I’m Michael Kudo the author formally/informally known as Michael Chulsky.
I’m here by the graciousness of the lovelies at TNA to introduce you to Alex Rose, the main character of my newest novel Red Rose (Blood), the first in The Deadly Rose Series. And I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than to share an excerpt with you guys.
I hope you enjoy!
My name’s Alex. I’m an average guy. I kill people for a living. But don’t judge me.
I don’t take jobs on just anybody though. I only kill the really annoying people, like cheaters or abusers. So if you think about it, I’m actually doing God’s work—okay, maybe that’s stretching things a bit.
Other than the whole committing murder and trying to get away with it thing, my life is simple.
Well… except for the fact I’m in love with a fellow assassin who happens to be my mentor. I also have to make sure I’m careful when I’m on the job because if I ever fail a hit, I’ll be considered a “liability” and be executed promptly. Oh, and there’s a small chance someone in the organization is trying to have me killed. But I’ll figure that out, eventually. Did I mention I’m gay?
Okay, maybe my life isn’t so simple.
Release Date: September 10, 2014 from Wilde City Press
Excerpt: It was three in the morning, and way past normal business hours. Most mom and pop shops were closed long before the witching hour; hell, even most corporate chains had been locked up for the last two hours. The bitter sting of night air assaulted my skin as I walked down the dimly lit street. It was fucking freezing. My balls had literally found themselves a new home inside my body—scrotum be damned. It was to be expected. I didn’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to wear jeans in New Jersey, in the middle of January. Temporary insanity, maybe? Or maybe I was just tired. I should have been sleeping in my warm, toasty bed snoring and dead to the world, but I wasn’t. I think most people would probably question my sanity, because no rational person would be awake and freezing their ass off—let alone hanging out across the street from an old, condemned apartment building. Well, I wasn’t crazy. I had a good reason. I was meeting a client.
Mrs. Carter was leaning against the building, her slender form illuminated by a streetlight so bright it practically required sunglasses to look at her. At least, I was assuming it was her. I mean, what kind of freak would loiter around at this time of night? Actually, maybe some questions are best left unanswered. I knew her surname from the small piece of paper that was slipped into my mailbox the other day, labelling the time and place of our meeting. Other than that, I knew nothing else about her.
I saw her raise a cigarette up to her mouth, inhale, and breathe out a cloud of thick ash grey smoke. I moved a bit closer. I watched her inhale again, the end of her cigarette blazed like a lighthouse beacon. I noticed a few smaller, barely visible glowing specks of red at her feet. They were probably cigarette butts. There were maybe six or seven of them scattered at the ground around her feet. Chain smoker? Possibly. Though, maybe she had just been waiting there a while. I was late, after all.
I quickly scanned the area for any unwanted guests that could be hanging around, police and the like. Call me paranoid, but I’d rather be paranoid than unpleasantly surprised. She could have easily been followed.
When I deemed the coast was clear, I glanced back at Mrs. Carter and I think she noticed me. It was hard to judge in the distance, but there was a visible change in her body language, an almost unnatural stillness to her, like she was an animal and sensed a predator nearby. I meant her no harm, but I couldn’t fault her for the reaction. It was pretty accurate. I started forward into the street, pausing only to look both ways—safety is important after all, and proceeded across. Now much closer, I saw her clearly for the first time. Her thick black hair was curled into a tight, no-nonsense bun on the top of her head. Her skin was white and pale, almost ethereal, either a side effect from not enough sun or the result of too much white foundation powder. I held up a hand to silence her before she could even speak. There was a process I had to get out of the way first. I took a small metal device out of my pocket and flicked the on switch. I moved closer to her and she stepped back.
“What in God’s name is that?” she asked, eyebrow raised.
“It’s your standard, run-of-the-mill, RF detection device. I’m making sure you’re not trying to pull anything,” I replied, stiffly. Apparently my explanation wasn’t enough because she still had a look on her face which said she didn’t trust what I was about to do. I gave her a reproachful look. “It’s not like I’m giving you a colonoscopy. I’m just scanning you for wires. Or I could pat you down, if you prefer, if you’re into the whole being touched by a stranger in an alley type of thing. If not, please raise your arms so I can get this over with.”
