EXCERPT FROM THE GUNS OF MIAMI, THE FOURTH NOVEL IN THE KEY WEST NOCTURNES SERIES, COMING SOON.
I awoke in my sweaty hotel room in the middle of the night. Pushing back the sleep, my mind and senses sluggishly moved into gear.
The shabby air unit hummed uncertainly and hadn’t cooled things down any. Musty odors filled my nostrils, and noises drifted into the room from the restless city. The bed creaked when I got up, and I went into a couple of full body stretches. I dropped to the floor for my usual fifty pushups. Afterward, I washed the floor grime off my hands, wiping them on the lone, thin bathroom towel.
My thoughts raced ahead.
If this shit doesn’t go down well, I could die tonight. I’m not doing this for any noble reason, only for money. Money we risked our goddamn lives to get.
It was a stupid fucking shot to begin with. I don’t know why I let myself get talked into it. We went into that bank armed, knowing the danger we faced, knowing we might have to blast our way out. And now I’m risking my life a second time for the same damn money.
Somewhere there’s probably a name for guys who do that, a name I wouldn’t care for.
I raised the flimsy curtain and opened the window. Humid air blew in, thick as mud in a wet ditch. I’ve always liked high humidity. Leaches out the toxins from your body, good for your skin, lets you know you can’t go running around outside.
I summoned a deep breath into my lungs and noticed it had rained while I was asleep. Black slicks dotted the pavement one story below, reflecting pale yellow upward from the streetlamps. Light traffic sloshed by in both directions. A salsa band’s frantic rhythms bled out of a night spot somewhere nearby.
My head turned to the right, looking up the watery street. The skyscraper canyons of downtown Miami loomed less than a mile away, a few of their windows gleaming with pinpricks of light, like little eyes watching over the city. Told me other people were still up. If any of them were outside, nothing good was going to come of it. Usually, only trouble walked the streets at this hour.
Following a quick, tepid shower, I threw on the one change of clothes I’d brought with me. I adjusted the holster in my rear waistband and checked my gun, ejecting the magazine.
I twirled the mag in my fingers, skillfully as a scholarship drum major, felt that it was full — all ten hollow-points securely in place, casings wiped clean. Briefly, I recalled the other day when Zaz called it a “clip”. People were always doing that, calling it a “clip”. Movies, TV, guys on the street. Everybody calls it that. Where the fuck did that come from, anyway? It was a fucking magazine. Why couldn’t they understand that one simple fact?
Holding the weapon upward, I eased the four-inch stainless steel barrel across my cheek. The cool metal put a trace of a smile on my lips. I let it rest in my palm and looked at it in the hazy, shaded light of the room. Smith & Wesson M&P. Compact, great balance, short recoil. One of the best .45 semiautos out there. The final solution to a lot of problems.
I slipped the magazine back in place and shoved the gun into the waistband rig under my black guayabera, threw the silencer and the rest of my shit into the duffel bag, and out the door. Three-thirty AM.
The night clerk dozed behind the ancient front desk. I thought about checking out, but what was the point? An hour from now, this dump would be far behind me.
Excerpt from Man-Slaughter, the third novel in the Key West Nocturnes series, now available digitally on Amazon Kindle. Print version available on CreateSpace.
Teddy swung his getaway ride into a mall parking lot off the Turnpike in West Palm. Nearly noon and he had to ditch it fast.
With Gerald in the trunk ten hours already, slowly rotting away in the Florida heat, Teddy would need new transport, and soon. In this weather, it wouldn’t be too long at all before the stink reached outside the car.
When that first housewife schlepping her shopping bags through that lot got a whiff of Gerald as she trundled past, Teddy wanted to be long gone.
In a remote corner of the lot sat a few scattered cars of assorted makes. A nice neutral-colored Camry caught his eye, but whoa! Right next to it sat this dark blue Taurus with the windows down. He parked a few spots away, then strolled over to examine it.
A quick look around. No one nearby. A glance up at light poles in that area of the lot revealed no surveillance cameras.
The Taurus: about ten years old, front windows down, clean interior, and good God almighty, keys in the ignition. He reached in through the window and flipped the trunk latch open.
