2017 Online Novel: The Promise Children

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Just for the fun of it(and to motivate myself to write fiction again), in 2017 I am writing a suspense/thriller novel and posting it online. Not only that, I’m asking for your help. I’ll publish a scene most Friday afternoons, and at the end of the scene there will be a choice for you to make. Your votes will determine which direction the story takes next.

What follows is a two-sentence summary of the novel concept, and the first scene.

Two-Sentence Summary: When she becomes suspicious of the activities of a local home for wayward children, social worker Mary Shaw asks police detective turned private investigator Weston Thane to investigate. Will Mary and Weston be able to expose the illegal activities at the home before director Spencer Crowley stops them?


 2017 Online Novel:
The Promise Children 

by James Pence (with a little help from my friends)

Scene #1 The Meeting

As soon as Braedon Waters walked through the door, the stench hit him in the face.

Is this a dining hall or a garbage dump?

He wondered how it was possible to make food smell so bad and still have it be edible. No worry. He wouldn’t have to put up with it much longer. If everything went right tonight, he and his best friend—his only friend—Dustin Thompson would leave the North Warren Children’s Home forever.

He surveyed the room, looking for Dustin, but he couldn’t see co-conspirator. Strange. Dustin always got to the dining hall before he did. Dude loved to eat. Braedon hoped no one had ratted them out.

He’d only let a few people in on their secret, and those were people who he needed help from. He was sure he could trust them.

Pretty sure, anyway.

Truth was, he’d learned not to trust anybody in the two years and four months he’d lived at North Warren.

Braedon made his way across the noisy room to the food line. He usually hated the chaos that went with meal times. Kids shoving each other. Little ones bawling. Big ones shouting and grabbing. It was like a jumbo jet taking off. Except you had to sit in it for an hour. The noise level made his ears hurt, but nobody could leave until Crowley came in and dismissed them as a group.

Nobody could do anything without Crowley sticking his nose into it.

Braedon grabbed a tray and moved down the line. Tonight’s banquet was a bologna sandwich and one half of an apple. Only water to drink. As lousy as the food was, he wished he could steal an extra apple and sandwich.

It might be a while before he could eat again.

Braedon felt someone push him.

“Hurry up! You’re not the only one who wants to eat today.”

He turned around and glared at Rickey Gardner.  In addition to being an all-around jerk, Gardner was one of Crowley’s enforcers. Rickey had at least five inches and 50 pounds on him, but Braedon thought he could take him.

He might have to if he wanted to get out of this place.

Discretion being the better part of valor, Braedon held his tongue and moved on to find a table.

He chose a table at the far end of the dingy room where four little boys were sitting. They gave him a strange look. Older guys never sat with them.

Braedon ignored them.

The little boys were clearly uncomfortable, but they said nothing.

A few minutes later, Dustin sat down beside him.

“Did you get it?” Braedon whispered.

Dustin nodded. “I had to wait till he had left his office to come over here. That’s why I’m late.”

Braedon felt Dustin nudge his leg under the table. He reached down and Dustin put something cold and metallic in his hand.

“Be careful,” said Dustin.

“So, we’re on for tonight?” Braedon asked.

“Two o’clock. South side of the pond. Don’t forget to….”

The clamor in the room evaporated as Spencer Crowley entered. It was time for his evening lecture.

*   *   *


  1. What did Dustin put into Braedon’s hand?
  2. How will it help them escape from North Warren Children’s Home?


  1. A cigarette lighter
  2. Set off smoke detectors so Braedon can escape during the chaos.



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