New crime novel project

Here’s a sneak peek at my new project: Venetian Springs

Two couples: one idealistic, one criminal.

A ruthless Mexican drug lord.

A gym bag filled with heroin and cash.

A casino in Indiana…called Venetian Springs.

For an advance view of rough draft chapters, subscribe to the blog, or check for updates  on the project’s main page….

“I Know George Washington”: about the story

A college student takes a summer job in a very unusual company in rural Virginia. 

What’s unusual about the company? Everyone insists that George Washington—the George Washington—is the founder and owner of the firm. 

Moreover, the great man himself will make an appearance before the end of the summer.

That’s the setup for the story, “I Know George Washington”.  

This is one of those stories that came to me in a dream (as so many of them do). 

Or, I should say, the basic idea came to me in a dream—not the complete story. 

After getting the initial seed of the idea, I spent some time fitting it into a narrative. The result is not quite a horror story, but something that might be called psychological suspense, in the spirit of the old Alfred Hitchcock movies like Rear Window and Vertigo. (I am a big fan of Hitchcock, and his technique of playing with the protagonist’s—and the audience’s—hold on reality.)

I’m presently posting snippets of “I Know George Washington” on Edward Trimnell Books.

I Know George Washington: Part 6

Tucker was aware that he was standing on a wooden platform. A scaffold, actually. The scaffold had been erected in the middle of a clearing, within a fog-drenched forest.

There was a distinct chill in the air. The smell of gunpowder. 

Tucker’s hands were bound behind his back.

A rope—a noose, to be precise—was tied taut around his neck. Not quite choking him. He could feel the itchy fibers of the rope. The rope’s hardness.

He looked down and got yet another surprise. He wasn’t wearing any clothes that he would recognize as his own. He was clad in white breaches, and black riding boots. 

He was wearing some kind of a jacket that was heavy and woolen. 

From somewhere back in the foggy woods, a crow cawed. 

Then Tucker heard a slow, rhythmic drumbeat. On one side of the scaffold, a row of soldiers became visible, half-shrouded by the fog. They wore tricorn hats. About half of them were standing at attention, with muskets at the ready. The other half, bearing drums, were the sources of the beats.

Closer to the scaffold, an older male voice said Tucker’s full name. Tucker looked down, and saw a portly man in a blue uniform, standing beside the platform. He wore a tricorn hat, too, and a powdered wig.

The stranger raised his hand, and the drumbeats stopped. Then he unfurled an old-fashioned scroll. He read aloud from the document, in a strange accent that was not quite contemporary American, but not quite British, either. 

“By order of his Excellency, General George Washington, you have been charged with high treason. You have been sentenced to hang by the neck until dead. May the Almighty have mercy on your soul.”

“No!” Tucker cried out. “I didn’t do anything!”

Tucker heard the slow clopping of an approaching horse. He looked in the direction of the clops, and saw a horse and rider approach out of the darkness.

George Washington sat atop a black horse. The general  wore his military uniform, complete with gold epaulets. He stared directly at Tucker, his face hard and implacable. But that wasn’t all.

Washington’s skin was as white as his powdered wig. He looked skeletal inside his uniform. Because he wasn’t much more than that—a skeleton.

Washington’s eyes were two solid black circles. 

“Tucker,” someone else said. 

Tucker looked down, and Joel was standing at the nearest corner of the scaffold, not far from the man with the scroll.

“You see, Tucker,” he said. “I told you that you would have a chance to meet George Washington before the end of the summer. Well, now you’re meeting him—”

Tucker awoke in the darkness of his bedroom, breathing hard. He occasionally had dreams that he remembered upon waking, but it had been some time since he had had a nightmare as vivid as this. 

A few more weeks, he thought, until he reported to George Washington Investments to begin his co-op job. He hoped that the strange events of today, and that horrible dream had been nothing but jitters, brought on by his anxiety over his employment situation.

But he feared otherwise.

End of excerpt

 

I Know George Washington: Part 3

What the hell?

Tucker was feeling the slightest tinge of annoyance now. He knew that the names of the Founding Fathers were public domain, and more than one company had used them over the years. There were Ben Franklin five and dime stores in many American small towns, and the John Hancock Life Insurance Company. Tucker supposed that more than a few companies had taken the name of George Washington, too. 

That was all fine and good, as a branding strategy. But Joel was taking the George Washington schtick a bit too far, wasn’t he?

Maybe this was a test of some kind. Tucker would find out. 

“Just to be clear,” Tucker said, “when you say, ‘the founder’, you aren’t talking about the actual founder of this brokerage house, right?”

“Of course I am,” Joel said. “I know George Washington. He’s quite an inspiring individual, let me tell you.”

You know George Washington? You’ve met him?”

“Why, yes. I’ve met him many times, in fact.”

Tucker held his growing annoyance in check, thinking about that prorated junior broker’s salary, and those applicable commissions. 

This man was pulling his leg, obviously, though the reason for that wasn’t yet clear.

But Tucker couldn’t let it go.

“You don’t mean the George Washington? President Washington? General Washington?”

“Oh,” Joel said. “Mr. Washington hasn’t officially held the title of president for quite some time. And as for the title of ‘general’—well, he does have a very distinguished military record, though he doesn’t like to talk about it.” 

Tucker tried to speak, but found himself at a complete loss for words. Then Joel added something else.

“You’ll have a chance to meet Mr. Washington for yourself, Tucker, before the end of the summer.”

Tucker had a sudden, unwanted image of Joel driving him to Mount Vernon, not far from here, and then taking him into the crypt of George Washington. He imagined Joel prying open Washington’s white marble sarcophagus, and—

Tucker pushed the images away. They were as ridiculous as they were macabre. 

But what else could Joel be saying?

“Well, then,” Joel said, stepping around Tucker, and back to his desk. “We’ll see you here on the first Monday in June—in just a few weeks—at eight a.m. Oh—would you like me to show you around the facilities here before you go?” He added this last as an obvious afterthought.

“Thanks,” Tucker said. “But I can see that you’re busy. And I’ll have plenty of time to see your facilities over the summer, right?”

That logic made sense to Joel, apparently. He was already seated behind his desk again. “I do have some important calls to return, now that you mention it. But I’m glad we were able to meet today, and come to an understanding.”

Understanding? Tucker was uncertain if Joel was referring to the summer co-op position, this George Washington nonsense, or perhaps both.

“I’ll let myself out,” Tucker said. “Thank you again, Mr. French. I appreciate—I appreciate everything. Thank you so much for the opportunity. As we’ve discussed, this is a rough year for students in the finance field.”

Joel gave Tucker a final, friendly wave, and reached for his desk phone. “No problem, Tucker. ‘How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.’ Now, take care, and we’ll see you again in just a few weeks.”

Tucker nodded goodbye but said no more. He had a feeling that Joel’s parting words were quoted; and he didn’t have to ask whom they were quoted from.

Part 4

Table of contents

I Know George Washington: Part 2

Psychological suspense from Edward Trimnell Books

Joel broke into a smile. “I do have some good news for you, though, Tucker. I’ve given your file a thorough perusal. Your grades are excellent. Your résumé is a little thin, which is to be expected for a person your age, but you’ve made the most of the time you’ve had. Your letters of recommendation are glowing. Unless something unexpected comes up on your background check or drug test—and I don’t expect that, of course—I believe that we can offer you the paid summer co-op position.”

“Thank you,” Tucker said, exhaling audibly. He felt suddenly light, a weight having lifted off his shoulders. He was going to be one of the lucky ones, after all. He wasn’t going to spend the summer flipping burgers.

“This is how it will work,” Joel went on. “For the length of the summer term, you’ll be paid at the prorated salary of a junior, first-year broker, with all the applicable commissions.”

Joel then proceeded to give Tucker some numbers, a rough estimate of how much money he could expect to make over the summer. 

“Will that be satisfactory?” Joel asked, when he had finished.

“More than satisfactory,” Tucker said, beaming. “I accept!” 

Joel smiled and nodded, genuinely happy with Tucker’s reaction. “I can’t promise you a job after graduation, Tucker; but I can tell you this: If your summer co-op term goes well, you’ll have a leg up on other new graduates, should you decide to apply for a regular, full-time position. We have a few new ones open up each year, typically. George Washington Investments is a small firm, as you’ve probably noticed. We have a very unique, informal corporate culture here. But it suits us well, I think you’ll find.”

“I’ve always thought that it would be rewarding to work in a small firm—where you can know all of your colleagues. I find that appealing!”

Tucker wondered if he had just laid it on a bit too thick there. Those last two sentences had been less than honest. Tucker would have much rather been sitting in the office of a big brokerage house in New York or Chicago right now. But none of those firms had summoned him for an in-person interview.

“That’s good to hear.” Joel stood, leaned across the desk, and offered Tucker his hand. “Welcome aboard, Tucker. Even if it turns out to be only for the summer, we look forward to you working with us.”

Tucker stood to shake hands with Joel. The older man was about Tucker’s height, but also about forty pounds heavier. His face had a pasty hue. Despite the warm Virginia climate, Joel probably didn’t get out in the sun much.

Then Joel stepped around the desk, and stood beside Tucker. 

And then things got weird again.

Joel put an avuncular hand on Tucker’s shoulder—an unthinkable intimacy in New York or Chicago, but things were different here. 

“You see that?” Joel said. Joel indicated yet another painting—this one on the wall beside them. This painting, too, was familiar to Tucker. It was a reproduction of Washington Crossing the Delaware

“I see it,” Tucker said.

“See Washington standing in the prow of the boat? See the men pushing the boat through the ice floes? We both know that is only an artist’s depiction. But something like that really happened. Washington and his men were on their way to sack the Hessian encampment at Trenton that night. It was Christmas Night, 1776.”

“Impressive,” Tucker said. He remembered what Joel had said about George Washington just a few minutes ago. How could he forget?

“As I told you, Tucker, we have our own unique culture here at George Washington Investments; and our founder is a key part of it. As he once said, ‘Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.’ The old man doesn’t get into the office much nowadays, but his words—and his deeds—continue to inspire us every day.”

Part 3

Table of contents