Check out the next three chapters of The Exquisite Corpse Volume 2!
Tom Leins and his merry band of crime fiction wordslingers are at it again! (and this time, yours truly is along for the merriment!)
Check out the first segment of the Exquisite Corpse Volume 2!
(Yes, that’s a lot of exclamation points! But I’m fine with that!)
What happens when twenty-five top crime fiction authors take a one-chapter-each approach to penning a gritty spy thriller?
The result is The Exquisite Corpse. Check it out here!
Yeah, it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything here, but don’t worry. I’m still alive and still giving glorious birth to crime fiction laced with danger and bad decisions. In fact, I’ve been too deeply immersed in my writing to follow the news. Anything new happen since my last post of November of 2016?
No, nothing? Okay, here’s what I’ve been up to:
My noir-ish monologue What a Real Punch Sounds was produced by Ragged Foils. I think Joanna Simpkins did a splendid job. See for yourself here!
I wrote and produced a neo-noir audio drama called Cosmic Deletions that asked such all-important questions as: What if that telemarketer is actually an assassin? and What if the world was actually the creation of a software company? Show some love, Copperheads!
Also, hey look at me playing the ukulele! Who says quarantining is boring?
Book Three of the Jake Legato Series, Two Guns Against the Siren is available at Amazon! Here’s an excerpt:
The tattoo shop fell silent when the guy stepped inside.
Clean cut with a shiny wool suit, his expression half-hidden by sunglasses, he didn’t look like a usual customer.
He stepped to the counter, no words. Only a stony gaze bouncing between the shop’s odd artifacts. The checkered floor, the WWII-era pin-up pics along the wall. The cheap plastic reclining chair in the center.
Mouths agape, everybody stared at him. Cheyenne, the spike-haired lesbian behind the counter. Heavy-lidded Evan awaiting a tattoo in the chair. Even Tweaky Jay woke up and found himself gawking.
“Anything I can help you with?” Cheyenne asked, eyes narrow, head tilted. Confused like a kid hearing her first curse word.
“Is Miciela here?” he asked, his voice a deep growl.
“You heard me the first time. Is she here?”
But Cheyenne just kept staring. Then she jabbed both shaky hands into her pockets, unsure what to do with them.
“Let me ask you the question again: Is Miciela here?”
“No? Not right now? I think. She’s usually here. But right now she’s not. I’m sorry. I’ll tell her somebody was looking for her.” Then she forced her lips into an uneasy smile.
But the man didn’t move. “I’ll wait.”
“It could take hours before –“
“I said, I’ll wait.”
Cheyenne stepped back slowly, sizing the stranger up. He was tall and solidly built. His head was all muscle, a fist with a snarl. He looked a like a brick wall in a bad mood.
She’d heard the stories of Miciela’s adventures. Depending on who you asked she’d been a drug runner, an assassin or a Hollywood stuntwoman. Nobody knew the truth exactly but they knew she’d had strange people asking about her. And they knew there were details she didn’t want to share.
The man’s attention drifted to a pair of old creaky doors at the shop’s side. “Where does she stay?”
He shoved his face forward, nearly touching foreheads. “Where does Miciela stay? Which room?”
“She’s not here,” Cheyenne said, bracing for a blow to the chest. “I swear.” she said, her voice now a reedy whimper.
“Where is she?”
“I don’t think she’s around right now –”
He backpedalled to the room’s center, pulled a snub-nosed revolver from his jacket’s inside pocket and spun in a slow circle, his gun’s barrel bouncing from face to terrified face. Without prompting, every hand went up. Gasps filled the room. With the jerk of his head he ordered Even out of the chair. With his foot he slid the chair to the front of the door. Then he addressed his captives.
“Here’s how this is going to work: Nobody is going to move and nobody is going to say a Goddamned thing unless they get asked a question. That way, I don’t have to shoot anybody in the face – which, by the way, I’d be more than happy to do if anybody gets cute.”
Cheyenne tried to still her shaking body. This was the time to be strong. Panic would be the enemy. She stood there watching the stranger, her hands up, knowing this guy would put a bullet into her head if he knew what she was doing.
