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

Chapters 6-7 of Secrets To Keep

StK_bookcover_mkSIX

Linus rang the doorbell and Jim opened the door. “Come on in,” he said, leading Linus down a hallway past a guest bedroom to Taylor’s bedroom. “I’m not sure what you hope to find. The police already searched his room.”

“You never know,” Linus answered. The police’s primary interest would’ve been to determine whether or not Taylor’s death had been a suicide. As for searching for clues about his dealer, they’d have been interested if Taylor had taken something other than steroids, something that directly contributed to his death.

Taylor’s bed was on the far side of the room next to a nightstand. On the other side of the room, there was a dresser with a TV on top of it. Posters of baseball players lined the walls.

“Was this how he always kept his room?”

“For the most part. My wife cleaned up a little, made the bed, picked up the clothes off the floor. She couldn’t stand the mess.”

“Did she throw anything away?”

“Not that she mentioned.”

Linus looked down at the floor and noticed grooves in the carpet from a recent vacuuming. He looked behind the TV and didn’t see a spec of dust. The room had been sanitized. He’d have better luck winning the lottery than finding anything useful here. He opened the closet door and the shoes were arranged on a shelf, the clothes were on hangers, and the floor was free of any debris. He moved the clothes to one side and pressed on the wall and the ceiling, but it was solid. Linus got down on his knees and pulled at the edges of the carpet, but they were sealed tight. If Taylor had been hiding something, it wasn’t in his closet.

“Did Taylor have a computer?”

“My wife has it. She’s been going through it, reading what he wrote.”

Linus would wait until later to ask for it, but he doubted it would yield anything. At most, there might be a spreadsheet detailing his drug regimen, but he didn’t figure there’d be any information about where Taylor had acquired his steroids.

“Jim, where are you?” a female voiced yelled.

“Back here,” he answered. “That’s my wife,” he whispered to Linus. Jim turned and prepared to face his wife who was coming down the hallway.

“Oh,” she said when she entered the room.

“This is a detective from the police,” Jim said, “They wanted to take another look at Taylor’s room to make sure they had everything for their report. He just finished.”

“Yes,” Linus said, “Sorry for the inconvenience. I think we have everything we need.”

Linus left the room and Jim escorted him to the door, leaving the wife in Taylor’s bedroom. Jim didn’t bother explaining why he hadn’t told his wife he was hiring a private detective and Linus didn’t ask.

He knew the answer.

***

“Your friend needs to go to a hospital,” Barry said. With Colin’s help, Barry had removed Terry’s jeans, which revealed Terry’s left calf had swollen to three times the size of his right.

“That’s not an option. You’ve got to do something.”

“I’m telling you what he needs. If one of the coaches brought in a player looking like this, I’d call an ambulance. Your friend has a broken leg. Judging by the gashes all over his head, he might have a concussion as well. He needs a doctor.”

“He can’t go to a hospital. What can you do?”

Barry leaned back against the wall in the hallway. “I can stitch the gash over his left eye and I can tell you how to clean his wounds so they don’t get infected.”

“And?”

Barry closed his eyes. “I know somebody who owes me a favor. It’ll have to be after hours. We can X-ray his leg and get a CAT scan of his head. But he’ll still need to see a doctor and I can’t help you with that.”

“What do I do in the meantime?”

“Keep him still. I’ll give you a list of supplies to purchase. Give him some Tylenol for the pain. Don’t worry about the recommended dosage, you can go over a little and be fine.”

***

Jefferson shut his office door after the detective had left and called Gil.

“I’m walking into a meeting,” Gil said when he answered the phone.

“I just need a minute. The Foundation was vandalized last night.”

“What happened?”

“According to the detective, it was probably some bored teenagers who thought it would be a good idea to drop a cinder block on some of the donated cars. Liz is checking with the insurance company to see if they’ll be able to help us.”

“Any damage to the building? Graffiti or anything like that?”

“None. The vandalism was confined to a few cars.”

“Is this going to affect the value of the my donation?”

“The value of your donation, for tax credit purposes, is the assessed value of the car at the time of donation. The vandalism does, however, raise the issue of security. I know the donated cars idea is a pilot program, but if we’re going to expand it, we ought to consider some additional security measures. The detective suggested a chain link fence and a security camera or two.”

“How much is this going to cost?”

“I’m not sure yet, but I imagine it won’t be cheap.”

“Don’t do anything yet. If this becomes a recurring problem, we’ll reconsider. Meeting is starting. Bye.”

Jefferson smiled after he hung up the phone. Gil was nothing if not predictable. As long as The Foundation’s building and the tax value of his donated car were unaffected, all would be well with Gil. The security measures would cost money, and if there was one thing Gil hated, it was spending money. Besides, the chain link fence might reflect poorly on the property as well as reduce the value of the adjacent commercial properties Gil owned.

Of course, Jefferson wasn’t anymore inclined than Gil to enact the detective’s suggested security measures, but for different reasons. He did have to admit, but only to himself, that it had felt rather good dropping a cinder block on Gil’s Lexus.

***

Colin stuffed his and Terry’s bloody clothes into separate trash bags and carried them to the truck. “Gonna get some supplies for you,” he told Terry, “Be back in a bit.”

