THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Death in the Saddle, Not a Western!, A. J. Harris {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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A. J. Harris’ Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Death in the Saddle, Not a Western!:

When Billionaire Real Estate Developer Peter Bruxton is found murdered – shot in the head in his hotel room – it comes as no surprise to anyone who knew him. In fact, the biggest challenge facing the detectives charged with solving Bruxton’s murder may be finding someone who is NOT a suspect.

Also not a surprise is the fact that Bruxton was shot while presumably having sex. His sexual escapades (with everyone except his wife) were the subject of open conversation at cocktail parties throughout the Coachella Valley social scene (as was his general tendency to offend anyone he met within five minutes of meeting them). Bruxton was universally disliked, but he was particularly despised by several of the women he had bedded (as well as by their husbands).

Was Bruxton’s murder a crime of passion or a premeditated act of revenge? It’s a case that crosses state lines, exposes the excesses of the very rich, and brings wartime secrets to light. Join detectives Mannheim and Oliver as they seek to solve the case of the philandering fat cat in Death in the Saddle (Not a Western).

 

Accolade:

A raucus good time! Kept me guessing until the very end. Another remarkable work by A. J. Harris, M.D. — Mark E. Anderson


Death in the Saddle, Not a Western! is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE with Prime!

 

An excerpt from Death in the Saddle, Not a Western!:

“You know, Josh, I swear I’m going to kill that sonofabitch one day. I can’t stand having him around. The very sight of him nauseates me.” Mary Bruxton said abruptly as she adjusted her skirt after the examination in Dr. Josh Harrington’s office.

Dr. Josh sat, taking notes, then looked up. “Mary, you’re upset and your aching back isn’t helping your disposition. I’ll order physical therapy, and give you a few samples of muscle relaxants, as well as some mild pain medication.  Hang on.”

Dr. Josh got up, walked over to the cabinet, pulled open a drawer, and took out some sample packets. “Yes, these should work,” he said, handing the packets to his patient. “And take this too.” He added, handing her a note. “These are the dosages and instructions.”

Her edginess subsided as she placed the samples and the note in her purse. She smiled. “Josh, you’re sweet as ever to give me these freebies. But you know I can well afford to buy my own medication. It’s not like it was twenty five years ago when we were all neighbors, without a pot between us.”

Mary Bruxton, prominent socialite, the doyenne of charitable institutions in the Coachella Valley and wife of the lumber baron, Peter Bruxton, was recalling a time of profound penury. “Do you remember how the four of us—you and Sally, God rest her soul, Peter and I struggled so damned hard to eke out a living? And how we dreaded the bills that came due on the first of the month? Looking back, I think, what a wonderful time that was. We were in love, we struggled, we had great hopes for the future, we had our babies….” She stood up then, leaving the sentence unfinished as she drifted off with her memories.

Standing erect increased Mary’s low back pain, and she gripped the edge of the examining table, then took two labored steps toward Josh and embraced him. “You’re just as kind and considerate now as you were as a young doctor trying to make enough to keep your little family together.” She released her grip and leaned against the table, shaking her head before continuing. “And look what’s happened to Peter and me. Can you believe he’s become the largest private owner of forested land in the country? Rich as Croesus, but it’s changed his personality. He went from being a considerate loving husband and father to one rotten, depraved money-grubbing sonofabitch.”

She put her hand up. “And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to defend him. You can’t possibly know what it’s like living with him. It’s as though he made a pact with the devil and traded his soul and sanity for all that money. He treats me like dirt, or worse. He’s become a womanizer; no one in a skirt is safe around him, that filthy lecher. I won’t let him touch me. God only knows what he’s been exposed to. I suppose my hands-off treatment has made him even more resentful, but hell, he brought it on himself. I’m sorry, but I just can’t deal with that, anymore.”

Josh listened, dismayed to hear Mary castigate his old friend. But he knew that what she said was most probably true. Although reluctant, he asked, “Has he been abusive?”

“Has he been abusive, you ask? Hah! Oh, yeah, big-time, physically and verbally. We got into it pretty good several weeks ago. He went absolutely berserk—started swearing and calling me his usual vile names. Smashed some of my precious antiques. He said I loved them more than I loved him. And you know what? The bastard was absolutely right.  When I tried to stop him he grabbed me and twisted my arm till I thought it would break. Then he slapped me across the face. I broke away, called the police and ordered him to get the hell out. He knows I can get a restraining order, so he packed a bag and got a suite at the Springs Hotel. I’ll allow him to come home when our daughter, Deena, comes in for a visit from U.S.C. In the meantime, he’s on his own.  And I can tell you this: if he ever lays a hand on me again, I’ll kill that sonofabitch.  I will. I swear it. I’m still pretty good with a pistol…got a few trophies to show for it.”

“Now, now Mary. When your backache eases you may feel a bit more charitable. Who knows, Peter may even put all his philandering behind him one day, and come back home to his true love.”

“Yeah, and I’m the virgin queen.”

Josh knew immediately how empty his words sounded, but he didn’t want Mary to leave without a word of hope or encouragement. “Does Deena know that you two have been at odds?”

“Of course. She enjoys a special relationship with her father, and I know she would like to see our feuding come to end.” Mary breathed deeply and sighed. “Truthfully, Josh, the prospect of a divorce, with the problems of property division and the inevitable court battles are more than I dare think about. I’ll try my best to tolerate the jackass—that is, at least until Deena finishes school or gets married.”

Josh bent over and kissed Mary on her cheek. “Try to rest and take the medication. I’ll notify PT to make arrangements to go to your home. Call me in a couple days and give me a progress report.”

Mary gave Josh a melancholy smile and held both his hands. “Why couldn’t I have married a sweet guy like you?” She took a small mirror from her purse to apply lipstick. She smacked her lips then ran her tongue around her lips before putting the mirror away. “When this back gets better I’m going to find me a virile dude for companionship.” She looked at Josh and arched an eyebrow. “Say, do you still make house calls?”


Death in the Saddle, Not a Western! is available for purchase at:

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Connect with A. J. Harris:

Website: http://www.murdermysterypress.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DeathInTheSaddle

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Vigilante (Barry/McCall Series), Claude Bouchard {$3.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Claude Bouchard‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Vigilante (Barry/McCall Series):

Book 1 of the Barry/McCall Series

Montreal . . . the long, hot summer of 1996. . .

. . . and in the dark of night, moving like a shadowy wraith, a vigilante prowls the city’s streets.

The targets of his bloody rampage: the worst of the worst.

Murderers. Gangbangers. Rapists.

Six months. Sixteen murders. The harried police are still without a clue . . .

. . . until the day they receive an email from the assassin himself.

Lieutenant Dave McCall, head of Montreal’s Special Homicide Task Force, needs help to crack the secrets of the killer’s taunting message. He calls on an expert–Chris Barry, who runs a security firm specializing in computer communications.

Together, McCall and Barry launch a grim quest to track down a man who preys on predators–an urgent quest to bring this remorseless killer to justice.

But whose justice will prevail: theirs–or the vigilante’s?

 

Accolades:

“. . . hits you like a hook to the liver, and addresses the timeless issues of murder, revenge, and the human yearning for justice . . . a witty thriller, full of passion and suspense . . . virtually impossible to put down.” — John Locke, New York Times best-selling author

“. . . probably the best mystery/thriller book I have ever read . . . The last sentence made me shiver with delight.” –Tiffany A. Harkleroad, “Tiffany’s Bookshelf”

 

Reviews:

Vigilante (Barry/McCall Series) currently has a customer review rating of 4.5 stars from 58 reviews. Read the reviews here.


Vigilante (Barry/McCall Series) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $3.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

An excerpt from Vigilante (Barry/McCall Series):

As is often the case with sensational news, the story had received extensive media coverage at the time the events had occurred. As is usually also the case however, the news had quickly grown old and the press and population had moved on to other scandals, forgetting about Margaret Slater and her abusive landlord, Peter Myers.
As the reporters had recounted, Mrs. Slater, a 72 year old widow, had been experiencing a number of problems with her apartment. The heating was inadequate, the wiring faulty and the plumbing in major need of repair. Several steps of the staircase leading down to her basement flat were broken, the wood having rotten through.
She had brought these problems to the attention of the owner and landlord, Peter Myers, on many occasions. On each of her visits, he had responded by verbally abusing and threatening the old woman. Finally, she had had enough and had submitted a formal complaint to the Rental Board.
Myers had been furious and had called Mrs. Slater, requesting that she come to his apartment to discuss the issue. Unfortunately, she had complied and, upon reaching the sixth floor, Myers had been waiting for her.
For starters, he had slapped the old woman in the face, delivering a blow of such force that it had broken her jaw. The impact had caused her to fall and tumble head over heels down the stairs to the landing below. Not yet satisfied, the enraged landlord had come after her. After kicking her several times, he had picked her up and literally thrown her down the next flight of stairs.
Thankfully, having heard the commotion, other occupants of the building had come out of their apartments and subdued Myers while someone called the police.
Mrs. Slater had been taken to the hospital with a slew of injuries; internal bleeding, a shattered jaw, cracked ribs, a broken arm, two broken legs and a hip fracture. Two months later, she remained in the hospital, in serious condition and the doctors were quite certain that she would never walk again. At her age, bones did not mend well.
Myers had quickly been arrested and arraigned. However, due to the over-crowding of the prisons and courts, his trial had not been scheduled to take place for many months. Since he had no previous record and his sole source of income was his apartment block, which he had inherited upon his father’s death, the court was confident that Myers would not be in a hurry to disappear. He had therefore been released, without bail, on his own recognizance.

Due to his rather vile temperament, Peter Myers did not have many friends, which suited him fine. He didn’t particularly like people to begin with and much preferred to be alone. His favourite pastimes were drinking beer and watching television, both of which he was practicing around 10 o’clock on Friday evening when someone knocked at the door of his apartment.
“What the fuck now,” he slurred as he dragged himself out of his easy-chair.
Taking a moment to steady himself, he was into his sixth beer since finishing dinner, he staggered uncertainly to the door. He opened it to find himself face to face with stranger, wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses.
“Whatta ya want?” he snarled angrily at the man.
The visitor grinned at him for a moment without saying a word then punched Myers square in the face, hard, with a leather gloved hand.
Casually, he glanced down the hallway in search of witnesses, but saw none. Satisfied, he entered the apartment and, after shoving Myers’ legs out of the way with his foot, closed the door behind him.

The blow had knocked Myers unconscious for a few minutes and when he came to, his first realization was extreme discomfort. Lying on his side on the hardwood floor, his ankles and wrists were bound and had been pulled together behind his back. Something had also been stuffed into his mouth. His face felt wet and when he rubbed his chin on his shoulder, he left blood on his t-shirt.
Raising his head as best he could, he saw the man who had hit him, standing behind the couch, calmly flipping through a magazine.
Detecting movement, the intruder peered down at him and said, “Oh good, you’re awake. I was hoping that you wouldn’t sleep all night. I don’t want to get home too late.”
He strolled over nonchalantly to where Peter lay on the living room floor, gazing down at him with an amused smile.
“I hope you’ll forgive me for tying you up and gagging you like I did,” he politely apologized. “I realize that it’s unpleasant. However, I have learned from experience that these things are necessary. It makes my job so much easier without the fighting back and screaming. You understand, don’t you?”
Peter stared up at the intruder, sweat streaming from every pore on his body.
The man calmly continued. “I read an article about poor Mrs. Slater in the paper a little while back, and I must tell you, Peter, frankly, I was shocked. What you did was not very nice. Nope, not nice at all. I hear that she’ll never walk again.”
He paused to light a cigarette, playfully flicking the match at Myers. “In addition, one of her ribs apparently punctured a lung. Doctors still aren’t sure if she’s going to make it. Poor Mrs. Slater. Don’t you agree, Peter?”
He watched Myers in silence for a moment, concentrating on finishing his cigarette before going on.
“Tell me, Peter? Did you ever fall down a flight of stairs? Or better yet, did you ever fall off a balcony from the sixth floor?”
Myers’ eyes widened with fear but the gag, unfortunately, did not permit him to respond to the man’s questions.
“I didn’t think so,” the man said, nodding knowingly. “There’s no time like the present, don’t you agree?”
He strolled over to the patio door and stepped out onto the balcony. Tossing his cigarette butt, he watched its glow drop six storeys to the paved parking lot below. Carefully, he examined the area behind the building for any signs of human activity but saw none. Satisfied, he returned to the living room.
“Time to go,” he announced, bending over his trussed up victim.
Peter began struggling as best he could as his assailant tried to grab him, adding difficulty to the latter’s task. Stepping back, the man stared down at Myers with a look of exasperation.
“Now, Peter, you’re being difficult,” he scolded. “We’re not going to get anywhere with that kind of attitude.”
Pulling his leg far back for maximum force, he then swung it forth, kicking Peter hard in the abdomen, knocking the wind out of him. Meeting no resistance this time, he picked up his helpless victim, flung him over his shoulder and carried him out onto the balcony.
“Say bye-bye, Peter,” he murmured softly before tossing Myers over the railing to his death, six storeys below. The only sound was a dull thud.
He returned inside and recuperated his burnt match from the floor. One could never be too careful. Following a quick self-examination for blood stains, none found, he left the apartment, making his way to the ground floor and to the mini-van parked two blocks away.
He would definitely have to send a message to the cops for this one. He wanted the credit for a job well done.

 

Vigilante (Barry/McCall Series) is available for purchase at:

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Before Her Eyes (Thriller, suspense), Rebecca Forster {$2.99}

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Rebecca Forster‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Before Her Eyes:

In a remote mountain community, the execution of a grocer and the abduction of a world-renowned model leave the local sheriff searching for a connection, two killers and a woman who is running for her life. In the next 48 hours, Sheriff Dove Connelly will peel back the layers of intrigue beneath the tranquil camaraderie of his mountain enclave and find that nothing is what it seems.

As Dove sets his investigation in motion, Tessa Bradley, a hard assed Texas gal, faces off with her abductors. Her rangy beauty doesn’t mean a damn thing to the foreign men holding her at gunpoint. Just as one of them pulls the trigger, Tessa lashes out. Wounded but alive, she escapes her captors only to find greater peril lies ahead. As her life flashes before her eyes, Tessa struggles to stay alive, prays for rescue and fights for her soul’s salvation.


Accolades:

5 Stars! “A fantastic read. I read many mystery/thriller books and was completely blown away by the ending-never saw it coming”.

5 Stars “This is the 3rd book I’ve read by this very talented author and it’s one of her best! A tremendous ending. Well done.”

5 Stars “Read slowly and take your time to “feel” the words and understand the characters. The story is powerful, soulful and honest. Something to keep in your library forever.


 

Review Ratings:

Felice’s Worlds currently has a review rating of 4.5 stars from 37 reviews. Read the reviews here.


Before Her Eyes is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99

 

An excerpt from Before Her Eyes:

Dove Connelly’s Bedroom

2:17 a.m.

Dove Connelly caught up the phone on the first ring even though it was set so low as to make the sound virtually mute. Any other human being in a deep sleep wouldn’t have heard it, but Dove wasn’t any one else.

First, he didn’t sleep all that deep anymore. Then there was the thing he had in him: it was his sixth sense that let him hear and see what others didn’t, anticipate what others couldn’t.

Most people respected his talent, some thanked God for it and others who weren’t so law abiding steered clear of it. His wife, Cherie, would swear that she would be forever faithful because he would know her intentions even before she strayed. But that was before the unthinkable happened. Now, if Cherie spoke of that sixth sense at all, she did so with regret, sad that the gift had forsaken Dove when they needed it most.

Tonight Dove’s wife didn’t move when he pushed aside the covers and got out of bed. He put the phone to his ear, padding along to the kitchen in bare feet, wearing only old sweat pants, having no inkling that he’d be putting on his uniform any time soon.

“What is it, Jessica? Hogan boys tear up the tavern again?” He kept his voice low. The house wasn’t big.

Jessica Taylor started to speak but all Dove heard was the news catching in her throat. In all the years he had known her, Jessica reported to him using a scale of verbal sorrow, outrage or downright disbelief that gave him a clue as to enormity of the crime that was waiting on him. This night, for a layer of a second, she was speechless. Dove’s blood ran cold; as cold as it had run all those months ago when another crime was over and done before he knew it had even begun.

“Talk to me, Jessica.”

“Oh God, it’s a bad ‘un. Bad as anything.” The woman pulled in a breath and it went no further than the middle of her chest.

“What and where?”

“One of ours, Dove. Paddy Johnson was drivin’ home, saw the lights at the Mountain Store and figured Fritz was hostin’ one of his poker parties like he used to.” Jessica breathed deep again and this time it went all the way in to her gut. “Paddy stopped into the store thinking to pick up a hand, Dove. He went into the store and found Fritz dead. Head splattered all over the back room. I’m so sorry.”

“Ah, Jesus.”

Dove put a hand to his face. There were no words to express Dove’s shock and sorrow. Bowing his head, covering his eyes did not make this news easier to take. They were talking about Fritz, a jack-o-lantern of a man: solid, round, possessed of a smile that cracked his face in two and lit up even the darkest times.

Dove remembered Fritz passing hot coffee to him on a bitter morning. Dove could still hear Fritz’s good words even when there was nothing good in his own life to speak of. Fritz was Dove’s best friend and confessor, the only one who knew what had really gone on in the sheriff’s home. Fritz was fond of reminding the sheriff that he carried the spirit of the bird his mother had named him for. Dove. Peace. Fritz had tried so hard to help Dove make peace with his demons.

Now Fritz was gone and Dove was shamed he slept through the man’s dying. That he didn’t feel his friend’s need was as close to a sin as anything he could imagine. There would come a time for personal reckoning. The time wasn’t now. Now was the time for Dove to do his job.

“Where’s Paddy?” Dove asked flatly.

“Says he’s sittin’ in his truck waitin’ on you. He called from the store but didn’t want to stay inside.” There was a beat before Jessica asked: “Want me to let the state boys know?”

“Give them a call but I’m not waiting on them, Jessie.”

“Alright, Dove.”

“Ring up Tim and get him out there. Call Nathan, too.”

“You going to trust Nathan with this?” Jessica asked tentatively.

“I trust him, Jessica. You make the call,” Dove directed. Then he thought again. “And Bernadette. We’ve got to let Bernadette know.”

“I’ll see to it, Dove,” Jessica offered but he had already changed his mind.

“Never mind. Not yet. I’ll go out to the store first. There’s always a chance Paddy is wrong.” Dove clutched for something that would make this better. The straw he came up with was speculation. It was a short one, a ridiculous dodge, but it was what he had. “Besides, if Bernadette’s awake she’ll know something’s gone down. Can’t be as close as those two have been all these years and not know.”

Jessica murmured something Dove couldn’t quite catch. It sounded like ‘hallelujah’. He was about to ring off when she stopped him.

“Dove, you think he could have done it himself? I mean, it’s been hard on him with Bernadette and all.”

“No,” he snapped. “Fritz wouldn’t have left us with that on our mind.”

“You’re right,” Jessica agreed. “You just do what you’ve got to do, Dove. I’ll be by the phone ready to help with whatever you need.”

“Jessie?”

“Yep?”

“Lock your doors. Keep your eyes open. Is your gun loaded?”

“Dove, whoever did this is probably gone. Besides, I can take ca. . .”

“You do it, Jessica,” Dove snapped. “One friend gone is enough. I won’t have another.”

Dove rang off. He kept his thoughts so close there wasn’t room for his huge sorrow. He dressed in the near dark, the small light in the bathroom casting only the faintest glow. Cherie saw that his uniform was laundered good as any city cop. She reasoned that if Dove’s size didn’t make people think twice before coming down on him, his starched and pressed uniform would. Even in these big mountains where so much law was made just by two people meeting up together, a fine uniform made a difference.

