Opening of my Crime WIP “The Wolverine”

Rocking on this Crime novel THE WOLVERINE that I intend to sell under the pen name James Logan. It’s a dark and complexly layered Thriller. Here’s a simple teaser:

 

A Texas Senator’s teenager is brutally murdered on shamed ex-Governor Edward Wood’s lawn. The Senator and his wife are missing. Eddie Wood claims he saw a man with scars on the backs of his hands beyond the kid as he stumbled onto his property and died from his wounds.  

 

Eddie’s drug dealing son, Sammy, suspects his father of the crime since his old man has snapped once before on a seemingly normal sunny day, when he beat his wife with a lead pipe and crippled her before coming back to his senses. 

 

Sammy searches for the truth in direct opposition of a Corpus Christi detective, risking exposure of his budding criminal empire, and totally unprepared for what he’s about to find.

 

 

One

 

He said he noticed the tall guy in the black rain slicker and wide-brimmed hat first.

Then he noticed the teenage boy between them covered in blood.

My old man swore this is what he noticed first, but I had a hard time believing him because he’d had history tormenting this kid, and there was the day he’d snapped and beat my mother into a coma, not to mention my father had made a career based on lying.

The day the boy and the stranger made their grand appearance it’d been raining all morning, the quiet street close to the bay lost beneath the drumming of nearby thunder, the quick etch of lightning across car windshields, these cars more upscale than most, parked in front of the fancy houses lining the cul-de-sac. It was a peaceful street in a town on the southeast Texas coastline, not far from Corpus Christi. My father had watched men and women go about their business, fretting over things that didn’t amount to more than strands of plastic, polished steel, fake tits and even faker smiles. Once he’d been one of them, the great Edward Woods, but after a nervous breakdown, he beat our mother with a lead pipe, cracked her skull. She was in the coma for a week and the neurosurgeon said her chances of ever walking again were slim. After that I was done with him, and our mom left us all, as if even seeing the children she bore with her husband and attacker was too much to handle. Our father gave his resignation as governor before they could fire him.

After his resignation he seemed quiet and peaceful again for the most part, but every once in a while, for what appeared no reason at all, he’d tormented some of the neighboring children by making his big Shepherd, Grendel, chase them down the road.

What a bad joke.

But he’d learned that someone seriously bleeding wasn’t a joke. Whether it was strangers in a bar fight, some brothers dishing each other pain, or friends cutting each other over some girl who wouldn’t be there for either of them in a year, blood wasn’t stingy.

Blood came like rain, sometimes a trickle, other times a cascade.

He didn’t know why the kid was bleeding, though it was easy to give into speculation, the way the world fed on its own dark center, lost in some numbing agent or another to tide them over until things got better, and deals made in those trades along the coast—drugs, booze, prostitution, gambling, arms dealing—sometimes went wrong.

The teenager stumbled forward into his yard, looking at nothing, his face slack. He was seventeen, the same age as my little sister Delilah. My father sat there on the porch with Grendel.         

The kid, Shaun Garrett, had one hand raised toward my father, a gash in his forehead leaking fluid in his eyes. He said, loudly, “Anna?” 

The man in the slicker paused at the end of the block, his face a pale mask beneath the hat, the only thing remarkable about him sticking out sharply in contrast to the gloom. My father remembered thinking he thought the stranger had thick white scars running from his knuckles up to where his jacket covered his wrists.

For some reason those scars frightened him, reminded him of something painful from childhood that he’d thought he’d hidden away for good.

The boy slowly assessed where he was, the condition he was in, and that there was help waiting for him on the porch. He tried to take a step forward, tripped over his own feet, and landed heavily in wet grass, a geyser of water splashing in front of his face like a load of buckshot.

He tried to rise, a few dozen holes in his pants and tee-shirt showing all the red ravaged flesh beneath. He slipped again on his hands and knees. He shook his head, trying to get his bearings. Some people think that’s the beauty of violence; that it leaves you so shaken, so essentially you, that the act committed strips you of your masks and leaves you stark naked, and defenseless, and wholly you.

The stranger, as much as he hated seeing his quarry escape for a moment, didn’t make a move. He just watched with the rain dripping from the brim of that hat. My father couldn’t see his face clearly. He didn’t want to. For years, other than the children who had learned to avoid him, Eddie Woods had done his best to avoid eye contact with anybody.

His hand was a foot from his cell phone. It lay on the small table where his tall boy of Labatts rested. He stared at it dumbly for a second before casting his gaze back across the lawn.

The kid sobbed and rolled onto his back, let the rain pummel him.

The three of them held their positions a moment longer.

My father thought he heard the roar of the tide close by, even though he lived a mile from shore, as the stranger turned his back to them and wandered up the street from the direction he and Shaun Garrett had come. The drizzle swallowed his form. My father blinked. He looked at the boy in the grass. His fingers brushed the phone and he was dialing before he realized what he was doing. Grendel tramped into the soggy turf and approached the boy.

