Monday, November 12, 2012

A Very Public Eye (Book 2 in The Public Eye Mystery Series) excerpt by Lori L Lake

A Very Public Eye by Lori L Lake, the second book in the Goldie Award-winning The Public Eye mystery series, promises to be just as good as the first. Police Officer Leona “Leo” Reese and her sidekick Thom are back to tackle a murder case at a supposedly secure juvenile detox center. As she uncovers long-buried secrets, someone else is murdered, and Leo realizes that she, too, is in danger. In the midst of her own emotional turmoil, is Leo strong enough to catch a clever and ruthless murderer?

A Very Public Eye
Regal Crest Enterprises: Quest Imprint (11/9/12)
ISBN: 978-1-61929-076-1
e-ISBN: 978-1-61929-077-8


Chapter 1

EDDIE BOLTON MOVED like a walking string of lit firecrackers. As he passed through the center’s cafeteria, teenagers much bigger than him stepped aside. Those who were seated leaned in and looked away.

Yeah, Eddie thought, get outta my face. I could hurt you.

One of the more popular staff members rose to intercept him and raised a hand at the doorway.


“Get out of my way.” He pushed past and stomped out into the hallway.

“But wait, you can’t…”

The man’s voice drifted away as Eddie strode toward his room, the pulse in his head beating a staccato as fast as a stampede of wild ponies.

The part of the chemical dependency unit to which Eddie had access was shaped like a U, and he had to travel from one end all the way around to the other end to reach his assigned room. At the midpoint, he passed near the security station where an unarmed guard kept the general public from wandering in, while also assuring that Eddie and his peers were not allowed out. The guard was no taller than Eddie and much skinnier. With his worry-lined face and buckteeth, Eddie thought he resembled a rodent. He hated the guard on sight and wouldn’t meet his eyes as he passed.

Each resident at the Benton Dowling Center was supposed to be considered a temporary “patient,” but in Eddie’s mind, inmate was the more appropriate term. No freedom. Locked up and the key taken away. He didn’t ask to be here, and he wouldn’t play their game. He couldn’t get out until he was deemed emotionally ready—or until he reached the age of eighteen. After a quick mental count he mumbled, “Forty-six days. Just have to make it forty-six days.”

He knew he wasn’t supposed to leave his group at the table. They hadn’t even been released to get their food yet. He would surely get in trouble for his angry departure, but there was no way he’d squeeze in, elbow to elbow, with that bunch of pathetic weasels. He considered himself a man while they were all stupid boys. He didn’t want to deal with their shit.

After breakfast each morning, residents were allowed quiet time in their rooms until eight a.m. when school started. At eleven, they had athletic time in the gym. Today he would refuse to do either. All he wanted now was to curl up on his bed and convince himself not to beat the hell out of the pansy guard, escape, and run for the woods. He knew that wasn’t a good plan. He looked down at his soft slippers and the baggy jeans and t-shirt he wore. No, he’d be found shivering within an hour.

When he reached his room, he grabbed both sides of the door frame and pulled, launching himself across the room and onto his assigned bed. He lay there panting, sweating, tense. He wanted a drink, some pot, anything—even just a cigarette. Some of the boys used behavior credits to buy candy for when they were jonesin’ real bad. He’d only been at the place eleven days and hadn’t yet earned any privileges. He was pretty sure that throwing a punch last week at Mike, the counselor, hadn’t helped his cause. But, oh, it felt so good! The impact of fist on bone, the startled look in the counselor’s eyes, the fear and anger as the bigger man went down. At once, Eddie had felt calm—focused—as though the only objects existing in the world were the knuckles of his fist and Mike’s scruffy, unshaven cheek. It was worth the night spent in isolation in a padded room with no toilet. He dreamed of slugging Mike all night long, though when he awoke the next day, stiff from lying on the thin padding, he agreed not to act out again. That was the phrase they used: act out. Like he was on stage somewhere. He wanted to tell them, “This is no act. You wanna see some real action? Gimme some crack or a few shots of Jack Daniels, and I’ll show you an act!”

