A Small Sacrifice

A Small Sacrifice

Nick Forte Book 1

Shamus Award nominee

Detective Nick Forte is not impressed when Shirley Mitchell asks him to clear her son’s name for a murder everyone is sure he committed. Persuaded to at least look around, Forte soon encounters a dead body, as well as the distinct possibility the next murder he’s involved with will be his own. Clearing Doug Mitchell’s name quickly becomes far less important to Forte than keeping references to himself in the present tense.


Praise for A Small Sacrifice

“One of the most solid pieces of PI fiction of the last few years, delivering everything I think a PI novel should.”
Sons of Spade blog


It was almost two o’clock when I finished my Coke and walked south on Dearborn toward the office. The sun had come out to warm the breeze coming off the lake, the sky as clear as my social calendar.

I saw her head bob above the crowd, rollerblading north on Dearborn as I approached the one-tree park. Early twenties, flawless skin on an oval face. Dark hair flowed over her shoulders to trail behind in the breeze. She chewed gum slack-jawed and wore headphones, lost in their musical world, her face vacant as the afternoon sky.

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A black Spandex body suit tight enough to case a sausage supported and accentuated every curve, from the muscles of her calves to her breasts, which didn’t need any help. Her nipples showed through the material like raisins. She looked like a young woman with whom several very pleasant hours could be spent, as long as you were both naked and she promised not to talk about anything.

I couldn’t help turning my head when she skated by, see if her butt matched the rest of her. Of course it did. She was an in-line skater. There wouldn’t be an ounce of unintentional fat on her.

I looked back where I was going in time to see the man through the park toward me. His left hand tugged at something in his jacket pocket. In that split second I knew I’d die. I knew in the way you know your car won’t stop in time, the way you know you can’t regain your balance. The way you know when his gun’s half drawn and you haven’t reached for yours.

He came up where my blind spot should have been, still fussing with the gun, the barrel now clearing his windbreaker’s pocket. My hand went under my arm before I had time to think. My gun moved into my field of vision. It went off twice, quick, bam-bam, like someone else did it. The first shot caught him left of center and spun him around. The second got him straight through the ribs. One spurt of blood, then a thick gob of it. He landed on his face hard enough to bounce.

I stood there looking at him, not twenty feet away, still in my shooting posture. A woman screamed. Men were running, away mostly. For some reason I looked for the skater. She hadn’t stopped. Probably didn’t hear the shots over her music. I wanted to thank her. Her ass saved my life.

I turned my attention to the man on the sidewalk. A straight line ran from me to him, crystal clear, a high-resolution photograph, immobile. Everything else was blurred, a maelstrom of peripheral images. Voices, speaking Bulgarian for as much as I could understand.

I walked over to him, my aim never leaving his motionless body. His gun lay not three feet from him. He made no attempt to get it. I reached down and felt his throat. He wouldn’t need the gun any more. I slid my pinkie through the trigger guard and picked it up, like there’d be some question who it belonged to.

I stood, almost. Blood that should have been in my brain pounded in my ears and I couldn’t stay up. I squatted, feet flat on the ground, knees bent so my butt almost touched the sidewalk. Hooch squat. I sat there staring at the dead man for what seemed like a long time. I didn’t know him. I’d never seen him before. I had no idea why he wanted to kill me.

It was a good shoot, self-defense with a dozen witnesses. It bothered me not to know why I needed to defend myself. People had shot at me before and I always knew why. I wondered what I did to piss this guy off.

I wrapped my arms around my knees and held on, his gun dangling from my finger. A policeman finally came, an older guy with a frayed cuff on his left pant leg. He took both guns and asked me to come with him. I went. He seemed nice.

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Nick Forte series