Five Years After The Accident: Appreciating A Cosmic Kick in the Butt

Five years ago, 8/11/09, I lay on a gurney in the emergency room at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. Pain radiated from head to toe, and the morphine the nurses injected into my IV made me feel as if the room were spinning. I tried to figure out how I’d ended up in the emergency room. I remembered riding my bike, and then ‘waking up’ inside an ambulance. Whatever happened in between those two moments was lost to me. Later, the police would tell me a truck had hit me from behind. Staring up at the white ceiling, worried about the extent of my injuries, I could not fathom the possibility of one day appreciating this accident, but I would. It proved to be a much-needed cosmic kick in the pants.

As for my injuries, I turned out to be quite lucky. A broken leg, a concussion, some stitches, and a bunch of cuts and abrasions. The injuries could’ve been worse. As I recovered, my thoughts focused on that possibility.  If myself or the truck had been a few inches over in one direction or another, the outcome might’ve been much different.

Horrific perhaps.

I could’ve even died.

After the initial shock of the accident wore off, the realization of my good fortune kick-started a self-examination and evaluation of my life. I’d lived through the accident, but how was I going to live? What did I want to do with my life? Where did I want to go? Who did I want to be? What did I want to do?

The answers to those questions would lead to some significant life adjustments.

Writing. I’d been writing on and off for most of my life, and I found myself in one of those off phases. Nothing else I did gave me as much satisfaction as writing. I determined to write. I didn’t concern myself with publication or even having one person read my writing. I wanted to write and keep writing.

Not sure of where to start or what to write about, I started with the accident. I bought two spiral notebooks and started scribbling. I typed those those words in to a Word document, and later I started a blog where I started posting some of my writing. Wanting to improve my writing ability, I worked with a writing coach who provided me with some great advice.

E-books rose in prominence about that time, and Amazon made it possible for writers to self-publish their own books. I thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll give it a try.’ I published the book on my biking accident, The Accident: A Bike, A Truck, and A Train, and not only did it sell better than expected, but people seemed to like it. The year after I published a book about my Dad, One Last Word, and then last year, I published my first mystery novel, Secrets To Keep. I’ve spent the past year working on a second mystery novel. Three books in five years, and I started with the simple goal of writing. If not for the accident, I might’ve lingered in that off-phase, not doing the thing I enjoyed most of all.

I also had a job I didn’t enjoy. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t want to keep doing that same job for the rest of my life. Changing jobs and careers proved a bit more problematic, and took more time, but eventually, with the help of some friends, I landed with the company and the job I have now. I’ve almost been there a year, and I haven’t dreaded going to work once.

Thankfully, I didn’t have a list of ten things I wanted to change. Those two were significant enough and required a great deal of energy. I had little things as well, such as being more attentive to my wife and son, and making better attempts to communicate with my parents and brothers.

If anything, I wanted to be intentional about how I lived, rather than reacting to life as it happened to me.

It’s hard to believe the accident occurred five years ago. I would never want to go through an accident like that again, although it didn’t stop me from riding a bike, but it proved to be the cosmic kick in the butt I needed. Life’s too short.

On this five year anniversary, I will treat myself to lunch, nothing fancy, probably a burrito at Chipotle with a book, but as I eat, I will be thankful, for life, and for a second chance.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

What I’m Reading (July 2014)

After a slowing down in June, I picked up the reading pace in July. I found some new authors and even found a few books by some of my favorites.

Book of the Month: I don’t often highlight a history book as the best book of the month, but Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb tops my list this month. Hunting Eichmann reads like a spy novel. Bascomb summarizes the career of Adolf Eichmann, one of the German leaders responsible for the Holocaust, before getting into the meat of the story- his escape from Europe after the war, his settlement in Argentina, his family rejoining him, and the team of Israeli spies who searched for, eventually captured, and then snuck him out of the country in 1960. Wright Thompson recommended this book on Twitter, describing it as a book he couldn’t put down, and I found that to be the case for me as well.

Fiction books:

Sam Hawken has staked his ground writing noir novels rooted in Texas and Mexico, and of the three I read this month, I enjoyed them all. Even though he writes about crime and violence, his stories move at a slower pace, allowing his characters to develop, and the texture of the surroundings to sink in. If you’re looking to start out, I’d recommend Tequila Sunset, which proved to be my favorite. I also enjoyed The Dead Women of Juarez, and La Frontera.

For fast-paced noir, look no further than the collaborative novels of Jason Starr and Ken Bruen. I will always read a Ken Bruen book, and he’s yet to disappoint. These three works- Bust, Slide, and The MAX- were a pleasure to read. Two characters, Max and Angela, are the thread that run through all three books. In their own way, these are two ordinary people with grand ambitions, looking for the easy way to fulfill those desires, but although their ineptitude helps them most of the time, it ends up getting them in the end. Highly entertaining.

Ben H. Winters released the final book of The Last Policeman Trilogy, entitled World of Troubles. It’s hard to say much about the book without giving away too much of the plot. In short, an asteroid is headed towards Earth, and former Detective Palace is on the search for his missing sister before the world ends.

I also read Easy Money by Jens Lapidus, the first of a trilogy, and A Swollen Red Sun by Matthew McBride, another noir writer of the South.

Non-Fiction

Roland Lazenby has written one of the most well-researched biographies on Michael Jordan, called Michael Jordan: The Life. He reveals a great deal about Jordan’s childhood, and he spends time taking apart many of the myths that have built up around Jordan.

Just when you thought there couldn’t be anymore cycling books, I finished two more this month in conjunction with the Tour de France. Etape by Richard Moore provides a revealing look at various stages of interest of past Tours. After interviewing Moore last year, and hearing him talk about the book, I was excited to get a chance to read the book. I particularly enjoyed the chapters dealing with the lesser known infamous stages. I also read A Clean Break by Christophe Bassons, which is his autobiography of being a professional cyclist during the highly-doped era of the late 1990′s and the constant pressure from other cyclists and team management to take performance enhancing drugs. I’ll spoil the ending, although tempted, he does not give in. Fascinating tale.

******

Other than watching every stage of the Tour de France, I only found time to watch two documentaries: One, Slaying the Badger, dealt with the 1986 Tour de France won by Greg Lemond when he was challenged by his own teammate, Bernard Hinault.

The other was Mistaken For Strangers, a documentary that began as one about the band, The National, and ended up being the documentary of two brothers, one who has achieved fame as the lead singer in the band and the other who is trying to find his way in life. Well worth the 1 hour and 15 minutes.

*******

Writing update: There’s been a dearth of blog posts, and I’m not sure when that’ll change. Between working on draft number four of my book- still don’t have a title- and slow-go editing-, and my day job as a technical writer for a software company, I’m a little worded out. I’ve started a few posts, but haven’t finished anything, and I’m not sure when I’ll get back to them.

As for the book, it’s coming along quite nicely. I’m very pleased with the progress. I only wish I could speed it up.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What I’m Reading (June 2014)

With a week off from work and a trip to Florida, I anticipated getting quite a bit of reading done. What’s the saying, all good plans… or something like that. Not only did I read less than I expected, but I think I read the fewest number of books in month for the entire year. Looking back, my reading lacked a bit of variety as well- crime novels, cycling books, and a self-help book.

