Today, I have an extract for you from Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan, the first book in a trilogy. But first, here’s what it’s all about.
For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’ priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime. As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision : follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?
Robert sat back and felt something lodged in the crack between the cushions. He reached behind him and pulled it out. It was the pouch Litvak had entrusted to Rico. He slowly removed its contents. The snippets of conversation he’d heard now made sense. Litvak had removed this from his safe. It looked expensive. But how valuable was it? He looked up. Rico was heading back to the car. He returned the necklace to the pouch and slipped it into his sock.
When Rico opened the door, Jerry was still laughing. “You told him?” Rico asked.
Jerry cleared his throat and managed to restrain his laughter. “He said it sounded sick to him.”
“Nobody’s ever said that before,” Rico said.
His tone was a little too serious for Robert. He quickly explained, “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Life’s too short,” Rico said. “She has a nice body, doesn’t she?”
“I guess so,” Robert said.
“You guess?” Jerry said.
“Then, yes,” Robert said.
“She works hard to keep it that way,” Rico said. “No reason to hide it.” He turned to look at Robert. “Right?”
“No. No reason.”
Rico turned back around and gave Jerry a wink. “Glad we straightened that out.”
Robert was glad Rico was facing forward again. He couldn’t concentrate with Rico looking at him. His mind raced. Was he being a complete idiot to even consider what he was contemplating? He knew he couldn’t come up with the money he owed Litvak in two short weeks. He didn’t want to think about what Litvak would do then. But he knew what Litvak would do if he actually stole the necklace.
Then there was the whole idea of taking something that didn’t belong to him. He was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a thief—yet. But was he really a thief if he stole from an unsavory character like Litvak, a loan shark and probably worse? He convinced himself that he was not.
Still, it was a gamble. But he was a gambler.
He had time to pack and make it to the airport. If Evelyn’s plane wasn’t full…How long would he be gone? He had no idea. Nor any idea what he would do with the contents of the pouch. But now wasn’t the time to worry about it. He’d have time to think after the plane took off—assuming Rico and Jerry didn’t kill him before he got to the airport. Until now he hadn’t entertained that possibility, but suddenly he could focus on nothing else.
He stared at the bulge in his sock. It wasn’t too late to put it back where he’d found it. They’d never know. He perspired heavily. The resolve he’d felt an instant earlier had melted away, and in its place was indecision rapidly morphing into panic. He froze and as he did, the car stopped in front of the racetrack. He didn’t move.
“Get out of the car,” Jerry said without looking back. Still Robert didn’t budge. Jerry and Rico both turned around and stared at him. “Hey, you going deaf or something?” Jerry asked. “Get out of the car already.”
The decision had been made for him. They looked right at him, close enough to touch him. He couldn’t return the necklace now even if he wanted to. He could explain finding it in the back seat, but he couldn’t explain how it got in his sock.
“I’m sorry,” Robert said. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” He got out of the car and stood transfixed at it as it sped away. Robotically, he drove home and made his way to his apartment, locked the door behind him, and sank to the floor in a sitting position, his legs stretched outward and his back against the door. Staring at the ceiling like it wasn’t there and clutching his chest with both hands, he inhaled deeply and tried in vain to slow the pace of his galloping heart.
Pigeon-Blood Red was published in February 2016.
Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. To learn more, go to http://eduncan.net/