Someone is about to make a killing in the music industry. Why would songwriting legend Gideon Pike mysteriously disappear just when he is about to turn his 30-year career into a multi-million dollar profit? Music columnist Mick Sever is back in Don Bruns' third suspense masterpiece. This time he's looking for answers and his missing friend in the gritty backrooms of South Beach's biggest nightclubs, dodging suicide speedboats and running from sniper fire. What surfaces is how the major players in the music industry are not making the headlines, they're just pulling the strings that create them. Hit it right and the royalties, even someone else's, can rake in millions for the rest of your life. The key is finding Gideon before Korean mobster Jimmy Shinn does. Jimmy is ready to cash in on the one secret that will bring Gideon to his knees and strip away what's left of his career, his fortune, and his life. Whoever gets to Gideon first will either save him or pull the trigger. The deadly race is on.
About the Author
Don Bruns is a singer and songwriter, a painter, a cook, a traveler, and stand-up comic. He loves telling stories whether it is writing songs or novels and has done both to much acclaim.
His "music series" features rock-and-roll writer Mick Sever, and his "stuff series" showcases the unstoppable yet bumbling young private investigators, James Lessor and Skip Moore. Don and his wife, Linda, live in South Florida.
Read an Excerpt
South Beach Shakedown
By Don Bruns
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2006 Don Bruns
All rights reserved.
He wished he were invisible. Not the kind of invisibility where no one could see you, but the kind where no one noticed you. Where you could walk through a crowd and no one would look. Head down, an anonymous face in the crowd. His kingdom for invisibility, right now, at this very moment. Instead, he was very visible. He was the center of attention as the Asian man in front of him spoke.
"Gideon, Gideon," Jimmy Shinn shook his head. "After we covered up for you? After what we did? And all we're asking is that you sign the contract. Another ten years, Gideon, for the publishing rights. And the recording rights next year. Be a player." The corners of his mouth turned up, but the capped teeth stayed clenched together.
Gideon Pike cowered under the dark-skinned Korean's gaze. The consequences. He had to weigh the consequences. He looked up at the man through thick, pop-bottle glasses, watching his facial expression. If he didn't sign, he knew what was in store. And eventually, Jimmy Shinn always seemed to get his way.
"The contract, Gideon."
"Let me think about it." He folded his hands defiantly on the kitchen table. He wished he were invisible.
"Sure. Take a week, a month, a fucking year. In the meantime, we'll be gently persuading you. Do you believe the gentle part?"
It wouldn't be gentle. The balding songwriter gathered an ounce of courage. "No. Not this time."
Shinn popped a ripe green Spanish queen olive into his mouth, methodically chewing it and savoring the unique briny flavor. He spit the pit into his open hand, adding it to the six other ones. "How long since your last hit?"
"How long? Three years?"
Gideon was silent.
"How long since you wrote a song?" He raised his voice.
"I've brought two new writers in the last six months. Now you can suck their blood. What do you want from me?"
"What do I want?" Shinn laughed. "I'm like a kid in an amusement park. I always want more. Another ride, another sno-cone, more cotton candy." He picked up another olive from the tray and put it in his mouth. The only sound in the room was his methodical chewing. A moment later he spit the pit into his waiting palm. "And I want a little respect. I want you to respect the fact that I've never gone to the police with the evidence. I've never turned you in. It's been three years since the accident and you're still walking around free as a bird. The contract, Gideon."
Respect? This slimy, low-life asshole wanted respect? It was intimidation. Rule through fear. Nothing more. Pike had met Shinn's father only one time, but he knew immediately where this creature had crawled from. The apple didn't fall far from the tree.
"And if I say no this time?"
"What happened the last time, Gideon?"
He was confused. He gave Shinn a puzzled look.
"Rusty? Remember how he looked when they pulled his body from the water?"
Jesus! The crushed skull, the bloated face and limbs, and chunks of skin missing where fish had feasted.
"You said you had nothing to do with that!"
"Don't believe everything I tell you."
Pike closed his eyes. There was too much at stake.
"And what about this interview you're giving? The story I hear is that you want to talk about your business relationships. You want to go public with what happened, put it all out on the table? Tell me, Gideon. Is that really what you want to do? Do you think that's safe for all concerned?" Shinn put his face inches from Pike's, his hot breath blowing onto the songwriter's face. "Are you that stupid? Are you?" He turned in disgust.
Shinn walked to the sink, nodding to his partner, a big man with an open-collar shirt and an ill-fitting sport coat. "Ever hear how olive pits sound when they grind up in a garbage disposal? Listen."
He switched on the appliance and dumped the pits into the drain. The harsh grinding sound filled the small room. Metal against seed, chewing them up.
"Stand up, Gideon. Give me your hand."
"No! You wouldn't."
"No. I wouldn't. I don't have the stomach for it." Shinn smiled, the perfect white teeth against the dark skin. He looked into Gideon's eyes. Turning to the beefy man next to him he said, "Sam. Take his hand."
Sam grabbed Pike's hand and pulled him from his chair.
