Thursday, May 31, 2007

Back ALley Books Returns - On the Web!

Here's a special message from Richard Helms of Back Alley Books, writer and publisher of fine PI novels:

For the last seven years, I've operated Back Alley Books as a print operation. Over the last year, the company has run into some financial difficulties because of excessive returns after our title Cordite Wine was nominated for the Shamus Award last year, and we have been forced to reconsider our business model.

After a lot of thought and consideration, Elaine and I have decided to go digital. Back Alley Books is becoming Back Alley Press, and we are going to publish a quarterly webzine entitled (no surprise here) The Back Alley.

Our goal is to present five short stories in each issue, along with a
historical/analytical/commentary piece, responses from readers, and a classic
(public domain) short story from the period before 1924.

I would like to invite any and all Hard-Boiled members to participate in this new venture. It is a paying gig, but not much. We will pay $15-$20 story, and our intent is to submit all of our stories for the Edgar and Derringer, and for the Shamus Awards if they feature a private eye.

The guidelines are pretty simple. Hardboiled and noir, PI's welcome, up to 10,000 words. We'll definitely consider longer, up to novella length (22k or less), but we'd like to keep it under 10k. We allow graphic violence, language, and all sorts of political incorrectness. Sex is fine, as long as it moves the plot along and is well-written. Nothing set more than ten years in the future, or more than a hundred years in the past. You get bonus points for including technology that clearly sets the story in the 21st century, while maintaining the classic PI ethos.

As for brass tacks, as I said, we're paying $15-$20Â a story at this time
- first periodical rights only, with the story being archived, but you get the
right to submit the story for reprint rights elsewhere six months after
publication. The site is largely designed and ready to upload, and we intend to
publish the first issue by the end of summer. We will offer a contract to selected stories, and pay on acceptance.

I really hope some of my fellow Hard-Boiled members will be interested in being a part of this new publication. With so many of the PI/hardboiled/noir webzines shutting down or closing to submissions, I hope to be able to populate a couple of issues relatively quickly this year - at least in time to do some submissions to the major awards. If you have a story lying around that you haven't sold, or even if it needs a little polishing, please send it along. The nice thing about this venture is that we can toss the whole thing up onto the web in an hour or less, and it will be
immediately available for everyone to read, so we don't need a lot of lead time compared with print magazines.

All submissions can be sent as email attachments. Don't worry too much about formatting, but you would make my job easier by saving your story as an .rtf document. Just attach it to a nice email query telling me who you are, and send it to

I look forward to reading any and all submissions.

Take care-

Richard Helms
Three-Time Shamus Award Nominee

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Q & A with Michael Koryta

Q: What makes Lincoln Perry different from other fictional private eyes?

A: I'm a firm believer in the idea that if you write well and create multi-faceted characters then being different shouldn’t be hard. People are inherently different, and characters should be, too. In terms of general demographics, I suppose Lincoln is younger than the average PI and in better control of his drinking. The one thing that you see sometimes in this genre and that I really dislike is when a writer tries to create a "different" PI through some sort of a gimmick. "No, no, my PI is totally unique because he has a peg leg and rides a bicycle." That sort of stuff isn’t character, and it isn’t good writing. It’s an amateur attempt to be original without any effort, when the focus should be on taking the traditions of the genre and making them feel original through great stories and great writing.

Q: You were first published at a relatively young age. Any advantages or disadvantages to that?

A: Yes, and yes. It is definitely a double-edged sword. On one hand, my age has been a marketing hook, which is a plus, but on the other hand there’s certainly an age bias for some people, a tendency not to take young writers seriously. There is, of course, little I can do about that. I’ve enjoyed being a young writer simply because of the quality of age jokes I hear. In a few years when I finally get the opportunity to pick on the young guy, I’ll be loaded with great material.

Q: Who would play Perry and Pritchard in a movie?

A: For Perry I have no idea. None. Pritchard is a little easier. I’d
love Robert Duvall, even though the look isn’t quite right, and Paul Newman about ten years ago would have been great. There’s a PI movie called "Twilight" in which Newman is about the right age and look for Joe. I’d also take Ed Harris if they could throw a wig on him, but somehow I don’t see Harris agreeing to that.

Q: What would a soundtrack to your novels sound like?

