With "BRETT ENTERS THE SQUARE CIRCLE" (Brett Cornell Mystery #5) soon to become available, I thought I'd give prospective readers a sort of extended preview, in the form of one complete chapter from the novel itself.
I've deliberately chosen a chapter that deals primarily with what might be considered the secondary plot, so as to avoid "spoilers" having to do with the main plot, which involves the actual investigation for which Brett's services are engaged.
So, here I give you, in its entirety, Chapter 6 of "BRETT ENTERS THE SQUARE CIRCLE" --
Chapter 6 – “BRETT’S BEING STALKED”
With Melanie having rushed off into the wide blue yonder to lead a group of chaste young girls down the road to perdition, and with my sexual appetite having been quenched for, maybe, about the next hour or so, I sat around the office only fifteen minutes before figuring that I’d might as well fill the old food tank and, by the time that delightfully necessary task was completed, maybe Melanie would be back shortly to initiate Round Two of what had always been my favorite pastime ever since the day, way-back-when, when I traded in my baseball cards for a pack of Trojans, then chucked the Trojans out the window after I realized that it was simply an inconvenience and that me and the babe I was about to nail didn’t have the slightest desire to be bothered with such boring and time-consuming nonsense.
Mind you, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of eating at Glenda’s Grinders, mostly on account of the waitresses that worked there had to be at least forty years old which, in turn, meant that they weren’t even worth looking at, let alone flirting with or – cherish the thought! – fantasizing over. But, like I said, it was only a short distance away, so Glenda’s was “it” –
Then I wound up being even less thrilled than ever, when as soon as I stepped inside the loud and smoke-filled joint, a booming voice rang out from where a round dining table was located over by one of the two windows that allowed the dimmed sunlight to enter the room.
“Well, if it ain’t the unscrupulous bastard himself!” the booming voice gruffly announced. “I thought I recognized that awful stench as soon as you walked in here!”
“And if it ain’t ‘Big Bull’ O’Rourke,” I came right back with,” the muscle-bound freak who thinks he’s clever without even realizing he keeps wearing out the same old lines over and over again.”
“Say what?” the moron responded, and even though all he was doing was showing everybody how ignorant and clueless he was, the three cop-buddies he was sitting at the same table with all laughed it up, obviously considering him to be the closest thing to Bill Crosby the police force had to offer, only in a different size and color.
Anyways, despite my better judgment, I actually found myself being drawn to their table, especially when O’Rourke rose to his feet, offered me a great big smile, and said to me,
“Sit down and have a drink and a smoke and a chat with some of the big boys for a change. C’mon, man. You know you wanna – right, guys?” Then he directed his next remarks to his three buddies even though he continued to go on with more and more of his usual tiresome crap regarding Yours Truly. “Cornell’s feeling so sad and lonely these days, he’s actually all signed up to participate in the next big boxing tournament down at the Civic Center. You guys see the list yet?”
“Sure did,” one of his pals replied, and he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a folded paper, unfolded it, and revealed the rather small, Xeroxed copy of a poster with a crude drawing of two boxers facing each other with raised fists and – written quite clearly in big block letters, diagonally across all the other wording: “Main event – Gil Bailey vs. Brett Cornell.” And as the cop held out that paper so all the other guys he was sitting with could easily make out what the foolish thing said, O’Rourke laughed even louder and harder than before and beamed his big obnoxious smile over at me.
“There you go, man,” he sneered at me, having a grand old time doing it, too, I might add. “Too late to back out of it now, loser.”
But, when all was said and done, O’Rourke didn’t make a move to hit me, and his friends stayed put in their chairs, and my reputation remained just as untarnished and intact as ever – but it didn’t stop the big redhead from bursting out into loud laughter all over again as he relaxed the tension that had momentarily gripped his entire body, and he turned to look down at his pals and said, between guffaws,
“That’s what I like about this guy: No matter how bad the cards are stacked against him, he’s always gotta start talking his shit – like sayin’ I’m a-scared of Bailey when everyone knows Cornell’s the one who should be shaking in his boots ‘cause he’s gonna catch the beating of his life – and we’re all gonna be there to see it, too.”
“Face it, Cornell,” another one of O’Rourke’s buddies took it upon himself to pipe up and tell me,” you’re gonna get beat, and you’re gonna get beat real bad, too.”
“Bailey’s gonna knock you down to size, man,” said the third loser who was still seated. “I’m glad I’m not fighting him, that’s for sure.”
“Yeah, I believe it,” I grunted, squinting at them through narrowed eyes as I stared at them all collectively through the thick smoke that came mostly from the cigar O’Rourke was smoking just then. “Between all four of you, I don’t think you got enough balls to fill a single thimble.”