He was surprised no one came after him now, but breakfast would be over soon enough. He didn’t want the lukewarm scrambled eggs or cold toast. Cheerios were for little kids, and the sausage looked like something from out of a dog’s rear end. He contemplated going on a hunger strike and smiled grimly. He thought he could last forty-six days. Easy.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and looked around the room: two twin beds, two chairs pushed up to small tables meant to serve as desks, and some open shelving near the doorway where he and his roommate kept jeans, plain white t-shirts, socks, and underwear. All of their personal clothing, shoes, and possessions had been taken away. He wasn’t even allowed an iPod or even a watch in this unit. There was no door in the frame leading to the hallway. Anyone could look in. Worst of all, the bathroom door was cut out two-thirds up so that staff could peek over. He hated that there was no privacy, that he couldn’t even take a crap without the worry that someone would watch.

He stood and paced, but the room allowed him to take only six cribbed steps. He’d never liked enclosed places. Tightening his fists, he squeezed, tensing his forearms, and let out a growl. His breath quickened, and the panicky feeling welled up inside. The pale blue walls sported no pictures, no windows. It would take a year of Sundays and fifty jackknives to scratch his way through the cement block to the outside.

He stepped into the bathroom and whispered, “Gross!” under his breath. The room was, at most, seven by ten feet. To the right, the sink was built in an alcove. A sheet of high-gloss metal, screwed into the wall above the sink, served as a mirror. Two toothbrushes lay on the counter next to a plastic soap dish and one tiny tube of generic toothpaste. The area to the left sported a showerhead in one corner, and six feet away, in the other corner, a toilet stool. No curtain. He had to shower in the tiny space, and if the metal toilet got splashed, too bad.

“Fucking gross. No fucking privacy…people just watching you shit and shower.”

Eddie leaned over the counter surrounding the sink, his palms pressing hard. He could make out his reflection in the metal, but everything was fuzzy around the edges. In the past, he’d never understood when his Aunt Phyllis told him he was too intense, but obviously his level of intensity was too much for this hellhole. He knew nobody he could trust. His roommate, a fat kid two years younger named William, was closed off in his own mute world. Even after Eddie provoked him mercilessly, William pretended Eddie didn’t exist.

The area under the sink was open. Beneath the water pipes was a rack made of plastic. It held a stack of scruffy towels, washcloths, and a spare roll of toilet paper which had gotten speckled with water but was now dry and rippled. He kicked at the rack, and the shelf bounced up off the supports, then fell back in place. The roll of TP hit the floor, and so did something else.

Frowning, Eddie reached down for a flat metal container lying on its side. Liquid swished to and fro, gradually settling. He picked it up. The screw-on lid opened to reveal pungent-smelling liquid.

“Well, shit. What’s this?”

He sneaked a look over the closed half-door. His roommate had not returned, and he heard no sounds in the hall.

“Oh, wow,” Eddie whispered as he sniffed at the metal flask. “William, you little creep. How the hell did you keep this from me?”

He closed his eyes and took a tiny sip, just one touch on his tongue. He hadn’t ever tasted anything quite like it. Jim Beam, Jack Richland, Johnny Walker Red, and Captain Morgan were familiar. He liked liquors with a man’s name attached, but he’d been drunk plenty of times on Absolut, Cutty Sark, Bacardi, Wild Turkey, and every variation of cheap wine and beer. This tasted like bourbon—but not exactly like any bourbon he’d ever had before. He wasn’t sure if it was of high quality—or perhaps just crap. He didn’t care. He raised the flask to the makeshift mirror. “Bottom’s up.”

Relishing a mouthful, he swallowed in metered amounts, feeling the liquor burn its way down his throat. His eyes watered, and he wheezed for a moment, then let out a satisfied burp. With a deep sigh, he swirled the remaining liquid. A feeling of intense happiness threaded its way through him from the tips of his toes all the way up to his ears. He quaffed down another shot. This one tasted exceptionally bitter, and for a moment, his throat threatened to close up.

Eleven days and I’m already out of practice? He let out a snort, then turned and leaned back against the counter, holding the container in both hands. The next swig he intended to savor. He licked his lips and thought of his last binge, of how sweet the rum tasted and how cute the girl with him had been. He refused to think of the crash that put her in the hospital. Eddie’s aunt’s car was an older model with one air bag, on the driver’s side only, so he’d been all right. His cousin Stevie in the back seat had only gotten banged up, but Kimberly went through the windshield. Aunt Phyllis hadn’t known about the girl’s medical condition when he’d seen her the day before. Oh, well, he thought. There’ll be plenty of other girls.

