The Bone Records by Shamus award winning author Rich Zahradnik
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The Bone Records
NY Police Academy washout Grigg Orlov discovers an eerie piece of evidence at the scene of his father’s brutal murder: a disc-shaped X-ray of a skull. It’s a bone record—what Soviet citizens called banned American songs recorded on used X-rays.
But the black-market singles haven’t been produced since the sixties. What’s one doing in Coney Island in 2016?
Grigg uncovers a connection between his father and three others who collected bone records when they were teenage friends growing up in Leningrad. Are past and present linked? Or is the murder tied to the local mob? Grigg’s got too many suspects and too little time. He must get to the truth before a remorseless killer takes everything he has.
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Praise for The Bone Records
“The Bone Records grabs you by the throat on the very first page, then never slows down as it takes you on a wild ride through New York City streets filled with Russian intrigue, underworld crime, police corruption and a man’s desperate quest to avenge his father’s murder. Shamus Award-winner Rich Zahradnik has written a taut, terrifically exciting and thought-provoking thriller.” —R.G. Belsky, award-winning author of the Clare Carlson mystery series
“The plot is not only timely, but utterly unique—a tale of cultures colliding, often with sudden and unexpected consequences, as lonely city claims-adjuster Grigg Orlov spends his long nights chasing down leads on the mysterious disappearance of his father… This is a compelling read, highly recommended.” —LA Times bestselling author Baron R. Birtcher
“A fast-paced thriller set around Coney Island during the tumultuous lead-up to the 2016 presidential election… The Bone Records is a well-crafted mountain of intrigue and non-stop action.” —Bruce Robert Coffin, award-winning author of the Detective Byron Mysteries
“A wonderfully flawed protagonist and a complex mystery combine with current events in Zahradnik’s best novel to date. The Bone Records had me hooked from page one.” —Elena Taylor, award-winning author of All We Buried and the Eddie Shoes mystery series
Excerpt — The Bone Records
Friday, August 19, 2016
Grigg’s reunion with his father was brief—eight minutes to be exact—and ended when a man with a nickel-plated revolver shot Dad twice.
Three hours before the violence began, Grigg struggled through the crowd on the Coney Island subway platform. He was the last to reach the stairway to the station’s exit. Again. Even the old folks were gone. His wrecked knee held him back.
Outside the station, Deno’s Wonder Wheel turned slowly, towering over the amusement park that took its name from the ancient fifteen-story ride. The wheel’s spokes glowed a hot neon white. Hazy coronas surrounded all the lights.
Grigg had started wearing his father’s Timex soon after he had gone missing. He put the watch up to his ear, as he’d done too many times before. It wasn’t loud enough to be heard. The clockwork noise was in his head. Maybe a reminder to keep looking. Maybe a reminder that six months was already too long in missing persons cases.
His father’s watch read 8:18 p.m.
He limped away from Coney Island’s amusement parks toward his house on West 28th off Mermaid Avenue. As he did, the street darkened. He checked behind him more than once. The neighborhood became far less amusing as night came on—and the farther you went from the fun parks. Mugging wasn’t the thrill ride Grigg needed. He didn’t want any more trouble. He had a lifetime’s supply. His long days pinballed him between two jobs and the search for his father.
But despite Grigg’s best efforts, the minutes and hours and days kept spinning off the Timex, found by the police in a Howard Beach motel room, the last place his father was seen before he vanished into the thin March air. Their empty house waited to reflect Grigg’s loneliness back at him. His mother had died when he was eighteen months old. His boss at the city’s claims adjustment office rarely talked to him outside of giving orders. All of his connections—he couldn’t really call them friends—in the neighborhood he owed to his father. Dad, like the rest of them, had immigrated from Russia. Unlike the rest of them, he’d married a woman from Jamaica, a union that guaranteed Grigg would always be on the outside in Little Odessa.
The rubber soles of his cheap dress shoes slapped the wet pavement. A thunderstorm had blown through while he was on the subway, leaving behind the sticky-thick humidity. His messenger bag tugged on his shoulder.
He went over the lead he’d uncovered tonight. Going door-to-door in a Midwood apartment building full of Russians, he’d talked briefly to a tenant named Freddy Popov, who recognized Grigg’s father when shown a photo. Popov said a man—maybe a cop—had been canvassing the building with a picture of Grigg’s dad four weeks earlier. Inside the man’s apartment and shielded by Popov, someone said something in Russian. Popov got hinky, then said he didn’t know anything more and slammed the door. Grigg banged on it until a woman across the hall threatened to call the cops. He left with only the knowledge that someone else—maybe a cop?—was also searching for Dad. Still, that bit of info was his biggest lead to date.
Grigg limped up to the small, two-story brick house—kitchen, living room, two bedrooms over a garage—a duplicate of the other attached homes on the street. He unlocked the steel gate, then the front door, and stepped inside.
The thunk of the door closing echoed through the house. Two days ago, Grigg had moved everything out except for the sleeping bag in his bedroom of twenty-seven years and a blue duffel, readying the old house for its new owners. He turned the deadbolt.
He shouldn’t be staying here tonight. He’d spent all his free time on the search for Dad, right up until the closing on the sale of the house. Even at the end, he’d hoped for a breakthrough that would save him from selling. He’d signed the papers yesterday, writing a check for $1,650—most of his savings—because the house was underwater on a second mortgage his father had taken out. Grigg knew the out-of-state buyers wouldn’t be moving in for three weeks, so he’d kept a copy of the key.