Best Book of the Month: Corrosion by Jon Bassoff.  How do I even begin to describe this book? Imagine the talents of Flannery O’Connor, Jim Thompson, and Chuck Palaniuk being dropped into a blender. This would be the book they’d produce. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of the book. Part One struck me as an outstanding story of a drifter down on his luck, who comes into a small town, saves a damsel in distress, who it turns out has double-crossed him. Throw in some creepy characters, a little southern religion, and it was a great read. Part Two introduced an entirely new set of characters who pushed the creepiness factor to new levels. Bassoff does a great job interjecting the hallucinations of the main character so that you have to stop and figure out what’s real and what’s not. The pace picks up towards the end of Part Two and the book becomes a fascinating, engrossing, twisting, dark tale with some of the most unique and fascinating characters I’ve encountered in awhile. I finished it earlier in the month and I’m still thinking about it.

Last month I introduced one of my new favorite authors, Jake Hinkson, and this month I finished a third book of his, Saint Homicide, which is the story of a zealous young man ravaged by shame and faith who determines his holy course of action is to commit a homicide.  A short, but great read. Hinkson also has a short story, “The Theologians,” in the latest issue of All Due Respect, and there’s an interview with him as well.

Other crime novels I read this month, Federales by Christopher Irvin, and Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayres, both of which I enjoyed.

The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program by Steve Peters is one of the more insightful books I’ve read on understanding how the mind operates. In simple terms, according to Peters, we all have a chimp, a human, and a computer in our brains. The chimp is that part of the brain that usually gets a person into trouble by fighting, freezing, or fleeing in stressful situations. Peters provides insights into understanding how the chimp part of the brain works and learning not to change it, but to manage it. Lots of interesting thoughts.

The Tour de France starts on Saturday, which means publishers are releasing any and all cycling books. The Climb by Chris Froome is his as-told to life story. Froome, last year’s winner of the Tour de France, didn’t come up through the normal ranks, and his emergence is a testament to his dedication. As nearly every level, his career almost didn’t happen. Pro Cycling on $10 A Day by Phil Gaimon is the “traditional” story of how an average rider climbs the ranks in pro cycling. It’s not pretty, or glamorous, and far from lucrative. Gaimon has an entertaining, self-depreciating way of writing, and he doesn’t hold back in telling you what he thinks. In contrast is The Loyal Lieutenant by George Hincapie, the telling of his life as a professional cyclist, who is most known for riding with Lance Armstrong. While the book covers his lengthy professional career, he tends to gloss over the details, and he doesn’t give much analysis about why he did what he did. He took performance enhancing drugs, then he stopped. That’s about as deep as it gets.

****

On the TV front, Rectify is back for season two on Sundance. I caught the first episode and the season looks promising. That’s about all I’ve watched. With the Tour starting on Saturday, I doubt I’ll watch much else this month.

***

The reason for the lack of reading- I finally finished the third draft of my next novel. Sometimes, you get in a groove and figure out the story and you just want to keep at it. I may post something about the third draft process here in the next week or two. We’ll see.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Must Listen Podcast List

In 2007, I listened to my first podcast while commuting to work, and I haven’t gone back to radio since. Podcasts have introduced me to people and books and ideas I never would have discovered otherwise. But more than being another thought provoking medium, a good podcast is flat-out entertaining.

You can find podcasts on almost any topic. For those on my must listen list, I’ve stumbled upon them in a variety of ways. Sometimes, I’ll search through iTunes, other times I’ll hear about one on Twitter or in a blog post, or after reading an author’s book I’ll search to see if they’ve been interviewed on a podcast. As with my reading habits, my must listen podcast list is wide and varied.

1. The BS Report with Bill Simmons – Bill Simmons got me hooked on podcasts. Long a fan of his column on ESPN, when he started a podcast, I decided to give it a try as well. I loved it from the very beginning. His interviews range from the famous to his friends, and from sports to entertainment and beyond. My favorite interviews have been Malcolm Gladwell, Chuck Klostermann, and Alan Sepinwall.

2. The Cycling Podcast – For people interested in professional cycling, this is THE podcast to get. Available weekly, except during the Tour de France when they record every day, Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie, and Daniel Friebe offer their insights on the sport of professional cycling. In addition to disagreeing with one another, they also interview cyclists, directors, and owners in the sport. All three are established writers on cycling, and last year I had the opportunity to interview Richard Moore on writing, and we spoke a bit about podcasting. (Here’s the link.)

3. The Nerdist Writer’s Panel- Ben Blacker, the host, interviews TV writers and showrunners about writing for television. Not only does he delve into how they got started in the business, he asks about their respective shows, decisions they made about characters, story, plot development, and more. Although my focus is writing novels, I’ve learned a great deal about writing from this podcast. Some of my favorites have been with Vince Gilligan, Damon Lindelof, Jane Campion, and most recently, Noah Hawley.

4. The Moment With Brian Koppelman- Koppelman, a movie writer and producer, is a newcomer to podcasting, and new to my list. His podcast focuses on the moment, or moments, when a person’s life has changed direction. Koppelman is already expert at pushing and prodding the guest to go beyond the surface answers. His interviews with Baron Davis, Michael McDermott, and Jenny Hutt, although you might not have heard of one or all of them, are outstanding. Each time I listen to another person discuss the inflection points in their lives, it gets me thinking about my own. (Note: Koppelman was recently interviewed by Tim Ferriss on his podcast, and that hour long interview is worth a listen as well.)

5. mysterypod- I discovered this podcast by Steve Usery when I was searching for interviews of a writer whose book I’d recently read. When I stumbled on this treasure trove, I must’ve downloaded ten or twelve from the archive. It’s fascinating to hear mystery writers talk about their books and their process. From this podcast, I’ve found a whole new set of writers to read, such as Jed Ayres, Jake Hinkson, and Jon Bassoff, as if I didn’t already have enough.

6. WTF with Marc Maron - Let’s just say you never know where Marc Maron is going to go on an interview. He might interview a comedian, or an actor, or musician, and the interview will not go as you expect.

7. The Andy Greenwald Podcast - Andy Greenwald writes about TV for Grantland, and he interviews actors, show runners, and TV executives. Recent favorites include Noah Emerich, Antony Bourdain, and Noah Fawley.

I download other podcasts, but depending on the guest, I may not listen to the episode. These are the mainstays on my must listen podcast list.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What I’m Reading (May 2014)

Early in May, I finished a book I felt certain would be the best book I read this month, All The Wild Children by Josh Stallings. I didn’t think anything would come close, but later in the month, while driving to work and listening to a podcast, mysterypod, Steve Usery interviewed Jedadiah Ayers. Before they talked about his books, they mentioned an author I’d never heard of, Jake Hinkson, and his book, Hell on Church Street. Between that book and Stallings, I can’t decide which one I liked more, as if it really matters.  What I have found are two writers who are definite must reads going forward- Josh Stallings and Jake Hinkson.

