Sunday, August 18, 2013

An Excerpt: The Key to My Heart

I knew she was trouble as soon as she stepped into my office. The type of trouble that only gets talked about by lonesome men in dusky bars over gin in dirty glasses. The type of trouble that leaves a smile on your face and you begging for more. The type that if it hasn’t killed you stone cold, it’s only because it’s driven you nuts first.
She wore a long black cape with her hood up and under it, a hint of long blonde hair. Her cold red lips parted in a ghost of a smile. “Mr. Gannon,” she said. “Chance Gannon.”
“That’s what it says on the door,” I said, sitting up behind my desk. Behind me, a tabletop fan battled the steamy August night air. I could tell by the sweat beading on my forehead it was losing. Somewhere, the latest Dorsey tune droned from a radio. A half-read pulp magazine – Amazing Stories- lay unfinished on my desk with a shining finned rocket ship sitting tail-first on a moonscape with jagged alpine peaks in the background and planet earth glowing in the sky above. It was a cinch I wasn’t going to finish that. “Have a seat. What can I do for you Mrs...?”
“Miss,” she smiled. “Miss Melody.” She lounged in my sofa, her long tanned legs peeking through her cape. “Mr. Gannon, six months ago, you were retained by an associate of mine, the late Walter Carswell.”
I said nothing. But I remembered Carswell.  He vanished just after I started to work for him. Never knew what happened to him; but she seemed to.  I slid my hand towards half-open desk drawer where my .45 lay.
“That’s all right; I know. Before Walter died, he placed something with you for safekeeping. It belongs to me.”
“You’ll have to excuse me, but I’ll need a bit more proof than that before I hand anything over.”
“Carswell said when the time was right, I should come to you and give you this.” She stood up and placed it on my desk. The golden heart basked in the weak light from my lamp’s 40-watt bulb.
I picked it up. “There’s a little tarnish on your heart.” 
She smiled. A gleaming 9 mm automatic appeared from the folds of her cape. “Give the item to me, Mr. Gannon. Now.”
I dove for my drawer and my .45, but she’d fired first. Two slugs bore into me, burning hot pokers of pain into my leg and my thigh, tearing into already scarred flesh. As I lay up against the wall in a pool of my own Type “O,” I looked up at her as smoke curled up from the barrel of her gun. We could both hear wail of sirens coming down the block. That’s what you get for having nosy neighbors. “Guess you lose, babe. You don’t get it.”
“Next time, Mr. Gannon,” she smiled, walking for the door. “Next time.”
She’d be back. And I don’t think it was because she loved me. As her heels clicked down the linoleum of the corridor and the sirens got closer, I slumped back against the wall. The pain shooting up through my body, it wasn’t nearly as bad as when I got shot up after jumping into France back in ‘44. But four years later, on damp mornings — which are most mornings in San Francisco — my knee still ached and I still walked with a cane. And I didn’t like the idea of carrying more lead in my body.
I looked up to the sound of flat feet charging up the hall. I knew the uniform that came through the door, gun drawn: Bertinelli. Holstering his revolver, he walked over and knelt beside me. “Jeez...Chance!”
“I’ll live,” I croaked. “Anyone see the woman who did this to me?”
“A skirt.” Bertinelli got to his feet, smiled as he picked up the phone to call for an ambulance. “Always figured it’d a be woman who’d do you in.”

Copyright 2013, Michael Cnudde

And the mystery, as they say, only deepeens.  Liking what you read?  You can buy The Key to My Hearherefor just $2.99. 

Meanwhile, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing my other two books, Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 (both are free to preview). Both books are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.  And if you’re looking for an experienced marketing communications guy, do me a favor and have a look here. Thanks.

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