It’s been a little while since I’ve put out a new Cole Wright story, but with the seventh Cole Wright thriller novel Not Above The Law due out on June 20th, I figure it’s time to drum up a little notice. On the principle of, you know, maybe if you like the short story, it might pique your interest in the novel. Maybe even the other novels. And the short stories.
This is also the first short story since the No Lack of Courage collection, which gathered all the other stories so far. While the output of novels is slowing (last year they came in a little burst since I’d been writing them over the previous couple of years and wanted to have an ‘instant platform’, such as that might be), I do have a few other short stories completed and just awaiting copy-editing and formatting and so on, so I may well have more out later in the year, even if there is no new novel to pair them with. Is that like when a band releases a single that’s not on an album? Do bands really do that anymore, or is that 1990s thinking?
Anyway, here’s the blurb and cover, and first chapter.
For those interested, it’s about 7500 words (say 25 pages) over 9 chapters. Link goes to the UBL for the ebook and the paperback – $2.99/$6.99
A quiet Spokane diner. A tasty meal. A relaxing break.
All Cole Wright wants.
But at another table someone watches him.
Intent. Focused. Maybe even a little agitated.
None of Wright’s business.
Until trouble arrives.
A story that asks the question,
how long should we wait to speak up?
Text copyright © Sean Monaghan, 2023
Cover image, © Cmoulton | Dreamstime.com (Diner), © Anton Greave – Dreamscape (figure)
In the diner, Three tables along, a guy was pretending not to watch Cole Wright.
And not doing a very good job of it.
Wright sat at his own table, sipping from a soda. Home made cola. Sweet and bitter at once, and a little rich. The waitress came by periodically with a pitcher to refill for him.
The diner had a good homely feel to it. The tables were solid, molded plastic, thick and hefty, and the upper surface was printed with a gingham pattern. Pink and white checks that would be far easier to clean than actual gingham.
The tied back curtains at the windows were actual gingham fabric.
On the walls were old black and white photographs of lumberjacks with long-handled axes and mule carts, and of the Spokane River and the waterworks. Of the bridges and the old State Capitol building. One of an open-topped Mercury parked on an overlook, with trees and towns spread out below.
The waitstaff wore black, with aprons. They bustled with a practiced efficiency.
A constant scent of brisket and chicken and omelets wafted through the space.
The diner’s layout followed an L, with the long leg facing out onto the roadway. Rows of tables along the outside, mostly booths, with a few standalone around the L’s corner. The counter, facing the kitchen, had a row of stools, some occupied, but mostly empty.
Business people stopping in for a quick coffee, construction workers with big meals. The diner did a special lunchtime deal on their loaded plate. Sausages, bacon, eggs, biscuit, grilled tomatoes and rocket. Some of those big guys looked like they ate here every day. Maybe for breakfast too.
The guy watching Wright glanced up as the waitress came by with the coffee flask. He glanced her way. She topped his mug up and asked him something. He gave a shake of his head.
“I’ll bring your check,” she said, just audible to Wright. “Thanks.”
The man gave her a nod and looked back at his coffee.
Couldn’t stop his eyes flicking toward Wright on the way though.
He’d come in after Wright. Maybe fifteen minutes back. He’d looked through Wright at first, but taken to glancing at him, nursing a coffee.
Wright sat back and took a breath. He was in the last booth at the end of the L. Back to the wall. Farthest from the windows. Gap on the left, long windowless wall on his right, stretching out to the front windows. Seven booths, with a larger one right in the front corner. Seating for eight or ten easily.
Wright’s table was a little close to the bathrooms. People came and went. Through the wall he could periodically hear the sound of the hand dryer blowing.
Still, the position gave him a better view of the patrons. People watching. Always fascinating.
He wasn’t used to being watched himself so much. At least not with such intensity.
The man with the flicking eyes was likely in his mid to late twenties, though he looked tired. Almost beaten down. He was wearing a black jacket over a black tee shirt. He had a silver stud in one ear. His dark hair was cropped short along the sides, feathered into length across the top. The cut looked fresh. As if he’d just come from the barbers’.
An elderly man with an aluminum cane came around the corner from the counter, heading for the bathroom. Around and almost out of sight, a woman burst out laughing.
One of the waiters came from behind the counter, carrying a tray with two tall floats. The glass sparkled and the whipped cream on top was mountainous, topped with a cherry on each.
The guy watching Wright looked at the door again. Looked back at Wright.
Real case of nerves, that one.
Wright had been a cop. In a previous existence. That kind of thing would have had him and whichever partner discussing whether to go have a word with him.
Is everything all right sir?
Just checking in. Could be nothing. Maybe his date hadn’t shown and this was the sixth time this month. Different person every time.
Maybe he’d just come from the hospital and was worried about a sick relative. Maybe he’d just lost his job.
Any number of innocent, even if troubling, reasons for someone to seem nervous.
His eyes flicked to Wright again.
But that was different. If he’d been in uniform, then maybe that would have explained that.
Plenty of reasons people could feel nervous around a cop in a diner.
Not so much for just some guy waiting for his lunch. Wright was probably reading too much into it. Instinct. Some people would say it was force of habit. You could leave the force, but you were still a cop. You still exuded that presence.
The waitress returned to Wright’s table, carrying a laden plate. She set it down, with a knife and fork wrapped in a gingham-style paper napkin. Heat seemed to rise from the plate.
A folded and loaded cheesy omelet. Filled with bacon, potato, tomatoes, beans and plenty of other vital ingredients. Cheese oozed from it. The other half of the plate had a biscuit, crushed and drenched in white sauce.
“I’ll be right on back with your salad there,” she said.
“Well, thank you. Quick question.”
“Shoot.” She smiled. She had curly, thick blonde hair, tied back. Her name tag read Naomi.
“Nervous gentleman sitting facing me. Three tables down. Is he a regular?”
Naomi glanced over. The guy was focused now on his coffee.
“Regular?” she said, quietly. “You a cop there? You’re not a regular.”
“No I’m not a regular. I’m no longer cop. Just thought, he seems to be, I don’t know, keeping an eye on me. I might just be a little sensitive myself.”
“That’s Rick,” she said. “Rick Baker. Comes in a couple of times a week. Nurses a coffee. Judy in the kitchen knows him and she’s basically assistant manager, so makes sure he’s no trouble. Got divorced nearly a year back and is still moping. Harmless.”
“Well, thanks,” Wright said. “That’s reassuring.”
She smiled. Nodded. “I’ll grab you your salad. Be right back.”
She slipped away.
Wright freed the knife and fork from the napkin and started in on the omelet. The smell was heavenly.
Just the thing after a
Out front a big delivery truck slid by slowly. Arnold’s Furnishings, Spokane, WA stood out in big letters on the white side, with a stylized image of a dining table.
Rick Baker picked up his coffee mug. Drained it.
He met Wright’s eyes.
Baker stood. Took out his wallet and removed some notes. He lifted the coffee mug and set it down again, on top of the notes.
He put the wallet away and headed toward Wright.
End of excerpt. Continue reading by purchasing the ebook or the little paperback – available here.
If you missed it, keep an eye on the website here, from time to time I put up a free story.
Text copyright © Sean Monaghan, 2023
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the story. It’s also available as an ebook and in print, alongside the other Cole Wright books.
More news coming soon – this is a busy week for my tiny publishing empire and I need to keep up with it.