BY: E A AYMAR
Tom Starks has spent the three years since his wife’s murder struggling to single-handedly raise their daughter, Julie, while haunted by memories of his dead spouse. When he learns that the man accused of her murder, Chris Taylor, has been released from prison, Tom hires a pair of hit men to get his revenge. But when the hit men botch the assassination, Tom is inadvertently pulled into their violent world.
And now those hit men are after him and his daughter.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by E. A. Aymar is for all of you who ever wished you could hire a hit man but never had the knowhow or courage. This book will make you glad that you couldn’t and/or didn’t. Tom Starks is still depressed three years after his wife is murdered. But when Tom tries to hire a hit man to kill the man he thinks murdered her, his life goes from down in the dumps to down the toilet. The hit men botch the job, and Tom and his daughter become the new targets. Now Tom is forced to figure out how to outsmart the hit men and everything he tries seems to fail. You can’t help but feel sorry for the guy all the while you are shaking your head at him.
The book is well written, entertaining, and totally believable. The only thing that could have gone wrong that didn’t, and that I half expected to, was that Tom didn’t get reported to the police for his fumbling attempts at finding a killer. The plot was well thought out and completely unpredictable. Just when you think things are going to go right for Tom at last, they don’t.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by E. A. Aymar is a perfect example of how Murphy’s Law works. You know that old adage, “anything that can go wrong will.” I mean, honestly, how hard can it be to hire a hit man? Actually, I imagine it can be pretty hard, especially if you are a college professor with no ties to the criminal underworld. But the hero of Aymar’s new book gives it the good old college try. Not only, does he hire hit men that can’t “hit,” so to speak, he tells them to kill the wrong man. Then when he finds out who the real killers are, well, it just goes downhill from there.
I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is about an everyday Joe who wants revenge for the death of his wife. Sounds simple, right? Wrong! Aymar gives us a look at how wrong things can go when life gets really complicated. The book was refreshingly honest, the plot riveting. This one is hard to put down.
Just an hour before my wife was murdered, I pulled into a long line of vehicles waiting outside of our daughter’s elementary school. I was tired. Today, teaching had drained me. I wasn’t a particularly good student growing up, but I found myself irritated when my junior college students showed the same lack of motivation.
One paper clearly indicated the student hadn’t even opened the book: Hemingway’s novel uses the symbolism of a man who lost his arms to illustrate the symbol of how helpless he feels.
A bell rang and a group of children rushed through the doors, making beelines for our long line of cars and SUVs. Julie disengaged from the pack, trotted to my truck, and climbed into the passenger seat.
“How was school?” I asked as I guided my truck into the street.
“It was okay. I have to write a book report.”
“Really?” I glanced at her, my curiosity piqued. “On what book?”
She shrugged. “I dunno. We have to pick one.”
“What are the choices?”
“You don’t know?”
Julie sighed and crossed her arms. “She gave us a list.”
“Can I see the list?”
Julie stared out her window and absent-mindedly played with her hair, the way an older woman would. “Later,” she said.
I started to speak but caught myself. I wanted to tell her to talk nicer or say something that started with, “Young lady,” but I wasn’t sure how harsh I should be. I hated to admit it, but I didn’t feel comfortable disciplining Renee’s daughter, even if I had legally adopted her. Besides, Renee was better at this stuff than I was.
“I’m going to help you with this,” I said defiantly.
Julie sighed and continued to look out the window. “I know you will.”
When I worked out the calculations later, based on what the crime scene investigators reported, I realized Renee faced her murderer at some point during that argument with Julie.
He’d watched her for days, because he knew she liked to buy fruit and vegetables at the small market just off the Jones Fall Expressway. Somehow, he’d convinced her to walk around the store and, once there, forced her to the ground and pushed a rag deep in her mouth, too far for her to pull out. He dragged her into the trees that bordered the back of the store, just before the nature trail that wound through a small delicate forest. He threw her to the ground but Renee climbed to her feet and tried to run off, awkwardly pulling at the rag. He rushed after her and tackled her. They crashed into a tree. A deep cut on the side of her head left the bark bloody.
Renee sprawled on the ground, dazed. He picked up a metal baseball bat he had left leaning behind a tree.
She saw him approach, probably saw a glint of sunlight reflect off the metal, and tried to climb to her feet. That’s when he swung the first time. The first blow hit her squarely on the side of her head and knocked her off her feet. She was barely conscious as she crawled away, as he kicked her in the ribs, knocking her to her back. Renee raised her hands to protect her face as the bat came down, and then her hands dropped as the bat came down again and again.
The medical examiner told me she wasn’t raped, but her clothes were removed, probably because the murderer was worried about evidence.
The image of Renee’s naked dead body made things worse. Nudity left her helpless. Even after death, the murderer took something from her.
I’ll never understand how Julie and I were able to drive home, both of us stupidly irritated, while Renee was viciously murdered just miles away. There should have been some sign, a feeling, a premonitory sense that something terrible was happening. But there was nothing.
Until three years later…
I was going to kill someone later in the afternoon, so I canceled classes that Monday and spent the morning on the couch, watching crappy television judge shows and trying to keep calm.
I took a long shower at eleven then, at noon, drove my truck out of Baltimore and toward D.C. The sky grayed as I headed around the curves of the Beltway and, eventually, thick rain splashed against the windshield. You could never tell what November weather was going to do. Neither Baltimore nor D.C. had real seasons. It was always too hot or too cold, buried in snow or heat, running back and forth between extremes like rats or people who believe in politics or religion.
© 2013 by E. A. Aymar
I finally reached my destination, a neighborhood in Falls Church, Virginia. I slumped down in my truck and slipped on sunglasses and a black baseball cap. It was probably obvious that I was trying to disguise myself–completely defeating the purpose–but I didn’t want to take the chance of getting spotted.
An hour passed, then another, and my nervousness rushed ahead of my impatience. Light rain bounced off my windshield. I reached over to my small gym bag on the passenger seat and touched the edge of my Glock 30. I touched it every few minutes to calm myself down, even if petting a loaded gun wasn’t the smartest idea in the world.
Using it probably wasn’t too bright, either, but Chris Taylor was out of prison. Three years ago, he’d been sentenced for killing my wife, Renee Starks.
“I haven’t talked to her in years,” Chris Taylor protested after his arrest.
I, myself, in a daze, was one of several people who’d even told the police that, to my knowledge, Renee and Chris hadn’t spoken since their brief relationship in college–so brief that she barely ever mentioned him. But his initials were on the baseball bat found in the bushes near her naked body and so were his fingerprints. He was given a life sentence, but released in three years when a retrial cast enough doubt on his conviction to overturn it.
Renee was so palpable–even now, such a presence, that sometimes I lost myself in thoughts of her. Sometimes I felt her return, like she was sitting here in the passenger seat of my truck, looking at me with her wide brown eyes, one hand brushing her bangs away from her face.
‘What are you doing, Tom?’ she asked.
“Trying to kill this guy.”
‘How are you going to do that?’
“I’m going to wait until he’s alone then shoot him.” I paused. “That’s not much of a plan, is it?”
Renee shook her head. ‘You were never good at planning things. That was one of my complaints about you.’
“You know,” I said, “you’re awfully critical for a dead chick.”
A door slam startled me. I peered out my window and, through the hedges, watched an elderly woman emerge from the house with a man I didn’t recognize. But I remembered the woman. Chris Taylor’s mother had been tall and delicate with long, black hair–which was now short and gray. Throughout the trial, she bore a constant expression of determination on her face. Now her face was old and pained, droopy as a melted candle, all signs of her previous determination gone. She looked like a shrunken version of herself.
Chris Taylor came out of the house behind them.
He ducked into a black Lincoln Navigator with his mother and the man before I could get a good look at him. The SUV’s red tail lights gleamed as they slowly drove down the street.
I started the truck and followed their vehicle down the neighborhood’s narrow, winding roads, trying to distract myself by glancing at houses as we passed them. The homes here were humungous and brick, behind long circular driveways, and set apart from each other, not like the chains of row houses that ran through Baltimore. Tall trees were everywhere, stripped of leaves by the coming winter, their brown barren branches stretching plaintively toward the sky. Some of the homes were hidden on the tops of hills, finally visible and monumental when I rounded a curve. The entire suburb was pristine and aloof, with the type of tension a held breath holds, the suspense of a secret.
I had driven around this neighborhood so often during the past month that I could do it blindfolded. And I knew exactly where Chris, his mother, and the man with them were going. She went to a nearby church every weekday afternoon. I assumed she would take Chris with her –if not, then I would have snuck into her house and killed Chris there. I knew the path she took, what time she left, and when she returned.
I watched their car turn onto the curved road that led to the parking lot, then I pulled over to the shoulder. I took off my hat and sunglasses, pulled the small Glock 30 from my gym bag, shoved it into the back of my pants, and left my car, ducking my head from the rain. The wet, gray sky looked like a dirty tissue.
I crept into the thick trees and underbrush that lined the road. There was a place where the branches and bramble were so thick that I could crouch about ten feet from the parking lot and no one would be able to see me, especially with the darkness from the stormy afternoon. The poor weather was a surprise, but one I chalked up to good fortune.
St. Elizabeth Catholic Church was the kind of structure children draw, a small simple building with a high steeple and narrow cross above the front doors. Only four or five cars were in the parking lot, and I wondered how many people even knew this building was here. Churches were mixed into Baltimore?you could stand on the top of Federal Hill and see their crosses or golden domes dotting the city like punctuation marks spread through a long paragraph. But the churches were isolated from each other and everything else here in northern Virginia, hidden in neighborhoods or tucked back from sidewalks, as if they didn’t want to intrude on the world around them.
Chris, his mother, and the other man emerged from the Navigator, and I watched Chris stand and stretch, his hands raised high. He was still long and lean and lanky, with the body of a swimmer, his blond hair shaved off, leaving him with just a haze on his head. His face was thinner than I remembered, and his eyes still held the same blue. But the blue was worn. His boyishness was gone.
The other man walked around the car, clapped Chris on the shoulder, and said something I couldn’t hear. I wiped rain from my face and leaned forward, trying to listen. The man suddenly turned and I saw the flash of a gold cross over his chest. I thought he might be some type of minister, or maybe even a priest, but he wasn’t wearing a collar. Then again, I wasn’t sure if priests constantly wore collars the way that a policeman or federal agent always carried their guns. It had been years since I’d knelt in a church.
The man and Chris Taylor’s mother headed toward the doors, but Chris stayed outside. Alone.
I reached around my back and took out the Glock. I held my breath as Chris walked toward me, stopped a few steps from the trees, and looked up, letting the rain splash his face. My eyes burned as I scanned the parking lot, trying to see if anyone was watching. But the cars were empty.
I pointed the gun at Chris. There was no mounted sight, so I looked down the v-shaped inlet at the tip and centered it on his chest. Branches were between us, but they weren’t thick, and I assumed the bullet would tear through them on its path. If the shot to the chest didn’t kill him, I would run out and shoot his fallen body in the head then rush to my car and drive away.
I didn’t expect to escape. I wanted to, but I wasn’t a professional killer. All the cop shows and news stories I’d watched suggested that the police would easily find an amateur criminal, especially one like me with such a strong motive. So going to prison was something I expected, but I was ready to sacrifice myself.
My hand, my entire arm, shook as I pointed the gun at him. Minutes seemed like they passed but, in actuality, it was only seconds.
I tried to remember the training from my stint in the Army–take a deep breath, exhale as I slowly squeeze the trigger. And I tried to remember my loss–Renee’s love and touch, the simple easy joy whenever I saw her. I had lain in bed last night, thinking about my loneliness, and promised myself to remember that feeling in case I didn’t think I could go through with it today.
It was nothing but a tug from one finger, a simple cross from circumstance to consequence.
A gigantic leap made with the tiniest effort.
I tried to tell myself that all I needed to do was pull that small metal crescent and I could deal with everything else later, the guilt and repentance and doubt, all of that would come afterward.
Just fall in.
Rain tapped on leaves, and the brown day darkened even more. My knees ached from my crouched position, and the pain was so intense that I thought about rushing Chris, dragging him into the woods, then shooting him. The thought formed into a plan–I could leave his body here and get a head start on the cops. I squeezed my eyes shut in pain, opened them, and Chris was gone.
For a brief moment I wondered if this was my imagination, a hallucination, grief spinning some elaborate fantasy. It wouldn’t be the first time. But when I peered out of the underbrush, I saw Chris walking toward the church. I followed him, stepping through branches, not worried about noise because the rain was falling even harder. In fact, I realized the rain was so intense that the gunshot might even be muffled. I stayed about ten feet behind Chris, walking near the edge of the parking lot, the gun pointed straight ahead.
I was just waiting for the right moment. If he turned around, I promised myself, I would kill him immediately. It didn’t seem right to shoot him in the back. Not because I considered it cowardly, but because I wanted Chris to know who murdered him. I realized that was something shooting from inside the underbrush wouldn’t give me.
I wanted him to see me.
I stopped, aimed, and opened my mouth to call him.
Nothing came out.
Chris reached the church doors.
I tried to speak again and again. Nothing. He opened the doors.
“Renee.” I desperately hoped her name would give me strength, even as the doors closed. But, at that moment, I couldn’t even remember what her face looked like.
I closed my eyes and held the gun more tightly than I had ever held anything. Love, God, or hate.
Copyright 2013 by E. A. Aymar
Author, Michael Sears:
“I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is a haunting tale of vengeance and its toll. It is both thrilling and tender. The domestic scenes are every bit as gripping as the action sequences. E.A. Aymar weaves a touching tapestry loaded with surprises.” ~ Michael Sears, author of Black Fridays, winner of the Shamus Award for Best First Novel
Author, Lou Berney:
“A twisty, tightly-written thriller with jolts of unexpected humor and a deeply moving examination of human grief. A terrific read.” ~ Lou Berney, author of Whiplash River and Gutshot Straight, nominated for the Edgar and Barry awards
Chris F. Holm:
In I’LL SLEEP WHEN YOU’RE DEAD, E.A. Aymar has crafted a brutal, harrowing tale of love, lust, loss, and the fool’s gold promise of revenge. –~ Chris F. Holm, author of the Collector series, winner of the Spinetingler Award
The bereaved and vengeful hero of E.A. Aymar’s new thriller I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is a young widower who talks directly to the reader: “Wine, classical music, and architecture, the three big cultural gaps in the education of Tom Starks,” he says of himself. “Coming in fourth—how to hire assassins.” Don’t miss the opportunity to follow Starks’ chilling learning curve. In this tightly-wound novel, set in part on the streets of Crabtown, USA, the dead speak and those that speaketh too freely wind up dead as Tom Starks stalks the man who killed his wife while trying to raise an adolescent daughter. Along the way, he struggles mightily, stumbles, and keeps going. As the great Johnny Winter once sang at the end of a dark alley: “It serves me right to suffer…it serves me right to be alone…” ~ Ralph Alvarez, author of Tales from the Holy Land and HBO’s The Wife