Dove put his gun in his holster and his jacket on over that. He slipped his knife into its sheath and took his hat off the peg. It was only when he went to kiss his sleeping wife that he paused.

Cherie was a powerful draw and it used to be he couldn’t be in the same room without wanting to touch her. Yet, her brow was furrowed as she struggled inside her dreams and it caught him up short. Those dreams were a place Dove didn’t want to go – he couldn’t help even if he got there – so he reached out and put his hand on her head. It didn’t ease her worry. It was a bad night all around.

Dove stepped back but the bassinette was in his way and he was forced to look at the baby. The girl’s eyes were open. Big eyes still blue from birth even though four months had passed. He prayed they would change dark like his and Cherie’s. Maybe if her eyes changed everything else would, too. But she looked up with those blue eyes without seeing him; Dove turned away as if he couldn’t see her.

One of the cats stretched when he took the keys to the car. Its yellow eyes followed him as he stepped into the small room off the kitchen. A basket of cleanly folded laundry sat atop the washer. It smelled of baby powder and pink cream. The scent made Dove gag but it didn’t stop him from staying long enough to check the security control panel.

The lights were lit green, each window and door of his house wired so that an alarm would sound at Jessica’s should anyone open them without a code. The indicators for the alarm pads that were buried around the perimeter of the property pulsed red. Finally, Dove flipped on the floodlights ringing his cabin home. That done he retraced his steps and opened the back door.

Outside, Dove saw his breath and gave the black dog no more than a glance as he walked by. The creature was all muscle, pointed ears and snout. He had teeth that could rip a man to shreds. Dove swung himself into his car, fired up the engine, switched on the headlights and headed out.

It was two thirty-five in the morning.

 

The Forest

3:00 a.m.

My name is Tessa Bradley.

I am, I have been told, a very beautiful woman.

Most men believe they would die happy if they could touch me; women have said they would kill to be me. I don’t see what the fuss is all about, but then I have lived inside this skin long enough to know that life balances everything out.

While these looks of mine have earned me a few brass rings, there is always something on the back end to rub off the shine. Tonight that something is a gun pointing at my back. The heavy barrel drags over my spine to hurry me on. I do my best but I’m confused by the shadows as we move among the trees. I’m afraid and fear slows me even more.

“Bitch.”

The muzzle hits me between the shoulder blades. I don’t expect it because we’ve walked a fair way in silence. I fall hard to the cold ground. I play possum, wanting a minute more to figure out why I’m here, who these men are and why they hate me.

“Get up.”

Boots come into view. They are thick and worn. They belong to the man with the shaved head. He is the dog who grabbed me when we met up at the front door of that general store off the highway.

“Get up. Get up.”

His accent is so thick the words sound like ‘giddy up’. Tired of waiting on me, he swings his boot. It connects with my gut. Swallowing my cry of surprise and terror, I roll away and cup my body around the blow. It wasn’t hard enough to knock the breath out of me; it’s knowing he did it that makes me sick. What he’s done brings back memories.

“Hold your horses,” I mutter.

I struggle to my hands and knees. I glare at him through a curtain of light hair. He doesn’t see the hatred in my eyes but I know he feels it. A man no more turns his own eyes my way than I feel what he feels. Usually it is his lust stamping me like a branding iron. In another place this man might think of me that way, but here I am the enemy and I don’t know why. I get to my feet. My ankle wobbles in my high-heeled boots. That sign of weakness gives the man with the gun courage.

For each step I take back he gets bolder and comes forward. My body convulses with fear and cold but mostly fear. An owl hoots. A wind ruffles the tops of the trees and runs over my cheek. The bright moon comes out from behind a cloud and I see a little better. A pinecone falls with a ‘whump’. Neither of us turns at the sound. We only have eyes for each other even though there are three of us on this mountain: me, the man with the gun, and a younger man. That man is silent. He stops a little ways back.

His shoulders are slumped. His hair is long and curly. His hands stick deep in the pockets of his old coat. He seems weary but I’m not fooled. Weary only means he isn’t going to put himself out one way or another. Slowly he turns his head and stares off into the darkness. His face in profile looks like a wolf gone too long without food. He leans toward the gunman, putting in his two cents in that language I don’t understand.

The tattooed man shakes his head. Like a terrorist, his scarf hides him from the nose down. I see only the top half of his face. Shaved head. White scar through the tattoo on his temple. His small eyes skate over the six flawless carats of diamond on my left hand, my jeans, my cashmere sweater. I am a woman people will miss and that makes him nervous.

“What do you boys want?” There it is. The voice I thought I lost is back. I ratchet it up a notch. “Come on you bastards? What? Money?”

The man with the gun darts a look at his companion. The weary man smirks. He understands alright but money means nothing to him. That’s downright scary. To most people, money is everything.

“Is this about Jake?”

My voice shakes. Not that it matters. They aren’t interested in how I feel and they aren’t inclined to answer my questions. The younger one speaks urgently, gesturing, unable to take his eyes off me now. I am not surprised. Someone once told me I’m most beautiful when I’m afraid. If that’s true, I must look like a goddess because I am scared shitless.


Before Her Eyes is available for purchase at:

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One), R.S. Guthrie {$0.99 or Borrow FREE with Prime!}

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Description of Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One):

“Black Beast” is the first in a series of “Clan of MacAulay” novels. Decorated Denver Detective Bobby Macaulay has faced down a truckload of tragedy over recent years. The death of his partner; the loss of his own leg in the line of duty; the companionship of his beloved wife to cancer; his faith in God to his inner demons.

After the man who ruined his leg and killed his first partner is executed, Macaulay becomes the lead detective investigating the Sloan’s Lake murders. The method of killing in this double-homicide is so heinous it leads Macaulay and his partner down an ever-darkening path–one that must be traversed if they are to discover the evil forces behind the slaughter.

Just when Bobby Macaulay is questioning the very career that has been his salvation, he will discover a heroic history buried within his own family roots: The Clan MacAulay–a deep family lineage of protectors at the very core of a millenniums-long war against unimaginable evil.

 

Accolade:

“Black Beast is the first in the series of A Clan of MacAulay novels, and establishes Guthrie as a bonafide talent. Black Beast centers around the haunted life of Detective Bobby MacAulay as he discovers secrets from his family tree just as all ‘hell’ starts to break loose. Bobby is likeable, vulnerable and just tough enough to be very real. The best super sleuths among you will not be able to predict what will happen next in this story, and you won’t want to stop reading. Black Beast is fast-paced, interesting, unique and a wild ride.” Beth E. Harris, author of “Vision”.

 

Reviews:

Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One) currently has a customer review rating of 5 stars with 37 reviews! Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One):

Life for a death row inmate at the CSP consisted of twenty-three hours in an isolated cell, one hour per day for shower and exercise. All meals, visitors, and bathroom functions happened during the twenty-three hours cellbound. No exceptions other than the infirmary or the morgue.

The CSP had a special segregation unit called the Execution Suite. During warrant week, a seven-day period established by the governor, the condemned prisoner was moved to the Execution Suite to await delivery of sentence by lethal injection.

Eb Durning was scheduled to ride the river at twenty-one hundred hours.

9PM.

We entered the interior of Hotel California—so called by the hacks and cons—through a large, double-shielded door with another gated checkpoint. I was asked to sign a second register and also to read a short list of dos and don’ts.

“You’re the guy,” the officer at the station desk said.

“I’m the guy,” I said. “Detective Macaulay.”

“He got your partner, too?”

I pushed the paperwork back across a pine-top desk scarred with cigarette burns. “It was a long time ago.”

“Time for the fiddler to get his. Maintain the yellow line,” he replied, the eyes falling involuntarily to where my jean fit too loose on the prosthetic.

Like skin over meatless bone.

There was a solid, faded yellow stripe that ran down the corridor, five feet from the three holding cells. The guard buzzed me in.

Ebony Durning was in the first cell, closest to the guard station. He did not get up as I stopped in front of his door but finished drawing on a small roach, extinguishing it by licking the tips of his fore and middle finger and pinching the small coal. There was an audible hiss and the aroma of bad weed: pungent, like something already dead.

“The bulls are lenient here at Hotel California on D-day,” was the first thing he said to me.

“I’m glad,” I replied.

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leeeeve,” he crooned.

“I know the song. Do we have business, Eb?”

“They’re gonna do me this time, Detective. No more appeals. The Governor ain’t too friendly to cop killers. Eleven hours and change. Ain’t much of a future.”

“More than my partner got.”

“Officer Wells, it was. And the old lady at the store,” Durning said. “I sent letters.”

He was still supine on the narrow, wall-mounted cot.

“Fuck you, Eb. You don’t get to tell me the names.”

He swung his long legs to the floor and stood. He was a full six five, all bones and loose flesh. Ganglier than I remembered. Durning’s mother was white and his father black—Eb’s skin was the color of sun-bleached cardboard.

“Bobby Mac. Basketball legend.”

He threaded his spidery arms through the rungs and leaned on the crossbar, his veins bulging beneath an aqua jailhouse tattoo that was too faded to make out.

He looked awful: afro reduced to patches and tufts, like a lawn with fungal rot. His complexion was dull and fishy.

“What is this about, Eb? I came early because of Lucinda. She said this was important.”

“They’re gonna pump my veins full of potassium chloride. Last cocktail I’ll ever have, Mac, stop my heart dead. Is that important enough?”

“You’ve earned your station, Eb, and then some. A little late for redemption, don’t you think?”

“I don’t believe in that shit.”

“Good. You have a nice trip. I won’t be losing any sleep over it.”

He was hollow-eyed, as if he had already checked out with the bellhop. His were the marble eyes of the shark: lifeless.

“Do you remember the nineteen-eighty-five State Championship, Mac?”

“Ancient history,” I said.

Durning played forward for Mullen and I played for Cherry Creek. The game exhausted three overtimes before Durning hit a running jumper with time expiring to end our run of three consecutive championships.

He bottomed out three years later when a hooker overdosed in his small apartment on Colfax and he tossed her in a dumpster at King Soopers with a case full of needles with his prints all over them.

