Can I get a HELL YEAH!
Absolutely STOKED to be able to exclusively share with you the whole FIRST chapter of Graham Smith’s latest- THE KINDRED KILLERS – to really whet your appetite! Talk about a #killerhook! Learn more about the book and the author in my cover reveal post HERE – The Kindred Killers is out September 12th so flag that date and have your amazon-clicking-finger ready to press BUY! Join ByTheLetterBookReviews tomorrow for an exclusive reveal of Chapter TWO!! Grab a cuppa folks and enjoy a wee teaser from the next book in the awesome #JakeBoulderThrillerSeries….
The Kindred Killers
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Martin Luther King
I wake feeling like an NFL tackle dummy after a rigorous training session. Every muscle in my body aches and there appears to be an orchestra using the inside of my head as a rehearsal space. I don’t know much about orchestras but I can tell the one in my head isn’t the New York Philharmonic.
After a moment of rubbing at what feels like dried blood, I manage to force an eye open – only to wish I hadn’t. I’m in a room I don’t recognise. My first guess is that it’s a motel room. I can’t be bothered to make a second one.
There’s a woman next to me and her face is covered with fresh bruises. A trickle of red has congealed on her top lip and there’s no way she was born with a nose shaped like that.
Beyond her I see the detritus of passion. Clothes lie in a tangled heap on a chair. A bra hangs from the handle of a closet and, more telling, an open condom wrapper sits atop the bedside table.
The woman beside me is a stranger. While it’s not unusual for me to pick someone up for the night, as a rule of thumb, I tend to remember their name the next day. Or at least their face.
I sure as hell remember their existence. All I know about this woman is she’s not the one I’m supposed to be dating.
None of that matters. What’s more worrying is the mess her face is in.
Who’s been beating on her? Was it me? Was I so out of it that I raised my hand to her?
Another more worrying thought enters my head.
Is she still alive?
I put my fingers to her throat.
There’s a pulse. Slow, regular and steady. Just the way it should be with a sleeping person. A wave of relief washes over me, but it’s short-lived. I see raw and bruised knuckles when I draw back my hand. A check of the other hand finds the same.
If the marks on her face are my doing, I’ll never be able to look at myself in a mirror again. It may be a cliché, but it doesn’t stop me feeling like a low life. I’ve never liked men who beat women and the thought I may have become one is abhorrent.
I don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that I had been fighting and gotten laid last night. What I need to do now is find out in which order and with whom.
A spear of agony runs through my body as I swing my feet to the floor. It’s bad but not unbearable. Or unfamiliar. As a doorman, I’m used to getting into fights. It’s a long time since I lost one, but when two men go toe-to-toe, more often than not, both will suffer.
I take a look around the room and confirm I’m in a motel. The bare threads in the carpet tell me it’s not one of the most expensive motels I’ve ever stayed in.
The woman groans in her sleep, rubs an eye and flops her arm onto the top of the sheet. I see needle marks. Lots of them. I take a closer look at her face and the body below it. She might be draped in a sheet, but I can see that she’s so thin she almost appears emaciated. The unbruised parts of her face are layered in thick makeup and there’s a lankness about her hair.
Her appearance makes me wonder if she hires the room by the hour. My next thought is one of relief as I remember the condom wrapper. I may have been drunk enough to sleep with a drug-addled hooker, but at least one of us had the sense to use protection.
I totter into the bathroom and turn on the shower. Its pressure is feeble at best and never gets above lukewarm, but the water combined with slow movements does enough to restore a degree of suppleness to aching limbs.
When I return to the bedroom, the woman is sitting with her back resting against the headboard. Her head is held in shaking hands. I pull on my pants and look for my shirt.
‘Thanks for last night.’ Her voice is thin. I’m unsure whether she means it or not. She may be trying to keep me sweet; fearful of me and my intentions.
I look at the condom wrapper. It’s not the same brand as the ones in my wallet, but that means nothing when I’ve been drinking. It could be one she’s provided – in which case the sex was consensual after the fighting, and everything will be cool.
If it’s one I’ve bought in a drunken stupor, there’s a chance the marks on her face are my doing. A worse thought hits me, but it’s not one I’m prepared to give brain space.
‘What do you mean?’ I keep my tone even and my posture unthreatening.
She looks at me with a bloodshot eye; the other is swollen to a slit. ‘Don’t you remember?’
I shake my head. It’s a serious mistake. The movement knocks the orchestra further out of tune and makes my neck feel as if my head is being pulled off.
She gives a tight grin. ‘You saved me from a beating.’ A shrug. ‘Well, a worse beating.’
‘Did I?’ I hear the relief in my voice. I didn’t believe I’d been the one who hit her but, not being able to remember anything about last night, I haven’t been able to rule it out.
I sit on the edge of the bed and look at her. ‘I’m sorry, but I was wasted last night. I don’t remember anything.’
‘You sure were, honey.’ There’s a hint of southern drawl to her accent. ‘Didn’t stop you kickin’ Benji’s ass though.’
‘Was that who did that?’ I point at her face.
I rub my bruised face and body. Whoever this Benji was he either put up a good fight, or I was so drunk he managed to land a few blows of his own. It doesn’t surprise me that I stepped in to protect a strange woman. I’ve never approved of men who hit women and the trace of MacDonald blood in my veins doesn’t need much provocation.
That’s the trouble with my drinking. I don’t do it very often, but when I do I drink so much I lose all memory. I’m not even sure where I am.
‘Where are we?’ I remember driving into a town called Hayden, although I’m not sure it was yesterday.
Her face shows understanding and a little sorrow at the blankness of my memory.
‘We’re in Steamboat Springs. It’s Wednesday, and after you’d kicked Benji’s ass you carried on drinkin’. By the time you were on your second bourbon, he’d came back with his buddies.’
This information gives me some reassurance. I’d left home on Sunday night, so there are only two days unaccounted for. Steamboat Springs is about three hours east of Casperton, or two if I’m driving. My injuries are the result of fighting a gang rather than an individual. I can accept that. There’s no shame in being beaten up by a gang.
Still, there’s always pride. ‘Did I take any of them down before they got me?’
‘They didn’t get you. You kicked all their asses.’ She looks at me with a mixture of awe and respect. ‘There was six of them. Ain’t never seen anyone fight like you before. Every time they knocked you down you got back up. When you knocked them down they stayed where they was.’
I should ask why Benji had been hitting her, but I don’t want to get myself embroiled in her life. Whatever happened between us last night was an isolated incident; I’ll return to Casperton and she’ll carry on with her life. If she has any sense, she’ll keep away from Benji.
‘You saved me last night. If it hadn’t been for you, Benji woulda used his knife on me.’ Her head dips. ‘Nobody’d pay for a hooker with a ruined face.’
She doesn’t need to continue; the holes in her arms explain why she’s hooking. I can’t help my eyes straying to the condom wrapper.
Her eyes follow mine. ‘You passed out before I could say thank you.’ She climbs out of the bed and stands naked before me. ‘I still want to say it.’
I’m saved from having to decline her offer by a hammering at the door. As I don’t even know where I am, it can only be bad news. I pull on my boots as the banging continues.
The noise abates and a familiar voice rings out. ‘Jake! It’s me. Get your shit together and get out here. Now!’
The voice belongs to my best friend and sometimes employer, Alfonse Devereaux.
I push away thoughts of how he found me and concentrate instead on the key points of his four sentences: he’s sworn – something he only does when he’s under great stress or is emotional; he’s come to find me, and therefore needs me. As a rule, when I have one of my drinking binges, he leaves me to my own devices or comes to retrieve me when I call him.
The woman pulls the sheet back over herself. ‘By the way, I’m Leigh.’
There’s no point in pretending I’ve remembered her name. ‘I’m Jake Boulder. If Benji bothers you again call me.’ I pass her a card – unsure whether to kiss, hug or shake hands with her. In the end, I do none.
I open the door to be confronted with Alfonse’s anxiety-creased face.
‘C’mon. I need your help and I need it now.’
EEEEEEEEEEEEK! How awesome was that!?! Make sure to pop by BY THE LETTER BOOK REVIEWS to see what Chapter Two holds! And follow the blog tour – kicks off September 12th, but you’ll have to wait until the 21st for my review!! (Guest Reviewer, Claire Knight is opening the tour….) Grab your copy of The Kindred Killers here: