Monday, May 4, 2015

Smitty's next novella

Smitty again. 

Following up on the success of 'A Killing Kiss' published by the new ebook/paperback publisher, Number Thirteen Press, I decided to upgrade a Smitty story I started sometime back and turn it into a novella.  The idea is to submit it to the above publisher again in the hopes they might be amenable to the idea of building up a fan following for my dark eyed killer.

I'm aiming for a goal of 120-125 pages this time.  And again, like all my stories, the twists and turns in the story I'm hoping will trip up the reader just enough to make them want to dig deeper into the puzzle.  I've never liked a story that simply began at A and followed along a straight and narrow road which ran straight and true all the way to B and beyond predictably.  I like my stories twisty and convoluted.  Not so much as the mundane standard straight alphabet run. Rather, a tipsey turvey roller coaster ride on a curving back county road in the hill country of Colorado or Arkansas.

All I'm saying further about the story is this;  It is amazing how absolute fear and absolute disgust seem to be so closely related to each other.

Enjoy the next two pages of 'Sometimes Nightmares Come True.'


            His hands were shaking.
            Shaking violently.
            He grinned . . . hysterically . . . lifting a hand up and watching it rattle and quake visibly in front of him.  Looking at it he realized he was also having a hard time breathing. Short, explosive bursts were coming out of his lungs.  Like someone who'd just seen a . . .  a . . . a . . . ghost.  Wiping sweat from his brow with the back of the shaking hand he turned and reached for the Zippo lighter and a pack of cigarettes lying on the green felt table top.  It took a moment of sustained concentration to make the yellowish blue flame of the lighter finally touch the tip of the cigarette.  Pulling in a deep drag he held it for a moment, turned, and exhaled slowly as he tossed the lighter back onto the table.
            Would he come?  Would he really come and hear what he had to say?
            Why would he come?  He was a nobody.  A schmuck.  A common grunt with little cash and no friends.  So why would a guy like this come and hear what he had to say?  Unless . . . unless . . .
            Panic gripped him.  He staggered back against the wall of the condemned building his dad used to own and work as a local saloon, a hand over his mouth and eyes as wide as sauce pans.  Glancing to his right and left with spasmodic jerks of the head, staring into the depths of the dark shadows filling the long, narrow, musky smelling old building, his imagination was seeing him . . . seeing him with a gun in his hand . . . coming out of the darkness.  Materializing out of nothing with gun in hand and the muzzle aimed straight for his head.
            My god!  My god!  My god . . . . !
            He leapt toward the old wooden chair slid back from the card table.  Leapt toward the webbing and holster and the gun riding in the cheap leather.  Reached for the handle of the Colt .357 Python . . . and froze in mid motion, hand outstretched, eyes bulging at the image on the floor directly opposite of the table.
            Black loafers.  Brightly polished to a mirror image. With just the cuffs of a pair of dark slacks above them in the dim light of a street corner lamp cutting a shaft of light through the gloom of the old building.
            Someone was standing in the darkness just a few feet away!  Just standing there silently.  Making no noise.  Watching.  Silently observing.  As noiseless as a ghost.  He stared into the darkness in front of him and saw nothing.  Saw nothing!  Heard nothing! But he knew.  He was there.  Knew the guy was . . . was . . . was . . .
            Sweat rolling down his brow. His lips squirming and rolling around as if he was either about to scream or beg for mercy.  Bulging eyes, filled with madness, kept glancing down and at the wooden gripes of the .357 only inches away from his outstretched hand.  Frozen in this position unable to move.  He knew he was dead if he lunged for the gun.  Knew he probably was dead anyway.  Why would a guy like him help him out of a jam?  A big time killer like that?  Someone who usually worked only for guys like Paulie.  For big time money.  Why would a guy this good even consider taking on the job he had in mind for mere pennies?
            Unless, of course, Paulie had already hired this guy to find him and silence him.
            With a groan of resignation, eyes filling with tears, he dropped the outstretched hand to his side and stood up slowly.  Bowing his head, closing his eyes, he knew there was nothing he could do.  He wasn't as fast as him.  He couldn't run.  He sure as hell wasn't going to fight this guy. So he accepted it.  Accepted his death and waited for the bullet to drive through his head.
            Outside in the streets some guy was riding his horn angrily as some jerk who wouldn't move on the green of a traffic light fast enough.  In the distance was the sound of a siren, probably an ambulance, hurrying to some unknown tragedy.  There was also the momentarily loud engine whine, and then the metallic 'thunk' of an empty garbage can being slapped onto the sidewalk pavement.
            But there was no Boom! of a gun going off.  No bullet was ripping through his cranium, splattered the wall directly behind him with his blood and brain matter.  Inside the old building there was only semi-silence; with only his heart beat breaking the absolute silence of this mausoleum.  Stunned.  Amazed.  Hesitant . . . he opened one eyelid hesitantly, lifting his head up to stare into the dark shadows in front of him.  At the ghost known as Smitty.
            He was sitting at the table.  In the other old wooden chair.  An average sized man with dark, short cropped hair and a razor thin nose.  Nattily dressed in a pair of tailored dark brown slacks, with a black shirt and metallic silver tie underneath a dark chocolate brown sport coat.  One leg was thrown over the other.  Hands were folded together and lying neatly on his lap.  There was a thin half smile . . . a smirk . . . stretching across his lips.  Dark eyes, dark as midnight, stared up at him unblinking.
            The image of Death sitting quietly in a chair and waiting.  Patiently waiting for the inevitable to happen.
            "You . . . you got my message."
            The dark eyed man nodded silently and made no other motion.  Just sat in the chair, legs crossed, hands on his lap, and continued to stare at the standing man curiously.
            "Look . . . I . . . I don't know what to do.  I'm in big trouble.  Deep shit I can't shovel my way out and I need help.  Help only you know how to do."
            "I heard," the smartly dressed man answered with a voice slightly stronger than a whisper and infinitely, infinitely, nerve wracking.  "I came because you asked, Joey.  You've helped me in the past several times.  Helped me out of a couple of jams.  Just paying back a debt I owe.  That's all.  So sit down and tell me everything.  From the beginning."

