Mary Keliikoa is the author of award-winning Hidden Pieces and Deadly Tides in the Misty Pines mystery series, the award nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series, and the upcoming Don’t Ask, Don’t Follow out June 2024. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and in the Peace, Love and Crime anthology.
A Pacific NW native, she admits to being that person who gets excited when called for jury duty. When not in Washington, you can find Mary with her toes in the sand on a Hawaiian beach. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun, she’s plotting her next murder—a novel that is. www.marykeliikoa.com
There’s an adage that would-be writers often hear when working on their first pieces: write what you know. In fact, in the beginning, and even now, it was advice that I heard quite often. And I don’t disagree. There is wisdom to that. Among other things, when one is so busy making things up, as we fiction writers do, it’s nice to lean into some solid information that we have personal knowledge about. It saves on research, for sure. But let’s face it—one’s knowledge base can only go so far. And I believe that in addition to what you know, writing what you want to learn about, understand, or what fascinates you can add richness to a story.
When I wrote the first book in the Misty Pines mystery series, HIDDEN PIECES, I decided to set the series in a place I was familiar with. That’s why I chose the Oregon coast, where my parents moved our family when I was a toddler.
While I don’t remember much about those early years, by the time I reached the age of five, many things about the coast stuck: the mist and the cool weather that never seemed to end, and that saturated our clothes was near the top. But also the moss laden trees in the towering forests. The hum of the ocean waves reverberating in the air. The sheer rock cliffs and violent eddies at their base. The call of the seagulls overhead, the bark of sea lions on the rocks, and the brackish smell of seaweed.
I also knew the people that chose that area as home. The family-like atmosphere where everyone knows your business. That the worry lines on the face of a fisherman’s wife don’t soften until he’s safely back across the bar. That fish and chips, and beer are necessary fare when gathering to tell tall fish tales at the local gathering hole.
I know the intriguing items that wash up along the ocean beaches, which was an absolute treat for the treasure hunter in me. From glass fishing floats and sand dollars to various creatures in the tidal pools, I could spend hours running along the ocean shores.
Setting I knew. But I also wanted to explore what I wanted to understand. In the Misty Pines series, that is grief—and the desperate need for redemption. In Hidden Pieces, I focused on a true crime that happened in my hometown where two girls went out walking and a car stopped. One girl never made it home. Using that as a backdrop, I explored how an individual might cope with a tragedy like that in their life…or perhaps not cope so well.
In DEADLY TIDES, the second book in the series out now, I went in another direction. I was interested in a phenomenon that has occurred with some regularity in the Pacific Northwest: severed feet washing ashore. Crazy enough, that has been happening for over the past decade. As to who the feet belong to, sadly, many have been victims of accidents, and some due to suicide. However, I write mystery with a dose of suspense, so of course, I chose a more nefarious cause.
Which brings me back to why those feet washed ashore—and understanding what might drive someone to such a gruesome act. And that led me back to that element of grief and how it might change a person.
Sometimes, it takes them to the edge, questioning their own existence. Sometimes, it has them acting out in a way they would not otherwise. Sometimes, grief morphs into bitterness and erodes an individual’s very core.
I explore this in the Misty Pines series through my main characters because it is a subject that I am familiar with…but want to understand. And here’s what I’ve learned.
Grief is a pesky neighbor that shows up at one’s window unannounced and knocks insidiously until it’s let in. There’s always the option to hide—close the window shade and pretend not to be home. But at some point, you have to come out. And grief, like that neighbor, will be waiting. Sometimes, it’s best to just let them in because they aren’t going anywhere—and one might as well learn to live peaceably next door to it because the alternative could be dire…at least that’s the direction I take in my novels. Like those feet, which thankfully I never ran across, severed or otherwise, when out beachcombing as a kid.
Now that I have a better understanding of grief… I’m on the lookout for the next thing to understand that fascinates me and that I can weave into my next story. I have a feeling it won’t be a problem!
