MY PULP MAGAZINE THRILLER:
Greetings! Did you miss my SERIALIZED THRILLER? A story like in the old pulp magazines?
Good news! My website is back and ready to go.
New Chapters will start on MONDAY.
But right now, I want everyone to catch up!
You can scroll down and read all 8 chapters in this post!
Thank you for your patience, I apologize once again.
See you Monday with a brand new chapter of Crime Ring.
“It was supposed to be easy…”
THE first bullet hit the wooden post to Charlie’s right, spewing splinters into his face.
A small one landed in his eye, causing him to swear and drop to his knee. He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed the pain.
Sonofabitch that hurt.
A slender swirl of smoke rose slowly from the post, like a flamed out match.
The faint scent of burned wood mixed with the ocean air brought back a memory from Charlie’s childhood.
He shuttered involuntarily.
It was a memory he didn’t want to relive.
More bullets sprayed around him, some hitting the post, raining down more chips and splinters on his head.
I gotta get the hell out of here.
Believing that speed was better than cover at this point, Charlie sprinted away from the bullets, the wooden post, and the danger.
Charlie, of course, was wrong.
He needed the cover desperately.
Charlie learned this point the hard way, a lead missile catching him in the thigh, his whole body on fire, his leg collapsing under him.
He barely noticed falling face first onto the rotted wood of the abandoned pier, or sliding forward, his nose broken, his face cut to pieces by raised nails and disintegrating boards.
This hurt way more than the stupid splinter in his eye.
It was supposed to be easy. In and out of the crummy museum, the ring securely in his pocket.
He heard steps coming toward him. The pier vibrated.
She was getting closer.
How did he know it was a woman?
It was his wife.
“Hello, Charlie,” she said.
“Hello, Gina,” Charlie said.
She chambered a round into her Glock. The metallic click echoed across the bay.
Charlie rolled on his side so he could see her.
Gina was smiling, the gun aimed at his temple.
“You should have signed the divorce papers, Charlie,” Gina said. “Then I wouldn’t have to kill you.”
Charlie closed his eyes, waiting for her to pull the trigger.
CHARLIE was stretched out on the pier, smelling the salt air, in the midst of a tense reunion with his wife, and bleeding profusely.
Mama told me there’d be days like this….
He couldn’t get the song out of his head.
His wife’s face gave away nothing as she kept her Glock aimed at Charlie. Charlie laid on the pier, turned sideways and holding himself up with his elbow, waiting for the inevitable.
How did I get here? All I wanted to do was steal an incredibly valuable ring from a stupid small town “history” museum, make a quick getaway to New York, give the ring to my fence, and then take the first flight to… to… Ah hell, wherever.
Charlie was in bad shape. Falling and sliding across the dilapidated pier broke his nose. Rusted nails tore his clothes and left gashes all over his face and hands.
His wife, Gina, looked out of place on the wobbly pier. She wore a magenta cocktail dress with matching pumps. The fabric hung loose enough to be appropriate at a business function, but tight enough to leave no doubt.
Her eyes were a little too far apart, and during their almost ten years of marriage Charlie could never really tell if her ears were level with each other. Gin’a’s hair color was sangria, a drink she loved, but would only order in Spain.
As Charlie knew she would, Gina pulled the trigger. He was focused on the barrel so he was able to see the fire shoot out but of course not the bullet.
The slug slightly nicked the side of his thumb and then buried itself in a loose plank.
His wife wasn’t a killer.
But she was a hell of a shot.
The cops were getting close and if they had any doubts as to Charlie’s location the gunshot erased them. He even heard one of the cops shout, “Over here!”
“Dammit, Gina,” Charlie said.
“They were gonna find you anyway,” Gina said. “You left a trail of blood.”
Charlie had, in fact, done that. While he was initially running from the police he’d been shot in the thigh. Dark liquid dotted the ground behind him, chasing him like an ellipse.
“You need this more than me,” Gina said.
She tossed him the gun. Charlie tried to catch it with his bleeding hands, but he fumbled it, and it dropped on the pier.
“And sign the divorce papers,” Gina said. With that, she dove like an Olympic swimmer into the sea. Dress, heels, and all.
She was all about a dramatic exit.
“Dammit, Gina,” Charlie said again.
The cops were almost on top of him, Charlie reached for the gun. He tried to pick it up but the blood was slick on the handle. He wiped his hands on his suit jacket. Charlie dropped it twice more before he was able to pick it up.
By the time he held the gun firmly and was ready to fire, the Po Po had him surrounded.
A burly policeman with salt and pepper hair and a drinking problem stuck the barrel of a gun in the middle of Charlie’s back; at the same time reaching around to take the gun from Charlie’s hand.
“You are under arrest,” the cop said.
I can’t go back to prison. Am I really going to have to kill this old cop to stay free?
Taking a page from his wife’s book, Charlie lurched to the side and dove into the frigid ocean waters of New England.
Jesus Christ that’s cold!
The cops were so surprised by his bold (reckless) move, they didn’t react for a moment. Then at once they all rushed to the side of the pier, guns at the ready.
Charlie heard their muffled shouts as he struggled to swim underwater.
I’m going to have a heart attack.
The salt water exacerbated the pain coming from his gunshot wound and the cuts in his skin. The shock of the cold water had taken the air from his lungs. The icy water was wrapping around him like a python, threatening to cease all movement of his limbs.
It was the first time since he was 5 he thought he was going to cry.
Charlie steeled himself, rose to the surface, and as gently as he could he raised his head to take a breath. He’d gotten further from the pier than he thought. The police were scattering, trying to catch a glimpse of him. Charlie silently slipped back down into the water.
His plan was to double back toward the museum. The cops wouldn’t think he’d go back to the crime scene. They’d assume he was running the opposite way.
Charlie stayed underwater, his clothes becoming heavier and heavier. He poked his head up for air when he had too. He was sure he’d lost the cops.
The water suddenly became shallow. He was able to lift his head and chest out of the water. The coast was clear, so he stood as best he could on one leg and hopped toward the shore.
The beach came up fast, and he allowed himself to fall forward onto the sand, exhausted, in horrible pain, and still bleeding profusely.
Gina suddenly sat by his side. She, like him, was dripping with salt water. The cocktail dress was ruined, and her heels were gone.
“Maybe this time, Charlie,” Gina said. “You let me help you steal the ring?”
Charlie tried to say something, but the world suddenly spun too fast.
And everything went black.
CHARLIE was dreaming. He was tumbling inside a commercial dryer. The big ones you see at the laund-ro-mat.
He was trapped and couldn’t push the door open. There were people watching the dryer; they could see him through the glass. He tried called to them.
But they couldn’t hear him. And they didn’t look like they cared he was trapped in the dryer.
He kept tumbling and tumbling. The noise constant.
And then he started to wake up.
Charlie found himself in a dark, confined space, kinda like the dryer. But he wasn’t tumbling. He was laying down.
The smell of car exhaust was biting at his nose. There was a constant tremble of motion.
Gina put me in the truck of a car.
He went to bang on the lid, but he couldn’t. His hands were bound with duct tape.
But his legs were free.
Thank you, Jesus.
Charlie tried to shift position and when he did molten lava ran through his veins, reminding him of the gunshot wound in his thigh.
Where is Gina taking me?
But Charlie knew that wherever he was going, it wasn’t good.
The car began to slow. Charlie wiggled and bounced across the scratchy black floor lining of the trunk. There was a faint red glow from the headlights. He kicked with his feet, turned sideways pushing himself along to the back of the trunk.
He was looking for the trunk release; a florescent t-pull that had been put into cars in recent years for his very predicament.
There wasn’t one.
The right blinker began ticking. Each tick meant a tiny bit more light.
The car came to a stop, then turned to the right. It was on pavement. But that pavement didn’t last long. Gravel began to crunch under the tires. Dust seeped into the trunk. Charlie covered his nose so he wouldn’t sneeze.
The car continued and Charlie’d had enough. He began kicking the back of the rear seat as hard as he could.
“Let me the fuck out of here!”
The car slowed.
Charlie got his shoulders pressed against the back of the trunk to give him leverage so he could pound the rear seat with both his feet – like Superman bending his knees and launching himself into the sky.
“LET ME OUT!”
The pain in his wounded thigh ripped through him again. But it just fueled his anger
The car was at a full stop and he heard the driver’s door open and close.
In rapid succession, his fifth kick cracked the plastic barrier, his sixth made it explode into pieces, his seventh knocked the back seat down flat.
Charlie was scrambling as best he could into the back seat.
The truck lid opened and a male voice yelled, “Hey!”
Yelling “Hey” wasn’t going to stop him. What did the guy think, Charlie would freeze, scooch back toward him, and give up.
You said Hey, so I surrender.
“Stop!” the guy yelled.
Oh no! You said Stop! I have to surrender now!
Charlie was trying to push himself through the gap between the passenger and driver’s seat. The plan was to somehow get twisted around so he could start the car (If the keys were in the ignition. Who’s the idiot now?), and drive with his hands bound in duct tape, getting away and leaving the guy behind who was reaching after him through the trunk.
But the genius behind “Hey” and “Stop” had a breakthrough. He backed out of the trunk, slammed it closed, ran around and jerked open the back door.
Charlie had his back to the dude, so he couldn’t defend himself. Charlie used his legs to quickly push himself back, again the pain, hoping the back of his head would smack the guy in the face, and the force of Charlie’s body weight would knock the guy down.
Charlie got pulled out of the car. The guy slammed Charlie to the ground and kicked him for good measure.
Charlie pushed himself up with this bound hands, kicked his assailant in the shin, much like the Black Knight in Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and took off hobbling as fast as he could.
He ran straight off the road and feel down into a deep slimy ditch. Charlie found himself face down in about six inches of water. He stood up quickly, sputtering, and started hop-skip running again.
“Hey!” he heard from the road.
He kept running into the blackness.
CHARLIE’S disappearance mystified Gina.
Just like her, he’d jumped off the old pier into the icy waters of the bay to get away from the cops. Twenty minutes later he’d crawled onto the beach and collapsed. Gina dropped some shade on him about failing to steal the ring before he passed out cold.
Dropped some shade? Is that what the kid’s say?
She dragged his unconscious body, shaped by pushups and pull-ups, off the beach.
Gina had to admit her heart fluttered a little when she touched him, even after all these years.
She hid Charlie in a dense row of shrubbery so the cops wouldn’t find him. Gina wrung out his suit coat as best she could, dropped it over her shoulders, and rushed to a nearby CVS, her bare feet stinging with every step.
I hope he doesn’t freeze to death while I’m gone. Hell, I hope I my toes don’t fall off from frostbite.
The security guard stopped her at CVS, but Gina gave him a wild story of a fight with her boyfriend, being pushed into the water, blah blah blah. Of course he bought it. She’d been able to make men believe anything she said since she was thirteen.
Gina scooped up towels, first aid supplies, sweats, jackets, socks, a couple of fleece throws, underwear, sneakers, and a box of protein bars (vegan). She paid with cash (thank God Charlie hadn’t lost his wallet in the water), dried off in the bathroom, jerked on her new clothes, and hurried back to her estranged husband.
He was right where she left him.
Gina got Charlie’s clothes off and threw a fleece blanket over his naked body before she turned her attention to his gunshot wound. He screamed when she poured the alcohol on it, but he passed out again soon after.
The bullet had torn into the left side of his thigh, leaving a deep ugly gash. At least the slug wasn’t still buried in his leg.
He probably needed stitches, but that wasn’t included in her first aid skills.
Gina finished cleaning and dressing the wound. It took a while get him dressed. She pulled him close to her so hopefully they wouldn’t freeze to death during the night.
But an hour ago, the world still dark, she’d woken to find Charlie gone. She looked all over for him. Venturing into the sleeping quasi town/city, avoiding cops, scouring alleys, the bus station, and even braving a couple of hotel lobbies to ask if someone fitting his description had checked in.
Where in the hell was Charlie?
CHARLIE stayed still, crouched in the weeds of the wintry field.
He was sure they’d spotted him. Five guys. Looking for him.
The pain in his thigh was constant. Even though his wound had been dressed (By whom? His wife?), it still leaked enough blood to soak his black sweatpants.
Every time Charlie moved the sweatpants crunched because the blood had frozen.
🎼 Let it go! 🎼 Let it go! 🎼
He couldn’t help himself.
Four men were walking toward him. They’d been summoned over by the fifth man, who was twenty feet away, staring at Charlie’s hiding place in the weeds.
How did he get here?
Charlie tried to piece together everything that had happened through the night.
He’d failed to steal a valuable ring from a small town museum, set off an alarm he stupidly hadn’t noticed, and was almost caught by the local police.
Oh, and the police shot him in the thigh as he was trying to escape. Hence the pain mentioned above.
His wife, however, did catch him and threaten to kill him. She didn’t, of course. Or the story would be over.
