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Below are excerpts from each of the short stories which comprise 5 Tales by JB Vincent. If you like the excerpts and want to read more, 5 Tales is available through most e-book retailers in all popular formats. You’ll find links at the end of the excerpts that will allow you to purchase 5 Tales. The print version is in production and should be out soon.
Presidential Fetish a twisted account of the death of a former United States President and the cover up that follows.
“I just can’t get the scene out of my mind. The former leader of the free world encased in rubber. The presidential naughty bits dangling like a skinned weasel in a butcher’s window in some piss poor Third World country,” said Dexter Stiles, shaking his head and looking off into nowhere in particular.
“Yeah, well you couldn’t have been ready for that sort of thing, no one could. I feared something like this happening the entire eight years we were in the White House and the twelve in the Governor’s Mansion as well. Everyday I worried about it. It’s one thing to have certain fetishes, but couple that with an insatiable urge for bacon double-cheeseburgers soaked in ranch, and eventually the combination will kill you. Still, I have to say, I’m in shock too. I’m just thankful Mistress Kamlai had the good sense to call us, and not the local gendarmerie.
“She really did us a solid, that’s for sure. After all these years she must have felt some kind of loyalty towards him and us. What’s more amazing is our ability to keep his predilections under wraps for so long. Now … well, I guess the whole world will know everything at some point.”
“It’s a good thing our careers are basically over anyway. The Secret Service is going to send you to Boise to guard the dogs of dignitaries when they find out you arranged these trysts all these years, and I’m going to be the political equivalent of kryptonite.”
“Oh come on, Mo. Every politician will be pounding down your door thinking you are the most loyal adviser a United States President has ever had given the shit you covered up. That is if you physically survive the wrath of the attorney general.”
The attorney general, referred to by Morris Abernathy, chief of staff to former and now dead President Thomas Barnard, was the latter’s wife, who had endured far too many of her husband’s shenanigans over the years, but certainly couldn’t have known of his more private activities. Attorney General Terri Clifton-Barnard had realized many decades ago that putting her husband in check was impossible and had instead resolved to use his political popularity and cache for her own ambitions. The woman was able to overlook a lot, but both Abernathy and Secret Service agent Dexter Stiles were well aware if she had known about this particular habit, the president would have been nothing but a speed bump in her past.
In reality, Abernathy was closer to the attorney general than most people realized. This had been a strategic move for him as it allowed the ability to cover up the more snaky maneuvers of the former president. The truth was, Abernathy had gotten so close to the old girl that he was subject to rippling twinges of guilt whenever he gave thought to his complicit involvement in the multitudes of lies surrounding the president. He had always thought, despite her voracious ambition, she didn’t deserve the kinds of things that went on behind her back. If she found out about the manner of her husband’s death and put two and two together, which was inevitable, Abernathy was toast on the beltway.
Last Thoughts guides the reader through the final ponderings and regrets of a good but fallible man as he faces imminent death.
Oh shit, it’s really happening. Kermit Stevens felt the bridge start to let loose under the Jeep, and this time he was going down for real.
Every morning for the last six years it happened exactly like this in his head, only he never thought it would actually happen. What were the odds, ten billion to one? Whatever the case, the same scene ran across the screen of his mind each day on the ride to work. It played out at the middle of the eighty-degree curve of the Coronado Bridge where Interstate 75 lugubriously ebbs from downtown San Diego onto the exclusive isthmus of Coronado, which has been referred to lo these hundred or so years by the geographically incorrect term of “island.” The section at mile-marker two breaks free in front of the Jeep, the lip of the stressed concrete and steel structure becomes visible over the hood and the air above the asphalt swirls in the haze of Southern California heat.
It’s exactly at this spot where the dry desert air from the mainland collides with the ocean breeze of the Pacific and changes to moist and subtly cool wisps cascading off the interior side of the windscreen and rushing across Kermit’s face. The swapping of warm soothing air to the slightly bracing was the signal to downshift from sixth to third gear and drop the accelerator to the floor in an effort to race the falling section of bridge and make it safely to the other side, the long defunct toll booth at the end beckoning like the ghostly finish line of some important race.
