Juno Books

An Excerpt From Concrete Savior by Yvonne Navarro

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Although the world outside her window was washed in summer and sunshine, her soul was soaked in blackness as she stood at the window and thought about her husband's hands.

They were larger than hers, and roughened by work and sports. He liked to get together with his friends and play softball, football, basketball, or just horse around, and it was stereotypically male the way he could fix a leaking pipe or change a flat tire--which was how they'd met two years ago--or take down the guy with the football in a bone crushing tackle. There was, however, nothing conventional about the way he made her feel when he touched her; the surfaces of his fingers might look like weathered sandpaper but they felt like hot silk as they slid over her skin. He thrilled her body, but he also touched her heart in a way no one else had ever been able to accomplish. She could almost feel him touching her now, but it wasn't in a good way.

No, not in a good way at all.

She had planned to be all but unpacked by now. Last Saturday they should have had the last of the boxes from the other place taped, packed, and loaded into the back of some rattling rental truck that would have overheated had they tried using the air-conditioning. She should have been happy and laughing, dripping with sweat as she sat in Chicago's August traffic even as one of those enormous sweet Italian lemon ices from a street vendor chilled the space between her knees while the love of her life threatened the driver in front of them with hilarious, nonsensical curses.

Instead, she was staring out the living room window but seeing nothing but the image of her husband's hands flickering in front of her eyes. It was sort of like when she'd had too much to drink; her teetering thoughts would struggle to focus on something for a few seconds and everything in her brain would center around that as her vision literally blanked out for a second or two. She didn't know if that happened to other people, but it was a given for her if she went much over two glasses of red wine. She'd always found it funny and vaguely fascinating--the chemistry and effects of alcohol--but only because she seldom drank that much unless she was safely at home.

There was nothing amusing about it now. She didn't want to be thinking about her husband's hands, or trying to concentrate on how they felt or looked or smelled when they were in the shower together and he cupped her face with soap-covered fingers and kissed her on the lips. She wanted to feel his hands. See them. Lick his warm fingertips, flick the edges of his fingernails with her own just because it annoyed him.

Her gaze moved away from the window and she turned back toward the room, couldn't stop herself even though that was the last thing in the world she wanted to do. Was it still there?

Yep, right on the table, tucked between a box half filled with kitchen things and the dispenser of packing tape.

The ring box that their wedding set had come in.

She walked to the table, still feeling like she was in that alcohol-tinged fog where she'd lose a few seconds at a time. First she was at the window, then she was three steps away from the table, then she was there and reaching for the white and gold square. She couldn't stop herself from nudging the little swing latch to the side but the lid stuck when she tried to lift it, and she knew why, oh yes--

She opened it for at least the tenth time since she'd answered the telephone this morning and been told it was waiting, that ring box, and the sound that escaped her was more like the mewling of a tortured animal than anything human. The apartment was dim, no it was black, black like the inside of her heart and the edges of her soul as she gazed at the gore-rimmed edge of the box and her husband's finger wedged inside, the ragged end of it encircled by the band of gold that was supposed to unite them forever.

Chapter One

Glenn Klinger had never liked the subway. The smells, the crowds, the filth and the noise...yeah, especially that. He couldn't think of anything more unnatural than a corridor forced through the ground, then filled with concrete and metal. It was a hole ripped into the heart of the earth, a puncture wound that would never be allowed to heal. Instead, over time it filled with rats, garbage, and the used, putrid air of the millions of people who had traveled through it, who had stood on the platforms and smoked and stank and swore while they waited for a train that would haul them off to jobs they hated, wives or husbands they despised, homes that were more like prisons than the sanctuaries that had once filled their dreams.

He shuffled his feet and rubbed at a stain on the ground with the toe of one shoe. Was that blood? Probably, yet another disgusting addition to the never-ending sewer-soup of public transportation. The red-brown spot was almost star-shaped, a blob of biohazard hocked at the ground by some wino or disease-riddled addict, and here he'd stepped on it and would carry the germs right into his life via the bottom of his work shoes.

So be it. He could handle that and whatever other craptastic thing life would throw at him today. He'd just take it in and store it, push it down deep and move on, just like he always did. No temper tantrums or rants, no being a public asshole like so many of the people he had to deal with every day. But people were shits, plain and simple. His old man was always saying that, and for once the old fuck was right about something. Not much else, though. Dad was just like Glenn's boss, Paul Remsley--and wasn't he just fucking famous for screaming at his underlings for everything under the sun?--and his coworkers, too. Know-it-alls, every damned one of them. What made them think they were so great, or that they were better than him? Because they drove a better car, or bought their clothes at Macy's instead of Wal-Mart? Well, he would, too, if his wife hadn't cheated on him, emptied the bank accounts, and moved in with Bill Cusack, that bastard who headed up Marketing. She'd even stolen his dog--how was that for incredible? Now every time he vacuumed and mopped that end of the second floor--twice a week--he had to see Bill's shit eating grin and know the man was banging his ex-wife. The latest backstabbing gossip was that Lenore was pregnant and going to real estate school. And all that because Glenn had tried to be friendly with the guys at work and invited a bunch of them--including Bill--over for a weekend barbeque, have some of Glenn's famous bison burgers, watch a little basketball, play with Roxie, Glenn's ten-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback-pit bull mix. Lenore, meet Bill. Bill, meet Lenore. And don't forget to bond real tight with my damned dog while you're at it.


Glenn scowled and rubbed at his temples. He shouldn't be thinking about Bill and Lenore, about having to see that fuckwad wearing clothes he knew Lenore had washed and folded for him, and about how much he missed Roxie. Or about how old Billy-boy was a talker, and now everyone in the plant knew Glenn had been cuckolded and the once love of his life, his childhood-fucking-sweetheart, went home with someone who had a better position, made more money, and at any time could order Glenn to take the garbage out of his office or clean the damned toilets.

A train was approaching. The noise level in the tunnel escalated along with the pressure in Glenn's head. The engine's roar reverberated off the dirty tiles on the walls behind the platform at the same time the crowd of people surged toward the edge. The couple next to him was shouting at each other, something about her not wanting to go to a party because he always got drunk and insulted her in front of their friends. When the guy bellowed back that she dressed like a whore and deserved it, the pulse in Glenn's head began a slam-dance of tension. Little jagged darts of white suddenly zigged in front of his eyes, and when he turned his head to look at the screaming couple, his vision shimmered and filled with streaks of dull yellow and luminescent gray, as though the glow from the walls and overhead fixtures was swirling around him like the trails of car headlights on time lapse film. The pain and noise was building and building and building, until all Glenn could do was jam his fists over his eyes and wish to God it would all just go away.

Casey Anlon had been watching the guy in the gray work uniform for the last ten minutes. He'd slid into step behind him coming down the stairs at the Clark Street transfer point. The man never noticed--Casey was just another face in the masses. It would've been easy to miss him in the afternoon rush hour except that he looked sick, really sick, like he had the mother of all headaches grinding away at the inside of his skull. Casey could tell by the way he winced every time someone's voice rose or another static-riddled announcement spewed out of the ancient speakers. He wasn't very tall, five foot seven if he was lucky, but he looked almost tiny because of the way his shoulders were slumped and the blue-black shadows that bled from below his eyes onto his cheekbones, shadows that seemed almost as dark as the unruly cap of hair that looked as though someone had yanked it in ten directions. His work uniform was clean and neat, a matching gray shirt with the name Glenn stitched onto the left side, tucked into belted pants that were showing a little wear along the knees--a custodian maybe. Casey couldn't help feeling a jab of sympathy. Here the guy looked so sick he could barely stand and he was probably facing a day full of mopping floors and scrubbing toilets. That sure was a hard way to go.

Casey was still ten feet away when the guy went into seizure mode.

People always talk about how horrible events--car or motorcycle accidents, falls, drownings, whatever--felt like they happened in slow motion. No such luck with this. Even though Casey knew it was coming, with it being defined as some unidentified but majorly badass thing that was going to happen to Mr. Glenn Klinger (yes, he even knew the guy's name), he still wasn't prepared. One moment Klinger was rubbing his eyes so hard he looked like he was punching himself in the face, the next he was overbalanced and falling, pitching face forward. But not onto the concrete platform, oh no, that would be too damned easy, too damned convenient--

Instead, Klinger tipped over the edge of the platform and onto the debris-littered track below.

Casey's lunge toward Klinger was too short and too late, by a microsecond or a year, it didn't matter. What did matter was that the hand he reached out swiped at nothing but empty air. Klinger was no longer on the platform; instead, he'd gone head-over-ass and was now five feet below, wadded into a vaguely human shaped lump over the steel rail closest to the edge.

A bunch of people were already screaming but Casey wasn't registering their words. The tunnel curved out of sight about a hundred feet to his right, and when he jerked his face in that direction, Casey could see the glow of a subway train's headlight beginning to brighten the black circle at the far end where the platform ended. The intensity of the glow swelled along with the booming of the train's engine, but no one jumped to Klinger's rescue. There wasn't enough time to pull him up--the train was too close and every horrified person on the platform knew it. When the engineer came around the curve and finally saw the guy, if he saw him at all, he would never be able to stop the train in time.

So Casey jumped onto the tracks with him.

Everything after that was a haze of speed, yanking, darkness, and mind shattering noise. Klinger was heavier than he looked and he was jerking around like a stiff, electrocuted puppet. Speaking of electrocution, it never left Casey's subconscious that both he and Klinger were facing death on more than one front: first from the train hurtling toward them, and second from the electrified third rail only inches above them on the other side of the tunnel floor. If Glenn Klinger so much as touched a single finger, a fingernail, to that shining, live piece of steel ...

They were both dead.

Casey yanked Klinger backward, spun, and splayed himself on top of the other man, bodily forcing him lengthwise between the wheel rails and pressing him into the deep, curved depression at the bottom of the tunnel. Although Casey was taller and heavier than Klinger, the guy was still convulsing beneath him, jittering as though he had a personal dose of lightning running through his veins. All Casey could do was jam his head over the guy's shoulder and push downward, pressing his face into decade's worth of scum and rat droppings as he fought to keep Klinger's arms and legs from jerking above their layered forms. He tasted dirt and wetness, water that was indescribably polluted and tainted with urine and metal. But were they down far enough? Would there be enough space between their bodies and the undercarriage of the train as it passed over them?

Casey's brain gave him a flash mental image of the back of his skull and body, devoid of clothing and skin, wet, scarlet flesh spewing blood across the gray black concrete as pieces of himself were ripped away by the hot, rusting metal. But it was too late to change his mind now. He could hear shouting--
and the enormous rumble of the train coming--
--screams, and the thunder of the train as it bore down--
--then everything that he and Glenn Klinger were in this world was obliterated by blackness and noise.

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