Friday, June 28, 2013

Q & A with Troy D. Smith

Troy Smith writes a mean batch of fiction, both Western and hardboiled. I grilled him about his hardboiled work and Hoss Qualls series...

Q: What makes Hoss Qualls different from other hardboiled characters?
 The Hoss Qualls stories fall into a subgenre some call "redneck noir" -so that's one difference. Even though the setting is mostly in a mid-sized American city (Knoxville) there is a lot of rural Southern culture. Another difference is that Hoss isn't actually the detective -his younger brother Howard is. Since Howard is -unlike the ex-com Hoss -kind of naive, and definitely not streetwise, Hoss tags along on his adventures to keep him safe. And more often than not, it is Hoss who solves the mystery. So in essence, though Howard runs the agency and has the license, Hoss is both the brains and the muscle.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
Hoss is sort of a mixture of several people I've known (more than one of them a relative of mine.) For that matter, so is his cousin Ivory. Some of the misadventures the Quallses have are loosely based on things that happened to me or someone I knew in my younger years -although obviously exaggerated. Usually.
As I often do in my work, I created a fictional link among some characters. Hoss and Howard are the descendants of the hero of my western novel Brothers in Arms.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
It is similar in many ways, I think, to the mass market paperback revolution right after World War II, which opened up markets for a lot of genre and midlist writers -and enabled readers of those genres to have more to choose from. Right now it's sort of like a frontier, in that it is possible to get in and stake one's claim in ways that were impossible a few years ago -and like a literal frontier, that means the corporations are closing in and looking for ways to corner the market. Anything could happen... but so far, it looks like a big boon to writers and readers, and a threat to middle-men like literary agents.
Q: What's next for you and Hoss Qualls ? Will he return?
 The third Hoss Qualls short story, "Dead Rednecks on a Friday Night," is due out July 1 from Vickery Publishing. I intend to keep writing them, and release a collection once there are enough stories to fill one. In fact, I'm plotting the fourth one now -"Dead Redneck Blues" -which will introduce a new supporting character, nursing home patient Roy Carpenter. He is the blues-musician protagonist of my "Roy Carpenter" mysteries, set in 1950s Nashville -the novel Cross Road Blues (from Perfect Crime Books) and "Stomp Boogie." I'm going to have the elderly version of Roy give Hoss advice from time to time.

Q: How do you promote your work?
 Shamelessly, like the prostitute I am. Seriously, if you're going to get anywhere in this business you have to learn to overcome the natural shyness that afflicts many writers and hawk your wares. In addition to my website - - and my blogsite - - I make as much use of social media as my schedule allows, and do guest blogs and interviews anywhere people will have me.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
 I have very eclectic tastes. I like to read, and write, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and more. Much of what success I've had has been with westerns -I've been honored to win the Peacemaker and Spur Awards, am a longtime member of Western Writers of America, and am current president of Western Fictioneers. I also write nonfiction, particularly history -in my day job I am a history professor.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
 I use that trope to varying degrees myself -it enables you to get your hero into situations (and sometimes out of situations) that his natural proclivities would usually prevent him from encountering.

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?
 I can tell you some of the people that have strongly influenced me, and whose names will come naturally to that list (if they don't already):  Ed Gorman, Lawrence Block, Joe Lansdale, Max Allan Collins, Bob Randisi, James Reasoner, Loren Estleman, James Ellroy... and of course Elmore Leonard. And many more.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
 I love mysteries and crime fiction in general, but when it comes to writing I can't imagine myself doing a cozy mystery or a procedural. I've got hardboiled blood -sang noir. I like to write about the grit, to peel away the veneers and get to the heart of the matter -and this is one of the best genres to do that.

On the Ropes (Duffy Dombrowski) by Tom Schreck

This one is sure to tickle your funny bone, even though some of the subject matters are pretty damned dark.
Boxer, social worker and Elvis fan Duffy Dombrowski debuted in this baby years ago, but I finally picked it up on Kindle. Asked to help out his cop buddy Kelley with the arrest of a drug abusing mother he gets involved in the investigation of her missing daughter and ends up adopting her Muslim basset hound, Al.
The investigation leads him right to an awful band of pimps and a terrorist plot. Tom did an amazing job of getting the various story threads to come together in an action-packed conclusion.
Duffy is a great character, and I really liked hanging out with him and his assorted damaged and boozing friends. The friends that gather in his favorite bar did remind me a lot of the homeless friends of GM Ford's Leo Waterman series, just like the tone of the story did. So, if you're a fan of Waterman pick this one up as well. There's also some similarities to another wiseass boxer with a dog (Duffy even points that out himself), so this one might also appeal to fans of Robert B Parker.
The star of the show might be Al, though. That dog had me laughing out loud a lot of times and he really ends up being the biggest hero of this tail... er... tale.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fiction: The Baby Trade part 2 (A Summer Black serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Here's the second chapter of my new free serial of hardboiled fiction, starring Summer Black, the woman the streetwalkers of LA call when they have no one else to turn to...

The Baby Trade part 2 (A Summer Black serial)
by Jochem Vandersteen

Tina was leaning against my car when I walked up the parking place. She was smoking a cigarette. I used to smoke too, until I decided if I was going to quit my addictions I’d really quit them, booze and cigarettes included. I really didn’t miss them either, luckily preventing me from becoming one of those ex-smokers that became some kind of smoking Nazi’s, scolding anyone for lighting up in front of them.

“Thanks for the wait,” I told her.

“Thanks for telling me where to wait,” she said.

I grabbed my keys and opened the car door. “Get in, it’s cold.”

She put out her cigarette and sat down in the passenger seat, right next to me.

“So, what’s the story. Why do you need my help?”

“It’s about my baby… A year and a half ago I got pregnant. Busted rubber in combination with being too sick to keep the pill in my stomach. Should I have been working that day? Of course not. My pimp doesn’t tolerate sick days though. He demands I bring home the bacon every day, no matter how I’m feeling.”

“Just as much an asshole as most pimps I know. What’s his name?”

“Donnie Brooks.”

I knew him. “He’s been in the business for a long time. Fucking prick.”

“Yeah… Anyway, I decided to keep the baby. Didn’t want anything from the daddy, wasn’t going to put any effort in convincing a john to take care of the kid or help me out with the money. I tried to combine my work with taking care of my little baby, my dear Charlene, for a few months but decided that wasn’t a good idea. The lifestyle I was leading was leading me straight to hell and I didn’t want Charlene to grow up without a mommy like I did.”

“Good for you. So you quit hooking?”

“Yeah. Kicked the habit. Tried to find a job. Found one too, callcenter work, but I could do that from home so I could take care of Charlene. Donnie wouldn’t put up with it though. He beat me up twice.”

I noticed I clenched my fist. Assholes like that had beaten me up a lot times as well. In the Army they taught me how to fight back though.

“I wouldn’t give in though. I took the fucking beatings and stayed at home with my baby. Then, one day he came in and just took my little girl. I fought him like a tiger but he’s just too big and strong. He took my baby, Summer!”

“Did you go to the cops?”

“How could I? You know what would happen. They know I used to be a hooker. They’d take my baby from me. They wouldn’t believe I’m clean now.”

“I guess you’re right. Sounds better than her being with Donnie, though.”

“He told me he will give her back to me if I start working for him again. I can’t do that… I don’t want to go back to that.”

I squeezed her hand. “That’s brave. What do you want me to do?”

“I’ve heard stories about how you can stand up to the pimps. You’re not scared of them… Can’t you go to Donnie and get my baby back?”

I combed my hair with my fingers. Thought about it. Donnie was a pretty tough and mean sonofabitch, he wouldn’t hand over the baby to me without a fight. That could mean bruises, maybe a broken nose or something for me. Fights are like that. It wouldn’t look good, showing up at work looking like that. I couldn’t allow that baby to stay in his hands though. And I did feel the urge to kick that asshole’s ass. For what he did to Tina, but also for what guys like him did to me in the past. If I wasn’t going to stand up to the guy, who would.

I said, “Sure. Sure, I’ll get Charlene back for you.”