My dad’s chest hurt, he thought he may have a heartattack. He spoke numbly into his cell once the 911 operator answered. He gave her the necessary information and explained what he’d seen. Wiping his eyes, he sighed deeply, and said, “Yes,” though he had no idea what he was saying it in response to.

In his yard, Grendel whined and nudged the motionless Senator’s son with his muzzle.

 

Two

The detective’s name was Jim Thompson. He looked like a fire hydrant with a thick trunk, a low center of gravity, short arms and a shot of bright red hair. He didn’t like me and I tolerated him, but he had a lot of respect for my father and seemed friendly with my brother Andy who worked for the local paper. Jim questioned my father while the forensic team worked over the boy’s corpse, it firmly planted in his mind that the great Edward Woods had fallen far and fallen fast, yet still retained something that most people just didn’t have.

Too bad he was the only one who could see it.

My father sipped his beer, a deep chill running through him after Jim said, “You know whose son that was, correct, sir?”

My father nodded, once, slowly. He said, “Marcus Garrett’s son.”

Mr. Garrett was Texas’s senator, a big jolly man who claimed it his God-given calling to clean our state’s streets of all the things that stained them. He’d grown up poor on the streets of Dallas and worked hard to get ahead and establish a legacy his children and grandchildren could be proud of and adhere to. Under the first year of his term, things began to change on the street, which was an unexpected occurrence and one I wasn’t particularly fond of since it cut into my business. But it proved beneficial because most of the criminals in prison are the dumb ones, or those who act on a whim, or those with no long term plan. I wasn’t brilliant but I wasn’t retarded either. I had things firmly established, a great product that not just any jackass could get their hands on, and if a situation arose that required drastic actions I’d sleep on it—sometimes for a couple nights so I could move with a clear head and an iron-clad alibi.

At first I, like my father and brother, thought all of Senator Garrett’s hyperbole was a political move, just another blowhard with no backbone. But old Mr. Garrett was just as fervent in action as he was in his speeches to the communities he visited. He was a man who caused ripples. Some people don’t like ripples, which is probably why Detective Thompson said, “We can’t find them, sir.”

“What?” my father said. “Who?”

“Mr. Garrett and his wife.” He leaned forward, said, “Do you have any idea of their whereabouts?”

My father, Eddie, stared at the Jim’s shoes. They were black with thick rubber soles that gave him an inch or two of extra height. “No, I haven’t got a clue.”

The rain let up and the air grew humid. A stray spray of rain stabbed a puddle in the road.  The detective sat on the top porch step. He said, “Why did their son run into your yard, sir?”

 “I have no idea what the kid was thinking,” my father said.

“And your daughter,” Jim said, looking at his notepad. “Delilah? She knew him well, didn’t she?”

Eddie swallowed hard. He took a long slug and set the empty can down. He went inside the house to retrieve a new can. Detective Thompson turned and sighed, placing his back to the porch support and leaned hard into it. He’d had some suspicions but knew he had to keep them in check and let the evidence lead him toward what happened here. To most people he’d tell them that he hated cases like this, ones involving murder, but secretly they were his favorites. Cases like this were the only time he slept well at night. It fed his belief that his job was making a difference. He believed that if there was any justice in the world it was that everybody’s humanity was laid bare beneath the harsh light of tragedy. He and the stranger had that belief in common. And I had to agree with them. You didn’t know somebody well when all you saw was their happy-go-lucky side. You had to see them broken and so broken they were unashamed and unguarded. That’s who they really were.

Jim smiled a little, feeling guilty for it. He wasn’t sure if Eddie was coming back out, which didn’t bother him too much, he’d gotten most of the information he needed, though he thought the old man was holding some things back. Then again, everybody held some information back. He ascribed the need to keep secrets as a basic human function. Hell, he still did it with his wife, sometimes to protect her, sometimes just because he didn’t think it was any of her business. And he was certain she did it to him, just like they both did with their parents, telling them they were as happy as they’d ever been and never broaching the defeat they felt since finding out they couldn’t have children.

Children and parents, he thought. What a strange dynamic.

He wondered where the senator and his wife had gotten off to, it still too early for him to expect anything suspicious regarding their whereabouts since the patrolmen he’d sent to their house down the street reported it undisturbed.

He scratched his head, wondering where the kid had come from then, rolling with a theory that he’d been abducted for ransom, escaped, and suffered the consequences of escaping. Sometimes all it took to fuck you up was bad timing, or not enough endurance.