Books of the month: My first introduction to Josh Stallings came in the form of his first novel, Beautiful, Naked, and Dead, which is rather good. Moses McGuire is quite the protagonist. While checking out his website, I noticed Stallings had written a memoir entitled, All The Wild Children. Ken Bruen called it ‘stunning.’ Ken Bruen!! Let me digress here: Bruen is my number one favorite writer, and I’ll read anything he writes. It was Bruen’s book that gave me a glimpse of what crime and noire writing could be. He sets the bar that I aim for in my own writing. If he said this book was stunning, then I had to give it a try.

Stunning was an understatement.

After reading All The Wild Children I can no longer say my childhood was crazy. Comparing mine and his, well, my upbringing looks like an afternoon floating around in the kiddie pool. And I hadn’t even gotten to his adult years yet. The last third of book floored me. Outstanding.

In addition to All The Wild Children, I read all three of his novels, Beautiful, Naked, and Dead, Out There Bad, and One More Body. They are violent, bloody, and wildly entertaining. Can’t wait for the next one.

Like I said, I didn’t expect anything to top Josh Stalling this month, but then I heard about Hell on Church Street. I read this book in one sitting. Hinkson is Southern noir at its best. I don’t think I’ve come across a writer so able to accurately describe the religion of the south. In the book, a young man takes a job as a youth minister, not for his love of God and religion, but because church people have to love you and the job is pretty easy. Things go downhill quickly at this Southern Baptist church when he becomes involved with the pastor’s teenage daughter. Oh, and he narrates the story while being held up by a robber. Fantastic book.

I enjoyed Hell on Church Street so much, I also read The Posthumous Man which was a gripping, suspenseful book. I’ve started Saint Homicide.

I did read some other books this month, and some of them weren’t mystery or noir. The Son by Jo Nesbo (Another excellent thriller. This one is a stand-alone book, instead of another in the Harry Hole series), Running Away by Robert Andrew Powell (a memoir about the writer’s attempt to turn his life around by qualifying for the Boston Marathon as his Dad had at the same age), Walking Home from Mongolia by Rob Lilwall (a travel journey where two men walk across China), The Noble Hustle by Colson Whitehead (the writer takes part in the World Series of Poker), My Bright Abyss by Christian Wyman (the author ponders God, life, and meaning while dealing with cancer), and Reckless: The Life and Times of Luis Ocana by William Fotheringham (you knew there had to be a cycling book- this is a biography of a rider from the late sixties and early seventies, known for his explosive temperament).

****

As for my follow-up novel to Secrets To Keep, the book is coming along well. I’ve made some serious progress in the last few weeks on the third draft. I’ve been in one of those phases where everything seems to be clicking with the story. Let’s hope it continues. I don’t have a title yet, and even if I did, I’d probably change it before it before completion.

Thank you to everyone who reads my books and shares them with others. Each of them continue to sell every month, not in large numbers, but they sell, and that is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What I’m Reading (April 2014)

This month, I read some good books, but not any that I would qualify as great, even though one of my favorites, Ken Bruen, released a new book.

Book of the Month: The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer. I’ve been a reader of Steinhauer since his first Cold War mysteries, and he’s now moved onto to modern-day spy thrillers. The Cairo Affair is an excellent spy novel which begins with the murder of a US ambassador and is full of complex, complicated characters. I also finished On the Lisbon Disaster which a short-story precursor to The Cairo Affair.

Merrick by Ken Bruen is another lyrical, violent crime novel from one of the best. Having said that, the e-book version I downloaded from amazon has to be one of the worst copy-edited versions of a book I’ve ever come across. Absolutely horrendous. I’ve come to expect some errors, but this was beyond acceptable.

Life is a Wheel by Bruce Weber is the story of one man and his bike ride across the United States. The bike-riding provides the means for Weber to reflect and ruminate on his life. I really enjoyed this one, and not for the bike-riding aspect of the story.

The Journalist and The Murderer by Janet Malcolm examines the lawsuit filed by Jeffrey MacDonald, the man convicted of killing his wife and children, against Joe McGinnis, the author of the book Fatal Vision. They settled the suit out of court with MacDonald receiving a payment. MacDonald allowed McGinnis insider access to his defense, and they later corresponded after MacDonald had been jailed. All along, McGinnis leads MacDonald to believe he was innocent, which he did not. Fatal Vision paints a picture of a brutal, evil human being.

Some other books I read this month:  Homesick Texan Cookbook and The The Homesick Texan’s Family Table Cookbook by Lisa Fain, Show Your Work by Austin Kleon (about art and creativity), Good as Gold by Katherine Bertine (one woman’s attempt to find a sport where she could enter the Olympics) , The Monuments by Peter Cossins (a book on the Spring Classics of professional cycling), and The $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to the Oscars, An Insider’s Look at the Changing Hollywood System by Anne Thompson.

****

On Netflix, Rectify is well-worth the watch. It’s been described by some as southern noir and others as Flannery O’Connor’esque, which I think might be a bit of a stretch. Still, the first season was quite good.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And Then The Second Draft Stunk

The first draft of a book is always- always- a piece of garbage. Most writers, if they’re honest, will admit to this. The second draft, in theory, improves upon the first. I wish that had been so for my latest book project.

The emotional ups and downs of writing a book looks a little like this:

Idea & Inspiration = Fantastic idea. This is genius!
First draft = This book is *&^$%! What happened to the fantastic idea?
Second draft= I think I found that fantastic idea hidden inside this mess.

In a previous post, I lamented the pathetic state of the first draft of my latest book. I’d become so frustrated with the story that I put it aside, unable to figure out what to do with it. Then, over Christmas, in a span of a few minutes while warming up a tamale in the microwave (go figure), idea after idea sprang loose and I had an idea for how to fix the book.

Onto the second draft.

Thirty minutes here and an hour there, day after day, working a page or two at a time, I punched away at the second draft. As I stumbled towards completing the second draft, I realized there was a major problem with my book. I’d left an entire strand of the story dangling and unfinished. Despite my preferences for tightly constructed stories, I realize it’s not the end of the world to leave some questions unanswered. But this particular strand started the book, it was the very first scene, and it set the rest of the story in motion. It seemed kind of important to resolve it.

As if that were the only problem with the second draft.

Not only had I left a strand of the story dangling, but that portion of the story felt forced as well, as if it were nothing more than a tool to move the overall story from point A to point B. To make matters worse, this dangling strand of the story involved a central character I didn’t care for. He wasn’t an evil, unlikable character, but his scenes were flat and lifeless. Uninteresting. I dreaded having to write about him. I ended up killing him off halfway through the book. Ironically, once he died, he became far more interesting in the book.

Hmm.

I needed to fix a part of the book that didn’t work, to change a strand of the story so that it tied into the rest of the book, and I had a character who was more interesting dead than alive.

New idea.

I can fix all three problems in one fell swoop.

Draft three.

