Monday, October 31, 2011
COLD BLOODED Publishing Date
Well, some good news on the writing front. COLD BLOODED finally has a publishing date for November 22ond and a cover art sample. I'm also posting a scene from the book that is a microcosm of the novel, and a Halloween short story starring my characters.
Scene From COLD BLOODED
“Damn it, Nick! Who the hell are you?” Rachel demanded again in frustration.
“I’m a cold-blooded psychopath with just a tiny thread of humanity left,” Nick answered, patting her hand.
“Oh, c’mon, Nick, I’ve seen you with Jean and Deke.”
“I killed a woman once while I petted her dog. I blew Tanus’s head off with a fifty caliber sniper rifle and had brunch in Pennsylvania later in the day. Tanus hired me to kill you.”
“Oh my God!” Rachel pulled her hand away. She stared into Nick’s unblinking eyes and knew the truth. “You’re Diego?”
“Diego’s a campfire girl compared to what I am,” Nick replied bluntly. “Now that we know a little about each other, what say we work out a way to keep you and Jean in one piece?”
“How…I mean…I don’t know any more than I already told you.”
“I figure it this way, if the leak is plugged, my boss will get the hell off my back. It will make him more amenable to my taking on a team. We’re going to visit your safety deposit box and I’ll get a name or possibly a couple names. I’m going to trade the flash drives to my boss for an okay to sanction the top of the Tanus ladder.”
“What do you mean take on a team?” Rachel whispered, with sudden dawning realization of what team Nick meant.
“As you said, I have a nice place here. After ten years in this business, I’m getting a bit frayed around the edges and in a position to pick and choose what I want to do. Business takes me all over the world and –”
“…and you need a cover,” Rachel continued for him with growing horror. “You think your novelist persona is wearing thin. With a family, no one would suspect what you are.”
“I knew you were smart.” Nick smiled. “The only way this works is if I make it safe for you and Jean to get famous and photographed. Being a best-selling novelist’s wife will mean a lot of exposure, so naturally, all the people who want you dead are going to have to die first.”
“And if I refuse?”
“I return you to Grace and Tim. You and Jean hit the outlaw trail again with Deke. Maybe everything will be okay once the leak in the program is patched.”
“What if I go with Grace and Tim and trade your ass for something nice?” Rachel continued to stare directly into Nick’s eyes.
Rachel shivered slightly as a cold smile wavered and spread outwards on Nick’s mouth. The smile did not stretch to his eyes.
“Why don’t you sleep on it, and let me know what you decide when we walk to the beach tomorrow morning?”
“Does this proposition involve partnering up with you in the biblical sense?”
“You can sleep on that too.”
“When I saw you the first time at the restaurant, were you staking me out?”
“No, I was deciding whether to take Tanus out or not. The picture I had of you reminded me of someone from long ago. You still reminded me of her when I saw you in person.”
“And if I hadn’t?”
“Then I wouldn’t have been there to pull you out of the way last night.”
“Is this what they mean by being caught between a rock and a hard place?” Rachel nodded with a smile at Nick’s admission.
“No, this is between a rock and a cold, hard place,” Nick replied, smiling back.
“Nick.” Rachel looked up as Nick stood and gathered the glasses and wine bottle. “The woman you killed, she was bad…right?”
“She was to someone.”
Nick Halloween Story
A man about the size of a professional football linebacker with sandy hair approached Nick as he greeted Jean. He pointed at Jean. “Is this your little girl, pal?”
Deke the dog had been busily nipping at Jean’s shoes joyously. He turned with a low hum of a growl. Nick had walked down to Jean’s school with Deke as was their custom when picking her up in the afternoon. Nick wrote novels for a living, but he had an alter ego up until a few months before – he killed people, people sanctioned by a shadow government group now in turmoil. Nick glanced at Jean, the little eight year old spitting image of her Mom, Rachel. After a coast to coast adventure of murder and mayhem, Nick had garnered the adopted family he had sought to cover for his assassin line of work, but not without cost. His shadow government employer was now in a state of disarray, having tried to sanction Nick unsuccessfully. Nick exchanged grins with Jean, who knew all about him and what he was capable of.
“She is definitely my little girl.” Nick stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m Nick McCarty.”
The man ignored the gesture, a leering frown spreading as he looked at Nick’s hand with contempt. “I know you. Big time novelist. Listen up, big time. I want her to stay away from my daughter. She’s a bad influence.”
Nick dropped the hand gesture, looking around at the crowd of parents meeting, greeting, and walking off with their children. Although not drawing a lot of attention, the man’s voice and size drew a few curious looks.
“Am not!” Jean countered before Nick could speak. “Lisa’s my friend. I know what you and her Mom are doing is bad.”
As the man stepped toward Jean, Deke scrambled to put his sixty pound snarling bulk in front of her.
“Best not to make any rude movements,” Nick advised. “Deke doesn’t like people handling Jean. I’m sure we can work this out like adults.”
“Don’t give me any of that writer mumbo jumbo! Just make sure she stays away from Lisa.” The man walked away with only one final glaring look back.
Nick shook his head with a sigh. “Danger, you do know we are in a slightly precarious time with the US Marshall’s service knowing my business and everything, right?”
Jean, aka Danger, glanced around at the milling crowd of adults. At eight years old, with a cross country jaunt recently behind her involving witnessing death and torture, she understood survival very well. “I’ll tell you about it on the way home.”
She took Deke’s leash from Nick after shrugging into her school pack. Deke heeled immediately at her side. Nick followed her lead, grinning in admiration. He didn’t know what this drama was all about but he trusted Jean to be on the right side of it. When they were a block away from the school, Jean smiled up at Nick.
“Did you duct tape Mom into bed again this morning? I heard her scream at you while I was waiting on the sidewalk.”
“Don’t turn this on me, little missy – no I didn’t. I’ve put my childish pranks behind me. I put Jello in her slippers.”
Jean’s giggle turned into full blown laughter. “You… you should have stuck with the duct tape. Is Mom at work?”
“Yeah, she’s working the noon to eight shift at the café. Now, what have you done to garner an enemy like that gorilla I just met.”
“Lisa’s folks are dealing drugs. When I stayed overnight with her on Saturday a bunch of bad dudes showed up while we were watching a movie and banged on the door. Lisa’s folks jumped up in a rush from the couch. The Dad answered the door while Lisa’s Mom streaked into their kitchen. She brought out a bag and gave it to these gang-bangers Lisa’s Dad let in. It was drugs because one of the guys warned her Dad it better be good stuff and gave him a bag I figured had money in it.”
Jean made placating hand motions when she saw Nick’s Terminator visage spread over his countenance. “We weren’t in any danger, Nick… honest. I told Lisa later on she should hide when those guys come over, because the gang-bangers could get mad and kill everyone. I guess she must have told her parents. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back over to her house after that.”
Nick put a hand on Jean’s shoulder. “You did right, Danger. Lisa should take your advice if her parents are dealin’. You’re a natural at imagining all the bad things that can happen.”
“Can’t you do something about it, Nick?”
Nick chuckled. “I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t endanger you and your Mom or get me sent to prison. Halloween’s coming. I was looking forward to taking you trick or treating with Deke. So is Nate. He told me he’s never taken anyone trick or treating.”
“I know, but Lisa is my best friend.”
“Think it through, Danger. I can’t waste your best friend’s parents, and I can’t wipe out everyone that would buy drugs from them. Add to that Lisa’s parents will not be easy to turn from the dark side. They’ve had a taste of easy money. If the fact they’re selling out of their home with their own daughter present to dangerous people doesn’t register with them, what the heck can I do to dissuade them?”
“You’ll think of something, Nick. Nate says you’re bored.”
“Nate needs to mind his own business. I’ll think about it but I’m not promising anything. Did you decide on being a witch or that goblin thingy?”
“I’m going with the witch, a pretty witch. Thanks Nick for helping Lisa.”
Nick grabbed Jean’s ponytail, giving it a shake. “Don’t thank me. I probably won’t be able to do anything.”
* * *
Three days later Nick engaged his partner Nate concerning Lisa’s parents.
“Let me get this straight. You’re taking a contract from an eight year old girl?”
Nick glared at Nate who was posturing with his ebony arms folded over his chest, a huge grin of disbelief highlighting his features. “You’re the one that told her I was bored. What do you think of my plan?”
“I think it’s nuts. We’ve sailed the high seas with you murdering, looting, and pillaging. You’ve gallivanted across country killing and torturing, all so you can have a little family of your own. Now, you’re trying to adjust two drug dealers’ attitudes to do right and put their criminal past behind them. How do you think I feel about your plan?”
“Well sure, it all sounds goofy when you blurt it out like that.”
Nate laughed. “Okay, what the hell, I’m in. You do realize we have enough money to hire it done.”
“What fun would that be? It’s a challenge. C’mon, I’ll share my little getaway with you I rigged up for something special. This’ll be the perfect test for it.”
Nate clapped a hand on Nick’s shoulder. “Only in Nick land is this a perfect test. Let’s go. I’m wagering Rachel doesn’t know a damn thing about this, does she?”
