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Authors: Jaden Terrell

Racing the Devil

BOOK: Racing the Devil
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A JARED McKEAN MYSTERY

RACING THE
DEVIL

JADEN TERRELL

Copyright © 2012 by Jaden Terrell

All rights reserved. No part of this publication, or parts thereof, may be reproduced in any form, except for the inclusion of brief quotes in a review, without the written permission of the publisher.

For information, address:

The Permanent Press

4170 Noyac Road

Sag Harbor, NY 11963

www.thepermanentpress.com

eISBN: 1-57962-302-6

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Terrell, Jaden–

Racing the devil : a Jared McKean mystery / Jaden Terrell.

pages cm

1. Private investigators—Tennessee—Nashville—Fiction.

2. Parents of children with disabilities—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3620.E753R33 2012

813'.6—dc23                                                                   2011045115

Printed in the United States of America.

Dedicated to

Chester Campbell
Mentor, critique partner, friend

A
UTHOR

S
T
HANKS AND
A
CKNOWLEDGEMENTS

N
O BOOK IS CREATED
without the help and support of many special (and sometimes long-suffering) people. Above all and always, thanks to Mike Hicks for his constant love, encouragement, and support. Thanks to my mother, Ruthanne Terrell, and my brother, David Terrell, for their love and loyalty; Craig Combs for his friendship and for coming up with the perfect description of Jared (“Magnum PI meets Tim McGraw”); and former co-worker and fellow author Jim Winfree for giving me my first “break.”

A special thanks to my agent Jill Marr, my publishers Martin and Judith Shepard of The Permanent Press, cover artist Lon Kirschner, and copy editor Joslyn Pine. I’d also like to thank Clay Stafford for all he does to help aspiring authors find publication and for letting me be a part of the Killer Nashville conference.

Thanks also to officer Dan DeFranzo, detectives John Knowles and Pat Postiglione and the Metro Citizen’s Police Academy for information about homicide detectives and the Metro police force; Charles Harlan, Medical Examiner, and the UT Knoxville forensics department for explaining about decomposition and answering all my forensics questions; Ken Mastri, Mastering Engineer, for the information about the recording industry; Assistant D.A. Bobby Hibbett, for his long-term friendship and being one of the very first readers of this book; David and Lana Adkins, for helping me understand what it’s like to live in a family of police officers; George Chicazola, for helping with the Spanish phrases; Tamelyn Feinstein Mastri, for providing inspiration and encouragement since the sixth grade; Travis Baldwin, for cultivating a love of reading and storytelling in me; Michael Mill, for his advice and constant friendship; Christina Wilburn for her grace, goodness, and editorial advice; Joe Clark, for bringing a fresh eye to Jared’s story; and Ben Small, for leading the charge against typos.

I’d also like to thank the following people for their friendship and support: Brad Jones, Jeff Bibb, Barclay and Cathy Randall, Allan Barlow, C.J. Breland, Sherry Langford, Mark Jones, Brett Bias, Henry Faust, Jeff and Lila Smith, Bob Blanton, Gary Lane, and Chris Clark; all my wonderful friends and co-workers from MI, including Chris McCown, Kathy Palmer, Mary Beth Ross, Steve Jones, Scott Coulthard, Phil Perry, Lane Wright, Alan Lee, Michael Panasuk, Pat Thomas, Brian Thomas, and Louis Allen.

The Quill and Dagger Writer’s Group deserves a special thanks: Nancy Sartor, Richard Emerson, Hardy Saliba, Nikki Nelson-Hicks, Nina Fortmeyer, Jeannie Arnold, Robert Helbig, and especially Chester Campbell, who went above and beyond the call of duty.

That the book exists at all is thanks to the support and encouragement of these fine people. Any errors are my own alone.

E
VEN IN THE DIM
light of the bar, I could see the bruises.

Beginning just below one eye, they spread down the side of her face and neck, tinged the blue rose tattoo above the swell of her left breast, and seeped beneath the plunging neckline of her scarlet halter.

She paused inside the door, hugging herself. Her gaze swept the room, lit briefly on one face, then another. Looking for something, or someone. Or maybe for someone’s absence.

I looked away before she could catch me staring, and when I glanced up again, she had squeezed onto a slick red stool between two beefy bikers whose low-slung jeans revealed the top third of their buttocks.

One of the bikers tilted his head toward her. Murmured something I couldn’t hear.

She flinched and drew in a ragged breath. Said something that made him scowl and turn back to his drink. Then Dani, the bartender, brought her an amber liquid over ice, and she hunched over the laminated bar, stirring her drink with one finger. The fingertips of her other hand rubbed gingerly at her cheek. She flicked her tongue across a split in her lower lip and blinked hard.

Not my problem, I told myself, even as my hand tightened around my glass. There were a thousand reasons why a woman might come to a bar with bruises on her cheeks and tears in her eyes. Not all of them involved some jerk with a sour temper and heavy fists.

I tore my gaze away and told myself again: Not my problem.

It was a sweltering June night, and I was sweating my
cojones
off at a corner table of the First Edition Bar and Grill and trying to forget that Maria, my wife of thirteen years, was spending her first anniversary with a man who wasn’t me. We’d married young, two weeks after my twenty-first birthday, and while my mind understood what had gone wrong, the rest of me still felt like someone had thrown a bag over my head and scraped me raw with a cheese grater.

She’d waited a decent year before remarrying, but it wasn’t long enough to keep my heart from aching like a broken tooth whenever I imagined D.W.’s hands on her, his mouth against hers . . .

A quavering voice interrupted my darkening fantasies. “Hey, Cowboy. Buy a girl a beer?”

I looked up to see the woman in the scarlet halter top, and the first thing I thought was,
Cowboy . . . Maria called me that
.

The second thing I thought was,
Why the hell not?

“Sure.” I gestured to the empty seat across from me, and she squeezed past a lanky man in leather and slid into the chair. “What’s your brand?”

“Bud Light.” She gave me a watery smile and patted her stomach, which was as flat as a whippet’s. “Got to watch the weight.”

I edged through the crowd to the L-shaped bar and ordered the Bud and another Jack and Coke from Dani. She pushed a stray curl behind one ear and slid two glasses toward me with a nod toward the table I’d just left. “Looking to get lucky?”

“I don’t know. She seems a little . . . fragile.”

“Afraid she’ll glom on?”

“Plenty to be afraid of before it gets to that.”

“The boyfriend’s out of the picture, if that matters. Or so she says.”

“So she says.”

“Seemed to me like she could use a little comfort.”

“Maybe. But why me?”

“You gotta be kidding.” A smile flitted across her face as she reached across the bar and smoothed the front of my shirt with her palm. “Believe me, honey, you’re the pick of the litter.”

I gave her a goofy grin, stammered a thanks, and stuffed a couple of dollars into the beer mug she’d set out for tips. Then I wended my way through the sweat-sour crush of bodies and the cigarette haze back to my table, where a burly guy who looked like someone had superglued a tumbleweed to his face was putting the moves on my new acquaintance.

He was about five-ten to my six feet, built like a barrel and reeking of cigar smoke. When he saw me, he rocked back on his heels and glared at me through slitted eyes, maybe gauging if he could take me. I was pretty sure he couldn’t.

The muscles in my shoulders tensed, and we stared each other down for a long moment. Then he dropped his gaze, adjusted his crotch with one massive hand, and mumbled to my tablemate, “Aw, he ain’t man enough for you.” He ambled toward the pool table, throwing a gap-toothed, tobacco-tinged grin back over his shoulder. “You want a real man, give me a holler.”

I set the lady’s beer in front of her and slid into the seat across the table from her. She scooted her chair closer so I could hear her over the din. “Cockroaches. If there’s one in the room, he’ll find me. You come here often?”

I smiled at the cliché. “I stop by for a beer and a burger most Friday nights.”

“No beer tonight.” She nodded toward my glass.

“Nope.” I thought of Maria, and a bitter taste came into my mouth. “Tonight called for something stronger.”

She glanced at my left hand. “You’re not married.”

“Divorced.”

“Kids?”

“One.” I tugged my wallet out of my hip pocket, flipped to my son’s school picture. I handed it over, watching her face as she studied it.

The corners of her mouth twitched up. No pity. No revulsion. “He’s cute,” she said.

“He has Down syndrome.”

“I have a cousin with Down’s,” she said. “Sweet kid.”

Something in my gut relaxed. She handed back the wallet and said, “I’ve never been here before. Seems pretty rough.”

I glanced around the room. The First Edition was originally conceived as a retreat for journalists and reporters—cozy and intimate, with a clientele who wore tweed jackets with suede patches on the elbows. It had changed hands several times since then and had finally evolved into a cramped sports bar catering primarily to good ol’ boys and bikers, but the decor retained vestiges of its past. Ancient printing presses and yellowing early editions of
The Tennessean
and
The Nashville Banner
shared shelf space with NASCAR photos and neon Bud Light signs. A Jeff Gordon ball cap hung from the half-empty potato chip rack, a rubber arm jutting from beneath it.

Beside the bar, a bulletin board labeled “Wall of Shame” was covered with candid photographs—a grinning man in a neon pink construction helmet, a shot of someone mooning the photographer, a bearded man at the pool table shooting the cue ball into the V of a young woman’s spread legs.

No pictures of yours truly.

The lettering on the front window read,
First Edition Bar and Grill. Bikers Welcome
.

“It’s not as rough as it looks,” I said, pointing to a sign beside the Wall of Shame. It said,
No vulgar language
. “They don’t even allow cussing in here.”

“It’s noisy, though.” She slid her hands beneath her hair to rub the muscles of her neck, then leaned forward and placed her forearms on the table, giving me a good view of her cleavage. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

Her cell phone rang, a tinny blast of “Born to Be Wild.” She startled, rummaged through her purse, and fished out a shiny silver phone that looked like a miniature spaceship. She squinted at the name on the screen, and a shudder ran through her body.

“Oh, God,” she said.

I felt my eyes narrow. “Is that him?”

She nodded.

“Tell him to get lost.”

Her voice was a whisper. “I can’t.”

BOOK: Racing the Devil
3.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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