My thanks to John Desjarlais for today’s Fiction Friday excerpt, which is from his latest novel, Viper. My review of his book is here.
I will make you enemies of each other:
You, serpent, and the woman.
She will crush your head
And you will strike at her heels.
Selena De La Cruz finish-welded the high flow exhaust tubes at the manifold flanges, twisted off the white flame and lifted the mask to inspect her work. Perfecto. She blew at the torch as though it were a smoking gun and thought about the next tasks: install a low-temperature thermostat to keep the Charger’s engine cool, check the brake bleeder valves, and – line one on the garage phone trilled.
¿Ay, ahora qué? she sighed with a roll of her eyes. Hadn’t she made it clear to her new receptionist Felicia that her lunch hour in the insurance claims garage was sagrada and she was not to be disturbed while working on her car? She ducked from under the Matco lift, tugged off her work gloves and crossed to the Formica counter, her Filas sneakers squeaking on the glossy concrete floor. She raked her fingers through her sable hair. It must be an emergencia, she thought, her heart rate accelerating with each quickened step. Un accidente malo with injuries. Lord knows how the early November drizzle had slicked the roads.
She seized the chirping phone and punched a button. “¿Sí, Felicia?”
“Selena? Is that really you?” asked a man’s voice.
She wrinkled her brow. It wasn’t her brother Francisco asking for another loan. It wasn’t her brother Lorenzo looking for a place to crash, now that his wife had kicked him out again. It wasn’t Reed Stubblefield, calling about their weekend date; he knew better. And it felt a bit presumptuous for an insurance agency customer to call her by her first name. The nerve. And how did he get this direct line number? She drew a cleansing breath and used her softest business voice. “How may I help you, sir?”
“Selena Perez, ex-DEA?”
“Who is this?”
“Geez, you don’t know how hard it is to find you.”
Her heart hammered against her ribs. “I’m sorry, sir, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure you do. But being hard to find was the whole idea, wasn’t it?”
She rifled through her memory. “Del?”
“The same,” Del Bragg, her old team leader said with a snort. “Say, I like your new last name. Dee-lah-Crooz?”
“From John of the Cross, a Spanish poet,” she said, her breath suddenly short. “I always liked his work.”
“Yeah, well, I always liked your work, too.”
“That’s not true. You wrote me up twice for insubordination.”
“Three times. The third was because of that little girl you shot. I know you want to forget about that.”
“What do you want, Del?”
“So don’t thank me for getting the media off your butt about it. She lived, didn’t she? Aren’t you over it yet?”
“I said, what do you want?”
“Guess you’re not over it, not even five years later,” Bragg said. “But I need you back anyway.”
“When I left the agency it was for good,” Selena said, biting off the words. “I did everything I needed to do, and I’m done. Goodbye.”
“The Snake is out of prison,” Bragg shot back.
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