Boost

Boost

by Steve Brewer

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Overview

Boost by Steve Brewer

Brewer is acclaimed for his strong, unique, humorous voice, drawing comparisons to Hiassen, Leonard and Block.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781933108025
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Publication date: 07/01/2005
Pages: 221
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Steve Brewer is the author of nine other crime novels. His weekly newspaper column, The Home Front, is distributed nationally by Scripps Howard News Service. He lives in Redding, CA, with his wife and two sons.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The problem with boosting classic cars is they're so damned conspicuous. Steal a brand-new pickup truck or a run-of-the-mill Toyota and you can drive it for days before some cop might get lucky and nab you. But tool around a car-crazy town like Albuquerque in a hot 1965 Thunderbird with a gold metal-flake paint job and people notice. And that's just asking for trouble.

Sam Hill knew he should take the stolen T-Bird directly to Mitch's Auto Salvage and collect his four grand. But he was thirsty, and what could it hurt to stop for a minute at a 7-Eleven, pick up a Big Gulp?

The Thunderbird drove smoothly, its eight-cylinder engine throbbing under the long hood. The wide-bodied car was heavy as a tank — old-fashioned Detroit steel — but it rode like a boat on calm waters, barely registering the potholes and patches that made the ramshackle commercial strip of North Fourth Street a hazardous obstacle course. Sam guessed the owner, a lawyer named Timothy Blankenship, had completely replaced the suspension system. Sam spun the steering wheel with one gloved hand and the car floated up into the brightly lit convenience store parking lot.

He nosed the car into a slot by the door, cut the engine, and climbed out. His reflection in the store's tall windows showed that he and the T-Bird made a pretty good match. He was dressed all in black, as usual, which complemented the car's black vinyl roof, and the gold paint set off his honey-blond hair. Sam's cheekbones jutted like the car's fenders, and his too-wide mouth mimicked the T-Bird's grille. A lean build, though he looked bulkier thanks to his black leather jacket, which was a heavy biker model made all the heavier by the stuff stashed in its pockets — a ten-inch screwdriver, a ring of forty keys, a cell phone, a Mini-Mag flashlight, and a set of lock picks in a suede pouch. Tools of the trade, weighing him down.

He hadn't needed most of the gear to steal the T-Bird — a copy of the car's key had been provided by the client who commissioned the theft. Blankenship kept his prized auto in an old wooden garage behind his rambling North Valley house, a padlock on the door. Sam's screwdriver made quick work of the hasp, then he'd used it to pop the metal cover off the alarm system. He'd yanked the wires loose by the third "whoop." No one had come around, wondering about the noise. Alarms go off all the time. People consider them a nuisance, if they register the sound at all. Besides, it was early-winter dusk, the flaming New Mexico sunset fading in the west, and most neighbors hadn't even been home from work.

Sam stepped up onto the sidewalk in front of the store, his breath fogging in the chill November air. A police car pulled into the lot, parked right next to the hot T-Bird.

Oh, shit. Sam hesitated. Should he go into the 7-Eleven, act like everything's fine? Had the cop seen him getting out of the car? If so, Sam couldn't just walk away without raising suspicions.

The cop got out of his Crown Vic patrol car and joined Sam on the sidewalk. He was a couple of inches taller than Sam's six feet, and bulging muscles stretched the shoulder seams of his dark uniform. Looked to be in his late twenties, maybe ten years younger than Sam. The cop flashed perfect white teeth.

"Nice car," he said. "What year?"

"It's a '65."

The cop stopped in front of the T-Bird's long hood. "Restore it yourself?"

"Nah, I don't know anything about cars. Paid a small fortune to have it done."

"They did a great job."

"Thanks." Sam needed to end this conversation, get his Big Gulp, and get the hell out of there. Just his luck, the cop had to be a car nut.

A muted chirp started up, sounded like it was coming from the T-Bird. Sam had checked the car for an alarm, had found none. Had he overlooked something?

The cop pulled a cell phone off his utility belt and checked the readout. "Not mine," he said. "You got a phone in the car?" Sam knew very well that his cell phone was in his jacket, but he patted his pockets like he was looking for one. The cop was right. That was a phone ringing.

"Sounds like it's coming from the trunk."

"Oh, yeah," Sam said. "I must've left it in my gym bag."

Gym bag. Where the heck had that come from? Sam hadn't been inside a gym since high school.

