Mystery and Crime Fiction posted April 8, 2018 Chapters: 1 -2- 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Raines takes a walk

A chapter in the book The Hardening

Meet Jackson Raines

by mbroyles2

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

Chapter 2

 I shoved my hands into the pockets of my bomber jacket.  Stars hung in the sky like polka-dots.  The crisp, October breeze of Cincinnati stung the edges of my exposed ears.  There would be a heavy frost tonight.  I regretted not wearing a hat.

I strolled along East Court Street.  Diesel exhaust dominated the air as a Greyhound bus pulled out from the depot.  The white sign announced that it headed for Louisville. In the distance I could see the bright black and yellow sign of the Jack Casino. My destination.  As I approached, a street performer played The Saints Go Marching In on an out-of-tune trumpet as he banged cymbals wrapped around his knees. He was an elderly black man with patches of gray hair and unshaven whiskers on a weather-beaten face.  A tattered Reds ball cap, with a few coins in it, laid at his feet. I stopped and listened.

My shrink advised me not to put labels on people.   An expert believed if you used labels to describe people, then you implied that they could not change, and it would make your life more stressful.  I could hear him now.

“You might assume that this man is homeless, a bum who will take what money given to him and buy alcohol instead of food.  This could cause you to feel disgust and feel he is unworthy of help, thus increasing your stress level.”

I folded my arms across my chest, chewed on my lower lip, and waited for my anxiety to rise.  The old man continued to hit the wrong notes and bang the cymbals out of beat.  I shrugged.  Nothing.

I removed all the money from my wallet and dropped the sixty-three dollars into the cap.  He never looked down.  Instead, he offered me a quick nod and smile.

 I didn’t see a bum.  I saw a working man doing the best he could to make a living.  What the hell did I care what he did with the money?  He earned it.  The doc and I didn’t see eye to eye on this one.  My mind worked differently I guessed.

Maybe it’s because he’d never been shot in the head.

I continued on, pulling out my phone and calling up the Spy Tec website. My target was still at the casino.  I walked up the ramp to the third level parking garage.  A black Mercedes was parked near the exit ramp.  I scrolled through my contact list and dialed the number of my client.

 A woman’s soft voice answered.  “Hello.”

 “It’s Raines.  He’s here.  You better get a move on.”

 “Okay, I’ll hurry.  You’ll make sure he doesn’t leave, right?”

 “If he tries to leave before you’re finished, I’ll run interference.”

“Thank you, Mister Raines.  I only need a few hours.”

 I went to the vehicle, lifting my key ring in the air, as if I was looking for my car and activating the door locks, putting on a show for the cameras.  I dropped them near the left rear tire of the Benz.  When I picked them up, I also removed the GPS tracker from the wheel base.  Satisfied, I went inside.

My client’s husband frequented the pot limit omaha games in the poker room.  Approaching, I looked in the back of the room and spotted him, straight-faced with serious eyes.  Cold eyes.  Untouchable.  I wanted to walk up and punch him in the mouth. 

The place was packed.  Typical for a Friday night.  Clay chips clacked as players riffled them with nervous fingers.  Waitresses, dressed in skimpy red velvet outfits with black lace and stockings, meandered from table to table dropping off beverages and taking orders. 

“Hey, Jack,” a room manager with a handlebar moustache said, “you playing tonight?”

 “Not tonight, maybe tomorrow.”

 “Too bad, plenty of action tonight.”

 “Seems like it.” 

After two hours of walking around the blackjack tables and watching an Asian fellow lose over a thousand dollars on the roulette table, I got the call from the Misses that she had finished.  She’d cleaned out the safe, packed her stuff, and announced she was heading for the Bahamas.  Two hours.  She had a lot of shit.

 Job completed, I used my casino comps and ordered a Bacon Crunchburger from Bobby’s Burger Palace. I took the sandwich and left. Time to get a drink.

Outside, cars hummed along Interstate 71 below me as I moved across the skywalk.  I snapped the collar of my coat up and blew into my hands.  I turned right on Van Meter Street and started my descent towards Baum.  The people thinned, and only a few cars passed.  I made my way onto Baum.  A man behind me picked up speed.  Jesus, he should’ve worn a neon sign.

I shoved what was left of the burger in my mouth.  I didn’t have far to go with the entrance to my above-the-bar apartment only a few yards away.  The man closed.  I turned, surprising the would-be mugger.

“Go away, you idiot,” I said.

A white skinny man with rotten teeth brandished a 38 revolver and demanded, “Give me your wallet, motherfucker!”

I shook my head.  He was just a kidI handed over my wallet.

Instead of running the kid looked inside the wallet and then raised the gun higher.  “It’s empty, man.  Where’s the cash?”

“I’m broke,” I answered, taking a step forward.  “I need that back now.”

The kid’s eyes widened, sweat formed on his upper lip, and he wiped it away with his free hand. “Man talks tough like that should be packing.”  He took two steps back.  His hands shook.

“I don’t need a gun to take down a lump like you.  Now give me the wallet, or they’ll need a shovel to scoop up what’s left of you.” I clenched my fists.  If the kid regained his nerve, I would have only a millisecond to react.  I bent my knees and shifted my weight, ready to pounce.

The punk never regained his resolve.  When he lowered the gun, I slapped it out of his grasp and punched him.  His meth-ravished teeth shattered, and he fell back on his ass.  I moved forward as he jumped to his feet.  His glossy eyes widened, and he placed a hand over his mouth.  He threw the wallet on the ground and ran for the trees.  “You’re a crazy motherfucker!”

I exhaled. “You have no idea.”  I bent down and retrieved the wallet and gun.  My pulse raced, thumping my lower back like a hammer. I opened the wallet and took out a photograph of a young boy embraced by a lovely woman with long brown hair.  Mine was the last face they’d seen.  Except for the picture, I wouldn’t know them. I couldn’t remember the horror in their faces, the fear that must have gripped them.   I should have saved them.  I tapped the picture.

“I’m sorry.”   

I checked my hand. It hurt like hell, but at least the freak didn’t break the skin.  Who knew what maladies roamed around inside that diseased mouth of his?


The doc was right.  My stress level went to the roof.

I needed a drink.

Maybe two.


Book of the Month contest entry


I'm starting the outline of the next Jackson Raines novel currently.
I hope to start posting chapters to it very soon.
Thanks for all your support.
Thank you Linda for the use of the picture.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Linda at

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