Review: The Cobra Event by Richard Preston


Richard Preston’s The Cobra Event was one of those books I had my eye on for a long time but never pulled the trigger on. I would look at it lingering on my book list and wonder if a medical thriller could catch my attention and keep it. From the outside looking in I equated it with like an Outbreak or ER type of story, I thought all the medical stuff would bore me. Man was I wrong.

I didn’t know what was missing from my literary life until I finally dove into The Cobra Event. Richard Preston created a masterpiece with this book. From the opening pages I had one of those books in my hand that make you want to go to bed early so that you had more time to read. It’s been a long time since I read a book like that.

Though it’s a novel the story reads like it could be a case file. The characters depth and scientific backgrounds are believable which shows Preston did his fair share of research in creating them. The details of the labs and equipment needed to effect a bio-terrorism event were expertly explained while not sounding like a technical manual. He even made decontamination process, and small mistakes in the decontamination process sound interesting. And when the intensity ramped up and we drew in on the bad guy the tactics, and tactical mistakes that kept the chase alive were written so real you could feel the danger.

I know the book is a little dated, The Cobra Event was released in 1998 but the old reads are still some of the best. I’m glad I finally took the leap and gave The Cobra Event another chance. It was awesome.

I attached the synopsis below. It’s worth a look.

“The Cobra Event is a petrifying, fictional account of a very real threat: biological terrorism.

Seventeen-year-old Kate Moran wakes one morning to the beginnings of a head cold but shrugs it off and goes to school anyway. By her midmorning art class, Kate’s runny nose gives way to violent seizures and a hideous scene of self-cannibalization. She dies soon after. When a homeless man meets a similarly gruesome — and mystifying — fate, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta sends pathologist Alice Austen to investigate. What she uncovers is the work of a killer, a man who calls himself Archimedes and is intent on spreading his deadly Cobra virus throughout New York City. A silent crisis erupts, with Austen and a secret FBI forensic team rushing to expose the terrorist.

Even more frightening than Preston’s story about the fictitious Cobra virus, however, is the truth that lies beneath it. As the author writes in his introduction, “The nonfiction roots of this book run deep…. My sources include eyewitnesses who have seen a variety of biological-weapons installations in different countries, and people who have developed and tested strategic bioweapons.” In fact, the only reason The Cobra Event was not written as nonfiction is that none of Preston’s sources would go on record.

Woven throughout the novel are sections of straight nonfiction reporting that reveal the terrifying truth about the development of biological weapons and the clandestine operations of Russia and Iraq. Three years of research and more than 100 interviews with high-level sources in the FBI, the U.S. military, and the scientific community went into The Cobra Event. The result is sure to shock you.”

Hope you like it and don’t forget to check out my novels available here and wherever books are sold. Also I will be at Literary Love Savannah, GA the 26-28th signing and sitting on a couple of panels. I look forward to seeing you there.

Out.

Author Spotlight: Ellison Cooper

cgHey everybody I have been out of pocket for a minute but I do have an excuse. I have been editing the monster that is my new fantasy novel (Title Pending). Had no idea what I was getting into. The cultural research alone could have earned me a second master’s degree. BTW, now I know what to call medieval stuff…extremely useful knowledge in 2018.

Anyway, I have a book recommendation for you. “Caged” is Ellison Cooper’s debut thriller.

Here is some info about the book:

“FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair hunts for evil in the deepest recesses of the human mind. Still reeling from the death of her fiance, she wants nothing more than to focus on her research into the brains of serial killers. But when the Washington D.C. police stumble upon a gruesome murder scene involving a girl who’d been slowly starved to death while held captive in a cage, Sayer is called in to lead the investigation. When the victim is identified as the daughter of a high profile senator, Sayer is thrust into the spotlight.

As public pressure mounts, she discovers that another girl has been taken and is teetering on the brink of death. With evidence unraveling around her, Sayer races to save the second victim but soon realizes that they are hunting a killer with a dangerous obsession…a killer who is closer than she thought.”

Praise for Caged:

“Dark and mesmerizing…channels equal parts KATHY REICHS and THOMAS HARRIS…You will read till the bitter end…then sleep with the lights on!”
Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author

“I started and couldn’t stop.”
—F. Paul Wilson, New York Times bestselling author

CAGED is a gripping thriller debut for fans of Kathy Reichs, Thomas Harris, and Patricia Cornwell.

Ellison’s Bio:

Ellison Cooper has a Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA, with a background in archaeology, cultural neuroscience, ancient religion, colonialism, and human rights. She has conducted fieldwork in Central , West Africa, Micronesia, and Western Europe. She has worked as a murder investigator in Washington DC, and is a certified K9 Search and Rescue Federal Disaster Worker. She now lives in the Bay Area with her husband and son.

Social Media

web: http://ellisoncooper.com/

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EllisonCooperAuthor 

twitter: https://twitter.com/ECooperAuthor

instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ecooperauthor/

goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17392133.Ellison_Cooper

It’s always important to support new authors. Wishing the best of luck to Ellison Cooper! Here’s where to find Caged:

Amazon: http://hyperurl.co/CagedAmazon

IndieBound: http://hyperurl.co/CagedIndieBound

Book-A-Million: http://hyperurl.co/CagedBAM

iBooks: http://hyperurl.co/CagedApple

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.

Author Spotlight: Michael Niemann

Nieman.jpgMichael Niemann is an author I like to follow. His popular Valentin Vermeulen series follows a UN investigator to exotic places around the world. His thrillers are well-plotted and crisp stories. His new book Illegal Holdings is the third in his Vermeulen series. Here is a synopsis of Illegal Holdings:

UN fraud investigator Valentin Vermeulen is on assignment in Maputo, Mozambique. His ho-hum task is to see if Global Alternatives is spending UN money the way they promised. The nonprofit was set up by hedge fund mogul Vincent Portallis to revolutionize development aid. The only upside for Vermeulen is the prospect of seeing his lover Tessa Bishonga, who is reporting on foreign land acquisitions in Africa.

When Vermeulen notices that a five-million-dollar transfer has gone missing, he is given the run-around. First he is told the files have been mislaid, then stolen, then he is assured that the money was never transferred to begin with. But the money was transferred, so where is it now? Vermeulen’s dogged pursuit of the missing transfer makes him the target of some ruthless operators. And once he meets up with Tessa, she is inevitably sucked in to the story as well, which turns out to be far more nefarious than either of them imagined.

Illegal Holdings is available in all formats. Here is an excerpt:

“An Uncanny Sense

It was just another Tuesday morning in late January, the warmest and rainiest month in Maputo. Acacia pods littered the streets of Mozambique’s capital, and its million-and-a-half residents were looking forward to winter.
The email, which arrived at the Nossa Terra office at eight thirty, hit Aisa Simango like a fist in the stomach.
She was looking out the window. That much she remembered afterwards. Looking at the Avenida Vladimir Lenine, thinking that the street seemed forlorn in the watery morning light. Why she was looking out of the window, she didn’t remember. She should have been printing the agenda for the nine o’clock staff meeting, steeling herself for the chaos that erupted when her staff barged into the office.
Instead, she was standing by the window, pensive. Maybe she’d stopped to straighten the picture of her children, Alima and João, on the windowsill. Sometimes the vibrations of a heavy truck driving by nudged it closer to the edge. Or perhaps she was thinking about the Sofala Project, wondering if it stood any chance of being completed on time.
In any case, her computer dinged, she sat down and opened the message.
It came from the Maputo office of Global Alternatives, the Swiss foundation set up by hedge-fund billionaire Vincent Portallis. The foundation was a newcomer to the development-aid field. It undertook big, flashy projects, lured famous actors to its causes, and dispensed a trickle of the millions of dollars it leveraged to local subcontractors like Nossa Terra.
The message itself started with the usual noncommittal niceties—Greetings, Aisa. How are things? It’s been a while—but got to the point quickly. We’ve emailed Helton  Paito repeatedly regarding a discrepancy in the disbursements. We’ve received no reply. Would you kindly review the numbers in the attached spreadsheet and supply the proper documentation, or alternatively, remit the specified amount to Global Alternatives?
She wasn’t worried yet. Not then. The message sounded more pro forma than anything. Just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Making sure all the numbers added up, accountability and efficacy being big buzzwords in the donor community. Most likely, Helton was already dealing with it. Her first glance at the spreadsheet also didn’t raise any suspicions. Yes, they had proposed to spend those sums for those purposes. She knew, because she had personally reviewed the project proposal before submitting it five months ago.
It was the last column that sent her reeling. She rubbed her eyes, focused on the street outside, then back on the screen. The numbers were still there, including the last one, bold and in bright red. Like dabs of blood left on the screen. The number was too large, too ghastly to imagine. Five million dollars. Unaccounted for, missing, not properly documented. No matter what phrase she came up with, it still meant trouble, serious trouble.
Of course, it was all wrong. Five months ago, when they’d been notified that the project in Sofala had been accepted, everybody had clapped. But so far, they’d only received a small disbursement. Enough to set up the infrastructure and hire personnel. Certainly not five million dollars.
She got up. Went to the window. And back to her desk. She grabbed her mobile. Call Global Alternatives, ask if there has been a mistake, if this is someone’s idea of a joke. She didn’t. Obviously, Global Alternatives wouldn’t make a mistake or a joke.
There were documents, receipts, invoices for the hundred thousand they’d received. They could account for all expenditures. She dialed Helton’s number. He would know where the mistake lay, which numbers had ended up in the wrong column, projected expenses instead of disbursements, or vice versa. He was her second in command and usually the second one through the door in the morning. He answered after four rings.
Bom dia, Helton,” she said. “Where are you?”
“Just got off the chapa at Julius Nyerere. Be there in fifteen.”
“I need you here now.”
The chapa stop, where the minibus taxis dropped and picked up passengers, was close enough, one of the reasons they had chosen an office so far from central Maputo. But Helton liked to check out the wares of the hawkers along the roundabout connecting Avenida Vladimir Lenine and Avenida Julius Nyerere.
“I still need breakfast. Why the hurry? Tudo bem?”
“No, everything isn’t okay. Where are we with the Sofala Project.”
“We completed the first phase. We rented a space, hired a local manager, did the registration and all that. Next phase is community meetings. Then comes the big stuff—land acquisition.”
“And we’ve spent what, a hundred thousand?” She hated the guessing game. A sheet of paper, better yet, an old-fashioned ledger with dated entries for every last centavo would have calmed her.