AUTHOR WEBSITE: www.marykeliikoa.com
Bob Martin served the NYPD for 32 years in a wide variety of commands. These include the fabled Tactical Patrol Force (TPF), the Street Crime Unit, the Mounted Unit, the 72nd, 69th, and 6th Precincts, Queens and Bronx Detectives, and finally, the Commanding Officer of the Special Investigations Division. Martin was a charter member and played with the NYPD’s Finest Football Team for a dozen years. He served for twelve years on the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) “Committee on Terrorism” and traveled extensively, in this country and abroad, speaking on the subject. He retired as a Deputy Inspector in 2000 and began writing. In 2004, he led a law enforcement mission to Israel. His stories have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. Bronx Justice, based on an actual case, his first novel, came out in 2016. His second book, the non-fiction 9/11 Remembered-Twenty Years Later, was published in June 2021.
In doing publicity for the 9/11 book, I was often asked about my motivation for writing both books. My answer was very simple-Bronx Justice was a book I wanted to write. 9/11 Remembered was a book I had to write. I retired in 2000 and was not involved in the response on that horrific day, but many of my NYPD friends were. Hearing the incredible stories of those that survived and the tales of those who made the ultimate sacrifice that day were awe-inspiring. Their bravery and willingness to sacrifice their own lives to try and save others filled me with tremendous sorrow and pride to have been a member of that department for 32 years. To see how these heroes were treated twenty years later, the violence and abuse heaped on these men and women on the streets of New York was sickening. I knew I had to get the stories of so many incredible first responders, true heroes, out for the public to learn.
Then Lieutenant, now Chief Terri Tobin, standing at the foot of the South Tower as it comes down. She was blown out of her shoes and hurled sixty feet across West Street, trapped in the debris. Her bullet-resistant Kevlar helmet was penetrated by a four-inch piece of concrete now embedded in her skull. She digs herself out and assists in getting a firefighter out from under an ambulance. When the North Tower falls, again she is hurled across West Street, this time with a two-foot piece of plate glass stuck between her shoulder blades. She continues to assist others until she’s finally transported to a New Jersey hospital, where she is treated for a severe concussion and broken ankle. Eighty stitches close her head and back wounds. And she wants to return to the Trade Center. That this incredible woman, if working the Summer of 2000 street unrest, could be ridiculed, cursed, and have objects thrown at her in the name of Justice, is unbelievable. There are many more stories similar to Chief Tobin’s.
The most challenging part of my writing process is (bonus points if you guessed)-Writing. My first book Bronx Justice took almost sixteen years to complete. For months on end, the manuscript sat in a drawer, unseen by human eyes, until I was blessed to meet a six-time NY Times best-selling author named Vincent Lardo. Vince got me into a writing group he was in, and for the first time, I had “Deadlines.” “Bob, you will read to the group next Thursday, send twelve new pages to the group by Monday. Under that pressure, the book was finished in two years.
9/11 Remembered came with its own deadline. I decided to write it in January 2021. It had to be completed well before the 20th anniversary of the attacks that September. The fact that I had decided that all proceeds from the book would be going to a 9/11 charity (The 3256 Foundation set up to honor NYPD Emergency Service Unit Sergeant and USMC Desert Storm veteran Mike Curtin who was killed on 9/11)
About – 3256 Foundation
https://www.3256-foundation.org › about
made getting it out as early as possible a must. It came out in June 2021.
So, in my case, deadlines make me sit down and write. That’s the reason I like writing for newspapers. I can see something in the paper that I feel needs commenting on, knock out a piece in about one hour, submit it, and generally get a yea or nay within twenty-four hours.
One tip I learned is-do not procrastinate in writing the piece and sending it in. I had seen a story that I wished to comment on, usually in the form of an Op-Ed, and debated about doing it for a day. When I submitted it, I got a reply from the editor along the lines of, “If I had seen this yesterday, it would have been in today’s edition. Unfortunately for you, we covered that story today.” So now, as soon as I get the idea, I write and submit the piece. I’ve been lucky enough to place stories in New York Newsday, the New York Post, and the Daily News.
My favorite authors are the usual suspects in the mystery/crime genre- Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, and in my humble opinion, the all-time master of dialogue, the late, great Elmore Leonard. His advice to aspiring writers to “leave out the parts people don’t read” is priceless.
I also love two authors who take their crime stories out West. Craig Johnson’s Longmire and C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series have a special appeal to me. Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire and Box’s Game Warden Joe Pickett are both set in Wyoming. As a member of the NYPD, I always knew that if the “shit hit the fan” and I needed help on the streets of New York, the cavalry would be riding to my rescue minutes after I put a call over the air. For Longmire and Pickett, it’s more likely hours in the wilds of Wyoming.
My advice to aspiring writers-get writing and get into a good writing group.
Links to my books
Award-winning author Kathleen Donnelly has been a handler for Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines—a Colorado-based narcotics K-9 company—since 2005. Her debut novel, Chasing Justice, won a Best Book Award from the American Book Fest and was a 2023 Silver Falchion finalist in the Suspense category and Readers’ Choice Award. She lives near the Colorado foothills with her husband and four-legged coworkers. Sign up for Kathleen’s newsletter to receive her free short story eBook collection, Working Tails.
Hello friends, and thank you, George, for having me as a guest today on your fabulous blog. This is my second visit here, and I’m excited about the release of Hunting The Truth, Book #2 in the National Forest K-9 series. Here’s a little more about my writing background and process.
Hunting The Truth Quick Summary: “Hide, Maya. Don’t let the bad people find you.” Those are the last words Forest Service law enforcement officer and K-9 handler Maya Thompson ever heard her mother say. Returning to the Colorado mountains, ex-soldier Maya is no longer a scared little girl. She’s here to investigate her mother’s cold case. After new DNA evidence surfaces, Maya and her K-9 partner, Juniper, track a suspect deep into the forest and directly into grave danger…
What brought you to writing? I have always loved reading and writing stories. My parents believed in reading to both my brother and me when we were kids. Listening to the stories was my favorite part of the day, and it wasn’t long before I was reading as many books as I could. I would often complain to my mom that I didn’t like how a book ended or I didn’t like something that happened in the story. She would tell me to write my own story and come up with a different ending or create a new character. I was also one of those kids who would wake up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. I would wake up my parents and tell them I was bored.
Looking back, my poor parents! I’m sure they never thought they’d get any sleep. My mom once again told me to lie in bed and make up stories. So, I did. Over time, I started to write them down. The dream of being a mystery writer came when I first read Mary Higgins Clark in high school. Here was a female author who wrote stories I couldn’t put down. I wanted to do the same thing.
I didn’t start writing fiction until I was an adult. I wrote my first full novel when I was about 30. I was hooked, and I haven’t stopped writing since. I now have three books written in the National Forest K-9 series. The first two are published, and the third book, Killer Secrets, will be out on March 26, 2024. I have many more ideas for more books in the National Forest K-9 series and a new series as well.
Do you have any advice for new writers? I would tell new writers to stay true to themselves. What I mean by that is write what you love. Write what is you. Don’t worry about trends or if someone tells you something isn’t going to work. Learn your craft, but stay true to yourself.
Go to conferences to network, take classes from other authors, and study the business if you want to publish. I would encourage new writers to learn about different paths to publication. There’s no right or wrong way.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My books are set in a fictional national forest, and most mountain towns are fictional. I did include the real town of Fort Collins, CO, in Hunting The Truth. My decisions were based on two of my favorite authors—Craig Johnson and William Kent Krueger. Before I started writing the National Forest K-9 series, I was lucky enough to ask both about their decision regarding fictional versus real locations. They both had similar answers.
When you have a fictional town and forest, you don’t have to worry about landmarks, rivers, lakes, etc. being in an exact location. You have more fictional liberty. But adding a real town can give the reader a sense of location if they look up the city on a map.
From there, I created the fictional Pino Grande National Forest and envisioned it in the area of the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests. In Hunting The Truth, I have Maya drive from the fictional town of Pinecone Junction to the real town of Fort Collins. I grew up in the Fort Collins area, so it was fun to include that location in my book.
What kind of research do you do? I love doing research and learning more about the jobs and settings I portray in the National Forest K-9 series. My research has included taking the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office citizens academy, talking to other K-9 handlers and trainers, and riding with a mountain deputy. I was also lucky enough to connect with a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer and K-9 handler. His knowledge has been invaluable, and I really appreciate how willing he is to answer questions.
