Can a thing be unintentional and deliberate at the same time? I would have probably answered that question with a resolute “no” had I posed it to myself before writing this trilogy. Now, I’m not so sure . . .
When Dawn suggested releasing the first four chapters of Book I in a scheduled blog series, I thought it was a great idea. I was pleased that Book II worked perfectly in the same format, although the format was chosen after those chapters had long since been written. We were all caught up with all the main characters by then, and the tone of the book was pretty clearly established.
Book III needed an outline even more than Book II did, and I was more than halfway through writing it before I thought to check: would it fit the format as well as Rise of the Walker King did? I had to ask myself, as I flipped thought the pages, if I would change it if it didn’t.
“Of course not!” a voice cried in my mind, the one with the heavy French accent. “I am an artiste!”
I still wondered, though, and was relieved to find that it was a moot point as I leafed through the outline. The first four chapters were faithfully following the same pattern, and I realized why: it made sense that they would.
Writing these books has really been one long hard exercise in learning to get out of my own way. I wanted to tell this story as true to the way I saw it as I could.
That meant getting all my usual pretensions and preconceptions out of the way as much as possible. Luckily, I have tried to make a regular practice of this in one way or another my entire adult life. But some of me had to stay, and one facet that seemed important to keep was the reader in me. I had to write a story that I would enjoy reading, in a way that was entertaining in all the ways I liked and unburdened by all of the things I didn’t like.
What do I like? Well, I like a story that is in motion from page one and stays in motion until the final word. I like to get to know characters as they make their way in the world, a little at a time. I like my imagination to have some minor blanks to fill in, which is a nice way of saying I don’t like to be overwhelmed by thousands of words that take me away from the story to describe a character or a room or . . . pretty much anything. That way when an author does it a few times, I know it’s important and I should pay attention. I do it a few times. That’s because it’s important, and the reader should pay attention. Most of the characters in these books could be played effectively by a variety of actors or actresses, and they have the freedom to be pretty unique in each of our minds. (Except Brenna: she just looks like Kristen Kreuk.)
So it makes sense that nobody has to wait until the ninth chapter to find out who did and who did not survive the cliffhanger I left you with at the end of Book II. Both writing and reading Fall of the Walker King felt fast-paced and urgent, despite the time it took, to me.
I hope the story sweeps you up as completely as it did me, and that you’re rooting for someone who manages to survive the blood-stained pages to come. In my defense, I didn’t know that violence would be such a major character in this series when I began writing it. As it turns out, I get quite a bang out of describing this kind of action . . . so much so that it played a part in deciding what I would write next. I’ll write a blog about it in the next few months, to keep you posted about what I’m up to as it happens.
Right now, I want to leave you with Chapter Two of Walking Between Worlds, Book III: Fall of the Walker King. !!SPOILER ALERT!! Remember Jessica’s destructive dragon dance? The one she did before going to Hell at the end of Rise of the Walker King? The one that tore up The Devil’s Brew and set the whole place on fire? Well, Cal and Sarah stop by looking for Mason in this chapter. They talk to Roche and see what the place looks like now. Brace yourself if you only like Roche when he’s chipper, or if you were attached to the new nightclub.
Remember to sign up for the newsletter, if you haven’t already. You’ll get a free ebook copy of the first of the Walking Between Worlds companion stories. If you’d like to see the next short story feature a particular character, let me know. Send me a message at Jay@jaynorry.com telling me who you want to know more about, and why. I am often amazed at how much I know about each character, too much to write if I am to tell any other stories. I would like to know whose story is a source of curiosity to you as well.
Thanks for reading!
Stay tuned for Chapter Three, coming next Tuesday. Did you miss Chapter One? Read it here.
Cal curbed the wheels of his shiny black Acura and killed the engine. He turned to Sarah.
“I’m sure there’s just some kind of mix-up,” he smiled his charismatic grin.
“Mason has been missing since last night,” Sarah frowned. “He hasn’t returned my calls or yours. I can’t get ahold of Mikie, either. I don’t know why, but I just have a feeling that something is terribly wrong. Call it woman’s intuition, I just can’t shake it.”
“Why can’t it just be intuition?” Cal let his smile fall as his hand fell on the door handle. “When I figure something out, I don’t say I used ‘men’s logic’. Nor do I think that only women are prone to intuitive impulses.”
Sarah’s eyes were wide and unblinking. “Um . . . sorry?”
He wouldn’t let it go.
