“A stylish noir.” — The Globe and Mail on The Drop Zone
Retired detective T.J. Peterson is working the table scraps that his former partner, Danny Little, sometimes throws his way. One of them has Peterson hearing from a snitch about a body buried 30 years ago, the same time a drug kingpin went MIA. Peterson is also ducking an ex-con with a grudge, a hitman who likes playing jack-in-the-box with a 12 gauge. Then a former lover re-enters Peterson’s life and begs him to find her daughter, an addict who knows too much about the local drug trade for her own safety. The search for the girl and the truth about the 30-year-old corpse takes Peterson down into the hell of it all, deep into the underworld of crack houses, contract killing, money laundering, and crooked professionals doubling down on their investments of black money.
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About the Author
Bob Kroll has been a professional writer for more than 35 years. His work includes books, stage plays, radio dramas, TV documentaries, and historical docu-dramas for museums. The Hell of It All is the second novel in a projected trilogy featuring T.J. Peterson. Kroll lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Read an Excerpt
The Hell of It All
A T.J. Peterson Mystery
By Bob Kroll
ECW PRESSCopyright © 2017 Bob Kroll
All rights reserved.
Peterson swung the black Jetta onto the shoulder of the narrow coastal road, grabbed the cell phone from the shotgun seat, and caught the call on the fourth ring.
"You're late," a man's voice said.
"I'm five minutes away."
"I don't like it, man."
"Just sit tight!"
"Five minutes, and I'm counting."
The phone went dead, and Peterson gunned it. In the darkness, he missed the snowed-in path to the beach and squealed to a stop. He scowled at his mistake, then popped the transmission into reverse, backed up, and made the turn into the icy snowmobile ruts.
Scrub spruce and alders raked both sides of the Jetta. The occasional frost-heaved boulder ground hard against the undercarriage. Peterson heard a snowmobile roar to life not far away. Then the path took a wide turn and abruptly ended in a small clearing surrounded by snow-matted grass. At the far end, a heavyset man in a black snowmobile suit and black helmet stood beside his machine.
Peterson knew him as a low-level criminal with big dreams; the kind who talks speed but cruises twenty clicks under the limit. His name was Harvey Roop, but because of the way he hunched over, as though he were carrying a heavy shell on his back, everyone called him Turtle.
Peterson reached for the .38 Ruger in the glove box and climbed from his car. He shoved the gun into the right-hand pocket of his brown field coat. He could taste the salt air in the cold wind off the ocean and looked over to where he heard waves breaking against the rocky shore. In the moonlight, he saw their crests bright with foam and the dark shapes of wild pea and rose bushes poking through the snow.
Then Turtle snapped on a heavy-duty flashlight and blasted the beam into Peterson's eyes. Peterson hollered for him to aim it somewhere else.
"I don't like being here with you," Turtle said, his voice muffled through the helmet. He crossbeamed the path Peterson had driven down.
"You're the one dressed like Darth Vader," Peterson said.
Turtle shut the flashlight, then leaned over the snowmobile and killed the motor. He removed the helmet and set it on the seat. He worked a wad of gum in his mouth.
"They dump you from the payroll, so how come you still doing them favours?" he said.
Peterson didn't answer.
"Pensioned off for head games, right? That's what I heard. You seeing a shrink?"
Peterson didn't answer.
"I mean what's with that?" Turtle said, talking with his gloved fingers as much as his mouth. "A girl cuts herself and bleeds to death, so what? I thought cops see it all the time. Car accidents and blood all over the goddamn road. Like that old guy the other day in a half-ton that took out a tollbooth on the bridge. I didn't see it, but I heard. The guy goes through the windshield. You see that shit a hundred times, you get used to it. Like doctors do. I don't mean the ones with the flu shot. I mean the ones who cut you open and fuck around with your insides."
"You got something to tell me?" Peterson said.
Turtle pushed his head forward and frowned. "You're the one begging for what I got."
"You called us."
"I called Danny, and Danny sends you."
"Danny didn't send me. We work together."
"That's not what I heard."
"What did you hear?" Peterson said, hiding the discontent he'd been feeling ever since administration had labelled him a psych case and shown him the door to early retirement. Now he was getting the same dismissal from the bottom.