She cast a reproachful look, but lifted her arms. Which was good because I honestly didn’t want to pat her down. I waved the device across her long black coat. I couldn’t tell the brand, but it was in pristine condition and very expensive looking. Maybe Prada? Or D&G? Some spoiled rich girl brand, I was sure of it. I waved the RF detector across a few times. It didn’t beep. She wasn’t wired, which was good. If she were wired, that would mean she was attempting to set me up and that would really hurt my feelings.
“Are you quite finished?”
“Yes. You can never be too careful,” I replied. I slipped the device back into my pocket and raised my glance to meet her eyes. “Am I correct in assuming that you’re Mrs. Carter?”
“Yes I am, Mrs. Charlotte Carter. May I ask what took you so long?” She tapped her cigarette butt out on the side of the building. Classy. Very classy. She brought a black, leather gloved hand to her hip and her upper lip curled into a harsh grimace, which made her look a bit older and a lot less pretty.
Mrs. Carter clearly wasn’t used to things not going her way. I gave her my best innocent smile. If I could, I would have had a halo on my head to match. “I’m not sure what you mean,” I answered. In reality, I was sure I knew exactly what she meant. But, I couldn’t just come right out and say what I was thinking. The first rule of good business was never admit to anything. It was just plain stupid to volunteer information. You could end up being in worse trouble than you would have been otherwise. Never underestimate the sheer power of feigning ignorance. It could save your life one day.
“You told me to be here at two, Mr. Rose. It’s almost three-thirty. That was very inconsiderate of you.”
I half-shrugged and looked at the ground. It was suddenly very interesting. Oh look, a used condom. Okay, so it wasn’t really very interesting. My assumption was correct. She was definitely annoyed about what I thought she was. But, I could have been wrong. Either way, it wasn’t like I cared. I transferred my glance back up to meet hers and I hoped the power of my charming smile would win her over.
“I’m sorry, I was running late. Besides, I’m here now, aren’t I?”
“For the price you charge and the lengths it takes to make contact, you should have the common courtesy to be on time.”
I scoffed and shook my head. I couldn’t believe I was seriously being lectured in ethics by a woman who was paying to have somebody murdered. The irony was not lost on me. I was what most people call an assassin, though personally, I preferred the term problem solver. It rolled off the tongue better and didn’t make me sound like a dick. Folks came to me with people problems and I solved them with murder. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded; I got paid for it. And I certainly wasn’t a bad person. It was just a job; similar to a teacher or a firefighter. And I most certainly wasn’t going to allow Mrs. Charlotte ‘hire someone to kill someone else’ Carter to judge my ethics. “Why don’t you just tell me why we’re here and I’ll let you know if I want to trouble myself with what you want me to do?”
She opened her mouth in shock. Her hot pink lipstick was thick and gave her the appearance of a demented circus clown. And I was just assuming the color was hot pink because it was the closest color my mind could think of. It was probably Everlasting Sunset or Fantasy Melon, or some other bullshit whimsical name make-up companies use to get people to buy their products. Either way, the bright color didn’t do her face justice.
“Are you seriously suggesting that even though you had me waiting here at this ungodly hour, and in spite of the fact that I’ve already put down a small fee, you’d turn down the job if it doesn’t…what, sound appealing enough for you?”
I didn’t even try to mask my smile. It would have been too damn difficult. And at three-thirty in the morning, who wanted to put in that kind of effort? “You bet’cha. And the reason why we’re here at what you deem an ungodly hour is because I think our little arrangement is better left a secret…so that it doesn’t get traced back to me. Or you.”
She sighed and pulled out another cigarette. Yup, she was definitely a chain smoker. Which really sucked for her because smoking kills more people than…well…me.
“Alright, fine. I need you…to kill my husband,” she said.
“Your husband, Mrs. Carter?” I asked, looking at her warily. No, I wasn’t shocked. She wasn’t the first woman to come and ask me to kill her husband. Hell, she wasn’t the second or third, either. Maybe the fifteenth? Meh, I couldn’t remember. You start to lose count after a while.
“Yes, my husband, Mr. Rose.” She took a long drag from her cigarette and tapped the ashes off on the building. “I’d like it done as soon as possible.”
I took a few steps back and searched her face. I couldn’t help but notice that at this short distance, she looked much older than I had originally pegged her at. Maybe it was the lighting. Or, maybe it was the fact that we’re talking about murdering somebody she’d had sex with, and/or potentially loved at one point. That could put anybody over the edge. “Mrs. Carter, why do you want me to kill your husband?”
She frowned. “Does it truly matter?”
“To me? Yeah. Actually, in all honesty, not really. I am just curious. But it would be wise for you to answer the question if you want me to take on the job.”
“Mr. Rose, I’m paying you a great sum. I would think–”
“Ah, there’s your first problem—you’re thinking.” Sure, it was kind of a jerk thing to say, but hey, I was kind of a jerk. You have to be in my line of work. I couldn’t go around killing people and being Mr. Nice Guy. Hey, nice to meet you…yeah, I have to kill you. Sorry about that. See? It would never work. “At any rate, Mrs. Carter, you’re paying that much because I am the best. You’re not my first client, far from it, and you won’t be my last. So, I suggest you answer the question so we can get on with our lives and your husband can lose his. That’s what you want, isn’t it?” I paused and waited for a response, and she nodded. “Then if I were you, I’d cooperate.”
She lit the cigarette in her hand and took another long drag from it before responding. “A few months ago, my husband…had an affair. Not many people knew about it, not many at all. Only my sister and myself. So my husband and I tried to work on it…you know, fix things. We have children together, we wanted to give our family another shot. I didn’t think it was too impossible.”
It was reasonable. She was willing to forgive the scumbag. If I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t have been so forgiving. But then again I considered anybody who cheated on their significant other a scumbag. Judgmental? Maybe just a little bit, but I didn’t care. It wasn’t like I was trying to win humanitarian of the year. I think my chance of being nominated went out the window when my number of victims hit double digits. It was a shame, too, because I totally had an epic speech planned. Oh, well. “And so what happened next?”
“The woman he cheated with…got pregnant. He was still seeing her behind my back. I just found out three weeks ago when he decided that he wanted to stay with her and raise their new baby together. Apparently…they’re in love.”
I was trying (and failing) to think of a reply when her body started shaking and the inevitable tears started falling down her face. I wasn’t too fond of people showing emotions around me, especially not while I was on the job. I was a fucking hit man, not Dr. Phil. If you needed somebody killed, I was your guy, but dealing with mental breakdowns was not in my job description. “Mrs. Carter….” I paused, because she wasn’t paying attention. She was too wrapped up in her grief. Most people probably wouldn’t blame her. Unfortunately, for her, I wasn’t most people. “Mrs. Carter!” I tried again, she still didn’t hear me. Damn it. If it wasn’t for the fact that I wanted the money, I’d have just left, though the money was quickly losing its appeal. I grabbed her by her shoulders and dug my fingers into them until she looked at me, really looked at me. “Are you okay?”
She licked her lips and took another drag from her cigarette before responding. “Yes, I’m fine. I’ve just…been through so much in such a short time. It’s hard…but I’m alright.”
I fought to not breathe a sigh of relief and, boy, was it hard. If she could stifle her tears for another couple of minutes, maybe we could actually work this out and I’d get paid. Maybe. “So can we get back to business?”
She just nodded.
“So, I’ll ask you one more time,” I said, fighting to remain calm. “What exactly do you expect from all this? Your husband cheated on you, okay, and he wants to be in a relationship with the other woman. Whoopty-do. What’s your point?”
“The point is, Mr. Rose, I need you to kill the bastard. He left me. We were married and we had children together. Getting his dick wet was more important than our children. He shouldn’t be allowed to live with what he’s done. If I wasn’t such a coward, I would do it, but I am and I can’t. I need it done for me. Will you do it?”