Five hardcover first editions of Rock & Roll Rip-Off are being given away on Goodreads. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the site, it’s a great place to keep track of (and rate) all of the books you’ve read. Everything on the site is free, including the shipping & handling on the giveaways. Amazon bought the site in 2013, but I haven’t noticed any changes since the takeover. BTW, Rock & Roll Rip-Off was a 2010 Mystery/Thriller of the Year award winner.
At the height of the manhunt for Eric Frein this past fall, I saw a news broadcast from one of his hideouts. It looked like an abandoned crack house in the South Bronx. Sunlight reflected off of empty bottles, fast food bags, and various other debris. My jaw dropped when the newscaster said he was showing live footage from The Buck Hill Inn.
I immediately drifted back to a New Year’s Eve in the 1970s. I was a sophomore at Penn State and manager of the Northeastern Pennsylvania rock band “Rasputin.” The group had some very talented musicians, including Robbie Walsh and Jiggs Shorten, both of whom later formed a band with Noel Redding of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Until that night Rasputin had played mainly high school dances. While those gigs had been fun and provided valuable experience for the band, they were not financially lucrative for a five man group. But all of that could change in one night.
The Buck Hill Inn was one of the top resorts in the Poconos at that time. Located less than two hours west of New York City, its scenic grounds featured Buck Hill Falls, a series of waterfalls cascading over rocks worn smooth by thousands of years of erosion. By day, hundreds of tourists would snap pictures of those breathtaking vistas. By night, a dozen or so of us would take multiple rides on Mother Nature’s roller coaster.
The band’s anticipation of playing for a sophisticated, well-heeled, well-connected crowd on New Year’s Eve was electric. As band manager, visions of New York gigs danced in my head. Just two years earlier I saw Procol Harum and Country Joe McDonald perform at the Fillmore East. I realized that our gig at The Buck Hill Inn could be a portal to the major New York venues as well as the rock & roll lifestyle portrayed in Rolling Stone and several other rock publications of that era.
In addition to being the band manager, I also operated the PA system. To prepare for the big gig, I figured out windows of opportunity when I could leave the sound board at fixed settings and work the crowd for valuable networking connections. I thought of a few opening lines that seemed promising at the time. I thought of a few closing ones too, and I assumed the middle of those conversations would take care of themselves.
One of my old bosses used to frequently stress The P Rule: Proper prior planning prevents piss poor procedure. On New Year’s Eve day The P Rule was in full force. No one was late for the caravan to Buck Hill; no equipment was down; no one was in need of a date with Betty Ford. Opportunity was about to knock and we were at the door as ready as a SWAT team on double espresso.
The gig was scheduled to begin at 8:00 PM. Our usual routine for high school dances involved being fashionably late. This meant being set up by 8:10, and the music usually starting around 8:15 if all band members and girlfriends were present and fully functional. We were set and ready to go by 7:30 PM at The Buck Hill Inn.
I had been told in advance that the resort guests would be ushered directly from the dining room at or around 8:00. The band’s plan was to launch into “Under My Wheels” by Alice Cooper as soon as the guests started coming through the door, in hopes of enticing them right out onto the dance floor. No one wanted a wallflower warm-up when there were high rollers to impress.
At 7:55 the band members were on stage and ready to go. At exactly 8:00 PM the concierge walked through one of the polished cherry wood double doors and told me that dessert was running late. The guests would be delayed until 8:15. Tension mounted. The band milled around for ten minutes, then returned to their instruments with five minutes to spare.
At exactly 8:15 PM the concierge parted the double doors and I checked the sound levels as the opening riff to “Under My Wheels” marked the start of the show. Once I determined that everything was under control I looked over my left shoulder and saw about 100 eight to twelve-year-olds with terror in their eyes. All of them were dressed in tuxes and evening gowns. None of them headed for the dance floor. Instead, they fanned out across the back and side walls. None of them smiled. None of them kept time to the music. Their collective look of absolute shock told me that none of them had any exposure to rock music whatsoever. I suspected that they were raised on chamber music in sheltered environments. I wondered if the concierge described Rasputin to the parents as a string quintet with a “never say die” attitude.
There was no applause at the end of the first song. Nary a single polite golf clap. Knowing that the next scheduled song was a Black Sabbath number, I half-expected to see most of them running away, in need of immediate therapy. Instead, a few of them exchanged bewildered looks.
The start of the third song was my first opportunity to leave the sound board. Instead of working the crowd, I led my girlfriend out to the dance floor and did my first show-and-tell since elementary school. Two of the braver boys asked two of the more adventurous girls to dance and they imitated our every move. By the end of the fifth song the dancers outnumbered the wallflowers.
The following decade, when the film “Footloose” hit the theaters, I got a Buck Hill Inn déjà vu. I couldn’t help but wonder if the writer might have been one of the chamber music kids. Perhaps he was sent to live with a relative in the Midwest for deprogramming after experiencing the bacchanal at The Buck Hill Inn.
