Read a Chapter is a *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the new suspense novel, Half Moon Lake, by Steve Brock. Enjoy!
Crease Williams lived a charmed life with a bright future. Only in his junior year at Texas Christian University, his skills as a wide receiver had already captured the attention of NFL scouts.
Then a tragedy cost him his family and his desire to play football. Personally devastated, he left his old life behind and got as far from Ft. Worth, TX, and football as he could get.
Keeping mostly to himself, he became a float-plane pilot in the far north of Minnesota. Flying fisherman and hunters into remote locations was how he spent his time. When a group he had flown to Roudy’s Cabin goes missing, he faces accusations and more turmoil than he could have ever imagined. To make matters worse, his quiet existence is upturned by an element from his past bent on vengeance.
Half Moon Lake is Steve Brock’s first novel. A suspenseful mystery written with likable characters and a lighthearted flavor.
Release Date: March 30, 2022
Publisher: Steve Brock
Soft Cover: ISBN: 978-0578391977; 187 pages; $9.99; Kindle Unlimited FREE
What would it be today? Indigo, purple, or maybe some shade of green? It was something he had grown to appreciate, even anticipate during the last few years. Depending on the season and the hour of the day, the color of the water in Half Moon Lake changed. Ripples on the surface glistened and danced in the sunlight as he approached from the east. Billowy cotton-ball clouds floated high against the evening sky. Pine trees, majestic and tall, surrounded the lake. They seemed to stretch to touch the belly of the plane.
He lingered one last moment to admire the vista, but eventually keyed the mic.
“TC8750 to Half Moon Flight Service.”
The familiar voice of Rose Larson broke a few seconds of static. “This is Half Moon. Is that you, Crease Williams? I hope this is an obscene radio call.” No one ever accused Rose of ridged formality.
“I’m afraid it’s all business today, Rose. I’m here to pick up the floatplane to fly a load of supplies up to that group of fishermen at Roudy’s Cabin.”
“Fishermen? Do you mean those four CEO types who were through here last week? I saw the list of supplies they ordered. I don’t know about the fishing, but it appears the beer drinking is going pretty well up there. The runway’s clear, Crease.”
To call what serves to land small airplanes a runway was generous. A strip along the side of the lake a quarter mile long and maybe one hundred feet wide, it was a grass field dozed free of trees and rolled to flatten some humps. Crease coaxed his little Cessna to the north, taking a wide loop to a course parallel with the landing strip.
Just as he was straightening his heading, pointing the nose toward the windsock that stood just past the end of the landing field, his life changed. At once there was deafening silence and a violent lurch downward. The engine had stopped, and he thought he must have dropped at least five hundred feet. A quick glance at the altimeter said no, but his testicles said yes.
A dozen thoughts fought for attention in his mind. He filtered through the “whys” and concentrated on the one thought that mattered: How do I land a plane without power? He knew it could be done. The space shuttle always lands without power, he thought to himself. Sure, that’s right. Of course, an astronaut pilots the shuttle, not a washed-out wide receiver with a few hundred hours of flight time. Still, he believed he could do it, and it wasn’t like he had a lot of options.
Just as he had convinced himself, the plane jerked forward as the engine started running again. It appeared that his heading was fairly correct, and the desire to touch the ground overwhelmed the urge to swing the plane around to line up perfectly. He eased it down and, with a bit of a hop, came into contact with the grass. He taxied forward, slowing, and came to a stop at the end of the landing area. He sat motionless until his mind and his gonads agreed he was on the ground.
Crease climbed the three steps to the single door that opened into the small reception area that was also the Half Moon radio room. As he walked through the door, an office chair swung around and a well-nourished fortysomething lady sporting a bouffant hairstyle stood. With a big toothy grin, Rose said, “There you are, you big linebacker. Come here and give me a hug.”
“Just try and stop me,” he said as he met her in front of the desk. As they embraced he said, “You know I was never a linebacker. In fact, I tried to avoid them as much as possible.”
“Hell, Crease, all football players are linebackers to me. What have you been up to? I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age.”
“I’ve been down in Texas doing some maintenance on the home place. Which reminds me, I think I might have something for you here in my duffel bag.” He didn’t know everything about Rose. She was divorced twice that he knew of, and scuttlebutt was that at least one settlement was enough to set her up for life. He got the feeling the only reason she helped out around the field was because she was lonely. He liked her. The truth was, he was closer to Rose than anyone since the accident. “While I was home, I picked up a little something for you.” He reached into his bag and produced a two-pound box of Pangburn’s Millionaires.