“Yes, about that much.”
“And you have documentation for every expenditure?” She held her breath without meaning to. Helton had been good for Nossa Terra, even if she didn’t always get along with him. He was the accountant who’d made it possible to land projects like the one with Global Alternatives.
“Of course. I’ll be there soon. Até já.”
He sounded both upset and defensive when he ended the call.
She went back to the window. The melancholy she felt when looking at the Avenida Vladimir Lenine in the rain was more bearable than the dejection evoked by the stark office. When Nossa Terra first moved here after their big expansion four years earlier, the soulless space had weighed on her. But the rent was cheap and Nossa Terra had no money. Since then, new employees had tried to spruce it up. They affixed posters to the walls and brought in all sorts of plants. In the end, they all surrendered to the futility of the makeover, giving in to the cement walls, impervious to any improvement.
Before the move, Nossa Terra had been a scrappy community organization fighting for land so its members could farm. It had taken Aisa in thirteen years earlier. She had just given birth to João sixteen months after having Alima. Their father up and left, unwilling to face raising children. She was desperate for food, shelter, companions. She wasn’t much of a farmer, but she had an uncanny sense of the limit beyond which the authorities would abandon any pretense of accommodation and just call the police. That skill helped her get concessions, then leases, and eventually, land titles.
By that time, the global aid complex had fully embraced Mozambique. Nossa Terra was noticed. Graduate students from Scandinavian universities came to study it. A documentary filmmaker from Brazil shot enough footage to put together an hour-long feature.
When the foundations came knocking, Aisa, the single mom, was ready. She hired three staff not knowing how she’d pay them at the end of the month and drew up a proposal to expand the work Nossa Terra had done near Maputo to the next province. After submitting the proposal, she landed her first project, worth a hundred thousand dollars, three days before payroll came due.
Helton barged into the office. He seemed to compress the air in any room he entered. The others called him “Hilton,” not because he was as refined as a luxury hotel, but as big as they imagined a Hilton to be. It wasn’t just his size. With his shiny face, wooly hair, spotty beard, and big smile, he exuded maleness, not in a primordial sense, more in a here’s-a-guy’s-guy sense. Men liked him automatically. Many women did, too. Even some who worked at Nossa Terra. Aisa wasn’t one of them.
“What’s the matter with the Sofala Project?” he said, stopping in the open door.
“Have they contacted you?”
“Yes. Routine stuff. Why?”
Closing the door, he walked to his desk, took off the blue suit coat, and hung it over the back of the chair. Helton always wore a suit, shirt, and tie. Since he only had the one suit, time had taken its toll on the garment. Aisa thought a simple shirt with tie would look far better, but the suit was part of Helton’s guyness.
“So far they’ve disbursed a hundred thousand?” she said.
“Yes, yes. I told you.”
“I received an email from Global Alternatives. They mentioned discrepancies. They say they have repeatedly sent you messages.”
“Oh, yes. I’ve gotten requests for documentation,” he said. “I sent them.”
“Well, the discrepancies are still there.”
“What discrepancies?”
“Five million dollars worth of discrepancies,” she said.
“Impossible.”
She turned to the computer, thinking that Helton’s protestation made him look like he knew more.
“Look at the spreadsheet.”
He plopped into Aisa’s chair, which squeaked under his weight. He jiggled the mouse. The picture of Maputo’s beachfront disappeared and the columns and numbers reappeared, the last one still a blood-red punctuation mark. Helton followed the numbers, his right index finger moving down the screen. He mouthed each number silently. As the finger approached the red number, he started shaking his head.
“No,” he said so quietly she barely heard it. “No, no, no.” His voice became louder with each “No.” Whatever defensiveness Aisa thought she’d noticed was gone. The Helton before her was a man utterly shocked.
“This can’t be,” he said. “They’re basically saying we’ve accepted five million and submitted no expenditure reports, no receipts, nothing. As if we took the money and socked it away in a secret account in Jo’burg.”
“But we didn’t, right?”
He gave her a withering look. “Do you have to ask?”
“I’m sorry, but I do. For the record.”

