Saturday, August 23, 2014

Excerpt #4 - Stone & Steele

This excerpt showcases the chemistry between partners Rico Steele and Sam "Stone" Mason. 

Rico Steele inhaled his Winston deep into his lungs and blew the smoke out his half-open driver side window.  "I'm tired of sitting, Stone."

"It isn't cold enough, you got to have the window open?" his partner asked.  He sipped his coffee, made a face, and turned the collar of his leather coat up around his ears. "What the hell kind of weather is this for September?  What the hell ever happened to global warming?"

"Maalox," Steele said.

"What?  Maalox what?"

"It's true.  They found out that global warming was being caused by cows farting and burping.  So they feed them Maalox now and it stopped.  We're going to have a freaking ice age, because freaking cows don't freaking know how to freaking behave themselves.  Meanwhile, every time you take a deep breath, you're inhaling cow farts."

"It's better than inhaling your damned cigarette smoke," Stone said.  "Being with you is like living in a coal mine.  A coal mine filled with farting cows and smoking degenerates."

"Oh, shaddup, all you do is complain.  I'm getting tired of you," Steele said.

 "Maybe if you had heat in this damned truck of yours.  Don't know why you bought a truck anyway.  Who needs a truck in New York City?"

"It's not a truck.  It's a compact SUV." 

"You're a terrorist.  I heard it on Fox News.  Out in California, they say anybody who drives an SUV is a terrorist and supports Al-Qaeda," said Stone.

"How the hell they figure that out?"

"Because of gas, Steele.  What do you get, three blocks a gallon?  Because of you and all the other terrorists, we've got to buy oil from the Arabs.  And all that money goes to Osama bin Laden's fans."

"That is such crap," Steele said.  He tossed his cigarette out the window and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel of the gray Hyundai Santa Fe.  He wondered if it was true that Arab oil money financed terrorism.  Stone had been his partner on and off the job for twenty years and while he did like to bust Steele's chops, he also knew a lot of things that other people didn't know.  Maybe he would get rid of the SUV when the lease was up; maybe it was time for a motorcycle.

He stared across the street at Irving Jerome's office building.  It had a little more personality than its neighbors.  They were glass and steel monstrosities but this building was stepped like a wedding cake, a series of boxes stacked big to small as you moved up.  Jerome's office was on the bottom level of the third box from the top, with a little balcony outside, and very easy to see into from across the street where he and Stone had observed the crooked lawyer for the last two weeks.
Jerome was in early every day and then off for the opening of court.  Almost as soon as Jerome was gone, his receptionist left the building too, usually for no more than half an hour. 

It would be time enough, Steele hoped.

He looked across at his partner.  "You know who I'd like to bang?"

"Let's see.  Yesterday it was Winona Ryder and Ashley Judd.  Who's the object of your affections today?" Stone asked.

"Ryder and Judd, only in a threesome.  One on one, I'd like to bang Ruby Sanchez."

"Get out of here," Stone said.

"What's wrong with that?  She's beautiful and she's got a great ass."

"Exactly.  And that's why she won't have anything to do with you."

"Why?  Why won't she have anything to do with me?" Steele said.

"Because you are a big funny-looking white guy.  She takes a look at you and she sees this guy wearing dopey red-and-white basketball shoes and high-water pants and driving a truck and she says to herself, this guy is just country.  Seriously, what would she want with you?  She takes you back home to meet mama and she gets laughed out of the hood.  Do yourself a favor.  Keep sniffing after Winona and Ashley.  Maybe you can take Winona shopping some day.  Whatever she steals, you can stick in the back of the truck."

Steele lit another Winston.  "Maybe you can put in a good word for me with Ruby.  You know, one black humanoid to another."

"Not a chance.  I like Ruby too much for that.  Besides, if Gorman ever found out you were sniffing around her, there'd be hell to pay."

"Aaaaah, I'm not afraid of Gorman."

"That's just proof of how dumb you are," Stone said.  "Wait.  There he is."

As the two men looked out the window across Park Avenue, Irving Jerome left his office building, stepped to the curb and hailed a cab.

"Let's go," Steele said.

