Monday, February 11, 2019

Sex, what is it good for (in novels)?

Love at First Bite
[PG-13/ R. And, for the record, this is a completely amoral blog post—preaching morals gives me a headache and upsets my ulcer.]

I did this post once upon a time. And while I've even reposted it once (I think), I was skimming through it the other day and contemplating some of the points I made. I've considered that I do need to expand on them. There are even one or two additional points I should focus on, especially now that I've had at least one major series where a substantial subplot was a romance story.... yes, while Love at First Bite is listed under the vampire romance genre, I don't really consider it vampire romance. Why? Too many explosions and Vatican ninjas for that.

1. Sex. What is it good for (in fiction)?

Were this a song parody, the next line would be “absolutely nothing.” But, given that I've had bad experiences with song parodies, I will forgo that.

But, seriously, sex... why bother?  In the context of literature, almost any novel with a sex scene in it has been, in my opinion, a horrid waste of time, energy, and irritates, at least, this reader.

To date, none of my books have sex scenes. Even though every single story has a married couple, or a dating couple, even the "vampire romance" novels have no sex.

Why is that?

Because I find them boring.

No, seriously. They're boring. If I'm in the mood for sex .... well, I'm married now, so that's not an issue. Why the Hell would I want to read about it? If I'm reading an urban fantasy or a thriller, I'm interesting in magic duels, shootouts, or high adventure. Not porn.

I am not certain how much of this is my own personal opinion and how much of it is a critique of how sex scenes tend to be inflicted on the reader.

The primary offender in this is the OSS, or the Obligatory Sex Scene.

My favorite example of this is from a 20 year old book called Mount Dragon, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Our protagonists have been chased through a desert, dying of thirst and heat, chased by a deranged gunman.  But they have finally found water and shelter from the sun
.... they are so happy they start having sex...

Blink. What?

The OSS I just mentioned is quick. It may have been a paragraph. It was unnecessary, came out of nowhere, and if it hadn't happened, not a single thing would have changed in the book.
Looking at it objectively, what is the point of an OSS?

PRO: “Physical intimacy shows the the relationship involved has gone to another level and has thus impacted the characters.”

Objection: Perfectly true, but does that necessitate a five page sex scene? Or even a page? If one wanted to tell the reader that, yes, two people slept together, I can do that right now: “X and Y fell into bed, kissing passionately as they stripped each other's clothes. They then turned off the lights and hoped they wouldn't wake the neighbors.”

Done. Two lines and a bit of smart ass can carry something a long way. It's perfectly PG-13. 890s kids movies were more graphic.

PRO: “Things can happen during the scene that are relevant to the rest of the novel.”

OBJECTION: True, but rarely does it necessitate going into intimate details. In fact, I would suggest that anything relevant to the plot could be covered in the next chapter. “On reflection, s/he noticed something odd while lying on his/her back. S/he didn't really notice it at the time, but now that it's quiet.....”

Done.

Exceptions can be made to this rule, obviously. If the couple rolls off of the bed as someone walks into the room, be it with room service or with a gun, then that is a useful detail.

I will even admit that there are graphic sex scenes where one can reveal character. But those are so extremely rare I can name you one author who has pulled it off. With John Ringo's Ghost series, several of the sex scenes are necessary, and two are crucial to the stories they show up in. Nearly all of them impact the characters in some way. And almost all of these scenes can be entertaining for reasons that are anything but sexual. They can be funny.

Why Ghost does what he does (and I don't mean sexual maneuvers or positions) tells the reader more about the character than a hundred pages of sex scenes from any given novelist....

Which leads us to Laurell K. Hamilton. Her claim to fame is that she "invented urban fantasy."  Which is funny, since I thought Bram Stoker did that. For nine novels, her primary series went well. There was sexuality here and there (a major character was a French vampire, after all), but it never really got in the way of the story. By book seven and eight, the main character was sleeping with both a vampire and a werewolf, but the OSS's were few and far between, and they were easily skipped by turning a page. Quite painless, overall.

After book #9, Obsidian Butterfly, several novels contained a hundred pages of vampire rituals of who gets to have sex with who. I skipped them.  I went back for book #15, because it featured the return of Hamilton's best, scariest character: a mild mannered, white-bread fellow named Edward, a mercenary who started hunting vampires because humans were too easy.

However, I had to skip a hundred and fifty pages of the novel. It was one, long and drawn out OSS. Not a menage a trois, but a bisexual sextet among Vampires and were-creatures. Much of the rest of the book had pages of Anita Blake defending her sex life. “The lady dost protest too much.”

Years ago, when the author herself was asked about the overabundance of sex during a Barnes and Noble interview, Hamilton's best defense was that “I only get complaints from men. I had two reviewers tell me that they're disturbed that a woman is writing this sort of stuff. ”

Ahem...

Dear Madam Hamilton: I get disturbed with John Ringo writing about a man and two coeds on a boat with bondage gear. For the love of all that's Holy, what makes you think that a bi-sexual sextet with were-furries would go over any better, no matter who or what you were?  This strange faux-feminism you're using to deflect criticism is based off of an anecdotal incident with two reviewers?  How about "I want more plot than sex scene," are you going to blame that on me being male? Really?