            Joey stood up, ran a shaking hand across parched lips as he stared at the dark man with the dark eyes and wondered how the hell did he get in here and not make a sound.  But, dropping the hand to his waist, he giggled insanely.  Why ask a stupid question!  Smitty was here.  Everyone knew Smitty just showed up unannounced.  And left when he no one was looking.  This was Smittty fer chrissakes.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


You're a writer.  Your preference in writing is genre fiction.  That's almost a guarantee you're going to create a series.  A series featuring a specific character.  It's natural.  Like mayonnaise on a ham sandwich.  Not kosher if you have one and not the other.

So I created a character by the name of Roland.  Roland of the High Crags.  A warrior-monk-wizard, who has, upon occasion, anger management problems. The genre is Heroic Fantasy (Fantasy for sure; the Heroic Fantasy is a moniker I'm not sure has been invented yet).  

The idea was to create a heroic character who was . . . flawed.  Maybe more human than hero.  A hero who has doubts.  Has fears.  And definitely has a temper.  Mix in some wizardry magic, some swordplay, some impossible escapes . . . and give him a quest that he will find impossible not to accept . . . and as I thought, you would have the perfect novel.  One that anyone would want to read.

Well brother, I was wrong.

Every publisher I sent it to, sent it back with a form letter that said, in so many words, "Thanks for this idiotic story . . . and NO, we don't want the damn thing!"  

The only option left was to self publish.  I did.  About nine people have read.  And liked it immensely, if you believe their comments.  But that's it.  About nine people.  Okay.  But Roland doesn't want to go away.  He is, at least to me, a damn interesting character.  One that has story possibilities that are almost inexhaustible.  I want to keep writing the stories.  But more than anything, I want people to discover and READ them.

The idea hit me a couple of days ago.  Combine Books One and Two together . . . bridge the gap with some new writing . . . and write an Intro that'll captivate the potential buyer almost instantly.  And artwork . . . maybe re visualize the cover with something different but striking in nature.

Last night I wrote something which might turn out to be the Intro just mentioned.  I thought I would share it.  Maybe get some feedback.  Maybe not.  What do you think?

In my Own Hand, I write the History of the Great Struggle

            The sunlight streaming through the narrow slit for a window is strong today.  Its warmth fills my old soul with a deep sense of satisfaction.  And peace.  A breath of quiet, still, peace I have not felt for quite some time. I have been in this cell for oh, so long. Years.  Decades.  Perhaps centuries . . .I cannot say.
            But it's time, brother.
            Time for me to leave the confining space of this narrow dungeon cell.  Time to elude my captors and again take up the sword and shield. The fight will continue.  What was will be again.  There is no escaping the cycle.  Years of solitude ,of captivity, have only made me stronger. Aye, brother . . . my body is old and frail.  White is the color of my hair now.  The wrinkles of age on my face too numerous to count. My bones creak and groan every time I stir from my bed. But the soul. brother . . . the soul within this ancient casket of flesh and bone remains strong! And as long as my soul lives . . .
            How long have I been in this dungeon cell I cannot say.  I gave up counting the days and years long ago. Suffice to say it has been at least one life time.  Perhaps two.  This narrow slit deep in the bowels of some ancient fortress long forgotten, its walls made of stone streaked with a rare metal which limits my wizardry powers, has counted with me many summers and winters passing.  Patiently I have waited for this day.  I endured. I survived.  I fought back the pain of my captor's torments. I fought the long hours of unbelievable silence which pushed me close to the edge of the abyss called insanity.  For years I heard not the sound of a human voice. I endured in this cell of infinite solitude.
            Know you, pilgrim, I am a Bretan monk. A Bretan warrior-monk.  I wear still the yellow robes of that ancient order with deep humiliation and love.  Even though . . . even though in the eyes of my kind, both brothers and sisters of the order, I am an Apostate. A feared and loathed disbeliever who has taken up the sword against his faith.  Against the teachings of the Bretan.
            They will tell you, my Bretan brothers and sisters, that it was I who brought this Great Evil among us.  It was I who, when given the chance to destroy this Great Evil long before she became what she is today, I failed in my faith and allowed her live. To not only live, Pilgrim, but to thrive!  To grow in her strength and powers of the Netherworld through the training and technique of a Bretan wizard.
            For she is indeed a formidable power, brother.  Her command of the Netherworld magic is beyond comparison.  She lives in both worlds.  Both here in the Middle Kingdom all souls still wrapped in these caskets of flesh and blood reside in, and in the World of the Dead as well.  The Netherworld. Lives in both at the same time. Aware of both; interacts in both dimensions, all at the same time. No mortal wizard or witch before her has ever accomplished such a feat.
            How many have died because of Her?  How many empires have fallen?  How many loving families ripped asunder.  Millions.  Hundreds of millions. And she still reins over the many.  Because of her a great imbalance permeates throughout the Great Cycle which both the Neatherworld and the Middle Kingdom revolve around. An imbalance that must be corrected. Has to be corrected if this Universe as we know it is to remain intact and operating like the great mechanism it is.
            But she is, Pilgrim, not the She whom I raised. She is a different soul.  A She from some far distant Past who, when the opportunity was offered to her, stole the one whom I raised from childhood and imprisoned her as well.
            Aye brother . . . aye.  It is something beyond knowing, beyond belief, that which I scribble hurriedly on this parchment  A She from a different Past, you say?  How could this be?  What Dark Magic is being laid bare here? How could someone from the Past, someone long since dead, return to the Now and replace the living?  But it is so, Pilgrim.  It is so and it falls upon my shoulders to rectify this Great Schism and bring back the Laws of Order and Tranquility from the Rules of Chaos and Darkness.
            And it begins tonight, my brother.  Tonight . . .when the full moon hurls its first bright beams of pure light through the bars of this narrow dungeon cell. When the shaft of  soft golden/white light touches the stone floor I will step into its sweet embrace I will . . . I will . . .
            But before this happens.  Before the struggle begins anew, I will hurriedly scribble a few lines of what took place before.  I will write a short History of the Struggle with the forces of Chaos and those entities whom reside in the Netherworld.
            I am Bretan, brother.  Once known as an honorable warrior-monk and wizard.  I am Roland.  Known as Roland of the High Crags. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Demise of Cable/Network TV?

