Writing a novel is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you different. It’s especially hard when you have a daytime job, a wife, kids, dogs, a house to work on, grass to mow, lawnmowers to fix, and so on makes finding time to write a constant battle. But, writing is also fun. It’s rewarding, and once the project is completed the feeling of accomplishment is one of great pleasure. Writing a novel takes a considerable amount of commitment to keep the world you build alive and the people living in that world moving around. The great part about having great characters is they pester the hell out of you because they want what they say or do written down. They have conversations, desires, dreams, and somehow get themselves into situations all the while thumping on the inside of your skull demanding attention. But, once you’re done with them, and fulfill their narcissistic needs of being recognized the author is left with the tale to share.
Currently I have a short story available on Amazon titled “Frank Winston.” Think “Grumpy Old Men” meets an Elmore Leonard novel.
I also have a short story in the same fictional universe as “Frank Winston” which has yet to be titled I plan on publishing on Kindle to make my pile of needles in a huge stack of needles that is Kindle E-books a little bit bigger.
In addition to short stories I have a novel titled “The Price of Favors.” I’ve sent out queries, and considered my options to self publish or continue looking for an agent. I do enjoy the creative freedom indie publishing offers, but the validation of being published is also a goal. Yet as time passes, the temptations to self publish keeps popping up in my mind. I’ve even considered uploading the novel a chapter at a time serializing the story on a weekly basis.
With that in mind I thought I’d release the first chapter of the novel to share, and hopefully get a little feedback.
Here is a little blurb to give the readers an idea of what it’s about:
After a five-year absence Desmond Reid returns home to the news of three dead bodies discovered on the roof Mickey Russo’s business. Reviving his role as secret enforcer for Mickey’s network of “organized business,” Desmond uncovers the dwindling state of Mickey’s empire, as well as a web of deceit and corruption focused on moving in on Mickey’s domain.
Desmond now faces the hardship of balancing the scales of the dying organization with the stark revelation that so called good deeds from the past result in negative outcomes linking back to the death of his mother years ago. As Desmond integrates back into his hometown, the opportunity of revenge for his mother presents itself in addition to retribution for the three murdered men.
In a final confrontation Desmond must decide his fate in returning home by righting the wrongs done to Mickey, or healing himself through revenge.
THE PRICE OF FAVORS
Police lights flashed as the three bodies were zipped up in the coroner’s body bags. The police, paramedics, and firemen discussed how to effectively remove the dead men off the roof of Mickey’s Saloon. The decision was made to strap each of the men to wooden planks normally used by paramedics to secure crash victims to minimize any further trauma to spinal chords from any movement. Strapping the dead men to the boards made it easier to hand them down the affixed metal ladder on the back side of the building.
Most people in the town of Monroe could not remember a time when Mickey’s was not in business with countless generations of college kids who entered his establishment on a nightly basis. A payday loan and tattoo parlor nestled on either side of the bar. Young Frat boys and cute Sorority girls made up most of the bar’s staff. No one was ever employed more than 5 years whether they earned a degree or not, and no one ever complained about working at the bar. Mickey Russo, the owner of the bar and the building, was always fair to his employees and tenants. Certain neighboring businesses came and went over the years. The longest standing was the tattoo parlor, even though it had gone through several name changes and owners. Mickey’s place was one of the few establishments that allowed the occasional underage drinker (18 to 20 year olds) through the door to imbibe on the local spirits. A reputation younger college kids took advantage of on a regular basis. And for the most part, local police did not harass Mickey’s Saloon with surprise visits administering age checks of the patrons. Any night where the police did show up to do an ID raid Mickey, or one of his employees would turn away any underage clientele earlier in the night asking them to return after a certain time.
Such conduct made Mickey into a legend, of sorts. Some said he was in the mafia, others said he had a brother on the police force who alerted him when they got suspicious of anything taking place at the bar. Other people said he paid off the police, which in this small town in Louisiana was not an unheard practice. Most drinking establishments in the area “donated” money to local police force organizations to avoid having a cop sitting outside of the bar’s parking lot, pulling over everyone who exited to give breathalyzer tests, and ruining anyone’s good time. A certain officer picked up the donations a half an hour after closing time on or around the first of the month. Even Mickey’s employees were unsure what made Mickey Russo so lucky. He seemed exempt from a world of hassles other pubs in the area had to contend with, including donations.
“Morning Mickey,” said an officer as he entered the Saloon with a younger officer following him inside. Mickey sat behind the bar, sipping on freshly made coffee.
“Morning Tom,” he replied. “I see they have you up early today.”
“Yeah, fucking shift work,” replied Tom, an aging police officer a few years younger than Mickey. “Just a few more months and I’ll be able to come and work for you.” The two men chuckled.
“How’s everything down at the farm,” asked the younger policeman.