Again, I'll go back to John Ringo, only a different series -- the Council Wars.  One short story is seriously NC-17, and reading through it, I would be hard-pressed to see how it could be written otherwise. With Hamilton's novels, I could skip over a hundred pages and not miss a single plot point. That's screwed up.

Make it sextets with were-furries, they're even worse.


2. “I want a Heroine not an excuse for sex.”

Can I write a sex scene? Sure, they're easy. I've gotten requests from lady friends of mine for erotica (don't ask, long story).

But are they necessary? No.

Did I need intimate details to add to the plot, the character, or anything related to the story? No.

Frankly, I think a PG-13 novel sometimes requires more skill than an NC-17 rated. I find that sex sequences are a cheat, sort of like premium cable—just because you can use four letter words doesn't mean you have to write them into every single line.

I have actually made my lack of OSS's in my novels work for me.

In Love at First Bite book one, Honor at Stake, I had a make out session in a graveyard. I had several women fans tell me that "if this is what making out was like, what happens when you do a sex scene?"

Now, to be fair, I am tempted to do one -- a, singular -- sex scene at some point, when I go back to the Love at First Bite universe. Mainly because there has been a ton of buildup of multiple books, and the last thing I want to do to my fans is to have the fruition of an entire relationship happen offscreen. I will probably end up finding a payoff that's somewhere between being rated R and happening entirely off the page.

But honestly .... having no sex in my books has worked for me. In the Pius books, I've used the lack of sex for jokes (a long-term couple has never had intercourse because every time they do, someone tries to kill them) or I can move somewhere else in the plot and leave a married couple alone, or I'm just developing a relationship.

And hell, Tommy Nolan is married and has sex ... but he's married with one kid in book one, and his wife is pregnant in book three. I don't think I need to spell out what happens in between.

Just because an author can throw in a sex scene doesn't mean s/he must do so. Doing sex scenes well takes skill, and making them relevant takes talent; most people don't have it.

Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer had several moments where our heroine's sex life really was going to get people killed (think back to the killer frat house dorm room). Or one solid comedy routine (that poor, poor house in season 6...).

Sherrilyn Kenyon, a ROMANCE NOVELIST, wrote at least one book where the LACK of sex was a key plot point, and another where intimacy between the hero and heroine was surprisingly crucial to the story.

Ringo was mentioned above.

So, it has been done well. Just not very often.

To answer the opening question: Sex, what is it good for?

In novels... it can be good for something. It just rarely is.

You can check out the series mentioned below.

The Pius Trilogy (5 Book Series) by  Declan Finn



        Love at First Bite


Saturday, February 9, 2019

Helloween - I Want Out �� (Cover by Minniva feat. Mr Jumbo)

One of the nice things about YouTube cover artists is that they expose guys like me to other bands. I tripped over Minniva on YouTube because she covered a lot of Within Temptation and Nightwish. Through her, I've run into a LOT of Sabaton.

Never heard of this group. But I'll be looking it up eventually.

Granted, I expect this to be a Libertarian anthem soon enough... okay, the basic "leave me the hell alone" Libertarians.


While you try playing through this, just do me a favor and glance over these books, see how you like them.

Ciao.



Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Infernal Affairs, Chapter 3: SWATed

Infernal Affairs, Chapter 3, fight

Originally, I wanted an entire book much like this.

Then I realized that it would suck even more for Tommy if I just kept upping the stakes of what came after him.

But it's going to end ... fun.