"Wait five minutes for the girl to leave.  And listen, we're in there and we're out.  We're not going to shoot anybody or get in a fight or do anything stupid.  Let's see if we can find something that pins Jerome to buying off a juror.  That's all we want."

"Well, I'm glad of that," Steele said.  "I'm so tired of always winding up in trouble because you're like a crazy man.  There she goes."

Jerome's secretary, short and blonde, came quickly out of the building, belting a trench coat around her against the unseasonable chill.  As she walked down the block, the two men stepped from the parked vehicle.  Samuel Mason was six feet one and as black as men get.  He was built like a running back with short hair and amber eyes.  His face seemed to be composed of flat planes, joined together at sharp angles.  His no-nonsense manner and graveyard voice, as much as his chiseled features, had brought on him the nickname Stone.  As in gravestone.

Rickard. "Rico" Steele was, by contrast, so white, he seemed to be his partner's negative image.  If Stone looked like a running back, Steele was built like an NBA power forward.  He was three inches taller than his partner and his natural pallor and washed-out blue eyes showed his Swedish heritage.  His hair was that perfect Nordic blonde and almost shoulder length.  He wore khakis and a denim jacket, left open as if in defiance of the early autumn breeze.   Stone, on the other hand, wore a dark suit and a black leather topcoat and carried a briefcase.

"I must look like a lawyer escorting some perp into a precinct house," Stone mumbled under his breath as they walked across the street.

Want more? Read other excerpts and character interviews in earlier posts of this blog. If you want it all, Amazon is accepting advance orders for Beyond Blue now.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Beyond Blue Excerpt #3 - Chastity Chiba

In this scene, our Japanese/British fireball Chastity Chiba teaches a bad guy a lesson about fooling around with a cop's wife.

Chastity Chiba marched onto the car lot like an intercontinental missile homing in on its target.  She stopped halfway across the lot and scanned the entire outdoor area.  Not seeing the man she was after, she shifted her attention to an unoccupied salesman.  He opened his mouth to speak, but she was faster.

"Where's Marty."

"Did you want to buy a car, miss?"

"No," Chastity said.  "I just need to talk to Marty."

"He's kind of busy right now," the man said.  "I thought I could help you in the meantime.  Were you thinking two doors or four?"

Chastity raised her right hand and pinched the man's larynx between her thumb and forefinger.  He moved backward until his spine smacked a car.  She leaned him backward as far as the car allowed, staring into his frightened eyes.

"I need to talk to Marty about the fact that I have very strong opinions about adultery.  The man is destroying a family and I intend to put a stop to that.  Now, you tell me where he is, and you get to breathe some more."

"Closing room," the salesman said, waving a frantic hand at the left side of the building.
"They let that clown close his own deals?"  Ruby withdrew her hand and watched the salesman slide to the ground, leaning back against the car.  He had one hand at his throat but his breathing sounded normal.  He'd be fine.  She started to apologize, but realized that she wouldn't mean it.  Instead she just marched into the building.

It was warmer inside, but not by much.  Chastity detected the faux vanilla scent that some expert had convinced the world was the smell that made people relaxed and more prone to buy.  She knew about the offices to her right, and the restroom at the front of the building.  To her left, a large glassed-in area held shiny new cars, somehow seeming larger and more impressive just because they were indoors.  If this place was like every other auto dealership she had been in, the closing rooms would be just beyond the showrooms.  Heading toward that side of the building, Chastity allowed herself one final rational thought.  She wondered if Francine might have the courage to follow her.

The first door Chastity pulled open showed her what she wanted to see.  Marty sat on one side of a table, writing on a purchase order.  The couple sitting opposite him looked up, startled, when Chastity walked in.  Marty's reaction was more anger than surprise.

"You'll have to wait a bit, miss," he said.  "We'll be finished here in a few minutes."

"You're finished now," Chastity said, then, to the couple, "do you really want to buy a car from a guy who's breaking up a family by screwing the wife?  Get out of here."  She hooked a thumb toward the door and stepped further into the room.  The two nodded and rose to go.

"Hey wait, don't listen to her," Marty said, standing.

Chastity shoved Marty back into his seat.  "Pay attention while I deliver the message.  It's a four-part process."