The other day I started binge-watching a new Netflix show entitled, Daredevil.  Yes, that Daredevil; the one based off the Marvel Comics hero.  And right off the bat, in the first few minutes of the first episode, I was sold on it.  Well written, well crafted, imaginative . . . with characters you could immediately love/hate, depending on your own personal tastes.

(And I haven't mentioned the action sequence/fight scenes.  Which are, frankly, amazing)

Another non-cable/network show came to mind as well.  Have you seen the series called Peaky Blinders?  A series about British crime families set in the early 1900's in England.  With not nearly the amount of thrilling fight scenes as found in Daredevil, nevertheless the stories here are deep, emotional, hard hitting, and filled with character.

And it got me to thinking.  How many shows are out there on Cable or Network TV which equal or rival the production qualities of Daredevil?

A couple come to mind.  The Blacklist could be thrown into this collection.  A NBC program, it's the main characters that make this series so interesting.  My favorite found on any network is Person of Interest.  A computer guru designing a computer that looks for terrorists, and crime victims or perpetrators, across the entire electrical/computer signature . . . along with the ex-CIA agent who is as tough as hardened steel hired to protect the innocent, is a natural for me,

The Scy/Fy channel has a new out called The 12 Monkeys.  Good one.  It has time travel, conspiracies, and End of Times story lines which, if one is into this kind of stuff, can get deeply wrapped up in rather instantly.

But there's a difference here between non-network/cable material and the new shows popping up on the likes of Netflix and now Amazon.  There are no commercials for one to interrupt you at a critical point in the story.   Disconcerting, to say the least.  And there are no censors to speak of for the shows found on the likes of Netflix and Amazon.  And that's good.  It make for . . . of can make for . . . a far more interesting story to be told.

We all know Network TV is rapidly losing viewership numbers.  There's a reason for that.  Several reasons, in fact. (like, just HOW MANY freaking commercials do you have to run in one time slot before finally getting back to the show?)  Frankly, I'm from the Old School.  I grew up watching Network TV.  So I'm hoping there can be some kind of resurgence . . . a real Renaissance if you will . . . for its return to glory days.

That's what I am wishing for.  I didn't say I was counting on it to happen. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Smitty's back in, A Killing Kiss.

A Smitty novella is coming out in April.  Called A Killing Kiss.  It's a short novella depicting Smitty as his murderous best.  The dark Avenging Angel, if you will.

Essentially it is a story about a mobster kingpin who knows he's about to die.  But before he does, he wants to make arrangements with Smitty that, in his untimely demise, his young wife and baby son are protected from those who have more, shall we say, maleficent intentions in mind.

A new publisher is bringing this one out.  Number Thirteen Press is a new English ebook publisher specializing in short stories and novellas.  On the 13th of every month they bring  a fresh voice and a hard noir little jewel out to share with everyone.  I'm like the sixth or seventh author coming out in their inaugural year.  I'm hoping we will have a long and lucrative relationship

One of the problems I have to be wary of is this; when it comes to my writing I can overload a potential publisher with sheer volume.  Stories, novels, novellas, are everywhere!  I've got computer memories groaning from the overload.  Books that have been waiting for years to get out into the open and be read.  Short stories . . . . sheez.  More short stories than I can write in a hundred years waiting to be written.

But that's a problem about being a writer.  Stories keep coming.  Whether you want them to or not.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Smitty, in something called, 'The Dark Holds No Secrets'

In the middle of writing a movie script (well . . . for that matter, I'm in the middle of writing MANY different things at the same time.  Sheez!)

It's a movie featuring Smitty, my dark, lovable (ah . . . huh?), implacable killer who somehow has a broad streak of humanity in him.  I find the writing of a script challenging.  I've done only one other before.  A long, long, long time ago.  It was an action-comedy set in Prohibition.  I still got the rough copy around here somewhere . . .


The Smitty script.  Mixing action, drama, and humor within the confines of roughly 120 pages.  And doing it for a visual audience.  Daunting to say the least.  But that's the challenge, isn't it?  A writer, I think, should be challenged.  Should explore new territories in the worlds of wordsmithing.  Success or failure doesn't come in to play.  It's the challenge . . . the journey . . . that should liven up a writer's dance routine.

So I thought I would offer up the opening seen of the movie.  Just getting a glimpse of it.  I'd be interested in hearing anything you might like to say.  Good or bad. (yes, I DO take ant-acid pills on a regular basis.  No . . . not really.  Just kidding)

Give it a look.

The Dark Holds No Secrets

FADE IN: Late afternoon with light rain.

EXT. SHOT--A busy city street filled with traffic shrouded in a fog-like downpour.
Cut To: Black CTS Cadillac moving over rain filled streets. The car is weaving expertly in and out of slow moving traffic.

Cut To: A second view, the Caddy's tail lights, lighting up the early evening light as it shows a right turn signal.

INT. SHOT: Car. Wind shield wipers sweeping back forth a windshield being pelted by a study rain.  Heavy city   traffic.  The sound of the wipers sweeping back and forth across the windshield is noticeable.

Cut To: Hands, wearing black leather gloves, gripping the     steering the leather steering wheel. One hand moves     from the wheel and punches the ON button on the car's radio. Softly over the radio we hear the music of      Depeche Mode's A Pain That I'm Used To.

Cut To: Interior of the car.  Just a slice of the driver's    dark eyes moving back and forth from side to side as he drives.  But his eyes keeps returning to the boxy   from of a yellow cab three or four car lengths in      front of his Caddy.

EXT. SHOT: Same rain filled heavy traffic. Black Caddy
     keeps following the yellow taxi four car lengths
     behind it through heavy traffic. In the back seat of
     the taxi we see the little girl (a 10 or 11 year
     old girl) turning her head back and forth to stare
     at the city's tall buildings.  She looks excited.
     Occasionally she points to something and leans toward
     her father to say something.

     Eventually the cabby's tail lights flash brightly
     in the rain as it stops in front of a line of
     parked cars sitting in front of a tall apartment

     Cut To: The dark eyes of the driver turns to his left     and sees a man holding an umbrella in one hand and the     hand of a small girl in the other.  The man is trying     to hold the umbrella over the small girl as they hurry through the rain down the deserted sidewalk to the      entrance apartment building.

     INT. SHOT: The dark eyed man sitting behind the
     steering wheel of the Caddy.  As he watches the cabby
     come to a halt and the father and daughter get out
     of the cab, dark eyes wrinkle up in a frown.


FADE IN: Mid Day. Filled with sunshine. Somewhere    downtown.

INT. SHOT--An upscale bar:

Cut To: A booth sitting in front of a large plate glass   window.  Outside the pub the city sidewalk is filled   with rapidly moving pedestrians.  City traffic on the     streets is moving stop and go action.  Sitting at the table is a dressed in all black.  He looks nervous.       Agitated.  In front sitting on the booth's table are three empty glasses.  A fourth is sitting by his hands.  Hands that are fidgeting nervously.

Cut To: Same bar. Different angel. A man is sitting  
        in a booth. In front of him is a large piece of
      pie and cup of coffee. He's dressed casual sport
      coat, solid color shirt with no tie.  We see his
      hands, arms, upper torso, and the lower portion of            his jaw but nothing more.  His booth is beside a  
     large plate glass window that looks out onto the same                                                   busy street. He casually eats his pie slowly,
      occasionally turning his head to glance out at
      the passing pedestrians.

      As the fork with the last piece of pie rises up
      to his face, the arm's motion stops at the mid-
      way point when the form of a man in dark
      clothing slips past the window.  We SEE the
      lower portion of the man's head half turn to
      glance at the passing stranger.

      When the dark from of the passer-by disappears
      the unseen man finishes his last piece of pie.
      reaches in his sport coat and pulls out a wallet.
      He throws a twenty dollar bill onto the table
      beside his coffee cup and slips out of his booth.

Cut To:  The bar's entrance door opening and a compact,
     trim man dressed in a tailored suit enters the premises.  There is a suggestion of a predator, of      coiled and ready menace ready to explode, in the man's physical form.  He sees the agitated man sitting in a      booth and makes his way to him.

     Just as he turns to head toward the booth a figure,
     face UNSEEN, tries to step past the man standing
     in front of the entrance. The two accidentally
     collide. There's an awkward dance as each man tries
     not to the touch the other. We HEAR an "Excuse me,"
     coming from the man trying to depart just before
     the man slips out of the entrance and disappears
     into the pedestrian traffic.

     The man who just entered, still standing in front
     of the entrance, pauses for a moment and turns
     his head back to look at the figure disappearing
     behind him before looking back at the agitated
     figure sitting in the booth.

(noticing dark man approaching
grinning sheepishly. Still very agitated.)
     Smitty.  You got my note.    Good . . .good.
     I'm glad you came.  Really.
     I mean . . . really glad you came.

(Sliding into the booth, eyes on Danny.)

     It sounded urgent.  What's on your mind,

The pub's noise is not loud but is noticeable.  People are moving about.  Voices, some angry. . . some laughing, punctuate above the usual drone occasionally. Danny visibly
jumps nervously whenever anyone near his booth stands up and walks away.  Or when someone suddenly shouts unexpectedly.

(hands rolling over and over nervously and
constantly jerking his head to look at
complete strangers suspiciously.)

     Smitty.  I got no other way to do this.  No one
     I know who'll help me.  All I got is you . . .
     and I don't know if you'll help or not.  But I
     gotta do something.  If I don't they're gonna
     kill'em. Both of'em. As sure as I sitting
     here talking to you, if I don't do something to
     stop it, both of'em are going to be dead by
     tonight.  So please...please . . .help me.

(Calm, quiet; centered.  But observing
Danny closely.)

     Who is going to die?

(leaning over the table to hiss
out the reply)

     My brother, Smitty.  My brother and
     my niece!  God knows I've been a
     terrible brother. I'm the one that's
     the criminal in the family.  But Robert's
     not!  He and my niece are just ordinary
     people.  They've done nothing wrong. 
     But . . . but the word is out.  There's
     a contract out on their lives.  It's
     supposed to happen sometime tonight. 
     Smitty . . . Smitty!  I gotta do something.
     I can't sit back and let the only two
     people who care about me get snuffed
     out'cause of something I must'uv done to                  someone. Please . . . please help me
     Smitty.  Please!

Smitty's face is unreadable.  He turns his head to glance out the plate glass window.  Turns his head again and watches someone get up off a bar stool and head for the pub's exit.  He then looks at Danny sitting across from him and nods his head slightly.


     Okay, Danny.  I'll see what I can do.
     But before I do anything, you've got
     to tell me everything.  How did you hear
     about this?  What does your brother do
     for a living?  Where does he live? 
     Everything, Danny.  Starting right now.

