Decease and Desist – Early Teaser

An excerpt from Decease and Desist, coming in October:

I’d just re-shelved the Elizabeth Peters mystery I was leafing through and taken a step toward the front of the store when there appeared in the entrance-way a shambling six-footer with ragged jeans, tattered jacket, shaved head and scowling demeanor. He looked to be in his late thirties, bulked up with erstwhile muscle now turning to fat. The street person cometh, I thought to myself, and directed Roger’s attention to the front with my eyes. Malone, meanwhile, was moving over to stand beside me.

Gary Lysander’s back was to the door, which was a good thing; I didn’t want him confusing matters with a panic attack. I motioned Roger to hold his position as Malone and I headed for our new patron.

The guy was just inside the door, squinting as if the dim interior lighting were too bright. He ignored Gabby, who was blandly inspecting him from behind the counter, and surveyed the rest of us with an ever-increasing scowl and squint. Whatever he was on, obviously one of the side effects was light sensitivity.

He focused, more or less, on me as I approached.

“Can we help you?” I asked pleasantly.

He frowned. He thought it over. “Don’t need no help.”

“So…you just want to browse for a bit?”

That one required a lot of thought. Finally he seemed to reach some kind of conclusion. “This your place?” he asked, looking from me to Malone now and sounding almost hopeful.

His hands were empty and I couldn’t see a weapon on him. If he had to pull one out of a pocket or from under the jacket, I figured that would probably take even longer than his cognitive process. What the hell, I said to myself. Let’s see what happens. “It’s my place.”

What in fact happened was possibly the most inept martial arts attack in the history of world civilization. His face took on what I guess was supposed to be a fierce grimace. He stumbled back half a step, I think believing that he was dropping into a proper fighting stance; it barely qualified as a slump. He emitted a sound something like the squawk of a dying chicken. Finally his right foot came up, maybe eight inches off the floor, and jerked feebly in my direction.

He almost caught me on the shin because I was so torn between astonishment and amusement that I couldn’t move. Fortunately he missed anyway. Malone wasn’t even bothering to try to help.

When he dropped the foot, stepped in and tried to punch me in the face, I decided that was enough entertainment for the moment. He was off-balance and I blocked his swing hard enough to spin him half-way around–at which point he basically fell backward into my arms.

So then I had a struggling, spitting, incredibly smelly derelict pressed up against my body. The entertainment was definitely over. Malone stepped in and grabbed one of the guy’s arms while I shifted my grip to the other, both of us maintaining the maximum possible distance as we bent him face down over the counter.


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