Private Investigator Burnside is trying to determine who’s behind the shooting of a local football star. But as he unravels a series of baffling leads, he finds himself face-to-face with a betrayal from his past, one he’s been trying to escape…
Here’s what readers are saying:
“Post Pattern grabs you from the first chapter. The writing puts you on the edge of your seat and keeps you there until the climactic end of the story.”
“The hero, Burnside, is a detective on a mission to crack a tough case, and it involves drugs, strippers and some pretty frightening bad guys. He is perfect in the role as a white knight to people in trouble, and he continues on with his investigation long after it seems sensible.”
“This is a great mystery with a tight plot, and is loaded with terrific characters. The writing is crisp and sharp, with snappy dialogue and action packed scenes. It is very enjoyable to see the influences of Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker in the dialogue, and some of the lines are laugh-out-loud funny. The story moves quickly in this page turner, and the writer will keep you engaged throughout the book.”
“A thoroughly absorbing and fantastic read!”
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
For me, I have always been fascinated with the subject of siblings, and that is deeply personal. A long time ago, my older brother was killed in a car accident when he was just 24 years old and that left an indelible mark on my life and on my writing.
Oddly, I did not intentionally set out to write about my brother in my first novel, Post Pattern. And it wasn’t until I was finished with the first draft did I fully comprehend the personal implications of the story. In many ways, the exploration of sibling relationships in my novels is an opportunity for me to better come to grips with my brother’s death. And as Joan Didion described it in The Year of Magical Thinking, a goal of understanding a loved one’s death is sometimes our way of trying to bring them back to life.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters are a compilation of people I’ve met over the years. They range from the very good to the very bad. But all are complex and are not always who they seem to be at first.
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.
He is the author of four novels, Post Pattern, Fade Route, Bubble Screen and Safety Valve. All four books feature Burnside, a private investigator and former LAPD officer and college football star.
Post Pattern was a finalist in the St. Martin’s Press contest for new private eye mystery writers. All of the Burnside Mysteries have received critical acclaim, and have spent time on the Amazon best seller lists for mystery novels.
David Chill currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son. He is a big supporter of the USC Trojan football team.
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