Read an ExcerptSleep Don't Come Easy
By J.D. MASON VICTOR McGLOTHIN
DAFINA BOOKS Copyright © 2008 J.D. Mason
All right reserved.
Chapter One The Lazarus Man
By the Light of the Moon
"Stop and let me explain!" he said, gritting his teeth, struggling to keep her still. If she'd just stop fighting him he could think, and he could calm the fuck down and find some semblance of rationale in all this crazy bullshit.
He straddled her, pressing his weight down on her petite frame, but somehow, she found the strength to struggle, kicking him, clawing at the sleeves of his shirt, reaching up to claw at his face. She kneed him in the behind and she tried to scream. But he couldn't let her do that.
The thought never occurred to him that if he squeezed too hard, if he held his grip around her neck too long, that she might die. He hadn't thought that far ahead. It was all a matter of now and what was happening now and of what he needed to happen now. Words, images, revelations all flashed quickly in his mind, and he couldn't put together one cohesive train of thought or plan of action. Flesh melted in his hands. Bones and cartilage crushed in his palms, and the terror on her face was just one more image he couldn't see clearly enough.
He had never killed anyone. He'd done some terrible, dark things in his life, but he never believed he was the kind of man who could actually take someone's life. The look in her eyes begged him to stop, her mouth moved, breathless, pleading for him to let her go. She couldn't believe it was him. She never said it, but the stunned and horrific expression on her face shouted it loud and clear.
Snow fell quietly from the sky, dissolving in the heat of his breath. Illumination from the street lights in the distance cast a soft sheen across her, reflecting in her brown eyes the slow fading of life. She was a beautiful woman, quick to smile at a man, and say his name in that way that left him weak. She was the kind of woman a man loved at first sight. He had been one of those men.
It wasn't long before she stopped struggling, and with the final flutter of her lips, stopped begging for her life. It wasn't long before the life from inside her faded to nothingness, and all that was left was the hum from the outside world. Slowly, he released the grip he had on her neck, and crawled off her. High on adrenaline, he started to finally catch his breath, and let the cold night air cleanse him from the inside out. The surreal moment seemed frozen and him along with it, while traffic passed by over the bridge above them, and somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized that the rest of the world was still moving, still living, still on its way home.
He looked down at her, and then he raised his hands, and stared at these weapons of destruction he'd never even known were there. His memory drifted back to a conversation from earlier-moments before that changed the course of both their lives.
"Tell me it isn't what I think it is," her voice quivered, out of anger? Maybe shock? Disgust? "Tell me I'm wrong, and that this is all a terrible mistake! Please!"
She confronted him after everyone else had left. Why would she be so foolish? He wondered, shaking his head, and rubbing the weariness from his eyes. The weight of what he'd done started to bear down heavily on his body. He was tired all of a sudden, exhausted and empty.
"It's not how you think it is," he had tried convincing her. "I'm not a monster."
"You're fucking evil!" she screamed. "Worse than a monster, because you're real! Pretending to be someone else-I can't believe you would actually do something like this!" she sobbed, and then she turned abruptly to leave, and he knew. Oh, dear God! He knew she'd tell the world.
He grabbed at her, but missed. And for a moment, time held them both hostage, and their gazes locked onto each other's, and instinctively, they both understood what he had to do. Her eyes grew wide with fear, and his narrowed with determination. She ran for her life, and like any other frightened prey, she panicked, and ran away from safety instead of towards it. She ran down a path, into a part of the city abandoned this time of night. It was only a matter of time before he caught her.
He was surprised when he realized he was crying. Hot tears burned his face. Tears for her? For himself, perhaps? Tears for the depths of this mess he'd gotten himself into, for the corner he'd painted himself into, and for the loss of this beautiful woman?
Her body lay carelessly splayed on the dirty ground, and he gently took both arms and folded them across her midsection. He straightened each twisted leg, and pressed them close together, replacing the shoe that had come off in the struggle. He never meant to hurt her like this. It was an accident, but of course, no one would ever believe that. So he walked quietly away, destroyed and for the time being, relieved.
In the dark, they looked like lovers. A whore and her trick-getting it on, Lazarus thought, lying still like stone, and quiet as a mouse, watching the couple take care of business, struggling to recall what it was like to make love to a woman. He waited until the shadowed man crawled off her, caught his breath, and then left her lying there in the cold, night air, with the snow falling. She never moved. Lazarus watched her for what seemed like hours and she never moved.