She was trying to dial 9-1-1, trying to lightly brush the cell phone in her front pocket against the counter. There was no other hope. Miciela would be dead if he’d found out she was only a few feet away.
But dialing wasn’t easy. The man’s gaze crept from captive to captive. He told them not to move and he meant it. So she’d have to dial slowly and carefully. One number at a time.
With the man’s eyes somewhere else, she nudged her body forward, pressing the cell phone against the counter’s sharp wooden corner. She lowered her eyes and caught a glimpse of the phone, making sure she was hitting the nine. She bumped it a second time, hitting the one. Almost there.
But then the man turned. Did he hear that?
“What’s in your pocket?” he demanded.
“What is in your pocket?” he repeated, face on fire and inches from hers. “Is that a cell phone?”
He reached over the counter, yanked her cell phone from her front pocket.
Cheyenne collapsed into a quivering knot, hands still up and elbows covering her face and chest, bracing for the gun shot she knew was coming. There was no way he wouldn’t see the nine and one on the screen. With her eyes slammed violently shut, she whimpered like a wounded rat.
Then she opened her eyes to see the cell phone in her face. The man said, “Call her!”
“Call Miciela. Now.”
She gathered the strength to obey the man’s orders, shaky fingers finding Miciela’s number on her contacts screen. Seconds later, a ringtone rang out from one of the side doors. Pinhead by Micela’s favorite group, The Ramones.
The man smiled for the first time, baring teeth like a pissed-off grizzly. Then he walked to the closet door and swung it open.
He found all five feet and ninety pounds of Miciela curled into a trembling ball. She looked up with eyes that wordlessly begged for mercy. Her lips moved but nothing came out but panicked breath.
The man grabbed Miciela’s baggy shirt by the shoulder and gave her tiny body a yank. She landed on his shoulder, too stunned to fight back. Turning back to the room, he tucked his gun away. “I got what I need and I’m gone. But I’d be more than happy to make a return visit if anybody tries to call the cops.”
He strutted down the hallway, then kicked open the screen door. Everybody scrambled to their feet, racing to the back door while frantically dialing and hoping the worst hadn’t already happened.
Spelk Fiction is running my hard-hitting flash fiction piece called The Thing Nobody Tells You About Getting Shot. Check it out!
As a longtime fan of Shotgun Honey’s hard-hitting fiction, I’m thrilled to have my own story join the ranks! Check out A Chance to Prove it!
Here’s an excerpt:
Legato sat in front of the guy, then pointed to a small scar under his left eye. “How about I tell you about this. See the scar?”
Tolliver smirked. “Yeah, I see that. What, you get that from some mugger or maybe the bully from Brooklyn high school?”
Legato shook his head. “When I was a kid, there was this guy on the block, never knew his real name but they called him Tweaks. Every block had one. Dude used to sniff glue day and night, lived for the shit, dug through dumpsters to find an extra tube. That guy. The neighborhood joke, everybody laughed at his sorry ass – the way he’d twitch and stutter. The way he’d get lost in mid-conversation if you asked him how he was doing. “Then he moved up to heroin and the shit wasn’t funny anymore. He started robbing people, hiding in alleyways with a tire iron. He’d be in and out of prison and some days you’d see him with bloodstains on his collar that he wouldn’t explain.
“One day I come home from school, hearing screams in the hallway as I walk up – Mama’s screams. When I get there, Tweaks is there, this baseball bat in his hand and Mama’s laying on the floor, arms up, bracing for a swing. Then he looks up, staring at me, kind of laughing, but it’s hard to tell with Tweaks. He raises the bat over Mama, says to me, ‘You better talk some sense to your mother. You hear me? I need money and this is not going to get it!’ He shows me this tiny wad of cash. He stares into Mama’s eyes. ‘Come on, lady! You got more than that!’ Mama was shaking, kept whimpering ‘no’ over and over. She’s looking at me, she’s looking back at Tweaks and I’m scared. Daddy was gone by then, no man in the house. So Mama had a gun, kept it hidden under the bathroom sink. I scampered away, straight to the bathroom, hoping I could get back before it was too late. I was going to shoot this guy, right between the eyes if I had to. I was going put down Tweaks before he put Mama down.
