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       Now & Then, p.1

           John Locke
 
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Now & Then


  Special Smashwords Edition

  NOW & THEN

  (a Donovan Creed Novel)

  By

  John Locke

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  NOW & THEN

  Special Smashwords Edition

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.

  Copyright © 2010 John Locke. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical without the express written permission of the author. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  Cover Art Design: Telemachus Press, LLC

  Cover Art:

  Copyright © istockphoto/Larysa Dodz (girl on beach)

  Copyright © istockphoto/Lurii Kovalenko (ancient ship)

  Copyright © istockphoto/Kirill Vorobyev (cat)

  Edited by: Winslow Eliot

  http://www.winsloweliot.com

  ISBN: 978-1-935670-07-0 (eBook)

  Published by: Telemachus Press, LLC

  http://www.telemachuspress.com

  Visit the author website: http://www.lethalbooks.com

  For my mother, Maurine, the remarkable woman who has been a life-long inspiration to me: I have finally written a book that contains less than two dozen truly dirty words.

  Foreward

  There are people in this world who move through our lives quietly, unassumingly, who, seeking nothing in return, take away our pain.

  Prologue

  TWELVE MONTHS EARLIER…

  The young reporter’s name was Joe, and he was unhappy about the assignment. He had to interview the lead in a college play and try to make the segment interesting enough to fill two minutes on the local TV news. He’d rather be covering a murder or congressional scandal, but Joe was new to the station, and dues had to be paid. He’d come here tired and his back was killing him from the elbow shot he’d taken in last night’s rugby game.

  When Libby Vail entered the room he showed her where to sit, and after the camera guy spent a few minutes checking the lighting, Joe tried to sound like he gave a shit about the interview.

  But he didn’t.

  It was such a small-town production, and Libby, while certainly adequate for this role, was an unlikely candidate for Broadway stardom. As Joe slogged through the list of bullshit questions, he couldn’t help but notice the light tingling in his back where the pain had been. As the pain dissipated, a feeling of euphoria began sweeping over him. Were the anti-inflammatories finally kicking in?

  Just before wrapping up, he said, “Tell me something about you that few people know.”

  Libby Vail’s face grew animated. She looked from side to side, as if sharing a scandalous secret.

  “Well,” she said, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m a direct descendant of Jack Hawley, the pirate.”

  Joe gave her a confused look.

  “Gentleman Jack Hawley?” Libby said.

  “Sorry, never heard of him.”

  Libby giggled. “Oh well.”

  Joe signaled the cameraman to pack his gear.

  “Sorry I wasn’t more interesting,” Libby said.

  Joe took a moment to glance at her. Was she pouting over her complete snooze of an interview? She didn’t appear to be. He studied her a moment longer and decided Libby Vail was a pretty little thing, frail, with big green eyes and an expressive face.

  “You did fine,” he said.

  “Really?”

  Joe prepared to ease himself to a standing position but suddenly realized there was no “easing” necessary. His back was completely fine. There had to be something more at work here than anti-inflammatories. Crazy as it seemed, there was something about being near Libby Vail that made him feel stronger, more energetic. Without giving a second thought to his former back injury, he took up a swashbuckling pose, pretended to cut a swath of air with his imaginary sword. Then he removed his pen and note pad from his pocket and started to write.

  “Jack Hawley, you said?”

  Libby’s laugh spilled out of her smile. “Gentleman Jack Hawley.”

  She stood and brandished her own imaginary sword, struck a pirate’s pose, and said, “Arrr!”

  Joe laughed and said, “Aye, Aye, wench. That just might be the angle this story needs.”

  That night his station ran the story.

  Three days later he had an even better story:

  Libby Vail had gone missing.

  Part One

  NOW

  Chapter 1

  IT WAS ONE of those arguments you could see coming a mile away.

  “Things are going great between us,” Rachel said.

  I nodded, warily.

  We were on the porch swing of The Seaside, a bed and breakfast in St. Alban’s Beach, Florida. It was early evening, and the light summer breeze from the ocean kept the mosquitoes at bay. We’d had dinner at Chez Vous, a pretentious little grease pit on Cane Street, and though I’d rate our meal somewhere between appalling and insulting, neither of us seemed worse for the fare.

  “You love me,” Rachel said.

  “I do.”

  “And I’m fun, right?”

  “Undeniably.”

  “Just imagine how much fun we’d have if we lived together!”

  I didn’t respond, didn’t so much as lift an eyelid.

  “Kevin?”

  “Mmm?”

  “What do you think?”

  It was one of those moments when you have to be honest or happy, and you can’t be both.

  “Kevin?”

  A train rumbled faintly in the distance. Rachel’s head was in my lap. She looked up at me, studying my face, as I rocked the swing with my feet.

