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First Chapter of Havana Homicide

For those of you who’ve yet to read the latest Carina Quintana Murder Mystery, Havana Homicide, here’s a bit of a teaser to (hopefully) encourage you to get the book and read more.  It’s the first chapter, actually, the prologue to the story.

Enjoy!

HAVANA HOMICIDE

by

 David M Benson

  A Carina Quintana Murder Mystery

 

Prologue

Friday, October 17, 1969, Red Hook, Brooklyn

 

The young man held a thirty-eight revolver steady against the underside of the table, pointed at his older companion’s gut, content for the moment to know that he controlled the timing of the older man’s death and savoring the short delay in its delivery.

“War is hell!” the older man bellowed, slamming his fist down on the table, jostling the gun.

Eloy Quintana’s outburst quieted the boisterous crowd around them in the shabby bar, more likely because it had been made in English than because it had been made at all. The younger man sitting across from Eloy merely smiled.

“It was the American Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, who said that,” he added, calmly, in Spanish.

The young man grunted and took a swig of beer, holding the can in his free hand, tightening his grip on the revolver with his other.

“And remember, my friend,” the young man said, “that was spoken by a man who had no doubt as to the integrity of his cause. He was a winner reflecting on the suffering that had been brought upon himself and his brethren even with an outcome of victory.”

Eloy nodded.

“Can you imagine, then,” he snarled, “how much worse it must be for the other side, those who lose not only the war but everything else they have and begin to doubt the integrity of their cause?”

“Like you,” the young man said.

“Dark times, my friend,” Eloy Quintana concluded, his Spanish rustic and his voice as rough as the unfiltered cigarettes he smoked and the rum he drank.

“Is that what you have done, begun to doubt the integrity of your cause?” the young man asked.

Eloy shrugged.

“If by my cause, you mean the defeat of that devil Castro, then yes, perhaps I have,” he replied. “But if instead you mean the broader cause of freedom for the people of Cuba, then no, not at all. And now, here in America–”

“Where you have become a student of American history, quoting Sherman?” the young man asked, smiling.

Eloy raised his middle finger.

“I have always been a student of American history,” Eloy said, “and you should be, as well, now that you are here. Believe me, it is nothing like what you have learned in school in Cuba. But here, for now, all is well, if you do not count the mess in Vietnam, and they have landed a man on the moon.”

“So they say,” the young man replied. “Speaking of history, tell me about the Invasión de Playa Girón. I was too young to recall very much and I have been told you were there.”

Eloy held up his empty glass.

“If you want me to talk about the Bay of Pigs,” he said, “first you must buy me another glass of rum, a double this time.”

The young man finished the last of his beer and signaled the barmaid for another one, and for Eloy’s rum.

“So, the Bay of Pigs invasion, as the Americans call it,” Eloy obliged, “was from the outset likely to result a loss for the invaders, for us, although this is easier to see in hindsight than from the perspective of the men who were there. You see, like Sherman we believed in the integrity of our cause. Still, when one brings together a group of hastily-trained volunteers more or less on the eve of battle and puts them up against a real army, one that has a good idea of the time and place of their foe’s arrival, a disaster should have been foreseeable, even at the time. Not that we saw it, of course, as I said.”

“But the leaders did, the planners?” the young man asked as the barmaid put their drinks down on the table.

Eloy scowled and took a sip of rum.

“Leaders?” he spat out. “They were Harvard boys and politicians who could not plan their way out of this bar if their lives depended on it. So it was not foreseen by the leaders that Castro would beat us back so quickly. Men died, hundreds of us, on beaches and dusty roads and in World War Two surplus bombers and in all manner of boats and in front of Castro’s firing squads.”

“It was a major embarrassment for the United States,” the young man said.

“I am sure they teach you that very well in Cuba,” Eloy said, pausing to light another cigarette. “Kennedy had to admit it was the U.S. that had supported us, this rag-tag paramilitary force of Cuban exiles that had tried and failed to oust Castro. So, instead of killing the scoundrel and his revolution it strengthened his resolve, that bastard Fidel, and his fucking revolution, maybe even legitimized it, at least to some, perhaps to many.”

“As you know I have only recently left Cuba,” the young man said, “and I can tell you that you are right, it did, to many.”

Again Eloy scowled and took a sip of rum.

“And what came next was even worse,” he continued. “The Soviets saw an opportunity too good to be true, ninety miles from Miami, and so we got the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

“I remember,” the young man said.

“American school children, my son included, hid under their desks, but no shots were fired, no buttons were pushed,” Eloy went on. “The Soviets blinked, and left, but that was the end of any U.S. threats against Castro.”

They were quiet for a while, Eloy drinking and smoking and the young man watching him, his finger caressing the trigger.

“You tell it well, the invasion story,” the young man finally said. “And unlike many of the others, you made it back. As you said, not everyone did.”

Quintana shook his head slowly and shrugged as he brought his glass to his lips and drank the oily, dark rum.

“But I lost my best friends and my faith, at least some of it,” he said softly. “There were about 1,400 of us, to start at least. A hundred or so were killed fighting, a handful made it out alive, about 1,200 of us were captured. Some died in custody, a few dozen were executed. The rest of us were sentenced to 30 years in Castro’s prison.”

“And yet, here you are,” the young man said.

“Yes, here I am,” Quintana said, “not dead and no longer behind rusty iron bars in Cuba.”

“In the prisoner exchange?” the young man ventured.

This time Quintana smiled.

“That is what some might call it,” he replied, taking a long swallow of rum. “Kennedy wanted us back and Fidel needed cash. What he got was food and medicine, $53 million worth in all, private money, more or less. As I recall there were even tax breaks for the donors.”

“God bless capitalism, right?” the young man said.

Quintana did not smile.

“It came to nearly $47,000 for me and each of my brothers,” he said. “It will take you five years to make that much.”

The table between them was square and old and like the rest of the bar had not been well cared for in its long life. A pack of Lucky Strikes, a cheap, plastic lighter and three empty beer bottles were scattered across its blemished top, a folded five dollar bill stuck beneath one of them. There was no steel pedestal to hold the table steady, just four rickety legs at its corners. Not ideal, perhaps, but the arrangement left plenty of room for a clear shot straight across from a gun held just below its gnarled edge.

The two men were silent for a moment. Around them bottles and glasses clinked, Chucho Valdes’ Cuban jazz wafted from the jukebox, cue sticks struck yellowed cue balls on formerly green felt and men talked and argued and shouted, mostly in Spanish. In all, the racket would be more than enough to muffle the champagne cork pop of that the home-made silencer would provide when the young man fired.

“In your version of the story, old man, you are a hero,” the young man said. “But you conveniently forget what happened in the years before.”

“Please don’t tell me that things were worse before the so-called revolution, under Batista,” Eloy leaned forward and hissed. “For one thing, you were a child, and for–”

The young man cut him short.

“I was not referring to Batista, or to any of that,” he said. “I meant only the jobs you did when you were not strutting around the Regla d’Oro as if you owned it. Those are the times I mean.”

Quintana looked at him quizzically as he picked up his drink.

“I remember things different things,” the young man went on. “For example, I remember, a few days before Christmas in 1958, when you killed my father and my uncle.”

Quintana eyebrows rose slightly and he leaned back in his chair but he said nothing.

“So you see,” the young man went on, “in my version of history, Cuban history, you are not merely a traitor to the Revolution, you are also a murderer who was lucky to avoid being taken for what you really are while you were in Fidel’s prison. If you had been, believe me, you would not have left it alive. But luck runs out.”

He steadied the top of the gun against the bottom of the table and squeezed the trigger.

Quintana’s face showed an instant of confusion, which quickly gave way to pain, and then, as he looked down at his belly and the red mass soaking into his shirt, grief.

The young man stood, slipping the gun back into the hip pocket of his gray work pants as he did. He took another five dollar bill from his wallet and set it down on the table with the other. Then he leaned over, clapped Quintana twice on the shoulder, smiled at him and walked out of the bar.

 

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Looking for a Last-Minute Holiday Gift Idea?

…or, perhaps, a stocking stuffer for the avid reader(s) in your life?

A paperback copy of Dark Fire; Yesterday’s Tears would make a great gift (and the cover art alone will make them smile!).

While fans of science fiction will certainly be delighted with Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears, you don’t need to be a sci-fi addict to enjoy the story.  As the back cover description says, DFTY is really “a love story for all time.”

So get yourself to Amazon.com. They’ll get as many copies as you need to you in plenty of time!

Havana Homicide Goes Deep!

All right, I suppose it would be more accurate to announce that “Havana Homicide goes BROAD” but, hey, this is football season, right!

Anyway, in addition to its existing availability through Amazon, Havana Homicide is also now available from the Apple iBooks Store, as well as other e-book outlets.

So who needs Monday Night Football–especially when it’s the 5-6 Colts vs the 3-8 Jets–when there’s Havana Homicide to make your Monday night more interesting!

Fidel May Be Dead, But Havana Homicide Is Now Alive!

The setting for Havana Homicide seemed very timely when I sat down to begin work on the book last Spring, but with the recent death of Fidel Castro it has become even more topical. And while the book doesn’t attempt to double as a primer on Cuban history, much of it is set against a backdrop of mid-century Havana. Personal memories might well be jogged, at least among readers of a certain age, by scenes set in the 1950s vibrant pre-Castro city, as well as those taking place before, during and after the Bay of Pigs invasion.

In any case, Havana Homicide is now available from Amazon, although it will likely be a week or so until it also becomes available through the Apple Store and other e-book outlets.

As the Amazon teaser puts it:

Havana Homicide is the latest in the Carina Quintana Murder Mysteries series. Something as prosaic as a police chiefs convention brings Carina to Havana but she’s got way stronger Cuban connections than that. Her grandparents emigrated from Cuba just before Castro’s revolution, bringing Carina’s Cuban-born father to the the United States. And her family history, particularly that of her tough guy grandfather, who ran a casino in Havana for the mob before the revolution and who died before she was born, is woven into the plot. Murder abounds; it is, after all, a Carina Quintana Murder Mystery!  Here, though, the killer does not seem to care how much evidence he leaves behind. Catch me if you can seems to be his mantra, or his dare. But the manner in which present day killings in Florida intersect with much earlier crimes in Havana drives the twists and turns of the complex story. And Carina is not the only present day figure with descendants that influence current events, nor, it turns out, is she the only one with connections to her grandfather. Carina’s wife Alice is along for the ride, of course, as is Carina’s team of Fort Lauderdale PD detectives. But for Havana Homicide the devil is in the antagonists, including a Steve Jobs-like fellow with more than a little fascinating history of his own and a Cuban secret policeman with a long memory and a few of his own surprises.

But on your seats belts, it is going to be a bumpy ride!

Havana Homicide

Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve added a post, too long, in fact. But I’ve been busy working on a new book and didn’t want to do “the reveal” until it was nearly done. And now it is!

As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this post, the new book is called Havana Homicide and, yes, it is–or will be–the latest in the Carina Quintana Murder Mysteries series. But if you’re thinking that all the news about Cuba opening up to American visitors and such was the impetus for adopting it as a prime locale for the story, you’d only be partly right. All the talk and air play certainly elevated it to the front of my mind, but the fact is that Cuba’s been in my thoughts for many years.  My parents spent their honeymoon in Havana in 1946 and my beautiful wife visited with her mom and grandmother when she was small. Oh, and the first short series of books I wrote (but did not publish) years ago, the Hunter novels, all took place there.

So what is it that brings Carina to Havana now? It’s something as prosaic as a police chiefs convention that takes place there but she’s got way stronger connections than that. Her grandparents emigrated from Cuba just before Castro’s revolution, bringing Carina’s Cuban-born father to the the United States. And her family history, particularly that of her tough guy abuelo, who ran a casino in Havana for the mob before the revolution and who died before she was born, is woven into the plot.

Murder abounds; it is, after all, a Carina murder mystery! But the manner in which present day killings in Florida intersect with much earlier crimes in Havana drives the twists and turns of the complex story. And Carina is not the only present day figure with descendants that influence current events–or, it turns out, with connections to her grandfather.

Carina’s wife Alice is along for the ride, of course, as is Carina’s team of Ft. Lauderdale PD detectives. But for Havana Homicide the devil is in the antagonists, including a Steve Jobs-like fellow with more than a little fascinating history of his own and a Cuban secret policeman with a long memory and a few of his own surprises.

Havana Homicide is nearing completion and I expect it to be published in time for holiday reading. That should give you time to catch up on any of the seven earlier Carina books you might have missed or, if you’re in a sci-fi state of mind, Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears.

Happy reading!

Summer Reading Season

…is coming to a close! So if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to go to Amazon or Apple iBooks and get yourself a copy of the latest Carina Quintana Murder Mystery–Money Side Up–to complete your summer reading.

Of course, if you missed the seven Carina books that preceded Money Side Up, those just happen to be available from the same sources! Those are:

Late Boomer

 Roomer Has It

 White Tie & Tales

 Dead On a Rival

 Loose Canon

 All the Rage

And last but not at all least, if you’re more in the mood to finish your summer reading off with some great sci-fi/romance, pick up a copy of Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears from the same source, in either e-book or paperback.

And enjoy the rest of your summer!

The Review Is In!

My diversion (divergence?!?) into sci-fi has now been reviewed by Kirkus Indie, the largest reviewer of independent books, and the news is pretty darn good. After parsing the plot, Kirkus goes on to say this about Dark Fire; Yesterday’s Tears:

By novel’s end, the [time travel] device is deployed several times in a fast-paced series of
showdowns, with [the female protagonist]Sim lost at one point and the U.S. president trying to snag the time machine. Benson (Money Side Up, 2016, etc.) shifts gears from his previous Carina Quintana police procedurals/mysteries to produce an entertaining romance/spy mashup that lays the groundwork for his next series. The novel is best at establishing its Duff/Sim tensions, with a particularly engaging emotional payoff in this couple’s lightning round of resurrections/meetings….[T]his is an enjoyable tale and a promising series launch. A clever, satisfying time-bending love story and adventure.

So, if you haven’t already, go snag a copy (paperback or electronic) of Dark Fire: Yesterday’s Tears. It will make great summer/beach reading!