Chapter 3: SWATed
The rest of the day went normally. The schedule was normal: Church, breakfast, parish activity du jour, early dinner, and Jeremy goes to play with his friends, while Mariel and I play with each other…
What? How else did you think Mariel became pregnant?
Ironically, it was Jeremy’s recently found fame that allowed for Mariel’s current condition. After facing down a serial killer and being kidnapped by a deranged death cult, Jeremy had become a source of fascination for his classmates. This led to a lot of busy weekends of fun for Jeremy, and lots of privacy for us.
Remember, when Catholics get married, part of the marriage contract is to contribute to the gene pool as much as possible.
By nine o’clock that evening, we were all ready to sleep.
There is a reason that the first words of every angel in the Bible tend to be “Be not afraid.”
That is because angels of the Lord are totally terrifying.
In my dream, the body was made of fire. The wings looked like butterfly wings, taller and wider than the main body. And it looked like a Kaiju that would make Godzilla crawl back into the sea and ask directions for the Marianas Trench. Its sword was a cross between a big broadsword and a lightsaber, and big enough to cleave the world in half.
When it told me to Be Not Afraid, it sounded musical and lyrical, and at total odds with the creature in front of me.
Thomas Nolan! Judge and Prophet of the Lord! Awake and smite the agents of Satan!”
I was out of bed, on my feet, with a gun in my hand before I knew I was awake.
I turned and violently shook Mariel awake. Her eyes snapped open and she reached for her side table, then hesitated when she recognized me. At least she hadn’t shanked me with the flip knife at her side.
I told her, simply, “One-A.” It was the plan for her to hunker down and wait in Jeremy’s room—mostly because his room’s door opened almost straight into the staircase. Anyone who came up the stairs would get to the second landing, turn left, and go up four more steps.
She got up and grabbed her rifle, next to her side table. She slung the strap over her head, then grabbed the shotgun, next to the rifle. Then she grabbed her pistol, and held it in her other hand. I did the same, mostly to horde the weapons as they hunkered down.
We were, after a fashion, preppers. Mostly because after the first two home invasions by supernatural and demonic forces, we came prepared.
I led the way as Mariel carried the weapons behind her. I waited until she was in Jeremy’s room, then handed her the shotgun. I left the rifle slung over my shoulder, and carried the pistol in hand. It was a Browning Hi-Powered. It wasn’t exactly department issue, but I had started a collection of larger caliber guns since the death cult came for us.
I took the stairs carefully and quietly. I took one step down from the top landing when the door crashed in. I dropped to a crouch and waited. I didn’t scream out a warning, since I didn’t want to give away my position. And since the front door was made of metal, just kicking the door in wasn’t an option, so they weren’t simple home invaders.
Also, I was told to smite the agents of Satan, so I could only conclude that these dirt bags weren’t here to play.
They swept in like a well-oiled machine, a snake-like line of men carrying body armor and rifles. The first one looked up at me—directly at me, I’m certain—and whispered, “Clear.”
The leader moved the muzzle down and ahead.
I waited until I could clearly see the tail end of this serpent. There were only six of them.
After the third one moved into the living room and broke to their left (heading towards our dining room), the fourth one stepped into the living room and moved for the steps.
That’s when I opened fire. The first bullet slammed into the armored helmet, slamming the man’s head into the wall. The second round punched through the man’s neck. He collapsed without a sound, but I had already moved onto the next man in order. I took a step back, onto the landing, as I fired again. Both bullets found their mark, though not the way I wanted. One bullet merely collided with the Kevlar vest—but the force of the round cracked the collar bone. The next one punched under the arm, into the armpit, and pinballed around through the ribcage, caged inside by Kevlar.
The third one turned his attention to me, and I triple-tapped him. Three rounds from the Hi-Power knocked him back, and he involuntarily opened fire with a string of bullets that cut right above my head. I dove up the stairs, getting out of the line of sight and line of fire.
I scrambled up the stairs. I swung around the wall at the top of the stairs. I dropped back to a crouch. The were well armed, and had good tactics. The first thing I could think of was: We’re screwed. Dear Lord. We’ll need some help here.
There were stomps as one of them charged up the stairs. I was ready to intercept them as soon as they appeared. But after only eight steps, they stopped. I couldn’t figure out why for a second.
Then I heard the distinct metallic scrape of a pin being pulled out of a grenade.
