Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Book Extract - The Fell Hound Of Adversity - Parker T. Geissel

BOOK EXTRACT POST
THE FELL HOUND OF ADVERSITY

PARKER T. GEISSEL

Welcome to my first ever book extract post on Always Trust In Books. I have a great piece to share with you today, straight from Parker T. Geissel's debut book The Fell Hound Of Adversity. 

If you are interested in learning more about this book then I have reviewed it and had a Q&A with Parker recently so you can check those out (Review/Q&A

The extract I am sharing is from later on in the book and it shows off both Parker's talent for plot/character building and his overall style as an author. 

I hope you enjoy the piece, it is quite lengthy so get settled in as it is absolutely worth checking out! If you enjoy the extract then please let me know in the comments and tell me and Parker what you thought!

If you enjoyed the extract and wanted to pick it up then here are the links:

Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads


Excerpt from ‘The Fell Hound of Adversity’, chapter 41:


Dashenka led the team of I.R.S. agents into the front entrance of the Tinpot Tower Hotel, Injal at her side. The group was a patchwork, hastily assembled from whomever she could find on duty in the main office building that morning. With the Chief Auditor on medical leave, she was the nominal head of the department, and she had made good use of her newly acquired authority.
Their worst fears had been verified in the early hours. The contents of two crates turned out to be counterfeit, a falsification of such skill it took them all morning to be sure. With time against them, she had gathered the revenue agents for a speedy briefing, and then rushed across town to the hotel. As they approached the front desk, she spoke her orders tersely.
“Two men to each door. You, get hold of management and have them evacuate the building, quickly and orderly. Shut it all down, and account for everyone. The rest of you with me, we’ll sweep the place floor by floor.”
          The revenue men were slow to respond, and she could sense their reluctance. She glared at them, her rage plain to see.
          “Colonel Stavrogin,” a voice addressed her from across the room. “What a pleasant surprise to see you again so soon.”
          She saw it was the mayor approaching, his stubby arms open to embrace her.
        
  “Mr. Mayor, I don’t have the time.”
          “You’ve brought quite an entourage today,” he said with an exaggerated smile, and then leaned closer to whisper to her. “Did you not get any of my messages? Your time here is up. You need to abandon this city. The council is moving directly. After your altercation with Skip, they’ve decided to abandon subterfuge. Already it may be too late.”
          “I will deal with that in its time. A more imminent threat requires my attention.”
          “Perhaps you didn’t hear me properly.”
“I won’t see another Annestown, Mr. Mayor. This building and its occupants are in grave danger.”
          His face whitened at her words.
          “You mean your shipment? Here?”
          “Yes. It’s the Princess, some extravagant revenge plot.”
          “That’s insanity. She would never do such a thing on her own.”
          “We’ll have time to sort out motivations later. Calm yourself, I have it in hand.”
“This is a travesty,” he said, wiping his chubby fingers across his forehead.
          She noticed the mayor was uncharacteristically flustered.
          “I see. You had no warning, which means you were considered expendable, perhaps even a target of opportunity.”
          “I’m sure that can’t be true,” his voice shook with doubt.
“It seems I am not the only one whose time is up,” she said coldly. “Best you consider my offer for clemency and prepare your testimony. Now, if you would, please direct the management to clear the building that the people might be evacuated without panic.”
          “I’ll see to it,” he said uncertainly, backing towards the door.
          As she watched, he turned and rushed out to the street and continued on until he was out of sight. Dashenka saw he had no mind to go back into the building. She shook her head with disgust, and resisted the thought to return him by force.
          “Ma’am, in the south corner,” Injal said loudly.
          He dropped to one knee, pistol pointed straight in his burly hand. She turned to see the stooped form of the old immigrant Fedka Verkhovensky emerging from a service door, dressed in the purple livery of a hotel cleaning attendant. His ragged beard shook as he caught sight of them.

***

          “You hear that?” Jason-Joe asked.
          Rudi was in the middle of frying up two omelets, a pan in each hand, flipping them both with a whip flick of the wrist so that the bubbling skin of egg folded over upon itself to form a half circle, sliding back into the center of the pan.
          “Hear what?”
          “Sounded like somebody dropped something out in the lobby.”
          “I didn’t hear anything. Can you watch these? I’ve got to get this sauce started.”
          “So you’re really going to try it huh? Hellpop’s sauce?”
          “Doesn’t hurt to try.”
          “Well, you’ve totally got my support if it works. I’m going to run these omelets over to the judges, win us some points. Maybe Johann won’t recognize me in this get up.”
          Rudi pulled out three glass jars sealed with rubber bands. He had been cultivating the ingredients for days now, although like many others in the kitchens around the city, his history tinkering with the mysterious recipe could be traced back years. Placing a pot on the portable gas range, he slowly stirred together the contents of the three jars over a low flame.
          “Say that smells tasty, you got a minute there sir?”
          Rudi glanced over to see a short man standing at their table wearing a sport blazer two sizes too big, his fingertips peeking out from the wide cuffs, which made him look even smaller. He had a wide squat face, with long thick lips that seemed in constant motion.
          “Kent Carson, reporter for the Daily Sentinel. You’re Rudimental Quince right? I think I wrote some copy a couple years ago about your dust up with Blazing Buck. Good stuff that, heavy handed but it told a solid story. Had its hero, and the villain, which was you I guess, if I remember right. Sorry about that, honest, no hard feelings huh? It really filled out a slow news week.”
          He spoke at a rapid clip, his large lips a quick blur.
          “I’m busy right now,” Rudi replied with annoyance.
          “Right, so you are. I can take a hint, that’s fine. Probably still sore about the big flap back then. No problem. I’m in a hurry myself, got a big staff meeting I’m supposed to be at actually, but I got word of a scoop and I thought I’d see if it led anywhere. I just wanted to ask you a few questions about a little incident at the morning market yesterday. Talk is that you spoke some choice words about a certain well known lady.”
          “How’d you hear about that?”
“Seems you shouted it out in front of a whole crowd of witnesses, and all this while you were beating on an old man no less.”
“Cripes, don’t you have some real news to report on.”
“It’s an unfortunate fact of human nature that this event is just the kind of thing that sells papers, Mr. Quince. I’ve got the missus and the kids to care for, you understand. But seeing as I got you here, how about a word or two about your old buddy Blazing Buck Cortez. I hear he might run for mayor. Election coming up. See, this People’s Party he’s been backing is building steam. Folks are starting to get riled enough we might actually see a change in city hall.”
          Rudi could see the man wasn’t going to leave.
          “I don’t know anything about it.”
          “So he hasn’t said anything to you? Since he came back to town? I thought you guys used to be close. Raised up in the ranks together. Brothers on the line. That sort of thing. Though he seems to have made out a bit better. No surprise with a face like that. Heck, I’d do right by the guy, and my wife wouldn’t blame me either.”
          “We don’t talk much anymore.”
          The man’s manner bothered Rudi, but worse was his flippant attitude towards Rudi’s private distress. He had little love for newspaper reporters after the incident with Buck, and felt especially aggrieved by this man’s lack of tact. He was preparing a retort of excessive malice, when Jason-Joe returned.
          “Can I help you mister,” Jason-Joe interrupted. “I’m Jason-Joe Batista, master chef, and this is my assistant.”
          “Good to meet you buddy, Kent Carson with the Daily Sentinel. Had some questions about your connection with Blazing Buck Cortez. Your assistant here doesn’t seem to want to talk much, which I totally understand given his situation. Thing is, a man’s got to eat, and news is what brings home the bacon for Mrs. Carson and the kids.”
          Jason-Joe became excited.
          “Buck? Sure, I can tell you all about the man. We go way back. This will get me in the paper right?”
          “Can you watch this sauce?” Rudi said, finally fed up, “I need to go to the can.”
          “Sure Rude, take your time. So Kent, let me tell you about the time Buck stole my girl.”
          Rudi stalked across the large open room, passing the long rows of tables where chefs busily preened, feverishly attempting to dazzle the crowd with their concocted delicacies. Everywhere he turned were toques and aprons, double breasted chef’s jackets that had been laundered and pressed, crockery and cookware gleaming with polish. It was a moment before he realized he was walking toward Buck’s table. As he drew closer, he watched his old friend stirring a sauté, barking orders to his assistants with rigid precision, flipping the spatulas and spoons in the air as he moved with exaggerated ease.
          “Where are you headed in such a hurry?”
          The old food critic Johann stepped into his path, wearing a new white suit, his wrinkled face taut with malice.
          “Uh, why do you ask?” Rudi was surprised at his interest.
          “It just appears to me that you might be going over to talk to your old friend Buck, which seems a surprise given recent events. Is that the case?”
          “Not that it’s any of your business, but I guess I am.”
“I’m so glad to hear it.”
          He smiled, a thin wretched grin, and nodded to some garishly dressed men that stepped from the crowd. Rudi recognized them by their fancy colored clothes and feathered trappings as men he had seen before. They grabbed him roughly by the arms and dragged him from the ballroom.

