Tom Pitts Excerpt: American Static

American Static by Tom Pitts is a fast-paced crime thriller set against the backdrop of Northern California's wine country, Oakland's mean streets, and San Francisco's peaks and alleys, written by a man who knows the underbelly of the city like no one else (Available June 26, 2017).

After being beaten and left for dead, Steven finds himself stranded alongside the 101 in a small Northern California town. When a mysterious stranger named Quinn offers a hand in exchange for help reuniting with his daughter in San Francisco, Steven gets in the car and begins a journey from which there is no return.

Quinn has an agenda all his own and he's unleashing vengeance at each stop along his path. With a coked-up sadist ex-cop chasing Quinn, and two mismatched small town cops chasing the ex-cop, Steven is unaware of the violent tempest brewing.

Corrupt cops and death-dealing gangsters manipulate the maze each of them must navigate to get to the one thing they're all after: Teresa, the girl holding the secret that will rip open a decades-old scandal and scorch San Francisco's City Hall.

Steven finds Teresa homeless and strung out as their pursuers close in and bodies begin to pile high on the Bay Area's back streets. Hand in hand Steven and Teresa lead the mad parade of desperate men to the edge of the void.

Exclusive Excerpt

They rolled up the drive to a Spanish-style villa. It was wide and low, white stucco with red clay tiles and a broad cement staircase curving up to its large oak doors. It reminded Steven of one of those old California Missions.

To the right of the house was a matching garage with four sets of double doors. Vehicles parked in front of every one. Most of them pickup trucks Steven assumed belonged to the workers. A couple of nice ones: a Mercedes, a BMW, some sort of sports car Steven didn’t recognize. To the left was a tower at least three stories high. It was positioned to look out over the fields. It, too, matched the house and garage.

“Nice place, huh? Fucking pool in the back, hot tub, handball court and gym in the basement. This guy lives like a king.”

“And he’s a friend of yours?”

“A good friend.” Quinn let the truck roll to a stop and pulled the emergency brake. “Open the box and hand me that .45, would you?”

Steven paused, looked at Quinn, trying to read him, wondering why he needed a gun to visit a friend—a good friend.

“Sorry, kid, but as many miles as we’ve traveled, I’ve barely gotten to know you. I don’t leave guests in my truck with a loaded weapon. Bad etiquette.”

Steven wasn’t sure he knew what “etiquette” was. He opened the glove box and handed over the weapon.

Quinn said, “Help yourself to the whiskey, though. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Steven watched Quinn walk up to the large double oak front door and reach to the right to hit the bell. He heard the rich chime from where he sat. He could see the butt of the .45 sticking out of Quinn’s pants at the small of his back. After a moment, the door swung open and Quinn went inside. He sat in silence, a light breeze floating up from the fields. He turned his head to see the workers toiling out there. They were busy, far away now, and ignored the truck.

***

“What brings you all the way out here?” the man said. He was portly and tanned from being out in the sun. He wore round spectacles and a white linen dress shirt.

“You knew I’d be stopping by.”

“No, I didn’t actually. I thought I was all done with Richard. I’ve steered clear of that bunch for years.”

“Nice place you got here. You really bottle the shit or is this all for show?”

“What do you mean? Of course I bottle. The product is excellent. May I offer you a taste?”

“Of course. That’d be swell.”

“Swell? Okay. Same old Quinn. Let me get you a glass.”

The man walked toward the kitchen and Quinn followed. The kitchen was large and modern with an island in the middle that boasted eight burners and a grill. They were spotless and looked as though they’d never been used.

“This is a vintage from a few years back. Right amount of sun. Right amount of rain. I was extremely lucky that year.” He reached up and took a crystal wine glass from a cupboard and set it on the counter in front of Quinn, then bent down and opened a large wine fridge built into the cupboard beside the dishwasher and selected a bottle.

As the man bent over, Quinn reached across the counter and plucked a large carving knife from a magnetic knife block sitting beside the cutting board.

The man straightened, turned, and saw Quinn with the knife.

“What’s that for?”

Without hesitation or explanation, Quinn reached forward and slashed the right side of the man’s neck. The man’s eyes lit up behind his glasses. He dropped the bottle to the kitchen floor where it bounced without breaking. Both his hands went toward his neck. Blood was pulsing out, spurting between the man’s fingers. He made a sound with his mouth that was really no sound at all.

“What a mess,” Quinn said. “Let’s stop that heart from pumpin’ out all that blood.” Quinn thrust forward and stuck the knife into the man’s chest. As he pulled it back out, the man fell, first to his knees, then onto his back with his legs folded up underneath him.

Quinn checked himself for blood and didn’t see any. He walked to the sink and grabbed a paper towel before turning on the faucet. Then, with some dish soap, he washed his hands and the knife. He dried his hands with the paper towel and let the knife clatter to the stainless steel basin. He tore off another paper towel and turned to walk out.

There was a long coat rack nailed to the wall by the front door, and next to it was a pegged board with several sets of keys. Quinn studied the keys without touching them before he selected a set.

With the towel, Quinn opened the front door and checked on Steven sitting in the truck. The boy sat with his head turned toward the fields. Quinn gave the doorbell a quick swipe and walked toward the truck.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

The sound of Quinn’s voice startled Steven. He turned and saw Quinn grinning at him through the open window, sunglasses back on.

“You know how to drive, right? I forgot that I told someone I’d lend him the truck after I stopped by here and picked up the car. Tell you what, why don’t you follow me. I’m gonna head back into Calistoga and meet my friend at the golf course there. We can grab another bite and then be on our way. What’d you say?”

Steven said, “Sounds good.”

Quinn walked back to the row of cars parked in front of the garage. He walked slowly down the line as though he were picking one out. Finally he stopped at a brown BMW coupe, opened the door, and got in. Quinn warmed the engine for almost a minute before pulling back and parking beside the truck. He left it running, got out, and returned to the truck window.

“Hey, what’re you doing? Let’s go. Slide over.” He tossed Steven the key. One ring with one key.

Steven grabbed the steering wheel and used the leverage to pull himself across the seat and into the driver’s position. He started the truck just in time to watch Quinn head down the driveway to the main road.

As they left, Quinn honked at the workers from the BMW and waved his arm out the window. The men in the field waved back.

 

Excerpted from AMERICAN STATIC courtesy of Down & Out Books. Copyright (c) 2017 Tom Pitts. All Rights Reserved.

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Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. A new edition of his novel, Hustle, is also out from Down & Out Books. Find links to more of his work at: TomPittsAuthor.com

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