Date Published: 11/10/2020
Kelly Jenks knows the dead boy is going to show him something awful. Jonathan is seven. He never wears shoes, and his feet are always clean. He cruises between this world and the next in a 1967 Cougar XR7. Jonathan has a message for Kelly: There is a faceless man preying on the city’s homeless.
Jackie Carmichael hires Kelly to find an employee who has vanished. The case appears simple at first, but Kelly soon discovers that the missing girl is not who she seems. As Kelly attempts to separate the facts from the lies, Jonathan brings him another message: Jackie Carmichael is hiding something.
With the beaches, mansions, and dive bars of Orange County, CA as the backdrop, Caffeine & Nicotine is a dark and brutal look at what happens when the dead pass sentence.
Oliver Trunk: the proverbial rock in my shoe.
I had spent the last week looking under every overpass and dumpster I could think of. I talked to a bunch of people who said, “Yeah, I saw Oliver last night down at . . .” Insert the name of some bar, or strip club, or parking lot. I was a step behind from the word go. It was making me cranky.
Oliver thought of himself as an entrepreneur, which meant he dealt a little meth and coke, and beat the shit out of his girlfriend if she held back any of her tips. Oliver’s girlfriend was a stripper at a low-level club. In the beginning, Tina Mullins had thought he was charming and kind of cute in a white-trash, Joe Dirt, kind of way. Those days passed quickly, however. Oliver’s newest business plan was to pimp her out on her nights off from the club.
Which is where I came in. Find Mr. Trunk and serve him a restraining order.
I had put out a number of feelers with my fellow down and outs. A hundred bucks for the guy or gal who got me a current line on Trunk. Not where he was yesterday or last week, but where he was that very minute.
The winner was Judy, an old gal who sang the blues at some of the seedier joints in the city. Judy was in her sixties. She only wore blue jeans, green T-shirts, jean jackets, and cowboy boots. I’m not sure about her choice of underwear or bras, but I’d bet she doesn’t wear either of them. She sounded like Janis Joplin when she sang. I’d caught her show a few times. They were generally free, and there was plenty of booze in the places she played, so it was a win-win.
Judy called around midnight and said, “Kelly, you owe me a hundred.” She sounded like Bob Hoskins.
I was kind of inebriated when she called. I had been experimenting with perfecting a Pink Vodka Lemonade all night. It had taken a few rounds before I had an epiphany about adding a little Malibu to the cocktail. Damn, I nailed it after that.
My ability to walk and talk might have been affected.
“Why tonight?” I felt like my enunciation was spot on.
“What? Totally mumbling, Kelly.”
I enunciated harder with a softer word. “Where?”
“Down at Spinnakers. I gotta go. We’re starting our next set.”
“Keep him there.” It came out as “ee im air,” or something close to that.
“Dude, I can’t understand you.”
I tried again. She hung up.
I weighed the pros and cons.
In true drunken fashion, the pros won out. I was over this rock in my shoe.
I made a pot of coffee with double the coffee. I hopped in the shower with water that was too hot. I was hoping the steam would do something. I’m not exactly sure what, but I was determined to erase the effects of the six Pink Vodka Lemonades I had ingested over the last three hours. I toweled off without falling over and counted it as a clear sign that I was no longer falling down drunk. I put on some cargo shorts and a T-shirt, then pulled on some ankle socks and a pair of Nikes. I filled two thermoses with coffee that was slightly thinner than tar. I added them to my trusty backpack, which contained all the tools of my trade: pack of cigarettes, lighter, .45 Beretta px4 Storm, couple Snickers bars, and a bottle of water.
Forty-five minutes after Judy hung up on me, I stepped out of my Airstream trailer and stumbled down the two steps. They’re tricky in the dark, even when I’m sober, so I didn’t count it against myself. My trailer is parked underneath a thirty-foot oak tree. Its trunk has a seven-foot radius. The tree is massive. I don’t know how old it is, or how it is still standing in the middle of the city, but it’s proof that the world isn’t completely screwed up. The leaves whispered in the late-night breeze blowing in from the Pacific: You can do this, Kelly.
My yard was surrounded by an eight-foot corrugated metal wall. I managed to get the latch open, and a five-foot section swung out and away from me. I stepped through the opening, promptly tripped on the bottom lip and went down face-first into the alley.
“Fuck.” I laid there for a few moments with my face pressed against the cool asphalt. I weighed the pros and cons again. The pros still won, although the cons had more of a say this time. I took it as further evidence that I was sobering up rapidly. I regained my feet.
My Cougar was waiting for me in its parking spot. I popped the lock, climbed in, and started her up.
