BY: GUINOTTE WISE
Travis Meachem, a disillusioned middle-aged man, flies to Daytona to visit his dying father, Reno Pete. On his deathbed, Reno confesses his darkest secrets then commits suicide, leaving his son absolute proof of his part in the JFK assassination, along with instructions on how Travis can profit from it. Following his father’s cryptic advice, Travis heads to his uncle’s house in the Marais Des Cygne Wildlife Refuge, where they hatch a plot to ruin the days of those who destroyed their family. It’s an endeavor that will shake up the power corridors from New Orleans to Washington DC, and beyond. Along the way, Travis attracts some unlikely allies, among them a stunning creole girl, a streetwise rasta character, and a Dallas, Texas, police detective. But some allies are not what they appear to be, and Travis’s enemies aren’t the only ones in danger of having their days ruined for good. Is revenge hollow? It depends on who’s seeking it.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Ruined Days by Guinotte Wise, Travis Meachem, is called home to see his dying father. As the two aren’t close, home is the last place Travis wants to be but, like the dutiful son he isn’t, he flies home to see his father one last time and say goodbye. But instead of a touching reunion and tearful goodbye, Travis’s father, a former undercover operative for the CIA, confesses to Travis that he’s the one who killed JFK. He gives Travis an envelope he says will help him get both money and revenge on the people who ruined his family’s lives, then promptly eats his gun, leaving Travis with nothing but unanswered questions. As Travis follows the clues left by his father and uncovers some deep dark secrets, he ends up with ammunition that make some powerful people very nervous. When his friends and family start dying, Travis realizes that these people play for keeps. If he’s is going to survive, he needs to learn—fast.
The story is complicated, clever, and very fast paced. It will grab you by the throat and not let go. If you want to figure out who the good guys and who the bad guys are in this mystery/thriller, you’ll need to pay close attention, or you’ll miss important clues. And, even then, you probably won’t figure it out until the very end.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Ruined Days by Guinotte Wise is the story of lies, betrayal, and deep dark secrets—dangerous ones. Our protagonist, Travis, is a middle-aged self-employed flooring contractor, living his mundane life—mundane, that is, until his dying father sends for him. Against his better judgment, Travis flies home to say goodbye to his father and, hopefully, repair their damaged relationship. But when he gets there, his father, Reno Pete, starts confessing all the things he did while working as an assassin for the CIA. Travis is caught completely by surprise, never having known his father even worked for the clandestine agency. To top it off, Reno tells his son that his inheritance is buried in the yard of the house where they used to live, but it’s not money, gold, or jewelry. Oh, no. It’s information. Information that certain powerful people will do anything to keep from becoming public knowledge. But Travis isn’t the only one who’s heard of Reno Pete’s death, and the assassins are coming after him. If he going to not only survive, but thrive, he’s going to have to be smarter, faster, and more determined than his enemies—just like his father was.
Ruined Days is a fun, exciting, and sometimes scary read. I loved Travis’s subtle humor, clever mind, and devil-may-care attitude—a down-to-earth guy, you can’t help rooting for. The story will catch and hold your interest from the very first page, so plan on missing some sleep until you finish.
Travis sighed, tilting back the last of his tepid Coors to wash down three aspirin. His old man’s shitbox home in Daytona was the last place he’d wanted to go in this world, other than maybe Kabul.
“But he’s dying,” she’d said on the phone.
His first thought had been, finally.
And the guilt started again. He snapped the cap back on the aspirin bottle. Laying floor tile was torture on his back. Now this. But he could use some time off from the relentlessly unrewarding business he’d gotten himself into. A forced retiree and his son were looking at buying it, god knew why. Maybe while he was in Daytona, they’d come to their senses, or maybe even say yes.
A shooter of pain seemed to bounce from temple to temple then subsided. His feet on the coffee table, he caught his reflection in the blank black flat screen directly across from him, the big TV he rarely turned on. Thinning hair, broken beak from the ring, still-square shoulders, not too bad a gut.
All in all, the outside Travis was holding up okay for fifty-three, going on ninety, or feeling like it.
“Pete wants to see you. He has something important to give you,” Flame had said.
Travis rather liked Flame. She’d been with his dad the longest yet. She was the last in a line of way-younger-than-his-old-man’s lady friends. “Mail it,” he’d said.
He thought back to when he was a kid, a lifetime ago, when they’d lived in Vegas and his mom was still alive. The old man had come home in a sweat one afternoon and said to his mom, “Pack up everything you can get in the car, now. We’re leaving.” And they did. Travis shook his. They’d moved to fucking Kansas, leaving Travis’s almost new bike in the garage, his carefully plastic-wrapped Captain America comic collection up for grabs.
The old man was crossways with ATF in some bullshit scheme to ship a load of AK-47s to a guy in one of his banana hot spots.
Kansas had turned out okay, actually, and Travis would return there often to stay with his dad’s brother, his uncle Cobb and Vinita, his aunt. Kansas was what he remembered as home now. Cobb lived in the Marais de Cygne Wildlife Refuge, which was unlike any other part of Kansas. Lush, green, Amazonian, the Marais de Cygne River snaked through the refuge and huge birds took off almost lazily like overloaded C-5 transports from the jungle encroached banks. It was a Huck Finn world for Travis, still was.
They’d moved to Mexico for a while. Bored, Travis had opened some boxes in the shed and found land mines. He didn’t know what they were–olive drab things with military printing on them. The old man caught him. He’d grabbed him by his skinny kid arms, slammed him up against the wall, and looked at him with those water-blue eyes. “Those fuckers will ruin your day a lot worse than I ever will.”
Travis got it. The old man could ruin your day. Reno Pete, they called him. Always sniffing out the next bonanza. He did some time for arms trafficking, tax evasion, once for breaking and entering. He always got out early. Half the prison time he did was for someone else and he never talked. Cobb had told Travis that, in Pete’s defense.
Now, the dyed redhead said he was croaking. Travis called her Flame, Reno’s name for her, though she preferred Myrna. Maybe fifty-five, she soaked up the tropical sun over the years, smoked and drank too much, had that fine-lined sun-leathered skin and fake tits, and could have been a looker back in the day. She’d sounded sober when she called.
Flame was there, waiting as the herd milled out into the airport. Travis hoped she didn’t expect hugging and all that. She was deeply tanned, wearing baggy linen cargo shorts, a linen blouse with palm fronds on it, silver jangly bracelets, and hoop earrings. She didn’t look half bad for an old lush with false eyelashes and elephant skin.
“Travis,” she said, “You look so…prosperous.”
He didn’t know what to say to that. He was wearing an old khaki sport coat and jeans. Maybe it was the watch. It would pass for a Rolex, if you didn’t look too closely. It was his ex-wife’s ex’s, and that asshole probably stole it.
“Hi, Flame. You’re looking good.”
The car was an older Crown Vic. It sounded like the tailpipes were leaking. Everything rusted down here. She lit up as she drove, raised her head, and blew a plume out her mouth. The AC fought to keep up with the humidity. Her tanned legs still had shape to them. Maybe she’s quit drinking, he thought. She seemed more alert, less sarcastic.
“So how’s the flooring business?” she asked, cutting a look over at him, flicking ashes into an overfull ashtray.
“I’m selling it,” he said, “Actually got a buyer.”
“Pete is really sick, Travis. The doctor says a month, maybe six. He’s…I don’t know…making amends or something.”
He doesn’t have enough time if he lives to be a hundred, Travis thought but didn’t say.
The house looked better than it did last time–fresh coat of paint maybe, plants well-tended, even lush. A breeze made the palm leaves clack, a sound he associated with vacations, a few good times.
Pete was stretched out on a ratty lounge chair, watching TV. He turned when they came in and tried to sit up.
“Look what the cat drug in,” he attempted to say, half of it lost in a coughing spasm.
Flame helped him up to a sitting position, held a glass of water from the side table to his lips, and the coughing subsided. He looked like he should in his condition–his aloha shirt hanging too large on his frame, his legs emphatically skinny in the khaki shorts.
“Pops,” Travis said, “How you doing?”
“Fuck’s it look like?” he said, but not in an angry way. He smiled, those blue eyes lighting a little. Residual cough.
Flame had Travis put his bag in the tiny back bedroom. Reno slept in the living room now, wouldn’t go to a hospital. He kept a Glock 23 under a towel on the Barcalounger. No surprise there. Drop guns were part of him. Flame slept in the other bedroom. Travis heard her in the small kitchen, banging an ice tray on the sink, then clinks in a glass.
“Bourbon and water, thanks,” he said.
“Make it two,” Reno said, gazing at Travis. He’d gone downhill fast since the last visit, Travis noted. As usual he had the AC at freezing.
It was a hospice situation, Flame the caregiver. On days she wanted out, they got a nurse type from down the road. Pete wouldn’t stand for any contract nurses, and no more doctors since the last clinic visit. “I’m kakking. I don’t need to pay some sonofabitch in a white coat to tell me that. I’ll do it my way. Ashes in a cardboard box. Scatter ’em in Tulsa, anywhere by the Glenn Pool field. Finis.”
One shot, in the night. Travis crawled on his hands and knees in his skivvies, peered around the corner. Pete had wrapped his head in a towel, spread a plastic sheet under himself, ate the Glock.
It’s not like TV, Travis thought. No tape, no fingerprinting. It was perfunctory. Flame was okay, down, but okay. Pete had willed her three grand a month from some oil lease in Louisiana. He had no social security, it turned out, at least not a valid number. He was a ghost back then, Travis thought. A real one now.
© 2015 by Guinotte Wise