That boring character, he’s getting killed on page one.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What I’m Reading (March 2014)

Book of the month: In the Morning I’ll Be Gone (Book Three: The Troubles Trilogy) by Adrian McKinty. McKinty has developed a solid reputation as a writer of crime novels and his finale of the Troubles Trilogy, In the Morning I’ll Be Gone, was a solid and entertaining completion to the trilogy. Hopefully, he’ll continue with more stories about the main character, Sean Duffy. Although the setting for the novel is Ireland in the early 1980′s and the clashes between IRA and England and the Protestants and Catholics, the story centers on a locked room mystery. How did a young woman die when the doors of the room were locked from the inside and she was found alone? The police initially ruled it a suicide, but the mother promises to help Duffy find a wanted man if he can solve what she believes was the murder of her daughter. A fascinating, page-turner.

As a fan of the TV series, Justified, I finally got around to reading some of the Elmore Leonard novels that revolve around the lead character, Raylan Givens. Pronto and Riding The Rap are fast-paced, entertaining stories with oddball characters.

As a cycling fan, I also read Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong by Juliet Macur. In addition to containing information that has been written before, Macur rounds out her book by telling the story of the cyclists on Armstrong’s team, particularly riders such as Dave Zabriskie and Jonathan Vaughters. Those aspects of the book were interesting to read, but it still feels as if the entire story has only been hinted at. No one seems to have been willing to go on the record and say how the machine was put in place and who paid the bills. Many people have an opinion, but nothing has been stated definitively. Having said that, expect more books on Armstrong and on those who rode with him.

Having grown up in the 1980′s watching a lot of NBA basketball, I was interested to read Showtime by Jeff Pearlman, which is about the Los Angeles and the creation of the team which came to be known as Showtime. Great read. It was sort of like a trip down memory lane, reminding of things I’d seen and also peeling back the curtains to see the how’s and why’s of certain decisions.

Some other books I read this month: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (a ruthless book about managing a company, particularly a software company), Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies by Dave Itzko (about the making of the movie, Network), Young Money by Kevin Roose (a revealing story about college graduates working on Wall Street), and The Disappeared by Kristina Ohlsson (an intriguing mystery series).

***

Occasionally, I’ll mention a show or two I’m watching as well. Well, the best show I’ve seen in awhile is The Returned, which is on Netflix. Incredible, riveting story. It’s a show where you want to keep watching episode after episode. The only catch is that the show was filmed in French and you have to read the subtitles. Normally, that’s a turnoff for me, but I heard rave reviews about the show and decided to give the first episode a try. I was hooked. It’s available on Netflix.

I’m also catching up on Orphan Black. As of this writing, I’m halfway through season one, and the story seems to be holding up as well.

Of course, there’s Justified and The Americans, two tremendous shows on FX.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chapter 10 of Secrets To Keep

StK_bookcover_mkTEN

“Maybe we can help? What are you doing? Jim Horner hired me to find this woman’s son because he wants justice. What am I going to do when I find her son?”

“She needs help. She’s his mother.”

“But I’m not the one to help her.”

“Do you think the police are going to help? They’ll take a report, pat her on the back, and stick it in the file as soon as she leaves.”

“That’s not my problem.”

“Keep your voice down,” Jenny said.

“Be honest, you don’t care about her anymore than anyone else. You’re in this for the story.”

“Did you whine this much as a detective?”

“And you don’t work for a newspaper anymore. You work for a website.”

Jenny rolled her eyes and kept searching Terry’s room. Terry’s Mom was in another room looking for any information that might help them.

She’d been ecstatic when Jenny offered Linus’ help. She’d begun to cry again, “tears of joy” she said. Jenny had told the mother Linus was a private detective, one her newspaper had hired to help her with a story about teenagers who’d grown up in Arlington. The story sounded ludicrous to Linus but Terry’s Mom had bought it.

“There’s no need to pay him as my paper is covering his costs,” Jenny told her.

What was he going to do when he found Terry? Horner wanted Terry dealt with and even though he hadn’t specified what he wanted done, Linus had a pretty good idea. Now the mother wanted his help locating the son Horner had hired him to find. What had he gotten involved with?

Terry’s Mom poked her head into the room. “Thank you for your help. I can’t believe a private investigator would show up at my front door the very moment I needed one. You must be my angel.”

“We haven’t done anything yet,” Linus said.

“You will. I know it.”

He smiled at her unsure of what to say.

“By the way, have you come across his black backpack?” she asked, “It might help. He acted like his whole life was in that thing.”

***

The line for pictures was winding down. Jefferson hoped they’d be able to leave as soon as the last picture was taken, but sometimes the event’s organizers wanted to talk with Tabitha as well.

Tabitha’s success had made Jefferson realize he’d allowed himself to become comfortable. He’d stopped looking for professional challenges. He’d edited her books and helped her write her speeches. Without his help, she wouldn’t be where she was. Jefferson had something to offer, a way to leave his mark on the world. After a few days of thinking through the possibilities, he presented a number of new ideas and initiatives to the church board in Tampa.

“We like things just the way they are. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

“But-”

“Things are going well. There’s no need for any changes.”

He’d shared the ideas with his staff and they’d expressed excitement about the possibilities. Jefferson pushed his agenda at the next board meeting but was again rejected. He’d then pitched his ideas with the chairman of the board over lunch.

“Jefferson, let me be clear about this. The answer is no. Furthermore, the matter ends here. Stop trying to create a controversy. In case you’ve forgotten, we pay your salary.”

A month later, Gil called. “I have a proposal for you. I’ve been looking for the right Executive Director for my family foundation. Penny and I were discussing it and we came up with your name. We think you’d be perfect for the job. I know it’s a departure from what you’re doing now, but I think you’d be able to do a lot of good. What do you think?”

“I’m listening.”

“We want our Foundation to help women and children in third world countries. Because of my good fortune, I’ve been able to fund The Foundation appropriately. Money will not be an issue. As the Executive Director, you’ll have complete freedom to do what you think is best.”

And when Gil mentioned the salary, a significant increase over what he was making at the church, the answer was clear. “I’ll do it.”

***

In addition to Terry’s room, with the Mom’s permission, Linus searched the entire house. He thought he might find something in the attic or in the backyard shed, but there was nothing. Jenny scoured Terry’s computer. She learned he was into weightlifting, girls, and music, but any information as to his whereabouts or his dealing of steroids wasn’t on the computer.

Linus gave Terry’s Mom his card and told her he’d be in touch. “Call me if you think of anything or if Terry happens to contact you.”

“I will.”

Linus wiped the dirt and dust balls from his clothes as they walked across the street. The dust balls fell to the ground, but the dirt smeared across his pants.

“I can’t believe she bought your explanation. A story about recent high school graduates in Arlington. Come on.”

“People believe what they want to believe. She wants to believe in her son and that other people do as well.”

“I guess.”

“I know more than you think,” she said.

He stopped in the middle of the street. “What? What did you find about Terry? What didn’t you tell me?”

“Not about Terry. About you. I know what was said and I know what your bosses have told people, but the people you worked with tell a different story. They can’t believe the Linus Walker they knew went into an interrogation room, beat a confession out of a suspect, and then erased the videotape evidence of that beating.”

“Everybody has their own version of the story.”

