Pursuit: A Novel

Pursuit: A Novel

by Steve Monroe

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504012621
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date: 08/11/2015
Pages: 266
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Steve Monroe is a writer and commercial real estate professional, specializing in corporate lease restructuring. His novels 57, Chicago and 46, Chicago were published by Talk/Miramax Books in 2000 and 2002, respectively. 46, Chicago was cited by the Kansas City Star as one of the “Top Five Mysteries of 2002” and “Noteworthy Books of 2002.” Monroe splits his time between Chicago, Illinois and Edmonds, Washington. He is currently working on the next Wally Greer novel.

Read an Excerpt

Pursuit

A Novel


By Steve Monroe

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2015 Steve Monroe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1261-4


CHAPTER 1

Thursday


3:54 P.M.

Jules set the last bag of groceries on the floor, turned and closed the front door. As the door swung shut, she got a final glimpse of the SOLD sign in the front yard and, again, her heart leaped. She sat down on the brown paper runner the movers had left just inside the door and kicked off her boots. Snow melted on the paper and as she took off her coat, she noticed how filthy the runner had become and decided she'd take it up before James arrived at their new home for the first time. She stood up, hung her coat on the banister and bounded up the carpeted stairs, two at a time. She returned moments later, slippers added to her blue jeans and red sweater.

Jules picked up two bags of groceries from the floor, took them to the kitchen, and then returned to get the final bag. As she walked back through the front room, she noticed the movers had unpacked the pictures and mirror from the dining room at the old place and had simply leaned them against the wall outside the kitchen door. And they'd left the couch and overstuffed chairs wrapped in plastic. Yeah, there was plenty of work to do and she was beat. But she laughed at her reflection in the mirror; her long auburn hair spilled out from underneath the knit stocking hat, cheeks and nose red from the cold, sweater dotted with bits of brown packing paper and cardboard. She stepped into the kitchen, put the bags on the counter and sighed. She looked every bit as tired as she felt.

It was her first day of real freedom, she thought, as she took off the hat and tossed it onto the kitchen table. She picked up her iPod, slipped the ear buds into her ears, flipped through her playlists and selected "Workout Tunes." The Pussycat Dolls blasted as she sashayed toward the counter and began putting away the groceries.

First day of real freedom. First day in her new home. A home she owned. It had been her signature and her money. True, it had taken longer for the divorce to be finalized and to sell the old house than she'd anticipated, but she was finally free of Rod. No more of his ego, his ridiculous narcissism. No more late nights lying awake until he came home, reeking of booze, babbling lies. She'd never have to go to another party with him and listen to him talk to his colleagues about the latest tenant they represented or building that was being developed. No more real estate talk, no more being ignored while he read his BlackBerry and soon, she'd be rid of his last name and then that would be it — no more Rod. Thirty-two years old and starting her life all over. She felt good, really good, as she put the last can of soup in the cupboard, opened the refrigerator and took out a pitcher of water.

She filled a glass and drained it almost as quickly. She was tired from all of the unpacking and pushing furniture around, but the membership Rod had paid for at the East Bank Club hadn't gone for naught. Although she knew she would always be described as "short and busty," she was in great shape and, if the movers' glances could be believed, still pretty darn sexy. She sighed again as she realized there was no more East Bank Club for her; she'd be lucky to find any gym she could afford, or even find time to visit, now that she was a single working mother. The thought startled her, momentarily, but then she smiled. She pulled her iPod out of its holster, switched on her new theme song and listened to the group No Doubt sing "It's My Life." And it was her life, she thought, as she ran back up the stairs. But it was also a new life for James and she wanted her ten-year-old son's new room to be unpacked and in perfect condition before he arrived. And that, she realized as she saw the single mattress and box springs leaning against the wall of his room, floor nearly covered in boxes, was no small task. Jules had less than an hour.


Thirty minutes later, Jules finished in her son's room. She'd unpacked most of the boxes, put the bed frame together and made the bed. There was nothing more she wanted than a long bath, but she didn't think she had enough time before James would arrive, so, instead, she crossed the hall and walked through her bedroom to the private bathroom. There were several boxes stacked in the tub, each marked "Master bathroom" with a short list of items packed inside. She picked up the top box from the stack, set it aside and opened the next box. She rummaged through the contents, then triumphantly plucked out her hair dryer. No one was laughing at her sense of order now!

Jules pulled the earbuds from her ears, turned off her iPod and set it on the bathroom counter. She turned on the faucet, cupped a handful of cold water and splashed it across her face. Then she wet her hands and wove them through her hair. It was matted from wearing the stocking hat but it would take only a minute to add some body, so she plugged in the hair dryer, clicked it on and ... the lights went off in the bathroom.

"You've got to be kidding me," she muttered. She flipped the light switch but nothing happened and when she looked back into the bedroom she saw that the lights were off there, too, as well as in the hall.

