My novel Smoke in a revised, second edition, is available for free on the Kindle store Saturday and Sunday April 1-2. This book is very different from Departure Day, a lightly humorous mystery set in a small southern town very nearly exactly like Thomasville, Ga. Here is the first chapter. Please download for free!
Blood is a more persistent element than sweat. Indifferent to the contours of my face, I could feel the warm red stream course from the cut above my temple down to my chin and points farther south. The sweat, on the other hand, jumped, fritted, and fell in rhythm with the movements of my body, but my racing heart simply pushed blood out of the gash where it slowly submitted to gravity. I had never had the sensation of these two bodily fluids mixed together, at least not in these quantities, but they conducted themselves so differently I could tell I was bleeding even though I couldn’t see it.
My front tire went off the pavement again, this time onto a low shoulder and dragged the rest of the bike off the road. I maintained my balance but then hit a fallen tree branch and stumbled to the ground. I cursed and got back to my feet. I put the bike on the road and then realized the man with the shotgun wasn’t behind me anymore; the only danger was the canopy road itself.
Darkness, the impenetrable haze of lightlessness, was new to me. Every bedroom where I had ever slept had been dimly lit by the blue light of a nearby streetlamp. Movie theaters and airplanes had exit signs and floor lighting. Nightlights, green lights on smoke detectors, LCD screens on VCR clocks, computer power buttons, urban light pollution in city parks, cracks under doorways and the moon itself had all introduced some element of illumination to every darkened space I could remember occupying. The tunnel of trees was a perfect, black hole, vertigo’s home address.
I got back on the bike and road more slowly this time, expecting a car to come by I could wave down. I continued slowly down the centerline, using the reflectors like road Braille. After five minutes or so the dark and the quiet were pierced by a truck approaching in front of me, so I moved to the right and slowed to a stop. I waved at the truck to stop but instead some teenagers yelled and threw an aluminum can out the window. I got back on the bike and started down the middle of the road again, picking up speed as I got accustomed to the dark and regained my equilibrium. K vsemu mozhna previknut, I remembered was my grandmother’s, and Russia’s, mantra: One can get used to anything.
It took me another thirty minutes to get out of the woods where the streetlights made the road visible. I uttered my thanks to Edison and sped up, heading straight to the police station near downtown. I need not have bothered; the police department was already headed my way, four cruisers racing with a fire truck following a half-mile behind. The last car screeched to a near-stop and U-turned on what was now a four-lane highway and accelerated to about a hundred feet in front of me, the driver slamming on his breaks. Both doors opened and the officer on the passenger side hopped out, took a knee, and trained his 9mm at my chest. I stopped.
“Freeze! Get your hands in the air!” he hollered.
A now-familiar head of stylish silver hair perched atop a thick neck and shoulders emerged steadily from the driver’s side. Detective Hightower walked around the squad car and spoke calmly in his sandpaper voice, “Easy does it, Mason. I’m sure Mr. Silovich isn’t going to give us any trouble.”
How in the hell did I get wrapped up in this, I thought to myself. Oh, yeah, Amber took that job at the asylum.