The instant the next attacker leaned over in order to aim, I fired twice. His arm had been up and ready to hurl his device. The helmet’s visor cracked and his head snapped back with the bullet. The second bullet punched into his wrist, shattering it. He fell back with a scream, and so did his grenade. There were a few gasps from down below once they realized what had happened.
I ducked back and covered my ears. Which was a good idea, because the explosion was bright and loud enough to make your eyes and ears bleed if you were too close.
Thankfully for my home, it was a flash bang, not a fragmentation or incendiary.
Since I only had two bullets left, I placed my handgun on the ground, then unslung my rifle. I grabbed the pistol and darted across Mariel’s line of fire for the little room leading up to the attic. We hadn’t decided what else to do with it yet, so it was still filled with boxes of random stuff we still hadn’t unpacked yet.
We all waited for a long moment, listening intently. The next one up came up quietly. Mariel hadn’t waited for the gunman to notice her. His helmet appeared, and she fired three times. His helmet snapped to one side. His head crashed into the window on the second landing.
It was followed by multiple rounds of blind fire in automatic bursts. Mariel rolled out of the way of the gunfire. This fifth gunman fired off a few rounds every step, keeping Mariel back.
I waited as he came up, one step at a time, one burst at a time. I pressed myself against the wall, I almost felt him coming closer.
Then I heard the slide of an empty magazine ejecting from the gun and thumping on the floor.
I wheeled around the doorway before the gunman had even had a chance to grab a fresh magazine. I jammed the muzzle of my Browning underneath the man’s chin and pulled the trigger twice. The brain and bone spattered out of the helmet …
And into the visor of the gunman right behind him.
Oh Nuts.
I dropped the pistol and brought up my rifle. It collided with the rifle of the other gunman, and he smashed into me. He drove me into the room of junk, slamming me into the door. The gunman reared back with his right fist. I jerked my head to one side, and he punched the wall. He cursed.
I twisted with my rifle counter-clockwise as I twisted my body the same way. The butt of my AR-15 cracked against the gunman’s helmet while I slipped out of the way. I shoved off of the gunman and raised my rifle.
The gunman spun. He smacked the muzzle of my rifle off line as he raised his own. I raised my knee as high as I could, then kicked down at the muzzle of his gun, shoving it to the floor. As my foot came down, I reared forward, shoving my left forearm into his throat.
I jammed my rifle down into the boot of the gunman, then fired. He screamed. My left forearm was still in his throat. I drove my elbow into the helmet, forcing him to look to my left. My fingers found the back of his helmet, hooking underneath it. I spun to my left and dragged the gunman down by his helmet, throwing him off the wall. He didn’t go far, so I didn’t raise my rifle level with him. I raised the muzzle just enough to shoot him in the back of the knee. He screamed and fell forward, away from me.
My rifle came up and I fired. I didn’t even count the bullets I fired into him. I only stopped pulling the trigger when he went down.
I took a slow, deep breath.
I swung around. “Mariel, don’t shoot. I’m crossing your field of fire.”
I moved into the hall, then down the stairs. I cleared the house in less than a minute. I lowered my gun about the time that the sirens rang outside. I placed the gun down and started turning on the lights, keeping at least one hand up at all times. I knew the uniforms that arrived, one of them was Sgt. Mary Russell.
Russell stood in the doorway between the enclosed front porch and the living room, stopping before the first body. She looked down at the body, then at me. She considered me, then shrugged. “Nice boxers.”
I rolled my eyes. “Gee. Thanks.”
She laughed as she shook her head and holstered her gun. She looked over the bodies. “Dang, Wyatt. Don’t you have quiet days?”
I narrowed my eyes. “It’s been quiet for months.”
Her eyebrows went up, and smiled. “Twice in one day, though? At least you’re making up for lost time.”
I sighed. “Apparently.”
She looked down at the corpse, and I did as well. The Kevlar was strange, mainly because there was black masking tape on it… and the helmet. I glanced to the other corpses in the room and on the stairs. The masking tape was on all of them.
What the?
I stepped forward and crouched down by the nearest corpse. I reached over to the edge of the masking tape, gently teasing the tape over. I only needed a corner to come off. It revealed the upper corner of a letter: S.
Crud.”
Russell said, “What’s the matter?”
I rose, and started to work my way up the stairs. “I’m getting dressed. Call the LT. Call the Captain. Then call Statler and Waldorf over at IA.”
Why?” she called after me.
I stopped on the second landing, around the corpse under the window. “Tell them that the people who tried to kill me are members of a SWAT team.”
Russell gave me a long look. “Congratulations. I guess you’re a cop killer.”