Colin drove east across Arlington to Walgreens, passing two others on the way. Along the way, he stopped at a craft store and deposited one of the trash bags in a dumpster. A few blocks later, he did the same at a grocery store.

Before getting out of his truck and going into Walgreens, Colin put on a pair sunglasses and a baseball cap. Inside the store, he grabbed a cart and gathered the supplies Barry had told him to get- bandages of varying size, gauze, tape, Tylenol, cold compresses, rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, and rubber gloves. The only thing he didn’t purchase was the crutches. How many people walked into a Walgreens every day and bought a pair of crutches? Not enough that Colin wouldn’t be remembered. He’d find a way to get the crutches later.

As Colin approached the front of the store, he identified where the security cameras were located. He pushed the cart forward, keeping his chin down, and partially covering the right side of his face by rubbing his temple with his right hand.

“Got a headache?” the cashier asked.

“Yeah,” he mumbled.

“Make sure to take a couple of these Tylenol when you get to your car. Of course, I find if wash ‘em down with a Coke they seem to work faster. Can I interest you in buying a Coke?”

“Sure,” he said and grabbed two from refrigerator next to the register. One for him and one for Terry.

She gave him his total and Colin paid in cash.

 

SEVEN

Linus parked in front of a two-story red brick house on the west side of Arlington. The houses looked identical, the only difference being the varying shades of red brick. He double-checked the address Jenny had given him for Roger Powell, Taylor’s best friend. As Linus approached the front door, he could hear music and what sounded like a video game coming from inside the house. He rang the doorbell and knocked on the door, in case whoever was inside wasn’t able to hear the doorbell chimes. The TV and music went silent.

“What?” a male voice yelled from inside the house.

“I’m looking for Roger Powell,” Linus said.

“So?”

“Jim Horner sent me. He said I should talk to Taylor’s best friend.”

The door opened and a six–foot-five male with the muscled physique of a man and the face of a teenager stood in the doorway.

“Are you Roger Powell?”

“Yeah.” Roger stood in the doorway, not bothering to move or invite Linus in.

“It’s hot out here. Can we talk inside? I have a few questions about Taylor.”

Roger turned and walked towards the living room, leaving the front door open behind him. He grabbed a t-shirt from the back of the couch and put it on. Linus followed Roger through the living room and into the kitchen.

“I’m sorry about your friend,” Linus said.

Roger shrugged his shoulders.

“Taylor’s Dad has asked me to look into his suicide. He believes it might be related to Taylor’s use of steroids. Did Taylor ever tell you anything about his steroid use?”

Roger looked to the left. “No.”

“But you two were best friends?”

“Yeah.”

“And your best friend never told you he was doing steroids?”

“Never.”

“Did you suspect he was?”

“Not really.”

“What sport do you play?” Linus asked.

“Baseball.”

“Got any offers yet?”

“A couple of scholarships to some D1 schools, but if I keep improving, there’s a chance I might get drafted out of high school. If I do, I might be able to get a signing bonus. Might be enough so that my Mom can quit one of her jobs.”

The household walls were blank, devoid of family pictures and decorations. Linus didn’t even spot a nail hole in the walls to indicate something had once adorned the walls. Two empty pizza boxes were stacked on the kitchen counter.

“Let me be clear about what I’m asking. I’m not asking about you and your usage of steroids. That’s between you and whomever, God, your Mom, I don’t care. It’s not my business. But I do want to know about Taylor. If I don’t get the answers I’m looking for, then I might have to make a phone call to a friend of mine, she’s a reporter. She might start asking questions, making inquiries, raising some suspicions. I imagine fewer scouts would be interested in your prospects if steroid rumors were attached to your name. That signing bonus, if you even got drafted, might not be as high as you’re hoping. But like I said, I don’t want to cause you any trouble. All I want is the dealer’s name. So how about it Roger?”

Roger closed his eyes. “His name is Terry.”

Linus pulled Taylor’s cellphone from his pocket and scrolled through the contacts until he came to a Terry. He showed the number to Roger. “Is that his number?”

“Yes.”

***

Colin waited until the garage door closed before getting out of his truck. After picking up the medical supplies at Walgreens, he’d stopped at the store for some groceries- a couple of packages of chicken breasts, two dozen eggs, a head of broccoli and cauliflower, and some bananas. He’d also picked up a couple of milkshakes at Wendy’s. The nutritional value was minimal, maybe even detrimental, but the sugar and the calories would be a definite pick me up for Terry. Colin carried everything into the house.

“Terry?” Colin yelled from the kitchen.

Colin heard something, but he wasn’t sure if it was Terry he’d heard or the TV. He walked halfway down the hallway and heard the familiar sounds of SportsCenter. Terry must be feeling better.

Colin put away the groceries before spreading the medical supplies out on the kitchen table. He wasn’t the squeamish type and he’d never fainted at the sight of blood, but there were a hundred other things he’d rather do than clean Terry’s cuts and abrasions. He grabbed three Tylenol pills along with Terry’s milkshake and headed towards the bedroom.

“Hey, Terry, I got something for you,” he said when he entered the room. The sheets were pulled up over Terry’s face and only the blond spikes of his hair were visible. Colin walked around the bed, picked up the remote from the bedside table, and turned down the volume.