"You crazy bitch," Marty said, standing again.  "You just cost me almost five thousand dollars."

Chastity ignored Marty's comment.  "First, the attention phase."  With that, she slammed the middle knuckle of the middle finger of her right hand straight out into Mary's solar plexus.   As the air flew out of his overstuffed belly, Marty seemed to shrink like a deflating Thanksgivings Day balloon.  His knees wobbled and this time he fell back into his chair.

"Now, the setting.  I think we'll go to the scene of the crime."  Chastity grabbed a handful of Marty's stringy brown hair and twisted.  He screeched, but came to his feet as she pulled.  His breath came in short sharp gasps and he emitted a long whine as she pulled him through the door.
Chastity had almost hoped that Marty would take a swing at her but to her disappointment, her judgment of him proved correct.  Shock and surprise had rendered him a whining, helpless child.  She dragged him across the showroom floor much as she guessed his mother did years ago.  Halfway to her destination, one of the managers looked up from his desk.

"Hey, what the hell is going on here?"

"Marty's been a bad boy," Chastity threw over her shoulder.  "He's being punished."

Hearing the manager's voice, Marty grabbed the hand pulling his hair and locked his legs.  Chastity slammed her right heel down on Marty's foot, piercing his shoe and possibly his flesh as well.  Marty howled like a schoolgirl and Chastity continued to drag him across the room.

At the bathroom door she swung him inside, stepped in behind him and locked the door.  Marty stood with his back and both hands pressed against the far wall as if he were bracing to take off.  The small room smelled of the male salesmen's poor aim.  She knew it was a man's bathroom because the seat was in the up position.  It was dim and dingy, and the fact that Marty had taken Francine there for their hurried trysts made her feel for all womankind somehow.  Marty's face showed that he still didn't get it.

"What the hell is your problem, bitch?" he screeched, raising a wall of false bravado that Chastity blew down with a casual look.  She stood with hands on hip, and one of those hips cocked upward.  When she spoke, her hard-edged voice was cold, betraying the slightest Japanese accent.

"Now, the actual message.  The hateful plan you hatched with Mrs. Brooks to defraud her husband is over.  So is your affair.  In fact, you will not see her again under any circumstances.  You don't want to consider the consequences of continuing this behavior.  Do you understand?"
Marty's eyes darted left and right as he tried to speak, but interrupted himself several time.  "How did you you can't just who the hell what are you, a cop or something?"

Chastity found herself disgusted that any woman would find this crème-filled doughnut with a head attractive.  He was taller than she, and probably twice her weight, yet he cowered as she walked toward him.  Her tiny fists were curled at her sides 

"And now we seal the lesson into your brain."  She stopped for a few seconds to give Marty one last chance to be a man. 

But this was no man.  It was a cornered animal that swung a fist at Chastity's face with a guttural roar of desperation.  He swung with all his strength and all his weight behind the punch, as he would have if he were fighting a man.

He might have even hurt her if he'd had a chance of actually hitting her.  Chastity leaned back out of the arc of Marty's punch and raised her right foot up, stamping out into his gut.  While Marty deflated again she grabbed his hair to pull him forward.  This time she snap kicked his left knee.  Marty dropped hard, his knees cracking onto the floor tiles.

Marty had less than a second to say, "No," before Chastity yanked him forward, leaning hard to press his face into the toilet.  It took all her weight to keep him in place for ten long seconds, which she thought was just about enough to make sure her message stayed clear in his brain.  It would be set in stone while he sat there, on his knees, in front of the bowl after she was gone.
It was no surprise to Chastity that she felt better after taking direct action against the insidious enemy.  Now she was fully prepared for her next errand, as directed by Gorman. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Beyond Blue Excerpt #2

In this scene Gunny steps in to help an undercover cop, and winds up going undercover himself.

Chinatown was certainly a change of scenery for Gunny Robinson.  Standing at the restaurant door he raised an eyebrow as a big black sedan with no back window sped past.  He quickly checked the faces of other pedestrians but no one else reacted at all, except for the one white man in sight, who took off running in the other direction.  Inscrutable, that's what these people were.  Inscrutable, or so accustomed to weird sights that they were numb to them. 