“But only two people know what happened in the interrogation room and the other person isn’t talking either. If you didn’t do it, why not say so?”

“There’s nothing to say.”

“Some day you’re gonna want to talk about it.”

“The truth is irrelevant. Like you said, people believe what they want to believe. Everybody creates their own version of reality. Terry’s Mom wants to believe her son is an angel. She doesn’t want to know what he’s involved in or who he really is. As long as he comes home every day, everything is fine with her. If you want to believe something else happened in the interrogation room, then go ahead, but leave me out of it.”

“I don’t understand why’d you let them get away with it. They ruined your life. But if you want me to drop it, to quit pestering you, then stay the word, and I’ll stop.”

Linus turned and looked at her. “No you won’t.”

She shrugged her shoulders and smiled. “It was worth a try.”

They resumed walking back to their cars. “So how do you plan to find Terry?”

Linus turned and looked back at the house. “I have no idea. He’s vanished into thin air and I’m all out of magic pixie dust.”

***

Colin drove the speed limit with both hands on the steering wheel. He stayed off the highways and on the side streets, obeying every traffic law along the way. He passed the Arlington city limits sign and continued driving until he arrived at Camelot, an unfinished subdivision south of Arlington. The streets had been paved, the utility lines run, the water pipes installed, and a half a dozen homes had been built. Each home, at least four thousand square feet in size in accordance with the deed restrictions, was built on one acre of land. Only six houses had been built and the Paris Bank had posted “For Sale” signs in front of each of them. When the real estate market cratered, the developer filed bankruptcy, and the Paris Bank had been stuck with these paved streets and empty homes in Camelot.

Colin parked the Kia in the driveway of the house furthest from the subdivision’s entrance. A bulldozer was parked behind the house, as it had been the last time Colin had been here. One of Colin’s clients, a real estate agent, had insisted on meeting in Camelot.

“Nobody ever comes out here. I’ll bet nobody from the bank has even been here,” the real estate agent laughed, “With all the houses for sale in the area, it’ll be a long time before anybody starts developing this place again.”

He put work gloves on top of the rubber gloves and opened the trunk. Colin grabbed the gas can and filled the bulldozer’s tank. He hotwired the bulldozer, the engine sputtered to life, and he steered it to the middle of the backyard, where he dug an eight-foot deep hole.

Colin left the bulldozer next to the hole and went back to the car. He carried Terry and his backpack and placed them in the hole. He stared at the sheets wrapped in plastic trying to think of something to say, but the words wouldn’t come. He still couldn’t believe Terry was lying there wrapped up and covered in bed sheets and plastic.

After a few minutes, he climbed back into the bulldozer and filled the hole with dirt. When he finished, Colin returned the bulldozer where he’d found it. He drove back to Arlington and stopped at a shopping center, where he put the work gloves and rubber gloves in a trash bag and tossed them in a dumpster. Colin left the Kia in the parking lot and walked home.

He tried not to think about Terry, about the last image of Terry that was stuck in his mind, of the blood pooled on the pillow, the color drained from his skin. As much as he tried to replace the image with another, thinking of better times when they were hanging out, laughing and smiling, he couldn’t get rid of the picture of death in his mind.

The only thing that helped was when Colin focused on how he was going to avenge Terry’s death.

***

I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt of my book. To read the rest of the book, you can purchase the e-book for $2.99 (or the paperback for $11.95) at the following:

Amazon
iBooks
B&N Nook
Smashwords

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chapters 8-9 of Secrets To Keep

StK_bookcover_mkEIGHT

Linus sipped water from a bottle as he sat in his car, a gray Nissan Maxima, in a Burger King parking lot. Even though the GPS monitor on the passenger seat would beep when Roger’s car began to move, he periodically looked at it to make sure there hadn’t been any movement. While he’d been running the night before, trying to figure out a better way to get to Terry without causing harm to Roger, he’d come up with the idea of following Roger. If he pressured Roger, there was always the chance he would tip off Terry and Linus would never get to him. At some point, Roger was going to need a new supply from Terry. All Linus had to do was watch and wait. During the night, he’d attached a GPS tracking device to Roger’s car.

Linus picked up his phone and called Jenny. “Tell me you have some good news,” he said before she could say anything.

“Not today. My source claims to know nothing about a steroids dealer named Terry.”

“Are you sure your source would tell you?”

“He’s never led me astray before.”

“He say anything about possible suspects dealing steroids to high school students?”

“Nothing there either.”

“So Terry is either a low level dealer or really good at keeping himself off the radar.”

“It would help to have a last name. Terry might be a nickname.”

“It’s all I’ve got at the moment.”

“What’s your next step?” she asked.

“Watch and wait.”

“Sounds exciting. Since you’ve got some free time, why don’t we talk?”

“About?”

“I don’t know. Maybe that other case.”

“What other case?” He knew what case she wanted to discuss, because she kept bringing it up, the one that led him to leaving the police department. He wasn’t sure if she referred him clients because she liked him or if she thought he might reciprocate by telling her what had happened.

“Stop playing hard to get. Tell me the story and set the record straight.”

“Everything that needs to be said has been said.”

“Except your version.”

“What if their version is my version?”

“And what if I don’t believe you?”

“Then I guess you don’t believe me. It’s a free country after all.”

***

The elevator doors opened and Jefferson walked across the marble floor to the receptionist’s desk. “Good morning, Libby,” he said.

“Hello, Mr. Beale. Mr. Bonner asked for you to wait for him in the conference room. He’ll be with you as soon as he finishes with his conference call.”

“Thank you,” he said as he continued past her desk to the conference room. Jefferson knew the way. Whenever Gil wanted to meet, he told Jefferson to come to his office rather than Gil coming to The Foundation. And when Jefferson arrived, Gil always made him wait in the conference room.

“I’m almost forgot,” Libby said, “Can I get you something to drink?”

“I’m fine. Thank you.”

Jefferson set his briefcase on the mahogany wood conference table and stood next to the windows overlooking downtown Fort Worth. Gil’s company, Bonner Ventures, a real estate development and management firm, owned this building and a couple more in downtown, although Jefferson could never remember which ones. While Bonner Ventures was situated in one of the nicer buildings in downtown Fort Worth, Gil had chosen to house his Foundation in a two-story building in south Arlington. Although Gil never said so, Jefferson suspected he hadn’t been able to find a buyer for the building and the land so he’d donated it to The Foundation as a tax write-off.

The conference room door opened and Jefferson turned around.

“Mr. Bonner asked me to tell you it’ll be a few more minutes. He had to take another call.”

Jefferson nodded his head. Mr. Bonner always had to take another call.

***

Linus listened to music on his phone, We Are All Where We Belong by Quiet Company, while he flipped through the pages of the magazines he’d brought along, Running, Runner’s World, and Endurance Running. Throughout the day, he moved from the parking lot of one fast food restaurant to another.

He read a race report about a one hundred mile run in the mountains of Colorado. Even though the pictures of the trails looked alluring, the participants claimed the race had been one of the toughest of the year. All of them blamed the altitude. How could running at altitude be that much harder than a hundred degree day in Texas? Pain was pain, wasn’t it? Maybe after the Horner case, he’d pack up and take an extended vacation to run in the Colorado mountains. Just to see what it was like. Maybe he’d even sign up for one of those races.

