Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tragic City, Chapter 5, Copyright Robert McDonald 2016 All Rights Reserved

I managed to get the bandage on Steve’s arm and the bleeding under control before the first of three Birmingham PD Ford Explorers screeched to a halt on the street. Two cops jumped out of each, guns drawn, and ordered us all to the ground. They searched us, disarmed me, cuffed us all, and then asked what had happened.
After about fifteens minutes they let the medics in to check out Raymond and Steve. Raymond was dead right there, but they loaded Steve onto a stretcher and put him into an ambulance that left for a nearby emergency room. One of the cops helped me up off the ground and escorted me over to one of the police Fords and put me in the back seat. I watched as they released the woman in the green dress from her handcuffs. They must have realized she was just a witness.
An unmarked police car pulled up and a detective with a stocky build and black hair in a crew cut stepped out. I recognized him from his visits to the cigar shop. He was an old friend of Walt’s, and a veteran homicide detective. He walked over to the two patrol cops who had first arrived on the scene and talked with them for a minute. Then he walked over to the woman in the green dress. He talked to her longer, asking a lot of questions and taking notes. I watched, wondering what was being said.
I tried to keep my imagination from going out of control with worry by focusing on the woman in the loud green dress. She was attractive enough to be a decent distraction from the growing sick feeling in my gut as I wondered what was going to happen to me, if I’d be arrested or charged with murder. Logically that would be nuts, but you hear horror stories if you’ve been in the self defense training community for any time.
Ms. Green Dress was about five-six, maybe one hundred thirty pounds. Long, athletic legs with some well defined curves in the bust and ass. She had that golden shade of skin the old timers called “high yaller,” shoulder length dark hair, and light green eyes. She was a gorgeous woman, I decided, with lips that a lazy novelist would describe as pouty. The dress she was wearing, on the other hand, was fucking hideous. I liked a woman in a sun dress and she clearly had the body for it, but that color did her no justice.
She crossed her arms over her chest as she talked to the detective and glanced my way. I noticed a glint of metal in one nostril and realized she had a hoop piercing there. It was cute and made me smile. She made eye contact with me and smiled back for an instant before dropping it and returning her gaze to the detective as he asked another question. It was the most uncanny thing, having a beautiful woman smile at me after seeing me turn some guy’s head into a canoe like I was Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Carrol.
That last though sent my mind spinning in a new direction. I had killed a man. Now I was sitting in the back of a cop car, maybe under arrest, maybe not, but definitely under a lot of scrutiny. I knew, without a doubt, that I had done what I had too. Had I not acted when I did Steve might be dead right now, and the thought of letting someone innocent die when I could stop it made me feel sick inside. I wasn’t ashamed of what I’d done. In fact I was starting to get a little pissed off. I’d done what any cop worth his badge would have done in a similar situation, but here I was sitting in the back of a patrol vehicle in cuffs.
The detective finished with Ms. Green Dress and gestured her over to the bench seats by one of the picnic tables. He looked over at me then and stared for a a while before narrowing his eyes and then quirking one eyebrow. He walked over to where I sat and opened the door so he could get a better look at me.
“Mr. Devereux?” he asked.
I nodded.
“I’m Detective Darren Wilson, Birmingham PD homicide,” he introduced himself. “I’ve seen you before somewhere, haven’t I?”
“Yes, Sir,” I answered. “At the cigar shop. Walt’s place.”
“That’s right,” he said, nodding. “So what happened here?”
“The man that was stabbed, Steve,” I said.
He nodded.
“I gave him a ride to meet the dead guy. He said his name was Raymond.” I looked him in the eyes as I spoke, holding his gaze and trying to keep my voice even. “Raymond was supposed to have a collectible Rolex that Steve was interested in buying. I came along as backup because it was going to be a cash transaction and Steve was worried it was a too good to be true situation. He didn’t want to be walking around out here with ten grand and have this guy try something. Steve’s not in the best physical health so he had me come along.
“So, this guy Raymond pulls up in that piece of shit Caddy he’s lying in front of and Steve goes over to talk to him. They talk for a minute or two but I could tell Steve wasn’t impressed with what Raymond had to show him. Raymond got mad, pulled out a screwdriver, and yells at Steve to give him the money. Steve throws his hands up and starts backing way and Raymond stabs him. By this time I realized what was going down and was drawing my gun. Steve tripped and fell back over the curb trying to get away and Raymond kept coming at him like he was going to stab him again. I shot Raymond a couple of times in the chest and he didn’t stop so I shot him in the head. He stopped then. I told the lady in green to call 911 to tell them what happened and get an ambulance for my friend.”
Detective Wilson ha been nodding his head as I talked and when I finished, spoke.
“Yeah, that’s what your friend told my partner at the hospital. The lady told me pretty much the same thing.”
He waved over one of the patrol officers.
“This officer will take those cuffs off of you.” The officer did so while Detective Wilson continued, “Hand tight for a little while longer. I’m going to go take a look at this surveillance video, but if it shows what I think it will you should be free to go tonight. We might have some more questions later, and it will ultimately be up to the DA whether to charge you or not.”
I sat in the back of the BPD Ford and rubbed my wrists where the cuffs had been. I was feeling a lot of relief, especially if there was video. All I had to do was keep my cool and wait to be released.
Detective Wilson returned a short time later and opened the door.
“Well, Mr. Devereux,” he said, “I don’t think you have anything to worry about. The video pretty clearly shows the deceased attacking your friend in a manner that to me appears to justify lethal force. I can’t speak for the DA, but I think you’ll be fine. I’d like to get a written statement from you if you feel up to it, or you can come downtown tomorrow for that.”
“Thanks, I can do that now,” I said, eager to get it out of the way.
“We’ll have to keep your gun as evidence, of course, but you’re free to take the rest of your personal items.”
“I understand,” I said.
Wilson waved over the officer who had removed my cuffs.
“Take his statement, please.”
He walked off toward where the crime scene techs where photographing Raymond’s body and the surrounding area and I heard him mutter almost under his breath, “Another day in the Tragic City.”
I followed the officer over to the picnic tables where Steve and I had eaten. Ms. Green Dress was there writing out her own statement. I sat and the officer handed me a paper form and a pen. I wrote what I had told Detective Wilson, and when I finished I signed and dated it then handed it to the officer. He took it away and came back a few minutes later with a plastic evidence bag containing the contents of my pockets. I took out my phone and saw I had a couple of missed calls, the most recent from Steve.
I called Steve back and he answered on the first ring.
“Hey, Man,” he said, “I just wanted to check up on you and let you know Bobbi just picked me up from the hospital.”
“That’s good to hear, Steve,” I said.
“Yeah, they cleaned me up, re-bandaged me, and gave me a prescription for antibiotics and another for good painkillers. They say I should heal up fine. We’re about to pick up the ‘scripts and then I’m going to pop one of the painkillers with a glass of Scotch. I think my ass hurts more from falling on it than the arm does. You okay? The cops cut you loose yet?”
“Just now,” I said. “They just took my statement and let me go. The detective says I shouldn’t have anything to worry about.”
“That’s awesome, Man,” Steve said. “I told them you saved my life. You really did. Me and Bobbi can’t thank you enough. Well, she’s a little disappointed she doesn’t get to collect the life insurance on my sorry ass, but other than that she’s thankful.”
I chuckled as I heard his wife scolding him in the background.
“I’m glad I could do it, and glad you’re okay. I was a little slow realizing what was going down. Sorry about that.”
“Nah, Man,” Steve said. “You did just fine. Got to go, Man. Later.”
“Later,” I said and hung up.
I stuck my phone in my pocket and looked up to see Ms. Green Dress staring at me.
“Thanks,” I said to her.
She crinkled her eyebrows. “For what?”
“For telling the cops what you saw,” I said.
“It was the truth,” she said with a shrug.
“I know, but most people would not have wanted to get involved even to tell what they saw,” I said. “I appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome,” she said.
Her voice was a nice contralto, and I liked hearing it.
“I need a drink,” I said, looking into her eyes. “Buy you one?”
“You going to introduce yourself first?”
I laughed. “Roger Devereux.”
She held out her hand, and I took it. “Laura Pike,” she said. “And yes, you can buy me a drink.”

Tragic City, Chapter 4, Copyright 2016 Robert McDonald All Rights Reserved

At a quarter to five Steve came into the poker room and asked what I thought about cutting out early and getting some food at Saw’s while we waited for the meet up. I was twenty-five dollars in the hole in a five dollar buy-in game so that seemed like a good idea. The Opus X I was smoking was down to the nub so I tossed it into an ash tray and cashed out the couple of dollars in chips I had left in front of me.
There was a little traffic on the way to Avondale but nothing major. When we hit 41st Street South I parked in the alley between Saw’s and Post Office Pies. We were lucky, there wasn’t much of a line at Saw’s and when we got our food we took it to one of the picnic tables on the alley side of the building and dug in. Steve had gone for a Saw’s classic, pork and greens over cheese grits. I had never developed a taste for greens and had opted for a pork sandwich and fries. The food was great and the only disappointing thing about the meal was that I was not washing it down with Vanillaphant Porter from the Brewery down the street.
We sat around shooting the shit while we waited for the meet up. This consisted of Steve giving me shit for driving the car from Bullitt, living in an Art Deco building, but wearing a piece of shit Timex watch instead of something like his Daytona.
“I just never saw the need to spend a lot of money on something I only want to tell the time,” I said. “I guess it would be nice to have something fancier, but why spend five grand on a watch when I can spend it on a gun?”
Steve just rolled his eyes.
I was sitting with my back to the entrance to the alley with Steve right across from me. Over his shoulder I watched an early eighties model Cadillac that had probably been candy apple red at some point in the past pull up to the curb and park just on the other side of Saw’s in front of a used car dealership. The thing looked like it was held together by rust and duct tape.
“Guy said he’d be in a red Caddy, right?” I asked.
Steve looked over his shoulder just as the driver’s door screeched open and a tall, slim black guy with a full beard stepped out with a small box in one hand. He kicked the door shut and walked around to stand in front of the car.
“Damn,” Steve said. “He does need money if he’s driving that piece of shit.”
The man saw us watching him and smiled.
“One of you Steve?” he called out.
“Yeah,” Steve called back. “You Raymond?”
“Yeah, man!” Raymond said, and sat the box he was holding on the hood of the wreck. “Come check out this sweet Rolex!”
“I’ll be right over,” Steve replied and turned back to me and rolled his eyes. “This guy seems okay. Hang out here but keep your eyes open.”
“Okay,” I said. “I can come over with you if you want.”
“Nah,” Steve said as he pried himself up from his seat. “This’ll be quick one way or the other.”
As Steve walked the twenty feet over to Raymond’s car I got up and moved around to the other side of the table so there was nothing to slow me down if I needed to get over there in a hurry. I kept my eyes on Raymond and his smile slipped when he glanced my way but it was back as his gaze returned to Steve.
Raymond didn’t seem like the type to own a house worth twenty thousand, let alone a watch. He was wearing a plain gray t-shirt and black jeans. On his feet were a pair of dirty sneakers that might have been white in a past life. If this guy had ever owned a watch he’d found it in a box of Cracker Jack.
Steve stepped off the curb into the street with Raymond, and they talked. Raymond seemed antsy as Steve gestured at the watch, but he finally reached out and opened the box, standing back to let Steve lean down to take a look.
Steve didn’t even attempt to pick it up. After a glance he straightened back up and shook his head. Raymond tensed up at this and I stood up and walked a couple of steps closer. Raymond was getting agitated and gesturing at the watch as he mumbled something to Steve, but Steve just kept shaking his head.
“It’s not even a Rolex, Man,” I heard Steve say as I got closer.
I could feel the adrenaline start to hit my system as things heated up between them.
“I’m not buying that,” Steve scoffed.
“Fuck you!” Raymond yelled and his hands went towards his waist. I was startled and hesitated for an instant but I started my draw as Raymond’s hand came up holding a screwdriver in a reverse grip. He pulled his arm back ready to stab down yelling, “Gimme the money, Motherfucker!”
Steve dropped his cane and threw his hands ups in front of him in a placating motion while backing away from the snarling Raymond. My left hand had my shirt pulled up and out of the way as my right hand found the grip and started drawing the Glock out of it’s holster.
Everything felt like it was going in slow motion as I watched Raymond stab down into Steve’s arm. Steve cried out in pain and shock as Raymond pulled the screw driver out of Steve’s arm and back to stab again. Steve backpedaled trying to get away but tripped over the curb and fell back on his ass.
My eyes were locked on Raymond as he stepped towards Steve ready to continue his attack and then my eyes shifted to the Trijicon HD front site on my Glock as my support hand wrapped around my strong on the grip and brought it into my field of view. I pressed the trigger twice just as I completed the press out and I saw the two rounds impact on Raymond’s chest. He continued forward not seeming to notice. My eyes and front site moved to his face and I pressed the trigger again. The shot impacted on the outside of Raymond’s left eye socket and there was a splatter of blood and brain matter from the exit wound on the other side of his head. Raymond collapsed to the ground like his switch had been flipped.
I took quick steps toward Steve while keeping my gun on Raymond. I was pretty sure he was done, but I wasn’t about to take any more chances than I already had. When I reached Steve I got a good look at the exit wound on the back side of Raymond’s skull and knew I didn’t have to worry about him any more. Bits of white skull and gray brain matter were sprayed with blood onto the hood of his piece of shit car. A large clump of hair and skull was hung up in the grill.
I looked around. There were a few people standing around looking frozen in place and as I made eye contact most of them looked away and followed that up with quickly walking out of the area. A few ran. One, a light skinned black woman just looked back while taking deep breaths. She was wearing a lime green sun dress and matching heels. Her hands were up at her sides in the surrender position. She was holding a cell one in one hand.
I holstered my pistol and yelled, “Call 911, my friend needs an ambulance.”
I pointed at Raymond’s body.
“Tell them that man was stabbing him and someone shot the guy doing the stabbing.”
She nodded and got on the phone. I could hear her tell the operator where she was and what I had told her as I knelt down next to Steve to see how badly he was hurt. He had a hand pressed to his forearm and I could see blood seeping out from around it. He was rocking back and forth muttering, “Fuck, fuck, motherfuck…” over and over.
I touched his shoulder so he would look at me.
“Just keep pressure on it,” I said. “Help is on the way. I’ll be right back.”
He nodded and I stood and ran over to my car. I pulled open the door and snatched my messenger bag from the back seat. I unzipped one of the front compartments and pulled an Israeli compression bandage and ran back to Steve. I could already hear sirens in the distance.

Tragic City, Chapter 3, Copyright 2016 Robert McDonald All Right Reserved

Blueline Cigar Company sits on Glade Avenue just off Highway 11 in Trussville. Out front was a concrete parking lot where decades ago there had probably been a well manicured lawn. I pulled in and parked behind Steve’s minivan. Walt Bryant, the owner, was sitting in one of the chairs on the front porch wearing a faded blue BPD t-shirt with a cigar in one hand and a steaming cup of coffee in the other. A couple of regulars were sitting in other chairs lining the porch in front of the store’s picture window.
“Gentlemen,” I said as I walked up the steps.
“Hey, Roger,” Walt said. “What are you up to this morning?”
“Oh, the usual,” I said with a smile.
“Not shit then,” Walt said with a grin.
“Chase, Fred,” I nodded to the other two men sitting on the porch.
“Morning,” said Chase.
“How’s it going, young man?” asked Fred.
“Not bad, not bad at all,” I answered.
Fred was in his 60s, short, pot bellied, with ice blue eyes and white hair combed over a balding spot. He had a white goatee to match the hair on his head. He came off as a jolly old Saint Nick type in his good moods, and in his bad moods he was like an angry dwarf looking for a skull to split with his battle ax. He’d spent most of his late teens and early twenties in Southeast Asia as the crew chief and door gunner on a helicopter gunship during the Vietnam War. Not many men are left today who can write that on their resumes.
Chase was in his 70s and had also spent some time in Vietnam as an army officer, though his experience was pre-1965 and strictly as an adviser and military observer. He was tall and thin with a full head of white hair and a thin white mustache. It was rare to find him dressed any more casually than khakis and a polo with a pair of cowboy boots that cost more than some of my nicer guns. Get enough Irish whiskey in him and he’d tell you how he looked forward to one day visiting LBJ’s grave and taking a long piss on it for turning Vietnam into the cluster fuck it was rather than doing what was necessary to end it early on.
I made my way inside and swung into the humidor to grab a stick. It was early so I picked a Drew Estate Nirvana with a Cameroon wrapper. I walked into the kitchen to grab a can of Coke, and then I went to find Steve.
He was sitting in his favorite chair watching highlights from the previous nights Stanley Cup play off game. I took a seat next to him.
“Roger,” he said as I cut and lit my cigar.
“Steve,” I said after rolling some smoke around in my mouth and blowing it away. “What’s up?”
Steve had salt and pepper hair, was overweight, and walked with a cane most days.
“So, you know I kind of collect watches, right?”
I nodded.
“So, this guy I know calls me and tells me he ran into a guy looking for someone who wants a Tiffany Rolex 1680 Submariner. It’s the first model with a date feature, really hard to come by. So I call this guy. He says it’s mint, he even has the original receipt from when his Dad bought it new at Bromberg’s downtown. He says he needs cash quick and he only wants ten K for it. One of these went for twenty-two thousand at auction not long back.” He gives me this look that says you gotta be kidding me. “It could be a total scam, but I have to check this out. I mean, the guy could be full of shit but I could also double my money.”
“So you want me to come along just in case things aren’t on the up and up?” I asked.
“Yeah, Man,” Steve said. “I think that would be a good idea. This whole thing just seems a little shady and I’ll have ten grand in cash on me. Plus he wants to meet in Avondale.”
Avondale was desperately trying to get itself gentrified, but it wasn’t there yet. It had some great attractions, like Avondale Brewery and Saw’s Soul Kitchen. Saw’s had some of the best barbecue in the South, but both it and the Brewery were in walking distance of a run down motel filled with crack heads and worn down old prostitutes. The whole area was surrounded by dilapidated housing, though a few streets were beginning to look up since the yuppies had begun to move in.
Just a week before a young woman was kidnapped getting into her car after leaving the Brewery and forced to make a bunch of ATM withdrawals before her kidnapper kicked her loose, though not before asking her out and making her give him her phone number. A real Casanova, that one.
“What do you charge for something like that?” Steve asked.
I thought for a minute. “Normally a hundred bucks an hour with a minimum of two hours, but for you?” I pursed my lips. “Buy me three or four Opus Xs and we’ll call it a deal.”
“That’ll work,” he said. “You free this evening?”
“I can be,” I said. “No plans except to sit around here and maybe play some cards.”
“Guy wants to meet in front of Saw’s at six. That work for you?”
“Sure,” I said. “I’ll pass on the booze until after.”
“One other thing,” Steve said. “Can we go in your car?”
I laughed. The only thing Steve liked better than expensive watches were fast cars.
“Sure,” I said.
Steve was nodding his head with a smile. “Cool. I’ll go get your sticks.” He struggled upright, using his cane to lever himself out of his seat and made his way toward the humidor.

Tragic City, Chapter 2, Copyright 2016 Robert McDonald All Right Reserved

I took the ramp that skirts the Expessway and then exited onto I-20E/I-59N.  On either side of the interstate I had a view of the urban sprawl of industrial sites mingled with rundown residential neighborhoods and the ever present green of Birmingham’s trees. Birmingham calls itself Tree City USA as well as the Magic City. A satellite view of the city will show you why the former came about, as Birmingham seems to always be on the verge of being swallowed up by looming foliage outside of downtown.
I continued up the combined interstates until they split just past the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, continuing north on I-59 towards Trussville and Clay as I-20 curved away towards the east and Atlanta.  Another few miles and I exited the interstate and turned right onto North Chalkville Road headed toward downtown Trussville. I took the very next right and pulled into the parking lot of the Waffle House on the corner.
I ate at this particular Waffle House so often that the waitresses and short order cooks knew me by name. I locked up the Mustang and walked inside. I pushed my sunglasses up on my head as I walked through the door and headed for my usual seat at the far end of the counter where I could keep an eye on the entrance and most of the diner.
“Hi, Darlin’,” said Allie, a wrinkle faced grandmother with Coke bottle bottom glasses. “The usual?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I said. I looked around the diner as Allie called my order out to the cook. There was another man at the opposite end of the counter nursing a cup of coffee while perusing a newspaper and chewing on the end of a straw like he missed the days of smoking inside. A family of four, Mom, Dad and two little girls, where devouring waffles in a booth off to my left. It was just before ten in the morning and the place was kind of dead.
“Here you are, Hon,” Allie said as she sat a glass of Coke down in front of me. “Food will be up in a minute.”
“Thanks, Allie,” I said and took a sip.
My phone vibrated in my pocket and pulled it out and glanced at the caller ID. It was a guy I knew, not exactly a friend, but more than an acquaintance.
“Hello,” I answered.
“Hey, Man. It’s Steve,” the caller said.
Steve had lived in the South forever, but he still has a trace of New York in the accent.
“What’s up, Steve?”
“Not much,” he said, making small talk. Steve was never quick to get the point. “What’s up with you?”
“About to eat some breakfast,” I said as Allie sat two plates in front of me, one holding a large order of hashbrowns and two eggs over medium with toast. A smaller plate held strips of bacon. I moved the toast over to the sausage plate and coated the hashbrowns and eggs with salt, pepper, and ketchup.
“Well, I won’t keep you from your breakfast,” Steve drawled. “I just wanted to see if you’d be in the shop today?”
The “shop,” as its patrons call it, is the Blueline Cigar Company. The owner was a retired Birmingham cop and the place had become a sort of clubhouse for local cigar smokers. At least, it had for the ones with any taste. The shop was in an old house converted to retail space with one room converted into a walk in humidor, two large rooms with wall mounted tvs and an assortment of leather chairs, a full kitchen, and a dining room converted into a card room. On any given day there was a group of salty old men at the card table playing ten cent a chip Limit Hold’em. Bigger games could be had, and these were the men to help you find them, but this was a fun and profitable little game for the skilled player looking for a low stress game.
“Yeah, I’ll be in a little later,” I told Steve.
“Cool,” Steve said. “I got a little work you might be interested in. We’ll talk about it when you get here.”
“Sounds good,” I said.
“Later, Man.”
I ended the call and returned the phone to my pocket, then I dug into my food as I wondered what Steve might need. My stock in trade was usually damsels in distress and elderly folks wanting the meth labs and crack dealers out of their decaying neighborhoods.
Before some dip shit in an Atlanta city works truck T-boned me I had been making a good living in the telecom industry. Sounds like a weak sauce job which is why it is so high paying if you’re willing to travel a bit and put in some real effort. In truth it was hard work and I fucking hated it but the money was so damn good that you couldn’t walk away.
After the accident and the city’s settlement I could support my lifestyle without the job so I told the boss I was hanging it up. I was all set to settle down to a life of good cigars and good bourbon while pissing away the hours at the poker table when my Doc reminded me that I should probably stay active if I wanted to stay out of a wheel chair. I decided to fulfill a life long dream and spent two years traveling around the country to all the big gun and self defense schools and training with the big name trainers. Gunsite, Thunder Rance, Massad Ayoob Group, SouthNarc, Larry Vickers, Ken Hackathorn, Michael Janich.  If they had a name in the gun or self defense world, I was there. Between training courses I started shooting a lot of pistol competition, mostly IDPA, and a little two and three gun.
I even spent a little time in Mexico with an ex-Federale who taught counter kidnapping and other skills along the border. The Mexican government likes to pretend there are no guns in Mexico outside of official hands. I can attest to the fact that this is bullshit. I didn’t take any with me, and I didn’t bring any back, but I had plenty of guns in Mexico and so did damned near everyone else.
When I came home I found that there wasn’t much to do but go to the range or sit at the shop. I shot a couple of matches every month but mostly sat on my butt for the first couple of months. After a while word got around among friends and acquaintances that I knew some stuff and I started getting asked for favors. I rode shotgun for a few friends repossessing cars and did some escort work for some business owners who carried a lot of cash but didn’t feel up to defending themselves.
This morphed into a kind of Have Gun, Will Travel career. I registered an LLC and got some insurance and put myself out there as a consultant and trouble shooter for average people. Unlike Paladin, my prices were a lot more reasonable, but I tried to be just as selective about my clientele. A lot of my work was just riding along when someone was going to buy or sell something for a lot of cash. People get set up all the time for robberies through online classifieds, so a concerned person can spend a few bucks and have someone with them to look out for a potential set up.
My favorite jobs were those where I made abusive ex’s realize they were not, after all, tough guys. I loved to come in and show a lady how to look out for herself and give her a little defensive training. I’d also sleep on the couch for a while if there is a strong chance of the ex showing up. The look of absolute fear on the faces of some of these cowards when I opened the ex’s door and reminded them that they were in violation of a restraining order while holding a shotgun under their noses almost made me want to do the work gratis.
I’ve never thought of myself as a gunfighter. Point in fact, I hate that term. It makes me think of pussies walking around with a grudge looking for some sucker to prove how tough they are. Besides Mexico I haven’t done much with guns except shoot them in competition and emphasize the occasional point.
I pepper sprayed a young lady’s ex once outside her work when he thought he’d show her that I was no protection from some MMA wanna-be. She did more damage when she kicked him in the balls while he rolled on the ground trying to rub the burning from his eyes, and he was crying like a little bitch when the cops picked him up.
I finished my breakfast and paid with a twenty, telling Allie to keep the change. She beamed and told me to come back soon. I smiled and waved as I made my way out the door, and a couple of minutes later I was rumbling down North Chalkville Road toward Highway 11.

Tragic City, Chapter 1 by Robert McDonald Copyright 2016 by Robert McDonald, All Rights Reserved

In order to give my beta readers a couple of extra weeks to finish up I'm pushing back publishing Tragic City until at least mid-August, but I know a lot of people have been anxious to get there hands on it so I decided on a little compromise. I'll be publishing Chapters 1-5 here on my blog. The post will remain up until I publish the ebook on Amazon. Enjoy

Chapter 1
Compression fractures to three vertebrae will teach a person a whole new definition of morning stiffness. I managed to struggle into a sitting position and swung my legs off the edge of the bed. With a grimace I pushed myself up and onto my feet. I shuffled the short distance into the bathroom, opened the shower stall door, and turned the hot water tap to full. I adjusted the temperature to just under blistering and stepped into the steam and hot streams of water. I learned forward resting my head against the wall and let the hot water course over my back.
My back loosened enough that I could stand upright without flinching about the time the water started to cool. I soaped up and rinsed off before the water went cold, then stepped out of the stall and toweled off. I did a few stretches, mostly yoga poses to get things as loose as they were going to get. I ran a hand over my face and decided I could go another day without the razor, then walked back into my bedroom and over hardwood floors to the walk in closet.
I dressed in jeans, a linen Hawaiian shirt, and hiking shoes. Underneath the shirt I had a Glock 17 in an inside the waistband holster on my right and mag pouch holding a spare magazine on my left. On the centerline of my belt I had a small fixed blade last ditch knife, something for sticking in any motherfucker who decided to get too close for gun work.
I filled my pockets with my usual accoutrements, including a Zero Tolerance folding knife clipped into my right front pocket. I put on a pair of tan Oakley sunglasses with bronze polarized ballistic lenses, and headed toward the door.
I own a condo on the fifth floor of the Watts Building on the corner of 20th Street North and 3rd Avenue North in downtown Birmingham. The building is an Art Deco that went up in 1927. Not as ritzy and less well known than the City Federal Building on 2nd Avenue, Watts had a subtle class all its own. The downside was that it was prime hipster real estate. The scraggly bearded faux-hemians and their pasty pale girlfriends with colorful disks in their stretched earlobes infested the place like cockroaches in cheap motel. They at least made for good camouflage, and I kind of liked the hipster girls with their overabundance of piercings and ink.
I took the rattling elevator down to the ground floor and made my way outside to the gated parking lot. My car, a pristine 1968 Mustang GT that I had repainted Highland Green, was all original except for the modern sound system and A/C. The summers in Alabama are no joke, if less intense than those on the Yucatan Peninsula and good A/C was a must.
I lowered myself into the leather bucket seat, slid all the way back on its rails to fit my six foot frame, slipped the key into the ignition, and smiled as the engine rumbled to life. I synced the bluetooth in my smart phone to the sound system and started a playlist before pulling out onto 3rd Avenue North and heading toward the Red Mountain Express Way.