Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sneak peek No. 2: Yellow Light of Dusk

I've been on a bit of tear this week, and "Yellow Light of Dusk," the sequel the hugely successful "Blue Light of Dawn," is about one-third complete. It took another unexpected turn this week. Here's the latest excerpt. Expected release date is early spring:


“I like you, Dan Pittman,” Janae said, walking to the edge of my desk. “I always have. I’m sure I always will. But,” she said, leaning in a bit, “do not ever underestimate me. Men have been doing that all of my life, and it’s unwise.”

She turned and picked up my digital recorder, checking it again to make sure it had not be turned on, then placing it gently on my desk.

“It’s been lovely seeing you again,” she said. “Give my best to Nicole.” With that, she turned and walked out of the office, not looking back. I sat back in my chair, stunned.

I told myself that she’d made a lucky guess about Nicole. I knew I was probably right, but I was shaken nonetheless. I sat motionless for a time, then went to the office door and locked it, turning my “Open” sign around, even though it wasn’t quite five o’clock. I went back to my desk. I pulled my computer back to me and found the window I had minimized. The voice recorder was still running. I clicked it to stop, saved the file on my hard drive, then played it back. It was crystal clear. I found two empty CDs in my filing cabinet and burned a copy of the recording on each, placing one at the back of a cabinet drawer and keeping one on top of my desk. I found my cell phone and dialed the number of Chief Brewer.

“Brewer,” he said after two rings.

“Meet me at the Wine Knot in 10 minutes,” I said.

“And good afternoon to you, too, Dan,” he said. “This is a happy coincidence. I was about to call you and suggest that very thing. Ten minutes.”

I grabbed my cell phone and the CD on my desk, slipping each into a pants pocket. The CD barely fit and felt awkward, but I didn’t want to carry it in the open. I turned out the office lights and went out the back door, making doubly sure I locked it, and walked the half-block to the bar. I waved at the waitress and held up two fingers. She knew what that meant -- two Dead Guys. I found a booth in the corner away from the handful of other patrons. The waitress brought two glasses of amber ale.

“Expecting company or drinking for two?” she said.
“Chief’s on his way,” I said. She nodded and went back to the bar.
I was halfway through my beer when Brewer ambled in and sat down across from me. He took a long swig from his beer and sat it back down on the table.
“I had a visit today from a Portland P.I.,” he said.

I’d almost forgotten about Rufus.

“And?” I asked.

“And, I wasn’t particularly pleased with the visit. I don’t like having criminal suspects dictating to me the terms of an interview,” he said.“Come on, chief,” I said. “You know you’re not going to be arresting her and you wanted to have a meeting.”

“I don’t know any such thing,” he said. Then his face lightened a little.

“No, I don’t suppose I am … arresting her, that is,” he said. “It still pisses me off. I’ve agreed to the meet. By the way, Rufus is a good choice. He was a good cop and, from what I’m told, a respectable P.I. It’s not often I use those two terms together. Anyway, the meeting’s set up and we’ll see where it leads.”

“That’s not why I called you,” I said. His eyebrows lifted a little. We both took a long drink.
“I had a visitor today, too,” I said. “Janae McKenzie.” He put down his glass.

“What the hell?” he said.“Exactly.”

“What did she want?” he asked.

“I’m not exactly sure,” I answered. “However.” I extended my right leg under the table to access my pants pocket and extracted the CD. “I happen to have recorded our conversation.”

Brewer stared back.

“Well, now, it seems that I have been underestimating you,” he said.

“That’s an ironic thing to say,” I said. “When you listen to this, you’ll understand why.”

“I hate surprises,” he said. “What’s on the CD?”
“Oh, I don’t want to spoil it for you,” I said. “Let’s just say that she’s really, really scary. And, she’s still really, really hot.
He shook his head.

“You’re pathetic,” he said.

I tipped my nearly empty glass and touched it to his.

“I’d say we’re both a little pathetic,” I said.

“Perhaps you’re aware that it’s illegal in the state of Oregon to record a conversation unless all parties are made aware of the fact,” he said, ignoring my dig.

I didn’t know that. In the other states where I’d been a journalist, it had been legal so long as at least one party knew, and I had routinely taped telephone interviews. I realized that it didn’t matter in this case.

“This recording will never become legal evidence,” I said. “Let’s just say it’s for your personal entertainment.”

He didn’t respond. Instead, he took the CD and stood up from the table.

“Thanks for the beer,” he said. “Let’s do this again.”

“Oh, trust me,” I said. “We’ll be doing this again very soon.” He walked out. I put a $10 bill on the table, waved to the waitress and walked back to my place. Rusty was sitting outside his open door, pipe lit and cheap whiskey by his side.

“I’ll be back down in a minute,” I told him, and he just nodded. I went upstairs and pulled a cigar out of my humidor, clipped it, grabbed my lighter and poured myself a healthy serving of bourbon. I’d eat dinner later, I told myself. Downstairs, I pulled up my chair, lit the cigar and took a sip of the whiskey.

“Women are frightening creatures and men are pigs,” I said to Rusty. He grunted, which is as close to a laugh as he gets. Then he said the longest sentence I’d ever heard him say.

“We’re surrounded by crazies and idiots,” he said, his gravelly voice barely audible, “and the island is shrinking.” I laughed out loud.

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