The Chronicle’s comic section, but . . . here it was in the flesh. The kid raised his eyes to the escapement. Had it come from the fire escape? From the roof? Did it matter? Safety now. Haven true and keen.

The kid took a step toward this green, shadowy phantom, but a silk clad hand stayed him.

"No closer, please."

The kid saw that his hero (for he was his hero now) wore a feathered hood with two tufted ears. And goggles; no, not goggles. Brass spectacles that shimmered blue.

"Who are you?"

"It doesn’t matter." The voice was sweet. The voice was young. "Are you okay?"

The kid glanced at the pile of hate at the base of the wall. He was okay; better than okay.

"I guess so."

"You’re too young to be out this late."

This must be a dream, the kid thought. He shuddered. His savior stretched his hands aloft like a man about to swan dive. He pulled himself through the night air, his blue eyes forming a firefly shower. The kid observed this, his own eyes blinking timed to his heartbeat. He detected an emerald glow at the cape’s edge. Then it, and its owner, disappeared over the roof. The Jade Owl was gone.

"No, don’t go," the kid cried.

He tripped over the bicycle, landing near Benny’s buckled head. He pushed away from the sight, regaining his feet and his momentum. No, don’t leave me. He was saved. He was free, but he had nowhere to go. He wandered in the dark now until he clutched the chain links, and then climbed. At the crest, he tottered, almost losing his balance. He thought he could still see the emerald glow. No, don’t go. He felt the growing bruises on his ribs. They’d be purple by morning. His throat still pained or he would have shouted after the retreating cape. Dizzy. Sharp pain. It hitched him from the top, the ground coming up fast. He thumped over the fence onto the other side. Now his palms and knees would join his ribs competing for the worst color award. He was in another alley, one that opened onto Hartford Street. The kid pushed himself up, the fence a lifeline now. Glancing through it, two crushed thuggish forms confirmed that he had not been dreaming. It did happen. He gazed skyward again.

The kid ran along the thoroughfare, pain chasing him like a fox. He had hope now, but nowhere to go. Time held no consequences for him — or so he thought; the myopic blessing of youth. On Hartford Street, he hobbled, thinking he could still see the glowing cape. Whether it was his imagination or the side effects of the beating, he had convinced himself that he had met his hero. Now, the kid was the pursuer.

At 17th Street, he paused. He squinted at the rooftops. Yes. It was not his imagination. He saw the glow, bouncing like Tinkerbelle. By the time he crossed Noe Street, he knew. The cape had come to rest either on Pond Street or on Prosper. He thought, Prosper. The kid pursued . . . having nowhere to go.

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