Got Luck

Got Luck

by Michael Darling



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781944452995
Publisher: Future House Publishing
Publication date: 10/01/2016
Pages: 300
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Michael Darling has worked as a butcher, a librarian, and a magician. Not all at the same time. He nests in the exquisitely beautiful Rocky Mountains with his equally breathtaking wife and six guinea pigs, one of whom thinks she’s a dog and three of whom claim to be children. Michael’s award-winning short fiction is frequently featured in anthologies. Got Luck is his first novel, which is scheduled for publication in March 2016.

Read an Excerpt

Got Luck

By Michael Darling

Future House Publishing

Copyright © 2016 Michael Darling
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-944452-99-5


A Woman and a Bullet

The woman outside the door was Stained. She stood outside, reading my name on the door and walking back and forth. If she realized I could see her through the glass, she didn't seem to care. The Stain shrouded her like a torn mantle of dark, writhing ribbons, and nobody could see them except me. I'd seen Stain like hers before, but I couldn't remember where.

I sat on the edge of my desk and watched her check the door again. Maybe she was trying to figure out how to pronounce my name, which was painted in silver lettering on the door. Goethe Luck. People always had trouble with the last name. Kidding.

Finally, she opened the door and leaned in. Somewhere outside, someone was playing Gloria Estefan. She looked at me and then backed out. The door closed itself. She read the door again. I wanted to go ask, "May I help you?" but hesitated. I could use the work, but I didn't want to scare her off.

She opened the door again and stepped inside. I watched her check my second floor office, placing the closet, back room, and bathroom. She was pretty in a debutante kind of way: confident and likely spoiled. Her looping ash-blonde hair was underwire length, and she wore too much makeup for my taste. I guessed she was trying to look older than she was. A light strawberry scent drifted in with her, delighting my nose. The Mama would call her a harlot, but she looked like most twenty year-old girls walking around on your average summer day in Miami. Her clothes were expensive but looked like they came from unrelated shops, as if she had strolled through Bal Harbour and purchased one item from each store with no consideration for color or texture.

"Welcome to the Pizza Shack," I said. "Table for one?"

"Someone killed my husband. The police can't help me." She said it flatly, like she'd been practicing until she'd wrung all the emotion out of it.

No wonder she hadn't caught my joke. She'd walked in with a script.

"I'm sorry to hear that. Won't you have a seat?" I turned the single chair in front of my desk partway around. Like her clothes, the chair didn't match anything else, so at least the office coordinated with the client. The chair was one of those plastic office creatures that had been ergonomically designed to death. She sat and looked at me with dry eyes.

"Did you say this was the Pizza Shack?" she asked.

Ah, there we go. Just took a minute. "It used to be. We still find pepperoni under the rugs." I sat back on the edge of my desk and clasped my hands. "Tell me about your husband."

She took a deep breath, sat down, and launched into her speech. Her voice was husky yet soulful. "They found Barry in his hotel room. He was wearing the shirt and tie I gave him for his birthday. And the pants. And the shoes. He'd been stabbed once in the heart. They said that's what killed him. He died quickly. But he was also cut open. His belly. They cut open his belly after he was already dead." She moved her hand in front of her own abdomen with her fingers splayed apart like she was feeling his pain. "His insides were still there and all. But they can't tell me why he was cut open like that."

"I'm sorry for your loss. Sounds like you've told that story a few times."

"About a million. Don't worry. I've already cried it out."

"You're fine," I smiled warmly. "When did this happen?"

"Six months ago."

"How long had you been married?"

"Less than a year. Our first anniversary would have been two weeks after he was killed."

"Again, I'm very sorry for your loss."

She shifted in her seat.

"I don't even know your name," I said.

"Are you going to take notes?" she replied. "If you're going to help me, you should take notes."

"All right."

I stood up and walked around to the other side of the desk. So far, the girl was sincere. Her tone told me that she was accustomed to having people do what she asked, but she wasn't a brat about it. She paid attention to detail and expected other people to do the same. Her husband had been gone for several months but, for some reason, she wasn't happy with the answers she'd been given. Maybe there was something in her subconscious that didn't agree with what she'd been told. Maybe she just wanted a second opinion.

My chair was one of those great wooden office monarchs made of oak with dark green real-leather upholstery that weighed about two hundred pounds. It reclined so you could lean back and put your feet up on the desk — also oak — and take a nap. I sat in it and opened the desk drawer. No pepperoni. Just a few notepads and pens that I'd gotten from the nearby office supply. Been here six months and this was the first time I'd used them.

"Milly," she said. "Milly MacPherson Mallondyke."

While I tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent my left eyebrow from rising, I made notes including all the information she had given me so far. I asked, "So, your husband was Barry Mallondyke?"

Milly nodded. "The fourth."

The fourth? I guess men with a name that sounds like it was made up for the sole purpose of sounding pretentious have no problems attracting mates.

"I want to know more about you," Milly said. "I want to know who I'm hiring."

"I haven't agreed to work for you yet," I replied. Her request was a smart one though. Not expected. Milly might turn out to be even deeper than she appeared. I answered, "I'm twenty-seven years old. When I was eight, I died from a fever. I don't remember what happened, but the doctors told me I was clinically dead for almost three hours. Apparently, they cooled my body in ice and revived me. From that moment, I found a desire to live every day as if it were my last. I also found out that when I touch somebody I can see their future."

"Is that true?" The wry wrinkle in the corner of her mouth told me she didn't believe all of it, but she was willing to play along.

"Most of it. It's true that I have a better appreciation for life than most people because it's also true that I died when I was eight. The part where I can see a person's future by touching them is from a Stephen King novel. The Dead Zone. Ever read it?"

"No. But if you could see the future like that, you could touch me and then we'd know if you find out who killed my husband. Right?"

Point for her.

I suddenly remembered where I had seen a twisting mantle of black ribbons like hers. The Stain she wore had also been on a child. A little boy whose parents had both been shot in the head, but no bullets, no bullet casings, no gun, and no residue were found. The case was never solved. If the Stains matched, could the same perpetrator be involved? I'd probably never know, but I made a mental note.

"You're right. I can't see into the future, but I'd be glad to help you with your problem. Just so you know, I'm ex-military and ex-police. I have a private investigator's license, which gives me access to records that are not available to the general public."

"That will help." She pressed her lips together in a half smile.

I went on. "I can also interview people who don't want to talk to me and make a general nuisance of myself with local law enforcement. I also have a gun permit, so I can shoot anybody who tries to kill me before I find out what I want to know. I have a library card too, so if you need a good book to read while you wait for me to figure things out, just say the word."

"I have my own library card, thank you." Her smile ratcheted up a bit. She was warming to me. Not always the easiest thing.

I nodded. "Milly, there's a very good chance that I won't find anything new about your husband's murder. Most of the time, the police do a good job of finding whatever there is to find. There may be nothing new, and it will cost you the same amount of money to find out. If you're willing to take that chance, I'll give it my best shot."

The widow Mallondyke looked at me for all of three seconds and then stood up. She'd come to my office to meet me face-to-face, and she seemed to like making her own decisions. She pulled out a cashier's check from her mismatched purse and handed it to me. It had her business card clipped to it and was made out in my name with a lot of zeroes.

"If you run out of money, let me know." She turned and walked to the door that had my name on it. She looked over her shoulder and said, "My father is friends with your former chief. He's the one who recommended you. He said if anyone could find out who killed my husband, it was you."

Milly MacPherson Mallondyke opened the door and walked out. The swirling black ribbons of her Stain trailed after her like a sentient shroud.

About five minutes later, while I was pacing behind my desk and pondering the unpredictability of financial fortune — and the unpredictable nature of a certain police chief who, I knew, hated my guts and everything they stood for — my front window exploded.

Whatever chunks of my brain that would be dropped into a jar someday and labeled "instinct" quite capably liquefied my knees and sent me to the floor. Be small! Be still! Be alive!

The sound of shattered glass scattering in shards across the floor seemed unnaturally loud but didn't last long. I waited for about ten seconds and then peered out from the side of my desk. The window next to the door had been a floor-to-ceiling piece of glass about six feet wide. Now it was effectively distributed across the tile floor all the way from the front of the office to the back. Glass had been thrown to either side of the desk and across the top.

There were a few drops of blood on the floor. Since I was the only person in the office, I expertly deduced that the blood must be mine. I privately investigated my hands and face and found a few small cuts on my cheek and forehead. Thankfully, my hair was okay.

I thought about getting my gun, but my gun was hanging in my holster, which was hanging in the closet about fifteen feet away. Another ten seconds went by as I looked around behind the desk. There was a new hole in the wall, about eight feet up, just below the ceiling.

"Son of a poodle," I said.

At great personal risk, I finally stood up. I stepped out through the door onto the open balcony that ran around the outside of the building. I saw no one fleeing the scene. No manic scrambling. No ninjas in the daylight. I didn't see Milly and there were no cars moving in the parking lot. I had to assume my client was gone. There were a couple of bystanders going to their cars, but they were looking up at me instead of looking around. If the shooter had used a suppressor, the breaking window had made a bigger noise and that's what had drawn their attention.

The ancient shop-owner from downstairs, who ran the Korean cafe on the ground floor, hobbled out into the lot and turned to look up at the damage. He shielded his eyes from the sun and shouted, "You okay?!"

"I'm good, Qui-Gon!" I replied. His name was Quy Nguyen and he was about eight hundred years old, but he only looked five hundred fifty. Five hundred sixty max. I called him Qui-Gon because I'm such a kidder, and George Lucas isn't really using the name anymore.

"You want lunch?" That Qui-Gon.Always making a sale.

"Yeah, all right."

Qui-Gon nodded and hobbled back into his shop to fix me some bulgogi and kimchi.

Adrenaline pooled now in my stomach, making it ache, and my muscles everywhere felt jittery and unsettled. I went back to my desk and picked up the phone. The Mama had always called the police "them popo-pigs" even after I'd become one. But I was going to need them popo-pigs to file an incident report. I called and informed them of the attempted homicide and coincidental murder of my window and gave my name and location.

In the next room I had some exercise equipment. Since I couldn't go anywhere until the cops arrived, I went in and started working off the adrenaline. It was surreal spinning on the stationary bike while looking at the hole in the wall. The hole with the bullet that had almost killed me just a few minutes ago. The thought made me pedal faster. I hoped Qui-Gon would get here with lunch ahead of the police.

Although I was not yet aware of it, in twenty-four hours my life would change forever.


Attack of the Invisible Liondog

Qui-Gon brought a couple bags of food. I paid him and started unpacking about a pound of lean, steaming, marinated beef and four kinds of spicy kimchi, along with a small mountain of steamed white rice.

I had made quick work of most of it by the time local PD rolled up with flashing lights but no sirens. I found myself heaving a sigh and shaking my head in disappointment. Sirens are cool. I'd used the siren every chance I got when I'd been on the force. On the other hand, nobody was dead or wounded and that was a good thing. The two uniforms had already given the place the once over when Sergeant Kapok from homicide popped in.

Kapok was a frumpy, grumpy Puerto Rican I'd run into from time to time when I'd been a uniform myself. I didn't have a great name for him because he was no fun and didn't deserve one. If he ever became Commander though, I was all ready to go with Commander Commandant "The Commandman" Kapok. If Shakespeare could use alliteration for comic effect, so could I. It's all about the timing.

Kapok observed the scene like he was lost.

"You hoping to see a body, Sergeant?" I asked.

Kapok nodded, "Yours." He shrugged and indicated the floor with a sweep of his hand. "No luck. Ha ha."

I think he was serious. "You're all heart."

"I heard the word 'gunfire' and your address on the radio. Thought I'd come check it out for myself. Hope springs eternal." He shrugged again. "So whatta we got here?"

I'd already had a lengthy conversation with the uniforms and I was annoyed at Kapok, but I might need a favor from him someday so I went along. Cooperation comes easier with feathers unruffled. I pointed at the hole in the wall. Then I pointed at a bullet bagged for evidence on my desk.

"One of the boys there dug it out. My guess is a 7.62 mm from an SR-25. Military sniper rifle with a suppressor. But the shooter is an amateur."

Kapok kept looking up at the hole in the wall. "How do you figure?"

"Professional wouldn't try to shoot through a plate glass window. He'd wait for a clearer shot. And he pulled it high. Had to come from ground level, but even if he'd been aiming at my head it shouldn't have gone two feet over even with an upward angle. Nervous shooter."

