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The Lost Decades of Uncle Chow Tung
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Season of Smoke

I like to say I’m not a killer because that helps me sleep at night. I’ve killed people, sure, but I’m no killer. Does that even make sense? I only kill in self defense, or so I tell myself. I wanted to put that part of my life far behind me. I wanted to sit out on my porch in the country and whittle sticks while the sun went down and crickets kicked up a racket in the grass. Sometimes, though, life has other plans.
I was living about half an hour outside of Orangeville, Ontario, in a sway-backed trailer that had once belonged to my good friend The Chief. The Chief had vanished ten years ago. I liked to think he was drinking daiquiris on the beach under an assumed name and maybe a brand-new mustache but deep down I knew that wasn’t the case. The Chief was dead and gone for more than a decade now. I inherited his trailer, his barn and his land, complete with trip wires and buried mason jars filled with rolled-up cash. I had been working all fall to clear the trip wires. It was slow going, poking around in the woods, jabbing at piles of leaves with a walking stick, bending down to snip rusty barbed wire with a pair of industrial strength clippers. I didn’t want anyone getting hurt.
The recruits were waiting for me in the barn. I walked past a few trees that hadn’t yet shaken off their leaves and tossed one of The Chief’s traps onto the garbage heap. My boots crunched on the gravel driveway as I headed for the barn.
The sign above the barn door said ‘PALACE SECURITY’ in huge red letters. The sign gave me the warm fuzzies every time I saw it. Was it possible to change your life? Hell, yes. I, Jack Palace, was living proof.
Marcus, my first recruit, was standing just inside the barn. He and I had been working a job back in the city but the pay wasn’t great. We stood around in front of a jewelry store and now and then when a shipment came in we stood at the back while guys climbed out of town cars with jewelry cases handcuffed to their wrists. No one had tried to rob us since we had started working there. Avi, the owner, was thrilled with our track record and kept making noise about a performance bonus but so far that bonus was just a distant dream.
We needed more clients and we needed more recruits. I put an ad in the paper, watched the jewelry store and played cards with Marcus back at home in the trailer. Half my day’s pay went to fueling up the truck to get to and from the city. It would be nice to get some local clients and not have to make that drive every day. I had put some feelers out but all my connections were still back in the city.
Marcus shot me a smile as I walked into the barn. “It’s a good looking group, Jack.” I nodded. There were two men and a woman lined up in the barn near the heavy bag dangling from the ceiling. This was where The Chief trained me, so many years ago. Right there by that bag is where I finally got the drop on him, or so I thought. He twisted easily out of my grasp and then broke my arm. A white lightning bolt of pain shot through my body and that was the end of training for that day.
I smiled at the recruits. I was planning to train them hard but I wasn’t going to break any arms. I could almost hear The Chief snorting. “You baby ‘em, Jack, and you’re going to end up with a bunch of babies. You think anyone is going to hire a bunch of babies?”
“Hello,” I said to the recruits. “Thanks for coming. I’m not going to lie to you, this job can be very demanding. We are going to train and we are going to train hard. Maybe some of you might not make it to the end and that’s okay. Maybe some of you have worked security jobs before. We’re going to do things a little differently around here. You’re going to work hard but make no mistake: after I’m done training you, you will have the skills to survive. What’s the number one most important part of training?”
The woman raised her hand high. I gave her a nod. “Safety,” she said.
I nodded again. “That’s right. We’re going to work hard but we’re going to look out for each other. No one’s getting hurt on my watch. You got that?”
All the recruits mumbled. “All right,” I smiled. “Let’s get started.”

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Cradle of the Deep

Cradle of the Deep

A Crime Novel
tagged : crime
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A styro in each hand, creamers, sugar packets and stir sticks on top, the Squamish Times wedged under his arm. Passing the Skylark, thinking of switching rides, Denny set the cups on the roof and tugged open the door. Getting behind the wheel, he set a styro on the dash, looking at Bobbi at the phone box, hoping this guy Carmen came through with the chalet, let them hide out a day or so. Denny fixed his coffee, thinking of a cozy fire, nice and warm, just the two of them counting out the cash, helping themselves to Carmen’s liquor.


If that didn’t work out, he knew this guy in Whistler, another hour north. Rubin Stevens grew some righteous weed — a friendly type of guy, the kind you could look up and drop in on — the guy who made the run to Vancouver every couple of weeks, dropping off a quarter pound of homegrown to Wilson and his flat-mates, each of them chipping in seventy-five bucks. Kept Denny’s head on right, with a good buzz, but needing to suck on his MediHaler, dealing with his asthma. Betting if he hadn’t dodged his uncle, the asthma would have kept him from conscription, his uncle putting him down as 4-F, like he told that job recruiter.


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One Good and Deadly Deed

One Good and Deadly Deed

A Sheriff Luke McWhorter Mystery
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Chapter 1


The fact that none of the body parts was covered told me no one from the Dr. Konstantina Smyth’s office had arrived at the hangar yet.


Doc Konnie was adamant about not contaminating a victim’s remains. The fastest way to get on her bad side was to throw a plastic sheet or a tarp or a couple of towels over a corpse. Or over body parts.


And it wasn’t only our outspoken Greek-born medical examiner who was dyspeptic on the subject.


It was the law.


I memorized the statute word for word. This way, I could spell it out in no uncertain terms when people at a crime scene got careless about keeping their hands off the deceased. Or, for that matter, off the dead person’s possessions. I’d point out that anyone who—quote, unquote—willfully touches, removes, or disturbs the body, clothing, or any  article upon or near the body…shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.


So in West Texas’s Abbot County, at a crime scene involving loss of life, even we law enforcement types waited for the M.E.’s white van to show up. Until then, we looked for clues elsewhere. Maybe close by. Maybe around the perimeter of the crime scene. Or else we stood around and waited. 


When I entered the hangar, that’s what a half-dozen persons were doing. Standing a few steps inside the door. Gossiping. Kibitzing. Pointing.




All of them were dressed like I was—in protective gear. But they were acting like they’d just gotten out of church. Now, clustered there in a group, they were enjoying a social moment before heading to the parking lot. 


Or maybe I was thinking that because I’d stepped out of a church building a few minutes ago myself. A church building where I’d been the preacher.


I was quite certain there were other sheriffs in America who preached. Because about anyone can run for sheriff. That includes country preachers, many of them self-taught in theology. Some of them preached every Sunday morning.


But I wasn’t one of those. This was the first sermon I’d preached since becoming sheriff nearly 17 years ago.


I had a copy of the church program jammed in my inside coat pocket. The cover offered the bare details of the morning’s activities.


Today’s sermon by Sheriff Luther Stephens McWhorter,
B.A., M.A., Doctor of Divinity
How heaven and your local sheriff view wearing a badge and carrying a gun …


But no one in this group was going to ask about any of that. They were too busy taking extreme care where they rested their eyes. I didn’t blame them. I’d never seen a crime scene like it.


Pools of crimson and body parts of all sizes littered the hangar floor.


In all directions.


But it was the plane that dominated.


I knew what kind it was. The twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 350i was an iconic plane from a lineup of aircraft with a distinguished pedigree. I knew all this because I’d always found the King Air 350i more princess than king.


Even at a moment like this, it looked like a piece of resplendent piece of metal sculpture as much as an aircraft. Walk around it, and the very nature of what you were looking at seemed to change before your eyes. This was a consequence of the craft’s exquisite, complicated design. I found the sight of one mesmerizing.


The voice came from behind me. “You ever see anything like this?”


A woman’s voice. One I knew well. It belonged to one of my deputies. One of my detectives, actually.


Detective Rashada Moody.


Detective Moody was my department’s only woman deputy. Only African-American deputy. Only left-handed deputy. Only deputy who’d been a beauty-queen contestant. And the only one of us to have a four-year college degree in criminal justice. “Deputy Only,” we sometimes jokingly called herself.


At the moment, there was no humor to be found in Deputy Only’s voice. And I knew she wasn’t talking about the airplane.


I searched for the right words to answer her with.


Eventually, I found one.




She allowed herself one additional comment as an ordinary citizen. “Somebody didn’t want these poor fellows viewable at their funerals.” Then she returned to being the professional I’d always admired. “I was the first officer here—if you’d like to know what I’ve noticed.”


Her tentativeness was more than a courtesy. It hadn’t been that long since I’d been the first one to roll up on another horrendous crime scene. It had been sickeningly visible in and around a remote, abandoned house 30 miles west of town.


The smell of rotting corpses and the sight of buzzards devouring them had made me deathly ill. After several episodes of acute gastronomic distress, I’d managed to withdraw a short distance and summon help. Detective Moody was one of those who had responded. Now, here she was again, suggesting that we see if we could figure this out.


But before she could propose a place to start, I issued a directive to the others. “People, why don’t we vacate the hangar until the M.E. can get this sorted.”


Detective Moody turned to join the departures, but I caught her wrist. It felt warm. That’s how you can know a person-of-color is blushing. She’d embarrassed herself in not immediately recalling that I had seen this much ugly and more not long ago—and had been physically devastated by it. How could she ever forget the sight and smell of me and my vomit-drenched clothes and car.


I released her wrist and gave her a quick hug. “If we’re careful, you and I can walk through this.”


She pointed to the plane’s starboard engine. This was the one on the right wing from the point-of-view of the pilot looking forward. “I think the poor guy hit by those propellers was shoved into them from the side.”


I looked from the propellers to the body parts I could see and then back to her. “You’re going to have to show me why.”


“It isn’t pretty.”


“Ugly is all I’m expecting to see today.”


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