Better late than never. Lol I thought, now that #Winter is almost ready for final editing, that I’d give you a quick peek into Shadow of the Drill. This is a section of chapter one, and will introduce you to Decker in yet another shameless attempt to draw you into his world. I hope you enjoy it.
SHADOW OF THE DRILL
Donny hit the tavern’s faded facade, rebounding off and landing on the ground with a squeal of protest. “I didn’t do it, Decker! I swear on my mother’s grave, I didn’t do it!” He rubbed his nose with one shaking hand, smearing mixed blood and snot over his face. I’m gonna die! Oh god, I’m gonna die!
Struggling to a sitting position with his back against the wall, he began to speak rapidly in his own defense. “Deck, please . . . ya gotta believe me! I’ve done a lot of stupid shit in my day, but I wouldn’t be dumb enough to fuck ya over! I swear to God, I wouldn’t -”
His words ended in mid-sentence as the man in front of him took him by the throat and lifted him easily to his feet. He tried to pull away, but the fingers were a vise, and he only succeeded in cutting off his own air.
Don’t kill me! Don’t fuckin’ kill me! The thought was loud in his mind, but even as the words formed, he knew that it was useless to think them. If Decker wanted him dead, then dead he would be. The big man was not known for a forgiving nature.
At six feet and five inches, Decker towered over Donny’s slight five-nine frame while his exceptionally broad shoulders and massive arms spoke clearly of the immense strength that lurked beneath his skin. His oversized hand wrapped easily around his captive’s neck, constricting with carefully applied pressure. Donny’s face began to turn red from lack of oxygen, and he tried again to twist free, but he was unable to break the stronger man’s hold. If anything, the grip on his throat tightened.
I can’t breathe! Help me, Jesus – I can’t breathe! His fuzzing brain formed his thoughts with increasing difficulty, and he shook his head vigorously, but it did not help. Talkin’s no good – gotta run! His feet shuffled against the sidewalk as his fingers clawed at the hand that squeezed off his air with steadily increasing pressure. Gotta . . . run . . .
Decker adjusted his hold when Donny’s struggles slowed, being careful not to exert too much force. A slight smile rested on his lips as he allowed himself a brief moment of amusement at the expense of his prey.
It was not until Donny’s eyes rolled back in his head and his body went limp that Decker loosened his hold, letting the disheveled man slump forward. Donny’s body tilted as he fell, but Decker caught him easily, making a casual check for a pulse as he did.
Satisfied that one still remained, he carried Donny to the curb and tossed him carelessly into the back seat of the high-performance Dodge Charger that he kept for work. He normally transported his prisoners in the trunk but, in spite of everything, he liked Donny and wanted him to travel a bit more comfortably.
As he key-locked Donny’s door, he took a quick check of the people in the surrounding area, breathing a soft sigh of relief when he found no cause for concern. Nobody’s payin’ more attention than they should. I love it when it’s this easy.
There was a fair amount of traffic moving on the downtown strip, but the people in the cars stared straight ahead as they passed the assorted hookers, dealers, junkies, and johns who wandered up and down the sidewalk in search of action on a Friday night.
As for the street denizens who loitered outside of the peep shows and low-rent hotels – they knew better than to get involved. The powerful enforcer known as the Drill had a well-deserved reputation for viciousness, which caused them to keep their eyes averted and their noses out of his business.
The only exceptions were two young girls who were clearly out of their element on the gritty downtown streets. They chatted loudly as they sashayed toward him, their youthful beauty hidden beneath too much eye shadow and the wrong shade of lipstick. It was obvious that they were trying to look older than they actually were, but their push-up bras and provocative clothing would bring them nothing but trouble if they stayed too long on the strip.
The taller of the two nudged her brunette friend, pointing at Decker while peals of girlish laughter filled the night air.
Cheerleaders, he thought with a mental groan. Lord save us from the terminally perky!
The girls were still giggling as they approached. Almost in unison, they slowed their steps – all the better to see and be seen. So far, the night had given them little by way of excitement,. but something about the tall stranger with the deliciously broad shoulders promised the kind of R-rated thrills that they had been looking for and they were not about to let the opportunity pass them by.
“We’re lost,” the shorter girl said as they drew abreast. “Can you tell us how to get to the marina?”