“Besides,” he pressed. “You weren’t using intuition, you were using logic. You can’t get ahold of two guys who are usually at your beck and call, so you’re worried.”
“You don’t have to do this,” Sarah had her fingers on the handle that would let her out of the car.
“Sorry,” Cal relaxed. “Let’s go inside and see if anybody knows anything.” He had driven all the way up here, after all.
“Do you need to do some coke or something?” Sarah asked politely. “Don’t mind me if you don’t have enough to share.”
Cal looked up and down the empty street they were parked on.
“Okay,” he shrugged. “I have plenty, if you want some.”
Sarah sighed. “That would be great. I have a bottle of tequila in my purse. You want a drink?”
“Let me see the bottle,” he said. It was a tall rectangular bottle, and he turned the cap to make sure it was on tight. Then he flipped it over to see how much flat surface was on the bottom. There was enough for the two sizable bumps he shook from the baggie onto the bottle.
Cal liked to close his eyes when he snorted coke. There was always a pleasant internal fireworks show when the powder hit his mucous membrane, even if it was just a little bit. He hated to miss the show, but he did not dare to close his eyes. Not since last night.
When Cal closed his eyes, he saw memories of Mikie. Scenes played out in his head, ordinary moments he had spent watching Mikie play his guitar or talking with the band or snorting Cal’s coke. It annoyed him to see the dead man animated behind his closed eyelids, annoyed him so much that it ruined the fireworks.
That wasn’t all he saw, though. Sometimes when he closed his eyes, Cal saw Mikie as he had seen him last night. Pale and lifeless and lying in a pool of his own blood, Mikie’s eyes stared into nothingness in that picture. When that image appeared to him, it did not annoy Cal. To say it pleased him would be like saying Cal kind of liked his cocaine.
When the image that awaited behind his eyes was the image of Mikie’s lifeless corpse, Cal felt a smile tug at the corners of his mouth and a primal need tug at the crotch of his pants. The feeling that came with that picture made the fireworks show of cocaine look like a handful of lame sparklers.
So he kept his eyes open while he positioned his snorter tube over the bump, while he pushed one nostril closed with his fingertip, and while he snorted the white powder up his nose. He handed the upturned bottle and the tube to Sarah. She had no problem closing her eyes to do the bump, or to take a long drink of the clear intoxicating liquid. After, she leaned back into the passenger seat and held the bottle out to Cal. It was right side up and uncapped.
It was barely noon, and Cal was not much for drinking even at appropriate hours. Of course, he had snorted a fat line this morning before he even brushed his teeth; but that was different.
“Maybe later,” he smiled. “Thanks.”
Sarah capped the bottle and it disappeared again into her purse. They were both out of the car and on the sidewalk when they noticed the sign.
It was written in black marker on brown cardboard, in letters that ranged from six inches high to twelve. The sign looked like it had been scrawled by a child or an enraged adult.
It said “Closed until further notice”.
Cal looked at all the glass panes on the storefront, trying to see through the cardboard that covered every square inch of transparent surface. He stepped back and looked up.
“The sign is gone,” he said.
Sarah stepped back to stand beside him and look up. It was easy to see where the sign had been: four jagged craters of concrete showed where anchor bolts had held it in place.
Taking two swift steps forward, Sarah was knocking on the glass door before Cal realized she had moved. He couldn’t take his eyes off the damaged concrete. His mind wondering what could have torn the sign off like that, he imagined a tractor or heavy crane coming in the night or wee morning hours. It seemed doubtful. Of course, it seemed a lot more likely than a ten or eleven foot monster with supernatural strength ripping the sign from its moorings.
It was only four bolts; why not just unbolt them?
Sarah was rapping loudly on the glass again. Cal tore his eyes from the pitted overhang to step up beside her.
“Looks like nobody’s home,” he observed.
She looked at him, frowned, then stepped forward and knocked again. A flap of cardboard was pulled aside as she did, and a round red and black eyeball looked out through the hole. It was huge.
“What the hell was that?” Cal whispered.
“What?” Sarah’s eyes searched the place where he looked. It was covered cardboard again.
There was the quiet sound of metal grating on metal, then the clicking and clacking of tumblers turning. Whatever was in there was unlocking the door.
Cal edged backward as the door inched open inward, putting Sarah between him and whatever owned that gigantic reptilian eye.
A black fedora appeared, followed by a familiar face. Cal breathed a sigh of relief.
Roche looked up and down the empty street.
“Get in here, you two,” he growled.
