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Double Forté
cover art Ardy M. Scott.


Book Excerpt

Format: Trade Paperback
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List Price: $17.95 USD




Double Forté


Aaron Paul Lazar



Chapter One


We'd been skiing across the snow-covered field for twenty minutes when I heard the howl. The sound echoed over the frozen landscape, sending chills down my spine. Was it a coyote? A wolf?

I turned to Siegfried, my best friend and brother to my deceased wife. "Did you hear that, Sig?"

He slid to my side in a white spray of snow, courtesy of the fresh powder that coated the two-foot base. It had been swirling white since we started out in the murky dawn, hoping to get some exercise before we started our busy Saturday.

He slowly shook his massive head. "No, Professor. Was hörten Sie?"

At six-eight, Sig was taller than me. With broad shoulders, huge hands, and tree trunk legs, this man who'd stood by my side since childhood appeared a gladiator among normal men. But I knew his secret. He was an angel on earth, put here for the animals and children, sent to teach us how to be better people. I loved him fiercely, and he'd been my friend since I was five.

We listened at the crest of the hill. I pulled back my hood, but the biting cold of the January gusts sliced into my face and neck, numbing my skin. This windy ridge, which overlooked the east side of the gently rolling Genesee Valley, boasted the most beautiful view for miles. Today I was almost too cold to notice.

"I'm not sure, buddy. It was a—"

The cry came again. This time it was louder, more plaintive.

Siegfried's sea blue eyes narrowed and he pointed with his ski pole toward the woods. A wisp of long blond hair escaped from his hood, fluttering about his face. "Mein Gott. It sounds hurt." When my friend grew worried, his German accent thickened. "We must help."

Resolve stamped his features. He lifted his poles, pushing hard in the direction of the cry.

As if to emphasize the urgency of the moment, a red-tailed hawk shrieked, gliding in circles overhead. I tightened my grip on my poles and hurried after Siegfried, who'd already put some distance between us.

I caught up when the hill sloped downward, and met him at the edge of the woods. He snapped out of his skis and stopped to listen again. I did the same, pulling my wool cap down around my ears.

A whimper came from the deepest part of the woods. Siegfried spun toward the sound. "Auf gehts." He headed straight for the sound, crunching through the two-foot layer of snow that blanketed the forest floor, softly connecting silver birch to maple to oak. The silence was broken only by another wail from the troubled animal.

The trek through the deep woods was impossible with skis, and we had to tromp one step at a time, our feet sinking to the ground and snow up to our knees. We found her fifteen minutes later, lying in the flattened snow.

"Mein Gott," Siegfried whispered. "It's a dog."

The golden retriever lay in the snow with her hind leg clamped in a rusty trap. Spots of red soaked the snow beneath her. She raised her nose in the air when she saw us and thumped her tail against the frozen ground, whining.

I approached her, holding out my hand. "Shhh. It'll be okay." She sniffed my glove and began to lick the fabric. I pulled off the sweaty glove and reached for her ears, stroking them. When I ran my hand down her side, I realized she was pregnant. Her sad brown eyes searched mine and she lapped my hand.

Siegfried knelt by the trap, his brow furrowed. "Easy, now. Good dog." He inspected the mechanism. "She is very cold. We must hurry."

He'd studied a lot about the treatment of injured animals in my daughter Freddie's veterinary clinic. I'd learned to listen to him.

The cold penetrated deep into my limbs and the exposed fingers of my hand were starting to burn. It was different when we were skiing across the fields—we worked up a sweat no matter what the temperature. "Sig? Can you get her out of that thing?"

"Ja. Hold her collar. On drei, okay?"

I slid my hand beneath her worn leather collar. She turned her big brown eyes to me, instantly melting my heart. "Careful. Don't hurt her."

"I will be careful." Siegfried spoke softly, but with purpose. "Eins, zwei, drei." He applied his muscle to the contraption. After several nerve-wracking seconds, the jaws snapped open.

The dog jumped up, hanging her rear foot. Siegfried unwound his scarf, gently wrapped it around the shaking dog's leg, and lifted her into his massive arms.


Chapter Two

I drew on my glove, flexing my fingers to get the blood moving. We were about four miles from home, as the crow flies. With each step through the forest, we sank to the bottom of the pack. We both tried to follow our tracks to minimize the exertion, but poor Siegfried couldn't see over the bundle of fur he carried. Soon he gave up, and simply trudged forward, one slow step at a time.

He couldn't ski the dog home, it would be impossible to hold her and steady himself with his ski poles. What we really needed was snowshoes. Or a friendly helicopter.

We made our way slowly through the woods. The sky brightened slightly, making it a bit easier. And at least the trees cut the stiff wind whipping with fury over the open fields.

I stopped to catch my breath and turned to Siegfried. "Did you bring your cell phone, buddy?"

He ignored me and nuzzled the dog's fur with his face. "I'm going to call her Sheba." She lapped his cheeks enthusiastically.

I couldn't help the smile stealing onto my lips. "Um, Sig? Your cell? I left mine on the charger."

He dragged his attention from the dog and shrugged. "It is on my bureau, Professor. Sorry."

"We'll have to get a ride. You can't walk all the way home with her. It's too far." I pointed to the dog, who flapped her tail against him and wiggled with joy in his arms.

He glanced briefly in the direction of home. "Ja. It is a long way."

When we made it back to our skis and the edge of the field, I glanced around the lonely landscape, pointing to a rundown house in the distance. "I think that's the Hatfields' tenant house. They probably have a phone."

Faint wisps of smoke floated from the chimney. I figured I could make it there in ten minutes on skis. "Okay, here's what we'll do. I'll ski over there, call Freddie, and have her meet us on Twin Bridge Road with the Jeep." I motioned toward the road at the top of the hill.

Siegfried twisted around to look for a landmark, squinting against the rays of sun creeping over the horizon. "Up there?" He indicated a tall grove of pines.

I nodded. "That'll work. Are you sure you can carry her all the way?"

The half-mile trek was mostly uphill. "Ja. Naturich." With a determined look on his face, Siegfried repositioned the dog in his massive arms and began to stagger through the deep snow.

I stepped back into my skis and made my way across the field, stopping halfway to check on Siegfried's progress. He'd climbed about a quarter of the distance to the road. Although my nose and cheeks were frozen, now I was soaked in sweat beneath the layers. I unzipped my parka, repositioned the wool cap over my ears, and pushed ahead.

When I reached the backyard of the ramshackle house, I circled around to the front and clicked out of the skis, leaning them against the hull of an abandoned farm truck. The only other vehicle was a rusty Dodge Omni, wedged into a small shoveled rectangle in the driveway.

The curtain moved briefly in the window. I pulled off my hat and tried to smooth my sweaty hair. I didn't want to scare the occupants by showing up at their front door way too early in the morning, looking like some wild-eyed monster with spiky hair.

In spite of the heavy blanket of snow, I could make out shapes of junk littering the yard. An old bicycle lay across the pathway, half-buried. I stepped over it and nearly fell into two truck tires, catching myself on a dilapidated wrought iron railing.

The muffled sound of cursing came from inside. I slowed and glanced up and down the road. Although I'd rather not bother an already ticked off guy, there were no other houses in sight. I had to get to a phone. I checked Sig's progress, noting he was more than halfway to the road. I had no choice but to disturb the man behind the curtain.

I knocked once on the storm door.

"Go away."

I banged with my fist this time. No way was I leaving my buddy stranded up on the road with an injured dog.

The door was flung open. A guy with red hair stood in the doorway wearing a ragged plaid bathrobe, long johns, and orange wool socks. His bushy red beard stuck together in clumps as if it hadn't been brushed in days. He stood eye-level with me. I estimated he was six-one and weighed about two hundred and eighty. He glared with flat gray eyes.

"Whaddya want?" His breath smelled of cigarettes and stale beer. "I told you to go away."

I held out my hand. "Gus LeGarde, from up on Sullivan Hill Road."

He ignored my extended hand. "So?"

I lowered my arm. "Sorry to bother you, man, but I need to use your phone. It's an emergency."

He scowled, looking me up and down.

I brushed damp hair from my brow. "Listen. We were skiing in the fields over there," I pointed to the hill, "and found a dog caught in a trap. My friend is carrying her up the hill to Twin Bridge Road, but I need to call my daughter to pick us up—"

Expelling a stinky breath, he glowered at me. "Emergency? What a crock. God damned bleeding heart." The door slammed in my face.