"I heard Danny only feeds you table scraps," Turtle gloated.
"And I heard you're working them hard to get back in the department."
Peterson took it on the chin.
"That puts you on the B-team," Turtle continued. "Danny sends you, maybe Danny don't think what I got is any good."
"What do you got?"
"Not how it's done. I get something before I give, a guarantee or something."
"No guarantee. First you give, and if what you give works out, then you get."
"Danny and me work it different. I'm talking favours, here. Only now I'm wondering if you can pull through on the favour I want."
"What favour's that?"
"Whatever favour I need."
"Like finagling the child abandonment charge against your old lady?"
That caught Turtle off guard. He shifted his weight.
"You think I'm an errand boy?" Peterson said. "You thought wrong. You're holding both ends of the same stick. Wrong word whispered in the wrong place, and someone opens you like a Ziploc. You're no undercover hero. You're a goddamn snitch!"
Turtle's mouth moved, but no words came out.
"So what's your bargaining chip?" Peterson pressed. "Otherwise I'm out of here, and your name gets scratched off the list. And you know what that means — you get no calls, no favours, and no insurance when the time comes and you need a good word for whatever charge comes your way. And if that's not enough, try this on for size: The nice-guy call to child services about your old lady, the call Danny was going to make, it doesn't happen."
Turtle swallowed his first few words, then tried again. "I overhear things, bits and pieces. I take what I get, you understand? I don't ask questions."
"What are you not asking questions about?"
"About rag asses jumping drug deals, you hear what I'm saying? Wearing masks and shit. Heavy duty. They're muscling hand to hand. Strictly petty cash. Pissing off a lot of people."
"Like Sammy O."
"You brought me out here to talk about Sammy O pissed off at someone ripping off drug dealers? You got to be kidding, right?" Peterson knew Sammy O as a six-foot overweight slob who swaggered around the north end. Sammy and his boys casing the neighbourhood meant bad news for anyone getting in their way.
"There's a body too."
"Buried in Laurie Park, like thirty years ago."
"They didn't say."
"Who didn't say?"
"That's something I ain't giving right now."
"And when are you giving it?"
"After you find the body, and I get what I want."
"Where in the park?"
"In the campground."
"It must be forty acres under six inches of snow. You got a campsite number?"
Turtle shook his head.
"We're talking holes again, Turtle. The last time, you had us digging holes like we were gophers."
"The last time was on someone else's say-so," Turtle said. "This one I heard myself. And what are you griping about? The last time, you found the body."
"But not where you said it was."
"You never knew Jonah was missing. It was my heads-up that got the cops looking for Jonah. Same thing with what's buried in the park. So I put something on the table, and now it's your turn to put something up."
"For rag asses and a thirty-year-old body buried someplace you don't know."
"But you don't know the number. There could be thirty, forty, maybe a hundred campsites in the park. You want us to dig up every one on your say-so?"
Turtle squirmed. He picked up the helmet from the snowmobile seat and put it back down. "The body's for real," he said. "I heard them talking."
"But you're not telling who you heard. Here's the thing, Turtle, it's not a meat sandwich if you leave out the meat."
Turtle's face went through ten shapes of anxiety. Then he said, "It stays with you, right?"
"Me and Danny."
"You and Danny, but nobody else."
"Cross my heart and hope to die."
"The hell with you and that kid stuff."
"Just tell me what you got."
"I heard Willie Blackwood say something to this other guy. I don't know who. I never got a good look."
"Where was that?"
"Willie has a camp upcountry, and he was there with his snowmobile pals."
"Not your kind of company. What are you doing there?"
"I'm not riding with them. I show an hour later. They have me packing the blow, so if they get stopped on the highway, they're clean. Then one of the machines goes down, and I'm outside pulling spark plugs and cleaning them. That's when I heard Willie talking."
"You heard what, exactly?"
"The guy said, 'We do the fucker and dump him where he can't be found.' Then Willie said, 'Try a campground.' He said, 'Who walks a campground looking for a grave?' The guy left and Willie said to that friend of his, you know, big fucking nose, Willie's muscle, the one they call Come On ..."
"Cameron," Peterson said.
"Yeah. Willie said to him about burying one in Laurie Park thirty years ago. Nothing but bones now. Like a place that nobody finds."
"And that's all Willie said?"
"When was this?"
"The day after it snowed."
"Two weeks and you're bringing it now?"
"I ain't the fucking mailman."
Peterson thought about it a moment. "Tell me more about the rag asses. Strictly low level?"
"They've got nothing to do with the body in the park?"
"You going deaf or something? The rag asses don't mean shit."
"You think Willie knows the campsite number?"
"How do I know what Willie knows? If he put it there he knows. But that ain't something he goes around talking about. And we don't shack together. If the man talks in his sleep, I ain't going there, I ain't hearing it."CHAPTER 2
Peterson grabbed a red vinyl booth at the back of Reggie's Place, a downtown diner where eggs, bacon, pancakes, and hash browns flew off the black cast iron grill all morning. Office keeners lined up at the takeout bar, early birds eager to make an impression. Those working construction at the new Trade Centre, wearing jeans or canvas overalls, sat in booths along the walls or at tables covered with red-and-white checkered cloths. A forty-something waitress named Angie saw Peterson and brought his order without his asking: burnt toast and black coffee.
Danny showed up ten minutes later carrying a newspaper. Square face, tight lips, and brown hair tinted to leave just a little grey. He was dressed to kill, in a black leather car-coat, blue button-down, and yellow tie.
"Oscar de la Renta," Peterson kidded.
"Don't go there," Danny warned. "I don't need you busting my balls. I got enough hurt with Fultz wringing my ass in spin dry."
Peterson knew all about Fultz, the deputy chief, suck-holing his way to the top and shafting the lower ranks to get there.
Danny signalled Angie for a number three on the chalkboard hanging behind the counter. He leaned toward Peterson. "Did you go home last night or walk the streets?"
"You checking up?"
Danny scowled and looked at the table of construction workers. He looked back. "Maybe I know what's in the back of your mind."
"You going to tell me what it is?"
"No. I'll let you figure out. Tell me about Turtle. What'd he have?"
"Not much. Rag asses muscling the blow trade."
"That's drug squad," Danny said. "I'm homicide. They don't share. Why should I? Anything else?"
Peterson held back a grin. "Get a shovel!"
"Thirty-year-old body in Laurie Park. Don't know who, don't know where."
"What does he know?"
"That Willie Blackwood or someone Willie knows put it there."
Angie delivered Danny's scrambled eggs, hash browns, and whole wheat toast. She stood at the booth with her weight on one leg, coffee pot in hand.
"Busy this morning," Danny said to her.
"Busy every morning," she complained. Her cheeks were rouged like ripe apples. "Short staffed. You'd think Reggie would cough up the bucks and hire someone. But no way. He says busy gets more coming. Like we need more? Pretty soon he'll be setting tables on the sidewalk."
"Not in this weather," Danny said.
"Yeah," she said, "who can get warm? Not like those guys." She gestured over her shoulder at the table of construction workers. "Two of them off to Florida next week. Me? I stay home and freeze. And you know what my husband says? He says, 'You want to get warm, Angie? Go to hell.'"
One of the construction workers held up his mug and drew the waitress away.
Danny chewed and swallowed. He reached for the newspaper beside him and showed it to Peterson. "City Council is pushing Fultz's buttons, and Fultz is pushing on every cop in the building."
Peterson glanced at the editorial about the sudden increase in violent crime in the city.
"Last night's drive-by didn't make the morning news," Danny said. "Someone blew out a picture window. Nobody hurt." He dug for another forkful.
"Where?" Peterson asked.
"C'mon, they shit in their own bed. All for a piece of turf. More action, more money, more greed, more bodies."
"Something's stirring the pot."
"That last drug bust the Mounties made," Danny said. "Coke goes short, the dealers get restless. Little turf wars. Dominoes falling. He took my corner, so I'll take yours. Bullets fly and people get hurt. Then two days ago, Sammy O, someone put a bullet through his car window, and that has Sammy shitting bricks. Why the attempt? We don't know."
Peterson waited for Danny to say more, but Danny just dug into his eggs and hash browns.
"You investigating the Sammy O shooting?" Peterson pried.
"We're keeping the public out," Danny said between mouthfuls.
"And I'm now the public?"
"I didn't say that."
Danny set down his knife and fork. He reached for a paper napkin and wiped his mouth. "Some things I can't talk about. It involves the Mounties and us, joint task-force investigation. You know the drill."
"Yeah, I know the drill, trust only people you can trust."
"After twenty-three years, I thought I deserved —"
"There's a protocol," Danny insisted. "I buck that, and I'm bucking the department."
"And any chance of climbing the ladder."
"That's not what this is about."
"Then what's it about?"
Danny drank some coffee. "Don't look so pissed. We keep doing what we're doing. We work together on what we can work together on."
Danny rolled his eyes. "What's going on? You feeling hurt all of a sudden, left out?"
Peterson didn't answer.
"We both know why," Danny said. "You're a time bomb. I bring you in on something sensitive, and what if the same thing happens again like what happened six months ago? Things get tight, the stress goes up, the flashbacks start, and you're looking for a corner to scramble to, or worse you come out like Dirty Harry. Then I'm the one who wears it. I'm the one called on the carpet for you being involved. Well, I'm not wearing it. I'm not taking chances with what goes on inside your head."
"So, I'm a liability," Peterson said and got up to go.
"C'mon, sit down. We've been friends too long for you to walk away like this."
Peterson remained standing.
"Christ almighty, Peterson. How many examples do you want?" Peterson turned to walk away.
"All right!" Danny said. "It's not all you. I have my eye on something. Ambition. About time, don't you think? I'm toeing the line, for Christ's sake. I got something here, a woman I care about. You know how long it's been since I could say that? She wants more for me. Is that so bad?"
Peterson looked at the clock above the takeout counter. "I got to go."
Danny held up his hands in peace. "What time's the funeral?"
"You know what I mean."
"I won't make it, you know that?"
"I didn't expect you to."
Danny waved a hand to change the subject. "How you coming on the Rafferty case?"
"Frozen solid," Peterson said.
Danny thought for a moment. "Let it go and I'll see what else I can pass your way."
"Another table scrap."
"You don't give up, do you? If Fultz found out about us working together — and it don't matter what we're working on — if he found out, he'd have a shit fit."
Peterson was expressionless. Danny dug another forkful of hash browns. He talked and chewed at the same time. "Turtle calls, says it's important, then hands over drug squad info they should be carving off their own snitches. What does he think I am? He knows I don't trade favours for rag asses busting drug deals."
"And a body," Peterson said.
Danny frowned. "Thirty years old and he don't know where it's buried. Did he ask for something?"
"He wanted you to ease up on his old lady."
Danny swallowed. "If he doesn't come across with something we can use, he goes back inside and his wife loses custody. It's time I told him that. Light a match under his ass."
Excerpted from The Hell of It All by Bob Kroll. Copyright © 2017 Bob Kroll. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter One 1
Chapter Two 8
Chapter Three 14
Chapter Four 22
Chapter Five 25
Chapter Six 41
Chapter Seven 48
Chapter Eight 60
Chapter Nine 65
Chapter Ten 69
Chapter Eleven 81
Chapter Twelve 89
Chapter Thirteen 101
Chapter Fourteen 112
Chapter Fifteen 117
Chapter Sixteen 127
Chapter Seventeen 134
Chapter Eighteen 140
Chapter Nineteen 142
Chapter Twenty 146
Chapter Twenty-One 152
Chapter Twenty-Two 161
Chapter Twenty-Three 168
Chapter Twenty-Four 176
Chapter Twenty-Five 185
Chapter Twenty-Six 191
Chapter Twenty-Seven 199
Chapter Twenty-Eight 204
Chapter Twenty-Nine 206
Chapter Thirty 211
Chapter Thirty-One 217
Chapter Thirty-Two 226
Chapter Thirty-Three 239
Chapter Thirty-Four 242
Chapter Thirty-Five 248
Chapter Thirty-Six 256
Chapter Thirty-Seven 261
Chapter Thirty-Eight 263
Chapter Thirty-Nine 267
Chapter Forty 277
Chapter Forty-One 285
Chapter Forty-Two 289
Chapter Forty-Three 293
Chapter Forty-Four 304
Chapter Forty-Five 307