The Brooklyn Drop Publishes August 15

TBD-Final-WEBTHE BROOKLYN DROP. It’s Fina’s fourth book, and readers tell me it’s her most exciting mystery yet.

Here’s the summary:
In the middle of a wintry night, private investigator Fina Fitzgibbons finds Lorraine’s friend Phyllida Oxley slumped over her dining room table, the victim of memory-impairing date-rape drugs. When her condition goes from poor to comatose, her distraught fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Kat Oxley, disappears. Meanwhile, Fina’s agency is busy surveilling a massage parlor in Bensonhurst suspected of human trafficking, and Fina’s father reappears to throw a wrench into her relationship with NYPD Patrol Officer Denny McDuffy. As Fina frantically searches for the missing teen, she uncovers the truth behind the traffickers, but they have a surprise waiting for her in the not-so-friendly skies.

An excerpt from Chapter One:

It all started with icicles. The holidays were over. Our life was back to normal. Normal, as in a boring string of days between jobs except for a small surveillance gig watching a Bensonhurst massage parlor suspected of being involved in human trafficking. After an evening at the McDuffys’ during which I watched Denny and his father make fools of themselves over some obscure football game, I thanked Lorraine for the scrumptious meal, and we headed for home, braving a howling wind off the shores of South Brooklyn.

The cold must have zapped both of us since we decided to make it an early night. Denny hit the pillow and was out. As I peered outside before closing the bedroom blinds, I was stopped dead by a glinting across the street. I’d never seen such a large chunk of suspended ice, at least not in this part of Brooklyn. Thick at the top and coming to a point at the bottom, it hung from the neighbor’s overhang like a blade, almost touching the ground. I’d phone them the next day and suggest they might want to remove it before their roof caved. But I never got the chance.

About three in the morning I woke with a start when my iPad suddenly came to life, covering my corner of the room with a grizzly light. Some unwanted tweet, I figured. I rolled over. Denny slept on. Again the screen lit up. My heart raced, not with fear but with excitement—I’m such a glutton for work. Focusing, I read the message. It was from Lorraine. “Call me ASAP.” Then it disappeared.

I went to the window. The neighborhood was a hard dark except for a wash of light over the Manhattan skyline, the winking bridge lights, and a hazy sliver of moon over the harbor. The neighbor’s gigantic icicle gleamed.

When I called her, I could tell Lorraine was anxious. She talked so fast, I barely got every other word. Apparently her friend Phyllida Oxley needed help.

“Particulars?” I asked.

I heard Lorraine take a breath. “Why would she be calling me in the middle of the night? She’s never done that, not in all the years I’ve known her. She said one word, ‘Help,’ before we were disconnected. Her voice sounded so strange.”

“You sure it was your friend?”

Lorraine answered in the affirmative. “I’ve got the key to her four-flat. It’s across the street from us. Meet me there. Hurry!”

I shook Denny. He didn’t move.

“Your mom needs us,” I whispered into his ear and stroked it with my lips.

He smiled and continued sleeping.

My BMW was parked a block away, and Denny’s car was in front of our house. “Can I drive your Jeep?”

Magic words. He was up like a shot, dressed, and checking his Glock before I could stuff my snoop bag with the usual—booties, latex gloves, plastic bags, flashlight, magnifying glass, notebook, pen, iPad, and two smartphones. Overkill, probably. We pummeled down the stairs and into the Jeep. Denny drove like the off-duty cop he was, ignoring all red lights, so we made it from Vinegar Hill to Third Place in less than five minutes.

After we parked, I noticed a pair of backup lights down the block shrouded in exhaust. In a second, the car slotted into a space. The engine stopped and a figure, dark and hunched, got out and seemed to stare at us. I turned away from it, my attention arrested by something else—another long bone of ice. This one dangled from Phyllida Oxley’s gutter. Denny was unimpressed when I pointed it out. But as we started down the walk, I heard footsteps, maybe in the alley or the backyard, and suddenly the icicle exploded, shattering at our feet.

It publishes this Saturday, August 15, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon.

Photo: Cover, The Brooklyn DropAvalon Graphics

Pre-Order The Brooklyn Drop

TBD-Final-WEBI’m thrilled to announce my latest book in the Fina Fitzgibbons Brooklyn mystery series. It’s called The Brooklyn Drop, a full-length mystery, and you can pre-order it here.

Summary
In the middle of a wintry night, private investigator Fina Fitzgibbons finds Lorraine’s friend, Phyllida Oxley, slumped over her dining room table, the victim of memory-impairing date rape drugs. When her condition goes from poor to comatose, her distraught fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Kat Oxley disappears. Meanwhile, Fina’s agency is busy surveilling a massage parlor in Bensonhurst suspected of human trafficking, and Fina’s father reappears to throw a wrench into her relationship with NYPD Patrol Officer Denny McDuffy. As Fina frantically searches for the missing teen, she uncovers the truth behind the traffickers, but they have a surprise waiting for her over the not-so-friendly skies.

