I've completed my first novel, "Coordinates For Murder", and I am working on the sequel, which is yet to be titled. Below are links to the details of each one. If you like what you've read, links to purchase a copy - print or ebook - are over on the right.
Coordinates For Murder
Escaping the high-stress world of Minneapolis-St. Paul, good friends Sammy Larson and John Whitfield have their usual summer plans: camping and geocaching. GPS units in hand, they hike towards a newly placed geocache. Each cache provides a new set of coordinates to the next cache, leading them deeper and deeper into 1.5 million acres of forest. Sammy and John become separated, and they each have an encounter with a sadistic monster named The Woodsman. One of them escapes, but can he live long enough to rescue his friend and get help?
Below is the first chapter of the book. Enjoy!
“You know, you could get lost and wind up dead way up there in the sticks,” said Carlos.
Sammy threw a glance over to Carlos, who was working his way up the sidewalk on his knees, unrolling the sod. An immigrant from Mexico, he had been working with Sammy for at least three years. Sammy could tell that Carlos was chuckling to himself; he always made himself laugh.
“Only if I were a stupid gringo. Or if I had you as a guide,” Sammy retorted.
Carlos just continued working, shaking his head in amusement. Sammy and Carlos had always gotten along well, and this was just the latest in their usual back-and-forth banter. Sammy also liked to use Carlos's Hispanic lingo from time to time, just to rile him up.
“It's amazing any work gets done between you two yapping and carrying on like that,” Brian piped up from across the parking lot.
Sammy finished cutting out a notch in the sod for the concrete cylinder that would soon hold a light pole, then stood and pointed his sod knife toward Brian. “Yeah, like you do any actual work out here. You know I could beat you sod laying with an arm behind my back, rookie.”
Brian finished cutting a small hole for a sprinkler head, then turned and looked at Sammy. He couldn't help but start to laugh. Tony, working just down from Brian, whispered loudly to Brian: “Don't do it, man, don't do it.”
“What?” Brian asked Tony loudly. “Don't do it? Man, he's not that good.”
Tony looked up from his work, a small grin on his face. He knew just what to say to get him going. “I just don't want to see you goin' home to your girlfriend cryin' and whinin' that you got beat, that's all.”
Carlos and Sammy started laughing as Brian got a big smile on his face, hanging his head in mock defeat. Then Brian looked back at Sammy, still smiling. “Need your lackeys to defend you, eh? I bet you wouldn't even be halfway done when I finish.”
“How much?” Sammy asked.
“Dude, you wouldn't win.” Brian got up and walked to the pallet with rolls of sod, grabbed one and carried it back to where he'd been working. Sammy watched him work. He was a good kid; cocky, but a good kid. He'd be a senior in high school this fall, playing wide receiver on the varsity football team. He had a girlfriend, but that didn't stop other girls from trying, and who could blame them – he had the good looks that Sammy had always wanted. Not that Sammy wasn't good looking, but his genetics just didn't provide him with the Roman god-like looks that some others had. His olive complexion was even darker working out in sun like he did (mahogany, he liked to tell women), and he was fit and toned. But his face wasn't anything to write home about, and the fact that his mother couldn't afford braces for his teeth meant that his smile was perpetually crooked. Cute to some women, however.
“Are you done fooling around? What's the bet?” Sammy asked again.
“I don't want to take your money; it wouldn't be fair.”
Carlos and Tony looked at Brian, then to Sammy. They could read Sammy's face, and they knew what was coming. What they didn't yet know was just how close Brian would come.
Sammy walked over to the pallet with the sod rolls, and pulled a wad of bills from his front pocket. He proceeded to lay out three twenty dollar bills. As if by magic, Troy and Kelly, who were working on a retaining wall along the back side of the property, materialized and hovered by the sod, eager looks on their faces. “Sixty says you can't do it.”
All eyes turned to the rookie. He kept working, pretending that he wasn't the subject of the statement. He let the silence continue.
“Fine, a Benji then.” Sammy added two more bills.
“Whoa, dude!” exclaimed Kelly. “If you don't do it, I will just for a shot at that pot.”
Brian finished up his sod roll and walked nonchalantly over to the group. He stood facing Sammy, watching, evaluating. Finally, he reached into his back pocket for his wallet, excavating bills to double the pot. Kelly ran off to grab Hugh, who was running the four-wheeler prepping another area for sod the next day. Carlos swept up the cash and folded it into the breast pocket on his dingy t-shirt for safekeeping.
“So where are we gonna do this?” asked Brian, looking from Sammy to Carlos.
Carlos pointed to two small islands in the parking lot that still needed to have sod fit into them. “Use those.”
“You're really only going to use one arm against me?” Brian asked Sammy.
Kelly and Hugh returned and sat down on a nearby sidewalk, grateful for the break. Carlos positioned himself between the islands and his co-workers and laid out the simple rules: whoever finished laying the sod completely on their island first would be the winner. Sammy could only use one arm for the competition, and he chose his right arm. With a quick countdown, they were off.
Everyone got into the competition, shouting encouragement as well as insults. Sammy got to his island with the sod and rolled it down his arm with a quick motion, holding onto the end with his hand. The sod ended perfectly in the corner, and he easily maneuvered it into position then took off for the pallet for his next roll.
Brian also easily placed his first roll, keeping pace with Sammy. They each returned with their second rolls and flung them out into position. Sammy chose to put his in a place where cutting wasn't necessary, but Brian landed his on a sprinkler head and had to cut that out to fit. In that short time, Sammy managed to pick his third roll and return, flinging it out into another corner, though this would need trimming.
Ignoring the necessary cutting for the time being, Sammy again raced back to the pallet, as did Brian, who was now one full roll behind their crew leader. Brian stuck to his plan, cutting this third roll to accommodate the concrete light pole base. Sammy again chose to roll out this fourth roll and ignore the needed trimming.
Allowing himself a quick glance, Brian began to sweat even more looking at Sammy's progress. He was losing to a guy using just one arm! His girlfriend was going to kill him – that money was going to pay for a really nice dinner that they were taking her parents to that weekend.
Sammy returned with his fifth and final sod roll, sweat pouring off of him. He dropped the sod on the only patch of dirt left, then drew his sod knife and began to work on cutting out the corner for the concrete light pole base on his island. Brian finish up his cuts and ran to get his fourth roll of sod.
Along the far sidewalk, a small crowd had gathered, curious about the shouting and activity. Sammy had made cuts for the two sprinkler heads, trimmed excess away from the concrete edges where sod was hanging off, and was at his last roll. Brian had quickly placed his fourth roll, pleased that he could lay it clean and grab his last roll. He might be able to win yet.
Sammy quickly unrolled part of the sod and yanked one end into position. With the experience of thousands of sod cuts, he instantly judged where to make his last incision. Brian had returned to his island and proceeded to place his last piece. He knew he could do it, just one more cut to go.
“Done!” shouted Sammy.
Brian finished his cut, fit the edge into the sod puzzle and jumped clear of his island. Everyone came over to inspect their work, to make sure that neither of them cut any corners or placed their rolls in a sloppy manner.
Kelly shook his head in amazement. “Sammy wins again!”
Brian sauntered over to Sammy's island, knowing that he'd been beaten, but wanting to see his work just the same.
“Shit,” Sammy said, “I thought this would be the time that I lost, bro! Nice job.”
Brian got a sly grin on his face, not fully believing that he could have lost to someone using only one arm. Those sod rolls weren't too light, either. He couldn't take his eyes off of the newly laid grass. “I-I just can't believe that I couldn't take you. I mean, you were only using one arm. What the hell?”
Carlos walked over and bestowed the two hundred dollars to Sammy. “Winner, and still champion!”
Sammy flipped through the bills, then separated out his five bills and shoved them in his pocket. He grabbed Brian's hand and slapped the remaining money into his palm. “I know you were going to use that to take your girlfriend and her parents out to dinner this weekend. You drove me hard, man. You deserve it.” Brian looked down at his hand in disbelief.
He slapped Brian on the shoulder and offered a crooked smile. Everyone went back to their work, and Sammy headed to his truck. If he wasn't careful, one of these times he would actually lose the bet.
Back at his truck, he grabbed the clipboard off of the passenger seat and started flipping through the landscape layout designs. If the weather held, they might actually be able to finish up this job tomorrow, which would put them a full day ahead of schedule, and a good chunk of change of additional profit into the company with labor savings.
Sammy pulled his smart phone out of the cup holder and called up the local TV station website. On their radar feed, he could see that showers were heading their way, and would probably be there in time to ruin much of tomorrow's progress.
“Shit, not what I needed,” he grumbled. Looking out at his crew he yelled: “Carlos! We got problems.”
The Woodsman is back! But what happened to Sammy and John? How does Carlos fit into the puzzle? The story only grows more intense and strange as you take a ride with the bizarre.