Tag Archives: Crime

Book Review: ‘Known Devil’ by Justin Gustainis

 

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Known Devil is the third instalment in Gustainis’ Occult Crime Uniturban fantasy series. Though I had not read the first two books, this one was completely stand-alone and didn’t make me feel I was missing anything. I have, however, read other books from Gustainis in the past (Evil WaysBlack Magic Woman andSympathy for the Devil), and thoroughly enjoyed them. He is a fabulous writer.

In this exciting new series, Detective Sergeant Stanley Markowski of the Scranton PD’s Occult Crimes Unit,  and his partner, vampire detective Karl Renfer, try to keep law and order in a world where supernaturals — or supes — have come out of the closet and walk the streets with humans. Markowski’s daughter, a vampire witch, is eager to help and offer her expertise, especially because she’s attracted to Karl.

A new drug has hit the streets, Haemoglobin Plus — better known as Slide — the first drug that addicts supes, and as a result, a new wave of crimes has risen in Scranton. Stan and Karl are right on the case, interrogating both humans and supes alike, trying to find out who is behind the new drug: Pietro Calabrese, the Godfather of the local vampire family? Wizard Victor Castle, the unofficial head of the city’s whole supernatural community?  The Delatasso family? Or the new Patriot Party, who has  declared supes “abominations before the Lord?”

If you love urban fantasy a la crime noir, you’ll love this book. Gustainis is smart, gritty, snarky. I just love his sharp, witty descriptions. Take a look at a few:

“He had salt-and-pepper hair, wide-set brown eyes, and a thin moustache in the middle of a face that was no harder than your average concrete wall.”

“He stared at me with eyes that had probably looked dead even before he became a vampire.”

“The terrace outside the front door is open in warmer weather, for those who like sharing their food with the local bugs. I prefer to eat inside, where the only insects I’m likely to encounter have two legs.”

“I saw a puzzled look on his face — maybe because Karl’s grip, like every vampire’s, is colder than a banker’s heart.”

Gustainis is also a master at providing comic relief. I laughed out loud at times. Stan is a likable, sympathetic character, tough yet kind when needed. The world building, the setting, and all the supernatural details come through in a genuine, realistic way. I also enjoyed all the police procedural, showing once more, as in his other books, that Gustainis has done his research well.

The story moves at a fairly quick pace, propelled by entertaining dialogue and lots of action scenes. Particularly interesting is the dynamics between humans and supernaturals now that they have to co-exist side by side. But best of all, is the author’s gifted prose, a pleasure to read. Highly recommended for fans of detective urban fantasy!

Visit the author’s website.

Find out more on Amazon.

My review as originally published in Blogcritics.

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Read-a-Chapter: ‘Sweet Karoline,’ by Catherine Astolfo

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the psychological suspense, SWEET KAROLINE, by Catherine Astolfo. Enjoy!

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“I met Ethan on the day that I killed Karoline.” But is Anne Williams really a murderer? Or was her best friend’s death a tragic accident for which Anne blames herself?

This compelling central character embarks on a rollercoaster ride of self-exploration that causes the reader to breathlessly follow her. Throughout an emotional breakdown in the present, sprinkled with flashes of the past that brought her to this point, Anne questions her own decisions, her lifestyle, and those of the friend she thought she knew.

The gripping twists of Karoline’s duplicity are vicious and deplorable. Entangled in the arms of the homicide detective who helped rule the case a suicide, Anne learns about love and decides to trace her complicated past. The journey uncovers dark family secrets, an unusual history, and criminal treachery. Anne must answer the classic question, “Who am I?” amidst a backdrop of racial tension, lies and hidden chronicles. Eventually she has to confront a deadly threat before the entire story becomes clear. Can she survive this maelstrom of revelation and betrayal with her sanity intact?

Title: Sweet Karoline

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Author: Catherine Astolfo

Website: www.catherineastolfo.com 

Publisher: Imajin Books

Purchase on AMAZON

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Chapter One

I met Ethan on the day that I killed Karoline.

Other than a few minor adjustments, I believe that I have handled her murder exceedingly well.

The state of my car, for instance, has become something of a nuisance. Bits of tissue, used napkins, paper cups and pop cans litter the floor at my feet or fly out the window as I drive along. I am invariably subjected to a barrage of honking whenever I reach a red light.

People these days have no patience. They ought to understand that I am busy examining the stray bits in my car. Some of them are works of art. I don’t notice the change to green because they are so infinitely interesting.

This study of creative possibilities has become somewhat of an obsession. In the back of my mind I know that all I have to do is clean it up. Yet the thought of actually tackling the onslaught of debris leaves me inert and helpless.

Ethan offered recently to take me to the car wash. He’d help me dump the debris and vacuum the inside, but I have seriously considered the idea that I may be destroying a future Picasso. I have thus far refused his proposition. Not that I have shared my vision of a Picasso with him, of course. I just say that I never have time.

I have acquired a habit of going shopping. I make lists of things in my mind—groceries, toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, vitamins or clothing—that seem absolutely essential to the arrival of tomorrow. But once inside the pharmacy, the clothing store or the shopping center, the bright lights mesmerize me. My eyes blur and I can’t for the life of me remember what I have come for.

When I do buy something, I am left vaguely dissatisfied, certain that I could have gotten a better bargain somewhere else had I only looked a little longer. Depressed because I had to use my credit card again and this purchase will become just one more thing to do. Write the check. Buy the stamp. Walk to the post box. Mail the envelope.

The little, unfinished things do sometimes bother me. Dirty laundry is piled up in the closet. The bed is always unmade. In the bathroom, the ceiling is slowly cracking from some unspecified leak that I have failed to report to the superintendent. The drapes in the living room neither open nor close anymore.

At first I tended to watch television all night long, despite the fact that the next day I was a zombie. After I decided to go on an extended sick leave, it didn’t matter. I started to sleep all night and all day, never moving unless forced to by some phone call, knock at the door or the call of nature.

I spend hours at the sink. For some reason, the suds and the water are calming. So far I have washed every dish, bowl, and ornament in the apartment two or three times. I reenact advertisements for the latest dishwashing liquid, showing off my lovely long fingers and hands to, well, myself. I speak in a sing-song voice to the imaginary audience, telling them how kind the dishwashing liquid has been to my hands over the years, encouraging them to run right out and buy this product before it disappears from the shelf.

After I’ve allowed the water to swirl down the drain, I shift to spending hours in front of the little mirror that hangs in my kitchen. People tell me that I am a very beautiful woman. On good days, when I feel haughty and happy, I can gaze into the polished glass and agree with their assessment. On other days, I notice the nose that’s a little too upturned. The lips that protrude a bit too much. The dark birthmark above my left eyebrow. The ears that don’t lie flat against my head. I have no idea why I am considered flawless, for I have many perceptible flaws, both inside and out.

My father is white and my mother is black with some Native American thrown into her background. My parents have always bragged that I inherited all the great physical features of those races. Their perspective is far less critical than mine. They focus on all the positives. Naturally wavy hair. Large brown eyes with long curling lashes. High, full cheekbones. A small, pert nose. Lips just thick enough to be called luscious.

I am one of those fortunate people who can eat all day and not gain an ounce. Thus I am described as tall and lean as opposed to thin. I have full breasts and a narrow waist. I am a fast runner and good at any sport I attempt. In Hollywood, I am considered full figured.

My skin is a light brown, the color of coffee with cream I guess you would say, that makes me look as though I’ve just stepped out of a tanning bed. Heads literally turn to stare at me in the street, from across a room, or on the subway. Male and female. To me, it’s a constant source of surprise, chagrin and exasperation.