“Not bad,” said Mickey, “I put seeds in the ground and stuff starts growing.” It was a common reply when asked about his other business. When Mickey was younger, no one clearly knows when, he and his brother Tom, inherited their father’s farm. Just about as long as there has been Mickey’s Saloon there has been a Russo’s Farm. A stretch of land located on the outskirts of the northern side of town there is a pumpkin patch, corn maze, and Christmas tree farm. Most of the local schools made regular field trips to the farm depending on the season. There were tours, pumpkin picking, and small simple games available for the children who came. The employees were the same kind of young frat boys, and cute sorority girls you would normally find working at his bar. “Are you the one who found them?”
“Yes sir,” said the younger officer. During the early hours of the day, after the bars in town had closed but before other businesses were open, the young patrolman was driving past when he heard gunshots. “I pulled over and got out of the car trying to figure out where the shots came from when the last shot rang out. There was this sick gurgling noise that came right after.”
“Jesus,” said Mickey.
“So I called it in,” said the patrolman, “and made a quick run around the building.”
“By yourself?” said Mickey.
“You should have waited for backup,” said Tom. “Fucking rookie mistake like that can cost a cop his life.”
“Yes sir,” said the officer. “But, I didn’t find anything, didn’t hear anything after that. When the others got here was when we checked the roof. That’s where we found them, the three guys. All of them shot in the head and chest and tied up. They had their hands tied behind their back and tied up to their feet so they had to kneel down. They even had ropes around their necks connected to ropes on their hands and feet. Must have been a bunch of sick bastards who did this.”
“That’s enough of that,” said Tom. “Besides, you shouldn’t be talking about the case with civilians.”
“Sorry Tom,” said the younger officer, “I just thought Mickey here…”
“I said that’s enough,” Tom said, “and it’s Mr. Russo to you. Go on and do what you need to do outside.”
“Sure thing,” said the younger policeman. He nodded to Mickey and went back outside.
“Can I get a cup of that coffee? I didn’t see you out there,” said the aging patrolman as he motioned toward the door. “Reckon I have to ask you the same questions.”
“No you don’t,” said Mickey, taking a sip from his morning brew as he poured an additional cup. “ I was the first one here. I don’t know who them boys are, but I would like to know what the hell they were doing on my roof.”
“Who locked up last night?” said Tom
“Me and Steve, you know him, the dipshit from the college,” Mickey said. Mickey handed the cup to his brother. “We locked up around 2:45 or 3 o’clock. I went home, he went his way.”
“Anyone call Steve?” said Tom.
“Nah,” said Mickey between sips. “He wouldn’t know anything, but I’ll tell him to give you a call once I see him.”
“What’s he do here?” said Tom.
“He’s something like the head bartender,” Mickey said. “You know how them frat boys are, not too smart, fuck all night, sleep all day.”
“Kind of sounds like you,” chuckled Tom.
“Why do you think I hire them morons,” said Mickey. “I’m planting seeds for future business men like myself.”
“You know,” said Tom, he paused trying to form the words that seemed to worry him. “It’s almost like something The Kid would have done at one time, with these guys you have on the roof.”
“It’s not him,” said Mickey. “He’s out of it. He does the odd job from time to time, but this isn’t him. He doesn’t even live here anymore. You know that, but I see where you’re going with this. He may not have done this, but he could help find out who did.”
“That’s a scary thought,” said Tom. “That, and this coffee, Jesus Christ what’s in this shit?”
“Ah,” said the old bar owner. “Tastes better when you put some Jameson in it.”
“Is there any in this?” said Tom.
“No, not with you being on duty,” said Mickey.
“Fuck that, give me a shot, and some Baileys too. God knows it needs all the help it can get.”
The three men from the roof were later identified, autopsied, and laid to rest. From what the police were able to piece together, other than the location of their death, not much was found in common with the three men. Kevin Halloway was a construction worker for a local company and generally thought of as a decent citizen. Originally from Utica, Mississippi, he moved here when he began college and never left once he dropped out. Jesse Townsend was a used car salesmen and a local, meaning he grew up in the area. Hank Fisher was another local who worked as an installer for a security company located near downtown Monroe. All men varied in age and none of them seemed to know the other. As the police struggled to find any information about the men, connections between them, and motive for their deaths, the town buzzed with rumor and gossip.
Even though the three men’s toxicology reports from their autopsy came back clean the general consensus was that this murder had something to do with illegal drugs. Being that this event took place atop Mickey’s bar was, according to the opinions of the local police, an unlucky event for the local businessman. All the while spreading more chatter of Mickey’s involvement in mafia type activities, especially among the college kids. A swift investigation into Mickey’s professional, and personal, life proved irrelevant with the case and business for Russo Farms and Mickey’s Saloon continued with a sudden popularity, particularly at the bar. With the increase in customers due to the recent happenings in the news, Mickey hired a few more Frat boys as bouncers to maintain the peace. About the time the police were looking into Mickey a few of the college kids showed up at the bar wearing home made graphic t-shirts with the word’s “Mickey’s Gang” emblazoned on the front and back. They were quickly brought to the owner’s office where they remained detained with Mickey for half an hour. When they exited the office the three college kids were ashen faced, each wearing a new t-shirt with the bar’s logo on the back. By the end of the week, and Mickey’s name cleared, the story of the college kids had made its rounds distorting the story on almost each retelling.