"The Last Nerve"

Chapter 1

By mbroyles2

Chapter One
Johnny Lee Horton knew early on that he came here to die.  He had survived longer than the others.  He was stronger, more resistant.  The injections came a lot quicker now.  The dose much higher, causing his skin to burn, and his heart rate increased to the point he felt like it would explode.  But, unlike the others, he didn’t scream.  No matter how painful the treatments got, he never uttered a word.  He didn’t beg for it to stop; he didn’t cry out into the night.  No, Johnny Lee Horton was too old for that.  He made his mind up.  He’d live to see his thirteenth birthday.

The room, with its gray concrete floors and cinderblock walls, was much darker than the hospital room his grandmother had occupied.  A naked bulb which hung loose from the drop-down ceiling, provided the only light.  There were no windows. The only similarity was the smell; a sweet, clean, scent pleasant to the nose.  It reminded him of his dad’s anti-freeze from the car’s radiator.

They fed him twice a day, and the food was always hot.  They even cleaned his chamber pot as needed.   There were plenty of books to read, and a Gameboy with old Mario games.  They provided clean clothes and bedding once a week.

From the coolness and ever present dampness, he got the sense he was underground.  He couldn’t figure out how many others there were, or how many there had been before or after him.  He knew there was at least one.  A girl, he heard them mention her when he had his ear pressed hard against the door.  They called her Sissy.  She was a screamer.  He could hear her cries whenever they entered her room and gave her the injections.  Sometimes it sounded like she had been possessed by demons, high-pitched and hateful.  Cursing and swearing at them.  Other times it would be like a banshee, wailing in the night; a sad cry, full of despair and loneliness.

He heard scuffling outside the door.  Was it time for another shot?  It seems it hadn’t been that long.  He listened hard, focusing on the voices, one woman and one man.

“Shall we check on Sissy?” the female asked.  “If everything looks good, we can up the dose.”

“That’s fine,” the male answered.  “Next to the older boy, she’s shown the most promise.”

Older boy, are they talking about me?

He heard the rattling of keys and a click.

Be brave, Sissy.  You can do it.  Don’t scream.  Please, don’t scream.

The door closed.

She didn’t scream.

Author Notes While I continue to edit the first book in this series, I thought I'd start posting the first draft of the second book.
The Last Nerve.
As always, I appreciate your support and comments.

Chapter 2
Little Willy

By mbroyles2

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Chapter 2

They say that deep in the heart of every man lies a sliver of goodness.  No matter the evil that taints the soul, no matter how black and sadistic, a small spark of light is trying to break through the darkness. Maybe it’s the way they respect their mothers or spoil their children.  It’s possible that they donate to a homeless shelter, or pass out turkeys on Thanksgiving. 

Matthew Granite believed that to be a fantasy, grasped from the hopes of desperate parents who couldn’t come to terms with the maliciousness that dwells in their offspring.  He was convinced that not all men have a virtuous side. William Dawson, a. k. a. “Little Willy”, was one such man.

If there had ever been a kindred spirit in Little Willy it faded twenty-five years ago when at the tender age of sixteen he slit the throats of his parents.  Not because they were abusive or overbearing.  Not because he would inherit a windfall and suddenly become rich.  No, Little Willy butchered his parents because they wouldn’t let him borrow the car.

There was no evidence to prove the point, but a young and zealous defense attorney convinced the judge to go easy on young William due to an unstable home environment.  A pricey child psychologist corroborated the story and suggested that what the youngster needed was therapy and nurturing, not bars and the harshness that goes with it.

He'd been confined to the local ward for treatment and released at twenty-one.  Rumor had it he murdered three people in his first six months out, took over the crack cocaine ring, and hadn't stopped since.

Murder and drugs are part of the everyday happenings that go along with a big city like Cincinnati.  Although, not up to par with such havens like St. Louis, Baltimore, or Detroit, the Queen City’s violent crime rate was in the top twenty in the United States.

It wasn’t murder and drugs that put William Dawson on Granite’s radar, however.  Seems Little Willy had a taste for young children, both girls and boys.  His only requirement:  They had to be under the age of thirteen.

Evidence was hard to collect.  The children were too traumatized or frightened to bear witness, and Little Willy always had an alibi.

Granite wasn’t concerned about evidence that would hold up in court.  He was only interested in the truth.  To find it, he had his gut, the word of a few street snitches, the parent’s determination for vengeance, and their money.

At $750 a day, it afforded them the best surveillance he could offer, personal surveillance with no distractions or hindrances, unless, you considered a partner, the size of a mountain who had a thing for running late, a distraction or hindrance.  Granite glanced at his phone and sighed.  “Marko probably stopped at Jungle Jim’s for some beef jerky and Mountain Dew.”  He dropped the phone onto the passenger seat.  “He’d better not get the spicy nacho kind.  He can sit in his own car if he does.”

William Dawson’s estate sat on a thirty-acre lot between Fairfield and Oxford.  Parking on the road in a black, fully loaded Lexus 570x, made Granite stand out like a wart on a beauty queen's face.  He wasn’t trying to be inconspicuous.  He wanted the man inside to notice, to slip up, or best case scenario, do something stupid.

