Here's the first chapter and a look at the cover. I'll likely tweak the cover, as well, before publication. This one will be out sometime this winter.
Copyright 2019 Anthony Izzo
Frank Combs saw the odd-looking guy enter the convenience store. From his car, Frank observed the man turn right and pass a display of snow shovels. Next to the snow shovels were bottles of blue wiper fluid marked on sale.
The odd guy wore Ray Bans and a Dodgers baseball cap with a hood pulled over it. The sunglasses were out of place, as gray clouds were spitting rain on his windshield. He seemed hunched over as he walked, dragging his feet on the sidewalk. He might have taken the guy for a homeless except the clothes he wore were clean.
Frank stopped here every morning on the way to work to get a large coffee and cinnamon roll. The coffee was fair. The roll was good. It didn’t hurt that the woman behind the counter called him hon. She was nice-looking. She had shocking pink hair and lots of tattoos, a far cry from any woman he’d ever been with.
He supposed a little harmless flirting was okay.
Kristen wouldn’t mind. He was pretty sure she had a little crush on the manager at Whole Foods, as she’d let it slip that he looked a little like Chris Evans. Frank had taken to referring to the manager as Captain America. Kristen usually rolled her eyes at that.
The rain pelted the car and wasn’t letting up. He decided to head in and get his coffee. Maybe he’d get a cinnamon roll, after all.
Frank hopped out of the car and scurried to the door.
Inside, the smell of fresh-brewed coffee greeted him. He nodded to the clerk. Her name was Sara, she of the pink hair.
“Cinnamon roll today hon?”
“Maybe. Watching the girlish figure.”
She laughed and it was goddamned musical.
He headed for the coffee station and eyed the man with the sunglasses. The man stood in front of a freezer case and was staring at the frozen pizzas. His lips moved but no words came out.
Frank decided to move along, filling his cup with a dark roast and popping a lid on. Some days he liked cream, but all they had today were little containers of flavored, ersatz creamer. That stuff was crap.
He decided against the cinnamon roll today. He stayed in decent shape, hitting the gym three times a week. At the same time, he couldn’t deny the little belly hanging over the belt. The pastries weren’t helping that any.
The man with the sunglasses approached, buzzing past Frank and muttering to himself. He left a whiff of laundry soap in his wake. The man stopped at the end of the aisle, inspecting the Little Debbie and Hostess snacks on a rack. He muttered something else to himself and proceeded to the counter.
Frank found it weird that the man hadn’t purchased anything. Maybe he was going to ask for something at the counter.
Sara said, “Help you find something?”
Without saying a word, Sunglasses reached in his pocket and came out with a revolver. Duct tape covered the handle. Frank dropped his coffee, the black liquid seeping into the grout in the floor tiles. He couldn’t take his eyes off the gun.
Okay maybe he’s a junkie looking for drug money. Play it cool and he’ll leave without firing a shot.
“I’ll open the drawer for you. I can’t get to the safe. The manager’s not here yet,” Sara said, her voice level and calm. Frank wondered if they had been robbed before and she’d been through this type of thing.
The guy didn’t seem to be paying much attention to Frank. He considered rushing the man, but it would only take a quick turn and a pull of the trigger to gun Frank down.
“You think I want money?”
“Okay, just take it easy,” Sara said.
“All dogs die,” the guy said, leveling the gun at Sara.
What the hell did that mean?
“Hey man, take it easy,” Frank said, and moved toward the counter.
In one swift move, the robber turned, aimed, and shot Frank. The bullet hit him like a tank and sent him to the ground.
In every action movie Frank had seen, when the hero took a bullet to the shoulder or arm, he shook it off. Gritted his teeth and went on kicking ass and taking names. That wasn’t the case in real life. He’d been hit in the right shoulder, and it was as if a major league slugger had whacked him with a bat.
That, and it hurt like a son of a bitch. Intense, fiery pain shot through his arm and shoulder. His stomach swirled. Blood seeped into his dress shirt, turning the powder blue a dark red. How long did it take to bleed to death?
He was no stranger to guns. He owned two of them, and shot regularly. Never did he imagine he’d be shot. He found himself thinking that he wouldn’t finish the website article that his boss wanted done today. Nice job, Mr. Social Media Manager. At least he had a good excuse, being potentially mortally wounded.
“My job here’s done,” he heard the guy say, and when he looked up, the guy was pressing his way out the door. He didn’t take any money. Just some random psycho.
Sara the clerk was already running over, her phone pressed to her ear. She knelt by Frank. He could hear the 911 operator over the phone asking for details.
“Hang in there, hon. They’re on the way.”
The next hour or so – it could’ve been longer or shorter – was a blur. The medics were pressing on his shoulder to stop the bleeding, giving him pain meds, asking him a million annoying questions. He was whisked into the ambulance and the EMT riding in the back told the driver to punch it.
He’d managed to give them name and cell phone number.
They pulled him out on the gurney and they whipped him past Kristen, who reached out and gave his hand a quick squeeze as he passed by. He was out for a bit, then in. He remembered being wheeled into an operating room and then having the anesthesia mask placed over his face.
When he woke up, Kristen was seated next to his bed. There were tubes and wires hooked up to him. A steady beeping droned in the background. His tongue felt like it had been scrubbed with steel wool.
A dull throb settled in his shoulder. His head felt fuzzy and he guessed the pain meds were coming steadily through his IV.
“How am I?” Frank asked.
“Well, you made it through.”
Kristen was wearing yoga pants and a loose, gray hoodie. Her brown hair was tied back in a ponytail. She’d had the day off today and had been in casual clothes when the cops had called her.
“There might be some nerve damage. Too early to tell,” she said. “But you made it. The police want to talk to you when you’re up for it. God, Frank, I was so scared when I got the call.”
“Glad you’re here,” he said. “Did you call work?”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes. Like that’s the most important thing. Sheila said they’re all thinking about you.”
“You’re beautiful, know that?”
She smiled. “I think that’s the pain meds talking.”
“Sincerely,” he said, although it came out . “Glad you’re here.”
“You already said that. Close your eyes and get some rest. You’ll need it.”