Sample Day Part Three!!!

Yes, I’m clogging up your twitter, tumblr, and Facebook with my crap again. After all, it is the title of this here blog.

Yesterday, I offered you the first two chapters of Innocence. Today I offer you the book that was published first, but is chronologically a sequel to it, Our Own Devils.

Why the discrepancy? I wrote the first draft of Innocence thirteen years ago. Or, more to the point, I finished it thirteen years ago. The bulk of it was written when I was in college and, I admit, some of it still feels that way. That’s why it went into a drawer and was left untouched for so long. But I always wanted to do more with the character of Mac. I actually started and trashed several other follow up books in the time after I shelved Innocence.

Devils actually started out as a short story I wrote to deal with some personal stuff prior to writing Innocence. There were always parts of it there that I really liked and wanted to keep and incorporated into a larger story. Because it was written roughly ten years or so after Innocence, it was really written by a different guy. The guy who wrote Devils was married with kids and had lived a lot more than the other guy. As a result, Devils (or so I’ve been told) feels more mature and grounded.  I’ll let you all decide and hopefully you’ll agree.

If you like it, please pick it up for your Kindle, your Nook, or in paperback and share this link!

ONE

I always felt torn in the summertime.  When the breeze was light and warm and the temperatures were mild the last thing I wanted to do was work.  I wanted to be at a ballpark or on a beach or maybe just on my apartment balcony with a beer in my hand.  But even when I did have the time to do those things, I usually just found myself on the couch in my underwear drinking beer and watching cable TV.  But even then, beer and cable television weren’t free.

On top of it all, business was slow.  So slow that I couldn’t afford the luxury of picking and choosing what cases I took on.  If I had the good fortune of having a client come calling for my services, I pounced on the opportunity like I was Philip Marlowe working for General Sternwood.

But I wasn’t Marlowe, and unlike Raymond Chandler’s iconic hero I couldn’t afford to turn away divorce cases.  And that’s why instead of sitting in a chair eating a hot dog and watching my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers move on to post season play in college baseball, I was sitting in my car trailing an errant husband for a doting wife.  Sure, I still had a hot dog in my hand, even the same brand they served at the ball park, but hot dogs always tasted better at the ball park when surrounded by the smell of fresh cut grass and the sound of the ball striking the bat or glove.

Maybe next week…

Her name was Miriam Fuller.  She spent her days as the head of nursing for a care home in the city and her nights keeping a good home for her husband their blue tick coonhound.  His name was Bryce and he was a senior vice president at one of the more prestigious banks in town.  He’d also had his Mercedes Benz SUV in front of a house in a cul de sac for the better part of an hour.  I was sitting a block and a half away with my hot dog in my crappy car with the windows down and waiting.  The only good thing about working in the early summer was that the weather was made for stakeouts.

I also had new diversions to keep the mundane task of a stakeout from putting me to sleep.  My girlfriend, Alex Pine, had decided to present me with some gifts.  I believe she had called them, “You’ve finally landed a paying job!” presents.  They were items that I never in a million years would have bought for myself, mostly because I didn’t necessarily understand them.  One was an iPod touch, preloaded with a bunch of Led Zeppelin tracks.  Like everyone else on the planet, I’d heard of Apple’s music player but since I barely used the computer I kept at home I’d figured I didn’t have any use for one.  But now I did and I loved it.  The second was a cell phone.

Until Alex had given it to me, I’d been certain I was the only adult in the Omaha metro in his thirties without a cell phone.  It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about it, quite the opposite.  But I’d been having a hard enough time keeping my real phone line paid up and keeping my refrigerator modestly stocked that I’d put it on the perpetual backburner.  But I had a cute blonde sugar mama footing the bill now so I was now just as cool as the ten year old girl who lived down the hall from me.

The only thing that was bothering me about it was how she could afford it.

Alexandra Pine was an actress by profession, and a very good one I thought.  But unlike many of the struggling actors I’d met in Omaha over the years, she was the only one I knew who didn’t work a handful of jobs to keep herself afloat. She didn’t wait tables in a bar or a restaurant, she didn’t sell shoes at a store in the mall, she didn’t make elaborate coffee drinks in a shop in the Old Market, and she very rarely did any work doing commercials for local businesses.  Yet, she was always sitting pretty financially.  I never heard her complain about not being able to pay her rent or to put a tank of gas in her car.  It was curious.

