Jude Allman has died three times.



Welcome to Red Lodge.

Yes. It's a real place. I spent the night there. I didn't sleep at all the night I spent there... I couldn't. I was too keyed up. Nervous and worried because a friend of mine was in trouble. I had to sit with him through it all. I even found myself praying for him. Imagine that!!! Of all things, to pray for a character in a book!

That is something so amazing and hasn't happened to me since... well, since I was a teenager. I was walking to the back of the house to freshen up and I actually breathed a prayer for this character, Jude Allman. Then I laughed at myself and then I was struck by what a treasure this was. Tony Hines created a work with three dimensional characters. Real people. People you get carried away about. Let me share a moment with you...

Chapter 1:

Drowning, 24 years ago

The first time Jude Allman died, he was eight years old.

It happened after a day of ice fishing with his father William. Mid-January. Duck Lake. Twenty degrees above zero on the thermometer, and something far below that on the wind chill scale. Jude sat on an overturned pickle bucket most of the day, occasionally threading a hook through fresh corn or salmon eggs before dropping his line into the inky hole. A few times, when he was impatient for a bite, he put his face over the hole and cupped his hands to peer at the watery world beneath. He saw a few sunfish, but no perch--none of the perch his father considered such “good eatin.”

“Should be headin’ back,” William finally said. The comment startled Jude, partly because he himself had been ready to leave for hours, partly because it was only his father’s third sentence of the day. (The first two, respectively, had been “Ready to get goin’?” and “Hungry?”) Jude slid off the bucket and reeled in his line the last time. His hook had no salmon egg. Maybe an unseen good eatin perch had nibbled it, or maybe the egg had shriveled and slid into the chilly water, resigning itself to fate.

They gathered their gear and started toward the pickup. Jude counted each footfall: from memory, he knew it would be 327 steps.

For a long time, all Jude could hear was the steady crunch of their boots, amplified into a hollow echo by the ice. Every so often, a forced cough from his dad, one of those quick huffs to clear his lungs. Jude stared down at his boots, watching as he continued to count. Fifty-six, fifty-seven, fifty-eight. He lifted his gaze again to stare at William’s broad back, wishing he could match his father’s long, loping strides. It was 327 steps for him; how many would that be for his father? Seventy-two, seventy-three, seventy-four. He pictured his mother, waiting at home with a steaming cup of hot chocolate, maybe a cookie or two. Chocolate chip. Eighty-seven, eighty-eight, eighty--

For a moment, he felt like he was on the roller coaster at the county fair, gravity’s pull licking at his stomach.

Instantly, he knew what was happening. The lake was swallowing him, pulling him in, whispering his name.He opened his mouth to call for his dad, to scream, to do anything, but the water was alive as it raced down his throat, and the bitter cold was a red starburst as he closed his eyes, and the world was a dark, fading memory as he felt himself sinking.

Sinking.

Read the rest of the first chapter then tune in tomorrow when we chat with Tony for a few minutes.



Tony Hines
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