Since doing the unlawful death time he hit a couple foul balls—county lockup stuff, mostly. Then he poked one out of the park by participating in the murder of my partner Danny Wells and an old woman—the oriental shopkeeper who ran a local market on Broadway.

Durning got into his getaway car in the parking lot, bouncing off the other vehicles like a pinball, and crashed into my patrol car, pinning me and turning my left leg to ground round.

“We were so fucking happening in eighty-five, Mac. Like shit just turning to gold.”

And for a moment I saw it: the perfection of adolescence—when the slate is clean and everything is possible; when all that mattered were how many points per game and who was getting laid.

His flat eyes flickered with the memories of a better time—a distant, furtive glow at the center of his being. It was as if he were back there: the squeaking of gum rubber on hardwood, the roar of the crowd, the perfect backspin of the ball as it arced through space, the crisp snap of the net.

It was a magical time. But it was over.

“You brought the world crashing down, Eb. No one else.”

“True enough,” he allowed. “But I never meant for it to get as fucked up as it did. You gotta know that, Mac.”

“Is this an apology for getting my partner killed and sacrificing my leg, Eb? Because if it is I think you need to spend a little more time in front of a mirror.”

“You know I never wanted it to go down like that, man. C’mon, Mac, we played ball together. It’s your leg.”

“I know damn well whose leg it is, Eb. And what about my partner? What about Danny? He had a wife and kid.”

“Well, I guess I ain’t too proud about any of it.”

“Damn. A dozen years to reach such profundity. You gotta love the system.”

“Listen, this just ain’t comin’ out right. I-I wanted to tell you if I could somehow give you your leg back, I would. This ain’t redemption because I don’t believe in that shit, Mac.

“I wake up nights and see that leg, all ruined and shit. It will be the last thing I see. I have no doubt.”

He seemed to mean it, and I had relinquished my clutch on pity years earlier, but now, standing in front of Durning, the horror show came rolling back in. All I could think was how much I wanted to see him suck that last breath; watch his body spasm involuntarily against the clutch of the chemical reaper.

Exit stage left, the curtain falls.

“Tell it to the spiritual advisor, Eb. I don’t have any more room.”

“I’m sorry,” Durning said.

“Not a chance, man. No vacancy.”

“You want to know the funny thing, Mac?” He didn’t wait for an answer.

“I play it over and over, and I don’t want it to happen, but I know if it went down the same way, I’d probably be caught up in it just the same.

“I was crazy on the shit, man, and my perceptions was not right, but that’s how it played. It’s fucked up, man, I know that. It’s hard to live with.”

“You want to know something, Eb? If they’d let me push the plunger on the syringe I’d do it right now. No hesitation; no questions asked.

“That’s some messed up shit, too, but I’ll live with it.”

“You gonna be there for the big show?”

I ignored the question.

“Hold Lucinda’s hand. She couldn’t ask you herself.”

“You could have left that in a message with the PA,” I said.

“There’s something else,” he said, fidgeting nervously.

“I’m still here.”

“Maybe nothing, but I’ve been going over it for a long time.”

“Time’s running out, Eb.”

“Something was strange that night, the night we knocked over that store. We shoulda been in and out, but Jackson took too much time. He let the old lady see him. Said that was why we had to kill her.”

He was talking about Arliss Jackson, a homeboy Durning cruised with; the only perp I had ever killed. It was Jackson who shot my partner before I could get a draw on him. At trial, Durning claimed it was Jackson who wanted to stay and finish the old Chinese woman—allegedly because the old woman called Jackson “hei gui”, meaning “black ghost”—on the streets.

Chinese slang for “nigger”.

“I heard this crap at trial.”

“We shoulda never been there, Mac. Shoulda been long gone. I think maybe Jackson wanted the cops to get there. I think he was counting on it.”

“You have any reasoning on this?”

“A week before, Jackson gets this visit from a guy. Big white dude. The two of them, they go off in the white guy’s car. I asked around when Arliss wouldn’t come clean, started acting all strange and shit. Somebody recognized the description. Guy’s a big dumb muscle-thug they call Brain. Works for Calypso.”

Calypso was a major pot smuggler from Ocho Rios, Jamaica, who ran much of the dope business in the city. Vice and the DEA had a major hard-on
for Calypso. Jackson had been small time; a neighborhood punk who stole televisions and boosted cars during Bronco games.

An arrangement between him and the big Jamaican made no sense.

“What does this have to do with anything, Eb? Jackson is dead.”

“Arliss was a gambler. Played the ponies. Owed a lot of money. No secret about that. Word was he tried to set up a dope deal that went south. Owed some even bigger scratch to Calypso.

“Dude’s henchmen carry blowtorches, Mac, they don’t fuck around. I think Arliss was scared. Maybe he cut a deal.”

“To kill my partner,” I said.

“It don’t make sense, Mac. I can’t figure out why we were still there. What the hell does Arliss Jackson care if some old woman calls him nigger? Arliss was careful, man, he didn’t want to go back to prison. It don’t figure.”

“The idea of prison does that to some people. Makes a scumbag willing to do what he has to do. It doesn’t always make sense.”

“We shoulda been gone when you got there, Mac. He took his time with that old woman. I almost booked.”

“That would have been the best decision you ever made. You’ve earned the needle, Eb. I gotta go.”

Durning lowered his head and pressed it against the bars. “My hair’s been falling out all week. I was never even scared or nothing and it started falling out just the same.”

He rubbed his left hand along the top of his head. He looked like someone had taken the shears to him while he slept.

“Do you know about Samson, Mac?”

He was looking up, tears brimming in those lifeless eyes.

“His strength was in his hair. I wasn’t even scared, Mac, and the shit started fallin’ out anyway.”

I stared at him. I could imagine the stress he was feeling but I didn’t care. Then again, maybe all this was just Durning’s way of tuning up for the long trip.

“Do you believe in God, Mac?” he said.

The question startled me. I didn’t answer.

“Do you believe he will forgive you if you’re truly sorry?”

“I believe in God, Eb. You worry about the forgiving part.”

He turned around and shuffled back to the bed. He sat down slowly, like a decrepit old man, steadying himself with shaking arms. He was sweating and I again smelled the reality of his predicament. It permeated the cell, the hoary smell of the end.

If Hell had a distinct odor, this was it. I think Eb Durning had figured that one.

“You want to know something? That thing about having anything for your last meal is bullshit. You gotta order off a menu,” he said.

“That so?”

“I’m havin’ me a plate of meatloaf, two slices of whole wheat bread, and some ketchup packets, because when I would come home from basketball practice my moms would slice me a big piece and make a cold meatloaf sandwich.

“Things was golden then, Mac. Golden.”

“I’ll be seeing you around, Eb.”

“Don’t forget about Lucinda, okay Mac? She got no one and she trusts you.”

His words were fading, as if he was getting sleepy, but he was still sitting erect, staring blankly at the wall.

“She’s my sister and now she got no one.”

“Lucinda will be fine,” I said as I moved toward the exit.

“Vaya con Dios, Mac,” he said quietly.

“Not me, Eb. You need him more.”

 

Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One) is available to purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99 or Borrow FREE with Prime!


Connect with R.S. Guthrie:

Author Website: http://www.rsguthrie.com
Author Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rsguthriebooks
Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rsguthrie
Author Blog: http://robonwriting.com

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Stroganov (A Darby Stansfield Thriller), Ty Hutchinson {$3.99 or Borrow FREE with Prime!}

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Description of Stroganov (A Darby Stansfield Thriller):

STROGANOV is the second book in the wildly popular, Darby Stansfield thriller series. Readers have described the series as Tarantino meets The Office. If you haven’t read CHOP SUEY, give it a try. It’s been an Amazon Best Seller topping two top 100 lists this year.

Discover how one act of kindness can bring on a world of pain.

In STROGANOV, a smarter, more confident Darby Stansfield continues his life as the telecommunication consultant to the criminal underworld. This time he’s in bed with the Russians and everything is peachy, so far.

With his career back on track, Darby focuses on improving his personal life. However, his unconventional methods for finding love land him in the middle of a war between the Ukrainian government and a dangerous sex trafficking ring. That’s his life. Wrong place. Wrong time. All of the time.

Anxious to get out of the situation, he reluctantly offers his help to the authorities in hopes of a clean break. What he gets instead is the attention of Russia’s most feared criminal.

 

Accolade:

“Stroganov takes Darby through another world of mobsters, murderers, and bad decisions. This time, Darby’s a little bit wiser, but just as funny and likeable. The second book is even more thrilling than the first. I definitely recommend!” — Amazon 5-Star Review


Reviews:

Stroganov (A Darby Stansfield Thriller) currently has a customer review rating of 5 stars from 3 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from Stroganov (A Darby Stansfield Thriller):

STROGANOV

Book 2

Darby Stansfield Thriller Series

 

Excerpts

 

Odessa, Ukraine

The gray, windowless van chugged along the single-lane road, occasionally braking only to speed up again. Inside, four men avoided conversation—it was not needed. As they headed into the concrete valley, their eyes focused on the colorless apartment blocks that stood side by side, lining both sides of the road. Each building had a number as an identifier; building 14 was their destination. When the Ukrainian government first issued these apartments to its citizens, it was widely known that preferential treatment was given to young couples with at least one child. Most of those young children were now teenagers, making this district the perfect hunting grounds.

The van slid to a stop in the slushy mix of icy-dirt and road. The diesel engine gave up a few smoky coughs before it went silent. The passenger door creaked open and a burly man dressed in bulky black clothing, complete with a skullcap, exited the vehicle with a toothy grin.

“Privet,” he called out with a wave.

The couple standing near the entrance to the building waved back. Their teenage daughter was much more excited to see the man than they were; her giggling was proof of that. She was finally leaving for a work-abroad program that many of her friends had already enjoyed.

“Be careful, Oksana.”