Trespassing in my own house. Inviting trouble when I already have too much.
The plan was to use the next three weeks to find an apartment share, but the lead from Popov tugged at his thoughts. Would it pull so hard that he’d spend his free time searching for Dad and end up homeless? He ducked his own question and instead pictured going back to demand Popov tell him more. He shook his head. He could barely keep his mind on his housing problem for the space of a single thought. He took a beer out of the refrigerator, went up to his room, and rolled his sleeping bag into a fat pillow to lean against.
Grigg popped open the 90 Years Young Double IPA. Nine percent alcohol. The strong stuff he’d dubbed “floor softener.” He downed two sixteen-ounce cans, and the ache faded from the muscles in his damaged leg.
He took out his phone. He’d run through his data allowance last week. Three days until the new billing cycle. At least he had his music. He played the Decembrists, their songs about revenge and ships at sea set to jangly indie rock. He followed with the Killers, then Vampire Weekend.
His father’s watch read 11:20 p.m.
He opened his notebook and wrote down “Day 191” along with what he’d learned. It was longer than any previous entry—yet not long at all. So many days. The silence in the house chilled him, sending goosebumps in waves over his arms and thighs. He got up and turned down the air conditioner. It wouldn’t help. He missed his father’s voice, the way it had warmed their home. They could talk about everything and anything, a lot of anything, but such interesting anything. Dad was always there with his questions, his curiosity, and his deep interest in whatever Grigg was up to. There were days his father was more intrigued by Grigg’s job than Grigg was. Even that helped.
A fourth beer. He floated on the wood floor of his empty bedroom. Slept.
A thump. The floor hardened underneath him. Another thump. Half buzzed, halfway to a headache, Grigg opened his eyes. He heard it again. Not a dream. On the roof. He followed the steps above him to his father’s empty bedroom. He was about to switch on his phone’s flashlight when legs—silhouetted by the glow from the street across the way—dangled over the room’s tiny balcony. They descended slowly, inching, hesitating, as if the intruder were no expert at this sort of move. The toes stretched to touch, and finally, the person dropped, stumbled, and landed on their knees.
Grigg didn’t know whether to laugh or arm himself. If this was a robbery, then the joke was going to be on a thief who’d picked a house with nothing in it. Grigg decided discretion was the better part of whatever, returned to his bedroom, and pulled the stun gun from his messenger bag. Ever since he’d been attacked when he was in the police academy—suffering the knee injury that forced him to drop out—he hadn’t felt safe unless he carried the weapon.
He placed the messenger bag next to his duffel in the hallway in case he needed to get out fast. In the kitchen, he grabbed his second six pack as a backup weapon.
Of course, he could escape by the front and leave the intruder for the police to deal with. But if he did, then the buyers would be notified, and he’d lose the three weeks of temporary housing he’d been counting on.
He crept through the doorway into the main bedroom.
The figure, whose face remained in deep shadow because of the streetlight glow from behind, rattled the handle to the single balcony door, used his elbow to smash in the square pane nearest the knob, reached in, and turned the simple metal lock. As he pushed the door open, Grigg stepped forward, hit his phone’s light, and thrust forward the stun gun.
“Get the fuck out of my house!”
The figure froze. “I’m not going to hurt you, Grigg.”
Grigg moved closer.
Full beard and longer hair, but it was him.
Grigg didn’t know whether to hug his father or scream at him.
“I came to say goodbye,” Dad said.
“I’m leaving. For Russia. I don’t know when I’ll be able to return. It’s the only way.”
“I don’t understand.” Any of it. “You said you’d never go back.”
“It’s the only way to fix things.”
“Things? What things?” Popov’s suggestion about a cop. “Are the police after you?”
A click came from the front door, and Grigg spun. Seeing his father and not an intruder had put the brakes on his fear. Now, his heart raced. He squeezed the handle of the stun gun with a sweaty hand. Keep it together.
The knob turned.
The front door flew open.
Purchase The Bone Records here.
Rich Zahradnik — Author of The Bone Records
Rich Zahradnik is the author of the thriller The Bone Records and the four critically acclaimed Coleridge Taylor mysteries, including Lights Out Summer, winner of the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America.
Lights Out Summer won the 2018 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Private Eye Novel. The first three books in the series collected awards in the three major competitions for books published by independent presses. A Black Sail was named best mystery in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Drop Dead Punk received the gold medal for mystery ebook in the 2016 IPPY Awards, while Last Words won the bronze medal for mystery ebook in the 2015 IPPYs and honorable mention for mystery in the Foreword Reviews competition.
“Taylor, who lives for the big story, makes an appealingly single-minded hero,” Publishers Weekly wrote of Drop Dead Punk.
Zahradnik was a journalist for 27 years, working as a reporter and editor in several different media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine and wire services. He held editorial positions at CNN, Bloomberg News, AOL and The Hollywood Reporter.
Zahradnik was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and received his B.A. in journalism and political science from George Washington University. He lives with his wife Sheri in Pelham, New York, where he writes fiction and teaches kids around the New York area how to publish newspapers. He is providing guidance to the Pelham Examiner, the first community newspaper in New York State managed, edited, reported, and written by people under the age of eighteen.
Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery
The Foundation of Plot, a Wait, Wait, Don’t Query (Yet!) guidebook.
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