Her smile increased as he handed her the box. “Are you trying to wreck my perfect figure?”
“God, no. It looks to me like you’re down a few pounds. I don’t want you to dry up and blow away.”
“You’re just oozing that old Southern charm, darlin’. How is it no one has claimed you yet?”
“I guess the bad outweighs the good. I’m not much for long-term relationships. How have you been?”
“I’m still walking upright so I can’t complain.” Rose returned to her chair, clutching the box of chocolate turtles.
Since he had moved up north, Rose was as close to a friend as he had. After losing his family and discovering he had no future, he determined he would maintain a certain distance from people. He had become a loner, and it suited him now. Rose was almost an exception.
He rested his hands on the counter. “Is Ol’ Pete around?”
“He’s here someplace. Walk through the showroom to the garage, and you’ll find him.”
With genuine concern, he asked, “Are you okay? Seriously, you look tired.”
“It’s nothing. I’ve not been sleeping well lately.”
“I’m planning to be around for a while, so I’m gonna keep an eye on you.”
“That just makes my day. Would you like for me to page Pete for you?”
“Nah, I’ll head back to the garage as you said. I’ll come across him.”
“You know you’re not exactly his favorite person, right?”
“Yeah, I remember. I’m not sure what I ever did to make him dislike me so much.”
“You know what you did.”
Crease did know. It wasn’t like he destroyed an aircraft. It could have happened to anyone learning to land a floatplane. Anybody with limited experience could bring a plane down a bit too hard. Yes, the hard landing on the water ruptured a float, and yes, the fuselage took on a lot of water, and yes, they had to use a come-along to drag the plane into shore. The bottom line was that the plane got repaired, and he had paid for it, every cent. That should be enough for any reasonable person, but Ol’ Pete wasn’t altogether reasonable. He had an unnatural attachment to his floatplanes. Three years later now, and Pete still hadn’t forgiven him for that little faux pas.
He had apologized, and he had learned his lesson, but that had little impact on Ol’ Pete. Pete had grown up around airplanes. His dad flew them, repaired them, and even created them. He had taught Pete everything there was to know about single-engine aircraft: what made them fly, and what made them crash. If there was anyone in the world who could make a bowling ball fly, it was Pete. By the same token, if anybody could explain why an almost new Cessna TTX, well maintained and treated with care, would suddenly decide to shut down on approach, that, too, would be Pete.
Following Rose’s direction, he began walking through the warehouse, toward the garage. The warehouse was a local wonder. Around here, if you wanted to do some shopping in a national chain big box store, you were in for a big disappointment. The closest Walmart was over one hundred miles away. The closest thing to that was the warehouse of the Half Moon Airfield and Wilderness Outfitters. Not that it compared to a big box store in ambiance. There was no nicely tiled floor or rows of pristine shelves stacked with goods. The “Outfitters,” as it was locally known, was a large open building with a bare concrete floor stacked with pallets. It was filled with anything useful in camping, fishing, hunting, or any other outdoor activity. Beyond the warehouse and to the right stood the door to the garage. He cringed a little as he rounded the corner.
He hated to ask Pete for anything. Every conversation they had since the “incident” always began the same way. Ol’ Pete sat behind an old metal office desk stained and dented by years of use and abuse. His feet were propped up as he leaned back in his rickety old wooden chair. On his head was the only hat he’d ever seen Pete wear. Ragged and stained with years of head sweat, it was adorned with hooks and fishing lures all around. Sure as spring rain, as if reading from a script, Pete said, “Well, well, if it ain’t the local football star. Sink any floatplanes lately?” He always followed that statement with a snicker. That was what Crease hated the most, the snicker.
Over the last couple of years, he had learned to take a beat before continuing the conversation. Deep down, Crease knew Ol’ Pete didn’t really hate him. Pete wasn’t that kind of person. Pete loved his planes like family, and his harassment at the start of every encounter was Ol’ Pete’s way of reminding Crease that the “incident” was not forgotten.
The truth was that Pete liked Crease a lot, despite the “incident.” Crease had become one of the better pilots he knew. He realized Crease had some rough times in his past and he respected him for coming through it and creating a new life for himself. He figured he would stop harassing Crease about the “incident” soon. Just not today.
After a brief, pregnant pause, Crease answered the sarcastic question with a humble response, “No,” he said with a weak smile, “I’ve learned my lesson.”
