Fresh off the Kindle presses is Collateral Damage
, the second anthology written by the eight authors of Do Some Damage. I'm one of the eight, in case you don't know. We've spun a few tales inspired by the only holiday in June that doesn't involve a flag, Father's Day.
Here's the blurb from Amazon:
This collection boasts stories from Joelle Charbonneau (SKATING AROUND THE LAW, SKATING OVER THE LINE, the Paige Marshall mysteries), John McFetridge (LET IT RIDE, DIRTY SWEET), Dave White (WHEN ONE MAN DIES, WITNESS TO DEATH), Russel D. McLean (THE LOST SISTER, THE GOOD SON), Sandra Ruttan (THE FRAILTY OF FLESH, SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES), Scott D. Parker (TREASON AT HANFORD: A Harry Truman Mystery, BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE), Jay Stringer (OLD GOLD, SCORCHED EARTH), and Steve Weddle (NEEDLE Magazine).
As I was with Terminal Damage
, our first collection, I am immensely proud of my collaboration with the other seven writers in this group.
Taking a cue from Steve Weddle, I'm including the first part of my story, "Anne Chambers and the Case of the Father's Day Murder."
In far southwest Houston stands a memorial to the Vietnam War. In the middle of a Vietnamese-American shopping center parking lot, a roped-off area contains a small plateau of nine, white steps. The peak of this plateau has a granite, oval block, about four feet high, with a bronze relief showing a scene from the war. Atop the oval, two bronze soldiers share a constant vigil. The taller man is an American, clad in late-60s fatigues, army belt with canteen, rifle at a high angle, ready to bear down on an enemy. Next to the American is a South Vietnamese soldier. He is a head shorter than the G. I. He, too, clutches a rifle, staring ahead with the American.
It was on the American’s rifle the body had been impaled.
Houston Police Detective Anne Chambers gazed up at the male victim. Limp, with clothes tattered, the body’s fluids had gathered around one side of the dais. They had run down and stained the white steps. His clothes, where they weren’t ripped, looked haphazard: one tail of his shirt was untucked, the suit jacket had a slash along the side, and the man wore loafers without socks. His hands were cuffed behind his back.
Resting against the base of the step was a crane, the kind city electricians use to repair traffic lights. The cage was a mere two feet from the victim. Anne circled the scene, piecing together what happened. The killer had cut through the chains surrounding the memorial, run the crane as close as possible, loaded his victim onto the pedestal, and thrown the victim onto the bronze rifle.
She turned and scanned the growing throng of onlookers. Men and women, hands over mouths or pointing at the victim, cell phones to ears or held out in front, snapping photos. Behind the crowd, the first news van was parked. She checked her watch: 3:34 a.m. Time to retrieve the body. Giving a thumbs up sign to the two medical examiners in the crane’s cage, Anne said “Any idea how he got up there, Gary?”
“We’ve already asked for the security feed,” Patrolman Gary Ward said. “Figured you’d want it.” He chinned the body. “You seen the front of him?”
Anne nodded. “They look like medals of some kind. They ours?”
Ward shook his head. “Don’t recognize them.” He pointed to the blood-stained steps. “One of ‘em fell off.”
In the center of the blood, a small military medal rested on the edge of a step while the silk ribbon and pin dangled over the side. Anne squinted her eyes. The medal didn’t look familiar.
Ward nodded to a man who stood facing the body. “How you think he’s taking it?”
Anne turned to look at her partner, Detective Harry Tran. “Probably not well.” She pursed her lips and watched as the body was lowered to the pavement. The two medical workers placed the body on a waiting gurney.
Walking up next to Harry, Anne said, “You doing okay?”
Harry’s lips were a thin, hard line. When he spoke, his voice was husky. “His name is Dat Nguyen. He is one of the giants in our community.”
Anne gave him a sidelong stare. “Listen, Harry, if you don’t want…”
He turned and strode to the gurney. Her mouth still open, Anne cocked her head, then followed him.
A coroner was examining the body. The suit jacket covered what looked like a pajama top. The slash on the arm had dried blood, darker than the blood on the chest. The mouth was half curled in a snarl of agony.
“Nothing unusual here,” the coroner said, “death by exsanguination caused by the impalement on the bronze rifle.” He turned the body on its side and examined the handcuffs. “The bruising and contusions along the wrists indicate he put up quite a struggle.”
“Time of death?” Anne asked. Harry stood, stone-faced, looking at the dead man.
“Pretty recent, I’d say,” the coroner said. “An hour or two.”
They all shielded their eyes as a vehicle entered the parking lot. It stopped nearby and a man emerged. He started running towards the crime scene. Two officers halted him. After a brief conversation, Ward walked over to Anne and Harry.
“That’s the guy who can get us a look at the security cameras.” He eyed Harry then Anne. She shrugged and head motioned for him to take care of the security footage. Ward nodded once and walked with the newcomer to one of the locked storefronts along the strip center.
With a grunt, Harry started walking towards their car. “Let’s go.”
Anne hurried to catch up. “Where?”
“Mr. Nguyen’s house.”