The other week, I was contacted by a local mystery author who’d found my website. I love helping other authors, especially ones in my city (!!) and am pleased to introduce to you Chris DeBrie. Read on to see his bio, plus an excerpt from his book Cap’n Random.
Chris DeBrie is an American publisher and artist. He is the creator of many nonfiction books, novels (“Cap’n Random”) and comic books (“Alexandr”). DeBrie’s hundreds of hard copy and online articles have explored many topics, including sports, history, and racial perceptions. He lives in Roanoke, Virginia.
The boy smiled up at the rain. “Can I get an ice cream sandwich?”
“Junior, it’s sixty degrees out here.”
“I know.” Junior pulled the football out of Yey’s hand. He touchdown-danced on the sidewalk.
“You better brush your teeth before your mama gets home,” Yey said.
“Okay. We got time.”
“You hope.” Yey’s phone rang as they reached the corner store. He stepped under the awning.
“Who is it, Daddy?”
“It’s Garf. Go on in and get that.” Junior ran inside the store, five dollars of allowance crammed into his palm. “Hello?”
“I got one for ya, Yey,” Garf said. His voice was always bright and brisk. “Couple got shot about an hour ago. Two, actually. I might need your help.”
“I’m walking Junior home, Detective…”
“I know. I saw your car at the ball field when we went by just now.”
“Junior wanted to toss the football a bit.”
“One of the victims lives five minutes from there.”
“Garf, it’s Chistina’s birthday. I’m about to take her out to dinner. We got reservations.”
“Congratulations. How many years is it?”
“This is number nine.”
“I won’t keep you,” Garf said, implacable. “Half hour. You might get called later to clean it up anyway. This way you can get a mental head start on the job.”
“I’m taking the week off.”
“Just take a quick look before you eat.”
Yey sighed. “I see enough death when I clean… and you want me to talk about it, too?”
“Talk? This isn’t gossip, Yey. You would be helping me collar a killer. Maybe more than one. Who knows.”
“I was hoping you would never ask me to do this again… not after what happened.”
“Just didn’t need you until now. Got a situation with my family, might mess up my focus… can’t afford to let this slip.”
“Russo doesn’t want my input.”
“You could have helped since then, you know,” Garf said. “And now you want to blame yourself for what happened to Merrick and hide. It wasn’t your fault. You’re the one who’s turned me down since then. Russo didn’t stop you.”
“Let’s agree to disagree, my brother. I know he resents me.”
“He’ll like your results. Same as any boss.”
“Not true. Some people will sink the boat over a grudge.”
“Are you coming over? Or you gonna make another excuse?”
Yey looked at Junior. “I’ll be right over,” he said. “I need to get back home and get in a suit.”
Couple got shot.
Yey was already cataloging the materials he would need to clean up the crime scene–if need be. A useless procedure, since most everything he owned to do the job was already in the van. But he was a list-maker, a detail-marker. Even when he didn’t want to be. Strictly automatic.
Losing his job on Christmas Eve was the first blow to the family. They had to live on Chistina’s check for six months, which wasn’t much of a struggle. Half of Chistina’s family was invested and/or working for a real estate firm in Philadelphia. Chistina ran the local office and made six figures without breaking a sweat. Yey contributed by working a part time job at an inventory company. He rode a van all over Virginia with six other people, walking supermarket aisles with a calculator and counting cans of tomatoes.
In late May, Garf’s fourteen-year-old nephew committed suicide by shotgun. After the police and examiner’s crew left, Garf’s sister was upset that there was no one to clean up the scene. Everyone just left, she kept saying. Yey still couldn’t forget that face–everything from her eyes down was drenched and shining with tears. He kept seeing a memory of the boy playing with Junior.
Already there just for support, Yey heard himself volunteering to clean up the boy’s room. The next morning he found himself shuddering at the stuff that was in a man’s head… goo and bone that was now congealed on the walls, floor and furniture… it was unspeakable to an initiate. As he wiped down the walls, experimenting with this tool and that cleaning fluid, a thought kept poking him: Who does this job on a regular basis?
He spent the next two days and nights online, and roaming the library. The more he learned, the more sure he became that he was onto something. There were a few national crime scene cleaner companies. Most of them did other jobs, too, like flood and fire scenes. Long story short, the big boys couldn’t cover everything. On a local level, there was room for Yey.
When he started the crime scene cleaning company, he had to learn the correct ways from scratch. Which chemicals were best to clean which biohazard, and how to dispose of waste in accordance with the law. That was an ongoing process–sure, any subject was accessible online. But second- and third-hand information was no match for experience. Each job, he learned a little more that Google couldn’t touch.
I think I found a new career, he told Chistina in the kitchen one morning. Don’t eat that…
“Daddy? What’s Garf’s real name?”
“He’s Charles, too? Like you?”
“No, his ma actually named him Chuck.”
Chistina’s SUV was idling in the driveway when they walked up. The vehicle tailgate was open. She saw Junior. “Are you eating ice cream, Mister Pistol?”
“Don’t try to hide the wrapper, I already saw it.”
“It’ll be okay,” Yey said to Junior.
“Such a snacker.” She cut the truck engine. “I got that DVD you asked for, baby. I had to go to two stores to get it.”
“What movie?” Yey said. Junior made a face.
“He wanted Lord of the Flies. I don’t know where he got the idea to see that old thing.”
“Probably,” Yey said, “because it’s on his English class summer reading list.”
“What?” she said.
She turned to Junior. “Then why’d you say you wanted the movie?”
“I need more, mister.”
“That book is kinda boring. I thought the film might put it together for me. Even those little yellow cheat books put me to sleep.”
“You have no idea how lazy that sounds.”
“Yes, he does,” Yey said.
Chistina tried to scowl at Junior, but it didn’t take. “Get my bags out of the truck, please. Are you still going to sleep over at Shon’s?”
“Yes. You’re in a good mood, Mommy.”
“I’ve been with my sisters from college, honey. We really had a good day… plus I got some good news today.”
“Sydney Estes is moving back to Virginia! It is absolutely unbelievable…”
“Who’s Sydney Estes?” Junior said.
Yey looked at Chistina, who said nothing, already giving him a warning look. “She’s someone who worships Mother Earth,” he said.
“That’s not true,” Chistina said. “Don’t tell him that.”
“Just trying to nutshell it. You know how his mind wanders.”
“He’s right,” Junior said.
“Sydney Estes is a wonderful woman,” said Chistina. “She grew up here, with no family, she was abused, and she succeeded anyway. Now she owns businesses and property. She gives back to the community and helps people, Junior. If you want to look up to someone, look up to her.” She took the football from Junior.
“Why is she back in Roanoke?”
“She owns Cesso Park, that retirement community over near your grandparents. I think they’re expanding…” Chistina trailed off as Junior lost interest.
“Dad, when are you meeting Garf?”
Chistina said, “You’re what?”
“Something happened over by the Y.”
“Somebody died.” said Junior.
“Don’t sound so happy about it, boy. It’ll be all over the news, I’m sure.”
“You gave in to him,” she said.
“I just–why are you so angry?”
“Junior, I said get the grocery bags… Yey, I told you not to give in. They are just going to use you.”
“How do you know so much about it?”
“We’re supposed to be at Roche in less than two hours!” she said. “These reservations were not easy to get.”
“I’ll be back before then.”
“Make sure your hands don’t smell like those gloves.” She sniffed. “So, now you’ve finally got to call that girl…”