END.

Here is Niemann’s bio:

Nieman Author pic.jpg

Michael Niemann grew up in a small town in Germany, ten kilometers from the Dutch border. Crossing that border often at a young age sparked in him a curiosity about the larger world. He studied political science at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn and international studies at the University of Denver. During his academic career he focused his work on southern Africa and frequently spent time in the region. After taking a fiction writing course from his friend, the late Fred Pfeil, he switched to mysteries as a different way to write about the world.”

Find Michael online here:

http://michael-niemann.com

Twitter: @m_e_niemann

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelNiemannAuthor/

Amazon: (https://www.amazon.com/Illegal-Holdings-Valentin-Vemeulen-Thriller/dp/1603815910/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8)

Barnes and Noble: (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/illegal-holdings-michael-niemann/1127477738?ean=9781603815918)

Kobo: (https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/illegal-holdings-1)

 

Cynthia Kuhn -The Art of Vanishing

I wanted to take a minute to post about the newest release from one of the authors I follow. Cynthia Kuhn’s “The Art of Vanishing,” came out in February 2017, if you are building your summer reading list this might not be a bad place to start. See below.

Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series, which includes The Semester of Our Discontent, an Agatha Award recipient (Best First Novel), and The Art of Vanishing, a Lefty Award nominee (Best Humorous Mystery). The third in the series, The Spirit in Question, will be out in fall 2018. She is professor of English at Metropolitan State University of Denver and current president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. For more information, please visit cynthiakuhn.net.

Synopsis:

When Professor Lila Maclean is sent to interview celebrated author and notorious cad Damon Von Tussel, he disappears before her very eyes. The English department is thrown into chaos by the news, as Damon is supposed to headline Stonedale University’s upcoming Arts Week.

The chancellor makes it clear that he expects Lila to locate the writer and set events back on track immediately. But someone appears to have a different plan: strange warnings are received, valuable items go missing, and a series of dangerous incidents threaten the lives of Stonedale’s guests. After her beloved mother, who happens to be Damon’s ex, rushes onto campus and into harm’s way, Lila has even more reason to bring the culprit to light before anything—or anyone—else vanishes.

Excerpt from The Art of Vanishing (Henery Press, 2017):

“Damon strode through the crowd, cutting a clean swath right down the middle as people moved out of his way, and entered a room at the end of the corridor. He slammed the door. A handful of people followed, as if pulled along in his wake, and someone banged on the door until a roar emerged, telling them to leave him alone. Tally Bendel squeezed her way to the front and turned around to face the people standing there.

“Let’s give Mr. Von Tussel a break, shall we? I’ll see if he can talk to you later, but for now, please give him some space. Help yourself to a coffee on your way out.” She gestured toward the area on the right.  “It’s by the far wall.”

Slowly, the others did as she asked. She knocked on the door again, identifying herself. The door cracked open slightly. She spoke through the opening in a low voice. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but after a minute, the door slammed again, and Tally left.

This was my chance. I moved quickly down the corridor until I was in front of the door. I cupped my hand and listened for a second, but I couldn’t hear anything. I knocked gently. There was no answer. I twisted the door handle, but it was locked. There was nothing else to do but return to the niche and try again later.

One by one, Damon’s agent spoke to some lingerers in the main area, and they left. When it was down to Tally and Mr. Bow Tie, they returned to the room where the author had sequestered himself. She called out to him. There was no answer.

The man called out as well, with the same result.

“Can’t you just unlock it?” Tally asked him, placing her hand on his forearm.

He removed a large set of keys from his pocket and sorted through them. “Are you sure?” he asked, looking nervous. Maybe his jitteriness wasn’t natural but had been born from earlier encounters with Damon.

She nodded firmly. “He needs me.”

He slid a key into the lock and turned the handle. Tally flew into the room, emerging a moment later with a confused expression. She said something I couldn’t hear, then they both hurried inside.

I moved to the doorway and peered around the two of them. The room was empty.

Damon Von Tussel had vanished.”

SOCIAL MEDIA Links: 

Website: cynthiakuhn.net 
Twitter: @cynthiakuhn
Facebook: www.facebook.com/cynthiakuhnwriter

 

 

BUY LINKS

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Intl: http://authl.it/B01NBHR7Y6

It’s the Little Things

 

Has anyone ever told you that it’s the little things that get you? Maybe you didn’t get in as much trouble as I did growing up but I have been told (usually by Mom) and have told (bad guys during my Cop life) that it is the little details, those fine points that even the most careful of us overlook that end up bringing all our nefarious plans crashing down on our heads. When I think of this I think of wearing gloves to hide your fingerprints. Or if you are a teenager in upstate New York in January, maybe watching out where you leave footprints in the snow when sneaking out at night. Oh I also got caught once when my folks asked me if I was power sliding my little VW down the street during an ice storm. When I denied that I would ever do something like that they gently showed me to the tire tracks that lead directly from the sideways prints on the street to my rear tires parked in the driveway: the little things.