He glanced at the team working over the body, catching glimpses of the corpse they knelt before. The kid was chewed up. Looked like somebody had used a meat grinder on his legs, arms and torso. It tainted the puddle of water he lay in pink. Upon first arriving and seeing Grendel with his bloody snout, Jim had feared the dog finally went and did it after the last few years of Eddie encouraging him to attack the kids who lived down this way—which he never understood in the first place since the old governor was one of them, even if two of his three kids didn’t have respectable jobs—and he thought that maybe Eddie hadn’t been able to stop the mutt once the leash slipped from his hand. But the forensics team concluded that the punctures weren’t caused by a dog, and Grendel had been sitting there next to Shaun Garrett, whining, his teeth clean. It seemed good natured. A kind of dog he’d always wanted. It crossed his mind to take it with him when he left until he realized how stupid that sounded, thinking that a moment later if nothing else it’d at least bring a glimmer of the old Edward Woods back.

Jim rubbed his head then stood. He tried to peer through the screen door and into the darkened interior of the house. He wondered what keepsakes the old man had on the mantel from his glory days as governor. He wondered how my dad slept at all when he had a son—me—who lived a life he didn’t approve of, and he had a daughter who ran the fringe as well. He thought Andy was probably the saving grace and had been the only one to inherit Eddie’s better traits: balance, honesty, fairness.

I wouldn’t have argued with him. I never claimed to be a good guy and I knew my sister was always one step away from lock-up because she couldn’t keep her mouth shut or her hands off what didn’t belong to her. And that was partly my fault and partly my parents.  

 

Three

The day the stranger with the scarred hands turned his back on my father and Shaun Garrett, Delilah was smoking weed in a small apartment overlooking main street, perched on the corner of a mattress in a bedroom full of stolen goods. She was built like a gymnast with dark eyes and pale skin. Pretty much everybody who met her loved her. She drifted off into a netherwhere from time to time when she was alone, like now, as she moved into the living room and reclined on the sofa, knowing that Shaun would be back soon with what she wanted from his dad’s house, and then they could celebrate.

Delilah usually attracted the wrong kind of people, and by people I mean men. She didn’t live in one of those fairy tales where she thought she could take some ex-con and mold him like clay, her deft fingers shaping him into what she thought he could be instead of what he really was. She went for the good boys instead and chose to corrupt them.

She’d known Shaun Garrett since they were children. They’d gone through private school together until Dad had his breakdown and she ran away. Garrett watched her from afar, crushing hard and then harder as the years passed and they’d matured. It’d taken her running away at fourteen for Shaun to go looking for her. At first he’d went to Andy, who our sister never much liked—her always believing him a people pleaser—but our brother didn’t know where she was or he would have told our father, not that he claimed to care since seeing or talking to her reminded him of conversations he’d shared with our mother. After discovering from Andy that I was the closer brother to Delilah, Shaun came looking for me. He found me, but on a bad day, and he got lippy, the kid frustrated that nobody seemed to care about my sister’s welfare or his puppy love. He demanded I tell him where she was hiding, and if he didn’t have a valiant stead and a Knight’s armor, I’d imagined he did. Something about his attitude got to me and I hurt him a little, needing somewhere to direct my anger with my father even though in many ways I was just like him.

I punched Shaun hard enough to make him bleed but soft enough that he could try and fight back.

It went on for twenty minutes.

The whole time his face shifted from my father’s to his father, never either of them for more than a few seconds. My partner, Levi, he said nothing, just watched with sad eyes as if I’d disappointed him. After it was over, after I went and found Delilah and ran her to meet the kid at a café downtown, I told Shaun if he let her hurt him it’d teach him an important lesson. Delilah smiled, sitting across from him, because she saw what I did, this helpless, spoiled brat who didn’t know what he was stepping into by opening up his heart.

He’d kept up appearances with his parents but disappeared nightly to join Delilah in some scheme or another, both of them thinking the beliefs of the young—that they’re eternal, indestructible, and wise.

Shaun hadn’t been eternal, indestructible or wise enough to avoid overdosing once. Delilah had left him in a stinky basement to die if the other people there couldn’t get him help. Luckily for him one of the girls still had enough wits about her to dial 911 and scram. But he went back for Delilah after his father disowned him and his mother sent him to rehab. A few months later he took the fall when Delilah fumbled a burglary. And he came back after a ninety-day stint inside the Wargrove Correctional Facility, a little more cautious around everybody except my sister.

Our father heard about it all through Andy. The two of them were concerned that she was headed for a hard road, unable to accept that she’d been on it for the last couple years, and it was a road that she chose to travel willingly, much like I chose to do what I did despite having other dreams, and they did what they did because it was what came natural, or caused the least amount of discord in their lives.

Don’t rock the boat… Eddie Woods had lived by that until he couldn’t anymore and just gave up because giving up was easier than caring or being responsible for your choices. It’s hard to respect your father when he goes from an employed shit bag to an unemployed one. I’ve never trusted people who spout common catchphrases as if they hold some incredible philosophical meaning. Life isn’t even that complicated. You live and you die. So does everybody you love, and thankfully, everybody you hate.