Tina gave me a hug, saying a thousand thank-yous. I just hoped I’d be able to make good on my promise.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Q & A with David Chill

One of those guys who understand Kindle is the way to go if you want to write PI stories David Chill, author of  Post Pattern was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Q: What makes Burnside different from other hardboiled characters?
To a large extent, Burnside pays homage to a pair of my favorite fictional detectives -- Philip Marlowe and Spenser. He combines Marlowe's world-weary trek through the mean streets of Los Angeles with Spenser's erudite sophistication. My motivation to begin writing in the mystery genre was simply that I loved reading mysteries. I loved the feeling I got when I was reading a well-written, well paced mystery that dropped just enough clues to allow the reader to make an intelligent guess as to who was the villain. When the culprit was revealed, the best mysteries make you sit back and marvel at how the answer makes so much sense. In many ways , great mysteries portray how the villain can be hiding in plain sight.
Burnside's unique qualities are his background as a famous college football player at USC, one of the premier football programs in America. So he is well known -- and a respected star -- within that community. Burnside is also very well read and well spoken. He is not only street smart but he is book smart as well. He picks up seemingly unrelated tidbits of information and processes them quickly. He is able to connect the dots at a very fast rate. He is also expert at cracking wise and agitating most people he comes into contact with -- and this is very deliberate as it often gets people to reveal things they otherwise might not.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
I came up with Burnside because of my love for watching college football. While I was not good enough to play at that level, I have followed USC football closely and have studied the game. By creating Burnside, I have established an outlet to display my knowledge and love of the game. If you live outside of the states, American football may not be so familiar to you, but USC has frequently played in the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, California on many a New Year's Day, so it's possible you may have seen them. I also created Burnside to be my alter ego. He is the one who can say the things I sometimes would like to say to people. Since Burnside is the tough guy who carries a gun, he is better able to handle the angry reactions of the recipients of my rapier wit.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Regarding sidekicks for the protagonist, I really like characters such as Hawk and Joe Pike. They are the indestructible helpers that allow the hero to complete their mission. I think Hawk is a work of genius because he is similar to Spenser in some ways, yet he lives by a moral code that is shall we say, a bit more flexible. In a real world scenario it is unlikely Hawk and Spenser would be friends, but the magic of fiction allows us to see the two of them bond together and work well as a pair. And the idea of a sidekick in this genre dates back to Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe in the Rex Stout mysteries. Burnside's sidekick is actually his new girlfriend Gail Pepper, and I am trying to figure out how to fit her into future mysteries. The classic PI is a loner, similar to the cowboys and secret agents in other genres, but having a sidekick allows the writer to dig a little deeper into his hero's character.
Q: What's next for you and Burnside ? Will he return?
I am in the process of finishing a second Burnside novel that will see him investigating the death of a local politician. The book will be set in the fictional Bay City, which I have borrowed from my hero Raymond Chandler. He used it in Farewell My Lovely, and is a wonderful home for wealth, sin, beautiful beaches and abject poverty. Readers who live in or have spent time in Los Angeles will recognize it as Santa Monica, California. Due to the level of corruption that Burnside uncovers, I have changed the name in the same way that the fictional Los Angeles University (LAU) in Post Pattern has been recognized by some readers as UCLA.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