Once again, the laughter stopped, and I savored the moment, taking advantage of it by casting a baleful look upon the whole bunch of them, and then their redheaded ringleader lifted his chin at me and said in a low, menacing tone of voice,
“You see what I did to Lomax the other night, man? The way I busted his face? I’ll do the same to you, man. I’ll bust your ugly face wide open, man, and beat you down into the ground before Bailey even has a chance to do it himself. You can bet on it, man.”
“Let me ask you something, O’Rourke,” I then said to him with a wide grin on my puss. “Does, like, someone give you a quarter every time you use the word ‘man’ – or does acting and smelling like a big dumb pile of rat feces just come natural to you?”
Again, the temperature inside the room seemed to rise, and you might say that the temperature inside the little space O’Rourke and I were standing in just then positively sky-rocketed.
At any rate, I recall how everybody got real quiet all over again, and that included not only O’Rourke’s three mentally challenged companions, but everyone in the whole damned eating establishment as well. But neither of the two of us made a move for several moments, mainly due to the fact that, if such a thing did happen, we both knew that it would mark the beginning of probably the biggest and most violent brawl that had ever erupted inside of Glenda’s Grinders, and most other joints in the vicinity, too, as far as I could tell.
Then – with me and O’Rourke both thinking and acting and feeling as if we were the only two people in the whole universe – a hand seemed to come from out of nowhere and placed itself upon my forearm, and in the next instant, I actually felt myself being pulled a few steps backwards and away from where O’Rourke stood facing me.
“Don’t do it, Brett,” the voice of Sergeant Joe Raff said into my right, partially deformed ear. “Don’t lower yourself to his level. He isn’t worth it.”
I heard those words without comprehending their meaning one hundred per cent, since my mind was totally taken up with the idea of smashing Sean O’Rourke completely out of existence – but two or three seconds later, becoming aware that an unwelcome hand had taken hold of my forearm once again, and a relatively unfamiliar voice was sounding in my ear in such close quarters, almost by instinct, I shook myself loose, raised both my hands in front of me, and twisted my body away, catching sight of Sergeant Raff out of the corner of my eye as I did so.
“You guys are freaking me out,” I declared, without really understanding why I said what I said. “You can all go to hell for all I care – the whole damned bunch of you.”
I don’t remember what was said or what noises were made after that, neither can I recall at this moment whether anybody laughed or anybody cried or anybody even let loose with a big loud belch right after I got through saying my piece. The next thing I do remember was that I was outside on the sidewalk with the snow already starting to fall, feeling chilled to the bone and walking back towards my office with the idea of having lunch at Glenda’s Grinders – or any place else, for that matter – completely out of my mind, when Raff’s stupid voice reached my ears from somewhere behind me, saying,” Brett, hold up a minute,” and I realized that that weirdo was now about to start stalking me, for Pete’s sake!
“Brett, we need to talk,” he said, and then he paused a moment, probably figuring that I had a wise remark up my sleeve that I wanted to make, but I faked him out and kept my mouth shut, and he continued,” It’s official. You’re fighting Gil Bailey in that upcoming tournament, and like I told you a few weeks ago, I’m willing to be there, every step of the way, to assist you. I know you think you don’t need my help, and you probably resent the very idea of me offering it in the first place – But I can tell you this: Starting today – starting this very afternoon – you need to start training. You need to start training hard, Brett. You’ve got to be in the best shape you can possibly be in when you step into that ring and fight that animal. You’ve got to work on your speed, work on your timing, work on how you can get the most power into every punch you throw – Hell, son, there’s a whole long list of things you’ve got to do before you step into the ring and go up against a guy like that. I’m only telling you all this because –“ and he took in a deep breath, and his eyes almost started to water, albeit quite briefly, but then he let the air out of his lungs and continued,” I’m telling you all this because, as things stand right now, you step into that ring? You’re going to get beat.”
I looked at him just then, and was mighty tempted to tell him to hop on the next train to Nowhere, I was so damned sick of listening to his stupid advice already; and as it turned out, he’d just gotten started.
Then the guy paused one more time, not so much because he was out of breath or because he needed to take a leak real, real bad – To tell the truth, I really don’t know exactly why he paused just then after giving me his big, pathetic, imaginary prediction of what he visualized as being the events of the bout I was gonna have against that stupid skinhead cop on the Birchwood Police force.
And so, I did what all of us self-respecting unscrupulous bastards always do: I stubbornly stood my ground, and to prove it, I sent another glob of spit once again onto the sidewalk in front of me, told him Fuck You tonelessly and without any feeling whatsoever – and headed back to my office building and, eventually, to Melanie Foster’s hot and luscious mouth which would be there for my instant and intense gratification in the hours ahead, as promised.
Thanks for reading this selection, but even though it was (understandably) all taken out of context, I hope that you were able to derive some enjoyment out of doing so.
I hope a good number of you decide to read the entire book, when it becomes available to the general reading public.
Ciao for now!