Decker leaned back against the side of the car, blocking the window even though nothing inside could be seen through the heavily tinted glass. Long legs crossed at the ankles, his body was deceptively relaxed while a disarming grin lifted the corners of his mouth.
The grin had the desired effect on the girls, as he had known that it would, for he was an expert at knowing exactly which expression was best suited to any given situation. And though he cared very little about the good looks that he had been given, he was not above using them to his advantage when it would best serve his purpose. The flash of a smile or the wink of an eye could often achieve the desired result with very little exertion on his part, especially when it came to charming the various women who crossed his path.
Ruggedly handsome, Decker had inherited his coloring and thick shock of wavy black hair from his Italian father. His impressive height and chiseled features had come from his Norwegian mother’s side of the family, and she had also given him his most striking attribute: brilliant blue eyes of an unusual shade and intensity that glittered beneath his brows like soulless orbs of the purest ice.
It was those eyes that coolly appraised the pair as he gave them the unneeded directions in a courteous but disinterested manner. He had no time for young girls seeking adventure, and he needed to move them along before Donny awoke and caused an annoying scene.
It was the tall redhead who first tore her gaze away from the hard magnificence of his body and the rough beauty of his face to look into the frigid pools of his eyes. Decker gazed back with silent menace, his message clearly readable though his lips continued to smile.
“We have to go.” The girl interrupted her friend in mid-sentence, gripping her wrist and tugging firmly. “We have curfew.”
Her words were followed by an awkward silence, and then the short brunette was gone, skipping down the sidewalk after her friend who had yet to let go of her wrist.
Decker chuckled as a few bits of high-pitched conversation floated back to him, the excited chattering telling him that the redhead had clearly seen past his apparent friendliness to the darkness that flowed beneath. Whether or not she understood what she had seen was immaterial. She knew enough to be afraid, and that was all that really mattered. The strip was routinely unsafe for tourists, and the girls might strut their way into real trouble if they delayed their departure for too long.
Better they run from me then from someone who might be harder to get away from. He knew that he would forever be known as the “creepy-ass bad guy” that they had so narrowly escaped from, but he accepted the title willingly. A little fear was a good thing, and it just might get the pair back to suburbia with their knockoff bags and their cherry-red virginity intact.
The two figures hung a right at the corner, and Decker fished his keys from his pocket while placing the faces of the girls into the corner of his mind reserved for useless tidbits and casual passersby. Then, keys in hand, he walked to the driver’s side and unlocked the door, folding his long body gracefully behind the wheel.
The car started easily, the high-performance engine purring like a contented kitten. The transmission slipped smoothly into first gear, and Decker pulled into traffic with a quick look at the rearview mirror to see how his passenger was doing. But if Donny was awake he gave no sign, and Decker did not bother to ask.
Donny had regained consciousness, and he realized that his only hope was to escape while in transit. Once they reached their destination he was dead meat, and his casual friendship with Decker would not alter that fact in the least.
He had to admit that it was his own fault. He had gambled stupidly, and now the time had come to pay the piper. But, unlike others that he had cheated during the course of his scheming life, this particular piper could crack a man’s skull between his palms without breaking a sweat.
Mouth dry, pulse pounding, Donny reached cautiously for the door handle. When he touched it, however, a gentle voice came from the front of the car.
“It won’t open. But you knew that.”
Donny threw his head back against the seat behind him with a grimace. He had known that the rear doors could only be unlocked or opened from the outside, just as he knew that the car’s body had been reinforced and that the tinted windows were made of bullet-resistant glass that could only be lowered by the driver. All of Decker’s “work” vehicles had been modified to provide maximum safety while eliminating options for anyone unlucky enough to be a passenger in the back. Still, even though he knew that there was no way out, he had to try.
Rolling onto his back, he powered the soles of his feet against the window to his right three times in rapid succession. On the third strike, he felt something in his ankle give, and he cried out, more from dismay than from hurt.
As he tried to rub the soreness from his foot, he felt tears of frustration welling, and he fought to control them. But the tears that he managed to prevent were present in his voice as he tried again to save his own life. “Deck, I didn’t do it! I wouldn’t fuck ya over! I don’t wanna die! For the love of God, please don’t kill me!”
Decker watched in the mirror as Donny babbled on, his ice-blue eyes revealing nothing.
