My personal life has been kinda shitty lately, so I’ve just been focusing on writing. I’m very close to done on editing my first M/M novel, Murder One, which I’ll be sending out to traditional publishers. While I enjoy self-publishing some of my titles, I like the working with editors and marketing/promotions push that a good publisher can bring. I feel very fortunate that in the world of gay romance, there are quite a few to choose from.
So today I have for all my blog readers the first chapter from the book to enjoy. I’ll soon be working on the next book, after I finish the sequel to my short story “The Foreman.”
A Terrible Night
Derwin Bryant never quit in a chase.
A light rain fell on the streets of the city of Nis, making the neon lights of the local porn shops and drugstores into pretty reflections on the asphalt. Derwin avoided a puddle as he ran down an alley, narrowly avoiding an overturned trash can. He grimaced at the smell of rotting food and old beer, wishing his heightened senses blocked unpleasant things like that. Up ahead, the alley was a dead end. No way that ol’ Jack was going to escape this time.
The skip he pursued was an Oddity, annoying in this case because the guy read minds. He knew Derwin was on his tail. Derwin’s own unusual strengths couldn’t compensate for that, even though he’d powered up before heading out.
Derwin slowed to a walk to check the shadows in doorways and lifted lids of garbage containers to be sure the fugitive didn’t hide there. He kept his pepper spray in his left hand, ready to fire at the first sign of the mousy guy. Jack Rapper was short, only five foot two, and he had dark skin and a gold-capped tooth. He was quick, but Derwin was quicker, thanks to his own Oddity. With his larger size and muscles honed daily at the gym, Derwin could be a match for just about any criminal. Jack didn’t have a chance.
With a burst of strength, Derwin raced past the last garbage canister, eyes trained on the brick wall at the end of the alleyway, and the absence of one Jack Rapper. He turned and cursed. Where did the guy go?
He scanned the closed doors, wondering if Jack had managed to get one of them open, and was about to try the first door when his cell phone buzzed in his pocket, the single buzz of a text. Derwin swore, pulling out his phone with one hand while he jiggled the doorknob with his other. The door was locked.
On a whim, he looked up, just in case his skip had suddenly developed the ability to climb walls, but there was nothing above him other than a laundry wire several stories up with an abandoned t-shirt dripping in the rain. He flipped open the phone and pulled up the text. It was from Grady, his boyfriend.
Come home. Hurry.
A wave of alarm passed through Derwin. He ran a hand through his wet hair, pushing the long strands out of his eyes so he could read the words again. Grady wasn’t the type to send a cryptic message like this.
Cursing under his breath, he tapped the button to call his lover. One ring, two, three, and then it went to voicemail. Coldness spread from his gut up his spine. After a text like that, he couldn’t imagine Grady not answering. Unless he couldn’t.
“Call me,” Derwin growled when the voicemail beeped, and put his phone away. Still no sign of Jack, but he couldn’t worry about that now. With one last look at the dead end of the alley, he ran back towards his car. He prayed Grady was all right. If he called the police, what would he tell them? His instincts as a bail bondsman told him the cops would only screw things up, and he didn’t have a lot of friends on the force.
At about ten paces from his black Ford Galaxie, Derwin clicked the little key fob to turn off the alarm and start the car. He’d upgraded the car with the automatic start system; it paid off, having a ride that was ready to go when his fugitives fled.
It took only a second to climb into the seat, strap himself in, and shift into drive, stomping on the gas to blast forward into the empty streets to head for home. Over the rain-slicked asphalt, past hookers loitering on street corners and clusters of young men hanging out near liquor stores and basketball courts, he headed east, towards the less crime-ridden areas.
The broken down stores and apartments gave way to modest condos and shops wedged between larger financial buildings and parking garages. Each red light taunted Derwin, whispering to him, you’ll never make it in time if he’s in trouble. He fought to remain calm, but his hands shook with tension. Maybe it wasn’t an emergency. But the fact that his phone hadn’t rung yet made him step on the gas harder, urge a little more speed out of the vintage car.
He swerved in front of another car, ignoring the blare of horns as he pulled into an open space in front of the brownstone building he called home. It wasn’t a huge place, just two bedrooms and a moderate-sized kitchen and living room, but it was his. Grady had moved in a year ago; they’d been dating for almost three years now. Grady, with his open smile, with his hair like sunshine. He was one of the best things that had ever happened to Derwin.
Derwin fumbled to open his car door and get out, reaching to his hip for his gun as he climbed out—no bothering with pepper spray this time. The window beside the front door was broken. Someone had removed the glass from the square frame, and glittering shards littered the ground. The front door was slightly open.
He ran to the door and took the steps two at a time. Broken glass crunched underfoot. He stopped. Should he call Grady’s name? Or would that warn the intruders? The seconds ticked by while he stood undecided. He was a bail bondsman. This was more like police work. Derwin wasn’t sure which would get him the better result. Better to call out, on the chance that Grady was hurt or in a hostage situation.
“Grady!” He shoved open the door and pressed his back to its solid surface as he scanned the hallway. A potted plant was turned over, soil spread across the carpet. He didn’t hear anything from the living room beyond.
“Grady!” Derwin moved down the hall, gun raised and ready. He thought he heard something—the slide of a window, perhaps. He rounded the corner to the living room empty, where a chair lay overturned. A dropped bowl of popcorn spilled onto the floor. Still no response from Grady. His heart pounded in his ears as he tried not to think the worst.
He quickly crossed the room to put his back to the wall and check the stairs, but again, nothing. The kitchen was empty with no signs of disturbances. The bathroom was empty as well, but the window was open. Again, he had a choice. Check to see if a possible burglar had escaped? Or find his lover?
There really was no choice, although frustration nagged at him. Derwin glanced out the window but there was nothing. He hurried up the stairs, keeping his gun out should it turn out that the intruder had tricked him into believing he was gone. The master bedroom door was closed. He didn’t bother calling out this time, but kicked it in, in the hopes that he’d surprise the intruder.
It took only a second or two for his eyes to process things: blood on the carpet, a ransacked room, papers littering the floor from the computer desk to his left. And finally, slumped in a desk chair in front of the bed, his boyfriend, throat slashed, with the knife sticking out of his chest.
Derwin’s vision darkened; he had to concentrate to remember to breathe. A sound escaped him, a painful sound, like a wounded animal. He approached the chair slowly, aware that he had to be careful not to disturb what was now a crime scene, even though he longed to gather up that body into his arms and pull out that knife.
Grady—he’d been alive this afternoon! He’d been alive to send that text. And now Derwin would never hear him laugh again, never look into those intelligent blue eyes. He reached out and placed two fingers at Grady’s carotid artery, checking for the pulse he knew he wouldn’t find. He counted out the seconds, waiting, hoping.
What tore him the most was that the skin still felt warm. Not even a hint of a pulse. With a shaking hand, he trailed his fingertips over Grady’s cheek, just to feel him one last time, just to say goodbye. Grady’s eyes were closed, thankfully. Derwin clenched his hand into a fist, backing away so that he didn’t disturb anything, moving away from the slowly spreading red stain. He dropped to his knees on the soft carpet, letting the grief overwhelm him. He’d been too late. His special strength, his speed, so good for catching bad guys. And yet his abilities hadn’t helped him at all.
With shaking hands, Derwin brought out his phone. The silence in the room was deafening. He’d be alone tonight. Alone, for many, many nights. Had Grady called out for him? Had he suffered, hoping to be rescued in time?
He even laughed at my stupid 13 margaritas joke. Tears choked him. He couldn’t mourn just yet. He had to function just a little while longer.
He dialed the emergency number.
Whoever had done this was going to pay.