I haven't put up any new posts in a while, as I've been working on "DON'T MESS WITH BRETT" which is currently the title of Brett Cornell Mystery #9.
There have, so far, been two key scenes that I've worked on a good deal over the course of the past week or so. (It didn't help that my computer "crashed" in the middle of all of it.)
In any case, I thought I'd share the first paragraphs of one of those pivotal scenes in the life of the world's supreme unscrupulous bastard, a.k.a Brett Cornell (for those of you who are new to this series).
In this scene, Brett goes out, looking to start a fight with young Wes Lomax of the Birchwood Police Department, but instead, he runs into his old nemesis Sean "Big Bull" O'Rourke, another cop on the force and one who has recently been promoted to the rank of sergeant.
In the interests of withholding the particulars of the actual fight that takes place between Brett and Sergeant O'Rourke, I've decided (for now, anyway) to print below the sequence of events that lead up to the fight itself. Those readers who have invested any amount of time in any of the other novels in the series would probably be willing to wait till the entire novel is ready for publication (soon, I hope) and not be unduly annoyed over not being able to read the whole chapter just yet.
Here, then, are the introductory paragraphs leading up to Brett's physical encounter with "The Big Bull" himself:
So, the way it finally turned out was, later that night, I strode into what was generally recognized as being the local cops’ bar -- Debbie’s Place -- with a single aim: to shut that big mouth that belonged to Wes Lomax and to teach him a lesson he’d never forget. Well, hey, I guess that’s two aims, not one, but who’s counting, right? Sure, I knew he was basically nothing but a wise punk, but he went around acting like a real big man all the livelong day, and in my book, any guy that decided to go behind my back and talk shit about me had better make sure he had the guts to meet me man-to-man and say it to my face; and the way I saw it, Lomax had deliberately put himself in the position where he was just begging to have his stupid boyish-looking face get better acquainted with my fist.But then, as I strode inside the smoky, dimly lit interior of the cops’ favorite hangout, I ended up being confronted with a far bigger fish in the sea than Wes Lomax, that’s for sure.
“Well, if it ain’t the unscrupulous bastard himself!” a loud, booming voice rose up, and at the same time, the guy that that obnoxious voice belonged to rose up from the chair he’d been sitting in. “I thought I recognized that awful stench as soon as you walked in here!”
There was plenty of laughter on the part of the eight or ten buddies of his who were either sitting or standing around the area where the table Sean “Big Bull” O’Rourke had been sitting at was located, just before his damned nose told him that Yours Truly was in smelling distance of him. They were all, as far as I could tell from the first cursory glance I gave them, colleagues of his on the Birchwood police force, and I couldn’t stomach a single one of them, either with or without their big redheaded ringleader on hand. So, it was a cinch for me to basically ignore their stupid snickers and half-assed comments that were being passed as I made my steady approach to where they’d all congregated.
“Lomax? – Lomax who?” the guy said, and then he immediately half-turned so as to arouse a few more chuckles and snide remarks from his crew of ass-kissers. Finally, when he and his pals had indulged themselves in a few moments of smug pleasure, seemingly at my expense, I tilted my chin slightly in the direction of a door near the back of the place – a door that happened to be closed at the moment, meaning that one of our city’s finest was busy on the other side of that door, tagging one or two of several sleazy babes who regularly populated Debbie’s Place. Immediately, the idea popped into my head that there was a good chance that Lomax was getting his whistle wet back there, and (naturally) he didn’t wanna be disturbed.
“He in there?” I asked curtly, and almost instinctively everyone seemed to know what I was getting at, and one of O’Rourke’s pals took the initiative by telling me that inside that room and, no doubt, having a super-hot time of it was none other than Gil Bailey – the skinhead cop who’d told me he’d been getting it on with my girl, among all those other crimes against humanity he’d perpetrated that involved the peace of mind of Yours Truly.
But I had no time to dwell on the past just then, as O’Rourke faced me once again and said,
” Why you asking me all this, Cornell? Do I look like Lomax’s daddy or something?”
