Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Clearing - Chapter 2

Start with Chapter 1

CHAPTER 2

January 7, 1979
Lieutenant Dean Wallace turned off Route 23 and onto the driveway that led to the Pratt farm. A gravel driveway that Cole, the youngest Pratt son, had simply driven back and forth in a truck on to crush the foot of snow. The barn, which had been re-painted a cherry red the past summer, stood at the edge of the property as a signpost of civilization. The house, a white three-story built in 1902, was almost lost in the drifts of snow that receded backward to the tree line, three hundred yards away.
The Chevy Nova bounced over the uneven gravel. Dean’s keys jingled against the dashboard and his coat scratched against the leather seat. The snapping sound of the turn signal clicked off. The radio cracked and spit, so Dean twisted the volume knob to low.
The Pratt’s two Ford trucks were parked haphazardly near the house, and as he pulled into what seemed like a reasonable spot, Dot ran up to the car, her tongue hanging out. Dean put the car in park, turned off the engine, and opened the door. The cold rushed inward and slapped his face. The air had the sterile smell that only temperatures in the single digits or lower seemed to bring.
Dot jumped up and put her paws on Dean’s chest, tapping Dean’s name tag and the police logo.
“Hey, girl, good to see you. It’s been a long time.” He petted her head, scratching just below her jaw and toward the back, where she liked it. “Let me get my hat.” He reached into the car and pulled out his campaign hat and pulled it on his head. When he looked up, Cole, his ex-wife’s youngest brother, stood on the porch.
Cole looked the least like the male side of the family. Blond and skinny and tall, he stood a head taller than Dean, which meant a good foot and half taller than his father or brothers. A senior at Zion High School, Cole was a star of the Panthers basketball team. The boy raised his hand and waved before opening the screen door, peering inside, and stepping back out on the porch. “It’s cold. Get inside.”
Dean smiled. “If I go in now, I won’t want to go out there.” He pointed to the woods beyond the barn and the field.
The Pratt’s farmed two hundred acres along the U.S. and Canadian border. According to Wayne, the eldest living Pratt, the farm had been in the family since the 1820s, when Elias Pratt bought two acres after working for three years in the slums of New York City. Dean had listened over the years to Wayne rattle on about the founding of the Pratt farm as if it were some mythological tale equivalent to the Olympians many times.
Wayne stepped out onto the porch. He was bundled up in a heavy, navy coat trimmed with a faux sheepskin tan fur and a John Deere knit cap. He waved and nodded his head, which Cole took as the command to go back inside. Wayne was archetypal for the Pratt male line: dark, nearly black hair, strong cleft chin, average height, and stocky with a five-o’clock shadow that was a several days’ growth for many men. He wore a pair of fur-lined, black boots. He walked down the two steps and onto the small path of pounded snow to Dean’s car. He held out his hand. “Good to see you, Dean. Sorry to trouble you on a Saturday.”
“Good to see you. And no worries.” Dean gripped his former father-in-law’s hand and shook once. “It’s damned cold.”
Wayne nodded and breathed out, which condensed and the wind carried to the side and upward. “Is anyone else coming?”
“No. You weren’t clear why you needed me out, other than I needed to be out here. Do we need someone?”
“Yeah. Yes. You’ll need someone. Probably several.”
“What’s up?”
“Dot found a body.”
* * *
After Dean called the station to have them send out a couple of officers and the coroner, Wayne led him behind the barn and back toward the tree line. Dot bounded alongside them, kicking up the snow in fine bursts of powder that were caught in the gusts of wind and carried easterly into the snow-covered field where last year the Pratts had grown potatoes and winter and summer squash.
Dean walked beside Wayne despite not having the proper footwear. He cursed himself for not thinking ahead. He also regretted not accepting Cole’s offer and stepping inside to warm himself with a coffee. He refrained from pulling out the flask in his coat’s inside right pocket. Wayne was no teetotaler, but he had always frowned on Dean’s drinking.
The older man walked at a fast clip, and Dean kept pace, but they both kept their heads down until they reached the woods, their gloved hands buried in their coat pockets.
“Those are mine and Dot’s.” Wayne pointed to a trail of dog and human footprints leading through the trees, both to and from. “Dot came home a while ago and was spinning in circles. She didn’t want to play. She didn’t want to eat. She kept running out this way, so I let her lead. I hadn’t seen her so insistent except when I hold her back from retrieving ducks. I followed her, and she led me to a body. So we came back, and I called the station.”
“Did you recognize it?”
“Nope, but I can’t say I looked at it too long.”
“You found it this morning.”
“Yep.”
They followed the trail back for about fifteen minutes, walking among the stands of leafless maple, black ash, elm, and green and heavy with snow spruces and firs. The sun had begun to burn through the clouds and was a bright aura in the sky. Despite its presence, it seemed unlikely to alter the bitter cold. Rather, the sun seemed a taunt of its denied potential.
Eventually, they reached a small clearing. The trail ended in a swirl of Dot’s prints from when she had discovered the body and after leading Wayne here. Wayne’s steps were singular. They paused about where they were standing now—ten yards or so—made a one-eighty, and headed back to the house.
The body—a man—leaned against a large chestnut oak as if he had sat down to rest. A dark, hardened splotch fell on the right shoulder of the thick gray overcoat. The man’s right arm rested along his side. His left hand laid on his stomach, as if he had reached for the wound in his head, stopped, and then relaxed. A pool of black, frozen blood had created a depression in the snow at the base of the tree.
Animals had gotten to him before he froze too much. Crows or some bird had gotten the eyes, leaving two dark recesses staring upward at the empty space above the trees. Probably a fox or coyote had gnawed on the face and neck. The coat—tufts of white lining poking through—and jeans were shredded and torn in places. Dried flecks of frozen blood clung to the tips of the threads where the animals had made their attempts.
“You can head back, Wayne. I’ll take it from here. If you can, when the officer and coroner arrive, send them back this way. You’ll need to answer some questions, too.”
Wayne nodded.
“Make sure they know they have a hike.”
“Sure.”
Wayne whistled at Dot, and they headed back the way they came. He paused a few feet into the woods. “Oh, and Happy New Year.” He gave a friendly wave and walked away.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Clearing - Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1