I saw this little gem of an article and had to share. The next time you step onto a subway train, board an airplane, or take someone else’s phone to watch the newest annoyingly cute animal video think about this. “How your micro-biome can put you at the scene of the crime,” by Kai Kupferschmidt from Science Magazine.

Turns out that by the time we are 3 or 4 years we have gathered a unique set of bacteria from the environment we grow up in, and that mix remains fairly stable throughout our lives.

In 2010 a paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers showed that bacterial DNA recovered from computer keyboards matched the micro-biomes found on their owners’ fingertips. The authors also sampled bacteria from nine computer mice and used the results to pick the owners out of a database of 270 micro-biomes.

Did anyone else just squirm a little when they read that?

A paper from 2015 identified that individuals have a theoretically unique microbial cloud that we carry with us, and deposit wherever we happen to go. We shed bacteria constantly spitting it from our mouths, breathing them out. Bacteria are so small that our clothes have no effect at containing them. Whenever we sit down or pick something up bacteria is deposited on that surface and it persists until the next person comes along. In the paper, researchers measured the bacterial cloud surrounding volunteers by placing them in a sanitized chamber and sampling the area around them. What they found was that they were able to identify individuals by this micro-biome we carry with us.

To apply this to the criminal world researchers swabbed places suspects are believed to have touched at crime scenes then sequence captured DNA in the laboratory. Once sequenced the profiles can be compared to a database and individual strains of bacteria can be identified. The mix, or unique ecosystem of different species of bacteria that are identified in the sample from the crime scene can then be compared to a known suspect sample to see if the two micro-biomes match.

In a practical evaluation, researchers in Illinois staged a fake break in then took samples from where the “burglars” handled things in the house. When the signatures from the suspects were reviewed the scientists not only could identify individual micro-biomes, but from residues in the samples determine the amount of alcohol one of the ‘suspects’ consumed each week and that one of them was on migraine medication. Even if the bacterial cloud could not be determined to be individual enough to identify a suspect to the exclusion of all others, (to date a sample size and technique has not been complete enough to try and take an identification based on bacteria to court), how great would it be if traits such as drug use, medication, or drinking habits could be used as leads in narrowing down the suspect pool?

Recently the J. Craig Venter Institute received a $900,000 grand from the National Institute of Justice to build a micro-biome database. That is a first step in evaluating whether or not bacteria can be used to identify someone. Practical application is a long way off.

Regardless I thought it interesting that when we now warn someone that it’s the little things that get you. We really mean it is the little things that get you, like your own bacteria, little.

Reference:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/how-your-microbiome-can-put-you-scene-crime

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.

Where Angels Sing Cover



The Window (Short)

Hey, I really liked the female protagonist in this story so I figured I would share. It’s another one of the shorts I found in my files. Here you go, let me know what you think.

The Window

 

Behaviorally speaking, there is no difference between a five-year-old boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and a thirty-five-year-old accountant accused of raping and murdering a twenty-one year old bartender. The two mirror each other in movement, posture, responses. Tapping feet, shifting eyes, slumped shoulders. These movements betray their secrets. They try to put up a strong front; to deny their truth, both know what the outcome will be. Each can feel the ‘other shoe’ poised over their heads waiting to drop. The only difference between the two is a matter of time. Where the five year old will fold under the withering gaze of grandma in moments, the thirty-five year old thinks he’s crafty, ahead of the game. He requires a little more convincing.

    The way he slumps in the cold hard metal chair; one leg outstretched, his left arm crooked over the seat back. He looks calm. The expensive black suit says he is important, and the smug grin shows he believes it. His eyes angle toward the dull gray metal table, feigning indifference. He’s checked his watch three times in the fifteen minutes he’s been in there. All of that is betrayed, however, by the subtle movement of his lower lip. Beneath that smug, half grin, he gnaws on it like a wolf chewing though his leg to get out of a trap. This is where time comes in.

    He gnaws on his lip. After a few minutes his left knee starts to bounce ever so slightly. His eyes fix across the table. He just noticed the file, a simple manila folder. The word Subject precedes his name, and a thick stack of various forms hide beneath its cover. One form peeks out from under the off-white cover. The title reads, Search Warrant. His name is at the top of that too.

    His eyes dart to the window and he catches his own reflection. There’s a lack of confidence he can’t bear to see so he turns back to the warrant. Yearning to see without overtly straining, he reads as much as he can. Only three lines of text are available to him. When he scans the text his eyes flash wide, though only for a micro second. Instinctively, his right hand snaps to his left collar bone. He doesn’t consciously realize he is trying to hide the deep gashes that stretch from the base of his neck to his chest. He looks back to the window. His eyes are wider now, like the eyes of a person who realized they just stepped out in front of a bus. He is searching for help, searching for hope. It only takes a moment for him to recover.

    On the other side of the one way glass she looks once more at the photo in her hand. Swollen, closed eyes, black, blue, purple, the bloody pulp was once the beautiful face of Shannon Wells, twenty-one, bartender. She could quote the Medical Examiner’s report by letter and verse. Shannon Wells was a fighter, and that made Detective Kate Mills smile. Shannon died as a result of manual strangulation coupled with an intracranial hematoma. The medical examiner found mounds of ripped skin, not Shannon’s, buried under her fingernails. Shannon also had a chunk of areola lodged in her trachea. The girl fought for her life, no one could ask for anymore. And she had had a lot to live for.

    Shannon was a scholar in the truest sense of the word. Daughter of a single father; her Mother, Maya, died while delivering her. Shannon was valedictorian of a class of less than a hundred students in a speck of an upstate New York High School. She led her high school soccer team to a state title her senior year then shot out of town like a rocket. Despite being wooed by every major team in the NCAA, Shannon hung up her cleats in favor of Physics. She was a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a full academic scholarship. Shannon studied Physics by day and slung drinks at night to make ends meet. Then she met Anthony ‘Tony’ Chapman. The crime scene examination showed forced entry through a shattered door frame. Holes in the sheetrock, a broken coffee table, and shattered television showed Tony liked it rough. Alex Newton, Manager of the Thirsty Owl where Shannon worked picked Tony out of a line up and remembered Tony hovering around Shannon until closing time the night before she went missing.

    Tony is a proud product of South Boston, and he has a record. He married once however that marriage ended with facial reconstruction for his wife, a restraining order, and ninety days in county jail. It seemed Tony liked to hit his girls, and the wife wasn’t the only domestic trouble he’s been a part of. Interviews of former girlfriends yielded adjectives such as scumbag, Napoleon, sadist. Mills also found a south side hooker named Tina who pressed charges on him for assault a few years back. The assault failed to stick since Tina was a hooker. Tony liked to make himself feel strong at the expense of his girls.

Kate watched her quarry for another moment then knocked on the window three times. Slow and deliberate, the rumble of the heavy plate glass was like the sullen drone of a death toll. It’s an utterly unproductive gesture, lends nothing to the coming interrogation. The initial volley in an unmitigated psychological war Detective Kate Mills was about to unleash on this trapped predator.

Tony shot out of his chair at the rumbling staccato, eyes like saucers, he looked at the window, toward her. She smiled. Tony likes it rough. Tony ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    Detective Mills secured Shannon Wells’ photo to the file that will bear her legacy and turned from the window. Thirty-five or five, little boys do not change. Tony Chapman is about to realize he has been caught with his hand in a very dangerous cookie jar.

END

Don’t forget to check out my books here. My new novel Where Angels Sing just came out in October.