A: I never write without music playing, so this is a good question. I change the playlists often but there’s always one or two songs that sort of become my "theme" for the book, that I pick up on just because the mood is right. Now, it may never sound right to anyone else, but that’s okay. For Sorrow’s Anthem, the two songs that I listened to constantly while writing were "A Rush of Blood to the Head" by Coldplay and "Wayfaring Stranger" by Jack White, which is from the Cold Mountain soundtrack and is just a haunting song. For A Welcome Grave I listened to a ton of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s album "Howl", particularly the song "The Line." I’d love to have those guys or the Kings of Leon on a soundtrack. Also fell in love with the Ryan Adams cover of "Wonderwall" by Oasis while I was working on A Welcome Grave.

Q: Has your writing changed much between the novels?

A: Hopefully. The goal is to keep getting better, so I’d like to
always be able to see changes. I’m more obsessed with tone and voice than I was at first, with mood, but I think some of that comes from being so familiar with a character. I know Lincoln by now, don’t have to worry about him quite as much, though you want to dig deeper with each book, cover new territory. In terms of the actual process, almost nothing has changed. I’ve relocated a few times but still write on the same computer, even though it can’t handle anything but word processing at this point, and still write late in the day with music playing. Can’t write in the morning to save my life.

Q: What's next for you and or Perry?

A: A break! Lincoln was, well, a little beat-up physically and emotionally at the end of the last one and he demanded a rest. I’ve been working on a standalone, which has been a wonderful experience, but I’ve got another LP book under contract, and I’m sure he’ll begin clearing his throat impatiently in a few weeks and asking for some new work.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?

A: Of course. Lehane’s Kenzie and Gennaro novels are the reason I ended up in this genre. Absolutely love his stuff. Michael Connelly has been a huge influence, as was Robert Crais’s early stuff. Love James Lee Burke, and I became a crime fiction fan courtesy of Hammett and Chandler and MacDonald. Found out about the SMP/PWA contest that ultimately led to my publication because I read Steve Hamilton’s work. So I’ve got all sorts of debt and gratitude to spread around this genre.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI-writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, MacDonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation and in what way?

A: Lehane is the big name in terms of influence. I can’t think of a young crime writer, or one who was first published in the last ten years, who doesn’t read Lehane with a measure of awe. Mystic River is the most influential crime novel of the last decade. I think Connelly is another benchmark in terms of how to sustain a series. Tell me another writer who has written so many books in a series without allowing the quality to diminish. I can’t think of one. Pelecanos will definitely stand the test of time as a writer of influence, because his novels are really unique in the crime fiction world, and much like Lehane I routinely hear his name spoken with a tone of reverence. Those three, who came in at about the same time, will be linked for many years, I believe, and the next generation of crime writers will absolutely be chasing at their heels. The way that influence will show itself is in the attention to craft, I hope. Those are writers who are dedicated to the craft, who constantly seek to improve the level of art in their writing, who want to go beyond a flashy action scene and a surprising plot twist. If that’s the influence that lingers, then the genre is in for a wonderful future.

Q: Harry Hunsicker came up with the following question: You wake up in a dingy motel room, the police banging on the door. You have no idea of how you got there. A dead woman lies on the floor, a pile of bloody hundred-dollar bills strewn around her head. Your cell phone is gone. You've got time to make one phone call before jumping out the bathroom window. Which fictional character would you call?

A: I call Sheriff Alan Pangborn of Castle Rock, Maine. He’s one of the truly neglected heroes of law enforcement, in my opinion. While a normal fictional detective might sort out a murder or two in each book, Sheriff Pangborn has had to deal with a town populated by the worst Stephen King could throw at it, and I think that goes well beyond the typical mean streets. A minor, human-related problem like this, with no apparent supernatural twist, should be something he could clear up before his coffee got cold.

Q: What question should be asked every PI writer we interview and what would be your answer to it?

A: What writer outside the genre would you most like to see write a PI novel? For me, the answer is Stewart O’Nan. His body of work is incredibly diverse, and incredibly impressive, and I’d love to see what he could do with a PI novel. His book The Speed Queen is one of my all-time favorite noir novels.

