Even after a lifetime of putting dangerous criminals behind bars, heartless cop Spencer needs to redeem himself before he may enter heaven. Only the J.R.P. (Jerk Redemption Program) can help him now. He’s sent back to earth in the body of his K-9 partner to help a troubled teenager and his dysfunctional family. Spencer also swallowed an important microchip his killers need to execute their evil plan. Can Spencer maul the shins (and other choice areas) of the criminals and stop them? Can a selfish man find a heart? You bet, he just has to become a dog first.
Targeted Age Group:: all audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 2 – PG
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I thought a Young Adult book would be a great idea to write for a first-time novelist. I always loved family orientated books and movies and was searching for a story that depicts the human condition with all its splendor and frailties. What better way than through a surly cop who has to go back to earth in the body of his K-9 partner? The cop needs to help a troubled teenager and his dysfunctional family in order to be redeemed.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The theme of my book helped me to flesh out the characters and their actions. I remember teenaged angst and what it was like. I try to feel what they’re feeling. How will they react, how have I seen real people similar to them react? Is their reaction true to their character? What motivates them?
Chapter One – GOAT LOVE
Justin Andrews’ heart pounded so hard he thought it would punch out his throat. He trudged across St. Ignatius High School’s elm tree shadowed lawn, trying to keep up with his father who strode briskly. The half-hour spent in the principal’s office sent ruts of adrenaline coursing through his veins. Even the balmy Seattle afternoon didn’t lighten the day’s heavy mood. The skin peeking out the back of Mr. Andrews sports coat collar was already flushed red. It wasn’t sunburn.
A summer wind blew through the private school’s grand hall window. Solitude and long shadows contrasted with another day of classes and activities. The daily exodus of uniformed schoolboys took place an hour ago — without Justin.
He opened the computer lab door and politely stepped aside as his father entered the flower-scented room. Baskets of bright, freshly cut bouquets covered every flat surface, including half the floor. Condolence tags hung on most.
“You were lucky to get a scholarship at this school,” muttered his father, Eugene Andrews, as he steepled his hands and assumed an authoritative expression. Mr. Andrews was thin as a rule, which even his hair obeyed and his business suit hung on his spare frame in straight-ironed lines.
“We can barely afford their activity fees, and how do you show your appreciation? By spending valuable time in Principal Hammersmith’s office because of your usual antics! I hope you are as embarrassed as I was.” Mr. Andrews’ red face had grown haggard but he returned to his normal tone. “I’m trying my best to understand you, but it’s difficult when you act before you think.”
Justin stopped tapping the keys of one of the classroom computers. He brushed back his sandy-colored hair and tried hard to look unruffled by his father’s venting. Tall for his thirteen years, his even features were dappled with impish freckles, and his deep blue eyes sparkled. He frowned, recollecting that Principal Hammersmith had accused him of having “an understated confidence that bordered on impudence.”
Vicky Andrews, Justin’s sixteen-year-old sister, lounged in a computer lab chair, swaying to the rhythm of rap from her earbuds. She quickly removed the buds as she noticed her Dad's red face and her brother's hanging shoulders. She casually twisted the hem of her black T-shirt and listened to the scolding, ready to spring in as mediator if needed. Her eyebrow ring and bright pink hair screamed independence, an attitude she freely cultivated in her public high school.
“Chill out, Dad,” Vicky said as she chewed away on a sizable wad of gum. “You’re making such a big deal out of this.”
“Big deal? It’s a disgrace. Your brother pasted Principal Hammersmith’s face on a picture of a mountain goat.”
Vicky tried to muffle her giggle with little success. Her father glared at her. “So you think it’s funny, do you?” he asked as he continued to pace the floor.
“Not how your mother and I raised you. Did you see his screensaver?”
Justin had photo-shopped Sister Constance’s face on a female goat in a very compromising position with the Mr. Hammersmith goat. Eugene glared at the twenty-nine monitors of goat love with floating chubby hearts and Cupid with a compound bow and lots of arrows. Justin and Vicky secretly high-fived one another behind their father’s back while he gazed in disgust.