“Papa, I’ll be working at a hotel in Greece, not a factory. Don’t worry,” she said as she kissed his cheek. “I’ll miss you Mama,” she said, turning to the woman. “I promise to call once a week. It’s only for three months and then I’ll be home.”

Her mother gave her another long embrace and showered her with kisses.

The man from the van held out his hand. “My name is Sergei. I’m from the International Work & Travel program. Your daughter will be fine. She’ll have a good time.”

Smiles finally appeared on the parents’ faces. Yuri turned to his wife. “Don’t worry, Galina. This will be good for her. It’s worth the expense.” A tearful Galina nodded as she grabbed a hold of his arm. The cost of the program required most of their savings and that they borrow from relatives, but it was worth it for their daughter to have this experience.

Sergei picked up the teenager’s luggage. “Come, Oksana. It’s time.”

Oksana gave each of her parents one last hug and then hurried to catch up with her chaperone. “Sergei, where are we going now? Are there others or is it just me?” She couldn’t believe her journey was about to begin.

Sergei looked back at the teen trailing him. She was looking off into the distance, her eyes already dreaming big adventures. “There are other girls. You will meet them soon.”

Oksana focused back on the big man. “I’ve been wishing and hoping to go on a work abroad program for years now. Do a lot of people do it more than once?”

“Very rarely. Once is enough.”

“Not for me. The chance to see other countries and meet people from the west; how could anyone get enough of that?” Oksana fell behind again as she drifted away.

“Oksana,” Sergei called out, snapping her out of La La Land. “It’s easier to enter the van from the door at the back,” he said motioning to the rear of the van.

When she knocked on the back door of the van, the thin metal slabs squeaked open and a friendly face appeared with an extended hand to help her inside. Sergei tossed her belongings into the van behind her and slammed the doors shut.

Right away Oksana noticed things were not right and started to back up, but one of the men grabbed her coat and yanked her towards him, slamming his hand over her mouth at the same time. Their faces were now inches apart and his sour breath was unavoidable. Oksana twisted her body from side to side hoping to loosen his grip, but he was stronger. The sudden screech of duct tape near her face caught her attention. Before she could react, her mouth was sealed shut. That alone would be enough to frighten anybody but that’s not what had Oksana trembling, unable to let out a quick scream while she had the chance.

Lying on the floor of the van, partly covered with a tarp, she saw two other girls whom she recognized from the neighborhood. Their mouths were sealed and she could see that one had her hands tied behind her back. Their bulging eyes screamed one word: Run!

•••

The scream sounded like it came from inside the park somewhere. It must have since I was the only one on the sidewalk as far as I could see. One part of me said, “Someone’s in trouble.” The other part of me shouted, “Get the hell out of here!”

Tav is always asking me how I find myself in the middle of these situations. I honestly think these situations find me.

There were two lamps in the area of the park around me, but they might as well have been cheap flashlights hanging upside down from a tree branch; the illumination was so pathetic. I didn’t feel like leaving the safety of the sidewalk so I just stood there.

I scanned for any type of movement. Nothing so far. And then I heard the scream again. It was closer this time and heading in my direction. I prepared myself for whatever it might be. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was already committed to helping.

Suddenly a person appeared from the darkness, running toward me. “Pomogite! Pomogite!” she shouted.

By now I could see her better. She was young, only a teenager.

In seconds she reached me. Her nails dug into my arm. Tears ran down her bruised face.

“Pomogite,” she said again.

“I don’t understand. What’s wrong?”

“Help me.”

I looked around. The streets were empty. What do I do?

“Please.”

I grabbed her arm, “Come on; let’s go.”

 

Stroganov (A Darby Stansfield Thriller) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $3.99 or Borrow FREE with Prime!


Connect with Ty Hutchinson:

Blog:  http://tyhutchinson.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tyhutchinson.author

 

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Jump Cut, Rory Tate {$3.99 or Borrow FREE with Prime!}

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Description of  Jump Cut:

Seattle reporter Mimi Raynard is having a bad week. Her ex-husband is now her boss at the TV station and wants her head on a platter. When three prostitutes die of a suspicious heroin overdose Mimi gets the story but in her nervous enthusiasm manages to bungle it. The narcotics detective on the case tries to help but both are out-foxed by the buxom intern. What’s a girl to do?

At the Seattle Police Department the detective has his own career crisis when he is framed for stealing drugs from evidence. Working together to save their reputations, Mimi and Shad look for the truth, from the fishing docks of Puget Sound to the backwoods of the tiny Republic of Moldova. They end up salvaging a lot more than their careers in this exciting contemporary thriller.

 

Accolade:

“Jump Cut – n., a jarring transition in the temporal flow in film, television, or life, sometimes intentional but rarely without a good deal of second-guessing, hand-wringing, and tears”

So says the epigram at the beginning of Rory Tate’s novel, Jump Cut. It’s a fitting title and motif for the story of Mimi Raynard, a metaphor for the paradoxes with which she lives. If one can be both hapless and brilliant, emotionally secure and grieving a parentless childhood, independent and longing for connection, then one can be Mimi. A reporter who’s had some unfortunate on-air moments, almost certainly because of circumstances beyond her control, Mimi’s in search of journalistic vindication. She teams up with Shad Mulgrew, a falsely-accused narcotics detective in search of his own vindication. In the serendipitous world of detective fiction, the reporter and the detective are working the same case, which jumps from Seattle to Moldova and back to Seattle, from hurt to healing, from disconnection to intimacy.

All the elements are there: prostitutes and drug-running, newsrooms and squad rooms, romance and action. Jump Cut is in turns funny and gritty, cozy and hardboiled, romantic and illusion-shattering. It’s also a rollicking good read.” — Amazon reviewer Jeanny House

 

Amazon Reader Reviews:

Jump Cut currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 5 stars, with 3 reviews! Read the reviews here!


An excerpt from Jump Cut:

If you’re lucky on a Monday you’ve got serious mojo, news-wise.

For a reporter Monday spells opportunity, a rising of the blood, a quickening in the step. Here was the chance to capture the mood of the week to come, to tear off a juicy bite of history’s sandwich, to take on the world’s bad actors — or twiddle your thumbs all day. But, and this is important, with a little luck, you – yes, little old you — could define the week’s top story. You could give meaning to the lives of millions of viewers. Bring down governments! Feed the starving children! Crack the genetic code!

Anything is possible on a Monday.

With a sigh, Mimi hung her coat on a wire hanger as bent as her career trajectory. Luck – her middle name! Wiping her shoes with a paper towel she walked into the newsroom, head high and with purpose – the only way to approach the beginning of the week, which despite sidewalk pep talks sometimes felt like cement hardening around her ankles.

At midday the newsroom dozed between deadlines. The cavernous room done up in post-modern gray was windowless and smelled of damp. No breaking news apparently. In one corner Penny, the summer intern, still here and still too bronzed for the Northwest, squirmed over copy at her desk. The monitor in the corner droned at low volume with the station’s afternoon programming, a version of Angry Man Shouting. The weatherman cuddled with his coffee mug while he zoned out on cloud patterns.

Okay! Monday. Everything is fecking brilliant.

The day had begun precariously. Big sister Cecile flew to Europe, leaving Mimi in charge, always a scary prospect. Their grandmother, who at eighty-five had more opinions than Moses, declared herself perfectly fine while Cecile was jetting around the world, serving pretzels at 35,000 feet.

Mimi knew she should be grateful her sister wasn’t gone more. Her sister would be loading her flight bag filled with tiny bikinis and enormous bottles of sunscreen into the overhead bin. Sveta, the housekeeper, would be turning on Gran’s soaps.  Mimi set her cell phone down on her desk.

Her inner voice — drunk and vaguely Irish like her college boyfriend who escaped to Dublin to get rich – whispered again:  Courage, lass.  She straightened her shoulders and swung to face the assignment board. The large, messy white board stacked with reporter’s names featured colored squiggles matching them to the day’s stories: Jury selection; City council memo; High school drug bust. Her eyes scanned down the list to Raynard. A red squiggle dangled after her name.

Her heart skipped. Did it say ‘Remote’? She hadn’t been on a remote for weeks. Not since she did the morning feed from the livestock barn at the State Fair. How long since she’d been out on any story? She’d become a local legend for writing snappy openers and diabolical, split-second editing — and anchorperson handholding. All good, but not what the reporter – at least this reporter — craves in the deepest pit of her being.

Maybe it was the reporter above her. No, he was “OS:” out sick. The flu was marching through the ranks at K-POW. A crew burst in from a shoot. Cameraman, soundman, and reporter, in high spirits and pink from the cool fall air. Ted Stinson veered toward her desk. Good old Ted. He belonged to a common breed of reporters, the eager, dandruffed, and dull. Last week she’d helped him edit a series on ethnic communities in Seattle — Muslims, Chinese, Russians, Italians. She got Cecile’s housekeeper, Sveta, to say ‘I love Burger King’ in Russian to spice up the narration. She glanced away, trying to avoid Ted’s morning banter.

Three sticky notes fluttered on her monitor.  She recognized the blocky scribble of her dearly-departed-from-the-marital-unit husband. ”Fix coffee machine; DTs outbreak.” “Breaking news; My office; 1:30.”

The man did love a semi-colon. Wait — breaking news? Was this the remote? She read the last note as she wove in and out of the desks. “Wear blue suit.”

Blue suit!? He could stick that and a semi-colon — Oh, crap. ‘Where the sun don’t shine’ doesn’t have much traction in Seattle.

The writer of the notes, news director Corey Magnuson, frowned at her from behind his office. The Blue-eyed Rat Bastard, Mimi’s ex — now somehow her boss. With his thick black hair and azure eyes, he was the other kind of male reporter, the kind who was good-looking and knew it. Was that why he was promoted? Viewers rarely saw the news director so it couldn’t be that.  Was he sleeping with Tina?

Tina Vincent, the news producer, rapped her perfect nails on the arm of the chair impatiently. Next to her Leo looked up with a friendly smile. Gangly and wearing un-hip glasses, Leo Westmeier was Mimi’s best friend in the newsroom. His hair was prematurely gray, no doubt from working here.