January 2, 1979
The gunshot cracked across the snow laying a foot deep in the clearing in the woods. Snow fell heavy, in large, wet flakes. A rabbit, some distance away, perked its ears and stood upright, looking for danger. But as the sound of the gunshot dissipated and the sound of the snow landing on the trees replaced it, the rabbit returned to its exploration of the tree and hill, nudging its nose into the clumps of snow into the underbrush for grass.
The bullet itself lodged in the ground near the man lying against the tree. He would have been running had he not twisted his knee a few yards back after stepping into a hole obscured by the snow. He shined a black metal flashlight up at the man who had fired the shot, smoke curling from the barrel.
The shooter, dressed in a thick coat with a fur-trimmed hood, light brown knit hat, and large light blue scarf, stared at the man on the ground.
The sitting man first grabbed his knee but then held his hands up in front of his face. Tears fell down his cheeks. How had he ended up here? When he first started meeting this close to the border, he not once thought he would find himself with a twisted knee in the snow with a gun pointed at him. He wondered if he could talk his way out of it, but he knew this was it. His short life gone. He had always wanted to see San Juan with Sarah. She had talked lovingly of the place. It sounded warm. And her arms—almost as if he could feel them now—felt warm around his neck. How had he gotten himself here? He knew, of course, but still the path one’s decisions lead is obscure, impossible to predict with accuracy.
The shooter looked down at the man on the ground. He held the gun steady. Had anyone heard the shot? He looked around quickly, never taking his aim off his target. Clumps of snow weighed down the branches of the firs at the edge of the clearing. The trees were beautiful in the sliver of light from the crescent moon. They reminded him of the Christmas cards from a few weeks ago that showed happy families around campfires and through the windows, trees heavy with snow. He too wondered how he found himself at this moment training a pistol on another man.
The injured man dropped his hands. Tears ran down his face. “Please don’t.”
The shooter shook his head slowly. No way he could back out now. He was too far into this, but that did not make it any easier. No, he realized killing a man was more difficult than he could have imagined.
“Please don’t. What do you want?”
The shooter pulled the trigger. The other man’s head snapped back, blood splattered the tree trunk and snow behind him. His entire body relaxed and slumped all at once. The tree taking the full weight of his body.
The animals and the elements would take care of the body for him, so he dropped the gun and turned north and walked across the snow, across the clearing, and into the woods. He walked across that imaginary boundary from the United States to Canada. His car was parked off the side of a Canadian farmer’s access road. He had done what needed to be done, but he would never forget the steam rising from the hot, fresh blood as it melted the snow.