Jules walked through the bedroom, back into the hall and made her way to the stairs. Her mind raced as she carefully made her way down the steps. The electrical panel, she knew, was in the garage. She'd made a point to ask about it, as it was one of the things her father had reminded her to check when she'd told him she was purchasing a house. She silently thanked him as she reached the first level, noted that the lights were on in the front room and made her way to the door to the garage.

The garage was dark when she opened the door but when she reached across the wall and flicked the light switch, the garage lit up. Jules looked at the filthy garage floor, then simply shook her head as she set a slippered foot onto the concrete and made her way toward the electrical panel.

It was cold in the garage and Jules saw through the garage door windows that it was already pitch dark outside. She shivered a bit as she opened the gray electrical panel door. Two columns of black switches stared back at her. The switches bore the numbers 15, 20 and 30 in no apparent order and she didn't know the significance of the designations. She felt her arms tense as she stared at the switches but then she looked at the inside of the panel door and saw an inspection form and underneath the form, a wiring diagram and to the right of the diagram, a circuit breaker directory. She calmed herself with a deep breath and said, out loud, "You can do this."

Jules looked at the switches and saw that four were in the "off" position. She then glanced at the diagram and directory and noted that most of the spaces on the directory that were to have been used to fill in the name of the room corresponding to a specific switch had been left blank. The switches for the kitchen, laundry room and back porch had been identified and someone had used a magic marker to write, "Spare bedroom" next to one switch and "East garage wall" next to another. But, as luck would have it, the four that were off hadn't been marked.

Jules thought of her father again. If he'd been there, he'd have taken care of everything for her. This was the kind of thing that he could fix in his sleep. But he wasn't there and suddenly she felt very alone as she realized she couldn't yell inside to anyone as she flipped a switch, ask them if the lights had come on. No, there was no one inside at all.

"Here goes," said Jules. She flipped the two switches on the left side of the panel to the "On" position and headed back inside.

The door to the garage closed behind her as she reached the staircase, took the first few steps. She was lost in thought, wondering why four circuits had been off, when a flash of light caught her eye. She stopped, poised to take another step and looked toward the light.

A desk lamp dimly lit the front room and cast a dagger of light up the curtains. But on the far side of the room, in the open area used as a dining room, a light suddenly flashed again, then disappeared. Jules caught her breath. The previous owner had taken the chandelier from the dining room so that couldn't be it. Was it a flashlight? Someone coming in the back door? She gazed across the dining area, strained to see through the darkness when suddenly the light came on again and this time it stayed on long enough so that she could make out the source of the confusing light.

"Oh, my God," muttered Jules. She chuckled as she slipped back down the steps. One of the movers must have plugged in a floor lamp as he'd fastened the legs on the wooden dining room table. But the cord lay over the lid of a box, which flapped ever so slightly, driven by the stream of warm air from the furnace vent. And as the lid flapped, it jostled the cord, which, in turn, rhythmically moved the plug in the wall socket. Finally, as if to illustrate the effect, the plug began to wiggle in the socket and the light from the lamp pulsed on and off like it was following a mad beat.

Before Jules could take a step across the room, a bell chimed. She was confused, momentarily, but then realized it was the doorbell. She'd been so focused on the odd light that she'd jumped at the sound but she quickly gathered herself, self-consciously ran a hand through her hair and strode to the front door. She touched the brass doorknob, then leaned forward and looked out the peephole. She saw nothing but darkness, but then a figure pulled back and she realized it was a man in a dark overcoat. A black knit hat covered most of his gray hair and when he turned his hulking body and his face appeared in front of the peephole, she saw that tiny icicles hung from his thick gray eyebrows. His face was a deep red. The blood vessels in his nose were broken and when he cupped his hands in front of his face and exhaled, two huge puffs of breath billowed around his head. He leaned into the door and a yellow, red-streaked eyeball searched the peephole expectantly. He blinked, then pulled back, shivered and blew into his cupped hands.

Jules stood for a moment, not sure she should open the door. But it was an old man. And if he was lost or wandering ... She gently unlocked the door and opened it a crack.

"Can I ..."

The door blew open. She tumbled, fell back onto the stairs. The old man hauled her to her feet, thrust a hand over her mouth. He pushed her, slammed the side of her head into the banister. He stepped away, kicked the door shut as she fell to the floor. Her mind spun. Instinct; she rose to her knees, tried to crawl away. Her slippers caught in the runner and she kicked them off, scrambled drunkenly, but the old man reached for her. She fell on her side, kicked at him, screamed. But he grabbed her by the hair, lifted her as she shook, veins popping out of her neck, hollering at the top of her lungs, "No!" He wrapped an arm around her neck, choked her quiet, pushed her forward, across the front room. Her vision blurred, head jerked. Her knees gave out but she was yanked upright, pushed forward.