“Terry, man, wake up. I’ve got some Tylenol and a milkshake.”

When Terry didn’t answer, Colin placed the cup and the pills on the bedside table and lifted the covers. “Hey-,” he started to say. The first thing he saw was red blood pooled on the pillow. Colin stood next to the bed with the covers in his right hand and looked at Terry’s face, the color of which had turned gray. With his left hand, Colin reached forward and touched Terry’s neck. Ice cold and no pulse.

He stood there, staring at Terry’s corpse, unsure of what to do. Even though Terry had been in pain when he’d left, he’d seemed okay, not as if he were about to die. How long had he been gone? An hour and a half? Maybe two?

After a minute, maybe two or three, perhaps more, Colin wasn’t sure how long he stood there, he placed the covers back over Terry, this time covering the blond spikes of his hair. He scooped up the pills, grabbed the milkshake, and dumped them down the garbage disposal.

Colin picked up his cellphone off the kitchen counter and called Barry. “Don’t worry about setting up the appointment with your friend. You were right. I’m taking him to a hospital for X-rays.”

“Good,” Barry said, “You’re doing the right thing.”

Colin sat down at the kitchen table and looked at the medical supplies. At least the gloves wouldn’t go to waste.

***

Linus tossed Taylor’s cellphone onto the couch when he arrived home. Part of him didn’t care if it snapped in two or shattered into a hundred different pieces. He’d been through it five or six times, and other than a phone number, he’d found nothing about this Terry. No texts or emails, nothing in the calendar, no obscure notes, not a single thing. Not even Terry’s last name. He couldn’t be sure Terry was even the dealer’s real name. All he had was a phone number.

Jenny had tracked down the cell number, but there was more bad news, which Linus had expected.

“Pre-paid,” she said.

Either Terry had a brain or he worked for somebody who did.

Having a name and number and being able to use it were two entirely different matters. If Linus called from his own phone, Terry wasn’t going to answer. If he were smart enough to use a pre-paid cellphone, then he wouldn’t be stupid enough to take on a new customer without an introduction. Nor would he be dumb enough to accept a phone call from Taylor’s phone. The kid’s suicide had been all over the news, so if phone calls started coming from a dead client’s cellphone, Terry’s pre-paid phone would end up in a dumpster. After it had been smashed to a million pieces.

Roger was the only connection, his only option. His original intent, as he’d told Roger, was to keep him out of it, but things had changed. He’d have to go back to Roger, put more pressure on the kid, and hope he wouldn’t snap or call his bluff. It’s not like when he was a detective with the police department and could use the weight of the badge to lean on a person, threaten them with arrest, if they didn’t cooperate. All he had now were his powers of persuasion, which weren’t all that powerful.

Linus changed into a pair of running shorts and a shirt. He tossed his pants and shirt into the corner of the closet on top of a white box with the number “18” written on the side. Before he’d left the police department, he’d copied this file and taken it with him. At first, he’d looked through it every day, but now it sat in the corner collecting dust and dirty clothes.

Linus stopped in the bathroom and swallowed a couple of Advil. His knees and legs were still hurting, but he needed to run, to clear his head and think.

***

Jefferson backed his white SUV into the temporary parking spot at the airport while he waited for Tabitha to get her luggage. She’d texted him ten minutes ago when her plane had landed. She travelled extensively, sometimes being gone as little as three days and occasionally as long as ten.

Before moving to Arlington to become the Executive Director of The Foundation, Jefferson had been the pastor of a five hundred-member church in Tampa Bay, Florida. Five years prior to their moving, doctors had diagnosed Tabitha with stage three cervical cancer and had given her a less than ten percent chance at survival. As she wrote in the introduction to her book, “I gave myself ten minutes to feel sad and then I dedicated myself to living.” She explored every conceivable treatment, traditional as well as alternative, surgery and chemotherapy along with some homeopathic remedies. A month into her treatment, she started a blog and from the outset her posts went viral. After eighteen months of treatment, the doctors declared her cancer to be in remission and two days later a publisher offered her a book deal. Invitations began to pour in from women’s groups all over the country, which helped her book become an instant bestseller when it was published.

Jefferson had often rolled his eyes when he’d heard people say, “Cancer changed everything,” but now he understood. Prior to her illness, he never would’ve dreamed she would become a sought after speaker and writer. Tabitha had been a quiet introvert who rarely spoke and preferred to be off stage rather than on. Not anymore.

The cancer had also eliminated any chance of them having children. When the doctors declared her cancer in remission, he and Tabitha discussed adopting. But as her schedule filled up with more and more speaking engagements, the idea of adopting dropped to the wayside. She joked to family and friends that her books were her children.

Jefferson’s phone buzzed and he looked down at the screen. “Here,” Tabitha had texted.

Jefferson drove to Terminal A and stopped when he saw Tabitha standing at the curb. She had a briefcase slung over her shoulder and a small suitcase at her side. Even though she’d been on a flight for the last four hours, not a hair on her head was out of place and her clothes looked as if they’d just come from the cleaners.

He parked next to the curb, got out, and put her suitcase in the back of the SUV.