The chirping stopped after the fifth ring. The cop showed his bright smile again. "Too late."

"Probably not important. They'll call back."

They headed into the 7-Eleven, Sam hoping the relief hadn't shown on his face. Before they could get through the door, the ringing started again.

Shit, shit, shit. Sam shrugged. "Guess I'd better answer it."

He pulled the T-Bird's key from the pocket of his black jeans as he hurried to the rear of the golden car. Glanced back, saw the cop standing in the store doorway, watching. Two clerks in red tunics were behind the counter, eyeballing them. Sam hoped the key worked in the trunk. If it didn't, it would set them to wondering.

The flat trunk lid popped open. Sam lifted it, and his stomach flopped when he saw what was inside. A man was in there, curled up in a fetal position. A very dead man.

The corpse was skinny, wearing faded jeans, and a blue shirt. His face was turned up toward the sky and he had a bullet hole between his heavy black eyebrows. The blood-encrusted hole pushed his brown eyes apart, making them bulge outward, like the guy was trying to peer into his own ears.

Sam caught himself before he yelped in surprise. Trying to keep the shock off his face, he glanced at the patrolman, who still stood watching. The raised lid blocked his view of the inside of the trunk, but Sam needed to close it in a hurry.

The phone chirped again and he spotted it, face up on the trunk liner next to the dead guy. He snatched up the phone, hit its answer button, and held it up for the cop to see. Sam slammed the trunk, then put the phone to his ear and said, "Hello?" What else could he do?

"Tony?" said a man's voice. "That you?"

Sam kept his eyes on the cop, who gave him one last grin and went into the store. He thumbed off the phone, but kept it to his ear, nodding and moving his lips, as he went to the driver's side of the T-Bird. He couldn't see the cop inside the store, but that didn't mean he wasn't still watching from behind a rack of doughnuts. Sam made a show of looking at his wristwatch, then got behind the wheel and cranked the engine.

He backed the T-Bird away, keeping its rear license plate out of view from the store windows as long as possible. Then he whipped the car into the Fourth Street traffic and sped away.

CHAPTER 2

Sam wiped his forehead with a gloved hand as he steered the Thunderbird into the parking lot of U-Stor-It-Now. Sweat kept dripping into his eyes from his mop of blond hair, and it wasn't hot inside the car. Nerves.

He took a deep breath, blew it out loudly. Calm down, boy. Nobody knows there's a corpse in the trunk. You've made it to the storage unit. You're safe. For now.

He stopped the car outside unit twenty-three, headlights shining on the mustard-colored overhead door. U-Stor-It-Now consisted of three blocks of garage-style storage units arranged around a narrow parking lot. Plain gray concrete-block bunkers gouged with one ugly yellow door after another. An equally charming office fronted the lot at San Mateo Boulevard, but the windows were empty. Sam had met the manager, a grizzled old drunk who kept a portable TV going on the counter. This time of evening, you could drive a bulldozer into the lot and the bleary manager wouldn't even stagger over to the window to check out the noise.

The manager's lack of curiosity was one reason Sam kept the unit rented here, registered to "Justin Case," phony address, fake phone number. No way to trace it to Sam, and no one cared who really used it, as long as the monthly twenty-dollar rent was paid on time. He kept several units rented in different locations around the city, always paying in cash. Just in case.

The night air chilled the sweat on his face as he got out of the T-Bird. He left the engine running, pulled the key ring from his pocket, and stood in the headlight beams as he sorted through his many keys. He found the one for the Yale padlock that kept the garage secured, bent over to unlock it, then rolled the door up. The headlights shone into the unit, illuminating a few cardboard boxes stacked in the far corners. The boxes were full of household items — dishes, books, records — junk Sam bought at yard sales and stored here so it would look right if anyone ever searched the place. Still plenty of room for a stolen car.

He drove the T-Bird into the storage unit, then got out and looked around the parking lot before closing the garage door. No light inside the storage unit; no electricity at all. The sudden darkness — and the knowledge of what was in the trunk — made him feel claustrophobic.

He flicked on his flashlight and squeezed between the roll-up door and the trunk of the T-Bird. Unlocked the trunk and lifted the lid. A light came on inside.

The corpse was just how he left it, looking deflated and bony. Sam felt a wave of nausea roll through him, and he huffed the stale air to steady himself. Poor bastard shot right between the eyes. Looked like a large-bore bullet. The back of the corpse's head was against the trunk liner, but Sam guessed a good portion of the skull was missing. Blood stiffened the man's oily black hair.

