By Mark Young
[The latest Tom Kagan novel, Circle of Lies will be released today in digital form through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, and IngramSparks. Hardcover and paperback formats to follow very soon.]
I caught up to our Circle of Lies character in California—Sergeant Art Crenshaw of the Santa Rosa Police Department’s Organized Crime and Intelligence Section (OCIS)…wow, that’s a mouthful. Anyway, Fat Louie—
CRENSHAW: “—hey, buddy, that’s not my name. If you can’t be civil in this interview—“
MARK: “—sorry, sergeant. That just slipped out. It won’t happen again.”
CRENSHAW: “Yeah, well, Tom Kagan came up to me later and apologized for calling me that behind my back. Just because I have aspirations to become a lieutenant, and my backside is a little…oh, just forget it. You can call me Art, Crenshaw, or sergeant, but just because you are the author doesn’t mean you can make a joke at my expense. After all, even supervisors have feelings.”
MARK: “Okay, okay, cool your jets, Artie. Like I said, it just slipped out.”
CRENSHAW: “Authors don’t make mistakes. They have to be very specific about the words they use. You just wanted to give readers a little laugh at my expense. Just because you have that power over us characters doesn’t mean you have to be mean.”
MARK: “Gee whiz, Artie, for a cop you have thin skin. Why can’t you be more like Kagan—tough, blunt, no nonsense.”
CRENSHAW: “You’d be sensitive too, Mark, if you had to try and supervise a cop like Tom. I mean, the guy’s a supervisor’s worst nightmare. Never know what he is going to do or say; and the trouble he gets into is enough to make me lose what little hair I still have. He attracts trouble like a magnet. I never know what he is up to. And that gives me nightmares."
MARK: “But he always lands on his feet.”
CRENSHAW: “Yeah, one of these days he’s going to bite the big one and I won’t be able to protect him. He’s a good cop—none better—but he is the reason our department keeps re-writing our rules of conduct. He’s broken just about every one of them getting the case done, and I wind up having ton of paperwork trying to save his butt.”
MARK: “Okay, what about his last case in Circle of Lies? Didn’t he do a fantastic job?”
Crenshaw gives me a quizzical look before answering.
CRENSHAW: “For an author, you are some kind of stupid. You want me to tell your readers everything Tom did in this novel. If I do that, no one’s going to want to read the story.”
MARK: “I didn’t mean to tell them everything Tom did. Just give them a hint of the trouble Tom faced."
Crenshaw shifted his ample behind in the chair as he thought about everything that had happened in the last few months.
CRENSHAW: “Well, I would say that Tom came as close to dying as he has in any police action since he joined the department thirty years ago. For a moment there, I thought they were going to kill him. And if he survived those killers, I feared he might end up in prison for the rest of his life. Now, that’s what I call ‘high stakes.’”
MARK: “How did this all start?”
CRENSHAW: “Hey, writer-man, you can tell them better than I. After all, you made this all up in that twisted head of yours. You tell them.”
MARK: “Hey, Artie. Drop the attitude or I just may write you out of the next novel.”
CRENSHAW: “See, that’s the attitude I was talking about. Now that is just down-right threatening. What? You going to get me killed in the next book?"
MARK: “Worse! Maybe I will make you in charge of all internal affairs cases. Everyone will treat you like you have the plague.”
CRENSHAW: “You think being a supervisor is much better. Always looking over everyone’s shoulder. Telling them all the things they can’t do. Being a supervisor is not a bed of roses. Always on the outside. Never being trusted. Never one of the guys.”
MARK: “Let me share a little secret with you, Artie. Kagan actually thinks you are an okay guy. He felt sorry for joining the other guys with that Fat Louie joke. He stopped calling you that after the Broken Allegiance novel."
CRENSHAW: “He told you he likes me? Are you on the up-and-up, or is this one of your author’s lies you just came up with.”
MARK: “No, I’m being straight with you. From my lips to God’s ears…it is the truth.”
Crenshaw gave me a look like he was trying to figure out whether I was telling the truth, or I was setting him up. I think being the author is like being an internal affairs investigator—no one trusts you.
CRENSHAW: “Okay. Here is how the case started. Tom got a call from a buddy of his up in Seattle about an armored-truck heist and a murder. The victim turned out to be Tom’s old partner at SRPD years ago. The guy was retired and he was working as a driver to make some extra coin. They shot him point-blank. Later they realize the shooting may have been about more than the robbery. It appeared to have been racially motivated. Jason—the dead guy—was black.”
MARK: “So how did Kagan get involved?”
CRENSHAW: “The Seattle cop gave Tom a lead in our neck of the woods. Once Kagan got his teeth into the case, there was no turning him back. I tried several times to give it to the FBI—but that son-of-a-gun keeps finding ways to land in the middle of the investigation. I warned him. The FBI warned him. Even the bad guys tried to get him to stop. But like I said, there was no reasoning with that guy. Tom was going to do it his way. Even taking his gun and badge away—which the chief did at one point—Tom continued to search for the bad guys until…well, I can’t tell your reader that or it would give the story away. Let’s just say Tom got into a heap of trouble. And he had an IA lieutenant looking for anyway to bring him down. Inside the department and outside, Kagan had enough problems that a reasonable man would have just walked away."
MARK: “But not Tom?
Crenshaw ran a hand over his thinning hair, a look of frustration painted on his face.
CRENSHAW: “Look, oh powerful one! I’ve played along here telling your readers about this novel since you have me over a barrel. But enough is enough. I’ve got a desk full of paper from Kagan’s latest fiasco. I’ve got to make sure that he doesn’t have to face off with that IA lieutenant again. So why don’t you run along and harass one of your other characters.”
MARK: “I thought we were developing a little connection here.”
CRENSHAW: “Yeah, when pigs fly.” He started to rise, then sat back down. “Hey, I heard you are leaving town and heading back to Idaho, to the Nez Perce reservation. Does that mean you won’t be back for a while?” He shot me a look of hope.
MARK: “I’m going to drop in and check on Travis Mays and the gang up there. But I will be back soon, to monitor Tom and the rest of you. I don’t want to leave you guys to your own devices—without a little of my authoritarian supervision.” I gave him a big smile.
Disappointment rained on Crenshaw’s features like thunderclouds, dark and foreboding.
CRENSHAW: “Oh, joy.” He stood, looking down at me. “Next time, promote me to lieutenant and give Kagan another supervisor to harass. I’d like to sit the next one out on the sidelines.”
I just shook my head. Crenshaw needs a little R and R; particularly since I have an idea what kind of trouble Kagan is going to get into next time. Crenshaw will have his hands full. Oh well, an author has got to do what an author has got to do. And I have all kind of ideas that will give Kagan and the others a run for their money.