I’ve finished editing the 2nd draft of The Brooklyn Trace, which started out on this very blog as my Skip Tracer web serial. I wrote what was intended to be a fun adventure for the web, but I ended the serial before I reached that point. I still like the story, but I’ve decided it’s too much of a tangent for the book.
While fun, it adds almost 3,900 words before you discover the main “obstacle” of the novel, which the main character must overcome. In other words, it needed to come out. So, I’ve turned it into a short story. Not sure how it works alone, but I thought I’d run it here, and see how people respond. Here’s the first segment.
I had known Mika and Anthony for all of twelve hours before we set out to Custer State Park. They were my new girlfriend’s brothers, Oglala Lakota Sioux who lived on their mothers’ compound in South Dakota. Me? I’m a city boy, born and raised in Houston, but living a comfortable life in Flagstaff, Arizona, where I set up shop as a private investigator. I’d met my new girl, Mina, while passing through the motel she ran in East Butthole, Oklahoma. I’d managed to make it out of there without getting involved, but the woman had gotten into my head. Like a puppet, as soon as I closed the case I was working on, I hightailed it back to OK for another shot at Mina. It worked, and after an amazing night together, I found myself hooked. Two days later, we were on our way to South Dakota to meet her family. I still scratch my head, trying to figure out how that happened.
At Mina’s suggestion, her brothers agreed to take me camping, to give me the “full experience” of life in the wide open plains. I knew right away that would be a mistake, especially since a playful “Hello” kiss from her gorgeous mom had ended in a fair bit of passion and one of Mina’s Vulcan Death Stares. (Now, I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t like that. She kissed me. I would have stopped her but … she was hot.) In any case, trouble was brewing. However, if I’ve learned anything about women in my thirty-one years, it’s that it isn’t worth it trying to avoid their wrath. Take your punishment like a man, and get it over with. In this case, looking at Mika’s massive frame, I just hoped my crime wasn’t a capital offense.
Mika, Anthony, and I set out before dawn, headed to Custer State Park. I couldn’t help but laugh when the boys told me the destination, but once we made a stop at their cousin’s ranch along the way, to pick up three horses and their horse trailer, it would have taken pretty much what happened to Custer to stop me from going. By the time the boys and I had left their moms, I realized this trip was more important to Mina than it was to me; she even pushed out our trip to New York by a couple of days to accommodate it. She was still in Mata Hari mode, however, and I couldn’t get an idea of what she was up to. Her brothers advised me to just get used to it. To my relief, Anthony and Mika were pretty friendly and as much interested in my adventures as a private detective as I was in their lifestyles here in the wide open. Sure, I grew up in Texas, but Houston’s a huge city. I likely knew about as much of the cowboy life as a New York cabbie.
We arrived at the park just after eleven in the morning, got ourselves checked in, grabbed some maps, and saddled up the horses. I was no horseman by a long stretch, but I did well enough getting on and encouraging the horse to go in the general direction I wanted. Mostly, I think she was following the others and tolerating the city boy on her back. Their mom, Katherine, had packed us enough food to feed an actual army, and the guys wanted to rough it as much as possible, “to give me the full experience,” so we carried everything in on our mounts. Mika had the tent and related gear, which he’d bundled onto a travois. I had the food and water, and Anthony had what he called “the essentials.” I hoped that included toilet paper.
We rode a couple of miles to the campsites, claimed our spot, and set our gear down. We were all anxious to explore, so we remounted and spent the day roaming the trails. I found my old Army training kicking in and amused myself by marking in my head the trail’s twists and turns that must have tripled the actual distance we’d traveled from the designated camping area. It was northwest, then north, then west, and back to north, with more than a few twists east, but overall, we must have headed pretty close to northwest, by my reckoning. The park was beautiful, one of the last unspoiled places in the country. Except for a few off-limit areas, we were free to wander, and we did. Mika, even at twenty-four, was something of a historian. I assume it’s the oral tradition of his people. As the eldest male, since his father passed, it fell to him to know the stories and histories. As the shorter, less-muscular boyfriend of his sister, it fell to me to listen, so as to not get the crap pounded out of me.