“Glad to hear it. So what brings you to our little neck of the woods?”
“I flew in to pick up a load of supplies for the campers up at Roudy’s Cabin.”
“Surely you didn’t come to see me about a beer run.”
“I did not. When I was making my approach today, I had problems with the Cessna.”
“What kind of problem?”
“It just stopped running. That’s an issue I haven’t seen before. There was no warning. One second it was running just fine, and the next second it just quit. Have you ever seen anything like that before?”
Ol’ Pete took a drag from the cheap cigar he was smoking, then took it out of his mouth and said, “Can’t say that I have, not without some symptoms first. Even then, engines don’t just stop completely. Did you put gas in it?”
Crease wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be funny or not, so he didn’t answer the question directly. “I checked everything before I took off this morning.”
“Did you land it without power?”
“No, that’s another odd thing. It started up again all on its own a few seconds later.”
“That’s odd all right, and kinda hard to believe.”
That comment did not surprise Crease. He had a hard time believing it himself. “Would you have time to look at it while I’m making my run?”
Ol’ Pete drew another long puff on his cigar, laid it down on the ashtray and finally replied, “Yeah, I’ll give it a once-over.”
“I appreciate that, Pete. Do you want me to bring it up here to the garage?”
“Nah, leave it where it is. I may take it up for a little cruise around the lake.”
“Thanks, Pete, I’ll check in with you when I get back.”
Crease headed back into the warehouse area and told one of the warehouse guys, Little Al, he was called, what he was there for. In about fifteen minutes, he was looking at a small pallet stacked with the supplies he was to deliver to Roudy’s Cabin. Mostly food items, including steaks, lobster, Crown Royal, and imported beer among assorted other items. The people who rented Roudy’s Cabin were not known for living on the cheap.
After he had confirmed everything was there, Al got an electric pallet lift and took the supplies out to the dock. Crease stopped by the office, got the keys to one of the floatplanes, and led his helper to load it. He did his preflight check and climbed into the pilot’s seat.
Taking off in a floatplane gives you a different feeling than taking off from a runway. The spray picked up by the prop and the gentle bobbing up and down in the water make you feel like you are driving a boat. Then, as you gain speed and the floats began to lift out of the water, you become a pilot again. It is a unique feeling that most people, even pilots, never experience. It was something Crease had come to appreciate.
The wings of a floatplane are set farther off the ground than land-based planes like his Cessna TTX. That gives them the ability to climb more steeply and turn sharper, attributes that are necessary when taking off from the surface of a small lake and clearing the surrounding trees. It was only a thirty-minute flight to Roudy’s Cabin. He could make the entire trip at one thousand feet if he wanted to. From that altitude, he could sometimes see herds of deer or elk in the openings in the tree line.
The job paid well, but that wasn’t why he chose it. He chose this life because his old one had died, and this was as far away from being a Texas football player as anything he could think of. That and it gave him a sense of freedom that he’d never had before, and freedom was something he needed very badly right now.
The sun still hung high in the sky as he approached Roudy’s Cabin. He brought the plane down, and gently, ever so gently, touched the floats down on the surface of the lake. He pulled it over and nudged the frame up against the dock.
Floatplanes aren’t particularly loud, as planes go, but out here in the wilderness where the closest automobile is over fifty miles away, it normally gets people’s attention. Usually, someone comes down and helps anchor the plane to the dock. He could do it and had occasionally, but it was unusual.
He walked up to the utility shed positioned not far from the end of the dock. He retrieved the ATV from within, hooked up the small trailer, and drove it down to the plane. He off-loaded all the supplies onto the trailer, climbed aboard the ATV, and headed toward the cabin.
Despite the image conjured by the name, Roudy’s Cabin was neither rowdy nor a cabin. The style of the structure could best be described as “rustic elegance.” Sitting just fifty yards from the water’s edge, the cabin was a well-appointed, 5,500-square-foot structure with five bedrooms, four baths, two fireplaces, and a game room complete with a billiard table and wet bar. The kitchen, with a full complement of professional-grade appliances, was the envy of every chef who saw it. The whole building was surrounded by a twelve-foot covered porch furnished with chaise lounges, rockers, a built-in grilling station, and a whirlpool tub. It was definitely constructed for leisure living.
