Currency of the Heart
Currency of the Heart
A Travers and Karpinski Novel
Perfect Bound Softcover
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Mason Bittner was arguably the best country singer of his time, respected and loved by music fans across all genres. Then he lost everything. Disgraced and mostly forgotten, Bittner was living in his car and playing music for meager wages-until he was murdered.

Mason's daughter, Grace, is haunted by his memory, the loss of her childhood-and worst of all-her harsh treatment of him when he needed her most. She wants nothing more than to clear his name. When Grace turns to a pair of unconventional private investigators for help, she gets far more than she expected. Using their unique style of personal intimidation and shady maneuvering, John Travers and Wally Karpinski address the unconscionable destruction of a good man. Questions abound, but answers are elusive. Meanwhile, Grace struggles to come to terms with her own extraordinary musical talent in the face of terrible pain.

In this suspenseful thriller, two unusual PIs help a young woman seeking to restore the legacy of her murdered father and accept the musical gift she possesses.

A vibrational energy echoed through the empty room as the man drew a plastic pick across the six strings of what many people argued was the best acoustic guitar ever made. It was a Martin D-28, the dreadnought against which all others of its kind were judged. If an artist was good enough, he could coax nuances out of such a guitar, leaving listeners laughing or crying or simply wondering if that was what the angels carried, rather than harps. The man holding it was good enough. After he played the final chord, the man cradled his cherished instrument, admiring its curving lines and rich colors, marveling at its ability to weather even bad times without so much as an altered tone. Then he looked up at the three people still sitting in the dark, empty room. Two of them were clapping like their hands hurt and the other was looking at her cell phone. He sighed, trying not to dwell on how radically life had changed. He brought the plastic pick to his lips and kissed it before sliding it between the strings. After securing the guitar in its battered black case, he retrieved a small bottle of Old Crow from his jacket. At one time-in another life-he could afford much better bourbon. But back then he did not have to rely on it to wash away the bitter aftertaste of his former life. As he donned his jacket a harried, pear-shaped man walked in, sweaty and slightly out of breath. "Mason, I can only give you twenty-five dollars tonight," he said. "Twenty-five," Mason Bittner said. "You know how it works," the man said, throwing up his hands. "Everything is based on how many folks show up." "Yeah, I know how it works." The soft, mellow baritone of Bittner's singing voice carried over into his speech. At one time he was noted for his smooth delivery-country velvet, somebody once called it-and in those days his name was mentioned with the best of the best. He had performed at the most highly-regarded venues, with the most revered sidemen, and huge crowds treated him with awe and respect. That night only three people were there at the end, listening. "I'm sorry, Mason. At one time this place would have been packed, you know what I mean? You'd be doing encores all night long." "Yep, I reckon that's true," he said, looking through the wall and into the past. "When you've clawed yourself to the top, or near the top, you can't conceive of how fast things can fall apart." He turned back toward the other man. "I'm here to tell you, it don't take long. And once people get something in their head-right or wrong-you can't displace it. No matter what." "Where are you going next, Mason?" "I don't know. There's clubs all over, and they're always looking for cheap talent. I guess that's me now. I'll get by." "But where are you living?" "I have an old Oldsmobile." "Yes, but where are you living?" "Listen to me, Randy." "You're living in your car?" There was no cheer in Bittner's smile. "It's comfortable enough, and when it rains there's running water." "Christ, Mason." "One of these days maybe I'll find an apartment. Who knows, maybe I'll make more than twenty-five dollars a night." "But you have a daughter, right?" Bittner straightened up. "What about her?" "Maybe she could help you out a little? Until you get on your feet again." "Never you mind about her. " Bittner leaned over and picked up his guitar. "I'll be seeing you, Randy." Bittner stepped out of the little club and started walking toward his restored 1957 Oldsmobile. With the exception of his guitar, the classic car was the last of his precious possessions. He put his guitar in the trunk and walked toward the driver's side door. He was about to unlock the door when he heard a voice from behind. "Nice car." Bittner's only reaction was a slow turn. He peered into the gloom and someone appeared out of the shadows. When the man stepped far enough out to be partially illuminated by the nearby streetlight, Bittner saw who he was. "Haven't seen you in a while," Bittner said. "The rock you were under must have shifted." The man forced a laugh. "I hear things haven't been going so good for you," he said. "It all depends on your perspective. I'm not making any money and I'm living in my car. But I'm not having to deal with people like you any more." The man pulled a gun from a pocket in his jacket. Bittner saw it and shook his head. "So this is what it's all about," he said. "Tying up loose ends. I figured something like this might happen. Somebody showing up again. Kind of like a bad penny or a sorry lie. But I didn't expect you." "Life is full of surprises." "I reckon." "You don't look very concerned that I have a gun on you, Mason." "I've been threatened before." "Maybe this time the threat is real." "Maybe." "I can tell you're ready to see Claire again." Bittner stood perfectly still. "It'll be damn sure nicer than seeing you again." "You know, Mason, the day she died, she-" Bittner's body jerked upright. "Don't. You're not entitled to talk about her. Do what you have to do and move on." The man lifted the gun so it was pointed at Bittner's chest. "I'm looking into your eyes, partner," Bittner said. "And I'm going to keep looking until the light goes out. And if there's a God in heaven, every time you put your head on the pillow you'll be staring back into these eyes. And it won't be pleasant. Sweet dreams, you sonofabitch." An instant later a bullet ended the life of Mason Bittner: singer, songwriter and, at one time, among the most popular entertainers in all of country music.

C. Carl Roberts is the author of three other Travers and Karpinski novels: Playing God, Identity, and Abreaction. He currently lives in Northern California.

It's always a relief when someone with obvious expestire answers. Thanks!

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