They’d both been forced to dive into frigid ocean water to escape the 5-O.
The next thing he remembered, he woke up in the trunk of a car. With some clever tactics and great force of will, he managed to escape, only to be hunted by these five guys dressed in black, carrying flashlights, and Glocks on their belts.
They were almost on top of him.
The leader, Nolan, was walking straight toward Charlie. His flashlight swept close by several times. The other four men’s beams of light also came close.
Charlie was sure he’d been caught.
He thought about running. But with his bum leg they’d catch him before he took two steps. Or worse case shoot him in the back.
He still had no idea why he was being pursued. All he knew was he was scared.
The adrenaline pumping through Charlie made him tremble uncontrollably. Well, the adrenaline and the twenty degree temperature.
Charlie was afraid he’d freeze to death if he had to hide even twenty more minutes.
Charlie steeled himself as Nolan came closer and closer.
It was time to make a decision.
The last one was gonna happen no matter what.
Charlie decided to fight.
He poised ready to launch himself at Nolan and attack him like a Spider Monkey (thanks Ricky Bobby). But just as Charlie was about to spring, Nolan stopped short.
Nolan was ten feet away and no longer looking straight at Charlie.
Nolan looked at the ground near his feet. The other four men came closer. Nolan squatted and picked up a cell phone. It looked brand new.
Charlie did a silent WHEW! They hadn’t seen him.
“If this works, I think I’ll give it to my kid,” Nolan said.
The other four men agreed. Nolan tossed the cell phone to one of the other men.
Charlie’s breath was shallow. He hoped they would go.
No such luck.
Nolan darted toward Charlie, kicked Charlie’s wounded thigh, and pulled Charlie to his feet.
Charlie called out in pain.
“First we gotta take care of Charlie.”
Charlie struggled, but two other men grabbed him and cuffed him with military grade twist ties. They pushed Charlie facedown onto the frozen tundra. He almost passed out when his broken nose slammed into the ground.
Charlie was furious with himself for not seeing what was coming.
ONCE again Charlie found himself bound with duct tape and trapped in the trunk of a car.
A new addition: he was also gagged.
The sun had come up since he’d been captured in the frozen field. It was warmer in the trunk in the daytime. Which was good in one way.
Charlie’s sweats were damp, so the relative warmth of the trunk gave him a small bit of comfort.
But the warmth was bad in another way.
The blood that was once frozen in his sweats had melted. He felt the fluid around him.
Whoever was transporting him had taken out the trunk’s liner, so Charlie was resting on cold steel. The steel was also a smooth surface, unlike the liner, so when the car turned, Charlie slid across the trunk and crashed into the other side.
It didn’t help that his various defrosted “body fluids” made the trunk like a mini slip-and-slide.
Charlie couldn’t find a way to brace himself, so he wasn’t able to protect his wounded thigh.
He didn’t even try to be macho about the pain. He screamed like a wounded lamb every time.
From the speed the car was traveling, Charlie knew were on a freeway.
After a time of being on the freeway, the vehicle slowed. The right turn signal started blinking. He felt the car drift to the right, then begin to move downward, and turn.
They were now in an urban area. He could tell from the frequent stops and the sounds of car horns, muted voices, and even the squawk of a drive thru window.
He’d read that Dunkin Doughnuts was rebranding. They were now called Dunkin’.
How stupid is that?
“What do you dunk?”
Then put that in the name, butturds.
Their name could be for the NBA Slam Dunk contest.
Dunkin’. We dunk!
The pain focused Charlie’s mind back to the situation at hand.
The car was driving through a town. How could he use that to escape?
He decided to make a racket.
Charlie did his best to pound on the sides of the car. He lifted his body enough to hit the trunk lid.
He screamed through his gag.
He was making some sound. Didn’t know if it was enough.
The car stopped and Charlie slid again, this time hitting the back of the trunk.
A bright light exploded into the trunk as half of the backseat in front of Charlie opened.
An arm reached through and grabbed Charlie’s neck. With little effort, the arm roughly pulled Charlie’s six-foot 200lb balled up frame into the backseat.
His eyes couldn’t adjust to the light so quickly. But it didn’t matter.
Charlie could feel the barrel of a gun pushed into his mouth.
The arm pushed Charlie back through the opening into the trunk.
The car accelerated forward.
THE room was toasty.
Gina was staying at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts. She was on the fourth floor and had a great view of the Salem Common.
