You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2009)
Brandt Dodson was born and raised in Indianapolis, where he graduated from Ben Davis High School and, later, Indiana Central University (now known as The University of Indianapolis). It was during a creative writing course in college that a professor said, "You're a good writer. With a little effort and work, you could be a very good writer." That comment, and the support offered by a good teacher, set Brandt on a course that would eventually lead to the Colton Parker Mystery Series.
A committed Christian, Brandt combined his love for the work of Writers like Chandler and Hammet, with his love for God's word. The result was Colton Parker.
"I wanted Colton to be an 'every man'. A decent guy who tries his best. He is flawed, and makes mistakes. But he learns from them and moves on. And, of course, he gets away with saying and doing things that the rest of us never could."
Brandt comes from a long line of police officers, spanning several generations, and was employed by the FBI before leaving to pursue his education. A former United States Naval Reserve officer, Brandt is a board Certified Podiatrist and past President of the Indiana Podiatric Medical Association. He is a recipient of the association's highest honor, "The Theodore H. Clark Award".
He currently resides in southwestern Indiana with his wife and two sons and is at work on his next novel.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.
Daniel Borden was a happy man. He was in control of his life and he had all that he needed. He was secure.
That was about to change.
On Tuesday, April 5, Daniel rose an hour before sunup and drank a chocolate-flavored protein drink before dressing in red running shorts, light gray T-shirt, and New Balance running shoes. The shoes were less than a month old, but had already carried him more than a hundred miles. They were comfortable.
After dressing, he stretched by putting one foot against the stairway banister and bending at the waist, bouncing slightly, until the tightness in his leg receded. He then alternated legs and performed the maneuver again.
When his stretching was done, he did a hundred sit-ups followed by a hundred push-ups. Although the intensity of the calisthenics was unusual compared to the number for an average man, Daniel was not particularly muscled. Instead, he had the lean sinewy build of an Olympic gymnast. At thirty-five, he looked ten years younger. And in fact, he felt ten years younger too. He attributed his good health to a disciplined lifestyle.
When his warm up was complete he called for Elvis, the two year old black Lab he had adopted from a local animal shelter. The dog had been lying patiently on the comfortable over-stuffed sofa watching with detached interest as Daniel worked through his morning routine. But now it was time to run and Elvis liked to run.
On hearing his name, the dog leaped off the sofa and trod to his master, waiting patiently as his collar and leash were snapped into place. The leash was a requirement of Bayou Bay's restrictive covenants, one of the many features that attracted Daniel to the highly regulated New Orleans subdivision.
He opened the door. “Let's go, boy.”
They left the house and crossed the short expanse of lawn, beginning their run by heading north, a route they often took and that would return them to the house three miles later. They ran at nearly the same time everyday and were familiar with the predawn rhythms of the neighborhood.
Newspapers were delivered between four and five each morning, the garbage collection occurred on Monday, and the Brightmans, who lived several doors down from Daniel and who tended to rise nearly as early, were usually drinking coffee in front of their open dinning room window by the time Borden and the Lab passed their house. The neighborhood ran with the precision and dependability of a Swiss time piece.
Except this morning.
As they began their run, Daniel noticed a black panel van setting curbside less than two doors away. There was nothing particularly suspicious about the van, but it hadn't been there yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. In fact, in all the months that Daniel had been running through the neighborhood he had never seen the van.
It didn't belong.
He paused to take a second look, when Elvis distracted him by pulling on the leash.
“Okay, okay. Sorry. Geeshsh.”
The morning air was still cool and dew had settled over the lawns giving them an almost aluminum sheen in the waning moonlight.
To the east, over the crest beyond which the city lay, a warm hue was beginning to illuminate the horizon as the sun woke for its ascent. It wouldn't be long before it would break the horizon, painting the sky over The Big Easy in a dazzling array of colors that would impress even the most skilled artist. Then the city would come alive as school children boarded buses, DJs took to the air waves, and rush hour traffic began to form.
But the neighborhood was quiet at this hour, which made for a quiet, peaceful run. Only the pounding of Daniel's feet, his own breathing, and the jingle of Elvis' tags broke the silence. It was a tune with which they had become familiar since Daniel acquired the lab, and it provided him a sense of stability that only the familiar can provide. And Daniel reveled in stability.
