Authors: Glenn Muller
Tags: #thriller, #crime, #suspense, #murder, #action, #detective, #torque, #glenn muller
Smashwords Edition 1.0
Copyright 2013 Glenn Muller
EPUB ISBN 978-0-9918641-1-9
MOBI ISBN 978-09918641-2-6
Print ISBN 978-0-9918641-0-2
Print version available from online retailers
Smashwords Edition, Licence Notes
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Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters,
places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales
is entirely coincidental.
WHAT THE READERS HAVE SAID
"The story is packed with punch, a thrilling and
--Alison J. Butler, author of The Hanging of
"Torque has the tension of a demolition derby -
you can't wait for the characters to collide."
author of Vespa and Space Games
"The dialogue is spot on and the descriptive
"The story comes to life. It doesn't feel like I'm
reading, anymore - it feels like I'm in each scene."
== == == == ==
My wife and first-reader
Saturday, October 3rd
1999. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Hoodies. Jeans. Running shoes. One had a
backpack. The other nudged his buddy and made a subtle head
gesture. Backpack nodded. They followed the fat man down the alley
until he motioned them beside a dumpster where their business would
be screened from the street. The two boys kept their distance,
interested but wary despite their height advantage.
“So what you got, dude?”
“Something different.” From his pocket the
man produced a small clear plastic sleeve. It contained a flat,
oddly shaped, piece of vinyl with black and white stripes on one
side. Backpack took it and looked it over. The other side appeared
to have an adhesive backing. He passed it to his friend.
“This gives a buzz like cocaine and a glow
like ecstasy, but you don’t snort or swallow it,” their host said.
“You wear it. Like a nicotine patch.”
“Tried it yourself?”
“I created it.” Bit of a grin then back to
the pitch. “The beauty is you can control the dose. Get too high,
just pull it off. Can’t do that with a pill.”
“Twenty bucks each. Three for fifty.”
“Seems kind of steep.”
Fat man pointed at the patch. “That can last
all weekend. Take it off, put it back on. Share it.”
The boys exchanged a glance. Party
“Okay. Give us three.”
Backpack went to his pocket. His friend moved
away from the dumpster.
The man pulled two more from his jacket and
held them out. He looked at the boy’s hand. There was a napkin but
no money, and the friend had disappeared. He caught on a second too
late. Backpack grabbed the patches and drove his shoulder into the
fat man’s gut. They slammed into the wall. Backpack rebounded and
started running. His friend was at the end of the alley.
“Come on. Let’s go!”
The man recovered, pushed off the wall and
gave chase. Like a rhino his short legs made for good acceleration
and his bulk could maintain the momentum. With their head start and
youthful athleticism the boys jogged along Main Street casting
rearward glances. The trot kicked into a sprint when the fat man
charged from the alley and began to close the gap.
Dodging pedestrians, the youths ran to the
end of the block then darted across the intersection against the
light. Blocked by traffic, the man had to pull up at the crosswalk.
One hand on the lightpost for support he sucked air by the lungful.
Ahead he saw the boys slow down then leave the sidewalk to enter a
shopping mall halfway down the block.
The light changed and he stepped off the
curb, still breathing heavily, then at the concourse he pulled back
a door and went inside. The stores were busy with commerce. Grey
hoodies seemed to be everywhere. Backpacks, too.
He really didn’t care about the patches, or
the fifty bucks, it was the principle of the thing. Hell, he hadn’t
been rousted by high school punks since, well, high school.
His legs began to feel weak and he went
further into the mall to find somewhere to sit. A food court was
off to the left, the aroma of fried onions as tantalizing as ever.
Perhaps he should eat. Get his blood sugar up.
He grabbed a tray and stepped up to a counter
but his eyes refused to focus on the menu board. Didn’t matter. He
ordered, took his meal, and looked for a vacant seat. The place was
so damned noisy he was getting a headache. And not even one empty
A sharp pain stabbed behind his ear. It made
him stumble and spill his drink onto a table. The occupants
scrambled but their protests sounded like gibberish.
A second stab, this one excruciating. He
gasped. The room spun and he staggered backwards. There were more
protests, more gibberish, and then a lancing strike as if a shiv
had penetrated his skull. It began to core out his brain. The
sensation was blinding. Paralyzing.
He wanted to vomit and reached out for
support. The tray slipped from his hand, and his arms, heavy as
lead, were slow to respond. Both knees buckled and hit the floor
with a thud. He retched and for those few seconds the world
returned to normal. He saw his hands on the floor before him, his
fingers spattered with puke. A hand touched his back, there was a
voice of concern, then a flash of intense pain and fireworks
exploded behind his eyes.
Brilliant crackling colours.
They faded into blackness and somebody
The sound vanished as if down a pit.
The pit became a void and his pain slid away
like a fading thought.
Then all was silent, and all was dark.
“Where is she, Rose?” Collier's pace had him
six steps past the alcove before the nurse could poke her head out
“Consultation Room One, Doctor,” she called
after a rapidly receding frame in a creased brown suit. His left
hand gripped a file folder and a large manila envelope. His right
hand, briefly raised in acknowledgment, pushed open a large,
Hamilton Chedoke was not Dennis Collier's
regular patch but he knew it well enough to navigate corridors now
empty of the evening visitations. A few hours earlier the resident
coroner had come down with the weekend flu. Collier might have
claimed the same had his personal work ethic allowed it.
He and his wife were in the midst of dinner
party preparations when the page came. ‘Sorry, Hon. I’ll be back as
soon as I can.’ For that he’d got the look.
Yvonne knew that organ donor cases were time
sensitive. She’d even campaigned for the cause. But her attitude
tonight was that she had a life and the corpse didn’t, and if her
husband missed one more recital dinner it would be his name on the
next toe tag.
For once, he was almost glad to see a lawyer.
Two professionals could accelerate matters considerably. The
briefcase matched the pantsuit and the business card identified her
as Ms. Brittany Reis, B.Sc., and LL.B. Her hand was slender, the
contact brief, and she got straight to the point.
“I am here to inform you, Dr. Collier, that
the parents of the deceased are vetoing all tissue donations.”
Some days it just didn’t pay to answer your
Collier put the envelope and folder on the
desk then said, “We respect the rights of the family, Ms. Reis, but
if I could explain to them how many lives—”
“The next of kin have made their decision,
Doctor. My duty is to see they won’t be badgered by a bunch of
Canadian white coats who want to pick through their son’s bits 'n
pieces.” Her eyes actually emphasized that point with a flashing
glance at his crotch.
Collier sidled behind the desk, and sat
“And the family is where, exactly?”
“South Africa. They want the body shipped to
Randburg for burial. And they want it intact.”
Less your pound of flesh, no doubt, intoned
Collier’s inner voice. She had taken the chair opposite to his and
opened her briefcase on the seat next to it. He looked over his
glasses at her profile. She had a wide mouth, a narrow though
slightly crooked nose, and steel-grey eyes. Fake lashes. Her glossy
black hair, gathered into a tight bun, accentuated the slenderness
of the neck. Long on looks and short on charm. Mannequin-esque.
In silent payback he cast her as a lingerie
store prop wearing something with garters. It was the best thought
he’d had all day. Regaining focus he elected to probe a little.
“How well did you know Mr. Aird?”
“We had a professional relationship.”
Collier pretended to check his documentation.
“The admitting form states he was pronounced dead on arrival at
three-sixteen this afternoon. I’m surprised you were able to
contact the family so quickly. I believe you said they were
somewhere in Africa, so with the time difference it would have
been, what, about midnight there?”
“Randburg is not the heart of the Congo,
Doctor. It’s a suburb of Johannesburg, population three million,
most of whom enjoy mod-cons like condominiums, cable television,
and what are those things called? Oh yes, telephones.”
She crossed her legs. The action seemed to
wind an internal spring that cocked her forward.
“Just so I can tell the Aird family that you
people did more than go through Roger’s pockets,” she tapped the
envelope on the desk with a manicured nail, “perhaps you could
indulge us with an actual cause of death.”
Above her wrist, just where a mannequin’s
hand joined the arm, she had a thin silver bracelet. Gold would not
be her style. It had too much warmth. Collier returned her stare
with a steadfast look of his own. Enduring tropisms from grieving
relations was part of the job, but this confrontational stance from
another professional was somewhat mystifying.
“Mr. Aird was in the food court of the
Jackson Square Mall when he collapsed. He died without regaining
consciousness and the preliminary autopsy suggests that the cause
of death was a massive cerebral haemorrhage—the brain's version of
a heart attack. Indications point to an aneurysm; a bulge in the
wall of a vessel that delivers blood to the brain. In Mr. Aird’s
case, a bulge had ruptured causing the fatal stroke.”