Go read it.  Do it now!  It may be a while before you get more, as NaNoWriMo is eating up my time with beginning a new novel.  As always, go find this on Channillo.com.

Here’s the first scene…


Bill drove, picking streets at random, too spooked by Jack’s unresponsive demeanor to stop.  Sohrab had been right—no one gave them a second look when he led Jack to the car like an Alzheimer’s patient.  Bill had only attempted to engage him in conversation once, but it went nowhere.  Jack was huddled close to the door, as far from Bill as he could get in the confines of the car, staring out the window and pulling on his bottom lip.  He’s done that since he was a kid, Bill thought, and always when he’s confused or hurt.

Right now Bill knew Jack was both.

“Is your phone on?” Bill asked.  Sohrab still hadn’t called, and it had been over an hour since they left the motel.

Jack’s only response was to pull the phone from his pocket and slide it over to Bill.  He never turned, or even glanced in Bill’s direction.  He left the phone between them on the seat like the first brick in a wall.  Whether it was to separate him from Bill, or from the whole world, Bill did not know.  He picked it up and verified it was on and working.

“He should have called by now, right?” Bill said.

Nothing.  Not even a nod or a shake of his head.

“C’mon, Jack.  You’ve got to snap out of it.”

Jack turned his head, looking Bill in the eyes, his own dead and empty.  “Leave me the fuck alone,” he said, his voice soft and dangerous.

“Jack—”

“I just lost my best friend in the whole goddamn world, Bill!  Give me a fucking hour to mourn, okay?  Is that too much to ask?”

Bill’s face grew hot, his pulse pounding in his neck.  “I don’t know if you noticed, but that gun was pointed at me, Li’l Bro.”  He used his anger as a shield, protecting him from the hurt of Jack’s indifference.

“I know,” Jack said, softening.  “But I came to terms with your death a long time ago.”

“The fuck does that mean?”

“Ever since you became a cop,” Jack said with a short shrug.

Bill’s eyes grew wide.  “Oh, for Pete’s…”  He laughed; a nasty, angry sound, and rolled his eyes.  “I’m a union man through and through, Jack, but don’t believe all that crap they feed the press about how dangerous this job is.”  He shook his head.  “You know who has a more dangerous job than a cop?”

“The military?” Jack said.

“No,” Bill said.  He leaned across the long seat, his face as close to Jack’s as he could get.  “Practically fucking everyone.”  He laughed again, this time with a little humor.  “Shit, Jack, even goddamn landscapers have it worse.”

“Then why—?”

Protection,” Bill said.  “If people think it’s bad, we con them into protecting us from the bad guys with laws against looking at us crosseyed.  We’re a protected species, Jack, and we’re not even on the fucking endangered list.”  He turned onto another street chosen at random.  “I’m a detective, so I’ve even got it better than most.  We go in after the shooting is over, and if things even look like they might head south, the Red-Shirts—uh, patrolmen—are a phone call away.”

“I always thought your job was dangerous,” Jack said.

“Oh, there’s the potential, but statistically… no.  I bet you’ve been shot at more times than I have,” he finished with a poke in Jack’s chest.  “Did you know today was the first time that gun’s been fired at another human being?”  He knew at once that was the wrong thing to say.  Bringing the conversation back to Mason would only serve to shove Jack back into his shell.

Jack surprised him, though.  “You’ve had that since you joined the force,” he said.

“Yep,” Bill said, turning his attention back to the road.  “I’m damn proud of that, too.”

The pause in the conversation stretched into silence, with only the sound of tires spinning on the pavement as a soundtrack.  After a few miles, Jack sat up and pointed to his right.  “Pull in over there.”

“What’s up?”

“I have to pee, and the car probably needs gas.”

Bill spun the wheel and steered the Big Cat into the parking lot, pulling up to one of the pumps.

“You need to go in?” Jack asked as he opened his door.

“Nope,” Bill said.  “Bladder like a camel’s hump, remember?”

Jack attempted to smile.  “Yeah, but it always seems to bust about the time there aren’t any places to stop.”

“Go ahead,” Bill waved Jack to the building, “I’ll get the gas.”  Jack nodded, climbed out of the car, and was off.

Bill watched him go into the building, then shut the engine off and opened his door.  As he was getting out his hand brushed the phone beside him.

The urge to call his wife overwhelmed him, and this time the number in his head was right.

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