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Book Excerpt




cry of the loon

literary mystery

Aaron Paul Lazar



Chapter One


Summer, 1964
North Belgrade, Maine


We're not gonna make it.

I looked nervously across the lake as the sunlight dimmed, then pulled hard on the oars in the direction of home. Cool feathers of fog slipped over the glassy water, whispering insidious moist threats.

Siegfried peeled off his sweatshirt and handed it to his sister, who shivered in the stern of the old wooden skiff. She tossed him an uneasy smile and put it on. Wispy vapor draped the boat, stroking my bare arms with cold fingers.

I took a deep breath and nodded to the ten-year-old twins with more confidence than I felt.

"Don't worry. We'll make it. We're almost to Moose Point."

Elsbeth drew the sweatshirt tightly around her. The sleeves were six inches too long. She slid them up to free her hands and peered at me through a mass of dark curls, moving closer to her brother for warmth.

"What's happening, Gus? Why is it so dark?"

I cast my eyes around the lake and then up to the sky. It was sunny when we set out for Horsehead Island. Now the thick fog bank obliterated the sun. I answered carefully, feeling responsible for the two since I was a full year older.

"It's just the fog. Don't worry. I'll row to shore and we'll wait it out, okay?"

Elsbeth nodded and yanked the hem of the sweatshirt over her bare legs. Her eyes darted with apprehension. I wrenched harder on the oars and broke into a cold sweat. They creaked in the damp silence. Siegfried turned and looked toward the disappearing shoreline, wrinkling his brow.

"You'll row to shore? What shore?"

He was right. The land had vanished. Returning his somber gaze, I swiveled the oars into the boat. Water dripped from the wooden paddles and pooled below. The fog enveloped us, filling the air with a ghostly gray mist. I shifted on the seat cushion that doubled as a life preserver. The cracks in the vinyl chafed my legs. A loon warbled in the distance, his cry distorted to a hysterical giggle. Blind, we sat in the rocking boat and waited.

"Well," I sighed, "we can sit here 'til it clears. We'll be safe. If we hear someone coming, we'll just make a bunch of noise."

Siegfried nodded, running his fingers through his long blond hair. It had grown over the tops of his ears since his last haircut. He looked more and more like the lead singer in Herman's Hermits. I was envious and begged my parents to let me skip my weekly trim at the barbershop. So far, they hadn't surrendered.

"Good idea. Gut," he said. Although the twins had been in the States for six years, they still harbored traces of a German accent. Siegfried, in particular, often combined phrases from both languages in the same sentence.

Elsbeth suddenly sat up and stared anxiously past my shoulder across the bow of the boat. She held up one hand.


The faint drone of a motorboat purred in the distance. Motionless, we strained to hear. It growled louder, heading in our direction. Siegfried's blue eyes widened in alarm.

"Move!" he shouted as he motioned toward the oars.

I picked them up and spun the boat around, hoping to row away from the oncoming craft. Pulling with all my strength, I struggled to move the boat across the dark water. The thrum of the motorboat escalated as it bore down on us. We shouted, trying to warn them.

"Watch out!" Our voices combined in a triad of shrieks as we screamed warnings into the air.

Shrill laughter reverberated behind the veil of fog as the boaters gunned the engine and splashed toward us. My heart sank to my bare feet as I realized they must be either drunk or insane. I dragged harder on the oars until my arms burned, propelling the skiff forward into the mist.

A dark shape emerged from the fog and almost scraped against our stern. The erratic driver barely avoided us as he accelerated back into the mist. His passengers shrieked with laughter. The wake from their boat rocked us violently, causing our craft to skitter forward.

Without warning, a great ripping crash knocked us from our seats.

Siegfried pointed at the bow.

"Gluck mal! (Look!)"

Water gushed through a ragged tear in the bottom of the boat. I swiveled around to inspect the damage. It was bad. Very bad. Peering over the bow, I looked down. A glistening turquoise reflection loomed large and sullen beneath the surface.

"Oh, crap," I yelled. "We hit Big Blue!"

Elsbeth and Siegfried both scuttled to the front of the boat and looked overboard at the monstrous boulder that glimmered beneath the surface. Water swirled around our ankles.

"Mein Gott!" screeched Elsbeth as her hands fluttered to her mouth. She stared at the water creeping toward her calves. Siegfried grabbed his sister's floating red cushion and forced her hands through the loops.

