Better to be shot in a room full of people than in a dirty alley

The hand on my knee was firm. Then, it was crushing. Then, it started to slide the kneecap right off. Despite the pain, I didn’t cry out; in a bizarre comedic moment I wondered if the thing shoved against my ribs was called a ‘silencer’ for more than one reason.

Another survival tip for you, kiddies: no matter how funny you find yourself, don’t smile when the bad guys are interrogating you under physical duress. They don’t like it, and things go downhill fast.

Mr. Big (as in the leader) gestured vaguely toward the bathroom hallway Siobhan had gone down (where was she??) and Mr. ReallyBig the thug dragged me from the booth and shoved me ahead of him down the hallway toward a greasy door at the end.

I had a little more experience with being meekly led to the slaughter, and I wasn’t walking to my own funeral this time. Better to be shot in a room full of people than in a dirty alley (or maybe the alleys in Galway aren’t dirty; I didn’t remember) or down by the ocean where they’d never find you.

I say I had experience with the concept. I had none with the execution of it. I jerked away from Mr. ReallyBig and ran for the door. Which was locked. I think. I don’t know; it wouldn’t open.

The pain in the back of my head was amazing. At first I thought he’d shot me; then I realized he’d just slugged me with the gun. Not enough to knock me out; contrary to what you see in the movies, that takes more than a light tap. But enough to make me reconsider my flight and, instead, bend over with my head between my hands. I’m no tough guy, I’m an academic, remember?

This is an excerpt from Through the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon or just sign up for my newsletter and get it free.

Thanks for the fish, Mr. American Tourist

I had the urge to leave. So far Siobhan had done nothing but avoid my questions, drag me cross country, and rebuff my advances. What kind of relationship was that?

guinness-is-good-for-youI stood up. Checked my pockets. Yup, still had 45 Euro. Thanks for the fish, Mr. American Tourist, but I’m moving on. Time to be proactive.

I was so close. So close to finally being smart. Or, close to smart finally doing me some good.

I hadn’t even seen them come in; I was getting comfortable in my environs and not paying attention, or maybe I was so focused on deciding whether Siobhan was dangerous or not that I didn’t have the mental energy to watch for other enemies, if they were enemies.

“Dr. Martin, please, don’t go yet. We should talk.”

The speaker couldn’t have kept me there if he’d wanted to; he was the second smallest man I’d met in Ireland, after the ex-Mr. O’Quinn. His compatriot was another matter. A giant, in acres of Armani, he had me sitting back down and slid against the far edge of the booth as if I hadn’t existed.

The big hard lump in his pocket had smacked my elbow hard enough to hurt. A big metal lump, not even in a holster. Sloppy, but probably effective.

I decided not to go yet. I didn’t decide whether we should talk.

This is an excerpt from Through the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon or just sign up for my newsletter and get it free.

They’re not shy about convicting me of his murder, are they?

negative-opinionI didn’t completely mistrust her, but I was having an even harder time accepting that she just happened to be coming out of the garda station as I was heading in (although, how could anyone possibly have known where I was, or where I was going, when I didn’t know?) or that she was just a journalist looking for a story. In fact, I only had her word for O’Quinn’s death or anything else she’d told me.

It’s hard not to act suspicious, when you are. Probably just as hard as not acting interested in a woman, when you are. In the hour to Ennis, what was happening in my head must have become obvious to Siobhan.

We stopped to stretch our legs in Ennis. I popped into a pub to use the gents’, and when I came back to the van, Siobhan was waiting behind the wheel. As I got in the left side, there was a copy of ‘An Phoblacht’ on the seat.

I raised my eyebrows at Siobhan.

“A few pages in; under ‘Other News’ . . . ”

I flipped through the pages until Michael Seamus O’Quinn was glaring at me from the center of the right-hand page. The article was short and uncomplimentary, to both O’Quinn and myself.

“They’re not shy about convicting me of his murder, are they?”

This is an excerpt from Through the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

All that effort just to get your not-very-good opinion

Somewhere along the line I’d decided to trust her. I wasn’t totally sold on the reporter angle; maybe I’d watched too much American television, but that seemed like the easiest way to ask a lot of probing questions without raising suspicions.

Whatever; I suddenly wasn’t in a hurry to escape, at least not from her. Yeah, I know: stifle it.

Chapeltown

I told her everything—almost. I described events; the kidnapping, meeting O’Quinn, my beating, the long sleep, the short trip with the cousins and my escape, lake boating and more escaping. I left out pilfering money from unsuspecting tourists, and most especially I left out my lack of memory. Maybe I wasn’t ready to trust her completely; maybe it was just a little humiliating. Doesn’t make sense, looking back, but I’ve heard men can be funny around attractive women.

“Does it really make sense to you that O’Quinn would go to all that effort just to get your not-very-good opinion about some artifacts you don’t even specialize in?”

