Different as they are, the Varela brothers are bound by a decades-old secret surrounding the events of one long-ago night during their childhood back home in their native Belize. Today Patrick is the Miami-Dade County commissioner and a probable candidate for mayor of Miami, while his brother, Leo, a sometime poet and mental health worker, spends more time getting high than anything else. Still, they've both been struggling for years to completely sever their ties to their father, his illegal businesses, and his secrets.
But those years quickly vanish the moment an old friend recently released from prison asks Leo to release a patient from the mental hospital where Leo works. He calls it a favor, but the threat is clear to Leo, Patrick, and---more dangerously---the men with a stake in Patrick's political career. The request sets off a chain of events destined to lay bare once and for all the truth about what happened that night, and maybe even to pit brother against brother in their efforts to finally set things right.
Moody, atmospheric, and evocative, Lonesome Point showcases the distinct and rhythmic voice that makes Ian Vasquez a unique talent among today's crime writers.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
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About the Author
Ian Vasquez received his MFA while working on a psychiatric ward and counseling at-risk high school students. Raised in Belize and now a copy editor at the St. Petersburg Times, he lives with this family near Tampa Bay, Florida. Lonesome Point is his second novel.
Ian Vasquez, whose first novel, In the Heat, won the Shamus Award, received his MFA while working on a psychiatric ward and counseling at-risk high school students. He is also the author of Mr. Hooligan and Lonesome Point. Raised in Belize and now a copy editor at the St. Petersburg Times, he lives with his family near Tampa Bay, Florida.
Read an Excerpt
By Ian Vasquez
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Ian Vasquez
All rights reserved.
Walking down a psych ward hallway in Miami, Leo Varela discovered the meaning of life, but by the time he reached the door leading out, he had forgotten what it was.
He recently started telling people this to watch their reaction, especially someone he didn't know well. He'd say it usually at a bar, or a party whenever the conversation turned faintly philosophical, say it with a straight face. There'd be a pause, and then he'd smile to let them know he was only joking. But he relished that second of silence, the curiosity on their faces.
What Leo didn't say: He worked the night shift on the third floor of Jefferson Memorial Hospital's mental health annex, and several times a night he walked the floor doing rounds and a couple of times truly enlightening ideas had revealed themselves, but when he hit the door at the end of the long hall, he'd forgotten them. That's what happens when you're stoned.
Leo wasn't stoned at the moment. Just a little buzzed. Three pulls on a roach at the start of the shift, nothing more than that. He felt mellow strolling the dark hallway, closing the room doors, telling the new patient in Room 307 — checking his clipboard quickly — Turn off the lights, please, Mrs. Delgado, it's time to go to sleep.
A fat, naked Haitian woman trudged out of the women's bathroom, a towel wrapped around her head. She stopped to slurp water from the fountain.
Leo raised his voice down the hall, "Hey, Adelia, put some clothes on, please. Or go to your room, whichever. You know you shouldn't be walking 'round here like that."
Adelia looked up, bent down to slurp some more.
Leo walked past her, writing on the rounds board. When he turned around she was crossing to her room, and he was grateful the lights were out. No need to lose his appetite for a midnight snack. He visited the women's bathroom, that and the men's being the only patient areas lit at night. He picked towels off the floor, dumped them in the clothes hamper. Looked behind the curtains of the shower stalls. Nobody sleeping there.
He scanned the rounds board. Nineteen patients, nearly a full house. One in seclusion, the rest in their rooms, except for Adelia. He jotted H next to her name (hallway), A next to Mrs. Delgado's name (awake), SR for Herman Massani (seclusion room), and for the sixteen others an S (for what he wished he was at home doing).
In the nurses' station, Rose, the night nurse, asked him, "What break do you want? I'm down for the first, if nobody minds."
Leo said, "The second." He turned to Martin, the other mental health technician. "Unless you want the second. ..."
"I'll take the last. I had a good rest today." Martin was at the desk preparing patients' charts for the next day. Mindless work: filling the charts with paperwork, checking off boxes, signing your name, over and over. Martin was new on staff, so Leo happily gave him the practice.
