A man walks into a bar, and dies. It isn’t just any bar, it’s the Pirate’s Cove located on the Isle of Palms, a barrier island just north of the Charleston, South Carolina harbor. Ex-Marine Brack Pelton tries to stop the murder and almost dies himself. The victim, Skip Romeo, has a shady past and some interesting friends. The friend he’d planned on meeting at the bar before he got shot was lowcountry Private Investigator Blu Carraway.
Brack Pelton hates that someone shot up his bar and Blu Carraway hates that someone gunned down his friend. Both want revenge and justice. And both tend to leave a lot of collateral damage in their wake. Their team-up is inevitable. Individually, they’re each a force to be reckoned with. Together, they’re like an atomic bomb blast at ground zero. Pelton and Carraway and Charleston will never be the same.
Isle of Palms, South Carolina
The crash of the surf pushed itself in between the beats of a forty-year-old Jimmy Buffet song streaming through the sound system of the Pirate’s Cove. Brack wiped down the old oak bar with Murphy’s oil soap, cleaning away invisible dirt. October had brought with it the end of the tourist season, although it would stay around eighty degrees for another weekend or two. No customers meant no messes to clean up, but Brack had developed a slight case of obsessive-compulsive disorder since Darcy and Mutt had moved away. Thus the need to reclean.
The early fall ocean breeze blew steady through large doors open for just that reason, something Brack never got tired of. Paige, the bar’s manager, had taken the rest of the staff out for a harbor cruise, a gift for another great summer season. Brack hadn’t been up for the day trip, deciding at the last minute to man the fort while they were out playing.
Alone with only his thoughts, he finished the last section of oak and was contemplating giving the wide ancient floor planks another coat of oil soap when a man walked in and took a seat at the bar. Aviator sunglasses, shoulder-length hair thin on top, Sam Elliot mustache. Brack pegged him at mid-forties.
Isle of Palms, South Carolina, where the bar was located, had a lot of money. And Americans enjoyed hiding their wealth behind old blue jeans and pickup trucks. This guy could be rich.
Brack walked over to him. “How’re ya doing?”
“Gimme a Bud and a shot of Jack.” The man’s voice was gruff. “Can I smoke?”
“Not in here, but if you want to set up on the back deck, you can smoke all you want.”
The man nodded. It made Brack miss being able to smoke a cigar in his own bar. He got the drinks and set them in front of his customer.
The man reached into his pocket, pulled out a wrinkled twenty, and said, “Keep it. If someone asks for Skip, tell ’em where I am.”
Brack watched him scoop up both drinks and head outside, irritated that the distraction from his OCD had left the room. The wood tables called his name.
Who was he kidding? If he didn’t keep busy, he’d think about Darcy. She’d moved away from him to be with another man, and that was too much to handle.
And, because when it rained, it poured, the bar had lost Bonny, its macaw mascot and resident, just two weeks ago to old age. She’d started the business with Brack’s uncle in the seventies. And now she was gone, too.
The front door opened again and this time two men walked in. One glance at their dead eyes told Brack they were not here for the fresh salt air. Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts couldn’t hide the vibe of death they brought with them. Brack had been in enough bad spots before to know these were not tourists looking for daiquiris.
Because Brack had vowed to always have weapons on hand, there were two pistols behind the bar, one at each end and a sawed-off shotgun in the middle. Unfortunately, he was smack dab in between two of the weapons.
The two newcomers looked around the bar, and then they spotted the guy on the back deck.
Brack inched to the closest corner. One set of dead eyes landed on him, a hand reaching behind to what had to be a gun.
Their eyes locked. Brack’s hand was twelve inches away from his own pistol.
Dead Eyes pulled his piece first and fired. Brack’s Marine training dropped him to the ground. The bullet whizzed overhead and a bottle of top-shelf vodka exploded. Glass showered down on him.
More shots fired. Brack wrapped his hand around the Colt Python, his bar manager’s weapon of choice, and felt the thumps as rounds perforated the bar over his head and smacked into the wall cabinet that held all the booze. It seemed like there were more shots than thumps.
He cocked the hammer back, took two deep breaths, and trained the sight around the corner of the bar. It settled on a shin creeping between the chairs and tables.
The Python spit fire and noise and lead. The impact of the bullet blew a crater through the shin. It was as if all the air in the room got sucked through the hole and exited out the back in a cloud of red mist.
A scream followed by two more shots and two more thumps took over all other sound.
The figure owning the useless shin crashed to the ground. With a clear shot, Brack put two center-mass rounds in the man for good measure and then ducked behind the bar again.
One on one now. Even odds. Except they weren’t even. Brack was pinned and he knew it. Two more thumps hit the bar, followed by the sound of the front door banging open and then closing with a whoosh of the air cylinder that pulled it back in.
It could be a trap, the guy just waiting for Brack to fall for it, show himself, and be blasted to Timbuktu. He stayed put a few more seconds which felt like minutes.
A faint siren wailed in the distance. The police station was only two blocks away. Brack hoped to God it was the chief.
After a count of ten more seconds, the front door opened again.
It was now or never. Brack sprang to his feet, Python in hand, sighted in the door, and didn’t fire.
A man a few inches taller than himself held up his hands. Olive skin, short-cropped hair beginning to recede in the corners of his forehead, silver cross on a chain around his neck, black jeans, black T-shirt, Doc Martens, and sunglasses, he said, “Don’t shoot.”
Excerpt from Blu Heat: A Blu Carraway Novella by David Burnsworth. Copyright © 2017 by David Burnsworth. Reproduced with permission from David Burnsworth. All rights reserved.
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