“I did everything like ya told me – everything! I picked up the bag, then I took it to the bus station and put it in the locker like ya said. Then I took the key to the Box.”
Decker switched on the blinker and pulled into the turn lane, his fingertips tapping against the steering wheel. Donny looked through the window, his voice rising as he realized where they were going. “I took it to the Box, just like ya told me. And the guy was there – the one I was ’sposed to look for. He was at the bar, like ya said, and he saw me come in.” Eyes wide, breath rasping in harsh gasps, Donny’s words came even faster as Decker’s destination neared.
“He saw me come in and he waved to me. I went over and he asked if I wanted a beer. I said yeah, sure I wanted a beer, and then we talked until the bartender left. Then he said he wanted the key, so I gave it to him, and he left. Honest, Deck – that’s what happened! I did it just like ya said. I didn’t do nothin’ wrong!”
Decker sighed, pulling the car to the side of the road and putting the transmission into park. Then he looked into the rearview and waited in silence until Donny’s eyes focused\ on his. “You might want to give some serious thought to changing that story.” He spoke in a completely neutral tone, letting his words make his point without added volume or inflection. “You know what I am, and you know what I do. Do you really want to experience it firsthand?”
Donny’s response was to proclaim his innocence even louder and more hysterically than before. Decker’s hand tightened on the gearshift as the desire to stab the man where he sat rose, and he held on tightly until the urge had passed. “Okay,” he said with just the slightest touch of regret. “You’ve made your choice. Whatever happens from this point on, you can’t say I didn’t give you a chance.”
The car moved forward again, bringing Donny ever closer to Decker’s private version of hell. As it turned onto a quiet street, where the houses were few and surrounded by double-lot yards, Decker pressed a button on a small box nestled against the visor and the tall gate in front of the property that they were approaching swung slowly inward. He pulled into the driveway while the gate clicked closed behind him and eased past the other cars that were parked near the house before bringing the Charger to a stop.
Donny pressed himself into a corner of the seat when the engine died, his terror visibly increasing. “No . . . no . . . no . . .” He brought his hands to his bruised and bloodied face, covering it in a useless effort to protect himself. “Dear God, no!”
The door to his left opened, and he felt Decker’s strong hands close around his ankle. He squealed loudly, kicking out with his other foot while trying to hold on to the handle on his right.
Decker cursed as Donny’s heel pounded the side of his face and he switched hands, gripping Donny’s ankle with his left hand instead of his right. Unsnapping the sheath fastened to his belt, he slid the knife inside free with a practiced flip of his wrist. The blade had been honed to a razor like edge, cutting through the fabric of Donny’s jeans and into the skin beneath with no trouble at all.
Donny’s squeals became shrieks of blind panic when the pain lanced through his leg. His hands went to the source of the hurt, pressing against his calf and slipping in the blood that quickly covered his skin.
Decker gave one last pull and Donny was out of the car, still shrieking like an adolescent girl who watched a late-night slasher film alone with the lights off. Annoyed by the sound, Decker swung his foot so that the toe of his boot connected squarely with Donny’s throat.
Donny’s screams ended with a squawk, tears flowing freely down his cheeks. He wondered vaguely how badly he was hurt, knowing that it did not really matter. He was going to die, no question about it. The only variable was when.
Decker watched silently, waiting until Donny’s breathing had steadied before speaking softly. “Get your ass off the ground and come with me.” He walked toward the house without waiting for a reply, confident that his captive would follow.
Donny tried to stand, but the hurt in his leg was too great. He fell against the car with a heartbreaking sob, unable to accept his fate with anything that remotely resembled dignity. After a short pause he tried to put weight on the injured leg but he stumbled again, unable to walk. Fuck!
His last thoughts of escape disappeared with the realization that, in his condition, he could not possibly make it over the gate and back to the road before Decker caught up to him. He also knew that what waited for him in the big gray house was bad, but not nearly as bad as it would be if he tried to run.
Resigned to his fate, Donny dropped to all fours and crawled the few feet to the house. Upon reaching the structure, he dragged himself up the short flight of stairs and through the side door to the kitchen.
Decker stood by the stove, chatting with a younger man whose coloring, black hair, and warm brown eyes clearly indicated a Hispanic heritage. Donny recognized the man as Decker’s partner, Rudy Valdez, and knew instantly that he might be in for a very long night. He had seen Rudy in action more than once during his association with Decker, and he knew the man to be a vicious enforcer in his own right. As improbable as it seemed, things might have just gotten worse.
The screen door swung closed behind him, and Decker glanced over with a nod to acknowledge his entrance while laughing at something that Rudy had said. Their camaraderie was obvious, and Donny found himself wishing that he could have somehow been a part of it. I shoulda stayed true, he thought miserably. Maybe things coulda been different.
At the table, a well-groomed man in an expensive suit poured coffee from the pot on the warmer into a handcrafted cup that bore the word Davis beneath a pale golden glaze. It was the kind of thing that a child would make in arts and crafts, and the sight of it caused Donny to sob loudly for the wife and family that he would never have.
Seated next to Davis was a slightly overweight woman with short auburn hair whom Donny had seen with Decker once or twice and who had been introduced to him as simply “Charlene.” He had never spoken to her, but something about her had suggested a gentleness of nature that he hoped might cause her to intervene on his behalf.
She looked over at him as the door closed, her expression one of deepest sympathy. Help me, he begged silently as he lifted his eyes to meet hers. Please . . . help me . . . She looked away, unable to offer any comfort. She was fully aware of the horrors that waited for him, but she also knew that he had brought it on himself and that it was not her place to get involved.
The small group fell silent as Donny inched his way to a corner and huddled his body into it. Rudy glanced at Donny then at the clock. His finely formed brows arched, and Decker waved him grandly toward the door.
“Go back to the club and tend to your girls,” he said mildly. “I got this covered.”
Rudy nodded once, his eyes twinkling merrily as he said his good-byes. Charlene reached for his hand as he passed behind her chair and he bent to give her a hug, wincing slightly as he squeezed her shoulders.
“I saw that,” Decker remarked as his eyes narrowed. “What’s up?”
“I pulled a muscle.” Rudy shrugged one shoulder, indifferent to the situation. “Which happens sometimes ’cuz, unlike you, I’m only human.” He chuckled when Decker muttered a sarcastic remark under his breath, then brushed a soft kiss against the top of Charlene’s head. “I’ll see you guys later. Deck, call if you need me.”
“Game day tomorrow,” Charlene reminded him, her green eyes sparkling. “And you’re on pizza detail, so don’t be late.”
“I won’t,” he assured her as he straightened up. “Did you want breadsticks too?”
“Rudy, those things go straight to my hips!”
“So that’s a yes?” His grin was contagious, and she could not prevent her own.
“Fuck you,” she snapped teasingly, momentarily forgetting the teary-eyed man who bled onto the kitchen floor. “Get a double order.”
“Consider it done,” Rudy said with a grin. He sobered as his eyes passed over the huddled lump that was Donny and then he was gone, his boots clicking as he descended the stairs to the sidewalk.
Decker left the room as soon when the door closed, switching his cell to silent mode as he moved down the hall. He flipped through his keys when he reached the basement door, humming softly to himself as he unlocked it. He did not need to look back to know that Donny was being brought along. His word was law in some circles, and his people were very obedient.
When he switched on the overhead light and descended the stairs, he felt his cell vibrate but chose to let the call go to voice mail. He had other things to do.
The basement was large and fully finished, with the tools of his trade concealed behind the doors of a large oak cabinet. Framed photographs adorned the coffee table and the matching end tables while a richly colored oil painting of a beautiful young woman dominated the wall directly opposite the door so that it was the first thing seen upon entering the room. The floor was not carpeted, but throw rugs added warmth and color as did a crocheted afghan which was draped over the back of a long sofa.
The only thing that seemed out of place was a chair placed in the corner to the left of the door. It was a plain metal chair, one of a set of four that Decker had purchased at a yard sale one sunny July afternoon. He remembered that carefree day, as he did each time that his eyes touched upon the chairs, and he also remembered the girl. After sixteen years he could still hear her carefree laughter and smell the scent of her hair as it blew in the warm summer breeze.
He had not brought the chair downstairs because it held any special significance. It was there because he had needed a chair, and the metal fold-up would do as well as any. But, at the same time, he could not help but wonder if having it there was not some kind of subconscious security blanket. An attempt to keep her close by surrounding himself with the things that she had touched.
Then, as always, he dismissed the notion and set about the business at hand.