The snow covering the large lawn sparkled in the sunlight. The walking path running around the Common was visible, but randomly muddy and icy.
She smelled wood smoke. It reminded Gina she wanted to sit by the fireplace in the lobby later.
Winter in New England. So beautiful.
As long as you were staying in an expensive hotel and didn’t have to shovel snow or drive anywhere.
Gina was five feet seven inches tall, one hundred and fifteen pounds, with shoulder length red hair.
Men and woman both starred at her when she walked down the street.
Knock Knock Knock.
It surprised Gina to hear someone at the door. She’d only ordered room service ten minutes ago. Her halibut couldn’t have come that quickly.
“Just a minute,” Gina said.
Smiling, she pulled on the Hawthorne’s lovely white terrycloth robe to cover her toned and incredibly well proportioned body.
If I left it off, I wouldn’t have to give the room service waiter a tip.
Gina opened the door to a tall muscular white guy, dressed all in black, with a military cut.
The black clothes threw Gina off for half a second too long. Waiters usually wear black. Or some kind of uniform.
By the time she realized most waiters don’t look like Special Forces soldiers, Nathan had taken a step into the room and pinned Gina’s arms to her side.
She’d missed her chance to fight back.
Another man dressed the same as Nathan, but shorter and stockier, followed him into the room, and bound Gina’s wrists with twist ties.
The stocky man was respectful of Gina’s modesty. He made sure her robe covered her and tied it securely in place. He helped her sit on the bed facing Nathan.
Not an accidental brush of her breast to be seen.
He obviously didn’t know that Gina would have been fine sitting on the bed naked.
Might have liked it better in fact.
Another man followed the stocky guy. He was pushing a room service cart covered with a white tablecloth.
“Is this how you deliver room service in this hotel?” Gina said. “Assault and broccolini?”
Nathan’s mouth twitched.
The man pushing the cart parked it in the middle of the room. He pulled off the tablecloth. Stuffed onto the cart was a very large, muddy, black and red ball of clothes.
Nathan took the ball off the cart with one hand, and dropped it on the bed next to Gina.
The ball unfolded a bit. Charlie’s bruised and battered face flipped back onto the clean fluffy white comforter.
Oh God no…
“You were looking for him?” Nathan said. “We found him.”
Charlie was wearing the same black sweats from two nights ago. Red blood coagulated in his hair and soaked through his clothes.
A maroon stain spread on the bed cover.
Charlie was dead.
THE blood stain continued to spread on the comforter.
Gina reached for Charlie’s face, but shifting her weight on the bed made Charlie’s body roll to the floor carpeted floor.
It landed with a thud and a squish of liquid.
Blood splattered around his form.
The perfectly appointed hotel room was now ruined. The matching curtains and bedspread. The antique furniture, harking back to the days of the hotel’s namesake, Nathanial Hawthorn.
Now there was only death.
Gina sank to the floor next to Charlie. She cupped his face in her hands.
He was cold to the touch.
Gina tried to fight back a sob, but she couldn’t hold it in.
Yes, I wanted a divorce. But I didn’t want you to die, Charlie.
Nathan, the dressed all in black Soldier of Fortune looking sonofabitch stared down at Gina and Charlie with no expression. Behind him the four other “soldiers” also watched stone-faced.
Gina’s breath came in fits and starts. She took one hand away from Charlie’s face and found it clutch into a fist.
To bring Charlie’s body here. To her hotel room. And dump him out like he was just a sack of garbage.
Gina sprung from the floor, arms outstretched, and sank her nails into Nathan’s face. She pulled downward as fast as she could, leaving deep gashes.
Gina had hoped to blind him, to cut through his eyeballs, but Nathan was too quick. He turned his face. He saved his eyes, but the wounds Gina opened up would leave him scarred to the casket.
Nathan got over the shock of Gina’s attack quickly. He flung her against the wall, stunning her.
Gina staggered forward. Nathan let her fall but before she hit the floor he grabbed her hair, holding her in midair.
“Stop,” Charlie said.
Charlie had hauled himself up so he was leaning against the bed.
Gina sobbed again.
“Leave my wife alone,” Charlie said.
Tomorrow on Crime Ring:
More crazy shit.
Please follow me on all the social media thingys below.
I think on all of them I’m @draysbooks
I have a Tumbler, but it’s filled with dirty stuff.