His need for the familiar, for the stable, as well as a passion to escape the near poverty conditions he had known as a child, had driven his career choice. As an investment analyst with one of the largest investment houses in the country, he learned that despite the ups and downs of an often volatile market, Wall Street could be relied on to do the one thing it does best--make money. Even in the most difficult of times the market could be depended on to correct itself. And it was the market's natural return to stability that convinced him most investors can control their financial futures if they were willing to make the hard decisions. The market may be unstable at any given moment, but the share holders needn't be. If they were willing to ride out the current travails, history showed they would have an excellent chance of recovery. If they had neither the stomach nor the time to wait for the inevitable market correction, they could sell and reinvest in another, more stable vehicle. True, they may suffer a loss, may even absorb a significant loss, but such were the realities of investing. But the truth underlying the matter is that the investor has the upper hand, even if exercising that option cost them in the short run. Far different than most, who viewed the market as a speculative ride, driven by greed and underwritten by risk, Daniel saw the market as the one place where savvy investors could control their destiny.
And Daniel needed to have control.
The runners approached the first turn in the road. This one would take then to the west, along Worth Street.
Daniel breathed deeply. The air was cool, invigorating, and renewed him in ways that made him feel lighter, as unbound by earthly constraints as the freedom that comes with unchecked flight. It was as though he could leave the earth and return at will.
As dog and master rounded the corner, Elvis began to tug at the leash, a clear sign that it was time to separate the men from the dogs.
“Want to run, huh?” Daniel said.
The dog woofed and pulled harder.
Daniel stepped up the pace, slow at first, but then faster as Elvis maintained his cadence effortlessly.
Daniel had adopted the dog shortly after moving to New Orleans. Growing up as an only child whose parents moved frequently, more often than not to stay a step ahead of the bill collector, Daniel had often been lonely. Over time, his loneliness led to isolation. He had few friends (none who were particularly close) and was always the last one selected when choosing up sides.
And the abyss of loneliness was further deepened when, more often than not, his father was passed out on the sofa when Daniel came home from school and his mother was at work trying to earn enough money to keep the family in the same house for a single school year.
On those days, Daniel would go to his room and imagine himself a successful man who others admired and respected. He imagined himself traveling to places he'd never been, and would likely never see.
But on other days, when his father was not unconscious and his mother was home, he would try to earn their attention by initiating conversation or taking the lead in washing the after-dinner dishes. And when their favor didn't come Daniel would go outside to mope, or back to his room, feeling as discarded as the beer cans his father carelessly tossed about.
Daniel wanted a dog. Someone who would be glad to see him when he came home from school and who would lay on his bed at night, eager to hear about the day's events. But the realities of his parents' financial straits denied their son this one extravagance. “Dogs cost money,” his father said. “And if you take a look around you'll see that money ain't something that we have just laying about.”
So Daniel spent most of his time alone, dreaming of the day when he could make enough money to have a dog of his own--and take control of his life. And maybe, even make his parents proud.
Growing up alone, gave Daniel ample time for study.
After high school, he attended Ole' Miss on an academic scholarship and excelled in academic achievement. But his father often chided the boy for not wanting to work with his hands and his mother told him he might be reaching for heights that were beyond his ability. The desire to gain their approval began to wane, though, as he grew into manhood and became increasingly independent. But when his mother suddenly died, all desire to gain his parents approval died with her.
He left for Chicago shortly afterward, leaving his father to bury his grief-- real or genuine--in the same way he had buried everything else.
Later, when Daniel earned his MBA, his father did not attend the graduation ceremony, did not call, did not even send a card. The father son relationship officially ended, long before his father died in an alcoholic stupor three years later.
After graduation, it wasn't long before Daniel secured a position with the Chicago office of Capshaw-Crane and began to focus his efforts on climbing the ladder of success. At times it seemed inevitable that he would miss a step, slip up, and fall back to the disaster of his childhood, landing solidly on a pile of empty beer cans in a house of despair. But like the market, he would make the corrections necessary to maintain balance--even if not perspective.
“Not fast enough, huh?” Daniel ran faster; the Lab kept pace.
Borden's concentration on the things in life that were important, on his career, his health, and his financial stability had clearly paid off.
Growing up, he had been lonely. Now he had Elvis. Growing up, he had been hungry. Now, although he chose not to indulge, he could dine in the finest restaurants in a city known for its unique culinary style. Growing up, he had lived in squalid surroundings, awakened as often by the sound of mice playing in his room as he was by his parents' seemingly never-ending arguments. Now he lived in Bayou Bay one of city's premiere residential areas.
Daniel had taken control. He was secure.
Until he noticed the van, again, parked alongside the street with its engine idling and exhaust spewing from the tail pipe. There was no doubt that this was the same van that had been parked on his street, just a few doors down from his house.
“We've seen that before, haven't we boy?”
Elvis continued to pull on the leash. The van was parked along the same side of the street as which they ran, with its nose pointed westward. It was a black panel van with a single red pinstripe encircling it.
It didn't fit. Didn't belong. And yet, here it was, a mile from where it had been parked just a few minutes before.
“This way, boy,” Daniel said, heading for the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street and away from the idling vehicle.
Elvis followed his master's lead, giving him a confused look, but maintaining the pace that would soon bring them parallel with the van. From his vantage point, Daniel could see that the side windows were covered in an opaque film that eliminated any chance of observing who was inside. But as they came alongside the van, Daniel began to slow, finally coming to a complete stop. Elvis gave his master another confused look.
“What have we got here, boy?” Daniel said, leaning forward, straining to get a better view of the van.
A low growl began to form in the dog's throat. As though he had just discovered the out of place vehicle and the possible threat it posed.
“You too?” Daniel said. “I don't like the-“
“Black Lab,” a voice said.
Daniel spun around to find that Elvis was facing to the right, opposite of where the van was parked.
“They're nice dogs,” the voice said. “I used to have one myself.”
Daniel focused on the shadows to his right. Barely visible, but silhouetted against the yard light behind him, a tall man emerged, dressed in pajamas and a bathrobe. He was carrying a garbage can.
“Sorry,” he said. “I didn't mean to startle you.”
Daniel exhaled. “That's okay. It's just that my dog and I never see anyone out at this hour.”
The man set the garbage can down at the curb. “And you wouldn't have this time either, if I could've remembered to do this the night before.” He reached to pat Elvis on the head. “The wife and I are leaving for vacation today and I needed to get this stuff out so it wouldn't pile up. We're going to be gone for a couple of weeks.”
The van pulled away from the curb with only its parking lights on. Daniel made a note of the license plate.
“Do you know them?” Daniel asked.
The man turned to watch as the van disappeared around the corner.
“No, can't say I do. But I wouldn't worry.”
He stooped to pat Elvis' head again, before extending a hand. “Hubert Johns.”
“Daniel Borden. And this is Elvis.”
“Elvis, huh? Well, he's sure a beauty. Aren't you boy?” He scratched behind Elvis' ear.
“Why shouldn't I worry?” Daniel asked.
“I'm head of the neighborhood crime watch. If there's anything going on around here, I'm usually the first to know.”
“Are there things going on around here?”
“You mean like burglaries and that sort of thing? No, pretty quiet. And we try to keep it that way.” He nodded to the house across the street. “There are some kids that live there. Teenagers. But they're good kids. A little loud sometimes with their music and all, and their mother lets them keep some pretty late hours, but they've always been polite.” He patted Elvis again. “Most likely the van was some of their friends.”
“Yeah,” Daniel said, feeling a little foolish. “Probably some friends of theirs.”
The man put both hands in the pocket of his robe. “You okay? You sound kind of rattled.”
Daniel laughed. “I'm fine. The van was just sitting there with its engine running. It unnerved me a bit, that's all.”
“I don't remember seeing you at the meetings. Are you a member of the watch?”
Daniel shook his head. “No, I'm afraid not. I tend to keep pretty busy and I don't have-“
“Don't have what? Time?” Hubert chuckled. “I was a cop for thirty years. If they were up to something, I would've noticed it. After thirty years of dealing with every piece of garbage there is, you get to a point where you can smell trouble,” he tapped his nose. “Know what I mean?”
“I guess so.”
“You ought to consider joining the neighborhood crime watch. You never know when you might be a victim.”
“I'll sure think about it.”
“You do that.”
Elvis began to tug at the leash. There wasn't a lot of time left to run and Daniel was wasting it.
“Well, it was nice to meet you,” Daniel said. “Sorry that we haven't met before.”
Johns nodded as he looked about the neighborhood. “Too many people keep to themselves. That's never a good thing. Two people working together are always better than one working alone.”
“Right.” Elvis began to pull hard on the leash.
“But I wouldn't worry about that van. Probably just some kids smoking dope or something.” He nodded toward the eastern horizon. “Besides, the sun is coming up now. If it was somebody that was going to do something, they waited too late.”
Daniel watched as the glow that had just started when he left the house, began blossoming into a new day. “Yeah. Probably nothing to worry about.”