Here’s an excerpt:
It all started with icicles. The holidays were over. Our life was back to normal. Normal, as in, a boring string of days between jobs except for a small surveillance gig watching a Bensonhurst massage parlor suspected of being involved in human trafficking. After an evening at the McDuffys during which I watched Denny and his father make fools of themselves over some obscure football game, I thanked Lorraine for the scrumptious meal, and we headed for home, braving a howling wind off the shores of South Brooklyn.

The cold must have zapped us both since we decided to make it an early night. Denny hit the pillow and was out. As I peered outside before closing the bedroom blinds, I was stopped dead by a glinting across the street. I’d never seen such a large chunk of suspended ice, at least not in this part of Brooklyn. Thick at the top and coming to a point at the bottom, it hung from the neighbor’s overhang like a blade, almost touching the ground. I’d phone them the next day and suggest they might want to remove it before their roof caved. But I never got the chance.

About three in the morning I woke with a start when my iPad suddenly came to life, covering my corner of the room with a grizzly light. Some unwanted tweet, I figured. I rolled over. Denny slept on. Again the screen lit up. My heart raced, not with fear but with excitement—I’m such a glutton for work. Focussing, I read the message. It was from Lorraine. “Call me ASAP.” Then it disappeared.

I went to the window. The neighborhood was a hard dark except for a wash of light over the Manhattan skyline, the winking bridge lights, and a hazy sliver of moon over the harbor. The neighbor’s gigantic icicle gleamed.

When I called her, I could tell Lorraine was anxious. She talked so fast, I barely got every other word. Apparently her friend, Phyllida Oxley, needed help.

“Particulars?” I asked.

I heard Lorraine take a breath. “Why would she be calling me in the middle of the night? She’s never done that, not in all the years I’ve known her. She said one word, ‘Help,’ before we were disconnected. Her voice sounded so strange.”

“You sure it was your friend?”

Lorraine answered in the affirmative. “I’ve got the key to her four-flat. It’s across the street from us. Meet me there. Hurry!”

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn

I shook Denny. He didn’t move.

“Your mom needs us,” I whispered into his ear and stroked it with my lips.

He smiled and continued sleeping.

My BMW was parked a block away, and Denny’s car was in front of our house. “Can I drive your Jeep?”

Magic words. He was up like a shot, dressed, and checking his Glock before I could stuff my snoop bag with the usual—booties, latex gloves, plastic bags, flashlight, magnifying glass, notebook, pen, iPad, and two smartphones. Overkill, probably. We pummeled down the stairs and into the Jeep. Denny drove like the off-duty cop he was, ignoring all red lights, so we made it from Vinegar Hill to Third Place in less than five minutes.

After we parked, I noticed a pair of backup lights down the block shrouded in exhaust. In a second, the car slotted into a space. The engine stopped and a figure, dark and hunched got out and seemed to stare at us. I turned away from it, my attention arrested by something else—another long bone of ice. This one dangled from Phyllida Oxley’s gutter. Denny was unimpressed when I pointed it out. But as we started down the walk, I heard footsteps, maybe in the alley or the backyard, and suddenly the icicle exploded, shattering at our feet.

TBD-Final-WEBPre-order The Brooklyn Drop.

Photos: Cover, The Brooklyn DropAvalon Graphics; A view of Brooklyn from the Williamsburg Bridge, stock photo

Guest Author: Julie Ryan

FO12C3E955871Please welcome guest author, Julie Ryan, here to promote her thrilling new mystery, Pandora’s Prophecy.

Pandora’s Prophecy is the third in the Greek Island mystery series but can be read as a standalone, although some characters from the previous books do make an appearance.

Lisa and Mark are going through a rough patch, Vicky is seventeen and has just discovered that the man she thought was her father really isn’t, Ruth is getting over her husband’s betrayal after nearly twenty-five years of marriage. On the surface they have nothing in common except that they are all staying in the same hotel on a Greek Island. As they each come into contact with the mysterious Pandora, their lives will change forever. Bodies begin to pile up as a serial killer is on the loose who might just be targeting the hotel. The Island’s Police Chief, Christos Pavlides, tries to solve the puzzle but he has problems of his own to resolve. It seems that the local celebrity author is the one who holds the key.

IMGP0755About the author
Julie Ryan was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and two cats, a rescue cat and a dippy cat with half a tail.  She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance, as she can’t bear to get rid of any! They have been attempting to renovate their home for the last ten years.