About ten years ago, a new neighbor moved in next door to us, and I found out he was a retired Chief of Police. I asked him if I could ask some questions, and he was open to answering anything I wanted to know. His knowledge has been helpful.
A recent law enforcement expert I’ve connected with is Patrick O’Donnell, who has the Cops and Writers podcast. His Facebook group and Patrick himself have been fantastic with sharing law enforcement knowledge.
For my mountain setting, I’ve learned a ton about the mountains, which was my goal as I wanted the setting to be a character in my novels. My dad worked for the Forest Service as a researcher and is deeply knowledgeable about the forests in our area. I feel fortunate to have so many great resources so that I can make my book as realistic as possible.
How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? I’ve taken classes from best-selling author Grant Blackwood. He was the one who really helped me figure this out. Grant called, raising the stakes, “dialing up.” Basically, this is asking ourselves, how can we make things worse for our characters? This includes both the protagonist and antagonist, and if you can play those character motivations off each other and make it personal, even better.
For example, in Hunting The Truth, Maya solves the murders of a friend, her mother, and her grandmother. In real life, that’s (hopefully) never going to happen. This was my way of “dialing up” the story and making it personal for Maya, giving her even more motivation.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m excited to have Hunting The Truth out now and a third book in the National Forest K-9 series, Killer Secrets, coming out in March 2024. I also have some new series ideas that will include K-9s and my other passion—horses.
Newsletter Sign-up: https://kathleendonnelly.com/#newsletter
Where to Purchase Hunting The Truth
Halito (hello), fellow authors! I appreciate George having me on his blog today. I’m Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, a Choctaw author and digital course creator. My signature course, Fiction Writing: American Indians, equips authors to write authentic stories that honor Native American history and culture. I also teach a live Dictation Bootcamp for Authors that takes you through the process of mastering dictation through easy exercises that lead you to become the master of your fictional worlds.
As a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, I’ve written and published 16 historical fiction books. I’m highlighting pieces of my writing life in the hope you find them helpful on your journey.
Do you write in more than one genre? Historical fiction is my primary (and favorite) genre to read and to write. Something about digging into the past gives me a deeper connection to the present. That is especially true of my American Indian heritage. My books range from the Choctaw Trail of Tears in the 1830s to the Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I. I love a good old-fashioned western, which I get to share through my Doc Beck Westerns series set in the 1890s, featuring an Omaha Indian woman doctor. I write clean stories with close family relationships, fistfights and gunfights, and accurate cultural heritage.
What brought you to writing? When I was five years old, I had a story I wanted to share about being kind. But I was horribly shy and knew the only way to share my message was through writing it. My mama has saved that story to this day, and she continues to be my greatest fan and encourager. In my early twenties, I released a lot of the chaos in my life, wiped the slate clean, and handed the chalk over to God. He brought writing back into my life and let me know I was born to tell stories.
What are you currently working on? I released Fire and Ink, book 5 in the Choctaw Tribune series, in August and am outlining the final book in that series. There are 3 more books to go in the Doc Beck Westerns that are also underway. I have my first traditionally published nonfiction book coming out this fall, a biography on a WWI hero who was Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Cherokee — Otis W. Leader: The Ideal American Doughboy (Chickasaw Press).
How do you come up with character names? Authenticity is a significant component of my work. One of my methods for naming my American Indian characters is diving into historical records. Census, tribal rolls, and recorded stories are great sources for me to find authentic names for the people and times I’m writing about. Do you base any of your characters on real people? Absolutely. My novella, Tushpa’s Story, was based on a young boy who had a dramatic experience crossing the Trail of Tears in 1834.
Though the main character is fictional, the characters in Anumpa Warrior: Choctaw Code Talkers of World War I are the real men who were the code talkers and their commanding officers. I had the honor of interviewing descendants who knew these men and shared personal aspects that lent so much to the story. There are many historical figures sprinkled throughout my stories.