"Hold this, Elsbeth. Hold it tight."

The water bubbled higher and the boat listed to the bow, throwing us off balance. Siegfried snatched his green cushion and motioned for me to grab mine. It floated beside my legs. Temporarily frozen, I shook myself out of the stupor and followed his lead.

"Come on," I said with new purpose. "Let's get out and stand on Big Blue."

I set one foot on the slimy boulder. It was slick beneath my toes, but I found my balance, threw my other leg over the bow, and reached back to help Elsbeth out of the boat. Siegfried followed. Within seconds, the boat disappeared.

"My father's gonna kill me," I whispered. I'd cared for the boat for the past three summers with the understanding that I'd return it to my grandfather in good shape at the end of the season.

Elsbeth said, "It wasn't your fault the fog came in. He'll understand, won't he?"

I hoped she was right.

We shivered knee deep in the water of the Belgrade Lakes, clutching the cushions to our chests.

"Listen!" Siegfried said.

The voices of our parents echoed across the lake. Their words traveled in muted, garbled waves through the fog.

"Gus! Elsbeth! Siegfried! Where are you?"

We shouted back in vain, yelling until we were hoarse. Our cries were gobbled by the fog. Realizing that it was futile, we stopped. Even if we knew which way to go, it was too far to swim. Had we been in the boat, I might have tried to row toward the sound of their voices, but as it was, we were stuck.

"Shoot," I said, trying to hide the cold fear that rumbled in my stomach.

"Scheisse," muttered Siegfried, surprising us with the German profanity.

He stepped back quickly and looked down at his feet. Elsbeth yelped as something brushed against her legs. A two-foot lake turtle swam between them. She screeched and jumped into the water, arms churning as she splashed away from the snapper. Siegfried shouted to her, then dove for her red cushion bobbing in the opposite direction. Fearing we'd be separated in the fog, I yelled and plunged after them.

"Wait up! We've gotta stick together!"

Elsbeth and Siegfried joined hands as I swam toward them. We linked our arms together above the triangle of floating seat cushions and treaded water as the light dimmed and the fog thickened. I gripped their hands and waited for the air to clear.


Chapter Two

Elsbeth began to cry. The fog condensed and settled in for the night. It was thick, impenetrable. Our parents' voices continued to warble through the mist, becoming fainter as we drifted away from them.

The lake water was warmer than the air. We reconnected our grip beneath the floating cushions, looping them through the handles and grasping each other's prune-wrinkled fingers.

"Don't cry, Elsbeth," I pleaded. "It'll just make you tired. You've gotta save your strength."

I could barely see the outline of her head in the darkness. She sniffled and nodded. "Okay. I'll... I'll try."

Siegfried used a firm voice as he appealed to her.

"Elsbeth Marggrander. You must be strong. Stay awake. As long as we are together, we will be okay, nicht wahr? (right?)"

"Ja," she mumbled as she pressed our hands beneath the water.

The minutes passed as we struggled to avoid sleep, singing "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," "Can't Buy Me Love," and "Please, Please Me," until our throats were sore. The camp waitresses in the little red cabin had blasted the songs the last few weeks. We knew them by heart.

The tunes billowed in the night air, punctuating our bizarre watery world with lost love and youthful yearning. My voice rasped as we sang, becoming weaker. I laid my head on the cushion. Exhaustion took hold as my eyes grew heavy and my lips slurred the words. Suddenly, the faint sound of splashing washed in syncopated rhythm with our voices. Reluctantly, I raised my head from the cushion. The soft sound of water lapped the shore nearby. I squeezed the twins' hands.

"Which way is it?" Siegfried whispered.

I could barely make out Elsbeth's hand as she pointed. "It's over there. That way. Come on. Auf geht's. (Let's go)"

We paddled toward the welcome sound. Within minutes, our feet touched soft sandy bottom. Walking quickly toward the dark shore, we climbed up on a granite boulder that stretched into the water under a canopy of white birches.

"Where are the cabins?" Elsbeth asked as we huddled together.

I strained to look into the pitch-black night. No lights shone through the fog. No aromas of grilling burgers wafted on the air. And no sounds of scampering children met our ears. Aside from the chorus of crickets and peepers, it was dead quiet. I sighed, realizing we must be far from civilization.

