Welcome to my stop on Desmond P Ryan’s Death Before Coffee blog tour!
Many thanks to Emma @ damppebblesblogtours for the opportunity to take part. I have an excellent excerpt to share with you all today, but watch this space for my review!
The phone on his desk rang.
A woman’s voice slurred a few lines of “Happy Birthday,” then, “Still chasin’ bad guys, Detective?”
“How are you, Brenda?”
“A little drunk right now,” the caller said, giving a self-deprecating chuckle, “but otherwise good. You?”
“I’m doing well. Thanks for asking.” Mike couldn’t recall Brenda ever having called and not being ‘a little drunk.’ Who could blame her? Certainly not him.
“Still nothing. I’m sorry.”
“I know, Detective O’Shea. We’re all sorry.”
The hallway outside the office was flooding with noisy uniformed officers heading out to the back parking lot in preparation for their midnight shift.
“Guys? Please?” Julia called out, her voice cutting through the low, exclusively male hum that was echoing off the hallway walls. “We’re trying to work in here.”
A few comments about the job being fucked and that a trained squirrel could manage this shitshow better than their sergeant were the last of it before the noise subsided. Both Dave and Ron gave Julia a nod of thanks.
“Please, Lord, give me the strength that I need to face today,” Julia whispered, eyes closed, head bowed, right hand grasping her cross. “I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. If You just give me the strength that I need today, that is all I need. You know the rest. Amen.”
“If this so-called God of yours exists, tell Him to pull up His socks. He’s slacking,” Ron huffed, annoyed at his relief’s pre-shift ritual.
“Oh, and God?” Julia added, bowing her head as she pulled her coffee from the tray. “Be kind to Ron. Even if he isn’t kind to anyone else. I’m sure he tries in his own special way. Amen.”
She lifted the plastic top off and savoured the smell before taking what would be, as usual, the only sip of hot coffee she would have time for during her shift.
Mike was only half-listening to Brenda. In fact, he could hardly hear her voice over the racket just outside the doorway prior to Julia’s intervention. Not that he couldn’t have practically scripted this conversation by heart. The calls during the first five years or so had been a little more hopeful. Now they were just annual calls.
“I think about my baby every day, you know,” Brenda’s voice broke as she began to whimper.
“So do I.” And he did.
Julia turned her head slightly, her ear closer to Mike. Even though it had been years since that night and it could have been anyone on the other end of the line now, she had a good idea of who the caller was. While it wasn’t quite the same, she had a few callers like that herself. Everyone who had been in the Juvenile Prostitution Task Force did: usually a mother or sister of one of the girls who didn’t make it out. Some called on an anniversary of something, while others just called when they were lonely. Or drunk. Julia had one mother whom she met every December 15th in a little bistro around the corner from where her daughter was killed. That one was easier, if there was even such a thing as easy in these cases. They had caught the guy who killed her little girl. And the girl was dead. Closure, or so they said. By the slump in Mike’s shoulders, Julia figured that his caller hadn’t been so lucky.
“She’s twenty-seven years old today, you know.” Brenda’s voice broke as she struggled to continue. “If she’s still alive.”
“I know.” Mike remembered her birthday. And the last time he saw her as Malcom was plucking her out of the group of frightened girls to be his hostage, leaving them—along with Mike and Ron—to die in the burning factory. Chelsea Hendricks was fourteen then. Had been on the stroll ever since she was twelve because there was a demand for sex with twelve-year-olds.
The muscles in his neck tightened.
“Thanks for remembering. So,” Brenda took a deep breath, “tell me about your life, Detective O’Shea. You get married again? And your boy?”
“Yeah,” he sighed. They weren’t supposed to talk about their personal lives. It had been one of the few explicit rules of the JPTF, but it was impossible not to give something back to these mothers who had lost everything. “And my son is doing well, thanks for asking.”
“I’m so sorry for calling…” She began to cry again.
“No. It’s okay. I’m glad you did. That you do,” Mike said, vividly recalling that little girl standing on the corner, caught up in a grown-up world, becoming increasingly unrecognizable as the addictions consumed her child’s body and undeveloped brain. “It’s been thirteen years now, hasn’t it?”
