Those who read this blog (or twitter) know that I have been working on a follow up to Surf City Acid Drop (somewhat spoiler alert...
also featuring Luke Fischer.)
This novel begins in Upper Michigan, also known as the U.P. (Upper Penisula). I thought it might be fun to just give a taste of the opening. So here it is. The working title is: Manistique.
Manistique. Now there was a damn exotic sounding name. A town with a name like that should be hugging the coast of southern France, soaked in syurpy sun, string bikinis, guys in berets and striped shirts, Vespas on the street, street musicians in black chinos, and gulls just happy to be circling in the wine-soaked air above Manistique.
Problem was, it was pissing rain, and I was in northern Michigan.
A beat-up Ford half-ton sped by me, sending up a spray that my wipers couldn’t keep up with, and causing me to do a half fish-tail and almost roll my borrowed clunker into the weed clogged ditch. The half-ton sounded nothing at all like a Vespa.
I’d first heard the name of the place from a heavily sedated and recently gut shot man. I thought he’d made it up – figured the drugs in the IV drip had kicked in and sent him to some faraway land where the temperature was always perfect, and the woman always bought the first round.
“You just rest there, buddy. They said the bullet missed anything really important. You will be slurping that Pozole you love so much in no —“
“Yeah, you said that already.”
“Go there. She said she would…” he swallowed hard and mumbled something that I couldn’t make out.
“Franko. It doesn’t matter what she said.” I put my hand on his shoulder. The clear liquid dripped down the hose and into his veins. “She’s not going anywhere anymore.”
The machines beep beeped and nurses shuffled through the hallway. One walked in, checked Franko’s pulse, peeked at his dressing, gave me a “are you still here” look, and walked out. She looked about 40 going on 75, and not a nice 75 either. She traded off with the other one, a slim brunette with a razor crisp uniform and a shape that elicited a small smile from my wounded friend whenever she entered the room.
I shook my head out of the fog of that hospital room. The rain picked up. I flipped the switch on the defrost fan and tried to fight the real fog that grew on my windshield from the inside. The wipers did their best to fight the torrent outside. I’d already passed two roadside motels, just wanting to make it to the town with the weird French name. The pair of low slung buildings looked like they were run by close cousins of Norman Bates, or his mother, or both. Far off lights shimmered orange and yellow through, the rain, and the pair of cracks, one ran the height, the other the breadth of my windshield. The glow grew like a broken sun making me squint to find my side of the road. Dammit Franko, if you weren’t three inches from singing in the eternal chorus, I wouldn’t have ever said yes to this – especially since I didn’t understand what I was doing. Not that that had ever stopped me.
I pulled into the lot with the tall yard light that had been blotting out my vision. The motel had the same shape as the others, but I was struck by the purple curtains with the tiny white flowers. Maybe somebody actually took care of this place. Or the serial killer had a thing for floral patterns. Either way, I was done with the slick winding road.
The owner was an older lady, five foot nothing and on the sloped side of sixty. She wore a dress not that different from the curtains. She took my fifty bucks cash for the room and let me know about the coffee and danishes she would put out in the morning.
“Any place around here I could get a beer.”
She wrinkled her nose.
“Everything’s going to be closed. I was off to bed myself when I saw your headlights.”
She gave me a hard once over. Maybe considering kicking me back on the rain soaked road, and keeping the money. I stopped trusting little old ladies when one lifted my wallet in PV right after I gave her directions to the market.
“So nothing then? Convenience store?”
“There’s a gas station about a mile up. Or…” she looked at the doorway behind her, “I’ve got a fifth of scotch that I’d be willing to share. For the right company.”
I grabbed the key off the counter and thanked her while I banged the door behind me. Little old ladies. Damn.
The coffee in the morning could have doubled as an engine cleaner, and the danishes were freshly made sometime this spring. I had fallen asleep watching a Yul Brynner western and sipping on a warm PBR that I forgot I had bought at the last gas up. I threw the danish out the window, trying not to break a window in the motel, and peeled out of the lot.
Franko had got well enough to put a few more sentences together for me. He told me that he found out the woman he was looking for wasn’t from Santa Fe, or anywhere in the southwest. She came from a whole different part of the country.
“What does it matter where she’s from? We both saw her get shot – about thirty seconds before you took one, and I had to haul our asses out of there.”
Franko coughed and winced.
“He wanted more.”
“Who, the husband? More what?”
I felt Franko’s forehead. It was heating up like a broken rad. I pushed the red button. A different nurse came this time, redhead, to match the button. She was no nonsense, but gave me a brief smile.
“I’m sorry, Mr.?”
“Mr. Fischer, you will have to leave now.”
“Is he going to be okay?”
Franko’s eyes went glassy.
She pushed the button herself this time, and waved me out of the room. Dammit anyway, Franko. If he died before I figured this whole deal out, I was going to be supremely pissed.