Oddstar Excerpt: Chapter Two
This is an unedited, unpolished excerpt of Chapter 2 of Oddstar: A Which Where Novel.
Nershberg raised the gun to eye level, unable to hold it steady. There was some cocaine on his mustache and beard. “Don’t move,” he snarled.
“Hey,” Will said, his tone quiet and calm, like he was trying to talk down an agitated panther. “Hey now.”
“Shut up!” the journalist spat, sniffing in hard. The gun swayed violently in his inebriated grip. “Who are you?”
“I’m just a guy, Jonah,” Will said. He raised his hands to show he meant no harm. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
“How do you know my name?” Nershberg asked, trying to keep his robe closed with his free hand and failing. “What do you want?”
“I’m here for this,” Will said, raising the plastic case for the journalist to see.
A look of recognition washed over Nershberg’s face, relaxing the creases. “He hired you, didn’t he?” he asked.
Will nodded. He tried to remain as calm as possible. The last thing he needed was for Nershberg to panic.
Tears filled the journalist’s eyes, the gun shaking even more in his clammy hands. He sniffed again. “You don’t understand,” he pleaded, as if he were the one with a gun in his face. “You don’t know what he did to me!”
“It was your wife, right?” Will asked, remembering his briefing. He noticed a look of indignation twinkle in Nershberg’s eye. “Ex-wife, I mean.”
“The whore!” Nershberg replied, almost like a tic. “They were fucking for years, playing me for a chump. Then, when it all blew up and the tabloids got a hold of the story, he had the nerve to joke about it! On the red carpet! He thought it was funny!”
“I know, Jonah,” Will said. He risked a few glances around, trying to see if anything might get him out of this situation. A vase, a weapon, a jetpack—anything!
Nershberg took a deep breath, shuddering and exhaling through his strained throat.
“I already called the cops,” he said. “They’ll be here any minute.”
Damn. The jig is up.
“Look, Jonah, I’ll leave the dildo,” the thief said, reaching into his pack. He stopped when Nershberg tightened up his aim in response. “I’ll just go. I won’t even contact my client. Consider the job abandoned.”
The journalist’s eyes flitted around as he thought about the offer. Will couldn’t imagine what was going on inside the man’s balding head, but he knew the logic of his suggestion had to compete with emotions and drugs. Still, something in Nershberg’s eyes said he wanted to believe Will. That he didn’t want to punish the thief for taking the job.
“I dunno,” the journalist said. He lowered the gun an inch or two. “Why should I trust you?”
“Because I’ll blacklist the client,” Will replied. “If I’m arrested, he’ll just send someone else to finish the job—maybe a bit messier than this. If you let me go, I can make sure no one in my network takes the job.”
The idea struck a chord with Nershberg. For a moment, Will was certain he’d be allowed to leave.
A knock came at the door.
“Police!” a voice boomed.
Both men flinched at the sound. Will closed his eyes and swallowed. It was too late now.
“Shit!” Nershberg said, rubbing some of the powder off his panic-stricken face. “I forgot to hide my coke!”
With a lurch forward, Nershberg started to run towards the stairs. He only made it a yard or so before his drunk feet tripped over the framed painting of Pagliacci and Sonic. He didn’t see it in the dark.
A wheeze escaped the journalist as he fell forward, his robe opening wider and rippling behind him. He reached forward and tried to catch himself before he hit the floor, but forgot the gun was in his hand.
A bang ripped through the air. Will ducked down and covered his ears.
He waited for a moment, holding his breath, until he realized he had not been shot. Standing up straight, he looked at the heap on the ground in front of him. A pool of blood spread out from a horrific hole in Nershberg’s head.
Will brought a gloved hand to his mouth, too shocked to scream. His eyes shot wide, regarding the scene with absolute terror. The blood drained out of his extremities; he felt like he might faint. He was so stunned by the sight of the journalist, bleeding and twitching on the floor, that he almost didn’t notice the sounds of shattering glass coming from the front door.
Before he could react, a beam of light washed over him. Then another, and another. He blinked in the blinding illumination, trying to shield his eyes.
“Freeze!” the same voice boomed again. Will could see at least four police officers, all with guns drawn. “Hands up!”
Will threw his hands in the air, the encased sex toy still in his clutch.
“What is that?” one of the cops cried. “Drop it!”
“It’s just a dildo!” Will shouted, letting it fall from his hand. While the silicone phallus dropped past his eyes, he wondered what his parents would think if they could see him now. He felt his heart sink as he watched the blurred colors tumble out of sight. The case cracked on the floor below. As it hit, he heard the delicate sound of a switch clicking. The dildo began to vibrate inside its fractured container.
Why the hell does it have batteries? Will wondered as two of the cops tackled him to the ground. He offered no resistance, feeling instead like he was a million miles away from his body, watching the scene as a spectator. He felt the handcuffs squeeze tight around his wrists, biting into the flesh.
“Jesus,” the cop who had been barking orders said, taking note of the dead man on the floor. Without hesitation, he reached up and pressed the button on his radio. “Suspect in custody! We have one civilian shot—we need an ambulance right away!”
Will couldn’t hear what the people on the other line said as the police searched him. He could only focus on the colorful dildo, buzzing around in its cracked case just inches from his face.
To be Continued (in two weeks!)