“But then I got back into the living room, that revolver shaking in my hand like an egg timer. I aimed it at his chest, but there’s something about holding a gun and aiming it at somebody. Tweaks started laughing, then came after me with his hand out. He may have been out of his mind, but he knew I didn’t have the heart. I was only twelve, could barely pee straight. And I was talking about shooting somebody? I tried to take aim at his chest again, but I lost my nerve. He turned around, raised his bat and started to swing for Mama’s head. And I fired three shots, two went through his ribcage, sent him to the carpet, shaking like a marlin somebody plucked from the river. The third shot? It went into a mirror off to my left side. A splinter came back and got me just under the eye.” He pointed to the scar again.
The punk said nothing.
“You ready to cooperate with me, Tolliver?”
“Yes, sir,” he mumbled, back erect now, almost respectfully. No more jokes.
Check out the second installment in the Jake Legato PI series The Devil’s Cheap Disguise!
It’ll be released October 30th, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon!
Nobody recognized the lady in the glasses.
But they paid her no mind as she slipped into the clinic, past the security desk and through the hallway. Probably visiting somebody, they all must have figured. Or maybe she worked there or something. Whatever.
They didn’t really see her, didn’t notice that mischievous glow in her eyes. The one that would have alerted them to the coming danger.
She crept through the hallways, marveling at the cleanliness. Bright carpets, desks you could eat off of. Could this really be a drug rehab clinic? A place for monsters addicted to meth or heroin? A place where dangerous men and women went when prison couldn’t help them? The thought warmed her face with a naughty librarian’s sneer. She imagined the fun she could create with some strung-out druggie who’d do anything to please a pretty girl from the Midwest. An old-fashioned girl who your mother would love because she couldn’t see past that wholesome grin.
She poked her head inside a room, spotting rows of people – normal looking people – reciting some tedious rehab mantra like obedient office workers. But who knew what secrets they buried under those compliant faces?
After a glance at her watch, she ducked back into the hallway. There’d be plenty of time to try a new game with a new friend. But for now it was time to focus on the game she’d already set in motion. She could see Legato’s van in the parking lot. Maybe he’d get roped into the homicidal madness or maybe he wouldn’t.
Either way, this was going to be fun.
As the lady walked past the hallway and to the cafeteria a guard called from behind. “Excuse me? Lady?”
But she was gone by then, floating away like a vengeful memory, the seeds of joyful destruction already planted.
Wake up, Tony.
You hear that sound? That’s the safety lock being pulled back on my Semi-automatic Glock nineteen, perfect fit in my tiny hand. Feels nice.
Remember the time we spent at the gun range? You teaching me the basics. Me scared like a kitten visiting a lion’s den. But I’m doing fine today. No tremble in my hands. No sweating.
What were the big three again?
One: treat every gun as if it were loaded. Don’t worry, this one is.
Two: gun always pointed in a safe direction. In this case that means away from me.
Three: Finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Oh, I’m ready.
And four: Don’t point at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
And then there’s the proper stance: elbow slightly bent, leaned forward to absorb the weapon’s recoil. I’m ready, motherfucker. Are you?
Remember how spooked I was when you bought me the gun for my birthday. Too scared to touch it. You told me I needed it, living in this shitty neighborhood. Never know who’s going to be lurking in the bushes late at night, watching, waiting. You never know what kind of harm some creep like that can do if you’re not ready for him.
But now I’m ready. Because now I know the creeps don’t only come with crowbars and handmade shivs. Sometimes they come with big smiles and shitty lies that almost make sense. And sometimes they get busted coming back from office parties that didn’t happen. Because they forget their cell phones at home. Wake up, Tony. I really need to empty a few rounds in your skull. But I’m waiting until you’re wide-awake because I need you to know why.