The new Jack Scully thriller, Grind His Bones, is available in Kindle at http://tinyurl.com/cs5cghl or in print at http://tinyurl.com/b32u9b5. Here are the back-cover blurb and first chapter. For the first thriller in the series, The Hitman’s Lover, go to http://amzn.to/L4ewfm Both novels won awards in the 2012 Royal Palm Literary Awards of the Florida Writers Association.
Back Cover Text: Colby Clark has a penchant for murdering young women. And his billionaire father is ready to spend whatever it takes to keep him out of prison. The Clarks make their first mistake when they frame Jack Scully’s cousin Hugh for a double murder. Hugh’s the perfect patsy. He made headlines when he sicked his pit bull on a pair of Chihuahuas. But Scully isn’t buying. Nor is Scully’s girlfriend, Diane Marsh, the assistant medical examiner. She proves that the blood evidence against Hugh is fake. Now the Clarks go to Plan B: kill anyone who might cause trouble, including Diane. It’s a Killer-Take-All scenario. And Jack Scully’s running a day late and few billion dollars short.
“He killed them. He killed them both.”
The speaker, a tall, raw-boned woman wearing a heavy woolen sweater, a plaid skirt, thick knee socks and sturdy walking shoes, was leaning over Phyllis Rubin’s desk. “It was so awful, so awful.” She paused between words and sobbed.
Officer Rubin, typing with two fingers, struggled to keep up and kept asking the woman to repeat what she’d said.
As Phyllis typed out her report on the double slaying, a half-dozen other police officers clustered around her desk, sipping coffee and whispering asides.
Standing in the back of the squad room was short, squat Billy Farrell, the chief of detectives. “Keep it calm, everybody, keep it calm,” he kept saying.
Watching from the doorway to the Hillcrest Police Station, a briefcase hanging from his hand, was Jack Scully. He hesitated, wondering whether to step inside and interrupt the chaotic scene or to leave and come back later. The New Jersey Turnpike was so close he could hear the big trucks rumbling by. In half an hour he could be back in his office in Jersey City. Then he could give some thought to finding another lawyer to represent his cousin Hugh McGrady. Representing family isn’t good business. They expect you to work for little or nothing.
The gaunt woman’s voice caught his attention. “They were covered with blood, and the old lady was wailing over their bodies. It was horrible.” She paused to catch her breath. “And the bastard just walked away, casual as could be, as though nothing had happened.”
Scully wavered a moment longer, drawn back by the gaunt woman’s tearful story. Then, in an instant, it was too late. Billy Farrell, the head detective, glanced across the room and spotted him. “Hey, Jack. Come on in. We’ve got your client out back in a holding cell.” The fat detective walked across the squad room toward Scully. “His mother should be here any minute. Do you want to wait for her or go back and see him?”
“He’s not my client,” Scully said. “He’s my cousin. I’m just standing in until he can obtain counsel.”
Farrell covered his mouth to stifle a laugh. “Lots of luck on that.”
Scully gave a halfhearted shrug, then pointed toward Phyllis Rubin and the tall woman making the police report. “Looks like you’ve got a big one.”
“Big as they come,” Farrell said. “It’s your cousin’s case.”
“My cousin? Are you serious? I thought his dog bit someone.”
“Hell no,” Farrell said. “It’s a double homicide.” He pointed to the gaunt woman. “She saw it. She’s a bird watcher. She was chasing a turkey buzzard when she spotted the incident.”
“You mean Hugh’s dog killed someone?”
“No, two someones.” Farrell held up two fingers. “Cupcake and Frosty. According to the bird watcher, your cousin turned his pitbull loose on a couple of Chihuahuas.”
Scully pointed at the policemen gathered around Phyllis Rubin’s desk. “All this over a couple of Chihuahuas?”
“Was it an accident?”
“Not according to the bird watcher. She says your cousin pointed his dog at the Chihuahuas and turned it loose.”
Scully gave the bird watcher a quick once over. ”Those eyeglasses are a half-inch thick.”
Farrell shook his head. “She photographed the entire incident with her cell phone. We’ve got pictures.”
“Besides the bird watcher, were there any other witnesses?”
“The owner of the Chihuahuas, an old lady named Charlene Grant. We haven’t been able to talk to her. The pitbull bowled her over, and they had to take her to the hospital for observation. Phyllis will catch up with her later and get a statement.”
“Is it Phyllis’s case?”
“Afraid so. If I’d known McGrady was your cousin, I’d have assigned it to Regan. He’s a little more reasonable than Phyllis. Too late now. She’s on a roll.”
The bird watcher suddenly started sobbing. “The puppies were so cute in their little sweaters. That poor woman, she tried to scoop them up, but the pitbull knocked her over and killed them both.” Her shoulders were heaving as she sobbed. “They were all bloody, lying there. And the poor woman was on her knees, crying. She couldn’t stop crying.”
“Looks bad,” Scully said. “Can I see my cousin?”
“Sure, follow me.” Farrell glanced at Scully and laughed. “Is he really your cousin?”
Yeah, now that you mention it, I can see the family resemblance.”
Scully forced a smile. Tall and lean, he was almost a foot taller than his short stocky cousin, Hugh McGrady. The only traits the two men shared were their pitch-black hair and dark blue eyes.
In the back of the police station Hugh McGrady was sharing a cell with a young car thief and a middle-aged drunk. The drunk was lying passed out on the floor, his head resting in a puddle of vomit. The car thief, a scrawny man with a shaved head and a panorama of tattoos, was sitting on an upper bunk, his legs dangling over the side, a cigarette drooping from his lower lip. The sour smell of vomit filled the hallway.
“Jesus, it took you long enough,” Hugh said when he saw Scully. “Get me out of here. It’s a fucking cesspool.”
“Your arraignment’s at nine tomorrow morning. You’ll have to tough it out overnight.”
Hugh looked outraged. “I can’t believe this shit. There’s puke all over the floor. And look at that.” He pointed toward the toilet at the far end of the cell. “It’s filthy and doesn’t even have a seat!”
“Just hang in,” Scully said. “By this time tomorrow you’ll be home.”
“Will that be the end of if?”
Scully shook his head. “You’re facing a number of charges, including assault. Besides that, the old lady will probably sock you with a civil suit. This could drag on for years and cost you a bundle.”
“Could I go to jail?”
Scully nodded. “Jail time’s a possibility but unlikely, considering you have no previous criminal record.”
“Like a virgin, touched for the very first time,” the young car thief sang in a mellow baritone.
Hugh glowered at the man, then turned back to Scully. “All this fuss over two shitty little dogs. I can’t believe it. It was an accident. I don’t give a shit what anyone says. It was an accident. The thing just broke loose.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll fight it. Your Mom should be here any minute.” Scully nodded in the direction of the passed-out drunk. “Might be better if she doesn’t come back to see you. It’s kind of nasty. I’ll tell her you’re holding up well. In any case, she’ll be at the arraignment tomorrow morning. You can talk with her then.”
After giving Hugh a few more words of encouragement and promising to get someone to mop up the vomit, Scully left and hurried back to the squad room. Hugh’s mother, Alice McGrady had arrived and was sitting a few feet from the desk where Phyllis Rubin was taking the bird watcher’s statement. Alice, a short, buxom woman in her early sixties, looked as though she’d been on hands and knees scouring the kitchen floor when she got the call about Hugh’s arrest. When she spotted Scully, she stood up and said, “What’s the little shit got to say for himself?”
“He says it was an accident.” Scully gave her a buss on the cheek, then put his arm around her shoulders and guided her away from Phyllis Rubin’s desk. “Keep your voice down.”
Alice lowered her voice half a notch. “He’d better cut the silly shit or they’re going to stick his sorry ass in jail.”
“It shouldn’t go that far. We’re talking about a couple of dogs. Even if the court decides it was intentional, his lawyer can point to Hugh’s spotless record.”
“What do you mean ‘his lawyer’? I thought you were his lawyer.”
“I handle divorces and personal-injury cases. I have no experience with this kind of thing.”
Alice McGrady, hands on hips, stood looking up into Scully’s face. “Jesus, Jack, you’re all we’ve got. We can’t get another lawyer.” She took a deep breath. “You know what they say about the devil you know being better than the devil you don’t know. It’s like that with Hugh. You know what I mean?”
Scully gave her a blank stare.
“Come on, Jack! You know what I mean. Nobody really likes Hughie. So it’s better you defend him than some other lawyer who doesn’t know him, somebody who might take a real dislike to him. At least you’ll do your best.” She gave Scully an imploring look. “You will do your best, won’t you?”
Scully nodded. “I’ll do my best.” He put his arm around his aunt’s shoulder and gave her a hug. “I’ll do my best.”
“Jesus, you really had me going. Now, if we can just get Hughie to straighten up.” She reached down and picked up her handbag. “I’d better go back there and set him straight.”
Scully held up his hands and blocked her way. “Best you wait until tomorrow. Give him time to think it over. You can talk with him at the arraignment.”
“Tomorrow morning, 9 a.m. They’ll either release him on his own recognizance or ask for bail. If they ask for bail, it shouldn’t be much. We’ll have to put down ten percent with the bail bondsman. Is that a problem?”
Alice snorted. “Not for me. I’m not going to pay a penny. He got his ass into this mess; he can get himself out.” She gave her head an indignant shake. “You’ll have to get the bail money from him. I’m just his mother.”
Scully checked his watch. “I’ve got a client waiting for me back at the office.”
“And I’ve got a house to clean.” Alice turned and headed toward the door. At the doorway she looked back at Scully and said, “See you in court.”
A moment after she’d left, Scully noticed Billy Farrell standing in the back of the room and gave him a friendly wave.
The detective laughed. “You sure get the winners.”
Scully ignored the jibe. “What’s the chance of moving McGrady to another cell?”
Farrell shook his head. “This ain’t the Ritz.”
“There’s a drunk passed out on the floor of his cell and vomit all over the place.”
“Okay, we’ll clean it up. Maybe we can ship the drunk to the hospital.”
As Scully headed out of the police station, he was silently cursing at himself for being so stupid. As soon as Farrell mentioned the Chihuahuas, he should have turned tail and run. Now he was stuck with Hughie. The case would eat up hours of his time. And would he ever get paid? Not likely, at best dimes on the dollar. But at least it was a simple case, simple and straightforward.