This is an excerpt from Through the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

He’ll want to crush you personally

crush-you-personally“Tonight?”

“Hey, you were surprised to see the map there still, right? You think he’s gonna leave it there forever? No, we advance his timeline with audacity.”

“You’re sure he’ll bite?”

“You’ve convinced me.”

“Me? I’m not sure of it myself; how did I convince you?”

“You have a writer’s ability to paint a picture with words. I’ve visualized Dubin through your eyes. If you challenge him in a tangible way, he’ll want to crush you personally. He won’t let some rent-a-goon plug you. He made the threat personal, didn’t he?”

I had to admit that it felt really personal. Boy, this capturing desperate criminals is fun. You should try it some time. Like, maybe the next time they ask me you can have my turn.

This is an excerpt from Through the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

So, they don’t think I killed him?

running-away-in-EireI was stunned. “So, they don’t think I killed him?”

“Course not! Ridiculous. But when they found your passport and license in his pocket, they had to at least ask, right?”

I tried to digest that. It was chewy, and not very tasty.

“So, I’ve been running all over the country, hiding from the police who would have protected me from those thugs here in Galway?”

“It would seem so,” offered Mossie.

This is an excerpt from Through the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

White as a sheet, eyes wide in fear

Pally was silent.

Dope headed for the house. Since he had my arm twisted behind my back, I headed for the house, too.

Just before we entered the light from the door, a large sliding glass affair, Dope let my arm go and Pally stepped up next to me, as if they’d been like that all along. Dope slid the door open, and we stepped into a lavishly furnished living room where a tiny little man sat in a chair three sizes too large.

“What’s that on his face? What happened? He was not to be harmed, fools! This is not how we solicit assistance from our friends; it is most certainly not!”

During his tirade, startlingly violent in tone, he’d slipped from the oversized chair, crossed to Dope, and started slapping his face for punctuation. He almost had to jump, but he slapped, nonetheless. I expected Dope to snap him in half and use the sharp end for a toothpick. Nothing doing.

He was white as a sheet, eyes wide in fear.

Irish-cottage

This is an excerpt from Through the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

I pretended to be a post

Since everyone was feeling chatty, I thought I’d jump in. “So, where are we going, exactly?”

Dope pretended to be a post. Pally looked at me suspiciously like I was trying to trick him into telling me where we were going. Then he pretended to be a post, too.

I pretended to be a post. No sense making the natives restless.

The sunlight flickered on and off between the high clouds. We passed the Van Nuys airport and wound through the valley on the San Diego Freeway. Why is the 405 in LA the San Diego Freeway? When I lived in San Diego, only freeway was 5, north to LA.

When did I live in San Diego? Wasn’t only childhood; I remembered the freeway as a driver, not a kid.

Aaah; gone again.

We took Howard Hughes off the freeway and headed south on Sepulveda. That’ll take us right through the airport. Which means I’ve been there, maybe, or how else would I know South Sepulveda runs through the center of the airport?

I started racking my brain for what was south of the airport. Didn’t really matter; this car was made for traveling, and if we were going to Mexico it wouldn’t have mattered to Dope and Pally.

It also didn’t really matter, because we weren’t going through the airport, we were going to it. And I knew who Shannon was. Shannon was an international airport.

We were going to Ireland.

Chapeltown, Valentia Island, Co. Kerry, Ireland

This is an excerpt from Through the Fog. To read the whole story, get your copy at Amazon.

And the Winner Is . . . (What I’m Writing Next)

ocean-fenceIn my latest newsletter I asked for input about which of these works in progress should get my attention after I finish A Still, Small Voice and Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle. (If you want in on stuff like this, sign up for my newsletter.)

  1. The 3rd Irish adventure — From the Fog (follows Through the Fog and Into the Fog)
  2. A 3rd Phil Brennan mystery — A Short, Sharp Shock (follows A Long, Hard Look and A Still, Small Voice [not yet published])
  3. More scifi/adventure — another Jake Calcutta (follows Jake Calcutta and the Temporal Lisle [not yet published])
  4. More Jesse Donovan (follows That She Is Made of Truth)
  5. The Village Id — a witty cozy mystery set in a small English village filled with quirky characters; very P. G. Wodehouse. Check out the 1st chapter.
  6. Coming of age story — a young teen’s life is disrupted when his family has to move in with relatives; he turns to music for comfort
  7. Anacrusis (a mystery with a female lead) — A woman dumps her unfaithful fiancee and moves to a small town where two men amorously pursue her, while one of them awaits the life insurance payoff from the first wife he murdered.

… more … “And the Winner Is . . . (What I’m Writing Next)”

Another Free Book

I’m changing the reward for signing up for my newsletter. Right now, sign up and you’ll get my very first mystery, Through the Fog.

After the 15th, the free book changes to A Long, Hard Look.

