When acclaimed pianist Nicholas Kalman discovers his lover’s dead body, he sets out alone to find her killer. During his journey, he meets an unwitting female accomplice who soon becomes determined to help Nicholas wield his retaliation. Following a parallel path for justice, Steven Hawk, the deputy of a sleepy Southern county, is assigned to the case. Pursuing the investigation, Hawk finds himself entangled in a world of vengeance, greed and manipulation.
Performed against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Staccato transports readers to a behind-the-scenes glimpse of professional musicians, the psychological twists and turns of its characters, and in the end, retribution that crashes in a crescendo of notes played at the literary pace of a maestro’s staccato.
Staccato is the first novel of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela thriller trilogy.
Nicholas’s gaze fixed on the open door of the cement block building.
“You don’t have to do this, you know,” Hawk said. “Let her identification be left to her mother.”
Studying his shoes, he said to himself more than to Hawk, “No. I’ve caused enough pain to Aranka.”
Hawk nodded, took off his hat off and clutched its brim.
Nicholas gathered his courage and stepped to the door. After a few nervous breaths he crossed the threshold. The frigid, pungent room spooked him. He shuddered, drawing his jacket tight around his body.
Fully inside the cold, uninviting space, Nicholas’s eyes locked on Elaine’s lifeless body, laid out on an aluminum table in the middle of the room. Taking tentative steps, he reached out. He wanted to rest his trembling fingers on her cheek, smooth the hair from her forehead, but Hawk stopped him with a shake of his head.
Nicholas clasped his hands behind his back to resist the urge to ignore the deputy. He stared at the ashen, waxy, colorless face that barely resembled his lover. “Have you ever been in love, Deputy Hawk?”
“I mean the sweaty palm, heart pounding, gasp at the sight of her when she enters the room, love.”
Hawk shuffled from one foot to the other. “No. I’m still lookin’ for that.”
“That’s what we had.”
“I’m sorry, Nicholas,” Hawk said. “I really am.” Then the deputy gently pulled the coverlet over Elaine’s body and head.
Nicholas straightened his posture and said, “Take me to Alexander Kalman.”
Clamping his hat back on his head, Hawk led Nicholas from the morgue.
He searched the group of officers and spotted Sampte right away—a foot wider and a head taller than any of the others, even as he leaned on a police car. Nicholas ran to him, grabbed the man he once considered a friend, and swung him around.
“Why?” Nicholas shouted. “Tell me, you bastard. Why did this happen?”
Sampte kept his chin tucked to his chest, refusing to look at Nicholas.
A flash of lightning lit the area, halting all action for a moment. A deafening crack, followed by a train-like rumble, resounded through the trees.
When Sampte raised his head, Nicholas searched the man’s eyes for any clues. Instead, he recognized the flat, resolved gaze, rivaling a look only Alexander could brandish.
To Nicholas, Sampte’s silence seemed louder than the thunder.
Deborah J Ledford is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize. Her award-winning short stories appear in the print publications Arizona Literary Magazine, Forge Journal, Twisted Dreams Magazine, AnthologyBuilder, and two Red Coyote Press mystery anthologies. Her latest stories appear in the Gulf Coast Writers Association anthology “Sweet Tea and Afternoon Tales” and the Sisters in Crime anthology, “How Not to Survive the Holidays.” A flash fiction piece is presented via podcast at Sniplits.
Click here to read the first chapter: Staccato