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Writers block and the brains odd response

It amazes me how it is possible to have writer's block when it comes to one project (my situation currently), and yet your brain goes, 'oooh, write these potential first two chapters to a third book in the series.' The brain is weird, but when it does this odd thing, it produces creativity, which might lead to unblocking the path to finishing the work your writer's block has stalled


Haven't done a full edit yet.

Chapter 1

It was one forty-five in the morning, pitch black and with a slight drizzle of rain, when the Mustang pulled up to the curb in a more than seedy neighborhood of Toronto. The driver shut off the engine and scanned the street. It was empty. Not a soul to be seen. He glanced at the decrepit building to his right. The neon sign in the blacked-out window blinked erratically. More than a few of the letters had burned out, but he could still make out the name. Joes Tavern! It was his destination.

He stepped from the car and walked slowly towards the building. The front door was a well-worn oak with a filthy rectangular window no larger than about eight inches high and six inches wide. A dirty and yellowing sign hung from a string on the opposite side of the glass. It said 'Open.'

Not more than four steps inside the front entrance were a set of saloon-type swinging doors. Between the obstructed view caused by those, and the blacked-out windows, it was impossible to see anything of the interior. He quietly opened the door and stepped inside. Bolting the lock behind him, he turned the soiled sign to its opposite side. Joe's tavern was now 'Closed.'

Adjusting his overcoat, he took a deep breath and pushed his way through the swinging doors. Some very foul odors had confronted him in life, but nothing prepared him for what now assaulted his nasal passages.

They say that the nose becomes immune to odors if exposed to them for a certain period of time. There was hope that the period in question was only about three seconds. No such luck. He thought that if one had to describe the smell, they would have to say a combination of booze, stale urine, rotting food, and what he could only imagine might be the odor associated with a rotting corpse. A nauseating combination, if there ever were one.

It was doubtful that this dump received many visitors so immaculately dressed from head to toe. The fact that his color coordination consisted of a black shirt, black suit, and black topcoat may well have leant a sinister appearance to his demeanor. If there had been any conversation taking place before his arrival, it had stopped abruptly, and all eyes were on him.

Surveying his surroundings, he absorbed every detail. The place was even more disgusting than its exterior appearance might have suggested. The hardwood floor was almost totally devoid of its original stain and worn into a furrow on a direct path to the bar. The numerous patterns of discoloration indicated that it had been the recipient of multiple stains from spilled drinks and the occasional blood spatter. Cigarette butts were everywhere, and the burns on the floor were numerous.

The bar, along the wall to his right, appeared to be mahogany and had its share of burns, scrapes, and notches that seemed to indicate that more than a few bored drunks had settled in with a knife in hand to whittle the hours away.

Opposite the bar and to his left was a series of booths. Four in all! Appearing to be mahogany as well, they were equally scarred, and the seating areas were covered in a red vinyl that was well-worn, severely cracked, and had more than an occasional strip of duct tape applied to keep the stuffing where it belonged. The entire wall above the booths was a sequence of mirrors. Each one was faded and had that ink blot appearance that comes from age and the deterioration of the laminate applied to the mirrors backing. Dingy yellow light illuminated the entire scene.

The walls were decorated, if one misuses the word, with beer, liquor, and soda signs. Some were more than simply old. They were, in fact, quite valuable as collectibles. The market for that kind of thing was quite strong. He found himself thinking what a pity it was that the Mustang had such a small trunk. They'd never fit.

Focusing his attention on the far end of the room, he saw a lopsided pool table with patched and well-worn felt. That was when he noticed someone who didn't fit the scene. A quick count had been taken, and a hasty appraisal had been made of the place's occupants. Behind the bar stood the owner of the tavern, Joe. Burly, standing about six feet two inches tall and well over two hundred pounds, he had a grotesque scar down the right side of his face and was definitely a somewhat frightening-looking vision. His eyes were penetrating and cruel, almost overshadowed by the bushiest eyebrows one had ever seen. He looked more than suspicious of this new visitor's presence.

Three people were seated at the bar on chrome and vinyl stools. One was a mountain of a man dressed in bib overalls and a plaid shirt. He sported a mane of scraggly and unkempt hair that reached past his shoulders and looked like it hadn't seen shampoo for months or even years. He was a mountain, alright, but one with a sizeable belly that kept him seated well back from the bar. The well-dressed intruder immediately nicknamed him Fat-boy, no disrespect intended to the Harley-Davidson of the same name. He appeared no less suspicious or disconcerting than Joe.

Three stools down, there was a scrawny little turd of a man. Mousey-looking and appearing just a little nervous about this new situation, he sat there in his polyester slacks and pink shirt with a trembling hand that caused his beer glass to deposit portions of its contents on the floor, adding to the already substantial collage of stains.

Now don't misunderstand. This new visitor liked cleavage. He loved cleavage. He just wasn't that fond of it when it had more wrinkles than a set of bed sheets after a three-hour ride with a coked-up nympho. Unfortunately for his poor eyes, it was the first thing he noticed about the well-worn and well-used hag sitting next to the wimp in the pink shirt. Her hair was dyed so black that all he could think of was that forgotten hostess of horror flicks, Elvira. An old, wrinkled Elvira! Her face was in serious competition with her cleavage for the 'most grotesque wrinkles' award. Her eyes were almost vacant, her mouth absurdly red with lipstick, and her sunken cheeks packed with so much rouge it looked as if she had been punched a few times. Hard! What a rough life it must have been.

That brought him back to the one that didn't fit the scene. Leaning against the pool table was an evil-looking sort. He was definitely hardcore, short, tattooed, and sporting a Fu Manchu mustache to offset a balding head. His right hand had a firm grip on the shoulder-length hair of the one who didn't belong. Pressed back against the rail of the pool table, with fear in her eyes, was a well-dressed and quite pretty young woman. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and a gorgeous face were the perfect topping for what appeared to be a stunning figure. The first four buttons of her blouse lay strewn on the floor at her feet, and her black bra was askew, causing partial exposure of her left breast. There was the unmistakable feeling that she hadn't been what one would consider a willing participant in whatever was taking place before his arrival. No matter; it was time for the show.

"Folks, I'm here to offer a hell of a deal to anyone with a cell phone. Who has a cell phone here? Anybody?"

There was silence, accompanied by some understandably blank stares in his direction. He deliberately, yet slowly, made his way to the far end of the bar as he spoke.

"Seriously, people, this is a great opportunity. All you need is a cell phone. Now come on, does anyone have one?"

Finally, there were murmurs of sound as one after another mumbled a quiet 'no,' probably wondering if he was insane.

"Ahh, that's a pity," he said. By then, he was at the end of the bar, standing next to the telephone that rested beside a glass of swizzle sticks. It was an old phone. He was sure it was identical to the one that sat on a stand in the hallway when he was just a little kid. And that was too long ago to even contemplate.

He looked directly at the bartender and asked, "Is this the only phone in the place?"

"Yeah! What's it to ya?" came the gruff response.

"Just asking," he said as he retrieved a knife from his overcoat pocket and cut the cord. Once it was determined that there were no cell phones, that phone was the only means of communication with the outside. Now there was none.

He wasn't certain what it was about him that had created such a den of silence. A harsher reaction had been anticipated, and yet everyone remained in a state of motionless quiet. All except for the bartender. As distorted as the mirrors behind the booths might have been, they still picked up the reflection of Joe reaching under the bar and retrieving a sawed-off baseball bat. Seconds before that lumber would have made a dent in his skull, the stranger pulled a silencer-equipped nine-millimeter Beretta from the shoulder holster beneath his left arm and shot Joe in the chest. The look on Joe's face was one of priceless shock. With his eyes now less frightening and his mouth agape, he clutched his chest and staggered back against the liquor display case. A few bottles crashed to the floor as he thrashed about. Within no more than five seconds, he collapsed in a heap.

It was hard to say if the patrons were too drunk, stoned, or just too stupid, but there wasn't a sound, even after witnessing a cold-blooded killing. That is, except for the pretty young lady who didn't fit the scene! She let out a brief and somewhat stifled scream before she fainted and fell back onto the pool table. He now pointed the Beretta at each of the remaining patrons in turn.

"Would the conscious among you kindly move over to the booths and take a seat? All in the same booth! Leave the girl where she is." Nothing! Not a muscle moved in any one of them.

"Now! And I won't ask again. I'll start shooting those who don't follow instructions."

That final suggestion seemed to be the proper motivation. With the four of them now seated, the mousey guy next to his aging lady of the night, and the two more threatening characters side by side, the inquisition began. Retrieving his cell phone, he opened the picture file and showed them a photo.

"Anyone know this man?" There was no response. The two tough guys didn't even look. They just sneered and glared directly at him. There was only one thing to do. He pointed the Beretta at Fat-boy and pulled the trigger. The behemoth grabbed his chest, gasped for air, his face became pale, and then he dropped face-first onto the table. Suddenly a chorus of voices confirmed recognition of the man in the photo.

He handed the withered old gal a notebook and pen and told her to write down the information that everyone was about to provide. And there was plenty. He wasn't sure why it was that a group of people who had just witnessed him kill two men in cold blood and could describe him to a tee would believe it when he told them, 'Tell me what I need to know, and I won't hurt you,.' But they did. You can imagine their surprise when, after gaining the information he wanted, he did to them exactly what he had done to the others. Surprise indeed.

He stuffed the notebook in his pocket, re-holstered the Beretta, and headed for the pool table where the pretty young thing still lay unconscious. He adjusted her bra to cover the partially exposed breast, straightened her blouse, and hoisted her over his shoulder. With her body weighing down his tired legs, he headed for the back door, which exited into a stench-filled narrow alley between the bar and a boarded-up hardware store.

He carried her the seventy-odd feet to his car, around garbage bins, broken glass, and the occasional rat, and then placed her in the passenger seat as gently as possible. After all, she had nothing to do with this. She was only an innocent bystander who had been about to be raped by the perverts of Joe's Tavern. He got behind the wheel and headed for downtown, the black Mustang GT slithering through the night at the legal speed limit. The three-hundred horsepower engine liked a bit more action than that, but attracting the attention of a passing Police cruiser would have been totally inappropriate at that particular time.

But what to do about this girl? The only plan he could devise was to leave her outside a Hospital Emergency Room and then make an anonymous call to direct them to her whereabouts. Of course, that idea went out the window the minute she regained consciousness.

Chapter 2

He loved many things about that car, not the least of which was the thousand-watt sound system. But even at full volume, it couldn't have made as ear-piercing a noise as the scream that erupted from the now conscious and terrified young woman seated beside him. It was all he could do to keep the car on the road and get a firm grip on her arm to prevent her from bailing out the door of the moving vehicle. It was time to get stern.

"I'm only going to tell you once, do yourself a favor and relax. I'm not going to hurt you."

"I just watched you kill a man," she screamed.

He didn't have the heart to tell her that she had actually missed most of the action.

"So it would appear," he said. "But I still have no intention of harming you."

"Why should I believe you?"

"Because if I hadn't walked into that bar when I did, the Police would have been putting your raped and dead body into the coroner's van in the morning. And you know it."

There was silence as the words sunk in. She knew it was true. He loosened his grip on her arm and could sense her staring at him. There is no cruelness in his eyes. Anything but! In fact, those hazel orbs had won the confidence of more than a few. So he looked directly into her eyes and let her see softness in his. She seemed to relax almost instantly but still had a question.

"Why did you shoot that man?"

"Mine is a long story. I'm sure yours is less complicated. What were you doing in a dump like that?"

"I was looking for my brother."

"What would your brother be doing there?"

"I don't know. He's been missing for two weeks. The last time anyone saw him was outside of that bar. Some friends were driving past and saw him talking to a man. Now they wish they had stopped to see if he was alright."

"I'm sorry to hear that. But you should consider letting someone else do the looking in those kinds of places.

"Believe me; I will. Now tell me why you were there."

He was hesitant, but she deserved an explanation.

"Two weeks ago tomorrow, I was in the parking garage of my apartment building. As I was preparing to open the car door, I saw a reflection in the side window. There was a man approaching me from behind and wielding a very unpleasant-looking knife. Just as he was lunging for me, I stepped aside and threw a straight punch to his throat. It crushed his Adam's apple. He struggled for a minute before he suffocated. I assumed it was a car-jacking, and I had gotten lucky. I called the Police and, while I was waiting, and I don't know why, I searched his pockets.

They were empty, except for two things. A book of matches and a piece of paper with a fourteen-digit number. It was the number that got my attention. I stuffed the two items in my pocket and used my cell phone to take a picture of the guy. The Police came, assumed the same thing I did about a car-jacking, took my statement, and had the body hauled away. No fuss, no muss, no bother. Pure self defense."

"Why did the number get your attention?"

"I recognized it as an international phone number. I also knew that the country code was for Chile and the city code for Santiago."

"And that meant something to you?"

"It meant much more after I dialed the number later that night. It was for a place called La Piojera. Loosely translated into English, that means 'a place of lice', or something to that effect."

"So what is it? This La Piojera?"

It's a bar. A very old one, in fact! It dates from around eighteen-eighty-five, if I'm not mistaken. It's been in the same family for over a hundred years. A few years back, they were planning to sell it to a company that wanted to tear it down and build a new mall. There was a public outcry. Now, to be honest, it isn't a classy place. The name implies it all, I suppose. On any given day, you can find the lower echelon of the working and non-working classes drinking away the afternoon. But it's Chilean history. Some of Chile's most famous writers and artists finished their nights there. One of them said something to the effect that it was 'where we met friends and enemies, fell in and out of love, discussed politics and all things Chilean. It was there that you found what you will never find in any museum of National History. As a result of the protest, it was declared a 'National Monument to the Feelings of the People of Chile.' There's no tearing it down now."

"How do you know so much about it?"

"I've been there. That's how I knew there had to be some connection between the guy who tried to kill me and me. As for the matchbook, it was from the bar we had just left. That's how I ended up there. And now I know more."

"Why would someone want to kill you?"

"Long story! By the way, what's your name?"

"Colleen. Colleen Johnson."

He steered the car towards the curb and slammed on the brakes, startling the hell out of her.

"What did you do that for?" she shrieked.

"What's your brother's name?" he asked.

"David. Why?"

"Son-of-a-bitch! They used him to set me up for the kill."

"What are you talking about?"

"Your brother used to work for me. He left the company just before I did. He left because he had a drug problem, which I'm sure you know, and I left because some bad people knew where to find me. But as I keep telling you, that's a long story."

"Oh, my God! You're Thomas, David's boss?"

"That would be me. I think it's time we went to my place and got the whole story out."

"Your place? That may not be a good idea for me.

"Listen, Colleen, if you haven't figured out by now that I'm no threat to you, then you're hopeless. And besides, if you want help to find out what happened to your brother, I'm the guy you need."

She finally relented, and they headed the next few blocks to his apartment building. It was almost three-thirty in the morning, and they were both running on fumes.

They entered the apartment, where he directed her to the sofa and suggested they might benefit from coffee. While the pot brewed, he disconnected the phone. He was sure she wouldn't try and call the Police, but he was not that sure. Once the coffee was ready, they sat together, and he began to tell his story.

"I suppose a good place to start is the day after the attempt on my life. I drove to the address on the matchbook to get a look at the bar. While there, I noticed a second-floor apartment for rent directly across the street. I kept it in mind as I drove away. Over the next three days, I grew a scruffy-looking batch of salt and pepper whiskers, got some old grungy clothes, mussed up my hair, and stayed a little dirty and deodorant deprived and took a bus back to the building across from the bar. I rented the apartment and settled in for some observation. I photographed everyone who entered or left. They were regulars, like clockwork. More than a few teenagers would go in and come out no more than five minutes later. But this place wasn't making its money on booze. There were, at the most, six regular patrons who spent any time there at all. That includes the four who were there this morning. Given the frequent visits by teenagers, I had a good idea that the main business was drugs. But I needed more information."

"So what did you do?"

"I actually walked into the place one night. All street hobo-looking and staggering like the drunk I wanted them to think I was. I got as far as the bar, where Fat-boy was sitting, and casually planted a bug under the lip of the bar. I ordered a beer, drank it down, and left. Once that bug was in place, the information started to flow."

"What did you find out?"

"Drugs were definitely the income source. The teenagers were runners who sold to the local school kids and delivered the cash back to the bar. Joe had some bad connections, including a loose affiliation with the Sabatini crime family in Queens, New York. A group I'm all too familiar with. Another piece of the puzzle."

There was a look of shock on her face as she asked, "You're in the Mafia?"

"Hardly," he said with a chuckle. "However, we do have a history. Let's leave it at that for now. What I also discovered was a lot of information that's going to make some police officers pretty happy today."

"What are you talking about? How?"

"OK! First of all, I know you think you saw me kill someone tonight. Actually, if you had remained conscious a while longer, you would think I had killed all five of them. But no one is dead. Barring some fluke, that is."

"But I saw you shoot him."

"Special bullets! I made them myself! Super light load of gunpowder. Enough to penetrate the skin for about an inch. The projectile is a thin plastic that shatters on impact. Does leave a nasty scar, though. Inside the plastic is a thin gelatin pack of a high-powered tranquilizer. Immediately upon impact and penetration of the skin, it releases the tranquilizer into the bloodstream. It takes about five seconds for the individual to fall unconscious. So, barring that fluke I mentioned, everyone should still be alive and ready for the handcuffs to be applied."


"Yeah! Let me give you a rundown. Over the course of my eavesdropping, I picked up a lot of dirt. I also got names and did some web browsing. It seemed that Fat-boy was wanted in Kentucky for the murder of his wife. The mousy little guy is a pedophile who skipped his parole jurisdiction and was doubtless still plying his trade. The old gal? She was just some tragic road-kill on the highway of life: nothing criminal, only the wreckage of a pathetic existence. But the guy who was intending to scramble your ovaries was wanted in North Dakota on four counts of rape and two of murder. Only two of the rape victims survived."

"My God! You really did save my life."

"You doubted it?"

"No! But now I know for sure."

"The other thing you missed while you were involuntarily relaxing on the pool table was the inquisition. After some prodding, I found out what I needed to know. They did recognize the man in the photo. He had shown up about three weeks ago. His name, or the name he gave, was Pablo. He was a Spanish speaker with very poor English. He showed up every night at the same time. The first night, your buddy with the mustache decided to take a run at him. Pablo slashed his stomach about twenty stitches worth. He showed me the scar. It would have been the same knife Pablo had tried to kill me with. After that, this South American visitor was the temporary king of Joe's Tavern. Just waiting!"

"Waiting for what?"

"Information. He sat there every night for a week. Always leaving only at closing time. Now this part of what I tell you will be hard to take. It's about your brother."

She didn't say a word. She just got that sick look on her face that one expresses at the sound of bad news.

"Colleen, your brother was there that night. He shuffled in, apparently stoned, and walked over to the bar and whispered something to Joe. Joe handed him a packet of dope, and he shuffled back out the door. Joe walked over to Pablo, whispered to him, wrote something on a napkin, and handed it over. Then Pablo left. Neither Pablo nor your brother has returned to the bar since that night."

"On no," she cried. "He killed my brother? David's dead?"

"On the surface, you might think so. But as you learned a few hours ago, not everything is what it seems. You have no way of knowing if it was Pablo your friends saw talking to your brother. It could have been just another junkie. There aren't many places to stash a body around there without it being found in a day or so. David could just be holed up somewhere. I'll give you the name of someone who might be able to help you find him."

"That would be wonderful. But you said that my brother set you up? How?"

"The night before I was attacked, I saw David in the parking garage. He looked at me and then looked up at the pillar next to my car. I realize now that he was making a mental note of my parking spot number. I called out to him, but he just ran away. Listen, I know your brother would never deliberately set me up to be killed. I have no doubt they fed him some line. Those who wanted me dead knew where I worked. They would have discovered that your brother had worked there too. I imagine that he was into someone heavy for a drug debt. Helping them find me would have been a way to pay it off."

"Thomas, I'm glad you know David would never have helped anybody kill someone. He could never do that."

By now, she was sobbing softly, pale as a ghost. He was sure that nothing he could say would provide any reassurance about her brothers' situation. He suggested she try and sleep and led her to the bedroom, where he helped her under the covers. For the next few hours, the sofa would be his bed.

Even as he tried to sleep, his mind was working overtime assessing his situation. He had always assumed that if there were to be any retribution from his old nemesis, Carlo, it would come via Brazil. The fact that Pablo appeared to arrive from Santiago gave him pause to be concerned for anyone there who knew him. It would be a restless sleep.

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