The GPS tracker beeped and Linus glanced at the screen. The moving blip on the screen was headed towards him. Linus looked up and saw Roger’s dented red Hyundai exit the neighborhood. He turned off the music and followed Roger, staying three cars behind.

Roger drove north, past the mall and a movie theater. As they neared the University, the number of cars between them dropped to one. Linus drifted further back. With the GPS tracker, he didn’t need to stay so close. The traffic light ahead turned red. Linus grabbed a baseball cap from the passenger seat and put it on. When the light turned green, Roger continued straight for a few blocks before turning left on Keller Road. Half a block later he turned left into a shopping center parking lot. Linus turned right and parked in a lot across the street. Roger got out of his car and went into Bell’s Burgers.

They’d passed ten other burger places on the way, so why stop here? Linus had never been here himself, but from what he’d heard, the burgers were average at best and the restaurant’s popularity was due more to cost than quality. The nearby college students loved an inexpensive burger. The windows of Bell’s were tinted, which prevented Linus from seeing what Roger was doing or if he was meeting anyone.

Five minutes later, Roger exited the restaurant accompanied by a young man who looked just as fit and muscular as Roger, although five or six inches shorter. The other guy had olive skin, closely cropped black hair, and wore a tight-fitting t-shirt. They got into a blue Honda Accord with Roger sitting on the passenger side. Linus grabbed his binoculars. Roger handed the guy an envelope and the guy handed Roger a plastic bag. The two of them sat in the car and talked for a few more minutes.

Linus smiled. If it looks like a drug deal and it smells like a drug deal…

Was it really going to be this easy to find Terry? When the two exited the car Linus tried taking a picture of the dealer but he couldn’t get a clear shot of his face. The dealer went back inside Bell’s while Roger got back in his car.

Linus called Jenny. “I need you to run the license plate on a car.”

***

“The numbers look good,” Gil said. After keeping Jefferson waiting for twenty minutes, taking phone calls and attending to other business, Gil had entered the conference room. Before The Foundation’s Executive Board convened for its quarterly meeting, Jefferson and Gil met to review the agenda as well as the financial reports. Gil pushed the financial reports aside and picked up one of the brochures. “Are we sure about these?”

How many times had they been over this? The decision had been made, the materials ordered, printed, and delivered, yet Gil still wanted to reconsider.

“Yes,” Jefferson answered, “In a market competitive for people’s donations, we need to present our brand as clearly as possible. People need to know who we are and what we do. They need to believe their dollars are going to make a difference.”

Gil tossed the first brochure aside and picked up the second. “I expect you’ll monitor the effectiveness of these brochures. I’ll want to see if the expense of these brochures has any impact on our income. We can’t afford to be wasting money. In case you haven’t heard, we’re in the midst of a real estate market crash.”

Jefferson nodded his head. Money was always tight, except when Gil wanted to buy another car or take a vacation or invest in a deal. When Gil wanted something, he managed to find the money. If somebody else wanted money from Gil, the market was tight, the deals weren’t there, and he was cash poor.

The Foundation existed primarily for Gil. His business partners had started their own Foundations, so Gil had done so as well. Also, he’d made a ton of money off the Barnett Shale, windmills, flipping a few properties, and leasing other properties for cellphone towers, so he’d needed a tax write-off. He’d learned he could start a Foundation, make the contributions, get the tax benefit, and still maintain control of his money. As long as The Foundation didn’t cause Gil any problems, meaning it didn’t require constant capital infusions, and as long as it allowed Gil to be seen as a philanthropist, all would be well.

“I don’t like the idea of these trips,” Gil said.

“The trips are our way of demonstrating our involvement in the problem we’re seeking to alleviate. Philanthropy is more than writing a check. These trips are key to establishing our brand. Yes, we’ll make a little money on the trips, but the people who go will come back emotionally invested in our mission. Once they’re emotionally invested, they’re more likely to be financially invested and tell their friends.”

“It’s too much of a risk. Negative publicity. The last thing we need is some teenage girl going on a trip and getting sick and dying or getting caught in the middle of a civil war in one of these third world countries.”

Jefferson wondered where Gil got his ideas or if he spouted the first thing that came to mind when he didn’t like an idea.

“I believe these trips are vital to our future.”

“Jefferson, we’ve known each other since college. One of the reasons I hired you as the Executive Director is because of our friendship. But this Foundation has my name on it and my money makes it run. I’m not going to have my name dragged through the mud when some tragedy occurs. We’ll make a difference, but we’ll do it my way. No trips.”

***

Colin pushed a shopping cart through the aisles of Home Depot. He was doing his best to blend in with the other contractors, wearing faded and torn blue jeans, a plain dark t-shirt, a baseball cap, and scuffed Doc Marten boots. He filled the cart with plastic sheets, duct tape, work gloves, cleaning solvents, and some rags. When he got to the check out line, he grabbed a couple of energy drinks as well.

After pulling the sheets back over Terry, Colin had turned the air conditioner down low and sat on the couch with the TV on. He’d stared at the screen, not paying attention to what was on, more wanting the noise to fill the silence of the house.

Sometime after midnight, he got up from the couch and returned to the bedroom. He opened the door to the room and stared at the mass under the sheets.

He and Terry had met when they were ten years old and playing football at the YMCA. They’d discovered a mutual interest in BMX bikes and video games so they’d started hanging out together. They later attended the same junior high and high school. Colin was the first person Terry called when his Dad left his Mom and Terry was the first person Colin called when his Aunt passed away. When she died, she’d left Colin the house. Colin needed a way to make ends meet and he found that way by dealing steroids at the gym where he lifted weights. When the business had increased beyond a one-man job, he’d hired Terry.

Colin sat on the floor with his back against the wall and his eyes fixed on the bed. He couldn’t believe Terry was dead. It didn’t seem real. Colin stayed there until the morning sun peeked through the blinds. He got up, took one last look at the bed, and shut the bedroom door behind him.

The past was the past and the future was the future. The two people closest to him were gone and there was nothing he could do to change it.

But he could make amends.

***

“I’ve got a name,” Jenny said.

Linus waited for her to divulge the information, but there was nothing but silence on Jenny’s end. “And?”

“What have you got for me?” she asked.

“I’ve given you everything I’ve got which is the license plate. Of course, if you’re interested in knowing about the comings and goings of Moms and their kids at Burger King, I can talk all day. That might be a fascinating article. Maybe even a book. Based on my investigation, it appears that the average visit to Burger King is approximately thirty-five minutes. However, if a mother is meeting another mother, the visit tends to last an hour and ten minutes. I think this says something about our society.”

“You know what I’m talking about it.”

“My word is good. I’ll tell you what I know when I know something. Can I have the name?”

“The car is registered to Max Rollins.”

“I take it you’ve already done a background check on Max Rollins. Does he happen to use ‘Terry’ as an alias?”

“Nada,” she answered.

“Does he have a record?”

