ebooks by Phillip Thomas Duck

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Conscience in Foreclosure...

Introducing.......TRIAGE: A Thriller 

Now available on Kindle: Click here to see at Amazon!


“‘YOU HAVE WEAPON? You have weapon?’” JW said, glancing up at me. “Remember that, Shell?”
I nodded. We were in his den. It was still clothed in the dark colors he had chosen for it during his bachelor days. A breeze fluttered in through an open window just beyond us and carried the alcohol on his breath toward me. The sun had yet to make an appearance. A gray day.
“Oriental whore,” he went on, “had us both confused. I don’t remember what city we were in.”
 “Asian,” I said.
“What?” Perplexity became his mask.
I sat down on the arm of the chair next to him and looked into his face. “You said ‘Oriental’. That’s considered offensive. Asian’s more appropriate.”
The years of friendship we shared drained from his eyes as he looked at me in turn. “Always the first to correct me,” he said, smiling without showing his teeth.
“It’s no big deal,” I said. “‘You have weapon? You have weapon?’ I think I might’ve actually patted myself to see if I did. That whore messed my head up. Yours, as well.”
I paused so maybe we could laugh at the memory together. It’d been awhile since we’d laughed at anything.
When the laughter didn’t come I said, “Then she pulls out a condom. Holds it up. ‘Weapon! Weapon!’ It finally dawned on me, she meant protection.”
He frowned. Pain showed up as lines at the corners of his eyes.  “You still had to explain it to me, Shell. I didn’t get it right away.”
I embraced the silence that had become common between us.
 “The Coppa family didn’t hire me for my brain, that’s for sure,” he grumbled.
“What made you think of the whore?” I asked, changing the subject.
He sighed. “Sex has always been so…accessible. That’s a word I’ve heard you use. Did I use it correctly?”
I nodded.
“What the hell happened in there?” he asked, changing course as I had done a moment before, the Asian whore forgotten.
I did not flinch at the bite in his voice or the memory of in there.
 “It went to shit so fast,” he added. “Like they were on to me from jump.”
“I keep telling myself I’m blessed,” he said. “Lefty Guns is no longer with us. They said his arteries were clogged like a toilet. I can still hear him wheezing just from climbing stairs. As far as I’m concerned that guy wasn’t living anyway. At least I’m…”
“You shouldn’t drink, JW.”
“The hell I shouldn’t.”
“I have to get going,” I said, rising from the chair arm.
“Stay for a bit. You got nothing going on,” he said.
“Taj is gone. She isn’t coming back even if she wants to. And I don’t believe she wants to, anyway.”
I frowned.
He did, too. “That came out messed up, Shell. I’m sorry.”
“I’m going,” I said.
“What’s death like?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t know, JW.”
“Not death,” he corrected. “You know what I mean. How’s it to kill someone? You feel anything after?”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”
“They ever beg you for their life?” he went on. “I bet they do, all the time. Don’t they?”
“You shouldn’t drink,” I said once more. “You’re being very careless right now, JW. Some things shouldn’t be spoken about.”
“The bastards killed Veronica and Ericka. When you finally got hold of ‘em I bet they begged hard. Am I right? As crazy as you were after that shit happened to the girls. I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with you.”
“I could slap you silly right now, JW.”
“Slap?” he said, smiling. “You’re not one for slapping, especially when you’re angry. Slap? Hell. That a euphemism for putting me to bed for good?” His smile widened. “Euphemism, good word, huh, Shell?”
My nostrils flared.
“Don’t take it so rough,” he said. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“You’re lucky you’re…”
“What?” he said. “Useless? Go ahead and say it.”
“Why do you do this to yourself, JW?”
“Saline,” he said, looking away.
I took several long breaths. It worked. I calmed some. Some.
“Saline,” he repeated in a whisper.
I owed him more than just conversation, but I would start with this. “What about saline?” I asked.
There was a tennis ball in his lap. He fumbled to secure it, and then tossed it my way with surprising strength and accuracy. I almost said something insensitive about the success of the toss. Luckily, I was able to bite down on the words and just caught the tennis ball. He squeezed tennis balls to try and keep some strength in his hands. I felt dirty for holding it.
“Look at it,” he said.
“It’s just a tennis ball.”
“Look closer.”
I frowned but did as directed while he fussed at the toggle switch on his electric wheelchair. The motor whirred as he powered the chair across the room, its sound grating on me. It was a reminder of my best friend’s paralysis. A reminder of my role in the tragedy. What the hell happened in there, Shell?
I bit down on my molars and examined the tennis ball. Words were written on it, with a black felt marker, in JW’s shaky handwriting.
The whirring of the wheelchair ceased. I looked up.
He’d maneuvered the chair behind his big wooden desk. A smile lit his handsome face. Despite my best efforts I was unable to suppress a frown. It had been ages since I had smiled myself.
He said, “Crazy, right?”
For a moment, I was unsure of what he meant, but then I noticed his gaze focused on my hands. On the tennis ball.
“Saline. Sodium thio…thiopental. Potassium chloride and pan…pancuronium bromide,” I read. “What is all of this stuff, JW?”
“The sodium thiopental’s a sleep-inducing barbiturate.”
My frown deepened.
He had only gotten through college because of his athletic prowess and my willingness to peril my own bright future by writing his papers and sneaking him the answers on all his exams. I myself, though more than physically capable, had eschewed football because it was not violent enough to nourish my natural tendencies.
“The pancuronium,” he went on, “is a muscle relaxant.”
I swallowed. “And the potassium chloride?”
Another smile. “Now that’s the interesting one, Shell. Stops the heart.”
“What the—”
He raised his hand. “Relax, Shell. I read up on all of this stuff—euthanasia, lethal injections—but that’s it, just reading. I wouldn’t even know how to get my hands on all those drugs. And it would take courage I don’t have to take that slow sleep.”
He opened one of his desk drawers then, and my body tensed even more. In the days to come I’d question myself about those seconds I stood there and watched him peering into that drawer.
 “Who would’ve ever thought I’d make it to the NFL?” he said, still looking dazedly in the drawer. “That’s some crazy shit, huh, Shell?”
But his mind was somewhere else. I’m not sure he ever heard my voice.
“These concealed carry laws are a bitch,” he complained. “My father toted around a shotgun like it was the second son he always wanted.”
“Your father was a degenerate alcoholic shithead, JW. You’re headed down the same road.”
“You gotta conceal, basically leaves you with the choice of either a 9mm or a .380. Little pisser guns, the both of ‘em, if you ask me. And I don’t wanna hear that shit about ‘a .380 in the pocket is better than a .45 in the truck.’ Screw that.”
I should’ve crossed his den at that moment.
Should’ve moved to him and put a hand on his shoulder.
“So I go with the .380,” he said. “Bersa. Guy sells it to me tells me how similar it is to a Walther, but cheaper.” He paused, smiled again. “One more year and I would’ve been eligible for the damn NFL pension. Then I never would’ve gotten in bed with the Coppa family.”
An ACL injury had cut his career short.
“Don’t beat yourself up about that,” I said. “You have a family to look after.”
Wrong thing to say. I’d have done better to chant ‘Asian’ until I lost my voice.
His smile turned to a frown. “Family? Kat lives on the Internet looking up shit. Vacuum pumps, dick injections, some extra-powerful vibrator ‘sposed to wake my peter piper all the way up. It’s all too complicated and messy for me. We tried something once and I shit the bed. Now Kat’s saying the doctors can get at my sperm other ways. Imagine that? That sound like any way to start a family? I don’t think so, and I doubt Kat is as enthused by it all as she pretends to be.”
Kat was the nickname he’d given his wife.
“Kat”—I cleared my throat—“loves you, JW. Even when you act like an asshole. All she’s ever wanted was for you to do the right thing.”
He either didn’t hear that or didn’t care. “The Coppa family is standup, Shell. I know you have your issues with them, but they’ve offered to take care of me. Some type of wounded-in-the-line-of-duty bullshit.”
“Honorable,” I said.
“Honor. Tradition. Respect. Dignity.”
“You…” His hand reached in the drawer and turned my thought to an ellipsis.
“Some things should be quick. To hell with a slow sleep,” he said, hefting the aforementioned Bersa. “Twenty-three shitty ounces.”
“Holeup.” The precise diction and intelligence left my voice as I called out to my best friend.
Forever I’d think about how his last word ever was “ounces”.
Ounces. Weight.
The Bersa’s bark wasn’t that loud but its bite was shocking. I nearly vomited on the carpet. Tears stung my eyes. The room clouded with the stink of my best friend’s blood and voided bowels. I thought of Veronica and Ericka as I took in the sight of JW’s broken body slumped over in the wheelchair I’d put him in.
I had given up the killing game, but like a scorned lover it had a great willingness to still insinuate itself into my life.
No, they didn’t always beg for their lives, JW.