Unfortunately, I had the nasty habit of being absent minded.  So, when I would begin to think hard on the matter of Alex’s finances, something else would come up and take my attention away from the matter and I would forget to think on it again for days at a time.

Case in point:  I had just started thinking hard on the matter again when Bryce Fuller finally emerged from the home he’d been hiding at.  Alex’s financials immediately left my mind and I stiffened in my seat.  He was walking backwards down the driveway to his car, obviously talking to someone.  He was still rather relaxed in his appearance, his tie appeared to be loose at the collar and the vest and jacket of his brown three piece suit were unbuttoned.  It was a stark contrast to the button down and uptight man I’d been following earlier in the day.

I watched him take his time talking and waving to whomever was inside of the house.  After a few short minutes that felt like an eternity to me, Fuller started his Mercedes and drove away.  I didn’t follow him.  Instead, I crouched down some in my seat and watched him drive past, oblivious to my presence with a giant grin on his face.

Sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight.

I stayed put for a while after watching Bryce’s SUV and drive away in my rear view mirror and waiting to see if Bryce’s lover emerged from her house.  She did, but it took her long enough.  She undoubtedly needed to fix her hair and make up after a hectic mid day workout.

She emerged from the driveway in a brown Audi sedan with lightly tinted windows.  I once again crouched down in my seat and tried to hide a little as Bryce’s mistress drove past.  With the tinted windows it was practically impossible to see what she looked like, yet there was still something about her that sent a chill up my spine, I just wasn’t sure why.  I shook it off and wrote her license plate number down in my notebook.  Once the Audi was safely out of sight, I started up my car and drove up to the house.

The house looked like all of its neighbors in the tract housing community.  It was a three story split level home compressed into a lot that appeared to be longer than it was wide.  I pulled into the driveway and stared at the house for a bit.  I don’t know why, it just seemed like the right thing to do at the moment.  The drapes were all closed.  There were no cute little stones with clever witticisms on them in the landscaping.  No colorful windsocks or flags signaling allegiance to a college or professional sports team.  No sign on the house proudly declaring the homeowner’s name.

“Have to do it the hard way,” I muttered out loud as I scribbled the address on my notepad below the Audi’s license plate number.

I put my gar in gear and started to back out of the driveway but stopped at the bottom.  Once again, I found myself staring at the house.  Something about it was tugging at the back of my brain, I just couldn’t figure out what.  I shook the feeling away and left.

There was a public library that was closer than my house or any government building housing public records so I went there.  An intimidating behemoth of a woman at the information desk pointed me to the computer lab where, for fifty cents, I was able to log on to the Internet for twenty minutes.  My station was between an eight year old girl looking up information on Hannah Montana and an eighty-two year old grandmother who was alternating between looking at an email with pictures of children I assumed were her grandkids and a Ticket Master page for Jonas Brothers tickets.  I smiled at them both.  They both rolled their eyes at me.

An Internet search led me to the county assessor’s office website.  There, I was able to punch in the address for the Bryce’s girlfriend’s house.  I was rewarded with a rather detailed page that gave me the lot dimensions, the house’s dimensions, the year it was built, when it was purchased and for how much, and most importantly by whom.

My mouth fell agape when I read the name and a very weak chuckle coughed out.  A vague and spotty memory from several years earlier involving me and a bottle of whiskey outside of the house on the cul de sac suddenly came to mind and I shook my head as I chuckled a little bit harder.  I rubbed my eyes and read the homeowner’s name on the screen one last time to be sure.

Lauren Davenport.

“Son of a bitch,” I chuckled out loud.

Then the grandmother hit me with her purse and the behemoth asked me to leave.

 

“You were thrown out of a public library?” laughed Mike, holding his hand over his mouth to hide the food he was chewing

“For swearing?” said Trey in disbelief.

All I could do was nod and wait out their laughing fits.

“If you were just going to check it on the Internet anyway,” said Mike, “why didn’t you just wait until you got home to look it up?”

“It takes too long at my place.”

Mike Lincoln and Trey Daniels were quiet for a moment.  They looked at each other oddly then back at me.  Finally, Mike said, “Why does it take so long at your place?”