For more information about Michael Koryta and his novels visit

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Review of Priest (Jack Taylor) by Ken Bruen

As with most Jack Taylor novels they're not really about the crimes or the mysteries, rather about the main character.
We follow Irish Jack Taylor's release from a mental hospital and his fight against alcoholism. Aling the way he meets a young fan who becomes his sidekick of sorts. Soon it makes Jack feel like a father to the kid, Cody.
He's hired to track down the killer of child-abusing priests. A very dark subject, taken on without any holds barred.
The few moments of violence are brutal, the mood is dark and the way the writing style original. Numerous references to poets, noir writers and music add some extra flavor to the story.
Another main plot point seemed to be the way America has influenced Ireland. A point that for me got a bit tiring.
All in all, an original piece of work that, as cliche as it might sound transcends the genre.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Q & A with Harry Hunsicker

Q: What makes Oswald different from other fictional private eyes?

A: Oswald is all too aware of his limitations, yet continues past them anyway.

Q: Why did you give Oswald the name you did?

A: I originally started a book about a guy named Bob. Call it my stab at the Great American Novel. After 100 pages, I realized how boring Bob was so I killed him and buried the corpse deep in a desk drawer.

At that point I was pretty discouraged. I knew I wanted a book set in Texas, specifically my part, Dallas. I knew I wanted a character whose name was tied to the area. I debated writing a story about a hit man named Tom Landry (the legendary coach of the Cowboys) but thought they would run me out of the city. One thing led to another and Lee Henry Oswald was born.

Q: Who would play Oswald and Nolan in a movie?

A: People always scratch their heads when I say this, but I envision Oswald being played by John Cusack. He's got a certain world-weary sardonic
outlook which I think fits Oswald perfectly. My current pick for the Irish/Hispanic Nolan, is Minnie Driver who is doing an excellent job in the new F/X show, THE RICHES. I'm a huge fan of that show, about a family or Irish Travelers on the run from their clan. To understand why, you'll need to read the third Oswald book, CROSSHAIRS, due out in August.

Q: What would a soundtrack to your novels sound like?

A: A little Stevie Ray Vaughan and Steve Earle. A little more Ray Wylie Hubbard and Dean Martin.

Q: Any thoughts on the use of the psychotic sidekick in PI novels?

A: Most PI books need a foil of some sort, an opportunity for the hero to bounce things off of occasionally, or to help him/her out of a jam. Plus,
the psychotic sidekick is often the most fun character in a book, if used paringly. I mean who wouldn't want to party with Bubba Rogowski or Clete Purcell?

Q: What's next for you and or Oswald?

A: The third Oswald book, CROSSHAIRS, will be released in August. I also have a short story being published about the same time in the Summer issue of
MURDALAND, the excellent literary journal devoted to crime and noir fiction.

Q: Do you think your writing changed much between the first and second novel?

A: I think it's gotten tighter, less words accomplishing the same thing.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?

A: Dennis Lehane. He's got a knack for placing words on paper, to put it mildly.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI-writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, MacDonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation and in what way?

A: I have no idea. My crystal ball is at the cleaners.

Q: What question should be asked every PI writer we interview and what would be your answer to it?

A: You wake up in a dingy motel room, the police banging on the door. You have no idea of how you got there. A dead woman lies on the floor, a pile of bloody hundred-dollar bills strewn around her head.

Your cell phone is gone. You've got time to make one phone call before jumping out the bathroom window.

Which fictional character would you call?

Harry Hunsicker is the author of the Lee Henry Oswald novels. More information about him can be found at

New features on the site

There are some new features on the site. Not only will we be publishing original short stories we'll also be featuring a litte thing called 'Q & A' in which we ask PI writers 10 questions about their books and the genre... First up is Harry Hunsicker!

Are you a PI writer and would you like to contribute to one of the above write me at And don't forget, we're also still open to receiving your review copies!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New PI novels on sale!

It's finally on sale... The newest Charlie Parker novel by the fantastic writer that manages to mix Stephen King and Dennis Lehane in one series... John Connolly!

Also out now is the newest by David Housewright featuring filthy rich PI-without-a-license Rushmore McKenzie. When he investigates the death of a young woman he turns up a long list of dead boyfriends.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Good Girls Bleed Too - A Noah Milano Short Story

GOOD GIRLS BLEED TOO, a Noah Milano short story by Jochem Vandersteen(

I was honored to have two lookers in my office like the mother and daughter who were sitting in front of me. The mother wore a blue blazer and skirt. Her brown hair was coiffed perfectly. The outfit was not overly expensive, but cost more then I made in a three months. Upper middle-class. Her name was Lydia Tanner
Her daughter, Lisa, sitting next to her was a cute girl. She looked to be about sixteen and had the girl-next door look most of us guys are suckers for. You know the type, they don’t get to be in a rap video, but when they play their cards right might turn out to become Miss Cornfield or something like that. Her hair was the same color as her mom’s. Her eyes were deep brown and she had nice lips. Her wrists and hands were full of knive cuts.
“What can I do for you ladies?” I asked.
“I want you to make sure my little girl never gets hurt ever again,” Lydia said. Her words were direct, but her voice was sexy. She clearly was on of the new carreer woman who manage to hide their balls in a short skirt. Those who use a combination of male agressiveness and womanly charms to get them whatever they want.
I leaned back a little. “I’m afraid I can’t give you any guarantees about that one. People get hurt, it’s just life. Sometimes you just don’t see that bus coming or a piano drops down on your noggin.” Always best not to give people too high expectations. I hate it when they ask their money back.
Lydia took one of Lisa’s cut-up wrists and held it out to me. The kid winced a little. “What I mean is, you make sure the punk who did this to my girl never does so ever again.”
“I can’t watch her every day of her life. I’m not the most expensive bodyguard in the world, but I do need to eat.” In fact, I was particularly low on dough that week. Ever since I decided to cut my ties with my mobster father as part of a promise to my dying mother I had to live on a ant-sized budget. Being a security consultant slash private eye doesn’t bring in the big bucks.
“I don’t need you to bodyguard her. I just want you to talk to the asshole who did it.” I was almost expecting her to breathe fire. Of course, if somebody put a knife to my little girl’s wrists I wouldn’t exactly speak high of the guy either.
“I’ve got a feeling you don’t want me to stick to just talking to the guy.”
“It depends if he wants to listen.”
“Listen, I’m not sure what you’ve heard about me, but I’m not some kind of legbreaker. I run a legitamite business here.”
“We both know you’ve had an interesting past, mister Milano.” Somehow my illustrious past always manages to come back and haunt me. “I just want you to scare this monster a bit.” She opened her purse and flashed me some green. “I’ll pay you handsomely.”
As I already mentioned I was pretty low on cash that week. “The least I can do is listen to what you have to say, I guess. Who is the asshole, slash punk, slash monster in question?”
“It’s Lisa’s ex-boyfriend. Some anti-social white trash kid called Zach Morrisson. She dumped him, and just because of this he decided to teach her a lesson or something. The asshole put a razor blade to her hands and wrists.”
“Asshole indeed. Did you go to the police?”
She grunted. “Then what? He gets off on some stupid plea-bargain because he’s still a minor and just comes down harder on my kid because she ratted him out.” She had some nice cop show dialogue going. Since Law & Order got so popular everyone sounded like a veteran on the force.
“I don’t know, ma’am. Something like this is pretty serious. I’m sure they’d treat it with utter care. I know a few guys there who I can reccommend to you.” Guys who hated my guts, but were stand-up cops all the same.
Then the girl spoke up for the first time. Her voice was so soft I had to strain myself to make out what she said. “Please, sir. I don’t want him to hurt me anymore. Please tell him to leave me alone.”
That’s when they won me over. The pleading eyes of a young girl can make a guy do more stupid things then all the money in the world. “Fine. I’ll go over to this Zach kid and do my little Italian goomba bit. He’ll probably leave you alone after that.”
Lisa got up and hugged me. She smelled of jasmin. “Thank you very much, sir.”
“Since we’ve hugged I feel it would be okay if you just called me Noah,” I offered.
They’re really out there and it never ceases to amaze me. The guys you see on the Jerry Springer show I mean. The all-American trailer trash. Accept no subsitutes.
I parked my Mazda in front of the banged up old trailer where, according to Lydia Tanner teenage scumbag Zach Morrisson resided. Well, was hauled up sounded more accurate then resided.
I banged the door. I could smell the air of reefers through the window.