"Yes. Can you write if you can't play piano?"
"Jesus! No. Jimmy, please."
"I know what olive pits sound like. I know what chicken bones sound like. Human flesh and bones? I've never heard that sound."CHAPTER 2
Sever rolled over and looked at the clock. Who the hell was calling him at 8 A.M.? Too damned early. The Stones had been in Chicago last night, and he and Keith had some catching up to do. Man, there was a lot of catching up. That man should be dead by now. He grabbed the receiver and croaked. "Hello?"
"Ginny?" His ex. The only reason she would call would be if she was —
"Mick? I've got some trouble."
"Where are you?"
"I've lost a client."
Sever rubbed his eyes. Lost a client?
"Do you hear me?"
"Sure. You lost a client. How do you do that?"
"I'm editing his book. Actually, it's notes, scraps of paper, stray thoughts and that kind of thing."
"Ginny. I'm lost."
"The company wants me to shape it all into a best-seller, Mick. You know how that game is played. Anyway, the star of the production has gone missing."
"And you're calling me because?"
"You know him well. You've done interviews, articles, stories on him."
"Eventually you'll tell me who this mysterious vanishing man is."
Sever couldn't help but grin. "Gin, he's done this before. Every time someone tries to get close, Gideon takes a powder."
"I know. And that's why the publisher's asked me to try to work with him. I had a long talk with your friend, Mr. Pike. He assured me that he was ready to sit down and talk about the music that defined a generation. Three days, and he's gone. And Mick, I went up to see him, and the door was unlocked. His condo was trashed. Drawers pulled out, papers scattered on the floor —"
"Ginny, maybe he was in a hurry. And you've got to know this about him, he's a private person. What can I say?"
He could hear her thinking. He swore he could actually hear her mind working. He knew her too well.
"Mick, he told me it was time. He said he had to come clean, do some confessing, and it wouldn't be pretty. I really thought we were connecting."
Sever remembered the last time he'd connected with Ginny. It was always a little painful, knowing what had been his was no longer. It had been awhile. "So what do you want me to do?"
"I really want to pursue this project, and I need someone to help me find him."
"You're kidding. Why?"
"Maybe because this is a chance to really do a story that has some meat to it. Mick, I've been editing other people's stuff for too long. It's time to do something on my own. Here's a chance to really find out what makes him tick, and a chance to explore what makes his music so — "she seemed to struggle for the word," addictive."
"Ginny —" She was on a roll.
"And maybe because I think he's in trouble. You know how you do just about anything to get to the bottom of the story? Your best writing has been when someone makes you dig for the story. Well,
I'm asking you to help me get to the bottom of mine."
"If anyone can do his story justice, I'm sure it's you."
"Mick, you're as close to him as anyone. I mean, the man wrote a song about you."
"Soul of a Lonely Man." Sever had committed the lyrics to memory.
Never content with the man God has made you
Never at ease you just wander alone —
You can't be true to the friends that have found you
You wander this world, 'cause you don't have a home.
"Actually, I think he had a thing for you."
Sever smiled, picturing the balding man with his thick glasses. Definitely not his type.
"So help me find him."
"What if he really doesn't want to be found?"
"He sounded scared."
"Mick, he told me his career may cost him his life. Do you understand that?"
Sever was quiet for a moment. "Pike was always a little melodramatic. I think he probably just took himself a little too seriously. Maybe he felt overworked. Pressured."
"He was definitely under pressure. He said he had confessions to make that could get him in trouble, but he felt he had to make them public."
"Ginny, I haven't seen him in a long time. We were close, but something happened. I don't know what. We haven't stayed in touch, so I really don't know what's happened to his life." Pike hadn't responded to Sever's phone calls in three years. At first, he'd just called to stay in touch, then to do an interview. It wasn't like Pike to ignore him. Over the years they'd become closer than just business associates. It was hard to put into words, but Sever felt a strong bond between the two of them, and the lack of communication worried him. He called mutual acquaintances searching for answers. They never came.
"He talked about you. He said you were one of the few people who really understood him. He said you've spent time with him, you know where he goes and what he does."
Sever remembered. He was never concerned about the man's sexual preference. That had never entered into the equation. Other people worried about Pike being gay. His record company, his producers, his agent. They wanted to pair him with female singers and actresses like the studios of the '40s did with Rock Hudson. Sever never worried about it. He and Pike were both impressed with each other's talent and level of success. That was enough.
"Mick, remember that night on South Beach? You told me about it, and Gideon reminded me a couple of days ago."
South Beach. They'd been to Mango's, a hot, hip, happening Latin Club on the strip where the salsa band was pumping out the music, and the bartenders were up on the bar, grinding it out for the crowd. Guys with cowboy hats and no shirts and girls in halter tops and hot pants, lewdly gyrating in unison. And the sultry waitress bringing a tray of tubes with neon-colored exotic beach drinks.
"Want a blow job? I give the best blow job on the beach." She shouted above the noise as she uncorked a tube of Baily's Irish Cream and something, then put the closed end in her mouth and tilted the tube to Sever's mouth, draining the sweet liquid down his throat before he had a chance to say anything. Five bucks. A blow job.
