route 31 ROPE BREAK, the second book in the SAM DELAND CRIME NOVEL series, is still my favorite work, so far. The story within a story was crafted with some personal history, as most of my writing has been. Parts and pieces of larger than life characters that passed by somewhere along the way appear on the pages and help to tell the tale.

Our bad guys have left a trail they wish had been forgotten. Trooper Goddard hasn’t. From ROPE BREAK:

Jimmy was on his third beer by the time they passed through Arcadia and turned south toward Ft. Myers. Russell was driving and had the radio blasting metal music. Jimmy reached over and switched it to classic country, “That’s enough of that screamin’ shit,” Jimmy announced. “My head is pounding. Wish we had some of that weed right now.”

Russell scowled, but didn’t challenge his younger brother. He suddenly slowed and said, “There’s a trooper comin’ at us.”

The black and yellow troop car shot past them at over 70 heading into town. Florida Highway Patrol had radar and laser units that could clock speeders from a stationary position or in oncoming traffic. Russell hoped somehow he had gotten away with it. He watched the rearview mirror for brake lights on the police car, but none came on. He had been doing 75 in a 60 zone. Close call. Now he held it to 65.


Florida Trooper Reginald Goddard, RGod, as his fellow workers and family knew him, was running behind. He actually wasn’t technically on duty yet, but he was hungry and didn’t cook at home, so the all you can eat place on U.S. 17 in Arcadia was his first stop tonight. He was supposed to sign on in his driveway at home and go from there, but it was an hour before that had to be done and he wasn’t going to drive his personal car just to go get something to eat before work.

Reginald used to be called BigR in high school and college, but had trimmed down to 230 on a six three frame. Trooper school was tough and he caught shit because he was big and very black. Not real bad racist shit, but shit, you know. He stood up for himself and after one violent weekend in town where one of the chickenshit cadets in his class had screwed with him at a bar, the name changed. BigR had taken the chickenshit classmate to the edge of death and then pardoned him, hence the new name, “He ain’t Batman, he RGod.”

RGod went to Miami after graduation and lost a lot of money paying for expensive housing on meager trooper pay. And a wife and kid. Divorced and struggling to learn functional Spanish, it had taken him six and a half years to get transferred back up near his folks in LaBelle. A lot cheaper to live and pay child support. Plus Grandma could babysit if he had his daughter on a weekend he had to work.

All in all not too bad. He wrote a few tickets, worked a few crashes and got to tear around backing up the deputies in the counties. Nobody messed with the big trooper anymore.

At a closing speed of 145 miles per hour, RGod didn’t have much time to notice, but he just caught the face of the driver of the dark blue pick-up that barreled past southbound on Route 31.

Russell Santee. Must have gotten rid of the Mustang. RGod said to himself. RGod didn’t have his radar on yet and chuckled at the thought of Russell getting away without a speeding ticket and maybe a dope pinch. Russell had so far avoided RGod’s full wrath, but just happened to be in the passenger seat the night Jimmy got stopped and arrested for drunk driving by Trooper Goddard. RGod remembered Russell because Russell didn’t keep out of the way and had made a big nuisance of himself. It had been a close call, but Russell skated that night. RGod had not forgotten, though.

Trooper Goddard slowed as he came into Arcadia and managed to forget about Russell and Jimmy Santee, at least temporarily, so he could eat his dinner in peace.

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