Date Published: June 1, 2016
Cynical private investigator Atticus Wynn and his idealistic partner Rosemary Sanchez will stop at nothing to save a damaged boy, even when it means taking on a pair of professional killers and a gang of outlaw bikers in this action-packed and gallows-humored mystery thriller prequel to The Black Song Inside.
When Atticus and Rosemary are hired for the seemingly routine job of finding Imran Khan, a runaway from San Diego’s posh Barrington Academy for troubled teens, the detectives quickly discover this case will be anything but routine.
Imran wasn’t running away from the rigid rules of Barrington, he was running into the arms of an enigmatic beauty who goes to great lengths to stay in the shadows. As soon as Atticus and Rosemary learn of this mystery woman, they’re targeted by a brutal outlaw biker gang.
When the detectives finally meet their employers in person, Imran’s parents, the pieces fall into place. They discover a family seething with rage, an abused boy seeking love, and a secret so powerful, it blows the lid off the case. A dark world of dirty money, deadly spies, and double-crosses is brought to light, forcing Atticus and Rosemary to question whether Imran is an innocent victim or a violent avenger.
The detectives will need all of Atticus’s street smarts and Rosemary’s combat experience to survive as they race down a road of blood and broken people toward a showdown where the very boy they’ve sworn to save is the person most likely to get them killed.
Rosemary Sanchez’s phone rang, or to be more accurate, warbled into song. Specifically, Muddy Waters famous blues tune “Mannish Boy,” which she had not programmed into it. It started at the part that refers to the singer’s destiny to become “the greatest man alive.” She snorted. That Atticus.
Clad in jeans and a gray T-shirt that read ARMY across the front, she’d been in the midst of her daily bed-making duel with her nemesis, her tortoiseshell cat Mawroo, who with feline telepathy, always anticipated the moment she began to make her bed. As the sheet came billowing down, Mawroo leapt onto the mattress. The cat-hump raced around beneath the sheet like a gopher in a cartoon, all the while uttering her namesake cry, “Maaaaawrooooo!” Rosemary could only answer such an affront to bed-making etiquette by scrabbling her fingers about so that the hump raced hither and thither after them, sometimes rolling over to create four paw tent poles, claws poking through the sheet.
Rosemary answered the phone while, in protest at the interruption, Mawroo “mawrooed”!
“Let me guess,” Rosemary said. “You made one too many smartass remarks, and now we’re barred from Barrington.”
“Scoff, scoff,” Atticus said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked.
“I wanted to scoff at your lack of faith, but I’ve only read about people scoffing and never actually seen it. Thus, I don’t know how one would actually go about scoffing in real life. So I improvised.”
“I don’t know whether it’s more disturbing to think you’ve been pondering that for a while or that you just thought it up.”
“Either someone’s playing a violin with a meat tenderizer,” he said, “or you are foolishly trying to make your bed with Mawroo in the room.”
“I don’t have a choice,” Rosemary said. “She sulks all day if I shut her out.”
“How can one tell if a cat is sulking or just being a cat?”
“When one loves another being and is in a close relationship, one pays attention and thus becomes quite attuned to the being’s sensibilities.”
“Are we still talking about a cat here?” Atticus asked.
“Meow,” Rosemary answered.
“Um, er, normally, I’d be game for the metaphorical banter, but I happen to have a gentleman tailing me. I’m hoping you can come out here and tail my tailer.”
Rosemary’s tone switched from banter to business. “Already someone following you? Feel dangerous?”
“Can’t tell,” he said, “but it’s hard to see what I could have done so quickly to make someone want to hurt me.”
“You’ve never been on the other side of your smart mouth.”
“Anyway,” he said, “once you’ve got him, I’ll lose him.”
“And I’ll follow him back to his criminal lair.”
“Criminal lair?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “Any criminal associated with Barrington Academy wouldn’t have anything as uncouth as a hideout. He would merit a lair.”
“Brains as well as beauty,” he said. “Brains enough that once this ne’er do well is ensconced in his lair, you wouldn’t dream of doing something as stupid as trying to get a real good looksee before you’ve called your charming partner in for back up, right?”
“You do recall I’ve done a tour of duty in a war zone?”
“And I know you’re going back soon,” Atticus said, his voice tight, “which I don’t like to even think about. My point is that neither of us should take any unnecessary risks.”
“But that’s my specialty.”
“Computers are your specialty. That’s why we joined forces. Risk-taking is your addiction.”
“Fine, if you’re going to be such a big butt about it, I’ll play it all careful and boring.”
Atticus sighed. “All I ask is that you be as concerned about your safety as I am.”
Rosemary ended the call as Mawroo scooted from beneath the sheet, paused, and then suddenly realized it was absolutely imperative she get out of the room as quickly as possible. She galloped through the door and made it all of three feet into the hall before lying down, licking her paws, and rubbing her little baseball head with her wet feet.
Grinning at the kitty’s antics, Rosemary threw her hair into a braid, wriggled into her jeans, and headed out the door to her silver Ford Fiesta ST. Fifteen minutes later, Rosemary texted Atticus that she was in position behind the tail.
About the Author
Carlyle Clark was raised in Poway, a city just north of San Diego, but is now a proud Chicagolander working in the field of Corporate Security and writing crime and fantasy fiction. He has flailed ineffectually at performing the writer’s requisite myriad of random jobs: pizza deliverer, curb address painter, sweatshop laborer, day laborer, night laborer, security guard, campus police, Gallup pollster, medical courier, vehicle procurer, and signature-for-petitions-getter.
He is a married man with two cats and a dog. He is also a martial arts enthusiast and a CrossFit endurer who enjoys fishing, sports, movies, TV series with continuing storylines, and of course, reading. Most inconsequentially, he holds the unrecognized distinction of being one of the few people in the world who have been paid to watch concrete dry in the dark. Tragically, that is a true statement.