“Only traffic violations, parking and speeding.”

“How about an address?”

She gave him Max’s address, which was near the University and Bell’s Burgers.

Who was Max Rollins? Was the person he’d seen with Roger even Max? Could Terry have borrowed Max’s car? Was Terry Max or Max Terry? Was Max a new dealer or a different dealer? He was operating under the assumption Roger was buying steroids. Maybe he’d been buying some other drugs.

“I need another favor.”

***

“Thanks for the ride,” Colin said.

“No problem. Whatever you need. Where to?” Max asked.

“Drop me off at the mall.”

“You sure? I thought you’d want me to take you home or to an auto parts store.”

“I’ll mess with fixing my truck later. I’ve got to make a delivery. Business first.” His truck hadn’t broken down. He’d needed to get to the mall without his truck and he didn’t want to inform Max about his plans.

“Absolutely,” Max answered, exiting the Starbucks parking lot. “Do you need me to take you home after that?”

“No, I’ve got that covered. I’m meeting up with a girl after the client.”

“I see, I’m just your taxi service.”

“It’s not like that. Precautions. I can’t have her see me make a delivery to the client. She’ll start asking questions.”

Max nodded his head. “You’re right. Always be careful. Speaking of being careful, have you heard from Terry? He’s not returning any of my calls or texts.”

“Not a word,” Colin said.

“This isn’t like him. I’m worried something’s happened.”

“That kid’s suicide hit him pretty hard. He probably needs some time and space to deal with it. He’ll be fine.”

“I don’t know. It seems like he’d tell one of us.”

“I’ve know Terry a long time. I’d know if something were wrong. Besides, what are we going to do? Go to the police? Our friend who sold steroids to that rich kid who killed himself has gone missing? That’ll be the end of us.”

“I know.”

“Trust me, he’ll turn up when he’s ready,” Colin said.

“Have you given any thought to my other idea?”

“Which one?”

“About expanding our product selection?”

“We’re not doing it.”

“I have people asking me all the time for other stuff, E and Oxy? We could make a lot of money.”

“I don’t want any part of those drugs. They screw people up.”

“I’m only passing along my what I hear from my clients.”

“They can get their junk somewhere else. Besides, most of the time the cops don’t care about steroids, but E and Oxy, they’re all over that stuff. Too much heat.”

“I hear you.”

“Turn in here and drop me off at that entrance,” Colin said.

Max stopped the car where Colin had pointed, the mall’s south entrance. Colin got out of the car and looked back at Max. “Everything’s gonna be alright. Trust me.”

 

NINE

“Are we going to sit here all day or are we going to knock on the door?” Jenny asked.

Linus ignored her question, never taking his eyes away from the front door at 102 Belfry Drive. When Jenny had opened the passenger door and gotten in his car, Linus hadn’t even turned his head to look at her. She wasn’t even sure if he’d seen her park her car behind his.

With Max’s name, Jenny had sent a Facebook friend request to Max using one of her fake accounts. According to her profile, her name was Lynn and she attended Tarrant County Community College. To complete the profile, she’d used the photograph of a blond college-aged girl. The friend request was accepted within minutes. Jenny had trolled Max’s friend’s list looking for every Terry she could find. There were two. The first she eliminated because he was stationed in Afghanistan. The second belonged to Terry Larson. As she scanned Max’s Facebook wall, she saw Max and Terry Larson were active on one another’s walls, posting comments and pictures. She downloaded a photo of Terry Larson from Max’s wall and sent it to Linus. He showed the photo to Roger, who confirmed Terry Larson as being the same Terry who’d sold Taylor steroids. With a last name, Jenny located an address for Terry, 102 Belfry Drive, where he supposedly lived with his mother.

“How long have you been watching the house?” she asked.

“About an hour,” he said.

“Seen anything?”

“Only the Mom come home.”

Terry’s Mom had arrived home an hour earlier and parked her burgundy van in the driveway. As soon as she’d entered the house, she opened the blinds and windows and turned on the lights. He’d watched her move from room to room, yet he never saw any sign of Terry or anyone else in the house.

“So what do we do next?”

Linus turned and looked at Jenny. “Follow me and don’t say a word.”

“What’s the plan?” Jenny asked as they got out of the car and walked across the street.

“Just let me do the talking.”

Linus knocked on the front door. The mother opened the door a slight crack, enough for her eyes to meet Linus’.

“Yes?” she said.

“Is Terry home?” Linus asked.

She leaned her head against the doorframe and began to cry.

***

Jefferson adjourned the meeting of The Foundation’s Executive Board. The meeting proceeded as Gil had wanted, a review of the finances, an update on the operations, and a presentation of the one marketing piece. The other brochure, the one promoting humanitarian trips, remained in a box in the corner of Jefferson’s office. The board meeting, like the others, passed with no questions. As soon as the meeting ended, Gil and the other board members departed so they wouldn’t get stuck in rush hour traffic.

“Off to another meeting myself, so I’ll see you tomorrow,” Jefferson said to Liz. He had no other meetings scheduled, but he didn’t have anything else to do at the office. He couldn’t stand the idea of sitting at his desk and staring at the walls.

Jefferson stopped at a convenience store and bought a cup of coffee and a newspaper. He put the coffee cup on the dashboard and turned to the local news section. There’d yet to be any mention of the accident in the news, which didn’t make any sense to him. There should have been something about it by now. Even if he’d struck a homeless man it ought to have been a newsworthy item. If the person had been homeless, maybe the police had chalked up his injuries to something other than vehicular manslaughter. Or perhaps the person hadn’t been hurt so bad after all, just a few bruises and scratches. Or he could’ve hit an illegal alien on his way to work. If an illegal reported the accident, he risked being deported back to Mexico.

Jefferson tossed the paper into the dumpster before he drove off. He’d resisted the urge to google for any mention of the accident on his computer at home or work. The less there was to link him to the accident the better.

His cellphone rang and Tabitha’s name showed on the caller id. “I’m on my way home as we speak,” he answered.

“I was afraid you’d forgotten about our dinner date.”

“Impossible.”

“Since you’re out, would you mind picking up my dry cleaning?”

***

Colin stood outside the closed door of the guest bedroom. He’d changed from a short sleeve shirt to a long sleeve shirt and put on a pair of rubber gloves, the ends of which he’d taped to the sleeves of his shirt. Before sliding a surgical mask over his baseball cap and face, he’d applied a generous amount of Vaseline to the area underneath his nostrils to help block the decomposing smell. He took one last deep breath, exhaled, and opened the door.

On the floor, Colin spread out a plastic sheet at the end of the bed. He lifted the covers and took one more look at Terry. He wanted to say something, “I’m sorry” or something along those lines, but the words felt empty and he couldn’t think of anything to say. Colin placed the covers back over Terry and rolled him up inside the sheets and covers. He then lifted Terry, the sheets, and the covers onto the plastic sheet, wrapped him inside the plastic, and taped the ends and sides together with duct tape. Colin spread out another sheet of plastic and rolled and taped Terry again. He spread out a third sheet, which he used to wrap up Terry’s empty backpack. Colin had already moved the money from the backpack to his safe in the attic. The bike he’d tossed in a dumpster on his way to Home Depot. Terry’s wallet and identification he’d shoved into the bottom of a different dumpster. The only thing Colin kept was Terry’s phone.

