Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – January 31, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up where last week’s left off. The clown Jake refers to is Jed’s friend in the aloha shirt…

“Who’s the clown with him?”
“That’s Mickey,” she said. “One of Jed’s ex-brothers-in-law.”
“Should I be worried about him?”
“Mickey? He’s okay. Mostly.”
“Oh good.” I said, looking at the front door.
“I’m actually more concerned about Jed’s other friends.”
She looked toward the door too.
“Which other friends?”
“The ones he probably called a few minutes ago.”
“Jed doesn’t have friends so much as a bunch of guys who do what he tells ’em to.”
“Well that’s a relief.”
I pulled her in closer and we danced right through the next record change. The pickup in tempo brought people back out of their booths. They gave us much more than our fair share of space as they started moving to to the greasy blues groove.
“So your plan is to wait around for the rest of the gang to get here?” she asked.
“Better in here than out there. No telling what we’ll run into outside.”
Jed lumbered toward the far end of the bar. Martha and her husband saw him coming and vacated their seats. The husband gave Jed the stink-eye as they moved out of his way. Jed ignored the man and parked himself on an empty stool. Mickey stayed by the phone.
“If this town’s as small as you say,” I continued, “they ought to be here any time now. Once they’re inside I’ll know what I’m dealing with.”
She stared at me for a couple of seconds,
“You’ve done this before?”
I looked away, first toward Jed, then toward Beau behind the bar. The proprietor had relaxed a little. Both hands rested on the edge of the counter but he hadn’t moved from his spot.
“I’ve got witnesses in here,” I said, “and maybe I’ll even get a little help.”
She let her hands drop away from my shoulders.
“Were you listening to me? He’s got ’em all shit scared, Jake. Nobody here is going to help you.”
I nodded in Beau’s general direction.
“What about him?”
“Beau?” she asked, turning to look. “He’ll defend his bar, sure. Probably call the sheriff for you too, but I wouldn’t expect much more.”

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – January 24, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up where last week’s left off.

The last line was…

I couldn’t get past the feeling that I’d just been measured for a coffin.

Here’s this week’s…

Marisa maneuvered us onto the dance floor.
I maneuvered us to a position from which I could see both Jed and the front door without craning my neck in either direction.
Beau hadn’t moved at all, except to deepen his frown. He had the look of a business owner worried that he hadn’t bought enough insurance. I still couldn’t see his left hand, and wasn’t sure if I felt better or worse about it.
“What just happened?” I asked as Marisa rested her hands on my shoulders.
“You mean Martha just now?”
“Who is she? Local undertaker?”
“She and her husband run the hardware store.”
I located Martha at her spot near the end of the bar, seated next to a broad-shouldered graybeard in a blue denim shirt.
“I think she wanted to talk to me,” I said.
“She probably wanted to warn you away from me,” she replied. “You can guess why.”
I glanced at Jed over Marisa’s shoulder.
“Yeah. One look at your ex put the kibosh on conversation.”
“He has that effect on people.” She leaned in and spoke right into my ear. “Martha caught one of his kids stealing hand tools from the store.”
“Jed’s kids?”
“With one of his other exes. Maybe two.”
I nodded.
“Anyway,” she continued, “Martha kicked the kid out and banned him from the store.”
“Seems reasonable.”
“Not to Jed. He stormed up there and demanded an apology. Martha wouldn’t do it. He torched their delivery truck the next day.”
“They report it?”
“Yeah, but dropped the whole thing after someone fired a few rounds through their bedroom window.”
“Lovely.”
“Half the people in this bar have a Jed story to tell.”
“Is he carrying?”
“You mean a gun?” She took a quick look in his direction. “He’s got a .45 he likes to show off but I don’t see it on him.”
“Good.”
I hadn’t seen a gun on him either, especially not a hand cannon like a .45.

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – January 17, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up right where last week’s left off…

Marisa has just planted a big kiss on Jake, right in front of her potentially unstable ex. The ex, Jed, is watching them from the back of the bar. The scene continues as Jed’s drinking buddy (guy in a blue Hawaiian shirt) makes a move…

I glanced at the back corner in time to see the guy in the aloha shirt getting to his feet. He looked to Jed.
So did I.
Jed hadn’t budged from his position holding up that back wall. He continued to stare at Marisa and me as his friend joined him by the phone.
A slice of reddish yellow light glinted off the metal cover of the pay phone, reminding me to consider what that call he’d placed might mean. I was willing to bet he didn’t call his mom to see if she needed him to pick up a quart of milk on his way home.
A ballad came up next. The head count on the dance floor thinned out as a few couples headed toward the booths for a beer and a breather. The rest stayed to sway and make eyes at each other while Nina Simone sang the blues.
Marisa sent a nasty glare Jed’s way, then grabbed my hand.
“Come on, tiger,” she said, “let’s give the bastard something to stare at.”
She pulled me toward the dance floor before I could suggest leaving.
One of the customers I’d seen Beau talking with earlier, a weathered ginger with a long ponytail and a sad smile, intercepted us on our way there. She was about my height, with a stout but strong build that filled out the black shirt, black jeans combo she had on.
She nodded a greeting at Marisa, then turned her attention to me.
Marisa tried to move around her. The other woman didn’t give way.
“Excuse us,” said Marisa.
The woman ignored her and eyeballed me, head to shoulders, on down to my feet, then back up to the top. She half-opened her mouth like she wanted to say something, then looked toward Jed, closed her mouth, and stepped aside. Her sad smile got several degrees sadder.
I couldn’t get past the feeling that I’d just been measured for a coffin.

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – January 10, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up where my last one left off.

Marisa and Jake are in the bar. So is Marisa’s ex. The ex seems to be keeping a close eye on them…

Marisa and Jake have just toasted to running into people they don’t want to see, wherever they are, and she has just remarked that she’d rather run into people she did want to see…

We clinked glasses again, then sat there and nursed our beers through a solid song and a half.
Cigarette smoke, pushed around the room by a lonely ceiling fan with a Sisyphusian task assigned to it, settled in pockets above and around us.
I sneaked another peek at the corner booth.
The skinny guy in the aloha shirt was still there. Marisa’s ex was not.
I tracked him making his way to the pay phone on the back wall, next to the head. He glanced our way when he got there, then turned his back, picked up the receiver, and dropped a coin into the slot.
“You keep looking,” said Marisa. She let go of my hand. “Maybe you’d rather hang out with him.”
“What I’d rather do,” I replied, “is get out of here without a brawl.”
“I told you,” she said, rolling her eyes, “he’s nobody. Never really was, Jake.”
“I’m not convinced he agrees with you on that.”
She shook her head, looked up and down the bar, then grabbed me by the front of my shirt and kissed me. I grabbed the edge of the bar to steady myself with one hand and slipped the other around her waist.
The human need for air forced her to break away.
“What the hell are you doing?” I sputtered.
“Escalating the situation,” she said. “You seem bound and determined to have it out with Jed. May as well get it over with.”
“I won’t start a fight.”
“Well, now you won’t have to.”
The man she referred to as Jed leaned against the wall next to the phone, watching us as he struck a match and lit another cigarette.
Beau was watching us too. He’d stopped wiping glasses and was no longer chatting with his patrons. I couldn’t help but notice that his right hand rested on the phone. I couldn’t see his left.

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – January 3, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up where my last one left off.