Can't wait for the next chapter next week? Order your copy ($2.99) here:

The Clearing and An Ingenious Murder Launch




Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What's Coming

Over the coming weeks--beginning on September 20th--I'll be releasing The Clearing chapter by chapter on this blog, free for you to read. Forty-two chapters over forty-two weeks. Of course--if you can't wait for this--you can buy it from Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, and other retailers, including directly from me via Gumroad.



1979The Cold War, a troubled family, and murder.

Vietnam veteran Detective Dean Wallace’s fondness for whiskey ended his New York City detective career and marriage. Having retreated to his hometown, Zion, to the only detective job he could find, he works under the shadow of his father, the Chief of Police. A few days into the new year, the body of Billy Nimitz--a young automobile repair shop employee--turns up in the woods just on the United States side of the border. A bullet in his head, a copy of The Communist Manifesto in his pocket, and a gun in the snow. Dean’s investigation takes him down a tangle of paths and connections with a local biker gang, drugs, rivalries, a tight-knit group of friends, an unpopular girlfriend, and a crime in Montreal. As Dean strives to find Billy’s killer, his shunned brother returns to the family, stirring up memories. Painful memories Dean would prefer to keep buried in the past.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Author interview on Brownie Knits Episode 47: Writing, Reading, and Knitting



I wanted to share this interview conducted by my wife Gina on her Brownie Knits podcast. While I encourage you to watch it all, the interview questions begin at the 19:40.
Appearing on this podcast was a blast (I'm biased, yes).
"Welcome to this VERY special episode of the Brownie Knits knitting video podcast. I am thrilled to welcome Patrick Kanouse to the podcast to answer questions about his recently published book. Boy, do we have a lot of laughs for you in this episode! AND, it is STILL full of knitting, crochet, and yarn.
"Patrick Kanouse, author of The ClearingThe Shattered Bull, and An Ingenious Murder can be found on Instagram and Twitter as @patrickkanouse. He is also on Ravelry as PK1 and you can find out more about his works, including his poetry, at his website patrickkanouse.com. You can purchase print copies of The Clearing(release date 9/20/16) and The Shattered Bull (October 2016) from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ebook copies are available on Kobo, iTunes/iBooks, Amazon, and B&N. The novella An Ingenious Murder is exclusively available as an ebook on Amazon (release date 9/20/16)."

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

THE CLEARING Goodreads giveaway is nearing its end

The Clearing Goodreads giveaway is nearing its end! I'm giving away three copies to folks in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. The giveaway ends at midnight September 1st, so enter now if you haven't!



Also, if you're interested in a mystery set in Chicago in 2102, check out my novella, An Ingenious Murder, releasing exclusively on Amazon on September 20, 2016. Only $1.99. The murder of a reclusive AI scientist pits rookie Detective Terence Brotsky against the seedy underworld and high-tech future of Greater Chicago in 2102. As his marriage crumbles, no lack of suspects makes Brotsky's job all that more difficult. Angry employees, powerful mobsters, and long-lost family had reasons to kill. But who actually did so, may cause Brotsky's undoing.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Clearing -- A Goodreads Giveway

The Clearing Goodreads giveaway is live! I'm giving away three copies to folks in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. The giveaway ends on September 1st, so enter now!