Thriller Thursdays: HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN + Giveaway (part 3)

This week on Thriller Thursday we’re showcasing the third chapter and final installment in this preview series from House of the Rising Sun. But don’t worry, you won’t have to wait too long to find out what happens next; House of the Rising Sun will be available in trade and e-book on July 15th!

For all of you who prefer to skip the book and dive right into the movie, look for the Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment on July 19th!

Let us know what you think of the third chapter (or the book so far) to be entered into the drawing for a free trade copy! We’ll contact the lucky winner on Monday 7/11 so be sure to get your comment in before then.

Thanks for tuning in to our House of the Rising Sun Thriller Thursday series!

CHAPTER THREE

Jenny dragged into her apartment and closed the door. The clock on the stove read 7:25 am. Stripping off her waitress uniform, looking at it, thinking of it again, like she did every day, as her slut suit, Jenny left a trail of clothes from the door to the bathroom. She wondered if Ray was angry because she was still in the apartment, his apartment, the one they had lived in together.

It had been his place first, before she moved in with him. Then after he went to prison, she had thought about giving it up but decided to keep it. Why not? French Quarter apartments weren’t easy to find, and it was within walking distance of the bar where she had worked at the time. It was even closer to the Rising Sun, so when she had gone to work at the House it made even more sense to keep the apartment.

She spun the taps on in the tub, making it as hot as she could stand it before flipping the lever that turned on the showerhead. She eased one foot at a time over the side of the tub and slipped under the blast of water, pulling the shower curtain closed behind her. Inside it was safe and warm, and she felt like she was shutting out the whole damn world.

Every morning after she left the House, the first thing Jenny did when she got home was take a shower, always staying under the hot water for as long as it lasted.

For a full ten minutes Jenny leaned forward, palms pressed against the wall below the showerhead, her head hanging under the water as it cascaded through her hair, leaving it draped in thick strands along both sides of her face. Then she tilted forward a bit more and let the stream blast the back of her neck, rolling it first in large clockwise circles, then circling it to the left as she tried to work out the knots.

Only after the water had washed away some of the tension did Jenny start scrubbing. Using a long-handled wooden brush with stiff bristles, she raked her back, her shoulders, and her arms. Then she sat down under the steady stream and did the same with her legs and feet. She scrubbed until her skin felt raw, but even then she still didn’t feel clean. As Jenny stood up, she let the last of the warm liquid wash over her like rain and imagined it rinsing away all the filth.

When the water turned cool, she shut it off. Sliding the shower curtain aside, she stepped out of the tub and pulled a thick towel down from a wife shelf. As she dried herself, she thought about Ray.

After their encounter this morning, she had seen him again, just past six o’clock, right after the cops finally cleared out. She had been up on the second floor, trying to get away from everyone downstairs, when she saw Ray slipping out the emergency exit. She had seen him leaving through that door before and knew he was going to climb the outside fire escape to the roof. This time she thought about going after him, about trying to talk to him again, but she didn’t. There was no use in it. Too much had passed between them to ever go back to the way it was.

A few minutes after Jenny spotted Ray climbing to the roof, on his way to do whatever the hell he did up there every morning, she saw Tony Zello practically skipping down the stairwell. She figured he was coming from Vinnie Messina’s apartment on the fourth floor. Judging by the big, shit-eating grin on Tony’s face, she also figured he had been successful in convincing his boss that the robbery wasn’t his fault.

Tony slowed when he saw Jenny leaning against the bar. He stepped out of the stairwell and strolled toward her. “Shane really fucked up this time.”

Jenny kept her back against the bar and tried hard to look unconcerned. “How’s that?”

“Are you kidding me?” Tony threw an elbow over the bar, dangerously close to Jenny’s shoulders. It bugged her, but she didn’t move. He did stuff like that all the time. Because they used to sleep together, he seemed to think she didn’t have a right to personal space anymore, that he could walk up and violate it anytime he wanted.

“We did that asshole a favor,” Tony said. “We gave him a job and put him in charge of security. Then he let four guys come in and knock us off.”

“Four guys with guns, Tony.”

“Twenty years we been in business here, and you know how many times we been robbed?”

She didn’t know but had a feeling she was going to find out.

Tony held up his hand and made a circle with his fingers and thumb. “Zero. That’s how many.”

Jenny stood up straight as she felt her anger rising. “What was he supposed to do?”

“What we pay him for.” Tony stood up straight. “If he had any balls, he would’ve stopped those cocksuckers.”

“Stop them with what, a mean look?”

Tony turned toward her and shrugged. “When Old Man Carlos calls me, I’m gonna tell him straight out, Shane blew it.”

She knew Tony was talking shit, still trying to impress her with what a big man he was. “Why would Carlos call you?”

“Business. The Old Man calls me just about every day.”

She pointed to the stairs. “Weren’t you just up on the fourth floor making sure Vinnie didn’t think it was your fault?”

Tony’s eyes narrowed. “Nobody cares what Vinnie thinks. Carlos is the boss. Only reason he lets Vinnie run this place is because they’re brothers, and it keeps Vinnie from fucking up anything else.”

“Can I quote you on that?”

“He’s like the queen of fucking England.”

“Are you calling Vinnie a queen?”

Tony snorted and shook his head. “What’s she really do? The queen of England, I mean. She don’t do nothing. She’s a figurehead, just like Vinnie.” He tapped a finger against his chest. “I run the House.”

“That’s going to be a surprise to Vinnie. Finding out that you think he’s an English homosexual, and that he works for you.”

Tony jabbed his finger in her face. “You keep your mouth shut, or you’ll end up on the street, selling your pussy on Tulane Avenue like any other crack whore.” Then he reached down and scooped her crotch.

Jenny knocked his arm away. “Keep your hands off me.”

Tony stepped even closer. “That’s not what you used to tell me.” He dropped his voice into what she knew he thought of as a smooth, sexy baritone. “How about you go home and get cleaned up, and later on I could drop by.”

Jenny looked Tony straight in the eyes. “You want to screw somebody, why don’t you go home and screw your wife.” She turned away from him and walked toward the stairs.

Because Jenny had known Tony for years, she knew how his devious little mind worked. As a class-A brownnoser, he wasn’t going to let any of the shit from the robbery fall on him. He would suck up to Vinnie, then go behind Vinnie’s back to his brother Carlos and bad-mouth Vinnie, subtly but effectively. It was a dangerous game playing the two brothers against each other, but if anyone was weasel enough to pull it off, it was Tony Z.

As Jenny finished drying off, she wrapped the towel around her head and stepped to the vanity. The naked reflection staring back at her from the mirror above the sink made her want to cry. On the outside she looked basically the same as before Ray went to prison: five foot seven, with a slender waist and soft curves. She had the kind of body men wanted—and would pay well for—but she could see past the roundness of her hips and the swell of her breasts, she could see the hollowness inside, she could see the degradation she had wrought on her soul.

Jenny shook her towel-wrapped head, forcing the self-pitying thoughts from it, and turned her focus back toward Ray. Since replaying her conversation with Tony in her mind, she knew she should warn Ray that Tony was blaming him for the robbery. If Ray was going to defend himself, he needed to know what was going on. But would the stubborn Irish son of a bitch listen? And even if he did listen, and understood the danger, would he do anything about it? Since coming home from prison, Ray didn’t seem to care about anything anymore, especially himself.

Jenny unwound the towel from her head and dried her hair. When she finished, she tossed the towel onto the vanity and stepped into a pair of pink panties. Then she slipped on an extra-large man’s T-shirt. The gray shirt had a dark blue star-and-crescent, the symbol of the New Orleans Police Department, silk-screened onto the left breast.

In the bedroom, she sat on the bed and stared at the telephone on the nightstand. Only then did she realize she didn’t even know how to get in touch with Ray. Someone had told her he was living out by the marina, in one of those boathouse apartments, but she didn’t know his telephone number, or even if he had a telephone. It would be just like him not to have a phone. He wasn’t exactly a people person.

She called the House just for the hell of it and was surprised when someone answered. It was one of the bartenders, stuck there waiting for a delivery. After a few minutes he managed to find Ray’s cell number. She wrote it down on a notepad beside her telephone. She hung up and looked at her alarm clock. It was 8:15. Her eyes shifted from the clock to the notepad. Then to the cordless phone in her hand. Then back to the clock.

It was too early to call Ray. He was probably just getting to bed. She needed sleep, too. Noon, she decided. She would wake up and call him at noon. It wasn’t that urgent. Tony had probably been talking just to hear his own voice.

When Jenny woke up, the first thought she had was that last night had been a bad dream. Just another nightmare. Then she remembered. Everything had been real. Gunmen had taken down the Rising Sun. One of them had bashed Ray in the head and nearly put a bullet in his skull. Tony had knocked Ray around. Then a cop had knocked Ray around. And Tony was blaming everything on Ray.

Jenny sat up. She had to call him. The glowing green numbers on the clock showed 12:05 pm. She picked up the telephone, glanced at the scratchpad on the nightstand, then dialed Ray’s number.

The shrill ring of his cell phone jerked Ray out of a nightmare. He had been tied up, hanging from the ceiling in a meat locker, a couple of goons about to go to work on him with carving knives. He had no idea why it was happening or what he had done to piss them off. The goons wouldn’t say. They couldn’t say. Neither had a face, just blank skin pulled over bone.

For a few seconds after the first ring, Ray was caught in that gray area, between sleep and wakefulness, but still conscious enough to realize he was home in bed and not hanging from the ceiling of a meat locker. He was glad for that.

The cell phone shrieked again. Ray looked for it. He couldn’t find it. Then it screamed again. He spotted it on the overturned beer crate he used for a beside table. He fumbled for it and knocked it on the floor just as it rang again.

Finally, he got the phone in his hand. For a moment he was disoriented, not sure how to answer it. He didn’t get many calls. The only reason he even had a phone was so he could order pizza.

The phone rang again.

Ray punched the green send button. He jammed the phone against his ear. “Yeah?”

Nothing.

He was about to hang up when Jenny Porter’s voice said, “Ray?”

Ray’s head was pounding. “What do you want?”

“How are you feeling?”

“I was asleep until you called.” He didn’t tell her about the dream, about how he was glad the phone had woken him up.

“I thought you’d be awake by now.”

He looked at his watch. It was just past noon. “I am now.”

Several seconds of silence. Then Jenny said, “When did you get in?”

He eased his throbbing head back onto the pillow and closed his eyes. “Ten o’clock.”

“Why so late?”

Ray rested his free hand on his forehead. The pounding was so loud he thought Jenny could hear it through the phone. “Why do you think?”

Again, silence on the other end. Then Jenny said, “That’s what I need to talk to you about.”

“I don’t want to talk.”

“But, Ray—”

“Jen, I’m tired and my head hurts. I’ve got to work tonight and I need some sleep.”

“I’ve got work, too, goddamn it. I called because I need to tell you something.”

“I work on my feet. You work on your back.”

The telephone clicked in his ear as she hung up.

Ray reached toward the overturned crate and grabbed his half-empty pack of Lucky Strikes and his Zippo. He shook out a cigarette and stuck it between his lips. It took four flicks before he got the lighter to work. He had to remember to get a new wick. As he touched the spurting flame to the end of the cigarette and sucked in a lungful of smoke, Ray closed his eyes and waited for the rush. He started coughing instead.

It took a minute for his hacking to subside enough so he could catch his breath, and when he finally pulled some fresh air into his lungs, they felt like they were on fire. Eventually, he managed to suck in enough air to spit a glob of phlegm into the wastebasket next to the bed. Then he took another deep drag on the Lucky Strike. It was always good to get that first coughing fit out of the way.

What the hell did Jenny want? Why was she always trying to talk to him? Whatever it was, he didn’t want to talk about it. He had nothing to say to her, and he didn’t want to hear anything she had to say to him. The past was the past. It didn’t have any effect on the future unless you let it.

Sitting quietly in his manmade darkness, smoking his cigarette, Ray heard the sound of rain striking the tin roof of the boathouse just outside. He crawled out of bed and treaded across the room. He flicked his ashes on the bare wooden floor on his way to the window. Since he worked at night and slept during the day, one of the few changes Ray had made to the boathouse apartment had been to pull down the gossamer-thin curtains and nail up a thick blanket in their place. He needed darkness to sleep.

Ray pulled the blanket aside and looked out the window. A hard rain was falling. He glanced out at the choppy brown water of Lake Pontchartrain. Then at the gray sky. Far away on the horizon, the two melded so seamlessly it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began. When he had gone to bed, the sun had been out and the storm clouds were just beginning to roll in. He thought about how his father had been right—Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.

Just below the window was the back half of the boathouse. The tin roof stretched out fifteen feet toward the lake and had a slight downward slope. Ray stared at the rain as it pounded the corrugated tin. The water ran down the slope in evenly spaced rivulets, then shot off the edge of the roof, plunging ten feet into the New Orleans Yacht Club marina below.

In the kitchenette, Ray pulled a glass from the cabinet. He tossed in some ice, then filled it from a half-empty bottle of Jameson that stood on the counter. He had seen the clock, it was after twelve, and by anyone’s standards it was a decent hour to start drinking.

He took a sip and felt the Irish whiskey burn the back of his throat as it slid down. Two hours wasn’t nearly enough sleep, but he didn’t have to work until ten o’clock tonight. Plenty of time to watch a football game, have a few drinks, then take a nap. Things would probably be tense at the House for a while, but eventually they would cool down. Some of the mob tough guys would figure out who took the place down and they would play catch-up. You didn’t rob the fucking Mafia and get away with it. It just wasn’t done.

Ray had more immediate problems. His TV remote was missing. After crawling around for a few minutes, he found it under the bed. Even though his apartment was more or less a dump, he had a nice television. A thirty-two-inch plasma with a built-in DVD player. It sat on two beer crates next to the door. He didn’t believe in TV stands. You watched the TV, not the stand.

Working for wiseguys had advantages. He had gotten the television brand-new, in the box, for a hundred bucks. One of those items that fell off the back of a truck. Cable was something else. Ray couldn’t afford it, but his neighbor could. A buddy who used to work at Radio Shack had hooked Ray up with a homemade digital converter. All Ray had to do was cut into his neighbor’s cable and splice in a signal splitter, and he had all the channels in digital hi-def. Including the premium movie package.

Back on his bed, Ray set the near-empty glass of whiskey on the crate, then stuck another cigarette in his mouth. This time his Zippo flared on the second strike. He tossed the lighter down and punched the power button on the remote.

Then the phone rang. Ray stared at it, thinking, hoping really, that it would stop. But it rang again.

What did she want now? He snatched up the phone and answered it without looking at the screen. “Don’t ever hang up on me again!”

Tony Z’s voice barked in his ear. “Shut the fuck up, Ray.”

Ray shut the fuck up.

“Vinnie wants to see you.”

Ray pressed mute on the remote. “Now?”

“No. Just whenever you can squeeze him into your schedule.”

“Huh?” Ray not catching Tony’s sarcasm.

“Of course right now, you fucking moron!”

The hair on the back of Ray’s neck stood up. It was an autonomic warning system left over from the caveman days. There was danger here. Vincent Messina didn’t want to see him so he could congratulate Ray for doing such a good job this morning. “Where?” Ray asked.

“In his office.”

Ray paused.

“You there, dipshit?” Tony said.

“I’m on the way.”

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5 Responses to Thriller Thursdays: HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN + Giveaway (part 3)

  1. sewcraftyme says:

    Its like a cliff hanger and a good one at that. Looking forward to the e-book, have my calendar marked and hope its available for the Kindle. Really want to know how this turns out. I’ve enjoyed the previews and look forward to finishing the story.

    The story reminds me a bit of the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke and that’s a very good thing.

    Ila in Maine

    • The book is indeed out right now as a Kindle and Nook Book.

    • HANNAH WOLFSON, MARKETING AND PROMOTIONS COORDINATOR says:

      Hi Ila,

      Congratulations! You’ve been selected as the winner of the HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN trade paperback copy. Please check your email and respond to the notification with your mailing address.
      Thanks so much for contributing to our HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN preview series!

      Cheers,
      Hannah

  2. sewcraftyme says:

    Thank you for responding, its an excellent read thus far. I’d be interested in knowing what you think of the book to movie translation? I hesitate to watch a movie from a book that I really engage with the characters. You form your own image of the characters, their looks, moves, etc., and the movie just doesn’t live up to that.

    Have you experienced that with any books as a fan yourself and do you recall which was the biggest disappointment for you?

    For me it would be close between The Shining and The Stand by Stephen King. I loved those books but was terribly disappointed in the movies. I do realize that there are lots of things that can’t be translated to screen, however there were character scenes that many fans thought very important to back story omitted.

    Thank you for your time.

  3. Tracey D says:

    I need to check this out; it sounds great.

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