Today I am so pleased to welcome Marco Carocari to Joyfully Jay. Marco has come to share an exclusive excerpt from his latest release, Blackout. He has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving Marco a big welcome!
Before Franco could change his mind, he chained his bike to the tree in front of The Green Thumb and crossed the street. He kept the earplugs in but lowered the volume to a mere whisper. Jean Carne, telling him not to let it go to his head, calmed his nerves as he entered the wide-open door. Disembodied voices hollered from somewhere above, probably from whoever was moving in. Scanning the dark hallway, he carefully approached the stairs leading to the upper floors, an ineffable force pulling him along. The air smelled of paint and glue, and he experienced an increasing sense of familiarity as he climbed the stairs.
On the fourth floor, light shone through a medium-sized window facing the back alley, and a long corridor extended past several apartment doors on his right. Down the hallway, a sliver of light announced an open door, and he swallowed hard, the sound amplified in his head. The blood pounded in his ears, and he thought he heard his name, a low, urgent hiss as if the room beckoned him. He shuddered, taking a shaky breath, and pushed the door open, knowing what he’d find inside before he saw it.
Fingers dug into his shoulder, and he yelled out, smashing into the door frame. He fell over and landed hard on his ass, earbuds dangling around his neck. He raised his eyes, holding a protective hand over his head against the figure towering over him in jeans and a faded yellow West End Records T-shirt stretched over a small belly.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Vince laughed, blushing under his short-cropped beard.
“What the hell?” Franco hissed, his heart in his throat. “Are you nuts?”
“I called your name like three times, didn’t you hear me?” Vince held out his hand, and Franco pulled himself up.
“Does it look like I heard you? You almost made me piss myself.”
“Sorry,” Vince chuckled, “I guess that would be rather awkward, you trying to explain the puddle all over the crime scene if the cops came back to check.” Seemingly incapable of wiping the smirk off his face, Franco was tempted to do it for him. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Shouldn’t that be my line? I ran by Gino’s this morning, heard the news, and figured I’d swing by to see how you’re doing. I called, didn’t you get my message?”
Franco pulled out his phone and saw notifications for two missed calls and a voicemail.
Vince moved past him into the unit, the gray eyes above his thick nose curious. “This it?”
Franco nodded. Doused in bright sunlight, the tiny one bedroom featured an open kitchenette by the entrance and a small bathroom at the far end. A chair with metal legs lay toppled over on the floor, next to a twin-size blow up mattress. No other personal items.
Vince said, “Who the hell lives like this?”
Franco dry swallowed. “I was in here, Thursday night.”
Franco threw Vince a flustered glance. “I remember standing right here…sometime after the attack, I guess, looking for whoever was hurt…or dead.” Putting himself in harm’s way wasn’t like him at all, and the thought of blindly rushing into a dangerous situation made the hairs on his neck prick up.
“How’d you even get in?”
Franco opened his mouth and closed it, shrugged. “Beats me, but I see the door standing wide open all the time. Not sure the workers lock up at night.”
“No, I meant up here.”
He shrugged. “Wasn’t locked, either, that much I know. The room was dark, and I remember tripping over something, and…pain, probably from the chair. That’s why I’m all banged up.”
“You’re saying you managed to trample all over the crime scene before the cops showed up?”
Franco groaned, but Vince waved a hand. “Oh relax, I’m messing with you. You came here to help, and besides, from everything Gino told me, I doubt the cops will spend a lot of time and resources on this. I mean, no corpse last we checked, right?”
“No.” Franco crossed the space and stood by the window. He recalled standing there and looking at the roof top, but only barely, like trying to see through cheesecloth.
The tangled blinds likely caused the deep indentations on the drywalled window frame during the struggle. A thin cable hung from a tiny hole in the wall, and a two-by-two inch white plastic plate with a broken off stem lay on its side, double sided tape attached to the bottom.
“Security camera system?” Vince said next to him. Whatever it came from was gone.
Franco pulled out his phone, tapped the screen a few times, then showed it to Vince. “See, I was right. Pitcher messaged me in the MeatUp app at 11:52 pm to say he’d arrived downstairs.”
Vince chuckled. “MeatUp? Who comes up with these names?”
“If you think that’s bad, you should see some of the usernames.”
“Why, what’s yours?”
“Anyway…he arrived before midnight and we went straight up to the roof.
Fast forward about ten, fifteen minutes to me tripping from that damn joint. But I’m sure the attack happened right after midnight, like I always said, except the cops didn’t show until fifteen past one.”
“An hour you can’t remember?”
Franco shrugged weakly, waving a hand at the empty apartment. “Some of it, but at a glacial pace. I watched this place from the roof one moment and then stood here the next.” He shook his head, letting his eyes wander around the place.
“Wrong apartment, maybe?”
“No, this is it.” Franco pointed at the blinds. “I must have gone downstairs afterwards…I guess. Weird thing is, when the cop told me no one was up here, I didn’t believe him. But it’s true…the door was unlocked and the place empty when I got here.” He studied his phone’s call log. “Don’t really remember that part, either, but apparently I dialed 911 at 12:22 a.m.”
Vince pointed at three red entries, missed calls. “They called you back.”
“But why? And what’s up with my damn phone? It doesn’t ring or vibrate half the time, just goes straight to voicemail. I guess I dropped it, and now my screen’s cracked.”
“Maybe something came loose. Shouldn’t cost you more than a hundred and fifty to replace the screen.”
“Great.” Franco sighed in frustration. “This is ridiculous. You know me, I never get wasted. Never. Okay, once, during my first high school reunion, after a few of us were drinking into the wee hours at the hotel we stayed at, and I woke up massively hungover in Grace Cunningham’s room with her sobbing in the locked bathroom.”
“Did you show up in the same dress?”
Franco shot him a look. “No…actually…I woke up naked in her bed.”
“So she cried because you didn’t know where to put it.” Vince smirked, clearly enjoying himself.
“Trust me, I’d come out to her years earlier—she knew exactly where I like to put it. That was the first and last time the movie just sort of stopped midway, and it’s been fourteen years since.” He scanned the room, chewing his lip. “Should I call the cops again?”
He closed his eyes, the same scene playing out in his head: hands fumbling, bodies twisting, an arm grabbing the collar moments before they all went down.
“And tell them what? You still don’t remember anything relevant, and—”
Franco’s eyes popped open. What arm?
Vince’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
“There was someone else. I…I keep seeing the same scene, over and over, but for a moment, right before the lights went out, someone grabbed the victim’s collar. As in, another person.”
Another trick of his mind? Vince’s creased forehead also expressed skepticism.
“Look, I don’t know what to tell you,” Franco said, spreading his fingers. “It’s all bits and pieces. A snippet of a memory here, then nothing for the next ten minutes, then another one there.”
“Sounds like everything’s still—”
A door slammed shut somewhere below them, the sound reverberating through the building, and Franco jumped. “Let’s get the hell out of here.” Vince nodded, and they crossed the room. Franco grabbed the door handle through the hem of his polo. Probably a bit late, but he wiped down the metal before closing the door, anyway. He came here hoping for closure, but felt more unsettled than ever.
Strait-laced forty-something Franco definitely picked the wrong night to get freaky. A hook-up with a hot guy on his Manhattan rooftop, and a joint he’s unaware is laced, leaves him dazed. And —if memory serves him— the sole witness to a murder across the street.
Except, the cops can’t find a crime scene or a body, and Franco’s perforated recollections and conflicting testimony leave the detectives unimpressed. When days later the mutilated body of a philanthropic millionaire is discovered, he’s not only shocked to learn he knew him, but with Franco’s fingerprints all over the crime scene, he quickly graduates from unreliable witness to prime suspect. And the random trick who could alibi him has vanished into the anonymity of the Internet.
Unsettled, and confronted with forty-year-old memories, when Franco’s father was murdered in front of him during Manhattan’s infamous blackout, a shocking revelation finally unmasks the man who pulled the trigger that night. And painting Franco the perfect suspect.
With a target on his back and time running out, the truth will set Franco free, or earn him a toe tag at the morgue.
Buy Link: Amazon
Marco Carocari grew up in Switzerland, where he, over the past fifty-odd years, worked in a hardware store, traveled the globe working for the airlines, and later as an internationally published photographer, and frequently jobbed as a waiter, hotel receptionist, or manager of a professional photo studio. In 2016 he swapped snow-capped mountains, lakes, and lush, green pastures for the charm of the dry California desert, where he lives with his husband. ‘Blackout’ is his first novel.
Find more info on https://www.marcocarocari.com
Marco has brought a signed copy of Blackout to give away to two lucky readers (U.S. only; International winners will win an ebook copy instead). Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Sunday, May 16th at 11:59 pm ET.
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