What kind of research do you do? I didn’t start off as a good researcher. I was scattered, but I knew research was vital because of the roles my work plays in the world. These books let readers experience authentic First American history and culture in an entertaining story. Through that, my stories are ambassadors. They are also a way to preserve this heritage for generations to come. My research has taken me down the backroads of Oklahoma and our homelands in Mississippi; deep into the secure vaults of the National Archives in Washington, DC; reading through stacks of nonfiction books and online archives; the WWI battlefields and cemeteries of France; sitting quietly and listening to elders.
Today, I love research and the treasures I discover of my ancestors that I get to share with readers.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m terribly excited to get started on an action-adventure series set in the 1970s that stars a Choctaw artist who has to fight the bad guys and retrieve priceless historical American Indian art pieces. In between my own books, I’m actively teaching authors how to create authentic stories that honor Native American history and culture. I’m also gearing up for my live Dictation Bootcamp for Authors in October. Nearly 100 authors joined me in April of this year to master the skill of dictating their stories. It was a rousing success, and I can’t wait for the one this fall.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? The faith of my ancestors continues to inspire my writing life. They walked the trail for me, and I’m so grateful to share their extraordinary lives through my real and fictional characters so that you, the reader, can go on the journey with us.
Find out more about my books (and my mama’s art) over at ChoctawSpirit.com
Interested in the Fiction Writing American Indians digital course? Find it here: https://www.fictioncourses.com/americanindians
Want to join the live Dictation Bootcamp for Authors in October? That’s here: https://www.fictioncourses.com/dictationbootcamp
Carl grew up in Cleveland in a religious family that believed that God could heal all illnesses. No wonder he escaped to California. He attended Stanford University and discovered a whole new world. Carl graduated in economics and then studied music at San Jose State. His parents were not thrilled with the music. They were relieved when he became a banker. That career enabled him to live and work in Latin America, Canada, and North Africa. He’s put his foot in his mouth in Spanish, French, and Portuguese. He also became a dual U.S. and Canadian citizen. His debut thriller, MURDERABILIA, won Left Coast Crime and San Diego Book awards. SAVING EVAN is his second novel and was published in August 2023.
Nonprofit work also inspires him. He is the president of Partners in Crime, The San Diego chapter of the Sisters in Crime organization of authors and fans of crime writing. Additionally, he works with San Diego Social Venture Partners, an organization that mentors other nonprofits.
Carl lives with his wife in San Diego. His two grown sons are close by, and wonder how he knows so much about serial killers and banking crimes.
Saving Myles – When the FBI can’t help free his son from kidnappers, an unassuming banker takes matters into his own hands. He joins a bank owned by a drug cartel and negotiates. Wade gets his son back. But now he needs to save his family.
What brought you to writing? As a young child, I read and wrote stories. That continued through high school, where I added writing poetry and music. But in college, I felt I needed a career and majored in economics. No fiction writing at all. That and international study in Colombia launched me into a career in banking. I got to work in some exotic places—Montreal, Colombia, Venezuela, and North Africa. I was in Algeria 3 months after the Iraq invasion. But while I was a banker, I kept wanting to do something more creative. So I started back on what I’d loved as a kid—writing fiction. I did it in secret and told no one at work until I published my first book. When we moved from Montreal to San Diego, a whole writing community and support system opened up for me. Writers conferences, page submissions to editors and agents, critique groups, writing coaches, and groups of writers like Sisters in Crime. That led to my first published book, Murderabilia. During this long apprenticeship, I learned that not only did my books take place in the financial industry, but they involved families. My motto became: Behind every crime is a family.
Tell us about your writing process: I extensively outline a book before the writing begins. There are corkboards and index cards in my office. I also use Plottr. The outlining applies to characters too. I define their physical characteristics, their backgrounds, their tragedies, motivations, and weaknesses. I hate doing this, but it helps me get off the ground. Then I became a pantser, and the outline continually changes as I write.
My first draft is by hand on a legal pad. I scratch out a scene as fast as possible, often just dialogue. A sense of relief comes when I reach 5 or 6 pages because that means I have something. The best feeling is when the characters move ahead of me, and I can’t write fast enough to keep up. Sometimes the scene doesn’t begin until after the first page, but that doesn’t matter. Within 24 hours, I type it into the computer. That’s when I start removing unnecessary exposition or flatness. I also fill in setting, senses, and stage direction.