"Oh my God!" She heard a voice but it wasn't a man's voice. It was shrill and high pitched. The strong arms spun her. The man's eyes went wide. The shrill voice screeched, "Oh, my God! I'm hurt. I'm hurt! What do I do? Where do I go?" He spun her. She saw the bathroom door on the right and the couch to the left and a chair and boxes, then the bathroom and then the couch and the chair and then the bathroom and then she was moving forward ... The shrill voice screamed, "Oh God! I need help!" The old man kicked open the bathroom door. She saw her blurred reflection in the mirror. Blood covered the right side of her head and face. Her head lolled. There was a pounding behind her right eye. She felt nauseous. Something grabbed her hair, drew her head back. She saw her eyes descend the mirror, the old man behind her, screaming, falsetto: "I've tripped again!" as her head shot down, hit the edge of the sink mid-scream.


A deep voice, awful, hoarse ... "Christ. These lights. Reminds me of Faces, over on Rush Street. You know, I was a pretty good dancer back in the day."

The man pushed her away from his body, spun her. She only saw shapes and colors, blurs, then his face. His eyes were wide, face caught in a delirious grin. She felt herself being flung around the room, strong arms holding her up, swinging her. She was on her heels; her head hung to the side. She felt like she was on a merry-go-round and the only thing that stopped her from flying out of control was the old man's grip as he spun her. "Yeah," he said. "I was a pretty good dancer."

She felt him drag her across the room; her toes scraped the floor. He stood her upright, took her hand and wrapped it around the portable phone. But then he let go of her hand and the phone dropped to the floor. He put a towel in her hand, lifted it to her head and then stepped back. Jules's eyes rolled back in her head as she fell forward. Her knees buckled, hit the floor. The towel fell at her side as the floor came straight at her face. She felt her nose and lips explode. Something pushed deep into her head. A warm liquid filled her pant leg. And then there was hot breath at her cheek. And a deep, low, rumbling voice as his lips neared her cheek.

"Back in the day."


5:15 P.M.

Wally stared at the computer screen. He rubbed his brow with both hands, then over his short hair, and finally rested his elbows on the desk, leaned forward and stared even more intently. Nothing came to him. But that was nothing new. He'd never considered himself the brightest bulb in the shed, but his parents were farmers and like them, he knew success came through hard work. Work, work, work, he repeated the word in his head, concentrated on the pictures. He heard a knock at the door and turned as his wife peeked into the study.

"What do you want for dinner, Wallace?" she asked.

He took off the headset, set it on the desk, minimized the window on his computer and spun the chair to face her. The casters moved easily across the hardwood floor and he lifted his feet, like a little kid, he thought, as he planted his heels, looked up at Theresa. "What did you say, baby?"

Theresa smiled, obviously amused. Her dark eyes rested on him and he felt his heart jolt as he looked up at her. "I asked," she said, like she was playing with one of her students, "what you would like for dinner."

Wally clapped at his belly. "I shoulda worked out tonight," he said. "Second time I missed this week and it's only Thursday. You wanna have salads and a yogurt dessert?"

"I'll make you a salad," said Theresa. "The thing is, there's two pieces of pizza left from last night, so if you want one, tell me now. I don't want you grabbing one from my plate after you eat your salad."

It was Wally's turn to smile. He liked his wife's slight accent, noticeable only on occasion, like when she pronounced the last letter in thing with a hard g sound. "No pizza for me," he said. "But if you want to go out, I could do that."

"I don't want to go out until May, at the earliest," she said. She pushed the door open further, stepped into the room. "Working on your book?"

"Uh, yep. I want to get it done so I can figure out the course work."

Theresa nodded at the headphones and her dark hair fell over her brow. She scooped it over the shoulder of her sweatshirt and Wally smiled again as he noted the puffy red slippers that peered out from the bottom of her blue sweatpants.

"I thought you needed total silence when you wrote," said Theresa.

"Mood music," said Wally as he stood up. He was nearly a foot taller than his wife but they shared a squat build. He was lucky enough to combat it with a thick neck and barrel chest and Theresa had been blessed with great looks, as far as he was concerned. He pulled her to his chest and hugged her, kissed her cheek. "Why don't you make my salad and heat up your pizza? I'll finish up here and then after dinner we can play some gin."

He turned from her, expected her to start out the door, but she didn't move. "Did you think about what we talked about last night?" she asked.

Wally sat down, turned back toward his computer. "Last night and every night? Yes, dear, I did." He heard the sarcasm in his voice, so stopped and turned to face her. "I know you want your sister close by, but there's a lot to think about. First of all, you'd have to find a place for her, here —"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Pursuit by Steve Monroe. Copyright © 2015 Steve Monroe. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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