Sever and the slightly pudgy, balding guy with thick, horned-rim glasses moved through the crowd, getting closer to the bar, the guy watching the dancers, his head bouncing to the beat as the crowd pressed closer. No entourage, no bodyguards, just Sever and Pike.
"Hey man, I love your music."
"Hey, you're Gideon Pike. Jesus! Why don't you play us a song?"
Men and women doing double takes, and the Latin rhythm intense and hot, boiling over, pulsating with a driving beat.
"Hey, it's Gideon Pike. Is this cool or what?"
Two more blow jobs.
"Hey, gay boy!"
Sever and Pike ignored them.
"Gay Boy — Talkin' to you!" They screamed in his face with the music full blast. Two gay-bashers, looking for a little rough stuff in a city where anything goes.
Pike spun around and worked his way through the tight crowd. He pushed and shoved the revelers from his path, and Sever followed as best he could. Finally, they reached the sidewalk, swarming with a Saturday night rush.
Sever tried to keep up, his bad knee aching from the long night of walking. Pike plowed ahead, taking long strides for a man with such short legs. He was three, four lengths in front. The two men pushed Sever aside as they raced to catch him.
The bigger man, short hair, maybe ex-military with a gut, grabbed Pike's crotch with a death squeeze. His partner ran up shouting "Queer. You fucking fag!"
Sever lost it. The throbbing pain in his knee, any concern for his own safety with two guys bigger than he was, he lost it. He dove into the fray, tackling the military guy, driving him to the hard concrete as the man's head cracked on the cement. Sever leaped to his feet and drove a fist into the second man's gut, catching him with an uppercut as the man doubled over. Neither of them got up.They didn't move at all. Sever tried to catch his breath, the rush of adrenaline and three blow jobs coursing through his veins.
When he finally pulled himself together, Gideon Pike was gone. He'd done it before, disappearing when trouble reared its head. You had to deal with quirks in personalities. It was all part of a relationship.
"Yeah, he pulls the disappearing act a lot. I remember."
"Well, he pulled it on me, too. Can you spare some time? Come on down and give me a hand. Maybe we can find him, and I can get this project finished."
Gideon Pike. There was a time when Sever would get a call at three or four in the morning, at least once a month and Gideon would be on the other end, confessing, complaining, or bashing and trashing someone. "Off the record, Mick. Off the record." And a lot of it would have been A-plus material for Sever's entertainment columns. He'd listened, once in a while doling out some advice, condolences, sympathy, and always suggesting that Gideon go easy on the excesses. Alcohol, blow, pills — almost anything he could get his hands on. Sever often felt like the big brother. He watched out for the singer. He couldn't come down too hard on the man. Hell, he'd been a borderline addict himself, but Gideon Pike was dangerous. Sever had heard he had cleaned up his act in recent years, but Pike didn't call anymore, and they hadn't seen each other in a long time. It might have been since the night that Sever really did save his life. But that was off the record. He'd promised to never mention that night again.
He worked it over in his head. He was between projects. Recently, nothing had appealed to him. So what the hell, it was a chance to see Ginny. Any excuse to see Ginny was good. Being married to her had been a bitch. Not being with her, even worse.
"Yeah. I'll come down. We'll find him, and we'll tell him he's got to quit taking a powder just when the fun starts."
"Hey, baby. I owe you! It'll be good to see you again."
No. If anybody owed someone, he owed her. He'd never been ready for a commitment like that, and by the time he was ready, he'd totally screwed it up. There was a sound in her voice. Maybe there was a chance to put some things back together — or maybe he just needed a new challenge. Relationships should be easier at this stage in life.
They weren't. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but Ginny sounded like she was interested in more than just the story. Maybe she had a more concrete idea of where the relationship was going. He couldn't wait to find out.CHAPTER 3
The Miami airport was just like he remembered it. Long lines of disgruntled passengers waiting for delayed flights, and babies and toddlers screaming by the gates, giving the people who were boarding planes a taste of what to expect for the next two or four or eight hours in the air. Teenagers were sprawled on the floor, resting their heads on brightly colored backpacks, either sleeping through the mayhem or playing video games. And no one spoke English. Announcements seemed to come in every language except Sever's native tongue.
He was the lonely man in a sea of humanity. It reminded him of another Pike song, "Nobody Knows Your Name."
His bag had a couple of changes of clothes, his dopp kit, his laptop and the latest Michael Connelly novel. Anything else he could buy. She met him at ground transportation, coming up from behind and wrapping her arms around him as tight as she could.
"Mmmm! It is so good to see you."
He spun around. She just looked good. That was all he could think. Sever was a man of words, but she took the words away. Her long blond hair maybe a little shorter than last time, a light Florida tan, and a brush of freckles on her cheeks, her cute little ass packed into her tight jeans, and those big eyes looking up into his; damn. She just looked good.
Excerpted from South Beach Shakedown by Don Bruns. Copyright © 2006 Don Bruns. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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