The best thing about being a writer is the people I’ve met. Attending RT (Romantic Times) in New Orleans this year just added to the list of incredible people who have come into my life because of writing. That’s sort of how my great luck turned into Unlucky 7.
One of my greatest treasures from writing is becoming friends with Tawny Stokes. We actually met through screenwriting, and have become fast friends. That has spilled over into novels too, even though we have vastly different writing styles, we are great friends, and love working together. I wanted to put together an anthology, and together we came up with the idea for small town murder mysteries. Pulling from our friends in the writing community, we united the seven authors that make up the Unlucky 7.
I knew I had to have Scott Silverii, who I met and had dinner with in New Orleans, because I liked him from the minute I met him, and enjoyed meeting his officers. Did I mention he’s the chief of police for Thibodaux, Louisiana? Scott had already written a mean series of short stories that grabbed my attention, so I knew he was right for the novella length of the anthology. I wasn’t sure if he thought he was. When he said yes, I knew we’d have a depth to our stories the readers would love.
And Scott suggested Fiona Quinn, who I got to meet at the Writers’ Police Academy in North Carolina in September. She writes a wonderful blog for thriller writers, that I love, and once I met her I knew we’d be life long friends. I was thrilled (pun intended) to have her aboard. Her enthusiasm is contagious.
Back to RT. Standing in the line for the shuttle bus to the hotel, I met this chick. She looked cool enough, so I started talking to her, sat with her on the bus, and found out she really was cool. Hildie McQueen and I became good friends by the end of the conference, and I knew I had to have her as a part of this collaboration. When she agreed, I was excited to have her on board.
And of course, I’d never have pulled any of this together without my editor, Teresa Watson, and I knew she had the perfect story for this collection. So, as soon as I knew we had a chance to make it happen, I told her to get on it. Of course she was at once thrilled and mad at me, because she knew I’d give her my work to edit at the same time. Teresa makes me laugh, and her stories will make the readers laugh as they’re trying to figure out who done it.
Tawny brought on the esteemed Diane Capri. If you haven’t read her books, you’re missing out. Diane writes fast paced suspense that won’t let you put the book down, and you can’t turn the pages fast enough.
There is something for everyone in this collection, and the best part is that it isn’t a boxed set in the sense that we gathered previously written novellas and put them together to sell. These are all previously unpublished novellas, written for this collection, that will only be available as a collection until January 4, 2015. After that date, they will only be available individually. The collection will be dissolved. So, this is an anthology in the true sense of the word, and the stories take you from the swamps of Louisiana, to the fictitious town of Uncertain, California, and places beyond and between.
I hope you enjoy the posts from the authors over the next few days.
Uncertain Beginnings, Excerpt
They say shit rolls down hill. Well, police sergeants must be at the bottom of the hill, because I always seem to be rolling in everyone else’s shit. And they say that after a while, you can’t smell the stuff because you’re around all the time. I know that ain’t true, because I can smell when shit’s going to hit the fan. I can smell it from a mile away.
Uncertain, California is halfway between nowhere and the state capital. It’s that place everyone says they want to raise their kids, even though those people don’t really know what it’s like, because they’ve never lived in a place like Uncertain. But I was born and raised here, this was my town, and I’d been “protecting and serving” for going on twelve years.
Not small enough to be called a town, but not big enough to be a city, Uncertain sure lived up to its name. We had the tourism from the lake, influx during the off-season from the college kids, and a transient population from the constant road construction along the highways and interstates. It was the transient population brought the most trouble.
I’d crossed Newcastle Canal, over the railroad tracks to the tourist side of town, and was making my pass around Fiddler’s Lake. The days were getting shorter, and the population around the lake had dwindled, but I could still see a few bonfires with circles of people enjoying the mild night. The sun had long disappeared, but the coolers still had beer, so the campfires still burned. I was on the north side of the lake when I heard Dispatch come over the radio.
“HQ to 303, please respond,” followed by “HQ to 67, have you been in contact with 303?”