Death wasn't a brand new song to him. Lazarus knew death, and he knew all the words to it, too. He'd seen it a million different ways, heard it in a thousand different sounds, and he'd smelled plenty of it. The shit stunk, like garbage, but on her it didn't. On her, it smelled damn good, good enough to eat and to drink and to sleep next to. She was one of them pretty women-picture pretty, like she shouldn't even be real. Soft pretty, like if you touched her, she'd disappear in a puff of smoke. She looked like someone had painted her, and the mothafucka had a hell of an imagination too. He chuckled, gazing down at her, gently touching the mass of tangled brown hair on her head. Lazarus leaned down close and inhaled. "Damn!" he said breathless. Truth be told, he was grateful for this moment. A woman like her wouldn't let him within two feet of her if she was alive. It took death to bring him this gift, and in a revelation, he smiled knowing that sometimes, even death had its moments.
He believed he'd seen her before, countless times or maybe only in dreams. He was blind to people most times because people were blind to him. He leaned down again and lowered his mouth to hers. The last time he'd kissed a woman-when was it? Back when he was a young man, and clean, and drove a fancy car. He'd fucked plenty, but he hadn't kissed many. Snow lighted on her face. He pressed his lips to hers and lingered there until he realized that she'd never be able to kiss him back. But then, what did he expect? A woman like her would cringe at him being this close, if she were alive. She didn't belong here with him, dirty, old, crazy Lazarus, kneeling over her, and wanting to kiss her one last time before they came and took her away. Angels. Or the police. Whoever got there first.
Ties That Bind
Fatema Morris had to pee. And then she had to throw up. She forced open her eyes, squinting and trying desperately to focus on the digital clock on the nightstand next to her bed. It was one-thirty in the afternoon. She groaned miserably, then slowly managed to sit up and swing her feet over the side of the bed. The jackhammer assaulting her head pounded so hard she fell back and covered her face with a pillow. A few minutes later, she still had to pee and the bed was spinning so fast, she really had to throw up. How the hell was she going to make it to the bathroom without releasing bodily fluids? The shrill sound of the phone ringing pierced her brain like an ice pick, damn near killing her.
"Hello," she answered, grunting irritably.
"Well, if it isn't Sleeping Beauty." She recognized his voice and immediately regretted answering that phone. "I was worried about you, sweetheart, and was wondering if you wanted me to send the coroner over to see if you were still breathing," he teased.
"I can't talk right now," she told him, as she hurried into the bathroom.
"You sound like shit," he felt the need to say.
Fatema didn't know which end to put into the toilet first, but ended up sitting down to relieve herself and started to hang up.
"I take it you don't remember last night?" he questioned, unaware of the peril she was in.
That question certainly got her attention, though. No, she didn't remember last night. She'd been drunk off her ass last night, so how was she supposed to remember anything about it?
She searched through the fog of her memories to try and piece together an evening in which she probably embarrassed the hell out of herself, and would undoubtedly end up lamenting. "Party," she mumbled. "The Christmas party at that little club in LoDo." Vague images flashed in her mind, but nothing cohesive. It suddenly dawned on her that he wouldn't be asking her about last night if he hadn't played some crucial role in it. "You were there?"
He chuckled, sarcastically. "Of course I was there, baby. You called me, and invited me to the party. Don't you remember?"
She hated when he did that condescending thing, knowing full well he knew the answer to the question before he'd even asked it.
"I did?" she asked, disgusted with herself. "Why would I do that? I thought you divorced me."
"As a matter of fact, I did," he gloated. "But that doesn't mean I don't still care. Besides, you were lonely, missed the hell out of me, apologized profusely for having been such a terrible and inconsiderate wife, and you were too drunk to drive and needed a ride home. So I accepted your apology and undying gratitude and love, and showed up like the knight in shining armor that I am."
Fatema slumped on the toilet, and shook her head. "You sure it was me who called?" she asked shamefully, hating herself more than she hated anyone, even him. "Why in the hell would I call you, Drew, of all people?"
"Now, now," he said, trying to console her. "What's a designated driver between divorced people?"
Her stomach made a gurgling sound, and the taste of last night's liquor rose like bile in her throat. Fatema reached up into the medicine cabinet and found the Pepto. She drank it straight with no chaser, right out of the bottle, and then wiped the pink mustache from her top lip with the back of her hand. One last question bubbled in her guts. "Did we fuck?" A dreadful feeling overwhelmed her, as she waited for him to answer.
"Like champions, baby," he said proudly.
Fatema nearly fell off the throne, but held on tight to the sink and caught herself.
"You rode with the best of them, cowgirl, slobbering all over yourself and me too, come to think of it. I swear, it was the stuff dreams are made of."
Fatema rolled her eyes and groaned.
"But don't worry," he assured her. "It's over, and regardless of what you might think, I knew I'd respect you in the morning. I'd like to think you feel the same way about me."