“How was your trip?”

“Wonderful, as always,” she smiled, “How have things been with you?”

“Same old, same old.”

***

This week, I’ll be posting 10 chapters from my mystery novel, Secrets To Keep. Tomorrow, chapters 8 & 9.

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 4-5 of Secrets To Keep

StK_bookcover_mkFOUR

Jefferson sipped a cup of coffee as he sat on the leather couch in his living room and watched the local morning news. In the hour he’d been monitoring the news, having checked each of the four local stations, he’d yet to see a single mention of the accident. Maybe the young man hadn’t been injured as badly Jefferson had thought.

He muted the television when his cellphone rang. The caller id displayed “Foundation” on the screen. He let the phone ring three times before he answered it. “This is Jefferson.”

“Mr. Beale,” Liz said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I didn’t think this could wait.” Liz was the administrative assistant, his administrative assistant, at The Gilbert and Penny Bonner Foundation, where Jefferson worked as the Executive Director.

“You sound anxious, Liz. Is everything okay?”

“There’s glass and metal all over the back parking lot and three of the donated cars are ruined.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m a little shaken. I can’t believe somebody would do something like this.”

“Is there any other damage?”

“Not that I’ve seen so far.”

“Is there someone there with you?”

“Yes, Alexis and I got here at the same time. She was the one who noticed the damage first.”

“Have you called the police yet?”

“No, I thought I should call you first.”

“We’ll need to notify the police so go ahead and call them. We’ll probably need to contact the insurance company as well, but that can wait until later. If you come across anything else, let me know. I’ll be there as soon as I finish with my meeting.”

Jefferson ended the call and un-muted the television.

***

“Tell me again what happened,” Colin said. Ten minutes after Terry’s phone call, Colin had arrived. He carried Terry to his truck and placed him in the passenger seat, having reclined the seat as far back as it would go. Terry dripped blood on the floor, the console, and the door. Colin handed Terry a towel, but it was pointless. He had too many injuries and there was too much blood. Colin tossed the bike into the bed of the truck and stashed the backpack behind the seat.

“I told you on the phone.”

“Tell me again.”

“A car swerved right at me.”

“Was he trying to hit you?”

“It sure seemed like it. That or he was drunk. I’m not sure. It all happened so fast.”

“Did you recognize him?”

“Never seen him before in my life.”

“And he didn’t get out and help?”

“He stopped like he was going to, but then he drove off.”

“I don’t get it,” Colin said.

“I don’t either.”

“I got the bike and the backpack. Did you have anything else with you? We don’t want to leave anything behind.”

“That’s everything.”

“You got your phone?”

Terry nodded his head. “Which hospital are we going to?”

“We’re not.”

***

After driving away from the accident, Jefferson had avoided the main roads. He waited three seconds at every stop sign, stopped when the traffic light turned yellow, and otherwise kept the car’s speed just below the speed limit. If he wouldn’t be able to provide a good explanation as to why he was driving this Lexus, then he certainly wouldn’t be able to offer one for the smashed windshield, dented hood, and whatever other damage the young man’s body had inflicted on the car. No right-minded police officer would believe he’d run into a deer inside the city limits.

He crossed Jackson Avenue and drove down Nickel Street, a two-lane road separating the south side of The Foundation’s building from a residential neighborhood. Gil Bonner had named the road himself, because in his own words, “he’d gotten the land for a nickel.” Jefferson turned into The Foundation’s rear parking lot and returned the Lexus to the spot from where he’d taken it.

In addition to the smashed windshield and the dents on the hood, the bumper was dented, the right headlight was cracked, and there were innumerable scratches all along the car. Jefferson found some spots of blood, which he wiped off with a rag he’d found in the car’s trunk.

He searched the parking lot until he found a concrete cinder block next to the dumpster. Jefferson carried it to the Lexus and dropped the cinder block on the hood, the bumper, and the windshield multiple times. After he finished with the Lexus, he did the same to the cars to the right and left. When he’d finished vandalizing all three cars, Jefferson dropped the cinder block on the ground next to one of the cars. Even if they checked it for fingerprints, he wasn’t worried. He’d been the one who’d hauled it out to the dumpster in the first place.

The sun peaked over the horizon and Jefferson wiped the sweat off his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt, which no longer smelled of Candice’s perfume. He picked up the rag with the spots of blood on it and placed it inside a plastic bag he’d found in the dumpster. Jefferson got into his white SUV, turned the air conditioner on high, and drove towards home. But first, he stopped at a shopping center and turned into the alley where he put the plastic bag deep inside one of the dumpsters.

At home, Jefferson undressed in the laundry room and put his clothes in the washer. He walked naked across the house to the bathroom where he took a long, hot shower. After toweling himself dry, Jefferson dressed in blue slacks and a white dress shirt and picked out a red tie to put on later. He made himself a cup of coffee, turned on the TV, and sat down on the couch to watch the news.

***

“Why aren’t we going to the hospital?” Terry asked.

“Too many questions.”

“Can’t you just drop me off at the entrance to the emergency room?”

“No.”

“How about at the corner and I’ll walk to the emergency room?”