Sam's throat closed and he coughed against another jolt of nausea. He wanted to close the trunk, lock the car up in the storage unit, and walk away. But he couldn't just leave it here. Not for long. The smell of decay would alert someone eventually, and questions would follow. And cops.

He leaned into the trunk and went through the dead man's pockets. Wallet, comb, pocketknife, keys. Sam left everything but the wallet, which he took with him as he sidled around the car.

He used his flashlight to examine the wallet's contents. Two twenties, a Mobil credit card, a driver's license in the name of Antonio Armas, age twenty-eight, an address in Albuquerque's South Valley. No doubt this was "Tony," the guy who'd gotten the call on the cell phone.

"Tony can't come to the phone right now," Sam muttered as he put everything back in the billfold.

He squeezed through to the trunk, put the wallet back in the hip pocket of the dead man's jeans. Armas' shirt cuffs were unbuttoned and Sam pushed up the sleeves, found old track marks on the inside of his skinny arms. The veins were knotty and bulging, but he didn't find any fresh needle marks. Maybe Tony Armas was a reformed junkie. Or maybe he'd run out of good veins in his arms, had switched to his legs or between his toes.

The blue shirt was also unbuttoned in front, halfway down Armas' chest. Sam grasped one edge of the shirt, pulled it open. Something shiny caught the light and he pulled the shirt open further. A tiny microphone was attached to Armas' pale chest with flesh-colored tape. A wire ran from the microphone to his waist, then disappeared behind his back.

Sam's breath caught in his throat. Tony was wired for sound. But he couldn't be a cop, not with those track marks on his arms. Which meant he was an informant, trying to get close to somebody, probably a drug dealer.

"Shit," Sam said aloud. He slammed the trunk, then used the flashlight to make his way back around to the driver's side of the T-Bird.

What the hell was a wired-up dead man doing in the trunk of this car? Was the owner, Blankenship, some kind of dealer? That didn't fit. Blankenship was a lawyer. And the timing was too coincidental. Someone wanted Sam to steal the car while the corpse was in there. Make disposal of the body Sam's problem. Maybe even dropped a dime to the cops, telling them to watch for a fancy gold Thunderbird if they wanted to find their dead informant.

Smelled like a set-up, through and through. But who the hell would set Sam up? He had no enemies, at least none who'd go to this much trouble to nail him. Somebody had a problem with Sam, they'd come see him, right? Give him a roughing up or try to make him dead. That's the way of the Wild West. Face to face, man to man. This situation was like a very bad version of the practical jokes Sam loved to pull on others. A client sending him out to steal a particular car, providing the keys in advance, aware the corpse was in there.

Sam didn't know who'd requested the car. The order had come through Robin Mitchell, as usual. Sam and Robin had the same set-up he'd used with her father for years — somebody ordered a special car, Mitch tracked one down through Motor Vehicle Department records, gave Sam the address and other particulars. Sam delivered the car and took his cut of the money. Mitch (and since Mitch's death a year earlier from a heart attack, Robin) dealt with the clients, making the delivery and collecting the money. Sam had always wanted it this way. Less exposure for him.

Boosting collectible cars was more profitable than picking up random wheels around town. The buyer was already in place. The amount of time Sam was in possession of the hot car was minimal. And it was a hell of a lot more challenging. Somebody goes to a lot of trouble to lovingly restore some old car, they tend to keep it secure. Alarms, locks, the works. And most car nuts don't drive their prizes that often, so the chances of finding the car parked somewhere, easy to steal, were slim. The challenge kept it interesting for Sam, though the thought always tickled his mind that somebody might use him to get at a rival in the competitive world of cruisers and car shows.

But he'd never considered the idea that someone might use the arrangement to get to him. Auto theft had its risks, but they didn't include a wired corpse stashed in a trunk.

One thing was certain: Sam couldn't move the T-Bird. The car was too noticeable to drive around town while he sorted out what to do about the late Antonio Armas.

He fished his cell phone out of his pocket and hit the speed-dial. It rang three times as Sam whispered tightly, "Come on, come on."

"Hello?"

"Billy?"

"Hey, Sam. What's going on? I was just sitting around, watching a video. You ever see that war movie, 'The Thin Red Line?' Got Nick Nolte and Sean Penn —"

"Billy? Not now. I've got a problem."