To make it more interesting, sign up now to get one, and in the newsletter of the 15th, get the other. Free. Both of ’em. Because everyone on the newsletter on the 15th will get a free book.

At least one free book . . .

A Win and a Place: #1 AND #2 on This List

Through the FogAuthor Lia London writes a Top 10 list every year of her favorite indie books.

This year, I made two slots.

#1 and #2.

Do you have any idea how many indie books are out there?

… more … “A Win and a Place: #1 AND #2 on This List”

Mysteries About People, Not Puzzles: Introspective Noir

Joel D CanfieldThat’s my genre: mysteries about people, not puzzles. The short and shareable marketing-friendly version: introspective noir.

I love writing about people. I love looking inside our heads, yours and mine, trying to understand why we are the way we are.

Humans are irrational

Sometimes we’re mean to those we love or kind to those we don’t. We know exactly what we want, and then when we get it we discover how wrong we were.

We live in moments, barely able to conceive of the future, let alone plan for our being there. We invest far more effort in changing our perspective of the past than in ensuring that we don’t make it a prologue to our future.

… more … “Mysteries About People, Not Puzzles: Introspective Noir”

Through the Fog (Chapter 53)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

By the time Max and Mossie and friends arrived, Siobhan had filled in enough of the gaps to make most of it make some sense.

Patrick, Feany the First, had infiltrated Dubin’s organization a year before. He discovered quickly that Conor Dubin was a man of temperament, and could be closemouthed like a clam with one associate and chatty as a schoolgirl with another. The SDU officer unfortunately hadn’t been interesting enough to Dubin to get him to open up about life, the universe, and other crimes. I guess it’s tough to do an accurate personality profile on someone like that.

… more … “Through the Fog (Chapter 53)”

Through the Fog (Chapter 52)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

When the blow came I wasn’t the only one surprised.

Niall’s fist hit the side of Feany III’s neck with a sound like a handful of meatloaf you threw at the wall. Feany III went down like the meatloaf, and then there was one. Feany the Only must have heard Fearghal behind him; he dodged ever so slightly and caught the ham-sized fist in the side of the head instead of the pressure point on his neck. It was still almost enough; his head rocked, and he shoved backwards into Fearghal. Fearghal went over backwards, and Feany scrambled behind a car.

… more … “Through the Fog (Chapter 52)”

Through the Fog (Chapter 51)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

I looked at what I could see of the glorious old building; the triple nave above us, the square stone columns, arches everywhere. I wanted to take a closer look at the organ; built just before the Great War, it incorporated parts from the original from 1872. I had a quick mental image of being under a pump organ; I was so small that I could only pump one of the pedals; someone else was on the other, and the feet of the players (I use the term loosely) dangled over our heads. I wonder where that was, and if it was even real.

… more … “Through the Fog (Chapter 51)”

Through the Fog (Chapter 50)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

As we slipped down the stairs, I could barely hear the three behind me; Max and his big friends. When we got to street level it was black. Out front it was gently lit, but back here there were no lights but the stars.

In five minutes we’d be at the church, and I’d either be goading some thug into calling Dubin, or involved in something much, much worse. Siobhan could pretend it was all business; I couldn’t.

… more … “Through the Fog (Chapter 50)”

Through the Fog (Chapter 49)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

“Tonight?”

“Hey, you were surprised to see the map there still, right? You think he’s gonna leave it there forever? No, we advance his timeline with audacity.”

“You’re sure he’ll bite?”

“You’ve convinced me.”

… more … “Through the Fog (Chapter 49)”

Through the Fog (Chapter 48)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

Siobhan’s room was on the ground floor; not directly below Rob’s, but close enough that wireless connections for video worked between them.

She stayed in persona once we were back in the room. I had a harder time with the clothes than the hair; blonde was gonna suit her long before a leather mini would.

… more … “Through the Fog (Chapter 48)”

Through the Fog (Chapter 47)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

The chap behind the bar, whose name should have popped into my head but didn’t, gave me a nod between the heads of hair at the bar. I held up one finger, which he seemed to be expecting, and headed around to the table I’d sat at with Rob and Mossie. It was empty, which was a pleasant surprise, or completely expected—I’d walked past a couple empty tables to get here; most of the patrons were lining the bar where service was faster.

… more … “Through the Fog (Chapter 47)”

Through the Fog (Chapter 46)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

We walked across the gravel of the carport, then across an unkempt grassy area and down concrete steps to a rocky beach. There, over the sound of the waves, Dubin explained his plan.

He had arranged for a professor of Celtic history to ‘find’ the Brendan map and announce it to the world. I was to allow others to comment on its authenticity to see who else might support it. He hinted that some of the supporters might be ‘associates’ of his, but that they would only speak up if no other linguists or historians accepted the map as genuine.

… more … “Through the Fog (Chapter 46)”