“If you walk into an emergency room, they’re going to ask you questions. You look like somebody beat the hell out of you. They’re not going to fix you up and send you on your way. What are you going to tell them? You fell down some stairs? Where? When? Some guys jumped you? Again, when and where? Why did they jump you? If I take you to the hospital, the police are going to be all over you and they’re not going to stop until they get a satisfactory answer. And if they’re all over you, then they’re going to be all over me.”

“I could claim amnesia, that I don’t remember anything.”

“Do you really think they’ll believe that?”

“So what’s the plan?”

“A guy owes me some favors. I’m going to call him and he’ll fix you up. You’re going to be fine. I promise.”

Colin pushed the button on the garage door opener. He parked the truck inside the garage and waited until the garage door had closed before getting out of the truck. He didn’t need any of his neighbors to see him get out of his truck covered in blood.

***

Linus grabbed two Advil and a bottled water from the duffel bag on the car floorboard. He washed down the pills with one swallow of water. He’d thought he was prepared, that he’d done the requisite training for a fifty-mile run, but his body didn’t feel like it. The way he hurt, he felt as if he hadn’t trained at all.

Linus had always been a runner, cross-country in high school, the occasional 10k and marathon in college and after college, but it wasn’t until last year that he’d started running further. He woke up one day with nowhere to go or be, nothing to do, put on his running clothes, grabbed his house key, cellphone, a twenty-dollar bill, and took off. Those were the best thirty miles he’d ever run. Yesterday’s fifty were the worst.

With Taylor’s phone in his right hand he checked the call log and read the text messages. With his own phone in his left hand, he called Jenny.

“You get the job?” she asked.

“Why do you keep giving my name to people?” he asked.

“If I didn’t, you’d starve from lack of work.”

He ignored her comment and concentrated on Taylor’s phone.

“You haven’t answered my question?” she asked.

“There’s a such a thing as client confidentiality,” he said.

“Whatever. I know you didn’t call me to shoot the breeze or ask how my day was going. You want information. Just like always. Keep in mind that the information highway is not a one way road.”

“What do you want?”

“Same as always. The story before anybody else.”

Jenny Stapleton had worked as a newspaper reporter until six months ago when she’d left to take a job with an online magazine. According to what she’d told Linus, her departure from the newspaper had been a mutual decision. They were ready to fire her for what they considered a breach of ethics and she was ready to quit, tired of working for pansies and catering to the city’s elite. Those were her words.

“Agreed,” Linus said.

“I wasn’t finished. And you keep me posted throughout the investigation.”

“But you can’t publish anything ahead of time without my approval.”

“Sure, fine, whatever you say,” Jenny said, “What do you need?”

“Who is Jim Horner? I also need to know about Taylor and his best friend, Roger. You’ll have to find his last name, because it’s not in Taylor’s phone. Also, who has been known to deal steroids to high school students?”

“Jeez, why don’t I do your job for you?”

 

FIVE

Jefferson sat down at his office desk and picked up one of The Foundation’s new brochures. The words “You Can Make A Difference” were emboldened across the front cover above a picture of destitute and forlorn-looking women and children from a third world country. Jefferson couldn’t remember where the picture had been taken. At Jefferson’s request, the designer airbrushed out the men who’d been in the original photograph and replaced them with more women and children. The inside of the brochure, along with containing more pictures of women and children, described the mission and work of The Gilbert and Penny Bonner Foundation. “We aim to instill hope and opportunity to women and children in impoverished nations.” The brochure’s last two pages guided the reader as to how he or she might participate in and contribute to The Foundation’s life-changing work. A person could give by check, setup an ongoing bank draft, donate shares of stocks or parcels of real estate, assign The Foundation as the beneficiary on a retirement account or insurance policy, and, Jefferson’s latest idea, donate a car. The donor of the car would receive a tax credit for the car’s value while The Foundation would sell the car and keep the proceeds.

Jefferson returned the brochure to the stack on his desk and picked up the second one he’d commissioned, the one targeted towards churches and other religious organizations. The pictures were identical although arranged in a different order, the appeal to make a difference the same, but the means by which one might do so was different. Instead of seeking the donation of assets or money, the second brochure offered individuals and groups the opportunity to join The Foundation on a trip to one of these countries. The Foundation would handle all of the arrangements- travel, housing, and food as well as provide the opportunity to work with the less fortunate. In exchange for taking care of the arrangements, The Foundation charged a set fee, which varied by the size of the group and included a slight administrative fee to cover The Foundation’s expense for organizing the trip and handling the arrangements.

Jefferson placed a couple of the brochures on the other side of the desk so the detective would see them when they discussed the damaged cars in the rear parking lot.

***

“Are you comfortable?” Colin asked. He’d carried Terry from the garage, through the house, and laid him on the bed in the spare bedroom. Colin and Terry were nearly identical in height, weight, and physical build- five-ten, one seventy, and all muscle. Carrying Terry wasn’t a problem, but keeping his blood off the walls and carpet was. He made a mental note to clean up the blood later.

“I can’t take the pain much longer. When is your guy going to get here?”

“Soon. Don’t worry.”