Julia rose from her chair, her eyes welling up as she looked at Mike. She knew whom he was talking to. She wanted to hug him and remind him that he had done everything he could—that they all had—but things just didn’t work out. That’s what he had always told her when a case went south.
But this wasn’t just a case, though. And it wasn’t just about the girl.
“Yeah. Hard to believe, eh?” Brenda said, fighting back her tears. “I still remember that night you came to our door, you and that girl cop. Some days—most days—it feels like it was yesterday. You were so handsome back then. Are you still handsome, Detective O’Shea?”
“Depends who you ask,” Mike glanced around the room, noticing Julia moving from behind her desk, walking towards him. He waved her back, embarrassed. This wasn’t the old JPTF office. No hugging here.
“Still funny, too.” He could hear the woman on the other end of the line pausing to take a long sip of whatever the hell her anesthetic-of-choice was tonight. “No leads on where my baby is?”
“No leads.” Not a fucking break in thirteen years.
“She was a good girl, you know.” Mike was sure the glass Brenda was drinking from was emptying quickly now.
“I know.” They all were good girls…once. Fuck.
“Just got in with the wrong crowd. That happens, right? I mean, it’s not like her father and I didn’t love her. Did you know we broke up, me and Jeff?”
Gin, Mike recalled. Brenda always drank gin. He could hear the cap on the bottle being unscrewed as she prepared to pour herself another ounce. Or two. Or three.
“Yeah, I remember you telling me that.” Mike looked out into the hallway just outside the D office, noticing the uniforms still filtering towards the back door that would lead them into the night as the parading sergeant, clipboard in hand, passed out keys for the cars.
“Such a shame, you know. Good man, Jeff. It’s just… well, after Chelsea, it was too hard, you know? The drinking didn’t help, mind you. Happens a lot, apparently. The counsellor that we went to—thanks for setting all that up for us, by the way—said that having a child go missing like that is worse than a death. Funny thing to say, eh? Anyway, said it was one of the hardest things on a marriage. I guess he was right.”
“Jeff was the only one strong enough to sober up.” Mike heard Brenda take a gulp of gin before returning to her usual-suspect theory. “I still think it was that guy she met at the mall. You checked him out, right?”
“Yes. Many times.” If he had been talking to anyone but Brenda, Mike would have lost his patience by now. But he wasn’t. It was Brenda, and he had all the time in the world for her. It was the least he could do.
“And it wasn’t him?”
“No,” Mike replied gently, knowing that he was breaking her heart all over again. “It wasn’t him.”
“I mean, maybe not him him, but somebody he knew? Before that, she was such a good girl: no drugs, no boys, no sex. And then she met him. Jeff said I overreacted, that I pushed her to him. The counsellor said blaming didn’t help, but I know Jeff blamed—no, still blames me. If anyone’s to blame, it’s Jeff. He didn’t say anything when he had the chance.”
“It’s not your fault, Detective O’Shea. None of it—”
“Sure.” Mike watched the parading sergeant rub out something on his clipboard with the eraser on his pencil as he detailed the last of his officers.
“I know the papers were pretty hard on you. About your partner getting shot like that. And you not even pulling your gun, but I know you would have—”
“When the two of you came to the door that first time and told me and Jeff that you knew where Chelsea was and that she was a hooker, I wanted to kill both of you, you know?” Mike heard the metal cap working its way off the bottle again, then the gin gurgling into the waiting glass. “I honestly wanted to gouge your eyes out. Like it was your fault. And then, after everything, when you came to our door the last time, just you by yourself, I kind of felt like it was my fault, you know? That if I hadn’t have wanted to kill you both, your partner would still be alive. How’s that for fucked-up thinking, eh?”
Mike watched as the parading sergeant turned around to walk back up to the front of the station, all of his charges accounted for. Then he looked at Ron reading over what he had been so feverishly typing, his brow furrowing occasionally as, Mike assumed, he was reconsidering his choice of words. As if it mattered.
“It’s okay, Brenda,” he said, hearing the glass click on her teeth as she took a big gulp and began to cry.
“Is it really? Honestly? I hope so, because I feel anything but normal now. With Chelsea and Jeff both gone…” Mike heard her finishing off her drink. “I think he’s remarried, you know. A girl from work, I think. Like it never happened. How do people do that, Detective? Just pick up and move on?”
“You haven’t moved on, have you?”
Mike took a deep breath.
“You okay?” Ron’s voice brought Mike back to the present. Mike nodded yes at his partner.
“You were right there when your pretty-boy partner got shot, weren’t you, Detective?” Brenda’s words got slower as the alcohol held her closer and closer. “The papers said you were right behind him. That the guy tried to kill you, too, but the gun jammed. That you didn’t even have a chance to get your gun out before—”
“Yeah. That’s what they say.”
“Must have been had for you. For his mother. He had a mother, right?” Again the sound of the cap being twisted off the bottle.
“Yeah. He had a mother.”
Mike had not known Sal’s mother before the funeral. Before he held out the pillow with her son’s forage cap on it. Before she took the cap, cried quietly for a moment, wiped her tears, and hugged him.
“You ever have nightmares about that?”
“Going for coffee. Anyone want one?” Dave jumped up from his seat, reaching for the coat that was no longer on the desk beside him before smiling over at Julia.
“You just came in with one!” Ron objected.
“You never know what’s been on that desk, Dave,” Julia cautioned, passing him his coat from the rack. “I once got home and found a mouse in my purse. Seriously. That’s why I keep it in the drawer now. This place is disgusting.”
“You’re never going to find her, are you, Detective?” The voice in Mike’s ear repeated what the voice in his head told him whenever it could. “My Chelsea?”
“We’re do our best, Brenda.”
“But no one is actually out there looking any more, are they?”
“Not from the JPTF, no, but—”
“This is the only chance I’ll have tonight,” Dave hollered by way of an explanation as he hustled out the door. “Last call!”
“Shit, I’m out of fucking gin!” Brenda screamed to no one in particular, and then without missing a beat, continued talking to Mike, her voice much softer. “You’re still looking, though, aren’t you?”
“I look every day.”
“I have to hang up now, Detective,” she concluded abruptly, as she did every year when the booze ran out. “Same time next year?”
“Same time next year.”
“Unless you find her?”
“Unless I find her.”
“Goodnight, Detective.” Her voice broke as she began to weep.
“Oh, and Detective?”
“I include you in my prayers every night.”
“Thank you, Brenda. If I prayed, I would do the same for you. Goodnight.”
Death Before Coffee (Mike O’Shea #2) by Desmond P. Ryan
By 2:27 on a Thursday afternoon, the one-legged man from Room 8 at 147 Loxitor Avenue has been beaten to death with a lead pipe. Twenty-eight minutes later, Detective Mike O’Shea is testifying in a stuffy courtroom, unaware that, within an hour, he will be standing in an alleyway littered with beer cans and condoms while his new partner—the man who saved his life thirteen years ago—flicks bugs off of a battered corpse with a ballpoint pen. When a rogue undercover copper prematurely hauls in the prime suspect, Mike blows a fuse, resulting in an unlikely rapport developing between him and the lead homicide detective sergeant, a woman known for her stilettos and razor sharp investigative skills. At the end of his seventy-two-hour shift, three men are dead and Mike O’Shea is floating in and out of consciousness in an emergency room hallway, two women by his side.
Death Before Coffee, the second book in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, weaves a homicide investigation through the life of an inner-city police detective intent on balancing his responsibilities as a son, brother, and newly single father with his sworn oath of duty. When faced with death, Mike is forced to make decisions that stir up old memories, compelling him to confront his demons while fighting the good fight.
Published in eBook and paperback on 8th February 2019.
About Desmond P. Ryan:
For almost thirty years, Desmond P. Ryan worked as a cop in the back alleys, poorly-lit laneways, and forgotten neighbourhoods in Toronto, the city where he grew up. Murder often most unkind, assaults on a level that defied humanity, and sexual violations intended to demean, shame, and haunt the victims were all in a day’s work. Days, evenings, midnights–all the same. Crime knows no time.
Whether as a beat cop or a plainclothes detective, Desmond dealt with good people who did bad things and bad people who followed their instincts. And now, as a retired detective, he writes crime fiction.
Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction.
Amazon Author Page:
happy reading 🙂