***

          Dashenka and Injal sprinted up the plush carpeted stairwell of the Tinpot Tower Hotel. She was breathing heavy, the strain of sleepless nights weighing her down.
          “He’s quick for his age,” Injal commented as they got into position before the door to the next floor.
          “It won’t save him.”
          “The others?” he nodded downwards, asking after the other agents.
          She shook her head.
          “The cowards have run. I’ll deal with them when this is over.”
          They burst through the door, pistols steady. Dashenka glimpsed the old man’s bent form trundling down the wood paneled hallway. Injal rushed forward, and she followed hesitantly, sensing something wasn’t right. As Fedka turned at the corner, she saw him pause and pull a packet from his pocket. He looked back at her, his wrinkled brow furrowed, and smiled knowingly. Injal stopped, sighting down his sidearm and fired just as Fedka tossed the packet towards them.
          “Injal, back,” she yelled, pulling her lieutenant backwards by the sleeve, her muscles screaming with the effort against his massive bulk. An explosion ripped the air, shattering the long mirrors framed in gold leaf that hung along the hallway. Shards of glass splattered across the thick purple carpet, gouging long scratches into the polished wood paneling. Something stung her arm, curled on the floor as she was, covering her head.
She rose slowly, still shaky from the shock, pulling splinters of glass from her forearm. Injal shook his head as he got to his feet, his back riddled with thin cuts. Dashenka moved to inspect his wounds, but he waved her off.
          “It’s of little consequence, I’ve had worse scrapes as a boy. Seems that my aim was true enough. He’s marked. Won’t get much further I think,”
Injal pointed to the floor ahead, indicating a spot of blood where Fedka had been standing. They advanced as quickly as caution allowed, keen on the bloody trail, the red drops seeping into the thick purple carpeting emblazoned with the hotel coat of arms. It led them down the winding hallways, turning at last into a double door luxury suite. The entrance was open, blood smeared on the handle. They closed the distance silently, but a voice spoke as they drew near.
“Enter, Stavrogin, that we might speak one last time.”
Dashenka nodded to Injal and they both approached through the doorway. Inside the room, Fedka sat on a velvet couch at the far side of the room, dark red pooling on the waxed hardwood floors around his injured foot. The glaring sunlight shown through the wide window behind him, casting him into shadow so that she could see little of his face.
“It’s over, give in,” she commanded.
“You believe so? No Stavrogin, you are too late, like all your kin. Stay as you are,” he warned.
The grizzled old man waved a cord attached to a switch she recognized as a detonation trigger. The cord trailed along the floor to a bundle taped against the wall. She glanced at Injal and he nodded affirmation that it was from their missing ordnance.
“You won’t survive this, I promise you that,” she spoke coldly.
“I am old man. I have no need to carry on, when my greatest yearning is here satisfied. Long have I awaited my retribution against your family, for all the hurts you have done mine.”
          Dashenka moved to the side, her eyes steady on his, that she should keep his focus from Injal.
“Who are you?”
“Do you not remember the name Peter Verkhovensky?” he scoffed, “It is no matter. The events are not important, just their legacy. I remember it all, and today I repay a dark debt.”
“Wait, I have been warned of you. It was a threat you wished to send me wasn’t it, through Rudi that day? You old fool, what do I care for the scandals of the past?”
“I think you will care much today.”
“All this for some forgotten feud? I can kill you before you touch that trigger.”
She raised her pistol judging the shot, knowing she’d have but one chance.
“You may find it takes more to kill me than you expect. Still, you flatter yourself to think this is all for you. That you were delivered to me was but fortunate circumstance, a luxury I demanded for my service. What happens today begins something greater than you can understand.”
“Did she put you up to this?”
“Don’t be foolish, that painted tramp knows but little of what is to come. She and the rest, they do not understand the true consequence of their vicious strategy. She paid my passage to this fated place, all for her petty schemes. But this city introduced Fedka to something new, an aspect of vengeful malice that feeds on our guilt, the shame we all suffer for the evils we inflict upon our neighbor. This is a foul place, and leads good men to foul deeds.”
“This place is no different than elsewhere with its thoughtless cruelty.”
“You won’t have time to discover otherwise.”
She saw his hand move, and she braced her arm and fired with focused desperation. Her shot cut the detonation cord clean through. In the same moment, Injal sprang forward, pouncing on the smaller man. Dashenka saw the tangle of grappling limbs, and they rolled onto the floor. It lasted a quick moment, and suddenly Fedka was free, and Injal was struggling to rise, his right arm hanging limp and bloody.
“Beware ma’am,” her lieutenant spoke softly. “He is uncommon swift.”
Fedka brandished a carving hatchet in his hand, and began moving towards her. Without hesitation she shot him in the stomach. The bullet burrowed through his belly, ripping a hole through his innards and out his back, so that his guts hung dangling as he stumbled. He tumbled backwards, falling against the window frame, the glass pane having been shattered by the shot. She saw his face, a flash of emotion, whether grief or glee she couldn’t be sure. Then he pushed himself out the window.

