John Chamber's Book 1: Her Mother's Pendant
It's all fun and games until someone gets bashed in the back of the head.
Dick shoved Santana out of harm’s way, which sent her into the wall. She caught herself on her hands and expertly rose to her feet as a punch landed on Dick’s shoulder blade.
Tyrone leered at Dick with a predatory grin as he went for him again, and used his momentum to turn his left jab into a right cross.
Dick was too quick for him as he ducked out of his trajectory and spun to hook underneath Tyrone’s bicep with both hands. He yanked the man’s arm down and drove his knee up, which bent the arm against its usual position and sent a spike of bone bursting through the skin.
Tyrone howled in pain while his eyes grew as wide as china plates. Dick was aware that more men were coming, spurred on by the sudden rush of adrenaline around the bar. He shoved Tyrone away, planted a foot in the middle of his back, and sent him forward, where he crashed into a nearby table and spilled the drinks of a rough-looking couple into their laps.
Wood splintered beneath him. The couple cried their protest and left the bar with angry glances back at them.
A cry of rage came from Dick’s right, and he caught Connor’s fist with his open hand, but barely. The grab sent a jolt of pain up his right arm into the shoulder joint. Dick used his left hand to jab Connor in the nose, which caused the nasal passages to erupt with blood. Connor’s head flicked backward, and Dick stabbed at the man’s throat, hoping to jab his fingers in his airway.
A great hulk of flesh charged at his side, rammed into Dick and lifted him from the waist. Caught off-guard, Dick could do nothing but let his new companion carry him until he was thrown onto the poker table’s top. Chips flew in all directions. The table snapped in two. Arnie landed on top of Dick and almost knocked the wind out of him.
“All of this because you don’t want to pay up?” Dick wheezed. “Would you rather I take an IOU?”
Arnie growled. “All of this because you’re a cocky, self-righteous prick.”
“I always had myself down for cocky, but self-righteous is a stretch.” He glanced at the behemoth of a man picking himself up off the floor. “Top points for expanding your vocabulary, though. I didn’t know gorillas could learn new tricks.”
Arnie’s face darkened. He picked up a wooden chair in one hand and arced it over his head. Seeing this maneuver long before it came, Dick grabbed the neck of one of the few surviving beer bottles and hurled it at Arnie.
The glass smashed as it hit his face. Shards sprayed in all directions, forcing him to shut his eyes and shake his head. The forgotten chair bounced off his head before it hit the floor, where one of the legs snapped off and skidded toward Santana.
Seizing the advantage, Dick pushed himself to his feet as he grabbed another bottle in one hand, and a handful of peanuts in the other. He lazily tossed a couple of nuts into his mouth, then threw his arm out to the side and hurled the rest in Jake’s face.
Jake, who had been going for the second charge, pawed at his eyes while blinking stupidly to eradicate the pain from the salted coating dissolving in his tears.
Meanwhile, Arnie turned to Dick with a face covered in lacerations and twinkling glass embedded in his skin. His eyes darted to the bottle in Dick’s hand, and as Dick moved for the strike, Arnie caught his wrist.
“I never fall for the same trick twice.” Arnie grinned.
Dick raised an eyebrow. “Is that why your ex cheated on you three times?”
All humor left Arnie’s face. “You son of a—”
Wood splintered behind Arnie’s head. A mask of confusion fell over him as he released Dick’s wrist and moved his hand to his massive dome. He patted his head, then examined his hand, now stained red with blood.
Arnie dazedly spun to find Santana behind him with the wooden chair leg clutched in front of her with both hands.
“What’re you going to do? Hit a lady?” Santana’s voice wobbled slightly.
Arnie looked as though he couldn’t understand what day of the week it was. His lip curled up, and his eyes rolled toward the back of his head. With a slight nudge of encouragement from Dick’s foot, Arnie collapsed onto his knees, then fell flat on the floor, his head tilted clumsily to the side.
A moment of stunned silence passed over the bar. Dick’s eyes met Santana’s. “So, you say you have a job?”
“Shall we get out of here?”
Her nods increased in eagerness.
Dick knelt at Arnie’s side and rifled through his pockets. He found his phone, held the fingerprint identifier to Arnie’s thumb and the screen lit up. He flicked across to the Satiata Cash app and thumbed in an estimated amount for his winnings that night. Then he bumped his phone against Arnie’s and a small notification rang to confirm the transfer. “Ah, how technology has made our lives all the easier. Sorry, big guy. A win is a win.”
Dick rose, tossed the phone, then stepped over the mountain of a man and joined Santana. As they strode past the others in the bar, they felt their eyes burning into them. They had barely made it past the bar when the sound of a shotgun cocking drew their attention.
“Relax, Marty. It’s over, okay?” Dick soothed. “Nice work on defending your bar, too, by the way. Who keeps their firearms hidden upstairs in Atlantica?”
Marty turned the shotgun’s barrel on Dick without a word.
Dick nodded as resignation came over him. This wasn’t the first time he had lost the privilege of entering one of the dingy establishments set up along the outskirts of Atlantica, and it sure as hell wouldn’t be the last. The modest island floating off the East Coast of the United States had a copious amount of these quaint backwater bars, and the way Dick saw it, these carbon copy bars were like burner phones—great until their use expired, then you tossed them away and found another one.
“Yeah, I get it. I’m not welcome back.” He turned and waved a hand behind him. “Let me know when the place changes hands again, will you, Marty?”
Night had fallen over Atlantica, but it was almost impossible to tell the difference from any other time of day. The ever-permeating veil of fog blocked the stars and reduced the full shining moon to a fuzzy orb in the sky.
Cars revved their engines at the stoplights. It was an inspiring array of some of the finest vehicles the world had ever seen—Mercedes-Benz, Jaguars, Lexus, BMWs, Bentleys, Teslas, and many custom vehicles manufactured for some of the wealthiest individuals to grace the Earth. Although cash bought them their dream cars, it didn’t buy their owners’ patience. Despite all that money thrown at top-drawer parts and ludicrous horsepower, there was nowhere on the island to open the throttle and let the ponies gallop.
Such a waste. We’re in the year 2027, and they still haven’t figured out a way to safely propel cars at breakneck speeds through the streets.
A lot of life was different in Atlantica. While the world still couldn’t believe that the hidden island had been found floating around in the Atlantic Ocean almost a thousand miles east of New York City, it hadn’t taken those who discovered it long to claim it as theirs and grow its notoriety. Atlantica had a reputation for welcoming the rich, the powerful, and the successful, and it didn’t matter whether you were good, evil, or somewhere in between. If you had money and the right contacts, you could make a home for yourself here.
Dick fired up a cigarette, cupping the flame from his Zippo against the wind. He took a long drag and exhaled into the air. Santana watched him intently, her face a slightly paler shade than it had been in the bar. Sirens called in the distance.
“You said you have a job for me, Miss Sokolov. If it’s of some importance, I’d recommend spilling the beans sooner rather than later. As I’m sure I demonstrated in there, I’m a man of little patience, and although you have my attention now, who knows what shiny object could take it from you?”
Across the street, a woman emerged from a block of luxury apartments. Her red dress dropped to barely below her ass, and she strutted as though she owned the place.
“I see what you mean,” Santana scoffed as an understanding grin touched her lips. “Mr. Chambers…”
“Please, call me Dick.”
Santana considered this. “I’m not going to do that.”
“Enjoy the connotations too much?”
Dick exhaled from his nose, then took another drag of his cigarette. “Come. Let’s walk and talk.”
“Where are we going?”
“Away from the place we just destroyed.”
Santana’s mouth fell open. “You destroyed.”
“You mean that Arnie isn’t unconscious because you belted him over the head with a table leg?”
Santana’s mouth flapped open and closed.
Dick grinned. “That’s what I thought. Tick-tock, lady. I don’t have all night. I’ve got places to be.”
Santana looked as if she was going to contest that notion, then thought better of it. “Mr. Chambers, a mutual friend recommended your services. I need someone who can…locate things. Missing objects, stolen treasures.”
“Why don’t you call the AJS?”
The sirens grew louder. Dick turned to see two cars appear back down the street and pull up curbside at the bar. The vehicles were a sleek black with angry red cherries spinning their lights on top. The AJS crest decorated the sides of the cars.
Speak of the devils.
Dick had encountered the Atlantica Justice System on more occasions than he cared to admit in his eight years of residence on the island. Having lived most of his life in the United States, with a brief spell of his early years in the UK, he hadn’t believed the rumors that the laws and codes of ethics on Atlantica were so severely different from the rest of the world until he had experienced them first-hand. He was still getting his head around the do’s and dont’s of the island.
Atlantica has its way of dealing with lawbreakers, and that shit is as confusing as a Chinese puzzle box.
Dick increased his pace and turned left at the crossroads, passing a series of high-end diners and restaurants.
Santana fought to keep in step as pedestrian traffic increased. Three men barred her way, and she curved around them to catch up with Dick. “You know as well as I do that the AJS doesn’t do shit about residential conflicts. As far as they’re concerned, you can do whatever the fuck you want in your house and get away with it, but…”
“…take it into the streets, and they’ll come down on you like a guillotine. I know the drill.” Dick turned up the collar on his thick tan coat and brought the cigarette up for another drag. “Is there a point to all of this?”
Santana—who was now somewhat breathless—ran in front of Dick, grabbed his arm and pulled him into the shadows of a nearby alley. The smell of grilled steak and thick-cut French fries filled the air.
Dick frowned. “Look, Miss Sokolov, if this is some elaborate ruse to get me in the sack, I have to tell you that I don’t carry that kind of cash on me. You want a quickie; it’s gotta be a freebie, then I’m on my way—”
Red-hot pain rose on Dick’s cheek as Santana’s slap echoed down the alley. He moved his hand to his cheek, then looked at her. There was no malice in her eyes, only pained curiosity.
“You slapped me.”
“Yes, and I’ll do it again until you listen to me. I need you, Mr. Chambers. I’m a busy girl, and I don’t have time for this. I need you to help me locate something.” She drew a folded piece of paper from her pocket and passed it to Dick. He unfolded it to reveal four individual pages, each with a different printed picture on the front.
The first page showed a pendant on a gold chain draped across a walnut dresser. The locket lay open. Beside it was a torn piece of paper with a section of a map printed on the front, and a separate piece of paper with writing scribbled in a language Dick had never seen before.
The remaining three pages were enlarged images of each item, big enough so that Dick could see the contents more clearly.
“You photographed your evidence?” He kept his eyes fixed on the images, angling them so that the nearby streetlamp shone its light on them.
“Then destroyed the digital copies,” Santana stated.
Dick fixed her with an impressed stare. “You are thorough.”
I love it when they jump right into the plot of the book. So far we have a guy who can handle himself in an uneven fight, and a missing pendant. I can't wait to see what happens next. Head over to Amazon and pre-order John Chambers Book 1: Her Mother's Pendant today. Then join John ” Dick” Chambers in solving this mystery December 26th.