“Because,” I said sheepishly, “the internet is very slow at my place.”              Mike grinned.  “You still have dial-up at your apartment, don’t you?”

I nodded, with my eyes downward.

“Mac, Jesus Christ!” guffawed Trey.  “Even Catholic priests who have sworn their lives to poverty have high speed internet!”

“Hey, ass holes,” I snarled, “it’s all I can afford right now, okay?”

“How can you not afford it?” said Mike.  “Do you not realize just how cheap it is right now?”

“I just can’t right now,” I said.  “Can we just drop it, please?”

“Here’s to the glamorous life of a private eye,” said Mike as he raised his beer in a toast.

We were sitting on Mike Lincoln’s back patio in North Omaha eating chicken salad that Trey had prepared and drinking beer that Mike had purchased.  I provided the comedic fodder.

“Well, who was it?” said Mike once he’d gotten his breathing back under control.

“The name on the deed is Lauren Davenport,” I said solemnly.

My two friends suddenly fell quiet and still while the information sank in.

“Lauren Davenport,” repeated Mike.  I nodded.  “As in ‘former County District Attorney Lauren Davenport’?”

“Yes.”

Trey said, “The Lauren Davenport whom you were once married to?” I nodded again.

Mike and Trey looked at each other and both began laughing hysterically once again.

“Are you two jack asses about done?” I said after a while.  They both shook their heads ‘no’ with their eyes shut tightly as the continued laughing, their faces turning red.  I just rolled my eyes, took a sip of my beer and continued working on my sandwich while I waited.

It’s annoying sometimes how similar people can become when they spend a considerable length of time together, like the three of us had.  Senses of humor merge, mannerisms and idioms become shared.  Every now and then I would notice these commonalities like then when Mike and Trey stopped laughing and sighed at the exact same time.

“So you’re now basically investigating your ex-wife’s sex life,” said Trey matter-of-factly.

“Just a couple of years late on that, aren’t ya’, Mac?” smiled Mike.

“Well, I guess I’m making up for lost time,” I said, annoyed.  “Besides, it’s not her sex life, it’s his.”

“Which is hers by proxy,” noted Trey.

“In a way, yes,” I admitted.

“Which begs the question,” said Mike, “what are you going to do about it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you going to rat out your ex-wife to your client?” said Trey.

“Hmmm,” I said as I carefully set my sandwich down and wiped some chicken salad from the corner of my mouth with a napkin.  “Well, I am in something of a tight spot.  On one hand I have an obligation to my client who has offered to me a rather generous sum to find out if her husband is being unfaithful to her.  And on the other hand, I have the woman to whom I regularly have to pay a not so generous sum.”

“And you like the idea that selling out your ex-wife will in turn aid you in making your monthly payment to her,” said Trey.

“No, I just figured I’m broke so I’ll probably go ahead and finish it out.”

“That’s one way of looking at it,” said Mike.

We were quiet for a while and ate until the silence was broken up by Trey’s quiet laughter.

“What is it, Daniels?” I groaned.

“You’re going to tell her,” he said, “aren’t you.”

“The wife?  Yeah, I just said that.”

“No, you idiot,” he said.  “You’re going to warn Lauren that you’re investigating her boyfriend.”

I shrugged.  “Well, I thought I could maybe just hint to her that something was going on,” I stammered before my two friends once again shared a hearty laugh at my expense.

“The next question I have for you, dear Malcolm,” said Trey, “is if you’re going to tell Alex about any of this?”

I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out.  This only made Trey and Mike laugh even harder.

I finished my chicken salad and left.

The other side of people spending a considerable amount of time together is that they get to know each other really well.  For example, you know how to really get under someone’s skin.  But that same extensive knowledge of a person doesn’t always include knowing when to back off.

 

TWO

I wasn’t so much pissed off at my friends as I was incredibly annoyed.  Maybe I was being a touch too sensitive, but their constant verbal jabs at my chosen profession and some of the more delicate situations it sometimes got me into got to be a bit much at times.

I drove home with my mind wrapped around what to do about my client’s husband and my ex-wife and whether or not to mention any of it to Alex.