***

          The men dragged Rudi into a private room. Johann joined them, settling himself into a chair, taking a swig from a silver embossed hip flask.
          “What’s this about?” Rudi asked.
          One of the men hit him in the gut, and he grunted at the blow.
          “A woman of our mutual acquaintance asked that I keep an eye on you, and intervene should the need arise,” Johann started with crisp enunciation.
          “Why this sudden interest?”
          “Who can know her whims? Just be assured that she gave you a very clear choice, and you chose wrongly, to your great detriment I’m afraid.”
          “What do you mean? What choice? There’s no choice if I don’t know anything about it.”
          Johann giggled, adjusting his cravat.
          “Well, that’s not for me to judge. I’m just the messenger here, a task which I requested specifically after our very pleasant chat yesterday morning. She warned you what would happen if you didn’t stay away from Henry Percy Cortez.”
          “Buck? I was just going to talk to him, try to settle things easy. I don’t want trouble.”
          “I think it’s too late for that.”
          A muffled thunder erupted from above them, causing the walls to shake slightly with its passing. The men seemed restless at the sound. Johann looked upwards with studious concern.
          “What is that?” Rudi asked, “Sounds like they dropped a piano or something.”
          “It means we’d best conclude our business here swiftly. Now the lady in question is quite concerned you’ll hurt that hulking bumpkin of hers, especially after your energetic display at the market, so her patience is at an end. Your ill-chosen talk didn’t help matters. Your time has run out Mr. Quince.”
          He smiled and waved to the men. They pushed Rudi to his knees on a blanket that had been spread out on the floor. One of them produced an alley knife. Rudi struggled frantically, but the others held him fast.
          “Wait, wait. I’ve been working on Hellpop’s secret sauce,” Rudi spoke quickly, casting about for any way to keep the old man talking.
          Johann sniffed loudly with derision, but held up his hand to halt the proceedings.
          “Is that so? Do you realize I am probably the only person besides Hellpop himself that knows that dreadful recipe?”
          “You?”
“He gave it to me at the end, out of spite I think. I’ve never understood why so many of you put all that effort into trying to rediscover such a terrible tasting concoction.”
          “But it’s delicious,” Rudi protested.
          One of the men holding Rudi muttered nervously, but Johann ignored him.
          “Well, seeing as one of us is a world renowned food critic and the other is not, I think we needn’t pursue the argument further. But tell me, I am mildly curious, what were you using for the base? That was always what the others got wrong.”
          “Morel mushrooms.”
          “Really? Quite astute, a good start. It’s a shame I won’t have the chance to test your efforts.”
          Rudi realized further talk was pointless, and fixed his angry stare on the old man’s face, seeking some final satisfaction in this gesture of defiance. It was then that Blazing Buck burst in. Buck had a heavy carving knife in each hand, and with frenzied swiftness he made short work of the thugs. Rudi couldn’t help but watch with envy the clean confident strokes, the precise slice of the blade. He had always prided himself on his knife work, but Buck’s display of virtuosity made him question his own skill.
          A moment and it was over, the fancy dressed men lay groaning on the floor, tendons strategically severed, or muscles sliced open. Rudi was surprised at how little blood there was, a few drops splattered on Buck’s apron, some small stains on the carpet, and that was all. Johann had backed up to the wall, hands out in supplication.
          “Careful, Mr. Cortez, I am on business of a lady you know well.”
          “I know who did this,” Buck retorted sharply.
          Rudi could see Buck was breathing fast. He found that his own breath was labored, his pulse pounding.
          “Hey Buck, thanks for this,” Rudi started. “Fuck man, these guys tried to, I mean, this could have been it.”
          “I didn’t do this for you. I just want to make sure you show up tomorrow so I can slice you open myself.”
          “Uh, you don’t really mean that do you? Come on Hal, that’s crazy.”
          Buck glared at him, and Rudi could see the consuming rage in his eyes.
          “Well, thanks anyway,” Rudi replied with a shaking voice. “Hey, are you hurt? Looks like you got a bruise on your neck there.”
          “It’s nothing.”
          “Wait. Is that a hickey?”
          “Mind your own business Rudi. Best you get away from here. She and I are going to have words about this.”
          “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
          “I know how to handle her.”
          “I guess you do,” Rudi said, looking at the purple marks on Buck’s neck.
          “Take a hike Rude. And now for you.”
          Buck turned to Johann, waving the knives, still bloody.
          “She sent me with a message of great importance for you,” Johann spoke quickly.
          “Don’t piss yourself old man. You go tell that psycho bitch to stay out of my affairs. I told her last night to lay off, and I mean what I say. No, screw you. I’ll tell her myself. Where is she?”
          Johann sputtered, waving his hands uncertainly.
          “Forget it. I know where she is. Come on you old coot, we’re taking a little trip.”
          Rudi watched as Buck grabbed the old food critic by the collar and unceremoniously hauled him out of the room.

***

          Dashenka looked down from the window ledge at Fedka’s body lying in a heap on the ground below. Satisfied he was dead, she turned to Injal, who was binding his arm with strips ripped from his shirt. She moved to help her lieutenant, wrapping his wound carefully and tying a sling for his arm to hold the weight. It was a bad cut and Injal moved slowly from the pain of it.
          “Despite his fine words, he fell faster than I expected,” she said as she worked.
          “I’m not so sure ma’am. That pile there, it’s but a small part of the missing ordnance. Look to the wire.”
          She followed the indicated wire, and saw it lay along the wall, connecting smaller packets that had been taped to the support pillars.
          “There is more of it,” she spoke quickly as her mind raced, puzzling through the pieces, “It’s through the room, and I suspect the whole floor. They cleared all the rooms on this level for the purpose, left empty during one of the busiest events of the year. The Cue family must be part of this.”
          She moved to pull one of the explosive packets loose, but Injal stopped her.
          “Colonel, listen.”
          Dashenka could make out the faint ticking sound of a timer. With strenuous calm, she slowly pried open the packet to reveal a tiny timing mechanism laced into the wiring. It showed but seconds left.
          “They all have them,” Injal spoke softly, from weakness or resignation.
          “So they do. It appears this is over at last. I’m sorry.”
          “Perhaps ma’am,” Injal grunted, rising from the floor.

***

          Buck dragged Johann with him the few blocks over to the abandoned building where he had met her the night before. He knew that’s where she would be. At the door, her men were standing guard. They let him through, and he pulled the stick thin old man up the stairs, who voiced pathetic protest at the rough treatment. Buck ignored him, his mind set on the confrontation. The whole episode confused him, that she would defy his wishes so blatantly after what happened the night before.
          “She give you those love bites?” Johann chuckled obnoxiously, pointing at the marks on Buck’s neck. “That’s just like her, signing her work.”
          “What do you know?” Buck replied.
          “You think I was always an old man? It might be there’s a lot about this lady you don’t understand.”
          “Enough with your crap. We just talked last night, things got heated.”
          “I see. Is that how you explained it to Ms. Cue?”
          “Do you try to be such an asshole, or does it come natural to you?”
          Johann ceased speaking. They came out the door to the roof, passing through a large contingent of her men, all heavily armed, guarding the stairwell. The area was crowded with people, including some city police Buck noticed. She stood near the edge of the building, smoking in her usual frantic manner, wrapped in a dark fur lined cloak. The others gave her space, as if crowded by her menacing presence. Buck pushed his way through to her, and they parted to let him pass. He came up to her still dragging Johann by the scruff of the neck and voiced his complaint straightaway.
          “What’s the deal with Rudi? I thought I told you he was hands off.”
          She turned at the sound of his voice, lazily looking the two of them over. She didn’t smile as she replied.
          “I do as I please. But what do you know of it? How is it you are here?” she demanded.
          “I saw your boys getting into my business, so I broke it up. Pencil neck here told me it was you.”
          Her face clouded, and she looked to Johann, who stood in an attitude utterly contrite.
          “You were to have him out of the building an hour ago,” she said angrily.
          “There was a delay,” Johann was quick to explain, and Buck thought he saw fear in the man. “I brought him here to you the moment the other matter was concluded. Of course I was going to get him out in time.”
          “Were you? I know your quarrel, but if you thought to find some profit by your delay, had it ended differently, you would have begged for death. You hear me?”
          “Of course,” Johann spoke relieved.
          “What are you talking about?” Buck interrupted angrily.
          “It’s not your concern,” she told him coldly. “This is not the place for you now.”
          There was some commotion at the doorway, and the chairman of the city council made his way through the crowd to them. Buck knew the man by sight, Chairman Tinpot, another of the typical dynastic city politicians, the type that had bought his way into power from birth. He despised their kind. Tinpot cast his inscrutable gaze at the gathered group, his expression buried under a thick beard and peaked brow.
          “Mr. Cortez, a surprise to see you here, but perhaps we can find time to talk of important matters before you leave.”
          Buck snarled in response, but the chairman didn’t seem to care, and turned to speak to her.
          “I’ve just got word that the Capital woman is inside, running down that old fool of an anarchist you contracted. What if she stops him?”
          “She won’t. He is a man driven.”
“We need her alive for the trial. You said this was under control. How did she get this far?”
          “It is of little consequence. Her remains will do just as well, perhaps better. You have the papers ready to run the story. That is all that will matter when the smoke clears.”
          She turned to Buck, a darkness in her eyes.
          “You left your friend in the tower?”
          “Rudi? Sure, he’s still there. Wait, what do you mean?”
          “You thought to impede my intent, but know that I always succeed.”
          She cast her arm towards the Tinpot Tower Hotel standing tall against the skyline. It exploded into fire, sending a rumbling roar rising up over the city. The stately building trembled a moment, billowing black smoke, and collapsed upon itself with a shrieking lament of glass and steel.



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