Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Excerpt 19

Another double scene entry. This time because the first scene is so short.

Enjoy.

Frost slowed his truck as he approached the parking lot, bringing his apartment building into view. When he approached the drive, for reasons unknown, he stepped on the gas and continued down the boulevard instead of turning in. minutes later, he found himself pulling into the parking lot of the Pink Pony bar and grill as if his entire drive was on autopilot. Somewhere, in the darkest corners of his mind, he wanted to see her again. He did not even know her name, and yet, she invaded his thoughts. The bar was closed, locked up with all the lights off except the neon sign over the front door. It was past two in the morning, probably later, as the first hues of purples and pinks were making their way along the eastern horizon. His hopes deflated, he turned the truck around and headed back to his apartment.
Time to call it a night.
§
Later that morning, despite not having a job to go to, Frost woke up with the sun still low over the horizon, just after six in the morning. With Lefty securely in jail and no chance of getting his money from Jake until he opened the Bond office at ten, he would have to wait. Frost cooked himself a hearty breakfast and cleaned his apartment from top to bottom, just to pass the time. Finally, the apartment reeking of pine oil, and the air conditioning already straining against the late morning heat, he checked the clock, swept his skip ticket off the table, and bolted out the door to his truck.
"Damn dude, you spend the night in a pine forest or something," Jake waved his hand in front of his nose the moment Frost came through the door.
"Now you know what clean smells like," Frost responded. "You know, your office could use a little GI detail."
"Yeah right, you gonna do it?"
"You're a big time bondsman. Hire yourself a maid."
"I'm not that big time," Jake said with a snicker. "What brings you here today? You looking for more information on Lefty?"
"No need. I brought him to the station last night." Frost handed Jake his custody ticket from the police station. "Just coming by here to get paid."
"Damn Frost, that was the fastest pick up I've ever seen," Jake said, as he knelt down and worked the dial on his big freestanding safe.
"I got lucky." Frost busied himself shuffling some papers on the counter while Jake opened the safe. "Found him in the first place I checked."
"Funny," Jake said as he stood and handed Frost a small stack of bills. "They're usually in the last place you check."
"I caught him hassling some woman in an alley outside the Pink Pony. I just strapped him up and brought him in. He was getting comfy in the jail cell by one o'clock in the morning."
Frost counted the money and stuffed it in his pants pocket. He took a hard look at Jake, staring until Jake began to nervously shuffle his feet.
"What," Jake blurted. "The money's all there, isn't it?"
Frost said, "Yeah, it's all there." He turned to leave but stopped short. He just had to ask.
"Look, Jake. I know you just paid me for a skip, but you got anything else?"
Jake stared at him for a moment, and then said, "Lefty was a pretty big score. Why don't you take a break? Spend some of that money. You're going to wear yourself down taking one skip after another, Frost. Why don't you save some energy for your full time gig?"
Frost looked down at his shoes. "I don't have a full time gig. I got laid off yesterday. The boss told me they had to downsize with the economy and all."
"Damn, I'm sorry to hear that, Frost." Jake put his hand to his chin, looking like he was considering something, and then pulled a file from the top of a stack of papers on his desk. "I just got this new skip in, but it's a risk."
"You know me, Jake. I'm all about the risk." Frost held out his hand for the file. "What was bail on this one?"
Jake handed him the file and said without ceremony, "a million."
"A million dollar bail?" Frost had to force himself not to cough as he continued. "That's a hundred-thousand dollar skip ticket. Who is this guy?"
"His name is Norman Taylor but most know him as Knuckles."
"Knuckles? What is it about thugs and stupid nicknames?" Frost forced a laugh, but he knew with a million dollar bail, this skip wouldn't be easy.
"This one's no joke. He's kind of the local crime boss. He's had his hands in everything from extortion to murder." Jake continued while Frost thumbed through the file. "He never goes anywhere without protection, and he's known for recruiting ex-military baddies like you. Are you okay with that, Frost?"
"A hundred thousand could pay off the last of my Mom's medical bills, and then some. Hell yeah I'm okay with it."
"I don't doubt for a minute that you can handle bringing Knuckles in on your own," Jake said. "You just have to know that you may have to go through one of your former military teammates to get to him."
"I got no heartache taking out a rogue operator if he's between me and a hundred thousand. I need this, Jake."
"Just be careful with this one." Jake put a hand on Frost's shoulder. "You'll have to take your time on this one, be smart, and try to catch him without all his protection."
"No problem," Frost said. "Just have my money ready when I come to collect." He leaned in and gave Jake a big man hug, slapping his back hard, before leaving his office, full of energy and restored hope.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Excerpt 18