How long did it take you to write your first book? A long time. The book took more than ten years and was never published. Murderabilia was the next book. That also took several years—more than 20 revisions. But I got better. However, the last revisions made the book worse, and I had to go back to an earlier version. I have to continually guard against not over-revising.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Portraying a woman and her voice is difficult. One of the POVs in Saving Myles is a mother who has sacrificed her younger years and much of her career to help her son through his troubles. The workaholic father has been absent. After they have sent their son to a treatment center, she separates from him and sets about rediscovering herself. That includes having an affair. I really needed to understand her and get inside her psyche to make her sympathetic.
What kind of research do you do?
I had to research the wife in my book and why a woman like her would have an affair. I also had to research a teenager. How do they talk, and how do they view the world? I tried to get into the mind of a boy fascinated by girls, determined to go his own way, resentful of his parents for sending him to a treatment center, and wanting to be closer to them. The idealism of a teenager is wonderful.
The book contains lots of insider information about kidnapping, money laundering, and settings in Tijuana. A number of people helped me—the author Kimberly Howe, two FBI agents, and two DEA agents. I also I enrolled in courses at Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS), an international organization dedicated to fighting financial crime. In Mexico, I talked to a man who had been kidnapped and got his perspective on a terrible ordeal.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I based my settings as much as I could on actual places. In San Diego, I tried to find the right details that would evoke a visual and emotional response in the reader. To get them right for Mexico, some of my friends at the Y took me around to locations in Tijuana to pick out where scenes could occur.
Do you have any advice for new writers? The two most important qualities for a beginning writer are patience and tenacity. Patience comes first. Most of us submit our work far before it’s ready. Taking writing courses and joining a critique group helped make the manuscript better. The downside of critique groups is that they can only see a few pages at a time and may miss where the pace or character growth is falling short. Or how the middle got boring. That’s why a beginning writer needs to submit their work to a development editor.
That brings me to the second quality—tenacity. Critique groups, agents, acquisition editors, and reviewers will highlight all the weaknesses. The writer has the hard test of figuring out what makes sense and what doesn’t and then revising. My rule is if two people find the same thing wrong, I should revise it. Many people can write a book. But only a few have the tenacity to bring it to the level where it can be published. You aren’t born a writer; you must become one.
How do our readers contact you? I have a website and a newsletter you can sign up for there. I’m also active on Facebook and Instagram. I enjoy talking to people. Here are the contacts:
Facebook: Carl Vonderau
Instagram: Carl Vonderau
Groups I belong to
President of Partners in Crime, the San Diego chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Part of Social Venture Partners, a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to helping other nonprofits rise to the next level.
The first book in the Hector Miguel Navarro Series, New Liberty, is available from many sources. I’m taking this opportunity to share a teaser and Chapter 1.
Outside Phoenix, two gangs rule…
…and one police officer is caught in the middle.
How will he stop them?
Hector’s parents, wealthy east coast college professors, raised him to work towards making the world a better place. In New Liberty, Arizona, gangs have ravaged the city. As a young police officer who lost his mentor, he struggles with the question.
Why did his partner kill himself?
Across town, a small sickly-looking man approaching fifty is about to make a move. DeShawn “The Knife” Galloway has a reputation as a contract assassin who prefers to kill with the Japanese Tanto. And It’s time to take control.
The war will start on his terms.
In a world of human trafficking, drugs, and violence, two people’s lives are about to be intertwined in a way where only one can survive.
But this story isn’t all black and white.
This dark urban crime novel will grab you as it reveals far more than just greed and power. This one will keep you turning the pages.
A Hector Miguel Navarro Novel
And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and
Hades followed him. And they were given authority . . . to kill with sword
and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. Rev. 6:8
They were alive moments ago.
“I told you to use the GPS. Why’d you buy a Lexus if you aren’t going to use the gadgets?” The old woman chides her even older husband.
“The map program takes too long. Besides, the boy’s graduation isn’t until tomorrow.”
“I know, but we’re not even in Phoenix. We should have been there an hour ago. Admit it. We’re lost.”