Justin’s fingers tap-danced across keyboards as he deleted another goat screensaver and set it back to the original portrait of Principal Hammersmith’s stony face guarding the entrance of St. Ignatius. More clicks, another computer, another step closer to undoing his creation.
His father walked over to the window and his voice rose as he spoke to Vicky. “It would be one thing if his disrespect was limited to the school, but…” He yanked the curtains wide open and pointed at the athletic field. The computer lab’s famous goat love played on the new billboard-sized screen looming over the football stadium, and at Main Street’s busy intersection, and on Interstate 5.
“This is an offense punishable by a year of kitchen duty.” Justin’s father bobbed his head back and forth in that parental duck-neck way. “I’m not even going to ask how you accomplished that.”
“It helps to know the operator.”
“You mean an adult helped you do that?”
"Yeah. A guy who works here at the school and operates the billboard liked it too. He downloaded The Love Hammer's—"
“It’s the file name! Okay, Hammersmith. He had him as a teacher when he was in school before Mr. Hammersmith became principal. Anyway, he wanted to pay me for the file of the screen saver image he saw in the lab.”
“You received money for that?” his father asked outraged.
“No. I gave it to him for free.”
The veins in Mr. Andrews’ thin neck stood out in vivid ridges.
“Ah, come on, Dad, you know The Hammer, I mean Mr. Hammersmith had it in for me. It’s just not fair how he treats me.”
“You still need to have some respect for authority, Justin. Do you really believe your revenge was justified? That any revenge is justified? What if someone had done that to your mom’s picture?”
“No fair.” The words sank into a deep place within Justin’s mind where rationality always triumphed over emotion, and his breath caught. “Yeah…no, I was wrong, I’m sorry.”
“You’d better be sorry, though that’s not a big help now!” Mr. Andrews stopped pacing, leaned in, and whispered, “I have to pay to have the whole newsletter reprinted, and I still need to buy groceries. Do you want to know where the cash is coming from? Remember that allowance you had?”
Vicky’s slouch perked straight up. “Newsletter? What newsletter?”
“Justin put an obituary of Principal Hammersmith in the school’s newsletter.”
“Those weren’t supposed to get mailed. Besides, I’m writing a letter of apology and you’ve got to admit,” he gestured to the fragrant bouquets, “the school did receive a lot of flowers. Aren’t they beautiful?” Justin smiled nervously then returned to de-goating the computer lab.
“You’re lucky they’re not going to expel you!”
Vicky raised a challenging pierced eyebrow. “The reason Justin wasn’t expelled was because of the special grants the school receives due to his high test scores.”
Mr. Andrews sighed and rubbed his face. “Maybe your mom and I shouldn’t have let them put Justin two grades ahead.”
“But he still gets straight A’s, Dad. Academics aren’t the issue. It’s because Mom’s gone.”
“He still needs to learn discipline.”
“Come on now, it’s tough for Justin. Put yourself in his place. He’s only thirteen. Most of the other guys are already sixteen. They give him a hard time.”
“I’m almost fourteen, and I can take care of myself.” Justin puffed up as one more pair of amorous goats disappeared.
“He misses Mom,” Vicky sighed. “We all miss Mom. Don’t be so hard on him.”
Mr. Andrews’ cell phone played a disco jingle. He sighed before answering. “Eugene Andrews. Yes, ma’am. Sales projections ready by tonight…fine.”
Vicky winced and gave a pained expression as the call ended.
“Look, I have to get back to work before I get fired,” said their dad as he heaved a heavy sigh. He straightened his tie and picked lint off his sleeve as he crossed the room.
“As for you, young man,” Mr. Andrews glared at Justin, “you’ll receive your punishment tonight after dinner.” His father slammed the classroom door behind him.
Justin sighed. A vision of stacks of dirty dishes and a lonely soapy sink hovered in his future. “I know Dad’s going to ground me until I’m eligible for Medicare. After I finish changing these screensavers I’m going to the park. I need to be alone.”
Vicky patted him on the shoulder. “If I want to find you, you’ll be in your tree, right?”
Justin’s mind drifted again. He gazed through an unseen window in the fabric of space and time. The thought of Sister Constance and The Hammer raced through his mind, how dare they attack his family? Especially his mother!
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