Marisa and Jake are in the bar. So is Marisa’s ex. The ex seems to be keeping a close eye on them…

I glanced at the back corner over my shoulder.
The guy in the aloha shirt must have been running his mouth but good. His head jerked around with the conviction of his words and he threw in all the hand gestures he could manage without knocking over his drink. Marisa’s ex sat there and weathered the storm, humoring his pal with an occasional nod or grunt. He didn’t grant him the courtesy of eye contact, though. The big man had his head angled in such a way that there could be only one area for his eyes to focus on.
I turned back to Marisa before I got suckered into a staring contest.
“Is he always so… attentive, when you’ve got a date?”
“Sometimes.”
She finished her beer, then signaled the barman for another.
I sneaked another glance toward the corner.
“Is there going to be trouble?”
The barman set a fresh pint down in front of her, then made his way back to the other end of the bar.
“If you keep that up I can practically guarantee it,” she said.
I chewed on that for a few seconds, turning my attention back to Marisa. I’d seen enough trouble in my time to know that it very often looked like the guy in the back-corner booth.
“Small town,” she reminded me. “Unless you or your ex pick up and leave you’re going to run into each other.”
“I suppose the novelty of it wears off after the first dozen or so times it happens.”
“Guess you don’t have to worry about things like that, living in New York City.”
“You’d be surprised,” I said. “It’s amazing how easy it is to run into someone you don’t want to see, wherever you are.”
She raised her glass to toast the sentiment. We clinked and drank.
“I much prefer to run into people I do want to see,” she said with one of her famous lopsided grins.

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – December 20, 2015

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up exactly where last week’s left off. We’re at Beau’s Bar & Grill. Jake and Marisa are dancing to the blues and somebody’s watching them. The last line of last week’s snippet referenced the flare of the watcher’s cigarette when Jake moved his hands down Marisa’s back while slow dancing…

He took two more drags under my steady gaze before Marisa caught on. She disentangled herself from my arms and led us back to the pair of bar stools we’d left a few minutes earlier.
The big man crushed out his cigarette, then sat all the way back on his bench. The outer edges of a glass ashtray glinted in the tarry light. A single wisp of light gray smoke snaked toward the ceiling.
Marisa climbed onto her stool and ordered beers for both of us.
I sat with my back to the bar, watching a tall, wiry man in a blue Hawaiian shirt and torn jeans step out of the men’s room, walk to the back corner booth, and slide in across from the big man.
I tapped Marisa on the shoulder.
“That’s nobody too, right?”
She gave the corner a half-a-second look.
“Nobody you need to be concerned with,” she replied. She saved herself from saying more by taking a drink.
Two fresh cigarettes flared to life in the back corner booth.
I turned around on my stool to look at Marisa. The yellowish light reflecting off the mirror behind the bar gave her suntanned complexion an even deeper amber glow. Her expression didn’t tell me any more than her words had.
“He’s my ex,” she relented.
“Which one?”
“The big one.”
“That makes him somebody, Marisa.”
She set her pint glass down harder than she needed to.
“No, Jake,” she said. “It doesn’t.”

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – December 13, 2015

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

Today’s snippet takes us back to early on in the story. Jake and Marisa have met on the beach and are now enjoying an evening together in Beau’s Bar & Grill when Jake thinks he notices someone watching them…

“Who’s that guy over there?” I indicated direction with a backward nod.
She got up on her tiptoes to look over my shoulder.
“Nobody, Jake,” she said, trying to hide a sigh. “That’s nobody.”
I waited for her to tell me more. She didn’t.
“This is a small town,” I prompted. “Everybody’s somebody here.”
I swung us around so I faced the man.
The poor light over his back-corner booth concealed a lot, but couldn’t hide the man’s sheer bulk. He took up better than half of the space, from side-to-side, on the bench and appeared even bigger when he leaned forward with his elbows on the table. The size of his hand made the beer bottle he held look like one of those liquor bottles they gave out on airplanes.
I was able to make out the shape of his bald head against the darkness behind him. The occasional flare of his cigarette revealed a wide nose and thick dark eyebrows. The eyes themselves remained hidden in shadow. I felt more than saw them on us as Marisa and I made our way across the dance floor.
I returned the stare for a long couple of seconds, then turned my attention back to Marisa.
“What does a big city man know about small towns anyway?” she asked.
“Is there something about this small town I should know?”
The blues ballad faded into something upbeat. We continued to slow dance. I slid my hand down to the small of her back.
The man in the back-corner booth’s cigarette flared a little brighter.