The little reaction Gunny drew in this neighborhood was the occasional smile.  Not so surprising, since he didn't look so foreign.  Chinese faces bore some resemblance to his Pacific Islander features.  Perhaps that made them think he might be one of them.  He was dressed suitably for a Sunday morning in gray wool trousers and blazer with a black turtleneck.  And he didn't gawk like tourists generally do.  He had learned on Guam that gawking was bad form.  Considering his shaved head, barrel chest and tree stump legs, the locals might think he was a visiting sumo wrestler in training. 

Once the damaged car was out of sight, Gunny opened the door to the imaginatively named Good Chinese Kitchen restaurant.  Couldn't these people even pretend to come up with something original?  How many had he been to with names like China Buffet, Buddha House, So Good Buffet, Good Dumpling House or the obviously better Excellent Dumpling House, and the ubiquitous Hunan this-that-or-the-other.

But he trudged up the dark, narrow stairway because this was where Lorenzo Lucania had asked him to join him for a dumpling and some conversation.  Gorman had encouraged him to stay close, maybe get inside himself, to keep Lucania on the straight and narrow until he could be pulled off the street. 

The restaurant was a good choice, dark and sparsely populated with a bar up front and a wide dining area beyond.  The art motif was provocative Chinese, as if all the painted geishas were waiting to serve you.  The carpet was thick and absorbed any stray sounds.  Support beams were wrapped in faux jade contact paper, and paper lanterns held very dim light bulbs.  On the far side of the buffet setup Lucania sat behind a plate and a pot of tea.  He was almost invisible, dressed as always in black

The Good Chinese Kitchen was filled with the scent of stir-fried food, but otherwise it was a good choice for a meeting.  Gunny saw only two other people in the dining area, a young Chinese couple who evidently could see only each other.  Gunny grabbed a plate at the buffet station and covered it with a thin layer of fried rice.   Then he heaped the plate with his favorite of the choices available, General Tso's Chicken.  Then he joined the undercover policeman at his table.

"Hungry?" Lucania asked.

"Always," Gunny said.  "Thirsty too.  Is there tea left in that pot?"

"More's on the way.  And we need to keep this short.  I'm expecting more company soon and you probably don't want to be here when they arrive."

A waiter appeared with a fresh pot of tea and extra condiments.  Lucania seemed to be enjoying some sort of fried rice combination and a couple of egg rolls, but he still wasn't smiling.  If anything, he seemed tenser than the last time Gunny had seen him.  Gunny hoped his news would lighten the mood a bit.

"So, what is it with you?" Gunny asked, dropping hot mustard on his food.  "You related to Johnny Cash or something?"

"It's a style thing," Lucania said.  "When you dance with the devil, you ought to dress appropriately."

After a moment of industrious chewing, Gunny cleared his mouth and continued.  "Well, if you can hold out just a little while longer, I think we can get you off the dance floor."

Lucania's eyes narrowed.  "You're not going to blow my cover."

"Look, Lorenzo, don't get to worrying, man," Gunny said, pouring more tea.  "We won't jeopardize you, or your mission.  But we will get you in out of the cold."

"It ain't that easy."

"Don't have to be easy," Gunny said.  "You've got Paul Gorman in your corner now.  When he gets involved with things, problems tend to get up and get out of the way."

"Really?"  Lucania used an egg roll to push food into an orderly circle on his plate.  "Your boss Gorman going to talk to the president for me?"

"Probably just your boss, Vic Warner."

Lucania shook his head, his black hair falling over his forehead.  "Not destined to be a pleasant visit.  You don't know Warner.  He bites the heads off nails."

"Should be an interesting meeting," Gunny said with a chuckle.  "Gorman eats nails and spits razor wire."

"I know my share of bad dudes," Lucania said.  "I've seen in your eyes, and I can see that you're the real thing.  But what about this Gorman.  Is he bad?"

Gunny leaned back, chewing thoughtfully.  "Bad?  Nah, Paul ain't bad.  But you know, the bad don't mess with him."

Lorenzo Lucania took a deep breath and stared down at the table with his lips clenched together.  Then he looked up into Gunny's eyes.  His face softened and for a brief moment all the conflict in his soul leaked out.