“Okay. I’ll pull over and set the GPS. Will that make you happy?” The man was tired from the long drive. Even breaking the drive into two days from Oakland to the Arizona city was more than he should have undertaken at seventy. His wife had suggested they spend a few days in Los Angeles, maybe even visit Disneyland, but the old man had insisted. She had been right. I should have skipped poker with the boys this time.
“Now we’re lost, exhausted, and you finally agree with me. That doesn’t help much.” She was younger by a decade and had offered to help with the driving. The old man was always stubborn and refused to give up the wheel. “This neighborhood looks pretty sketchy. I don’t think we should stop here?”
“We’ll be fine. Besides, there’s no one around.”
A minute later, absorbed in entering the address in the GPS, it’s difficult for the old man with his arthritic hands and new trifocals. Hearing a banging on his side window, and without thinking, he hits the down switch.
“Hey, old brother, whatcha doing?” Standing next to the car door is a skinny kid, fifteen or sixteen. It’s hard to see his face. He’s wearing a dark hoodie with the front cinched down. His hands are jammed deep into the pockets.
“I’m checking my map. We’ll be going.”
“I don’t think so,” the kid says as his right hand appears. He’s holding a small pistol, barely visible in his large hand.
“He’s got a gun,” screams the woman.
“That’s right, Bro. You and the sister get out and walk away.”
The man may be in his seventies, but he’s not about to let a teenage punk rob him. Reaching to put the car in gear, he says, “No.”
The old man doesn’t hear the shot or feel the twenty-five-caliber bullet that passes through his skull and into his brain. The small lead slug comes to rest against the right side of his skull, ending his life. His wife screams as another teenager opens the passenger door and drags her out of the car. Drawing her head back exposes her neck. She sees the Ka-Bar. The blade, dull and heavy, is meant for work, not slicing throats. As the boy saws her neck open, cutting the carotid arteries, blood gurgles until she is dead.
“Don’t get blood on the seat,”
“That’s why I pulled her out. What about the old dude?”
“He didn’t bleed much.”
* * *
Now that they have killed the old couple, they aren’t sure whether to run or take the Lexus. Their problem worsens when three men emerge from Ernesto’s Pool Hall.
“What’re you doing?” demands Jerome. “Geronimo” Dixon. The easily recognized president of the 4-Aces. Even at fifty, he is an imposing figure towering over the men behind him. The man stands six feet five and carries three-hundred pounds—no fat—packed on a muscular frame.
The frightened shooter’s answer is a whisper, almost apologetic. “We jacked them for the Lexus. The old man gave us shit. We had to off him and the old lady.”
“Who the hell gave you permission to jack a car in 4-Aces territory?”
“No one, we didn’t. . .”
“Shut up and gimme the piece. What else you got?”
The boy hands over the small pistol and the other gives up the K-Bar, “All we got.”
Geronimo turns to one of the men standing behind him. “Get DeShawn.”
Within minutes, DeShawn “The Knife” Galloway is at his side—Geronimo motions for the young killers to stand behind the Lexus. Out of earshot, he hands their weapons to Galloway. “This’s going to bring a load of shit our way. Make the idiots disappear.”
“Forever.” The tone of Geronimo’s voice leaves no doubt.
“The old couple?”
“I ought to. If they weren’t innocent civilians, I would.” Geronimo lets out a sigh. “Leave them.
“Don’t nobody touch da bodies, nothing. No DNA to tie the Aces to this shit.”
Galloway calls the other men over and tells the first, “You drive. We gotta clean this up.” To the second, “Put the fools in my Escalade. You ride with me.”
Showing false bravado, the shooter speaks up. “Why?” Stepping close to Galloway, he looks down at the much older and shorter man and repeats, “Why?” adding, “I ain’t no fool, old man.”
Galloway raises his head and gazes into the face of the shooter. His expression is as lifeless as his eyes. The shooter does his best to maintain a defiant pose and succeeds for perhaps three seconds. His body begins to shake. The shivers betray the boy’s fear; without another word, he walks to the Escalade and death.
Here’s the link to the trailer created by Lisa Towles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvrdESP4jTI