Danny nods eagerly, flashing a relieved grin across his lips. He glances at the crowd standing at the bar for a second and then turns back to Smitty.  He leans across the
booth's table and begins whispering eagerly.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Smiling Buddhas and other such things

Creating characters for your stories.  Where do they come from?  How do you 'color in' the details of their lives which fills them out and gives them their unique personalities?  Are you one of those detail freaks who sits down with paper and pencil and manufactures a complex, multifaceted biographical sheet before putting the first word down on a new story or novel?  Or do you suddenly wake up and that character is in looking back at you in your mind.  Fully developed and ready to go.  Right down to knowing exactly what color of tie they would wear going into a knife fight (if that is . . . you know . . .  knife fighting and wearing ties went hand in a hand kinda thing).

Maurice came out that way for me.  Maurice; a short, and slightly growing plump, cross between a Charlie Chan wannabe and a Perry Mason-like lawyer.  A fastidious little smiling Buddha who has the gift of talking to ghosts.  Ghost who, violently murdered, come to him to solicit is his services in tracking down and incarcerating the actual person who did the foul deed.

Woke up one day and there he was.  Just sitting there on the edge of consciousness and unconsciousness.  Smiling, his little round face and growing chins beaming in delight at being in my mind.  Dressed in an off white three-piece Southern Plantation still cotton suit, a white colored fedora being held in one hand as he sat on the desk of an ornate French designed writing desk.

He didn't say a word.  Just sat there in my mind and waited for me to dig up enough gumption to sit down and begin writing a story.  Knew I would eventually.  Just sat there and kept smiling at me.

And he loves driving old Pink Cadillacs.  Why, I don't know.  But he does.

Irritating . . . but likable little guy.

So I did.  Here's the first chapter of 'Maurice.'  The story is currently being serialized, chapter or two at a time, in Angie's Diary ezine.  We're up to Chapter 7 now in the novella.  If you like the first chapter, I encourage you to go over to Angie's Diary and catch up on the story.  New chapters will be showing up in a day or two.



