Lost in Wildwood by Jason Ryan Dale
Joshua has been a thief all his life. The biggest score he’s ever seen just fell into his lap. There are stacks of cash in a backroom practically waiting for the right crew to grab them. The planning and preparation have been painstaking, but years in the game have brought Joshua to this moment . . . and he’s ready!
So why is there a knot in his stomach whenever Joshua wakes up in the morning? Maybe it’s because the job breaks every rule that has kept him safe all these years. It involves guns, shady partners, and powerful people who don’t appreciate getting robbed. Or it could be the beautiful girl who’s bringing out feelings Joshua thought were just for other people. The girl who’s making him wonder if there’s something more to life than just the next score.
Only two weeks to get everything set. When the big night comes, bullets fly and friends become enemies. This job is going to end in a test of all Joshua’s skills, and a reckoning with all his demons.
Targeted Age Group:: adults only
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 4 – R Rated
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I think that most writers are trying to learn from their experiences by reliving them in their heads over and over. We become simultaneously obsessed with and bored by those experiences, so we make things up to make the process interesting and more helpful.
I always say I write about emotionally and morally conflicted individuals who happen to shoot at each other. I've never been in a shootout, or committed any kind of violent crime, but they fascinate me. Contemplating decisions made for the highest stakes teaches me about my own character and psyche. I cannot be sure, but I can hope that others can learn from my stories as well.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Start with a dash of autobiography. Add a half jigger of people I've known and read about. Spike it with a healthy draught of imagining life and death situations and how I would react if I had to live through them.
Joshua knew the little man even though he had never seen him before. Sitting on a patio chair, sipping lemonade, there was nothing about him that would have pricked Joshua’s attention without the gruff escort that delivered him here. His gray and white hair suggested he was somewhere in his seventies. In a golf shirt, khaki pants, and a round, floppy-brimmed hat, the man bore no signs of either official or presumed authority.
“Hello there,” said the man, with neither friendliness nor hostility. He gestured for Joshua to sit at the chair across from him at a white marble table.
“Hello,” Joshua said humbly. He had heard the man’s name a hundred times during the course of his life, mostly in hushed voices out of Gaetan and a few others. His first name was Marcello, but he was always referred to as “Marty,” and always in a pointed, solemn tone, as if there was not another “Marty” in the whole world and never could be.
“Do you know who I am?”
“Yes,” Joshua said, giving his voice as much authority as he could muster and still remain respectful.
“Good,” the old man said simply. “It’s a pain in the ass explaining it to people. Would you like some lemonade?”
“No thank you.” Sitting down, Joshua cursed silently when he realized that his back was to the pool instead of the wall of the house, where all smart people in fear for their lives prefer to have their backs. Pretending to make himself more comfortable, he shifted the chair slightly to the side, giving him a better view of the yard.
“You like rock and roll, Mr. Keogh?” Marty’s voice had the ripples of an old, buried accent.
“I…” Joshua struggled, “yes. Sure.”
“Real rock and roll, not that trash they play on the radio.” Producing a remote control from his breast pocket, Marty sat up and pointed the thing towards the house. The yard on either side of them flooded with scratchy noises from instruments that Joshua barely recognized.
“It’s not your fault,” said the gray man. Marty was shorter than Joshua, yet his voice was deep and forceful. “They stopped playing it before you were born.” He sipped more lemonade, not looking in Joshua’s direction. “Do you know why you’re here?”
“No.” For a second, Joshua considered offering some honorific like “sir” or “Mr.” In his current state of mind, though, it would be a slippery slope towards pleading for his life.
“None of the boys told you anything?”
“Not even Gaetan?”
“So you know who I am,” Marty stated, his deep, dark eyes finally shifting onto Joshua. “Do you know anything you think I should know?”
Joshua leaned across the table. His throat was dry, and he needed to swallow in order to speak. “If I did, I would have said something before I sat down.”
Marty made a “mmm” sound. His face hadn’t changed, but Joshua knew the answer had pleased him. “How old are you, Mr. Keogh?”
“Really?” said Marty, raising his brow.
“Someone said you were a businessman.” Marty looked confused. “An experienced businessman.”
That’s an epithet I’ve never been given before, thought Joshua. “I’ve been supporting myself on and off for the last five years.”
“No kidding.” Marty sounded genuinely interested. “But you’ve never done anything that I’ve heard about.”
“You’ve never done anything that I’ve heard about,” Joshua said seriously. “I’ve never read your name in the papers, or seen your face on TV, like so many others I could name. Does that mean you’re less successful than they are, or more?”
Joshua’s stab had landed just right. Marty smiled and took another swig of lemonade. I’ve impressed him, thought Joshua. Maybe he’ll give me a lollipop before he dumps the quicklime on my corpse.
“Ever get to the Shore?” Marty said impassively. “Young man. Friends throwing parties. Girls in bikinis.”
“Sure,” said Joshua, “Everybody where I live gets to the Jersey Shore this time of year.”
“How about Wildwood?” said Marty, looking into his eyes. “You know it?”
Joshua’s limbs begged him to shiver. Just as long as he doesn’t offer me any lemonade, he thought. I’ll never be able to keep my glass from shaking. Mimicking the professors he’d known in college, Joshua nodded his head up and down long enough to denote interest and not long enough to encourage follow-up questions.
“I hate the beach myself,” Marty said casually. “Bad memories. But I have friends who go to Wildwood.”
Joshua’s teeth began to chatter softly. He hoped he stopped them before it became noticeable. Pursing his lips to stall, Joshua searched his entire head for an answer. “My family went to Wildwood when I was growing up. I haven’t been there in years.”
“Good luck for you, then,” said Marty. “There was some trouble in Wildwood a few nights back. Friends of mine ran into some bad luck. Hear anything about it?”
“No” said Joshua. “Like I said. I would have said it before I sat down.”
“That’s disappointing,” said Marty. “Because we know this trouble started in your neck of the woods, Mr. Keogh. Right in your neighborhood, in fact.”
“I’m sorry.” The back of Joshua’s neck froze, bracing for the bullet from a silencer barrel that he saw in his mind’s eye. “I can’t help you.”
“Oh,” said Marty. “By the way, if the heat’s getting to you, help yourself to the lemonade.” Joshua hoped his smile conveyed No thank you and was glad when Marty continued. “This particular trouble is in your line, from what I understand. The same business you’re in.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Joshua. “I have a patch of ground where I like to work. I would never do business in Wildwood.”
“Would you do business with me?” Marty was leaning back in his chair, a confident, satisfied smile on his lips. “Because I have a piece of business that I need to do with you.”
A quick snap sounded behind Joshua’s back. A little twig was warning him that someone had come up from behind. The bullet was already in the air, its path traced by Joshua’s imagination, straight into his skull. His lungs took one last sweet sip of air and, slowly, without knowing why, he turned to look at what was coming.
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