Terry’s jeans were shredded and stained with blood, but Colin wasn’t about to try to take them off. He didn’t know what sort of injuries he might find and he wasn’t sure he wanted to find out. Terry’s arms were covered with abrasions and cuts and there was a gash above his left eye. With so much blood, Colin couldn’t tell where the injuries actually began.

“I need something for the pain.”

“He’ll be here soon. You get some rest.”

Colin left the bedroom and walked into the living room. He pulled out his cellphone and called Barry Mines. “I need a favor,” he said to Barry when he answered the phone. “I have a friend who needs medical attention, but I can’t take him to the hospital.”

“What happened?”

“He was hit by a car.”

“Colin, I’m not a doctor. I’m a trainer.”

“But you bandage wounds and work on people’s injuries, right?”

Barry sighed. “Yes.”

“Then you’ll do. Be here in ten minutes.”

“But I’m at work.”

“This is an emergency. Ten minutes. You owe me.”

***

Liz notified Jefferson when the detective arrived. Jefferson came out of his office and accompanied the detective as he inspected the crime scene. The detective took pictures of the parking lot and the damaged cars. He made notes on a legal pad, which Jefferson attempted to read over the detective’s shoulder, but he couldn’t decipher the man’s handwriting. When the detective finished in the parking lot, the two returned to Jefferson’s office.

“What do you think happened?” Jefferson asked.

“Probably some bored teenagers.”

“Have there been similar acts of vandalism nearby?”

“None that have been reported, but if the value is negligible, meaning not worth filing an insurance claim, people don’t always call it in. On the other hand, somebody always has to be the first victim.”

“Gang activity?” Jefferson asked.

“Unlikely. We don’t have much gang activity in this part of Arlington.”

“It seems so strange. Random.”

“Look, I’m going to be honest with you. We’ll do what we can, but without video surveillance or an eye-witness account, the chances of us finding who did this are very slim.”

“I understand.”

“If I were you, I’d make that back parking lot more secure. It wouldn’t hurt to put up a chain link fence and a couple of cameras. You’ve got some lights back there, but the building shields the parking lot from Jackson Avenue. Nobody can see what’s going on behind your building.”

“Thank you. I’ll make sure to bring your suggestions to the attention of our board.”

The detective handed a copy of the report to Jefferson. “I’m assuming you’ll need a copy for your insurance claim.”

***

Colin stared out the window looking for Barry. His cellphone rang and he looked at the display, hoping it was Barry explaining why he was late. It wasn’t Barry. “Max, I’m kind of busy right now.”

“Are you sure it’s safe to make my deliveries?”

“We’ve been over this already.”

“Haven’t you seen the news? Taylor’s Dad won’t let it go. He was on the news again last night.”

Rich kid commits suicide and somebody had to be blamed, but not the parents. It was the drugs, the steroids, the people who’d sold these things to the kid. Colin had seen the news and wondered why no reporter had bothered to ask the parents where they’d been or what sort of parents they were or even why their son had wanted to take steroids. Everybody was blaming the drugs and the dealers.

“Everything is fine. Go ahead with business as normal.”

“Have you heard from Terry? He didn’t show this morning and hasn’t been answering his phone. I went by his house and he wasn’t there.”

“Not a word,” Colin said.

“I’ve got a bad feeling. Are you sure we’re safe?”

“Positive.”

***

This week, I’ll be posting 10 chapters from my mystery novel, Secrets To Keep. Tomorrow, chapters 6 & 7.

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 1-3 of Secrets To Keep

StK_bookcover_mkONE

Jefferson Beale turned right onto Milford Road. A quick glance at the car’s dashboard clock showed the time to be ten after five. It would be another hour or so before the middle-class residents along Milford Road emerged from their homes to go to work. Even though he always paid for the entire evening, Jefferson never stayed past midnight. But tonight, he’d closed his eyes for a moment and fallen asleep, having awakened half an hour ago.

He came to a complete stop at a stop sign, not concerned with any oncoming traffic, but with the possible presence of a police officer. If he were pulled over by a policeman, Jefferson wouldn’t be able to offer a satisfactory explanation as to why he was driving a Lexus not registered in his name. He counted to three before moving his foot from the brake to the accelerator.

The scent of Candice’s perfume, if that were even her real name, lingered on his blue oxford shirt. As soon as he arrived home, the shirt along with everything else he was wearing, would be tossed into the washing machine. Tabitha, his wife, was scheduled to return from her trip that afternoon. Before the smell of Candice’s perfume was replaced with the cleaning agent of Tide, Jefferson closed his eyes and inhaled the scent again.

Later, he wouldn’t be able to remember what had come first, hearing the noise of the crash or feeling the impact against the car. His eyes popped open in time to see the terror-stricken look of a young man as he bounced against the car’s windshield. Jefferson slammed on the brakes and shifted from drive to park.

That didn’t happen. He hadn’t hit anyone. There’d been no accident. Whatever he thought had happened hadn’t. It’d been nothing more than his imagination.

But the cracked windshield eliminated any thought of him having imagined the accident. Through the shattered glass, Jefferson saw dents on the car’s hood. He looked in the rearview mirror and saw a backpack and a mangled mountain bike lying in the street. Jefferson shifted his eyes to the driver’s side view mirror. A young man lay crumpled on the ground. He stared at the reflection trying to determine if the young man was moving or not, if he was alive or not.

