In the meantime, here is an excerpt from Vertigo. I hope y'all enjoy it.
She’d messed up the search. The article had it wrong, she was certain. The soldiers and dogs in her photo were French. They had to be. Plus, searching for Belgian dog soldiers hadn’t netted her a thing. She’d also tried Red Cross dogs, but came up with far too many pages to sort, even when she specified images only. Most of the shots she found were contemporary, rescue dogs from recent disasters and modern warfare.
Tonight, she’d try France.
First, she had a puppy to get to know. Paula recommended letting her girl settle in the first night, and she’d managed to resist the urge to smother the poor thing. She’d carried the pup out into the backyard three times during the night, and resisted bringing her into bed the few times she whined, but otherwise she’d done her best to respect the dog’s privacy. Now, however, they needed to get going on that bonding, and the way Viv saw it, her pup needed a name.
She parked herself, cross-legged, in the center of the living room floor with a tub of liver treats in her lap. The pup lay in the kennel doorway, paws crossed and ears up. She’d squirreled half the squeaky toys into the bed, buried a few in the couch cushions, and currently held her favorite between needle sharp puppy teeth.
She eyed Viv suspiciously and bit down until the toy squealed.
Her skin color leaned toward copper, with a few scattered light spots under her neck and chest. It was much softer than Tortugas, like chamois. Viv had discovered as much during the brief contact taking the little girl out for her runs, but aside from the rare tentative sniff, the dog hadn’t shown any interest in letting her touch it otherwise. The liver treat had her attention though. Viv held it forward and waited while the black nose twitched. The toy squeaked one last time and then dropped to the hardwood. Both front paws reached, and a low whine came from the pup’s throat. Her tail thumped against the blankets, and she scooted forward on her belly.
Just like Champ did on the barbed wire course.
Ice slid down Viv’s spine. The liver dropped from her fingers, and she fumbled for it with a racing heart. Just like Champion. Where the hell had that come from? She held the treat out again, but as the pup belly-crawled across the floor, she saw a black face, one with feathery hair and both ears erect and listening. And coils of spiked wire just above the mud.
“It’s okay,” Viv crooned. “You can do it.” She had to stop herself from saying, boy. This pup was younger, and scared. She had no hair and she wanted a treat, not a medal. A slow inhale, a moment of calm, and Viv knew that. She sat on her living room floor in 2013. Not France, no war, and no LePiu looking over her shoulder. Where had that name just come from?
“Here girl, come on,” she whispered, and half hoped for the images to return. She wanted to know about them—about Champ and Pieter and Marcel. And LePiu. She’d wanted this dog for years. This dog. The beautiful, soft little nudist creeping across the room—so close now she could feel the puppy breath on her fingers. She held perfectly still and looked into the watery brown eyes. This dog. But Champion had looked at him like that.
Viv saw it. He lay on his side in the mud, and the unnatural pose alone was enough to tell him he’d fallen, that he’d suffered a wound. The pain just finalized that verdict. It spread like a cold ache through his midsection. He reached the one arm out, and saw his own fingers stretching toward the dog. Champion. The enemy hadn’t noted Champ yet, and the black dog crept like a shadow toward his pistol. It lay inches beyond his fingertips. Come on, Champ. A few more feet.
Someone rolled him over. Fire tore outward from the wound, but it wasn’t nearly so horrible as the face snarling inches from his own. The skin stretched tight over prominent bones, and the eyes were two huge sockets, black pits filled with nothing.
Viv screamed. The puppy exploded away from her, all claws and scrambling for purchase on the wood. The tub of treats flew to the side, and all she saw was the sparsely haired tail disappearing behind her couch. Her heart banged against her ribs. The eyes of whatever thing she’d seen still glared at her. She could see them
through her living room.
They burned into the back of her mind and refused to go away.
in print and ebook