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – November 29, 2015

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up a little further along from where last week’s ended. Jake made it to his car and hit the road. Jed’s pals give chase. They break out the rifles and fire on Jake’s Olds. Jake decides to go off-road after they manage to shoot out his passenger-side window…

My passenger side window exploded inward. Glass flew by my face, nicking and cutting me on its way by. Blood trickled into my eyes.
The next shot took out a tire.

I pulled the wheel hard to the right

The Olds rumbled into the corn, mowing the stalks down as I went. I saw nothing but greenery smacking against the windshield and could only hope that there wasn’t something solid waiting for me up ahead.
Steering became an exercise in futility so I tried the brakes instead.  Nothing happened. I tried them again. The car bounced twice and almost flipped over before leveling out. I held onto the wheel and pretended I had something to do with choosing the direction.

I hit something low to the ground with a distressing thud, followed by a series of metallic bangs and clanks that had me envisioning a trail of auto parts left in my wake.
There was another thud, and then I could steer again. I jerked the wheel hard to the left, aiming for a r0w with a little more room in it.

The suspension cursed my existence as I forced the car into the tight space, then slammed on the brakes.

 

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP -November 22, 2015

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet comes from a scene a little further on in the story. Jake decides to go into the lion’s den, so to speak. He takes a trip out to Jed’s place to poke around and see what he can stir up. He stirs up more than he can handle…

I vaulted off the porch at a dead run. The sound of my own ragged breathing almost drowned out the racket Jed’s pals made as they stomped and kicked their way through the debris field on their way out of the house.
The bright sunlight had me blinking hard as I staggered across the front yard, dodging farm equipment and disassembled auto carcasses.
Jed’s two friends emerged from the house, hollering and swearing.
I picked the clearest path across the wide lawn and headed straight for the driveway.
The shouts of my pursuers sounded louder and closer as I skidded onto the gravel at the end of the drive. I risked a look back and saw one of the two men take off toward the back of the house. The other stayed on me.
I pulled the Browning from where it sat nestled by my tailbone and ran harder.
My Oldsmobile shone like a metallic mint green beacon of safety in the afternoon sun near the end of the long driveway.

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – November 15, 2015

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This is from the NaNoWriMo version of my WIP… Sometime after Jake’s run-in with Sheriff Jones at Marisa’s house Jake is talking with Evangeline in the Sunshade’s office. After a while, two locals he recognizes from Beau’s in come in and state that they’d like a word with Jake next door. Jake agrees to go, reluctantly. In this bit, Evangeline speaks first.

“You boys aren’t getting ready to do anything stupid, are you?” she asked the two locals. She might have been talking to me as well.

Neither man answered the question.

“Raymond?” she prodded.

“Us? No,” said the bearded man, shaking his big head. “Him? That’s what we’re aiming to find out, Evangeline.”

She shot me a look without fully taking her eyes off of them.

“You know what this is about?”

“Got a pretty good idea,” I said, standing up. “And I’m pretty sure you do too.” I gestured toward the door. “After you, gentlemen.”

Raymond and his friend stood there for another couple of seconds, then led the way out of the office.

Clouds had moved in, blotting out the stars and making things rough on the moon. Only the barest amount of blueish light escaped. The feeble efforts of the streetlights along the side of the road did little to pick up the slack.

None of us spoke during the short walk from the Sunshade to Beau’s. Raymond opened the bar’s door and waited for the red-haired guy and me to walk in.

He locked the door behind him.

The music had been turned way down from its usual volume. The bass line and an occasional drum flourish were about all I could make out.

I counted fourteen people inside, arranged on stools with their backs to the bar. Beau sat on the very end, still in his apron, shifting on his stool and tapping his foot. I’d never seen him on my side of the bar. I didn’t even know he had legs.

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