Lots of people, especially women, have jealously told me that I should be grateful for my looks. But I hate being identified as beautiful. Men tend to stare only at my chest when they talk to me. Or they show me off like some trophy and do not bother to ask my opinion on anything. I have been approached in bars and stores alike. Even in this land of plastic enhanced faces, I literally cannot go anywhere without being stared at or even followed. Most people, in fact, are convinced I am a movie star or model. These are not careers I’ve ever wanted.

I have often been stalked, thus the three sets of locks on our door. Our telephone number is always unlisted and has to be changed once some obsessed man discovers it. When you are lovely on the outside, it’s always difficult to entice people to look for the true person underneath. I’m learning through Ethan that it’s exactly the same for truly ugly people.

Over the years, I learned to live at the surface. It wasn’t hard to do in Los Angeles, where even the air is insipid.

I would prefer to be considered intelligent, but that’s probably not an attribute anyone would mention when they speak of me. I worked very hard to acquire the position of Executive Assistant at Grace Film Productions, which is where I was employed up until last month. I was one of the very lucky ones who loved what I did every day and rarely considered it an effort. My former office is surrounded by windows and is fairly well designed. My desk is large and my chair comfortable. The office building, which houses Grace as well as several other companies, is an architectural beauty. All blue glass and steel, round and elegant, surrounded by greenery and topped with a beautiful grey crown that’s actually an enormous rooftop patio. The front doors open with a swish. The security desk is classy, the carpet plush. The employees are welcoming and friendly. In the lobby and elevators, hushed music fills the air to calm nerves on the way to hear someone’s decision on the success or failure of a movie script.

Grace Films takes a script all the way from the editing stage to production. Sometimes my employers are heavily involved in the resultant movie and sometimes they take an Executive Producer role, basically handing the project off to other producers for the detailed work. My position requires juggling numerous prickly clients, writers, producers, and even actors, who are either nervous or over-confident artists.

I also organize the lives of my bosses, who have enormous egos and expect everything to be done yesterday. I am able to handle details and disasters with a calm, objective exterior and an inner patience that stems from my adoration of talented people. Or, as Karoline would tell you, my love of power.

I frequently go on set to distract or pacify our clients. I learn about their backgrounds, families, likes and dislikes, and treat them accordingly. Some of my employers have become my friends. Some of the writers and directors and actors are now my dependents.

When my bosses are on location, I am solely responsible for answering the myriad of calls and managing the frantic problem solving. I am able to handle the stress of my position quite serenely. Or, make that, I used to be able to…

I am aware that looks are part of the charm. I can give the clients a smile and they are instantly under my spell. Mine was the first voice they heard. The first face they saw if they got that far. I was often the one to give them the bad or good news about their scripts. In fact, I was the one who often read the first scenes to see if it was worthy of being handed to our producers.

In the good times, I did feel grateful for my appearance. I learned to use it to my advantage. Happiness and overconfidence would swell like the ocean tide warming the shore. I had been taught by my parents to be self-centered and proud. I lived a hedonistic lifestyle, unaware that there could be any other way to live.

In the very recent past I loved getting up in the morning. On weekdays I looked forward to traveling into the city. I would hop out of bed, anticipation fuelling my energy level, already going over the day in my head. Living in Pasadena meant rising very early, but it was worth the long commute, the clogged roads, the incessant weaving in and out of traffic.

Our little section of L.A. County is green, safe and friendly. I’d go for a quick run most mornings. When it was too hot or, infrequently, rainy, I’d swim or work out in the gym. It’s amazing the number of people I used to meet jogging on the street, doing laps in the gym pool or running on the treadmill.

Our apartment building is like a village. Everyone knows everyone and all their business, too. When someone dies as ostentatiously as Karoline did, the gossip is rampant. Now my fellow residents avoid me as though I have an infectious disease or have changed places with an alien life form who speaks no discernible language.

On weekends, there was always something going on. Every Friday night I’d be in a bar, toasting and talking over the week with my colleagues at Grace, before I hopped back into the car. In the past, Karoline and Giulio would either come drinking with me or they’d be off with their own colleagues and we’d meet in the parking lot.

Saturdays and Sundays were usually untouchable. Film stars don’t want to work on weekends. Whenever Karoline was away for the weekend on business, which was often, I hung out with Giulio or stayed home reading scripts. We had settled into a comfortable, satisfying routine that lasted until Italy. My life didn’t often involve worrying about men or going out on a date.

I have not had many happy or haughty days lately, that’s for sure. I no longer get up from bed eager to start the day. In my little mirror I see only the lines below my lip, etched by worry and stress. I see the dark shadows under my eyes created by sleepless nights or pills that cause unconsciousness but not rest. I am jumpy and pimples have sprung up out of the unnatural hormones racing through my fearful body. I spend much of the day gazing at the distortions of a face that used to be peaceful, content, ambitious and young.

Recently I hadn’t even answered my mother’s telephone messages. My mother and father still live in Bell Canyon. I haven’t really let Mom in on the aftermath of the tragedy, not the details at least. I don’t want to worry her. She is a well-meaning mom, despite the fact that I spent half my life being ashamed of her. I’m not sure she ever knew of my treachery, but somehow I cannot bring myself to turn to her, or to my Dad, for comfort. Although I am not deserving of their support, my main reason for avoiding them is that they are part of the betrayal. They have a mutual treachery of their own.

Another thing I used to love is our apartment. It’s part of a Moorish-Spanish designed collection of buildings that boast a beautiful stone façade, light brown stucco walls and rounded bay windows. Every balcony is bounded by gorgeous wrought iron, except for ours, which has rather high stone walls instead. The only drawback is that we have to stand up to see any view.

I used to shiver with delight and pride every time I entered the stone archway that graces the front entrance. Now I shiver for a wholly different reason.

Karoline and I lived in the top of two turrets that face the garden-side of the complex. In the 1940’s, her Jah-jah and Boosha—don’t ask me the real spellings of the Polish words—came to California to live on streets of gold. As soon as Jah-jah died, Boosha hightailed it back to Poland.

By then, Karoline’s mother was already married and residing in Bell Canyon. Halina’s brothers went back to the old country, too. Maybe that’s why she got pregnant so quickly and so young. Otherwise, she would have been alone.

For years Boosha rented out the old family apartment. The income must have been pretty good, because she never bothered to sell it. When Karoline, Giulio and I acquired jobs in L.A., Karoline wanted to buy her family’s old place. Boosha said yes, they worked out a rent-to-buy arrangement and here we are. Rather, here we were.

Unlike newer buildings that are all boxy and small, the rooms in our apartment are huge, aside from the galley kitchen. We have a generous dining area in which Karoline and I used to have dinner parties for up to ten people. Our living room is enormous, with windows that span its entire length. The two bedrooms are in the rounded section of the turrets, which makes them interesting though hard to decorate.

Since her death, I am often reminded of the night I saw Karoline in bed with Glenn. Every time I opened her bedroom door, her eyes seemed to be there still, staring at me with that steely look from beneath the flabby man whose mantra was more porn than romance. For months her door has remained shut. I walk around it, avoiding the waft of air from under the frame.

Mature trees and palms lean toward us from the side garden, giving us cooling breezes that almost negate the need for air conditioners. We can just see the mountains if we peer around the edge of the balcony.

We are tucked slightly away from the busy street, so we don’t hear the traffic much at night. There’s a sidewalk underneath that runs along a big square yard that residents can enjoy. Across the street on this side is a huge park.

Karoline decorated the apartment because she has—had—a knack for design. She went with bright, bold colors and accessories, big comfy furniture and artifacts from our various journeys spread carefully throughout. Pictures have been placed with an eye for artistic showcasing. We have two carpets from a trip to Turkey that massage your feet as you pad down the hall to the bathroom or through the living room. We even have a small CoJon painting on the entrance wall.

Nowadays, the paint seems dark and gloomy. The nooks and crannies are full of ghosts. The door to the second bedroom remains closed and the balcony is off limits. The yellow crime scene tape still flies in tatters around the railings. I spend my time in my bedroom, bathroom, or the kitchen, terrified to spread out, ashamed to sit on the couch. I skirt around the carpets, my bare feet stubbing the hardwood. I refuse to look toward the windows, afraid I might see her face reflected in the glass.

I would move if I could work up the energy or if I had anywhere else to go.

There’s a picture of Karoline on the end table that glares out at me every morning as I slide past the living room into the kitchen. I used to love that image, thought of it as a true portrait of the person she was. She looks very pretty in this particular exposure, although she wasn’t really good looking. Her teeth protruded quite dramatically and, unfortunately, she never seemed motivated to get them fixed. Her hair was a mousy brown and had that wispy thinness that made her appear somewhat balding. She was very short with a body that looked childlike when she was young, but gave her a dumpy appearance in her thirties.

Karoline never wore make-up or selected clothing that enhanced her figure in any way. She gave the impression that she had no interest in the external. I loved Karoline for this reason in particular and for lots of other reasons, too.

Dear Diary,

Such an inane, cliché-ish way to start, but I can assure you there will be nothing cliché or inane about the thoughts within these pages. I read recently that keeping a journal is healthy. I am discovering that I love being able to explore random ideas without censure. Put feelings and facts down on paper. Pardon the lack of order, Dear Diary, but it’s about me, not you.

 

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A Conversation with Suzanne Jenkins, author of ‘The Greeks of Beaubien Street’

Suzanne JenkinsSuzanne Jenkins is the author of the Pam of Babylon Series. The Greeks of Beaubien Street is a new series about a Greek homicide detective who grew up above the family grocery store in Greektown, Detroit. Jenkins has fond memories of growing up in a Greek American household in the suburbs of Detroit. She currently lives in the west Michigan lakeshore area with her husband, two dogs and two sheep.

Visit her website at  www.suzannejenkins.net.

Visit her blog at www.2sheepinthecity.com.

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Thank you for this interview, Suzanne!  Can you tell us a little bit of The Greeks of Beaubien Streetwhat your new book, The Greeks of Beaubien Street, is all about?

Suzanne: The Greeks of Beaubien Street is a story about Greek/Americans as part of American society. Jill Zannos, the protagonist, doesn’t fit in. A Detroit homicide detective, she manages to keep one foot planted firmly in the traditions started by her grandparents, while the other navigates the most devastated neighborhoods in the city. She is a no nonsense workaholic with no girlfriends, an odd boyfriend who refuses to grow up, and an uncanny intuition she inherited from her mystic grandmother. It acts as her secret weapon to crime solving success. Her story winds around tales of her family and their secret laden history, while she investigates the most despicable murder of her career.

Where did you get the idea from to write this book?

Suzanne:The idea to write The Greeks of Beaubien Street evolved as I daydreamed about my childhood growing up in Dearborn. My father took us to Greektown to shop; we didn’t go there to eat in the restaurants. We bought the foods we couldn’t get anywhere else; wonderful Greek bread, tangy Kalamata olives, cheese, taramasalta, halva, and of course, filo dough based pastries like baklava. I loved the Eastern Market, too. Writing a book about my childhood sounded too boring.  I am intrigued with women who become police officers, so the next logical step was to have a fantasy about one and write it down.  Writing the crime scenes came from some perverse place I don’t want to investigate too deeply. I’m sixty-two years old so it’s too late to find out what’s going on now.

Did you find it easier or harder to write this book than your other books?

Suzanne:  This book was much harder to write, because I had to research so much about crime scenes and guns, Greek demographics, etc. It didn’t all come from my imagination like the Pam of Babylon books did.

If you had to describe your book in five separate adjectives, what would that be? (for example, thrilling, exciting,…)

Suzanne: From the reviews, I’m borrowing; disturbing, entertaining, effective, memorable, shocking.

Describe your main character.  What makes him or her tick?

Suzanne: Jill has a lot of self-confidence. I think it comes from being held in highest esteem by her grandparents and father. She is smart and no nonsense. There are few gray areas in her thinking. She is a mystic, and is in touch with her spiritual self. She takes care of herself.

What’s the main goal of your main character?

Suzanne: She wants to be a good police officer, but she also wants to honor the traditions started by her grandparents. She respects her culture.

What obstacles are in his/her way of achieving that goal?

Suzanne: Contemporary mores give her pause. She will allow her boyfriend to spend the night, but he can’t move in with her, nor will she give him a key because she doesn’t want to offend her father. The boyfriend turns out to be a cad, so maybe it is a good thing. Also, because of her need to stay connected to the fabric of her culture, she won’t leave Greektown. In the sequel, this becomes a problem.

What’s your favorite part of the whole book?

Suzanne:  I love, love, love the non-Greek aunts. The are completely fictional, but as I wrote about them, I remembered my mother and Aunt Marge and Aunt Sherry. I gave them personalities of some of the nurses I worked with years ago, memorable personalities, and that was so much fun!

Now that The Greeks of Beaubien Street is published, what’s your next project/

Suzanne:I’m working on the sequel, and have started two more fiction works; Alice’s Summertime Adventure, which sound bucolic but is my typical dark drama, and a sci/fi, just to try on for size. Also two non-fiction books, one about grief which is based on a survey I did through Survey Monkey, and one on marketing my books!

Any final words?

Suzanne:Thank you so much. I appreciate your support and the opportunity you give to authors to promote their work.

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Read-a-Chapter: The Sons of Jude by Brandt Dodson

read a chapterRead a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the crime thriller, The Sons of Jude, by Brandt Dodson. Enjoy!

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Purchase from Amazon

When Chicago detectives Frank Campello and Andy Polanski are assigned to investigate the murder of Trina Martinez it seems like an ordinary homicide. An unfortunate young girl in the wrong place at the wrong time has been brutally murdered. But their investigation is halted by a wall of silence, a wall erected by powerful interests that will render their inquiry a lost cause.

Then they enlist the support of reporter Christy Lee – and come under immediate fire. Polanski is arrested. Campello threatened. Christy is attacked.

It’s the case that every cop gets. The one that changes his life. The one where justice is elusive and the hunter becomes the hunted.

Frank Campello and Andy Polanski are The Sons of Jude.

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Chapter One

Chicago Police Department

District 28 Headquarters

Monday, 11:00 a.m.

Detective Frank Campello stood in the doorway of the 28th district’s second floor squad room.  It was his first day back since the shooting, and everything looked the same.  Gun-metal gray desks stood nose to nose, the walls were still covered in nauseating beige, and the sound of hushed conversations filled the room, punctuated only by the occasional ring of a phone or the squeak of a chair. Everything was the same – except for Rand’s riderless desk.

Campello passed his late partner’s work station and slid out of his black leather jacket, draping it over the back of the chair.  A swarthy looking man of stocky build with close-cropped black hair and deeply-set brown eyes,  Campello preferred casual clothing to the department’s more generally accepted business attire.  On this day, he wore a black long-sleeved shirt that clung to his muscular frame, brown slacks and cordovan loafers.  A Sig-Sauer nine millimeter pistol rode on his right hip.

Taking his CPD mug to the coffee maker at the rear of the room, he met Detective Angelo Silvio.

“Welcome back, Frank.”  Silvio was stirring non-dairy creamer into his coffee. “I’m sorry about Rand.  He was a good cop.”  He tossed the stir stick into the receptacle and lifted the cup to his lips, pausing to blow before drinking.

“Thanks Angie.”  Campello filled his mug and returned the carafe to its nook.  “It’s hard to believe he’s gone.”

Silvio sat on the edge of the table that held the coffee maker.  “Things like this are always hard to believe.  How can a man like that, so full of life, be here one day and gone the next?”  He shook his head.  “It doesn’t make sense, Frank.  It just doesn’t make sense.”

“I’m sorry about Rand,” said Shelly Tertwiller as she approached. “I know you two were close.”  Tertwiller, a recent transferee to the 28th, was a detective with just two years less time on the department than Campello’s twenty.  Her coffee-colored eyes studied him from beneath a furrowed brow.  “You ok?”

“I’m ok.”

“I know everyone says this, but if there’s anything you need …”

“I appreciate it.”

“For what it’s worth, the buzz around here says you’ll come out fine on the other thing.” She was referring to his hearing before the IPRA, the all-civilian review board that replaced the previous Office of Professional Standards.  Campello’s killing of the suspect who killed Adams had automatically guaranteed him a review by the board.  All police-action shootings, regardless of their merit, went before the IPRA.

“I’ve already been exonerated, Shelly,” Campello said.

“Last week, wasn’t it?” Silvio asked.  “Where’ve you been Tertwiller?”

She gave her partner a hard look.  “Who’s talking to you, dummy?” She patted Campello’s hand. “That’s good to hear, Frank.  We’re all here for you.  You don’t stand alone.”

“I know.”

“We’re family.  When one of us goes down, we all go down.  It’s always been that way and it always will be.”  She held out her fist and he bumped it with his. “By the way, how’s your dad doing?”

“As good as can be expected.  He’s more forgetful, but he seems to like Marimar and they treat him well.”

“You see him?”

“I do.  Going this evening, in fact.”

She smiled.  “Good. Again, let me know if you need anything.”

“I will.  Thank you.”

“I mean it,” she said, turning toward him even as she was walking away.  “You need help with your case load … paperwork … whatever.  Bill and I have your back.”

Bill was her husband and a detective with the 31st.

“Got it.  Thanks Shelly.”

“Well,” Silvio said, “got to get to work.”  He held his hand out to Campello who shook it.   “We’re going to Jeep’s tonight.  You’re coming, right?”

“Absolutely.”

Silvio smiled and slapped him on the back.  “Excellent.  Five o’clock.  First round’s on you.”

Campello grinned and reluctantly went to his desk to begin his first day without Rand; his first day without his partner and friend.

He dropped himself into his chair and undid his tie.  His desk, like the others in the room, was nose to nose with his partner’s, an arrangement that facilitated communication.  Across the great divide, Campello could see Rand, sitting with his feet up and a smirk on his face.   Hey buddy, how ’bout them cubs, huh?

Campello reached across the desk tops and took Rand’s mug in hand.  The Cubs emblem was nearly worn off and the white ceramic cup was chipped and stained from years of coffee abuse.

He rolled the cup in his hands before putting it in the left hand drawer of his desk along with his pistol.

Campello stabbed the computer power button with his forefinger, brooding on old memories until the machine booted up and the CPD emblem emblazoned on the screen.  Then he opened a window to Adam’s case load; it was significant – weighty, even – and there was little doubt the district commander would re-assign some of them.  But Campello wanted to review them so he could have a say in which ones stayed with him and which went elsewhere.  The list represented a lot of effort and team work – and he did not relish the idea of losing control after all the time they had put into them.

He scrolled down the list and began by first making note of the ones that were set to go to trial.  He ran his finger down the screen as he copied the case numbers in a spiral-bound steno’s notebook, silently mouthing them to himself.  His hand stopped halfway down the list at an unfamiliar file number.  It matched no known classification, suggesting it was a dummy, something Rand had likely been working off the books, anticipating an upgrade to official status in the future.

Campello made a note of it and then circled it.  He would research it later.

“You got a minute Frank?”  He looked up to see Julio Lopez, the district commander.

“I was just going over some of Frank’s cases.”

“You can do that later.”  He pointed his chin toward his office.  “Come on back.”

Campello slid the notebook in a drawer of his desk and snatched his CPD mug.  He paused at the coffee maker to top off the cup.

“Close the door, will you?”  The boss said, settling in the chair behind his desk.

Campello pushed it closed and sat across from Lopez.  The office was Plexiglas on three sides, floor to ceiling, and both men felt their meeting being covertly watched by the entire crew.

“You doing okay?”

“Yeah.  I’m fine.”

Lopez gave him a distinct non-believing look.

“I’m fine, Julio.”

“You have more time coming, Frank.  Take it if you need it.”

He shook his head.

Lopez’s eyes searched him, studied him, before accepting his statement on face value.  “Okay.  I guess you are.”

“Anything new on the shooting?” Campello asked.

“You mean, is there any new information?”

“Yep.”

“No.”  He focused his gaze on Campello. “The IPRA cleared you.  Don’t worry about it.  You did the only thing you could.”

“I wish I’d fired sooner.”

“Don’t.  Rand’s time was up.  There was nothing you could’ve done.  We all know the risk when we pin on the star.”

“Maybe.  But that doesn’t help much.”

Lopez sighed.  “No, I guess not.  But it’s true.  You’ve got two choices, Frank.  You can blame yourself for this, or you can see it for what it is and get on with your life.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do.  That’s why I’m back.”

“Let it go.  Move on.”

“I have to move on, Julio.  I have no life beyond the job.  I have nothing else.  The department is my family. The fact is I don’t belong anywhere else.  There’s no one at home so I’ve got no reason to stay there.”  He lifted the mug again, and then paused to grin over the top of it.  “God knows I haven’t done so well in the marriage department.”

“Yeah, well, me either.”

Campello lowered the mug and set it on the edge of the commander’s desk.  “Four times for me.”

Lopez winced.  “Ouch.  Okay.  You win that one.”

Campello crossed his legs.  “You didn’t call me in here to chit-chat.”

“No.”  He folded his hands, resting them on the desk.

“What, Julio?  Just say it.”

“We’ve got a transfer coming in.”

“Who?”

“It wasn’t my idea.  It was arranged before Rand took a hit.  But with his passing, I thought you’d be the right guy for –”

“Who?”

Lopez sat back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. “It’s Polanski.”

The flush of anger was immediate and Campello fought to control himself.  “Polanski?”

“The brass wants him transferred.  Since his allegations about the other shooting, the one in the thirty-first, he’s become too hot for them and a danger to himself.  The rioting there has escalated and they want him out of the district before he brings them any additional unwanted attention.”

“I don’t blame them.”

“I want him to work with you.  At least until I can figure out what to do with him.”

“No.”

The commander crossed his arms, his expression growing mulish.  “I need for you to keep an eye on him, Frank.”

“No, Julio.”

The commander nodded toward the squad room.  “Those people out there respect you.  You’ve got a lot of time and a good record with the department.  There isn’t an officer in that room that wouldn’t walk into hell with you.  I need someone who commands that kind of respect to keep an eye on Polanski.  So far, we don’t have the rioting and unrest going on here that is occurring in the thirty-first.  Your killing of the suspect who gunned down Rand is justified in the mind of the public.  But if Polanski stirs up the same concerns here that he did in the thirty-first, we’ll see the same kind of trouble.  The brass doesn’t want that and neither do I.  I don’t think you do either.”

“I don’t want to work with him, Julio.”

Lopez sighed.  “It isn’t up to you, Frank.  For what it’s worth, it’s not up to me either.”

“What do you mean?  You’re the commander.”  His voice was rising.

“I mean I have bosses too, and they want him here and you’re open right now.  I can’t let him work alone.  I don’t trust him.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.  You’re replacing Rand with Polanski?”

Lopez glanced toward the squad room and then leaned forward in his chair.  “I’m not replacing Rand with anyone.”  His gaze locked on Campello, his tone quietly emphatic.  “Stuff happens.  Rand’s gone and I have a new man who happens to be Polanski.  So you’re going to work with him, and you’re going to do it now, or you can take more time off and then work with him when you come back.”

“Work with a turncoat?  Are you serious?”

Lopez spread his hands.

Campello stared at him in disbelief.  “When does this happen?”

Julio slid a note across the desk.  “We just got a call.  There’s a body at Navy Pier.”

“What?  Now?  I haven’t even had time to clear the case load and …”

But he no longer had Julio’s attention.  The commander was staring into the squad room at an immaculately dressed man standing just outside the office door.

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Read-a-Chapter: The Greeks of Beaubien Street by Suzanne Jenkins

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the women’s fiction, The Greeks of Beaubien Street, by Suzanne Jenkins. Enjoy!

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The Greeks of Beaubien Street

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 147931174X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1479311743

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Nestled below the skyline of Detroit you’ll find Greektown, a few short blocks of colorful bliss, warm people and Greek food. In spite of growing up immersed in the safety of her family and their rich culture, Jill Zannos doesn’t fit in. A Detroit homicide detective, she manages to keep one foot planted firmly in the traditions started by her grandparents, while the other navigates the most devastated neighborhoods in the city she can’t help but love. She is a no nonsense workaholic with no girlfriends, an odd boyfriend who refuses to grow up, and an uncanny intuition, inherited from her mystic grandmother, that acts as her secret weapon to crime solving success. Her story winds around tales of her family and their secret laden history, while she investigates the most despicable murder of her career.

The Greeks of Beaubien Street is a modern tale of a family grounded in old world, sometimes archaic, tradition, as they seek acceptance in American society. They could be any nationality, but they are Greek.

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Chapter One

Detective Jill Zannos stood in a darkened corner of the morgue at Detroit City Hospital, waiting for the autopsy of her latest homicide case to begin. She took a notebook out of her shoulder bag and read the facts as they presented themselves, starting with the early morning call she’d received from the precinct. When her cell rang, she had been sound asleep next to the body of her lover. She reached across the giant, snoring Alex in order to get the phone.

“Let it ring,” he grumbled.

“I can’t. I’m on call at seven; it’s probably work,” she said as she climbed over him to get her cell phone out of the charger. “Zannos,” she answered.

“Jill, it’s Jan Grant,” the police dispatcher said. “You have a body en route to DCH.”

“Okay, on my way,” Jill mumbled. She hung up the phone and curled her body against Alex’s side. “You better get up too, before Wasserman calls.” Sam Wasserman was the medical examiner at Detroit City Hospital.

“He can get started with the night shift.” Alex didn’t officially start work until eight.

“Well, you can’t stay here so you’d better get up,” she repeated. It was a sore point with Alex; she wouldn’t give him a key or let him stay in her house alone and the dialogue had been a recurring one in their relationship for many years. “It’s a matter of privacy,” she told him. “What if my dad wants to come by to work on the plumbing? If you’re here, it’ll cause all kinds of problems.” Her dad wouldn’t understand. At just fifty-eight, he was old-country Greek in spite of having been born in Detroit. Unmarried women didn’t have overnight male guests, let alone live-ins, no matter how old they were. “No, I’m sorry; get up.” She smacked his arm. “If I have to get up, you have to too. It’s not fair, sleeping in without me.” She rolled back to her side of the bed. Alex sat up on his side and scratched his head. He loved her and respected her relationship with her father, but he was also lazy and liked to stay in bed until the last possible minute.

“I’m up; I’m up,” he grumbled. “I’ll make coffee. Just for the record, your father would never leave that store of his in the middle of the day. You’d better find another excuse.”

“You’re probably right,” Jill said absently as she got her clothes together, thinking about what was waiting for her. Alex pulled on the sweatpants he had let drop to the floor the previous night. “C’mon, Fred, let’s go out,” he said to their English bulldog, the closest thing to a child either one of them would have as long as they were together. Fred got up and stretched—first his hind legs with his head in the air, then his front legs with his rump up. By the time the two of them went into the hall and down the stairs, Jill was already in the shower.

* * *

            Jill walked to her car looking up between skyscrapers. The sun was just starting to come up to the east over the Detroit River, the silhouette of the low buildings of Windsor inky against the turquoise sky. The two-story buildings of Greektown with their brick facades were nestled at the foot of the glass skyscrapers of Jefferson. Detroit was a city of contrasts. She stayed alert as she unlocked the door to her cruiser. Although this neighborhood was safe, it only took one desperate person looking for money to ruin your day. She drove to the hospital under bright streetlights casting an eerie glow. Autopsies were Jill’s least favorite part of being a homicide detective, but she liked going to the hospital. The details she’d need to begin investigating a death would originate there.

The city’s dead came to the morgue for their final examination. Considered the gold standard of hospital morgues in its prime, now the only thing Detroit City Hospital spoke of was decay and unfortunate neglect. Since the riots of 1967, the neighborhood steadily declined to its present, nearly derelict state. Although the mayor and city officials did all they could to protect the one place citizens were guaranteed equal access to health care, for the last few years money was so tight that cuts reached every department, including the morgue. Even so, it was an equalizer; if you were murdered in Detroit, you got the best autopsy available. If the family of the victim could be located immediately, the autopsy wouldn’t start until after the body was viewed. Because of the backlog of bodies in the coolers, this unlucky victim couldn’t wait. It was either now or two days from now, and by then it might be too late to gather crucial information.

While Jill waited, she noticed a strong dead-mouse smell coming from the closet behind her; the pine-scented cleaner generously used to scour all the metal surfaces in the morgue couldn’t hide it. She used her powers of discipline not to comment about the stench while the autopsy got underway. The smell brought back a memory from her childhood in Greektown. She was five years old and could tell before she stepped over the threshold of the family apartment that her grandmother was cooking lambs’ heads. The heads smelled differently than other lamb meat. All family meal preparation took place in the store below the apartment, but since lambs’ heads were a delicacy just for the family, they were baked upstairs. Jill balked immediately, turning to her mother.

“I’m not going in there,” she complained.

“Get moving, little one, before I call for your grandmother,” her mother warned.

“It smells! Gigi’s got heads in there!” But Christina Zannos pushed her daughter through the door.

“Well, they can’t hurt you, so get moving,” she said, once again amused and annoyed that her child was smart for her age but as stubborn as a mule. Jill reluctantly allowed the push, but fled for her room. The vision of the heads propped up on a baking pan with their long snouts and eyeballs intact scared the hell out of her. That a dead-mouse smell in the morgue would evoke the memory of the severed lamb head brought a giggle up into her throat that she fought by concentrating like mad, writing every single thing about the present scene in the morgue.

Alex enjoyed seeing her like this, focused and jotting down notes in a small leather-bound book as the pathologist, Dr. Wasserman, recited his findings. Although a protective mask wasn’t necessary unless you were standing at the table, Jill always wore one as a barrier between her nose and mouth and the morgue. She was very sensitive to smells, and dead bodies smelled bad. This one was no exception; the smell of the body blending with the dead-mouse smell.

The stench was a contradiction. The body lying on the metal table was of a petite, young female who had a beautiful face, a muscular, athletic body, and neatly brushed thick, blond hair. Someone had taken the time to wash her body off too. She was reported missing on Friday by her mother and father, and now it was Monday morning. A group of young boys looking for trouble found her in an alley off of Grand River and Cass shortly after midnight. Sometime between the missing persons report Friday and late last night she’d been murdered.

When Jill Zannos became a detective in the Detroit Police Department’s homicide division, she discovered she had an intense respect for the dead. Once, after walking in on an autopsy where a group of morgue workers were making snide comments about the victim’s body, she exploded, causing a scene but acting as an advocate for the respectful treatment of the decedent. Ever since her arrival, DCH had the reputation of being the most compassionate place to die in the county.

This victim was found nude. The medical examiner collected the foreign matter from her body to be examined later, hoping it would help determine the location of the actual murder. Fingerprints were taken. Once everything was collected from the outside of the body, an external visual exam was done by the medical examiner.

“Help me turn her over, Alex,” Dr. Wasserman asked his assistant. Against his will, Alex had given up and went into work early with Jill. He helped Wasserman roll the victim to her side.

“Whoa!” Alex said.

“Yeah, right,” Wasserman said. “It’s the bullet exit. Come here, Jill.” The detective moved closer to the table. The victim’s back had a large, six-inch cavity blown out between her shoulder blades. “Good lord!” Jill gasped. No matter how many times she saw the gore of murder, it would always momentarily stun her. “Where’s her back?”

“Not only her back, but the contents of her chest, including part of her heart.”

He reached around the victim’s front and pointed to a tiny spot between her breasts. “See this pinprick? It’s the bullet entrance.” The woman had bled to death, the bullet transecting her ascending aorta. Death had been swift, but other things were done to her before the end, torturous and excruciating.

“Any ideas yet what kind of gun it was?” Jill asked.

“Based on her wound, possibly a .40 Smith & Wesson,” Sam said. “It was something powerful.”

“Did you already wash her off?” Jill asked. “There’s no blood on her.” It was a contradiction: the gaping wound without any blood on her skin.

“Not yet,” Alex said. “Someone got to that before us.”

They returned the victim to her back. Dr. Wasserman bent her left leg up to do a cursory vaginal exam and swab for DNA. Once the external exam was complete, they would move internally, starting by cutting her chest open and removing her organs. It was at that juncture that Jill would escape. Blood, organs, saws, and the noise they made were not her jurisdiction.

“I’m leaving,” she announced. “Call me if you find anything, okay?” Her cell phone rang. She pulled off her mask and mumbled something into her cell, writing in her notebook.

“She’s been ID’d. Gretchen Parker,” she said, “from Dearborn. Twenty-six years old. Wonder what she was doing in the city?”

“Hang around for a minute, will you Jill?” Dr. Wasserman asked. Jill replied that she would be in the cafeteria getting coffee. The two often spent time talking about a homicide right after the autopsy; it solidified the facts in their minds.

It was still early in the morning; she would need a lot of coffee to get through the day. Jill walked to the elevator and pushed the up button. She never started obsessing about a homicide until after the autopsy. The scene investigators’ report would make the murder come alive for her, even if the murder itself took place at a different location. She would imagine the scene as it was upon discovery. A group of young boys found this victim. She closed her eyes for a second, visualizing them as they found the naked body of a beautiful, young girl. Were they shocked? Titillated? It would be her responsibility to question the boys. Remembering her dad, she got her phone out again as she stepped off the elevator.

“Papa?” she said when Gus Zannos answered the phone. “I’m going to be late for breakfast this morning.” She listened to him speaking, his voice raised, excited. “Yes, it’s mine alright,” she answered. “I’ll tell you about it when I get there.” Her father had heard about the discovered body on the morning news. She said good-bye and hung up. She had breakfast with her dad every morning at the family grocery store in Greektown, just five minutes from the precinct. But right now she would get coffee from the hospital cafeteria, find a secluded place to wait for Sam Wasserman, and look over her notes from the autopsy.

A strange jittery feeling was beginning in Jill’s body, starting in her abdomen and spreading through her chest and neck. She knew when she tried to talk, her lips would quiver. It was her standard reaction at the beginning of a new case. Someone had met the end of their life at the brutal hand of another. It was her job to find out who committed the murder and, just as importantly as far as she was concerned, why. She’d make sure the prosecutors had all the evidence they needed to put the guilty away as long as possible. Michigan had abolished the death penalty in 1846, and Jill was happy that killing defendants was not the part of the equation she had to work with.

Standing on the coffee line, she did isometric exercises so she wouldn’t explode with anticipation. She’d tighten her ass muscles alternately with her thighs and if she wasn’t careful, she’d look like she was jogging in place while waiting for her turn at the cash register. If she were outside she could do a cartwheel if she wanted, but here she exercised self-control. Around the hospital, she was referred to as “the strange one.” Employees saw the dark-haired detective walking from the morgue, often talking to herself or, worse, paused in the middle of the hallway with her eyes closed. Best not give them any more ammo. Her hands were shaking as she tried to stuff her notebook into her shoulder bag; she steadied them by holding her elbows in close to her body. The cardboard coffee cups were stacked precariously next to the pot and one wrong move would send them scattering all over the place. It had happened before. Fortunately, she was able to get her coffee and sit down before anything catastrophic took place.

Excitement about a case grew gradually for Jill. When the first call came, her curiosity was merely piqued. The dispatcher said “a body” was waiting for her. Nothing more was offered. Not the race, sex, or location. There were early facts about a case that qualified it as a homicide. If a missing-person report was filed with the police department and a dead body fitting the description was found, it was deemed something for the homicide detectives until proven otherwise. If there were obvious indicators of a murder, such as visible bullet or knife wounds or signs of a beating, strangulation, or dismemberment, the homicide division got involved. It was an assumption that could be made without repercussions.

It wasn’t until the scene was visited that the events surrounding the murder would come totally alive for her. She sometimes visualized the crime taking place, the murderer standing over the body, either with his hands around the throat of the victim or wielding a knife, stabbing repeatedly. She often saw the make of the gun if it was a shooting. If the victim was raped, the man in her vision would begin to unzip, but she would shake it away before he could reach into his pants. Then there would be a period of anxiety that Jill would either fight with meditation and exercise, or succumb to with nausea and insomnia.

Despite the anxiety they produced, her visualizations often guided her toward solving the homicide cases she was assigned to. Her boss asked confidingly that if she had any “ideas” about other cases to please speak up. She used caution, however, looking at her ability to visualize the details of a murder as a gift and not exploiting it; she’d pretend when he asked that she didn’t know what he was talking about. She never admitted to anyone out loud that she consulted her psychic intuition to solve cases. Despite her discretion, however, she was still viewed with suspicion by some of her colleagues. One let it be known that he thought she must have an in with organized crime in order to have successfully closed all the cases she had. Her partner said they were secretly in awe of her and jealous of him for having landed a partner who had such amazing crime-solving skills.

The department recently acquired a panoramic 3-D camera that would give the team a detailed record of the area where the body was discovered. Rather than relying on memory or notes, all an officer had to do was pull a videotape out of the file and get a renewed sense of the crime scene. Although Jill would memorize the video, there was nothing like being the first on the scene. Unfortunately, she was not with the team who first saw this body and investigated the area. Their department was too busy to allow the luxury of a start-to-finish investigation; they often overlapped cases so the few detectives available could sleep occasionally. She had to settle for the scan and the report, which she would view as soon as she got back to the precinct. And, although it wasn’t necessary, she would go to the location where the body was found later in the morning.

Finally, Sam Wasserman arrived with a tray holding two large coffees and a plate of chocolate-covered doughnuts. Alex would finish up the autopsy.

“Thanks for waiting, Jill.” Sam sat down and offered her a doughnut. She took one without hesitating. “She’d had intercourse,” he began. “Or maybe I should reword that. She’d had something shoved into her vagina. There wasn’t any semen as far as I could tell; the microscopic report may show differently. But she had a large tear in the posterior introitus.” He crammed half a doughnut into his mouth. “Something bothers me about her besides the obvious. I can’t put my finger on it. She didn’t have one scratch on her, not one mark, outside of the bullet hole. And then this enormous laceration of her vagina. There was no blood present; she, or someone else, cleaned it up. It appeared like a recent injury, maybe yesterday, but it definitely happened several hours before her death. The edges of the wound were already beginning to granulate.” He looked thoughtful, finishing his doughnut and taking a drink of coffee.

“So, she wasn’t dead when it was done to her.” Jill’s anger rising to the surface, increasing at the notion that someone would torture this young woman in such a brutal way, which only deepened her determination to find Gretchen Parker’s killer. Wasserman could see the transformation and stifled the impulse to comment. Jill’s eyes narrowed, her jaw set. He proceeded gently.

“No. And that isn’t all. She was a virgin; remnants of her hymen were present. So, she wasn’t a career girl, unless it was her first day. She also had someone else’s pubic hair on her back and the back of her legs, like she’d been on a dirty bathroom floor; washed off carefully, but placed on the dirty ground. It makes no sense. We’ll get a profile from it, but I don’t know about this.” Wasserman looked at her intently, concerned. “Are you getting anything yet?” They’d worked together for so many years that he was one of the few people who knew she often got a “feeling” about a case that would later result in an arrest.

“Nothing yet, outside of the disgust you’d expect. Maybe after I see the scan,” Jill said. Wasserman looked out into the cafeteria, pushing his chair back and standing up.

“I better get back. I’ve got a backlog. The report should be dictated by this afternoon,” he said.

“Thanks, Sam.” Jill got up too.

“It’s such a waste,” he said, putting his tray on a shelf and taking his second cup of coffee with him.

“Twenty-six years old,” Jill said. They got to the elevator and Jill said good-bye to Wasserman. The fact that someone would brutalize Gretchen Parker, but then take the time to comb her hair and bathe her, would fester in the recesses of her mind.

She’d go see her father before she went to the precinct. It would make things better for a few minutes. They would sit in the back of the grocery and drink the strong coffee he made for her. It took her less than five minutes to get there from the hospital. Greektown was in the middle of everything. When she pulled into the alley behind the store, he was waiting for her at the back door. He watched her get out of her unmarked cruiser and she could see the smile slowly spread across his face. She’d been an officer for almost fifteen years, a detective for ten, yet he reacted as though he had just found out whenever he saw her in that car. He was so proud of her. Anyone who would listen heard the story of his cop daughter. But she worried for her dad. It wasn’t always a popular thing to have someone so close to you in the police force.

Jill had been raised in Greektown. Most Greeks lived in the suburbs of Grosse Pointe and Saint Clair Shores except for Jill’s family and one other family, the Nickopoloses. The Nickopolos family owned a gun store down the street from Gus’ Greek Grocery. Frank and Estelle Nickopolos, their son, little Frank, and Frank Senior’s mother, Dido, lived above the shop, just like the Zannos family did. Dido was blind and looked like a gnome. She stood about four feet six inches tall and was just as wide, and wore black shirtwaist dresses that strained across her ample bosom, with a black babushka on her head, a caricature of Greek womanhood. Frank placed a stool for her outside of the main door and Dido sat on the stool all day, spitting at people as she sensed them passing by her, shaking her cane in their direction. Only serious gun shoppers dared to cross the threshold of the store because it meant being attacked by Dido. Once inside, they then had to tolerate the screaming voice of the family’s parrot who spoke only Greek. He was actually reciting Scriptures, but it sounded like the worst vileness. In spite of, or maybe because of it, Dido’s presence and that of the bird made life more difficult for Jill when she was a small girl. Those people and their damn bird were also Greeks and therefore clumped together. She never felt accepted, even by her own people. Going to school in Corktown didn’t help. Originally populated by the Irish who fled their homeland during the potato famine, now it was a mixed community of Germans, Arabs, and Mexicans. In late summer, Jill and her mother would walk the few blocks to the Woodward Avenue J.L. Hudson store to buy clothes for the new school year. Her classmates wore clothes from Sears and other discount stores, but her mother wanted something better for her daughter. Jill could still see the pretty dresses, patent-leather shoes, frilly slips, and underpants her mother bought her. She’d have everything delivered. Jill remembered the confused look of the deliveryman when he pulled up in front of the grocery store, their apartment right above it. She saw him thinking, How did these gypsies afford all this merchandise from Hudson’s? She might be the best-dressed little girl in her elementary school class, but she was still a Greek. Her parents spoke a foreign language, their food was different, and she looked different from the children she went to school with in Corktown.

The adult Jill continued to feel like an outsider. Alex argued that this was because she was a snob who thought most people weren’t smart enough for her to waste her time with. She was keeping her distance from them, not the other way around.

“Oh, go to hell,” she said. “If I were a snob, why would I be with you?” He laughed at her, their teasing and bickering often a prelude to lovemaking.

“Good point,” he agreed, wrapping his arms around her.

* * *

Gus Zannos had the coffee made and a slice of fresh, crusty bread with olive oil and tomato awaiting, Jill’s standard breakfast. The period of time she would spend here with her father was a good segue from the autopsy to seeing the crime scene video.

“So tell your father about this new murder.” Gus got to the point. He lived vicariously through his daughter. He often had good advice for her, too. “Already they have the details on the news. So quick!”

“Yeah, it’s typical to broadcast a few facts, like the body being found after her parents filed a missing persons report over the weekend.” She took a bite of bread, the thin crust snapping to expose the fluffy white interior, without regrets. She was thin and a few extra carbs would be okay. “She was from Dearborn. Did they say that?”

“Yes, they did. Why would a beautiful girl from Dearborn end up in an alley downtown? Stay home with your family where you belong!” He tapped the table with his finger for emphasis. Jill laughed. She lived six blocks from her father. “Do you have any ideas yet who could have done such a thing?” She shook her head ‘no,’ her mouth full of bread.

“Not yet Papa, not yet. I haven’t even seen the crime scene video.” He was fascinated by her work, and their brief visit energized him. She pushed her plate away.

“Okay, I’m stuffed. And I need to get to work before I fall asleep. Can I take your cup?” She asked the same question every morning, standing up and holding out the white china mug to him. She took one to work daily, filled with coffee her father ground and brewed especially for her.

“Of course,” he said, going behind the deli counter to pack her lunch. He put fresh romaine lettuce, feta cheese, kalamata olives, a hard-boiled egg, fresh tomato, and two anchovies into a plastic container. He stuck the container into a brown paper bag and added a slice of the same bread she had for breakfast and a small container of his homemade, fragrant salad dressing, garlic-free for a work day. At the end of the week, she would return the five white china mugs, and the following Monday the scenario would repeat itself. He walked her to the cruiser and held her coffee cup while she got in with her lunch bag.

“Come by after work and get your dinner, Manari mou. Stuffed peppers tonight.” She reached up and with her hand through the window opening, patted his cheek.

“Okay, Papa, see you tonight!” Gus stood and watched Jill as she sped away, kicking up a little gravel for effect. Arriving at the precinct minutes later, heads turned and noses sniffing the air, teasing her, jealous that her father packed a lunch every day.

“Zannos, how many times do we have to tell you that it’s no fair? Bring some for everyone or leave your damn food at home!” the chorus of voices from the bull pen said.

“It’s just a salad! Gus is waiting for you to come for lunch.” I must smell like my dad’s cooking, she thought to herself. But they were only teasing her, aware due to her transparency that she’d be a self-conscious target. She wound her way through the crowded desks to her own little piece of real estate. Her desk was pushed up against that of Albert Wong, who was deep into a heated telephone conversation. Jill put her lunch in a small refrigerator behind their area. Next to it was a large green board that had a chart drawn in chalk, listing the active cases and the detectives assigned to them. At the end of the list, because it was the latest addition, was the name Gretchen Parker with Jill and Albert’s names written next to it. Jill looked and let it sink in. She would never grow tired of seeing her name listed under the word Detective. She went back to her desk just as Albert was hanging up.

“Sorry. My bank is having trouble keeping track of my money,” Albert said. He rummaged around on his desk. “Okay, here it is: video and scan. Any revelations at the autopsy?” She sat down facing him.

“Just facts,” Jill said as she dug through her purse. Reading from her notes, she related what the post revealed. “She was moved post-mortem; there’s no blood evidence on the sidewalk. Cause of death was exsanguination. Her back was blown out. She had a large laceration of the vagina, but no semen. Sam doesn’t think she was a working girl because she may have been a virgin until whatever it was was shoved up her vagina. Or it was her first night on the job. Someone was mad as hell at Gretchen Parker, but they took the time to comb her hair and bathe her.” She took the package from him and stood up. The video and scan were wrapped in a tevdek envelope. They felt cold in her hands, but alive. They would be her introduction to the hell that Gretchen Parker’s life ended in. She walked out to the hall and up two flights of stairs to a private room where she could watch alone. She put the video in first. An officer started shooting the video immediately upon entering the site, even before the crime scene tape was placed.

The film was slightly grainy because of the darkness. It had been early, just after midnight. The light on the camera was barely bright enough. The city didn’t have the money to employ a professional photographer with lights or to replace the infrared camera that was ‘misplaced,’ but Jill didn’t mind. She could see what she needed to see along with the scan. The scene was wide at first. She could just make out the body in the distance. Gretchen was lying on her back, nude. One arm was thrown over her body, the other at her side at an odd angle. She had obviously been thrown there on the ground. Her thighs were together, but legs sprawled from the knees down. Even in the dark, you could tell she was beautiful. Her hair stood around her head like a halo. As the focus came in closer, Jill saw more. Gretchen Parker had small, youthful breasts, not augmented. If she had been a professional she might have had large implants. Her crotch was shaved, but that didn’t mean anything anymore. It was getting harder and harder to make generalizations based on personal hygiene. As the camera got closer, Jill could see that Gretchen’s eyes were open. Her mouth was open in a silent scream, her chin mashed down on her chest. Unnatural. The camera swept the area, but it was difficult to see much detail. Then the film went to daylight. The body had been removed, but the area was undisturbed. Jill was grateful for the additional footage.

Even in the daylight, it was a gruesome looking alleyway. Cracked concrete was covered in a thick layer of broken glass. It had the look of the sort of abandonment that many parts of the city were slowly adopting. A large hotel and several restaurants backed up to the alley. There was a plot of grass with an Ailanthus tree growing through a crack near where the body laid, at the entrance to a blind alley with no exit. Whoever killed Gretchen had driven slowly by and thrown her out of the car. The camera swept a higher view; the windows of the buildings surrounding the alley came into the shot. She didn’t notice anything suspicious there. The video played a loop and the scene with the body played again. Jill could feel the way the air must have felt on Gretchen’s skin. She sensed the surprise the young woman experienced as she watched someone pull a gun out and fire at her. The impact of the bullet, the caliber large enough to have blown her heart apart and taken most of her back with it, must have thrown her back several feet.

Jill’s heart was beating faster. She could feel it racing, irregular. She would watch the scan, too because she had to, but she already knew what happened to Gretchen Parker. She was no working girl. Someone she knew well did this to her. And although she wouldn’t document her thoughts, Jill felt the remorse and sadness of the murderer. Of course, she would have to work the case step by step, but now they wouldn’t have to waste precious time on unnecessary investigative work. She turned the video off and, in the darkness of the screening room, closed her eyes and said, “Thank you, God.”

Reprinted with permission from The Greeks of Beaubien Street by Suzanne Jenkins. © 2012 by Createspace.

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A Conversation with Urban Fantasy Author Jason Krumbine

Jason Krumbine is the author behind the pulse pounding, wisecracking Alex Cheradon Series, the dead soul hunting Grym Brothers Series (including Two and a Half Dead Men, The Dead Couple and Better Off Dead), and the tongue-in-cheek paranormal romance “A Graveyard Romance.”

You can visit his website at www.jasonkrumbine.com or visit him at Twitter at www.twitter.com/jasonkrumbine and Facebook at www.facebook.com/jmkwriter.

You can also email him at onestrayword@gmail.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Jason. Can you tell us what your latest book, Better Off Dead, is all about?

Better Off Dead is the third book in the Grym Brothers series, preceded by Two and a Half Dead Men and The Dead Couple. It’s the halfway point in the series and I took the opportunity to break formula a bit. In the previous books the brothers dealt specifically with grabbing renegade dead souls. But with Better Off Dead, I wanted to focus on the macro-story of the series a bit and play around with bringing the problems to the brothers, rather than the brothers going to the problems.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Thane and Mort Grym are brothers who have inherited the family business, which happens to be grim reaping. Thane is the elder of the two and the more responsible one. He grew up working with their father and developed a healthy respect and love for helping the departed and those they leave behind.

Mort is a screw-up. He has an addictive personality that has led him astray into gambling and empty, meaningless sex with faceless, nameless women. He stumbles through life by the skin of his teeth and relies, subconsciously, on his brother bailing him out when the going gets tough.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

For the most part my characters spring from my own imagination. I do have a younger brother, so I am familiar with the particulars of a brotherly relationship, but Thane and Mort owe more to my fertile imagination than they do any real people.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I used to be a by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of guy. Up until Two and a Half Dead Men I just sat down with my notepad and pen(I used to also write all my first drafts by hand), took my idea and ran with it. Sometimes I would have the last page written, but beyond that I wrote the book as it came to me.

When I started Two and a Half Dead Men my wife and I decided that writing was going to be my full time job so we worked out a publishing plan with specific deadlines. To meet those deadlines I had to start outlining my books beforehand.

 

On the upside, by outlining I don’t run into as many plot problems, such as getting to the end of the book and having no answer to who the bad guy was or how everything tied together(that happened twice, once with Fruitbasket from Hell and then again with the sequel A is for Amnesia, B is for Bullet. Nothing like forgetting to add the bad guy to the book. Awkward…). But nothing beats the exhilarating rush of just figuring out the book on the go. Outlining kind of makes it feel like a “real job” because it actually involves working beforehand. But I can’t argue with the results.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Thane and Mort are hanging out at their favorite bar making a bet as whether or not Mort is going to sleep with a girl now that she knows he collects stuffed penguins.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

The Overnight Tomb is a dirty bar located downtown under a parking garage for the mall across the street. It’s filled with a steady cloud of smoke and it smells like a dog rolled around in a tub of diseased beer.

It’s the Grym brother’s favorite bar.

Thane and Mort are seated in a booth along the back. There’s a bowl of cashews between them and foamy cups of beer in front of them. Thane’s got a red book on the table next to him. Mort has his penguin in a tuxedo on his side of the table.

“I can’t believe you’re sitting him out in the open,” Thane points to the penguin.

“It’d be rude to leave him in the car,” Mort says.

“That’s not what I meant,” Thane replies. “Although, it doesn’t help your situation, either.”

“I’m not ashamed of him,” Mort says.

“You should be,” Thane replies. “It’s weird that a grown man goes around collecting stuffed penguins.”

Mort smiles. “I’ll make you a bet.”

“Oh, sure, I’ll gamble with you,” Thane says. “Nothing like encouraging all of your vices at once.”

Mort taps the table. “I’m gonna nail the girl at the toy store.”

“The blonde?”

Mort nods his head. “Oh, yeah.”

“After she saw you buy that,” Thane points to the penguin.

“His name is Peter,” Mort says.

“Why would you name it?”

Mort shrugs. “Why wouldn’t you?”

Thane shakes his head.

“Tell you what,” Mort says. “Not only will I nail her-”

“Please stop using that word,” Thane interrupts. “She’s not a piece of wood.”

“-I’ll even take photos to prove that I nailed her,” Mort offers.

“Wow, you’re such a gentlemanly gambler.”

“What do you say? Fifty bucks?”

Thane frowns, thinking it over. “There’s no way you’ll make it happen. You’ve totally emasculated yourself in front of her.”

“I have no idea what ‘emasculated’ means, but I’ve got this in the bag,” Mort holds his hand across the table.

Thane shrugs. “Fine. What the hell, I can use an extra fifty bucks.”

They shake on it.

“Now,” Mort says, grabbing a handful of nuts from the bowl, “please tell me what the hell happened at Lori’s house.

“I explained it to you, like, six times in the car,” Thane replies. “Six times.”

Thank you so much for this interview, Jason.  We wish you much success!

 

 

 

 

 

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