Where Angels Sing Cover

 

Last Call

whiskey

CAVEAT: I don’t get short fiction. My mind doesn’t seem to work in short bursts of writing a single scene or putting a story together in only a couple of thousand words. That being said I was going through my files and found a couple of old stories that I like. I figured why not share them and see what you think.

My first offering is a short called ‘Last Call,’ it takes a look at a detective having a bad day. He’s treading on the edge of disaster and needs a little gentle advice to set him straight. I hope you like it.

Last Call

            Jack’s gut twisted like a cat falling off a building. He pulled on the brass handle and the heavy wooden door swung open with ease.  His eyes on the ground, he crossed the threshold.  Warm as the womb, smoke, stale beer, and the lingering scent of spilled liquor greeted him as he stepped into the bar.  It was quiet and he kept his head down as he made his way to his stool.  There were two couples in a booth toward the back by the fire place.  Three sets of slumped shouldered men hovered over their drinks as if searching for truth at the bottom of their glass.

He found his stool, snakes in his belly were writhing and kicking.  His head hurt and his hands shook as he settled in.  Bennie, the bartender and owner of Jameson’s Pub watched him from down the bar.  He managed a weak nod toward the older man and in a low voice muttered,

“Bourbon, neat Bennie,” he couldn’t meet the old man’s eyes.

He heard the old man sigh as he limped to the shelf and grabbed a tumbler and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.  He watched him start to pour as tears welled in his eyes and he again had to turn his eyes to the floor.

Go! Now! The voice screamed in his head.  Throughout the day that voice had grown progressively weaker like a clock winding down.  In the end it was over matched by the thirst.  The glass slapping the solid oak of the bar sounded like a gong and snapped him out of his thoughts.  Before him stood the tumbler, half full of the harsh amber fluid.  Flanking the larger glass on either side stood two shot glasses brimming with the same.  Bennie loomed over the five drinks, his tired eyes boring into him.  A hint of sadness trimmed the burning disgust in the bartenders eyes.

“What’s this?” Jack asked.

“This?” he pointed to the shot furthest to the right, “is for Tina,”  pointing to the next shot glass he said, “Sammy,”  Bennie skipped the tumbler and at the next shot glass said, “Jack Junior,” Bennie paused for a minute and studied him.  Then his arm shot across the bar and into the breast pocket of Jack’s blazer.  Smooth as lightning he slipped Jack’s wallet.  Flipping it open before his face flopped a  New York Police Department, Detective First Class shield.  “The last shot,”  Bennie palmed the badge and slammed it into the bar so hard it dented the wood.  “is for your badge ya pathetic son of a bitch.  If your wife and kids ain’t enough to keep you straight I thought maybe the job would.  The last time Tina came to pick you up off my bar I could see it in her eyes Jackie.  She’s done, she won’t be here for you this time.  So here you go.  Drink up, but let’s make it a toast.”  Bennie lifted the shot farthest to the left.  He then leaned in so close Jack could feel the heat of his breath.  Jack stared at the bar. He was shaking.

“But…” he offered.

“No! No But, you selfish prick!  Nobody gives a shit what your pantywaist, traumatic, predisposed, worthless excuse is or will be. Least of all me, and certainly not Tina or the kids.”  He slammed the shot down in front of Jack, alcohol spewing from in between his meaty fingers.  “So what’s it gonna be, Jackie boy,” he whispered.

Jack looked at Bennie. Met him eye to eye.  They were red, swollen, broken.  “You can be a real Son of a Bitch sometimes you know that Lieutenant? It’s a good thing you’re retired.”

“Bein an asshole is the only way I ever got you to learn boy.”

Slipping off the stool, shoulders still sagging, Jack tossed a twenty on the bar and started for the door.

END

Make sure you check out the rest of my titles here. My newest release, ‘Where Angels Sing,’ came out in October.

Where Angels Sing Cover