RUBICON RANCH: RILEY’S STORY — Chapter 11: Jeff and Kourtney Peterson — by J B Kohl and Eric Beetner

Jeff stood with his back to it for a long time. He could hear the whipping of the yellow POLICE LINE tape wrapped impotently around the murder scene. When he approached he saw it but averted his eyes, not ready to take in the final resting place of his daughter. When he did turn around his eyes let loose again with tears he thought he’d used up. The desert tableau sent a shiver up his spine. The yellow frame, the broken TV, the footprints in the sand all around him like he’d missed a party.

When he left the house that morning he wasn’t sure where he’d end up. He needed air and Rubicon offered some of the best as a lure to people in colder climes to drop everything and move south. He sucked big lungfulls of the stuff and it did little to clear his head of the swirling thoughts that plagued him since the sheriff first came to his door. His feet took him to the spot by following some father’s instinct and the casual words the Sheriff let drop about where the body had been found.

With each passing hour he felt less like Riley’s father and more like the stranger he really was. Her real father would never have let this happen.

All that fresh air whistled in his ears. A dark green lizard darted out from under the TV set moving in stuttering bursts. Jeff wanted to crush it, to throw rocks and tell the creature not to use that discarded set as refuge. There could be no peace there.

He’d always told Riley she watched too much TV.

Jeff stepped over the yellow tape with little effort, angry at the police for their lack of understanding how sacred this place had become. He touched the edge of the hollow set, feeling tiny shards of the broken picture tube. His finger ran along the rim trying to imagine his daughter’s body fitting into such a small space and at the same time willing the image away, which worked about as well as the police tape.

Click here to read the rest of the chapter: http://rubiconranch.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/chapter-11-jeff-and-kourtney-peterson-by-j-b-kohl-and-eric-beetner/

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Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the fictional desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by authors of Second Wind Publishing.

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RUBICON RANCH: RILEY’S STORY — Chapter 3: Jeff and Kourtney Peterson — by J B Kohl and Eric Beetner

Jeff Peterson stood at the window in his home office, the wide expanse of desert out before him. The starkly beautiful view went unseen as he stared down at his hands, fingers working a paper clip against the cuticles of his left hand. Beads of blood grew against his nails but he did not stop.

His daughter, his precious daughter . . . dead.

The Rolling Stones played on the stereo. He’d put on “Brown Sugar” as a tribute to Riley. Her favorite. He’d been bound and determined to raise the girl with good taste in music. “No Wheels On The Bus” for his special one. She’d been the only nine-year-old in town who even knew what a record player looked like.

After the song, Jeff let Mick and the boys play on, the memories rushing in. Leaving him gasping for air.

Each day for the past nine years he’d fended off the flood of thoughts threatening to drown him. Each day he devoted himself to Riley for fear that anything less than pure, unconditional love would undermine what it took to get her.

Now that she lay dead, a brutal act no daughter deserved, the levees broke. Nothing more held back the memories of what he had done those years ago.

Click here to read the rest of the chapter: http://rubiconranch.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/chapter-3-jeff-and-kourtney-peterson-by-j-b-kohl-and-eric-beetner

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Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the fictional desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by authors of Second Wind Publishing.

Borrowed Trouble by J.B. Kohl and Eric Beetner

Hollywood, 1941

Ray Ward spends nights thinking about his brother’s death and the blood-soaked days that followed.

Dean Fokoli is off the force, disgraced by his dirty dealings, left to scrape for pennies as a private eye.

When Ray receives a mysterious package from his sister containing a plea for help and a reel of 8mm film, there’s a problem – Ray doesn’t have a sister.

Now two former enemies must team up, travel halfway across the country to search the dark shadow of Hollywood’s spotlight. In for more than they bargained for, Ray and Fokoli plunge behind the silver screen to unearth tinsel town’s dirty secrets. And two men with nothing left to lose can stir up some serious trouble.

Excerpt:

“Hello, Cindy. You’re out late.” A man’s voice. I spun to see where it came from. At first I missed him sitting in the chair beside the bed. My eyes ran back to him as he stood. A tall sandy blond with a thin mustache and a light tan suit, a great tie surely one of a hundred in his closet.

“Relax, Robert. I brought a friend.”

Suddenly the room seemed exactly the size of a boxing ring. I kept my back to the ropes, my hands went up on their own, defending against an unknown threat.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“This is my brother, Robert. Robert this is Ray. He’s looking for his sister.”

“And where did you two meet?” He seemed uninterested in knowing me.

“A diner just east of L.A. He needed a ride.”

“So no car, no bags. A guy with no suit on looking like a bum out of the gutter?”

I opened my mouth to protest but she beat me to it. “Hey, knock it off. It was slim pickings.”

“Oh well. Let’s see what he’s got.” Robert brought his hand out of the pocket of his linen suit and flicked open a switchblade. I didn’t know what to think other than it was a joke. I turned to Cindy who looked away.

“Cough it up, pal,” Robert said.

“What?”

“Your wallet, bub. Let’s have it.”

I stood still, stunned. This was a shakedown. Cindy was acting. She should get a contract with Louis B. Mayer; this girl’s got the stuff. Fooled me like Houdini on a good day.

She stepped up behind me and reached into my pocket to remove my wallet. I let her, not wanting to provoke the switchblade before I knew more about the man holding it. She tossed my billfold to Robert then stepped quickly away from me. She still wouldn’t meet my eye. She turned to the dresser where a whiskey bottle stood, open and half gone. She splashed some into a short glass, no ice, and took it in one shot.

Robert had my cash in his hand. “Two hundred and some. Nice take.”

Guess he was lousy at math, it was over three hundred. My whole bankroll for the trip. “Give that back,” I said.

“What for? So you can blow it all on a dame you meet in a diner? Did he even buy your coffee, Cin?”

“No.”

“What’s with the bum’s clothes, pal? You steal this wad? A guy with this much dough usually has on something made in New York. Nice work, Cin. Grifting a grifter.” He tossed my wallet on the bed and stuffed the cash into his front pocket.

“Can we wrap this up?” Cindy was obviously afraid of him. As solid as her acting was with me she let her guard down around Robert and her fear showed through. She turned to the bottle again and refilled the glass.

“At least he knows the game. Okay, pal, you and me are gonna take a ride. I’ll let you off a few miles down the road. Don’t give me any guff and no one gets hurt. I bet you’ll have your pockets filled again in no time, smart kid like you. Say goodnight to your dream girl.”

Gesturing with the point of the knife he pointed to the door, expecting me to obey. He must have been used to suckers who were husbands, traveling salesmen, middle aged doughboys who didn’t know how to fight back.

I’m not that sucker.

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Beetner and Kohl’s partnership is a unique one in that they live on opposite coasts (he in LA and she in Virginia) and they have never met. They’ve never even spoken on the phone. Their collaboration is done entirely by email. At this point they have become superstitious about it and have no plans to meet.

When JB wrote Eric in his capacity working with the Film Noir Foundation a friendship was born. When he read her debut novel The Deputy’s Widow, he wrote to tell her how much he enjoyed it and sent along a sample of his own writing that had been circulating the crime fiction webzines. She was hooked and asked if he would ever consider collaborating on anything. They took the first few tentative steps with nothing to lose and it all came so easily that before long an entire novel was finished and soon after, a sequel.

They each continue to write solo novels.

JB Kohl lives in Virginia with her husband and three children. In addition to writing fiction she works as a freelance medical and technical writer/editor. Her first novel The Deputy’s Widow, was released in 2008.

Eric Beetner is an award-winning short story and screenwriter. His short work has been anthologized in Discount Noir (Untreed Reads), Needle magazine, Crimefactory, Murder in the Wind (Second Wind publishing) as well as all the major online crime fiction outlets. He was selected in the top 3 for Storysouth’s Million Writers award for 2010. 

Click here to buy: Borrowed Trouble

Click here to read the first chapter of: Borrowed Trouble