Chapter 4: Picking Up the Pieces.
The SWAT team had invaded my home at two in the morning. By 2:30, the neighbors were awake, and it looked like my station house was having a block party on my street. The SWAT van the team had arrived in was parked around the corner, so the entire intersection would be blocked off until the scene was processed. Ten patrol cars were used just to secure the area. CSU was already there in record time, and they weren’t happy that Mariel, Jeremy, and I had already walked all over the crime scene, since it was mostly on our staircase.
CSU took photos of me and Mariel, then confiscated our sleepwear. They collected rug fibers from the front of Mariel’s night shirt to prove that she had been on the floor. They took my clothing since I had blood spatter on it. We were already informed that parts of the carpet on our staircase would be taken away because of the burns from the flash bang. We were processed before the rest of the crime scene, and we needed to get dressed for the day.
Jeremy hadn’t been involved, except in making the 911 call, and another call to the station. He was already asleep on the couch. After being threatened at knife point by a serial killer, and kidnapped by a cult with it’s own Voodoo man, this was relatively boring. I was half afraid that when puberty hit my son, he was going to turn into a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie. I could see a lot of ER visits in our future.
My Captain was there not long after CSU finished with us. My Lieutenant barely beat him to it. Both were in full dress uniforms, as though they were showing up to a full-court press conference, or to a funeral. I didn’t relish either prospect. They sat at the opposite end of the table while Mariel sat at the other. She had been making coffee since the coast was clear. They were all disposable cups, purchased after one of the last CSU guys broke a cup the last time the house had been a crime scene.
Then Alex Packard showed up. My partner burst in through the front door barely dressed. He wore loafers with no socks. His gray slacks were buckled, the fly only half up. The buttons on his shirt were misaligned, but he’d given up on the top two buttons, so it didn’t matter. His bright yellow tie was draped over his neck, untied. What was left of his hair stuck up at all sorts of odd angles.
Tommy! Don’t say a thing!” Alex called. “I’m your PBA rep, and I insist—”
I held up a hand. He stopped raving for a moment as he stopped at the dining room table. He grabbed the edge, and panted heavily. “Sorry. I ran. I lot. Gotta never do that again.”
I restrained myself from rolling my eyes. “Now that you’re here, we can start.”
Alex started to object. “Tommy—”
I lifted a tablet from the seat next to me. It was normally Jeremy’s, which is why the case was black with an Alex Ross rendering of The Shadow on the back. I tapped into the house WiFi, then turned it around to my superiors and my partner.
Mariel left to go the kitchen. She’d been here for the next part.
It was a full audio-video of the entire attack. The cameras on the front porch, the stairs, and the upper hallway caught every last moment. Not once did anyone hear the word “Police!” or “Freeze!” The only verbal communication was between me and Mariel. Everything between the officers was communicated purely in hand gestures.
When the recording was over, both of my superiors looked pissed off. They said nothing, and I didn’t blame them. Officially, Internal Affairs should be the one to talk to me right now, not them.
Right now, they were in an awkward position. On the one hand, among fellow cops, there was nothing more despised by the rank and file than a “traitor”—but then, there is no one in the world more despised than someone who turns on “his own.”
In the world of cops, if there is a corrupt officer, most of my brothers in blue would probably prefer to handle it internally.
If the situation is “I’m going to take this drug money off of you as punishment for you being stupid enough to deal in front of me,” most citizens would find that illegal and corrupt. Many cops would dismiss it as being more harmful to the dealer than the minimal jail time the dealer might eventually be given, eventually. If it grows to be an institution of extortion, that’s when most cops start getting uncomfortable. They start splitting hairs with the question, “Is he extorting a citizen or a career criminal?” If a cop starts abusing his authority to the extent where the law-abiding are abused, other cops would much rather take him into a dark alley and beat the crap out of him before turning him in.
If the extortion and abuse of authority extends to sexual favors, that’s more or less the point where my fellow cops would rather throw him down a flight of stairs before turning in said officer.
But really, the only person below a traitor is a cop killer.
Now imagine the treatment that would be given a police officer who tried to kill a fellow officer.
If you cringed, you have the right idea. It’s one of the many reasons why even the most corrupt cops would rather eat their service weapon than shoot at fellow cops. If a cop killed another cop, the killer might risk having an “accident” akin to falling into a wood chipper, feet first.
So both of my superiors were facing a nightmare scenario, and doing the math on which was worse.
1: Headline, “THOMAS NOLAN MURDERS SIX COPS.” This is the headline that wins a cold shoulder from everyone in the department, and even future backup to “arrive too late” to a full shootout.
2: “SWAT TEAM TRIES TO KILL SAINTLY COP.” This headline gets every cop in the department to buy me beers for getting them before they got me. Meanwhile, this also puts every cop in the city under a magnifying glass, especially the department out of which SWAT operated.
3: “COP ON COP VIOLENCE: EVERYONE WINS.” This makes for a police department that closes ranks and act amazingly cranky to the entire population.
This didn’t even count what “Hizzonor” the Mayor, Ricardo Hoynes, would do.