  “Kevin?”

  Rachel knows my name is Donovan Creed, but she’d met me as Kevin Vaughn, and she’s comfortable calling me that, so I don’t make a big deal out of it.

  “Know what I think?” I said.

  “What’s that, honey?” she purred.

  “I think things are perfect just the way they are.”

  Her body stiffened a half-second before reacting—a useful bit of information to file in my brain, since my continued existence often comes down to knowing such details. Compared to most humans, a half-second is quick. In my line of work (I kill people) it’s a lifetime.

  Literally.

  So Rachel was painfully slow by my standards, a good thing, since her bi-polar personality dysfunction had become more pronounced each day of our vacation, occasionally leading to sudden violent outbursts. I love dating her, but my life could be in danger with a live-in relationship. As long as I remain conscious, she can't seriously harm me. But if we were t
o live together I’d eventually have to sleep, and all bets would be off.

  “You’re a fucking bastard and I don’t want to see you, ever again!” Rachel shrieked.

  She jumped off my lap and launched her hand toward my face. I could have easily avoided the slap, but it had been weeks since I’d sparred, and I missed the physical contact. She smacked me two, three times, grabbed her purse, slung it over her shoulder, and stomped off into the dusk.

  Rachel had been slightly unstable even before she’d been locked in a Lucite container for two days and nights. I busted her out, what, two weeks ago? Since then we’d been on vacation, making our way down the Atlantic coast, hitting all the beaches of consequence, while her mental condition steadily deteriorated.

  You may be wondering how I managed to catch a few hours of sleep while traveling with Rachel.

  Simple: I drugged her.

  So sure, I could move in and live with Rachel, bring my pills and knock her unconscious every night, but in the long run that’s no basis for maintaining a healthy relationship.

  I closed my eyes and listened to her cuss a blue streak as she moved down the road. Her fury was almost poetic, as sudden and dangerous as a cyclone. She was heading north on A1A toward Amelia Island Plantation, the place where my associate, Callie Carpenter, and I killed a woman named Monica Childers five years ago.

  Chapter 2

  ANGRY OR NOT, Rachel was kick-ass sexy in that mouth-watering, leave-your-wife sort of way, with long brown hair; blonde highlights, and eyes the color of tupelo honey.

  I let her get a half-mile down the road before starting after her. When we’d gone about a mile, I moved to within three feet and remained behind her, matching her pace, giving her space in case she wasn’t ready to talk. I shadowed her like that until I suddenly felt something that’s hard to describe. It was a type of serene presence, like a drug-induced high, but calming and blissful. One minute I’m normal, the next I’m practically euphoric, and then it passed.

  Rachel felt it too.

  She stopped abruptly, but didn’t turn around.

  “Am I crazy, Kevin?”

  “You might be the sanest person I know,” I said, thinking that was a sad thing to have to admit.

  “I’m sorry I hit you.”

  “That was a million years ago.”

  She turned and put her arms around me and kissed my mouth. Then we turned it into a full body hug, right there in the middle of the highway.

  It was a quiet night, the cars few and far between, and we headed back toward the bed and breakfast. The tall grass on the shoulders swayed in the breeze, and I kept us in the middle of the road so the ticks wouldn’t get on her legs.

  The feeling of serenity—or whatever it was—lasted maybe ten seconds, and yet it had been powerful enough to make me want to pursue its source. Could there have been something in the air? Some type of flower whose aroma was intoxicating? Either we had moved through a space where it was, or it had invaded our space and moved on. I made a mental note to thoroughly check the area the next morning when I went on my run.

  Rachel said, “You remember a couple of weeks ago when Karen said you were a killer, not a thief?”

  “Her real name is Callie,” I said.

  Rachel didn’t respond, so I added, “Yeah, I remember.”

  “What did she mean?”

  Rachel knew I worked for Homeland Security, but so far I hadn’t felt the need to tell her that my job involved assassinating suspected terrorists. Nor did I happen to mention that in my spare time I was a contract killer for the mob.

  “She was probably talking about my killer smile,” I said.

  “I wonder.”

  I looked at her but didn’t say anything.

  She said, “The way you handled yourself when you saved me and Sam from those guys. Not to mention Lou.”

  “Lou Kelly? What about him?”

  “You can tell Lou’s a tough guy.”

  “He is.”

  “But he was afraid of you and Karen. And Karen hit Sam with one punch and nearly killed him.”

  “So?”

  Rachel took my hand in hers, put it to her lips.

  “I’m not wearing panties,” she said.

  I took a moment to marvel at her facility for random discourse.

  “Always useful information for a boyfriend to have,” I said.

  At that moment, for no apparent reason, she bit the shit out of my hand. I wondered briefly if she was really crazy or just messing with me.

  “I never wear panties,” I said.

  “Did you feel it just now when I bit you? ‘Cause you never yelled or anything.”

  “Was that you?” I said. “Yeah, I felt it.”

  “That’s why I love you so much,” Rachel said.

  “Because I don’t yell when you bite me?”

  “No, ‘cause you’re funny.”

  “Good to know,” I said, rubbing my hand.

  “I bet you’ve got a hell of a history, Kevin.”

  “I won’t deny it.”

  “Maybe someday you’ll tell me,” she said.

  “Maybe I’ll write a book.”

  She smiled. “If you do, will you put me in it?”

  “Of course.”

  “You promise?”

  “If I write a book, I’ll put you in it. I’ll call it Now and Then.”

  “I hope you’re not married to that title,” she said, “or you’ll never make the first sale.”

  It was getting dark. Lights in the beach rentals up and down the highway began popping on. In front of us, to the left, a little boy with a buzz cut raced onto the balcony of a two-story, pulled his pants down to his ankles and tried to pee through the rail. His mother yelped and caught him in the nick of time and dragged him back through the sliding glass door. By then they were both laughing.

  Rachel and I smiled at each other.

  “Kids,” I said.

  “Boys, you mean.”

  I looked at her. “What, you’re saying girls don’t pee outdoors?”

  “Not from heights.”

  We walked in silence while I pondered the validity of her remark.

  Rachel said, “I haven’t told my mom.”

  “Told her what?”

  “About us.”

  “What about us?”

  “About us getting married, silly.”

  “Oh, that.” I said.

  “Maybe I should tell her in person,” she said.

  “That’s probably a good idea.”

  We’d come to an open area, maybe eighty yards from the nearest house. I heard a car coming up behind us, moving slowly. I instinctively moved Rachel to the left side of the road.

  “You dudes need a ride?”

  Several of them in the car: blue, 69 Camaro Super Sport, dual white racing stripes on the hood.

  The driver had done the talking. He was Rachel’s age, meaning late twenties. He had a chipped front tooth, and greasy, stringy hair. His eyes had the glazed look of a pothead who took his weed seriously. When the back window zipped down, a cloud of smoke leaked out and swirled in the breeze.

  An alarmingly ugly guy with thick lips said, “We’ll give the girl a ride.” Addressing Rachel, he said, “Hey chica, you want a little strange? Climb in. We’ll give you a ride you won’t never forget!”

  “Back off, fuck wad,” Rachel said. “Or my fiancé will kick your ass.”

  The ugly guy’s eyelids were at half-mast. He showed me a dull, vacant stare. “That right, pops?”

  “Move along,” I said.

  “You believe this shit?” he said to someone in the back seat. “Bitch turning down our sweet ride. Pops prob’ly got a Oldsmobile nearby. Maybe we drive around, see we can find it. Maybe we torch that motherfucker for you, eh pops?”

  I returned his stare. “Like the lady said: I want a ride, I’ll kick your ass and take your car.”

  The scumbags in the car erupted like Springer’s audience when Jerry trots out the trailer tr
ash. There were numerous threats hurled in our direction, and someone in the back seat on the far side—a kid with a colorful bandana—lifted himself out the window and aimed a gun at me sideways.

  It was dusk, but not too dark for me to get a good look at the piece.

  “Be careful with that thing,” I said.

  “Ha! You ain’t so brave now, are you, pops?”

  “Braver,” I said. “That piece of shit gun is all wrong. No way it fires without blowing up in your face.”

  “You want, I’ll shoot it now.”

  “I’d pay to see that,” I said, “but I got a question.”

  “What’s that, asshole?”

  “You think your friends will take your body to the hospital, or just dump you here on the road?”

  The kid looked at his gun.

  “Fuck you!” he said, and climbed back in the car.

  The driver said, “Another time, pops.”

  “What’s wrong with right now?” I said.

  “Another time.”

  He hoisted his arm out the window and gave us the finger. They laughed and roared away.

  “You think they’ll come back?” Rachel said.

  “I hope so,” I said.

  Chapter 3

  THE YOUNG MAN was lying on his back on a sand dune thick with saw grass. Few people knew him. Those who did called him D’Augie.

  D’Augie had followed Creed and Rachel from a careful distance. When D’Augie saw them speaking, he knew they were about to turn and head back to the bed and breakfast, which is why he got a running start and dove into the sand dune, face first. After waiting a moment, he rolled onto his back and heard a car full of punks pull up to the couple, heard what sounded like smack talk, but he was too far away to discern the words. When the car drove noisily away, D’Augie kept still, slowed his breathing, and relaxed his body until it virtually melted into the sand dune. He touched the knife in his pocket with his right hand.

 
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