“You got this, my magic car,” I whispered to her. She had never let me down in those types of moments. And there have been plenty. “OK, let’s go.” I dropped her into reverse, hit the gas, and ten minutes later, I was parked in the lot behind Spinnakers. I rubbed the steering wheel and told her I loved her. I fished out a thermos and took a long drink. The coffee bordered on undrinkable, but I choked it down. I lit a cigarette and put my right earbud in, started up the shuffle on my phone and waited.
The moon had taken the night off. I couldn’t see any stars because of the sodium-vapor lights in the parking lot. The handful of cars around me all looked black or white. A dirty white cinder block building squatted at the edge of the lot. The air was washed-out yellow. All in all, a very ugly place.
I was parked next to a ‘95 Mustang. It could have been brown, purple, green, or blue, but it just looked black. That production model of Mustang is probably one of the worst cars ever manufactured, along with its distant cousin, the Pinto. This particular automotive tragedy belonged to Mr. Trunk.
Trunk was the last one out of the bar. He had some assistance from a none too happy bouncer who went by the handle of Axe. The man was a monster. He was six nine, and easily three hundred pounds. He had a spiderweb tattooed on his shaved head. He only worked the Spinnaker on Monday and Tuesday. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday he worked up in LA. He lived local. We’ve had a few friendly conversations over the years. He’s a nice enough guy if you can look past his numerous assault charges and the one attempted murder. I can, so we’re good. I gave myself a mental head slap for not reaching out to him about Trunk.
I checked my phone. 2:13 A.M. Sarah McLachlan was singing in my ear about monsters.
Axe shoved him into the parking lot, and said, “Don’t come back.”
“Fuck off, you overgrown piece of shit.”
Axe laughed, then went back into the bar. I imagine Zeus laughed the same way when mere mortals got snippy with him for bedding their wives.
“Fucking dick,” Trunk yelled, as he weaved over to his Mustang. I was parked next to him. Driver side to driver side. I watched him dig his keys out of his jeans. He dropped them. He bent to pick them up. He fell over. Things were looking up. Trunk was more intoxicated than I was.
He staggered back up, swore, and laughed to himself. Then he crossed the remaining space to our cars. He was an average idiot in an average idiot’s body. Beating up women didn’t require much of a workout. His drug clientele were mostly strung out junkies or high school rich kids. Trunk was trying to restart the white leather high-top fashion craze. I didn’t see it catching on too soon, but stranger things have happened.
He ignored me as I sat in my car smoking a cigarette. As he struggled to get the key into the car door, I said, “What’s up, Oliver?”
He turned around, and said, “I don’t know you, longhair.” He turned back around and began fighting with the keyhole again.
I popped my door open and climbed out. “Longhair? You say it like it’s a bad thing.”
He turned back around. I hit him with a straight right to the nose. It wasn’t my best punch, but he was drunk, and it did the job. He dropped his keys. He fell back against his car. As he started to right himself, I kicked him in the balls. I connected a lot better that time. Might have popped one of them. He was on the ground, moaning. I gave him a nice solid kick to the face.
I threw my hands up in the air and spun a circle. And the crowd goes wild! I felt so much better. The rock was out of my shoe.
I dragged him over to the back of the Cougar. I popped the trunk, then piled him in. I might have hit his head on the bumper a couple of times in the process. These things happen. I pulled his arms behind him and wrapped duct tape around them. I taped his ankles together. I slapped a piece of duct tape across his nose and mouth. He wouldn’t be able to scream or breathe, so it was a classic two-for-one.
I shut the trunk, found his keys on the ground, and took a moment to unlock his car and put the key into the ignition. I shut the door. The car wouldn’t have lasted the night in this neighborhood, but I didn’t want the thieves to break anything when they stole the car. I climbed back into the Cougar and sat there for a minute. I lit a cigarette and drank some coffee. I replayed it in my head. The people that had come out between my arrival and Trunk coming out hadn’t paid any attention to me. They were all your standard Tuesday night drinkers. I thought I was clean. I never saw Judy. I finished the cigarette, pulled two pieces of gum out of my backpack and popped them in my mouth.
I felt fairly sober. I was probably walking the legal line as far as blood alcohol content was concerned, but I’d have much bigger problems if I got pulled over for something. I started the Cougar up, then pulled out of the lot, and headed out to the desert.
I got to my disposal site a couple minutes before four A.M.
I took my time. Speed limit all the way. Windows down. Wind throwing my hair all over the place. I sipped my second thermos of sludge, smoked, and listened to music that bounced all over the musical genre map. I like the drive out the 15 in the middle of the night. It’s peaceful. I like the way the sodium-vapor lights look from the freeway. Everything is still that washed-out yellow, but you can see the stars and the mountains looming up in front of you.
