Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kindle Book Preview: Average Joe and the Extraordinaires

The P.I.

The silence was broken along with Joe’s current train of thought as two voices came closer.  They seemed to be getting louder and angrier as they approached.

“Remember that favor you said that I had.”

“Yeah, but you’re not gonna call that in now.  This is hot stuff!  Big time terrorism, and this boy has something to do with it.”

“This boy has nothing to do with anything.  He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Now that they were right by the doorway, their voices became hushed, but Joe could still make out what they were saying.

“Whatever the case, this guy is my prisoner, and my detectives will interrogate him and get his statement.”

“Listen Carl, I don’t want no damn statement.  I just want five minutes with this kid to see if he ran into one of my colleagues in there.”

Carl: “That’s why I brought you here.  I didn’t walk you down here for my health.”

There was a bit of silence.

“I’ll be honest, Carl.  Some of what we’ll be talking about you shouldn’t be hearing.”

Carl: “What’s the point in us even arresting this kid then?”

"You can ask him anything you want, I just want to get him off the record."

The one named Carl let out a huge sigh.

Carl: “Hank, if you do anything to mess up this case, I’m gonna deck you.  Your big ugly gray mug is gonna go spinning into orbit.”

Hank: “Five minutes, Carl, that’s all.”

Carl: “You got your five minutes. Use ‘em wisely.  And he better be in usable condition once you’re done with him.”

There was silence followed by footsteps, then more silence.  The wooden door creaked open and in entered one of the talking men.  Joe guessed this one to be Hank, who, to Joe, looked very old and tired.  The man’s clothes matched his hair, gray and unkempt.  He bore down on Joe with his grayish green eyes and Joe struggled to meet his gaze briefly and resigned to stare at the floor.  Joe’s brief glimpse showed him that the man wasn’t too tall.  The way his shoulders set and all of the frown lines on his forehead gave Joe the distinct impression that this Hank was not a patient man.

Joe dared to look up at the man again; his grandpa wouldn't approve of him looking away.  The man’s gaze was fiercely trained on Joe, and Joe began to fidget and squirm in his chair.  He tried to sit as still as he possibly could, barely managing to breathe in the process.  Joe let out all the air as slowly as he could.  As the man approached, Joe tried to offer a bit of awkward stilted conversation.

Joe: “Hello, sir.  How can I help you, sir?”

Hank: “By dropping the crappy pleasantries, this ain’t the prom, kid.  You’re wasting both of our time.  Now, you can answer my questions like a good little boy.”

Joe’s stomach twisted and turned.  He didn’t know what this man wanted or even if he had the answers that he was looking for.  It had just dawned on him how much trouble he was in.  He was a terrorist — to the rest of the town at least — and would be tried as such.  They’ll probably give me to a firing squad for treason or something, he thought.

The old guy loudly snapped his fingers.

Hank: “Pay attention, Joe Shmoe!  I don’t have a lot of time.”

Joe looked the man in the eyes and nodded.

Joe: “Yessir.”

The old guy pulled a chair from outside the room and sat. He studied Joe for a moment and found his opening.

Hank: “What happened in that stadium, kid?”

Joe didn’t know where to start.

Joe: “Well … um … me and my friends wanted to see the Pickers, and Mod—”

Hank: “Enough foreplay, kid.  Start from the explosion.  You were there for that, right?”

Joe: “Yessir.  It happened during the second quarter.  I was watching the game when it happened.”

Hank: “What happened to your friends?”

Joe: “I don’t know.  I didn’t see them after.”

Hank: “But they were sitting right next to you, right?  How did they get out but not you?  What the hell were you doing in there that whole time?”

Joe froze.  He didn’t know what to say.  Most of what he did earlier was probably very illegal.  The old guy was sharp as a tack.  He was quick to notice Joe’s hesitation.

Hank: “What the hell were you doing in there, kid!  Talk!”

Joe pushed his chair back and spelled it out for Hank.

Joe: “N-no.  I want a l-l-lawyer.”

Joe tried his best to sound a lot bigger than he actually was or felt.  Hank had risen out of his chair so fast and with such fury that he looked like a man half his age.  Joe sprung backwards and out of his seat as he tried to scramble away.  There was venom in the old man’s glare.  He screamed at Joe.

Hank: “Do I look like a damned cop?”

After that his voice lowered to a subdued growl, but his demeanor was no less intense.

Hank: “I wasn’t born yesterday, Joe.  I do know that you were somehow a part of the night’s activities.  You wouldn’t have come out of the building nearly a whole hour later if you weren’t.  Why were you so scared of those security guards at the stadium?  You ran from them like you were running for your life, and the way that you tackled that last one to get outside … you weren’t just scared of getting into trouble or getting a little roughed up.  If that were the case you wouldn’t have so willingly surrendered yourself to the boys in blue.”

Joe stared at the floor and gave a soft shrug.  He honestly didn’t know if he should answer that.

Hank: “Why’d you give up once you made it outside?  If you wanted to get away so bad, why didn’t you try to keep running once you made it out?  What about those guards inside frightened you so much?”

Joe looked at Hank for a while before he decided that he was better off not talking.  He wasn’t sure if it was a bit of savvy that he’d picked up from all those cop shows he watched, or fear that stayed his tongue.

Hank took a moment to reassess the situation and let out a sigh.  He wasn’t dealing with the hardened criminals that he was accustomed to dealing with.  He was dealing with a young teenager.  He needed to change his approach.

Hank: “Listen, kid — Joe.  Anything you say to me now won’t be used against you or those you care about.  I just want answers.  I lost someone in that stadium and I just want to know if you saw them.  Now, can you level with me, kid, we don’t have much time.”

Joe: “Who — who are you?”

Hank: “My name is Borland, Hank Borland.  You’re a kid, so use my last name.”

Joe: “Are you a—”

Hank: “I'm not a cop, but I used to be one a long time ago.  Right now I’m looking for a woman named Dahlila.  Did you see her in that stadium?  About yay high and tougher than Kevlar.”

Joe’s heart and stomach jumped at the name.  He was sure that everything that happened under that stadium had just been an alcohol-induced dream. He was sure he’d never see nor hear of or from Dahlila.  Now Borland was tossing that name out like he knew the woman.

Joe: “Blonde hair?”

Borland: “Where did you see her?”

Joe paused.  He didn’t want to put Dahlila in any danger, and he remembered how he found her, all tied up in the underground part of that stadium.  Who put her there?  Joe’s face must’ve given away his thoughts, because Borland pursued the subject more aggressively.

Borland: “Listen, kid, Dahlila is important to me.  Please!  Tell me where she is.”

Joe: “How is she important to you?  Answer that for her sake.”

Borland pulled out an old and worn-out wallet, and in it sat an old and worn-out photo.  Borland took out the photo and showed it to Joe. 

Borland: “That little girl there is Dahlila when she was younger.  I helped raise her.  She’s as precious as my own daughter.  I need to know where she is.  Please, tell me where she is!”

Borland pleaded his case, not only with his words but with his eyes as well.

Joe had sympathy for the man, and felt he could trust him.  He told Borland about everything except the shape-shifting, because he hardly believed it himself.  Borland was ready at the end of his tale with questions.

Borland: “Do you know where the girls were headed?”

Joe: “I don’t.  We were separated.”

Borland: “I see.  What about the little girl’s name?  Do you remember it?”

Joe: “Her name was Melissa.”

There was a flash of recognition in Borland’s eyes and he whispered, “That’s good,” so low that Joe could barely hear him.