Here’s a teaser for MURDER IN A-MINOR, available May 31 at http://amzn.to/246CEqH
(please note the following excerpt contains adult content)
MURDER IN A-MINOR
The bullet grazes my cheek. My brain barely registers it. No time to worry about the sudden stinging sensation nor the blood trickling down the side of my face. My partner Sal screams my name as he lurches out of the sedan on the far side of the alley. My heart slams against my ribcage. My breathing is shallow. I swing the barrel of my gun up toward my target.
Ten yards away, the man laughs maniacally and waves his gun in my direction. It looks like a snub-nosed Ruger from here, but I can’t tell, and furthermore, it doesn’t matter.
“Gotcha, bitch!” he screeches, then throws his head back and howls, “Got yoooooou!”
The man’s eyes are wild, his teeth bared, his brown flesh tinged with the sallow green of addiction. I’m guessing meth, but I could be wrong. Whatever he’s on, it’s not affecting his aim. Blood drips down my chin and splashes onto my shoes.
And suddenly, I’m pissed. Without hesitation, without thinking about the consequences or the idiocy of my actions, I rush toward him. Sal yells at me and gestures for me to take cover as the man puffs up his chest and points the Ruger at me. My vision tunnels down to the hollow end of his barrel, to his index finger as it squeezes the trigger. My entire body jerks backwards, and for a split second I think I’m hit. But as the man drops to his knees, I realize that what felt like the slam of a bullet was the recoil from my .44.
Again, I move forward. I bear down on the man, keeping the .44 trained on him because I can’t see the Ruger. His torso is folded over on itself, and his muted howls of anger assault my tender ear drums.
All of a sudden, he snaps his head up and growls with rage, then raises his arm and squeezes off two shots. I feel a burst of pain in my left shoulder, but it doesn’t stop me, doesn’t slow my pace as I stagger towards him and fire three rounds into his forehead. His mouth gapes open in surprise just before he falls face first onto the pavement.
As I stare down at the lifeless body, a feeling of sheer euphoria courses through me, momentarily overriding the fiery pain of my wounds. So powerful is this feeling that I almost fire another shot into the back of the bastard’s head. The only thing that stops me from pulling the trigger is the music that suddenly swirls through my brain. A song. A ghastly, grisly, wonderful song. I lower my weapon and cock my head to listen as my partner races to my side.
(Key of A minor)
Hot lead hits the mark
Through his head, eternal dark
For human waste I feel no shame
In making haste and taking aim
ONE YEAR LATER
Orange County, California
The problem wasn’t too much booze. The problem was too little coffee.
I heard the knock through a soupy haze, knuckles rap-rap-rapping a staccato rhythm on my front door. If I were capable of rational thought, I would’ve remembered why I support capital punishment, would have cheerfully administered the lethal injection to whoever was on the other side of my front door, doing his best Ringo Starr impersonation. Each knock echoed alarmingly inside my head.
A brief pause in the percussive solo made me question whether I was really awake. Then the knock came again. Harsher. More insistent, as if the asshole on my porch knew I was home, knew I was lying on my couch, where I’d passed out the night before.
My mouth tasted like the floor of a New York City pool hall. When I managed to pry my lids apart and was able to focus on my coffee table, I discovered why. Most of the ABSOLUT was gone. And apparently, I’d gone over my pack-a-day limit of Marlboro lights. Way over. The ashtray was brimming with butts.
I made an effort to move, suppressed the urge to heave, and reclined once more against the seat cushion. My head felt as though someone had crawled inside my ear and was now jack-hammering against the inside of my skull. God, I love vodka.
Another knock, this time accompanied by one word. “Sam.”
I recognized the low, just-got-laid voice immediately, hoped I was hallucinating but knew I wasn’t. I contemplated sucking the last drops of ABSOLUT from the bottom of the bottle.
“I know you’re home,” he called out. “Answer the door.”
I groaned, then dragged myself off the couch and groaned again. Every muscle in my body ached. I caught a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror and saw that the seam of the couch pillow was grooved into the left side of my face from temple to chin, my wavy brown hair looked like I’d gone a round in the dryer, and my eyes were like the Fourth of July. Red, white and blue. It crossed my mind that a good tooth-brushing was in order.
“Sam!” A note of impatience. Fuck the toothbrush, I thought, and slowly made my way to the door.
“Who—?” I coughed and cleared the sofa lint out of my throat. “Who is it?”
“It’s Jack,” he said, playing along. He knew I knew exactly who it was.
“Go away,” I returned. This was not a joke. The last person I wanted to see was Jack Hudson.
“Open the damn door.”
I did. He gave me a bored expression, as though he’d just seen me yesterday, as though it hadn’t been four months since I’d laid eyes on him.
He grinned. “You look like shit.”
“So do you,” I replied. It was a lie. He looked gorgeous, as usual. I hated him. Sandy-blond hair perfectly tousled, features that looked as though they’d been chiseled by Rodin, and a cleft chin so deep you could swim in it.
“It’s 7:30 in the morning, jerk.”
“Can I come in?”
