Friday, November 27, 2015

Another Pariah excerpt




Later that night the two of us were walking into Scolley’s, and from the shine on both of us people knew something was up. A grin stretched across Joe’s face as we approached the bar.

"What?” he asked.

“What do you mean what?”

“Kyle, don’t keep me in suspense. Spill it, lad.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Joe.”

He gave me a suspicious look. After he poured me a pint of Guinness and Nola a glass of white wine, I commented how I might’ve been contacted by a book publisher.

He raised an eyebrow at me. “No kidding?” he said.

I drained half my ale before looking back at him, my own smile growing as wide as his own. Nola let loose with a giggle next to me.

“A two-book deal,” I said. “A six hundred thousand dollar advance.”

Joe’s jaw dropped. Then I swear, tears of joy popped up in his eyes. He reached over the bar to hold my hand in both of his.

“That is wonderful news, Kyle,” he said. “With this you should be able to put the old days behind you and have a fresh start.” He turned to smile at Nola. “And what a beautiful young lass to start a new life with.”

Nola’s tiny fingers squeezed my hand tight on hearing that. I nodded to Joe and played along. Of course that wasn’t what it meant. Me, a new career as a writer? What a fucking joke. But if some dumbass publisher wanted to pay me that kind of money, let him. Six hundred thousand would get me started in my hunt for Red and what was left of it would be a nice stake in getting me back in the game. I had no plans to leave my old ways behind, at least not until I found a way to make up for the two mil I lost.

Bill Nealy was sitting at a corner table slouched over as he nursed a beer, his head so low to the table that his nose nearly dipped into his glass. I excused myself from Joe so I could give Nealy his car keys back. He nearly broke out blubbering as I handed them to him.

“Oh, Jesus, Kyle, bless you, you have no idea how much I appreciate this.” He wiped a hand across his eyes and bit down hard to keep his emotions in check. “I didn’t know how I was going to handle the lease payments if I was going to have to do something like that.”

I slipped him a hundred. Fuck, in the mood I was in, why not?

“Chrissakes, Bill,” I said. “Don’t you know when a guy’s joking with you? Anyway, you did me a solid loaning me your car like you did. I won’t forget it.”

Nealy looked like he wanted to kiss me full on my lips. I moved away before something embarrassing like that happened. When I rejoined Nola and Joe, word of my upcoming book deal had spread and folks within Scolley’s were coming over to offer their congratulations. During it all I noticed one guy sitting at a table across the way staring bullets at me. I’d never seen him before. He was in his late thirties, had kind of a stocky build, wire-rimmed glasses, dark messy hair and a thick stubble that showed he hadn’t shaved in days. I asked Joe about him and he shrugged, told me he was one of the gentrified newcomers who’d been coming to Scolley’s off and on for the last couple of months. I tried to ignore the guy and simply enjoy the moment but I kept feeling his angry stare on my back. I finally had enough and walked over to him.

“What the fuck’s your problem with me?” I asked him.

He seemed startled by that. He lowered his eyes and tried to act as if he hadn’t been openly glaring at me.

“Oh, no, nothing,” he mumbled uncomfortably. He shifted in his chair and brushed his hand through his hair, leaving it even messier than before. “Did I hear right? Did you really just get a two-book deal with a six-hundred thousand advance?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you mind if I ask who with?”

“Harleston Books.”

He nodded as if he knew about them.

“That’s a good publisher,” he said. “Do you mind if I ask what your book is about?”

“I don’t know. They haven’t told me yet what they want.”

He blinked at me several times. He must’ve thought I was joking. When he realized I wasn’t, he frowned severely, asked, “You haven’t written your first book yet?”

“Fuck no.”

“Then why did they make you this offer?”

“You don’t recognize me?”

He shook his head.

“Kyle Nevin,” I said. “I’m the guy the FBI tried to frame for that kidnapping in Boxboro.”

He stared at me blankly, then nearly doubled over laughing. Watching him laugh like that I could feel my throat tightening and the heat rising from my neck. I clenched my fists and moved closer to him.

“What’s so fucking funny?” I asked.

“Jesus, I’m sorry.” He wiped some tears from his eyes and tried to control himself but still broke out with a couple of snorts. “I’m not laughing at you. Just my own sad sorry situation. I have an MFA in creative writing and spent three years working on my first novel. After a year and a half of sweating I was able to find an agent who has since gotten my novel into a number of houses, including Harleston Books, where editors have wanted to acquire it only to be shot down by their marketing boards because I wasn’t a name, and they didn’t want to risk spending the money to promote a book by someone who wasn’t a name.”

“What does MFA stand for—Motherfucka?”

He laughed. “It could just as well stand for that. Makes as much sense as anything else.”

I gave him a hard eye before backing away.

“Here’s a suggestion,” I said. “Instead of bitching and moaning to strangers about your problems, why don’t you go out and make a fucking name for yourself. Rob a few banks. That will do it.”

He nodded and pushed himself to his feet, drunk enough that he wobbled a bit as he stood. As he studied his feet, his smile faded and his face turned darker and grimmer.

“Solid advice, but I think instead I’ll go home and fill the tub with hot water and slit my wrists,” he said.

I nodded, told him that would get his name in the papers also. I watched as he stumbled out of Scolley’s. Always has to be some fucker trying to rain on your parade. I rejoined Nola, Joe and the rest of my well-wishers and made a night of it.

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