"I'm in a box here, Gunny," he said in a low, guttural voice.  "I can't squirm any farther.  I got no wiggle room here.  I've done some bad things in this job, but now I'm at the precipice looking down.  If I cross that line, then I'm not pretending any longer.  I'll be one of them."  Then his face returned to is usual hard lines.

Gunny leaned forward.  "Hang on, man.  Remember, it's about honor and loyalty, just like in the corps."

"Sure," Lucania said, "but loyalty to who?  The guy who put me out on that line?  Or the guy who's taking care of me now?"

"Loyalty to the uniform," Gunny said.  He would have gone on, but footsteps behind him made him turn.  Three big men stalked toward them, all wearing dark colored sport coats and business shirts with the collars open.  It was as if they had dressed together that morning.  They walked directly to Lucania's and Gunny's booth.  The biggest man, at the lead, didn't stop until he was almost on top of them.

"Morning, Lorenzo," he said with a Brooklyn twang.  "Who's your friend?"

"This is Gunny, a new fellow I'm thinking about trying out," Lucania said with no evidence of tension.  "Gunny, this here's Mike, Gus on the left there and the other guy's Robbie."

Gunny smiled and turned to offer his hand to Mike, who was an imposing figure.  Gunny was no small man, running close to 250 pounds except during the holidays when cheesecake and sugar cookies pushed his weight a bit higher.  Mike had to be 300 pounds and an inch taller than Gunny's six foot one inch frame, with long wavy black hair hanging onto the back of his collar.  He seized Gunny's hand in a power grip and gave him a broad smile, the way a Doberman pinscher smiles when he meets you.

"Mr. Lucania, he don't need no more help right now," Mike said.

Gunny returned the grasp, and remained calm as he looked up.  "I think that's for him to decide.  Maybe he just wants to have somebody on his payroll with good manners."

"Relax, Mike," Lucania said.

"I am relaxed," Mike said.  He stopped squeezing and started pulling, raising Gunny to his feet.  "I'm just saying our crew is a good size now, Lorenzo.  I got all the muscle you're ever going to need."

"Maybe he just wants to add some brain to that muscle, big man," Gunny said.

"Don't need no Samoan wrestler for that," Mike snapped.  With a grin he pushed Gunny back into the booth.  Gunny sprang to his feet, stepping forward so his nose almost touched Mike's.

"I am not Samoan," Gunny said in low tones.  "I come from the Royal Kingdom of Tonga.  Sicily is probably thirty times as big as all our islands put together, but we seem to have absorbed all the sense they meant to drop in your bigger island."

Lucania said, "Fellows, this is pointless."  Gus and Robbie took a couple of steps back and settled into another booth.  The couple seated across the room stood and slipped out of the room.  The waiter approached from the bar, stopped, and slowly backed away.

"You're really asking for me to kick your big ass, ain't you?" Mike asked. 

Gunny backed off three steps, holding his arms wide and his knees slightly bent.  "Bring it, big boy." is taking advance orders for Beyond Blue now.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Beyond Blue Excerpt

In order to whet your appetite for my next mystery thriller, Beyond Blue, I have decided to share a few excerpts of the book, pre-release. This one features the agency's leader, Paul Gorman. 

There are a few locations maintained by the New York police that are neither known nor open to the public.  These are the place from which special task forces operate.  Control units direct undercover operations from these sites.  In order to conduct their business with reasonable security, these operations are often conducted out of apartment buildings or, in some cases, residential homes.  A very small number of workers come and go on a daily basis, often through concealed entrances.  Rarely does anyone actually walk up to the front door.

It was at exactly one such residence on a quiet street in Brooklyn that Paul Gorman walked up and rang the doorbell at one minute after nine on a Monday morning.  The lawn was well kept, the hedges trimmed to mechanical precision, and the small flowerbeds obsessively weeded.  Those observations told Gorman quite a bit about the man that he was there to see.