The door opened and an unwashed kid in a flannel shirt and torn jeans opened up. He had a stubble on his chin and a mullett. Mulletts are hip again I read a few days ago. Did that mean being trailer trash was cool now? God forbid. In a few weeks they might become VJ’s on MTV.
“Whoyou? Whaddayou want?” the kid asked.
“Zach Morrisson?” I ventured.
“You really need to learn how to articulate or you’ll never become a VJ.”
“What? Whatthefuckyoutalkingbout?”
I pushed him inside the trailer. “You and me need to have a little talk.”
The inside of the trailer was the mess of empty pizza boxes, beercans and dirty underwear you’d expect and would dread to find. I remarked his housecleaner probably had the decade off. He didn’t think it was funny.
I set him down on top of an empty spot on a ripped up couch.
“Listen to me. Lisa. Leave her alone. Don’t ever hurt her again”
“Is that what this is about? That crazy bitch? I dumped her a long time ago. She wanted me, not the other way around. Shit, skanky whore.”
I covered his mouth and cheeks with my right hand. I squeezed. Classic bonebreaker intimidation tactics. It was like being twenty years old and at work for my dad all over again. It sent a shiver down my spine. I let him go. “Just play nice, okay? Leave her alone and keep leaving her alone. That way I’m happy and off your back. You bother her again, I come back and thrice as pissed off as I am now.”
Zach rubbed his hurt cheeks. “Whatever, man. Just leave me alone.”
Nothing to do but hope I had made my point. I could almost hear the whisper of my old mentor, my dad’s top enforcer and hitman Kane, in my ears. Telling me killing someone is the only way to make sure your point sticks.
I left the trailer feeling oddly dirty.
I drove over to Lydia’s place to tell her I put the scare on Zach that she wanted. All the way over there I tried to understand how much I’d changed over the years. In my past I’d intimidated people a lot more innocent than that stoner asshole. How did I sleep well in those days and was I bothered so much by my actions now? When my mother died I’d made her a promise I would try to make an honest living for myself, but that didn’t seem to be the only reason. Maybe I’d been trying to do so much good the last couple of years I’d actually begun to see myself as one of the good guys.
As I approached Lydia’s I saw an old Pontiac parked around the corner. It seemed like an odd place to park a car. Somewhat like Kane and I used to do when we were scoping out a mark before doing the hurt on him.
I slowed down and peered into the car. Behind the wheel was a kid in a Murderdolls T-shirt with a shaggy haircut. Next to him was a pretty young girl in a black Nine Inch Nails longsleeve, wiping away black lipstick from her face. I had to blink a few times before my brain accepted the information I was looking at Lisa.
I stopped my Mazda next to the Pontiac and opened my window. I leaned out. “Hi, Lisa. Halloween time?”
She gave me a startled look. Like a kid caught with it’s hands in the cookie jar. “Mister Milano?”
“Yep, you know me so it must actually be you, Lisa. I wasn’t sure, with the goth look and all.”
“Hey,” the kid with the shaggy cut exclaimed. “You trying to make fun of my girl?”
“The macho routine doesn’t work with a haircut like that, kiddo. Leave it to the pro’s. I just want a few words with her, okay?”
Lisa told him it was okay and Shaggy left us to our talk.
“You just have to understand, mister Milano. My mom would kill me if she saw me dressed up like this. I just dress up like a good little girl again when I get home so she doesn’t go all hysterical, okay? Please don’t tell her.”
I shrugged. “Hey, I was young once. Mabye a shorter time ago then you’d realise, with you insisting on calling me mister. I’ve had my rebellious streak. There’s worse things then being a goth, a punk, or whatever. Just stay out of trouble and make sure Shaggy there next to you treats you right.”
She gave me a wide smile. The remnants of black lipstick couldn’t hide the youthfull innocence that radiated from it, however hard she would try to. It’s a strange thing, innocence. When you’re a kid you try to do everything to lose it, and when it’s gone you’d do everything to get it back.
“Time to tell your mom what a good job I did,” I told Lisa and drove away.
Lydia welcomed me inside. She was wearing a grey pleated skirt and a white sweater. Her hair was perfect as it was in my office when she hired me. She ushered me inside the living room, which seemed to come right out of some magazine. Just the right, fashionable magazines spread across the glass coffee table, designer couch, tasteful art on the walls. No wonder Lisa felt the need to rebel.
“You come to bring me good news, mister Milano?”
“I guess so.”
“Can I offer you a drink?” she asked and without waiting for an answer she opened the liquor cabinet. Obviously she had a few more good points except for perfect hair.
“Some Jack would be nice if you’ve got it.”
“Sorry. But I can offer you some Bushmill’s.”