The forest had been cleared all around the cabin, stumps removed, and a nice stand of grass nurtured to grow. Most people who stayed in the cabin probably never adventured beyond its lawn. The exception was those who wanted to hunt moose or elk. There were several places much better for that, however, so die-hard hunters rarely stayed here. Most people who used the cabin wanted to get out of the city and “get back to nature,” at least as long as nature came with five-star accommodations.
It was for that reason that it was unusual for Crease not to be met at the dock upon arrival. He thought perhaps they were grilling out back of the cabin, and since the back entrance led into the kitchen, where most of the supplies should go, he slowly drove around the cabin to the grilling station.
Finding no one, he shut off the ATV and just listened for a moment. He thought perhaps he would hear music or the TV from inside the house, but there was nothing but the sounds of nature around him. He picked out a couple of bags of frozen items and headed to the double doors. The doors were unlocked, but there was nothing unusual about that.
Out here, the visitors who showed up in the middle of the night would not turn the doorknob. Other than the residents of the cabin, there were probably no other human beings within twenty square miles. There were plenty of other creatures milling around in the dark. Raccoons, possums, skunks, foxes, and rabbits were always looking for any food scraps that might be left out. Those critters, as Rose called them, could be a bit of a nuisance, but not dangerous.
There were dangers in the north woods, but nothing was likely to break through the door. The most obvious concern, if you asked people, would be bears and wolves. Certainly, both species were present in the woods around the cabin, but black bears were shy around humans, and grizzlies didn’t inhabit the area. A pack of wolves could certainly ruin your day, but only if you presented yourself as a weak or wounded target.
What surprised most people was learning that the most dangerous animals in the area were elk and moose. Not that either is aggressive by nature, but many people who have never seen them don’t respect their space. The problem comes when people approach elk expecting Rudolph, but what they find are charging, pointed antlers propelled by a bristled, snorting, seven hundred pounds of pissed-off.
Crease walked through the door into the kitchen. He deposited the frozen items in the large freezer. He went about unloading the rest of the supplies, being intentionally loud, hoping to draw attention to his presence. With the last bag delivered, he stood silently for a moment. The beautiful house felt more like a derelict, abandoned mansion. It was creepy-silent.
He decided to do a walk-through to make sure no one was around. Walking room to room he found the same, a house that could have been a college dormitory, in desperate need of a maid. There was no question guys had been living here, but they weren’t here now. In one of the bedrooms, he found a journal. Someone’s musing about daily happenings. He knew it was personal, and he hated to read it, but maybe if he just peeked a little, he might discover what they’d been doing.
He decided to start with the previous day and only go as far as necessary to find a clue. He didn’t have to read any further. There was an entry that said the group had been doing some hiking through the woods, and yesterday they came across something interesting. All it said was it was they wanted to explore it further, but the daylight was fading so they came back to the cabin. They thought they might go back to continue tomorrow.
Crease gladly closed the book, he felt like he was a peeping tom as it was. They were probably traipsing through the woods at this very moment. The creepy feeling kind of went away as he made his way out of the cabin and back to the ATV. He drove back down to the dock, put the ATV back in the shed, and climbed into the plane. Looking at that journal made him feel better, but he would keep it to himself.
About The Author
I’ve been an author in search of a novel for just about forty years now. Writing was the first thing I ever wanted to do seriously. Over the years I’ve done quite a variety of things. My first real job, the kind where you have a schedule and get paid hourly, was as a cook at the local Sonic Drive-In. I’ve been a machinist, a forklift driver, a production worker, a computer programmer, an IT guy, an installation manager, a software trainer, and an education department manager. Those are just the employment highlights. Through it all, I was a husband and father, and I attended college at night to get my bachelor’s degree in technology management.
Before all that started, I wanted to be a writer. It just didn’t work out that way. Maybe that’s ok, I’ve had a good life and I have a wonderful family that I am proud to have. I don’t regret any of what I’ve done to support my family over the years. The desire to write has persisted, however, and I took a look at my odometer one day and it read 61 years old. None of us know how high our personal odometer will go, but I knew if I was ever going to be a writer, now was the time.
I’m bringing my lifetime of experience to my novel writing. Many of my characters are loosely based upon people I’ve known in real life. Some of my plot elements are also influenced by real-life experiences as well. As of this writing, my first novel, Half Moon Lake, will be published on Amazon in a few weeks. I have begun work on my second book as well. I hope you will take time to register your email address so I may keep you apprised of announcements and special offers. I’d be thrilled to count you as one of my first dedicated readers.
Steve Brock’s latest novel is Half Moon Lake.