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Author G.M. Barlean, invited me to post an few paragraphs of what I’m working on. The rules of this game say the word “look” has to be in the sample.

I have chosen to share two parts of a short novel that started as a short story, first penned more than a decade ago. This “monster” has grown in spurts since then with the last push coming earlier this fall.

The story takes place in Riverside. I have intentions of continuing to use the city as the backdrop for other works. My short story Snow Globe (release pending) also takes place just across town from where the following samples take place.

So, without further introduction here are two sections of Gambits Afoot.

Gambits Afoot Cover 2Chapter 1 ~ Awake (parts from the original short story)

A scream wrenched me from my peaceful dreams ~ peaceful may not be the best description of the horrific nightmares plaguing my nights but who am I to say for sure. The scream originated deep from within the lungs of my neighbor ~ air forced passed taut vocal cords ~ through the frigid water exiting the shower head ~ ripping across the termite infested space between the walls of his apartment and mine ~ into my ear canal to vibrate the drum and minuscule bones ~ where my interest in the journey of the scream ends.

Glancing at the travel sized alarm clock hanging above my head ~ from a fly feces covered string pinned to the ceiling with a blue thumbtack ~ I see I have more than four hours before I have to go to work. Throwing the holey sheet off myself I sit up ~ with greater haste than the flow of blood to my brain ~ so I cradle my head in my hands for a moment waiting for the pain to subside and balance to again become of use. With trepidation I attempt to stand and am successful on the first try.


This may not seem to be something to laud over but minor accomplishments are still accomplishments nonetheless. Also, I am a self-help junkie and affirmations are a big thing for us. I am a good person ~ I do good deeds ~ I’m a moron. I know the last one doesn’t count but the morning breath and affirmation bullshit are enough to make anyone vomit ~ anyone who has eaten in the last two days anyway. Instead, bile joins the array of flavors in my mouth as I shuffle to the bathroom.

Squeezing the tube from the middle I cover the bristles and begin working up a white, mint smelling foam. I glance at my reflection ~ froth now spilling out the corners of my mouth ~ extract the toothbrush and clench my teeth while pulling my lips up. I also let out a small yet forceful growl imagining myself as a rabid dog. Then I drop my head to spit the remaining foam and toothpaste from my mouth. I rinse and drop the brush into the grimy cup on the sink and splash the water around to clean up before sauntering to my living room.

I melt into my blue overstuffed couch. The ottoman I rest my feet on is covered by a quilt my grandmother made ~ finishing it just before entering the hospital for what would turn out to be her last open heart surgery. Okay, it wasn’t really made by my grandmother ~ though it is possible someones grandmother made it ~ just not mine. My grandmother did have heart disease though ~ according to the records. The purpose of the quilt is to cover the rather large burned area on the ottoman. An ex-roommate decided one night in a drunk fit of genius that it would be good to make a pattern with lighter fluid on that particular piece of furniture and then light it on fire. Though doubtful, if I had been there I may have been able to divert his attention to other areas of interest involving less destruction ~ at least to my property. Luckily there was beer near at hand to extinguish the blaze.

I often laugh when thinking about the incident because I can imagine his perplexed expression as he pondered how to put out the fire without wasting his booze. My neighbor reminds me in many ways of my ex-roommate ~ they even look similar, at least through the peephole in my flimsy front door. The last tenant drilled a hole in the door at eye level ~ if I was five-two. I really should find out my neighbor’s name.

I have lived in this insect infested firetrap for the last three years ~ such a short time can stretch to eternity. Apartments of this caliber are the gallbladder of living arrangements ~ best to excise them before they cause too much trouble. A flood once started the job ~ the foundation could now be chipped away with a pocketknife ~ though it would take more of a lifetime than I have remaining.