He wondered if whoever was observing him through some peephole, as someone must be, was learning as much.  Paul had tried harder than usual to tame his lion’s mane of thick black hair this morning, but the autumn wind had brought it back to life during his walk from the bus stop.  His heavy hounds tooth overcoat should have taken him out of the salesman class.  His well-shined black shoes were solid, not flashy, as was the style.  His big hands, neither in gloves nor in his pockets, might hint at a military background. 

Could the observer see the frustration in the creases of his face?  Gorman had gotten up early that morning and left the house before his beloved Patsy even stirred.  He chose to ride the bus so that he could work undisturbed.  Work in this case meant pencil work on a yellow pad, continually reconfiguring the snippets of data he had gathered from his agents in the previous forty-eight hours.  He was not liking the configuration of the cases they were running.  Most importantly, he didn’t like the fact that all of them seemed to be coming to a head on the same day.  He wanted to coordinate his resources better, perhaps defuse some and delay others, so that the cases could be wound up in a more orderly manner.  Sadly, the world was rarely as orderly as Paul Gorman thought it should be.  That was why he had walked the neighborhood for nearly thirty minutes, pushing people around in his head like the multicolored squares on a Rubik’s Cube until a pattern emerged that he could live with.

Gorman allowed one minute to pass after ringing the bell, then pressed the button again.  Nearly a minute later he heard a chain slide out of its place, and two bolts getting thrown.  A young blonde woman in jeans and a halter-top opened the door and smiled up at him.

“Can I help you?”

“They let you come to work like that?” Gorman asked.  “Oh, of course they do.  Paul Gorman to see Mr. – or is it Captain? – Victor Warner.”

“Gee, I’m sorry, I think you’ve got the wrong address,” the woman said.  “I’m just the babysitter, but this is the Winters residence.”

“Uh-huh.  Look, you’d be better calling yourself the au pair in this neighborhood.  Go tell Warner that I’m here about Lorenzo Lucania, and that my next stop is the Mayor’s office.  Make sure he gets my name too, okay?  Paul Gorman.”

“I think you’d better go, Mister,” the girl said, affecting a passable degree of discomfort.  She closed the door and Gorman waited.  He waited two long minutes and was just contemplating the long bus ride to City Hall when the door opened again.  The man in the doorway had a great hawk nose and small, dangerous eyes.  He reminded Gorman of the picture on the front of old paperback novels of The Shadow except that, instead of a black mantle he wore a gray wool suit cut sharp as a razor.  After a few seconds of appraisal he flashed a shark’s grin.

“You’re him?” he asked in an old school Brooklyn accent.

“I’m me,” Gorman said.  “Presumably, you are you, and would be Mr. Victor Warner.  Or…”

“Captain,” Warner said.  “But you can call me Vic.”

“Then I’ll be Paul.  May I come in?”

Warner waved Gorman into a medium sized living room that was furnished for comfort and showed signs of being dusted and vacuumed every day.  Warner stepped past him and headed for the kitchen.

“The operation is downstairs.  You want coffee?”

Gorman nodded, and Warner poured into two big black mugs.  His assumption that Gorman wanted no cream or sugar implied either great confidence in his own judgment or deep research into Gorman’s habits.  The coffee was strong and hot and Gorman was content to learn more about Warner’s motivations later.

They proceeded down a narrow flight of stairs to what the people there probably called the nerve center when they spoke to less elite officers.  The large finished basement had been divided up into a prairie dog city of cubicles.  The hum of electronics and the banks of flashing lights and screens made Gorman wonder if he was at risk from the massive electromagnetic field that this place must generate.  He had visited NASA once, and this place rivaled anything he saw there.  It made him realize just how low tech his own operation remained.

“People!” Warner called out, and a dozen faces spun to focus on him.  “I know you’re all working hard, but I wanted you to know that you’re in the presence of a legend.  This is Paul Gorman.  After a brilliant Army career in the Military Police he retired and created a second brilliant career in civilian law enforcement.  He ran at least three major metropolitan police forces and was consulted by just about every police chief or commissioner in the country.  And today…” Warner stopped and turned to Gorman as if he expected him to address the group of younger officers.  Instead he spoke directly to Warner.

“Today I’m a private consultant, and manage a local detective agency.  Guess that makes me semi-retired,” he said with a self-deprecating smile.