In addition, Dale is giving away other books from his Zack Taylor series to two lucky winners. An ebook version of A FALL FROM GRACE or A SHADOW ON THE WALL (winner’s choice), and an audiobook version of A FALL FROM GRACE, A SHADOW ON THE WALL, or A MEMORY OF GRIEF (again, winner’s choice).
In order to enter the giveaway, please either leave a comment on this blog or email me directly at debbi[at]crimecafe[dot]net, with the subject line “Crime Cafe giveaway”. The winners will be picked at random by next week. And with that said, here’s the first chapter of A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT by Dale Phillips.
A deathbed request is one you don’t refuse. So I didn’t, though I hated being asked. I’d flown from Maine down here to Miami because she’d asked me to. She being Marguerite “Rita” Harris, my former landlady who’d become my friend.
As I made my way through the hospital corridors, I heard the squeak of the nurses’ shoes as they made their rounds, and smelled the cleaning fluids that tried to mask the odors that came with sickness and death. I hated being in a hospital again, as people I’d loved had died in places like this sterile tomb. And I’d been forced to spend too much time in hospitals recovering from the effects of my stupidity and poor choices. Being here brought back some bad memories.
Sunshine streamed through the window of her room, illuminating the dying woman in the bed, and enveloping her in a halo of white light. I hesitated at the door, not seeing any movement of her frail form. If she was sleeping, I didn’t want to wake her.
I edged silently closer. Only the slightest rise and fall of her chest indicated she was still breathing. The ravages of cancer had left little resemblance to the strong, vibrant woman I’d said goodbye to just the year before. Swallowing, I couldn’t get rid of the lump in my throat.
There was a book on the stand by her bed, a collection of poetry by Emily Dickinson. The Belle of Amherst had written about visitations from Death, and here was a woman who would soon meet him. I opened to where the bookmark lay, and read, my voice low.
“There’s a certain slant of light,” I said, but couldn’t finish.
Her eyelids fluttered open, and she gave me a weak smile. “Zack.” Her voice was like the rustle of dry paper. She looked as if she’d been squeezed like an orange, all of life’s juices gone. Tubes snaked from her in different directions, modern medicine keeping her in this world. It didn’t seem like a mercy.
I gently touched the tips of her fingers. “Hey there.”
She reached to grip my hand as if afraid I’d run away. “Must ask you for a promise.”
I knew I wasn’t going to like what she was about to ask. “What?”
“Find my grandson, Steven. I need to see him.”
“You’ve lost touch?”
“Some time back, he came to see me. He hadn’t been by for a while. He wanted the Dali you like that’s hanging in my living room. It’s genuine. Worth a bit.”
“And you said no.”
“He’d have just sold it. He said he had to have money, or he’d be forced to do something bad.”
“He told me he could make good money copying paintings that were sold as genuine. He thought I’d weaken.”
I smiled. “Didn’t work very well, did it?”
“I gave him some money, but wouldn’t give him the Dali. He was angry. I haven’t heard from him since.”
“Any idea where he is?”
“Card in the drawer.” She made a faint gesture to the stand beside the bed. Throughout the conversation, she’d seemed to fade in and out, like a distant radio station.
I opened the drawer and took out a business card. “Saul Rabinowitz, Attorney at Law.” I looked at her. “He’s the one who contacted me. Good Irish name.”
She gave me a weak smile. “He’ll explain everything.”
“What do I do when I find Steven?”
“Bring him here. He’ll come, since there’s some money from my estate. Late, but better than never.”
“Does he get the Dali, now, too?”
“No. It’s for you.”
“You always loved it. You’ll take care of it, protect it. Not just sell it off for cash. It has great sentimental value.”
“You met him, didn’t you?”
“Salvador? Oh, yes. He was something, I can tell you that. A true artist, but such a joker. It was after the war, when people were getting back into life and art. A fun crowd back then. Quite an experience.” She had a faraway look, remembering places of long ago. “I had so many interesting experiences. Now, nobody will know or care.”
“I care,” I said. “I can stay here, and you can tell me about them.”
“No. You have to find Steven. I need to see him before I go. Promise me you’ll bring him back in time.”
I hesitated. I didn’t want to say I could do something that I might not be able to make happen. What if I couldn’t find him in time? What if he didn’t want to come back? What if he was dead, or in jail? But in the end, when someone you care about is looking at the end of life, they get to impose upon you. At least you tell them whatever they want to hear. “I promise,” I finally said.
“Good, good.” She closed her eyes, then slowly opened them. “Find him, Zack. And hurry. I don’t know how long I can last.
With five novels and eight story collections published, Dale has also published over 50 short stories, poetry, and a non-fiction career book. He took writing seminars from Stephen King in college, and has appeared on stage, television, and in an independent feature film, Throg. He competed on two nationally televised quiz shows, Jeopardy and Think Twice. He co-wrote and acted in a short political satire film, The Nine. He’s traveled to all 50 states, Mexico, Canada, and through Europe. Check out his site at:www.daletphillips.com