The Detonator

The Detonator

by Vincent Zandri

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943818884
Publisher: Polis Books
Publication date: 02/13/2018
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author


Vincent Zandri is the bestselling author of more than 20 novels including The Remains, Moonlight Weeps, Everything Burns, and Orchard Grove. He is also the author of numerous Amazon bestselling digital shorts, Pathological, True Stories and Moonlight Mafia among them. Harlan Coben has described The Innocent (formerly As Catch Can) as "...gritty, fast-paced, lyrical and haunting," while the New York Post called it "Sensational...Masterful...Brilliant!"

Zandri's list of domestic publishers include Delacorte, Dell, Down & Out Books, Thomas & Mercer and Polis Books, while his foreign publisher is Meme Publishers of Milan and Paris. An MFA in Writing graduate of Vermont College, Zandri's work is translated in the Dutch, Russian, French, Italian, and Japanese. Recently, Zandri was the subject of a major feature by The New York Times. He has also made appearances on Bloomberg TV and FOX news. In December 2014, Suspense Magazine named Zandri's, The Shroud Key, as one of the Best Books of 2014.

A freelance photo-journalist and the author of the popular "lit blog," The Vincent Zandri Vox, Zandri has written for Living Ready Magazine, RT, New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, The Times Union (Albany), Game & Fish Magazine, and many more. He lives in New York and Florence, Italy. Find him online at VincentZandri.com or on Twitter at @VincentZandri.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

August Bass River Cape Cod, MA Present Day

The tower is wired to blow.

Or, more accurately, the five-foot-high vertical sand tower is about to blow sky high, even if it did take Henry and me most of the morning to construct it.

"Take your position along the perimeter, Henry," I insist while squatting and strategically positioning my hands along both sides of the tower's base. "Sound the one-minute siren. Time to implode this sucker, make way for something new."

In an unusual display of energy and enthusiasm, Henry jumps up and down, megaphones his hands around his mouth, and sings like a trumpet, causing some of the other folks on the beach to lock eyes on us. He might be unusually short and small, if not frail, his bones brittle, his face wrinkled, his hair thin, gray, and rapidly receding, but you can still see some of me in him. My brown eyes, my solid square jaw, and my barrel-chested build acquired not entirely inside a weight room at some Gold's Gym (although bench pressing three-fifteen on a flat bench can be the next best thing to sex), but on hundreds of demolition jobsites I worked with my hands prior to finally realizing my dream: the privilege of working with explosives. Okay, maybe Henry doesn't have much in the way of a stocky build, or a square jaw accented with a salt-and-pepper goatee, or the healthy tan skin that I inherited from my late mother's Asian Indian side. But sometimes you see what you want to see in your boy. And I see a magnificent, beautiful young man.

"What's our motto, Henry? The Master Blaster prayer."

"Safety first and last, Dad."

"Amen, son. Gospel if I ever heard it."

"Thirty seconds, Dad."

"Hey, don't forget the tuneage."

"Oh yeah," Henry says. "I almost forgot." Bending down, he picks up the plastic sand shovel, positions it across his little belly, starts strumming it, air guitar-style.

"Boom, boom," he sings aloud in a high-pitched rattle-filled, elderly voice. "Out go the lights!"

"Clear the area, Ellen," I say, "this is going to be the world's first true implosion of a one-hundred-story high-rise. The one that's gonna put Master Blasters back on the map."

"Oh, for God's sakes, Singer," Ellen says from her beach chair beneath the blue umbrella, "can't you please act your age? Or at least leave the job at home?"

"I'm like twenty dog years older than Dad," Henry points out. "And I'm having a blast ... Get it? A master blast."

Suddenly, an itch in my left ear. One of those impossible-to-get-to itches since it's actually located inside the canal and not on the ear itself. Careful not to get any sand into the opening, I gently finger the tiny hearing aid that I've been wearing for sixteen years now. Since the ... well, let's call it accident ... that occurred in Manhattan's Alphabet City when the warehouse I was contracted to implode was detonated by a second, illegally operated device.

