THE VIPER

THE VIPER (first draft of scene)

Maugham walked back over to Steinthal.

Steinthal asked him, “Who is that?”

Maugham was uncharacteristically blunt, and voluble.

“That is the toughest son of a bitch I’ve ever met in my life,” he told him.

Steinthal almost flinched. He had never met anyone tougher than Maugham and wasn’t much sure he liked the idea.

“Also,” Maugham went on almost to the point of being prolix (for him anyway), “he is meaner than hell and he may even be your equal in cunning and craft.”

Steinthal whistled appreciatively, just barely above the whisp of a dog-whistle. He looked hard at the man Maugham had just been conversing with when suddenly the guy looked over at him. Had he heard Steinthal’s whistle? Steinthal wondered if that was even possible.

The guy rose up from his table and just stood there, unmoving. Was he waiting, just watching, or coiling? He was short, shorter than Steinthal, and wiry, with cords of muscles that stood out up and down his neck. He had a couple of facial scars, one a long straight slice and the other maybe a burn, and sported a multiply broken nose and the look of a man who had been stabbed a few times to the point of aggravation.

He was dressed so that you couldn’t tell if he was a day laborer or an informant. Or both. His clothes looked washed out, as if they could fade smoothly into the backgorund, and like they didn’t quite fit. Or he did. Or both. He carried himself as if he could have been concealing no weapons, or any number of them.

He looked directly at Steinthal and he smiled, only it wasn’t really a smile. It was more like when a snake’s jaw unhinges and its flat lips curl back to swallow something. Steinthal wasn’t really sure if that was for his benefit alone, or just directed at the world in general, but whatever the intent it was threatening, and patiently sibilant – all at once. And about as creepy and surreal a disposition to strike as possible for anything shaped like a man.

Steinthal looked at Maugham and Maugham looked at him.

“Do you know this guy?” Steitnhal asked.

“Yeah,” Maugham said, in his typically taciturn manner.

“Know him well?” Steinthal asked again.

“Well enough,” Maugham replied.

“How?” Steinthal said seriously, more in the way of an interrogation than a friendly question.

Maugham shook his head like a bull being called in from the field. Steinthal knew that that meant and just nodded.

“Anything else?”

“Yeah,” said Maugham. “When we first met I thought you might be related.”

Steinthal furrowed his brow. Steinthal raised his hand horizontally so that his forefinger pointed at Maugham and his thumb pointed back at himself.

“You thought we might be related?”

“No,” Maugham said flatly. “I thought that you two might be related. Why I didn’t kill you immediately.”

“You didn’t kill me because you happen to like this guy?” Steinthal asked, fishing for the reason.

“No,” Maugham said shaking his head as if the question were silly and somehow self-negating. “I didn’t kill you because if you two were related then I wasn’t absolutely sure I could.”

Steinthal nodded, accepting the comment, but was doubtful that was the whole story. It was Maugham though, so what could ya really do?

Then Steinthal looked back over at the stranger. For all he knew the guy was still breathing, but if he was then he showed no signs.
Inside his own mind Steinthal shook his head while watching the guy, but as far as anyone else knew he just stared silently at the stranger.

“Why’d you set this up Maugham?” Steinthal asked. “Couldn’t have been easy to get him to play along.”

“He’s not playing,” Maugham replied. “And no, it wasn’t. But I thought that maybe, just this once, we could use him.”

Inside his own mind Steinthal nodded, but to Maugham he shook his head so that no one else would notice.

“So,” Steinthal asked. “What do I call it?”

“You don’t,” Maugham answered. And it didn’t seem contrived at all.

“Well then, should I approach it, or let it approach me?”

“Yes,” Maugham said. “That should work.”

Steinthal nodded still intently studying the other man.

“Well then,” Steinthal finally said. “Best clear the room. If we’re gonna see what happens.”

But when Maugham made no reply, and Steinthal glanced over to check on him, Maugham was already gone. And when he turned back to look for the other guy the other guy was already in his face.

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ANYBODY

ANYBODY

“Anybody can be ambushed,” Steinthal told her. “By some evil-souled, sneaky, cowardly little sonuvabitch. That is never the victim’s fault. However being naive enough to think that you will never be ambushed, or reckless enough to never prepare for the possibility, that is the victim’s fault. By victim I mean you,” he said pointing directly at her.

“You just got lucky tonight my dear. And that’s good, but that’s all. Cause luck ain’t a plan and there ain’t much of a future in habitual bad habit. So learn from this mess. And next time you be ready to do the killing. Understand?”

She nodded slowly and then looked up at him.

“I understand,” she said.

“Good,” he said. “Because that was the point.”

from The Detective Steinthal

YEAH, SO EXACTLY HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

YEAH, SO EXACTLY HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

“It’s a question of precisely what is the most ethical possible practice,” Termkin said, apparently annoyed by Steinthal’s relentless and unswerving line of inquiry.

Steinthal stared at him intently, but unreadably.

“Is it?” asked Steinthal.

Termkin seemed puzzled by the question.

“What do you mean?” Termkin said.

“See,” said Steinthal twirling the brim of his hat in his hand, “that’s where I think we both know you’re wrong.”

Termkin furrowed his brow, his expression a mixture of ongoing annoyance and a genuine struggle to understand.

“I still don’t perceive your exact meaning?”

“No, I don’t think you do,” said Steinthal. “And I really didn’t expect that you could. But let me simplify the matter for you. You see I have this theory that everything is always really about morality. And that ethics is just something that lawyers and other no count types like you employ as a cheap legal substitute.”

Termkin seemed to follow Steinthal’s explanation at a slightly slower pace than it had been enunciated. But when he finally caught up he suddenly flushed red and showed his ire.

“Why you smart mouthed son of a bitch!”

Steinthal laughed good humoredly.

“Probably,” he said. “But I noticed you didn’t bother to refute me.”

Termkin mulled on that for a moment before his snappy comeback finally came to him.

“Oh yeah, well exactly how is one supposed to refute you smartass types?” Termkin demanded. “You think you’re always right.”

Steinthal stood up and put his hat on his head. He smiled to himself as if Termkin wasn’t even in the room though he was still staring right at him.

“See, that’s the part about this whole thing that’s easiest to resolve,” said Steinthal. “We are always right. Even when no one else knows it yet. Like you. As for the thinking part, well now, if you ever really bothered with that then I presume you could figure it out for yourself.”

Steinthal tipped his hat at Termkin in a peculiar gesture. “But I’m not gonna lay real money on it.”

Steinthal walked across the room, opened the door and then looked back at Termkin.

“I’d like to say it was nice to meet you Termkin. But, we met anyway. So at least we’ll always have that.”

The he left.

Still full of questions, but certain he finally crossed the right man.

______________________________________________

A bit of dialogue involving my Detective Character Steinthal. I didn’t really get a chance to do a Tuesday’s Tale this week. Too busy. So I’m posting this today instead.

My youngest daughter read it and I asked her what she thought of it and she said, “Dad, Steinthal talks pretty much just like you.”

Which made me laugh.

“Yeah, funny how that works, ain’t it?” I told her…

THE SCALE OF YOUR WORK

Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer

Jay McGregor

CONTRIBUTOR

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
The London Book Fair lands on an unusually sunny three days in the capital. The scorching rays – rarely seen at all, let alone in April in the UK – seem at odds with a closed-off indoor book fair. But that hasn’t stopped scores of page-turner enthusiasts scouring the giant exhibition centre’s main floor, looking for publishers to schmooze, books to buy and advice to receive.

It’s the advice from authors who’ve ‘made it’ that seems to resonate most with attendees. Seminars and workshops are scattered in between the stands – all packed with a baying audience that fire off seemingly endless questions. They’re all trying to piece together an escape route out of the doldrums of full-time work.

One man, Mark Dawson, has a queue of wannabe writers lining up to speak to him as we sit down for an interview. Dawson is one of the self-publishing success stories that Amazon likes to wheel out when journalists like myself come knocking. But Dawson’s success isn’t down to simply publishing his crime-thriller series and hoping for the best.

Dawson has become an entrepreneur. With the self-publishing platform, he had no choice. The tactics he employed to promote his series aren’t game-changing, or even particularly clever, but the scale in which he implemented them is what made the difference.

To date he has sold over 300,000 copies of his series about an assassin called John Milton. Dawson says he pocketed “ six figures” last year and he’s on course to make much more this year. And he’s got plans for bigger and better things for this series outside of print form.

FOR SOMEONE TO PAY – FIRST VERSE

FOR SOMEONE TO PAY

On Sunday morning, as I sometimes like to say, “I awoke to a bright dawn, but the dark night had followed me…” or, variously, I woke to the memory of black things.

I once knew a man, dark as the winter
He went out all green, then grew up ‘mong sinners
A submarine self of dark troubled waters
He wondered, he wandered, but found not the matter
That murdered by day, by night only hidden
By graves buried wrong, all the secrets unbidden
Corpse of the night all twisted and tattered
An uncanny sight, the silence is shattered
Not by a sound for death is still cold
Kin (ken) to so many or so they all told
A heart is a heart if it beats not or still
A man’s inner sin only lives when it kills
For dead men will flower like weeds in the ground
When sprinkled by showers of blood still unfound (unbound)
So in such winters terrible deeds
Flourish like summers of infinite seeds, and
The man who made harvest as green as the grass
Came back with a crop just as black as the last
So he wanders, and wonders, and still to this day
He searches inside him for someone to pay

THE SNUGGLE MONSTER

This is my post for Tuesday’s Tale. It is part of a series of picture books I have written or am writing, such as the Cuddle Monster and the Tickle Monster aimed at young children who have had to endure some horrific trauma, such as war, violent crime, terrorism, death of parents, orphaning, or some disastrous and difficult medical situation.

The books will of course have a wider application as well, but that is my primary purpose in writing these books, and the primary audience for which they were created.

This one is called The Snuggle Monster and my Great Dane Sam gave me the idea for it. It is not the entire book, but an extract.

THE SNUGGLE MONSTER

Once upon a time there was a Snuggle Monster.
He was made of dreams, and hopes, and wishes and a thousand other things that last forever.
Sometimes he was brightly colored and shone in all the colors of the rainbow. Sometimes he was the color of pure gold, or brightest silver, like the moon when it is full and pure and the night sky is bright blue like a sea of polished sapphire.
Sometimes he was of colors no one has ever seen before, except those who needed him most.
Sometimes he was invisible to all except to those he visited when no one else was around.
Once upon a time there was a Snuggle Monster, and he was very, very old.
He was as old as time and creation itself, but he never aged, and never outgrew the children who called upon him when they needed him most.
For he was giant indeed, and big as the far away mountains, and often even bigger, but he was also small and quiet, as small and quiet as a tiny and silent mouse that fits within your pocket to travel with you wherever you go…

 

 

THE DARK ARTS

THE DARK ARTS – definitely worth the read and the reblog

Having worked a couple of corporate espionage cases myself, from the counter-espionage/defensive side of things, a couple of these articles were useful and fascinating.