I stared at the door for a few stunned seconds, wondering if he'd come back.

I was about to hammer on it again when he reappeared with an old-fashioned grimy beige rotary phone. He threw open the storm door and let me inside a few feet, stretching the cord as far as it would go. "Make it fast. I haven't got all day."

I stepped inside and was hit full force with the odor of garbage. Overflowing trash bags piled beside the refrigerator. A pyramid of empty beer cans towered in one corner. Dirty dishes covered the countertops. An ancient nineteen-inch color television flickered from the opposite side of the small room, tuned to an infomercial. And a sleeping bag had been thrown over the couch from which I had obviously roused the man.

"Thanks," I said. "I'll just be a second." I took the phone and dialed as fast as my frozen fingers would go. While I waited for someone to answer, a muffled sob erupted from the other side of the room behind a closed door. The mournful sound mirrored the wail of the retriever we'd released from the trap. I glanced toward the sound.

Red-beard practically ran to the television to turn up the volume.

I plugged my ear with one finger and reluctantly pressed the greasy receiver closer to my head.

When Freddie picked up on the third ring, her voice thick with sleep. "Hello?"

"Honey, it's Dad."

"Dad?" She cleared her throat. "Where are you? I thought you were going skiing this morning."

Red-beard casually covered a small pair of red sneakers with the sleeping bag. I scanned the room. A box of shotgun shells sat open on the dusty windowsill, a half empty bottle of Bud stood on the coffee table, and a roll of silver duct tape lay on top of the dusty television.

"We were skiing, honey, but we've got a problem. Can you pick us up on Twin Bridge Road?"

"Dad! Did you break something?" Since the death of my wife and her mother four years earlier, Freddie worried excessively about me. It was endearing, and I loved her for it.

Red-beard walked closer to me and reached impatiently for the phone.

I held up a finger. "Please. Just a second." Talking faster now, I turned back to the phone. "We're okay, but I'll have to explain later. Look for your uncle by the tall pine grove, about halfway up the road—and bring your bag."

Red-beard grabbed the phone and slammed the receiver onto the cradle. His mouth tightened. "You've made your call, now go."

"Look…" I backed away from his pungent breath. "How ‘bout I pay you for your trouble? How's ten sound?"

He shrugged and grunted. "Makes no difference to me."

"Okay." I reached for my wallet and came up empty. Damn. "Er. I left my wallet in my other pants."

His scowl deepened. Crowding me with his big belly, he forced me outside. "Forget about it."

I thought I heard another sob just as he closed and locked the door.

His voice thundered through thin walls. "Shut the hell up!"

My heart twisted. Was it a child, or his wife? Had he hurt her? With a nagging feeling of guilt, I pocketed the concern and headed back to the snowy fields to rejoin Siegfried.





Author Bio

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys.

Author web site.

TTB titles:

LeGarde Mysteries
   Tremolo: cry of the loon
   Don't Let the Wind Catch You

Moore Mysteries
   Terror Comes Knocking
   For Keeps

Tall Pine Mysteries
   Essentially Yours





Double Forté Copyright © 2012. Aaron Paul Lazar. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.


Format: Trade Paperback
    Available now!
List Price: $17.95 USD


  Author News

Double Forte' by Aaron Paul Lazar is a finalist in the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in the category of Mystery.

For the Birds by Aaron Paul Lazar is a finalist in the 2011 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in the category of Mystery.

Healey's Cave by Aaron Paul Lazar is the winner in the Commercial Fiction category for the 2011 Eric Hoffer award, winner in the Paranormal category for the 2012 EPIC eBook Awards and 2011 Global eBook Award Finalist in Mystery Suspense!

Tremolo by Aaron Paul Lazar is an Award-Winning Finalist in the category of Historical Fiction Contemporary in the 2011 Global eBook Awards.



"Double Forté is a refreshing work of handcrafted beauty, even given its nail biting nature. Lazar has crafted an original character in LeGarde, one which I am very glad to learn has an entire series dedicated to him. I strongly recommend this book to all fans of James Patterson, Iris Johanson, and Mary Higgins Clark. You will not be disappointed."
Thomas Fortenberry, literary critic





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