Second Hand Goods – Excerpt

Second Hand Goods

Second Hand Goods, the second Nick Kepler novel, has been rereleased. You can get it here. But first, an excerpt….

Against my better judgment, I headed out to Bedford Heights and parked myself at the coffee shop across from Izzy Washington’s apartment. He lived over a laundromat in a shabby, two-room flat cooled by a window-mounted air conditioner. No one went in or out of the laundromat during my first fifteen minutes. Who did their laundry on the Fourth anyway? The drapes in Izzy’s apartment never moved. I got out and crossed the street, slipping down the alley between the laundromat and a barbershop on the left. The building had a narrow parking lot in the back with two slots reserved for tenants. A rusted Ford Taurus sat leaking transmission fluid in one of the tenant slots, the only car there.

I bounded up the rickety steps leading to the second story. Skipping Izzy’s door, I moved over to the second apartment on the upper floor and put my ear to the door.

“Oh, yeah, baby,” a woman’s voice said. “You’re hittin’ it good.” I heard her suck her breath through her teeth, then cry out.

Between grunts, a man asked, “When’s your husband get home?”

I debated billing Izzy’s neighbor for the inadvertent surveillance. I was pretty sure her husband might want to know who’d been hittin’ it good while he was out. Instead, I moved slowly back to Izzy’s door. It was unlocked. I pushed the door open.

The smell of must and old tobacco hit me immediately. At least I didn’t smell a corpse. Then again, if Izzy died in the last few hours, I wouldn’t have noticed any scent other than the apartment’s own. I slipped inside.

Furniture, dishes, appliances, all lay smashed on the floor. The bedroom, too, had been destroyed, but with one major difference. A dark, reddish-brown stain formed a cloudy spray pattern above the headboard. I sniffed the air for the scent of corpse but only smelled Izzy’s lousy housekeeping.

I looked down at the floor and saw a faint blood trail leading back into the living room. I checked the bathroom. Wrecked as badly as the rest of the apartment, it had only a couple of smelly towels lying around. I took a washcloth that had begun reeking of mildew and started wiping any surfaces I’d touched.

Stepping outside, I admired the view. Izzy had a stunning vista of a brick wall across a backstreet that barely escaped status as an alley. I could still hear the visitor next door hittin’ it good. Had I simply been visiting, I’d have left a card in the mailbox. As it was, no one needed to know I was there. I jogged down the block, around the corner, and back up to the coffee shop. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I called Lenny.

“When’s the last time you saw Izzy?” I asked.

“Wednesday night.”

“Have you heard from him since then?”

“Yesterday afternoon, not long after you were here. Why?”

“I think Izzy had a rough night last night. He’s not home now.”

“Maybe he went out.” Lenny was stoned again, damn him.

“His place is trashed and there’s a big red stain over his headboard.”

Lenny said nothing.

“Lenny, whose car is that in your garage?”

“I don’t know. I was hoping you’d tell me.”

“Well, we’d better find out. I’ll tell you about it later.”

I hung up and looked for a payphone. I didn’t want my next call to be traced back to my cell. From a gas station, I called 911, gave them Izzy’s address, and got out of Bedford Heights as fast as I could.