Mystery author Earl Staggs recently received his second Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews. SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 Mystery tales, is available in print and ebook. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He’s a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences.
Thank you, Jean, for hosting this stop on the Mystery We Write Blog Tour. While the tour bus is being cleaned and fueled, I thought I’d offer up an excerpt from my new novel called TALL CHAMBERS: JUSTIFIED ACTION. Tall Chambers is an operative with a secretive agency which tracks terrorists worldwide. If the agency determines a terrorist group is an imminent threat to innocent lives, the agency puts them out of business by whatever means necessary.
In this scene, Tall has captured the worst of the lot - Anatole Remski, an Iranian with a Russian father – and has him in an interrogation room at an Army base near Kabul, Afghanistan.
There are at least two sides to everything, even if one is completely wrong. In this scene, I wanted to let Remski give his side of the story and reveal why he is devoted to killing American soldiers.
* * * * *
Remski’s appearance up close surprised Tall. He’d seen a five-year-old picture of him taken when he was a high school teacher. At that time, with his smooth features and short, combed blond hair, he looked more like a mild-mannered accountant than a ruthless terrorist. The man he’d captured looked twenty years older. His hair was darker, longer, and hung like strings. His face looked drawn and weathered like a man who’d been through hell.
Tall smiled when he entered the room and sat across the table from him. “My name is Chambers, Mr. Remski. I have some questions for you. If you give me the answers I need, I’ll see that they go easier on you in court.”
Remski grinned, but didn’t speak. He held the grin and his eyes narrowed. He seemed to be studying Tall, sizing him up. “That’s very kind of you, Mr. Chambers,” he said in a soft voice with a distinct Arab accent, “but I’ll do fine without your assistance. I advise you not to waste your time or mine.”
“I’m not wasting my time. I need the names of your associates. You’re responsible for bombings which killed many American soldiers. The authorities will make you pay for that. If you cooperate, I’ll do what I can to help you.”
Remski’s grin faded, and he turned his head away. He sighed, almost as if bored. “All they have is hearsay with regard to my participation in those events, Mr. Chambers. As to actual proof, they have nothing. Besides, the killing of American soldiers in this country is not considered a crime by many people here. Weigh that against the many thousands you have slaughtered, and it amounts to very little.”
“You’re wrong,” Tall said. “Regardless of how you feel about our presence here, those who judge you will be bound by international law to sentence you in accordance with the crimes you’ve committed. As for the casualties we’re responsible for, no one regrets them more than I do, but they’re the unfortunate consequence of war. That’s very different from what you do.”
Remski turned back to him “Is it, Mr. Chambers? Why is it different?” His voice was strong and harsh now. His blue eyes had taken on a hardness that wasn’t there before. “Is it because you shout words like freedom and democracy while you murder innocent people? You Americans think you have a right to invade other countries and force them to change. Where is it written that your way is the way for all people? How do you rationalize killing innocent people to force other countries to do everything the American way?”
“That’s not what we do. Our goal is to help people gain their freedom and govern themselves.”
Remski smirked. “You think you’re qualified to tell others how to govern a country? Your country is bankrupt financially and morally, Mr. Chambers. Take your soldiers home. Take care of your own problems and let us take care of ours. Stop waving your red, white and blue flag while you slaughter our citizens in the name of freedom.”
“We don’t slaughter people. We’re only here to help.”
With fierce anger burning in his eyes, Remski shouted, “Do this for me, Mr. Chambers. Go to my village in Abuzak. Stand over the graves of my parents, my wife and my son. Tell them how you marched into their village to help them by lining them up and shooting them. Tell them they were killed for their freedom.”
Tall was caught off guard. He knew of the massacre at Abuzak. A squad of American soldiers marched into the small village looking for subversives and killed every man, woman and child they found. “I’m sorry about what happened to your family. That was a terrible tragedy and never should have happened. The soldiers who went into that village were wrong. They were tried and punished for what they did.”
Remski leaned over the table. He lowered his voice, but not his vehement anger. “Tried and punished? The soldiers who slaughtered my family, my entire village, were discharged and sent home to their own families. Their leader was sentenced to ten years in prison and was released after three years. Do you consider that adequate punishment for what they did?”
“No, in all honesty, I do not. Is that why you kill Americans? Because a small group of them went out of control and committed a horrible act? Nothing can compensate you for your loss, but what you’re doing is just as wrong. Seventeen of your associates were killed tonight. Give me the names of the others in your group. They don’t have to die.”
Remski hung his head and wagged it. When he spoke, he seemed more in control of himself. “No, Mr. Chambers, I will give you no names. The people you murdered tonight are in the arms of Allah and will be rewarded for their sacrifice. Those who remain will continue our war against you as long as you invade our country and slaughter our families. If they give their lives, they, too, will be rewarded. You cannot stop them from doing what they were born to do.” He looked squarely into Tall’s eyes with more hatred and defiance than Tall had ever seen. “And you can’t stop me.”
“Look around,” Tall said. “We have stopped you.”
Remski leaned back in his chair and sneered. “We’ll see about that, Mr. Chambers.”
Ben Goldman opened the door and stuck his head in. “They’re here for him.”
Tall stood and watched two burly policemen place Remski in chains and lead him from the room.
As he passed by Tall, he stopped. “We’ll meet again someday, Mr. Chambers, and when that day comes, I assure you, you will die.”
“We’ll see about that, Mr. Remski.”
* * * * *
And that’s how Remski justifies what he does, the other side of the coin, so to speak. I’d love to know if anyone who reads this has ever used this technique in a book.
Shortly after the above scene, Remski escapes to continue his crusade against Americans. Everything changes for Tall when someone dear to him is killed, and he takes on a crusade of his own to find who was responsible and set things right.
TALL CHAMBERS – JUSTIFIED ACTION will soon be available in print and ebook form. Watch for announcements on my website: http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com
Thanks also for everyone who came by. You’re invited to visit my website now where you can:
. . .read Chapter One of my Mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER.
. . .read a short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.” Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written.
. . .read “White Hats and Happy Trails,” a story about the day I spent with my boyhood idol, Roy Rogers. There’s even a picture of my wife and me with Roy to prove it’s all true.
. . .check out SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 of my published tales of mystery, ranging from hardboiled to humorous. Available in Print and ebook form.
But don’t go yet. Please leave a comment while you’re here and you may win a free book.
At the end of the tour, I’ll draw two names from those who left comments. The first name drawn will receive a signed print copy of MEMORY OF A MURDER, a mystery novel with a long list of Five Star Reviews. The second name drawn will receive their choice of a signed print copy or an ebook of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 tales of mystery from hardboiled to humorous.
Now you can go on to the next stop on the tour with my appreciation for stopping by.
And thank you again, Jean, for your hospitality.