On some days, in Kermit’s imagination, the ending was successful, and on others, it wasn’t. In reality the Jeep always made it across … until today. There was really no telling why this specific vision invaded his head every single morning. Kermit wasn’t afraid of bridges and certainly never had any signs of clairvoyance, but for some strange reason he just knew he was going to die underneath the Coronado Bridge. Each morning was a kind of dress rehearsal, a morbid inter-cerebellum Ground Hog’s Day.
Every weekday at 6:43 a.m. the same cars were in identical positions at mile marker two. Always on the left, just south of Kermit’s rear fender, was the dark blue Ford Expedition with government plates, its driver, a severe looking bald, black gentleman with gold framed aviator sunglasses. In the front, the orange Dodge Charger passed on the right at about eighty (the Charger always made it across, even today). Directly behind the Jeep was the fifteen passenger airport shuttle van, carting tourists to the various oceanside hotels after flying in from parts unknown. Always in the same position, the passengers’ fates, on any given day, were left to the whimsy of Kermit Steven’s creative power. He wondered what the other drivers thought of his Jeep’s reliable daily burst of speed at that same precise time every single morning. They must think I’m nuts, thought Kermit. Maybe he was.
Nuts or not, Kermit had resigned himself to the idea that this would indeed be the manner in which he died and as was his character, he began preparing for the inevitable. It was comforting to know how death would come, so that he could make the necessary arrangements. When he was transferred from the naval base at Norfolk, Virginia to Coronado as chief investigator of the Navy SEALS internal affairs unit, Kermit had driven a Dodge Durango, purchased for a song from the Navy’s carpool surplus division. The first time the bridge made its imaginary fall and he realized his fate, Kermit decided the Durango just wouldn’t do. At that particular section of bridge he and the SUV would be dumped onto land, not into the drink and there was the risk the external hard drive, his constant companion for the last six years, might survive the fall. He couldn’t afford to take the chance, the drive needed to hit water. Since his death was assured, the thing had to go. He couldn’t be worried about trying to get a door or window open while tumbling two hundred feet into the next life.
The Grocery Man
The Grocery Man follows a middle-aged grocery clerk’s walk through a winter night’s snowstorm pondering his life as a grocery man in a small New England town.
Woodstock, Vermont had hunkered down and braced for the onslaught hours ago. Normally, the little town rolled up its sidewalks somewhere between five and seven P.M.. When news of the storm started to sink in, the charming shops, library, Historical Society, even the banks chose to pack it in around three-thirty. Now just shy of eight-fifteen, the hamlet was desolate, like an East Coast version of an old, abandoned ghost town. You could almost picture coniferous tumbleweeds rolling down the streets in green whirls; pinecones orbiting around like little satellites. The only establishment with a semblance of human life was the local watering hole, Revere’s. Revere’s never closed, especially not for a blizzard. A world war or a plague of locusts, perhaps, but never for a blizzard. This is Vermont after all. Someone has to stay open to fuel the adult desires of the hearty New Englanders fearless enough to venture out in a full on blizzard.
Gavin Reynolds lived for these stormy nights. It was one of the best things about living in Vermont. The silence and peacefulness before a good storm could wipe out any kind of tension brought on by a typical day.
Pleasant Street twinkled with the white lights of the holiday season. The pretty specialty stores, decked out in festive splendor and bustling a mere hour before, were now sleepy and serene. Gavin walked west on Pleasant toward downtown and stopped to take in the scene. He turned one hundred and eighty degrees eastward in time to see the lights of his employer, Sam’s Grocery, go dark. Very soon, Caleb Stone would drive by in his 1985 Subaru headed home after locking up the place. The two workmates would wave to each other just like every night since Gavin started walking to work twenty-five years ago after purchasing the little saltbox on Stock Street, less than three quarters of a mile from Sam’s.
On most nights, Caleb’s car would be one in a small stream of vehicles making their way through town and Gavin usually had to look over the roof of some passing car, truck, or farm tractor in order to make eye contact with Caleb. Tonight, a storm night, Caleb’s Subaru would be the only one on the road.