If Jefferson were to get out of the car to check on him, to render aid, and if the young man were still alive, then he’d see Jefferson’s face. When the police were called and Jefferson was gone, because he would be gone, the detectives would ask the young man who had caused the accident and he would be able to give a description of Jefferson.

He could drive away, call 911 as he fled, but the police would know he’d been the one to make the call. They’d want answers to questions he didn’t care to answer. What were you doing on Milford Road at ten after five in the morning when you live on the opposite side of town?

Jefferson looked in every direction to see if anybody had emerged from their homes at the sound of the accident, but he saw no one. Not even a porch light had been turned on. He checked the side view mirror again. The young man appeared not to have moved.

Jefferson shifted from park to drive and drove away.

 

TWO

Every fiber of his being, every bone, muscle, tendon, and nerve in Terrence Larson’s body screamed with pain. He couldn’t pinpoint a spot on his body that didn’t hurt. A metal-tasting liquid filled his mouth. Terry, as his friends called him, had landed on his stomach after bouncing off the windshield.

Where had the car come from? Why had the driver swerved into his path?

Terry considered rolling onto his side or back, thinking it might be easier for him to breathe, but since he wasn’t sure how bad he’d been injured, he figured he ought to remain as he was and wait for the ambulance. Isn’t that what they always told people on TV, don’t move?

If an ambulance were on the way, then the police would be coming as well. At some point, they would want to know why he was riding his bike at five in the morning. They weren’t going to buy training as an explanation. Who trains in jeans and a t-shirt? Spending the night at his girlfriend’s would be a good excuse, except he didn’t have a girlfriend and the girls he knew in this neighborhood weren’t likely to vouch for him. His problems would only get bigger when the police looked in his backpack, which he knew they would. How was he going to explain thirty thousand dollars in cash? Tips? He didn’t even have a real job.

Terry looked at his bike. Both wheels were bent in half and most of the spokes had snapped free of the rim. He wondered if he looked as bad as his bike.

Why hadn’t the driver gotten out of the car to check on him? Where was the ambulance? He moved his head and lightning hot pain shot throughout his entire body. That was a good sign, right?

“Come on, dude. Hurry up.”

Terry thought he heard the car shift gears so he lifted his head. He saw the brake lights dim and the car begin to move forward. “What are you doing? You can’t leave me here.” He tried to yell but his words came out as a whisper.

Terry focused on the back of the car and memorized the license plate, 557-BLB. He repeated the combination of numbers and letters to himself as he rolled onto his side and pulled his cellphone out of his front pocket. The screen was cracked, but the phone still worked. He typed the license plate into a note before he called Colin.

Colin would know what to do.

 

THREE

Linus Walker limped into Molly’s Cafe. The two Advil he’d taken an hour earlier had only helped to take the edge off of the pain. Everything below his hips ached. Instead of being here, meeting a prospective new client, he’d rather have been at home on the couch with ice bags covering his legs. Yesterday, a fifty-mile run had seemed like a good idea. Today, not so much.

He scanned the room of diners looking for a white haired man in a green polo shirt. This was the description the prospective client had given him. Linus spotted him in the back corner of the restaurant and approached the table.

“Jim Horner?” Linus asked.

“You Linus?”

Linus nodded his head.

“Have a seat.”

Jim pushed a menu towards Linus, but he moved it to the side. “I already ate.”

When the waitress arrived, Linus ordered a glass of water while Jim ordered a cup of coffee and the All American special, which consisted of two eggs over easy, bacon, hash browns, and a side of toast.

“So what can I do for you?” Linus asked.

“You want to skip the pleasantries?”

“No sense in wasting anybody’s time.”

“Do you have any kids?” Jim asked.

“No. Never been married.”

“I had- had- one son. Taylor. Seventeen, smart, athletic, and a great future ahead of him. Pitcher on the baseball team. Pro and college scouts started checking him out a year ago.” Jim paused while the waitress set their drinks on the table. “Now he’s gone. Suicide. Two weeks ago.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

Jim took a sip of his coffee. “As wonderful as my son was, he wasn’t perfect. He was driven. His whole life he had to be the best. I guess that’s what led him to steroids. My wife and I aren’t naive, we know what people in sports do, but we don’t believe in drugs. When we found out, we demanded he stop. And as far as we knew, he did. We noticed he was becoming more withdrawn, not going out as much with his friends, but we didn’t connect it to the drugs. We figured it was normal teenage stuff, maybe a girl or something. We thought he would snap out of it.”

The waitress returned with Jim’s breakfast and placed it on the table in front of him.

“Two weeks ago, my wife and I went to a dinner party with some friends. Taylor told us he was going to stay home and study for his SAT.” Jim paused and picked up the fork with his right hand. “We found him when we came home.” Jim reached into a briefcase to his left and pulled out a cellphone and charger, which he slid across the table towards Linus. “You’ll need these. That’s Taylor’s phone. His closest friend was Roger and his number is in there. From the looks of Roger, he’s probably doing steroids as well.”

“I’m a little confused. What exactly do you want me to do?”