In this first scene of a new chapter, You'll get to know a quirky charater, Becky. This character's quirks are actually a result of a writing challenge I completed at a local writer's group meeting. A writer's group is kind of like AA with more self-pity and more steps then one could possibly hope to accomplish.

Her rounds complete, Alexis plopped down on a chair at her newly designated 'employee' table and watched Becky sway seductively to classic rock and country songs, while a few desperate men sitting below threw dollar bills on the stage. Becky expertly maneuvered around the money, occasionally scooping down in some kind of dance move to pick it up. Alexis watched her dancing on the stage until Sam yelled for last call. With that, came more drink orders, more flirting, and a few more meager tips. Sam cut the music and turned up the house lights right at two in the morning, ushering customers out the door, as she gathered glasses and beer bottles from the tables. Becky disappeared in a back room, and reappeared with a broom, sweeping up and leaving little piles all around the dark sticky floor. She looked funny moving through the bar in her little spaghetti strap two-piece bikini under the full glare of the bar's house lights.
Alexis found a mop and began scrubbing the filthy floor after Becky finished sweeping up all the little piles she made. Afterward, she sat at a table with Becky, now fully clothed, and counting her tips for the night. Sam was back at the bar with his headphones on, cleaning the counter tops and washing glasses.
"What happened with you and Lefty," Becky glanced at her as she stuffed dollar bills into her purse, and dug out a fresh tube of Chapstick.
"Uh, what do you mean?" The question startled her. She didn't know anyone saw her walk through that side door earlier. But then, she wondered why Becky didn't come after her when Lefty followed.
"Did he try anything?" Becky looked across the table at her, wide-eyed, as she ran the Chapstick around her lips. "What did you do with him? Did you kick his ass? Did you cut him?"
"Cut him?" Alexis asked. "Why would I need to cut him?" She was beginning to wonder if this sort of thing happened before, with Becky. "And, if you knew he was dangerous," Alexis continued, staring back at Becky, "why didn't you come help me?"
Becky looked down at her Chapstick tube as she placed it upright on the table, but said nothing.
"Hey! Becky." Alexis slammed her fist onto the table, knocking the Chapstick tube over, and breaking Becky's fixation.
"I, I couldn't leave," she said, looking over to Sam, still washing glasses, the music coming through his headphones so loud it sounded as if it was coming from some tiny metal loudspeaker. "Sam might have seen me leave. He could lose his bar if Knuckles found out we harassed one of his cronies."
"Knuckles?" Alexis was getting confused with all these nicknames. "Who's Knuckles?"
Becky stared at her Chapstick as it rolled to the edge of the table. "Knuckles is the local crime boss, and he kind of owns the place," she said in a hushed voice.
"I thought Sam owned the bar." Alexis leaned forward, taking Becky's hands in hers, hoping to coax more information from her.
"Yes, Sam owns the bar but, as far as business goes, Knuckles pretty much owns all the bars around here." Becky continued to stare at her Chapstick until it rolled over the edge of the table and onto the floor. "I mean, not legally, but he controls everything that goes on around here. You keep working here, and pretty soon, he'll own you too."
"Nobody will ever own me. I won't allow it."
"We'll see." Becky looked up from the floor, staring instead at Alexis. "If you did anything to Lefty, he'll be looking for you."
"Lefty's a sleaze. He deserves whatever he gets," Alexis squeezed Becky's hands for emphasis. "But, I didn't do anything to him."
"What do you mean? I know you didn't just run away. Lefty's too stupid to quit if he wants you. He just keeps at you, even if you say no."
Alexis suddenly realized Becky was speaking more from experience, than rumor. "Becky, did he do something to you?"
Becky pulled her hands away, looking again at her Chapstick tube on the floor. She said nothing, which meant everything.
"Becky," she said again. "Did Lefty hurt you?"
"How did you get away from him?" Becky's attempt at changing the subject was obvious.
"I didn't," Alexis said. "A man showed up and pulled him off me."
"A man just showed up in the alley out of nowhere?" Becky did not sound convinced.
"Yeah, he cuffed Lefty and dragged him away." Alexis thought back to the incident, and wondered herself, how the man just appeared on the spot like that.