            With a flick  of the thumb he opened the old Zippo lighter and thumbed it into life before lifting the bright flame to the end of the cigarette. 
            And paused . . .
            A bright pink Caddy convertible slid into the No Parking Zone as if it belonged there and quietly came to a halt.  A big battleship of a car, with high tail fins in back and a spread of metal across the front hood big enough to be the landing deck of a Nimetz-class carrier.  Hot pink. Freshly polished . . . with white vinyl seats.  The white so intense he thought about lifting a hand up to shade the glare from his eyes.
            One big sonofabitch of a car.
            Had to be a '59 Caddy convertible. Looked just like the one he remembered his grandmother had way back when he was six or seven.  Yet it looked as if it just rolled off a showroom floor.  But as if the car wasn't enough to gawk at, the guy sitting behind the wheel was . . . was . . . unreal.
            At first the thought of Charlie Chan.  White three-piece Southern Plantation suit.  Perfectly tailored.  Very expensive material.  Hung on the guy's frame like a million dollars.  Not even a smidgen of dirt anywhere to be seen on the white.  With white loafers.  Glistening white loafers.  But instead of a white derby sitting directly atop the man's head there was, instead, a wide brimmed white fedora.  The complexion of the guy suggesting oriental origins.  Or maybe not.  Maybe Egyptian.  Or Roman. Definitely pudgy around the midsection. Obviously the guy enjoyed his groceries. But you really couldn't call him fat.  Not yet.  No . . . this wasn't a Charlie Chan.  Charlie Chan was a Hawaiian-Chinese homicide detective based out of Honolulu.  A fictional character concocted by a writer from out of the 1930's.   This guy . . . this guy, as he rolled out from behind the massively wide steering wheel of the car and reached into the back seat to extract a rather expensive looking leather briefcase, along with an odd looking twisted black ebony shillelagh-like cane, was real. 'Bout five eleven . . . maybe six foot.  'Bout two ten, maybe two twenty on the bathroom scales.  With just the suggestion of double chins beginning to thicken.
            Not Hawaiian.  Nor Chinese. Not anyone from the Far East. This guy had the greenest/yellow eyes he had ever seen and a smile that seemed to burst out from somewhere deep within. A smile that could warm up the frozen heart of a Spanish Inquisitor standing in a dungeon cell directly dead center on the North Pole.
            "My dear boy, kindly show me the way to your booking sergeant."
            "Uh . . . uh . . . sure. This way, fella."
            For some reason he felt compelled to personally escort this creature through the mayhem of the precinct's ground floor.  As they moved through the crowd of those being booked, those being sprung, lawyers, cops, and assorted other denizens of the legal spectrum, he kept turning his head to look over his shoulder and at the guy following behind him.  He kept tripping over his feet.  He also noticed a number of others in the crowded commons area looking up from their desks and staring with that kinda dumbass look at the man dressed in white.
            "Whatta want, Preston?"
            The booking sergeant was a gray haired, iron jawed old veteran wore a permanent scowl across his gray face as if it was a mark of distinction or a battle wound.
            "Dear boy, you really must take better care of your exquisite little Rosa Xanthia here. They are a hardy species, to be sure.  But such neglect is almost criminal.  Yet truly a gorgeous specimen. I do so love flowers."
            The sergeant paused, fingers coming to a halt just above the keyboard as, puzzled, he rotated around in his chair and gazed at the creature standing on the other side of his desk pouring water out of a paper cup into the small vase which contained one single, rather sickly looking, yellow rose. Eyes blinked a couple of times in a kind of automatic reaction.  Clearing his vision, with the thought of maybe he was seeing things running through his mind, he openly stared at the white image.
            "Who the hell are you?"
            "Maurice.  Just call me Maurice, good fellow.  Here to see my client."
            "You?  You're telling me you are a lawyer?"
            Clearly in the sergeant's voice was a note of incredulity.
            "Indeed," the creature nodded, beaming delightedly as gawkers, both uniformed and not, drifted over to stand just behind the sergeant's desk to they could listen in on the conversation. "Recently arrived into this fair city and looking forward to establish deep roots.  My client is my first case, I might add.  My very first."
            "Who's your client?"
            "A delightful gentleman by the name of Randall Cooke."
            "Wha . . . Cooke?  You said Randall Cooke?  That Randall Cooke?"
            "The Rapist and child molester?" someone in behind the sergeant mouthed angrily. "You're gonna represent that guy?  Why?"
            The collective faces of the gathered crowd reflected back the images of anger, disgust, dismay and incredulity.  Every knew Randall Cooke was guilty. Raped and murdered a nineteen year old mother and then turned his sick fury onto the eight month old baby. The guy was a sick pervert that needed to fry. Fry in the electric chair.  Or, at least, thrown in a jail cell and then forgotten altogether.
            "Gentlemen, a man is innocent until he is proven guilty. The founding principal in our judicial system which has singularly separated our courts and civilization from the rest of this often times barbaric world for the last two and one half centuries.  I, contrary to popular opinion, happen to believe Randall Cooke has been falsely accused.  Now would someone be so gallant as to show me to the nearest interrogation room so I might converse with him?"
            "Uh . . . sure.  Sure . . ." the desk sergeant grunted, unconsciously reaching for his desk phone as he continued to stare at the beaming white suited lawyer.  "Preston, show him to Interrogation One."
            "Uh huh . . . sure, Sarge," the young cop nodded absently, turning as if partially paralyzed in a hypnotic state and touching the guy's right elbow gently at the same time.  "This way . . . fella."
            When Randall Cooke walked into the room narrow black slits for eyes turned and stared at the figure sitting at the table, fingertips of both hands pressed gently against each other, a beatific smile beaming from his thin lips.  A round man dressed in virgin white.  With the odd green and yellow flecked eyes staring back at him, openly honest and unafraid.
