Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My most difficult novel

Among the novels I'm writing (as of today, at least three) is the first full-length Smitty novel.  I've shared the opening chapter in here before.  And I've mentioned it several times already.  But I gotta confess; this is one novel driving me crazy.  Without question it is the hardest novel I've ever tried to complete.

Ask me what the difficulty is and I frankly wouldn't be able to tell you.  The plot of the story is dynamite.  A serial killer is on the loose (heard that idea before?), and a traumatized beat cop assigned to the task force of tacking down the killer secretly asks Smitty to help him find, and stop, the killer before another call-girl is sliced and diced in some dark alley.

Yes, on one hand it does sound like a clone of a clone of a clone.  We've read ad nausea a number of books with the very same format.  So why do it again?  So maybe that's my problem . . . subconsciously I don't want to write the same-ole'  same-ole'.

Nope.  That's not the problem.  I don't know what it is.

But I did write a chapter in the book I want to share with you.  A chapter I think explains quite a bit of Smitty's personality.  It comes from the middle of the book . . .bad guys are after Smitty and Smitty is waiting in a dark alley for them.  Read it and tell me what you think.


            A wiry smear of a sardonic grin stretched across his lips as he turned his head to his left and glanced down the dark street.  Another dark street on another dark night.  Smitty’s vague silhouette in the darkness blended perfectly into the dark emptiness of the street.  The grin lingered for a heartbeat or two before fading away as he turned his head and gazed across the street at the old brownstone building standing alone in the middle of the block.
            It seemed like all of his adult life had him standing in the darkness waiting for someone to reveal themselves.  Someone either to kill.  Or someone to extract information from.  From city to city.  Night after night.  An endless procession of one dark shadow after another.
            It was almost depressing.  Except, oddly, it wasn’t.
            That’s why he grinned in the darkness.  Any other normal human being who lived this kind of life would, ultimately, sink deep into a quagmire of depression.  It was only natural.  A healthy mind naturally shunned the darkness.  A healthy mind shied away from wanton killing.  And when forced to kill, usually faced years, perhaps decades, of traumatic counseling to get over it.  The sardonic grin stretched across his lips again as he turned his head to the right and peered down the opposite end of the street.
            It didn’t bother him at all.  Neither the standing in the shadows like he was now.  Nor the act of killing someone.
            For him, it just . . . was.  It was his life.  There was no super-heated cauldron of rage roiling around in his stomach seeking revenge. He had no dark, deep seated death wish lurking hidden away in his psyche.  It wasn’t a job.  He didn’t feel anything emotionally when it came to the killing.  He certainly didn’t need the money.  He no longer had any need for money.  That issue had been resolved years ago.  What he did, the clients he agreed to take on, were his personal choices.  He wanted it. Wanted it this way.  His way.  He chose his clientele.  He chose the best method to get the job done.  He may or may not ask from some kind of reimbursement for his services.  It was, again, his choice.
            But . . .admittedly . . . as eyes went back to the brownstone across the street, he could see the humor of it.  What he did, and why he did it, might mystify others.  And that was the humor of it all.
            The lights illuminating a ground floor plate glass window went off about the same time the front door opened and two men stepped out and into the night.  Both men were dressed in casual suits and looked professional in the way the scanned the street.  One of them turned to look back through the open door and nodded his head.  Two more men came out of the brownstone. That’s when Smitty moved.
            He stepped out of the darkness that hugged the doorway of a building directly across the street of the brownstone.  Silently he came down the six steps leading downward from the doorway to the sidewalk, pulling from a shoulder holster the six-inch barreled Ruger. 22 caliber semi-automatic in the process.  From a sport coat pocket he withdrew a long tube of a flash suppressor and screwed it on the end of the barrel as he stepped out into the street and approached the rear of the Mercedes.
            All this, in the darkness, with three of the four men scanning the streets looking for any possible threats.  It wasn’t magic.  There was no supernatural trickery involved.  Just good planning on his part and very poor decision making on his victim’s part.  The curtain of darkness submerging the building behind him had an optical effect of stretching out in a narrow band onto the street.  Just a tiny band of darkness that, if used properly, would do just the trick. 
            His targets chose a safe house on a dark street.  On top of that, they decided to leave bright lights of the interior and hurry down the brownstone’s steps toward the waiting Mercedes without allowing their eyes to adjust to the darkness.  In effect all four men were as blind as eyeless slugs.  When he brought the ungainly, bulky weapon in his hands up and pulled the trigger four times, his targets died completely unaware of their imminent deaths.  Smitty’s finger squeezed the trigger four times so rapidly it almost sounded like one shot.
            Four men clattered to the cement sidewalk, each man with a .22 caliber bullet drilled directly in the middle of their foreheads.
            Stepping onto the sidewalk and checking each of the dead men to make sure they were truly gone, he took his time unscrewing the flash suppressor off the end of the Ruger and dropped it into the side pocket of his sports coat.  Holstering the Ruger underneath his left armpit he turned in the darkness and looked for the one dead body he wanted to find.  Kneeling, Smitty rummaged through the dead man’s clothing until he found the man’s cellphone.  Standing up, he wasn’t surprised to find the phone had a password lock on it.  Quickly he thumbed in the password.  And smirked.  It was good to have friends in secretive government agencies.  The phone lit up and, sure enough, on the list of the speed-dial numbers was the one number he expected to find.
            When he punched in the number it rang only twice before someone answered.
            “Talk to me,” came the familiar voice.  “You got the job done?”
            The dry smirk of a Cobra spread across Smitty’s lips again.
            “You sent two sets of hirelings out to get me, Philo.  You’ll find the second set and what’s left of them lying in the curb in front of the house on Bonner Street.  Let me give you some friendly advice.  Don’t bother me again while I’m looking for the one who likes to kill women.  You do, and you’ll be dead by nightfall.”
            Smitty didn’t wait for a response.  Tossing the phone onto the chest of the dead man he turned away from the scene and slipped back into the night.  But as he moved away he could hear Philo Jenks’ voice screaming profanities into the stillness of the night behind him.

            The screaming went on for a good thirty minutes.  But no one was listening.  Certainly not the dead.

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