New Pulp Press

"Bullets, Booze and Bastards"

Sample from Capture by Roger Smith

Later Vernon Saul will wonder what would’ve happened if his left leg—the one crippled by the two bullets that ended his days as a cop—hadn’t chosen that exact moment to give him grief, if he hadn’t sat his ass down on that rock overlooking the private beach and seen what he’d seen. Fate, is what it was. Lady Luck reaching down and planting a big, fat kiss on him.

He’d hauled himself over the boulders, sweating, skin itching beneath the Kevlar vest all Sniper Security patrolmen had to wear on duty, when he felt a sudden spasm of pain behind the knee, like he’d been tasered, and he nearly fell. Cursing, he’d lowered himself to the rock, waiting for the pain to pass, lost in the long black shadows thrown by the dying sun.

Still sitting there five minutes later, massaging his wasted limb, invisible to the two white men standing on the beach that fronted the big house, windows kicking back the burst fruit colors of the sky. They were smoking weed—Vernon caught a whiff—the remains of a kid’s birthday party on a table behind them.

The pain was easing and he was about to lever himself to his feet and get moving when he saw the child, maybe four or five years old, come running out of the house, blonde hair catching the failing light.

She jogged up to the two men and tugged at her father’s swimming shorts but he ignored her, deep in his dope-head conversation.

The girl gave up on him and went across to the toy sailboat floating in the water, the riptide pulling at it, choppy waves tumbling and churning on the shore, sucking back along the shelf that fell sharply from the beach.

The kid reached for the boat but it bobbed away, getting drawn toward the boulders on the opposite side of the little cove from where Vernon sat. The girl turned to the men, shouting “Daddy!”, but they had their backs to her.

She ran over to the boulders and clambered up onto them, following the sailboat. Slippery as hell, those rocks, strands of kelp lying across them like a bald man’s comb-over. The kid nearly grabbed the boat, then it swirled away from her and she reached out even farther. She stretched, her fingertips almost touching the mast. And then she slipped and she was in the water. Fucken cold, nut-shriveling water. Got her panicking and fighting and splashing.

She went under.

Vernon watched as the kid surfaced, her mouth wide open, then a wave smacked her head against the rocks and she disappeared and didn’t come up for a few seconds, her one hand grabbing at the air. The water dragged her under again.

Vernon rose, ready to shout to the men—who were still unaware of what was going on behind them—about to hurry down there and make like a hero. Then he stopped himself, crouched again, like a lizard in the shadows.

Let this play out a while, brother.

Let it play out.