"What did this man look like?" Becky asked.
"He was bald, muscular, and he looked like a black mister clean, only, not as nice."
"Ah." Becky finally looked at her. "That's Frost, our local superman. I tell ya', Paulina, he's one fine hunk of man."
"You know him?"
Becky smiled at her. "He's a good guy. Makes his living bringing in crooks like Lefty when they skip bail."
"You mean, he's a bounty hunter?"
"Well, something like that. Rumor is, he works full-time somewhere and just moonlights as a superhero. He's got a story."
"What's his story?" Alexis asked, leaning forward in her chair again.
"People say he was in the military, doing some kind of secret Green Beret stuff, but he came home to take care of his sick momma. Is that sweet, or what? Anyway, he's a little dangerous, not the nicest guy in the world, but the thugs are scared as hell of him. I tell ya' what though, he could cuff me anytime."
"Well, he wasn't that nice to me." Alexis opened her water bottle, taking a sip before continuing. "He didn't seem convinced I could take care of myself, and then he got all offended about it when I told him I didn't need saving."
"I'm sure you can take care of yourself," Becky said. "But, I think Frost could take care of you better."
Sam finished washing glasses and wiping down the bar. "You girls need an escort to your cars?" He yelled, as he removed the headphones from his ears.
"I'll be fine," Alexis said.
Becky took him up on the offer, and left the table to take a seat at the bar. Alexis left out the front door, but took a good look up and down the street before beginning her short walk back to her new home, just in case. The bounty hunter, Frost, kept popping into her head throughout her walk along the dark wooded path to her trailer. Becky was right; he was a great-looking man, muscular, and confident. Maybe he was a little too confident, but he definitely had some good Alpha traits. Alexis caught herself and tried desperately to think of something else. She kicked at a few rocks as she walked, surprised that she judged a mere human by her pack standards. But humans had alphas too. Just not in the same way as in her own secret community—a community she wanted nothing to do with at the time. She wondered how often his duties took him to the Pink Pony as she jiggled the key to the trailer, and opened the flimsy door. She mentally shook herself for the thought. He was nothing but trouble. Thinking about him could easily lead to romantic thoughts. Romantic thoughts could leave her vulnerable to a romantic relationship, and that would be even more trouble. Trouble was the last thing she needed while she was trying to get away from her secrets and live a normal unsuspecting human life, if only for a few days.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Excerpt 17

Another short scene to close out a short chapter.

Frost drove to the main Montgomery police station to drop off Lefty and collect his ticket. Lefty was silent on the twenty block drive, which suited him just fine. Frost thought of the woman in the alleyway as he drove. Even in the darkness, he could tell she was beautiful, but it was not her looks that impressed him most. What impressed him most was her confidence. Even if she was just a little rude when he arrived and saved her, he got the impression she could take care of herself. Maybe she did have lefty under control, although it certainly didn't look like it.
Frost dropped Lefty off at the police station, handing him off to the processing clerk for prints and the ceremonial strip search, before heading across the street to the JB bail bond office. He almost felt sorry for Lefty. The more he thought about the woman, the more he started to think he had really saved Lefty and not her. He couldn't even begin to imagine the embarrassment Lefty would face after having his ass kicked by some waitress in the back alley of a strip club. The thought of it made him giggle as he approached the bond office.
JB Bonds was locked up tight, no lights on except the small neon sign behind a row of bars in the front window, naming the place as a bond office. He would have to come back the next day to claim his ticket. Maybe Jake would have another skip for him by then. Exhaustion was tugging at him by the time he neared his little apartment off Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, but thoughts of the mystery woman still plagued him. He'd never seen her before, but felt he would see her again. He saw everybody in the area, and they were either working in some sleazy bar, or they were his next skip-trace ticket.