I jumped on the 395 for thirty minutes. The lights of passing cars filled the interior of the Cougar for brief moments. A glance in the rear view during these moments revealed what might have been a beautiful young woman. Her blond hair did not move in the wind. She was smiling. Then the interior would go dark, and she would be no more. The sound of happy laughter drifted beneath the road noise. And a smell like a field of wildflowers in full bloom lingered all around me.
I left the last high desert city behind. I turned onto a dirt road with no marker. I cruised slowly. I knew the spots that would give the Cougar and her low-slung body trouble. It took about five minutes to cover the mile from the highway to the gate.
My headlights lit up the iron bars. It was a fancy gate out in the middle of the desert. The designer probably envisioned it blocking the end of a Beverly Hills driveway. There were ornate spikes all along the curved top. Two silhouettes of horses rearing up on their hind legs. It might work in the Texas wastelands, but there weren’t any horses around these parts. Scorpions, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes, but no wild stallions running free.
The gate was mostly decorative. Three lines of barbed wire ran to the north and south. The property was five hundred acres of useless scrub brush and the aforementioned poisonous things. If somebody wanted to get to the house beyond the gate, they wouldn’t have to try very hard.
I came to a stop, leaned out the window and punched in the code. The gate rolled away to my left. I drove through and the gate closed behind me.
Fifty yards in was a one-story log cabin. It was one of those kits you can buy online. They ship the materials to the building site along with all the nuts and bolts. An enthusiastic person could probably put one together in a couple weeks. The owner of the property had paid ten guys from the Home Depot parking lot to throw this one up in a day.
I liked it. There was a cozy bed inside. I wanted nothing more than to go climb into that bed and sleep. I had one more thing to do before I could call it a day.
I drove past the cabin another hundred yards. The road ended in a wide spot where I could flip the Cougar around. I turned the car off and climbed out. Big stretch. My body ached from the drive. My brain felt mushy because of the alcohol still in my system and a lack of sleep.
I popped the trunk. I don’t know if he ever regained consciousness. Don’t know if he struggled as his lungs ran out of oxygen. Didn’t much matter either way. He was dead.
I pulled the body out of the trunk. It hit the ground hard. I grabbed the feet and dragged the body into the desert for a few feet. There was a lid somewhere. I just had to find it. I felt like I was in the right spot, but I didn’t see it.
I relented and pulled my phone out, used the flashlight and searched the ground. I was about ten feet too far north. I pulled the bone bag over to a brown plastic lid set into the ground. I took a moment to light a cigarette in preparation. I filled my lungs with smoke and held it in as I pulled the lid upward. The smell that drifted up out of the hole was still godawful. I worked as quickly as I could. I got the feet into the hole, then lifted the body by the shoulders until it just kind of slid in. A second later, I was rewarded with a thick splash.
Restraining order served.
About The Author
Eric Weule is the author of several novels. He lives in Southern California. Caffeine & Nicotine is a stand-alone novel, which features Kelly Jenks from The Interview.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Owen Branson was the love of my life. We had dreams and plans for our future together. But all of that came to an abrupt halt when my little sister went missing. Now the only vision I have for the future is finding MacKenzie, even if that means leaving the man I love and our plans behind.
Camryn Barrett is the love of my life. I knew it the moment I laid eyes on her the first day of Junior year. Now that graduation is in the rearview we can start our lives together – that’s until Cam leaves without so much as a goodbye, on a mission to find her little sister.
It’s been eight years since everything fell apart. Then one routine traffic stop has our worlds colliding once again.
Rekindled Love. Dangerous Games. And a secret that can ruin everything.
Will they make it out the other side unscathed or will they all come out a little Scarred?
Cheri Marie & Alexis R Craig’s Scarred is a heart-wrenching, suspenseful, second chance, contemporary romance written in K. Bromberg’s Everyday Heroes Worlds project.
Alexis lives in rural North Carolina with her husband and two dogs. She loves to travel and find old places, old stories, and new memories.
Born in California, she met her now husband at the age of sixteen and married him at the age of twenty in 2004. After all of these years together, he’s still the love of her life.
Hayley’s husband joined the military and they lived in Oregon,where he was stationed with the US Coast Guard. They moved back to California in 2006, where they had two little boys. Recently, the four of them moved out to the Hill Country of Texas, where they adopted a new family member, a chocolate lab named Optimus Prime.
Most of Hayley’s days are spent taking care of her two boys, going to the baseball fields for practice, or helping them with homework. Her evenings are spent with her husband and her nights—those are spent creating alpha book boyfriends.