He left the trunk ajar and moved back over to the getaway car. As he stood over its rear hatch, he took a quick sniff. Nothing yet. He stuck the key in and opened it up.
The first wave of foul odor rushed out of the hot, confined trunk into Teddy’s face. It wasn’t overpowering, but still, he nearly gagged. Turning away, he resisted the temptation to cover his nose with his T-shirt sleeve. Instead, he coughed up a load of deep phlegm, close to puke, then spit it out.
Gerald had changed color, darkening from his Asian olive to a sort of sickly greenish-yellow. Not only that, but during the drive down here from the Panhandle, his corpse had somehow rolled over onto the two canvas bags containing the money.
Teddy spun his head from side to side, eyes scanning the wide, steaming asphalt lot. Still no one around.
With a couple of grunts and tugs, he dislodged the bags, trying not to let any of Gerald’s slowly decomposing skin fall off onto them. He carefully removed them from the trunk before easing it shut.
Move the bags into the trunk of the Taurus, Teddy, and do a quick three-way plate swap. Fire her up and take her on back to the southbound Turnpike.
A mile or so out of the mall lot, and with the temperature sailing north of ninety, he realized the Taurus’ AC was blowing warm air. Turn it up, turn it down, this setting, that setting, no luck.
He cursed out loud as he maneuvered onto the big highway, fiddling with the controls to coax even a little cool air out of it. He banged the unit with the heel of his hand a couple of times for effect, but it just laughed at him while it spit out more heat.
He knew he should’ve boosted that Camry.
Fucking Japs know how to make cars that work.
He sped south out of Miami, whizzing through Homestead and Florida City to the end of the Turnpike. There he picked up US 1, the old Federal highway that sliced its way through eighteen lonely miles of mangrove swamp, also known as the only road in or out of the Florida Keys.
Sweat rolled off him like dirty dishwater off a plate. Even though it seemed like it couldn’t get any hotter, or more humid, the deeper into the Keys he drove, the more he felt like he’d descended into boiling oil.
Oh, but you take those extra few seconds to open up the Camry, and you’d be cruising down US 1 in cool, killer-AC comfort this very minute, wouldn’t you, Teddy.
All the windows were open now, and it only made it worse. Scorching air blasted into the car from all sides. Gasping and dripping with sweat, he couldn’t catch a full breath. A lightheaded feeling swept over him. He had to concentrate on keeping control of the car.
Marathon, the sign said. Looked like a town.
Speed limit dropped to forty-five, then thirty-five.
He eased into a restaurant parking lot.
Just before climbing out of the car, he paused with the door open. He thought about bringing the money in with him. You know, just to be on the safe side. It was never a good idea to leave seven hundred grand in a car unguarded, but he was pretty sure that yanking two canvas bags out of the trunk and into a family restaurant would be a big mistake.
For one thing, Gerald’s stink might have already soaked through them back in the getaway car.
Worse yet, it could trigger some local rube’s memory gene.
Why yes, officer, I saw this guy come in with these canvas bags. The type of book bags that schoolkids use, you know?
Looked mighty strange to me. Out of place, kind of.
Description? Oh, sure. About thirty, medium height, light-complected, light brown hair. Wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers T-shirt. It was black, I believe.
I also saw him get out of a dark blue car. Ford Taurus, I think it was. Used to have one like it myself.
He left the dough in the trunk.
Excerpt from The Ghosts Of Havana, the second novel in the Key West Nocturnes series, now available digitally on Amazon Kindle. Print version available on CreateSpace.
Blaine’s voice on the other end of the phone sounded urgent, out of breath.
“Robbie, it’s me. Listen. She’s dead.”
My knees buckled. I had to sit down.
I spoke the words, but I only heard a pathetic squeak, as though it were someone else’s cartoonish babble coming off the TV. Like it was all made up.
Blaine caught his breath. “We got there at ten of eleven, right on time. The joint was crowded, just like you said. We slipped back to her dressing room.”
He sparked a cigarette. I knew he needed it. As a matter of fact, I was going to need one myself here pretty quick.
“Go on, already. What happened?”
“Shit, man! We went back there and she…she…” He swallowed, then dialed his voice way down. “Her throat was cut, Robbie. Damn near took her head off.”
