Trial of Tears
Pete Watts is a former undercover narcotics cop who got way too close to his job. He now runs a music rehearsal studio in which all manner of eccentric musicians come through. His soon to be ex-girlfriend is a talented singer with a sleazy manager who is in the habit of giving his clients drug habits, occasionally overdosing them to move their recordings up the charts, with the full support of the shady entertainment company for whom he works.
This universe of people is inexorably drawn into a war between two violent drug gangs, viewed through the perspective of the Napoleonic leader of one gang. He has recently signed on a strange, but beautiful ex-mercenary, who wears makeup in the form of multi-colored tears running down her face. These tears are, in fact, decals on which different poisons are concealed, hence the title. Some survive the Trial of Tears, some don’t. The story’s taut climax is set in a posh townhouse in which only the courageous will emerge unscathed.
While it certainly has its share of humor, action and suspense, it is also a story of friendship and redemption, as well as being a love letter to New York City.
In what is considered a major interview coup, the character Alice from Chris Semal’s new novel, Trial of Tears, has consented to answer some questions in an undisclosed location.
Intertwining two narratives, one concerning survival in the music industry, the other survival in warfare between vicious rival drug gangs, this black comedy thriller culminates in a showdown at a posh Brooklyn townhouse in which only the strong survive. Alice is a key player in the both narratives. She is a ‘fixer’, a recent sign-on in drug lord Frank Bender’s crew with an encyclopedic knowledge of killing and interrogation techniques, as well as a healthy appetite for deviant sex. A former mercenary with a legendary past which has scarred her emotionally and physically, she is the inspiration for the title of this story. She wears makeup in the form of multi-colored tears running down the sides of her face. Each tear contains a different chemical, some deadly, some hypnotic, some psychotropic, which can all be used at her discretion.
Chris Semal: It’s not often I get the opportunity to interview someone in your field of business, and I have to say, just seeing you in person and having read of your exploits, that I’m feeling a tad nervous about this.
Alice: Nervous? Don’t be silly. A big, handsome fellow like you has nothing to fear from me.
CS: Still, would you mind if I moved to the armchair over there?
A: Thanks, I’m feeling comfortable right here next to you on the couch.
CS: Uh, OK. I guess the first thing everyone wants to know is about your makeup, the tears, the drugs contained in them. What is the inspiration for them?
A: Straight to the point, I see. No foreplay first? A box of chocolates? Dinner and a movie?
CS: Heh, heh. If that’s off limits, or if you want to discuss something else, that’s fine, too. How did you get into your current line of business?
A: When I was younger, I thought the most honorable vocation would be to serve my country. There were a few issues from my youth that I felt could best be, I don’t think ‘exorcised’ is the right word, but I needed to get some things out of my system. I assumed that the military would be a good outlet. Sadly, that was not the case.
CS: What happened?
A: Let’s just say that I lost confidence in the ability of those in command and leave it at that.
CS: You parted ways with the military, however, as a highly decorated soldier.
A: Are you trying to be funny?
CS: Oh God, no. I didn’t mean anything by that. I wasn’t referring to the tears.
A: It’s O.K. I like a sense of humor. It keeps things in perspective, takes the edge off. Relax. You look like you’re about to jump out of your skin.
CS: So, you’ve been able to leverage your unique skills and knowledge of chemicals into the private sector?
A: That’s a good way to put it. There are always messy situations that need to be cleaned up. The temporary nature of these assignments makes it easier for me to overlook some of the more unsavory characteristics of my co-workers, as long as they don’t cross the line.
CS: Cross the line? Cross what line?
A: The line that divides the guilty from the innocent, the soldier from the civilian.
CS: And how do you determine where the line is?
A: It comes naturally to me. I can see it in your eyes.
CS: My eyes?
A: Yes. Windows of the soul and all that. I can tell who’s been naughty or nice and I’m not so sure about you.
CS: Ha. Alice, I can assure you I have nothing to hide. I think I need something to drink, though. I’ll be back in a minute.
A: No, don’t get up. The publicist left us some bottles of water. I’ll get one for you.
CS: I may need something a bit stronger than water. It’s no problem. I can get it.
CS: S-sure. Is there any ice?
A; There’s some in the bucket. Here you go.
CS: Thanks. I don’t know why, but my throat was getting very dry. That hits the spot. Um, it looks like one of your tears fell off, the second one down from your eye. Ohhhhh……
A; I think the question and answer portion of the interview has just ended. Would you be so good as to wait here and get undressed while I retrieve a few utensils from the kitchen?