            Cooke paused, half turned to face the young cop who escorted him to the room, yet without taking his eyes off the creature sitting at the table patiently.
            "Who is this guy?"
            "Your lawyer."
            "I have a lawyer?"  Cooke barked, lifting an eyebrow in surprise yet painting across his mug a sincere look of distaste at the form sitting at the table in front of him. "This is got to be a joke.  This guy doesn't look like a Public Defender."
            "Shuddup and sit down. Be happy you got someone, even this guy, to represent you," snarled the cop before slamming door closed.
            He hesitated, a calloused, big hand running across his mouth as he eyed the man in white.  But then, shrugging, he pulled out a chair directly across from the smiling man and sat down.
            "Who'd throw good money down to hire a lawyer for me?"
            "My . . . client wishes not to be identified.  But she wants me to assure you she knows you are innocent.  Innocent at least of this crime."
            "She?" Cooke growled, frowning in confusion.  "I don't know any women with this kind of money to throw around.  So what's the scam, counselor?  What's going on here?"           
            "Tell me, Randall . . . if you will allow me to call you be your first name . . . why did you confess to this crime?"
            "Why not?" the unshaven, powerful built man said, shrugging and throwing one leg over the other as he sat crossways in the chair and stared at the smiling man.  "Everyone thinks I did it anyway.  I'm just saving them the trouble of actually working for a living."
            Maurice smiled with a faint look of sadness, his tongue making a loud clicking noise of irritation, as he shook his head disapprovingly for a moment or two before turning his head to his right.  Not more than four feet away from where he sat the bright mirrored glass of a one-way window stared at them with an unblinking rudeness. On the other side of the glass he knew the room was empty.  Empty, that is, of any one living.
            She came sliding through the glass window in one smooth motion.  First her hands appeared, followed by long arms, then her unearthly pale white face, and eventually her long, pale ghostly white torso.   Across the room she floated. Moving in a slight bobbing action one sees in Goldfish swimming in a fish bowl, wrapping arms around the neck of Randall Cooke and then gently hugging him in her embrace.
            For his part Randall Cooke was unaware of her presence.
            But he was aware something had happened.  His eyes narrowed as he gazed at the odd looking face of the man sitting across from him.  The counselor's eyes seemed to be unfocused.  Unfocused and staring at something maybe behind him.  His frown deepening, he wondered if he should get up, pound on the door, and insist on being taking back to his cell.
            "Edward, she says you should stay.  If we're going to get you cleared of this charge, you have to stay and cooperate to the fullest extent.  In fact she insists on it."
            For the first time in a long, long, long time Edward Randall Cooke stared at the white clad figure in front of him in disbelief.  He felt as if a five hundred pound gorilla had just punched him in the gut.  Or maybe blindsided by a couple of NFL linebackers.  No one knew his full name.  He had never told anyone.  Except for two people.  And both of them were dead.
            "How . . . who . . . told you I was Edward?"
            "Oh, my dear boy.  Don't look so stunned.  Are you familiar with Shakespeare? Perhaps the play, Hamlet? "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophies!"
            "Who told you my first name," Cooke snapped back, leaning menacingly over the table.
            "Your lovely daughter, Tammy," the beaming face of the odd man said, lifting up an open palm toward the felon sitting across the table to stop him from speaking. "To answer your next question, I met her this morning. She dropped into my office . . . literally . . . this morning and insisted I had to defend you.  A most unusual case.  I could not possibly refuse."
            The hardened criminal with a long history of assorted felonies and misdemeanors slowly sat back in his chair and just stared at the strange little counselor dressed in the white cotton suit in disbelief.  Unblinking eyes fixed on the counselor he could do nothing but just stare.
            Tammy . . . today . . . told this man his full name was Edward Randall Cooke.  Told him . . . today . . . she had not been murdered by her father and insisted, that was her words, insisted he should represent her father in tomorrow's court appearance.  But . . . but Tammy, his daughter, and her son . . . his grandson . . . were dead.  Murdered more than a month ago by someone.  Someone who knew him and knew Tammy and the baby were his.  But it was impossible.  Crazy!  They were dead!  Unless . . .
            Unless ghosts did exits.
            "Ah hah!" the cherub faced, smiling man said softly as he leaned back in his chair and placed the fingertips of his hands together on the slight bulge of his stomach.  "You begin to believe."
            "They're dead," the felon cracked hoarsely, eyeing the white clad oddity suspiciously.
            "Yes," nodded the one who called himself Maurice.
            "They've been dead a month or more."
            "Yes," the cherub nodded again.
            "So they're ghosts.  You saw her ghost and she told you I was innocent."
            "Precisely.  Now, my innocent friend,  I need to know.  I must have an answer right now.  A mere formality, mind you.  But one that must be acquired.  Will you allow me to represent you tomorrow in court?"
            "Yes," Cooke answered.  Answered without hesitation, yet having no idea why he was so convinced he was doing the right thing.  But conviction soon changed to rage.  Shooting forward burning in anger he leaned across the heavy wooden desk again with a mask of death etched into his hardened, scarred vision.  "Now tell me.  No bullshitting here. Who killed my daughter and grandson?"
            "We will find out tomorrow," throwing up his hand again to stop the anger in Cooke from bubbling over again.  "Tut, tut!  Remember this.  Tammy did not see the killer's face.  Even in the afterlife she still doesn't know what he looks like.  But she does know his voice. Once she hears it she will inform me.  From there I will wring the truth out of him and you will be a free man.  All you have to do is trust me, my boy.  Trust me."
            And with that last declarative statement the smiling cherub stood up, snapped his briefcase closed, and walked calmly out of the room.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reintroducing yourself to old friends