"Got it all figured out," Kapok said.

"Just a guess," I replied.

"So who did it?" This time, Kapok seemed almost interested in the answer.

"No idea."

"Who'd you tick off most recently?"

I scratched my chin. "I could go a couple of ways on that one. The self-deprecating 'so many, I'll make a list,' or the patently untrue 'everybody loves me, who'd want to kill me?' What do you recommend, Sergeant?"

"Make a list. Get me a copy. My paper shredder is lonely."

"Hey, Sarge," I ignored his comments, "You work the Barry Mallondyke case?"

"Not my case. Old news anyway. Why?"

"His widow wants me to take a look."

"I see. You want to waste her money, it's up to you Luck. Come down to the station. I'll see if the Chief will let you look at the book."

"Appreciate it, Sergeant." I didn't mention the fact that the Chief had already recommended me for the job to Milly's dad. Of course he'd let me look at the book.

Kapok looked around, nodded to the uniforms and left. I saw him snatch a piece of kimchi on his way out. He almost made it to the stairs before I heard a whole lot of coughing and swearing. Kapok coughing on cucumber kimchi. Take that Bill, you ol' spear shaker.

Tomorrow, I'd get a look at the murder book. All the important details of the homicide would be in that book, from photos to witness statements to police reports. Everything that could be put on a sheet of paper and three-hole punched.

Other than the desk and chair and my exercise equipment, there wasn't much else in my office. I had a drawer partially full of case files, my gun and holster and a jacket, and a few other office supplies that fit into a couple of boxes. I packed everything downstairs and put it in the trunk of my car. The uniforms told me they'd continue to patrol the area in case the shooter came back. I called the landlord's office and let them know the window had been shot out. They said somebody would be over to replace it.


Excerpted from Got Luck by Michael Darling. Copyright © 2016 Michael Darling. Excerpted by permission of Future House 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


Pronunciation Guide,
Chapter One - A Woman and a Bullet,
Chapter Two - Attack of the Invisible Liondog,
Chapter Three - Office Visits,
Chapter Four - Symbols,
Chapter Five - Realm of the Alder King,
Chapter Six - Gifts,
Chapter Seven - Dangerous Females,
Chapter Eight - Milly in the Sky with Diamonds,
Chapter Nine - Warning at Yoga,
Chapter Ten - Lunch Date with Death,
Chapter Eleven - Some Enchanted Evening,
Chapter Twelve - Magic Lesson,
Chapter Thirteen - Connection,
Chapter Fourteen - Spa Giant,
Chapter Fifteen - Psycho Stuff,
Chapter Sixteen - Keeper,
Chapter Seventeen - Jeweled Gate,
Chapter Eighteen - Deamhan Realm,
Chapter Nineteen - Corporation,
Chapter Twenty - Of Wards and Fire,
Chapter Twenty-One - Evidence,
Chapter Twenty-Two - Boy in the Renaissance Shirt,
Chapter Twenty-Three - Battleground,
Chapter Twenty-Four - Invitation,
Chapter Twenty-Five - Lair of the Wild MacPherson,
Chapter Twenty-Six - Ail Bán Dearg,
Chapter Twenty-Seven - Greim,
Chapter Twenty-Eight - Broken Child,
Chapter Twenty-Nine - Warehouse Rave,
Chapter Thirty - Halfling Ninja,
Chapter Thirty-One - Béil,
Chapter Thirty-Two - Chamber of the Jeweled Gate,
Chapter Thirty-Three - Blood and Summoning,
Chapter Thirty-Four - Betrayal,
Chapter Thirty-Five - Heart of a Deamhan,
Chapter Thirty-Six - Survivor,
Chapter Thirty-Seven - A Woman and a Lie,
Author's Note,
Before You Go,
Never Miss a Future House Book Release,
About the Author,

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Got Luck 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous 29 days ago
Anonymous 3 months ago
Totally different from most fantasy’s, but I loved it. Touching, humorous, action packed with a little romance thrown in. Worth the read!
MadMatter More than 1 year ago
Poor writing. Reads like fan fiction of the Dresden series. You care little for the characters. I had to force myself to finish it.
PAdamSmith More than 1 year ago
Drew me and would not let go, with the plot twists and turns. Can’t wait for more.