Blood Red Rings



Blood Red Rings

Now available as an e-single!

June 11, 2011
Publisher: Carrick Publishing
ASIN: B005ED63VS

Click to buy at:
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Read an excerpt below.

First appeared in Crime Spree Magazine, Issue #04, January 2005. Reprinted with kind permission of the publisher.


Excerpt

Blood Red RingsFrank Harper slid behind the wheel of his unmarked Crown Victoria, adjusted his nightstick, lifted the lid on his takeout coffee and blew gently on the surface.

He was half way through his watch.

So far, so good.

He’d responded to a couple of car prowlings, a noisy party and a 9-1-1 hang up. Not much action in the zone tonight. Just as well, his partner had booked off sick. Harper was alone and could use the quiet to chew on his problems. Like the beauty Colleen had dropped on him before he left the house.

“You don’t know me anymore,” she says. “You don’t know us. You’re like a ghost who haunts our home.”

Why the hell would she say a think like that?

Harper blinked then searched for the answer in the buildings he passed as he rolled through the Heights. He searched in vain. It wasn’t behind the security bars of the used appliance stores, the shut up taco stands, locked down pawn shops, liquor stores, street ministries, skid row dives or whorehouses. Stopping at a light, he glimpsed his reflection in the side of gleaming black 1975 Cadillac hearse at Peppy’s Quality Used Car Sales.

There’s your answer, pal. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Sooner or later everyone takes that final ride. It’s guaranteed, pal.

Harper chuckled, shook his head and took a hit of coffee. Of course, Colleen had a point. But he was tired. Tired of dealing with the mess at home. Ever since Wade dropped out of college and moved back, he slept all day and stayed out all night. A shinning example to his sister, Angie. who never made it to college. Lived at home, worked at Del Verdies selling suits to lawyers. Attorneys at law. Don’t get him started on lawyers. At least Angie worked. But he suspected her money went to drugs. Angie barely spoke to him anymore. “My life’s under control, dad. Why don’t you get off my back and tell Wade to get a job.” As for Colleen, well, she drank more wine at dinner and often spilled it. Her place at the table was now marked with blood red rings.

“All units in three-four — report of a silent alarm at 3222 Clovis. Chrono-Lazer-Tel Components –”

“Sixteen twenty. Ten-four.”

“Roger sixteen twenty. Security company called it in. Standby by for the history.”

Unit sixteen twenty; that was Shea and Farraday. Chrono-Lazer-Tel was a computer warehouse. Alarm went off every night. And every night it was false. Harper let his dispatcher know he was clear to back up sixteen twenty, then resumed ruminating about his life.

“Roger sixteen forty-five.”

But what the hell did Colleen expect him to do about the kids, huh? They were adults. Over twenty-one living under his roof. His solution was simple. Kick them the hell out. But she wouldn’t go for that. She acted like they were still in diapers. Maybe that was her problem. She couldn’t face reality. Always hauling out the albums, getting all misty-eyed. Aching for things to be like they were a lifetime ago. Forget it he told her.

You can’t go back.

But God, it was good then. Some nights, like when he was sitting on the point of perimeter, a memory would just pull him back to the times he used to take the kids fishing. Wade was maybe eight, Angie was six. They’d get up before the sun. At dawn it felt like the whole world belonged to them. They’d spend the whole day together at the lake. Eat the lunch Colleen had packed. He loved her chicken salad sandwiches and the chocolate cup cakes she’d bake. Those summers at the lake meant everything to him. The way the sun made Wade and Angie resplendent against the diamond waves. The way Wade called him dad and Angie called him daddy. With respect, with affection. With love. Not any more. You can’t go back. Those days are gone. Dead and buried. So how did he get here? Harper took a long hit of coffee. Cripes, he didn’t know.

You blink and twenty-four years go by.

Twenty-four years of putting your life on the line for your family, for this city. In the early days, the crap he saw made him sick. The domestics, the child abuse. Murders. God the murders. Every kind you could imagine. The worst were the baby murders. He took it all personally. Couldn’t stop worrying about Colleen and the kids.

As time went by, Harper learned from the other guys how to distance himself to survive. He refused to bring his crap home. Refused to talk about the job. Kept his emotions locked up with his gun, a safe distance from Colleen, the kids, the neighborhood. He isolated himself from everyone around him. Every time he put on his uniform, he put on his street mask. Yeah, his game face. The one that told you Frank Harper was a stone cold, cynical bastard. And woe to the asshole who faced him. Problem was, as years went by, it got harder to remove that mask when he came through the door.

“Dispatch, sixteen twenty. We’re ten seven at the alarm call. Night watchman’s coming out. We’ll talk to him.”

“Roger sixteen twenty.”

All right. Harper admitted he could be a sonofabitch to live with but some times he wondered if Colleen truly grasped the depth of the cesspool he struggled in every day for the last twenty-four years. Did she understand how it had reduced him to being a tooth in a gear within a thousand gears of a giant ass-covering machine that grinded on you, that demanded you follow the process; that judged you, second-guessed you, wiped itself with you, then crumpled you up and flushed you away.

Did she once appreciate the toll of the shifts, the rectum-contracting fear of knowing that around any dark corner down any dark alley there’s a crack-jacked asshole with his finger twitching on a trigger and he’s drooling because you’re heading his way. And that maybe the asshole’s dickhead partner is holding something as lethal as a Glock. He’s armed with a video camera and a cell phone with Channel 5 and a civil liberties lawyer who wears Del Verdies suits on speed dial, should you dare try to save your life.

How could anyone understand what goes through your head when you walk into a domestic and the wife’s lip is so horribly swollen she slurs her words, and her four-year-old boy is wedged wide-eyed in the corner convulsing with fear while his mother begs, pleads and finally screams that she doesn’t know why her freakin neighbors called when all she did was drop a plate. Because her old man’s a sweet father. She swears to Jesus he never laid a hand on them. And she’s trembling and sobbing, “No doctor, no social services, I’ll lose my boy, I’ll lose my check.” And the world’s sweetest dad sits statue still with his eyes burning at the T and A on the tube, nursing a beer, as you see his knuckles are raw.

And all you can think of is how bad you want to kick the living shit out of this waste of skin because he deserves it. Oh man, does he deserve it. But you’re in control. You’ve got to hold back. Things have calmed down.

For now.

And two days later your Sergeant is telling you to haul it up to the tenth floor where a couple of sharp-dressed all stars from homicide are eyeballing the hell out of you and your unit history to the domestic because as we speak Officer Harper, at this very freakin moment, Frank, that little boy and his mother are side-by-side on autopsy tables.

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