I can hear my neighbor walking toward his kitchen ~ curiosity enthralling me I walk to my door. I have to find out why he has to get up so early in the morning ~ and his name, I need to find out his name. It still seems miraculous he could function at all in the morning considering his stupor a few hours prior. Stumbling drunk at three thirty-seven ~ awake and apparently sober by seven thirty-three when he once again walks past my door. I hear him close his door ~ he doesn’t bother to lock it. No one in the building does unless they are in possession of something illegal. A light kick though would be enough to break in any door in the building so it’s a pointless endeavor to try to secure any of them. I smile as I look at the limp chain hanging next to my door. The best security is to own nothing worth stealing. I had a TV once but it was stolen ~ same with a clock radio. After that, anything I wanted to own I gave up on. I could have it all when I was out of this place ~ the thought of making it out of this place now makes me laugh ~ a bit of a sad and pathetic laugh ~ void of hope ~ but it is better than crying or getting depressed.

I pull open my door. The creaking noise startles my neighbor and he turns to glare at me. He must have cut himself shaving ~ the bits of toilet paper with blood centers stick to his neck and face ~ perverse donuts spotting his face like an acne-ridden teenager.

“Hello neighbor.”

“Hello,” he mumbles in a voice coarse from too much first and second hand smoke.

“What’s your name?” I question ~ a smile appears on my face ~ a twisted reflection of the confusion and frustration growing on his.


“What do you do Jacob? Where do you have to be so early in the morning?” His pained expression tells me I am prying into areas he would rather not discuss.

“Work.” He shuffles past me ignoring the further queries I make to his receding back.

After hearing the door to the apartment building slam shut I turn back to my home sweet home.

Chapter 5 ~ Divert

“Detective Tabor, the body is over here,” a detective in a rumpled brown suit says, leading the way down an alley from the street full of the pressing crowd, each person trying to glimpse the latest front cover bleeder. The strobes and flashing blue lights from Fantastic Copymakers compete with the crowns on the cruisers.

“Thank you, Tomas.”

“Bodies are poppin’ up quicker than toadstools after a rain, sir.”

“Any identification on the vic, or maybe some damn evidence of some kind?”

“Nothing so far. Crime Scene is there now but the body is clean, like the others.”

Tabor looks around the alley, and looks down at the body as they get closer. “But not like the others. The suspect went way off the MO”

“Yeah, this one is woman.”

“The hair was clipped, not shaved. The position is different, the way the body was found, day of the week, time of day. All wrong. CS hasn’t found anything yet?

“No sir.”

“They’ll find something. This is a different killer.”




“Habits, Tomas. Habits. Humans are all definable by their habits. You and your wife had a fight before your came on shift.”



“But I didn’t do anything different.”

“You tied your tie.”

“I always do it.”

“But your wife usually adjusts it after she gives you a kiss when you’re leaving.”

“I guess.”

“You have a fight, no kiss, and the knot of your tie is twisted.”

“Sorry sir.”

“I’m not the one to apologize to. You know you were wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you’re in the wrong you mope about here and aren’t worth half the pay you get. When you’re in the right, you’re more focused and determined and should be put in for a promotion. I probably would do it too, if you weren’t in the wrong more than the right.”

“Detective Tabor, we found something.”

“What did I say?” Turning to the investigator Tabor asks, “What did you find?”

“We found a business card with the address and a time close to the coroner’s predicted TOD written on it.”

“Can you lift prints?”

“Probably, but I won’t know until I get back to the station.”

“Where is the card from?”

“After AA.”

“Anything else?”

“We found a purse in the dumpster down there. Got what looks like half a dozen dime bags and a wallet with some cash but no cards or ID.”

“Keep looking. Call me if you come up with anything else.” Detective Tabor pulls out his cell phone and takes a photo of the victim before calling to Detective Tomas. “Let’s head over to After AA and see if there is anyone there who knows who this lady is.”

So there you go. I hope you enjoyed them. Now, check in on author Lisa Kovanda, an inspiration who somehow finds time to wear so many hats it makes my head ache. I hope you’ll take a “look” at her blog and an excerpt from her #WIP.

If you would like to share a “look,” add a link to your excerpt in the comments.