At most now, there were two swigs left, and he had to choke down the first. The dregs tasted grainy and he decided against taking the last sip. He thought that this booze was indeed the cheapest kind. Every sip had gotten progressively more bitter. He wiped his lips on the back of his hand and stuffed the empty flask under the plastic rack. Before he could stand up, his stomach felt tight and too full.

Eddie laughed, glad he hadn’t eaten breakfast and knowing that if he had, the liquor wouldn’t have as much effect. He grinned to think how much he was going to enjoy the high.

He leaned back against the edge of the counter, arms crossed and eyes closed. As he rocked himself from side to side, he could feel the power growing in his torso and upper arms. He didn’t know how long he stood there, but when he opened the door and stepped into the room, William was just entering from the hallway.

“Hey, Big Boy,” Eddie said in a jovial voice.

William gaped at him, startled, then turned away and headed for his bed on the right.

“Your secret’s out, Willie. It’s out, out, out.”

The chubby face appeared alarmed. William opened his mouth to speak, but then closed it and looked down.

“What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?”

William rose and strode toward the hallway. Eddie watched him leave, then stood swaying in the middle of the room, eyes closed. He hummed a Puddle of Mudd song and bobbed his head in concert with drumbeats only he could hear. Tipping his head back, he turned in a slow circle. His reverie was interrupted by William’s return.

“Hey, the deaf-mute’s back.” Eddie giggled, and William ignored him.

The other kid lowered himself to his bed, scooted away until his back was against the wall, and crossed his arms over his chest.

“I just want to thank you, Willie boy. Your generosity is appreciated.”

The tight feeling in Eddie’s stomach blossomed up his throat through the roof of his mouth, and into his head. Bam! He heard pounding, and then the sound gradually muffled as though someone had poked something into his ears. “Cut it out!” he shouted.

William gazed up at him, eyes wide. Eddie staggered over to his own bed and fell on his side. “Shut up,” Eddie said. “Just shut up. Shut shut shut…”

The pounding in his head increased, and with effort, he panted. His right hand came up and he pointed at William. “I’m a dog, Willie…like a dog…” He closed his eyes and let his tongue loll out as he strained to pull in a breath. “Doggie, doggie, dog, dog…”

A spasm rippled through Eddie’s body. He tried to fight it. “No…” Clenching his jaw, he struggled to control his arms, but they tightened up of their own accord. His legs spasmed. He jerked and thrashed. Fell off the bed. He felt himself falling and falling into darkness and pain.

“Take the fire away. No! Don’t hurt me...” His mid-section burned like it was on fire. He screamed.

Then it hurt too much to speak, to open his mouth, or to breathe. The hot hammer in his chest pounded, relentless, unyielding. A giant man—bigger than the scariest monster he had ever dreamed—let out a roar.

And Eddie Bolton stopped breathing forever.

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Victor j. Banis said...

10Oh, wow, is that wonderful, or what?! I can't wait to find out what happened to Eddie - and what a great job of characterization. Lori, my luv, I salute you - this is why I love your writing.

Rick Reed said...

Somebody knows how to grab a reader's attention (like a string of firecrackers maybe?) and pull them right out into the story. Amazing job, Lori...and certainly looks like my kind of read.

Rick Reed said...

Somebody knows how to grab a reader's attention (like a string of firecrackers maybe?) and pull them right out into the story. Amazing job, Lori...and certainly looks like my kind of read.

Jaime Samms said...

That is pretty damn awesome. Don't know if it's my kind of read. I'm a bit squeamish and timid when it really comes down to it, but wow. That was still very very good.

C. Zampa said...

Damn, Lori, just damn.
Very, very tense, got my pulse racing.
Poor Eddie...?
VERY good.

AlanChinWriter said...

Lori is a first rate storyteller. She pulls you in with beautifully crafted tension from the first few sentences, and then keep you in the story with prose that is as smooth as silk. Very well done.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Yikes! Like reading something by Raymond Chandler, the smoke is there, too. Good job.

Lloyd Meeker said...

Terrific writing, Lori! Fascinating (and risky!) ploy to use the opening on a character who dies at the end of the chapter... it surprised me but you carried it off well and made it bunch of great story questions!

Sounds like a great story to me...

Jon Michaelsen said...

Lori, this is superb! Incredible way to reel the reader in and I love the line ..."like a string of firecrackers"... First rate!