She is the author of three novels set in Greece, Jenna’s JourneySophia’s Secret, and Pandora’s Prophecy. She considers Greece to be her spiritual home and visits as often as she can. This series was inspired by her desire to return to Crete although there is a strong pull to revisit the Cyclades too.

Purchase links

Jenna’s Journey

Sophia’s Secret

Pandora’s Prophecy

Author links

Twitter – @julieryan18

Facebook

Blog

Julie’s World of Books

HIDER SEEKER: A Pacy Thriller, A Likeable Maverick

HiderSeeker   … One client 

                           … One secret

                                                …One betrayal

 

 

Tom Claver’s debut novel, Hider/Seeker, is a pacy thriller about a likeable maverick who bites off more than he can chew when he comes to the rescue of a wealthy battered wife.

 

                     She needed to disappear, he knew how.

 

Harry Bridger makes a living helping people run from their enemies. But when he arranges for Angela Linehan and her son to disappear abroad from her violent husband in London, little does he know that his life will depend on finding her again.

It’s a job that reawakens Harry’s past and brings him back into contact with his ex-wife Bethany. Fate has given him a second chance to redeem himself in her eyes.

But Angela’s disappearance puts Harry and Bethany in terrible danger. He risks losing everything unless he can find where Angela is hiding in Central America. The clock is ticking and his finely honed tracking skills no longer apply. Chance and luck will decide everything.

 

                                    She broke his rules.

 

“Hider/Seeker is initially set in London but moves on to somewhere more exotic as Harry searches for his former client following a frightening revelation,” explains Tom. “It’s partly romantic, but there’s a lot of action as well as he needs to keep a step ahead of the pack searching for Angela. It’s full of thrills and keeps you on the edge of your seat to the very end.”

 

Published by Matador. Price: E-book $3.99

 

Free to download 30th April to 4th May from Amazon.

 

Official publication date: 29th April 2015

eISBN: 9781784629434

Format: eBook.

JMP_5087About the Author
Tom Claver is a freelance journalist who has worked in print and television, and was formerly a director of a publishing company. He was brought up in London and currently lives in Dorset with his wife.

Guest Author: Tom Claver

HiderSeekerI am thrilled to welcome author Tom Claver whose thriller, Hider Seeker, publishes April 29. Today he’s here to tell us about his formative years as a writer.

The Writer’s Block Sanction

By Tom Claver

Next month I will fulfill a lifelong ambition of publishing a thriller. Having reached a certain age, I thought it was about time to do something about this goal that has dogged me for so long.

Deep down I always wanted to write but never managed to convince myself to get on with it. I remember when I was bitten by the bug and under quite surreal circumstances. It was in the early 1970s when I was studying for a degree in economics at North East London Polytechnic in Barking, near Dagenham. It was a depressing era, I seem to recall, filled with social unrest, strikes, demonstrations, student occupations, and, of course, a terrible dress sense.

I lived in a freezing bedsit with only a two-bar electric fire to keep me warm. Every night one of the tenants would play Home on the Range performed on all things a Hawaiian steel guitar. Over and over, he played this damn record, only stopping when the electricity meter ran out of coins.

To reduce my exposure to the tenant’s nocturnal habit, I decided to go to an evening class on creative writing at the poly. It had been set up by a visiting professor from the US. Anything would be better than listening to the Hawaiian steel guitar.

Make my day

I waited in the class with a few other students for a Dr. Rod Whitaker to turn up. He arrived 20 minutes late, looking very dapper in a three-piece suit. He was around 40, slim, and heavily suntanned. To say he looked out of place compared with our scruffy lecturers and Trotskyist students in jeans and Afghans would have been an understatement.

His opening line caught our attention immediately. “Sorry, I’m late, but I’ve just been on the phone to Clint Eastwood.”

Had I heard that correctly? Yes, I had. It transpired that Dr Whitaker taught at the Department of Radio, Television and Film at the Austin School of Communications in Texas. It also transpired that he’d written a blockbuster thriller called “The Eiger Sanction” and he’d sold it to Clint.

Being a big Clint Eastwood fan, I was captivated by the story of his first book becoming an international best seller and being turned into a film.

So he began to explain to us why he’d embarked on writing a thriller. He despised dumb spy novels and James Bond films and decided to lampoon the genre. His book was written tongue-in-cheek and he thought by naming the protagonist Dr Jonathan Hemlock and having characters called Jemima Brown and Felicity Arce (pronounced arse, British English for ass), the publisher might have cottoned on. But no one saw through his fun and when he realised there was genuine interest in his MS, he started to re-write it into a more considered piece, while still keeping the colorful names. It was an immediate success though people were mystified by the pseudonym on the cover, prompting all sorts of conspiracy theories and myths among fans about the true identity of the writer.

Trevanian’s privacy

He wrote under the name of Trevanian and went to great lengths to keep his real name a secret, although never thinking twice about divulging it to us in Barking. Perhaps he thought we lived in the back of beyond and would never leave the neighborhood to spill the beans. Whitaker also wrote in a wide variety of genres and under five different names.

Despite achieving best-seller status he avoided interviews and publishers promotions that would reveal his true identity. Sometimes he would send imposters to represent him at interviews, just for fun.

Rumors circulated that he worked for the CIA. I don’t know whether that was true, but he did serve in the US Navy during the Korean War. However, he did mention to us that there was an objection to the word “sanction” being used to mean an “assassination”. He’d run it by someone in the CIA and couldn’t believe that the term was being questioned when he knew for certain it was used at the agency.

His pseudonyms

In 1979 he publicly revealed his true identity and his various pseudonyms in an interview with the New York Times Book Review. He scotched a long-running rumour that Trevanian was actually the thriller writer Robert Ludlum. But what readers may not have realised was that the pseudonyms he chose to write under were like character actors to him. By inventing the right character to write the book, he felt he could tell the story.

His writing classes were sometimes unorthodox, digressing occasionally into method acting exercises, but he did manage to get us to write short stories. And one evening I read my short story to the class and to my surprise all the girls around me loved it. I got the bug to write, there and then.

After graduating, my interest fell more in the direction of making films. I made some short films with moderate success. One 30 minute film I scripted was distributed in British cinemas and another short I wrote and directed was sold to Central Television in the UK. I started writing feature length scripts, one of which formed the basis of HIDER/SEEKER, my forthcoming debut thriller. The script had another title and was genuinely awful, but the BBC saw something and invited me to discuss it. Nothing happened and I decided it was time to put away my toys and turn my attention to raising a family.

The memories of Rod Whitaker drifting into our dreary lives in Barking still remained strong however, and like many people, I made attempts to write a book, usually the day after a significant birthday milestone.

Then a turning point came just over ten years ago when I decided I’d teach myself to write a thriller for the sheer hell of it. By reading books such as Stephen King’s On Writing and by sending my work for professional critique, I gradually improved. Two unpublished books later, I decided to take another look at the film script I’d sent to the BBC. I re-worked it into HIDER/SEEKER and I hope you will enjoy it when it is launched on 30 April.

From Zola to Chaucer

Out of curiosity, I wondered what had happened to Rod Whitaker over the years. I Googled him and sadly discovered he’d died of an illness in the West Country of England in 2005, aged 74. I had no idea he’d been living in the UK as I’d read long ago he’d bought a house in the Basque region of France. According to his agent, Michael V. Carlise, Whitaker preferred the intellectual climate of England rather more than that of America under Presidents Reagan and Bush.

Over his life time his 10 published books sold more than 5m copies and he was heralded as the only writer of airport paperbacks to be compared to Zola, Ian Fleming, Poe and Chaucer.

This elusive author who’d baffled so many in his lifetime has left a lasting impression on me and I guess on many others too. He also gave me the bug to write all those years ago. Thank you.

If anyone knew or studied under Dr Whitaker, I would love to hear from you. (Email: contact@tomclaver.co.uk)

HIDER/SEEKER will be free to download from Amazon as an ebook between 30 April to 4 May.

JMP_5087About the Author
Tom Claver is a freelance journalist who has worked in print and television, and was formerly a director of a publishing company. He was brought up in London and currently lives in Dorset with his wife.

Guest Author: Waheed Ibn-e-Musa

Johnny FractureI am thrilled to welcome award-winning author Waheed Ibn-e-MusaPakistan’s first international thriller author. His books are available on Amazon. His latest thriller, Johnny Fracture, is about the dark side of gold mining in Africa. It features conflicts, catastrophe, and a compelling story that will leave a deep impact on our hearts.

Book Description
“Amidst the crowd, tumbling like a stone, although lying on the roads, I’m but a life. However, if you still think string pulling fingers can’t pull the trigger, then try me!”

This is what an old street busker thinks and decides when catastrophe turns towards his dog, which is unaware of human discrimination and doesn’t know that man can go to such extremes due to his ego on petty issues.

They marooned him in a Godforsaken place – a place from where no one could ever have escaped.

The story sheds light on the dark side of illegal gold mining in Africa.

Conflicts between Italian mobsters and Mexican mafia, underground fights, blend of human love and animal affection, this compelling story will leave a deep impact on hearts.

Cosa Nostra says: “HELLAO!”

