When his girlfriend dumps him and a drug dealer rams him on a bridge, Al DeSantis quits the New Haven Police Department. As he makes plans to head for LA, he learns his father, Big Al, is alive, has dementia, and is entering a nursing home. More surprising, he has deeded the Blue Palmetto Detective Agency in Savannah to him.
Al wants nothing to do with the man who abandoned him at eight years old, or his agency. But when his California condo goes bankrupt and he loses everything, he drives down to Georgia, intending to sell fast and head west. But then he discovers a dead body on the agency dock.
He delays leaving until he can solve the murder, but things get complicated. He finds that a strong, attractive female detective, Max, is his superior in the agency that he owns. Also, his father, now determined to help his “new partner” solve the crime, keeps escaping the home. The facility now wants Big Al out, and Al must become his father’s advocate. With his traditional values challenged, Al has a lot of adjusting to do.
When his father goes missing, Al and Max, team up to find him and capture the murderer. With Max by his side, he battles everything from PTSD to explosions to alligators. Old secrets stretch from the Savannah low country to the Okefenokee Swamp—all shedding light on the murder and Al’s relationship with his father.
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|Publisher:||Encircle Publications, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.64(d)|
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Every type of rescue vehicle you could imagine was on the bridge. It was standard procedure, even though there was no one to rescue. I refused medical assistance a dozen times before I began the long walk off the span, leaving the mess of angry traffic and the dead druggie, who called himself Psycho, for the state cops to worry about.
A trooper called after me. "Wait up, DeSantis. I'll get you a ride."
"I'm good." I told him.
Truth was, I wasn't good. The red Mustang I had pulled from the New Haven Police motor pool looked like a Twizzler. I was amazed I got out of that twisted mass of metal alive.
"I gotta walk it off," I called back.
I took a selfie with the wreckage behind me then continued my hike to police headquarters about a mile away.
* * *
Maybe it was the impact of the air bag, or maybe it was the mistake of looking down at the river below but the city skyline was all wavy like a mirage. At last, I reached the end of the bridge and climbed over the guard rail, slipping and sliding down the snow-dusted embankment until I reached Water Street. A cruiser stopped along the way. It was Charlie Moss, an older cop and one of the nicer guys on the force.
"Hop in, Al."
I waved off his offer. "I'm on it, okay?"
"Sure. Sure, detective. I didn't mean you couldn't take care of yourself."
He took off and I continued my march toward the station looking at the picture of me and the mangled car every once in a while. On impulse, I sent it in a text to my ex.
Me: You're going to hear about this anyway.
Kim: Then try your bartender for sympathy.
I missed Kim a real lot. I also missed the house we used to own together. She bought me out, I got ¼ and she got ¾. She lives in it now with another cop, my former best friend, Tom Donahue. He turned out to be a relationship lurker and when he saw we were having problems he hooked up with her before I could make things right. Good-bye ten-year relationship, house, and old friend.
A van passed me. It was the soccer mom who Psycho had cut off on the crest of the bridge just after he'd recognized me driving alongside him. He had done a double take, then swerved at me. I pulled the car to the right scraping the side of the brand-new structure. Then his souped up Honda Civic veered toward her.
"Good for you!" I called out to the mom, even though she couldn't hear me. She had done some serious maneuvering to avoid Psycho. Then she gave him the finger and floored it to get the hell out of there.
Psycho totally lost it after that. He jammed the brakes and laid rubber all over I-95. There was smoke, and screeches, and more horns than in Springsteens's "E Street Shuffle." The druggie spun his car around and headed right for me like a runaway Acela train.
My phone rang. The caller ID said it was Kim. I wasn't going to answer at first.
"Jesus, Al. It's already on the news. Where are you?"
"I'm talking to my bartender. Why?"
"Okay, I may have been a little harsh. But it's always something with you."
"It wasn't on me. All I was trying to do was get back to the station to log out. I still am. I'm ordering tickets for the Florida Georgia Line concert as soon as the website opens at 7:00."
"You're thinking of concert tickets. Are you in shock?"
Could be. When we hit head on, I ended up on the deck of the bridge.
"No shock. I'm fine."
They said there were gun shots."
"Not on my part. He blew out every window in the car."
He had been shooting like it was Grand Theft Auto right there on the Q Bridge. And like in a video game, he didn't show the least worry about dying, and even less about killing me. They didn't call him Psycho for nothing.
"Why?" she asked.
"He was pissed that I was driving his brother's Mustang. The dude's in jail. It's not like he needs it. Then it was ..." I realized I was spilling more than I wanted to.
"Shit, Al. It was what?"
"A mess. A semi barreling down I-95 took out Psycho before I had a chance."
"You sure you're okay?"
It was the nicest she had talked to me in months. Sometimes it pays to almost get your ass blown off.
"I've never been better. Do you want to go?"
"To the Florida Georgia concert."
"You know that isn't happening."
Sure, I did. But I couldn't resist asking. "I just thought I'd ask."
"Al, I worry about you. You're self-destructive."
"Are you saying I caused the accident?"
"I'm saying you're always trying to prove something and you don't use common sense. Why can't you be more mature like Tom?"
I was almost killed and not only was she blaming me, but she was comparing me to Donahue, the laziest cop on the force.
"I gotta go." I shoved the phone into my pocket.
* * *
Word must have gotten back to headquarters on Union Avenue that I was on the way because everybody in the building was standing in the lobby when I got there. I was so pissed from the conversation with Kim that I couldn't look at them. There was a buzz of voices as they watched me head toward the chief's office where I lifted my fist to knock on the door. I changed my mind and barged in. He happened to be in a conference with the mayor when I threw my shield on his desk.
It bounced off the desktop and landed on the mayor's lap. He picked it up, looked at it for a second and then tossed it to my boss.
"What's this, DeSantis?" the chief said.
I shouldn't have taken it out on the chief. He's a pretty laid-back guy who doesn't bust the chops too much.
"I thought you were waiting until you turned thirty-six to cash out."
After the breakup, I'd invested my share of the house in a condo out in LA. It wasn't under construction yet which gave me a year. Then it was going to be guacamole pizza with a woman on my arm every night.
"I decided what happened today was a sign to speed up my plans before the job kills me first."
"DeSantis, I'm going to consider you're upset right now and give you a chance to think about it before you throw away your career."
"Career? What kind of career makes you drive around waiting for the next loony who wants to bag a cop?"
"As I said, think about it." The chief turned to the mayor and added. "That's what I was saying. We're spread too thin."
The mayor didn't say a word. Those faces on Mount Rushmore show more emotion.
When I walked out of the chief's office it was as quiet as Starbucks at midnight. Then someone clapped. Someone else joined in and before I knew it they were all clapping, and congratulating me.
"Way to go, Al." Bill Collins, a rookie I had taken under my wing, put out his hand.
Bill put his hand in his pocket. "For taking out Psycho."
"I had nothing to do with it. Some dude with a semi took care of him. And I'll bet he's trying to wash away the memory at some bar right now."
The poor bastard would be dealing with it the rest of his life even though there was nothing he could have done to stop it. Little did he know he probably saved a lot of people from a fentanyl overdose by eliminating Psycho.
I trudged to my desk. There was paperwork to do. Tons of it before I could go online to buy the concert tickets.
Documenting every detail of what happened on the bridge took that much longer because I kept thinking of how the guys cheered for me as if I was some kind of hero. Why? I didn't need their kudos and I didn't want the burden of phony valor.
Three hours later I was still at it with my two-finger typing when Charlie Moss, the officer who offered me a ride, came up to my desk.
He stood there for a minute smirking and shaking his head. It was his way of saying he was glad I came out of the ordeal alive.
"I got you a going away present. After they hauled the car away I found this on the bridge. Look at it if you ever question if you made the right decision."