Jim stabbed at the egg yolk until it began to bleed across the plate. “Lots of people tell me I need to let the police handle this and get on with my life. Well, let them have a child commit suicide and see if they find it so easy to move on.” He scooped up a forkful of hash browns with egg yolk dripping from them. “A reporter came by to interview me, Jenny I think, and I asked her if she knew of any good private investigators. She gave me your name. Said you were the best around. I checked you out with a friend in the police department and he told me about you and what you did.” Jim set the fork down on the plate. “I want you to find the person who sold these drugs to my son.”

“And then?” Linus asked.

“And then do what you do best.”

*****

This week, I’ll be posting 10 chapters from my mystery novel, Secrets To Keep. Tomorrow, chapters 4 & 5.

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

What I’m Reading (February 2014)

The first part of the month wasn’t looking so good for reading as I started and quickly gave up on a couple of books I didn’t enjoy. It happens every once in a while, but the quality soon picked up.

Best book of the month: Wiley Cash has received quite a bit of praise for his second book, This Dark Road To Mercy, and all of the attention is deserved. His books are novels about the south with characters reminiscent of a Flannery O’Connor story. This Dark Road To Mercy is about a has-been baseball player who finds and steals a duffel bag full of money from the wrong people. He sees the money as his opportunity to be the father he’s never been and to do so he kidnaps his daughters out of foster care. The story follows the father and his daughters as he tries to outrun the people trying to get the money and his daughters.

Having enjoyed his second novel so much, I read his first novel, A Land More Kind Than Home. Again, he writes about families breaking up and coming together, but this time he does so against the backdrop of church where the people participate in snake-handling as part of their worship. One woman dies in the church and later a boy is killed in a healing service. The deaths rip apart a family and a sheriff is tasked with finding out what happened.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy by Nicholas Griffin is the historical account of Ping-Pong and its role in international affairs. An influential Britain saw Ping-Pong as an opportunity to spread communism and later the Ping-Pong championships played a significant role in establishing communication between China and the United States.

The second novel in the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo, Cockroaches, has been translated and released. As with all the other titles in the series, it was an outstanding crime novel.

For the past few years, we’ve traveled to Destin, Florida for a week-long vacation. Last year, I walked into a bookstore and stumbled upon a book about the area, which I didn’t know had long been referred to as the Redneck Riviera. It took me a few months, but I finally got around to reading the history of the book. It was quite interesting to see how the area grew and developed, sometimes in accordance with people’s wishes and at other times in spite of them. The book is The Rise and Decline of the Redneck Riviera by Harvey Jackson III

Other books I read this month: Devotion by Dani Shapiro (a memoir of belief and the struggle to do so), Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (one woman’s account of being the lone family survivor of a tsunami), The Color of Blood by Declan Hughes (a crime novel), and  Inside the Peloton by Nicholas Roche.

In March, publishers are releasing a slew of books that I’ve been eagerly awaiting. It should be a good month for reading.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What I’m Reading (Jan. 2014)

Being sick with pneumonia at the first part of the month gave me some extra reading time in January and I enjoyed a few good books.

Best book of the month: Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro. Although she’s written many books, I first heard of her when someone mentioned her latest book, Still Writing, an excellent book on writing. After finishing Still Writing, I downloaded Slow Motion, a memoir. Slow Motion begins with the author as a twenty-something college dropout in Los Angeles where she receives a phone call informing her parents had been in a severe car accident. Her book is the story of her life before the accident and her life after the accident. (I liked Slow Motion so much, I started on her latest book, Devotion, which may turn out to be the best of the three of her books I’ve read.)

I read a couple of interesting non-fiction and biography books. Wooden: A Coach’s Life tells the story of John Wooden, the ultra successful basketball coach at UCLA. Two interesting nuggets from the book: 1) It took Wooden over a decade to win his first college tournament game, and 2) once his grand success began, he felt more relieved when they lost, because the losses, few and far between, relieved the pressure to keep winning. I’m Dying Up Here by William Knoedelseder is a history of the rise of the Los Angeles comedy circuit scene in the mid 1970′s when comics like Richard Lewis, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and others were getting their start. Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson is his raw and bare autobiography of his crazed life. It’s probably one of the better sports autobiographies. I also read The Grudge by Tom English, which was the story of a historic rugby match.

Of course, I read a slew of mystery books this month: Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith, Enigma of China: An Inspector Cho Novel by Qiu Xiaolong, Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard (contains the short story about Raylan Givens, which was the basis for the TV show ‘Justified’), The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen, and The Wrong Kind of Blood by Declan Hughes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“The Accident” Two Years Later

cropped-test-cover1.jpgTwo years ago today, my first book, The Accident: A Bike, A Truck, and A Train, was published. It was the start of an incredible journey.

Thank you to those who read it and shared it with your friends and on Facebook and Twitter and all sorts of other forums. Thank you to those who gave copies to friends and especially those of you who gave copies to total strangers.

My ambitions were small and that first book had and continues to exceed them. I never would’ve imagined people in Britain and Germany and other countries would hear about my book and purchase a copy.

The Accident is available at the following ($2.99 for the ebook and $9.95 for the paperback):

Amazon Kindle
iBooks
B&N Nook

The paperback is available from  Amazon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment