Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Surviving the Light

I sin daily. I sin hourly. I sin with every notion of myself ahead of others. I sin because I am human, and this is what humans do. The onus of awareness of my sins weighed upon me so relentlessly I sought refuge in denial. But I could not hide from what I knew. Somewhere inside of me was a spirit, a tiny wretched spirit that cried out for help. A friend heard the cry. On Easter Eve she pointed me toward a light. I had known of this light and at times had tried to see it. I'd peek at it now and again, but for some reason I felt afraid to look at it directly. I trusted my friend, and with this trust I dared to look straight into the light's burning essence. Jolted and troubled, I slept little that night. Easter morning I arose earlier than usual, feeling uneasy and strange, lost. Then, without warning, Jesus Christ reached out to me. I felt His touch and I knew beyond all reasonable doubt He was with me. He loved me. He forgave me, for being human. I still sin, every day, every hour. I'm human. So was Jesus.

Monday, July 28, 2014

First Shot (29)

The calming that eased Blow's mind with Rose extended through the lunch they enjoyed at her kitchen table before she sent him back to what they'd jokingly referred to as his war zone. This settled clarity held together until his truck was about a block from her house, when he noticed the lime-green car in his rearview mirror.
He'd forgotten to look under his truck to see if he could find a tracking device. Not that he had any experience to know what to look for. From his imagination and vague movie memories he assumed it would be about the size of a deck of playing cards and attached by means of a powerful magnet to something metal.
Imagination. Oh yeah. Now he could feel the damned thing somewhere under him, blinking or beeping or whatever the hell they did, telling Moriarty precisely where he was. She wouldn't even have to follow him, like the car behind him was. She could be sitting in her motel room or wherever she was holed up, watching a little red dot proceed along a map on a digital monitor. When it stopped she could take her time checking out where it was he'd been.

Friday, July 25, 2014

First Shot (28)

The vibration in his hand triggered a chain of incipient emotional reflexes that began with annoyance and flashed through dismay and dread before reaching indignation, jerking Blow from his stupor in time to flip open his cellphone and preempt the tedious ringtone he kept forgetting to change.
“Quit piling on, God dammit. Leave me the fuck alone!” He said it aloud, feeling shame at the whining tone in his voice. He guessed he'd fallen asleep tilted back in the chair behind his desk. Yet, the phantoms tormenting him in the dream he seemed to have escaped just now still leered from the periphery of his uncertain consciousness.
He'd opened the phone before noticing if it recognized the caller. A wave of relief swept his immediate worries away when he saw the text message. She'd sent only a symbol: a left slant bracket before the number three. It formed a perfect heart.
“Rose.” He said it fondly, and a smile brightened his face.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

First Shot (1)

Note: this is out of order, due to one of Blogspot's several annoying quirks. Also it seems the text formatting feature has gone south.  My apologies.  The other chapters, in order, can be accessed from the rail to the right of this page.

"Perfect day for a war."

It was the kind of droll remark people who knew Leicester County's retired Hippy Judge were accustomed to hearing from him, but
he wasn't necessarily among friends at the moment. His son, Blow, hadn't recognized any of the other spectators within earshot. He glanced quickly to either side of the Judge and Lila, but none of the others seemed to have noticed. His father looked toward him and Blow saw the familiar grin that might have been a sneer were it not for the display of upper teeth and the merry laugh lines around the older man's blue eyes.

"Were such a thing conceivable, morally, that is," the Judge added, his voice more confiding, smile still teasing.

"Well it's only a re-enactment," said Lila Moreau, the Judge's friend.

"That is true in a sense, my dear, but it's really not even that. You see, the actual battle was fought across the river around Yorktown. And these folks, well, although they might well look the part with their muskets and their colorful martial costumes, aren't even trying to replicate the tactics used in the battle back then. If they weren't shooting blanks at each other they'd really be no different than a bunch of marching bands rehearsing for a Super Bowl halftime spectacle."

First Shot (27)

Buyer's remorse. The words' irony taunted Blow as he struggled to accept the new reality he'd chosen. The gate he'd stepped through when he agreed to represent Jamie Moriarty as her attorney no longer existed. His decision had instantly reduced to a sentimental dream any notion of retreat to a simpler time. He faced an alien future, bereft of the most familiar assurances from which he'd taken nourishment and strength. He felt desolate.
His plan after Moriarty's visit had been to talk with another client, the first to seek his counsel in the aftermath of Newt Gunther's horrifying death. Andrew Salzwedel. Blow believed he now understood the source of an animosity between the two men that Salzwedel worried could be interpreted as a motive for murder. If Blow's suspicion was correct, Salzwedel had been protecting one of his students from the principal. Gunther's lust for the historically significant antique threatened the privacy and, worse, the safety of the student, whose identity was no secret to Salzwedel. If so, the popular history teacher was all that stood between the student and only God knew how many lethal predators, one of whom was also Blow's client.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

First Shot (26)

The thing bobbed in and out of the lukewarm coffee as Blow held it by one of its thin copper wires, dunking it as he would a piece of donut, something he hadn't done since he was a child imitating his grandfather. Doing this summoned memories of the old man. Samuel Stone, patriarch of the Leicester County Stones, a popular, respected magistrate whose robust surface friendliness extended easily but who showed a quietly contemplative side, marked by droll, gentle humor, to only those who'd earned his trust. Blow was drifting now among these remnants from the past when his cellphone chirped its Beat Me, Daddy ringtone alerting him to the call from a frantic Joan.
Joey! Where are you?”
Hi, Joanie. I'm fine. Here at my desk, thinking about Grampa.”
Jeezuz, Joey.”
Oh, you must mean my text message.”
Damn right I do! What the fuck, Joey?”

Friday, July 18, 2014

First Shot (25)

Blow continued staring out the window for a minute or two after the lime green car was gone. He stared dumbly at the intersection where he'd last seen the car before it turned and drove out of sight. His rescue from the stupor provoked by Jamie Moriarty's visit came in the form of an especially unpleasant notion, chastising himself for not noting the car's tag number.
He employed his lawyerly acumen with rationalizing to restore a sense of equilibrium. There had been no reason to focus on the tag when he arrived home and concluded the car was his sister's. And just now, as it backed out of the driveway, some part of him must have assumed the car and/or its plates were stolen. Surely this was the case. Satisfied he'd let himself off the hook at least on this point, yet still vaguely dazed, his mind in disarray, he padded to the couch facing the windows and collapsed in its cushions.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

First Shot (24)

The lime green compact kicked up a quick dance number in Blow's head parked as it was on the pad beside the front of his house. That it was on that side of the house, to the right of the attached garage, narrowed down the list of possible visitors. Not being on the other side, on the pad in front of the entrance to his office, ruled out clients or prospective clients, of which none as he recalled were scheduled.
His father and Lila weren't due back until the weekend. Lila's dark blue Toyota would be in one of the two garage stalls, and if his father had wrecked the Buick on their trip and was driving a rental he or Lila would have contacted Blow by now. Were it one of the undercover FBI agents Joan's boyfriend, Richard, had dispatched responding to Blow's text message, the car would be parked somewhere else, down the street or even in a neighbor's driveway. Besides, didn't undercover cops always use vans, pretending to be commercial or utility workers? And the car was empty. Where else would the stakeout agent or agents be? They would have no key to the house, and the shrubbery was not thick enough to hide in.
That left only one possibility. His sister, despite the unlikelihood of her driving a compact or, for that matter, anything lime green. But it had to be her. A surprise visit. His heart was glad.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

First Shot (23)

Deputy Tisdale's long body lay on its side on the floor just inside and to the left of the front door. His hands were cuffed in front, and one of his knees kept pumping toward them, the rubber-soled black shoe on the other leg acting as a fulcrum, squiching against the hardwood floor with each thrust. His brown straw campaign hat, adorned with gold-colored braid, lay upside down near the buzz cut atop his head. Responding to Blow's entrance, the head rotated enough to fix him with widened eyes as a series of grunts, tenor with urgency and blocked by a strip of duct tape over the mouth, escaped through wildly flared nostrils. First to greet Blow, however, before his eyes adjusted to the room's near darkness, was the embarrassing odor of fresh feces.
Connie had sent Blow in first. She hoped the presence of “one of the good guys” would calm Tisdale enough to understand that she was, too, and not the lookalike criminal who attacked him. Yet, when he saw Connie enter behind Blow he flinched mightily and cocked his free leg as if to launch a kick were she to come within range. His grunts reached even further up the scale, approaching soprano.
Blow knelt. He gripped an end of the tape and pulled it off, grateful Tisdale was clean-shaven. Tisdale immediately screamed, “She's behind you!”

Saturday, July 12, 2014

First Shot (22)

Blow reached the Pine Ridge address first. He parked his pickup behind the two police cruisers. Exhaust puffs from the nearest car's tailpipe signaled that Deputy Rodriguez was nearby, or should be. He didn't see her, in the car or anywhere. He tugged at his door latch, intending to get out, but changed his mind. Might as well sit tight, give her a minute or two. Maybe she'd seen something. Checking on something. She'd have to return to her unit soon. If she hadn't found Tisdale yet, she was alone. Wouldn't stray far for long with the engine running. At least wait for Homer. Nuts. He felt antsy.
On impulse he pulled the cellphone from his belt, flipped it open and called up the text template. In the message box he typed: ASAP 4 richard pine ridge and stone house. He inserted his sister's number in the address box, and pressed send. It was a breach of protocol to communicate with Joan on other than disposable one-time prepaid phones, and he wished he'd thought to keep one in his truck. Time was forcing his hand.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

First Shot (21)

Deputy Rodriguez leaned against Tisdale's cruiser, looked across its dusty roof and studied the Salzwedels' house. Perhaps he saw something, she thought, and had gone to check it out. If so, and it was nothing, he should be returning to his vehicle any second. He'd left the engine running. The Salzwedels must have locked their doors when they left, so Tisdale wouldn't have gone in. Unless...
Rodriguez reached though the open window, catching a whiff of the seatcover vinyl vying with a cheap men's cologne. She plucked the mic off its mount next to the steering wheel and put it to her mouth.
She depressed a button alongside the cellphone-size instrument as its black coiled umbilical seemed bent on wresting it from her hand. She spoke briskly into the mic: “Fourteen to base.”
The radio on the unit's center console crackled with static.

Monday, July 7, 2014

First Shot (20)

Cheryl Salzwedel squirmed in the front seat of the cruiser gasping for breath, her frightened face looking in turns at Deputy Rodriguez next to her, and Blow in the backseat. She tried in fits to speak, but sounded choked. Blow saw Rodriguez gently pat the woman's wrist as they waited for her breathing to steady. Her first words were an apology.
“I'm sorry. I guess I panicked. So glad to see your car.”
“Is she in there? In your house?” Rodriguez, couldn't hide the alarm in her voice. Her left hand was on the door handle, door still ajar. Blow's was also cracked open. His eyes were fixed on the house, legs tensed and ready to spring.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

First Shot (19)

The pace of whatever it was involving Blow's prospective clients and their nemeses was accelerating beyond his comfort level of reflection versus action. This kicked his thought processing into a higher gear, bringing, he knew, the danger of a disastrous misstep.
Thus, after unsuccessfully questioning Nancy Gunther's other son, who had prudently dashed out the back door and called 911 when he realized the “radon inspector” was in fact a home raider, and who now, if ever, was unwilling to trust any unfamiliar adult, including Blow, but who promised to “hang loose” at a neighbor's residence until his mother returned from the hospital, instead of heading to the hospital to further interview Nancy, Blow persuaded Deputy Rodriguez to allow him to ride with her to the home of Andrew Salzwedel in the hope they would reach it before Cynthia/Jamie Snow/Moriarty showed up to do her number on his family. At least he assumed that was her next step.
Rodriguez argued briefly with Sgt. Teach, left him standing, glaring on the lawn and slid behind the wheel of her cruiser. Blow had already strapped himself in on the passenger side. Rodriguez started the engine, radioed her dispatcher, flipped on the pursuit lights and siren and floored the accelerator, squeeching tires as she launched the cruiser on its way.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

First Shot (18)

The paramedics, their unit's back doors standing open, were already inside the Gunther home when Blow pulled up behind one of the cruisers. Evidently so was one of the deputies. Connie Rodriguez was the only one he could see, and she was standing with a cluster of neighbors on the Gunther lawn. It was an upscale neighborhood with some distance between the architecturally varied homes. The Gunthers' was a split level two-storied affair with a gabled roof and attached double-door garage. Blow walked up to the cluster. The deputy spoke first.
“Hi, Joe,” she said, stepping away from the neighbors. “You representing her?”
He smiled, nodded. “Connie. I am, for the time being. Are they...?” He let the question hang.

Friday, July 4, 2014

First Shot (17)

Gadzooks is a word Blow never spoke aloud. He said it a lot, though, to himself, silently, without moving his lips. Had no idea how he'd picked it up or where, but suspected the source might have been some comic strip he read as a youngster. Were that the case, the odd quasi-expletive remained dormant in the back of his mind until well beyond adolescence, and then one day just popped up to lurk near the surface of his consciousness thenceforth.
It blurted to him now, soon as he'd flipped his cellphone shut after speaking with Mel Watterman. He sat in his truck outside the Sheriff's Office, head roiling with questions and half-baked implications. His first impulse was to call Callahan, who must not yet have gotten the word of the fake Himmler's murder or surely he'd have mentioned it moments earlier in his office. Then again he was a cop, and cops loved to keep as many cards face down as they could get away with. So, no, no call to Carl just yet.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

First Shot (16)

There were three messages on Blow's cellphone when he checked after leaving the cigar klatch with Callahan. He hadn't looked when it vibrated several times then because he'd been getting junk calls of late and none of the spammers ever left a message. Two now were caller identified: Nancy Gunther and the Daily Herald's Mel Watterman. The third wasn't but it was a local number. He pressed play for the unknown caller.
Mr. Stone, this is Buddy Leigh? Up at Leigh Stables? I believe you know my daughter Jody. You all were classmates. Anyways, sorry to bother you but your client, Mrs. Gunther, is threatening to sue us and it's just a misunderstanding and I'm sure we can work it out without all the trouble of going to court and all. Can you call me, please? I'd be much obliged.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

First Shot (15)

The staring contest began soon as Lenny Moskowitz, aka Frederick Himmler, shut the door behind him, leaving Blow and Lt. Callahan alone in Callahan's office. Each man struggled to keep from being the first to laugh. Blow, because simple inertia held him in the character of manly stoic he'd assumed at the first whiff of cigar smoke, Callahan simply because he was a cop.
Blow lost. His deadpan lasted about fifteen seconds before an eye detected the tip of Lenny's Cuban cigar peeking at him from his breast pocket. The laughter erupted like projectile vomit. Unable to stop despite his embarrassment, Blow watched Callahan's face through tear-blurred eyes as the cop revealed no emotion whatever, until he'd established stone-cold superiority, and then he lost it, too.
Blow plucked the cigar from his jacket, sniffed it and held it out to study the scrolled Spanish inscription on its ring label.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

First Shot (14)

The text message from Lt. Callahan asked Blow to meet him. No time or place. Several typos in the message suggested Callahan was not up to speed in the fine motor skills of adolescent smart-phone thumbing.
“When? Where?” Blow texted back. His skills were almost as deficient, consisting of holding his flip-top antique in one hand and tapping out the message with the index finger of the other. Within seconds, Blow's phone vibrated and startled breakfasters in the neighboring booths at Marie's Restaurant with the tinny strains of Beat Me Daddy. It was Callahan. Blow snapped up the lid.
“Yeah, Carl.”
“Hate that damn texting crap. Keep hitting the wrong buttons.”
“So why do it?”
“Hate not looking cool.”
“You're shitting me.”
“No. Don't tell anybody. God damn kids here all do it like it's second nature. Don't hafta even watch their thumbs fly around on the fuckin' things. God dammit, Blow. Getting old sucks.”