The ebook revolution has completely upended the publishing industry; it is similar to what happened to the music business in the past 15 years, and what will happen to the TV business in the coming 15 years. For decades, consumers resented paying for a full album when all they wanted was one song. Music labels and retailers were unresponsive, but technology advances dramatically changed the landscape and put many of them out of business. Consumers no longer want to carry large, heavy books around when they can read the same thing on a Kindle, Nook, iPad or even a smart phone. They also didn't want to spend $25 on a book they might stop reading after chapter two. Ebooks offer a more convenient, cost effective method. The closure of so many book stores in the past few years is sad, but it is nothing more than a testament to progress. Ebooks are simply a better product, and the fact that they are also so much cheaper will continue to push this revolution further along.
This ebook revolution has allowed Indie authors like myself to self-publish without the need for agents or traditional publishers. But it also has created some difficulty for consumers to discern the good books from the not-so-good ones. The level of dishonesty in reviews is ripe for exploiting. I recently read an article that James Patterson has paid reviewers thousands of dollars to write book reviews for him. As more authors go down that path, the ability to judge what is good and what is not will become murkier. While it can be argued that bogus reviews have always been around the publishing world, there has been something of a screening process in the past. A writer first gets approved by an agent, and then by a publisher before their book makes its way to consumers. With self-publishing being so easy (not to mention free), that screening process has disappeared. The most reliable sources of what's good and what's not may have to come from the consumers themselves. Personally, when I'm considering a book to purchase, I look at Amazon's customer reviews rather than editorial reviews for that very reason. I feel it's a more honest and accurate assessment.
Q: How do you promote your work?
I chose to go exclusive with Amazon in terms of promoting Post Pattern. My reasons were fairly simple. Amazon is the largest digital publisher and they also offer KDP Select, which has been a successful tool for me because of the free days. Post Pattern launched in February 2013, and in the first two months I sold very few copies. In late April I made Post Pattern available for free for two days. I promoted it using the standard websites that promote free books, there are about 40 of them. While only 15 chose to feature Post Pattern those days, it was enough to generate 8,000 free downloads. I also began using Twitter and Facebook frequently during those days as well. I reached #21 in Amazon's overall free book list, as well as #3 in all mysteries and #1 in private investigator mysteries. But that and $5 would get me a latte at Starbucks! What happened next was interesting. Amazon began promoting Post Pattern on their site, in the area of "those who viewed the book you're looking at also viewed..." As a result, I sold hundreds of books over the next couple of weeks.
At some point this method may stop working so well. I've already noticed some of the better promotional websites for free books -- meaning those with heavier traffic -- are increasing what they charge writers to promote their books. There are still some websites that are kind enough to do this for free, but my guess is that will change over time. It didn't help matters when Amazon altered their policy on how they pay these "associates." By decreasing their payments to these websites for generating added traffic to Amazon, they are now pushing these websites to make up for this lost revenue by charging writers higher fees. Some associates have either stopped promoting free books or have limited how many free books they will promote. As such, at some point I will probably stop going with Amazon exclusively and expand to other eBook publishers.
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?
In terms of who will influence the coming generation, I am hoping it will be writers like you and me! The genre has certain formulaic qualities but they are there for a reason -- they work very well. I am hoping that the next generation builds upon what we have built upon. Keeping the basic tenets of the mystery novel, but modernizing, updating, and most likely using technology to a much greater extent.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I am a fan of great writing, so that includes mainstream fiction and non-fiction. Over the years, I have loved reading the works of novelists such as John Updike, Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Bukowski, Pat Conroy, as well as non-fiction authors Studs Terkel, Joan Didion, and Mike Royko . In the mystery genre, my influences have come primarily from the giants of the field, such as Raymond Chandler, Ross Thomas, Robert B. Parker and Dashiell Hammett as well as some local Los Angeles writers, Les Roberts, Gar Haywood, and of course, Robert Crais and Walter Mosley.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Scoundrel available for FREE

For just a few days SCOUNDREL (A Noah Milano novelette) is free!
Check it out here

A pregnant woman hires ex-mob fixer and security specialist Noah Milano to track down the man who got her pregnant. When it turns out this man is quite the scoundrel Noah gets involved with Russian gangsters and a murder case.

''The writing is fresh and vivid and lively, paying homage to the past while standing squarely in the present." -James W. Hall, author of Silencer.

''Great pop sensibility with a nod to the classic L.A. PIs.'' - David Levien, author 13 Million Dollar Pop

'Noah Milano walks in the footsteps of the great P.I,.'s, but leaves his own tracks." - Robert J. Randisi, founder of PWA and The Shamus Award

"J. Vandersteen takes us back to the glory days of pulp fiction. And I mean the genre, NOT the movie. His Noah Milano character rings completely true as a tough, lone-wolf private." - Jeremiah Healy, author of TURNABOUT and THE ONLY GOOD LAWYER

Fiction: The Baby Trade part 1 (A Summer Black serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

I am proud to start a new free serial of hardboiled fiction, starring Summer Black, the woman the streetwalkers of LA call when they have no one else to turn to...

The Baby Trade part 1 (A Summer Black serial)
by Jochem Vandersteen
I’d never seen her before but I made her the second she stepped into the diner. She was a streetwalker, just like I used to be, years ago.
She wore stiletto heels, faded jeans and too much make-up. Her hair had been colored red but there were still some remnants from the previous color she’d been coloring it, a pornstar-shade of blonde. She’d tried to dress down for the occasion, but her entire gait and her prowling eyes gave her away. This was a woman who constantly used her manner to entice men into sex but was also wary of her surroundings because someone out there always might be more interested in slapping the cuffs on her than getting a blowjob.
Before I got clean, before my time with the Army and before waitressing right here in Lowinski’s diner I used to act just like that.
She sat down in a booth. I walked over and said hello.
“What can I get you?”
She peered at the label above my right breast. She made out the name. “Summer?”
“That’s right.”
“Summer Black?”
“Have we met?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No, no we haven’t. But I’ve heard of you. I’ve heard you sometimes help out working girls like me when we’re in trouble.””
She was right. After my return from Iraq old friends sometimes asked me to help them when their pimps got a bit too violent, when they owed a dealer more money than they had or sometimes when they just needed some minor medical help. I was loyal to my friends, even though I quit living their destructive lifestyle. Word got around and sometimes I was asked to fix things for a friend of a friend. These ladies needed help sometimes. They couldn’t run to the cops and had little to no family. I’d learned some handy skills in the Army and had lead the same tough life they had. I was glad I could be useful to them sometimes.
“I can’t talk to you now. In half an hour I get my lunch break. I can talk to you then. I’ll get you some pancakes in the meantime. Don’t worry about the bill, I’ve got it covered for you.”
“Thanks. Thanks a lot,” she said. “I’m Tina.”
I gave her a nod. “Nice to meet you, Tina.”
I headed back to the kitchen to order the food. The cook, Vincenzo, an Italian guy with a head as bald and smooth as an eight ball and a paunch that showed he appreciated his own cooking told me the pancakes were coming up, even though he felt about that his culinary skills had to be wasted on such a simple dish once again.
“I’m sorry, you’re just not working at a five-star place,” I told him.
“You got that right. I’m not paid like I am neither.”
“I know what you mean,” I told him and left the kitchen.
Michael Lowinski was behind the cash-register. Michael is the owner of the diner, a guy at the south end of sixty with a white handlebar moustache and arms full of tattoos he looks like an old guy you don’t want to mess with.
“Saw you talking to that lady,” he said. “Do you know her?”
“No, I was just being friendly.”
“Right. I’ve seen girls like her before. She’s a hooker, Summer. I’m pretty sure of it.”
Who the fuck was he supposed to be? Sherlock Holmes? How did he figure it out? Or was it just more obvious than I thought, even to someone that hadn’t been in the life.
“You’re kidding me.” Lowinski was unaware of my past and I wanted to keep it that way for now.
“I’ve been around, Summer. I know what a hooker looks like. She might have traded in her fuck me-skirt for jeans, but she can’t hide the attitude. Matter of fact, seems this place is getting to be a favorite hangout for streetwalkers these days. More and more of them seem to pop up in here.”
“Is that right?” I tried to play little Miss Innocence.
“Assamatterafact, they’ve been coming in here ever since you started to work here. You seem to be always giving them a little extra of your time too.” He gave me an inquisitive stare. The kind of stare the cops used to give me.
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about, Mike.” I grabbed the coffeepot. “I think someone needs to have their coffee topped up a bit.”
Lowinski put a hand on my shoulder. “You ever want to tell me something, don’t hesitate to.”
That made me uncomfortable. Michael was a good guy. I hated lying to him. “Sure, I won’t.”
I walked over to an older couple that was having waffles and poured them some more coffee. They told me they appreciated it.
I walked past the booth where Tina was sitting. I eyed Lowinski. He was watching me. Dammit. This was crazy. I was starting to feel like a superhero guarding a secret identity or something.
I brought Tina some coffee and told her softly, “I won’t be able to talk to you right now. Meet me after work at my car. It’s parked in the back, a black Mini Cooper.”
“Okay, sure.”
“Good, the pancakes are still coming up, though,” I told her and walked off again.
I wondered what she needed me to do. This whole thing with Lowinski made me worry about what I’d been doing for the working girls. This way I was never going to really get out of that life. How far was I removed from going back into that lifestyle, back to the drugs, the fast money? Shouldn’t I cut my ties to my past more permanently if I wanted to really lead a new life?
“Hey, Summer! Stop daydreaming! There’s a guy at table five waiting for you to take his order,” Lowinski told me.
I told him I was sorry and headed over to the table.

