Frank Tedeschi’s niece is dead, one of thousands of victims of a terrorist attack, which has been laid at the feet of “Islamic radicals” by a right-wing US government. Frank, based on a chance encounter, is one of the very few people who question the government’s explanation. He is a Vietnam veteran who wants nothing more than to live without further controversy or conflict. Can he and his grieving brother Rob, a detective with the NYPD, obtain the necessary evidence to uncover the truth, in the face of scorn and incredulity? Can they overcome their long-term estrangement to work together, given that they are putting their lives in danger?
In LAST GASP—a novel that resonates with today’s politics—the answers to these questions unfold in a way that mingles personal and societal issues and intertwines the past and present while moving relentlessly forward.
“She would’ve come for the calamari, if nothing else.” Rob, eyes shut, sipped from a wine glass, his thick fingers wedged between its flat round base and the reddish-purple curvature of the bowl, which he squeezed as if holding the thing together. “She loved the stuff,” he added, looking up from the goblet, his voice hoarse. “For that, she would’ve come.”
Julie reached across the table and laid her hand on his arm. “She’d have come anyway. She could’ve compared notes with her cousin over here. Compared studs and tattoos,” Julie said, ignoring the look her younger son shot her as he leaned forward on the other side of Frank. “Plus, even if Laureen acted like it was uncool, she loved her family. Starting with her parents.”
Rob gritted his teeth and looked away, thinking that he either needed to lay off the wine or get soused, that he was now inhabiting a dangerous middle ground. Tears in your beer, only substitute wine in a glass that seemed to magically refill itself, to siphon bittersweet vin rose from the carafe. Either the bus boy was very unobtrusive, or Rob was transfusing the stuff himself without really being aware of it.
He couldn’t have sworn that Laureen loved her parents, separately or together. Ditto for her extended family. Still, it was Laureen, ironically, who’d brought all of them together. For the second time in a month, no less. They could have left out a glass of wine for her, left the outside door ajar, like the Jews did on Passover. Except that there was even less chance of Laureen showing up than there was of the Prophet Elijah draining the Manischewitz. Besides, it was cold out and they were in a restaurant. The place was crowded, noisy, probably bug-proof, assuming that the so-far anonymous federal spooks even knew that the Tedeschi clan was dining there. And it was a setting much preferable to that of the previous family get-together, Cascardi’s Funeral Home.
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About the Author
Behind. He is a retired teacher of special education and English as a second language. Before his first public school teaching position—at a high school in the Bronx, NY—he taught Transcendental Meditation, which he still practices regularly. Howard now lives in suburban Washington DC, where he hikes, bikes, and writes. He and his wife volunteer at a soup kitchen and a senior citizens center.
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