The air smelled like snow, that indescribable crispness which titillates the senses of young and old alike. It’s the scent of a certain kind of excitement; a blend of the unknown combined with the idea that what is about to happen is completely beyond your control. It creates the sort of atmosphere permitting one to let loose all their everyday mundane and mechanical thoughts and opt for ethereal ones instead, wispy non-essential ponderings, the kind of thinking rarely allowed in everyday life. These are the times when it is universally acceptable to use the word magical.
Gavin took in a deep breath, enjoying that glorious smell intermingled with hickory and oak accents, the exhaust from many a sequestered Woodstockian’s chimney. Eyes closed, Gavin lifted his nose higher into the air to catch every last bit of the freshness. Was that pot roast? With one eye open and painfully craned to the left toward Spring Street he could see through the lace curtains of Mrs. Godfrey’s red clapboard Victorian. He allowed his straining left eye to focus through the ancient uneven and bubbly six inch by six inch panes of framed glass, opened ever so slightly and could see it indeed was the aroma of a fine roast, one currently in transit from the stove to kitchen table. Gavin would have bet his last dollar that roast was the very one Caleb sold Mrs. Godfrey at Sam’s just this afternoon in the thick of the mêlée caused by news of the storm.
Speaking of Caleb, the telltale sound of studded snow tires on pavement broke through the gentle and pleasant reverie cantering through Gavin’s brain, and he lowered his head and opened the other eye just in time to wave and smile at his workmate. Gavin’s eyes traveled from Caleb’s gloved wave to just over the hood of the Subaru where the familiar sight of dainty flecks of snow were revealed by the glow of the car’s low beams. Instinctively, he looked up at the dim, old-fashioned street lights where the start of the storm was confirmed. Smiling to himself, Gavin began to walk westward once more.
The red taillights of the Subaru seemed to drift down Pleasant Street as Gavin watched. One of the lights was cracked and shone white instead of red. It had been broken for well over a year and Gavin wondered why his friend had never fixed the thing. As the lights disappeared in laser like spirals past the town green at the end of the street, he also wondered why Caleb had never left Sam’s for employment elsewhere. Next to Gavin, Caleb had been at Sam’s longer than anyone, even the owner who had bought the place in 1981 from the original Sam himself.
Unlike Gavin, Caleb had gone to college, Dartmouth, in fact, on a variety of scholarships, earning a business degree and, although he didn’t show any outward indications of brilliance, his education certainly contributed to his well-rounded intellectual economy. Caleb seemed to be well versed on every subject imaginable, and all the customers from local farmers to the rich and famous weekend skiers often sought him out for counsel on everything from how to raise hydroponic tomatoes to leveraged buyouts to what to wear on the red carpet. So why was Caleb still hefting around cans of chipped beef and shilling cucumbers and Kraft macaroni and cheese?
Gavin’s mother shared this consternation with Caleb’s chosen lot in life. Right up until her death two years ago the old bird would bring it up at least once during Gavin’s twice weekly visits at Golden Horizons, the only rest home in town. Gavin had loved his mother dearly, but if pressed would admit the constant comparisons of his and Caleb’s career choice wore a little thin. Helen Reynolds, like most New England mothers of a certain vintage, had a very direct approach. Although not intended to be demeaning in the outward sense, sometimes her opinions on the subject came off as an internal disappointment not to be too closely analyzed. Phrases like “Working at Sam’s is fine for you, Gavin, but Caleb had such promise, a fine education, Ivy League no less, what a shame” could really cut to the quick. Though he felt he knew better; Gavin had to wonder if she wasn’t disappointed in him.
Station Vermont tells the story of a recently mothballed CIA agent who cannot resist killing off the residents of the small town he’s been relegated to.
“Jesus-fucking-Christ, what the hell did you do to this one?”
“Tragic farm accident.”
That’s my best friend Marv asking the question, my only real friend for the past thirty-five years. We came into the agency together and vowed to always have each other’s backs no matter what. Having friends like Marv in those days, the late sixties, was an absolute must, or you risked getting royally screwed over because the kind of psychos the CIA recruited in that era would just as soon kill each other as they would the enemy.
I don’t know anything about Marv’s life before we met—well, I do, but I assume it’s all a fiction, just like what I told him about my past life. That was also old school CIA standard operating procedure; once you were considered a sick and twisted enough individual to function as a covert assassin, you were forced to leave the life you knew behind. There were no cover stories for the family, like you joined a nudist encampment somewhere in the Northwest or became a Peace Corps volunteer working with lepers in some godforsaken third world country. No way, Pal. Say goodbye to Mom ‘cause you ain’t ever going to see her again. What happened was you disappeared, plain and simple, never to be heard from again. Cover stories were for everyone else—informants, targets, and the people you worked with.
“Christ, what did he do to you?”
“The bastard wouldn’t lower his high beams when he was coming at me last night on Route 12. Pissed me off. I don’t see as well at night anymore and I could’ve run off into the fucking drink, Marv. Guys like that are fucking nuisances, I did the town a favor. Besides, I like his space at the diner in the mornings. A good spot at the diner is gold around here, Marv, major social capital.”
“You have to stop this shit, Charlie.”
“For one reason, I can’t keep trekking across the country every time you need to cover up another senseless murder.”
“Marv, please, murder is such a dirty word and I don’t care for senseless as an adjective either. Plus, you’re beholden to me; the Tolson to my J. Edgar.”
“It’s out of control Charlie. You killed a guy because he wouldn’t lower his high beams, not exactly a killing offense in a polite society. I won’t even dignify the diner comment. Yeah, senseless seems appropriate. I’m glad you’re J. Edgar in this equation, by the way.”
“I was just trying to humor you. You would look better in Capris than I do. Proud history the FBI has.”
“I’m serious. You can’t keep this up. The Company is already pretty well onto you. It’s only a matter of time…”
“What? Until they pop me? Come on.”
“Yeah, I know. Not with this pussy President anyway.”
“Not with anyone since that goofball Southerner lopped off the nuts of the whole damn operation back in’93. No more State sanctioned killings, fucked up the whole works. I’m not too worried, Marv. What are they going to do, reassign me to Station Siberia? Look around you, my friend, I’m already there!”
“Woodstock, Vermont ain’t exactly Siberia, Charlie. I don’t see the rich and the beautiful flocking to the hinterlands of Siberia.”
“Maybe not, but try living here for more than three days; charming is overrated my friend. In fact, the deepest, darkest, coldest bowels of old time Russia would be more interesting. Give me Station Siberia any day, hot Russian broads with simple needs and ice cold Vodka, Pal, now that’s what I’m talking about.”
“Anyway, what are we doing with Mr. Farmer Guy here?”
“Well, as you can see, I already ran him through the baling machine. You would not believe how long it took me to figure out how to do that. I had Benson working on it all night down at Foggy Bottom. Took him three hours to find the right model machine; turns out there are a plethora of baling machine models available to the American farmer everywhere. Our guy happened to have an exotic model indigenous to the Northeast, a very hard machine to find in Virginia on short notice. Of course, Benson being Benson, he did find one but the stupid bastard ran a decaying corpse from the Body Farm through the thing instead of a fresh one! Made soup out of the guy. Not so good for my application. Some Deputy Sheriff or funeral director could put two plus two together on that one. So, then there was the cleanup of the machine and another hour lost for him to go out and find a homeless guy the same size as my guy to pop and run through the blasted thing. Finally, he uplinked the video to me around midnight, and I spent another two hours analyzing it so I could do the thing right on the first shot. Now all you and I have to do is move the baler with the asshole still in it, back to his farm before morning when the workers show up and find his dead, baled ass. Piece of cake, Marv.”
“A human hay bale. Baled in his own machine. Unbelievable. Hope you shot the poor bastard first.”
Killer’s Holiday chronicles the afternoon of a serial killer author as an incorrigible teenager interrupts the plotting of his next murder.
I kill women. But, not today. Today, I’m having a Nabokov moment or perhaps more appropriately, living a scene out of a Salinger short story.
It’s a good day for either, poolside at the Continental Grill in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, with it’s gorgeous views of Long Island Sound. I’m not even thinking about killing anyone, just enjoying the atmosphere.
The Continental is the restaurant of the Fortress Inn, an old Scottish-style castle built in the late 1800’s for a well-to-do whiskey tycoon. After Prohibition bankrupted the poor bastard, it was purchased from the bank by a local hotelier and opened up to paying guests as an Inn.
The Fortress has never been any Ritz Carlton, but neither is it a Howard Johnsons. In fact, in Old Saybrook and anywhere east of New Haven and west of Providence, Rhode Island, the Fortress is considered quite the fancy destination for both locals and tourists. The main allure is the romantic ambiance, as every room has a water view, is furnished in period décor, and lacks any modern conveniences. In other words, the ultimate getaway for a frisky couple looking to drop out of the real world for however long a time it takes to rekindle their relationship or end it, depending on the circumstances.
The ridiculously titled “Lido” deck at the Continental (God, the name makes me want to puke) is teeming with would be—no, scratch that, not would be, but actual—teenage nymphets and their attendants. The latter being Botoxed, plastic surgery-addicted mothers and their hired help in the form of young, pale, blond Au Pairs or portly brown skinned nannies. It’s pretty obvious none of these people are taking in the spectacular views from the al fresco Lido Deck but are much more engrossed in their own nattering. No doubt playing the New England game of social One-Upmanship. I suspect the majority are not actually lodging guests at The Fortress but are rather just availing themselves of the pool, fabulous food, and beverage service.
Unlike the times of Nabokov or Salinger, the booze and cigarettes have been replaced by sushi platters and expensive bottled water, consumed in bird-like fashion by the older women whilst the younger generation are more interested in their various mobile devices. Oh, how the times have changed here in the early part of the 21st century. What I would give to see this lot tossing back Manhattans and smoking themselves into the cancer unit with packs of unfiltered Marlboro Reds or Camels, as the youngsters clamor over gossip magazines and waiters. Those were the days. Elegance.
In my mind, I fit perfectly into the scene, although in reality I stand out like a badly beaten thumb. Quite a sight I must be in my white dinner jacket (not exactly appropriate for poolside afternoon wear, but what the hell), bright patterned tie, and fedora. The ‘40’s are where I would have excelled in my avocation of killing women while enjoying the pleasantries of a more genteel society, undetected as a serial murderer, but revered as a mysterious aristocrat of the American Century. Whatever. Truth is, I like to be noticed. As does this lot of would-be femme fatales ranging in age from, oh, I would say twelve to sixteen, as they prance around in fashionable swim and resortwear trying to attract the attention of everyone except their adult supervisors.
What was it that Jerome and Vlad saw in these repulsive little tarts, prompting their weird obsession with pubescent females? I can’t help but think of those two notorious men of letters masturbating at their typewriters whilst scribing lines like: “She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was Lolita,” or “Mrs. Carpenter was putting sun tan oil on Sybil’s shoulders, spreading it down over the delicate, wing-like blades of her back.” Sick, twisted, and vile beyond belief. Even someone such as myself is offended by the thought.
Naturally, every heterosexual male, whether they will admit it or not, would feel a gravity defying pull down below at least briefly given the tight, newly molded feminine curves of these young, carousing vixens. For normal men, that feeling disappears as the brain takes command away from the hormones and knocks some sense into the more reasonable side of one’s psyche—unless you were Nabokov or Salinger, for whom boundaries apparently were blurred.
Yes, yes, I realize it was only in their writings that these urges were expressed and bounded by some sort of decency in that their real thoughts were never quite exposed. But let’s face it, we writers are egotists and love to hide our real personas in our protagonists. Oops! Was that a secret I wasn’t to reveal? I can envision a pack of Writer’s Guild thugs dressed in tweed jackets and wearing vintage wire-rimmed glasses chasing me into some dark alley, looking to beat me about the head with a first edition copy of Catcher, or a lead-lined folio of Bananafish!
Although I too am subject to the to the lust provoked by the presence of youth and vitality, I find the idea of carnality conflated with these little beings to be retch-provoking. With time and an adequate amount of conversation, these creatures split their young bodies down the middle, losing their bodily curb appeal, and expose their underdeveloped brains. Slight, pulsating, pink masses, which I find neither erotic nor interesting in the least. I regard these girls as empty vessels, or blank slates desperately seeking to be written upon.
Thus, I don’t kill young girls. Girls bore me. They are not interesting enough to kill. They have not developed the horrible habits or despicable ways of the adult female. I don’t have a moral problem with the idea, it’s just not my thing.
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