"We're probably on the west end. We'll have to walk a ways to find someone. Come on. We'd better get going."

Visibility was a mere three feet. We picked our way carefully along the narrow shore trail made by campers and hikers. Occasionally, we stepped over fallen trees blocking the way. When we'd walked in the fog for about twenty minutes, we stopped to catch our breath. Shivering, we stood barefoot on the pine needles that softened the trail.

A yellow orb glimmered on the trail ahead. Someone skittered toward us, running away from the flashlight. A wisp of a girl with long, blond hair came into view.

The light bobbed in the fog as its owner approached.

"Sharon!" a man's voice roared. "Sharon, where are you?"

The girl stopped as she nearly collided with us. Staring with huge, frightened eyes, she raised her hand to cover a trickle of blood that ran from the corner of her mouth. Her slight form was silhouetted by the eerie glow of the light. She breathed hard, with palpable fear that caused goose bumps to rise on my arms. Before we could speak, she panicked and hopped off the trail into the woods.

A flicker of fear passed through me. Siegfried sensed the danger and pulled us both into the woods just before the man lurched past. The stench of whisky and sweat filled the air. He crashed along, treading heavily on the trail as he bellowed Sharon's name.

"Sharon! God damn it, girl. Where are you?"

Sharon had disappeared. After a few moments of tense silence, we chanced it and returned to the trail, racing away from the drunk. The office of The Willows campgrounds came into view. A pale orange light glowed above the door of the camp store, enveloped in a festival of fluttering moths. We opened the screen door and fell into the dry warmth. The woman behind the counter nearly dropped the half-gallon of milk she was ringing up for the customer at the cash register.

"Well, my heavens! What have we here?" she asked.

The three of us babbled about the fog and the capsized boat and were soon surrounded by caring adults who wrapped us in blankets. Our parents were called. We told the storekeeper about the girl and the man who'd been chasing her. A deputy arrived. He drove us through the dense fog to Loon Harbor, my grandparents' rustic fishing camp, where our parents descended on us with concern and hot chocolate.

When I finally crawled under the woolen blankets in my small bedroom over the lake, Sharon's face floated before me, sending shivers down my back. I had shared her fear as we'd trembled side by side in the dark woods. She was terrified. And hurt. The lout had hit her. I knew it.

I prayed she escaped his grasp. After an hour of tossing and turning, I drifted off into fitful dreams.





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:

Green Marble Mysteries
   For Keeps
   Terror Comes Knocking





Tremolo: cry of the loon Copyright 2006. Aaron Paul Lazar. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.



  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.

Check out Mayra Calvani's interview with Aaron Lazar.



"Beautifully written, with the perfect touch of nostalgia and suspense, the pages of this book tremble with a strong emotional appeal. Set in Maine, during the summer of 1964, there is a vivid sense of traveling back in time, as memorable moments of this era provide the framework for the story. The author has captured both the coziness as well as the craziness of the sixties, thereby making the plot realistic and riveting.

"Eleven-year-old Gus LeGarde is enjoying the summer with his best friends, Elsbeth and Siegfried Marggrander. Gus's grandparents own and operate a lakeside resort, which offers these young people plenty of fun in the sun and in the water. However, after a boating accident leaves Gus stranded in the woods, he encounters a drunken man chasing an injured girl. He later learns that a girl had been reported missing and he's positive it's the same one he saw. Yet, what can three determined friends do that the police haven't already done?

"...The writing is poetically beautiful as it conjures up scenes of tranquil wooded places filled with the songs of birds and the whisper of gentle breezes. The author also adds a masterful touch of suspense as the trio stumbles across a sinister plot. This creates a poignant mix of happy childhood activities clouded intermittently with the darkness of evil intentions. As the plot steadily progresses, the climax explodes like a summer thunderstorm, clearing the air with the rush of truth."

Reviewed by Joyce Handzo for In the Library Reviews.

"...It is easy to see that Aaron Paul Lazar loves to write, as his style is lilting and beautiful. He weaves childhood memories of the lakes of Maine into a stylized whodunit that is original and breathtaking. His characters are children living in a fishing resort with a very special visitor whose presence lends an air of melancholy to an otherwise carefree environment. Lazar gives the reader an idea of what real pirates can be like as the villains, making the tale even more tempting. There is no code of honor among these thieves. A great read!"