"Earth to Singer," Ellen says, brushing back her thick, shoulder-length black hair with her fingers. An action that even now, after twenty-three years of marriage, never fails to take my breath away. "Did you turn up that hearing aid?"

"Roger that, Ellen, baby," I say, removing my finger from my ear. "I can now read your lips, loud and clear."

Not too tall, but not too short, Ellen fits my five-feet-ten-inch frame perfectly. Daily morning jogs and even some strength training in our home gym has allowed her to maintain the identical sexy figure she bore when I first met her during our junior year at Bates College back in '85, where I studied engineering and she plowed through a major in music theory. The short of it was that I would demolish buildings while she pursued a creative career in the musical arts. More precisely, piano performance.

But what we didn't anticipate at the time was that our one and only child, Henry, would be afflicted with progeria and his slow but sure debilitation would become as heartbreaking as it would be time consuming. While Ellen had hoped for a thriving career as a concert pianist, she ended up spending the bulk of her days and nights seeing to Henry's needs, even if he is about to turn twenty in a couple of days. She has, however, managed to maintain a part-time career as a professional pianist and piano teacher. I also suspect she spends much of the day just plain having a good time with Henry, since he is arguably one of the funniest, most gentle souls on earth.

"I just wanted to remind you that your building-blow-up days are behind you," Ellen goes on, staring up at the sun while her dark round sunglasses shield her deep brown eyes. "You lost your license, remember? You almost got killed, remember that too? You almost left me a widow and Henry a half orphan. It's important to move forward in life. Besides, you have a nice new thriving line of work."

"The new job is boring," I say. Then, "Were you aware they're going to implode the old Wellington Hotel in a few days in downtown Albany? That could have been my baby, El. Word up is they called in a Chinese company to shoot it. A Chinese company, for God's sakes."

"Might I remind you, you're part Indian," my wife says. "Blasting seems to run in your Asian blood."

"Okay whatever, but they're gonna have fireworks, food vendors, a block party, media from all over the state. They even set up a grandstand for the mayor. Oh, and I'm one hundred percent born and bred Americano."

She finger-combs her hair so that the bulk of it rests sexily on her shoulder.

"Let it go, Iqbal Lamba —"

"Ike, if you don't mind. And drop the Lamba. You remind me of my mother."

"Okay, Ike, breathe in, breathe out, and let it all go. You're here, you're alive, and that's what's important."

"Easy for you to say. You have your concert piano career. You have your fans, your shows, your future. You have Lincoln Center."

"I'm a piano teacher who gives a concert at the local Jewish Community Center gymnasium now and again." She laughs. "But thank you for making it all sound so glamorous."

Behind me, Henry still has his hands cupped around his mouth.

"Ten seconds!" he bellows.

The waves crash onto the beach, while the sunbathing vacationers who flank us pretend to ignore our very existence.

"Working for the Albany Police Department bomb disposal is boring?" Ellen says. "It's dangerous and glamorous."

She says this with an almost defiant tone in her voice. But here's the truth about bomb disposal: Disarming an explosive device requires heavy bomb-resistant body armor, robots, and plenty of safety procedures. Demolishing buildings by timed implosion, on the other hand, doesn't require much more than safety goggles. It also once came within a hair's breadth of killing me. I survived, but with a right shoulder to left hip purple scar that runs the length of my back. A stark reminder of the hot steel that sliced through me as the old warehouse in Alphabet City went boom when it wasn't supposed to.

"Nothing happens in Albany," I go on. "I haven't disarmed anything in two years, and even then, the last bomb I put down wasn't put down by me personally. It was a teenager's M-80 that was neutralized by the robot. I got to work the controls like it was a video game. The entire APD made fun of me. Called me M-80 Man for two full weeks."

"That happens to me too, Dad," Henry says. "People are mean. Sometimes you gotta let that shit go."