"I hate you, Drew," she muttered disgusted. "I hate you so much."
"Hate me!" he said aghast. "How can you? Last night you loved every inch of me, Fatema. You loved me from the top of my head to the soles of my feet and everywhere in between, girl-just like a porn star."
"You professed your love to me at least six times ... no, more than that, but I lost count after like seven."
"Why'd you call me, Drew?" Fatema burped, threatening to vomit any second. "To gloat? To what? To make me feel like shit?"
"No." He sounded sincere. "To thank you, Fatema, that's all. I had a lovely evening and I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated it. And besides, I figured that as drunk as you were, you'd probably wake up feeling like shit whether I called or not."
She took another drink from the Pepto bottle. "I'm hanging up now, and if you ever call me again-"
"I thought you said you loved me?"
"I swear I'll wait outside your apartment and smash your girlfriend underneath the wheels of my Mini Cooper."
"Now that's just evil."
"You're evil! You're an evil, evil man, Andrew Vincent, and I never want to see you again!"
"Call me if you need anything," he blurted out quickly before she hung up on him.
By day, and when she was sober, she'd convinced herself that she was over her ex-husband, but sometimes at night or after she'd had one too many butter babies and tequila shots, she realized that deep down, she really wasn't, and something about alcohol and that eight pack of his resurrected ferocious memories and stirred her loins viciously enough to drop her to her knees. Like magic, his number rolled off her fingertips and into her cell phone and everything after that was a blur of resentment and regret.
They'd been divorced for less than a year, but she'd left him long before their marriage ended. She and Drew met when she hired him as her personal trainer, and he was a decent guy, good-looking, with dreams of a family, owning some real estate, and growing old together. Fatema dreamed of becoming the first black female correspondent on 60 Minutes, hosting her own morning show in New York City, or being the next great White House correspondent and best friends with Michelle Obama. She put her career first, over their marriage, then had the nerve to get pissed off when she found out he was cheating on her with a tall willowy redhead from the gym.
Fatema sat at her kitchen table drinking her third cup of black coffee, still nursing her migraine and feeling plenty damned pissed at herself for the hangover, which could've been avoided, and for messing around with Drew's ass, which also could have been avoided had she been sober and in her right mind. She ran her hand through the tangled nest on her head and sighed. Her life had gone to hell, racing out of control at lightning speed, headed straight for a cliff, and she just stood there, watching the whole thing happen. Was it any wonder that she drank too much, or was still having an affair with her ex, who was damn near married to somebody else? Fatema had lost track of herself and her goals.
She was nine the first time she stood in front of her mirror talking into a hairbrush and pretending to be a reporter. Fatema had a goal back then, but she didn't have one anymore. She used to pour everything into her job, but one day she woke up and realized she had nothing to show for all her efforts except an ex-husband, a one-bedroom condo, and a Mini Cooper that she adored the same way other women adored children or animals. Fatema had emptied all of her passion into the stories she'd put entirely too much faith in, expecting to be rewarded for her daring insight and vision, only to have her passion doused the last time one of her stories was passed over for an award, and it dawned on her that it was the rewards that mattered to her more than the heart of a good story. Her motive for choosing this career had been skewed from the beginning and one day, she just accepted the fact that she'd become a reporter for all the wrong reasons.
She turned on the television to drown out the sound of her own nagging thoughts. Debra Byers was one of the premier anchors of Channel 4's evening news, and Fatema despised her. The woman looked like a rodent, sunburned, with a thin hapless look in her eyes. Deb was a robot with no drive or passion of her own, and yet, here she was, the news darling of Denver, Colorado, with her picture plastered on billboards and the sides of city buses. Success. How do you spell it? B-O-R-I-N-G.
"The body of a young woman was found early this morning by a driver crossing the Corona overpass, just off of Speer Boulevard, southwest of Downtown Denver. The woman has been identified as twenty-seven-year-old Toni Robbins, a city government employee who volunteered regularly at a local homeless shelter."
Fatema sat frozen with her mouth hanging open. She couldn't believe it. "No," she cried out, covering her mouth with her hands.
Toni's photograph flashed on the television. The young woman smiled, looking vibrant and promising. Fatema knew that picture well. She'd seen it many times on Toni's dresser years ago, when the two of them had shared a small apartment together in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood.
The lead detective, Bruce Baldwin, appeared on screen. "The family of Miss Robbins was notified this morning," he explained stoically. "This case has our full attention, and we won't rest until the killer is behind bars."
Excerpted from Sleep Don't Come Easy by J.D. MASON VICTOR McGLOTHIN Copyright © 2008 by J.D. Mason. Excerpted by permission.
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