April 21, 2014

Can you feel the testosterone spotlight, babe... cause you’re standin’ in it: an excerpt of D.J. Donaldson's "Bad Karma in the Big Easy"



About D.J. Donaldson: Don is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology.  His entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound healing and taught microscopic anatomy to over 5,000 medical and dental students.  He is also the author of seven published forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his wife and two West Highland Terriers.  In the spring of most years he simply cannot stop buying new flowers and other plants for the couple’s backyard garden.

About BAD KARMA IN THE BIG EASY: Best-selling mystery author D.J. Donaldson (New Orleans RequiemLouisiana Fever) invites readers back to the Bayou with his latest New Orleans adventure Bad Karma in the Big Easy.Plump and proud medical examiner Andy Broussard reunites with gorgeous psychologist Kit Franklyn as they face off with their most gruesome foe yet.

A killer lurks in The Big Easy, his victims found among the many bodies left in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Katrina. But with the city’s records destroyed, and the police force in complete disarray, Broussard must take matters into his own hands. Soon, he and his courageous sidekick, Kit, find themselves on a dangerous and labyrinthine journey through the storm-ravaged underbelly of the ever-mysterious and intensely seductive city of New Orleans; leading them to a predatory evil the likes of which they’ve never encountered.

Written in his uniquely brusque style, Donaldson’s Bad Karmacombines hard-hitting, action-packed prose with a folksy, sweetly Southern charm. Add Donaldson’s brilliant first-hand knowledge of forensics and the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and the result is a first class forensic procedural within an irresistibly delectable mystery that will leave fans hungry for more.


Now, here's an excerpt from the novel, to give you just a little taste. Enjoy.

BAD KARMA IN THE BIG EASY
D.J. Donaldson

FROM GRANDMA O’S, KIT headed for her apartment in the French Quarter, relieved that Broussard didn’t attach much significance to her doubts about those pictures. But he was aware now that her word wasn’t always reliable when she vouched for what she knew. And that was bothersome.
Kit lived in an apartment behind a photo gallery on Toulouse Street. One of the perks of living there was it came with a parking space in an old wooden garage, three blocks away on Dauphine. Even on a normal night when the Quarter was full of life and lights, she kept one hand on her key ring Mace canister as she navigated from the garage to the gallery. Tonight, with no tourists in town and most of the shops and restaurants closed, there were many more dark doorways than usual, so as she walked, she felt isolated and vulnerable.
Turning onto Toulouse, where only a few of the streetlamps were working, she faced a shadowy gauntlet of black storefronts and dim recesses where danger might lurk. Picking up the pace, she moved quietly forward, into the waiting gloom, her Mace out and ready.
She’d walked about ten steps when she caught movement out of the corner of her left eye at the junction of the sidewalk with the building to her left. As she jerked her head down to see what it was, two rats the size of small nutrias scuttled across the sidewalk and into the street. Feeling a shudder ripple down her spine, she resumed walking. But as she swung her right foot forward, another rat ran into her path. She accidentally kicked it hard, the toe of her shoe sinking deeply into the furry body before she sent it squeaking into the air.
The rat hit the pavement two feet away and let out another squeal. It righted itself, sat up, and glared at her for a moment, before scuttling after its brethren.
At the Bourbon Street intersection half a minute later, the landscape brightened. In contrast to Toulouse, Bourbon was an oasis of life. That’s not to say it was anywhere near normal. Compared to its pre-Katrina status of permanent mayhem, the dark shops liberally dotted among those open for business gave it a struggling third-world look. Among the places bustling with activity was Bunny’s, a bar and grill that had been open around the clock for over a dozen years, including the hours during the height of Katrina’s fury when Bunny had to serve up burgers cooked on a camp stove
Looking at Bunny’s neon sign, Kit was reminded again that if she had only been able to get word down to Bunny’s while she was struggling to save Mrs. Lucas, she could have gotten help to squeeze that respirator bag. But there had just been no way... no way at all.
She changed direction and angled across the intersection, heading for the bar. As she drew near, she heard “Okie from Muskogee” playing on Bunny’s jukebox spill out the front door and into the street. After the dark isolation of Toulouse, Kit followed the sound like an ameba seeking light.
Inside, the place was dimly lit. Most of the tables and the seats at the bar were occupied. These days, Bunny’s customers consisted of a few regulars who lived in the Quarter and had refused to evacuate, supplemented by off-duty national guardsman and construction workers trying to repair the levees and put the city back together. The clientele was exclusively male. Seeing Kit in the doorway, they made her the focus of their attention.
Bunny came from behind the bar and headed her way.
“Hello Darlin,” Bunny said, embracing her. She let go and took a step back so she could see Kit’s face. “Can you feel the testosterone spotlight, babe... cause you’re standin’ in it.”
“I feel it.”
“How you doin’?” “Not too bad. Business looks good.”
Bunny leaned close and lowered her voice conspiratorially, “But they aren’t really havin’ fun. Guess too many of ‘em are away from home.”
Looking at Bunny with her double chin, it was hard to believe she had once been Bunny LeClaire, one of the hottest exotic dancers on Bourbon Street. But she had pictures of herself in costume all around the place to prove it. Kit was one of only a few who knew her real last name was Lefkowitz.
“Can I throw a burger on the grill for you?” Bunny asked.
“Can’t stay. Just stopped in to say hi and soak up a little civilization after coming down Toulouse.”
“Hope you’re careful walkin’ in those dark areas.”
“I try to be. A few minutes ago, I accidentally kicked a rat.”
“I’ve kicked a few in my time, mostly the two-legged kind and always on purpose as they hit the road.”
“Someday you’ll find the right guy.”
“They always seem right at first. Why is that?”
“Protective camouflage. Lots of predators use it to get close to their prey.”
Bunny picked up Kit’s hand and slapped it affectionately.
“Girl, you got a way of goin’ right to the heart of things. Protective camouflage... I have to remember that.”
“It’s not often I get a chance to leave the impression I’m clever. I better go before I ruin it.”
“Oh, that Westie breeder friend of mine in Mississippi called today. The litter we’ve been waitin’ for has been born. And there’s one healthy male unspoken for. If you want him, we should let her know ASAP.”
Bunny had been working on Kit for months trying to convince her to get a puppy to replace her dog, Lucky, who had died of old age in June. Kit had been resisting because she felt it dishonored Lucky’s memory to replace him so quickly. But after talking to the Hendrins and John Munson, she could no longer ignore the empty feeling growing inside her.
“Tell her I want him.”
Bunny’s eyes glistened with approval. “I’ll call her tonight.”
On the way out the door, Kit ran into an attractive redhead that lived in one of the two apartments above Bunny’s place.
“How’s the crowd?” the redhead asked.
“Not bad... all male, so get ready for a lot of stares if you’re going in.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
It was far from obvious, but the redhead was actually a man in drag Kit knew only as He Daisy. Daisy had many wigs, but usually favored the flaming red one he was now wearing. He wasn’t into soliciting men, but simply liked to dress as a woman. By trade, he was an artist who supplemented his trust fund income with sporadic sales of his paintings. Though he had an unusual lifestyle, he was a gentle, kind man Kit counted as a friend. “Does this color lipstick make me look like a tart?” Daisy asked.
“Not at all.”
“Too bad. I was hoping it did.” Daisy laughed. “Well, I’m going to get something to eat and go upstairs and work. You have a good one.”
As Kit walked back to Toulouse, crossed over, and went another half block to the photo gallery fronting her apartment, she wasn’t sure at all that a little Westie puppy was big enough to fill the hollow space in her heart.
Tourists comprised most of the business that came through the doors of the Nolen Boyd gallery. No tourists equaled no business. So Boyd had decided to take a long European vacation while the city got back to where it could once again entice enough visitors for him to justify reopening.
Mace canister in hand, Kit walked past the dark front of the gallery and stepped up to the eight-foot tall, heavy cypress door leading to the back courtyard. She took a quick look around.
Seeing no one lingering or approaching, she quickly keyed the lock and opened the door.
The gallery and the adjacent building formed a long passage leading to the rear courtyard, where Kit’s apartment was located. The passage had a lattice ceiling on which a hundred-year-old wisteria had spread its branches. During the day, this made the passage a delightful, light-dappled avenue. But at night, the Wisteria would have caused it to be a very dark twenty-foot stretch were it not for the little lights Boyd had rigged along the left wall.
Above the big cypress door, Boyd had installed a coil of razor wire to keep anyone on the outside from climbing over the door. So as the door shut and locked behind her, the tension Kit felt from being on the Quarter’s dark streets flowed out of her.
Even though she was now safely home, she kept her Mace ready.
Walking toward the courtyard, which was brightly illuminated by a dark-activated mercury vapor light, Kit remembered how happy Lucky always was to see her, his little tail wagging furiously, his mouth open in an expression of pure joy. How she missed that little varmint.
But what to name the new one? Lucky II? That’s no good.
She reached the end of the lattice ceiling and stepped out from under it. Suddenly, she heard a sharp scratching sound from the lattice. Before she could turn to see what it was, a soft object hit the top of her head. Something heavy thudded into the ground behind her. At the same instant, the thing that had hit her seemed to be melting over her hair.
As she struggled to complete her turn to see what the hell was going on, the melting liquid slid down over her face... It covered her eyes... so thick she couldn’t see through it.
Down it went over her nose and mouth. And it was making a crinkling sound. She lifted her hands to wipe the stuff away.
That’s when she discovered it was not liquid.

It was a plastic bag.  

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