Colin surveyed the room to make sure he’d left no evidence behind. He carried Terry to the garage, where he placed his body and his backpack inside the trunk of a Kia he’d stolen at the mall.

“I promise you I’m going to make it all right,” he said before shutting the trunk.

***

Somehow Jefferson had either forgotten or misunderstood that his dinner date with Tabitha involved attending a dinner reception where Tabitha was receiving an award. They sat at the front table facing the rest of the dinner’s attendees. The group, the name of which Jefferson couldn’t remember, or even cared to know, had chosen to honor Tabitha for her work, for being an inspiration to other women. Or something like that. Before Tabitha gave her speech, the emcee listed Tabitha’s books and accomplishments and lauded her for her battle against cancer.

Jefferson turned his head towards the podium and reminded himself to smile even though he’d heard her give this speech on twenty or so other occasions. After she finished speaking, he remained seated at the front table while a line of women waited to have their picture taken with Tabitha. The line snaked along the front and down the side all the way to back of the room.

He was the one who should be having his picture taken with people and she should be sitting up here basking in the glow of his success, remembering to smile. She ought to be the one picking up his dry cleaning.

When she’d been ill with cancer, all anyone wanted to know about was Tabitha. How was she doing? How was she holding up? Were the treatments proving effective? Nobody ever asked about him, how was he dealing with the crisis.

What about him?

What about Jefferson Beale?

***

Before Linus could get out another word, Terry’s Mom had flung open the door and fallen onto his chest crying. He guided her back into the house and set her on the couch while the tears continued to fall. He stood across from her and watched. Jenny sat down next to Terry’s Mom and put her arms around her. Linus looked away from the crying to the pictures on the wall, photos documenting Terry’s life from the day he was born to the young man he was today.

Linus never knew what to do when a person started crying. As a detective, he’d hated delivering bad news. Not sure of what to do, he did what he was doing now and just stood there. Linus knew enough to resist the urge to tell the person everything was going to be okay, because everything was not going to be okay. Life had fundamentally, irrevocably changed and not for the better. A loved one or a friend was gone, dead, and they were never coming back. Of course, in the case of Terry’s Mom, he had no idea why she was crying.

Linus handed the mother a box of tissues he’d gotten from the bathroom. She leaned back against the couch and wiped away her tears. Jenny stayed next to her on the couch.

“It’s so unlike him,” she said.

“What do you mean?” Linus asked.

“I haven’t heard from my Terry in a couple of days. I’ve called and texted him, but nothing. He always calls me back. Always.”

“Has he ever done anything like this before?”

“Never! My Terry always lets me know what he’s up to and where he’s going to be. He’s a good boy.”

Linus nodded his head. He’d heard this story before. The son was an angel, would never hurt anyone or be involved in any illegal activities.

“When was the last time you saw or heard from him?” Linus asked.

“A couple of nights ago. We ate dinner together and then I went to work. I work the late night shift at a call center. After work, I come home and go straight to bed. When I get up, if he’s not home, I’ll call or text him and he always answers me right away.”

“Have you checked with any of his friends?” he asked.

She looked at the floor. “I’ve met them and I know their first names, but I don’t know where they live or how to contact them. I know it sounds bad, but I’ve always been able to trust Terry and he’s never been in any kind of trouble. I don’t know what to do.”

“Maybe we can help,” Jenny said.

***

Jefferson looked at his watch and then at the line of women still waiting to have a picture taken with Tabitha. He figured they’d be here at least another hour. More than a picture, these women wanted a moment to talk with Tabitha, to tell her something or to ask her a question, and Tabitha was more than willing to oblige.

“More coffee, sir?” the waiter asked.

“Sure.”

Even though he’d been to many of these functions with Tabitha, he still wasn’t used to being the guest. For years, he was the one being asked to do or say something. Now, he just sat in a chair, sipped his coffee, and hoped to avoid small talk with the event’s organizers. Whenever they wanted to talk to him, it wasn’t to learn about Jefferson Beale, but about her.

Jefferson looked around the room at the women who were gathered. Most, if not all, of those in attendance were women. It was at a function similar to this, a luncheon for a woman’s shelter in Tampa, where he’d met Marilyn.

The doctors had grown optimistic at Tabitha’s chances of beating her cancer. All the tests were trending in the right direction. Yet, every time Jefferson came home, a group of her friends were there. One might be fixing a meal, another might be preparing her medicines, and someone else might be typing whatever blog post Tabitha was dictating.

He was an intruder in his own home.

Like most of the men who came to his office for counseling, Jefferson later might’ve said the same thing. He never intended to cheat on his wife, but…

Someone had asked Jefferson to give the invocation at a charity luncheon for a woman’s shelter. He’d been seated at the front table, next to a very attractive woman he guessed was in her forties. Jefferson noticed she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. He introduced himself and asked, “How are you connected to this group?” He expected to hear how she was invested in the charity because either herself or someone she knew had been abused.

“Volunteering gets me out of the house and keeps from dwelling on my recent divorce.”

The story was one he’d heard a dozen or so times before in his office. Husband worked long hours, wife raised the kids, kids went to college, husband met a younger woman at work, and one day the marriage was over. Jefferson talked with Marilyn throughout the meal and when the luncheon was over, she joked about how she didn’t even know how to do the simplest repairs around the house.

“I’d be glad to help you,” Jefferson heard himself saying.

Marilyn sent him notes, which he burned, and text messages, which he deleted. He figured he was safe until she showed up at his church and began to volunteer there as well. What if someone from the church discovered their relationship, if they saw the way she looked at him? What if Tabitha found out? He couldn’t afford to lose everything.

One afternoon, he returned to the church office and found an ambulance outside the building. A group of women, Marilyn included, had been meeting, planning some conference or retreat or something, when Marilyn had collapsed. Jefferson followed the ambulance to the hospital and called her children. The doctors said there was nothing they could do. She was born with a birth defect, a time bomb the doctors called it, and the blood vessel in her brain could’ve erupted at any point in her life. Even if she’d been standing in the ER when it happened, the doctors told him they would’ve been powerless to save her life. For the moment, she was on life support. When her children arrived, Jefferson spoke with them for a few minutes before excusing himself and allowing them to have their time with her.

He drove to Marilyn’s house and entered it with the key she’d previously given him. He searched the entire house as well as her computer, destroying every note and deleting every email, so there’d be no evidence of their relationship.

She died the following morning, hours after being removed from life support. The children asked Jefferson to speak at her funeral. Tabitha attended the service with him and complimented him on the funeral sermon.

Jefferson had learned his lesson. Next time, he’d need to be more careful.

***

This week, I’ll be posting 10 chapters from my mystery novel, Secrets To Keep. Tomorrow, chapter 10.

To read the rest of the book, you can purchase the e-book for $2.99 (or the paperback for $11.95) at the following:

Amazon
iBooks
B&N Nook
Smashwords

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment