I now have two Jackson stories completed—both with rave reviews from my beta readers—and waiting for them to be released is killing me. My readers often contact me to express their frustration as well. I’m sorry for the delay, but I believe that signing with Thomas & Mercer was the best thing I could do for my career and the long-term viability of the Jackson series.
The good news is that I have advanced review copies for Rules of Crime, so it’s starting to feel real, and many of you will get a chance to read it soon. I believe advanced e-books already went out, and it would be nice to hear from someone who got an e-file.
I’m also giving away print ARCs. They haven’t been through a final proofread so there may be typos, and the cover isn’t included, but still, it’s the new Jackson story you’ve been waiting for. If you’re a Jackson fan, leave a comment or email me. And after you’ve read the story, if you like it, please post a review on Amazon (after it’s available Feb. 26) and/or Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, or Facebook (anytime). These reviews help the story gain traction with new readers, and I greatly appreciate them.
If you live in Eugene, come see me at Holiday Market at the Lane County Fairgrounds on Saturday, December 8 (10-6) and I’ll give you a copy.
Meanwhile, here’s an unedited excerpt from the Jackson story I just finished.
Tuesday, March 12, 8:22 p.m.
Jerry came too quickly, but before he could mumble an apology, he heard a thump downstairs in the factory. He pushed himself off his scowling mistress, lept from the couch, and grabbed his pants.
“What’s your hurry?” Cindy complained. “Jesus, Jerry. I don’t know why I bother with you.”
“I heard a noise. Someone’s in the building.” He yanked up his pants, not bothering with his shorts, which he couldn’t locate. Jerry regretted getting naked from the waist down. They usually just went at it on the desk, him with his pants around his ankles and her with her skirt pushed up.
Shuffling sounds, like someone moving quickly and quietly, raised the hair on the back of his neck. They weren’t the heavy footsteps of the plant foreman coming back to check the day’s production. Someone sneaky was in the building. “Get your clothes on and get out of here,” he snapped at Cindy, who’d sat up on the couch and now looked concerned.
“You think it’s Ricardo?” She was married to the foreman and had reason to worry.
“I don’t know. Just go.”
Jerry dropped to the couch and pulled on his shoes. His socks never came off, unless he was in the shower. Listening hard, he tried to determine where the intruder was. In the break room? Maybe hoping to steal iPods or drugs from the employee lockers? It didn’t sound like that corner of the building, but what else made sense? The factory filled plastic bottles with local spring water, using standard production equipment. Why would someone come in here?
A protester, Jerry realized. That was why the owner had recently asked him to work an overnight watch shift. Mr. Rockman was worried about the environmentalists, even though they hadn’t been out front recently. Something had happened to make the owner nervous.
Jerry crossed the small upstairs office and peered through the glass at the factory floor below. With the overhead halides off, the production area was illuminated only by small wall lights that cast weird shadows on the machinery. He scanned the floor but didn’t see anything.
When he turned back, Cindy had her skirt and heels on and was reaching for her pink leather jacket. “How do I get past Ricardo if he’s coming up here?”
Jerry had to think. “Stay under the stairs until it’s clear.” Would she be safe? Would their affair get him fired? “I don’t think it’s Ricardo. Stay under there until you hear from me.”
Jerry grabbed his giant flashlight—heavy enough to kill someone if he knocked ‘em upside the head—and followed Cindy out of the office and down the stairs. As a watchman, Jerry wished he could carry a gun, but the owner wouldn’t allow it. Rockman had added a weekend drive-by security detail after protesters picketed the place last year, but all had been quiet. Then recently something had spooked the owner, and he’d added a night and weekend on-premise watch. Jerry hadn’t had any trouble in the two weeks he’d been in the new job. Not wanting to go back to working the line, he was almost grateful for an opportunity to prove he was needed on the watch shift.
At the bottom of the stairs, Cindy turned and slipped into the built-in closet underneath. Jerry moved down the short hallway to the door leading to the factory. Should he call the police now or wait to see what he was dealing with? He didn’t want to risk him and Cindy both getting into hot water with their spouses over some supervisor coming back in for something he’d forgotten.
Jerry stepped into the factory and flipped on a row of overhead lights. “Who’s here?”
The cavernous room was quiet except for the hum of the halides. Jerry moved toward the break room. If it was an intruder, how did he get in? Had Cindy failed to close the door properly when she came through?
Jerry strode past the bottling line and toward the short hall leading to the break room and employee lockers. A squatting figure jumped up and bolted out of the dark. The man in the ski mask shoved past him, brushing his shoulder. Jerry swung his flashlight and missed. The intruder ran for the side door. Jerry reached in his pants pocket for his cell phone and dialed 911.
“What is your emergency?” The woman’s voice was calm, almost bored.
“This is Jerry Bromwell, night watchman at the Rock Spring bottling plant. We have an intruder.”
“Are you in danger?” He had her attention now.
“No, just get some cops out here to catch him. He’s wearing a ski mask and dark clothes.” Jerry stepped into the hall where the man had been kneeling, but realized he’d passed the light switch, which was just outside the opening.
“What’s your location?”
“Rock Spring Drive, just off Laurel Hill.” He flipped on his flashlight and squatted.
“Any other description of the intruder?”
Jerry couldn’t process what she was saying. The thing on the floor had his full attention. His heart skipped a beat as he realized what he was seeing. “I think it’s a pipebomb.”
“Get out of the building and get clear,” the dispatcher commanded. “I’ll send the bomb squad.”
Jerry was already speed walking toward the side exit. The overhead doors were closer, but they took too long to unlock and open. He wanted to run but was afraid. Afraid of what? That his pounding footsteps would set it off?
He wasn’t ready to die. He had a lot of hunting, and screwing, and Duck football left in his life. Oh shit! Cindy was still in the closet. Jerry stopped. Was it safe to go back for her? How much time had the bomber given himself? Just enough or maybe a good five minutes?
Fuck! Jerry spun and ran past the hallway and down the bottling line.
“Cindy! Come out. We gotta get out of here!” He yelled at the top of his voice. He needed her to respond to his panic.
As he approached the stairs, the closet door opened and she stepped out. “What’s going on?”
“There’s a bomb!”
“No shit?” She trotted toward him.
Jerry grabbed her arm and ran toward the exit, pulling her along. He hated passing the hallway, but it was the fastest way out. Like most factories, this one had no windows. And the damn overhead doors in front took too long to open.
Jerry’s adrenaline pumped so hard he could have made it to the red Exit sign in five seconds flat. But Cindy wore heels and a skirt and didn’t know how to run. She dragged him down, and he wanted to let go of her.
But he couldn’t. Her whimpering brought out his protective side.
Something snapped and Cindy went down, making him stumble and let go of her. She let out a cry as she landed on her knees on the concrete floor.
“My heel broke.” She sobbed and pushed to her feet.
Gritting his teeth, Jerry grabbed her hand and started to run again. With a broken heel, Cindy shuffled even slower. Jerry fought the urge to curse at her.
Finally, they reached the door and he grabbed the wide metal handle. He pushed open with one hand and pulled Cindy through with the other.
Behind them the pipebomb exploded. It carried little force, but the sudden noise made Cindy trip and fall again. She landed on her hands and knees on the asphalt this time.
Jerry helped her up and saw blood dripping down her shins. “Are you all right?”
“Yes. But shit! How will I explain this?” She gestured at her scraped knees.
“You fell. It happens. Now get out of here before the cops come.”
She gave him a look.
“Get in your car and go. If anyone learns you were here, it could ruin both our marriages.”
Jerry pulled her toward her car. Once she was inside, he noticed the dirt smudge on her face and reached to wipe it off. She slapped at his hand. “I can’t go home like this.”
“Go get cleaned up. Buy a pair of pants before you go home. Just go. We can’t get caught.” Jerry couldn’t bear the thought of his wife leaving him and taking his little girl.
Once his mistress was on the road, he breathed a sigh of relief. Now he just had to get his story straight. He’d saved Cindy’s life by going back for her, but he couldn’t ever tell anyone she had been there. His one chance to be a hero. Disappointed, he glanced back at the factory. Still standing. Damn. He wouldn’t even get some time off out of this.