Author: Jim Winter
Page count: 205 pages
Genre: Crime, Caper
Jim Winter is a crime writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. The author of 2005’s Northcoast Shakedown, his short stories have appeared in Plots With Guns, Thug Lit, Crime Factory, and the forthcoming West Coast Crime Wave. By day he is a software developer for a medical billing company. By night, he is a middle-aged college student. He lives with his wife, Nita, and stepson, AJ.
Tell us about your book:
The road trip to Hell starts with a stolen car. Stan and Mike take what they think is an easy trip to Florida to deliver a collectible Cadillac. Little do they know that they’re hauling something much more important in their trunk. And everyone wants it: The Feds, the Catholic Church, a deeply spiritual – if sex and cocaine addicted – Cuban drug lord, and a desperate PI dressed as a truckstop hooker. Instead of a week prowling the beaches of Miami, they end up in a showdown on a sleepy Sunday morning in Savannah. It’s high noon in the garden of good and evil.
How long did it take to write the book?
One month, done on a dare, though the story had been around for about two years when I started on it.
What inspired you to write the book?
Two things: One was the character of Tim Mason, who is based on this really weird guy I used to know. The other was several visits to Savannah, Georgia, and the long route I’d taken to get there over the years.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I did do some research, often double-checking places in Savannah that I’d visited and calling friends in Cleveland as I had not lived there for fifteen years at that point.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
I hope they have a good time taking a ride into the deep south while the bad guys trip themselves up indulging in the absurd.
Where can we go to buy your book?
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
Check out my blog, Edged in Blue, at http://eviljwinter.wordpress.com
Excerpt from book:
When Estevez returned to Allied Staging, he found a guy who looked like Raggedy Andy and an old priest waiting for him. Raggedy Andy had his back to Estevez and Simmons and looked like another priest in his black jacket and slacks. The older priest might have passed for Max Von Sydow. Was Raggedy Andy the young priest?
Estevez got out of his car with Simmons and headed toward them. “Wonder who’s possessed?”
Simmons gave him a strange look. “Lieutenant?”
“An old priest and a young priest.”
Simmons still didn’t get it.
Estevez watched him expectantly. “The Exorcist?”
“I don’t watch horror movies.”
Estevez shook his head. “Your loss. Only truly scary film ever made.”
Simmons scowled at that. “What about The Blair Witch Project?”
Estevez scoffed. “Bad Saturday Night Live skit with no punchline.” They reached the entrance to the warehouse as Raggedy Andy turned and plastered a smile on for Estevez and Simmons. Estevez recognized him immediately.
“Mr. Mason,” said Estevez. “Did you find any evidence on the fourteenth green?”
“Lieutenant Estevez,” said Mason, holding out his hand.
Estevez studied the man’s eyes, ice blue and always moving. He was watching Estevez and Simmons, sizing them up.
“Mason,” said Estevez. “This is Detective Simmons from the Major Crimes.”
“Tim Mason,” he said pumping Simmons’ arm. “Walden Property and Casualty.” He had a practiced grip, Estevez noticed, not the limp handshake of a claims adjuster. Claims guys were cop wannabes or accounting types. They looked for who, what, when, where, why, and how to screw a claimant, all with clinical coldness, like any cop or a decent PI.
Simmons looked Mason over. Estevez could tell he hated Mason right off the bat.
“This,” said Mason, indicating the priest standing quietly to the side, “is Father Petrelli from the Diocese of Cleveland. He’s here on behalf of our client, Bishop Gallagher.”
Estevez led everyone into the warehouse. “Come on in. We still have uniforms going through the place, but management is letting us use a conference room.”
They wound their way through the metal racks containing God knew what from who knew where bound for somewhere else. The forklifts had been idle since the police descended on the place. As they approached the police’s command post, Gordon Reik planted himself directly in front of Estevez.
“Lieutenant,” said the general manager, “my people have cooperated fully with your investigation. But really, our customers are losing patience. Can you tell us when we’ll be able to resume work?”
“When the feds are done, Mr. Reik,” said Estevez.
Estevez took Reik by the arm and gently moved him out of the way. “Yeah. They’re tracking down the owners of this place.”
“I told you. Cossack Holdings owns this place.”
“Yeah, but you don’t know who owns Cossack. Neither does the IRS, apparently.”
Reik’s eyes widened as he let them pass by. They followed Estevez into a cheaply paneled room with a long table with a scarred particle board top. The chairs looked like surplus from a Big Boy long since gone out of business. The room reeked of stale tobacco, evidenced by yellowing No Smoking sign. Two men in sports jackets and ties, along with a woman in a green sweater and jeans, sat poring over stacks of files.
“Give us a break, guys,” said Estevez. “God and the insurance company are here.”
The woman and two men closed their open folders and left the room. Estevez’s group took their seats at the table.
Mason started to say something, but Petrelli cut him off.
“His Eminence trusts you have some solid leads already,” said Petrelli.
Estevez blew out his breath and glanced at Simmons.
Simmons stood, shoved his hands in his pockets, and said, “We’ve put together a timeline. At 10:30 this morning, two guards in a panel truck arrived here from Jordan & Associates Security. They backed the truck into the facility, where Allied Staging personnel loaded the crate we assume contained the Chest of St. Jakob aboard. At 10:40, four motorcycle cops from the Cleveland Police arrived and proceeded to escort the panel truck to St. Jakob’s Parish in Slavic Village. The trip took approximately ten minutes, and the panel truck never left the officers’ sight the entire way.”
“What about when the crate was unloaded at St. Jakob’s?” asked Mason. “Surely, someone lost sight of the crate by then.”
“The crate was attended to by a Jordan guard and either one of the priests at St. Jakob’s or a police officer,” said Simmons. “That procedure was set up by Robert Jordan himself, to ensure no one had sole possession of the crate from the time it left here to the moment Bishop Gallagher unveiled it.”
“Wasn’t that actually your plan, Mason?” said Estevez.
“The Chest was in the van,” said Mason. “Where’s the van Jordan used?”
Estevez rolled his eyes. “Mason, look, I know it took you all afternoon to make the ten minute trip here from St. Jakob’s, but we have secured a couple of crime scenes in our day. Some of our guys even watch CSI.”
Simmons laughed. Petrelli managed a smile. Mason turned as red as his hair.
“The van,” said Estevez, “was searched immediately. The best we can figure is someone here swapped two lead weights for the Chest. There’s no other way for the Chest to have disappeared.”
“I say we investigate this Jordan & Associates,” said Petrelli. “I understand Mr. Mason approved them, but frankly, the Bishop wants no stone left unturned.”
“We plan to do that,” said Simmons, “but there’s a wrinkle. No one knows who owns this facility.”
“You approved the security for this operation, Mason,” said Estevez. “Did you check out Allied’s ownership when you did that?”
“Frankly,” said Mason, “I was more concerned with their security. Ajax Security Management came highly recommended, and Allied outsources to them.”
“But Jordan delivered the crate,” said Petrelli. “Frankly, Mr. Mason, why you wouldn’t use a single firm to handle this on the Church’s behalf is beyond me.”
Mason sighed and turned to the old priest. “Father Petrelli,” he said, “understand, we can’t simply dictate how the storage facility does business, nor can we blindly go along with their internal policies when an insured item leaves there. Ajax is excellent at securing facilities, but doesn’t have a rep for transporting priceless goods.”
“Who delivered the Chest from the airport?” asked Simmons.
“Why didn’t you use them?” asked Father Petrelli. “Or have Pinkerton’s secure the Chest? I’m appalled with the way Walden Insurance has handled this matter. I’m sure you know we’re reevaluating our insurance needs as we speak.”
“Detective Simmons,” said Mason, “you say you’re doing a background check into Allied Staging’s ownership?”
“We’re trying,” said Simmons, “to find out who owns the holding company.”
“Or rather, the FBI is,” Estevez said, smiling for the first time that day. “Kennedy, the Special Agent in Charge for Cleveland, owes me a couple of favors.”
“I suggest, then, we look into Jordan & Associates,” said Mason. “Frankly, I’m concerned they may have known something before the crate even left the building.”
“Are you suggesting,” said Estevez, “Robert Jordan’s company had the crate stolen beforehand?”
“I’m saying anything’s possible when you can’t be there to watch your employees around the clock.”
“And what does your boss say to that?”
Mason said nothing.
“You’ll get your chance to talk to Jordan himself,” said Estevez. “Bob Jordan and I go way back, so I know we’ll get to the bottom of this. Would you like to sit in on that interview, Mason?”
Mason’s eyes widened just a little, but the smile slid back into place. “Absolutely, Lieutenant. Should be interesting.”
Estevez couldn’t help laughing at that. “Father, do you want to sit in on the interview as well?”
Petrelli shook his head. “No thanks, Lieutenant. The bishop merely asks that you keep me apprised.” He handed Estevez and Simmons business cards.
“That we will, Father.”
Mason and Petrelli rose. Everyone traded handshakes, and Petrelli and Mason left.
Estevez sank back into his chair. Simmons watched him from the corner of his eye.
“Yeah. Is Mason really that stupid? Or is he up to something?”
“Yes, Simmons, he really is that stupid. Or at least arrogant. And yes, he’s up to something.”