First Chapters – Lucky Chance by Linell Jeppsen

Today’s First Chapter is from a great story called Lucky Chance, which is the next in the Dead Man’s series by my friend Linell Jeppsen.

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It has been eight years since Matthew’s wife, Iris, was murdered and he went out in search of her killers; risking life, limb and sanity in his search for justice.

Now, he’s a simple, country lawyer. It’s certainly safer than being a lawman but he is bored, until an old friend’s plea for justice sends Matthew in a whole new direction…

Frederick Holland’s youngest son, Johnny, was killed in a “fixed” boxing match, and Fred wants Matthew to search for proof that the boxer’s gloves were loaded with Plaster of Paris. Problem is, Matthew no longer carries a badge. What can he do to help his old friend?

Become a private investigator, of course. And so begins the Wilcox and Son Investigation Agency.

Matthew’s son, Chance, was a boxing champion in the Army and he is the perfect man to prove Snake-Eyes Svenson’s guilt but, can he survive the encounter?

Find out in LUCKY CHANCE… the first of the Wilcox and Son case files!

1908

Chapter One

It was hot… oppressive and muggy with lowering gray clouds that growled overhead like vicious beasts. The heat wave that had settled over the Spokane area three weeks earlier threatened to break today with a cold front that pierced the skin with clammy gusts of wind and sent sporadic showers of chilly rain to the ground.

Inclement weather did not curtail the festivities, however. Model T’s, buggies and wagons sped down the country road, turning left at a long driveway that wound through trees and underbrush to the back of a large barn. Their passage sent dust-devils spinning into the air and spooked draft horses and highly-trained teams alike, many of which snorted and pawed at the ground in alarm.

The conveyances that appeared from clouds of dust like phantoms, disgorged vague human shadows that scurried from their vehicles in silence. The men and women who arrived at this secret location hid their faces behind umbrellas, lowered hat-brims and veils. What they were doing, after all, was illegal.

But boredom, and too much wealth had made them careless. For many of these decadent citizens, the very idea of a “Death-Match” made them quiver with suppressed excitement. The stakes were high, too… the main purse rumored to be in excess of 25,000 dollars!

No self-respecting sporting gentleman wanted to be left out of what was sure to be the coup of the century… if their man won.

If they lost… well, that was too bad, wasn’t it? Boxing was a hazardous sport and only a fool would enter into a death-match without the prerequisite skill-set.

Most of the men and women arriving had already invested a small fortune in their proven fighters- men who had risen in rank to rule supreme in their weight-class, from bantam-weights to heavy; these men were known to be ruthless in their desire to win and unscrupulous in their methods.

All bets were off, though, today. There was only one weight-class in contention… heavy-weight, and the undisputed champion- a ruthless thug known as Snake-Eyes Svenson was the main attraction.

Aptly-named, the giant Swede stood 6’7 feet tall and weighed in at over 327 pounds. The only attractive thing about him, his long, blonde hair, was braided and coiled into a top-knot on his head. The rest of him resembled nothing more than a large, gray pile of rocks.

His heavy forehead sheltered dull, heavily-hooded gray eyes, and his nose slanted sideways over brooding, thin lips that turned upside-down in a perpetual sneer. His neck, a staggering 35” in girth, sat atop sloping shoulders and sported a head that, in comparison to the rest of his body, looked like a small, gray marble.

The rest of his body; from his long, ape-like arms to the massive thighs that slid together in oiled harmony, down to his strangely, dainty feet that danced over dirt and canvas alike like a prima ballerina had sent more than one contender running in fright.

Not today though… or so the promoters had promised. There were four tickets; the first, a big dark-haired man who called himself the Blizzard, the second, a giant Negro named Goliath, the third, a vicious-looking giant called Snake-Eyes Svenson, and the fourth, a relative unknown who called himself Lucky Chance.

From the road in front of the old, abandoned property, everything seemed normal, but the back of the barn teemed with activity and a dull roar throbbed through the still, humid air like muted thunder. One of the event promoters, a bloke by the name of Clarence Chowder (Clammy, for short) nodded in satisfaction.

He could see the darkened underbelly of the storm front approaching from the north and smell the freshening wind. Perfect! he thought. This crowd can scream its bloody head off if it wants to, but the storm will mask their howls! Grinning, he turned around and stepped inside.

Seventy-nine men and women stood in a loose crowd just outside of the make-shift boxing ring that had been set up yesterday afternoon in the middle of the barn floor. Most of the hay and straw had been swept away from the area but fitful shafts of dull, silvery daylight coming through the dovecote and loose boards showed that chaff and particulates were indelibly linked to this small microcosm.

Stepping into the dim, Clammy thought that all the people inside the barn looked like spooks, surrounded as they were by thousands of dust motes that covered everything in a fine, grayish-green blanket. More than one fine lady will be blowing great gobs of green snot from their dainty snoots tonight! he thought with a chuckle.

Staring into the far right corner, Clammy saw his brother Leonard and their trainer, Edward Tully working Karl Svenson over. They were rubbing ointment into the man’s shoulders and forearms and forcing him to snort saltwater. This would clear the boxer’s nasal cavities and keep his eyes from swelling if one of the three tickets managed to get in a lucky shot.

As Clammy approached he saw that, as usual, Svenson was heavily doped. Although his enormous size seemed guaranteed to thwart any comers, Karl had a glass jaw- a heavily guarded secret, but one that had once, almost spelled the boxer’s doom.

The British-born brothers had found Karl curled up and weeping in a rubble-strewn alley one night in Liverpool after one of his first (and last defeats). For all his size, the boxer was frequently fraught with fear- both at the thought of being hurt and appearing weak to the screaming mobs who watched his every move.

Apparently, this had proven to be one of those nights. His opponent, a burly Scot named Joseph (The Hammer) McGregor, had stepped into a clinch and gotten off a weak, but deadly accurate right upper-cut to Svenson’s chin.

Snake-Eyes was delivering a crushing series of rabbit-punches to the Scot’s kidneys when his chin relayed the devastating message to his brain, and he keeled over like a felled tree, passed out-cold.

The Hammer stood over his giant opponent with his mouth open in shock and then (having had a number of his good friends beaten to a bloody pulp by this very same foe) took advantage of the situation and delivered a series of savage kicks to Svenson’s head and back before the referee came to his senses and called a halt to the fight.

The Chowder brothers pooled their money, and along with a modest inheritance from their Dad’s butcher shop, managed to buy Svenson’s contract from his disgusted and fickle promoters for a song.

Unfortunately, the giant man’s nerves were shot. He wanted to fight but his bell had been rung one time too many times that fateful night. He now suffered neurotic terror and a pathological fear of crowds. His mighty muscles were going soft and the scars and callouses along his knuckles beginning to fade.

Then Leonard (who had always loved the opium dens scattered here and there along the alleyways of Piccadilly Square) got the idea of using cocaine on their expensive but worthless acquisition. That’s when their fortunes changed for the better.

The exotic drug overcame all of Karl’s fears, made his body feel indomitable and erased his former shyness. It took six months for Svenson to get back in fighting form, but once the Chowder brothers let him loose in the boxing world again, he hadn’t lost a single fight.

Three years has passed since Clarence and his brother left for the United States- three years and an undisputed Heavy-Weight title-belt. But time and attrition were taking a toll on their champion. Cocaine was becoming harder and harder to obtain, and Karl was starting to exhibit all of his old hang-ups. So, something new was in order…

As Clammy approached with Karl’s boxing gloves, Edward looked up and gave a slight wink. Their boxer was good to go, and (with help from Leonard’s dwindling narcotic supply and the heavy, gray powder hidden in his supply bag) it looked to Clammy that the Chowder Brothers were in for a big pay day.

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