Book One of the Maison de Danse Quartet
Date Published: 01-01-2022
Publisher: Épouvantail Books
The hunt is on. Pierce Danser is desperately searching for his grandson, Kazu, a twelve year old who's carving a murderous trail as he tries to escape his past. Labeled by the Mexican federales as Jappy the Assassin, the boy has fought his way to the states, being chased by his double-crossed employer and the law. When Pierce picks up his trail, he starts his desperate journey from a simple life in Michigan to the Midwest, using all of his wits and contacts to rescue the boy before the Mexican hitmen and the authorities get their claws into him.
As the trail leads Pierce to Florida, he is also targeted and attacked. Battered and frightened, he refuses to give up, doing all he can to get to Kazu before the boy is caught and disappeared and worse. Because of his trickery and escape, nothin less than Kazu's head on a spike will do.
Pierce is in the fight of his life.
The clock is ticking.
Can he save the boy from his deadly pursuers?
Dot & Walton
The mailman was either morning drunk or miserably hungover. His face was disfigured by alcohol: blotted, veined cheeks and nose, with red, wet eyes down. There were three days of stubble on his weak chin.
“Here’s-the-mail,” he said as one word, answering the question: his breakfast had been a few cups of clear coffee over ice.
He carried a roughed-up white tub of mail in red, trembling hands. I followed him over to Sam Say’s office. He’s the current general manager I hired a few months back. Sam’s real last name is Szczepanski, which is why I call him Sam Says. His office is in the center of the dealership, and like mine, a square glass fish tank.
The mailman set the tub on the corner of Sam’s desk, not looking up, his tortured eyes to the floor. Sam didn’t look up, either. He was busy on his large-screen computer. He spent his 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift in the worlds of video games and something called Reddit. I didn’t mind. If we ever got a customer, he was there to do the talking. The dealership was new and immaculate and the smallest in the United States. There are the four Jeeps out front and the fifth in the middle of the showroom. All five are brand new and white. All five are the Willy model.
Stepping into Sam’s office, I waited until the drunk and his mail tub left for the day. My general manager was too preoccupied to give me or the mail a glance, so I went through it. There was the usual flotsam of power and gas bills, advertisements, and another of the letters from the Jeep-Chrysler Corporation. These typically carry veiled threats. You could say our sales performance was underperforming. There was one odd letter, addressed to me in handwriting, with foreign stamps on the battered envelop. Pocketing that one, I set aside the rest of the mail for Sam Says to go through later, if at all.
“I’m heading out. Get the door for me?” I asked.
Sam looked up at me like he just realized I was in his office.
“Sup?” he asked.
“Get the door for me?” I repeated.
The request caused him obvious pain. His fingers came off the keypad slowly, reluctantly.
“Sure, boss. Gimme a second.”
I left him still looking at his monitor with transfixed, dead eyes. We kept the lockbox of Jeep keys in my office. By the time I climbed into the showroom Willy, Sam was at the left side wall, pressing the control button that raised the door to the parking lot. I started the Willy and rolled across the polished floor. A two-foot rise of hard-packed snow had formed against the outside of the door and I crunched through it, leaving the warmth and brilliant lights of the showroom behind.
December was in all its Michigan glory. A world frozen white under constantly dreary, gray skies. After plowing ten yards out, I braked and put the transmission in four-wheel drive and low range. I knew I had asked Sam to arrange to have the dealership’s parking lot snow plowed. Shame he was so overworked.
I turned left onto Whitmore Lake Road and headed south in the direction of Ann Arbor. With the Willy in low range, I crept along like a senile geriatric, and I was good with that. All this living in a winter wonderland was still new to me.
The trees alongside the two-lane were heavy with snow, as were the few roofs of tiny houses along the way. Cranking the heat control to high, I focused on keeping the daytime headlight beams centered in the narrow, iced tunnel carved through the drifts. The town’s snowplows must have made a pass some hours earlier, but fresh falling snow stood nearly two feet deep. The wipers sweeping, the big tires hushing, I was a mile along when a pickup truck pulled out from a side street. I was pleased at first, letting it carve tire furrows I could follow in.
A Confederate flag was unfurled from a pole in the truck’s bed, a fine symbol of idiocy. I followed this rim job, wishing he would hit a rut, swerve, slide and plow into a tree. But not before he cleared the way to my turnoff.
At the Barker Road intersection, the truck carried on across. I turned right, feeling the four-wheel-drive gripping solid through the steering wheel.
Barker Road looked like it hadn’t been plowed in days. It was one of the many backroads not deemed worthy. Snow began climbing the hood and brush the sides of the Willy. Keeping the fine and heavy vehicle at a grandfatherly ten miles an hour, I drove down the center of the road for the next three miles.
The first sign of civilization was a long-ago shuttered Sunoco gas station to the right. A hundred yards farther along was Whitmore Antiques, the shop in a former residence of red brick; a single light was on in a side window. The antique shop was nearly buried in white. Vacant lots passed along both sides for the next half-mile. The start of a high fence appeared to the right, the first sign of my destination. I put the blinkers on for no reason I can think of and pulled into the parking lot of Gustin’s Packard Restorations.
The office was at the front of the large warehouse building. Its windows were dark, which was the norm. People out shopping in a snowstorm for Packard parts are as rare as those desiring new white Willys. Besides, all the action was inside the warehouse, where my best friend and the owner and three mechanics spent their workdays rebuilding the once famed cars from the rows and aisles of spare parts on pallets.
I steered for the second gate to the left side, past the three-story building. That was where Ryan Dot lived. Yes, that Ryan Dot, the former over-the-top famous actor. He was currently employed at Gustin’s Packard Restorations, where he found true meaning and satisfaction restoring the once-grand automobiles.
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