Hoynes was already against cops in general, and me in particular. Given that his Deputy Mayor for Social Justice Programs was a zombie-raising Voodoo Bokor who had tried to murder me a few months back, I could count on hearing a few tasteful sound bites from the mayor during this entire ordeal.
Whether or not Deputy Mayor Bokor Baracus (yes, this particular demonic presence was that subtle) was just using the Mayor to further a Satanic agenda, or if the Mayor was the greater darkness, was unknown. Even my ability to smell evil was useless around City Hall—there was so much evil in the air, it was impossible to get directionality on its source. Alex dismissed it as being the usual scent of politicians. I wasn’t so certain. The only bright side of a Mayor Hoynes character assassination would be that everyone who hated him (i.e.: every cop in the city) would be buying me drinks until the press died down or until Hoynes found a new target.
So my Captain and LT had a lot to think about.
Let’s have a conversation about who just tried to assassinate you,” my LT said, taking the lead. “The patrol guys outside already ran the SWAT truck and the IDs inside. The team lying dead on your stairs are out of the Bronx. They’ve had a high casualty count, but then, they’re SWAT, so that’s expected.”
I frowned. “The Bronx? I’m happy I can even find the Bronx. I’m just as happy to forget that the Bronx even exists. If I want to go the mainland, I go through Staten Island.”
Everyone smiled, except for the Captain. “What’s the joke?” he asked.
I maintained strict control over my face. There was always at least one person who never got the joke. “I mean except for the Bronx, the entire city is on an island.”
“…Oh. Right.”
Mariel came back from the kitchen with a mug of coffee so large, I could put my fist in it. She slid it in front of Alex. He muttered, “Bless you,” and took a healthy drag from it.
I held up my hands to refocus us back on the matter that brought everyone into my living room. “Back to the primary topic: Why try to kill me? I don’t even know these people. Better yet, I don’t even know any of their friends, relatives, or passing acquaintances.”
Alex jabbed in my direction with the mug. “But they know you. You’ve been in the news a lot. Curran? The Women’s Health Corps? The death cult? The Mayor?”
Thankfully, Alex had phrased everything in terms that wouldn’t get the three of us thrown into a padded cell. What he really meant was Curran, that serial kill possessed by a demon, and that Moloch-Worshiping cultists who brought home sacrifices from their abortion clinic day jobs and … okay, in the case of Mayor Hoynes, everyone knew that the man hated my guts. Hoynes probably hated me even more since I had leaked some especially damaging insults about his constituents that he boasted about to me and to Alex … and to our body cameras. Seriously, for a politician, he wasn’t that smart. I wish there was a good reason that he had been elected Mayor, but he was merely a supposed libertarian who ran on the Democrat ticket.
But in response to Alex’s questions, I rolled my eyes. “That was months ago. Why didn’t they come after me back then? I wasn’t exactly in hiding. Hell, I had reporters stalking Mariel and Jeremy for months. I’d think a few SWAT guys could come and find me. The shooter at the church this morning? He and his friends could have been random EDPs from the internet who hated my guts. But them and a SWAT team?
Alex frowned, shrugged, and drank deeply from the coffee mug. “Well, I don’t have any better idea. How about you, L.T.?”
My Lieutenant held his hands up like he was being threatened with an armed weapon. “Don’t look at me.”
I took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. I’d gotten nearly five hours of sleep, but the adrenaline letdown was getting to me. “We may have to table this for tomorrow. Maybe someone can look into the SWAT team and maybe we can piece together what their problem was? Preferably before one of their friends on the force takes issue with how they tried to kill me, and I got them first? I think—”
My train of thought was derailed by a phone call. I hesitated for a moment. The ring tone was the “Imperial March” by John Williams—Darth Vader’s tune. It was the ringtone for “D,” the self-proclaimed “gangster” Daniel David DiLeo. I knew he was a criminal, but I’d never seen him do anything, so I’d never had to arrest him. And he wasn’t evil, I would have smelled it on him. Crime was his business, not “thug life”—his and his associates’ business uniforms were black leather jackets, black button-down shirts, button-down collars with the top button undone.
As D himself would put it, “You can’t think you’re gangster if you can’t pull up your damn pants.”
There were a few scattered black jeans, and they wore their pants belted around their waists.
The short version was that D was a work acquaintance. Very much like the cartoon with Sam the sheepdog and Ralph the coyote, who punch in and punch out of the sheep meadow at either end of the Warner Brothers cartoon. Only D and I were far more cordial when we were both on the clock.
I had listed D as a confidential informant, so I didn’t hesitate long before answering the phone. I held it up and explained to the others at the table, “This is my CI, Mister DiLeo. I presume he knows something… I can’t think of another reason for him to call.”
Everyone shrugged and nodded.
I picked up. “Hey, D. How are you doing?”
Don’t you hey me, Detective. Someone just tried to whack me because of you.”
I blinked. I had rarely heard D raise his voice. It was even more rare for D to yell in my general direction. But given what he just said, I understood. “Would you care to elaborate on that?”
Yeah, I’ll happily elaborate,” D roared. “I nearly got shot by the damn gang squad. The gang squad. I am a white collar criminal, man. The freaking gang unit? Just because I’m black. This is insulting. I should’ve known you’d be a pain in the ass.
I frowned. “Explain what this has to do with me?”