“I’ll make due,” I said smiling.
She poured me my drink and handed it to me. She took one herself. “So you were succesful?”
“I had a nice little talk with mister Morrisson. I’m pretty sure he won’t bother your daughter again.”
“Did you hurt him good?” She sounded like Morticia Adams.
“Just a little. I wasn’t there to hurt him, just to scare him some.” The Bushmill’s suddenly had a very bitter taste to it.
“Fine. If he ends up hurting my child again, though, I want my money back.”
“I don’t usually give any kind of warrantees, but sure, he hurts Lisa you get the money back and the Morrisson kid delivered on your doorstep, in a bodycast.”
She laughed. She sounded like she’d learned to laugh from soap opera diva’s. “Very nice, mister Milano. Very nice. Maybe I’ll make use of your services more often.”
I downed some Bushmill’s. Free drinks are free drinks. “Just watch out for your daughter, okay. Give her a break now and then. That way she won’t seek out any more bad kids, you know what I mean?”
“Seek out any bad kids? What’s that supposed to mean? Morrisson sought her out, not the other way around. My Lisa is the perfect daughter. She even does her own laundry, cleans her own room. Her only bad habit is that she uses the bathroom a little too long. And she cleans that up perfectly as well.”
“I’m sure she’s little miss perfect. I didn’t mean to imply she wasn’t.” It was just every single thing Lydia said sounded wrong somehow. It felt like looking in a funhouse mirror. There was some semblance of normality in the image you saw, but somehow it was deformed, not right.
She gulped down her drink faster than I could’ve. “Spare me you sarcasm. She really is, you know. Ever since I got divorced she’s been so good to me. Understanding when I had dates over, never bothering me when I did.” She meant Lisa probably locked herself away in her room listening to Nine Inch Nails while her mom banged her tennis coach.
I downed the last of my drink and set it down on the coffee table. “Yeah, you’re a lucky woman. See you around, I’ve got other kids to hurt.”
Two weeks later I was having diner with my best friend Minnie at a little Mexican place. She was having a bad day.
“What’s up baby? Why the glum face?” I asked her.
“Had a sad case today. A young girl cut her wrists in the bathroom.” Minnie’s not only my best friend. She’s also an L.A. County Medical Examiner.
“Sounds bad. Suicide?”
Minnie played around with her taco, but didn’t really seem ready to eat it. Her long brown hair hung in front of her eyes. I knew the signs. She really felt bad. “No, not on purpose anyway. She was seeing a therapist about her cutting and burning herself.”
“Why? Why was she doing that? It wasn’t her intention to kill herself you said?”
“The therapist told me it usually starts out as some kind of ritual. Seems it’s more common than you’d expect. Especially among girls from 16 to 25.”
I started to feel uncomfortable. I drank a good helping of Corona to ease my suddenly dry throat.
Minnie took a little bite from the taco. “It seems irrational to others, but apparently, when people are depressed, it can seem like a way to let out the tension or pain. The reasons for self-injury may be to take risks, rebel, reject parent values, make a personal statement, or to be accepted. Some might do it out of feelings of desperation, anger or attention-seeking.” She sighed and dropped the taco from her fork. “I sound like a fucking textbook.”
I reached across the table and reached her hand. “I think what happened to that girl is very terrible. I also think it’s very nice that, after all the years as an M.E. you can still feel sadness for a lost life.”
She smiled. Minnie has the best smile a girl can have. She even had Lisa beat. Lisa. The uncomfortable feeling again.
“Minnie, I might be completely wrong and about to do something very stupid. But I think that young girl’s death may not have been in vain.”
She looked at me like I’d just told her I was going to vote for Bush. “Come on, I said. I might need your help.”
We left the money and most of the food on the table and went outside.
I didn’t bother waiting untill Lydia ushered me in this time. As soon as the door was open I went in, Minnie by my side.
“What’s this supposed to mean? Why are you barging in like that?” Lydia barely managed to avoid me from stepping on her toes.
“We need to talk about Lisa before it’s too late,” I told her. “Please sit down for a minute and listen.”
“What? You can’t just come whaling in here like this and just tell me...” I held up a hand to silence her.
“Please, just listen,” I said.
“Trust him, please,” Minnie assured Lydia. Minnie often has a very calming effect on people, even those that don’t know her. It’s someting in her voice, her eyes and smile. There’s an innocence and compassion there that’s just beyond belief. That’s why I’m so very happy she’s my best friend.
Lydia sat down, straightening her skirt as she did so. “All right. You have ten minutes.”
“We have reason to believe Lisa might haven been injuring herself,” I said.
“What? How did you come up with that idea? That Morrisson creep did that!”
“Did you ever stop to think why Lisa stays in the bathroom that long? Maybe it’s to cut herself! Maybe she stays in her room when you’ve got the company for that as well. Maybe she cleans her own clothes and room to prevent you from finding any blood.”
Lydia shook her head violently. “No, no way.”
“You know, I really had an odd feeling about Morrisson. Somehow I didn’t think he was the type to cut anyone. He was just a no good slacker. He showed no sign of a violent personality when I confronted him whatsoever. A lot of the profile for a self abuser fits Lisa. I bet you haven’t seen her wearing shortsleeves in a very long time. In fact, the only time you saw her naked arms since a long time was when you discovered the injuries.”
The shock on her face was very evident. “My god.” She folder her hands in front of her lips. Her eyes started to get wet. “Maybe you’re right.”
“We’d like to talk to Lisa,” Minnie said. “Take her to a therapist. Someone who can help her.”
Lydia nodded and tried to say something. She couldn’t form the words.
“Is she in her room?” I asked. Lydia just nodded.
“Are you going to be all right?” Minnie asked her, a hand on her shoulder. Lydia just nodded again.
I went up the stairs. Minnie followed me. I could hear music coming from one of the rooms upstairs. Nine Inch Nails. Obviously Lisa’s room.
I knocked. No answer.
I knocked again. Still nothing.
“Lisa, open up. It’s Noah. I want to talk to you.”
Only silence.
I tried to open the door, but it was locked. I glanced at Minnie. She understood my unvoiced question and nodded. I kicked the door three times. It swung open and we went in.
Lisa was lying on the floor. Her arms were bleeding bad. There were candles lit in the room, the curtains were closed and I could smel some incense. As Minnie told me, sometimes self mutilation takes the form of some kind of bizarre ritual.
I knelt next to the lifeless form of the young girl. “Lisa? Lisa?”
Minnie joined me. “She’s still alive, but with the amount of blood she’s losing it might not be for long. Call an ambulance. I’m going to try and stop the bleeding.”
I took out my cell phone and dialed 911. Minnie tore Lisa’s bedsheets to use as bandages.
“I went too far... I just went too far...” Lisa whispered. At least she could still talk. When she could talk at least she was still alive.
I brushed her hair and told her everything was going to be all right, that we were going to save her. Minnie started to bind her arms with the sheets.
Lydia was in the doorway. She was as white as the sheets and just stood there crying.
God, how I wished that ambulance would hurry up.
A week later Minnie and I were visiting Lisa in the hospital. She’d managed to survive, thanks to Minnie’s quick thinking.
I’d brought a large white teddybear with me. It had a big red heart embroidered on it. “I brought you someone to keep you company when we’re not around.”
Lying in her bed, her arms all bandaged up, Lisa took the teddy and hugged it close. “I’m so sorry for all the trouble I caused you.” There were tears in her eyes.
“It’s okay. I’m just glad we were there in time to save you.”
“I’m sorry I falsely accused Zach. I just couldn’t tell mom how I got those cuts. It started innocently, just burning myself a little with candles. Just to feel I was alive. Just to have an outlet for the anger and lonliness I felt. There wasn’t ever really there for me , you know. My mom was always to busy acting like Ms. Perfect. My dad has been gone for years. The kids at school were always just jealous of my mom’s money.”
“I’ll be here for you,” I told her. “If you ever want to talk, be with someone. Just call me.”
“Or, if you don’t feel like talking to an Irish-Italian hunk you can call me,” Minnie added.
Lisa smiled. It looked wonderful to see her still smile. “Thank you so much for saving me. I didn’t mean to try and kill myself. The cutting was a way to prevent myself from trying to kill myself. A way to cope.”
I took her hand. “I understand. We’ll make sure you get the right therapy. I’ve talked to your mom, she’s willing to undergo some therapy as well. We’ll make things right. I know the pain inside of you can seem impossible to deal with sometimes, but you’re a fighter. You pulled through when you were almost bleeding to death. You’re going to pull through again.”
When, after visiting hours were over we walked out the door Minnie took my hand. I squeezed it. I felt like I was one step closer to understanding I wasn’t the person I used to be. Maybe I really was one of the good guys these days. I’d just saved a life, and maybe it would make up just a little bit for the ones I’d ruined.