Shelley Glodowski, Senior Reviewer, The Midwest Book Review

"Open the pages of this great story and you'll find yourself stepping back in time to the childhood of the hero of the LeGarde mysteries by the very talented author Aaron Paul Lazar. The setting has all the earmarks of being real and pulls the reader nostalgically back to their own childhood with its warmth and laughter.

"Three children, Gustave, Siegfried, and Elsbeth are set to enjoy another summer on the lake, but a series of events sends them off in a different direction, tingeing the peaceful lakeside atmosphere with fear and mystery. A missing girl, a mysterious visitor the children are forbidden to bother, the attempted murder of Gustave and other events keep this story moving with a sense of tension that will have any reader looking over their shoulder at strange sounds after dark.

"Join Gustave and his friends in their attempts to find the missing girl, and find where their conviction they've found her leads. A tightly written tale with loads of action and adventure to keep you reading by a superb storyteller whose characters live and breathe...."

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, mystery author.

"...It is no accident that the villains in Lazar's books are villains without redemption. Like a figure from Elizabethan drama or opera they will not only stop at nothing, they will joyfully add gratuitous evil deeds beyond what any reader could expect. It is as if the existence of unqualified malevolence in others is the cost of Gus's idyllic world, a kind of restoration of balances. Brigit Marggrander, mother of the twins, was the victim of the camps in Germany during World War II. This is another strong statement of the evil that exists in the outer world beyond the charmed circle of the LeGarde family and friends.

"Lazar cleverly involves the story with To Kill a Mockingbird, a movie that Gus sees with his parents and which they all find overwhelming. It is a brilliant choice for it is a parallel with the LeGarde circle and the circumstances of Tremolo.

"This -- if the world is at all just-- should be the break-through book for Aaron Paul Lazar. He has served his apprenticeship with two excellent works, but Tremolo reaches far beyond these and is a monument to the enduring values of love, integrity and bravery. Experimental writing is fun but charm and honesty and high ideals have staying power. Tremolo has all the signs of persistent endurance."

Reviewed by Bob Williams for compulsive

"Tremolo" describes the laughter of the loon, but the laugh is actually their distress call. What an appropriate title for this murder mystery based on young Gus LeGarde, his family and twin best friends, Siegfried and Elsbeth.

The story evolves while the family summers at Gus's grandparents' cabin camp in the Belgrade Lake region of Maine in 1964. The story itself is fictional, but very nostalgic for not only the author who spent many childhood vacations there, but for all of us that had the fortune of experiencing camp life. Based at the age in Gus's life where he is no longer a boy yet not quite a teen, his hormones and emotions are changing and knowing just how far to go is almost a daily decision. Like the time he decides to stay out too long in Grandpa's boat resulting in Gus, Siegfried and Elsbeth treading water for hours. Not long after they make it to shore, feeling relatively safe, a terrified, bleeding young girl almost runs right into Gus. She tears off into the woods; being chased by a villainous looking man calling her name- Sharon. Haunted by this horrendous encounter, Gus and the twins set out on a dangerous mission to find her. The police search came up empty. Later Gus realizes he has made a mistake in the man's identity, and assists the police in the search. Not knowing that he himself has become a target, he is kidnapped and has a near death experience in a fire.

"As it is with life, there is never just one thing going on. There is a mysterious visitor at the camp with her own personal bodyguards. There are church robberies going on and to prove he is not 'a chicken,' Gus attempts some challenges from an older boy, which can only lead to trouble at home. All this as Gus is balancing: friendships, his first crush and his mixed emotions over his parents' news, which will ultimately change their family life forever.

"I would have to agree with Thomas Fortenberry, literary critic, that in this story "The rhythm increases with the pace, until the story soars aloft." The characters seem so real and are written with warmth, sadness and humor.

"Aaron Paul Lazar lives in East Groveland, NY with his wife, three daughters, two grandsons, mother-in-law, dog and four cats. When not immersed in his loving family, he enjoys gardening, art, playing piano and has learned how to take pleasure in the little things. Amazingly with his busy life, he has become a passionate and immensely entertaining author, with many more books coming our way.

"I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would not hesitate to highly recommend it."

Reviewed by Cheryl Ellis for Allbooks Review.




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