“Glad you could join us,” Corey said, looking at his watch then at her pink sweater and short black skirt. “Where’s the suit?”

Three years ago he gave her the designer suit in deep blue silk. It was now lying in a heap in her closet.  She picked lint from her sweater and noticed he was wearing an expensive-looking shirt with fine purple stripes against cream. His orange tie looked like silk. How nice for him.

“I don’t keep it in my desk.”

Tina frowned at Mimi’s not-very-new sweater. Tina at least knew a reporter was more than her designer suit. She had been news producer for two years and everyone adored her. Even when she was tough with them. Even when she shouted at them. The reporters knew she was usually right: they could do better.

Corey examined Mimi’s figure like he still had that privilege. “It still fits?”

“Now that you mention it, it is a little baggy. Must be the hundred-and-seventy-five pounds of dead weight I lost.”

“Children, please,” Tina said, crossing her arms. “We’re short-handed today. We need a remote at the Justice Center.  Three homicides.”

Homicide?! Fantastic! Triple? Better and better. But wait – it was terrible. Someone murdered. Several someones. “Murder?”

“They’re calling them suspicious deaths at this point,” Corey said.

“But Homicide is in charge,” Leo said.

“Three prostitutes overdosed. The cops think they got into some bad heroin.”

“Is there good heroin?” Mimi leaned against the desk, feigning boredom. She had a remote! Why hadn’t she gotten her dry-cleaning done?

Leo snorted. “Damn straight.”

“The kind that doesn’t kill you is the good heroin,” Corey said. He must hate this, giving her face time on the newscast – and such a high-profile story. Maybe the lead. It was all too wonderful. “Teaser at five, an interview with the cop at ten after. Then a repeat during the six-o’clock and six-thirty. It’s sweeps. Try not to screw up, Mimi. Three people have the flu.”

“I took my vitamin, chief.” She saluted him, because he hated it. “What about the coffee maker?”

“Give it to Penny. She’s got nothing to do.”

Tina was waiting outside the door. “Find a jacket and meet me in makeup in thirty minutes. Oscar will do something with your hair.”

The intern sat at her desk. Young and blonde, Penny Lancuso dredged up animosity in Mimi she thought she’d left in junior high. It was easy to dislike Penny. She had no wrinkles, no big hips, no bags under her eyes. At least she wasn’t skinny. She was actually pretty curvy which cheered those reporters – the men plus Rhonda the sound tech — who enjoyed the bounce of a healthy bosom. And bounce it she did.

But the hate — yes, let’s call it hate — went beyond the physical.  Penny was hungry. She wanted it all — right now. She oozed over the anchormen who only wanted to brush up against her tender flesh. She sucked up to anybody with a big story. She became the queen of newsroom gossip. She wanted the perks from being recognized, the best tables in restaurants, fan mail, big money, favors from men in power. Over-reaching ambition was not pretty – but was often rewarded. Word was – from one of Penny’s sources – that Corey had doubled his salary with his promotion. He’d bought a Belltown condo with an incredible view of Puget Sound. That was true. He held sunset parties with minor sports celebrities on his postage-stamp balcony he insisted on calling a ‘terrace.’ And he had the power to hire, fire, and give lousy assignments to any ex-wife he pleased.

Maybe they were meant for each other, Corey and Penny. It had been a year since the divorce and these thoughts, who Corey was sleeping with, wouldn’t leave Mimi alone. Being around phony-sweet, over-tan Penny didn’t help. There was still hope that Penny would get offered a job somewhere besides here at the NewsFlash: Super News for Real People. Things weren’t really so super here. The evening newscast was tied in third place with their archrivals at the ABC affiliate. Corey had promised his bosses when he got the job six months before that he’d turn things around. But with five local newscasts the market was cutthroat. But the lamebrain station manager had faith in the huckster he’d chosen to run the news as long as ads were sold and money flowed in.

Mimi slid the note across Penny’s desk. “From the chief. The DTs must be from that vodka he’s guzzling.”

The intern widened her eyes. “I didn’t graduate from journalism school to fix coffee!”

“You don’t fix the coffee. You call the number on the sticker and somebody comes around eventually.”

Penny threw back her hair. “Tell him to go fuck himself.”

“Tempting, really. But old news.”

The youngster flushed with indignation. Oh, the injustice of it all. This gray newsroom could use a little drama, even if it was only an adolescent snit.

Hold on. Today the underutilized Mimi Raynard was going to do a live remote, with a teaser and a follow-up. She was back in the saddle. The months of depression after the split, followed by the slam-dunk of Corey’s promotion, were over. He couldn’t block her from getting assignments now. Tina probably forced him to give her the remote. Definitely Corey + Tina.

Penny grabbed her jacket off the back of her chair before Mimi could ask about it and marched out the door. Before they could breathe she was back.  “And fuck you, too, Mrs. Ex-Corey.”

A moment of silence was observed for the exit of Penny.

“The things they teach you in San Diego,” Mimi said.

“Did you hear she got her contract?” Leo said from behind his computer monitor.

“What? Whose itch did she scratch?” Corey had been sniffing around her last week — or was it Rick the weather whore? Christ, was newsroom coupling all she could think about? Get a grip, lassie. She had a remote, by God!

 

Jump Cut is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $3.99 or borrow FREE with Prime!


Connect with Rory Tate:

Twitter: @MimiRaynard @ThaliaPress

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One), R.S. Guthrie {$0.99}

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Description of Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One):

“Black Beast” is the first in a series of “Clan of MacAulay” novels. Decorated Denver Detective Bobby Macaulay has faced down a truckload of tragedy over recent years. The death of his partner; the loss of his own leg in the line of duty; the companionship of his beloved wife to cancer; his faith in God to his inner demons.

After the man who ruined his leg and killed his first partner is executed, Macaulay becomes the lead detective investigating the Sloan’s Lake murders. The method of killing in this double-homicide is so heinous it leads Macaulay and his partner down an ever-darkening path–one that must be traversed if they are to discover the evil forces behind the slaughter.

Just when Bobby Macaulay is questioning the very career that has been his salvation, he will discover a heroic history buried within his own family roots: The Clan MacAulay–a deep family lineage of protectors at the very core of a millenniums-long war against unimaginable evil.

 

Accolade:

“Black Beast is the first in the series of A Clan of MacAulay novels, and establishes Guthrie as a bonafide talent. Black Beast centers around the haunted life of Detective Bobby MacAulay as he discovers secrets from his family tree just as all ‘hell’ starts to break loose. Bobby is likeable, vulnerable and just tough enough to be very real. The best super sleuths among you will not be able to predict what will happen next in this story, and you won’t want to stop reading. Black Beast is fast-paced, interesting, unique and a wild ride.” Beth E. Harris, author of “Vision”.

 

Reviews:

Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One) currently has a customer review rating of 5 stars with 32 reviews! Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One):

Life for a death row inmate at the CSP consisted of twenty-three hours in an isolated cell, one hour per day for shower and exercise. All meals, visitors, and bathroom functions happened during the twenty-three hours cellbound. No exceptions other than the infirmary or the morgue.

The CSP had a special segregation unit called the Execution Suite. During warrant week, a seven-day period established by the governor, the condemned prisoner was moved to the Execution Suite to await delivery of sentence by lethal injection.

Eb Durning was scheduled to ride the river at twenty-one hundred hours.

9PM.

We entered the interior of Hotel California—so called by the hacks and cons—through a large, double-shielded door with another gated checkpoint. I was asked to sign a second register and also to read a short list of dos and don’ts.

“You’re the guy,” the officer at the station desk said.

“I’m the guy,” I said. “Detective Macaulay.”

“He got your partner, too?”

I pushed the paperwork back across a pine-top desk scarred with cigarette burns. “It was a long time ago.”

“Time for the fiddler to get his. Maintain the yellow line,” he replied, the eyes falling involuntarily to where my jean fit too loose on the prosthetic.

Like skin over meatless bone.

There was a solid, faded yellow stripe that ran down the corridor, five feet from the three holding cells. The guard buzzed me in.

Ebony Durning was in the first cell, closest to the guard station. He did not get up as I stopped in front of his door but finished drawing on a small roach, extinguishing it by licking the tips of his fore and middle finger and pinching the small coal. There was an audible hiss and the aroma of bad weed: pungent, like something already dead.

“The bulls are lenient here at Hotel California on D-day,” was the first thing he said to me.

“I’m glad,” I replied.

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leeeeve,” he crooned.

“I know the song. Do we have business, Eb?”

“They’re gonna do me this time, Detective. No more appeals. The Governor ain’t too friendly to cop killers. Eleven hours and change. Ain’t much of a future.”

“More than my partner got.”

“Officer Wells, it was. And the old lady at the store,” Durning said. “I sent letters.”

He was still supine on the narrow, wall-mounted cot.

“Fuck you, Eb. You don’t get to tell me the names.”

He swung his long legs to the floor and stood. He was a full six five, all bones and loose flesh. Ganglier than I remembered. Durning’s mother was white and his father black—Eb’s skin was the color of sun-bleached cardboard.

“Bobby Mac. Basketball legend.”

He threaded his spidery arms through the rungs and leaned on the crossbar, his veins bulging beneath an aqua jailhouse tattoo that was too faded to make out.

He looked awful: afro reduced to patches and tufts, like a lawn with fungal rot. His complexion was dull and fishy.

“What is this about, Eb? I came early because of Lucinda. She said this was important.”

“They’re gonna pump my veins full of potassium chloride. Last cocktail I’ll ever have, Mac, stop my heart dead. Is that important enough?”

“You’ve earned your station, Eb, and then some. A little late for redemption, don’t you think?”

“I don’t believe in that shit.”

“Good. You have a nice trip. I won’t be losing any sleep over it.”

He was hollow-eyed, as if he had already checked out with the bellhop. His were the marble eyes of the shark: lifeless.

“Do you remember the nineteen-eighty-five State Championship, Mac?”

“Ancient history,” I said.

