I walked the perimeter of the clearing until I found a path that entered the woods. I had followed it for a few hundred yards, watching for any sign of life or lodging, when my eye was caught by a large boot print in a patch of drying mud. It wasn’t Benny’s - he was too small to have such large feet. I compared it to the size of my own shoe. I wear a 10½; this print had to be at least a size 12. I skirted the area, taking care not to disturb the impression of the boot in the hardening mud. My pace quickened; a sense of danger prickled the hairs on the back of my neck. The main path curved to the left, while a narrower footpath branched off to the right. I followed the right fork deeper into the woods and found myself facing the blank rear wall of a small cabin.The building - little more than a shack - was constructed out of rough, unpainted planks. The shallow-pitched shake roof was punctuated by a narrow stovepipe near one end. A pile of firewood was stacked neatly against the side of the cabin. My nose caught the characteristic perfume of eau de outhouse - an aroma comprising equal parts of disinfectant and decomposing body waste. I glanced to my right. Sure enough, I could see the source of the odor about 100 feet away. I walked around to the front of the cabin.The front door was open and askew - hanging by a single hinge. I stopped short, automatically reaching for my gun, before I remembered that I wasn’t carrying one. I returned to the woodpile and selected a log that would serve as a weapon of sorts. Gripping it tightly in my right hand, I eased into the cabin and looked around. No sign of life, except for the swarm of flies that were buzzing about a half-eaten bowl of cereal on the kitchen table. The chair was toppled over onto its side, a large rust-brown stain on the floor nearby.I backed away, trying not to disturb anything. As I left the cabin, I noticed a pair of shallow parallel lines etched in the dirt, pointing toward the forest. On a hunch, I followed their track, walking a couple of feet to the side to avoid stepping on them. The lines disappeared once they entered the woods, to be replaced by a trail of torn twigs and mashed mulch. That trail led to another clearing, at the far end of which was a large house. One of Sophia’s well-heeled neighbors, no doubt. Once out of the woods, the trail was harder to follow, but I could see the remnants of parallel lines gouged into the tall grass. I followed the lines to the top of a small mound and found myself standing on top of a buried septic tank. I had reached the end of the trail.I stood for a few minutes, staring at the lid of the tank. I knew what I had to do. I knelt down and used the grip holes to turn the manhole cover counterclockwise. It gave easily. I removed the cover, extracted a penlight flashlight from my pocket, and shone it into the tank. I reeled back, stunned by the stench and by the sight of a pair of unblinking eyes that stared back at me from a familiar face. I had found Benny.
Friday, April 10, 2015
Here's a snippet from Chapter 16 of THE GREEN PEARL CAPER. Hope you enjoy it.
Monday, April 6, 2015
Following is a short except from THE GREEN PEARL CAPER, in celebration of the release of the print edition.
Twenty-threeI stood at the side of a freshly dug grave and looked down at Celine as she stared back up at me from the bottom of the rectangular pit. She was dressed in her favorite outfit: faded jeans, a white T-shirt, and penny loafers on her otherwise bare feet. Her hair was drawn back into a ponytail and tied with a yellow ribbon. The same green pearl stud earrings that she was wearing when she first came to me for help were in her earlobes. “Help me, Damien,” she said. “Find my killer. Protect my son.”I jerked awake. My heart was pounding and so was my head. The display on my clock radio read 03:27AM. But I was done sleeping. I could still see Celine’s face and hear her voice. “Find my killer,” I heard over and over in sync with the pounding. “Find my killer. Protect my son.”I got up and stood under the shower to wash away the remnants of the dream. Slowly, my heart rate returned to normal and the throbbing in my head softened to a tolerable level. I wrapped a towel around my waist, padded into the kitchen, and poured myself a tumbler of ice water. A couple of aspirins took care of the rest of my headache, but Celine’s voice lingered still. “Protect my son. Find my killer.”