Saturday, August 22, 2015

"The Replacement" by Jason Pellegrini

The Replacement
by Jason Pellegrini

The Replacement is the debut novel by Jason Pellegrini. The author joins me today to share an excerpt from the book. You can also read my review.

After a violent altercation with an infamous New York City drug lord, Patrick Sullivan believed his career in law enforcement was over. Yet, not even a year after his resignation, he finds himself back on the job. This time, a detective in the homicide unit.
While battling the ghosts of his past, Patrick and his new partner, veteran detective Jonathan Hawkins, find themselves chasing a killer who is constantly one step ahead of them.
As the body count increases and no substantial leads are discovered, tension between the two cops threatens to boil over. They attempt to coexist as they hunt down a sadistic serial killer who does more than just take his victims' lives.

Chapter 1
It was an average New York City day.
The usual congestion of traffic swamped the streets, and the sounds of horn blasts dominated the afternoon air. The sidewalks swelled with people of every race, color, and religion. Each coming and going; minding their own business, not talking to one another. Just trying to get where they need to be with minimal hassle. Still, somehow the streets boomed with the deafening sounds of activity. From below, sounds and vibrations of the constant running subway systems (along with the not-so-faint odor of urine) drifted up through the sewer grates as they pounded along from one stop to the next. There were street performers of all kinds, here and there. Hot dog vendors and McDonalds almost everywhere. Nothing—maybe except the traffic, which could only be described as sluggish, at best—moved slowly. Everything and everyone moved at a million miles an hour.
All in all, it was an average New York City day.
Patrick Sullivan sat in his police cruiser, enjoying the few precious moments of his ass-busting day where he could sit back, drown out the rest of the world, and enjoy a single cup of coffee.
Patrick had been a member of the New York City Police Department for six years. Every day, since his first day out of the academy, when he was placed in the dingiest and poorest parts of the five boroughs—where he often wondered if he was even going to make it through the day alive—he managed to find those few important minutes where he could, in peace, drink his coffee.
He took his daily Cup of Joe the same way every day; black as the devil’s soul. He never added a single drop of milk or sugar, and he certainly never added any of that flavored creamer crap people were always pouring into their coffees these days. He simply drank it black.
As if the grimace look etched upon his face each time he took a sip wasn’t enough, Patrick often admitted the taste of black coffee was vile.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the taste of this crap,” he often said.
He joked with friends and colleagues that it put hair on his chest and kept him more alert than that coffee diluted with milk, sugars and creamers. The truth was, Patrick had no idea why he drank his coffee that way. It had simply become habitual, and he was in too deep to break it now.
The familiar Manhattan sounds and smells (mostly unpleasant) filled his cruiser, but Patrick was completely oblivious to them all. At that moment, he and his black mistress were the only two things that existed in the universe.
He brought the cup to his lips, blew down on the steaming surface, and took a long sip. He cringed at the familiar detestable taste, and just like every sip that came before it, it was perfection.
Patrick Sullivan had only made it to his third sip before some moron on a bike crashed onto the hood of his cruiser.
Patrick was viciously ripped from his safe haven; dragged back to harsh reality, like an angel being expelled from heaven and thrown back to the plain of humanity, where it would be forced to walk among such ugliness after knowing such divine beauty.
To say he was not pleased by this sudden inconvenience would have been an understatement. This, like his distaste for black coffee, was obvious by the look on his face. With a stony stare, Patrick bore a hole through the young man. The bicyclist looked utterly petrified, and who could blame him? Not only did he crash his bike into a police cruiser, but the officer inside was obviously not very pleased about it.
“S-S-Sorry, sir,” the young man managed to say in a broken, nervous voice. The actual words were drowned out by the loud city sounds—not to mention the screaming rage inside Patrick’s head—but Patrick was able to read his lips just fine.
“It’s fine,” Patrick shouted through his cracked window. “Just move along.”
Relieved that he hadn’t gotten into any trouble, the bicyclist thanked Patrick with a wave and a smile, then rode away. Patrick watched him through the rearview mirror as he disappeared; sinking into the monstrous sea of Manhattan life.
Patrick tried to return to his cup of coffee and a few more moments of peace, but it was too late.
The moment had passed, and now he was really annoyed. He had told the poor young man, who obviously lost control of his bike trying to weave in and out of traffic (like every other bicyclist in the city) that his accident was fine, but it certainly, most definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, was not fine.
Not even a little bit.
