Authors: Z. Rider
hen police can’t track
down the man Carl Delacroix believes murdered his sister, Carl takes matters into his own hands. After a two-year search, he finds himself broke, desperate, and—finally—hot on the trail the man who killed Sophie. But the road is dark and full of monsters, and the one he’s chasing has a deadly bite.
an Made Murder
ark Ride Publishing
, PO Box 63, Erwin, TN 37650
Man Made Murder Copyright © 2015 by Z. Rider—All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are imaginary or used fictitiously.
he morning of October 12
, 1978, Sex Pistols bass player Sid Vicious woke on wet sheets in the New York City hotel room he shared with girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Thinking he’d pissed himself during the night—it wouldn’t have been the first time—he stumbled out of bed. Dazed and half confused, he crossed the blood-soaked carpet to the room’s bathroom, where he found twenty-year-old Nancy slumped between the toilet and the sink in a black bra and panties, the bra’s straps drooping from her shoulders. A hole in her belly gaped black. Her stomach, thighs, and arms looked like they’d been painted red by an artist who didn’t care too much about his work. Blood streaked the white porcelain of the toilet, tub, and sink pedestal, as if she had struggled to pull herself up from the cold tiles.
By nightfall, Sid sat in a 17th Precinct holding cell, charged with murder.
Three hundred miles north, rock band Man Made Murder fidgeted in the dim control room at WHAK, the Lakes Region’s Only Rock Radio Station. The console lit the underside of late-night deejay Rick Travers’s sharp jaw, and a glint sparked his eye as he said, “So, come on, what do you think—did he do it?”
Man Made Murder’s lead guitarist, Dean Thibodeaux, dampened the strings on his acoustic guitar as he leaned toward a mic. “Uh…Sid?” It was the band’s last night to get some buzz in about the album before they took off on tour, but Dean had no idea how to get buzz in around Nancy Spungen’s death.
“It’s not beyond the realm of possibility, is it?” Travers’s lips brought fish to Dean’s mind, even as they thinned to a tight smile. “I mean, we’re not talking Donnie and Marie here.”
Rhythm guitarist Jessie Moran, one arm hanging over his silent acoustic guitar at the end of the table, drew his brow down. “Wait. Aren’t they brother and sister?”
They’d expected to do two, maybe three songs during their spot. The minutes ticked away. Dean had to remind himself this fucked up interview was working in their favor. Almost like fate was in on what they were trying to do. If they embraced this disaster, they could get out of here with just one song. Dean tapped the ash off his cigarette as Travers said, “Paul and Linda McCartney then.”
“Nothing’s beyond the realm of possibility, I guess,” Dean said. “I mean, right?”
Shawn Elija—vocals and bass—nodded beside him, his head bent, knee jiggling.
“He could have killed her, or she could have slipped and fell, or someone else could have been there. I mean, we don’t know,” Dean said. “It’s not up to us to point fingers.”
“No one else has an opinion on this?” Travers said.
“It’s a shame,” Shawn said. “It’s tragic. I feel for her family and for Sid, but, man—”
“Did you ever meet them?” Travers said. “The Sex Pistols?”
“No, we never met any of them,” Shawn said.
It wasn’t like they were going to be doing compilation albums together, Man Made Murder with their grinding bluesy sound and Sid and company shouting about anarchy over their barely tuned instruments. Although, given the chance between working with The Sex Pistols or their own fucking record company, at this point the band would be willing to do a rendition of “God Save the Queen.”
“I think I met Paul Cook at a party once,” Jessie said. “Maybe.”
Travers spun his chair to face their drummer. “Nick?”
“Nancy Spungen’s death—any thoughts?”
Shawn turned away from the mic, lips pressed together, the dimple at his cheek threatening to show. Dean had to drop his head to keep his own cool. It was a shitty thing, Nancy dead, but Travers was milking it for the ratings. He deserved any shit he got for it—and if anyone was going to make sure shit was gotten, it was Nick Costa, in his own inimitable way.
Traver’s lip curled as he said, “I guess you could call stabbed to death ‘dead.’”
“Oh shi—uh. Man, that’s terrible. Who did it?” Nick shirred his tambourine under the table.
“I’m getting the impression,” Travers said, “you guys’d rather play a song.”
“Well, you know,” Dean said. “It’s kinda what we came for.”
“Hey, far be it for me to stop you.” Travers leaned back, clasping his hands behind his head. His button-up shirt had pit stains, and his eyes went flat as he checked out of the discussion.
They fucking hated doing this show.
Jessie leaned toward the mic and said, “This one’s for Nancy,” as Dean fitted a steel slide over his finger.
“It’s not quite the same acoustic,” Dean said, “but you’ll get the idea. This one’s called ‘Can’t Win for Dyin’.”
ell that was
thirty minutes of my life that could have been better spent picking my ass,” Jessie said as they pushed through the station’s side door.
The air had a lifeless quality that didn’t quite feel right for mid-October—a sense like the band had already left and been forgotten.
Shawn, hands in pockets, bumped Jessie’s shoulder with a smile.
Nick jerked his head to toss his lank dark hair out of his eye, his hand rattling the tambourine against his thigh.
Dean drew a Winston from a half-crushed pack. “Eleven thirty on a Thursday fucking night.” The match made a sharp sound as it lit. With his guitar case dangling from two fingers, he brought the flame to his cigarette.
“Well.” Jessie dug his keys from his pocket. “At least the three saps stuck on late shift with their radios tuned to WHAK heard the new single.” Once again, to no band member’s surprise, support from the label was less than stellar. What all those line items that kept adding to their debt to the record company were, they had no fucking idea. None of it seemed to be spent on decent publicity.
Yeah, just stick ’em in whatever shitty timeslot you have available.
Dean expected to be dead before the band saw a penny in royalties. If he’d known then what he knew now…
Signing a record deal was tantamount to signing your soul to the devil, if all your soul was made of was music.
“For once,” Shawn said, “I’m just fine with the job good old High Class is doing for us.”
“Feels kind of wrong to be rooting against ourselves, though, doesn’t it?” Dean said. “Like there has to be some kind of karmic payback for that.” But that was their plan: hope like hell the new album tanked. Make themselves a pain in the ass for the label. Convince them they were half worthless, so maybe they’d get let out of the shitty fucking contract.
It was that or give up music, and Shawn and Dean couldn’t contemplate that. Jessie could move on to his second love—working on cars. They’d pulled him off that career path in high school, literally showing up at the back of the shop classroom to say, “We heard you play guitar.”
Nick would land on two feet whatever happened; he could drift into things, the way he’d drifted into Man Made Murder after Dean and Shawn had run into him outside a few concerts. Canned Heat, that had been the one they’d met him at first, outside banging on the club’s walls with a couple dowels he’d pulled out of the trash—because he’d been thrown out of the club before the show had even started.
Their plan carried its risks—they could make themselves so unattractive no one would pick them up after High Class dumped them. Then it would be starting all over again—shitty bars for crowds who didn’t notice there was a band in the corner trying to play over the drunken shouts. They’d toured the shittiest shitholes throughout New England when they were eighteen, sleeping in Shawn’s van, panhandling that time they’d run out of gas and cash at the same time in Rhode Island. Signing with a record label had changed all that—exactly the way signing your soul to the devil changed your life.
“It’s a necessary evil,” Nick said.
Jessie popped the trunk of his Torino—all his advance money went into cars. To make up for it, he lived over his parents’ garage, and he seemed fine with that. They left him alone for the most part, and he never had to worry about what to do with himself when Sunday dinnertime rolled around.
Shawn started to say something, but it was drowned out by the guttural rumble of a Triumph pulling up at the bar across the street, joining the thick line of bikes angled out from the sidewalk. If it weren’t for the bikes, Dean wouldn’t even think the place was open—the windows were shuttered, the place had no neon beer signs flashing. Not even the name of the bar had been posted out front. He could have sworn last time they’d been to WHAK, the place
been closed, a tired For Sale sign posted by the door.
“If they do drop us…” Nick said when the engine cut off.
they drop us.” Jessie slammed the trunk shut.
“We fucking hope they drop us,” Shawn said.
Dean watched the biker swing off his motorcycle. A knife strapped to his thigh made Dean think he might have been in Vietnam, a fate the band had narrowly avoided when the draft was brought to an end the same year their birthdates entered the lottery. They’d talked about it a lot, though. Even considered enlisting together so they could be in the same platoon, rather than getting picked off by the draft, one by one. (Dean had tried to talk Shawn and Nick into enrolling in college. If any of them were going to make it that way, it’d be those two. No go, though. They’d just finished with high school, and neither was about to start a whole new round of education, even if it kept them safe at home.)
“If or when they drop us,” Nick was saying, “the restraints are off. We can say what really goes on. Write a letter about what a losing game it is for musicians, what a sweet deal for record companies. Send it to
. See how they like
Jessie reached out and messed up his hair. “Nick never wants to work again, except maybe playing drums at kids’ birthday parties.”
The biker wasn’t alone—four or five men straddled their rides out front, drinking from bottles in brown paper bags. Eyeing the band with aggressive disinterest.
“You looking at something?” called the one who’d just arrived—dark hair, hawk nose, piercing eyes. His glare eased into a smirk just before Dean looked away.
“Anyway.” Nick pushed his hair out of his face. “Who’s up for some beers?”
Shawn, keys in hand, leaned a hip against his Mustang.
“First round’s on me if it helps,” Nick said.
“Free beer you say?” Jessie said. “Count me in.”
“Fuck it.” Shawn pushed off the car. “Why not? It’s not like I have to be up early in the morning to get on a van or anything.”
Dean clamped his cigarette between his teeth so he could fish for the keys to his pickup.
“Dean? What about it?”
The biker was astride his Triumph again, a brown-bagged bottle in hand. Dean cut his eyes from him, dropped his cigarette under his foot, and ground it out. “Think I’ll take a rain check.”
He wanted something before he headed out to New York in the morning, but alcohol wasn’t it. He needed something that would smooth the rough edges in his brain, and wouldn’t leave him with a hangover as a parting gift.
“So where are we going?” Jessie asked as Dean headed to his truck.
“Shorty’s?” Nick said. “Hey, how are we handling the shows? Are we diving them too?”
Dean shoved his guitar case across the truck’s bench seat. Straightening, he said, “We play the shows like we always do. I’m not shortchanging the audience.”
“See you in the morning,” Shawn said to Dean.
“Yep.” He shut the door with him still outside his truck. To Shawn, he said, “You okay?” He hadn’t said a whole lot during the interview. The knee jiggling had been more than impatience. In the past ten years, he’d spent more time around Shawn than anyone else in his life. He could tell things.
“Yeah. I’ll live.”
Dean’s eyebrow crooked up.
“Evie called earlier. Don’t worry about it. I’m gonna go drown it in some beer and pull out of town in the morning.”
“Yep. See you tomorrow.”
As car doors pulled shut behind Dean, three bikers watched him cross the street. Dean was thinking about Evie, annoyed about the timing.
Just let him go already
. She and Shawn were together four years, and the breakup was like a bad landing—every time Shawn finally hit the ground, she bounced the whole thing back up a few feet. Just enough to drag it out.
The biker with the sharp eyes lifted his chin when Dean was halfway across. “Help you with something, man?”
He waited until he was almost at the sidewalk before saying, “You happen to know where I could get something to relax?” In his experience, bikers were a good resource for that. He’d partied with more than a few in the band’s tours across the country and back.
The biker settled back on the chopper’s seat, brown bag resting against his thigh. “You looking for ’ludes, weed, or pussy?”
Dean was irritated from the radio show, edgy over the impending tour, and the whole let’s-tank-the-album thing still wasn’t sitting fully right with him. There wasn’t a better alternative; it was what it was. But he still didn’t like rooting against himself. And then Evie.
Just let him fucking go already.
He had to be on the road in the morning, though—early. Quaaludes wiped him out, and pussy got most complicated when you least wanted it to. Like Evie.
“Weed,” he said.
“I don’t have any on me, man, but I know where to get some,” the biker said. “You want to follow me?”
“Fifteen minutes. That about right?” He turned toward the others. One gave a shrug, acting like he wasn’t paying any attention to what they were saying.
“Fifteen minutes,” the biker said, returning his attention to Dean.
Across the street, his bandmates pulled out of the parking lot, one car after the other like a convoy. Shorty’s was between here and home—closer to home than here. It was a reliable choice. Just thinking about the place, though, Dean didn’t want to be there. It felt too stagnant. He was sick of stagnant.
He really needed to be on the road, playing in front of people. They’d been home for thirteen months. He was crawling the walls. He needed to be someplace where he could forget himself for an hour and a half every night, feel like all of this was worth something. He gave the biker a nod.