First Chapter and Last Chance

Hell and Gone comes out October 23rd, which means now’s the time to pre-order and enter the Vancouver Crime Library giveaway.

Here are the books included:

Harbour has also donated a bonus sixth book, Vile Spirits by John McLaughlin Gray. Pretty cool.
Thanks everyone who’s already pre-ordered. Books are an uncertain commodity, and the support is very much appreciated.
Keep scrolling down and you can read the first chapter right now!
On publication day, this Saturday, I’ll be sending out a bonus newsletter with November event news, plus a new book trailer. I’ll also be dropping by Pulp Fiction Books on Main for a low-key signing. Lots more to come. I hope you enjoy the book.
Here’s the first chapter of Hell and Gone.
Fireworks let off indoors.
At first I thought I might have drifted off, and the sound belonged to the tail end of some already-dispersing dream. Five-fifteen in the goddamn morning, and I’d been up all goddamn night.
I’d driven back from Hope in the early hours, chasing down a scaffolder who’d moved north owing five months’ child support. He’d been drunk and quarrelsome, and it had taken some bare-knuckle convincing, but he’d paid. Instead of going home and waking up Sonia, I’d driven to the office. The plan had been to write up my report, make tea and fall asleep, in whichever order those things happened to come.
The half-finished document lay in front of me, and if I’d dozed off it was only for a second. The small office was still, the only sound the burble from the Zojirushi, heating water for tea. Quiet, too, outside, with dawn just breaking behind the new office towers of Chinatown. I could hear the diesel drone of a vehicle idling in the street, and the groggy gabble of commuters waiting for the first bus of the morning.
The office was on the third floor of a brick tenement on Keefer Street, surrounded by larger, newer pre-fab structures. The office window was wedged open with a copy of Kim Rossmo’s Criminal Investigative Failures. Over the frame, with its trench of pigeon spikes, I had a view of the six-storey office building across the street. Locals had christened it Gentrification Central.
A panel van idled to the left of the building’s entrance. Late nineties vintage, painted a lustreless black, exhaust dribbling from its tail. The engine made guttural sounds like the phlegm-clearing horks of a smoker. The windows were tinted, so I couldn’t see inside.
I looked for the Calendar Man, the only other person I’d seen this morning. I’d passed him walking up from the Korean market on Hastings, coffee in hand, dragging his cart of merchandise behind him. He hawked Light in Darkness calendars at the corner bus stop, catching early morning traffic from Chinatown to the Financial District.
Only this morning he wasn’t by the bus stop. Looking down I saw a pair of Asian women in heavy green coats zipped over dark skirts, a white man in a charcoal suit, and another with his back to me, wearing a tan fedora and a suede jacket, his head crooked to talk on his cell.
Movement on the corner up from the front entrance of the building, around the side. A figure in a battered peacoat knelt with one foot in the gutter, gathering up something in his hands. It was the Calendar Man. His cart was tipped over and dozens of shrink-wrapped calendars were spilled across the road.
He righted the cart with a sharp kick and hurled calendars into its basket. He was out of place. There was no foot traffic on the side street, no potential customers that far from the bus stop beneath my window. I wondered if the sound had come from him.
I heard it again, the muffed boom of fireworks, coming from inside the building across from me. Ripples of sharp bass echoes, erratic, that could be felt through the morning air. Then heavier sounds that grew louder till they shook the panes of the glass-fronted lobby. A shattering sound. Then
nothing but the rev of the van and a chirp of confusion from the bus stop. During the lull I noticed the fissures in the glass doors. Not fireworks.
Maybe I’d known from the jump.
I have some experience with violence. I fetched my shoes from thefront door and shut off the Zojirushi, abandoning my mug with the string of Twinings wound around the handle. As I laced one shoe, I glanced out the window and saw a figure emerge from the building, soon trailed by others.
Each of them was dressed in the same deep-blue janitor’s coveralls, their faces masked, thick gloves on their hands. The first figure out held a pump-action shotgun and walked calmly to the van, as if he were guarding it. He changed direction as he noticed the two commuters who’d ventured into the street.
Black neoprene covered the bottom of his face, the bleached jaws and fangs of a skeletal dog stencilled over his mouth. His exposed skin was dark and his hair dark brown and cut short. When he spotted the commuters, he swung the barrel of the shotgun toward them.
I felt the breath steal from my lungs.
The next out of the building was a woman, who opened the rear of the van and slung a black and orange hockey bag into the hold. She held an automatic pistol and tapped the shoulder of the man with the shotgun. All clear. The man nodded. The woman climbed in, joined quickly by a third figure, limping and cradling one arm.
The commuters, the man in the hat and one of the women, had walked into the street to see what was going on. Now they froze. The man slowly raised his hands.
A gunshot from inside, close, maybe from the lobby. A startled cry from the commuters below.
The last man came walking out sideways, shouldering the door of the building to throw it open. He swung around and crossed behind the man with the shotgun. Pale skin and blond hair atop the same dog mouth. He held a rifle of some sort. When he saw the commuters, the blond man didn’t hesitate. He swept the barrel up to aim at the closest of them.
The barrel jumped and flashed fire. The man in the fedora made a horse-like whinny as he dropped backward. His hat miraculously remained on his head during the fall, but tipped back under his neck as he struggled, limbs flapping desperately. The other woman ran and the blond man fired at her back. A ghastly black smoke bloomed from
the gun.
The man with the shotgun discharged his weapon, an explosive noise louder than the rifle. My eyes closed reflexively. When they opened, the man was sprinting to the van’s side door.
The blond man fired into the small crowd by the bus stop, emptying the rifle, the black mist rising around him. Maybe thirty rounds. Then he walked to the door and the door slid closed and the van drove off.

The commuters had first made a communal sound, almost a swoon, that in the aftermath broke into separate sounds of panic and agony and fear. A male voice stuttered and sobbed as a keening rose up from the street. A sharp slurp of breath from someone in pain.
During all of this I hadn’t moved from the window. One shoe still dangled stupidly from my fingers. I became aware of it, blinked, let it fall to the office floor. I muttered to myself, words that felt empty and inadequate
even as I mouthed them.
what am I going to do?
I have some experience with violence. Nothing like this. I forced myself to breathe.
Then I went out the window.

(From here things go really bad.)
Pre-order Hell and Gone in time to enter the Vancouver Crime Library giveaway, or pick up a copy this Saturday. 
As always, thanks for reading.


Copyright © 2021 Sam Wiebe, author, All rights reserved.

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