On my first day in jail, a three hundred pound man named Porterhouse hit me in the back of the head with a metal tray.

As always, before the warmind and I shoot each other, I try to make small talk.

My mom was always more of a friend than an authority figure. But not like a laid-back friend who comes over to watch Homeland—more like an annoying friend who comes over with two dudes you don’t know and starts doing body shots off your sleeping roommate at 3 A.M. on a Wednesday.

A father’s failure shadowed the life of one; a father’s success taunted the other.

Ventura “Benny” Martinez hadn’t slept in days. This frigid December night, like so many others, he sat awake, stiff-backed and tense in a living room chair. His pudgy, sweaty fingers gripped the handle of a .44 Ruger equipped with an infrared laser to illuminate whoever would be coming for him.

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

I am a United States Army general, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism. It’s like Alcoholic’s Anonymous; step one is admitting you have a problem.

When I was growing up, my mom was guided by the strong belief that to befriend me was to deny me the one thing a kid really needed to survive childhood: a mother.

I never imagined I would shoot a man. Or be a father. Or live so far from the sea.

My closest friend, a homicide lieutenant, refuses to add up how many murders he’s investigated, claiming nostalgia is for losers. My rough guess is three hundred.

You say it’s up to me to do the talking. You lean forward, place a box of tissues in front of me, and your leather chair groans like a living thing. Like the cow it used to be before somebody killed it and turned it into a chair in a shrink’s office in a loony bin.

I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside.

How angry am I? You don’t want to know. Nobody wants to know about that.

Her tactical instructor at the police academy had liked taunting them during early morning drills. “Sleep is overrated,” he’d say. “You will learn to do without.”
He’d lied.

For the modern, middle-class North American, “clean” means that you shower and apply deodorant each and every day without fail. For the aristocratic seventeeth-century Frenchman, it meant that he changed his linen shirt daily and dabbled his hands in water but never touched the rest of his body with water or soap.

At the sixteenth lash, the man strapped to the table loses consciousness.

Thank you for buying this book. Or, if my publisher’s research analytics are correct, thank you, Aunts of America, for buying this for your niece you don’t know that well but really want to connect with more.

The war tried to kill us in the spring.

Something was wrong.

Killing was easier than I thought it could be, and a lot more rewarding. I finally feel as if I’ve done something important, something that deserves real attention.

I approached the witness stand with a warm and welcoming smile. This, of course, belied my true intent, which was to destroy the woman who sat there with her eyes fixed on me.

Johnny Merton was playing with me, and we both knew it. It was a fun game for him. He was doing endless years for crimes ranging from murder to extortion to excessive litigation. He had a lot of time on his hands.

For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops.

“The crime,” as detectives would later tell the newspapers, was “one of the most gruesome in the annals of the New Orleans police.”

The funeral is supposed to be a quiet affair, for the deceased had no friends. But words are water in Amsterdam, they flood your ears and set the rot, and the church’s east corner is crowded.