“Little doubt about that, my friend. Danger is the tightest lipped little girl in existence so unless you’re planning on spilling the beans, we’re safe from my lovely wife.”
“Yeah right,” Nate replied with a head shake, “I’ll look forward to seeing how that statement works out for you
* * *
“Oh my God… this is just… disturbing.” Nate walked around the all white room awestruck.
They were in the out of the way house on an acre of land Nick owned in the Carmel Valley. The subbasement Nick had paid a small fortune to build could only be accessed from an entrance in a stand of trees well away from the house. Gurneys evenly spaced in four sections of the room each had its own movable carrier of surgical implements. Everything in the room had been shielded in removable plastic. Nick turned off the white banks of lights which triggered black light banks next to them. Nate gasped. The entire inside walling and ceiling showed horrific images of mutilation and death only visible in black light. Soft music reminiscent of ‘The Exorcist’ began playing.
“I take it all back, partner. It’s not disturbing. It’s you. What do you do, come here to meditate?”
Nick chuckled. “I fixed it up over the last couple years after seeing the ‘Dexter’ series on TV. Rachel and Danger have been to the house, but you’re the first person I’ve brought down here.”
“Gee, thanks. I see what you mean about a test now. If you bring those two down here and they don’t see the light, they’re space aliens. On the other hand, what will you do if they don’t see the light?”
“Turn them into the cops.”
“That’s what you should do now,” Nate replied. “Did you have someone in mind when you created your house of horror?”
“Nope, just hedging my bets if I needed something out of someone I wanted to keep alive. I’ll give this a shot. We go tonight.”
“I’ll go scrounge up a van.”
* * *
Nick positioned Nate behind him and to his right before injecting Lisa’s parents with a boost to wake them up. They were naked and strapped to gurneys side by side. Their captors wore death masks, black gloves, and black hooded robes. The strapped in couple began to stir, and then groan, and then scream.
“Shut up!” Nick ordered, using his mask’s built in voice altering equipment. The couple shut up immediately with only muted sobs sounding from Lisa’s Mom. “Ray and Denise Santiago. I will be your host tonight. Answer only when asked something and hold nothing back. Get unhelpful and my associate and I will begin cutting things off. Are we clear?”
“Yes… yes, anything,” Ray answered.
“We’re recording, so list all your drug suppliers and network members you pass the drugs on to. Don’t forget to tell us meeting places, drops, and phone numbers. We don’t like small timers in our business.”
“You’ll kill us anyway! Please… we’ll tell you everything. Just let us go.”
Nick picked up a scalpel and sliced a shallow cut down Ray’s body from his neck to his groin. Screams filled the room. Denise begged her husband to tell. Ray listed all their contacts in a shaky, terror filled voice along with all requested information.
“Very nice,” Nick said. He turned to Nate. “Shall we let them go?”
Nate laughed. It was a blood curdling sound with his voice altered. “They will be in our business no matter what they say. Cut them up.”
The screams began again with renewed vigor until Nick ordered silence. “I will put you two under again. If you wake up in your house it would be extremely inadvisable to ever touch another drug.”
Nick gave them each another injection. When they passed out, Nick and Nate removed their masks.
“That was fun,” Nick said.
“That was horrifying, you… oh never mind. I’ll give you this much. If you were in charge of the DEA there would be no drug cartels. What next?”
“I sneak Mom and Pop back into their bed, and make a drop to a guy I know in the real DEA. We’ll keep an eye out for residual fallout in the form of gang-bangers angry with not getting their product. I may have to bring a few of them here for some follow-up questions. Main thing though is to see how reformed the Santiagos are.”
Nate glanced down at the unconscious Santiagos for a moment. “Nick, I doubt their reformation is in question. Their sanity is another thing. You are a very bad man, my friend.”
Nick sighed as he unstrapped the Santiagos. “I get an impossible mission and handle it with my usual expertise. What more can I do to satisfy your sensibilities, Nate?”
“Well, at least these two are still alive.”
“See? Who said I can’t show restraint, right?”
“Yeah, Nick, you’re a real peach.”
* * *
“All ready to go, Sabrina?” Nick asked.
“I’m Elvira, Mistress of the Dark,” Jean corrected him. “Where the heck do you get Sabrina out of this outfit?”
Jean was dressed all in black, including fingernails, eye shadow, and her Mom’s black wig. “C’mon, we have to pick up Lisa.”
“That was nice of her parents to let Lisa go trick or treating with us.”
“I don’t know how you did it, Nick, but her parents are so different, all in a couple days.”
“Maybe they saw the light.”
Jean giggled. “Not on their own they didn’t.”