A former USC football player back in the day, Burnside has recently left the LAPD following a scandal and has started his own private investigation agency. After someone fires a shot at a football star from a rival university, Burnside takes on the case which leads him into both the underbelly and the aristocracy of Los Angeles.
Burnside unravels a complex series of baffling leads as he weaves his way through the investigation. As the body count piles up, he encounters beautiful girls, wayward athletes and overworked cops on his way to cracking a case that no one else wants to touch. And as he works through the various twists and turns in the story, Burnside also comes to grips with a betrayal from his past that keeps returning to him, no matter how much he tries to avoid it.
Set against the sun drenched backdrop of a hot Los Angeles summer, Post Pattern provides readers with a taut, engaging mystery. The novel delivers a smart, sexy plot with crackling dialogue and fascinating characters.
Targeted Age Group:: 40+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The motivation for writing Post Pattern was the death of my brother when I was 19 years old. Since then, I have been compelled to study sibling relationships. This book is dedicated to my brother.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I have always been a fan of college football, but mostly I have a very vivid imagination.
The people who tried to kill Norman Freeman last night came dangerously close to succeeding. Or at least Norman thought they were trying to kill him. Despite having the passenger window of his car shot out on the Santa Monica freeway, he still wasn’t entirely sure.
“They may have been after my brother,” he said. “It’s very confusing.”
“Getting shot at often is,” I answered. During my tenure on the police force, I had exchanged gunfire on two occasions. Both times I escaped without physical harm but paid an emotional price. There were the countless nights where sleep never came, and many others that were altered by petrifying nightmares. Each shooting incident took a couple of months to overcome, but I don’t think I ever fully recovered. The bad dreams still slip in occasionally. Trauma can stay with you forever.
“I’m just stunned at what happened,” he said, as his pretty blonde fiancée sitting next to him took his hand and squeezed it slightly. A large diamond ring glittered from her finger.
“You told me that over the phone,” I reminded him, “but let me ask you something. How did you happen to select me? Burnside Investigations doesn’t exactly stand out in the yellow pages.”
Norman brightened for a moment. “Dick Bridges recommended you.”
Dick Bridges was director of campus security at Los Angeles University, more commonly referred to as LAU, and we had known each other since I played football across town at USC. That was almost twenty years ago. Time goes by so quickly. It seemed like yesterday that I resigned from the police department; in fact it was only two years.
I nodded. “Dick and I go back a long ways. He’s done well for himself.”
“Mr. Bridges told me you were the best.”
Laughing, I said, “Dick owes me a few favors. Has he lost any weight?”
Norman shook his head. “No. He’d make a good offensive tackle. I could have used him two years ago. I played quarterback at LAU.”
I was well aware of Norman Freeman. His name or photo had appeared almost daily in the Los Angeles Times. The blond hair, blue eyes, rugged jaw, and muscular frame were right out of central casting. He wore a long sleeve oxford cloth shirt with a button down collar and pressed khakis. It was as if Frank Gifford, the all-American boy of the fifties, had magically reappeared. He made me feel old, but at forty, that was far from a herculean task.
Norman had been a second round draft pick of the Patriots, but his pro career was short-circuited by an injury during a pre-season game. When no receivers were open on one fateful play, he took off on a scramble and attempted to hurdle the safety who stood between him and the goal line. The defender upended him brutally, separating the shoulder of his throwing arm and causing a concussion when he landed on the unforgiving turf. Despite attempts at rehabilitation, the shoulder never fully recovered and headaches became a regular part of his day. And Norman Freeman’s gridiron career came to a sudden halt.
“So what are you doing now?” I inquired.
Norman smiled shyly. “Working for my father. He owns a bunch of car dealerships on the Westside. I’m being groomed to take over the business.”
“Nice work if you can get it,” I remarked. Being a smart ass was a gift which came naturally to me. And as off-putting as it might be at times, it often got people to say things they ordinarily didn’t intend to.
But Norman Freeman sat in silence for a minute, pondering the end of his left thumbnail. I noticed that it had become slightly warm in my office, and I made a mental note to contact the property manager to fix the air conditioning. Had I something more interesting to do that afternoon I would have hurried him along, but Norman was more entertaining than staring out my window. And his fiancée was certainly a sight to behold.
Her name was Ashley and she was about Norman’s age, tall and slender, with golden hair that flowed freely down her back. She wore a black top, white slacks and pink and white Nikes. Despite the warm weather, she carried a white denim jacket with little silver stars sewn into the collar. She wore a face full of make up including violet eye shadow and scarlet lipstick. When she smiled, her teeth were big and white, a gleaming Pepsodent smile if there ever was one. I tried not to linger too long on her and began to mentally review my calendar for the rest of the day. I needed to be at Mrs. Wachs’ house at five o’clock, but that was a few hours away. Aside from that, the only thing I had to decide was what to have for dinner.
“Mr. Burnside, you’re probably wondering why I’m here,” he said.
“The thought crossed my mind.”
“As I told you over the phone, somebody tried to shoot me last night. Actually it may have been Robbie they were trying to kill.”
“So you mentioned. Robbie’s your brother.”
“Right. He played for LAU also. He was a really good wide receiver. You may have heard of him.”
I nodded. “All-Conference if I recall.”
“You were All-Conference as well, weren’t you?” I inquired.
He nodded eagerly. “Three years. Robbie was my best receiver the last two. Freeman to Freeman.”
“Then you graduated.”
“I was a year older.”
“Of course,” I said.
“They changed around the offense after I left. Started using the Read Option. That was probably why Robbie didn’t have a great senior year.”
“So I gathered. I still follow the game.”
“Sure,” he commented. “I remember watching you when I was a little kid, Mr. Burnside. You played safety at USC, didn’t you?”
“You’ve got a good memory. But why don’t we get back to why you’re here.”
“Oh yeah,” he paused. “Well it was like this. I was driving Robbie’s car last night. You see, our parents had an affair up at the house. I needed to leave early and Robbie’s Honda was blocking my car in the driveway. So I just borrowed his.”
“Sure. I do the same thing when someone double parks in front of me.”
Norman gave me a confused look but continued on. “Anyway, I’m driving on the freeway when all of a sudden someone pulls alongside and fires a gun at me. Shot the side window clean out. I was really lucky they missed, the bullet got lodged in the head rest.”
“And you think they were after your brother.”
“Who would want to kill me?”
I decided to answer a question with a question. “Who would want to kill Robbie?”
He thought for a moment. “I don’t know.”
“Did you get the plate number?”
“No,” he said sadly. “I was too startled. I can’t even describe the car to you.”
I asked if he had gone to the police, and both Norman and Ashley responded with concurrent nods. Norman had the perplexed look of a football player facing a Cover 2 defense for the first time. Ashley responded.
“The police took a report,” she said, “but they told us that without a license plate number there wasn’t much they could do. They also seemed very busy.”
“Business must be booming,” I mused.
I held up my hand. “Never mind,” I said, and turned back to Norman. “Before I start sticking my nose into your brother’s business, have you talked to him about this?”
He nodded yes. “Robbie… Robbie told me not to worry about things. Not to get involved. He’d be very angry if he found out what I’m doing here. But I’m his brother. I care about him. And I’m worried for him.”
I watched Norman’s face to see if it would reveal anything more than golden boy looks. He spent most of his time talking with his gaze aimed at the floor. That might have meant either he couldn’t look me in the eye or that my linoleum was developing serious wax build-up. Trial judges often instruct their juries to consider a witness’s body movements during testimony, but I’ve concluded that theory doesn’t always work well in practice. People can tell the god’s honest truth with a drooped head and slumped shoulders, while others are able to commit blatant perjury while looking someone dead in the eye.
He continued to fidget. “So will you help me?” he finally asked.
“I doubt I’ll be able to find the guy who took a shot at you last night.”
A pained expression filled his young face. “Can you at least find out why?”
I pondered the question while I glanced at the bare walls in my spartan office. I kept meaning to hang some pictures, but procrastination got the best of me. While I scanned my white walls, I also considered whether to order a pizza tonight or splurge and go for some steamed clams near the beach.
“I can’t guarantee I’ll find the answer. But I can promise you the same thing I promise every client. I’ll do the very best I possibly can and I’ll give you your money’s worth.”
Norman nodded. “Okay.”
“Does anyone else know you’ve come to me for help?”
“Just my father. And he’s completely supportive. In fact he’ll pay for it.”
Time to test the waters. “My usual fee is six hundred a day,” I said, watching Norman’s expression carefully. “Plus expenses.”
Showing not the least bit of hesitation, Norman Freeman pulled himself to his feet and reached hastily into his pocket for a wad of greenbacks. He peeled off a small stack and handed them to me.
“Here’s a week’s retainer. Would you mind keeping receipts for the expenses? Dad would like to deduct them.”
In my hand sat thirty pictures of Ben Franklin. I tried to spread them like a deck of playing cards but they barely budged. The bills were fresh and crisp and clung together as if they were bonded. They felt good in my hand. It had been a while since this much cold cash had dropped into my lap and I savored the feeling. Steamed clams, I decided. Definitely the clams.
David Chill was born and raised in New York City. After receiving his undergraduate degree from SUNY-Oswego, he moved to Los Angeles where he earned a Masters degree from the University of Southern California.
David Chill is the author of three mystery novels, Post Pattern, Fade Route and Bubble Screen. Post Pattern was a finalist in the St. Martin’s Press contest for new private eye mystery writers. The Burnside series has received much critical acclaim. David Chill presently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son.
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