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The Revised, Revised, Revised Chapter One

Will the fourth time be the charm or will it prompt me to put a bullet in the story’s head? Either way, the only way to find out is to get busy writing.

Chapter one has been posted here. My goal (that I promise not to break this time) is to post a new chapter every week.

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NaNoWriMo Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Across town, Detective James Marlin sat in a red vinyl booth and finished off the last of what he thought was St. Paul’s best ruben. The diner, also – in Marlin’s opinion – St. Paul’s best, was empty save for a few beat cops, two drunks, and Marlin’s partner, Gil Laskowski.

“It’s the bread,” he said, wiping the 1000 Island dressing from his lips. “Got to have good bread to make a good ruben.”
“Rye bread ain’t my thing,” replied his partner.
“And you call yourself a Jew.”
Gil Laskowski shoved a wad of vinegar soaked fries into his mouth and said something to the effect of “Fuck you, I’m Polish.”
“Leave it to a fucking Polack to not like rye. Jesus, you get enough vinegar on them fucking fries or what?”
“You know, you’re mighty critical for a guy named after a fish,” said Laskowski. He held up a fry. “And as for this, you should try it sometime.”
Marlin tossed his napkin on the table and pulled a pack of Camel no-filters from his coat pocket. “No thanks,” he replied. “I’d rather not smell like cat piss.”
“Your wife don’t seem to mind.”
“Ain’t you just a funny fucker,” said Marlin loudly enough to draw a dirty look from the waitress.
“Hon,” she shouted from across the diner. “ You better watch that mouth of yours.”
Marlin brushed her comment aside with a wave of his hand. “Or what, Trudy? You gonna wash my mouth out with pie?”
Trudy started laughing. “Banana Cream or Key Lime?”
“You got any of that carrot cake left,” asked Gil.
“You hear me say carrot cake, hon?”
“Never mind the Polack, Trudy,” said Marlin, “he has trouble with big words sometimes.”
Trudy had walked over and started to fill up their coffee cups. “Easy you ugly Norse albino, my daddy was Polish.”
Marlin looked up at her. “Was he really,” he said with some amusement.
Trudy paused. “On second thought, I think he was just stupid.”
Marlin and Trudy erupted in laughter.
“Ain’t you both just a couple of Martin and Lewises,” shot Gil, flipping them both off. “Now if you’re done, I’ll take my slice of pie. Banana Cream.”
“Easy fella,” Trudy said as she held up her hands. “Watch where you point that thing.”
The detectives finished off their pie and were debating whether or not to smoke another cigarette when a couple black and white squad cars went screaming past the diner.

“Shit,” said Gil. “I was beginning to think it’d be a slow night.”

St. Paul might call itself the most livable city in America, but in Marlin’s mind, who ever came up with that bit of nonsense never lived here in July. Or January. Or any other month not named May or October. Because the truth was outside of those brief sixty days, St. Paul was either a humid, mosquito infested shithole or the coldest goddamn place on earth.

Tonight, it was especially humid. Hotter than normal, too. If that was even possible. Nearly three in the morning and still pushing 100. The only time he felt heat like this was on that scar called Okinawa. Of course, it weren’t the heat that made the place intolerable, it was the smell. In all his days, Marlin never smelled anything so wretched and foul as what he smelled on that island. Heat and humidity will make a guy stink to high heaven when he’s alive, but Jesus if it don’t have an even worse effect when he’s dead. Those are the kind a smells a fella never gets used to.

That being said, a dead body don’t smell like roses. No matter how pleasant the conditions are.

“Whould ya look at this shit,” said Laskowski as they slowly rolled past the abandon house and the dozen or so squad cars that were parked in front of the house. “You’d think they’d have the courtesy to save us a fucking parking spot, wouldn’t you?”

“They know you need the workout,” Marlin replied.
Laskowski rubbed his gut. “They’re just jealous. You know, in some customs, a large gut is a sign of importance.”
“Oh yeah,” Marlin said dryly. “Which ones would those be?”
“I dunno, but I reckon it’s in an encyclopedia somewhere.”

A uniformed officer held up the crime tape and nodded as Marlin and Laskowski walked up the sidewalk and onto the front porch.

The house was an abandoned craftsman located in the middle of what was called the Rondo Neighborhood. At one point it had been home to many of the city’s middle class, but since the war it had been in a slow state of decline. It used to be that you’d drive down the street and see kids playing stickball and running around doing the things kids do, but not no more. After a while folks started to wise up to the fact that their neighborhood wasn’t really their neighborhood anymore, so they moved north and west to these new things called suburbs. They’d tell you it was because the houses were newer and the yards bigger, but that wasn’t the reason. Not really, anyway. Sure, a few folks would tell the truth – that Rondo was getting too dark for their tastes, but most would just smile and start telling you about their new car.