This scene, while rather mundane, provides some insight into Frost. I wanted to show what kind of person he is and a little about how he thinks without going off the rails on "telling." Of course, there is some "telling" here so I opted to keep it short.

Also, isn't it odd that Excerpt 17 is posted on the 17th?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday Excerpt 16

Okay, so this week will be a short excerpt. If one were reading this as part of the book, this scene would serve as a kind of break or reprieve from the introduction of a new character. I suppose it also gives Lexi time to digest the introduction of someone new.

The smell of cigarette smoke and booze filled Alexis' senses as she stepped back into the bar, the door squeaking closed behind her. The bar had gained a few new customers in the few minutes she was gone. She made a quick round to collect drink orders and then headed to the bar to give them to Sam. He was still standing at the small sink and, as usual, washing glasses. He'd apparently been washing glasses since she walked out the side door with the trash, and didn't even notice she was gone.
He might not be the most observant, but he's probably got the cleanest glasses around.
"I've got some orders for you." She put a small slip of paper on the bar.
"Thanks, Paulina, but you're going to have learn to memorize your orders," Sam said as he scooped up the paper and started making the drinks.
"I'll work on that," she said, sliding onto a barstool while Sam finished the drinks, although she couldn't imagine herself working in this dive any longer than necessary.
She couldn't get that man from the alleyway out of her head. He appeared from nowhere, probably saving her from making a terrible mistake on her first night at work. She would probably never see him again, although the thought of it was not entirely revolting. Alexis collected her orders from the bar, and made her way around the room, trying to flirt with each customer as she handed them their drinks just enough to increase her tips.

Until next week then...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday Excerpt 15

Chapter three introduces a new character to the story, Kyle Frost. Although he prefers to simple be called "Frost." At first Frost seems like a relatively simple character with a straightforward mission, But I hope you will find that throughout the story his true complexity becomes clear, as well as the part he must play in the future.

Enjoy:

Frost shielded his eyes against the harsh pink glow of  neon light as he crossed the alleyway beside the Pink Pony bar and grill. The day had been a long and exhausting one. First, losing his full-time job, then Jake Ballinger, his skip trace contract, having only some lowlife punk wannabe for him to hunt down, at least things couldn't get worse this evening. His skip should be easy enough to find, as long as he was willing to search every sleazy strip joint and bar on South Boulevard. And, what kind of nickname was "Lefty" anyway? Frost snickered to himself as the stupid-sounding nickname knocked around his brain. Montgomery had changed since his childhood. It seemed to be deteriorating lately, slipping backwards in time to nineteen twenties Chicago, or Phoenix City. Of course it did mean more work, as the bounty hunter business was seeing no shortage of skips. It was seedy places like the Pink Pony that fueled these thugs and kept him in business. Looking down the alleyway into the darkness, he saw a man and a woman in the shadows by a garbage dumpster. The man said something, and the woman jerked her hand away from him. Frost's body reacted before his mind even realized the two were not simply stealing a romantic moment in the dark. The woman was backing up, and the man was advancing toward her.
"You alright Ma'am?" he said, as he closed the distance between him and the assailant grabbing at the woman. He covered the short distance in five easy steps. The man was preoccupied with the woman, so Frost wrapped his arm around the man's neck and dragged him away from the woman, making sure to jerk his knee into the man's back every few step backwards. Frost kept dragging the man backwards until he was brought off balance and went to the ground. He rolled the man over hard enough to make him grunt in pain, and then knelt down with his knee in the man's back, yanking the man's arms around his back. Frost grabbed his zip straps out from the left side of his waistband, and tightened them around the man's wrists before looking up at the woman.
"Are you okay? Did he hurt you?" She stood motionless for a moment in the dark shadows of the alley. She didn't respond, probably scared out of her wits. He could only make out her general shape in the dark, but he was certain he saw her eyes, just for a brief moment nearly glowing, something primal reflecting in them through the darkness. So, maybe it wasn't fear that kept her from answering. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the alley, he ventured a look at the man groaning under his knee. He couldn't believe his luck. Pleased with himself, he recognized the man as Lefty, the very skip he was contracted to bring in just a few hours ago. His target securely apprehended, he turned his attention back to the woman.
"It's alright, I got him under control," He said to the woman, as he jerked Lefty up by his cuffed wrists. Standing closer to the woman, he got a better look at her. She was looking not too pleased that he stopped Lefty from doing to her ... whatever it was he was thinking of doing. In fact, the smug look on her face made her seem completely ungrateful that he just saved her life, or at the very least, her honor. Her pale skin reflected the dim light from the crescent moon overhead, and contrasted sharply with her dark hair. Frost didn't usually think much of women one way or the other but even in the dark, he saw something special in her, a kind of confidence, a deep, animal skill for survival. He was beginning to wonder if he hadn't shown up, if she would've taken care of Lefty herself. Then she spoke, and removed any doubt about her confidence.
"I'm alright," the woman said. "I didn't need any help." She crossed her arms, and moved into a stance that, even in the darkness, came off as confident, or rather, arrogant.
"Yeah, I could tell you had everything under control," he said, returning her smug comment with his own.
She glared at him; a cold hurt showing in her eyes  through the dark, and he regretted the words as soon as he said them. Truth was, the woman looked like she could take care of herself. She was taller than most women, with a solid build. She was more voluptuous and toned than stick-thin. Her eyes showed strength. They conveyed volumes even in the darkness of the alleyway. Frost liked beautiful eyes, and he liked a strong woman. Maybe a different approach, he decided, was needed here.
"I didn't get your name."
"I didn't give it." She turned, and began to walk away. "Like I told you already, I had everything under control until you showed up."
"Sorry if I interrupted your ass-kicking, but I've been looking for this guy." Frost left out the fact that he had just started looking for him.
"Well, you got him," she said, not even looking back as she walked toward the street. "Can I get back to work, now?"
"You work here?"
"No, asshole, I don't work here." She turned and looked back at him, planting her feet at shoulder-width. "Not on the street. I'm wait staff at the Pink Pony." She huffed and turned again, walking toward the alley entrance.
"Oh, I didn't mean ..." But it was too late. She'd already rounded the corner and disappeared. "Wait," Frost yelled, moving as quickly as he could toward the street, while pushing Lefty in front of him. He reached the crumbling cement sidewalk just as the woman stepped into the building, the door closing behind her.
"My name's Frost," he yelled as the door closed.
"Damn you, Lefty," Frost yelled in his ear as he jerked him toward the front of the building, pushing him along and making him stumble across the uneven cement sidewalk. "You just cost me a date." Any excuse would do to abuse his skip a little.
"More like, I just put the two of you together," Lefty countered. "Who are you, anyway? How do you know my name?"
"Nobody really, Lefty." Frost told him as he guided him toward his truck. "I'm just the guy that gets paid for collecting trash like you and bringing them to jail."
As Frost got to the end of the building, shoving Lefty in front of him, he thought about going into the bar instead of to his truck. He could tie Lefty to a gutter drain, or simply leave him cuffed and standing alone in the street so he could apologize to the woman. He thought better of it. If he took Lefty in right now, and collected his ticket, he might be early enough catch Jake at the bail bond office and collect his pay tonight. Lefty could be his easiest skip ever ... and his quickest payment.