As soon as they were inside, the club owner locked the door behind them. Cal felt a knot of tension start to form in his belly when the keys turned, felt it tighten further when Roche removed the key from the lock and slipped it in his pocket.
Sarah didn’t seem to notice. She was turning a slow wide circle on what used to be the dance floor by night and coffee lounge by day. Now it was gutted and burnt, every surface flattened and blackened by flames. The stage was gone, the floor where it once stood littered with bent and burnt metal. The stale acrid stench of smoke and wet charcoal was thick and cloying as it climbed inside Cal’s numbed nostrils.
“Oh my God, Roche,” Sarah found her voice somewhere in the wreckage. “What happened?”
“Electrical fire,” Roche said quickly. Too quickly for Cal’s trained ear. People had lied to him far too often.
“Where did it start?” Cal asked, looking up at the remnants of the upper landing. It was nothing but twisted metal charred beyond usability or recognition.
“In an electrical circuit,” the big man growled.
Cal didn’t see any reason to point out that the response neither answered his question nor made real sense. He just shrugged and nodded. Whatever.
“You haven’t by any chance seen or heard from Mason, have you?” Sarah crossed her arms and bit her lip.
“Your guitar wizard?” The club owner shook his big head. “I haven’t seen him since the show ended last night. Great show, by the way.”
“Thanks.” Sarah looked about as enthusiastic accepting the compliment as Roche had been in giving it. “Did you happen to see where Mason went after the show?”
“Last I saw he was headed upstairs, maybe to talk to Kris. Or Paul, he was up there too. I didn’t see him after that, but I was busy closing up.” He shrugged his beefy shoulders once more. “Sorry, kid.”
“It would be silly to ask if you had heard from Mikie, wouldn’t it?” Sarah was nervously biting her lip again. Cal found it kind of annoying.
“The no-show king?” Roche shook his head. “I haven’t seen that guy for days.”
They were all quiet then, and Cal and Sarah turned to gaze at the burnt wreckage again. It looked like a bomb had gone off where the coffee bar used to be, the bent stainless steel sink and appliances in pieces and stained black by smoke and fire. The shrapnel described a pretty clear concentric pattern around the scorched floor, which had long gashes cut into it in deep long sets of five. For all the crime dramas his cocaine-fueled mind may have payed way too close attention to, Cal could not for the life of him figure out what had happened here. He was pretty damn sure it wasn’t an electrical fire.
“On a completely unrelated note.” The sound of Roche’s growling voice had a false ring to it. Cal turned to him.
The big man’s beady black eyes were boring into him, and Cal thought of the big reptilian eye he had imagined earlier for some reason.
“The cops were here last night,” Roche growled. “They said there was a report of gunshots, they found blood in the street.”
“Oh my God,” Sarah gasped. “What happened?”
“They didn’t come till we were closed,” he sighed. “They said the caller didn’t want to identify themselves. They called nine one one from a payphone and said they heard shots fired a couple hours earlier in front of the Devil’s Brew.” Roche made a sour face when he said the name.
“Unbelievable,” Sarah’s eyes were wide and shocked.
“I know,” Cal quipped. “Where the hell did they find a pay phone in the city?”
The club owner and the pretty singer looked at him darkly.
“You don’t know anything about any shooting, do you, Cokey?” Roche’s eyes seemed to be invading his mind more than awaiting an answer.
Cal knew how to lie.
“Of course not.” He lifted his shirt to show his slim abdomen. “I don’t need a gun. I’m good to my customers and they’re good to me.” He looked around the gutted room. “Do you know anything about the shooting?”
Roche strode to the door, fishing his keys from his pocket as he walked. Unlocking the door, he swung it inward and held it open.
“Get the hell out of here,” he growled.
“I’m sure Cal didn’t mean anything by that.” Sarah was moving toward the door despite her protestations. Cal was already standing outside.
She paused in the doorway. “Will you please call if you hear anything? About Mason or Mikie?”
“Sure, kid.” The big man sounded doubtful.
“I’m really sorry about your club.” She was still standing in the doorway.
He was clearly waiting for her to get out of the way so he could close the door. Finally, she stepped one foot into the street. Roche began to close the door on her other foot as it paused in the frame.
“Hey, Roche?” She looked over his broad shoulder to eye the corpse of his business one last time. “Where’s Jessica?”
The big man grimaced.
“That girl never belonged here,” he sighed heavily. “She went home.”
“Home?” Sarah pressed. “Where’s home?”
Roche pushed the door shut, giving Sarah a moment to move her petite sandaled foot before it was smashed. She pulled her foot back and set it on the sidewalk to the clacking sound of the lock.
She was biting her lip in that annoying way and looking up at him uncertainly.
“Where to next?” he asked.
Sarah took her phone out of her purse, tried one number and then another with no results.
“I’m so worried, Cal,” she said needlessly.
“I can see that.”
“Will you stay with me at Mason’s apartment tonight?” She blinked, her eyes going wide. “You can have the bed, I’ll sleep on the couch. I just don’t want to be alone.”
Cal jangled his keys and pretended to consider it. There was not way on Earth he was wrapping himself in sheets that surely stunk of pot and stale cigarette smoke, maybe even Mason and Sarah’s sex.
“I need to get home,” Cal said, unable to think of an excuse as to why. “You’re welcome to crash at my place. I have a spare bedroom.”
She thought about it for a moment, long enough to start listing reasons why she shouldn’t.
“It’s an hour and a half drive one way,” he said. “I can bring you back up tomorrow if you want, although traffic will be shitty on Seventeen in the morning and again in the afternoon.”
“Okay.” Sarah nodded, much to his dismay. “If you’re sure you don’t mind.”
He waved his hand dismissively, and smiled charismatically. “Of course. I never have company.”
Because I don’t like company, he thought under the smile.
The Acura chirped as they approached it from opposite sides.
“Hey Cal, check this out.” Sarah was kneeling carefully in her green sundress, looking at the side of his car.
Cal came around to her side of the car and knelt beside her. Together, they looked at the little round hole in the wheel well.
“Is that a bullet hole?” Sarah took a step away from the car.
“Well, hell,” Cal muttered. “I guess I parked in the wrong spot.”
“Are you going to report it?”
“Sarah,” Cal regarded her coldly. “Do you know how I make my money? Besides managing a band that loses members at an average of one per day?”
“Well, you don’t have to be a dick about it,” she huffed.
Cal moved to the driver’s side and opened the door.
“You coming?” He didn’t wait for a response, just got in and closed the door and started the engine.
The other door opened, the dome light came on, and her summery scent filled the car. She began to buckle her seat belt, stopped mid-motion with the belt between her breasts.
“Cal,” she said quietly, “did you have any involvement with the shooting Roche talked about?”
“Apparently,” Cal snapped. “My car was caught in the crossfire, and now I have to fix it or cover it up. Does that count as involvement?”
Sarah pulled the tequila from her purse as he moved the car into the street. She gulped at it thirstily, then held it out to him.
What the hell. Cal took the bottle and tilted it as he drove. Maybe it would make him stop wondering what her face would look like if he smashed it against the dashboard.
The tequila burned his mouth when he drank it, burned his throat when he swallowed it, and burned his belly as he took another mouthful. He handed to bottle back to Sarah, noting that it had not burned away his morbid curiosity.
“An hour and a half?” Sarah hit the bottle again before stowing it. “Do you usually go that long without . . . y’know . . .”
She sniffled meaningfully.
“No,” he laughed. “I do usually wait until I get on the freeway. Being a cokehead is not nearly as easy as being a pothead on the road.”
Sarah laughed with him.
“Mason seems to think his car won’t work unless he’s smoking weed.” She paused for thought. “I have a little, if you want some.”
Cal made a face. “No thanks. You can if you want, just blow it out the window. No cigarettes, please.”
“I don’t smoke,” Sarah responded with a shrug. “I take a drag every now and then, but I don’t smoke.”
She dug around her purse and came up with a little black cloth bag. Sarah untied the strings and widened the mouth of the bag with her careful worrying fingers. Soon she was packing a little bowl in a little glass pipe riddled with resin.
“Want some?” She was holding it out, along with a lighter. Cal could smell the fresh green scent. He didn’t answer for a moment, savoring the aroma before it became a burnt smoky stench.
“No thanks,” he said finally.
Sarah hit the little pipe, coughing at the end and spewing smoke all over the cab of the car.
Sighing, Cal rolled down her window from his control panel.
She puffed away at the weed pipe until they were on 280 and moving at the sixty-five miles an hour he had programmed into his cruise control.
“Let me know what I can do,” Sarah said, putting the pipe and the little plastic baggie into the black stow. The cloth bag disappeared into her purse, and the air cleared at last.
Cal glanced at her. “What do you mean?”
“I take my job as passenger very seriously,” she smiled. “I am here to deejay or pass the bottle or whatever the honored driver might need.”
“Okay.” Cal shrugged. “There’s a CD case under your seat. If you flip it open, you will not find a CD inside. Rather, you will find a razor blade, a plastic straw cut to size, and a little bag of coke. Please cut us a couple of fat lines.”
She reached under her seat with a giggle. When she set the case on her lap, half on her dress and half on her bare leg, she nudged him with her elbow.
“Great White, huh?”
Cal nodded. “My brother had to watch me a lot when I was a kid. To him, watching me meant buying an extra concert ticket or sneaking me into a show. I usually hated it, the muddled ugly sounds that a lot of people call a rock show. Great White was just different. They sounded clean and crisp, and I liked them. I don’t have many CD’s, but I have most of theirs. All the early stuff, with Jack Russell and his incredible voice.”
“I’m familiar,” Sarah was chopping up two decent lines. “White boy blues, that’s what I always called them. They were pretty huge for a while, back in the day.”
“Do you mind if my line is not fat?” Sarah seemed intimidated by the neatly cut rails.
He shook his head again. “Slide it over to my side or just do how much you want.”
“Nope, driver first.” Sarah busied herself making her line into a thin skiff and his into a wide ridge. Cal glanced down at her lap, then back at the road. That was better.
She held the scarred plastic surface in front of her. “Is that too much?”
“No.” Cal didn’t bother to look over.
Then she was holding it in front of him and putting the plastic straw close to his nose with her other hand.
“I got it.” Cal grasped the wheel at twelve o’ clock, took the straw with his free hand. Balancing it out, he snorted half the line up one nostril and the rest up the other. That was nice; it was usually difficult to do while driving.
“Well thanks, Sarah,” he said affably. “Aren’t you nice to have around.”
She giggled as she tooted the little line she had cut for herself. Before he knew it she was proffering the open bottle of tequila again.
Cal wondered while he drank if the bottle would break if he bashed it against her skull, or if the thick class would hold up to a good pummeling.
He handed the bottle back. “Thanks.”
“Want to listen to some music? Some Great White, maybe?” It looked like she was digging in her purse for the pot pipe again.
“Nah,” he said. She was looking for the pot pipe. Cal cracked her window as she packed the bowl. “Damn girl, you know how to party.”
A dark cloud passed over her face. “I’m so worried. I just want to feel numb.”
She took a hit before she answered, held it in while she spoke.
“Totally. He’s not just missing, Cal.” She blew the smoke onto the dash, and it filled the cab of the car for a few seconds before escaping out the open window. “He was with another girl last night.”
Cal raised his eyebrows and glanced at her. “Define ‘with’.”
Sarah blew another cloud of smoke at the dashboard. “He got a blowjob in the alley behind the bar from some slut.”
He resisted the urge to laugh. Barely.
“You saw him?” he asked.
She nodded, putting the lighter’s flame to the stinky weed.
“Did he see you?”
Sarah shook her head and exhaled, filling the car with white-blue smoke again.
“Are you guys supposed to be exclusive?” Cal opened her window a little wider.
“We’re in a committed relationship, Cal,” she said sarcastically.
“Does he know that?” Cal pressed. “Is he clear on all the rules he is supposed to be following? Sarah, is it possible that Mason is just spending time with someone else?”
“Mason needs me,” Sarah retorted. She didn’t sound so sure.
“A week ago he didn’t need you,” Cal shrugged. “A week ago he didn’t even know you existed.”
“So you think he’s with that girl?”
“Nope.” He shrugged again. “I think he’s not taking our calls. I think I’ll wait until he turns up to find out what’s up. I think imagining what he might be doing is a waste of time.”
Sarah sparked the flame and hit the pipe, filled the cab with smoke again.
“I think he’s with that girl,” she said.
“I understand why you’re worried about Mason, sort of,” Cal said. “But why Mikie?” Maybe talking about the guy he had successfully killed would take his mind off killing the girl beside him.
Sarah exchanged the pipe for the bottle again.
“Mikie is a recovered addict,” she said soberly, taking a long draught.
He took the tequila from her and had a swallow. “Recovered from what? Every time I saw him he was drinking and smoking weed.”
“Oh, he can handle beer and pot alright.” Sarah had another sip from the bottle before capping it. “Just not the hard stuff. He was strung out on heroin for about a year. I’ve been worried about him ever since the other night when you gave him that coke.”
“How long was he clean?” Cal was not enjoying the death mask behind his eyes nearly so much now.
Sarah frowned. “About a year.”
He frowned back. “Why didn’t anyone say something?”