So most of the white folks left. And then they all did. And that’s when most would agree that that’s when Rondo started its slow decline. But that ain’t what made it the abandon craphole that it is today. Nope, the reason Rondo was now a lawless wasteland was because Uncle Sam and the Great State of Minnesota decided that the Rondo Neighborhood was in the way of something called an Interstate Highway. And as everyone knows, when the government tells you you’re in the way, you move.

In less than a year since being notified that I-94 was to run smack dab through the middle of their front yards, most had taken the government up on their offer to get bought out. Sure enough, a few old-timers stayed –they weren’t going to let a few ruffians drive them out of their homes, why the hell would they let Uncle Sam – but after a while they even got tired of the violence.

Marlin stepped through the door, followed by Laskowski. He didn’t need to ask where the body was. He just followed the sound of the voices through the living room, into the kitchen, and down the stairs to the basement.

“Would yah listen to ‘em,” said Gil. “Like a bunch of goddamn schoolgirls.”

Marlin pulled a cigar out of his pocket and started chewing on it. He told his wife it helped him think and in some ways it did. But what she didn’t know, what he didn’t tell her, was that cigar smoke was about the only smell that cut through the smell of death. He learned a lot a things in the Pacific, but damned if that wasn’t one of the best.

One of the plainclothes cops noticed them and motioned the men over. Just like a knitting circle, the rest of the men took a step back to accommodate the new participants.

“Sweet Jesus,” said Laskowski as he saw the body, “where’s his fucking face?”
The plainclothes cop spoke, “Cats.”
“How long you figure he been here, Mike,” asked Marlin. “Few days?”
“If that,” he replied. “You shoulda seen all the damn cats that were on this fella.”
Gil crunched his face but kept staring at the body. “You reckon he was dead by the time they got to him?”

Mike’s started laughing.

Marlin glared at him and the man immediately shut up.

“Yes,” he said, composing himself. “We think he was dead. There’ a rag shoved down his throat.”

Marlin looked at Mike and then back to the body. “Like the other one,” he asked.

“You think we got a…” Gil started to say, before stopping himself.

Marlin took a long pull off the cigar. “Ain’t no damn coincidence.”

“I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that rag was soaked in ether,” said Gil as he excitedly to a step closer to the corpse. “You pull it out,” he asked Mike as he moved his hand towards what was left of the body’s mouth. “Or is it still in there?”

Everybody but Marlin took a step back. One of the uniforms gagged.

“Someone got a handkerchief or something,” asked Gil. “Gloves would be nice too.”

He looked up. No one nodded. Nor did they supply a handkerchief. Or gloves.

“Fuck it,” he said. Then he pointed to two of the uniformed cops. “Gimme your pencils.”

They handed them over and Laskowski smiled. “Thank you,” he said. Then he pried open the mouth as far as it would go, reached in and slowly pulled out the rag.

The cop who gagged puked.

Marlin took another pull off his cigar. It’s blue smoke hung in the air and drifted lazily towards the ceiling. A few of the cops standing near him stepped closer in an attempt to inhale it.

“Whatta ya got,” asked Marlin.

Gil held up the rag and turned around to face the group. He moved it closer to his face to get a better look but immediately recoiled and started coughing. The smell was overpowering. He turned his head back to the rag and took another smell. Amongst all the smells that fought to dominate the room, this one stood out. Rotten fruit.

In the background, another uniform puked. Or maybe it was the same one. Hard to tell.

Marlin pulled the cigar out of his mouth and tossed it on the ground. He ground the toe of his black wingtip into it and took a step towards the rag. He inhaled.

“It’s our guy,” he said, smiling at Gil.

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The NaNoWriMo Challenge

To get off my writing ass, I signed up to participate in the NaNoWriMo.org write a novel in 30 days challenge. For any of you who have attempted to write a book, you know that a novel in 30 days is no small feat. That’s why I’m giving my readers a disclaimer: don’t expect what you read to be great, much less even very good. Why? Because stringing together 50,000 words that kind of make sense is tough enough as it is.

I’ll try to post what I write as I write it. And while I’ll try to keep typos to a minimum, you’ll note that the editing is non-existant.