Book Title: Fast, Free and Flying (County Durham Quad, #6)
Author: Jude Tresswell
Publisher: Self-published (KDP)
Release Date: December 9, 2020
Genre/s: Contemporary gay mystery
Trope/s: Ace/non-ace relationships
Themes: Compromise; guilt; revenge
Heat Rating: 1 flame
Length: 63 000 words
The mystery story stands alone. Helpful, but not essential, to have read a previous title due to character development.
Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited
Suspects of one crime. Victims of another.
Drones lie at the heart of this mystery facing Mike, Ross, Raith and Phil, four men who live in North-East England.
A spate of art-related burglaries and a series of horrific kidnaps have occurred. The freedom of the quad, and that of Nick, their special friend, is threatened by involvement in both cases. They are suspected of one and Mike is a victim of the other. The officer in charge is the quad’s old enemy, the homophobic Chief Inspector Fortune. Should the quad set aside their distrust and tell him what they know?
Meanwhile, Nick has issues of his own to consider. Compromises are needed, but how many?
This is the sixth tale in the County Durham Quad series. Background is included to aid new readers.
From Chapter 1
(The whole chapter, read by the author with aerial footage of the setting, is available on YouTube. Link below)
A new sound had been added to the rustic ones that normally formed the backdrop to life in the Durham hills. Instead of the bleating of sheep, there was a whirring—and it came from the sky. The quad’s new video channel was up and running, and Raith, plus drone, was filming everything and everyone. He was, as he liked to put it, “Doing the rounds.”
“Doin’ my head in,” was how it seemed to Mike and, right then, there was a danger of that actually happening. Mike was responsible for nearly all the quad’s maintenance work. He was sitting astride a rooftop, replacing the flashing on one of Tunhead’s chimneys. Tunhead was the little hamlet where the quad lived. It was the seat of BOTWAC, the Beck On The Wear Arts Centre, and the video channel was designed, in part, to promote the artisans’ wares.
“Watch what you’re doin’ with that bloody thing!” Mike yelled from his perch.
“It’s alright, Mike. I’m in full control,” Raith yelled back.
“Not from where I am, you’re not! I thought you weren’t supposed to fly it over buildin’s!”
Raith made the drone whizz round in a circle and shouted, “Well Tunhead doesn’t really count as buildings, does it? I mean, twelve tiny houses, my studio and a disused church. It’s hardly buildings.”
“It felt like buildin’s when Ross and I were refurbishin’ it all, and it felt like buildin’s three years ago when I knocked the walls through to next door just to give you leg room.”
“That’s building, Mike, not buildings.”
Sometimes, there was no answer to Raith’s logic. Mike swore softly, sighed and decided to wait until tea-time, when all the men would be home together. They’d discuss Raith and his drone then. First things first. He continued repairing the chimney.
In Tees, Tyne and Wear Constabulary’s new Tyneside police station, another drone-related conversation had caused heated words that day. The woman making a complaint was angry.
“Look,” she said to the officer on the front counter, “this is the third time it’s happened in a fortnight. I ignored the first invasion of my privacy. The second time the blesséd thing was hovering overhead, I telephoned. I was told that someone would contact me. Nobody’s done so, and this morning it happened again. I want something doing. I feel I can’t go into my own garden and I’m bothered that whoever’s doing this is spying on me and my children. It’s horrible and it shouldn’t be allowed.”
The woman had good reason to feel harassed. She lived in what had once been the lodge of a large country estate. That is, she occupied the house that lay at one end of a long, tree-lined drive. The drive led, through parkland with trees and an ornamental lake, to a substantial eighteenth century property. On three occasions recently, the peace of the surroundings had been broken by the whirring of a drone. More importantly, she felt intimidated by the drone’s presence. As she said, she felt she was being spied on. Surely that was a crime?
It was, the official told her. At least two different offences connected with drone misuse might be invoked on the woman’s behalf, but, in a case like hers, invoking them was problematic. Even if an incident should happen again and a patrol car could reach her while the drone was still visible and airborne, there was little that officers could do. Firstly, they would need to locate and identify the flyer. If they felt that a harassment offence had been committed, they could instruct the flyer to land the drone. However, there was no power of seizure and, indeed, no power to even view the footage unless there was suspected terrorist activity—unlikely in this case. The woman had to be content with an apology and a promise that an officer would definitely come and visit her. In fact, a detective called a few days later, but not specifically because of her case. By then, the big country house had been burgled, and thousands of pounds of silver, porcelain and artwork had been stolen.
About the Author
Jude Tresswell lives in south-east England but was born and raised in the north, and that’s where her heart is. She is ace, and has been married to the same man for many years. She feels that she understands compromise. She supports Liverpool FC, listens to a lot of blues music and loves to write dialogue.