Don’t you pay attention to what happens in your own station? There’s a hit out on you on the Dark Web. It’s $10 million for your head. They don’t even want you alive. It’s dead all the way.”




Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Infernal Affairs, Chapter 2

After a shoot out happens in the church of a police officer, the only logical thing to happen next is, well, the clean up.

Here, I just wanted to hint at things to come.

Chapter 3 is when the fun really starts....

Yes, I know I just said that after I had a shootout in a church and on the street with three armed gunmen. What's your point?

Anyway, Chapter 2










Chapter 2: Everybody Knows Your Name
When my partner, Alex Packard, arrived, the party was already in full swing. The entire church had been sealed off, as had the surrounding block. This was especially fun when you consider that the road to one side of the church was the southbound service road for the Cross Island Expressway.
Alex strode in the front door of the church, and up the stairs into the vestibule, now called the gathering space for reasons that surpassed all understanding. My family and I were on a bench in the corner and he came right for us. He sat on the bench going at right angles to ours, leaned back, and smiled.
Alex was a slender, older man. He had an odd pot-belly in the middle of all of that skinny. It was probably from years of booze, but I wasn’t going to inquire too closely. I had never seen him take a drink. I only knew about his former drinking problem from a demon, who had been psyching him out at the time. His suit was gray and rumpled, just like he was. He was balding on top, with a graying mustache that Tom Selleck would have approved of. He carried a large paper bag.
Really?” Alex asked. “Your wife is pregnant. You’re with your kid—hey, Jeremy—and you’re in church. Church, Tommy. Can’t you take even one day off?
With my arm around Mariel’s shoulders, I gave him a half-shrug. “They find me. They always find me.”
Alex smirked. He shook his head. “No kidding.”
I’m really not.” I explained the last words from the first gunman.
Alex winced. “No surprise.”
Yeah!” Jeremy exclaimed excitedly. His voice dropped to a whisper that only mommy, daddy, and Uncle Alex could hear. “Because Daddy’s a superhero! They’re always going to find him.”
Isn’t that an encouraging thought? I pondered.
Alex merely smiled at Jeremy. “Kinda, Jerry.” He looked back to me. “I ran into Sarge on the way in. She handed me a nice little starter package for you.”
Alex raised the paper bag. He reached in and pulled out individual items, explaining each as he went along. Everything was in clear evidence bags, sealed with the red tape of the NYPD Crime Scene Unit.
They went through the shooter’s pockets. We had these.” The first item was a large evidence bag that could have held the contents of Mariel’s purse. “Anti-psychotics by the truckload. I’m actually surprised he had the ability to walk upright.”
Alex placed it down on the bench next to him, and grabbed the next bag. This one looked like the contents of his wallet. “Membership cards. He was a registered Demoncrat, as though we couldn’t tell from the Che T-shirt and that he was trying to shoot up a church.”
I smiled despite myself. Alex had taken to referring to anyone on the Left as a ‘Demoncrat’ ever since a demon-possessed serial killer who worked for the Women’s Health Corps tried to kill us—and after we discovered that the WHC itself was, in reality, a front for a Moloch-worshipping Death Cult. After a while, it did seem that evil had a particular political affiliation.
I had little problem with him saying it because he had genuine cause for a grudge. As most of New York City either voted Democrat or just didn’t vote, I was a touch more reluctant to brand all of them with the same demonic brush.
Then again, discussing much of the fallout from the WHC incident was another conversation.
And,” Alex continued, “here’s the fun part.” He pulled out a smaller bag. This one clearly showed a large newspaper clipping. It was one photo—me, from nearly a year ago, during the incident with said demon. I didn’t know which headline it was under. It may have been the one who framed my arrest of the perp as Saint versus psycho or the one that claimed I framed an innocent abortionist because I was a Catholic.
He really was there for you,” Alex explained. “Just you. We don’t have anything speaking to why.”
Mariel scoffed at that. “Maybe he was employed by LaBitch?” she asked, referring to the former head of the Women’s Health Corps that Mariel had personally pushed into a fire pit. “Or the Mayor? Or maybe he’s a dirty commie and just doesn’t like high-profile Catholics like Tommy?”
I frowned. I opened my mouth to dispute that … and gave up before I started. While I had spent most of my life trying to keep my head down and out of the public eye, the last year had been filled with enough various high-profile incidents that if I had caught the eye of some nut cases online, they would have had little trouble tracking my career.
Lucky for me,” I said, “I moved after that article was published.” There were two reasons for that. One, the property damage caused the local village committee to drive us out of the private neighborhood. Two, the newspaper article that picture had been taken from had come complete with my home address. The newspaper had issued a non-apology, but the damage had been done, and we moved a little over eight months ago.
Unfortunately, someone already knew my home address and had had sent zombies to my house shortly thereafter.
“‘Lucky’ isn’t the term I’d use,” Alex said. He shrugged. “But that’s not my problem. My problem is they may hit me by accident.” He slid away the evidence back into the bag. “For the record, the first shooter, the one in the church, is connected to very little, unless we think the entire Communist community is out to get Nolan.”
I chuckled. “In that case, time to arrest Columbia University.”
Alex rolled his eyes. “Funny.”
I frowned. “No. Not really. Especially considering the number of people they murdered last century.”
Alex laughed. “Columbia or Communists?”
Mariel nudged me with the crown of her head. “Is there a difference?”
I looked to Alex. “When you say Communist …?”
I mean that he’s a card-carrying commie. He has cards in his wallet for the party, for Anti-Fa.”
I winced. I had never had a personal encounter with them, but I had read enough to know I didn’t like them very much. For a group claiming to be “anti-fascist,” they were amazingly, well, fascist. Their tactics ranged from violence against people they disagreed with (which was anyone to the right of Mao and Stalin) to … even more violence against property. They had operated in Europe, beginning as anarchist Communists … because orderly Communism was bad, surely chaotic Communism would be even better? If you can’t take over a government-- or in the case of Russia keep one maybe destroying it all would be progress? The European version of the moment hated Catholics … Quel surprise.
We know that it wasn’t an actual Antifa attack,” I said. “They tend to swarm. We would have had a few dozen raiding the church just to rip me apart. It might have even worked.”
Alex frowned. He was probably considering the various and sundry abilities I possess, running the odds of which would be the best option for going up against a riot. After putting down an entire prison riot by myself the previous year, surely a bunch of local thugs wouldn’t be a problem for me.
I wasn’t going to explain, yet again, that I wasn’t a superhero. While I exhibited some of the miraculous abilities usually discussed about saints, they weren’t something that I could take for granted- or even explain why they were given me. The powers came from God, not from me. I wasn’t a comic book superhero, no matter what Alex or Jeremy insisted. Jeremy had a good excuse. He was ten.
At least Jeremy knew better.
Dad couldn’t do anything!” he exclaimed. “Too many witnesses. Do you want to bust his secret identity?”
Mariel and I smiled while Alex shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah. Well, it would be hard to fit into a DD5 report. But that’s why I write them up when that happens.”
I said nothing, but said a silent thank you prayer to God that I hadn’t needed any of the fancier abilities that He had graced me with. While I still smelled out evil on a day-to-day basis, there had been no need to be in two places at once, levitate, drink poison, or heal deadly wounds. Considering the circumstances I was in, I would be perfectly happy if I never needed those abilities. Though to be honest, I was a little surprised that it had taken this long for a situation to arise again. I had gotten into so many firefights, I had a reputation. The calm between storms had been so long, I hadn’t been called “Wyatt Earp” in nearly a week.
So much for that going away.
I’m told that the Bishop’s not too happy with the whole thing.”
I winced. That was something I didn’t want to deal with: Church politics. “Of course he’s not. He’s going to have to reconsecrate the church.” I sighed. “Can we leave now? Didn’t eat breakfast before we came.”
Alex shrugged. “I hear you. At least there’s one good thing: you won’t be investigating what’s left. With any luck, this will be an isolated incident. The first shooter was just another in a long line of Demoncrat shooters.”
My brows arched. The secondary shooters had had M4 automatic weapons, ready to take out cops and a full church to get to me.

Alex sighed. “Yeah. I know. I don’t believe it either.”


Continue to read the story here.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Infernal Affairs, Chapter 1: Martyr and Saint

I'm tough on my characters.

Take Detective Thomas Nolan, NYPD, for example.

I've killed friends.

I've killed friends of his children.

I've put him in the hospital three times.

He's been shot, stabbed, impaled, and beaten into the pavement ....

And that's just book one.

This book, well, it's time to see what Tommy can take.

Because this time, we're going to try to make him a saint.

By hook or by crook.

Welcome to Chapter 1 of Infernal Affairs.