Billy Suggs' voice came back hushed. "What's up?"

"I need a ride. I'm at that storage place on San Mateo. You remember which one I mean?"

"Sure."

"Pull up in front of my unit. I'm inside. I'll be listening for you." "I'm on my way."

Sam stowed the phone in his pocket. He wasn't crazy about hiding in the storage unit while Billy drove halfway across town, but he didn't want to wait outside either.

He crept to the overhead door and stood listening. Nothing but silence outside.

A phone chirped. In the car. Sam got the door open and leaned inside to snatch Armas' phone off the passenger seat.

"Hello?"

"Tony?"

Sam hesitated. How could he hope to sound like Tony, when he'd never heard the dead man speak? Monosyllables.

"Yeah. Who's this?"

"You know who this is." The phone sounded crackly, its battery nearly dead. "You haven't been answering your phone. Where are you?"

Sam said nothing, his mind whirring. Was the man on the other end of the line a cop? A narc? A dealer?

"Tony?"

"Yeah?"

A long pause. Shit, Sam thought, he's onto me. Guess I don't sound like Tony.

"Who the hell is this?"

Sam punched a button to turn off the phone. He stuffed it in a jacket pocket, thinking he might need it later. No way for the cops to trace it as long as he left it off. Then he went back to listening by the door.

"Hurry, Billy," he whispered. "I need to get out of here."

CHAPTER 3

Billy Suggs downshifted his Mustang as a traffic signal changed to yellow up ahead. Sam sounded like he had an emergency on his hands, but Billy knew the rules: Obey the traffic laws, don't attract attention. He wouldn't reach Sam any faster if some cop pulled him over for blowing through a red light.

Billy drummed on the steering wheel with his bony fingers while waiting for the green, beating out the rhythm of a song from the war movie's soundtrack. He caught himself doing it and forced his hands to stop. Billy was a high-strung guy, always in motion. Knees bouncing or hands drumming or toes tapping, playing along to the music in his head. Sam had tried to teach him to sit still. Keep your muscles relaxed, he'd said, so they're rested if you need to move in a hurry.

Sam regularly spouted such fatherly advice, some of which didn't make much sense to Billy. Wouldn't your muscles be more ready if they were already tensed? But he listened to Sam, tried to do whatever the older man told him. Sam had survived by his wits for two decades, living off stolen cars. If Billy wanted to follow his example — and he wanted nothing more — he'd take Sam's advice.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Boost"
by .
Copyright © 2004 Steve Brewer.
Excerpted by permission of Fulcrum Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Cover,
Title Page,
Copyright,
Introduction,
What is Confidence?,
Confident Mind,
Confident in the Moment,
Confident Body,
Confident Appearance,
Confident Learning,
Confident in the World,
Confident in the Future,

Customer Reviews

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Boost 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sam Hill is a professional car thief. But, he also loves playing jokes on people. His best friend is a mountain sized night club bouncer. Add a few assorted small time crooks and you have baked up a great story that is hard to put down, after you read the first page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Highly recomend this mystery!
harstan More than 1 year ago
He looks like an all-American guy but for the last two decades he has made a living by boosting collectible cars. He has amassed a fortune but he still needs the adrenaline rush which is why he agrees to the request of Robin of Mitch¿s Automotive Salvage to steal a 1965 Thunderbird. Before dropping the car off at Robin¿s he stops at a 7-Eleven for a drink. The police who are also there admire the car but when a phone rings in the trunk of the car Sam is forced to answer it to allay any suspicions the police might have.--- When he pops the trunk, he finds a corpse; he drives to a storage place he rents. The dead man has old tracks on his arms and is wearing a wire. He finds out who brokered the deal and then ¿chats¿ with Ernesto Morales who informs him that Phil Ortiz, who is heavily into drug trafficking, wanted Sam to steal that car. Sam concludes that it was Ortiz who placed the anonymous call to Albuquerque police Lt. Vic Stanton about the stolen car. When Sam finds out why Ortiz set him up, he drops the car with the body in the trunk outside Ortiz¿s estate to raise the ante in a deadly game.--- Although there are some violent scenes in this crime thriller, the author writes in an upbeat manner so that there is a lot of humor in BOOST. The protagonist is an anti-hero who is easy to like and readers will find him adorable for his practical jokes and his protective nature towards those he cares about. Steve Brewer is so good at characterizations that he even makes the villain seem plausible.--- Harriet Klausner