Durning played forward for Mullen and I played for Cherry Creek. The game exhausted three overtimes before Durning hit a running jumper with time expiring to end our run of three consecutive championships.

He bottomed out three years later when a hooker overdosed in his small apartment on Colfax and he tossed her in a dumpster at King Soopers with a case full of needles with his prints all over them.

Since doing the unlawful death time he hit a couple foul balls—county lockup stuff, mostly. Then he poked one out of the park by participating in the murder of my partner Danny Wells and an old woman—the oriental shopkeeper who ran a local market on Broadway.

Durning got into his getaway car in the parking lot, bouncing off the other vehicles like a pinball, and crashed into my patrol car, pinning me and turning my left leg to ground round.

“We were so fucking happening in eighty-five, Mac. Like shit just turning to gold.”

And for a moment I saw it: the perfection of adolescence—when the slate is clean and everything is possible; when all that mattered were how many points per game and who was getting laid.

His flat eyes flickered with the memories of a better time—a distant, furtive glow at the center of his being. It was as if he were back there: the squeaking of gum rubber on hardwood, the roar of the crowd, the perfect backspin of the ball as it arced through space, the crisp snap of the net.

It was a magical time. But it was over.

“You brought the world crashing down, Eb. No one else.”

“True enough,” he allowed. “But I never meant for it to get as fucked up as it did. You gotta know that, Mac.”

“Is this an apology for getting my partner killed and sacrificing my leg, Eb? Because if it is I think you need to spend a little more time in front of a mirror.”

“You know I never wanted it to go down like that, man. C’mon, Mac, we played ball together. It’s your leg.”

“I know damn well whose leg it is, Eb. And what about my partner? What about Danny? He had a wife and kid.”

“Well, I guess I ain’t too proud about any of it.”

“Damn. A dozen years to reach such profundity. You gotta love the system.”

“Listen, this just ain’t comin’ out right. I-I wanted to tell you if I could somehow give you your leg back, I would. This ain’t redemption because I don’t believe in that shit, Mac.

“I wake up nights and see that leg, all ruined and shit. It will be the last thing I see. I have no doubt.”

He seemed to mean it, and I had relinquished my clutch on pity years earlier, but now, standing in front of Durning, the horror show came rolling back in. All I could think was how much I wanted to see him suck that last breath; watch his body spasm involuntarily against the clutch of the chemical reaper.

Exit stage left, the curtain falls.

“Tell it to the spiritual advisor, Eb. I don’t have any more room.”

“I’m sorry,” Durning said.

“Not a chance, man. No vacancy.”

“You want to know the funny thing, Mac?” He didn’t wait for an answer.

“I play it over and over, and I don’t want it to happen, but I know if it went down the same way, I’d probably be caught up in it just the same.

“I was crazy on the shit, man, and my perceptions was not right, but that’s how it played. It’s fucked up, man, I know that. It’s hard to live with.”

“You want to know something, Eb? If they’d let me push the plunger on the syringe I’d do it right now. No hesitation; no questions asked.

“That’s some messed up shit, too, but I’ll live with it.”

“You gonna be there for the big show?”

I ignored the question.

“Hold Lucinda’s hand. She couldn’t ask you herself.”

“You could have left that in a message with the PA,” I said.

“There’s something else,” he said, fidgeting nervously.

“I’m still here.”

“Maybe nothing, but I’ve been going over it for a long time.”

“Time’s running out, Eb.”

“Something was strange that night, the night we knocked over that store. We shoulda been in and out, but Jackson took too much time. He let the old lady see him. Said that was why we had to kill her.”

He was talking about Arliss Jackson, a homeboy Durning cruised with; the only perp I had ever killed. It was Jackson who shot my partner before I could get a draw on him. At trial, Durning claimed it was Jackson who wanted to stay and finish the old Chinese woman—allegedly because the old woman called Jackson “hei gui”, meaning “black ghost”—on the streets.

Chinese slang for “nigger”.

“I heard this crap at trial.”

“We shoulda never been there, Mac. Shoulda been long gone. I think maybe Jackson wanted the cops to get there. I think he was counting on it.”

“You have any reasoning on this?”

“A week before, Jackson gets this visit from a guy. Big white dude. The two of them, they go off in the white guy’s car. I asked around when Arliss wouldn’t come clean, started acting all strange and shit. Somebody recognized the description. Guy’s a big dumb muscle-thug they call Brain. Works for Calypso.”

Calypso was a major pot smuggler from Ocho Rios, Jamaica, who ran much of the dope business in the city. Vice and the DEA had a major hard-on
for Calypso. Jackson had been small time; a neighborhood punk who stole televisions and boosted cars during Bronco games.

An arrangement between him and the big Jamaican made no sense.

“What does this have to do with anything, Eb? Jackson is dead.”

“Arliss was a gambler. Played the ponies. Owed a lot of money. No secret about that. Word was he tried to set up a dope deal that went south. Owed some even bigger scratch to Calypso.

“Dude’s henchmen carry blowtorches, Mac, they don’t fuck around. I think Arliss was scared. Maybe he cut a deal.”

“To kill my partner,” I said.

“It don’t make sense, Mac. I can’t figure out why we were still there. What the hell does Arliss Jackson care if some old woman calls him nigger? Arliss was careful, man, he didn’t want to go back to prison. It don’t figure.”

“The idea of prison does that to some people. Makes a scumbag willing to do what he has to do. It doesn’t always make sense.”

“We shoulda been gone when you got there, Mac. He took his time with that old woman. I almost booked.”

“That would have been the best decision you ever made. You’ve earned the needle, Eb. I gotta go.”

Durning lowered his head and pressed it against the bars. “My hair’s been falling out all week. I was never even scared or nothing and it started falling out just the same.”

He rubbed his left hand along the top of his head. He looked like someone had taken the shears to him while he slept.

“Do you know about Samson, Mac?”

He was looking up, tears brimming in those lifeless eyes.

“His strength was in his hair. I wasn’t even scared, Mac, and the shit started fallin’ out anyway.”

I stared at him. I could imagine the stress he was feeling but I didn’t care. Then again, maybe all this was just Durning’s way of tuning up for the long trip.

“Do you believe in God, Mac?” he said.

The question startled me. I didn’t answer.

“Do you believe he will forgive you if you’re truly sorry?”

“I believe in God, Eb. You worry about the forgiving part.”

He turned around and shuffled back to the bed. He sat down slowly, like a decrepit old man, steadying himself with shaking arms. He was sweating and I again smelled the reality of his predicament. It permeated the cell, the hoary smell of the end.

If Hell had a distinct odor, this was it. I think Eb Durning had figured that one.

“You want to know something? That thing about having anything for your last meal is bullshit. You gotta order off a menu,” he said.

“That so?”

“I’m havin’ me a plate of meatloaf, two slices of whole wheat bread, and some ketchup packets, because when I would come home from basketball practice my moms would slice me a big piece and make a cold meatloaf sandwich.

“Things was golden then, Mac. Golden.”

“I’ll be seeing you around, Eb.”

“Don’t forget about Lucinda, okay Mac? She got no one and she trusts you.”

His words were fading, as if he was getting sleepy, but he was still sitting erect, staring blankly at the wall.

“She’s my sister and now she got no one.”

“Lucinda will be fine,” I said as I moved toward the exit.

“Vaya con Dios, Mac,” he said quietly.

“Not me, Eb. You need him more.”

 

Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One) is available to purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99


Connect with R.S. Guthrie:

Author Website: http://www.rsguthrie.com
Author Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rsguthriebooks
Author Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rsguthrie
Author Blog: http://robonwriting.com

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One), R.S. Guthrie {$0.99}

Sponsored Post

R.S. Guthrie‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One):

“Black Beast” is the first in a series of “Clan of MacAulay” novels. Decorated Denver Detective Bobby Macaulay has faced down a truckload of tragedy over recent years. The death of his partner; the loss of his own leg in the line of duty; the companionship of his beloved wife to cancer; his faith in God to his inner demons.

After the man who ruined his leg and killed his first partner is executed, Macaulay becomes the lead detective investigating the Sloan’s Lake murders. The method of killing in this double-homicide is so heinous it leads Macaulay and his partner down an ever-darkening path–one that must be traversed if they are to discover the evil forces behind the slaughter.

Just when Bobby Macaulay is questioning the very career that has been his salvation, he will discover a heroic history buried within his own family roots: The Clan MacAulay–a deep family lineage of protectors at the very core of a millenniums-long war against unimaginable evil.

 

Accolade:

“Black Beast is the first in the series of A Clan of MacAulay novels, and establishes Guthrie as a bonafide talent. Black Beast centers around the haunted life of Detective Bobby MacAulay as he discovers secrets from his family tree just as all ‘hell’ starts to break loose. Bobby is likeable, vulnerable and just tough enough to be very real. The best super sleuths among you will not be able to predict what will happen next in this story, and you won’t want to stop reading. Black Beast is fast-paced, interesting, unique and a wild ride.” Beth E. Harris, author of “Vision”.

 

Reviews:

Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One) currently has a customer review rating of 5 stars with 30 reviews! Read the reviews here.

 

An excerpt from Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One):

Life for a death row inmate at the CSP consisted of twenty-three hours in an isolated cell, one hour per day for shower and exercise. All meals, visitors, and bathroom functions happened during the twenty-three hours cellbound. No exceptions other than the infirmary or the morgue.

The CSP had a special segregation unit called the Execution Suite. During warrant week, a seven-day period established by the governor, the condemned prisoner was moved to the Execution Suite to await delivery of sentence by lethal injection.

Eb Durning was scheduled to ride the river at twenty-one hundred hours.

9PM.

We entered the interior of Hotel California—so called by the hacks and cons—through a large, double-shielded door with another gated checkpoint. I was asked to sign a second register and also to read a short list of dos and don’ts.

“You’re the guy,” the officer at the station desk said.

“I’m the guy,” I said. “Detective Macaulay.”

“He got your partner, too?”

I pushed the paperwork back across a pine-top desk scarred with cigarette burns. “It was a long time ago.”

“Time for the fiddler to get his. Maintain the yellow line,” he replied, the eyes falling involuntarily to where my jean fit too loose on the prosthetic.

Like skin over meatless bone.

There was a solid, faded yellow stripe that ran down the corridor, five feet from the three holding cells. The guard buzzed me in.

Ebony Durning was in the first cell, closest to the guard station. He did not get up as I stopped in front of his door but finished drawing on a small roach, extinguishing it by licking the tips of his fore and middle finger and pinching the small coal. There was an audible hiss and the aroma of bad weed: pungent, like something already dead.

“The bulls are lenient here at Hotel California on D-day,” was the first thing he said to me.

“I’m glad,” I replied.

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leeeeve,” he crooned.

“I know the song. Do we have business, Eb?”

“They’re gonna do me this time, Detective. No more appeals. The Governor ain’t too friendly to cop killers. Eleven hours and change. Ain’t much of a future.”

“More than my partner got.”

“Officer Wells, it was. And the old lady at the store,” Durning said. “I sent letters.”

He was still supine on the narrow, wall-mounted cot.

“Fuck you, Eb. You don’t get to tell me the names.”

He swung his long legs to the floor and stood. He was a full six five, all bones and loose flesh. Ganglier than I remembered. Durning’s mother was white and his father black—Eb’s skin was the color of sun-bleached cardboard.

“Bobby Mac. Basketball legend.”

He threaded his spidery arms through the rungs and leaned on the crossbar, his veins bulging beneath an aqua jailhouse tattoo that was too faded to make out.

He looked awful: afro reduced to patches and tufts, like a lawn with fungal rot. His complexion was dull and fishy.

“What is this about, Eb? I came early because of Lucinda. She said this was important.”

“They’re gonna pump my veins full of potassium chloride. Last cocktail I’ll ever have, Mac, stop my heart dead. Is that important enough?”

“You’ve earned your station, Eb, and then some. A little late for redemption, don’t you think?”

“I don’t believe in that shit.”

“Good. You have a nice trip. I won’t be losing any sleep over it.”

He was hollow-eyed, as if he had already checked out with the bellhop. His were the marble eyes of the shark: lifeless.

“Do you remember the nineteen-eighty-five State Championship, Mac?”

“Ancient history,” I said.

Durning played forward for Mullen and I played for Cherry Creek. The game exhausted three overtimes before Durning hit a running jumper with time expiring to end our run of three consecutive championships.

He bottomed out three years later when a hooker overdosed in his small apartment on Colfax and he tossed her in a dumpster at King Soopers with a case full of needles with his prints all over them.

Since doing the unlawful death time he hit a couple foul balls—county lockup stuff, mostly. Then he poked one out of the park by participating in the murder of my partner Danny Wells and an old woman—the oriental shopkeeper who ran a local market on Broadway.

Durning got into his getaway car in the parking lot, bouncing off the other vehicles like a pinball, and crashed into my patrol car, pinning me and turning my left leg to ground round.

“We were so fucking happening in eighty-five, Mac. Like shit just turning to gold.”

And for a moment I saw it: the perfection of adolescence—when the slate is clean and everything is possible; when all that mattered were how many points per game and who was getting laid.

His flat eyes flickered with the memories of a better time—a distant, furtive glow at the center of his being. It was as if he were back there: the squeaking of gum rubber on hardwood, the roar of the crowd, the perfect backspin of the ball as it arced through space, the crisp snap of the net.

It was a magical time. But it was over.

“You brought the world crashing down, Eb. No one else.”

“True enough,” he allowed. “But I never meant for it to get as fucked up as it did. You gotta know that, Mac.”

“Is this an apology for getting my partner killed and sacrificing my leg, Eb? Because if it is I think you need to spend a little more time in front of a mirror.”

“You know I never wanted it to go down like that, man. C’mon, Mac, we played ball together. It’s your leg.”

“I know damn well whose leg it is, Eb. And what about my partner? What about Danny? He had a wife and kid.”

“Well, I guess I ain’t too proud about any of it.”

“Damn. A dozen years to reach such profundity. You gotta love the system.”

“Listen, this just ain’t comin’ out right. I-I wanted to tell you if I could somehow give you your leg back, I would. This ain’t redemption because I don’t believe in that shit, Mac.

“I wake up nights and see that leg, all ruined and shit. It will be the last thing I see. I have no doubt.”

He seemed to mean it, and I had relinquished my clutch on pity years earlier, but now, standing in front of Durning, the horror show came rolling back in. All I could think was how much I wanted to see him suck that last breath; watch his body spasm involuntarily against the clutch of the chemical reaper.

Exit stage left, the curtain falls.

“Tell it to the spiritual advisor, Eb. I don’t have any more room.”

“I’m sorry,” Durning said.

“Not a chance, man. No vacancy.”

“You want to know the funny thing, Mac?” He didn’t wait for an answer.

“I play it over and over, and I don’t want it to happen, but I know if it went down the same way, I’d probably be caught up in it just the same.

“I was crazy on the shit, man, and my perceptions was not right, but that’s how it played. It’s fucked up, man, I know that. It’s hard to live with.”

“You want to know something, Eb? If they’d let me push the plunger on the syringe I’d do it right now. No hesitation; no questions asked.

“That’s some messed up shit, too, but I’ll live with it.”

“You gonna be there for the big show?”

I ignored the question.

“Hold Lucinda’s hand. She couldn’t ask you herself.”

“You could have left that in a message with the PA,” I said.

“There’s something else,” he said, fidgeting nervously.

“I’m still here.”

“Maybe nothing, but I’ve been going over it for a long time.”

“Time’s running out, Eb.”

“Something was strange that night, the night we knocked over that store. We shoulda been in and out, but Jackson took too much time. He let the old lady see him. Said that was why we had to kill her.”

He was talking about Arliss Jackson, a homeboy Durning cruised with; the only perp I had ever killed. It was Jackson who shot my partner before I could get a draw on him. At trial, Durning claimed it was Jackson who wanted to stay and finish the old Chinese woman—allegedly because the old woman called Jackson “hei gui”, meaning “black ghost”—on the streets.

Chinese slang for “nigger”.

“I heard this crap at trial.”

“We shoulda never been there, Mac. Shoulda been long gone. I think maybe Jackson wanted the cops to get there. I think he was counting on it.”

“You have any reasoning on this?”

“A week before, Jackson gets this visit from a guy. Big white dude. The two of them, they go off in the white guy’s car. I asked around when Arliss wouldn’t come clean, started acting all strange and shit. Somebody recognized the description. Guy’s a big dumb muscle-thug they call Brain. Works for Calypso.”

Calypso was a major pot smuggler from Ocho Rios, Jamaica, who ran much of the dope business in the city. Vice and the DEA had a major hard-on
for Calypso. Jackson had been small time; a neighborhood punk who stole televisions and boosted cars during Bronco games.

An arrangement between him and the big Jamaican made no sense.

“What does this have to do with anything, Eb? Jackson is dead.”

“Arliss was a gambler. Played the ponies. Owed a lot of money. No secret about that. Word was he tried to set up a dope deal that went south. Owed some even bigger scratch to Calypso.

“Dude’s henchmen carry blowtorches, Mac, they don’t fuck around. I think Arliss was scared. Maybe he cut a deal.”

“To kill my partner,” I said.

“It don’t make sense, Mac. I can’t figure out why we were still there. What the hell does Arliss Jackson care if some old woman calls him nigger? Arliss was careful, man, he didn’t want to go back to prison. It don’t figure.”

“The idea of prison does that to some people. Makes a scumbag willing to do what he has to do. It doesn’t always make sense.”

“We shoulda been gone when you got there, Mac. He took his time with that old woman. I almost booked.”

“That would have been the best decision you ever made. You’ve earned the needle, Eb. I gotta go.”

Durning lowered his head and pressed it against the bars. “My hair’s been falling out all week. I was never even scared or nothing and it started falling out just the same.”

He rubbed his left hand along the top of his head. He looked like someone had taken the shears to him while he slept.

“Do you know about Samson, Mac?”

He was looking up, tears brimming in those lifeless eyes.

“His strength was in his hair. I wasn’t even scared, Mac, and the shit started fallin’ out anyway.”

I stared at him. I could imagine the stress he was feeling but I didn’t care. Then again, maybe all this was just Durning’s way of tuning up for the long trip.

“Do you believe in God, Mac?” he said.

The question startled me. I didn’t answer.

“Do you believe he will forgive you if you’re truly sorry?”

“I believe in God, Eb. You worry about the forgiving part.”

He turned around and shuffled back to the bed. He sat down slowly, like a decrepit old man, steadying himself with shaking arms. He was sweating and I again smelled the reality of his predicament. It permeated the cell, the hoary smell of the end.

If Hell had a distinct odor, this was it. I think Eb Durning had figured that one.

“You want to know something? That thing about having anything for your last meal is bullshit. You gotta order off a menu,” he said.

“That so?”

“I’m havin’ me a plate of meatloaf, two slices of whole wheat bread, and some ketchup packets, because when I would come home from basketball practice my moms would slice me a big piece and make a cold meatloaf sandwich.

“Things was golden then, Mac. Golden.”

“I’ll be seeing you around, Eb.”

“Don’t forget about Lucinda, okay Mac? She got no one and she trusts you.”

His words were fading, as if he was getting sleepy, but he was still sitting erect, staring blankly at the wall.

“She’s my sister and now she got no one.”

“Lucinda will be fine,” I said as I moved toward the exit.

“Vaya con Dios, Mac,” he said quietly.

“Not me, Eb. You need him more.”

 

Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel (Volume One) is available to purchase at:

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Halifax cop Allan Stanton is a troubled homicide detective who has lost everything, including his family and his sense of justice. When he finally decides to leave the force and start over, he’s assigned a string of murders that all bear the signs of a serial killer collecting trophies. As Stanton unravels each grisly crime scene, the mounting evidence points uncomfortably close to him, forcing him to confront a past he’d rather forget–and a dangerous future when the killer targets Stanton himself

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