The working title is “Canned Heat”. I hate it. The plot is as follows:

Set against the backdrop of 1950s Los Angeles, Canned Heat introduced readers to Frankie “Caboose” Carousel – a professional (if you can call it that) wrestler at a crossroads. Barely getting by, his wrestling career going nowhere, and saddled with more gambling debts than he can ever pay back, The Caboose knows his life is in the shitter. What he doesn’t know is how to get it out. But when Frankie wins a match he shouldn’t and runs afoul of the local promoter, One-eyed Jack, he’s faced with a choice that really isn’t that much of a choice – living without a head or helping One-eyed Jack take care of a problem with a rival promoter. As it turns out, as bad as Frankie Caboose is at wrestling, he’s as good when it comes to killing folks.

 

Chapter One

The way Frankie Caboose saw it there were some things a man could simply not tolerate. And bad manners were one such thing. Heck, if there was one thing that made him angrier than bad manners he couldn’t think of it. Maybe folks hitting animals, but Frankie equated that with bad manners too. To Frankie, there were all sorts-a-things that could be qualified as bad manners. Not taking your hat off indoors? Bad manners. Failing to stand when a lady entered or left the room? Bad manners. Doing whatever it was brought you to meet Frankie’s acquaintance? Probably bad manners.

“Now, if only Pretty Boy Pete wouldn’t a said such an ugly thing, we wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation.”

The man sitting across from Frankie Caboose didn’t reply on account of his mouth being taped shut.

“But,” Frankie Caboose continued, “You can’t call a guy’s girl a tar-titted nigger and suffer no consequences, can you?”

The man nodded. As if agreeing would help his cause.

“That’s exactly what I thought.” Frankie waved his oversized gloved hand in the man’s direction. “It’s rude.”

Frankie turned and took a look at the fella taped to the chair. Aside from the swollen eye, he was in good shape. Scared, but otherwise okay.

“Now I know what you’re thinking,” he said to the man. “Punching a guy in the eye when he don’t expect it ain’t exactly the most polite thing to do, right?”

The man shook his head.

“Well you’re right, it ain’t.” Frankie smiled. “Suppose that means I’ll be putting a quarter in the manners jar when I get home.”

Frankie Caboose shrugged as if thinking about what he’d done then walked over to his leather duffle bag. Pulling out a cloth and a bottle of ether, he looked at the man sitting in the chair.

“Now I know what you must be thinking,” said Frankie as he held up the bottle and rag.

As if on cue, the man started to panic. Nostrils flaring, he strained with all his might against the ropes that held his arms and legs to the chair. A high-pitched moan fought to escape the tape over his mouth.

“You’re thinking, ‘this can’t be happening’. ‘I done nothing to deserve this.’”

The man fought harder against the ropes. A dark stain grew around his groin.

Frankie grinned as he saw this and patted the man on the shoulder. “It’s okay pal, lotsa folk piss themselves at times like this.”

The man made eye contact with Frankie. For a brief second he calmed down. Then he started crying.

Frankie pulled up a chair and sat facing the man. “I tell ya, I even pissed myself once upon a time.”

This made the man cry harder.

“Here I was on this pretty French beach and the next thing I know I’m pissing my pants. Course, it’s not like I was the only one. Some fellas crapped themselves. Can you believe that? Grown men just going in their pants!”

Frankie took the cap of the ether and with one hand cupped behind the back of the man’s head he took the other and held the bottle to the man’s nose.

“Now you’d think the whole beach would’ve stunk like piss and crap on account of so many of us doing so, but it didn’t,” Frankie said.

“You want to know what it smelled like,” he asked though the man’s sobs.

“It smelt like burnt marshmallows,” he continued as he pulled the bottle from the man’s face.

Frankie grabbed the rag that was sitting on his lap and held it to the top of the ether bottle. He was about to pour the contents of the bottle onto the rag when he suddenly stopped.

“I can’t stand that smell no more,” said Frankie. “I smell it and they all come back. I smell it and I see all them fellas’ guts and brains and mangled bodies lying in the sand. I see all that blood.”

Frankie shook his head, clearing it of that memory and began pouring the ether onto the rag.

“You’d figure after seeing all that blood I’d be used to it but to tell the truth I can’t stand the stuff.”

The man looked up, confused. Maybe a little bit hopeful.

“That’s why I use the ether. No mess.”

The man groaned.

Frankie Caboose patted him on the leg. “And it’s a lot nicer for you.”

Realizing what was about to happen, the man defecated.

“Whoowee,” Frankie said, waving his hand in front of his face. “That’s one of the worst I ever smelt.”

Leaning forward he quickly peeled the tape back from the man’s mouth, shoved the rag in and stuck the tape back over his mouth. The man gagged as he fought to get what little air he could through his nose. Frankie let him get a few good breaths before his pinched the man’s nose shut.

And then he waited.

Within seconds the man passed out. Within a few more he stopped breathing. Frankie checked his pulse to make sure he was dead. He was. A few minutes later he checked again. Still dead.

Frankie stood, surveyed his work and took a look around the motel room. Another job well done, he thought.

He was starting to get the hang of this.

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The email I sent to my office regarding my stolen lunch

Good afternoon all-

Among my many talents, crafting the perfect sandwich is one I am particularly proud of (ranking just behind crafting the perfect headline). Now as everyone knows, a sandwich is only as good as its ingredients. That’s why I spend a little extra on quality meats and cheeses (that generic store-brand “meat” has no place in my food pyramid!). Of course given these current economic times, splurging on the good stuff means making cuts in other areas within my grocery budget (sorry Florida, your delicious oranges don’t make the cut.) Normally I try to mix it up a bit and pick a new meat/cheese combo to get me through the week. Last week it was peppered turkey and havarti; the week before: pastrami and swiss. But this week I figured I’d revisit my old friends ham and swiss. Hardly exciting, but delicious none-the-less.

We all have our own routines when it comes to lunch preparation. Some get it ready the night before. Some do it as soon as they wake up. And some (usually senior management (on the rare occasion they have time to eat)or trust-funders) don’t bother making lunch at all and instead enjoy a nice lunch out somewhere. Me? I make my sandwich right before I head out the door so I can be assured it is as fresh as possible.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Patrick, while I find your fondness of sandwiches mildly interesting and strangely disturbing, what does this have to do with me?”

Absolutely nothing.

Unless of course you are the individual who recently enjoyed the gastronomical delights of my Virginia Baked Ham and Swiss on wheat. Then this message has everything to do with you.

While I appreciate that you appreciate my sandwich preparation abilities – and am humbled that you chose my sandwich above all others – today’s effort was not intended for anyone save myself. In fact, had I know I was cooking for you I would have spent a bit more time and effort preparing a sandwich worthy of your discriminating culinary tastes. To be honest, at the moment I am embarrassed by the meager representation of today’s sandwich. Again, had I known I was cooking for you I would have used significantly more care in producing a sandwich that showcased this ability I speak so highly of. For that failure I am sorry.

To ensure this never happens again please let me know what I can do to bring you the best sandwich experience possible. Was the ham sliced too thin? Do you prefer a smokier swiss cheese? Is there a condiment you are particularly fond of? Let me know and I will craft a sandwich that accommodates your tastes. Additionally, please let me know which days you will be eating my sandwiches as it would be nice to know when I need to prepare an additional sandwich to meet your needs (FYI, I eat out on Fridays so you will need to make auxiliary plans those days).

Of course I could be completely mistaken in your affinity for sandwiches all together. It could be today was an aberration and you chose my sandwich because it was the first thing you saw when you opened the fridge. If that is the case it is unfortunate my effort was wasted on an individual who neither appreciates or has the gustational ability to recognize quality.

That convenience is your only demand speaks volumes of your taste and character. In fact, realizing such depresses me to a level not felt since my high-school football team went 0-9. What a truly sad life it must be to be chained to that evil temptress that is ease. And here I am just enabling that behavior. Well rest easy my friend because from now on I will not be a willing participant in your downward spiral. No, from here on out I will be placing my sandwich in the deepest recesses of the fridge. Safely out of reach of your gluttonous grasp. And while this will surely create distress on your part, you can count on the digestive regularity that the yougurts that typically occupy that fridge space will provide (you will need to provide your own spoon).

Not in to yogurt?

Well since I doubt anyone will be leaving a Big Mac and super-sized box of fries for you, I encourage you to swing by my cubicle in the event that your inconsiderate coworkers fail to bring lunch selections that meet your needs. I will be more than happy to sacrifice funds from my own meager lunch budget to ensure you stay fat and happy (besides I could stand to lose a pound or two).

Thanks!

Patrick

PS. In the likely event that you (the sandwich taker) lack the ability to recognize sarcasm allow me to clarify that I am not your mother, father, BFF or personal chef. Contrary to what you might think, my day does not revolve around making your life easier or better. Nor is it my responsibility to make sure you stay fed. Of course, should you be facing a financial hardship that precludes your ability to afford meals, please let me know and I will do whatever it is I can to help you.

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Choose your own adventure

I’ve decided to take Will’s story in a new direction. A direction that you, the reader, will ultimately decide. Chapter One will drop by the end of the week.

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