Unforeseen (Thomas Prescott 1), page 1
Copyright © 2014 Nick Pirog
I wrote this book when I was 22 years old. It’s raw and unpolished, but it is my baby. If you haven’t read anything by me before, you might want to start with Gray Matter or 3 a.m. then come back and read this one later. That being said, I am still very proud of this book and hope you enjoy it.
For this free promotion, I have reduced the price of both Gray Matter (Thomas Prescott #2) and The Afrikaans (Thomas Prescott #3) to $2.99 (reg. $5.99). So be sure to pick those up. And your timing couldn’t have been better, as Show Me (Thomas Prescott #4) comes out on January 28, 2017.
If you’d like to see some ridiculous pictures of me and my dogs, visit www.nickthriller.com.
Eight in October
The topmost of the Penobscot Bay lighthouse was barely visible, the morning sun reflecting off its watchful eye. I cranked out the sails and picked up a paltry breeze, doing precisely the opposite of what I’d intended, heading the boat farther out into the vast Atlantic. I snatched up the book on sailing I’d bought, Sailing for Dummies, and skimmed the table of contents for “How the Hell to Get Back to Shore.” But evidently, my copy was missing that chapter.
There was an enlightening page about fetching and after reading it twice, I determined I would have been better off going with the Sailing for Idiots line. The only fetching in my future would be for a ride back to land.
I slipped into the captain’s chair—a red nylon lawn chair—and found a section more up my alley entitled, “Getting Your Feet Wet.” There was a series of sketches with attached labels and after careful debate, the Michelob bottle and I decided we had ourselves a schooner. According to the book, “The schooner is a traditional rig with two or more masts, the front mast (foremost) being shorter than the main mast.”
I peered up to check if the front mast, foremost, was indeed shorter than the main mast, but I didn’t know which end of the boat was the front. Thus the boat audit was a complete failure. Why couldn’t everything on the boat have labels on it like in the book? I made a mental note to buy some sticky notes on the way home.
The sun had recently escaped the ocean’s horizon and there were a few far off fishing boats. I pulled the binoculars up from around my neck and focused them on the nearest ship. The ship was charcoal for the most part, close to a hundred feet long, and came fully loaded with three tattered men. The rest of the boats were too far away to make out their names and I couldn’t help wondering if one of them was the Maine Catch. I still owed the crew a round of beers for saving my ass. That, however, was a completely different yarn altogether.
I set the binoculars down, took a long swig of beer, leaving an inch reserve in the darkly tinted brown bottle, and picked up the second piece of reading material I’d brought along. It was a hardback novel entitled Eight in October. The much-anticipated book was a true-crime thriller based on a string of murders that occurred throughout Maine in October of the past year.
I turned the book over in my hands. The majority of the cover was monopolized by one of Maine’s eminent firs, each of the tree’s leaves visually changing from emerald green to saffron yellow and finally to cranberry red, giving off the impression of an iridescent autumn in overdrive. From each of the leaves fell a droplet of blood, forming a puddle at the base of the tree.
I peeled opened the front cover gingerly as if the words might fall out if I hastened. I found the dedication page and regarded the dedication: To the eight women who lost their lives.
I didn’t read the names. I didn’t have to. I knew them all by heart.
I clapped the book shut and had the fleeting thought to chuck Eight in October into the pickled abyss. The book belonged beneath the sediment at the ocean’s floor. The last thing this community needed was a fifteen-ounce relic from a fifteen-day nightmare. I was pissed off at the author, some swine named Alex Tooms, who had decided to turn a buck at the mercy of these eight women. I was curious as to this Tooms’ countenance, but it seems he didn’t have the fiber to put his picture on the book jacket. This decision may have been impacted by the letter I sent him detailing the collection of ways I planned to end his life should I ever recognize him in public. If my letter had swayed his decision, the point was moot; the prick had a book signing coming up on October 1st, or more notably, on the anniversary of the first woman’s murder.
What a classy guy. I hope someone writes a book about how he was beaten to death with his own book at his own book signing. I’d buy it.
I put the book down. Baby steps.
At this rate I’d get through the book in a touch under a decade. I grabbed another beer from the cooler and decided while I was there I might as well grab two. Did I mention the cooler came with the chair and is, by default, attached to the chair? Well it is.