“To be honest with you, man, I’d say you look more like his mommy. I swear, you’ve been bench-pressing so much weight at the gym lately, you’re starting to get tits, man – In fact, you look something like my Aunt Sophia. Are you sure you ain’t really my Aunt Sophia, dressed up like a fat blimp cop?”
To give credit where credit is due, the Big Bull didn’t exactly lose his cool just then, but he did need to take a couple of moments to lick his top lip, and then his bottom lip, with his tongue, before saying to me,
“I happen to be in a fairly good mood tonight, since I just got promoted to Sergeant – but still, you better think twice before you keep going in the direction you’re headed. I know you’re tough, Cornell – a lot tougher than most of these guys will admit – but you don’t wanna push me, man – not unless you’re man enough to face me in the ring, one-on-one.” And then, with a big smile, he stepped back just far enough so that he could include a few more of his pals in his line of vision, and continued,” As a matter of fact, there’s another fund-raiser coming up next month – cops against firefighters once again – and I think you and me as the main attraction in the boxing tournament would be just the thing to sell lots and lots of tickets.”
I took in that information without budging an inch from where I stood and without letting my grin sag the tiniest bit, and I remained perfectly still, too, even when Fred Cassidy, who was one of his pals (a kind of mini-O’Rourke but with a mouth almost as big) raised his voice above the sudden racket all the other guys were making, and exclaimed,
“Well, if this don’t make my day, guys! Cornell and the Big Bull, facing each other in the boxing arena!”
Yeah, I let him have his two seconds of self-importance as everybody shifted their attention from me and O’Rourke over to him, and he faced me directly and continued,
“Maybe you’ll do better against the Big Bull than you did against Gil Bailey a few months ago – Remember that afternoon, Cornell? – The afternoon Gil Bailey pounded the living crap out of you, and there wasn’t a damned thing you could do about –“
That was as far as I let him get.
In a flash, I leaned forward and clocked the guy, my fist landing in his face, full-center, and that big-mouth bastard went straight to the floor and didn’t move a muscle after that.
To say that several moments of stunned silence draped the whole place we were standing in just then would be like saying that the South Pole is only moderately warm. (Or is it the North Pole that’s the hot one?) Anyway, it suddenly became my turn to enjoy my own “two seconds of self-importance” after which time my totally shocked audience slowly slipped out of freeze-mode, and several guys rushed over to help stupid Hoppy-Long Cassidy to a seat. At the same time, a few other guys merely stepped back, either intentionally or unintentionally enlarging the space that O’Rourke and I occupied. Then another one of the redhead’s cohorts piped up with:
“You gonna let him get away with that? I mean – Jeez! He just decked Cassidy, man!”
“I know, Stupid! I got eyes I can see with!” O’Rourke blurted out, his voice suddenly sounding oddly high-pitched – something I’d never heard before, coming from a big tough guy like him. Then he licked his lips all over again, and his eyes darted back and forth between me and his cluster of friends before finally coming to rest on Yours Truly.
For my own part, I felt tensed-up to the max, but in typical unscrupulous-bastard style, I acted as cool and nonchalant as I possibly could – I needed to, just then, more than ever! – and I casually placed a Marlboro between my lips, struck a match, and held it to the end of my cigarette in such a way that I didn’t really have O’Rourke in my direct line of vision. And, surprisingly enough, my hand was a lot steadier than it had been several hours ago, right after Ginger had left my office.
“That wasn’t too smart, man,” the big redheaded cop was saying, and his voice had resumed its former husky tone when he began speaking to me again. “By cold-cocking my man Cassidy just now, you’ve given me an even bigger reason to knock you senseless once I get you inside that ring next month!”
I was on a roll, you see – and frankly, I was astonished by a few things that had just happened or, in at least one case, that had NOT just happened, number 1 being that I’d knocked out Cassidy with such ease, number 2 being that all those macho bystanders had merely backed off without making any attempt to retaliate against me on their friend’s behalf, and number 3 being that the Big Bull himself hadn’t clobbered me – yet!
And so, being on that roll, I simply chuckled a little bit between puffs on my cigarette, looked the man straight in the eye, and came out with it:“Why wait till next month, Fat Stuff? Let’s step outside and settle this right now.”
“Whoa!” about three or four other guys exclaimed, all at once, followed by individual voices saying things like,” You gonna take that from him, Big Bull?” “He’s just asking for it now, man!” and “Don’t let him get away with that shit.”
Rubbing the knuckles of my right fist into the palm of my left hand, I stood in one spot, chuckling away, and took a couple more puffs on my cigarette before lifting my chin in O’Rourke’s direction and telling him,
“Well, c’mon, man. Let’s go – unless you wanna just stand there like a big dope and watch me punch out a few more of these hotshot friends of yours.”
And that moment, I guess you could say, marked the official prelude to the “big match” that was about to take place between me and Sean “Big Bull” O’Rourke – a match that seemed to have been pre-destined from the very first moment, about two years ago, when the two of us had laid eyes on each other, had silently sized each other up, and had made a mental note of the fact that it was only a matter of time before one of us went down in total defeat and the other one turned himself into the proverbial old clock of the walk. (That don’t sound right, for some reason!)
Yeah, O’Rourke was big and strong, he had to be at least twenty-five pounds heavier than me, and he could bench-press more weight than anybody I knew. Plus, he’d won so many boxing matches in so many past fundraising events that he was almost universally acknowledged as the undisputed boxing champion of the whole Birchwood Police Department.
Or was he really? Most of his wins had been first-round knockouts, and on other occasions (as far as I knew) his opponent would be too scared or too tired to continue fighting much beyond that first round. In other words, he was a power-puncher, but could he go more than one or two rounds without losing his strength or stamina or both?
I was convinced more than ever of the validity of that line of reasoning, as I stood there and saw a few beads of sweat gathering on the Big Bull’s forehead as he faced me in that silent but still smoke-filled barroom, and I also took note of the fact that he suddenly didn’t appear to be too anxious to step outside and fight me.
At the same time, while I was mulling those thoughts around inside that phenomenal brain of mine, O’Rourke actually started coming out with some nonsense about how he’d never really had a beef with me, and how, on more than one occasion, he’d reached out to me and tried to buddy up with me (as if!), only I wasn’t having none of that lousy horseshit, of course.
“Yeah, that’s why you sucker-punched me that night last summer in that dark parking lot, just so you and your buddy Ralph Haynes could whoop me – And that’s why you put that big fat butt of yours on top of me a short while after that and made sure I stayed put while your pal Bailey bit my right earlobe off. How ‘bout that, huh?” The guy started to squeak out a few pathetic words by way of either apology or justification, so I immediately plowed right on ahead and reminded him about the time he nailed me a good shot right in front of Debbie’s Place – the place we were in right now – and then how he practically knocked me out with another sucker-punch as soon as I stepped out of the inner office of that hot nightclub on South Main Street, Tamara’s.
“Not to mention,” I continued,” all the times I put up with your stinking attitude and listened to the crap that continually spewed out of that cesspool of yours that you call a mouth – And your faggot-friends here, too! If I’d known they didn’t have a single ounce of balls, either individually or collectively, I would’ve taken care of business with you guys a long time ago.”
Once again, the Big Bull began belly-aching and even went so far as to assert that, with his recent promotion on the force, he suddenly felt obligated to behave himself with an unaccustomed amount of decorum and maturity whenever he was out in public, even while off-duty; and when he got through saying all that to me, I came mighty close to spitting in his face, man.
But instead, I repeated my demand that he step outside with me, and O’Rourke then realized, along with his whole collection of gutless sidekicks, that the dice had been cast, the gauntlet had been thrown (whatever the hell a gauntlet is, don’t ask me!), and the sheep were in the meadow, the corn was on the cob, and – What the hell! You all get what I’m trying to say here, right?
One thing was for sure, though. My adrenaline had taken full control over my brain, and I was operating on that alone when I walked outside and, a few minutes later, stood opposite the Big Bull, and with all those other cops gathered around to watch, we both raised our fists and, seconds later, crossed that line known as No-Turning-Back.
Oops! That was a lot longer than I'd estimated -- but if you've read this far, many thanks & hopefully you'll be interested in reading the whole book when it becomes available this fall!