Grand Mesa, Colorado, looms as a major setting in Roger Peppercorn’s thriller On the Devil’s Side of Heaven. The “the largest flattop mountain in the world,” serves not only background for the major characters but also a dramatic setting that hasn’t been beaten to rags by previous thrillers.
The protagonist, Walt Walker, was born in West Colorado, migrated to Texas, then dead-ended in Florida where his past and his present collided to derail his future.
Here are the opening paragraphs of Chapter 1:
I used to be a good cop in Texas and then I used to be a good cop in Florida. I used to be a good husband and a good father. Hell, I used to be a lot of good things, but now I’m just an Ex. Ex-father, ex-husband and an ex-cop. In fact, the sad running joke I tell people is if X marks the spot then you’ve found me.
It’s pathetic, I know, but it’s the sad truth. Years ago I was a state trooper in the state of Florida that could boast the highest clearance rate in just about every ategory of crime there is but that was before the incident. By ‘incident’ I mean the one action I can never walk back from, nor can I fix or even mitigrate.
My ex-best friend Ronald used to be a button man. He freelanced and his allegiance was as fleeting and as permanent as the wind. Ronald worked for the highest bidder. Didn’t matter if it was the cartels or the Italian mob or for that matter, a rich man looking to off his wife or rid himself of competitors. If you needed someone dead, then Ronald was your man.
I had him dead to rights on a righteous murder beef, but he was in love with my sister and she was in love with him. So I did what any stalwart cop would do. I buried the evidence against him. Don’t get me wrong, the sad sack he offed had it coming and no one was going to miss him, but I broke the one credence every cop lives and dies by — ‘you do the crime, you better be ready to stack the time.’
I could say he promised me he would never do it again and that’s why I ignored the evidence against him, or I could even justify it with his undying love for my sister…
As a result of the ‘incident,’ Walt loses his badge, his wife, and his kids. He takes up drinking. As an insurance investigator, he can’t make enough money to pay child support and live in anything better than a dump. But he’s scraping along, listelessly attending AA meetings while ignoring all twelve steps.
He is actually in one of the bars he frequents, feeling sorry for himself after the final divorce decree, when his phone rings…