Profile PicAbout the author:
Leaving his construction business, he is fully devoted to his writing journey. Instead of making big, strong buildings, he finds happiness in making small houses of clay. A current resident of Lahore, Pakistan, Waheed Ibne Musa also paints and writes poetry, in addition to his stories. After making his debut with a stunning thriller, he became Pakistan’s first international thriller author.

Links:
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Amazon

And here’s an excerpt from Johnny Fracture

Johnny Fracture1975
The bar door opened and Johnny entered, along with his two friends. Sammy was in his late 20s, like Johnny, while Frankie had just entered his early 20s. Upon seeing them, a man standing at the counter was bowled over. As soon as they came up to the counter, Frankie grabbed him by his collar.

“Are you gonna resist again or are we doing this the easy way?” he said, looking back at Sammy with a smile he returned.

The man gave them a disgusted look and, as soon as his hand reached under the counter, Frankie pulled him a little over the counter, took a knife out of his pants pocket, and poked his neck with it.

“Don’t try to be smart, Ricardo,” Johnny said in a somber tone, standing behind Frankie.

When the man’s hand returned from under the counter, it contained a packet, which he put on the counter. Johnny picked it up and tossed it, as if weighing it, and then threw it towards Sammy.

“Look how easy everything is done now, like water off a duck’s back! You shouldn’t have resisted last time. I felt bad when Johnny beat you black and blue, but it seems that you’ve learned your lesson well; you’re a fast learner,” Frankie said, patting him on his shoulder. After this, they walked to the door. While walking out, Frankie turned back and said, “See you soon!”

Outside on the road, a 1972 blue Buick Riviera was parked. After Frankie got in the back seat, Sammy sat on the driver’s seat next to Johnny.

“Did you see his nose?” Frankie asked.

“Yeah, it was twisted,” Sammy said, laughing while looking at him through the rear-view mirror.

“Last time, Johnny’s first punch hit him on his nose,” Frankie said and both laughed.

Looking out of the window, Johnny also smiled. Johnny “Fracture” Lorenzo, whose real name was

John Lorenzo, usually moved in a casual suit, but often managed with suspenders and a newsboy cap. He worked with two friends from his childhood for a notorious Italian mobster, Anthony Trapani, who was enamoured of fighting tournaments. Johnny was peerless in crushing people’s bones, not only in their racketeering activities, but also in underground fights. He was an extremely indomitable and unshakable champion of Anthony’s. Johnny was given his nickname after he had broken countless bones of his rival in a flash. He was unmatched in briskness and fastness. No one knew better than him where and how to damage the rival. He behaved as if his opponent was standing behind an x-ray machine. His worth strengthened further after he got a hold of weapons. Even if he took out his weapon later than his opponent, he could make a move before him.

CigarHis Italian parents died in a tragic road accident when he was only twelve. A search for shelter and hunger led him into the clutches of a lame, but ruthless, person who already has six more children under his thumb. Two of them were his sons. He had forced them into selling newspapers, but when they returned at night, they brought all the newspapers back, plus a lot of money. A week later, it dawned upon Johnny that he also had to pickpocket under the guise of a newspaper seller. After he had learnt this art, he became the quickest among the other six. When he pick-pocketed someone, the victim did not realise at all what had happened to him. The lame master named him “Butter Finger”. It caused his sons to become jealous of him, and they often bullied him, along with the other children, and always looked for a chance to trap him. They always came down on him like a ton of bricks on petty issues. Now, it had become their only aim to tell on him and get his hide tanned by their father, which was usually accompanied by depriving him of his supper. Early in the mornings, he used to put on a newsboy cap, take newspapers, and go out along with the other boys. After walking together for a certain distance, they used to part from one another and take their own paths, returning after the sunset.

On that day, if the wallet had not fallen from his hand, the policeman would never have known about it and nor would have he whistled. While trying t0 elude the police, he took shelter in a duct. The sound of the police whistle was striking his ears. Before he could wait for the whistles to dim and allow him to escape, he heard noises coming through the duct. He curiously crawled ahead and saw a little light sneaking through a hole. He fixed his eye to the hole and found several hands punching in the air. Some people were huddling around a stage in a state of frenzy and rage, where two men were whaling the tar out of each other. The silver bowls above the cameras were raining flickering flashlights upon them. He used to see such pictures in newspapers, but now he was beholding this all with his own eyes and felt excited about it. He always felt excitement to witness such things. The next day, he returned to the duct. It did not take him long to find the entrance gate to the building. After entering, he looked around with his eyes wide open. Looking at statues and pictures on the walls with excitement, he at last reached the spot he had seen through the hole, but now there was silence and only one African man, who was shining the floor with a broom. He stopped his work upon seeing him.

“Hey, what you looking for, kid?” he asked.

Then he smiled at Johnny’s innocent question and said, “This is a gymnasium. People come here to learn and train.” Then, pointing towards the canvas, he said, “This is a ring. Fighters fight here.” And what he had beheld the day before was a bout.

Upon his next innocent question, the man put the broom in an iron bucket and said, with a smile, “It takes a lot of hard work, devotion, good food, balanced diet, enough money, etcetera. Do you have any of them?”

With Johnny’s innocent desire and insistence, the man thought for a moment and then nodded his head in agreement.Johnny Fracture

Johnny kept pick-pocketing until noon and then went to the gymnasium. After he had hit the floor and shined it, the African allowed him to hit the punching bag. Johnny started visiting the gymnasium daily. The routine, though, had begun to effect his earning. Before, he used to return with fifteen wallets, and now he showed up with only five, most of them almost empty because he did not spend the time determining the best targets, such as an opulent person. Such earning caused him to get severely beaten at home, which, in turn, made the other boys overjoyed, but now he was not mindful of these things. He just wanted to become a fighter.

When the African perceived that he had the devotion to become a fighter and was determined to keep on with his pursuit, he made up his mind to teach him as much as he could. His name was Christopher Terry. He told him that he had been in the corner with fighters and had spent time with coaches. In the beginning, he taught him the jab, straight, hook, and uppercut and told him to practise the moves.

One day, when he was searching through the wallet of his recent target, he heard whistles. In the next moment, a panicked boy was running towards him. He was one of the master’s two sons. Before Johnny could understand what he was doing there, the boy fell down after stumbling into a sack of cement. Johnny, at once, threw away his newspapers and ran towards him. The boy had sprained his leg and was no longer able to run. Johnny gave him support and hid him in a sewerage pipe nearby. In order to divert the attention of the police, he took the wallet from him and made the police run after him, and, in no time, they circled around him. The next day, when the police sent for his lame master, he looked at Johnny and denied recognising him. So far, Johnny had been swallowing all of the harsh attitudes at the master’s hands, but such behaviour was incomprehensible to him, and he found it impossible to digest. After having served a few days of a light sentence, he came back home. The master gave him a warm hug, as if he was his missing real son that had been lost. The next morning, Johnny held newspapers along with the other boys and was ready to go to work. That day, he left and never came back.

Terry gave him a place in the store to reside in. During the day, he assisted Terry and, during the night, he practised. One day, when Terry found him raining punches on the bag, he stopped him.

“Balance, footwork, and punching power! Keep that in mind,” he said. “There are five components to punching power that must be there for a puncher to be considered truly powerful: lack of arm punching, proper weight shifting, stepping during a punch, pivoting with a punch, and using proper footwork, and this connection requires the development of a strong core. The core is perhaps the most important element in a powerful punch, since it connects the powerhouse of the legs to the delivery system of the arms. Now, you’re probably thinking what is core,” he said, smiling while looking at his confused face. Giving him a strong pat on his back, abdomen, and inner thighs, he said, “This! This group of muscles is where much of the body’s strength comes from.” He stood up and said, pointing towards a bench, “Lift it up and move it. It is a hindrance to your practice.”

Johnny held it up and placed it aside, and Terry went to the door.

“What is this glove doing there?” He turned back and pointed towards a glove lying on the floor. “Kick it here, so that I can put it back into its place.”

Johnny stepped ahead and kicked it and the glove reached Terry’s feet, bouncing.

Johnny FractureTerry picked it up and said, “You’ve brought your core strength into use in three ways and you didn’t even realise it. You use this strength to kick something and to lift a heavy thing.”

Before Johnny understood which third task he

performed, he said, “Yeah, yeah, I know, you also use it to stand up straight.” Then Terry left, smiling.

The next day, Terry trained him in an exercise of core strength. He made him lay on his back, put both of his hands behind his head, and draw his right elbow and left knee together, extending his right leg. Then, he switched and drew his left elbow and right knee together.

Like every new boxer, he desired to try his skill after only a few days practise. He soon got that opportunity, when he found some grown up boys standing in an alley, bullying a small kid. He called out to them and soon realised his mistake when one of them turned round, gnashing his teeth. Johnny drew back the extra-long sleeves of his loose coat and took out his small fists, as if he was hoping that they might realise that he was a boxer and would run away, but the boy looked at his fellows laughing and walked towards him. Various thoughts hovered around Johnny’s mind. “Should he take off his coat? And what if he takes off his cap, he may look older?” However, all of his schemes of defence did not prove out to be helpful, as a strong blow came out of nowhere and hit him on his head. When he came to, it was getting dark. Holding his head for a while, he ran towards the gymnasium.

The next morning, after hearing his account, Terry said, “If you don’t know what hit you, it must’ve been a kick.” In order to explain, he said, “Here, in this ring, we rely on arms, but if you get into a street fight, your opponent may use any part of his body. So, your strategy will be different there, and you’ll have to make use of your legs, as well as your hands, to gain an upper hand on your opponent.”

Upon his insistence, Terry said, “I’m unable to train you in this matter, but I can send you to a Korean friend of mine who lives in Texas. He can train you in this art.”

A few days later, he gave him some money, and Johnny left for Texas.

When he returned, he had become well-versed with the useful skills of martial art, such as Akemi, which targeted weak points like the solar plexus, fulcrum floating ribs, throat, groin or any of the major nerve clusters on the back of the calf, and the charley horsea little notch on the hip joint just above the bony protuberance that drastically reduced an opponent’s ability to stand, let alone attack. He, once again, put on gloves and began to practise boxing. With the passage of time, he started to spar with other boxers and then practise matches, as well. However, after doing all this, he would enter the store exhausted and loneliness caught hold of him, but his loneliness was not to last for long.

Sammy “Detector” Luca’s real name was Sam Luca. He wore a brown leather jacket. He had been given the name “Detector” because of his skill in metal detection. Sammy could tell how many weapons his opponent was armed with and whether it would be a knife or a revolver when his hand came out of his clothes. Through the expressions of his opponent, he used to know whether his opponent intended to surrender or try to reach for his weapon. Johnny took a great fancy to the acuteness of his senses. On one occasion, Johnny could not help but sing the praises of him when Sammy told him to fire at a person standing in front, because he was bluffing with an empty weapon. Johnny took him at his word and made a move, and when he examined the weapon of the dead person, it was indeed empty.

Sammy’s father was a blacksmith who remained as drunk as a lord and kept Sammy’s nose to the grindstone by making all kinds of work for him. It was his practice to tan Sammy’s hide for minor mistakes. One day, he told him to repair a brass bell and deliver it to its owner by himself. When the bell was repaired, Sammy went to deliver it to the gymnasium where Johnny worked. That day, he left and never came back.

Frankie “the Credit,” who was often called “the Priest,” always buttoned up his collar and was often laden with some sort of debt. Whenever Johnny came to know that his lenders had cornered him, he presented himself at the spot. He either paid them money or made bouts with them and settled scores with him. Even though Johnny went halves with them after every job, Frankie always kept himself loaded with debt from top to bottom, and it was beyond Johnny’s understanding. Whenever he asked him about it, he was given all sorts of reasonable and unreasonable excuses. However, Johnny always looked the other way because he felt more like a younger brother. Sammy often said that it was all because of Johnny’s flexible treatment and fondling that Frankie had been spoilt. But a person who had lost all of his dear ones in his childhood could bear with even more follies from his younger brother.

His name had been registered as Franklyn Nicolo in the Catholic orphanage, and he would never come to know who registered him there. Sister Martha found this name on the chit when someone had left him there in the basement of the orphanage. That’s why he abhorred this name and told others to call him Frank.

Although he was not a problem child, the Superior Mother always treated him as if he was. She had him, alone, in her bad books. Therefore, he was often made scapegoat of others’ mistakes. He had been bearing this for a long time. At last, he found himself at the end of his tether, and the time had come for the worm to turn. Even when Sister Martha told him to stitch his collar, he would take ill of it. He wanted to bid adieu to that place once and for all. One day, a boy named Johnny came there to donate money from a charity boxing match. On the very next day, Sister Martha found him trying to sneak out the window. At first, she stood there dumbfounded. Then, she said, after a moment, “Franklyn, stitch your collar,” and went away to offer confession. Frankie saw her go, with a smile dancing on his face, and left through the window. That day, he left and never came back.

Now Johnny was no longer alone. He kept them with him, with the permission of Terry. Both of them lent him a hand in the chores of the gymnasium. The little amount Johnny received as wages did not stand them in good stead. One day, his sparring partner told him that he was entering a street fight. Johnny knew that there were many fighters who engaged themselves with street fights for money. Hence, he decided to enter, too, and his partner carried him along.

It was an abandoned plaza, where many people were standing like a jam-packed crowd and were raising hue and cry. Only those who had lost money were standing with long faces. He had always heard about such fights, but it was the first time he was witnessing all this. About love, he did not know, but he could see that everything was fair in this war. They were doing eye-gouging, fish-hooking, and head-butting. Playing below the belt was all fair in this game. All kinds of actions were fair and square.

In ring, fighters wore gloves, but he was to fight here bare-knuckled. He was here to play a game with no rules, no referees, no cutman, no ice, no petroleum jelly, and not even the white towel.

In the ring, they gave a bow to the opponent for an honourable end, but here they were bowing only to make sure that the opponent had given up his ghost or just been crippled.

When it was his turn to fight, he discovered that his opponent was older than him. Johnny was eighteen, but the opponent’s age could not hold a candle to his agility and ability, and he was knocked down by just a single blow. Johnny was well-versed in how to serve his opponent with such a horrific and baleful punch that it proved to be a nail in his coffin. In order to add mass to his punch, he had moved hind body as a unit throughout the punch. Power was generated from the ground up, such that the force from the ankles was transferred to his knees, from the knees to the thighs, from the thighs to the core, from the core to the chest, from the chest to the shoulders, from the shoulders to the forearms, and, finally, the compounded force was transferred through his fist into the opponent.

He bought Sammy a shoeshine kit out of the money he won in the fight, and he started shining people’s shoes. He assigned Frankie to sell newspapers. During day, they worked out, and, at night, they slept in the store after having helped Johnny and Terry with gymnasium chores. And they accompanied Johnny to street fights twice a week. The more they grew up, the more their demands increased. Frankie used to insist that he take on long odds, but Johnny always responded to him that he fought only to fill a few in-betweens. However, one day, he at last rose to the bait and played a big game. He found Frankie, as pleased as punch at the winning amount, because he would not have to work for a few days because of that money. Then, he made up his mind to go for big games and told them to give up work, because, from now on, their job was to grab money from people and see to his wounds.

One day, after a bout, they were messing around with each other. When Frankie was trying to snatch money from them, Johnny noticed a cream-coloured Lincoln Continental at a small distance eyeing them. As soon as he took steps towards the car out of curiosity, the window raised up and the car went away. Although Johnny could not see who was inside, it was obvious that someone was stalking them.

When Terry discovered that Johnny was getting more and more involved in the street fights, he told him that many people would try to attract him towards themselves, but he needed to strike the right path and keep himself aloof from their alluring and misleading offers. Johnny was perturbed by these words, and, at long last, one day he asked Terry about it. Terry heaved a deep sigh and was obliged to tell him the bitter truth about his life, so that the mistake he had committed might not be repeated by Johnny. He told Johnny that he had been brought here by a dream to become a legendary boxer. He needed money to start learning about a professional career. That’s why he had begun to take part in street fights. His fame had gained the ears of people far and wide, and a man named Anthony offered him a chance to become an underground fighter. The offer was accompanied by the desired money, and he jumped at it without any other thought.

Guest Author: Nikki Stern

NS_edited-1Please welcome my guest, Nikki Stern, distinguished author of two non-fiction books, BECAUSE I SAY SO and HOPE IN SMALL DOSES and a suspense thriller, DON’T MOVE, a novella. Her essays have appeared in The New York TimesNewsweekUSA Today and other publications and her short stories have been published online at the literary magazine, Fictionique. She’s currently working on a coming-of age-story set in New Orleans that explores elements of Voodoo.

Don't-Move-1-15Here’s an excerpt from DON’T MOVE, available on Amazon.

The sea is tranquil today. Sunlight plays along its surface, drawing out the full complement of greens and blues from azure, aquamarine and cyan to cadet and lapis. Out at the horizon, the water meets a cerulean sky where the earth curves. Small breakers gently lap the shoreline and wash the sand clean of debris. Circling birds or predator fins are nowhere to be seen. No slate clouds gather at the horizon. Not that the sea would volunteer a warning. When it comes to human suffering or terror, it remains completely indifferent.

Maybe the sea is a withholding bitch.

Bill would have said something like that. Like all good seafaring men, he ascribed to the briny deep an array of characteristics often labeled as purely female: stubborn, willful, unpredictable, mysterious or seductive; all surges and curves and hidden treasures beneath the shallows. I used to wish I could see the world as he did.

What would he say at this moment? “You’ll survive.”

No, he’d come up with something more lyrical or at least more encouraging. Too bad he’s not here. With my life hanging in the balance, I could use a shot of inspiration.

If the sea didn’t anticipate my sudden change of fortune, I damn well should have. Instead of looking out over the water and idly contemplating my life, I’m wondering if I’m going to live. Instead of listening to the tide, I hear my heart pounding. Rather than enjoying the breeze as it lightly ruffles my hair, I’m stuck with a gun pressed against my temple and a creep who seems to know only two words: “Don’t move.”

DON’T MOVE is available on Amazon

Nikki’s author page on Amazon (Don’t miss it, especially her interviews on hope.)

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Twitter: @realnikkistern