He put a pretty well banged up GPS on my desk. The same gizmo that had been stuck on the window of the Mustang with a suction cup.
I dipped my head in thanks and started pecking at the computer again. I worked for another hour and a half making sure I got everything right.
On way home over the Q Bridge, I glanced to the southbound lanes where Psycho and I had our showdown. The traffic was moving freely by then and no one would guess that a few hours before, I came close to checking out there. And Psycho. Nobody, no matter how bad, deserved to be to be obliterated like that.
My car began to drift. With an abrupt move, I pulled my attention back to my lane, and got that same feeling that I'd had when I was walking off the bridge. My vision blurred and I felt cold and sweaty at the same time. I tapped the brakes and rolled down the window for air. As I got off the bridge, the feeling went away as quickly as it came.
By the time I got home to my computer, the Florida Georgia Line concert was sold out. I was tired and I was hungry. Not a good combination for me. I found a couple pieces of pizza in the back of the refrigerator. Only God knew how long they had been there. They weren't moldy so I ate one cold while I heated the other in the microwave. Even old New Haven "apizza" is better than pizza from any place else. I was washing down the second slice with a beer as I watched Steven Colbert when I got a text. It was from Charlie Moss's number. Charlie was also our union president.
Charlie: By contract, physical required within twenty-four hours of a trauma.
Me: That's just to cover the department's ass.
Charlie: It covers URs 2. Do it.
I wouldn't have bothered except that I didn't want to lose my pension. The next day I was on the way to Yale New Haven Hospital to get checked out when I had another spell of light-headedness as I crossed the bridge. I hoped that this wasn't going to become my new norm.
I mentioned the dizzy spell to the doctor. Playing it down, I explained that I was probably over-tired. The doc declared it due to the stress of the incident. I was too proud to tell him that it had happened twice. He gave me a clean bill of health and I didn't take the bridge home.
* * *
Once back in my apartment, I headed to the backyard to relax. I was streaming music on my tablet when my cell rang. I almost didn't answer because nobody I know makes calls unless it's to break the chops like Kim, but the caller ID came up Blue Palmetto Detective Agency and I was curious. The caller was a Mrs. Greenleaf and before she'd hung up I knew that while the Florida Georgia Line concert was not in my future, a trip to Ava Island off Savannah, Georgia was.
I was still taking in what Mrs. Greenleaf had told me when I got another call. Bill Collins.
"Do you have Florida Georgia Line tickets yet?" he asked.
"Well you do now. I punched in the web address over and over for four hours before they even opened up the sales and I got in on time! I got four. Two of them are yours."
He sounded like a kid on Christmas morning.
"Thanks, but I'm good."
"You're not hearing me, man! They're yours. Free."
"I won't be around to use them. But I'll give you the money for them. Give them to Donahue. Tell him you won them."
"Donahue? But you hate him."
"Kim likes the group. He'll take her."
"I don't get it."
"Just do it."
I didn't think I had to explain to him that I wanted to leave Connecticut at peace with Kim, even if she didn't realize it.CHAPTER 2
A month later, my dream of LA and guacamole pizza on hold, I drove to Savannah with Psycho's GPS stuck to the window of my F-150. I bought the truck because I fell in love with the silver stripe on black package. I realized too late that it didn't have a built-in GPS. Psycho's device was retro, but it did the trick in helping with some creative route planning to avoid monster bridges, just in case whatever was going on in my head happened again.
Even with the added mileage, I made it down to Savannah in less than fifteen hours. There I was able to duck a huge bridge that looked like a sailboat with two giant sails. The alternate route though, put me right in the heart of the city. While I was there, I took a spin through the town to get my bearings as much as to put off the inevitable face to face with my old man. My first impression was that there was more to the community than southern Gothic and Spanish moss.