I knocked back the two beers and chased them down with egg salad. With my stomach content and the alcohol finding its way into my bloodstream, I decided to take another crack at the book. It was almost noon and I was behind on my three-word-a-minute quota. I found the first page and began reading:
Autumn in Maine is like nowhere else. The leaves fall from the trees a harvest gold and trickle to the ground a deep cherry. The lobster catch is at its peak, fishermen’s cages teeming with the vermilion crustaceans. The sun wakes a nation, crawling across the Atlantic a refulgent auburn. Last October, Maine was blanketed
I peeled the label off the beer bottle, smoothing it out like a crisp dollar bill, and thought about the last sentence, Truly, last autumn in Maine was like nowhere else.
I had to credit Mr. Tooms: he may lack all levels of morality, but his writing did capture the solemnity of the period. It was around this time last year when the first woman was found. I’d been living in Philly at the time and the murder had earned a small write-up on page eighteen of The Philadelphia Inquirer. I remember this distinctly because it was the first time anything from Maine made the paper.
Maine’s papers were a different story. In a state with the lowest crime rate in the country, finding a woman in thirty pieces was front page news. One of the lesser papers, the Waterville Tribune, ran an article written by none other than investigative journalist Alex Tooms. The paper was on the verge of bankruptcy and had nothing to lose by running Tooms’ vivid and grotesquely accurate accounts of the murders. The newspaper sold more copies in October than it had the entire nine months prior.
After the massacre ended—or, as I like to say, went on medical leave—this Tooms character had publishers throwing themselves at him, as to say, gold bars. The book already climbed to number five on the New York Times Best Sellers list and nearly every person I’d talked to had either read it, was in the process of reading it, or was reading it for the second time. My sister even said it wasn’t half bad. I’d been calling her Judas all week.
I was interested in how Tooms described the body of the first victim, and after skimming five pages I found what I was looking for:
Called “The County” by most New Englanders, Aroostook covers 6,453 square miles and grows more potatoes than any other county in the United States. Sitting amidst two of these square miles was a small, functionally spartan farmhouse. By noon on October 2nd, the once tame farmhouse had been transformed into the largest crime scene in Maine’s 350 years of existence.
Bangor Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Caitlin Dodds, described the scene simply as, “Sickening. Just sickening. It was truly Johnny Appleseed meets Jack the Ripper.”
The victim’s body was scattered throughout a half acre radius, severed into more than thirty definitive pieces. The most disheartening revelation came when the victim’s abdomen was unearthed. The blond haired, blue-eyed, medical examiner said, “It was immediately evident the victim was pregnant, except the baby, or fetus, was absent.”
Less than thirty feet away was the victim’s unborn child.
I tossed the book against the railing of the boat and it came to rest in teepee-like fashion. This was the explicit reason I didn’t want to read the book in the first place. Now I had the image of an unborn baby lying in a field in my mind.
I grabbed another sandwich (bologna and cheese) and concentrated on a less depressing image, specifically, Dr. Caitlin Dodds. I think there was an unwritten rule that if you were a woman in law enforcement you had to be unattractive, stiff, and named Mel. Dr. Caitlin Dodds was the exception to this rule—she was a stunner.
I closed my eyes and fell asleep with the good doctor on my mind.
When I opened my eyes, I was blinded by the sun directly overhead. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the daystar seemed to take up half the seamless cerulean. We were in the midst of one of Maine’s renowned Indian summers and the temperature was around seventy.
I took a deep breath of the crisp ocean air, which was reminiscent of eating a saltine between gasps on an oxygen tank, and gazed across Mother Atlantic. There wasn’t much for waves on her this morning and it was hard to believe I was bobbing along in the second largest body of water on the planet. An osprey flew nearby and did his dive-bomb-fish-retrieval thing, and I couldn’t help feeling sympathy pangs for the little silver guy in the osprey’s beak. One second he’s swimming downstream to visit his brother; the next second he’s Superman, only to be super dead. Poor little fella.
I kicked off my khaki shorts, boxer briefs, and docksides then checked to see if there were any other boats in the vicinity before walking the plank au naturel. The Atlantic was freezing but a good freezing, the kind you get in water above fifty degrees but below fifty-one. If you want to get technical, I wasn’t in the Atlantic per se; I was in the Penobscot Bay which, forty miles east, invariably becomes the Atlantic Ocean.
The bay retained its summer heat a wee bit longer than, say, the English Channel, and I was frigid not freezing. I trod water and watched the predominantly white hull of the Backstern bob up and down with the current.
If you’re wondering about the name, my sister, Lacy, aptly named the boat after her pug Baxter. Alas, the Backstern was moving but it was coming toward me. So no worries, right? Wrong. My entire body had turned into one comprehensive cramp. Now this could have been rooted in my not waiting a half hour after eating. Perhaps the five beers I’d guzzled in the last hour had something to do with it. There’s also a slim chance it was related to the two chunks of lead that had gone zipping through my flesh nearly a year ago. Most likely it was a combination of all three.
I turned over onto my back and went into the dead man’s float, praying I wouldn’t substantiate the term’s connotation. Some form of sea life brushed my side and immediately I was more frightened of my pecker becoming some fish’s lunch than drowning at sea.
Once safely back on the boat, I couldn’t help but notice if something had eaten Paddington, it would still be hungry.
The dusty, white sands of the shoreline were visible for the first time, but I still had three hours or so until I washed up. I plucked Eight in October off the boat deck and sank into the captain’s chair.
The third woman’s murder especially interested me, and I found what I was looking for on Page 59:
When the body of Amber Osgood was found on the afternoon of October 5th, the buck was passed from the Bangor Police Department to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI sent a task force to Maine to head up the investigation. The task force was comprised of agents Todd Gregory and Wade Gleason, both from the FBI Violent Crime Unit, and FBI consultant Thomas Prescott.
Todd Gregory, 27, was a third-year man at the FBI and regarded as the top young agent in his field. Gregory was short, strikingly handsome with hazel eyes, dark brown hair, and olive skin.
Wade Gleason, 47, had been a staple in the FBI community for more than twenty years. Gleason had worked more than two hundred serial homicide cases and was considered worldwide to be the best in the business. The soft-spoken African-American was tall, athletically built, and known simply as “Glease” by peers.
Rounding out the team was FBI consultant Thomas Prescott. Prescott, 33, a “retired” homicide detective, was ruggedly handsome with unruly brown hair, slate blue-gray eyes, and renowned for his irascible wit, erratic behavior, and confrontational style.
I threw the book over the side of the boat. Erratic behavior, my ass. Who the fuck did this jerk think he was? First things first, I was handsome, not ruggedly handsome. And second, my confrontational style stemmed from the fact I was working with three morons. All right, two morons. Wade Gleason was one smart cookie and he’d kick the shit out of his own mother if she overcooked his steak. But Todd Gregory and Caitlin Dodds were about as useful as a twelve-dollar bill.
As for that little pipsqueak Gregory, he was so pretty most of the male cops I knew had a thing for him, and not just the gay ones. I’d been flipping through People magazine at the supermarket in June or July when I came across his pretty little face in their “50 Most Beautiful People” issue. Evidently, it violates Maine state law to light a magazine on fire in a public place because I was arrested and forced to pay a small fine.
I peered over the edge of the boat, but Eight in October was nowhere to be found. Rats. Now I would have to spend another twenty-
I grabbed a beer from the cooler and sucked down all twelve ounces, then lying back I let my mind wander to the day I first met the task force.
I opened the door of the large Philadelphia apartment to the distinct ring of my cell phone. I extracted my cell from under the middle, olive drab, sofa cushion and flipped it open
“Is this Detective Prescott?” came a harsh deluge.
“That’s ex-detective Prescott.” At least according to the three documents I had to sign, initial, and lick.
The voice softened a bit. “Right. This is Charles Mangrove. I got your number from Dwight Stully.”
Dwight Stully had been my chief at the Seattle Police Department and was still my main contact with the world of law enforcement. The name Mangrove sounded familiar and I hoped I was talking to the long-lost, twice-removed, third cousin of the Mangrove I suspected. “Any relation to the Charles Mangrove who happens to be Deputy Director of the FBI?”
“One and the same. One and the same.”
Charles continued, “Listen, I’m calling in regards to these killings up in Maine. Are you familiar with them?”
I only knew of two killings, but from my experience, “them” was an overtone for three or more. If I were smart, I would have hung up the phone. But I wasn’t smart. Cunning, yes. Deft, sure. Competent, probably. But smart? Well, the jury was still out on that one. I said, “Sure, the two gals who got hacked to shit. What’s this have to do with the FBI?”
“You mean three gals. This morning they found a third. She was killed on an island off the coast of Maine called Campobello. Campobello is Canadian territory.”
“So why isn’t the Royal Caribbean Mariachi Band taking over?”
“You mean the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?”
I guess Charles took my silence as some sort of nod and persevered, “Actually, it’s Interpol’s jurisdiction.”