My stomach tightened into a hard knot.
Was I really hearing this?
Perching my cellphone between my ear and my shoulder, I grabbed at the fresh pack of cigarettes on the table. Made a couple of awkward stabs at opening it, but my trembling hands wouldn’t let me tear off the thin cellophane strip. After a few fumbling seconds, I just ripped the damn thing wide open. The little white sticks flew all over the floor.
I reached down for one by my shoe, made an attempt at dusting it off, and fired it up.
Then I said, “Where’s my money?”
Excerpt from The Take, a novel now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, Fictionwise, and All Romance. Published by L&L Dreamspell…
Eddie Ryan gazed absently out the window from his booth at Denny’s, until a sharp glint flicked across his eye, snapping him out of his misery. It was the sun reflecting off Raymond Cannetta’s shiny blue Lincoln as it pulled into the parking lot.
On first glance, there was nothing scary about Cannetta. His medium size and soft-spoken manner didn’t add up to the beefy loan-shark stereotype. But when he slipped into the quiet booth across from Eddie, icing down the area with his volatile brown eyes, Eddie shivered. This close, he could see the dark streak, the violence lurking right under the surface, as though he’d held Cannetta up to the light.
He tried to still the nervous hand that stirred his coffee. Cannetta poured a cup for himself from the pot on the table.
“What’s up, Eddie?”
“I had a bad week.I’m a little short, you know, and I…I need some cash to pay off my bettors.”
Cannetta didn’t reply right away. Rather, he gently sipped at his coffee, letting the figure hang out to dry, so Eddie would understand this was no ordinary loan.
“Where’d they make this shit?” His thin face contracted into a grimace as he set the cup back down. “My stomach;s been telling me for some time now to quit this stuff. I ought to pay attention. But you know, I been drinking it for thirty-five years now. Six, seven cups a day. That’s a long time, Eddie. Hard to break a habit that’s been with you for that long.”
Eddie mumbled something in agreement, still rattling his spoon against the sides of the cup.
“I’ll let you have twenty,” Cannetta finally said, his eyes burning into Eddie’s. “Every Friday at noon you meet me here”–his index finger poked the tabletop–“and you pay me a grand plus another grand worth of vig.In twenty weeks, it’s paid off.” The expression on his face asked Eddie if he agreed.
“Agreed,” Eddie replied.
“Let’s go out to the car.”
Cannetta retrieved a briefcase from the trunk of the Lincoln. They got into the front seat, where he opened it. Eddie saw a flash of stacked currency inside. Cannetta pulled out a few of the banded bundles, then counted out twenty thousand dollars.
He held out the thick handful of hundreds, as Eddie reached for it. But before Cannetta released it, he warned, “Remember, Eddie. One grand every Friday plus another grand in juice. No excuses. No bullshit.”
“Right, Raymond. Two grand. You’ll get it.”Eddie surprised himself at how confident he sounded, as he took the money and stuffed it down his pants.
Excerpt from Block, from the short stories collection, Bloodstains On The Wall, now available digitally on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble online, Smashwords. Print version available on Amazon, CreateSpace, and Barnes & Noble online.
I took one look around the room before I walked out. It was like any one of thousands of identical Holiday Inn rooms, except for the sheets and pillows torn to pieces.
And the bloodstains on the wall.
I put the body in the trunk before going back inside to wash up and to clean off my hunting knife. It was a good thing it got dark early this time of year. I’d’ve hated to have to do it in broad daylight, even though I wrapped her in the hotel bedspread. I could dump her in the woods on old Highway 10 south of town on the way home. This way the animals could have a feast and I could get home in time for dinner.
The bitch shouldn’t’ve said those things to me.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
I noticed the leaves in the driveway as I pulled in, as well as the trashcans still sitting on the curb. What the hell was I paying Dougie his allowance for, anyway? Karen kept saying, “Oh, he’s only seven years old. He’ll learn.” Sure, he’ll learn. He’ll learn somebody else’d do these chores if he didn’t.
The second I opened the door, I was hit with the irresistible aroma of something garlicky cooking in the kitchen. I just loved that smell.
“Honey, I’m home!”