Chapter 1: Martyr and Saint
Martyr -- a title in the Catholic Church for saints who died for their faith. One that I never expected to have.
As I sat in the front row, side seat of my church, Saint Gregory the Great, it only occurred to me that at least the former title would be slapped upon my tombstone when the bullets started to fly.
Father Jerome Delany, the celebrant, was the first to be shot. The sharp crack of the rifle echoed through as he started to talk about how God was and is Love. He shuddered with the impact as the five bullets punched into his chest. He fell back with the last bullet, which was impressive for a man as old as he had been.
My family and I were seated to the right of the altar as you faced the altar. We were less interested in being seen in the front and more interested in being in a position to drown out the guitarist on the other side of the altar from us with our singing. We weren’t good, but we were mildly in tune, unlike the guitar, or the cantor.
I was with Mariel, my wife, and Jeremy, my son. Mariel had long, wavy chestnut brown hair, round, deep-brown eyes, a pleasant heart-shaped face, and a healthy olive complexion. As Ben Franklin would say, we fit well together. Jeremy was eleven, energetic, and very much an 11-year-old boy.
When the first shot went off, I dropped to one knee and reached for my handgun. My wife Mariel bent over to protect our unborn daughter. Our son Jeremy crouched so low he was nearly under the seats. “Plan 22 C,” I said.
Both of them nodded. Ever since the serial killer had broken into our home, we had come up with a collection of contingency plans.
Plan C was always “run while I lay down cover fire.”
Before they could even get off the floor, I jumped onto the back of the chair in front of me. It tilted forward and I jumped onto the next chair before it fell forward, and I leaped to the small rail for climbing up on the altar -- it had been installed for those who couldn't do steps without holding onto something - and then took a giant leap to the center.
I went for the top of the altar for multiple reason: first, visibility, and second, I wanted to be the biggest, clearest target. Thank God none of the paraphernalia for later in Mass was there yet.
The shooter was at the back of the church, rifle held high. Since the first shot, everyone in the church stood and ran. Few had ducked to cover, -along with those who had merely tripped those trying to run.
And half the church had run directly into the center aisle, in front of the shooters.
I dropped to one knee, gun up and ready. I grabbed the microphone from the altar and bellowed, “Freeze! Police!”
The rifle man turned, and swung his muzzle up to aim for me.
I aimed high and fired. The first bullet scraped along the barrel of the rifle, catching the ejector, and drilling into his shoulder. It turned him around before a round went off. He nearly decapitated a statue of the Virgin Mary. The second bullet struck up just right of center mass (his right, not mine). My third bullet missed by a hair, scoring him across the forehead.
The shooter’s rifle came down. He staggered back and grabbed his arm. He slumped up against the side of a pew, grabbed his rifle with his good hand, and raised the barrel to aim again.
I fired again, catching him in the breast, right beneath the clavicle. He leaned straight back this time, and went down.
The only way to get to him would have been through the horde of church goers. I frowned, thought it over a moment, and prayed a little.
I pushed forward in a leap … that was aided by a little divine intervention. The levitation trick that I prayed for was just enough to leap from the altar to the front pew. I leaped from the back of the pew to the one behind it. I leaped from one pew to another, looking like a parkour runner. I wasn’t thinking at the time, giving only a brief thought to how I would explain this if anyone had noticed -God’s little parlor trick.
I leaped off once the crowd had petered out, landing in the aisle.
This also put me in direct line of sight of the shooter.
The muzzle came up a few inches and pulled the trigger.
It clicked.
The shooter looked as confused as I felt. I lunged forward and kicked the rifle away from him. The rifle had been damaged. My first bullet jammed the ejector, and the last spent casing did not eject.
The shooter was a walking cliché: socialist, hammer and sickle badge, Che Guevara shirt.
The shooter smiled at me and laughed. “Almost got you, you capitalist pig. You won’t be lucky next time.”
There was a burst of bullets from outside. My head shot up. The automatic gunfire was unlike the shooter I just dropped. I darted out of the back of the vestibule (away from the altar), then through the front door of the church.
Outside the church was empty of people. Since I didn’t trust to locate the gunfire by sound alone (directionality of sound can be a pain in the butt), I turned right. Because there had been an active shooter in the church, and no one had appeared from the nearby police car parked near the entrance behind the altar side of the church.
I turned around the corner. Four men with M4 rifles were hosing down the three men crouched behind the patrol car. I charged the gunmen. They didn’t turn. I was within thirty feet of them when I opened fire. I emptied the magazine into two of the shooters.
The empty magazine ejected from the pistol as I came within arm’s reach of the remaining two shooters. I hammered my pistol behind the ear of the shooter on the left. His head bounced off the rear windshield he was hiding behind. A second later, I crashed into the shooter on the right. I crushed the shooter between my shoulder and the side of an SUV. I drove my elbow into the shooter’s ear, and then pistol-whipped him. I went back and forth with my pistol, smacking it against the skull of each gunman in turn until they fell down.
I kicked aside the gunmen’s weapons, reloaded my pistol, then took two steps back, covering them. I called out, “Clear! NYPD! Plain clothes!”
Why didn’t they even consider sending in more than one guy to the church? Because I’m one guy going to Mass versus being ambushed by two armed cops. Duh.