That punk ass on his stupid bike had to crash into Patrick’s car. Of all the cars in the city, it had to be Patrick’s, and it had to be during the few minutes in the day where he was escaping the chaos that was reality. Accident or not, Patrick was pissed off.
Really pissed the fuck off.
What Patrick really wanted to do while that guy was leaning over the hood of the cruiser, his bike tangled between his legs, was get out of the car, get in the idiot’s face, and tell him to watch where the fuck he was going. He wanted to tell the cretin that if he ever crashed into his car again—or into any car in the entire city of New York, for that matter—he was going to take out his gun, and bash his skull into pieces with the butt of it.
He wouldn’t though. He needed to stay composed. Patrick could not allow his emotions to get the best of him.
Knowing it would be a lost cause, but still hanging onto that last shred of false hope, Patrick brought the cup back to his lips for one last effort to sink back into that familiar peace. Like he had expected, all the heavenly feelings that swig of coffee usually brought him were gone. It was nothing more than a cup of disgusting black mud.
The sudden sound of a long, drawn out horn blast from the car behind him caused Patrick to jump in his seat. This resulted in the remaining contents of his cup to spill all over his lap; staining his uniform and, more importantly, burning his legs.
That is it! Patrick screamed in his head. Somebody is definitely getting pistol whipped.
He unbuckled his seatbelt, and grabbed hold of the door handle.
“Temper, Temper, Patrick. You have to control that temper.”
Patrick looked over to the passenger side of his car, and sitting there comfortably was Wallace Freewaters, better known to the community, as Baby Tooth.
Baby Tooth was the ringleader of a circus of drug dealers throughout all five boroughs. He was a tower of a man. His hair was tied back in cornrows, and he was wearing a suit that easily cost two thousand dollars. He frequently lived by the motto ‘Just because a nigga lives amongst the poor, doesn’t mean that he can’t dress with a ‘lil class’.
The truth was, Wallace Freewaters didn’t need to live in one of the worst neighborhoods in New York City. It was common knowledge that Baby Tooth had made quite the fortune for himself thanks to his not-so-legal business. The choice to live in the same rundown neighborhood he had grown up in, was his own. He always said with pride that it was a constant reminder of where he came from, and what he overcame.
That didn’t mean that Baby Tooth didn’t live like a man of class.
He spent most of his nights in some of New York City’s finest clubs. He was there usually on business, supplying a celebrity in town with a weekend fix, or some hot shot business man with a sea of cocaine. However, sometimes he would go for entertainment purposes; never indulging in his own product, though. Baby Tooth may have been dumb enough to sell that shit, but he certainly wasn’t dumb enough to snort it up his nose and rot the brains his dear ‘ol mamma gave him, was another frequently cited line of his.
When he was home, which was mostly during the day to sleep, shower and get ready for a night of business, Baby Tooth’s life was certainly not anything to complain about, despite the location in which he lived.
In addition to his closet full of suits that cost a minimum of two grand a pop, Wallace’s what-should-have-been-a rat hole two room apartment was completely decked out with the most expensive, state-of-the-art home accessories; ranging from his flat screen LED HD television—complete with Blu-ray DVD player and angelic surround sound system—to his six hundred dollar blender that he had never once used.
Owning such elegant and expensive stuff didn’t worry him, either. His belongings were as safe as a baby in its mother’s warm embrace. No matter how desperate people in his neighborhood were for food or money, no one was stupid enough to steal from Baby Tooth.
“We all know what happens when you let your temper get the best of you, Patty Boy,” Baby Tooth said, looking out the windshield at the bustling city life.
“No,” Patrick argued. “You know what happens when I let my temper get the best of me.”
“Very true,” Baby Tooth’s lips parted into a small smile. Patrick could see Wallace’s baby tooth as his grin expanded.
After everything that happened to him that god damn baby tooth still didn’t fall out. Patrick thought.
When Wallace Freewaters was a child, his upper lateral incisor on the left side of his mouth was impacted into his gums. As a result, it never descended, therefore his baby tooth never got pushed out. His parents, who were not blessed with the same fortune their son would one day have, did not have any dental coverage, nor could they afford (or cared enough) to have the problem fixed. He would go on into his teens and then his twenties with his incisor stuck up in his gums.
Over the years the tooth slowly loosened, but never fell out. When he had become wealthy enough to finally see a dentist, Wallace politely declined surgery to remove it, and have his adult tooth pulled down to take its rightful place amongst the rest of his teeth.
In truth, his baby tooth was Wallace Freewaters’ trade mark.
In his teens, when he was just getting started in the business of drug dealing, serving as a mule, Wallace Freewaters had adopted the nickname ‘Baby Tooth’ from his higher-ups. When he reached his twenties, and started to make his way up the ranks, it became more than a simple nickname. It would become his modus operandi.
When a client of Baby Tooth had the misfortune of being short or late in payments, Wallace had a unique and torturous way of making sure this client never forgot his mistake.
After being beaten down, bloodied, and bruised for not being able to pay, Baby Tooth would then proceed to take a pair of pliers, and shove them into his clients’ mouth. He would then proceed to latch onto the upper lateral incisor of the left side of their mouth, and rip it right out with one hard, fierce pull. From that point on, whenever they looked into the mirror and saw the empty space where a tooth once resided, they would always remember to pay Baby Tooth in full, and always remember to pay him on time.
In Patrick’s head, the second horn blast sounded more like a nuclear explosion, and he once again gripped the handle to his car door; ready to get out and give this horn honking asshole a piece of his mind (maybe even a piece of the butt of his gun). He quickly regained his composure. He did not want Baby Tooth to see his temper get the best of him. He wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
It, however, was a little too obvious that Patrick was ready to unleash his fury at any moment. Even though he sat there, staring out the car window (he hadn’t made any eye contact with Patrick since their little chat began), Baby Tooth knew that Patrick was moments away from flying off the hinge. Anger seemed to be seeping from his pores. Or maybe it was because Baby Tooth knew Patrick so well.
“Why you letting this dumb-ass nigga get to you so much?” Baby Tooth asked.
As he asked this considerably reasonable question, Wallace Freewaters continued to stare out into the street ahead. Patrick was glad they weren’t making any eye contact. What he was even more grateful for was that Baby Tooth hadn’t turned towards him. He knew what the other side of that face looked like. He had seen it plenty of times before; in pictures, in the paper, and in his head whenever he closed his eyes. He did not need to see it again.
“You act like this is the first dumb-ass mother fucker who ever got horn happy in Manhattan,” Baby Tooth continued. “People act like this every God damn day. Shit, nigga, there’s no reason to get yourself all worked up.”
Despite his attempts to just ignore it, when the third horn blast came, Patrick could feel his grip on the car door handle tightening; digging in and making impressions in his palm.
“It just pisses me off that people think they can get away with being assholes, that’s all,” Patrick finally managed to say. He really wanted to tell Baby Tooth to fuck off and mind his business, but he was attempting (poorly, but still attempting) to practice control to the best of his abilities. “He can go around me, but he chooses to sit there and blast his horn.”
To this, Baby Tooth responded with another toothy grin, and once again Patrick saw that baby tooth hanging there, long overstaying its welcome, between the central incisor and canine tooth.
“Very true,” he eventually said. Patrick knew he had waited a few seconds before responding just so he could smile, and taunt Patrick with that freaking baby tooth. “But you can’t go letting your temper get the best of you anymore. Like I said, we both know what happens when that temper of yours gets out of control. You got too many people relying on you now to let it happen again. You wouldn’t want to let anyone down… not again.”
Unfortunately, Baby Tooth was right. It was the last thing Patrick ever wanted to admit, but it was the simple truth of the matter. Patrick couldn’t let history repeat itself. Not with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Praise for the Book
"This was a very suspenseful and intriguing ride to say the least. There were quite a few emotional scenes. Some happy ... others that will make you cringe. Many ghosts from the past to be dealt with and many new ones to be had by the time you're done. This is not one for all. There are very graphic, gory scenes and is intended for adults only. [...] All in all, this was very detailed and well written. Great characters and amazing story line." ~ DFL
"Jason Pellegrini's debut brings to mind one of my favorite authors: Stephen King. I'm not just referring to the graphic murder material (of which there is plenty) but more so the intelligent writing and incredibly strong character growth. I also truly enjoyed Pellegrini's ability to make this story highly plausible, unlike the 'over-the-top' murder/mystery novels which unfortunately plague the genre. [...] Overall a stellar debut and I'm looking forward to more from this emerging author." ~ Kevin
"The Replacement was quite a roller coaster ride. The characters were richly drawn and the dialogue was realistic. This was a book that made me want to keep reading. No, this was a book that forced me to keep reading. If you are looking for a fast paced thriller, The Replacement won’t disappoint." ~ Sandra
"The Replacement by Jason Pellegrini is absolutely a thrilling must read for readers everywhere. Highly captivating plot and unique twists that will lead readers straight into the heart of all the danger. [...] This is indeed one interesting and very intriguing novel that readers won’t want to miss out on reading." ~ Danielle Urban
"An excellent read and full of hard hitting action and I can't wait to find out what awaits Patrick Sullivan in future publications. Anyone who likes page turning action which takes you down to the streets then this is the novelist for you." ~ beckvalleybooks

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Patrick Sullivan is a cop with a haunted past who is making a comeback to the police force after a forced hiatus. He begins work as a homicide detective as the replacement for retiring detective Jonathan Hawkins and is thrown into the investigation of the gruesome murder of an old married couple. When the detectives catch another murder case with some similar features, they realize they are now on the hunt for a serial killer, dubbed "the Surgeon". Patrick and Jonathan clash during the investigation, as Patrick tries to live up to expectations and the fact that "he was replacing the person who just so happened to be a messiah to these men."
Bits of Patrick's past are slowly revealed throughout the narrative, giving us a glimpse into his motivations. The book is more a character study than an action thriller. Unfortunately, I found Patrick to be an unlikable character, with no redeeming qualities and prone to introspection. His relationship with wife Claire and son Connor is practically non-existent, made even more unbelievable after we find out how Patrick and Claire first met.
While the story itself is interesting, there are many editing errors, especially with punctuation (apostrophes, commas, semicolons). The prose is flowery and full of rhetoric and clich├ęd similes and metaphors. The narrative needs more dialogue, as we are more often told what has been said, rather than hearing it for ourselves. The story also needs to be edited for length - it is overly long, with too much repetition and unnecessary passages. In addition, I guessed the identity of the Surgeon early on in the story, so even the suspense aspect was lost on me.
Nevertheless, this is a good read if you can see past these shortcomings.
Warnings: coarse language, sex scenes, graphic violence.

About the Author
Jason Pellegrini is a Long Island native. He currently resides in Levittown, New York. The Replacement is his debut novel. He is currently working on his second book.
Jason also founded and participates in the Bookmarks for Hearts campaign, which was created to raise money and awareness for Congenital Heart Defect research.