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Authors: Dave Zeltserman

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Bad Karma

BOOK: Bad Karma
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Bad Karma

By Dave Zeltserman

Electronic Edition Copyright ©2007, 2011 by Dave Zeltserman

All rights reserved as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the publisher.

StoneGate Ink 2011

StoneGate Ink

Nampa ID 83686

First eBook Edition: 2011

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to a real person, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Zeltserman, Dave

Bad Karma: a novel/ by Dave Zeltserman.

Cover design by Fuji Aamabreorn

Published in the United States of America

StoneGate Ink

Praise for Blood Crimes, Book One:

“Dave has managed to meld the two genres of crime and horror into one hell of a ride: PI's, crime lords, drug gangs, sultry babes and more low life scum than you can count all collide with explosive results in this genre bending masterpiece.”

—Jim Mcleod, Ginger House of Nuts

“You [will be] gaping at your Kindle in shock.”

—Peter Leonard, Man Eating Bookworm

Praise for the Julius Katz Mysteries:

“Absolutely fantastic!”

—Minding Spot

“I love these stories!”

—Timothy Hallinan, the author of The Queen of Patpong

“If you want to read an amazing story… read Dave Zeltserman's 'Julius Katz.'Zeltserman evokes Rex Stout, Nero and Archie in the most fascinating way.”

—Author Joe Barone

Praise for Bad Karma:

It’s as though Zeltserman has aimed a 12-gauge sawed-off at smarmy New Age sensitivities and fired off both barrels… if you liked the first novel in this series, you’ll love this one.

—Elliott Swanson

“If you haven't read Zeltserman's work, it's time to start. He's making quite a name for himself these days.”

—Bill Crider

“Top-notch P.I. reading.”

—Bruce Grossman

Other Books by Dave Zeltserman

Dying Memories

Blood Crimes


The Caretaker of Lorne Field

21 Tales

Julius Katz Mysteries



Small Crimes

Bad Thoughts

Fast Lane


Chapter 1

Bill Shannon ran hard from his apartment to the juice and coffee shop on the eastern end of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall where he was going to meet Eli Rosen. He did this partly to keep from being any later than the extra ten minutes Eli had given him, and partly as a challenge to see whether he could run a half mile in under three minutes. When he arrived at
Juiced Up
he leaned forward, resting his hands on his knees while trying to get his breathing under control. A quick look at his watch showed that he had made it in just over three minutes. His eyes wandered down his wrist to the stubs where his ring and middle fingers used to be. Five and a half years ago they were ripped from his hand. This was the first time since then that he had gone out in public with his damaged right hand exposed. He straightened up and entered the shop.

Eli was waiting at their usual table. He was a large man with gentle eyes and heavy rounded shoulders. Thick light brown hair ran up to his neckline and covered the exposed areas of his arms and legs. Like most mornings, at least during baseball season, he wore sandals, shorts, a Bucky Dent Yankees jersey and a matching Yankees cap. Shannon nodded towards him, and Eli gave him back a deadpan stare in return. He told Shannon he was sweating. Shannon took some napkins and wiped off his forehead and the back of his neck.

Eli kept his deadpan stare intact while glancing at his watch. “It’s been eleven minutes since we talked on the phone,” he said.

“I made the mistake of taking one last look at Susan before leaving the apartment. It cost me a minute. By the way, she says hi.”

“A lovely woman, your ex-wife.”

Shannon nodded towards an empty glass in front of Eli. “How many chais you have already?” he asked.


“Think your bladder can handle another?”

“Only one way to find out.”

Shannon walked over to the counter and bought another chai for Eli and a wheatgrass juice for himself and brought the drinks back to the table. When he handed Eli his chai, he saw his friend’s heavy-lidded eyes open a quarter of an inch wider and knew Eli’s stare was fixed on his damaged hand.

“I knew there was something different about you this morning,” Eli said, a forced casualness in his tone. “I just realized you’re not wearing your trademark glove.”

Shannon didn’t bother to respond. He sat across from Eli and sipped his wheatgrass juice.

“You never told me before what Charlie Winters had done to your hand. The only thing I knew was he had injured you. Jesus, I had no idea.”

“That bad, huh?” Shannon asked.

Eli made a face indicating that it was. “Bill, I never pushed you before, but I need you to tell me what happened. I can’t put things in the proper perspective without knowing.”

Shannon took another couple of sips from his drink. He had never told anyone about what happened that last night with Winters. Not the cops who arrived on the scene, not the therapist he saw after he had moved to Boulder, no one. The only person who knew was Susan, and that was only because she had witnessed it.

Shannon stared stone-faced at Eli for a long moment, but the compassion flooding the other man’s eyes weakened his resolve. He shrugged. “It will sound like something out of a horror movie,” he said.

“Hey, you’re talking to one of Stephen King’s biggest fans.”

Shannon looked away from his friend to a pastel drawing on his right of Chautauqua Park. The lower part of the pastel showed a meadow done in a muted green, the four faces of the Flatirons above it were colored a soft purple.

“That last night, Winters murdered my partner, Joe Digrazia.”

“You had told me that.”

“I didn’t tell you how,” Shannon said. He kept his stare fixed on the pastel. “Winters skinned Joe alive. He made Susan watch.”


A hard grimace tightened the muscles along Shannon’s jaw. It was worse than what he had said. Charlie Winters had also made Susan beg him to kill Joe instead of herself, but Shannon couldn’t tell Eli or anyone else that part of it.

“He tied Susan up with wire and had her helpless. If I brought anyone with me, he would’ve killed her and then surrendered to the police. The only chance I had was crashing through a window and getting to him before he knew what was happening. I screwed up, though, and my foot caught on the window sill. Before I could get to my feet he hit me on the back of my head with something hard, I think a lamp. While I was on the floor, he broke my two fingers with a nutcracker. He worked on those broken fingers for almost an hour, trying to force me to cut Susan with a knife. At one point I said something that pissed him off and he twisted a little too hard with that nutcracker.”

“Jesus, Bill…”

Shannon kept his stare locked on the pastel. He waited until Eli’s voice trailed off before continuing. “I might’ve left my body then,” he said. “I don’t know, I could’ve hallucinated the whole thing. It seemed, though,  as if I’d been shot up into a corner of the ceiling and then just sort of hovered there, watching everything below me with a kind of weird detachment—like it was nothing but a movie. It was like I was watching as Winters realized he was only holding onto my two torn-off fingers, then my body turning on him and using the knife he tried to make me hurt Susan with to cut off his goddamn ugly malformed head. Next thing it was as if I was sucked out of the air and back into my body.”

Shannon’s gaze shifted from the pastel to Eli. His friend’s face was ashen. “So what do you think,” Shannon asked. “Would King be able to do something with that story?”

“I’d have to think so.” Eli rubbed a hand across his jaw. “Bill, I knew you had killed Charlie Winters in self-defense, but I had no idea how savage the whole thing was. It does explain a lot, though.”

“Such as?”

“For one, why you’ve been having so much trouble inducing an out-of-body experience. The one time you left your body—and Bill, I’m convinced that you did leave your body—it was under extreme duress. It happened solely for self-preservation. To be able to leave your body peacefully, you need to feel safe in the universe. If you believe evil is out there, how can you feel safe?”

A hard smile locked on Shannon’s face. Over the last five years they’d argued about the existence of evil a countless number of times, with it always coming down to Charlie Winters—after all, what was he if not the essence of evil? Eli’s answer was that Winters was something aberrant, a broken soul who had been confused about his role in the universe. That answer always infuriated Shannon. He didn’t want their current talk to slide into that same long-standing argument. Still, he couldn’t help himself as he asked about Winters being able to leave his body. “He seemed to be able to do it at will,” Shannon said. “How do you explain that?”

“For exactly the reason I’ve been saying. He felt safe in the universe. In his confused mind, he was some sort of demigod, put on earth to dole out punishment and pain, not to receive it.” Eli shrugged his large rounded shoulders. “Enough of that. Tell me about the breakthrough you mentioned over the phone.”

“I had a lucid dream about Winters last night. But when he showed up, I felt none of the rage that I’d been feeling in past dreams.”

“And you’re sure it was a lucid dream?”

“Yep. I was aware I was dreaming the whole time. I knew I had complete control over it.”

“That’s good.” Eli put his hand back to his jaw and rubbed it absent-mindedly. “Did Winters attack you the same way as in your other dreams?”

“Exactly the same. He rushed me with a carving knife, but this time I didn’t try to fight him. All I did was step aside and let him tumble past me.”

“What were your emotions during this time?”

“Flat. Complete disengagement.”

“You had no desire for revenge? To do him bodily harm?”


“Did he try taunting you as he did in past dreams?”

“He tried, but it had no effect.”

Eli nodded as his eyes focused on some point in the distance. Slowly, his gaze shifted back to meet Shannon’s eyes. “I think you’re right,” he said. “This sounds like the breakthrough you’ve been working towards. What happened next?”

“Winters melted into some sort of liquid mess. What was left of him disappeared into the ground. Right before waking up, I remembered thinking ‘good riddance’. I also had this feeling that I’d never dream about him again.”

Eli held out his hand. “Congratulations, guy, I think you did it.” Shannon took his hand and matched the firmness of his grip before letting go.

“It’s funny,” Shannon said. “An ex-cop fleeing Cambridge, Massachusetts to Boulder to study meditation and do dream work therapy. If you knew me five and a half years ago you’d realize how out of character this would’ve been for me.”

“Something made you realize you had to do this.”

Shannon nodded weakly. “After everything that happened with Winters I knew I had three choices: drown myself in alcohol, swallow a bullet, or do something to get myself whole. One night when I was contemplating the bullet diet, I saw a story about the Boulder Mind & Body Center on TV. Something about it clicked and I decided to give it a shot. Susan had already divorced me by then, so the next morning I packed up my car and headed west.”

“My story’s not that much different,” Eli said. He sighed, a soft smile forming over his lips. “You know I was originally from New York –”

“I heard New Jersey.”

“Whatever. I may have been born in Jersey and had a house there, but I worked in Manhattan. I made good money back then as a corporate lawyer, but after eleven years of helping companies figure out how to rid themselves of employees as cheaply as possible, I felt spiritually bankrupt. One day I read a magazine article about the Center and, like you, something clicked. I told my wife I needed to move out here, that I wanted to study meditation and yoga and other new age practices. Nancy’s response was ‘go ahead’, but she’s keeping the house. The only thing I asked for and received in the divorce was my seven year-old Saab and enough money to drive out to Colorado and pay my first three months rent. But Bill, you should’ve seen me back then. Thirty-five going on sixty. Money means absolutely nothing when you’re losing yourself, and I was as lost as you could be. And fourteen years later that Saab still runs like a kitten. Of course, unlike you, my ex-wife never came out to Boulder to move back in with me.”

“You ever hear from her?”

Eli made a face. “Once twelve years ago. She remarried, and from what I could tell, was quite happy living in Holmdel. God love her, somebody has to be. But enough about that. Bill, any doubts that you vanquished your demon?”

“None.” Shannon looked down at the table and showed a sick smile. “For a long time I couldn’t bear to let anyone see what Winters had done to me. The reason for the glove. This morning it didn’t seem to matter.”

“Because you know he’s really gone from your subconscious.”

Shannon nodded.

“Did you tell Susan about your dream?”

“Yep. She was pretty happy about it. The reason I was late this morning.”

“It’s been a long road,” Eli said. “You’ve come a long way the past few years, and I agree with you, this is the breakthrough we’ve been working towards. So any ideas about what next?

Shannon met Eli’s eyes. “I want to continue this,” he said. “I want to see if I can get to the point where I’m having out of body experiences.”

Eli noticed his chai was beginning to cool off. He took a long drink and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “I’m beginning to think that’s possible now,” he said. “With Charlie Winters eradicated from your subconscious, the universe should be a calmer, safer place for you. But you know, you never told me why this is so important to you.”

“Winters was able to have them.”


Shannon shrugged. “I have my reasons.”

“It’s not so you can look for Winters?”

“No.” Shannon took in a deep breath, held it, and flashed a thin, embarrassed smile. “I want to visit the people Winters stole from me. I want to find my mom and Joe, tell them how sorry I am about what happened to them.”

Eli nodded, a sadness softening his eyes. “My motivations were similar. I had a younger sister, Wendy, who died at only twenty-three. I wanted more than anything to see her again so I could tell her how much she meant to me. But even though I’m able to leave my body nightly, I seem bounded by our universe. I haven’t been able to figure out yet how to slip between different planes of existence.”

“It can be done,” Shannon said. “Winters was able to invade my dreams. I know he invaded others’ too.”

A kid, maybe twenty, with long blond hair and a scraggly beard interrupted them by stopping to stare at Eli’s Bucky Dent jersey. “Yankees suck,” he said.

“Twenty-six rings, my friend.”

“After 2004 they also got a nice, big, fat choker to go along with them,” the kid offered as he walked past them and out of the shop.

“That’s what I love about you college kids,” Eli yelled out to him. “Such fascinating discourse.” He turned to Shannon. “I’ve been wounded deeply. If you want to talk about aberrations, I don’t think you’d ever find one bigger than last year’s Yankees—Red Sox playoff series. The damn thing turned my whole universe inside out. Made me for a moment question the existence of evil.”

Eli’s rant brought a smile to Shannon’s lips. “I’ve got to ask you about that
Bucky Fucking Dent
jersey of yours. If you’re wearing it for my sake, you’re wasting your time. In seventy-eight, I was only eleven and living in Sacramento. Back then I was a big California Angels fan.”

“My condolences.”

“Thanks. If you want to rub my nose in it for being a Sox fan, do something a bit more creative like get yourself a tattoo of the ball going through Buckner’s legs.”

“Who showed you a picture of my ass?”

Shannon smiled at that. “So why are you always wearing that jersey?”

“Two reasons my friend. First, to make sure no one confuses me with an expatriated Californian, of which there’s nothing lower here in Colorado, except maybe Texans. Even ex-New Yorkers are higher on the food chain –”

BOOK: Bad Karma
9.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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