I cared about her quite a bit, and even though we’d known each other for only the better part of the year, there was still quite a bit about the girl that I didn’t know.  What bothered me was that it seemed to be by design.  I had noticed over the past several weeks that Alex had become more and more secretive or protective of her past.  She seemed unwilling to talk about her family or her past before meeting me.  She did it very subtly, finding a way to sidestep around questions in such a way that I often didn’t even realize she’d ducked my queries until hours later.

Part of me imagined her being in the Witness Relocation Program; the lone witness to some horrible mob hit or something of that kind.  But if that were so then she definitely wouldn’t be trying to make it as an actress.

Her secrecy bothered me.  But at the same time, I wasn’t necessarily all that open either so who was I to question?  Then again, she wasn’t the trained detective in the relationship who felt compelled to find answers to unasked questions.

I came home to find Alex already in my apartment.  It was nearly ten o’clock and she looked ready for bed; her face fresh and clean without a spot of make up, her blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail, a large tee shirt worn as pajamas, and her form curled up under a blanket as she read her play script.

“You know,” I said with a shiver as I entered the apartment, “it’s not that terribly hot outside.  Why is the A/C turned down so cold?”

“Because it works so well,” she said with a cute grin, not looking away from her book.  “The air conditioning at my place is almost non-existent.  So when I’m here, I like to bask in it.”

“Underneath one of my blankets?”

“Well, yeah.  It’s cold in here.”

I shook my head as I bent down and kissed her on the lips.

“Hi,” I said after we broke the kiss.

“Hi,” she said softly with a smile on her lips and her eyes closed.  “Beers with Mike and Trey?” she said after smacking her lips.

“Among other things,” I said as I went into the kitchen and rummaged through my refrigerator for a beer.

“How was work?” called out Alex from the couch.  The loaded question of the day.

“Umm, it was okay,” I said.  “How are rehearsals going?”

“Slow,” she replied.  “Everyone still has their script in their hands and they’re trying to feel their way around the characters.  But it’s early; you know how it is.”

“Sure,” I said, as though I had any real first hand knowledge.

“Make any headway in your divorce case?”

Damn, so much for changing the subject.

“Kinda, yeah,” I said as I found a bottle of beer hidden behind a half gallon of milk.

Something in my voice told Alex that I was holding something back.  She uncurled herself from the couch and appeared beside the refrigerator, her eyes full of concern.  I tried smiling warmly as I sipped at my beer as though nothing were wrong.  We hadn’t been together all that long in the grand scheme of things, but Alex already had me pretty well figured out.

“What is it, sweetie?” she said.  “Something’s wrong; what is it?”

“I came across something—or someone, rather—today while I was working.”

“The husband’s mistress?”

For some reason, having my ex-wife referred to as something dirty like a mistress irked me a little.  I don’t know why, she was indeed a mistress.  The fact that she was my ex-wife was the only thing that made any difference, not that it should have.  If she had been just referred to as Bryce Fuller’s lover I might have still taken some offense to the context.

“Yes,” I said, and then fell quiet as I tried to think of what to say next.

“Something about it bothered you,” she said intuitively.  I nodded.  Alex smiled compassionately, reaching out with her hand to stroke my cheek.  “Lauren?” she said.  I almost jumped.

“Huh?”

“Did it remind you of your ex-wife, Lauren?” she said.  “When you found out that she was having an affair?”

“Something like that,” I said.

“What woman could ever do that to you?” she said, stroking my cheek.  “To do that to such a sweet, caring man…”

“I was a different man then,” I said, thinking back to my days of raving alcoholism, fueled by my not so graceful exit from the local police force.  “I wasn’t very sweet or caring at the time.”

“I know,” she said with a nod.  She knew everything about me.  “But still, she promised to love you and support you, didn’t she?”

I smiled almost sadly at Alex Pine.  There were moments that painfully reminded me just how much younger than I she was; and how naive.

“Sometimes thinks aren’t quite that simple, Alex,” I said.

“Well, Malcolm, they certainly should be,” she said with a smile as she leaned in and kissed me.  “Now come on.  Curl up with me on the couch.  We’ll watch TV and fall asleep in each other’s arms and forget about other people’s troubles.  Okay?”

Her eyes made my heart melt.  I smiled and nodded and followed her to the couch.

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