Leo wheeled the geriatric chair from the TV room into the hallway, parked it a couple of feet from the nurses' station and covered it with a sheet. He slipped his sweatshirt on. The floor was kept freezing at night under the belief that it encouraged patients to sleep. Leo cracked back the gerri chair; with feet up and his writing pad in hand he could relax and maintain a watch on both the men's and the women's sides of the floor. Oh, how rough the night shift could be.
He'd gotten nowhere with his latest poem. He stared at the line he'd written almost two days before and hadn't the foggiest what would come next. Moments like this made him wonder if he was a phony, how a handful of published poems didn't mean jack when you sat down to write again. You're not a poet and you don't know it. Or maybe he did know. He'd not published in almost two years, couldn't even place a poem in one of those obscure literary journals that paid in free copies. At least he wasn't writing about Belize anymore and the mistakes he'd made and all that mess he'd said farewell to years ago. At least he could count that as a success.
Time to look for some inspiration. He turned to the door. "Hey, Martin, I'm heading out for a quick cigarette."
Martin came to take his place in the chair.
Leo headed down the hall to the women's side, opened the door with a key and stepped out into the warm stairwell. He trotted up to the fifth floor, where a plastic chair waited by the window. The fifth-floor ward had closed down a couple of years back so there was nobody around to spy on him. Leo took a plastic baggie from his pocket, and from the baggie he removed a book of matches and a roach. He sparked it. Sucked deep and held that potent smoke in his lungs. Repeated the process, then blotted the stub against the window frame, smoke curling from his lips.
Man, it was a warm night. Middle of February and the heat wouldn't let up. But he was beginning to feel comfortable, all sweet inside. He turned a lazy gaze out the window to the parking lot below. He watched the gate rise and two cars pull out and head up Twelfth Avenue, probably evening-shift nurses going home. Where he wanted to be. In bed with Tessa. ... He sat back, let his thoughts wander.
Something across the street caught his attention, somebody standing under the lamppost, a black guy in a suit, staring up at the building. Leo observed him awhile. The man glanced at his watch and glided on, until he was out of sight. Odd. Jefferson Memorial smack in a rough neighborhood like this and a guy in a suit strolling the streets so late?
The intercom crackled, and Leo thought, Shit, here we go.
"Stat team to Crisis. Stat team to Crisis."
Leo sighed, gathered himself, popped a Dentyne into his mouth. Last thing he wanted to do right now was deal with some wacko the cops were bringing in fresh off the street.
Martin was already slipping on latex gloves when Leo reached the nurses' station.
Leo said, "You got this one?"
Rose said, "I'd prefer if you go with him. Since he's new."
Leo said, "You sure?" Knowing hospital policy required at least two staff members on the floor at all times.
Rose nodded and said to Martin, "For now just stand back and watch the other techs, okay? Only get involved if they need you. See how they do it first."
"It's highly complex," Leo said. "One must employ keen observation."
Rose rolled her eyes and swiveled the chair back to the desk.
Going out the door, Leo told Martin, "Every call from Crisis Intervention is considered a red code. Been on a red yet?"
"A couple blues only."
"Expect anything on a red. Like they told you in training."
Out in the lobby they waited for the elevator. The door behind them had a small window with iron mesh inside the glass, and beside it was a red phone with no dial or buttons. Above it was a sign:
Visitors must pick up the telephone. Wait for staff to open door. Please watch for patients trying to elope.
Leo jabbed the down arrow two more times. "Probably giving trouble again. We might have to take the stairs." Or so he hoped. Then the door slid open and he braced himself before they entered. The door closed, the elevator jerked and started down, and Leo's mouth went dry.
For years he'd been working on his claustrophobia and just couldn't beat it. He'd improved his ability to manage it, but the fear never went away completely. He stared at the floor. And this was the elevator that gave trouble, too. Martin asked him a question, but he couldn't answer. Until he stepped out into the cold, sweet air of the ground-floor lobby.
"No, I've never been hurt on a call." He swallowed, inhaled deeply. "I mean, except for a sprained finger or a couple bruises, I haven't been injured or anything. Guy on the fourth floor, day-shift nurse? Patient broke his jaw a few weeks back."
"I heard about that. Hey, you okay?"
They walked around the corner, past a few despondent-looking souls slumped in chairs. "Yeah, why?"
Martin shrugged. "You look ... kinda pale. You sure you're okay?"
"Course I'm sure," an edge to his voice. He opened the door to Crisis Intervention. "After you," leveling his tone. They went in, a few disheveled people watching the TV in a high corner, or gazing into space. Leo lowered his voice. "People here, people outside, they're waiting to see the triage nurse." He pointed to an empty Plexiglas booth set diagonally in one corner. "That's triage. The nurse is away from the desk right now but she's the person who interviews them, sees if they require hospitalization. Now, this door here, we don't have a key for it. We've got keys for all other entrances but not for Crisis." He hit a button on the wall, and a few seconds later a tech in green scrubs opened one side of the double doors.
At the end of the bright hallway two uniformed cops with empty holsters stood next to a bare-chested Hispanic man with hands cuffed behind him. Leo led Martin past the nurses' station and conference rooms. Two techs from Crisis joined them and by the time they reached the cops, techs from other floors were streaming in, tugging on latex gloves.
"The goon squad," one of the cops said, smiling at them.
Nobody smiled back. Pablo, the Crisis night-shift head nurse, asked him, "So who do we have here?"
"This here is Reynaldo Rivera. Reynaldo was dashing across 1-95 traffic, no shoes, dressed like this. Said he was just waiting for a cab, isn't that right, Reynaldo?"
The bare-chested man grunted. His feet were filthy and he smelled swampish.
Pablo said, "You know if he has a history?"
"Used to be a patient at Locktown Community Mental Health Center, he says."
"That's Dr. Burton," a female nurse standing by said. "He'll be here in the morning."
Pablo gestured to the group of techs. "Let's take him in the back."
Two techs held Reynaldo by the upper arms while the cops uncuffed him. Then they led him to a door with a huge window, while another tech opened the door with a key. They guided him into an area surrounded by seclusion rooms, big Plexiglas windows in all the doors. In a couple of the rooms patients were sleeping, restrained to their beds.
The nurse hurried ahead with a sheet to a vacant room, tossed the sheet over the bed, tucked it in. They undressed Reynaldo quickly, slipped on hospital pajamas. Before they laid him down, they gave the restraints a tug to make sure they were buckled tight to the bed. They slapped them around Reynaldo's wrists and ankles, started locking them with keys.
Reynaldo jerked a leg loose and stamped wildly, catching a tech on the shoulder. Another tech leaped onto the leg, trying to hold it fast to the bed. Reynaldo reared up as far as he could, bucking, neck veins bulging, face red. "Let me go, mothafuckas, I didn't do nothin'! Let me go!"
"Easy there, easy," Pablo said.
Leo and another tech grabbed ahold of Reynaldo's arms and pushed him back down.
His wrists pulled at the restraints. "Don't do this to me, I'm innocent!"
A nurse rushed in with a syringe, dragged his pajama pants down and stuck the needle in a thigh.
Reynaldo bucked a few more times, swinging his head from side to side. Leo turned his face away, sensing what was coming.
Reynaldo spat. Leo felt some on his neck. The techs at the feet released him and backed out of the room, Leo and the other tech following, the next gob splattering against glass as they slammed the door.
Walking back outside, Leo wiped himself down with a paper towel and said to Martin, "See how they get? The second they know you're not gonna hurt 'em, when they feel the worst you have is four-point restraints, they lash out. Happens all the time, just be careful." Leo nodded in greeting as they passed the other techs chatting in a loose circle, peeling off gloves and dumping them in a wastebasket.
Martin said, "You're not going back up?"
Leo had stopped by the lobby doors outside Crisis. "Just a quick smoke. Tell Rose I'll be up in five."
The night air felt comfortable after the arctic chill inside. Leo walked the curb past the Crisis police entrance, where a big red sign said NO FIREARMS ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT.
He stopped by the gate to the parking lot and smoked a cigarette, only his third for the day. He'd been cutting back for the last four years. He figured that by age fifty he should have his habit licked, or cancer. He preferred the go-slow attitude in most things. Maybe that's why he was still at Jefferson two years after he'd declared the job a dead end. He looked up at the sky, a few stars dim in the city lights. He thought one day real soon he'd have to make some life changes, with a baby on the way, bills growing, his career options shrinking as he grew older. Man, changes were overdue.
A man appeared out of the darkness.
He was on the corner down the street, the man in the suit. Leo stepped on his cigarette, watched him approach.
Then he knew what it was that had piqued his interest earlier on: He recognized this guy's walk. The guy was short, slim. Grinning. Somebody he knew.
Then Leo recognized him, and all he wanted to do was turn on his heels and walk away far and fast from this dude who could only mean trouble.
Freddy Robinson came out of the past, extending a hand. "Hey, hey, what up, Lee?"
Leo grasped the hand of his onetime buddy and tried to return a smile. They shook hands, embraced, and stood back to look at each other, and Leo hated to admit it, but it was kinda interesting seeing Freddy again, how he looked now. The charmer was still handsome, trim in a sharp suit. "You look great, Freddy."
"Clean living," Freddy spreading his arms, "exercise, fresh air, fruits and vegetables."
"And strong white rum to wash it all down."
Freddy laughed, clapping Leo's shoulder. "You don't look too dusty yourself." He stroked his chin. "What's up with this?"
"Going for the scruffy intellectual look." Leo patted his stomach. "Even started early on the middle-age spread."
Freddy stepped onto the curb beside him. "Still writing the poetry?"
"Yeah, yeah. How 'bout you, still selling auto parts?" Meaning stolen parts.
Freddy shook his head, a smile twitching the corners of his lips. "I'm outta parts sales. No money in it. More money in poetry probably."
Leo chuckled, looked away. Guy was still the same. "So what brings you here, Freddy?"
"Had a date. Was in the area, decided to come by and visit you."
Leo pushed his hands in his pockets, trying to appear relaxed. Seven years ago he and Freddy had parted on difficult terms, so Freddy saying he was coming by to visit was heartwarming bullshit. "How did you know I work here, Freddy?"
"Easy, dawg. I just asked around. Contacted people we used to run with back in the day. Ask this one, he tell me to ask that one, that one gave me some info, like that." Freddy gestured to the construction project across the street. "What's that they're building?"
"A new mental health annex. This one behind us here, it's gonna get torn down. Been around since the sixties." Freddy wasn't even listening.
"So how you been keeping, Lee?"
"Fine, fine. So was it my brother told you where I work?"
Freddy angled his head and smirked.
Leo said, "Okay, stupid question."
"Patrick still the same pompous asshole?"
"Careful there, that's my brother you're talking about." Then, "Yeah, of course he is."
"Just so you know, I don't hold anything against him anymore. Or against you. I'm over that. I did some thinking. When I was incarcerated. I had time to reflect and I said to myself, Freddy, dawg, let the past fade. Go out there into the future and seize your opportunity and make something of yourself. So that's what happened. No time for grudges, know what'm saying? I'm through with that, strictly positive vibes I deal with now." Freddy stretched out his fist for a pound.
Leo obliged, self-consciously. Thinking, This guy's got some major balls saying this. But Leo didn't want to delve into all the bad memories, the failed drug deal, Freddy's six-year prison stint. And Patrick, despite his dislike of Freddy, had had nothing to do with any of it. Freddy had gone down because he deserved it, and if not for Patrick's skills as a lawyer, he could've served really serious time, instead of standing here now, spouting self-serving trash. But Leo said, "Glad to hear it. Listen, partner," glancing at his watch, "I've got to run. Can't make a career of this cigarette break." He put out his hand for a shake.
Excerpted from Lonesome Point by Ian Vasquez. Copyright © 2009 Ian Vasquez. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Leo Valera works the night shift on a psychiatric ward but his real passion is poetry. Leo¿s brother Patrick is commissioner for Miami-Dade County with plans to run for mayor in the upcoming election. The two brothers are polar opposites: Leo is lackadaisical and prefers to spend time smoking pot and composing poems while Patrick is aggressive and ambitious and will do anything to accomplish his goals. Leo¿s girlfriend is pregnant and he knows he needs to do something more with his life but isn¿t motivated. Patrick, married to Leo¿s former girlfriend, is as content as Leo to keep their relationship at a distance. Both brothers share one thing in common: escaping the vile secrets from their past which will undo them if revealed. When Freddie Robinson, a friend from their childhood, shows up where Leo works and tries to coerce Leo into releasing one of the patients, Leo reaches out to his brother for help, not realizing this is the first step for the two brothers in a sequence of events leading them back to their past and the demons they have tried to elude.Ian Vasquez writes with an interesting style, drawing the reader in with his flowing cadence wrapped around a fast-paced plot filled with mystery and suspense. Character development is superb. Leo, the quintessential underachiever, is forced to take a serious look at his life and choose whether to remain uninvolved or become the man he should have been. Patrick¿s true character is revealed when he is confronted with having to decide what matters most: family or career. Dialogue stands out, especially with the secondary characters, who add an extra dimension to this engaging thriller.
Leo Valera works the night shift on a psychiatric ward but his real passion is poetry. Leo's brother Patrick is commissioner for Miami-Dade County with plans to run for mayor in the upcoming election. The two brothers are polar opposites: Leo is lackadaisical and prefers to spend time smoking pot and composing poems while Patrick is aggressive and ambitious and will do anything to accomplish his goals. Leo's girlfriend is pregnant and he knows he needs to do something more with his life but isn't motivated. Patrick, married to Leo's former girlfriend, is as content as Leo to keep their relationship at a distance. Both brothers share one thing in common: escaping the vile secrets from their past which will undo them if revealed. When Freddie Robinson, a friend from their childhood, shows up where Leo works and tries to coerce Leo into releasing one of the patients, Leo reaches out to his brother for help, not realizing this is the first step for the two brothers in a sequence of events leading them back to their past and the demons they have tried to elude. Ian Vasquez writes with an interesting style, drawing the reader in with his flowing cadence wrapped around a fast-paced plot filled with mystery and suspense. Character development is superb. Leo, the quintessential underachiever, is forced to take a serious look at his life and choose whether to remain uninvolved or become the man he should have been. Patrick's true character is revealed when he is confronted with having to decide what matters most: family or career. Dialogue stands out, especially with the secondary characters, who add an extra dimension to this engaging thriller.
Love the way the book takes the 2 brothers with the same past and pitts them in their different worlds they have grown to live in. The very end was on the mark
In Miami medical technician Leo Varela works at the psych ward of Jefferson Memorial Hospital Mental Health Annex. The pay stinks and actually is an abomination when you consider what Leo and his peers do. He relaxes when he can even on the job smoking weed and writing poetry. Leo's older brother Patrick is the influential Miami-Dade County Counselor running for mayor in a particularly nasty campaign even by Miami's dirty standards. Both brothers have come a long way from their homeland Belize and even further from their father's illegal business ventures. Everything changes as the past arrives at the hospital. Freddy Robinson, just released from prison, asks Lee to abduct a patient elderly Mr. Massini as his former associates want a chat with him. Lee wants to say no as even his dead end job is better than working with friends of his father, but Freddy knows the dark deadly secret the siblings left in Belize. This exciting thriller starts off at an incredible pace with Freddy visiting Leo at the hospital, but loses some momentum about halfway in as the plot is never embellished upon from that terrific opening sequence. Still the seemingly opposite brothers tied together by more than DNA are solid characters who seem on the surface total opposites, but in a crisis react somewhat similar. Although the story line is thin, fans will enjoy Ian Vasquez's overall entertaining tale Harriet Klausner