The Fame Thief (Junior Bender) by Timothy Hallinan

Burglar and PI for the crooks Junior Bender is back. This time he's hired by senior powerbroker Irwin Dressler to find out who lead the cops to raid a gangster party that resulted in the end of a young actress' carreer in the fifties. And then there's that spunky hitwoman who wants him to find her daughter.
As in the first two Bender novels there's a lot of laughs in these pages. Dressler is just a very funny character and Bender gets in some great wisecracks as does his daughter. The last few chapters stars some good action scenes, a lot of writers get in too much detail or too little in scenes like that, but Timothy gets it just right.
What makes this book so interesting to a lot of non-PI fans is the portrait drawn of fifties Hollywood and the wonderful Dorothy Lamarr, a strong woman in a time women weren't expected to be strong yet. There's a large part devoted to her past that take you back to those old days of Hollwyood that will make you nostalgic.
Funny, tragic, and even action-packed. A great read.

Yellow Medicine (Billy Lafitte) by Anthony Neil Smith

Wow, this Billy Lafitte character has some attitude. He's a Minnesota cop that takes bribes, drinks too much and blackmails girls into sleeping with him. He's got a soft spot for young rockabilly girl though (I totally fell in love with her as well) which makes him just a bit more of a nice guy.
He ends up helping a boyfriend of an old sexual conquest with some problems with drugdealers. Little did he know there's some terrorists involved, a situation that may cost Billy's life.
Lafitte is just way cool. He's a bastard, but you will love him. He gets away with all kinds of politically incorrect stuff that our darkest testosterone filled side would love to get away with as well. Very entertaining, grim but sometimes just as funny. And any book mentioning the Horrorpops just has to be good.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Wanted Man (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child

Jack Reacher hitches another ride... But why is that driver lying? And what's up with the woman in the backseat? Is she in danger? These questions lead into an action-packed finale that sees Reacher kill more enemies than ever before.
The first 400 pages are probably the least violent of the Reacher books and Lee Child does a great job turning up the suspense the first 200. He takes his time telling the story, switching from Reacher's viewpoint to FBI agent Sorenson (wow, in Child's world there are a lot of attractive, capable FBI women) until they meet and try to solve a murder linked to terrorism.
Reacher books are of course always cool. I love Jack and more than ever this one shows us what a cool character is. I really liked the pace of this story and thought this one stands out as one of the best in the series.

Free Fiction: Girl Gone Wild part 8 (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Some more free fiction, part 8 of our serial starring roadie / PI Lenny Parker which concludes the story... Be sure to let me know if you want Lenny to return!