Product Description:

Jack Reacher…

Leonid McGill…

John Rain…

Now a new brand of tough guy…

There is serious trouble brewing on the cracked streets of Newark, New Jersey, and Shell, a former killer-for-hire, finds himself at the deep center of it all. Nevada, a past love interest, has gone missing from a seedy motel, leaving behind nothing but an impression in the wet spot on the bathroom sink counter consistent with the shape of a laptop, a haphazardly parked SUV in the lot, and blood splatter on the pillows and wall tile. What happened in the shabby motel room? Speculation ends with just one conclusion: Nevada had fallen into the rough trade of sex for money, nothing more than a trick/john transaction gone terribly wrong.

Case closed.

It makes sense for Shell to chalk it up as another dose of the bad luck and trouble that dispirited him on the killing game. But walking away is always easier said than done. The thought that Nevada is out there somewhere, hurt and praying for a savior, simply will not leave him.

He has no choice, really, but to roll up his sleeves.

In the blink of an eye, Shell is traveling a path littered with shocking betrayals, brutal ambushes, and senseless murders. One day he is ensnared in a Mob beef, and the next he is confronting an assortment of men linked to Nevada: a community activist with the comportment of a street thug, a possibly bent politician, an understated college professor, and a slick fire-and-brimstone preacher. At best, they are all very dangerous; at worst, at least one of them is a murderer.

And to survive, Shell is going to have to return to what he worked so hard to distance himself from being: a violent man with a conscience in foreclosure.

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