I went to see Robbie Walsh play a gig at a local restaurant the night before Thanksgiving in 2009. A few songs into the first set I recognized the singer from Rasputin sitting with his girlfriend from back in the day. I found out they married a few months after the band broke up and have been going strong ever since. Shortly after I joined them she handed me a photo album and said I’d appreciate the pics. Most of the album documented our New Year’s Eve at The Buck Hill Inn. Hearing accounts of that night from three different perspectives, along with the visual documentation, brought back the feeling that we had liberated an oppressed group. I remembered relating the experience to the novel “1984,” which I had read in high school a few years before the gig.
Upon seeing the dilapidated condition of The Buck Hill Inn during the Eric Frein manhunt I wondered if I would be sharing that fate as I advance toward my retirement years. Then I flashed on the way I felt when those kids joined in on the dance floor and decided my spirit would weather more like The Buck Hill Falls that we rode into the wee hours of the morning. Each year is a new beginning. Another ride down the falls. Make the most of your 2015 and have a happy, healthy, and rockin’ New Year.
The fifth novel in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series went on sale Monday, November 10, 2014. In Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll, series PI Jason Duffy reunites with his former rock group to serve as the club house band at the hottest new millionaire/billionaire resort in the world. The club is located on the floor of La Jolla Cove, one of America’s top snorkeling destinations due to its rich sea life and clear water. The book’s cover depicts why Jason is using his old skill set to infiltrate a group of regulars at the club.
Scroll down to the previous blog to read a bit more on the plot. Following are the links where you can purchase the paper or ebook versions of the novel.
The rock group Doberman’s Stub thought it made a conservative investment when it placed all of its earnings from its only #1 album into a minority partnership at the world’s hottest new resort for millionaires and billionaires. But the blue chip investment quickly turned blood red when two bodies floated past the windows of the resort’s signature undersea club on the floor of La Jolla Cove.
To ensure a thorough police investigation, the group hired San Diego private investigator Jason Duffy, a former bandmate of their lead guitarist, Michael Marinangeli. After determining that the victims were both local club patrons, Jason and Michael put their old group back together to serve as the club’s house band, giving Jason easy access to his top suspects. But his undercover status was nearly blown in his first week on the job when Elyse, the beautiful daughter of an affluent military contractor, used her wiles to crash his staff of psychologically challenged assistants.
Elyse led Jason to a society of local wannabe millionaires whose membership included both victims. On the surface, the society’s motives, goals, affiliations, and secrets appeared obvious. But Jason quickly discovered the downside to making snap judgments, encountering some of the most feared criminals the world has ever known as he dug deeper into the mystery surrounding their deaths.
Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll is the fifth novel in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series. The first, Rock & Roll Homicide, maintained Top 10 status on Amazon for over two months. The second, Rock & Roll Rip-Off, won a Mystery/Thriller of the Year Award. Pre-publication reviewers rate Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll as “the best novel in the series.”
In June of 2014, the first novel in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series, Rock & Roll Homicide, was made free on Amazon Kindle. Since then it has been consistently on Amazon’s Top 100 List in three categories: Rock, Crime, and Mystery.
Not everyone is a fan of ebooks. Many of my readers still prefer the experience of holding a paper book when reading. They also enjoy keeping a few special books in hardcover for future re-reads and for sharing with friends.
Unfortunately, Killeena Publishing can’t offer a freebie with paper books because of the manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping costs. But, the publisher can offer the next best thing – a sale.
Between now and Christmas Day, Mystery/Thriller of the Year award winner Rock & Roll Rip-Off is on sale in hardcover for $14.99 (originally $25.95). In addition, I have personally autographed each of these First Editions. If you have any friends or family on your Christmas list who are music and/or mystery fans, this would make a terrific gift.
While Rock & Roll Rip-Off is the second novel in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series, each of the books is written so that it can be read as a stand-alone. In other words, you don’t need to have read #1 to understand #2.
If your gift recipient is a mystery reader, he or she should be reading quite a bit about the series in the weeks leading up to Christmas. That’s because novel #5, Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll, is slated for release in October. Usually about half of the major reviews are published in the first couple of months after the release date. That means your gift will be opened around the time that publicity is at its peak.
Thanks to everyone who helped make the series a success. I hope you enjoy my next novel as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Click here to read the excerpt to Rock & Roll Rip-Off and place the order.
A twenty year veteran journalist from the Boston Herald, Beverly Ford, who spent most of her career on the Crime Beat, just posted a review of Rock & Roll Rip-Off on 1/30/13. Here it is:
No one can combine rock music, character development and good old-fashioned mystery quite like RJ McDonnell. In his second mystery novel, McDonnell moves closer to big time success with yet another well-crafted story filled with a crazy cast of funny and interesting characters — most of whom play sidekick to his detective hero, Jason Duffy.
Set amid San Diego’s vibrant music scene, “Rock & Roll Rip-Off” may focus on the theft of a music memorabilia collection but this story isn’t just your regular “who-dunnit.” McDonnell peppers his chapters with enough information to make readers feel like music industry insiders. Add the author’s sharp sense of humor, a maze of unexpected plot twists and a dash of mystery and McDonnell has yet another winner on his hands.
I read McDonnell’s first book “Rock And Roll Homicide” when it came out and immediately fell in love with his characters — the affable detective, Jason Duffy, his long-time girlfriend, Kelly, Jason’s gruff, ex-cop father and employees who suffer from Tourette’s Syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder. I was glad to see them all reappear again in his second novel — which I read in one full swoop on a cross-country flight, unable to put it down. I just couldn’t get enough of “Rip-Off” or the funny, charming, amazing and amusing way McDonnell walks his characters through a captivating and suspenseful plot.
With all that going for him, like another reviewer I have to wonder, why this guy isn’t a household name? His characters, writing and humor are enough to put McDonnell right up there with Spenser creator Robert Parker. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of McDonnell’s quick wit and fine writing … and all those crazy characters too.
About half of the books I read in 2012 were by traditional authors and the other half by indies. Originally, I was going to list my favorites in both realms, but opted to feature the indies since most publicity is already skewed toward those with large advertising budgets. Following, in no particular order, are the best of the indie novels I read in 2012 along with their descriptions and Amazon links.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide – Geoffrey West
Action packed thriller/mystery filled with murders and twists. Whilst researching the suicide of rock queen Maggi O’Kane in 1980, ex-criminal profiler Dr Jack Lockwood discovers evidence suggesting that she and her band were murdered to suppress facts she found out about John Lennon’s assassination. First of a series of Jack Lockwood mysteries.
An Indecent Death – David Anderson
When sexy, seventh grade teacher Paula Noonan is found murdered in a nearby park, Detective Sergeant Nicholas Drumm of the York Police Services is called in. Drumm’s previous experience as an elementary teacher comes in handy when the investigation leads him to Paula’s school, and a host of suspects, including the school’s creepy janitor, an abusive spouse, the principal, a moody and leering fifth grade teacher and the angry and aggressive father of one of her students. It soon becomes obvious that Paula Noonan’s provocative dress and unconventional behavior are contributing factors in her death. Wrestling with his health, an emotional ex-girlfriend who wants to get back together with him and a self-destructive colleague, Drumm works through the lies and misdirections that are set before him to uncover the surprising truth. An exciting and intriguing story, An Indecent Death will keep you guessing until the end.
A Lethal Time – Peggy Edelheit
I was beginning to question a lot, including my sanity for trying to find something I didn’t know anyone would steal in the first place. How did I end up in another complicated mystery involving a motorcycle rally, horses, a hidden collection, antique books, unexpected alliances, extortion, and threats upon my life? And how did I become a target? It was “A Lethal Time” and my time was running out. What secrets were they all afraid of me discovering?
Dream On – Terry Tyler
Dave Bentley was born to be a rock star. He’s a reincarnated Viking warrior, too. When Dave forms his new band, Thor, there are plenty of sleepless nights for Janice, his on-off girlfriend and mother of his son. Not only must she deal with the thrills and spills of life as a hardworking single mum, but also the imminent return of singer-songwriter Ariel Swan, Dave’s one true love. Poor Janice. Dave is still the love of her life. Ariel Swan returns to small town life – and Dave’s heart. She and her friend Melodie (whose ambition is to be “a celebrity”) enter a TV talent competition, so Dave and the rest of Thor decide to make the most of the opportunity for possible fame and fortune, too. This adventure brings about big changes in the lives of all of them – none of which Dave could have anticipated. One member of Thor even ends up on The Jeremy Kyle Show…
Where There Were No Innocents – Thomas Drinkard
Mack Brinson is a Green Beret Captain in Vietnam at the height of the war, 1967. He’s been selected to serve on the staff of MACV-SOG, the premier covert operations unit in Southeast Asia. He is a lonely man, and his wife’s lawyer serves him with a divorce notice. His assignments so far, have proven less than exhilarating and he has just been handed one more mundane chore. The conclusion of his tedious task is anything but boring. He fights for his life in a Viet Cong attack on a bloody runway. His loneliness soon comes to an end. Brinson meets a stunning Eurasian woman, Song. He finds love in an unexpected place. After Brinson’s first combat experience, his command begins sending him on Top Secret missions. He works with a SOG Recon Team on a wiretap mission along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. He earns the nickname Blade when he escapes from a lethal situation by using his fighting knife. As a result of his expertise in clandestine surveillance, Brinson is a marked man. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong put out orders to kill him. Song also becomes a target. He has to find a way to protect her while still carrying out his duties. Mack’s war includes fighting in the streets of Saigon during the infamous Tet offensive. He and a buddy organize a rescue attempt for a wounded fellow soldier. Will they get there soon enough to save him? Where There Were No Innocents is a true-to-life story of the Vietnam War written by a former Green Beret, who served with MACV-SOG.
Hide and Seek – Jenny Hilborne
A celebration turns into a complex mystery when a guest disappears and a large pool of blood is discovered on the grounds of a mansion. Abducted? Murdered? Or did Abby McCabe fake her own disappearance? San Francisco homicide inspector, Mac Jackson, is called out to investigate. As Jackson questions the guests, he uncovers old hostilities, secretive pasts, and the victim’s ties to another unusual death. At the center of it all is the lingerie bar, where the victim once worked. His best chance at solving the case hinges on an uncooperative source and Jackson must work fast, before it’s too late and his source disappears.
Sydney’s Story – Eileen Granfors
A romp through historical 18th century England and France during the formative years of Sydney Carton, adult hero of the Dickens’ classic, “A Tale of Two Cities.” How did this brilliant, compassionate man become a dissolute drunk, willing to die for love?
King Solomon’s Journey – Sammy Sutton
Unaware of the existence of the other, Anthropologist, Antonio Dominguez and Spiritualist, Amanda Messenger have inadvertently lived parallel lives.
They have studied the mysteries and history of the ancient people of the earth, the ties that bind past and present, and have sought to understand mankind’s deepest meanings, now they have been led onto a path that will take them into the past, present and future. Drawn together by fate, they have uncovered 3,000 year old scrolls, which have lain protected since King Solomon first sent them up the Rio Grande, within the confines of the mysterious Hidden Mountain. Ancient and valuable in their own right, the scrolls hold the key to unlocking the gates that will save humanity from approaching catastrophe. Hunted by evil forces —who will stop at nothing to keep them from revealing the answers—Antonio and Amanda find themselves on the run and up to their necks in trouble as they race against time to solve the King’s mysteries. In an adventure full of high-octane action and sensual mysteries as old as time, Sammy Sutton tackles all the issues your mother warned you never to discuss: sex, politics, and faith. With a complexity of depth and vivid characterization that is rarely seen within its genre, King Solomon’s Journey is the story of a sultry race on track to save the world.
Dirty Work – Michael Lamendola
Bloody basement poker games. Midnight street races. A small Mexican crime family. Stuck in the middle: two men who have no clue how to drive fast or shoot first. Sal and his buddy didn’t mean to piss off the mob, and they didn’t have any intention of stealing from an illegal gambling kingpin. Stumbling face first into a world of organized crime, they realize that staying alive means learning who to trust and how to kill. A handshake deal with the Mexicans who want them dead takes more than guts, and to survive they’ll need all the booze-fueled courage they can swallow, quick and dirty lessons in semi-automatics, and a rust-bucket Buick with a leaky trunk full of luck. DIRTY WORK is a fast and funny crime thriller set in San Diego’s grimy underbelly where the hustlers, hit men, and crooks have no patience for a couple of guys who find themselves in a wrong place that never had a right time. Full of slick wit and gritty action, it will appeal to anyone with an appreciation for fast talking, cynical underdogs who fight like hell to beat the odds.
Second Chances – Maria Savva
Set in London, in the noughties, sometime after the smoking ban, and before the great 21st century recession… James has always believed in happy ever after, and he plans to get there one day. He is doing okay. At the age of thirty-three, he has a top job, dream house, two healthy children, and a wife who always stands by him. These things, James can rely on, until one day, when everything changes, and he realises that he has spent so long looking towards the future, that he has neglected the present. Feeling unloved, his wife, Pamela, has left him, leaving nothing but a brief note. She has taken their two children. How far will James go to save his marriage? What can Pamela do to stop the past haunting her life? Will it be enough?
Darker By Degree – Keri Knutson
A missing girl. A mysterious break-in. A brutal murder. Struggling actress Maddie Pryce is looking for her big break and a way out of her day job at a crumbling movie palace from Hollywood’s heyday, but finds herself at the center of a series of seemingly unrelated crimes. Soon she’s tangled up with a persistent detective, a driven director, a playboy producer, and an unstable ingenue. Can Maddie unravel the clues before her next role is as a serial killer’s victim?
Willowtree – Mike Bove
In this cozy mystery Bruce DelReno, retired mailman and avid golfer finds a body near the golf course. He attempts to link this to other murders, which he sees connected to the entanglements and secrets of a group of locoweed smoking locals. His friend, an Apache Indian, becomes involved and supplies much of the dry humor. Much of the story takes place at the golf course, a favorite restaurant, and a nearby ranch, in the fictitious town of Willowtree, AZ.
Metallic Dreams – Mark Rice
Long-haired Scottish rock singer Spark MacDubh drops dead on a snow-covered street of his native Bronzehall, only to be jolted back to life by what he calls ‘lightning from Heaven’. Following his resurrection, Spark’s sanity is stretched thin: during waking hours, he receives instructions from deities known as the Metal Gods; at night he is haunted by visions of a Devil who wields ultimate power over the music industry. Employing behaviour that swings between messianic and infernal, Spark gets his old band back together with a view to steering them towards greatness. The Devil, however, only grants success in exchange for souls. Unwilling to use his bandmates’ eternal souls as bargaining tools, MacDubh comes up with a preferable route to stardom: put the Devil out of business. A simple idea but questionable in terms of practicality. For starters, it requires a trip to Hell, and only the right music can open the gateway to that dimension. Catch-22? More like Catch-666.
Sink or Swim – Stacy Juba
Personal trainer Cassidy Novak has gained fame for starring on a hit reality show, but not only does she lose, she discovers she is being stalked. She’s also being shadowed by Zach Gallagher, a hunky photographer assigned to capture her personal moments for the local newspaper. As her former competitors get killed off one by one, Cassidy refuses to play by the stalker’s bizarre rules. When the stalker forces a showdown, Cassidy must play to win.
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John Doe thinks you will enjoy my latest mystery novel. I hope it rocks your holiday. Have a very Merry Christmas.
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Rock & Roll Homicide
Rock & Roll Rip-Off
The Concert Killer
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Set of all four novels in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series
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By 4:00 PM CK was feeling like God had just shown His appreciation for his efforts to shut down the concert industry by helping him to land his second major contract in two weeks. Between the deal and tonight’s concert at Leatherneck Park in Oceanside, he was feeling like a very powerful man. That high was short lived as his cell phone vibrated and he checked the caller ID.
“Yes, Father,” he said.
As usual, his father began the phone call with a reading from the Bible. Upon concluding the reading, his father said, “The devil will be everywhere in the cities this weekend, my son.”
“Is he not also in the country, Father?” CK asked.
“We country folk spend more time in church and less time giving ourselves over to the urges of the flesh.”
CK said, “The Lord has been instrumental in helping me to succeed in business.”
“I don’t believe there are many Patricians seated at the right hand of the Father in the kingdom of heaven.”
CK wished he could find a way to explain about how he was going to shut down the concert industry. But he knew his father would instantly start lecturing on the Sixth Commandment, Thou Shall Not Kill. So he simply asked, “How is Mother?”
“She’s nearly worried to death that you’ll lose your soul associating with the godless masses in the city,” he thundered.
“It’s not where you are, it’s who you are. You and Mother did a wonderful job instilling a set of morals and values that don’t change with my address.”
His father began citing verses from the Bible, and CK tuned him out. He removed a dollar bill from his wallet, and stared at the Eye of Providence until his vision went out of focus. When he heard his father pause, CK said, “I have to go, Father. May the Lord be with you.”
“And also with you, my son,” he replied.
CK changed out of his business suit and into a pair of black jeans, a USMC sweatshirt, sneakers, and tucked the bill of a red Semper Fi cap into the back of his pants. He then pulled a yacht club windbreaker over the sweatshirt to wear through the resort lobby. He had made a reservation under an assumed name at a cheap motel in Oceanside, not far from the Marine base. This is where he’d change into the Halloween costume he would wear to the concert.
Kelly reminded me at least three times during the month that her high school friend, Lynette, was working at a haunted house in downtown San Diego throughout the Halloween season. I called at lunchtime and asked if she wanted to go see Lynette tonight. She was thrilled that I was paying attention. Lynette told her that if we went through the haunted house at the back end of the first group, she’d be able to chat for a minute and was looking forward to meeting me. Kelly thought the box office opened at 6:00 and the first tour went through at 6:30. I made reservations at a nice Italian bistro in the Gaslamp Quarter, not far from the haunted house, for 7:30.
Kelly suggested we wear Halloween costumes in keeping with the spirit of the weekend. But, knowing that the restaurant would not be catering to revelers, I told her we shouldn’t compete with Lynette’s outfit and should probably dress in the kind of casual clothes that horror movie victims wear.
Just before 6:00 we arrived at the box office, only to read a sign that it opens at 6:30. After a quick scan of the immediate area, I spotted a Hooter’s nearby and suggested we kill the half-hour by getting a drink.
“You were doing so well, up to this point,” Kelly said.
“Oh, c’mon. It’ll be fun.”
“Fun for you. This was probably part of your plan all along”
“I’m not the one who said the box office opens at 6:00. I’ll bet the waitresses are dressed up for Halloween.”
Kelly reluctantly went along with my plan and, sure enough, the waitresses were in Halloween costumes. Our waitress was dressed in what appeared to be official USMC underwear, with a few cuts and tucks to the boxer shorts. Kelly landed a kick to my shinbone after I saluted her and said, “Private Pleasure reporting for duty, sir!”
After she took our orders and retreated to the bar, Kelly said, “I’ll bet you’re a riot at the tittie bars.”
“I don’t go to those places, except when I’m tailing someone for work or providing moral support at a bachelor party.”
“I saw how you looked at her,” Kelly said in a teasing manner.
“Just because I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu.” Classic quotes, like classic rock, can be timeless.
“Unless you want to switch to the No Fun Diet I suggest you be mindful of your eyes when she returns with our drinks.”
“I’ll stare at the floor as a sign of my true devotion to you, my love.”
Five minutes later our saucy soldier returned. True to my word, I held a $20 bill in my hand as I stared at her feet. “What color nail polish is that?” I asked.
“It’s camouflage, to go with my outfit,” she replied. “Do you like it?”
“I don’t think it’s such a good idea.”
“Why not?” she asked.
Looking into her eyes for the first time since she returned, I replied, “You don’t want the boys calling you camo toes, do you?”
My smile turned to a grimace as blood rushed to my shinbone.
The Jarhead Inn was everything CK expected. The desk clerk wasn’t the least bit surprised when CK said he didn’t have a credit card, but pulled out a small roll of twenty-dollar bills. The room would be $49.95 for the night.
“I’ll need $100 security deposit if you don’t have a card,” he said.
“Right,” CK replied, and pealed off five bills from his roll. “I like to get an early start in the morning. What time does the front desk open?”
“6:00 AM, sir,” he said.
“Banker’s hours,” CK said. “Are you OK with settling up right now if I let you keep the balance of the deposit for your trouble?”
“Yes, sir! That would be fine, sir!” the clerk said enthusiastically.
CK walked a block and a half to his car, returned with his suitcase, and carried it up a flight of exterior stairs to his room. After placing the suitcase on the floor at the foot of the bed, he closed the curtains and turned on all of the lights. He then dropped to his knees near the head of the bed, and with his fingers interlocked on the bedspread, CK recited the Lord’s Prayer aloud. Then he took a very hot shower, dried himself thoroughly, and stretched out naked on his bedspread for the next hour, staring at the ceiling. Statements such as: “I am a soldier in the Army of the Lord,” and, “Tonight I am the physical embodiment of the wrath of God,” were recited over and over.
CK arose from his bed at 7:30 PM and removed a costume from his suitcase. First, he put on a pair of red boxers. Over them he wore a pair of bellbottom blue jeans. He considered a similar pair with embroidery around the bottom hem, but decided against them to avoid standing out in the mind of one of the motel guests, should he be seen leaving for the concert. CK pulled on a T-shirt with the word “Nahum” stenciled in an abstract font across the front of its tie-dyed pattern. He then added nondescript socks and a new pair of cheap sneakers he picked up at a discount retailer in the South County.
He removed a long black wig he purchased in Los Angeles the previous week. Then he pulled a black cigar tube from the suitcase. Black electrical tape held one end of a small chain to the cigar tube, while the other end was attached to a black alligator clip. CK put on the wig, pulled it back into a ponytail, and used a black band to hold it in place. He then removed the wig, clipped the cigar tube into the ponytail, and tied the bottom end with a second band. He added a third band in the middle to make sure the tube didn’t poke out of the tail. A tie-dyed headband was removed from the suitcase and put in his pocket. He placed a fake beard, spirit gum, and a change of clothes in a Marine backpack he acquired at a military surplus store.
CK pulled a crewneck USMC shirt over the tie-dyed shirt. Then he carefully wound the ponytail on top of his head and placed the large red Marine cap over it. He felt for both ends of the cigar tube, to make sure the hat’s shape wasn’t distorted.
He removed a dollar bill from his wallet and a black pen from a suitcase pocket. Starting at the bottom of the Great Seal, he drew a black line through the lower four rows of pyramid blocks. He drew a broken line through the fifth row and said, “There are 13 rungs on my ladder. As I ascend these steps, help me to be worthy to enter Your kingdom.”
CK left his motel room at exactly 8:00 PM and trotted down the stairs. When he reached the bottom he heard, “Hey soldier, what’s the hurry?”
He spun around and saw a hooker in her early thirties standing in the doorway of the motel room at the foot of the stairs. All she was wearing was a miniskirt-length red T-shirt that read I’d rather be screwing a jar.
CK asked, “Isn’t there a man in your life who would rather see you dead than giving away your favors?”
“I ain’t givin’ nothin’ away, soldier. It’ll cost you fifty bucks if you want any favors from me.”
CK briefly considered citing scripture on how a harlot could still attain the kingdom of heaven if she would only repent. But a voice within reminded him to stay focused on one mission at a time.
“I’ll save my fifty for the collection plate.”
“You do that,” she said, “and I’ll save my pussy for after you get drunk. Knock four times if Mr. Seagrams changes your mind.”
Dale Ebonrite worked most of the shows at Leatherneck Park that attracted a teens and twenties crowd. He was thrilled that tonight’s show featured a techno band. Dale’s biggest profit margin came from selling ecstasy, which was the drug of choice for this crowd.
Leatherneck Park was Dale’s favorite concert venue. It’s the home of the Oceanside Leathernecks minor league baseball team, which goes out of its way to attract a family-oriented following. Behind the stands, down the right field line, is a children’s playground which is within the concourse, but sealed off from the rest of the park to make it easy for parents to keep an eye on their kids without worrying about wanderers, perverts, or drunken patrons. A small restroom is located adjacent to the playground, which is where Dale handles all transactions. His friend on the security staff was well connected and always managed to get assigned as the sole protector of that section. He kept his distance to avoid scaring off customers, but remained close enough to call Dale on his cell phone if one of the few Oceanside police officers assigned to the show happened to wander his way.
As usual, Dale planned to start dealing as soon as the warm-up act kicked off. He would quit around the third or fourth song of the headliner, then watch the show and troll for latecomers and those who wanted to double their pleasure. Business was brisk during the warm-up act and the break that followed. Two of his regular customers had bought him beers, which he finished just after the headliner took the stage.
On his way to Leatherneck Park, CK stopped his car in front of a vacant elementary school. Pulling his backpack up from the passenger seat floor, he removed his USMC shirt, and attached his beard with spirit gum. He then made sure his wig was straight, added the tie-dyed headband, and tucked the Marine shirt and cap into his bag.
He arrived inside Leatherneck Park 45 minutes after the warm-up was slated to begin. He immediately ordered two beers and began cruising the concourse. After a few minutes he found what he was looking for – a group of three girls in their late teens. They were dressed in bee costumes, that is, if bees suddenly decided to adopt a sexy look and spend the day at the beach.
“Hi girls,” he said.
“Want to help us get our buzz on?” asked the queen bee.
CK shared one of his beers and asked if they knew where he could score some X. They told him they weren’t into it, but would pay him to buy them more beer. He told them he could get in trouble for that, but allowed them to keep the one they were passing around.
A few minutes later he hit the jackpot. He saw two girls wearing glo necklaces and sucking on lollypops shaped like baby pacifiers. His online research told him these items were very common among ecstasy users. For a mere two sips of beer he was directed to the playground and told to say: Heather said to get me rolling.
By the time he got over there he could hear instruments being tuned and knew that the break was nearly over. He stood in the concession line nearest the playground and thoroughly inspected the surrounding area for security cameras. The only one he could see was aimed at the concession stands, so he pretended to reach for his wallet, checked his other pockets, and left the line without angling his face toward the camera.
Surveying the playground, CK saw about 10 people crowded around the swing, so he veered away and found a spot that was reasonably well lighted and away from the crowd. He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and studied his notes on the names and opening lyrics of the headliner’s top songs.
As the band started playing he saw several people leave the playground area. Concerned that the dealer might close up shop to see the band, CK took another pass by the playground and saw three people bopping to the techno beat next to a playground swing. He decided that techno music made him feel less like dancing and more pressed to get on with his mission.
After glancing at his notes once again he saw a Halloween reveler with gigantic lips and teeth painted across his face emerge from the bathroom. CK backed off and waited. He discretely removed the cigar tube from his ponytail, then slid a capped syringe from the tube and put it in his pocket. When the next song started he recognized it as the third one on his list, and certain to draw the fans into a sight-line to the stage. Sure enough, he saw four people run from the playground.
As CK entered the playground he saw a guy of about his same age sitting on a swing. He was aware of CK’s presence, but acted very casual.
“Heather said to get me rolling,” CK stated with a smile.
“Step into my office,” Dale said, gesturing toward the restroom.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
When they got inside, Dale asked, “Straight X, or would you prefer kitty flipping?”
Time constraints trumped CK’s curiosity about the nature of kitty flipping. “Straight X.”
“They’re fifteen each. How many do you want?”
“Two ought to do me,” he replied. “But, before we do this I gotta ask you a question. I’ve been having a problem getting my girlfriend to put out. Do you think your X will do the trick?”
Dale replied, “You want some advice from the love doctor? Hang on a minute. I gotta take a piss.” He then turned his back on CK and stood in front of the urinal. As soon as the dealer faced the wall, CK removed the syringe from his pocket and pulled off the cap.
Dale said, “Your girlfriend wants it just as bad as you do. She’s just being controlled by the guilt that her parents are laying on her. The X will make that guilt roll away.”
“I gotta piss, too,” CK said, as he approached Dale.
When Dale started to zip up his pants, he glanced over his right shoulder just in time to catch sight of the syringe. His right forearm caught CK just below the elbow. Dale pivoted on his left heel, and tried to spin away. But he was pinned against a small tile wall that separated the urinals from the sinks.
CK used his legs, left shoulder and arm to hold Dale against the wall while he gripped the syringe in his fist with his thumb on the plunger. Dale put his right foot against the wall behind him and pushed. He expected his assailant to back up. But 18 years of farm chores built a lot of muscle mass. All Dale’s move managed to accomplish was to cause a blue drip to form on the tip of the needle, which was now just an inch from his eye.
“Take the cash and the stash. You know I’m not gonna report you,” Dale said in a strained voice.
“Not interested, pusher,” CK replied.
“You’re that girl’s brother. You can’t blame me. She told me she was buying the ten hits for a party. I couldn’t know that she’d take them all herself. You gotta believe me!”
CK lowered the syringe a couple of inches. “So, you’re not just a pusher, you’re also a murderer. The devil’s got a special place for guys like you.”
Dale desperately tried a head-butt move that he had seen in 100 movies. CK responded by pulling his head and shoulders back while keeping his hands in place. He also instinctively closed his eyes and turned his head. Before they reopened CK felt a tremendous weight pull his hands down.
For a moment he couldn’t comprehend what had happened. The pusher briefly convulsed on the floor while facing the tile that was at his back. A final spasm whipped the pushers head around and CK saw the syringe sticking out of his nostril. Dale had impaled himself on the needle as he finished the head-butt.
“That must be the kitty flip.”
CK peeked out the restroom door, then returned the syringe to the cigar tube and stuck it in his pocket.
He then removed a note that said X=V from a back pocket, and dropped it on the floor. After adjusting his wig in the mirror he glanced at the dealer and said, “Nice doing business with you.”
Aside from the Hooters detour, the evening went very well. I convinced Kelly’s friend that she nearly threw my heart into arrhythmia when she came out of nowhere in makeup and clothes that made her appear to be a pre-Technicolor, black & white zombie. She was as elated as an aspiring actress could be over her rave reviews.
Kelly and I discussed our domestic spat shortcomings over dinner, but in a positive way that made us feel like we were moving forward in our relationship. After dinner we stopped for a couple of drinks at Dick’s Last Resort, where the people-watching on Halloween weekend made the Star Wars Bar look pedestrian.
We were home before midnight and headed straight to bed. Normally, Kelly’s prep routine takes twice as long as mine and I’m in bed long before she emerges from the master bathroom. But I let her know I was taking the dog out to the backyard to be sure she was in bed first.
Earlier in the day I found a Big Bad Wolf rubber mask in the garage. After a little digging I also found the Granny outfit that Kelly wore in a school play last year. While Colonel Hogan did his business, I put on the outfit, cued up an old Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs CD, and put the CD remote in the apron pocket. I left the mask off until the last possible second, since prior experience taught me it didn’t take long for a rubber mask to make my face look like I just ran the Calcutta Marathon in record time.
After a couple of minutes the main light in the bedroom was replaced by Kelly’s blue meditation light. When Batman sees the Bat Signal he knows to get ready for some action. Kelly’s meditation light was my Bat Signal. Yes, I knew I’d be getting lucky with or without the costume and soundtrack. But, as any guy who’s ever taken his girlfriend to the back row of a drive-in for a horror film will tell you, a well-timed scare can be a powerful aphrodisiac.
I turned off the rest of the lights, moved to the left of the bedroom doorway, pulled the mask over my head, and pressed play on the CD remote. Right after Sam the Sham sang, “Who’s that I see walking in these woods? Why it’s Little Red Riding Hood,” I pounced on the bed and let rip with a powerful, “Aaaaahhhhhooooooooooooo!”
Kelly shrieked the scream of an amused participant. A second later the phone rang three feet to her left and it scared the shit out of her. I was hoping Caller ID would allow me to stay with Plan A. I’d been dying to launch into my parody as Sam sang “What big eyes you have” but it was not to be. Detective Walter Shamansky would only be calling at that hour for only one reason.
A nice mix of family, friends, and readers helped to launch “The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death” at the Library Express in Scranton’s Steamtown Mall.
Local rock legend Robbie Walsh did an exceptional job of entertaining the crowd.
Library Express manager Andrea Talarico McGuigan and her assistant Vicki made everyone feel at home in this unique combination lending library and bookstore.
A giant chicken showed up and sampled the food & beverages. Fortunately, wings were not on the menu.
Five minutes after the chicken departed a werewolf stopped by. After seeing the bloody guitar on the cover of Rock & Roll Homicide, he ranted about needing to savage a fair maiden. We averted disaster by convincing him that fair maidens taste just like chicken.
Lou Refice of Minooka won the drawing. His big win happened earlier in the week when he became a first-time grandparent.