With the fourth Cole Wright novel, Slow Burn, coming out on July 20th, we once again put up a Cole Wright short story, free to read here on the website for a week or so. The first couple of chapters remain, and the story is now available from the usual locations as both an ebook and in print. $2.99/$5.99
The Handler – blurb
The mugging happens so fast that Marc barely has time to react.
For Marc and Sonia, a trip to Spokane means visiting family, a little shopping and some eating out. Not having someone accost them in the street.
When Cole Wright happens by, things might just take a different turn.
Marc adjusted the time on his watch. It was an old Asterion, and amazingly still fairly reliable after all these years. He pulled the winder out two notches, enjoying the little clicks it made as the gears inside moved from the date setting to the hands setting.
So much more satisfying than those electronic things that barely made a sound and never lost a moment.
He wound it back, from 11.07 to 10.06. It was kind of satisfying. That sense of gaining a whole hour in the day. Plus the minute which the Asterion had gained over the last week or so.
Marc double-checked the time against the clock just inside the store, and clicked the winder back into place.
He was standing outdoors, at a window, looking into the store. They sold all kinds of sharp-looking clothing, men’s on the left and women’s on the right. Nothing tailored, probably all shipped from sweatshops in Asia, but it was crisp and tidy, with interesting trim.
Exercise leggings with panels down the legs, almost like marching band trousers. Tops with straps that looked as if they could barely hold the rest up. The mannikins seemed as if they had originally been made at regular human size, but then ground and shaved back until the waists were somewhere under ten inches. Perhaps that helped to sell clothing.
Sonia was in there somewhere. Looking for something comfortable. Good luck, frankly. While, at forty, she was still slim and fit, it didn’t look like anything in there would be comfortable.
She’d left him in charge of getting lunch while she shopped. Sending him to the hole-in-the wall burger joint three stores on from the store.
Behind him, traffic moved. Easing through the lights, engines humming and tires hissing against the damp pavement. They’d just missed a shower when they’d gotten parked and ready for the expedition.
So here he was, with the two most delicious smelling burgers ever, waiting for her. The burgers were fat and stuffed, held inside cardboard boxes that boasted “Best Burgers in Spokane”, and “Recycled Card. Please dispose of with care.” Clutched in a tough brown paper bag with a smaller bag with fries and sachets.
He peered into the store again. No sign of her.
Spokane wasn’t that big of a place. Not really. It was Washington’s state capital, but Seattle was much bigger. But when you were out of Slickton, Wyoming, everywhere seemed big. Caspar seemed big.
They’d flown from Caspar to Seattle, via San Francisco. Stayed at an airport hotel and bundled themselves on this morning to Spokane.
Thankfully, their daughter Millie wasn’t going to get herself married too often. This was the first, and hopefully the last. But who knew in times like this.
One of Millie’s bridesmaids was on husband three already, and, from what Millie had mentioned, it wasn’t going well.
A bus chugged by and came to a stop thirty yards away. A couple got off and strolled away. An older gentleman climbed aboard.
Across the next intersection, a huge, old stone edifice stood. Bank of America. Beside it, a newer, glassy building with banners announcing “Sale Prices” and “Bargains” and “Permanently Reduced”.
Could he live here?
Millie could, that was clear. She’d studied well and landed herself a job as a designer with Cobbert Ross, which was apparently one of the bigger interior decorating firms in Washington.
The dollar amount they were paying her made Marc’s eyes water. Fresh out of college and they’re just handing her cash in wheelbarrows.
Pleased for her of course.
Pleased about Davin, her fiancé. A few years older, but then who was Marc to point that out?
The bus pulled away, puffing out a cloud of thick black smoke. Spokane’s plans for becoming a green city apparently were still underway.
Another vehicle pulled up. A low-slung black Cadillac. Paint buffed to a brilliant shine. Chrome just about everywhere. Windows tinted.
The engine sounded like a straight eight, as if in the customizing they’d dropped something else in there. Something a little souped-up to give the vehicle a little extra oomph.
Marc smiled to himself. Cities, huh.
The Cadillac’s back door opened and a slim man got out. He wore jeans, a leather vest over a black tee shirt and black cowboy boots. Kind of thing they sold down at Lee Taubert’s in Caspar.
Marc had a pair himself.
Marc stepped aside. There were few people on the sidewalk. A businesswoman striding along. A mom and dad with a kid swinging between them. A single man with thick hair and big shoulders.
But the guy from the Cadillac headed for Marc.
Marc took another step back.
“Excuse me,” he said.
“In the car,” the guy said.
Marc frowned. Big city or not, people still had manners.
He glanced into the store. Sonia was at the register. Just taking a bag from the counter.
So she’d made some purchases.
The mom and dad with the kid sidled around Marc and the guy from the Cadillac. The businesswoman was well gone.
“In the car?” Marc said. Surely he’d heard wrong.
“That’s what I said. Quit stalling. Get in.”
“But why?” His voice must have gone up a few tones. Nervous.
“You know why. Get in now. Or I will put you in.”
Marc bent a little to see inside.
A woman sitting across the other side of the back seat. Burlier than the guy.
A driver. Staring back at him. Maybe someone else in the front passenger seat.
Marc looked at the store again. Sonia was heading for the door.
“I’m not getting in there with you,” Marc said. He might be a naive bumpkin, but he wasn’t an idiot.
“The hard way, then,” the guy said, and grabbed Marc’s elbow.
The burgers splattered on the pavement.
Cole Wright watched along the sidewalk as he walked. People out and about. The air was crisp and the traffic was light.
It was good to be back in Spokane. Starting to feel like this might just be a good fit for him.
Like a pair of old shoes you found in the back of your closet. You put them on and they felt just right.
Little stores and coffee carts. Old sidewalks and plenty of trees. The river, the power plant, the bridges.
Right at home.
Or maybe it was just that he couldn’t really leave Washington behind. You can take the cop out of the state, but you can’t take the state out of the cop?
Nah. That was terrible.
But maybe there was a security in staying closer to Seattle. Easy to talk with Turzin and some of the other guys.
And then, there was Ione Anders.
Based right here in Spokane.
That was better than half the attraction of the place right there. Maybe even well into the nineties in terms of percentage.
Just ahead of him a mother and father had their daughter between them. Somewhere between two and three. Running along on little legs and swinging up.
Wright admired parents, that was for sure. Endlessly patient.
Wright sidestepped, balancing his takeout coffee, as a woman in a business suit strode near him. Hair tied up and manner completely oblivious to the world.
A bus had pulled away, and traffic was coming through from the cross street.
A guy holding a paper sack peered into the window of a women’s clothing store. Seer and Lane. Nice how the stores in the city, at the edges of downtown, could still compete, what with Target and Wal-Mart and online shopping seemingly corralling every dollar.
A black Caddy pulled up and a guy got out of the back door. Jeans, leather vest and a black shirt. Black boots on his feet. He went to the man who’d just been looking in the window.
Spoke to him.
The man seemed startled.
Wright kept walking. Ten yards off.
The startled man was wearing black chinos and black dress shoes. A tan jacket on top. He seemed even more startled.
The mom and dad and kid went by. The kid stared at the guy in the vest.
He was talking. The man in the tan jacket said something. The guy in the vest gestured at the Caddy.
It was shiny. Black, with plenty of trim. Modified. Riding low.
Wright was used to that kind of thing from back in Seattle, but here in Spokane, it seemed out of place. Too flashy.
He was just five yards off now.
The man looked back into the store.
The guy in the vest grabbed his elbow.
The paper sack fell to the sidewalk. Landed with a splat.
The guy hustled the man into the Caddy’s back seat.
Wright sped up.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt from “The Handler”.
Full story available for $2.99, ebook, and $5.99 in print – Universal Book Link.
Check out the other Cole Wright novels and stories on the webpage here, and come back at the start of September for another free to read Cole Wright story.
Check out Slow Burn, the next Cole Wright thriller – out on July 20th
Cole Wright heads for Spokane. A simple trip. Back roads. Quiet towns.
But when one of those quiet towns proves to be anything but, Wright finds himself unable to stand aside.
Preorder available from the usual places. ebook $5.99, (and print soon, $16.99)
And Scorpion Bait, the fifth Cole Wright novel – available on preorder with release on September 20th.
Jerome Miller lies in scorching, gritty sand, staring up out of the rugged ditch. Bleeding and broken. The start of a very bad day, for him. Cole Wright hitches into the town of Gollick, Arizona. Somewhere between Tuscon and Yuma. Looking for a good meal and maybe a bed for the night. Not looking for trouble. Sometimes, though, trouble hides away in those out of the way places. Sometimes trouble just finds him. Sometimes Wright just meets it head on.