I had read that River Street was paved with ballast from the old sailing ships, but I didn't expect the jazz and southern rock streaming from every bar and restaurant that lined it, any more than I expected to see a paddlewheel river boat, or an open topped hearse giving a city tour. The place looked young and upbeat. I was ready for young and upbeat now that I wasn't a cop. I just wondered if Savannah was the right place for it.
I stopped in a place that advertised Savannah's best chicken sandwich. I was wolfing it down along with a craft beer when the waitress stopped by for the obligatory how's-the — food check.
"You're here on business, aren't ya?"
I wiped some juice off of my face with a napkin.
"How can you tell?"
She looked at the sandwich that was already three-quarters gone.
"I don't know. You seem to be eating with a purpose. You know what I'm saying?"
I could feel myself blush.
"You're right. I have to slow down. I'll take another one of these." I picked up the beer bottle.
"That's better. Savannah should be taken in sips, like wine, not in gulps like Coke. Save that for Atlanta."
She made me smile. I wanted to stay longer but it was time to get this over with.
"How do I get to Ava Island?" I asked.
"Well now, I suppose the best way would be to follow RT. 80. In fact, it's the only way. Shouldn't take you but 15 minutes. You'll see the sign for the bridge."
"You mean, The Bridge?" I looked out the window where I could see the monster that I had masterfully avoided, when I came into town, thanks to the GPS.
She laughed. "The Savannah River Bridge? Not unless you want to go to South Carolina. It's a small drawbridge to the island. Careful you don't miss it."
I realized my arms were crossed against my chest. I dropped them in relief.
* * *
"You own a detective agency and a home on Ava Island," Greenleaf had said.
According to my Internet research Ava is 1.47 square miles of self-governed paradise at the mouth of the Savannah River, between Savannah and Tybee Island.
As I crossed the drawbridge, I could see the humongous Savannah River Bridge upriver.
When I heard the words, "You have arrived at your destination" I was, well ... surprised. Maybe I had been a little hasty in judging my old man a loser.
I drove up a cobbled driveway and parked in front of a huge brick Southern Colonial house, complete with a palladium window and a columned portico. As I walked around back, where I could see sailboats racing on the Savannah River, I felt as if I had won the lottery.
The smell of the refreshing sea breeze and the beautiful landscape had me beginning to think that this might be cool after all. Then I remembered why I could never handle living on Ava Island, paradise or not. The house and the agency came from my father. But I'd bet selling the place would get me more than enough money to finally get to LA.
"Can I help you?"
I turned to see a young woman by the pool bent forward on one leg. Her black compression shorts and a white muscle tank showed off a perfect tan. My father's secretary? Correction. I'd won Power Ball.
"Nice imitation of a flamingo," I said.
She dropped the dumbbells she held and stood straight.
"Single-leg deadlift. It strengthens the core. You could use it. What did you say you want?"
The voice may have been soft and sweet but the tone said she could be total badass if she need be.
"I don't want anything. I'm check things out. I need to take it all in, ya know?
"Listen, what you need to do is leave."
I whipped off my sunglasses. "I'm the new owner."
She whipped off her sunglasses in turn, stood up and shook her caramel colored hair.
"Damn it! Not again. I hate to break the news to you dude, but you've been scammed."
I walked toward her. "Scammed?"
"Yes, scammed. I bought this house last year and someone used the pictures from the Multiple Listing Service to put a phony for-sale-by-owner ad on Craig's List. You're the third one to show up this month. Did they take you for a $1,000 deposit?"
"Nobody took me for anything." I was beginning to wonder if I'd been punk'd. "You called me and said my father gave me his house and a detective agency."
She laughed as if she finally understood what was going on and then moved in to give me a kiss on the cheek. "Ah, so you're the long-lost son. Al Junior, right?"
Long lost son. What had the old man been telling people?
"Al. No junior, okay? You Mrs. Greenleaf?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "When It's Time for Leaving"
Copyright © 2019 Ang Pompano.
Excerpted by permission of Encircle Publications, LLC.
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