Tuesday, January 05, 2016

An Excerpt from Under a Cloud of Rain by A. R. Baumann

Omnimystery News: An Excerpt courtesy of A. R. Baumann

We are delighted to welcome author A. R. Baumann to Omnimystery News today.

A. R.'s new mystery introducing Creole-born detective Nick Noelle is Under a Cloud of Rain (Inkshares; January 2016 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we are pleased to introduce you to it with an excerpt, the prologue and first chapter. You can also enter to win a copy of the book!

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HE SLOGGED THROUGH THE BROWN WATERS of the bayou, the glittering lights of Houston in the background. His muscles were taut as he carried the young beauty in his arms. Unlike the heavy trees that supplicated themselves overhead, she was as weightless as a feather, even in her futile struggles to free herself. He wore a mask. When he placed her in a canoe, her bright blue eyes accused him. He stuffed a dirty rag soaked with chloroform into her mouth and then fastened her wrists and feet together with heavy rope. He winced at the memory of her laughter while looking down her nose at him. This princess sneered and killed with words and dimples. Now her breath was slow and deep. The drug had worked, for the moment.
  He fought mosquitoes and the itch beneath his mask as he rowed the canoe farther and farther through the bayou. When he reached the gardener's shack, he laid her gently, like a lover, onto a slime-covered log. He reached into his backpack, pulling out a chain saw. She was still beautiful to him. He stared at her breasts, plump with bold nipples beneath the peasant blouse. He desired nothing more than to kiss and touch her, but a distant memory of her plagued him. What had happened to that sweet, innocent child?
  For a fleeting moment he thought of using his knife to cut the electrical tape to free her, but he knew she'd only run back to the wretched life she had created. With his index finger he touched the soft swell of her left breast, just above her heart.
  Suddenly she awoke from the chloroform and her eyes flew open. The expression there changed; the bright blue that had once sparkled stared at him, pleading, only to shift to loathing. Her unspoken words screeched, Do it! Do it, like you did when I was too young to say no. She had to be punished. He fired up the chain saw, and as he cut into her, he was surprised that it took no effort at all.
  He lifted her dismembered parts, carefully dropping each one into a large black trash bag. He placed the bag under the gray spiderwebs that hung from the shack. He would never forget the whole, beautiful woman she had been during that brief time they had once shared. Now, he was rid of her. He laughed, drowning out the sound of mosquitoes in his ears. Once the job was done, he pulled off his mask, sat on a log, and took out a Havana cigar. The smoke tasted nasty in his dry mouth. He dropped it and pounded it into the mud.
  Silence filled his brain. He heard only the mockingbirds, tree frogs, and mosquitoes of the bayou. It was over.
  
CHAPTER 1

That summer of 1970, Houston baked in the sun like mama's biscuits in the oven. Detective Nick Noelle felt as miserable as the weather. It had been only four months since his wife, Sally, had kicked him out of the cottage he'd bought for them, the home he'd thought would bring them peace. Sally used to call their little home "the love shack." That was then. Now he only saw her when she showed up at his crummy boardinghouse flat looking whipped as a dog and needing nothing from him but money. She was hooking again, but it wasn't going well for her. Between that and the goddamn heat, he was going crazy. That morning he called in to his precinct and told them he'd be in late.
  He decided to take a fifty-mile drive to Galveston to clear out the voices in his head. Before Noelle knew it, he was staring out over muddy waters at the Sixty-First Street Pier in Galveston, but the trash talk kept babbling on. The beach town was dead and the once peaceful view over the gulf was now one of dark clouds and an ill wind. A foreboding storm was brewing and the sky was growing darker. He observed the still water gently lapping at the pier's supports and contemplated how those steady, gentle waves over time were eating away at the pier's foundation. He preferred to think about that instead of Sally or his urge to play poker at Sam's House of Cards. One cloud overhead started leaking small drops of rain. He lifted his face so the water would hit him square on.
  There was not a big enough downpour to wash away his crazy thinking about Sally. He'd been nutty to fall in love with her, even more of a lunatic to marry her — a cop who thought he could rescue a hooker. What a chump!
  He had to stop believing that maybe she'd loved him. He was nothing but a crusty Cajun cop, old and worn out like the pier beneath him. A veteran of the Korean War whose medal for courage had never wiped out the memory of him barely eighteen and the boy, a few years younger, he'd shot during one of the bloodiest battles of his service. Switching back to thoughts of Sally, he knew he had to stop giving her money; it only fueled his delusions.
  The sky swelled with black clouds while whole barrels of rain began to pour over him. He let it soak his clothes as he stared into the muddy, churning bay. He could end it all, right here, right now. He could climb over the railing and just disappear. That was what his old man had done. His father, a big bruiser who talked with his fists, had abandoned him and his mom. His old man was a drunk and a coward who took a final dunk in the Mississippi. Like father, like son.
  Fuck no, no way! Why now, after spending his whole lifetime fighting to make it right?
  It took Noelle more than an hour to drive back to Houston with the windshield wipers fighting the rain. At the station he saw that nothing much was going on. For days it had been too damned hot for even criminals to work. He imagined all the thieves, rapists, and murderers in Houston holed up next to air conditioners or open refrigerator doors, too sluggish to move. The light in the squad room was dim, and gray filing cabinets, scratched metal desks, and black plastic telephones added more gloom. The fluorescent lights buzzed off and on while half a dozen detectives sat at their desks pretending to be busy. Beyond the squad room, their supervisor, Lieutenant Donnelly, a pudgy, bald lieutenant in a cheap suit, was in his office eating a Hershey bar.
  Opposite his desk, Noelle's new partner, Juan Lopez, sat reading a Bible. Noelle did his best to stifle his snort of disgust. Lopez was a rookie with little experience, but at least this kid was fresh, and a looker. Noelle gave him credit for that, thinking it might give them an edge when interrogating female witnesses. Lopez had deep brown eyes and a full head of jet-black hair, unlike the thin gray strands that framed Noelle's still handsome, yet worn, rugged features. Lopez resembled a modern-day Aztec god, the kind you'd see on those colorful calendars at most Mexican restaurants in Texas — the classic Latin image depicting an Aztec warrior carrying a beautiful goddess toward the volcano.
  Noelle still couldn't figure how Lopez had made detective. He hated the way he followed every single rule, even the ones that contradicted each other. He thought Donnelly was playing some kind of practical joke — assigning him a guy who would never smoke, drink, or sleep with hookers. Or maybe Donnelly was trying to save Noelle's soul by partnering him with a religious fanatic?
  "Boss," Lopez called. "Where were you? I've been here waiting since nine this morning."
  "Well, at least you put the time to good use," Noelle said sarcastically, nodding at the Bible. His humor was lost on Lopez.
  "I was just taking a break, looking something up for my daughter. I worry about her, you know, being a teenager these days, with all the craziness loose in the world."
  "Yeah, sure." Noelle wasn't really listening. Lopez wasn't a kid; they were actually closer in age than they looked. Unlike him, Lopez had a normal life, a house, a wife, and a daughter. Even Noelle had to admit there was something sincere about Lopez, something refreshing. Of course, Lopez smiled a lot. Those clean white teeth made Noelle self-conscious about his being chipped and yellowed with nicotine. It was probably a good thing, Noelle thought, that he wasn't a yes-man like Lopez; no one could have stomached a smiling Noelle.
  He sat down at his own desk and flipped through his messages; nothing important, only a call from Sally. The air conditioners hummed loudly. It was only a little cooler now, with the rain. The phone on Noelle's desk rang. He picked it up. "Yeah? Who is this?"
  "I'm Miss Davis. I live next door to the Ima Hogg house, Bayou Bend. When the winds picked up yesterday I noticed a terrible odor. I've reported it to the head gardener over there, but he never did a damn thing about it. Could you come out and have a looksee down there?"
  Noelle replied, "Miss Davis, you have reached the wrong department. We are the homicide division; let me put you back to the front desk." After Noelle hung up the phone he grabbed the keys to the precinct's unmarked Plymouth and spoke to his partner. "Lopez, let's take a ride down to the Bayou Bend mansion to check out this old biddy's complaint. We got nothing better to do but sit on our hands here. Afterward we can grab some lunch."

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A. R. Baumann
Photo provided courtesy of
A. R. Baumann

A.R. Baumann is an actress turned author. She is the screenwriter of Lorean, a short film directed by Mark Richardson and What's Next, a screenplay that was a finalist at the Houston International Film Institute. Born in Houston, Texas, today A.R. lives with her husband Peter Baumann in San Francisco and in between cherished time with her children and grandchildren, is finishing up two more novels.

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Under a Cloud of Rain by A. R. Baumann

Under a Cloud of Rain by A. R. Baumann

A Nick Noelle Mystery

Publisher: Inkshares

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)Kobo eBook Format

Nick Noelle, a salt-of-the-earth, Creole-born detective, has always been his own man, playing by his own rules. When police discover that the mutilated victim found in the swampy bayou is the body of Julia Brunswick, daughter of the richest oilman in Texas, Noelle and his god-fearing partner Juan Lopez are put on the case.

The story twists and turns, entrapping readers in the drama of Houston socialites and miscreants alike. With the turn of the page, the death count grows as one maniacal murder follows another.

Under a Cloud of Rain by A. R. Baumann

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