I may have shared this short story before.  Hamm and Beans.  Two homicide detectives who are, shall we say, perfectly matched for each other.  In a twisted, psychotic, morbidly droll kind of way.

The idea was to write a decent mystery story and yet, somehow, throw a little humor into it.  So along comes Detectives Marissa Hamm and Mike Bean.  One's a shrew.  The other is a certifiable slob.  To tell you the truth, I kinda like these two people.  Both of them are socially inept.  Each is carrying a bag of emotional problems no one knows about. But, still . . . they're kinda interesting. (On a side bar, isn't interesting how . . . sometimes . . . characters fully developed just pop into a writer's head ready to go.  All you have to do is plug them into a story.)

I haven't done anything fresh with Hamm and Bean recently.  And maybe I won't ever.  Still, it's fun going back and reintroducing yourself to old friends again.

Hope you like it.  And maybe, if the moment strikes you, you might tell me if Marissa and Mike should be revived and pushed into some new stories again.

Hamm and Bean

She looked up from her desk and saw the lieutenant standing in the door space of his little cubicle looking at her.  A hand came up and he used a finger to silently summons her to enter his den. 
            And then he turned and glared at Detective Sergeant Mike Bean.  That same long, bony, pasty colored finger of his made the same silent summons.  She watched the big bear of a man push his chair back, throw the pen he had been using down angrily on his desk and scowl.  But he came to his feet and start lumbering toward the lieutenant's office.
            Detective Sergeant Mike Bean was a slob.  There was no other way to put it.  Over weight, going bald, with beady little eyes.  His suit looked like it hadn't been cleaned and pressed for at least a month.  In fact it looked like Bean had been sleeping in it for about that length of time.  His shirt had coffee stains around the navel area.  The knot to his tie was pulled down low. There was tomato sauce  dotting the tie's length like tiny red pimples on a teenager's face.  His shoes hadn't seen a swipe of polish since Kennedy was in office.  Bean was the kind of cop everyone wanted to shy away from.  He was jinxed.  Detectives assigned to him as his partner had a way of getting shot.  Most survived and retired from the force.  A few hadn't been so lucky.
            Bean, for his part, glanced to his right and looked at the tall, flat figured frame of Detective Sergeant Marissa Hamm.  All legs.  Bony arms.  Flat chested and flaming red hair that fell down past her shoulders.  Wore a dress like it was a discarded cement sack. The face wasn't too bad . . . if you had knocked back six or seven beers.  She was walking toward the lieutenant's office as well--and that didn't sit too well with him.  Hamm had the reputation of being a piranha in the department.  Chewed up and spit out partners in the Homicide division like they were sour gumballs.  Wasn't a cop--male or female--in the entire city who wanted to work with her.
            "It's been decided.  You two are, as of today, partners," the gray faced, slightly stooping but tall lieutenant of detectives said as the two walked past him.
            "Jesus Christ!  You're kidding me!" Hamm hissed, angrily looking at the lieutenant.
            "What the hell?!  Who was the idiot who came up with this hair brained idea!" Bean spit out venomously looking as angry as Hamm.
            "I'm the idiot who made the decision," the lieutenant answered quietly as he folded arms across his chest and glared at the two.  "Both of you shut up and listen.  This isn't a fucking request.   You two don't have a say in this.  It's either this or I transfer the two of you to administrative staff jobs downtown.  I'm not going to do that.  Not yet, at least.  I need detectives.  Good detectives.  And as much as it hurts me to say this, you two aren't too bad at doing your job.  When your sober that is . . . Mike.  Or when you're tongue isn't slicing people's egos up like raw Pastrami . . . Marissa."
            "But lieutenant . . . !"
            "Didn't I tell you to keep quiet, Mike?  Shut . . .  up.  There are no ands and buts about this.  You two are a team.  You want to kill each other that's okay by me.  It'll be a little extra paperwork if you do it on company time--but that's just more paperwork.  I can handle it.  But the reality is this.  Neither of you two will be missed in the department.  Both of you are about as likable as two anemic Cobras fighting over the same dead mouse.  No one wants to be around you.  No one wants to work with you.  In a sane world I would have taken your badges months ago and told you to get the hell out of my precinct.  But this city's got a crime wave going on and I can't afford not having you two work together.  So that's it!  End of discussion.   You are partners . . . now take this file and go find the bastard who did this!  Get out . . . . now."
            Both of them glared angrily at their lieutenant but kept quiet.  Mike Bean shook his head in disgust, shot a loathing glance at his new partner, and turned and reached for the door handle.
            "I'm driving," Marissa Hamm said with a mean, sarcastic grin on her plain face.
            "Like hell you are," scowled her partner and shaking his head.  "It'll be a cold day in hell before I let you get behind a steering wheel!"
            When the arrived in front of the small ranch style home out in the suburbs Marissa Hamm opened the car door and slid out from behind the steering wheel--a pleased smirk on his colorless lips.  Her partner rolled out of the passenger seat and slammed the door shut so hard the big Crown Victoria rocked back and forth several times before coming to a halt.
            "The next time you play a trick on my like that again, Hamm " he began, lifting a big fleshy brick for a fist up to his chest and shaking it a couple of times warningly.  "I swear I'm gonna tap you a good one."
            "Ya big dope," Hamm grinned sarcastically "Don't lay the keys down on the booking desk and tell me you're gonna take a piss before we leave the precinct house.  It was like stealing candy from a baby."
            Bean started to say something but turned as a patrol officer came toward them with a small spiral notebook in hand and looking at it intently.
            "Sergeants . . . the body's clear to be examined.  Forensics just finished up."
            "Whose dead?" both detectives said at the same time--like an echo chamber--glaring at each other in the process.
            "The dead guy is Ralph Edwards.  A banker.  Someone plugged him in the forehead with a big caliber gun.  Close range apparently.  There's burn marks all over the man's face.  The bullet exited and went through a window somewhere that away.  Haven't found it yet."
            "Any witnesses?" Bean snapped.
            "Who discovered the body?" Hamm snapped.
            "No to the first question.  And his wife answers the second question." the uniformed officer replied, grinning as he looked up at the two detectives.  "So it finally happened, huh?"
            "What happened?" Hamm and Bean shot back simultaneously.
            "The lieutenant.  He went and did it.  Put you two together.  Geez!  Sergeant Loomis is going to be one happy dude."
            Both detectives frowned.  The young kid for a patrol officer grinned even wider.
            "We started a pool about a month ago.  Each threw in ten bucks and picked a date when the lieutenant would bite the bullet and put you two together.  I think Sergeant Loomis is a couple of thousand smackers richer!"
            "That sounds like gambling, Hamm." Bean growled menacingly as he half turned toward his partner.
            "That's what it sounds like to me, Bean.  Corruption in the department.  Wonder what the mayor would say if he heard about this?"
            The patrol officer wiped the grin off his face as he snapped the small notebook in his hand closed, turned on a heel, and moved away from the two detectives slightly slower than a dead run.  Hamm and Bean watched the young officer disappear around a corner of the house, deadly little smirks on their lips.
            "The little wimp," Bean muttered,
            "Snotty nosed little bastard," Hamm said.
            Mike Bean turned and looked at his new partner and scowled.
            "You gotta have the last word every time I say something?  Is that the way it's gonna be?"
            "Does shit stink?" she asked, the smirk on her lips widening.
            He grinned . . . almost laughed . . . as he turned and headed for the house.
            The same old routine.  A grieving wife.  A despondent teen age son.  Several thousand dollars in jewelry missing  And wet paint on the driveway.
            "Wet paint," Hamm said as she sat on her haunches sticking a finger in the wet goop.
            "No shit, Sherlock!" Bean answered, bending over to make the appearance of looking at the wet paint.  But looking at the exposed thighs and pink underwear of his partner instead.
            "Bean!  Stop staring at my panties and get that tongue back into mouth before you bite it off!"  she hissed, standing up and straightening her dress at the same time.
            "Did you notice the house is half painted?" he asked, standing up as well and throwing a thumb back toward the house.
            "Yes," she nodded, glancing at the house.  "Did you get a name?"
            "Sure," he nodded, grinning and holding up a business card.  "Two guys I know from way back.  Guys who used to rob houses when they were in their teens."
            "I'm driving," Hamm said, turning on a heel and walking toward the Crown Vic.
            "Like hell you are.  My ulcers can take only so much of your driving.  Give me the keys, Hamm!"
            "Bite me," detective Marissa Hamm said with a smile on her face as she unlocked the Crown Vic.
            The two painters were cousins.  Stole together.  Served time together.  Came out of prison and started painting houses for a living.  Stayed honest until they got to the banker's house and found fifty thousand dollars of jewelry just lying out in the open waiting to be snatched.  Problem was the banker came home unexpectedly.  One of the cousins pulled a gun.  The gun went off.   Drilled the banker in the forehead.  Sheer accident.  The kid didn't think it was loaded.
            "Good job, you two.  You survived the first day," the lieutenant said, smirking, arms folded across the chest as he heard their report. "Go home and get some rest.  Stay sober for once, Mike.  Don't eat any children alive, Marissa.  See you two tomorrow."
            The two walked out of the lieutenant's office and stopped.  The squad room was empty.  Small fans on the desks of the detectives were humming quietly in the silence.  The two stared at their desks and then looked at each other.
            "Going home?" Hamm asked quietly.
            "Naw," Bean said, shaking his head.  "Thought I'd go and knock back a couple of beers over at Wally's."
            Marissa Hamm said nothing as she nodded and looked down at the floor.  Bean, frowning, sighed and shook his head in disgust..
            "You drink beer?"
            "Uh huh," nodded Hamm.
            "Really?  I thought you preferred chilled strychnine.  Or maybe molten lava," he said, heading for the stairs.
            "The only question I want answered," Hamm said, following Bean down the stairs loudly. "Is whether you're going to slid under the table after the third or fourth beer.  I heard two was your limit."
            Mike Bean grinned.  Grinned and looked over his shoulder at his new partner.  Hell.  Maybe this would work after all.