By Steve Weddle
Friend of the blog and recent DSD Book Club pick Tom Piccirilli, as you may already know, is having some medical issues. Here's how you can help.
In addition to that book, many others have recently dropped.
The paperback of The Professionals, by Owen Laukkanen
Our own Joelle Charbonneau's lovely Skating on the Edge
Chris F. Holm's The Wrong Goodbye
The charity anthology Off The Record -- At the Movies, which features talented authors and me
Another charity anthology with great talent and me, Protectors
And many, many other books I've idiotically neglected to mention. (Feel free to add in the comments.)
Also releasing last week was KARMA BACKLASH, a book published by Snubnose Press (Sandra Ruttan and Brian Lindenmuth) and written by my pal Chad Rohrbacher. Check it out. I think you'll dig it.
Here's the description:
It’s amazing what a murdered friend can do to a directionless man, the passion and anger it can stoke, the sadness it fires into a body, the need for good old revenge it nurtures. Searching for his best friend's killer, Derby, a blue-collar gangster in a white-collar world, uncovers the beginning of a complicated mob war that threatens to bring down the whole city.
To find the answers he needs, Derby tries to stay focused: Find the killer. Clear his friend’s name. Stop a war. Don’t fall in love.
He traverses Toledo, a city that grows old with him, unearths secrets his boss doesn’t want exposed, and hopes to find that man he used to be before his mid-life crisis becomes the last crisis he ever experiences.
Excerpt from KARMA BACKLASH
By Chad Rohrbacher
Published by Snubnose Press
“Look, Derby, I’m telling you they’re like cats who wander into a kennel of Rots and have no damn idea that they’re about to get their heads ripped off even when the dogs are slobbering mad with fangs and muscles and whatnot.”
I don’t know where Reece picked up that word, whatnot, but he used it so often I was about crazy. I told him if he ever said it in my company again I’d bust his lip. Of course, he quickly figured out to say it only at times I couldn’t respond, like right now while eating my Swedish meatballs at my favorite restaurant. Reece was an ass that way.
“I tell you what,” Reece intoned in his nasally accent acquired from too many broken noses, “there is no way, I mean, I like those fellas just fine. Both of ‘em stand up guys as far as I’m concerned, but I tell you, they don’t have a cup of sense to sip on. Neither one of ‘em. You hearing me?”
Just about that moment I saw his right eye explode out of his head, spattering my meatballs with a tsunami of blood and gray matter. Reece’s mouth hung open, like a man in some soliloquy who suddenly forgot what he was going to say. (I learned that word, soliloquy, from Rosa who used it just to remind me what a messed up idea I had thinking I could ever be with a girl like her.) And I suppose Reece did forget what he was going to say since a bullet ripping through a person's skull-bone would generally have that affect.
Later I’d imagine the coroner opening him up, recreating the timeline:the shooter was ‘yeh’ tall, the .44 bullet travelled at this angle ricocheting off his cranium just enough to save his friend’s life.
But I couldn’t imagine anything at that moment. I was too busy thinking, ‘what the hell?’
I sat there like a cat in front of a Rot watching everyone dive under tables, pulling their beautiful pasta dishes on top of their heads. I watched the bartender disappear behind the oak bar. I saw people scurrying into the back hall and I saw the boy holding the too big gun in his shaking hand.
He looked oddly familiar but I couldn’t place where. Sweat fell from his forehead. His brown eyes had a look that reminded me of something very serious, but everyone laughed anyway. His red flannel shirt hung loosely off his slight frame. He sported a thick brown beard, jeans, and the way he was shaking, I knew that was the first time he ever took a human life.
Transfixed, I watched the kid, the kid stared at me, and then he turned and took off.
Even though I owed him more than any man could owe another, I was pissed. Reece always left me in these kinds of situations. Now I’d have to talk to the cops and deal with their questions and glances. I’d have to hope it was McClain first on the scene and not that hard ass, Nevin.
I’d have to order some more damn meatballs and whatnot.
That night a storm came through which seemed fitting considering my mood. The rain pockmarked my windows, hitting the glass like fingers on a table. I hunkered into my couch sipping on some scotch, the half full bottle on the floor next to me and I thought of Rosa. She was, after all, where my aimless thoughts usually led me.