I can’t say that I hated my sister, but I can’t say that I loved her either. She was talented in what she liked to do, but selfish. I didn’t trust her, even though, in a way, I watched for a glimmer of some kind of goodness she kept suppressed to protect herself.

Even back when Dad was governor, and we’d spent a bunch of time dressed up at a party with his constituencies, I’d find myself bored out of my skull, while Andy smiled and made conversation with those boring, rich assholes, and Delilah teased many of them, saying, “It’s funny how unaware people are that sociopaths are some of the most charming people in the world.”

And those people would laugh and nod, imagining that somehow they could win her affection or acceptance.  She had a throaty voice for her size, and when she wasn’t staring directly at you, she was playing at the innocent little girl who needed a knight. So many suckers fall for that. Among them lot of old men in powerful places who enjoy the flesh of an underage girl, especially the daughter of a man they pretended to like but secretly despised, or envied, or simply yielded to.

And Delilah loved every second of seeing their hidden faces, all the desires they kept in check against close scrutiny in their political circles. But she’d always find one, like Shaun Garrett’s father, who her charms didn’t work on, which only made her want to disprove their honor even more. In a way I used to enjoy watching her trap them, but it grew tiresome, just more logs she was tossing on an already out of control fire.

She shifted on the couch that morning, the television’s volume low enough that she could hear car tires squealing and someone yelling down the street. When the news showed our father’s house surrounded by cruisers, their lights flashing, a strange feeling ran through her, soft and quiet at first, but quickly growing in volume and intensity.

She reached for the phone blindly and pressed it tight to her thin, hard stomach. The television showed our father’s house from a different angle as the cameraman shifted, following the reporter, showing at first a smidgen of Edward Wood’s front porch, the end of a scuffed black shoe, then the camera jerked up and she saw our father sitting with a detective. One was in his prime, clean cut, clean. The other, the old man, was wrinkled, shoddy, hunched. He had dark circles beneath his eyes and a can of beer resting in his lap.

Delilah squeezed the phone, felt a tear slip down her cheek, and lowered her head before letting out a long breath. When she looked up again the camera was on the lawn and a group of men discussing something at their feet. One of them shook his head, scratched some notes, while another looked directly at the camera and asked a policeman at the crime-scene tape to get the reporter out of there. The patrolman shrugged then told the reporter to back up.

Delilah waited for the camera to swing back to our father. She waited a long time, long after the report had ended and moved on to other things, before she gathered her senses. She called Andy, plowing through the noise she heard in the background at his office, overriding him as he said, “It’s not a good time, Dee, I—”

“Something happened at Dad’s,” she said.

Hearing grief in her voice, a quality he had come to suspect she lacked, he said, “I don’t have anything on it here. Hold on.”

She was about to tell him that no, she wouldn’t hold on, but decided against as she chewed on a fingernail and stared at the clock hanging between the windows, above the TV. She thought Shaun should have been back an hour ago. A pang of something she’d never call worry bit deep into the pit of her stomach. When Andy came back on the line his voice startled her. He said, “Okay, Dad’s okay, but somebody murdered a kid. You remember Shaun Garrett? The senator’s kid? I don’t have all the details yet but I’ll have them in a bit. I’m going to head over there to talk to him in a few, you’re welcome to ride with me.”

She shook her head. “I can’t.”

“He’d be glad to see you, Dee. He might even need you right now. May be he’s needed you for the lp /spanspan style=”font-size: 12pt; line-height: 200%; font-family: ‘Times New Roman’, ‘serif’; color: #000000;”ast couple of years but you’re both too stubborn to apologize to each other.”

“Let me know what you find out,” she said, not wanting to hear him.

She ended the call and set the phone on the arm of the couch and wrapped her arms around herself. She sat that way for about ten minutes before she slapped herself once, the sting hot across her cheek, nestling up beneath her right eye and burrowing into the smile line at the corner of her lips. She jumped up, went into the bathroom and pulled off the back of the toilet. Knowing it could just be the dope fucking with her head, but thinking it better to be safe than sorry, she withdrew a clear plastic bag, half filled with light blue pills, from the water. After she dried it off with a towel she snagged a garbage bag from the kitchen and slid the first bag into it. She knew it’d be a couple of hours before Andy called back and filled her in on what happened.

She thought, Somehow Sammy found out.

With the package tucked beneath her arm she fled the apartment and disappeared in a throng of the people Dad both pitied and hated, allowing the violent sea of flesh and concrete to swallow her.  

 

 

 

If you haven’t read my latest Horror/Noir WHEN WE JOIN JESUS IN HELL, give it a chance. It’s been getting some great feedback, which I’m excited about, and I’m very proud of it. Thanks to those who have already ordered and read it!

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