Possible first chapter for new novel. Let me know what you think!
|Brett Rivers looked at the arrest warrant, then the trailer. Sitting in a wooded valley surrounded by Eastern Kentucky hillsides, it was a two-toned blemish on the landscape. A missing section of sheet metal underpinning left a dark void under the trailer like a missing tooth. Of the remaining pieces, most were skewed or bent inward, as if kicked in anger or amusement. Overlapping pieces of duct tape bisected a front window, a Band-Aid over the fractured pane. The only nod to curb-appeal was a worn tractor tire, painted white and lying flat in the small front yard. It had likely bordered a flowerbed some years past, but now highlighted the same mixture of weeds that dominated the rest of the yard.
Brett studied the stack of cinder blocks that served as the trailer's front porch; three blocks high and four wide with no handrail. He stepped up carefully.
“Police! Open up!” Brett said and pounded the door.
Silence answered his command.
“Josh Harper! We've got a warrant, open up.”
Brett turned to Myers, “Think he’s here?”
Myers gestured to Harper’s pickup truck, parked off the side of the road in front of the trailer. “Probably. I’m betting he’s in there knee-deep in crank-head chemistry right now.”
Myers cupped his hand on a window and peered in.
“I see Darth Vader.”
"You what?” Brett said.
“I guess Harper’s a Star Wars fan”, Myers said, “he’s got a Darth Vader bed sheet over the window.”
Brett tried the door. Unlike most entry doors, it opened outward. The handle did not turn but the door opened a fraction before the latch hit the strike plate. Brett yanked firmly and with a metallic pop the latch broke free and the door opened a few inches before a chain-lock stopped its progress. Brett looked into the trailer through the narrow opening. He had a view of the living room. A muted television was tuned to an episode of Wheel Of Fortune. Trash and clothing were strewn everywhere. A floral-print couch with ripped armrests and a wooden table sat adjacent to each other.
“Joshua Harper!” Brett yelled through the opening.
Brett was preparing to jerk the door free from the chain-lock when something slammed hard against the door. Brett pulled back from the opening and placed his hand instinctively on the butt of his pistol. A man appeared in the narrow opening. He pressed his face into it as though he was attempting to squeeze through head first. His eyes were forced into a squint and his mouth stretched wide. He shouted something unintelligible and a frothy strand of spittle flew end over end from his mouth.
“Good God,” Brett said, “Are you Josh Harper?”
The man froze at the sound of Brett’s voice. He pulled back from the door a fraction of an inch, allowing his skin to assume a more normal position on his skull. Brett could now see he was a match for the man captured in the surveillance video.
“Mr. Harper, open this door please.”
Harper’s eyes went wide and looked sideways at Brett for a second, then darted wildly in all directions.
Brett looked back at Myers, “He’s tweaked out of his mind”.
“The fuck you want?” Harper said and more pellets of spittle flew from his mouth.
“I need you to step outside…”
Harper’s scream cut Brett off mid-sentence. It was a shrill, almost feminine scream that lasted long enough for Brett to look back at Myers and wince.
“Mr. Harper, please calm down”. Brett talked softly, as though trying to calm a toddler in the throes of a tantrum. It seemed to work, somewhat. Harper’s eyes lost their caged animal look and the splay of tendons in his stubble-filled neck retreated.
“Okay,” Brett said. He maintained his soft, sing-song tone.
“Now, I am officer Brett Rivers and this,” he gestured back to Myers, “is officer Chuck Myers.”
Harper’s gaze did not follow Brett’s outstretched arm, his eyes remaining locked on him.
Myers jumped into the conversation, “Unhook your chain there and step outside Mr. Harper”
Harper acted as though he hadn't heard Myers. His unwavering stare made Brett uneasy.
Brett continued, “What’d you say Josh, you wanna open this door?”
Harper slowly grinned.
“You fucking asshole pork fuckers” Harper’s voice was calm, but had an hysterical tinge to it that increased Brett’s unease. “You think you can just come up here, to my home, to my fucking castle, and take me down? Is that what you think?” Harper’s voice steadily increased in pitch and volume. He finally broke eye contact with Brett and looked toward Myers.
“You! You’re him ain't you? Yeah, you’re him. You’re that son of a bitch that’s been sneaking round here. I saw ya last night walkin round in the dark. You think you’re gonna take what’s mine you pork fucker? Think you’re gonna just walk right up in your cute little outfit and your little gun and take my shit?”
Brett looked back at Myers and almost laughed at his expression.
“Mr. Harper,” Myers said, shaking his head, “no offense, but you need an intervention.”
“You want me to step outside?” Harper asked, almost pleasantly, “okay then.”
Harper pulled the door shut. The rattle of the chain-lock got Brett moving.
“This isn’t good,” he said to Myers as he pulled his pistol from its holster and hurried off the porch. The unmistakable chunk-chunk of a pump action shotgun from behind the door confirmed his alarm.
“Run!” Brett yelled and sprinted from the door. The closest cover was Harper’s truck, parked a few feet in front of their cruiser. Brett dove behind it as the shotgun boomed. He landed on his side with an "Oomph". Another shot thundered and a clatter of buckshot peppered the truck.
Myers crouched beside the rear tire calling for backup. Brett pulled himself up on one knee and chanced a glance over the truck’s hood. The door was shut again.
Myers finished the call, “ Calvary's coming,” he said, “be fifteen minutes at least.”
He joined Brett at the front of the truck.
"That amped up fucker tried to kill us!" Myers said.
“I think Mr. Harper here has seen Scarface one too many times,” Brett said.
A loud crash came from the trailer, followed by a shout and another crash. Shattering glass, and objects thrown against the trailer’s thin walls rang out between shouts of rage.
“What the hell’s he doing in there?” Brett said, "Think he's fighting with someone?"
"Probably his shadow. He’s batshit,” Myers said, “what in the hell was he talking about back there?”
Another crash. Brett thought maybe he’d tipped the refrigerator over for that one.
“Yeah, he’s probably so far gone he’s hallucinating. I doubt he’s slept in a week or more.” Brett agreed.
A window on the left end of the trailer suddenly exploded outward and a metal-framed box fan flew out behind shards of glass, its cord trailing behind it like the tail of an earthbound kite.
"Got to give it to him," Brett said, noting the position of the wrecked fan a good ten feet from the trailer, "boy's got an arm."
Another wall-shaking crash boomed from the trailer.
Myers shook his head, “Why is he so pissed at his furniture?”
Brett was fidgeting with his pistol when Myers said quietly, "Oh shit."
"What?" Brett said. He raised up and looked over the hood, "What the hell?"
Josh Harper had ripped the blind from the largest window. He stood behind it, his face inches from the glass. He held the shotgun in his right hand, the barrel pointed up. In his left hand he clutched a handful of blond hair. Below the hair the face of a young girl squinted in pain. She looked about ten, and like Harper, was naked except for her underwear. She opened her eyes and looked at them. In her eyes Brett saw a terror so intense his breath caught in his throat.
"Where the hell did she come from?" Brett said.
"Oh shit!" Myers repeated.
"Goddam it!" Brett shouted. "Call it in. We’ve got a hostage situation."
As Myers reached for the call button on his radio, Harper swung the shotgun's barrel down, into the window. The girl screamed as the glass shattered outward so forcefully a few shard of glass clinked off the truck. She had been pressed against the window and Instantly her chest and stomach were stippled with freckles of fresh blood.
"Throw your guns or I swear to God, I’ll blow her head off. Right fucking now!" Harper shouted. The girl cried out and Harper yanked at her hair, her head jerking to one side.
Brett stood up, “Okay Josh, just calm down, relax. Everything is okay. Nobody has to get hurt here.”
Harper held the shotgun at his hip and swung it toward Brett, “Fuck you!”
Brett ducked just as Harper fired. He heard the whine of buckshot above him.
Myers was in Brett's ear. "You ok?
“I've had better days.”
Brett tried again to talk him down, “Josh! Can you hear me?”
“Yeah fuck-stick! Can you hear this?” The shotgun boomed again.
Myers clicked his radio, “Hurry up guys, this is a bad situation here.”
Through the static, a voice replied; "We’re coming, try and keep him talking. ETA ten minutes."
Myers raised his head a few inches above the truck’s hood
“Hey, Harper! Who’s the girl?”
“Your mom!” Harper answered, emphasizing his disdain for the question with another blast from the twelve gauge, this one directed at the cruiser parked behind the truck. The rear passenger-side window crumpled into a thousand pea-sized fragments and sagged inward.
“That son of a bitch is starting to piss me off,” Myers said as he lowered his head.
“Hey, pork fuckers!” Harper shouted, “I wanna show you something.”
Brett looked at his partner and Myers shrugged his reply. Brett moved to the back of the truck and eased his head up slowly. When Harper and the girl came into view they were in the same position but, instead of the shotgun, Harper now gripped a snub-nosed pistol. That was a good thing as far as Brett was concerned. Though still deadly, a sub-nose was shit for accuracy for anything beyond ten feet. Brett stood up.
“There you are,” Harper said, “watch this pork fucker.”
Harped pointed the revolver toward the floor, or so Brett initially though. When Harper shot, Brett realized it was pointed down but angled toward the girl’s feet. Her shriek ripped through the busted window. She started to fall, but Harper held fast to her hair. He rapped the gun against the girl’s face and told her to shut up. Her cries melted into a pathetic whimper.
“Oh my God.” Myers said and Brett jumped. He had forgotten about his partner for a second. Myers was standing beside him gaping at the nightmare framed in the window.
Harper spoke; “You like that pork fuckers? Well guess what, the show’s just getting started. Next…” Harper suddenly stopped talking, snapped his head left and shouted “Shut up goddamn it! Just shut the fuck up. I got this”.
Brett and Myers exchanged glances.
Harper turned back toward the window.
"I'm counting to five! Throw your fucking guns by the time I’m done or you can watch me put another hole in this bitch!”
Brett looked down and closed his eyes, trying to will silence from Harper. He failed.
“Son of a bitch!” Brett said. He pulled back the slide of his pistol and ensured a round was ready. He looked in the bed of the truck and then turned to Myers, "What do you think, about twenty five feet?"
"What?" Myers said
"He isn’t bluffing. The son of a bitch just shot her foot. He's teetering on complete madness and I'm not gonna watch a little girl die.”
“The team’s almost here. I hear the sirens.” Myers sounded desperate.
Brett tried one more time, He stood and shouted “Harper, stop! Let’s talk about this. You harm the girl you know it won’t end good for you.”
Harper pointed the revolver at Brett and fired. The bullet slammed the truck.
Fuck it.” Brett grabbed a black insulated coffee mug he’d spotted earlier from the truck’s bed and tossed it to Myers.
Myers threw the mug in a high arc over the truck. At the same instant Brett brought up his gun, resting it on the truck's hood. Harper turned his head, watching the mug's flight. Brett exhaled, drew a bead on Harper's face, and began to squeeze just as Harper turned back toward the truck. They were eye to eye when he pulled the trigger.
Harper was still standing, still holding the girl's hair. Brett was preparing to take another shot when the revolver fell from Harper's right hand. Harper looked up, as though something on the ceiling had caught his attention. He wavered back and forth for a second before crumpling to the floor. As he fell the girl went down with him, still held captive by her hair.
Brett charged the trailer. He yanked viciously on the door, ripping the chain-lock’s mounting from the wall. He held his pistol in front of him and entered. The girl limped toward him, crying. Her left foot was wet with blood and a thick gurgle of blood bubbled up from the bullet hole with every step.
"Is there anyone else here sweetie?” he asked. The girl’s shoulders sagged and she weaved back and forth in a way that reminded Brett of Harper before he went down and he shuddered. He reached out and caught her as she started to fall.
Myers had climbed in behind him. “Get her outside.” Brett said and leaned the girl his way.
Myers picked her up and turned for the door.
Brett moved toward the trashed living room. Below the busted window, Harper was laying on the floor, the revolver and shotgun at his feet. His head was turned toward Brett, his mouth and eyes open. A dark russet stain was spreading in the carpet directly under his neck. As Brett watched, it grew from saucer to dinner plate in size. His left hand was still clinched in a fist, strands of the girls blond hair overhanging the fingers.
On the wall opposite the window Brett saw the bullet hole, surrounded by blood and tissue splatter. Reflected sunlight glittered in the fragments of glass that littered the carpet. As Brett moved, Harper followed with his eyes. From the other side of the room Brett now understood. An exit wound, centered at the back of Harper's neck, dripped blood. Brett realized with a mixture of repulsion and amazement, that the bullet had entered his mouth.
Harper made a faint clicking sound with his ruined throat as he exhaled, and then he was quiet, his left fist relaxing its grip on the golden strands.
Brett heard the approaching sirens. He headed in the direction Harper had turned when he had commanded silence from some unknown person. He hoped the unknown somebody had been nothing more than a drug-fueled hallucination, but he approached an open bedroom door with his gun at the ready.
He entered the room, pivoting left. He almost had time to react.