He looked past me into the living room. His gaze lingered on the coffee table as he took in the evidence of last night’s spree of self-loathing. I pretended not to notice. I turned away from the open door and headed for the kitchen. I needed coffee. And water. And I needed to get away from Jack Hudson and his knowing green eyes.
I shuffled to the coffee maker and reflexively lifted the can of Yuban sitting beside it. My heart dropped as I shook the weightless can. I thunked it against my forehead and cursed.
This had been my ritual of the past week: I’d wake up in a state of alcohol-induced agony, sightlessly make my way to the kitchen, grab the coffee can and realize it was empty. I’d satisfy my aching need for caffeine with the leftover Coke from the previous night’s pizza delivery while promising myself that I would drive to the nearest 7-Eleven and buy whatever brand of coffee they had in stock. But ultimately, my day would be sucked down into the miasma that was now my life without me ever stepping outside.
And still, each morning I was surprised when I discovered not a single ground of coffee in my kitchen.
I cursed again, because it seemed like the right thing to do, then felt my way to the sink and groped for a clean glass from the dish drain. Finding none, I fished through the dirty glasses in the sink, found one that was relatively free of scum and filled it with tap water. I guzzled half the glass, took a breath to keep from burping it back up, then polished it off. I raised my eyelids to their full height and regarded the empty glass. I wished it were a bottle of beer.
Jack walked into the kitchen and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. God. Even my eyeballs hurt. “Are you still here?”
“How are you, Sam?”
It was a cheap shot and he knew it. I chose not to answer, instead busied myself by rooting around my junk drawer, hoping to come across an aspirin or an Advil, or perhaps, God-willing, a Valium.
“What do you want?” I asked. My hand closed around a travel pack containing two Excedrins which had expired three years ago. With any luck, they’d kill me. I ripped open the package and popped the pills, swallowed them dry, then turned to Jack.
“I need your help,” he said simply.
I squinted at him. Squinting is a habit I’ve had for as long as I can remember and I do it when someone says or does something that I can’t quite wrap my mind around. Or when someone is being particularly stupid. Or, generally, when I can’t believe my friggin’ ears. Jack was familiar with my squint, had been on the receiving end of this unattractive trait more times than anyone else on record.
“I’m serious,” he said evenly. “We’ve got another D.B.”
My shoulders tightened and my neck spasmed in response.
Kick him out, I told myself. Use whatever strength you can muster and shove him out the door, slam the deadbolt into place and go throw up.
I wanted to do it, except for the throwing-up part since I hate to vomit. But I didn’t move, just stood there and stared at Jack. Because that part of me, that morbid, twisted, sick creature inside of me that lived for murder was suddenly alert. I’d tried to kill the creature with booze and endless hours hiding in the matrix of the Internet, thought I’d succeeded in destroying the beast, but realized I was mistaken when he spoke those two initials. D.B.
“It’s John Randall’s daughter.”
I gave no indication that I recognized the name, but any resident of Orange County knew of the ex-Mayor, even a recent transplant like myself. John Randall had left office amidst a roiling sea of controversy. ‘Mismanagement of funds’ and ‘inappropriate behavior’ was the whitewashed version. Embezzlement and extortion was the truer name, not to mention the old Clinton-esque “it wasn’t sex” philandering. His daughter Millicent was an undergrad at UCI. I’d seen her photograph in Orange Coast magazine; too-blonde curls framing a heart-shaped face, bright white smile reminiscent of a toothpaste commercial.
I thought better of the beer, turned and headed for the fridge and pulled out a Heineken. I used to have a rule about not drinking before noon, but that was back when I gave a shit about my life. I offered a bottle to Jack. He grinned and shook his head as I popped off the cap and took a long swallow. The jack-hammering in my head mellowed considerably. I took another swig, grimaced, then finished off the bottle and tossed it into the trashcan.
“Same M.O. as Hannah Linklatter,” Jack continued.
I stifled a belch, then steadied myself against the counter. Hannah Linklatter’s murder had dominated the media several weeks ago and her killer was still at large. I tried not to read the articles about the case online, but couldn’t help myself.
“Millicent Randall,” I said, more to myself than to Jack. “The ex-Mayor’s having a bad fucking year.” I could relate. I glanced at the clock. “You’ve already been to the scene?”
Jack shook his head. “First on scene is some rookie, thinks he’s on CSI. Gave me chapter and verse on the body, like he was writing a damn book. Even announced her name on the air, the moron. Anyway, it sounds like a match to Hannah Linklatter. Strangled, stripped, body dumped in the nature park behind Harbor View.”
”I think you’re mistaking me for a cop,” I said tersely. I went to the sink and ran the cold water again, splashed some on my face, reached out blindly for the towel that hung over the oven handle. I felt rough terry cloth under my fingers, grabbed the rag and pressed it against my forehead.
“Sam. I really need your help.”
I peered at him around the corner of the towel. The expression on his face was one of quiet desperation. I’d never seen it before.
A few seconds later, he forced a grin. “I’ll throw in a Starbucks on the way.”
Over the course of our long history, I’d never been able to turn Jack Hudson down. I realized that today would be no different.
“Give me five minutes to change my clothes.”
He glanced at his watch. “Make it three.”