It’s been TWO YEARS since Darius and Adelaide made their debut into the world. Time flies!
I’m celebrating by releasing a second edition of Yesterday’s Gone, expanded to include more about the characters you love (and the ones you love to hate).
Keep reading for the first chapter, then sign up for my newsletter for more expanded content, behind-the-scenes information, and other fun Olympic Vista goodies.
Olympic Vista Chronicles
When Darius climbed out of his dad’s car and stepped into the rundown parking lot of the convenience store, he knew he had been right. The town of Olympic Vista had seemed ordinary. Too ordinary. Darius had read his share of mystery novels. He knew, without a doubt, this tiny town held secrets waiting to be unravelled. And the trio of boys arguing in the parking lot had just confirmed his suspicions.
During the drive from their new home on the outskirts of town, Darius’ twelve-year-old twin sister, Davia, had sneered from her usual position of prominence in the front seat. Darius, who sat in the back, had grinned out the car window.
Their family had moved from Boston to Washington State the day before, and Darius loved what he saw. He had smiled as they drove by the quaint mall and marvelled at how many children were riding around on bikes with no adult in sight. There was a freedom to this place. He could breathe here.
The small town of Olympic Vista was built up around a research and development facility referred to by locals as The Link. Olympic Vista was smaller than the metropolis the twelve-year-old twins were used to and Davia had crinkled her nose in disgust as she watched the scenery unfold outside her window. She had spent the drive grimacing as the stench of manure wafted in from the farms outside of town and sighing dramatically when she saw the tiny brick mall. There were no buses or taxis to be seen. Her family had moved to the middle of nowhere. Her life was over.
But here in this small parking lot of a corner store at the intersection of a four-way stop, Darius could feel his life begin.
The lot was large enough to hold half a dozen cars but was currently empty. The pavement was uneven and there were no markings to divide the parking stalls. The store itself was a sad-looking single-floor building with stained white siding and bright yellow signage with red letters that spelled “Rutledge’s Grocery Store.” Clumps of green moss speckled the building’s shingled roof. One half of the storefront was lined with a two-tier wooden bench that held shabby white plastic buckets filled with bouquets of pink, red, and yellow carnations.
“Eww,” muttered Davia as she took in the store.
There was a “Loading Zone” sign with rusty edges fixed to the right-hand side of the store, next to a small makeshift loading bay. This section of the building was obviously a later addition and was set back a few feet from the main storefront. A wide set of sturdy wooden steps led up to an unmarked wooden door.
The boys that drew Darius’ attention were probably a year or two older than the twins and had gathered at the side of the store in the loading bay, their bikes discarded on the ground next to them. As Darius and his family stepped out of the car, Darius heard the boys arguing.
“Don’t be such a chicken! It’s just a house,” a boy in a black shirt scoffed. He took a long pull on his carton of chocolate milk.
The second boy was identical to the first, except for his blue shirt. He wiped his mouth with his arm and squished his milk carton with his other hand.
“Then you two do it!” the third, shorter boy retorted.
“That place is haunted. No way I’m going in,” the blue-shirted boy chuckled.
Darius knew this was it. This was what lurked in the corners of this small town. Darius could feel it. He had left Boston and all the prep-school kids behind and stepped right into his own Hardy Boys mystery. He grinned.
“Besides, it’s your dare,” the black-shirted boy growled at the shorter one. He took another pull of his chocolate milk and turned to look at the newcomers. His eyes flicked from Davia to Darius. His eyes lingered on Darius – who tried to wipe the grin from his face – then the boy turned back to his companions. “You could have picked truth, and you didn’t, Dillon.”
“I’m not doing it,” Dillon insisted. “Give me a different one.”
The blue-shirted boy tossed his squished, empty chocolate milk carton on the ground. He glanced up and saw Darius’ father watching him.
Darius’ father, Drew Belcouer, was an average man in many ways. He stood at about five foot seven inches tall and had short, dark hair. On this particular day, he wore chinos and a polo shirt. His eyes, however, were not average. They were cold and angry. He had a sour look about him, as though he’d smelled something unpleasant in the air that no one else could sense.
The boy in the blue shirt looked away from Darius’ father and scooped his bike off the ground. He glanced at the crumpled milk carton but left it on the pavement. “Then you’re out. Let’s bounce, Bruce.”
Without another look back, the identical twins biked away. Only the shorter boy, Dillon, remained in the small parking lot of the corner store with Darius and his family.
Drew strode toward the entrance. Davia trailed behind him. Darius ran his fingers through his brown hair and followed them.
Drew opened the glass door to the shop and a small bell dinged in response. He held the door open and ushered Davia into the store. Darius’ steps faltered as he crossed the parking lot. He paused and looked back at Dillon, who was picking up his bike.
“A haunted house?” Darius asked. It was difficult to keep the excitement from his voice.
Dillon turned and scowled at him. Darius watched as the boy looked him up and down.
“Is there really a haunted house? Tell me where it is.” Darius knew his father was waiting at the door, but his curiosity had gotten the better of him.
Dillon’s scowl deepened. “It’s the boarded-up one on Hyacinth Street.” He turned away, righted his bike and pedaled down the road in the opposite direction of the other boys.
“Darius,” his father called from the doorway.
Darius hurried into the store. His father sighed impatiently as he followed him. The bell above the door jingled again as it closed.
A freezer purred loudly near the entrance. The store smelled of must and newspapers. Rows of metal shelves were packed with potato chips, cans of soup, boxes of crackers, sticks of deodorant, packs of batteries and everything in between. Behind the counter a teenager slouched on a stool. His head lolled to one side and his long hair obscured half of his face, which was dotted with acne.
Darius caught a glimpse of two boys and a girl, about his age, by the display of milk, soda and juice in the refrigerated section at the back of the store. The girl glanced at Darius as the trio moved toward a door marked “Employees Only.” She had long, dark hair and the most solemn face he had ever seen. She was pretty, but in a strange way.
Darius was drawn to her and involuntarily took a step in her direction. He stopped himself. They clearly had no business in the backroom. If his actions got them caught, he could ruin his chance to be friends with the brunette girl.
They opened the door and stepped into the back room.
Darius felt a pang as the door closed behind them, as if he should be on the other side of it, with them.
“Pick out something you want,” Drew said as he moved to the newspaper stand.
His father’s voice jolted Darius from his thoughts and he pulled his eyes from the door.
The teenager behind the counter jerked upright, seemingly as surprised by Drew’s voice as Darius was, and Darius was sure the teenager had been asleep.
Darius glanced about the store and his eyes settled on the freezer. He stepped toward it and wondered if the store carried ice cream sandwiches.
“Not ice cream,” his father said without looking in his direction. “It’ll ruin the upholstery.”
Darius sighed. The upholstery in his father’s vehicle was leather and could be wiped down, and Darius was sure he’d eat the whole ice cream before he got in the car anyway.
“Hurry up, Darius. I don’t have all day.” Drew placed a newspaper on the counter. Darius walked to the chocolate bar display and selected a Mars bar. He glanced toward the back room, but there was no sign of the three kids. Darius wondered what they were up to. The cashier still seemed completely unaware of their presence and Darius did not want to blow their cover. He walked to the counter and placed his chocolate bar next to the newspaper. Next to the feature article, “Pine Park Reopens,” was a small article titled “Morrison Allays Fears at The Link.”
“Davia?” Drew called.
“What are people afraid of at The Link?” Darius asked the cashier, pointing at the paper.
The cashier shrugged.
Davia dropped a bag of assorted penny candies on the counter. Darius grimaced. As much as he enjoyed eating them himself, he hated the smacking sounds his sister made when she chewed sour keys.
The pimple-faced cashier rung up their order without a word.
“Don’t get any chocolate on the upholstery, Darius,” Drew warned as they walked back to the car.
Tetsu led Adelaide and Kurt through the door marked “Employees Only.” The back room of Rutledge’s was dim. A single bulb leaked a sick yellow light over the excess goods stacked on the wooden floor. There was a big cardboard box labelled “Lay’s,” several cases of assorted soda, and all manner of other boxes and crates.
“We shouldn’t be back here,” Kurt fretted as he glanced around the room.
“Then look faster, Kurt,” Tetsu snapped. “It has to be here somewhere.”
“It doesn’t have to be here,” Kurt argued. “They could have sold out already.”
“This fast?” Tetsu peered into the recesses of a deep shelving unit. “Fat chance. They’re hiding them,” Tetsu spat.
Adelaide looked around. “There.” She pointed at a stack of newspapers next to a side door that opened onto the alley. “Don’t they get rid of those?”
“Yeah, they’ll get picked up tomorrow,” Kurt agreed.
“Tricky, tricky,” Tetsu said as he strode toward the pile.
“It could just be papers,” Kurt pointed out.
“Mark my words, Kurt,” Tetsu said. “They’re here.”
The three of them set to work rifling through the day-old papers. While Adelaide searched the pile, she thought of the family who had come into the store. It was too late in the summer for tourists, and Olympic Vista wasn’t a popular destination for family vacations to begin with. She had never seen them around town before, and they weren’t the kind of people she’d forget easily. The short, impatient man and the girl both looked like they had taken a wrong turn and found themselves in the middle of a cow field surrounded by manure. But it wasn’t just their big-city clothes and fancy car that made them stand out in the small town of Olympic Vista. Adelaide couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was something about the boy. She was certain that if they had met before, she wouldn’t have forgotten him.
“I got nothin’!” Tetsu complained. He kicked the doorframe.
“Me neither,” Adelaide said as she reached the bottom of her pile. She tucked her long brown hair behind her ear.
“Got it! Tetsu, was right. Someone is cheating the system,” Kurt said. He pulled the latest issue of Conan the Barbarian out from between the sections of one of the newspapers.
“Gimme!” Tetsu snatched it. “Is there any more in there?” He held the comic close to his chest and craned his neck to watch Kurt.
“Are there,” Kurt corrected him.
Tetsu rolled his eyes. “Are there any more, Kurt?”
Kurt held up a single issue each of The Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Detective Comics.
“Come to Papa!” Tetsu grinned. He snatched the comics out of Kurt’s hands. The sinister faces of Batman’s Rogues Gallery sneered at the Dark Knight.
“These weren’t even the ones you wanted,” Kurt argued.
“We have what we came for,” Adelaide said. “It’s time to go.”
“I don’t know,” Kurt said. He glanced down at his feet and took a deep breath. “This is stealing.”
Tetsu barely glanced up as he shoved the comics under his shirt. “They were already stolen, Kurt. You can’t steal something that’s stolen.”
Kurt looked at Adelaide and she offered a slight smile that she hoped was mildly reassuring.
“I don’t really love it either, Kurt,” she said, her tone flat. “But do you want to listen to Tetsu complain he didn’t get to read this month’s issues? And it serves the clerk right.”
Kurt glanced back toward the main part of the store.
“Not him,” Adelaide said. “The other guy.”
Tetsu nodded sagely as he tucked his shirt back into place. “The one who counts the penny candies when ya buy ‘em. Real jerk. He doesn’t deserve these, but at least he did us a favour storing them for safe keeping.”
Kurt opened his mouth to protest.
Adelaide furrowed her brow.
“Well, with no further objections, let’s go,” Tetsu said, and he flicked his chin toward the door.
The drive from Rutledge’s was as quiet as the drive there. Drew Belcouer, Darius’ dad, had lived in Olympic Vista once upon a time, and the tour had been his suggestion. Despite that, he had provided little information about their new home.
“Can we use the pool when we get back?” Davia asked, breaking the silence.
“Yes, that’s fine,” Drew said with an ambivalent wave of his hand.
Davia’s lips smacked as she chewed her sour keys in the front seat. Darius had the back seat to himself and made the most of the view out both rear windows. He had seen some pastoral farms on the outskirts of town, but this area was comprised of mediocre houses with mediocre gardens. There were mediocre cars in mediocre driveways and mediocre people in their mediocre yards and on the mediocre sidewalks. There should be something more. It was too mediocre. He just needed to look harder.
The shiny black Lincoln Town Car passed James Morrison Elementary School. Drew pointed at the sprawling one-storey beige building. The parking lot was empty. Its yellow metal gates were pulled closed. The grassy field was withered from the heat of the summer, but it wasn’t as yellow as Darius might have imagined. He wondered if they watered it, or if it was the result of all the Washington rain he’d heard about.
“There, that’s your school,” Drew said.
“I don’t understand why we can’t go to private school, Daddy,” Davia sighed. “Isn’t there one in the city?”
“You’re going here.”
The school called to Darius. He craned his neck and watched the building until it was out of sight. Davia slumped into her seat and sucked on a sour key like an infant might mollify itself on a pacifier. They carried on, back in the direction of the family estate. Darius noticed a street sign up ahead. Hyacinth Street.
“Dad! Turn here.”
His father glanced at him in the rear-view mirror.
“This is a tour, right?” Darius pushed.
The car indicator clicked rhythmically. Drew turned the car onto Hyacinth —yet another mediocre street. The properties all looked similar. More mediocre gardens and mediocre houses. The whole town was mediocre.
Then Darius saw it. The yard was thick with weeds and dead grass. The paint peeled and flaked off the trim. The windows were boarded up. This was the house: a dilapidated eyesore. To Darius it shone like a new penny on the sidewalk.
“Eww.” Davia slurped harder on her sour key. “The houses here are really gross.”
Darius turned to look back at the house as they drove by.
“I’ll buy you bikes, but I’m going to drive you to and from school,” Drew told them.
“What about your work?” Darius asked. He knew his father’s office was located in Olympia and would require a short commute.
“I’ll drive you to and from school.”
Darius nodded. His father hadn’t answered the question, of course. It was clear he wouldn’t. In typical Drew Belcouer fashion, the matter was settled.
Davia continued to mope in the front seat.
The rest of the drive was quiet, broken only by the intermittent smack of Davia’s lips as she ate another sour key. Drew turned up their long driveway. The front of the property was fenced, but there was no gate. Darius looked out over the expansive green lawn and perfectly manicured gardens. It was a far cry from their townhouse in Boston. Then again, it was a far cry from most of the houses in this town, too.
Their property was on the outskirts of Olympic Vista, closer to Olympia. Behind their back fence was a sprawl of unused fields set to be developed, and on either side were estates like theirs, but with tall fences and metal gates. As they climbed out of the car, their mother, Miranda, came around the side of the house. She was a slight, well-groomed woman. Her blond hair was styled into loose waves and she wore a high-necked blouse and jeans.
“There’s a slight problem, Drew,” she said, her voice apologetic.
“What now?” Drew scowled toward the backyard.
“The pool, it isn’t—”
“What about the pool?” Davia demanded as she slammed her door.
A slight frown crossed Miranda’s face. Drew waved in his daughter’s direction in much the same way a person might bat at a fly hovering around their head. He looked at Miranda expectantly.
“They won’t have it up and running today. It needs time to heat up and for the chemicals to be… balanced?”
Laughter and playful screams echoed across the lake. The light sparkled on the water as Adelaide floated on her back and kicked her feet gently back and forth. She closed her eyes and turned her face up toward the sun. The air was still. Combined with the clear sky and warm sun, it was the perfect summer day, which was a rare feat for Olympic Vista.
She needed to be here today. Rico, her mother’s latest boyfriend, was over. Adelaide hated being around Rico. She sighed contentedly as she stretched her limbs like a starfish and basked atop the water.
Her eyes snapped open as something wrapped around her ankle. Adelaide tried to kick her leg free, but whatever it was held fast. She opened her mouth to call out, but only took in a mouthful of water as she was pulled below the surface.