"Henry, mouth," Ellen scolds.

"Oops," he says.

"They also used to call me The Robot," I add. "Like the robot in the Lost in Space reruns."

"Why, Dad?"

"Because my blasting suit makes me look like ... well ... a robot."

"But the important thing," Ellen interjects, "is you came home that evening happy, healthy, and wise. No more wiring up unstable buildings with even more unstable explosives. No more traveling half the year. No more nights awake in bed worrying if the building was going to implode or drop the wrong way onto a whole bunch of bystanders including yourself and our son."

She makes a wide, ear to ear smile that smells like victory. I can't blame her, of course. What wife doesn't want to be free of worry when it comes to their husband's day job? But what I wouldn't give for the chance to resurrect Master Blasters. To finally get a shot at that coveted true implosion. One never seen before (or felt, or heard, or smelled ...). Something to put me in the record books and maybe even secure me a second episode on The Detonators.

Ike Singer, the Master Blaster dreamer ...

"Five seconds!" Henry shouts, his thinning gray hair as disheveled at nineteen as it was at ten when it was much thicker, his oversized Tommy Bahama bathing trunks hanging off narrow, fragile hips, smaller than normal brown eyes bright but plagued by cataracts, thin lips surrounded by fleshy cheeks marked with age spots. My God, sometimes when I look at him, I still see the small, round-bellied toddler playing in the sand on this exact patch of Cape Cod beach. Time flies for me, but like sand inside an hour glass, it's running out for Henry.

"Go to it, Ike," Ellen says from her chair. "Don't keep your public waiting."

Here's what I do: I drop to my knees, assume the position by once more placing both hands on opposite sides of the sand tower at its base.

"Wait," Henry says. "Final equipment check, Dad."

"Safety first and last, son."

"Hard hat," he says.

I pull back my hands, straighten up, make like I'm putting on a hard hat. Henry mimics my actions precisely.

"Safety goggles."

I pretend to put a pair of goggles on.

"Ear protection."

I slip on some invisible behind-the-head earmuff-style protectors. Again, Henry does the same. In fact, this is the most important safety step for him since, like me, his hearing is fading.

"Electronic control box detonator."

Holding out my hands like they are gripping a box no bigger or smaller than a video game remote, I place one finger on the black trigger and one on the red. The triggers in my mind, that is.

"Fire in the hole," Henry goes on. "Three, two, one ..."

Thrusting myself forward while bending at the knees, I slice my hands through the bottom of the sand tower so cleanly, the structure seems to hang on in suspended animation for an extended couple of seconds. Long enough for me to know that all eyes belonging to the beach-going bystanders located within a radius of twenty feet are locked in on the action. It's no longer possible to ignore us.

Something happens, then. The five-foot-high tower begins to wobble, from one side to the other, until just like that it collapses into its own center and crashes down onto its own footprint. A perfect true sand tower implosion.

The crowd applauds. One man even whistles. As incredible as it is to believe, I feel the rush of excitement flow through me, like electricity through the veins. The rush I never get sick of. The rush I only crave more of now that it's been taken away from me by a crotchety New York State judge. The rush that has eluded me for going on sixteen years. The rush I've secretly vowed to get back one day in the form of my reissued license.

I stand, raise up my right hand, high-five Henry.

He attempts to jump up and down, but in his prematurely aged condition, it's all he can do to stand in one place for more than a few minutes at a time.

"We did it, Dad," he bellows. "A true implosion."

"Call the press," I say. "We've made history."

The crowd begins to disperse, smiles on their faces. I catch a look at Ellen. She's grinning, but shaking her head like she's trying to convince herself that boys will be boys at any age.

"Can we be done now?" she says.

I cock my head, take one last look at the pile of sand that just seconds ago was a five- foot-high tower.

"Show's over," I say. "But wasn't that spectacular?"

"Call the New York Times, Singer," Ellen says. "There's gotta be a reporter who will drop everything to grab up the scoop."

A young woman approaches us then from the direction of the ocean.

"Funny you should say that, Mrs. Singer," the young woman says. "I'm here to speak with your husband about what it's like to blow stuff up for a living."

CHAPTER 2

She's a tall young woman, with fine sandy blonde hair, but clipped a couple inches above her shoulders. She's not wearing a bathing suit, but instead tan shorts and a button-down shirt with no sleeves, the tails of which are hanging free. A canvas bag hangs over her shoulder and she's holding her leather gladiator sandals in her left hand. Her skin is fair, which tells me she hasn't been in the sun for very long and probably shouldn't remain in it without some serious sunblock. Her gray-blue eyes are bright and youthful, and looking into them, I can't shake the sudden wave of déjà vu that tells me this isn't the first time we've met.

She holds out her hand.

"Allow me to explain," she says. "I'm actually a freelancer doing some research on the most dangerous jobs in the world. One of which is the brave demolition crews who take down those mammoth towers with dynamite and a prayer."

Pulse picks up, because I'd love nothing more than to talk about my career. Or, former career anyway. Glancing down at Ellen, who's still seated in her lounge, I spot her smirk. I imagine her eyes rolling in their sockets under those dark sunglasses.

"You've come to the right place, young lady," she says. "My husband loves to talk about himself. Don't you, Ike?" "Dad is da bomb," Henry mutters under his breath. "If you don't believe me, just ask him."

"Easy, you," I say. "Nothing wrong with a little healthy self-confidence."

The young woman laughs. I take her small, gentle hand in mine, give it a squeeze, then release it. The sensation washes over me for a second time. I'm not entirely sure what it is, but I can't help but feel like I've been introduced to her on some prior occasion. But where and when?

Ellen picks herself up, brushes some sand off her thighs, and holds out her hand.

"I'm the wife," she says with a grimace. "Ellen Singer."

The stranger giggles.

"The wife with a terrific sense of humor." She takes Ellen's hand in hers. "You're probably wondering how I found you here on this beach."

Ellen cocks her head over her left shoulder.

"Crossed my mind," she says.

"Me too," I say.

"Me three," Henry says.

Brushing back her hair, the stranger nods in Henry's direction.

"Well, if you have to know," she says, "Henry's Facebook account helped me out."

Ellen and I immediately turn to our son.

"Henry," we say in unison. Then, with me taking over. "What did we say about handing out personal info on social media, son?"

Henry pouts, peers down at his tiny, sand-covered feet. For an individual who, in terms of his condition, is thirty to forty years older than his parents, he is still very much a goofy kid.

"Oopsies," he says.

Eyes back on the mystery woman. "So you drove all the way out here to interview me?"

She shakes her head.

"My boyfriend has a time-share at the hotel right next door," she explains. "So I'm killing two birds. Hope you don't mind."

"What is it you wanna know?"

Raising her wrist, she glances at her watch. "Is it okay if we go somewhere more comfortable to talk?"

I point with my thumb over my shoulder. "There's an outdoor bar up there. On the patio above the beach."

"Perfect," she says. "I understand your present job is pretty dangerous too. Bomb disposal specialist. Maybe we can talk about that also."

I turn to Ellen. "You okay with Mr. Facebook for a few minutes?"

"Aren't I always?" she says under her breath.

"Mr. Facebook," Henry says, once more waving his arms. "Take a look at Mr. Facebook. ... Take a good look 'cause he won't be here forever."

"Not funny, Henry," Ellen says.

"Lead the way," I say, holding my hand out for the stranger.

She starts walking in the opposite direction of the crashing waves. But something dawns on me before she gets too far.

"Hey," I call out. "What did you say your name is again?"

She stops in the sand, turns.

"Alison," she says, "Alison Darling."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Detonator"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Vincent Zandri.
Excerpted by permission of Polis Books, LLC.
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.

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