At that moment, something stupid pulled up behind him in an old, light blue, Lincoln Town Car that might have been older than the driver that stepped out.  Young enough to sport pimples and oily skin, the kid straightened his navy blue blazer and wiped his hands on his matching slacks.  He packed a pistol in a shoulder holster and a smirk on his football-shaped face, with a head full of slicked-back brown hair.

Granite frowned.  “So much for no distractions.”

Pimple-Face tapped his knuckles on the driver’s side window.  Granite acknowledged by lowering it.  “What’s up?” Granite asked.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Why’s that, this is a public road isn’t it?”

“You are disturbing Mr. Dawson and I think it would be in your best interest if you moved along.”

“And you are who exactly?”

“I’m security for Mr. Dawson.”

“Are you now?”

“Sir, I don’t want any trouble.”

“Too late for that, sonny.”

Gravel crunched, and the sun disappeared behind Pimple-Face.  He turned to see Marko, all six-foot-seven inches of him, carrying three hundred and fifty pounds of pure muscle, a bag of beef jerky, and a two-liter of Mountain Dew.

“Afternoon,” Marko said.

“I knew it,” Granite said.  “You just couldn’t resist could you?”

Marko looked first at the beef jerky then the Mountain Dew.  “What?”

Eyes widened, mouth agape, Pimple-Face took a step back. “Who are you?”  Sweat formed on the top of his lip and above his brow. 

“I’m security,” Marko said.

“Real security,” Granite offered.

“Get back in your car,” Pimple-Face ordered.  His voice displayed less conviction than before and he compensated by edging his hand closer to the shoulder holster.

“Now hold on there, son,” Marko said.  “There’s no need for you to get hurt.”

“Me to get hurt?  You’re mistaken, friend.  You don’t even have a gun.”

“I need a gun?”  Marko asked.

Pimple-Faced pulled his pistol.  He was quick, but Granite and Marko were quicker.  Granite opened the car door and slammed it into the side of Pimple-Face, while Marko dropped the soda and grabbed the assailant’s hand holding the weapon.  The Mountain applied pressure, Pimple-Face quickly relinquished the pistol, a Springfield 9mm, and dropped to the ground.

“Now, go to sleep,” Marko said as he sent a thunderous fist, still holding the beef jerky, crashing down upon the young man’s head.  He crumpled and fell forward, face hitting the road with a resounding thud.

Granite lifted Pimple-Face and dragged him to the side of the road. He patted him down, checking for other weapons.  Satisfied there were none, he left him unconscious among the uncut grass.

Marko bent over to pick up his Mountain Dew.  “Seriously,” he said. “You don’t even have a gun.  Did he really say that?”

“C’mon,” Granite said.  “Get in the car.”

Marko sat in the passenger seat and admired the luxurious interior.  “Nice, but I miss the Escalade.”

“Well, it sort of died in Louisiana.”

“It was only a flesh wound.”

“It had bullet holes.”

Marko slumped and said under his breath, “It was still alive though.”

Fifteen pouting minutes later, Granite tapped Marko’s arm.  “There he goes.”

A bright yellow Hummer pulled out of the long, curvy driveway and headed towards Oxford.

“Not really trying to keep a low profile is he?”  Marko said.

“Not his style.”

“Maybe he’s going to the college.”

“The kids at Miami are too old for his taste, but let’s follow him, nonetheless.”

Granite started the engine and put the Lexus in gear.  A low rumble, like thunder in a cave, resounded deep within Marko’s stomach, followed by a slight lifting of his left leg.

“What kind of beef jerky is that?”  Granite asked.

“Spicy nacho, want some?”  Marko offered.

Granite’s eyes began to tear up, and his jaw tightened.

“Aw, man,” he said.  “Lower the window.”


Author Notes This novel will take different turns and twists along the way.
Buckle your seatbelt.
Up next:
Granite makes a gruesome discovery.

Chapter 3
Off Course

By mbroyles2

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.

Chapter 3

April showers bring May flowers.  After the record-breaking rainfall the previous month, the month of the Greek goddess, Maia, promised to offer a bountiful display of nature’s spring calling cards.  It might be the only good thing that comes out of the abundant precipitation. The Ohio, Little Miami, and Great Miami rivers have flooded, threatening homes and businesses.  The farmers have delayed the planting season and were busy in the fields assessing the damage.  It had rained every day in April but three, and one of those, had been opening day of the Cincinnati Reds baseball season.  Even God had his limits.  Don’t mess with tradition.

Granite followed Little Willy’s Hummer from a distance.  He kept glancing at the dashboard time display.

“You late for something?” Marko asked.

“No,” Granite answered.  “Just waiting.”

“Waiting for what?”

“Keep an eye on the Hummer.”


“Jimmy concocted this aerosol agent that eats away the air pressure in tires.  Sort of like a reverse Fix-A-Flat.  It will eventually cause the tires to go down.  If Willy is watching his warning lights, he’s probably already noticing.”

Jimmy Daniels, a graduate of Brown University, a self-proclaimed man of the ladies, and a bona fide computer nerd, was a young consultant of Granite’s.  When not tinkering with gadgets for the private investigator, Jimmy made his money by breaching the firewalls of the nation’s biggest companies and then upgrading their security systems to prevent such compromises.

“Huh,” Marko said. “If that ain’t the limit, what’ll ole Brown think of next?  How did you get it in the tires?”

“Do I really need to explain that?” Granite asked.

“No.  I guess not.  How long does it take to work again?”

“Not long,"

“He’s heading into the monkey bars.”

There was an eight-mile stretch, north of Cincinnati, where two county highways ran parallel to each other almost two miles apart.  Every mile and a half they joined separate dirt roads.  From the sky it looked like a ladder, or what the locals called it; monkey bars.  Granite and company travelled on the eastern side of it.

Little Willy’s lemon colored hummer had just passed the first rung of the monkey bars when Granite noticed the tapping of brake lights.  The gangster guided the vehicle to the side of the road while Granite turned west onto the first rung.

“We’ll circle around and pick him up,” he said.

“Pick him up?”

“They don’t want him dead.”

“Oh, I beg to differ with you.”

“Let me rephrase that.  They don’t want ME to kill him.”

“Got it.  So what, we’re just going to nab him and haul him off somewhere?  What if he isn’t alone?”

“That’s why I brought you.”

“I see.”

An old barbed-wire fence ran along the edge of the road.  A Hereford cow had its massive cream-colored head between the wires, chewing its cud and gazing out into the road with sun-pinked eyes.  In the distance more cattle sloshed around the mud-covered pasture.  A flatland creek, which cut through the middle of the field, had overflowed its banks and made the going a little slow for the hooved beasts.  Some had given up and sprawled on their bellies.

The hard-packed dirt road, now just a sloppy mess, anointed the SUV with the muddy reminder of the recent weather.  “Probably should have thought this through a little more,” Marko said.

“Shut it.”

“I’m just saying you could ruin that fine suit you’re wearing.”

“It’s not Armani.”

“Well at least it's dark brown.  The mud will blend right in.”

Granite turned to Marko and stared at him with narrowed eyes.

“O.K., O.K., shut it,”

The Lexus slowed, Granite leaned closer to the windshield.  “What’s that look like up ahead?”

“Where?” Marko asked.

“There,” Granite said, pointing to the right.

A figure, no bigger than a lamb, crawled along the ground near the edge of the road.  Limbs extended, like a swimmer reaching for the edge of the wall, it made its way, inch by inch, to the small rise that separated the road from the field.

“I don’t know, a dog maybe.” Marko said.

As the SUV drew closer, Granite made out a white backdrop covered in the chocolate-colored grime of the pasture.  Deep purple patches along the extended limbs came into view, and Granite’s eyes widened.  He slammed on the brakes and released his seatbelt.

“Good lord, no!”

Granite exited the car and raced toward the figure, Marko tailed behind him.

“What is it?” Marko asked.

Granite knelt down and scooped the bundle into his arms.

“Call 911!” he barked.

Marko punched the numbers into his phone and held it to his ear.  “What’s going on?”

Granite rocked back and forth.

“It’s a child.”

He held a little girl, less than ten years old, wearing an oversized hospital gown, with no coat, and no shoes. She shivered in Granite’s embrace. He wiped her face with his sleeve.  Eyes full of fear looked up at him. She tried to speak, but her voice was so low, Granite couldn’t make out what she was saying.  It sounded like: “peas”.

“Hold on, baby girl.  Help is on the way.”  He brought her close to his chest.  He looked at her arms, swollen and bruised.  Rage burned inside him and brought him to tears.  The little girl opened her mouth once more.


“I’m trying, sweetie, stay with me.  You’re okay now.  You’re okay.”

But she wasn’t okay, and Granite knew it.  Her breathing had grown shallow, and her pulse had weakened.  Then it stopped.

“No, no, no!” Granite lowered his ear to her mouth.  He heard a low and slow exhale, then quiet.  Laying the girl gently on the ground, he felt for the breastbone and started a one-handed CPR.

Marko came up from behind him. Granite looked up.  “Where’s that fucking ambulance?” he shouted.

Marko looked down the road.  The barely audible siren called out, but it was still some distance away. “It’s coming.”

Granite pumped the tiny chest of the girl.  Up, down, up, down, counting, trying frantically to revive the youngster. There was no response.

“She’s gone, Matthew.”

“Don’t say that.  Don’t you fucking say that.  Come on, honey, come back.  Don’t let it end this way.  You can’t let it end this way.  Fight!”

Marko placed his hand on Granite’s shoulder.  “She fought, Matthew.  She’s at peace now.”

Granite stopped the CPR.  Tears rolled down his face. His nose began to bleed from the violent sobbing.  He held the little girl and spoke softly through the weeping.  “I’ll find out who did this to you, baby girl.  I won’t stop until I do.  I promise.”

He wiped his face.  Anger replaced the sadness.  Before standing, he noticed a small chain wrapped around the child’s neck.  A small brass locket dangled from it.  Granite turned it over in his hand.  There was one word engraved on it.



Author Notes Up Next:
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