Rosa taught me things. She taught me how to use big words like soliloquy and cornucopia that impressed other thugs like me, she taught me how to dance and like it, and she taught me how use my hands for something other than beating the crappola out of someone.
Rosa moved on, Reece moved on, and I suppose it's only a matter of time until the cosmic charge of karma busts my chops again. I only needed to look around my scant apartment to know all of that was true: walls painted gray years ago and now just looked putrid, floors scuffed and dirty, a ratty couch and stained Lazy Boy my father gave me before he died and enough memories hanging so heavy in the air I could barely breathe. I had enough in my bank account for more than this, much more, but I was saving up to get my ass out of the city. Though every time I thought I was just about there, I decided I would need a larger pool at the villa, or another car to park in my car garage. I guess I just have to accept the fact that this is what I am and this is where I was going to be. I knew one thing for sure, revelations can be damn depressing.
The knock at my door was soft, almost dainty. I glanced at my clock. 1 a.m. I took another drink and thought they had the wrong place. Then a stronger rapping reverberated through the room. Guess they had the right place.
“Who is it?” I called from the couch. I wasn’t getting up without a reason.
“It’s me. Open up.”
That was reason enough. I opened the door and the small man pushed past me.
“You have another one of those?” he asked knowing I did.
I went and got a glass, and returned to the living room where he stood looking out into the street.
“Jesus,” he said, “it’s cats and dogs out there. Cats and dogs.”
I filled up both glasses and he slugged his down.
“That’s tough about Reece. Not tough as in ‘tough shit’ but you know," Sam said.
Reece and I grew up together in Toledo’s West Side. Train tracks, a liquor store around the corner, and Catholic school a few blocks away (which is now locked up and spray painted by the local kids). I got Reece into this business and I often wondered what he would've done with his life if I hadn't. A businessman, probably. He’d been a good businessman.
“First Rosa and now this. It’s gotta be rough.”
I think if I gave him any inkling of giving a shit what he said, he would’ve wrapped his skinny arms around me and held on tight. Sam was a funny guy. Too sensitive. How he ever made it this long in the business this far is beyond me. Sam’s only skill seemed to be making other people feel that if he could make it then anyone could. This made him more dangerous than any of the thugs out there as far as I was concerned.
“I don’t know which is worse. I mean, losing my girl or my best friend. Probably the guy I grew up with. You grew up with him, right? Yeah, be harder to deal with him getting murdered like that. I mean, you might see Rosa sometime around the city, but Reece, he’s gone and gone. Besides you guys were real close. Not close like that. Just close,” he stammered.
I gave Sam a look that told him he could shut up anytime.
“What do you need, Sam?”
“Bopa. He wants a meeting.”
Of course he did. I nodded and sat back down on my couch and looked out the window.
“Tell him after the funeral.”
Sam’s lip twitched as he looked back at me.
“Come on, Derby.”
I took a drink.
“Don’t make me go back to him with that shit. Things are, well, tense is what they are. I don’t feel comfortable going empty handed.”
Once on a run to a dealer's place with a simple cease and desist order from Bopa, he ended up in the bathtub with the dealer's daughter. The way Sam tells it, she seduced him with German chocolate cake and a cup of coffee. When the dealer walked in and saw them washing their tongues in each other's mouths, he grabbed the closest thing he could find which just so happened to be the toilet plunger. The plunger stung Sam in the back and, Sam assumed, didn't have the punch the dealer wanted because he dropped it and darted into the other room as the wet couple scrambled out of the tub with flower smelling bubbles running down their backs.
It was a twist of skin and water, the tile slick with puddles, and Sam just made it out of the bath when the dealer came back with his 9mm. In a passionate wail, the daughter screamed and dove for Sam knocking him off his feet and stumbling into the dealer like a drunk on roller skates. A shot rang out as the dealer raised his hands to catch Sam but ended up flailing backwards himself. The sink caught the dealer behind the head.
When Sam lifted himself off the dead man, he glanced over to the quiet daughter. The water puddles on the tile already turning pink with blood. Sam called me and I called Jersey our cleanup guy. What a mess.
“Good doggy, Sam.”
“Bopa said go fetch. You fetched.”
Sam kind of shuffled from foot to foot, ran a hand through his hair, and then looked outside.