The Ace of Spades
Author's note: This is just the beginning of the book. I'm going to make a sequel once I'm done with it that... Show full author's note »
IntroductionI lean back in my chair and rest my head on my hands. It had been a slow day, and more than once, I’d caught myself gnawing on the tip of my pen from the weight of the dullness hanging in the air over my head. There are shadows outside my door, agitated voices, talking. I put my hand to my ear to better understand the incomprehensible mumblings, and stifle a smile. I have a case. I silently plead for something interesting. I spent hours last week trying to find a missing shop key; looking everywhere,
He shrugged, put his hands in his pockets, and let out an exclamation of surprise. He felt around his pocket and happily pulled out the lost key. I haven’t had a case since, until a couple seconds ago. Business has been slow; most people are smart enough to avoid crime, and those who aren’t don’t trust outsiders, and I definitely qualify as an outsider. I don’t look like them, I don’t talk like them, and I certainly don’t think like them.
I’m a private eye, but I’m regarded as a detective. Call it what you want; from my experience, the difference is that a detective works for the law. A private eye works for himself. Or herself, in my case.
My secretary bursts in the door, panting. I immediately straighten up. “What is it?” I ask.
He shakes his head. Sweat beads on his shiny, bald scalp and tears down his face. I can tell he’s in distress. “Antonio’s dead. He got shot down riding in ‘smorning. There was no one else with him. He’s dead like a ‘possum just outside o’ town.” His words are slurred with heavy, gasping breaths, and I nervously bid him to continue.
“They shot him eight times, but killed him only once.”
“Obviously,” I mutter. It’s the kind of talk I’d only hear in a little town like this one, where life is the same every day. When there’s a bit of excitement, people feel the need to give you every little detail, and as my secretary carries on rambling, I do my best to block out my hearing. My vision doesn’t need blocking, because nothing I see is making sense in my brain.
He waves his hand over my eyes, but it doesn’t register a response. Antonio, my business partner and good friend, was visiting Diamondback Gorge, a large town over the mountains known for its business in snakeskin products. He was selling some of his Rider’s merchandise and was scheduled to return this morning. My throat makes a strangled sound, and I can feel my heart pounding the inside of my chest like a bass drum. I grip the armrests of my chair and leap to my feet in an outbust of fury, but my sudden movement causes the chair to topple over backward. My head smacks the floor, and my office sways around me, eventually dimming into a choking darkness.
The last thing I hear is my secretary leaning in my face, asking me if I can solve the case. But I already have it solved, morphed into a grotesque conviction that Antonio’s death is tied to the case that started my whole career.
But who, exactly, did this? What did they do to the people traveling with him? Why Antonio? The question is highly psychological, and I don’t have an answer. I shudder miserably as images dance across my head like mischievous fairies, taunting me with memories of what brought on Antonio’s onslaught.