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The Finer Things in Death is a gritty, supernatural mystery which spans the late nineteen-seventies to the present. It is a sequel to Robert George’s previous novels, Life Wish, Teenage Graceland, Fort Mystery, Wheel Sea and My Own True Love.
Presented below are two excerpts:
Fate is a fabulist and forever is a glass bottom boat
The late nineteen-seventies…
The Pacific Coast Highway was starting to hum with the rattletrap pick-ups of fishermen driving to the Marina. Half Moon Bay’s best eatery, The Captain’s Mess, had just opened its doors to serve whatever old salts had been cursed (or blessed) to be widowers or bachelors.
The full moon sank below the sea as Maven Caulfield opened her eyes and sat up, brushing sand from her face and breasts. Where was she? The last few drops of moonlight glinted off some glass lying beside her. Then the cottonmouth hit her. She ran her tongue over her lips, searching for moisture.
Oh, that’s right. Tickle Pink…and lots of it. She looked to her left, shook her head and tapped the shoulder of a nineteen-year-old boy lying with his face in the keep of a crumbled sandcastle. Nothing. She slapped him upside his head, the blow being cushioned by a mop of pyrite-colored hair.
An old Chevy truck rolled up the PCH, sounding like someone shaking a coffee-can full of screws. The sound faded and was replaced by the song of a Pacific morning, the staccato squarking of gulls over the soft lapping of the receding tide. The tide had left its usual refuse on the shore. Starfish, tangles of seaweed and splintery chunks of wood.
Maven chuckled to herself. There must’ve been a lot of shipwrecks between 3000 B.C. and the nineteenth century. The watery deep spit wood from its gut every day. She looked down at her boyfriend, then hauled off and whacked him a good one. He snorted himself awake and sat up, rubbing the side of his head. His skull throbbed from the cold, hard vengeance of cheap wine. He cursed himself for…
Maven’s breasts looked beautiful in the fading moonlight. His teenage gawk had all the subtlety of a Menudo fart during Easter Mass. He earned himself one more upside his head.
“Sean, I needed to be home, like, six hours ago. My mom is gonna shoot you in the nuts with that friggin’ elephant gun she keeps by her bed. Then she’s gonna call Sheriff Augie Doggie and have you thrown in jail for…how does she pronounce it…?”
Sean was still staring. His voice was thick and logy.
Her eyes chastised his gaze, but she didn’t cover up.
“…yeah…stationary rape. You’ll get five to eight in Corcoran.”
She snuck a long peek at his works while he pulled on his cut-offs.
“Will you wait for me?”
“Only if you learn to fight fires while you’re inside. Some o’ those prisons train trustees to put out fires’n stuff all over the state. Then they have a skill when they get out.”
She yanked a dowdy, dark green sweatshirt from the sand. It had looked like a moat for the castle. The very stones would cry out if not for the white block lettering across her chest announcing Victory Baptist Vacation Bible School. She fished around for her cut-offs and stepped into them. Another goggle from Sean. Her bush looked like it was tended to once a week by the White House barber.
He looked around. A ribbon of pink lay along the cliffs that line the PCH.
“So, what’re you saying Mave…I got no future unless I go to jail? Whatabout my plumbing skills?”
She slid her hand in his, hustling him up the beach toward concrete stairs that led to the PCH.
“Sweetie, I’m not sure four months in an Air Force plumbing program is gonna make me the rich and envied wife of a tycoon.”
“It’s not my fault I got epilepsy. I’d be a master sergeant by now…”
She kissed his cheek.
“Yup…snakin’ out the shitters of every General Peterson on base. My mom still thinks you faked those fits. Can you believe that woman? I even made her watch that thing on 20/20 about epilepsy. Nuthin’ doin’. She says a deadbeat can fake anything. She says…”
Maven stopped, tugging Sean toward her like a Yorkie on a leash. She stared at a lump of seaweed in the sand, covered in gulls and crawlies.
She jabbed an index finger at what looked like a boot. A dark, exotic, handmade one. Attached to what might’ve been a leg that ended before the knee.
Maven pulled her hand from Sean’s and covered her mouth. She bent over.
“Oh, My God!! I’m gonna HORK!!”
She dry-heaved a few times while Sean patted her back and looked at the seaweed. She stood erect, caught her breath and pointed at the mystery lump. Her voice was hoarse.
“Go see what it is.”
Sean looked at her.
“Are you still drunk…?”
“…it’s got more crabs than Marianne Faithful!”
Her chin joined her finger, pointing at the boot.
“Don’t be such a girl! Get over there and see if that’s a friggin’ leg in a boot!”
Sean looked at Maven with supreme frustration. His thoughts raced.
I’ve been goin’ out with this girl for two fuckin’ years and I still feel the need to impress her! I guess stealing that Mazda wasn’t enough! If that judge hadna givin’ me the choice of goin’ in the service, I’d still be in juvy…
He looked over at her. Her eyes were big and pleading. She was scared shitless. He knew she loved him. She’d have waited till she was fifty for him to get out of jail. Or the Air Force. And that’s with every pair of balls between Monterey and Frisco angling for a piece of her.
He motioned for her to stay back. He looked around and spied a stick by a starfish. Whew, that fish stunk. He fleeced up the stick and crept over to the seaweed on his tiptoes, like Shaggy toward a mysterious clue.
Sean held his gorge in his throat as he poked at the lump, swatting away crabs and bugs. He got a good gander, then backed off and looked around at Maven. Sho’ nuff…it was half a leg in a boot. A fancy-shmancy shark-skin boot.
“Uh---Mave---I don’t think your gun-totin’ mama’s gonna be callin’ Sheriff Augie. Or if she does, he won’t be pickin’ up…”
Many years later….
Theo drove his Olds 88 along the PCH. The sun had just set, the crystal was kicking in and his thoughts were like the rapid typewriter sounds at the beginning of 60 Minutes.
Things were supposed to get better when he became boss of the Wharf Rats. But here he was, in his forties, driving a shit-wagon and still planning petty scores. Convenience store stick-ups, muggings, car-jackings.
He’d have never killed Malachi if he thought his life’d stay pretty much the same.
He turned on the radio and tuned it to a hip-hop station out of Frisco. He turned it up till the speakers crackled with distortion.
Cherry A$$ by G Willikers featuring IUD. YEAH!!
Like always, crystal puts every-fuckin-thing in perspective.
He was doing the same jobs but now he was boss. That was the difference. And he deserved to be top dawg. None of the Rats ever had a clue he was the one who Bonnie n Clyde’d Mal outside a smoke shop that night.
Not even Charlie.
Charlie was the best. Kinda dumb, though. Which is probably why he OD’d. That’d never happen to a sharp shiv like him.
Best radio station in California.
Ray X’s Drive Bi featuring Brown Whole.
He needed a better land speeder, though. He had to pay pussy to ride in that smoky heap. Either that’re force ‘em to volunteer their pussy. That can get risky, though.
“Oh, hello, Officer. Tail light out? I didn’t know. You smell marijuana? No, sir, absolutely not. Pop the trunk? Uh…”
I’d get at least twenty years. Life, if I was takin’ her to the dock for a burial at sea. I did two for possession and then five for felonious assault. I came out OK. But twenty? I don’t think I can do it. That jogger was the first and last one.
Weird thing was…I coulda sworn someone was watchin’ me. Couldna been. They’d’ve reported me. I’d be in Soledad right now.
So I guess I’m stuck with five dollar blow jobs from hos on the block till I get a better ride…
Theo took a hard left down a bumpy, pot-holed road to the shore. His hand slapped the wheel and his head bobbed to the Uzi beats of Chocolate Candle by Eterna featuring Thug Spray. He parked his weary Olds and got out.
Fast Track better fuckin’ be here. Mothufucka’s never on time. He…
Theo squinted, bending down a little, his heart thumping in his chest. Waves were crashing in the moonlight and there was a thin layer of mist like butcher paper low to the sand. A shadow lay there, arms, legs and head twisted unnaturally.
Theo reached for the Glock in his pants, moving closer. He whirled and looked behind him, waving his gun in the mist.
He couldn’t shake that feeling, though.
Ease up. It’s just the crystal.
He turned and moved toward the shadow.
It was Fast Track.
His neck had been broken and his throat torn out. Track’s eyes were fixed on the stars, as if heeding a welcoming call from the Omega of time.
Theo backed up, then whirled around again.
Fog seemed to grow thicker around the Olds, making Theo’s skin crawl with goose flesh. Gull songs glided on the wind, coming from no direction and all directions. He reached for the door handle, then heard a woman’s voice. It was low and alluring. He turned, completely unafraid of her seductive tone. He saw a tall woman with mist for hair in a long, black gown with piercing green eyes. Theo’s smile was wild, hers was faint.
Once again, she acted against her own best judgement, not snapping Theo’s neck.
His breed had to know.
She broke his arms like toothpicks, then held him to her, jaws clamping around his neck. He jerked like a marionette as he felt his blood drain into the woman’s mouth, her fangs icy cold needles in his flesh.
It took Theo an endless two minutes to leave this world and join Fast Track.
Ilya finished feeding, then carried Theo and Fast Track to the dock. She heaved them into the sea, then returned to the boardwalk. She bought a Santa Cruz Sentinel and sat in the First Mate, reading about Fenton Chiswell’s campaign. Then she headed for her lair.
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