A Slightly Tainted Hero

Slightly Tainted Hero front cover.
Slightly Tainted Hero by Graham Clews.

My new book is out. It’s called A Slightly Tainted Hero and it’s about an accountant. Yes, accountants can lead exciting lives…especially in fiction. The main character’s name is Dave and he’s turned sixty and feeling old—mainly in body rather than mind. Then there’s his office manager, Irene Blanchard. She’s about twenty years younger, about the age Dave’s mind seems to think it is as it valiantly labours to adjust to his ‘maturing’ body. Which is why he unwisely confronts a mugger while escorting Irene to an underground parking lot in downtown Edmonton. Oh and the mugger is armed.

Blind panic follows as shots ring out and somehow Dave becomes an overnight hero. In fact, he’s shocked to find that he’s now a successful, wounded, nationally known hero. But instant fame has its drawbacks as Dave’s past sins slowly emerge from behind a long closed door. Louise, his wife of thirty-six years, is not pleased. Neither, it seems, is anyone else as the fallout spreads: his partners at work, the police, the mugger’s family, and even Dave himself.

I’m going to be sharing excerpts from the novel for a few weeks on this blog. Here’s the first chapter. Let me know what you think.

From Chapter One:

“Irene, does anyone there have possession of a weapon?” the voice [911] asked.

Dave blinked, confused by the sudden turn of events; everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. Perhaps he should do something about the youth fumbling around on the floor for the weapon, despite experiencing a vague feeling that he was no more than a witness to someone else’s dream. Only he didn’t particularly feel like moving, not anymore. It just wasn’t worth the effort. Instead, he angled the gun toward the roof, croaked at the kid to get his arse in the car or he’d shoot him, and pulled the trigger. The bullet shattered one of the fluorescents, ricocheted onto the concrete floor, whined off into the distance, and slammed into the passenger door of Irene’s Charger with a solid thwack. The youth scrambled quickly back into the Lincoln, still clutching his shoulder and cursing a blue streak.

“Oh God, that answers that.” The voice on the phone was no longer detached. “Irene. What is going on, Irene? Irene?”

Irene was no longer there. She whirled around, startled by the gunshot, and screamed. A dark crimson stain puddled the ground where Dave stood, and one leg of his pants was slick with…

“Dave, Dave, for Christ’s sake! You’re bleeding all over the place.”

She dropped the phone and ran over to kneel at Dave’s feet. He slumped back against the Lincoln’s rear fender, grateful that the vehicle was there to keep him upright. The right leg of his grey pinstriped trousers was a glistening black river of blood that seeped down the crease and covered the laces of his shoe.

“You’ve been hit.” Irene paused, her eyes growing wider. “Holy shit, Dave. You’ve been shot in the . . .”

“Shot in the what?” Dave asked dreamily, his mind telling him that there was need for alarm here, though quite oddly he didn’t really feel any immediate panic over what just might be a serious problem.


There was a small hole in the one pant leg, an ugly little dot high on the inseam, just below the crotch. The tiny tear was almost invisible, lost in the thick, sticky, glistening fabric that now covered the entire inside of Dave’s right leg. Irene glanced up at her boss’s face. He stared back as if in a daze. His eyes were still focused, sort of, but they expressed a fading lack of interest in what was going on around him. And his skin. His skin was turning grey, a much ashier grey than even his hair.

“Shot in the what?” Dave murmured again, then his eyes flashed alarm and he seemed to find new strength. “Oh my God!”

“No, no,” Irene said, quickly improvising because she wasn’t sure exactly where the bullet had gone. “You’ve been shot in the top of the leg, I’m sure of it. But you’re bleeding like a chicken with its head . . .” She quickly abandoned that image, too.

Dave’s eyes were on the glistening inseam of his pants, and the crimson splatter on the concrete. “Is all that blood mine?”

Irene nodded and tried to pull herself together and focus. She looked down at the leg and bit her lip. The bleeding had to be stopped, she knew that. But it was—well, the wound was where it was. And this was Dave Lockwood, the most senior of her bosses, both in age and time in. How do you go about . . .

“Yeah, yeah. We’ve got to do something,” she muttered, acutely aware of what needed to immediately be done, while frantically wondering where to start, and hoping she had the guts to do it.

Dave solved the problem for her. “D-damn right. We’ve got to fucking-well s-stop the bleeding,” he stuttered, and began tugging clumsily at his belt with his left hand, the one not clutching the gun.

“Here, let me.” Irene pushed his hand to one side, and quickly had the belt undone. It was not the first time she’d done this with another man’s belt, Irene reflected inanely, but never under this circumstance, and certainly not with the senior partner of…

Don’t be so damned ridiculous, woman!

Irene shook her head and tried to concentrate. The slacks dropped of their own accord, and she found herself staring at a pair of bright red tartan boxer shorts and a surprisingly muscular pair of legs, one of which was literally weeping blood. It was coming from somewhere near the very top. It was coming from under those bright red tartan shorts. With another shake of her head and a deep sigh, Irene reached up and grasped the waistband. With a swift yank she pulled them firmly downward.

Dave had not, after all, been shot in the balls—or through his weenie, either—and Irene audibly released her breath. The bullet had ripped through the inside of his leg, just an inch or two from the very top. Irene didn’t possess a wealth of medical knowledge, but she was not without common sense, either. The main artery—she couldn’t remember what it was called—had obviously been hit, though it hadn’t been severed. She’d seen enough violent movies and read enough books to know that the victim’s blood was supposed to gush out in huge spasms when that occurred, and that wasn’t happening. Probably, Irene decided in the split second needed to absorb it all, the artery had merely been nicked. The blood was seeping out—the word “copiously” came to mind—but not spurting in wild gushes. And it was coming—she peered closely at the torn muscle—from a tiny black hole.

Drawing a deep, steadying breath, Irene thrust her hand forward, set her thumb firmly above where the blood seeped onto Dave’s leg, and pressed hard. She felt Dave twitch with pain, but he held steady, and so did she. The flow of blood immediately halted and Irene breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was a miracle. A full-blown emergency with a solution that had worked the very first time! That was a miracle. Irene glanced at Dave’s face and saw that he was gazing down on her with an expression that was almost beatific, though on reflection it was probably no more than being on the edge of passing out.

“Has it stopped?” he asked, his voice once again sounding very tired.

“Yes, yes,” she replied, and glanced down again to make sure. The bleeding had stopped, yes, but she was suddenly acutely aware of time and place and what, precisely, was happening. A part of her mind felt an enormous relief that events were turning out right and she’d been there to make that happen. Another part was realizing what, exactly, she was doing. One hand clutched the top of her boss’s leg, the thumb pressed over the bullet hole, while his dangling scrotum and limp penis nestled against the back of that very same hand. And the other hand, she suddenly realized, was clasped tightly around his butt, in order to keep both of them close and steady enough to apply the pressure. And—and her nose was barely a foot away from it all.

Shaking her head, Irene looked back up at Dave. It would be far more productive to keep her eyes focused on how he seemed to be doing rather than on his groin, for his features gave far graver cause for concern. He was clearly growing weaker as the minutes ticked by, probably from shock as much as from loss of blood. What would she do if he keeled over? The poor man could crack his head on the concrete and die while waiting for the goddamned ambulance to arrive.

And where the hell was that goddamned ambulance?