Thursday, June 1, 2017

Robert Ellis: THE LOVE KILLINGS, An Excerpt from the Connecticut Post

Many thanks to Joe Meyers, critic and blogger extraordinaire, and the Connecticut Post, for publishing an excerpt from THE LOVE KILLINGS in this Sunday's newspaper. Their kindness is very much appreciated! What's more, this excerpt is from chapter 3 and serves a very important purpose for me. I write thrillers, not detective stories (there's a huge difference), and I really like to underline my hero's vulnerability early in the story. Something that triggers the personal side. Chapter 3 in THE LOVE KILLINGS is one of my favorites.


          Matt tossed his duffel bag onto the bed and walked into the bathroom to pack his shaving kit. Through the mirror he could see McKensie staring at him from the doorway.
          “I don’t like it,” McKensie said.
          “Don’t like what? You offered to drive.”
          “I did, Jones. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think everything about Doyle’s offer is bogus. I didn’t sign off on this.”
          “Then who did?”
          “He spoke to the chief once you passed your background check. The order came from him.”
          Matt watched McKensie lower his head, then turn away and step out onto the deck. The wildfire was still burning through the south side of the canyon. Although Matt’s house had survived the past few hours, he wasn’t so sure his luck would last. The winds had picked up, the flames beginning to swirl like a long line of red-hot cyclones. When he and McKensie first arrived, he could see the firefighters retreating down the hill to the sand on the canyon floor. The house on the end had just begun to burn.
          Matt tried not to think about it and ripped open a bag of new razors. Glancing into the mirror, he felt a sudden chill wriggling up his spine, and stopped.
McKensie was staring at him with that dark glint in his eyes. He was still on the deck, but he was appraising him again. And he had a certain presence. The shock of his white hair cut against the raw sound of his voice. His heavily lined face and barrel-chested body that reeked of unchecked power and strength.
          The man flashed a wicked smile his way and laughed. “You’re not ready for this, Jones. You’ve still got monsters swimming in your head.”
          Matt turned and gave him a look. “I was cleared,” he said. “I’m good.”
          McKensie laughed again, his voice booming. “No, you’re not. Don’t you think I can tell? Don’t you think I can see it? The last thing you need is a case like this right now. You need something easy. Something that makes sense. A guy kills his wife because she cheated on him. A wife kills her husband because he’s a jackass. See what I mean? It’s different. It’s not messy. You’re not chasing some lunatic who gets off on killing kids. You’re not chasing a whack job like Baylor.”
          “This was my case, Lieutenant. It’s still my case. Doyle’s right about that.”
          “You really are dense, aren’t you?”
          Matt didn’t say anything, turning back to the bag of razors and tossing a couple into his shaving kit. As he thought about it, he had no idea how long he would be away.
          “Why you, Jones? Just answer me that. Why you? And why did it sound like the Feds were begging?”
          Matt remained quiet. It was the first question that had come to mind when Doyle made the offer, and now, with McKensie beating his chest, Matt still couldn’t find an answer that made any sense.
          Why him?
          He was doing his best to ignore the reality because he wanted to be there. He needed to be there. He had to be part of the end.
          “You’re a rookie,” McKensie went on. “You were shot by a dirty cop less than two months ago. You took three more rounds a couple weeks after that. Tonight an assistant US attorney shows up at your door and says what? You tell me. What do you bring to the table that he can’t get ten times better from somewhere else?”
          “He looked like a good guy,” Matt said.
          McKensie narrowed those bright-green eyes of his. “He’s Department of Justice, Jones. He’s a suit. He’d sell you out for a headline.”
          “I’ll be part of the special task force. Another set of eyes.”
          “You think anybody has time to teach you on the job? A case like this? A madman like Baylor?”
          “But I know him. I know Baylor. And I’m the only one who does.”
          McKensie flashed another wicked grin from the darkness, the wildfire burning behind his back like a curtain on the devil’s stage.
          “Now you see it,” he said. “And now you don’t.”
          Matt grimaced. “Now I see what?”
          “Don’t you get it, Jones? Doyle is using you. He knows Baylor saved your life when you were shot. He’s knows Baylor removed the bullet and sewed you back up. He’s not sure why. How could he be? But you’re the only human being whom we know the doctor spared. He’s using that knowledge because he thinks there’s a reason. For Doyle, prosecuting Baylor would make his career, so he’s all in. He’ll do anything and everything it takes to win. Using you, even if it doesn’t work out, even if it means losing you, is just the price of doing business on his way to an office on the top floor.”
          Matt couldn’t help thinking how much McKensie sounded like Baylor right now. He took a deep breath and exhaled. He was doing everything he could to overlook his gunshot wounds and the aches and pains his doctor said would take another five or six months to subside. It required effort, and he didn’t understand why McKensie was trying to chop him down at the knees. Why McKensie was working so hard at it. He unzipped a pocket in his shaving kit. As he swung the mirror open, he could see McKensie lunging into the small room.
          “Look at the meds you’re on, Jones.”
          “I’m good,” he said.
          Matt gave McKensie a hard look up and down before tossing his prescriptions into the shaving kit and zipping up the pocket. Then he walked out, grabbed his duffel bag off the bed, and lugged it through the living room to the front door. He slipped his shaving kit and meds into his briefcase beside his laptop. When McKensie finally gave up and followed him outside, Matt took a last look at his place, switched off the lights, and locked the door.


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