Badge number 303 belonged to a patrol officer, Chad Sousa. Badge number 67 was me, Sergeant Wyatt Burke. Sousa apparently hadn’t been responding to her transmissions.
“10-4, he radioed in his Code 7… stand by…” I took my thumb off the mic and checked my laptop for the log. I thumbed the mic again, “He never logged 10-8?”
“He still shows Code 7. That was 97 minutes ago,” her voice cracked.
Sousa was that guy, the one other departments might call “The Shadow.” He was the last to show up at a crime scene, and the first to go off his shift. He pushed the limits on everything. But when he did actually do the work, he was thorough and professional. The man wrote reports like a pro, but he’d only been a cop for a short time, according to his personnel records. We weren’t his first rodeo, either. If I remembered correctly, he came from a bigger city before joining the ranks of the UPD.
I radioed back, “Got a 10-20 on his vehicle?”
All police vehicles are equipped with GPS, for the safety of the police force, and the safety of the officers. I waited for Erin Dixon, our dispatcher on call for the night, to return with an answer.
“HQ to 67.”
“67, go ahead.”
“1215 M Street.”
“10-4, in route.” I put the mic back on its hook and flipped a U-turn in the middle of the intersection at Highway 122 and Sandpiper Road.
Then I did the thing many citizens like to bitch about cops doing: I ignored the speed limit and raced across town, rolled through a couple of stop signs, and skirted a yellow light. I did not, however, run any red lights. Kicking Sousa’s ass for taking an extended lunch wasn’t worth endangering someone’s life, or getting my cruiser number turned in.
When I came up on M Street, I slowed a bit, but it was well after midnight. Traffic was light, and I wasn’t worried about small children playing in the streets.
As I pulled up to Sousa’s townhouse, I thought about the time we were working a home invasion. My guys secured the scene, and when I got there, I said, “Who’s doing the report?” and everyone looked around, scouting for the lowest ranking officer.
Finally, I got pissed and asked, “Whose zone is it?” They all said it was Sousa’s. I called him on the radio, and I’ll be damned if we didn’t hear his car start and see the lights turn on. The lazy piece of crap was watching us work the scene from the parking lot across the street. Unbelievable.
So, having to take the time from patrolling my zone to come check on him didn’t surprise me. But it sure had my blood boiling by the time I got out of my Charger and headed toward his front door.
I walked past his Explorer parked in the driveway. I didn’t even bother to use the cement path, and cut across the brown, dead lawn to the front door. I used the side of my fist and pounded at shoulder level, hard. I waited. I pounded again. Waited.
Through a four by five stained glass window in the front door, I could see the television was on in the living room. He was home. I knocked again, so hard the glass in the living room window rattled.
No response. My chest tightened. I didn’t hear loud music that would have drowned out my knock, or the rattling of the windows. I tried the doorknob. Unlocked.
The cop in me knew better than to walk into a home unannounced and unarmed, so I pulled my Glock and held it at the ready as I stood to the side of the door and turned the knob. Twisting, I shoved the door away from me and waited a second before coming around into the opening and entering the house.
The living room was to my right, and the TV played an infomercial for some sort of wrinkle cream or beauty product. I recognized the former supermodel pushing the merchandise. Cindy something or other. I looked to my left and saw the lights were on in the kitchen.
As I walked past the stairs leading to the second floor, something caught my eye, but I thought it was best to make sure the first floor was secure. A quick check of the kitchen revealed nothing, and I took the stairs two at a time, making sure to stay to the right of center. I didn’t want screw up any possible shoe prints, should this become more than a welfare check on an officer. I led the way with my Glock, my hip against the stair railing.
At the top of the stairs, it became evident why Sousa didn’t hear me knocking.
I could hear another TV playing in the bedroom, but didn’t bother to check it. I pulled my turtleneck over my nose and mouth to smother the smell, said, “Damn,” and pulled the mic from my shoulder clip.
“67 to HQ, over,” I said, my voice muffled by the fabric of my shirt.
“HQ, go ahead.”
“HQ, contact PD1 and CID and have them 10-19 this location. Possible 187.”