Girl Gone Wild part 8 (A Lenny Parker serial)
by Jochem Vandersteen
I stormed into the motel, right at the reception desk. There was a lanky guy smoking a cigarette behind it. He was reading an X-men comic book.
“The old guy and the young girl coming in, which room are they in?” I asked him.
He looked up from his comic, cigarette dangling from his lips. “Why should I fucking tell you that?”
I slammed a meaty fist on the desk. “Because if you don’t tell me you’re going to be an accessory to a crime. That girl is clearly underage and you know it.”
“Huh? So what?”
“Don’t fuck with me, boy. I know they didn’t act like a father and his daughter. Tell me where they are and hand me the damn key.”
“Who the fuck are you anyway?”
I flashed him a badge I’d picked up at Toys-R-Us. I put it away before he could see it was as fake as a porn star’s boobs. “Detective Munch. Vice. Now give me that key or I put the fucking cuffs on you.”
“Jeez, alright man! Don’t get your fucking panties in a bunch, alright?” He handed me a keycard. “Room 203.”
I took it from him and walked off. I walked back and pointed at the comic he was holding. “Forget about that Scott Lobdell stuff. Claremont was the guy who wrote the real good issues.”
“Uh. Right.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit, walking to room 203. That plan worked out just perfectly. Playing poker with the other roadies night after night taught me to bluff pretty well it seemed.
I inserted the keycard and opened the door. Beck stormed towards me, a bottle of whiskey was swinging above his head, held in his right hand. He was naked aside from a pair of boxer shorts. Melinda, dressed in just red panties. Her breasts were small and full of freckles. Her hips were practically non-existent. She was nowhere near a woman and it made clear to me again why I was so eager to put an end to this. She was screaming.
Beck had been expecting me. That damned receptionist had called him I was coming. Guess the bluff didn’t work as well as I’d hoped.
The bottle smashed against the door behind me. I was lucky as hell to duck away from it, that could have been my head.
I pushed him. I’m not much of a fighter, but dragging around amplifiers every night is sure to add some muscle to your fat, so Beck landed on his ass.
“Get away from him, you monster!” Melinda screamed. “Get out!”
“Not yet,” I said and grabbed my phone. Quickly I snapped a few pictures of Melinda in her undies and Beck in his shorts. That should show her dad what was going on.
Beck stood up and went for my phone. I bumped my hip against him, keeping him away from my phone long enough to send the pictures to Mikey’s phone.
Beck went for the phone again. “You sonofabitch! Those pictures will ruin me!”
“That’s the idea,” I told him. Then his fist connected against my chin. I went woozy and fell flat on my ass.
He kicked me against the head. It hurt like hell and I went down on my belly. He kicked me again, this time in the ribs.
“I’m going to kill you!” he shouted.
“No, don’t kill him, sweetie! You’ll go to jail.”
“And they won’t like him in there,” a different voice said. I could hear a slap of skin against skin and I saw Beck fall against the coffee table in the middle of the room.
I managed to sit up on my knees and saw Mikey and Mohawk had entered the room. Mohawk was nursing bruised knuckles with his lips.
“Mikey heard all the screaming and figured you could use the help. I was on the way already, sure that you would get your ass in trouble without me,” Mohawk explained their presence.
“I’d like a crack at that fucking pedophile,” Mikey said.
“Don’t hurt me,” Beck pleaded, protecting his bleeding nose with his hands. Mikey and Mohawk look a lot more dangerous than I do.
“Listen to the guy. Don’t hurt him. He’s an asshole but the sex seems to be consenstual as awful as that sounds,” I said.
“You bet it is. He takes care of me. Listens to me, buys me nice stuff. And he’s turning me into a woman. Go away before I call the cops,” Melinda said.
I shook my head sadly. “Poor kid. You just don’t understand that he’s just taking advantage of you… Here’s the deal, Beck… You never see Melinda again and these pictures will remain a secret. You strike up the relationship again and they go to every newspaper in the city, not to mention the cops. And even worse, Melinda’s dad. He’ll probably kill you.”
Beck thought about that. “How can I be sure you will keep your word?”
“You can be sure I will keep my word if you keep seeing Melinda,” I told him.
“Okay, you got a deal.”
“If I ever find out you’re pulling this trick with another underage girl the same will happen, dig?”
“Yeah, yeah. Dig. Melinda, get your clothes on. I’m going to call you a cab. It’s over.”
“What? Just like that? But you told me you loved me? How can you just end it like that?”
“Jesus Christ, kid… You’re even dumber than I thought. Did you really think I loved you? You were just a tight piece of ass, don’t you understand? How could I really love you? You’re just a kid!”
Melinda walked over to Beck and slapped him in the face with all the power she could muster.
“Ow. She hits like a grown woman, though,” Mohawk remarked.
Mikey winced. “Sure does.”
“Melinda, please put on your clothes. I will get you home. Your dad won’t ever hear about this, but I really don’t want you to get back with this asshole.”
She spat in Beck’s face. “I sure as hell won’t!”
After she put on her clothes we left the room. I gave the receptionist the finger as we walked past his desk.
We got Melinda in my car and dropped her off at her home. She told me she hated me. I told her she was too young to know what hate was and drove off.
I never told her old man what happened. It wouldn’t help him, it wouldn’t help Melinda and it probably wouldn’t really do much to stop Beck. He’d lawyer up and try to rip apart Melinda on the stand. Better to let Bagley think I was an inept loser. He wasn’t the only one to think that. It was time to get on the road again soon. Get away from the city for a few weeks.
Sure enough, I got a call to go on tour with Trivium a few days later.