The day All-American Joey Blade turns 18, he learns his ex-girlfriend is pregnant, is betrayed by his new girlfriend, and is arrested for the attempted murder of two police officers. Then things get bad.
The high school bonfire is supposed to be the kickoff to a great night: Joey has just won a football scholarship and he’s hoping for a sex breakthrough with his new girlfriend. Then his true love–but ex-girlfriend–Mallory tells his she’s pregnant. He’s reeling from that news when the bonfire explodes.
Joey, his new girlfriend and her drug dealer friend TJ, flee in her truck. When the police pursue, TJ shoots at the cop’s car. It crashes and in the ensuing chaos TJ slips away undetected. Joey, the only adult in the truck, is hauled off to jail.
Joey is charged with attempted murder and released on bail. TJ is nowhere to be found. When Joey discovers that Mallory’s father is pressuring her to terminate the pregnancy, Joey has to remain free to prevent that from happening. In desperation, he reaches out to notorious gang leader, Chico Torres, whom he met in jail, for help locating TJ.
When Joey is offered a deal–his freedom in exchange for his cooperation in nailing Chico–he faces a decision that will change the course of his life and Mallory’s.
Excerpted from Dry Heat: A Novel. Copyright © Len Joy. All rights re-served. Published by BQB Publishing.
3 P.M. – SATURDAY – NOVEMBER 20, 1999 ROADRUNNER PARK – PHOENIX, AZ
The gangs were always stealing the nylon basketball nets, so the park direc-tor had replaced them with galvanized steel chain, which rattled obnoxiously on every bad shot. Joey frowned as his jump shot clanked off the front rim.
“Your shot sucks today, Joey Blade,” Mallory said as she bounced the ball back to him.
“Your boobs are distracting me. Maybe it’s time you started wearing a bra.” Blonde, with a pixie cut that framed her cute little-girl face, Mallory could have passed for a twelve-year-old if it hadn’t been for her huge breasts. She was fifteen, two years younger than Joey, and they had been playground buddies for ten years. She lived with her creepy father in a rundown brick house a block away and escaped to the park most afternoons.
“Come on, concentrate, Mr. All American.” She lifted up her sweatshirt, flashing him as he took his next shot. An airball.
“Aargh.” Joey chased after the errant shot, hip-checking Mallory as he grabbed the ball. He dribbled out to the corner and swished a turnaround jumper. “Yes! No distractions that time.” He pumped his fist.
Mallory smirked. “Better get used to it. You’ll have plenty of distractions when you’re in Lala Land next week.”
Joey was out of time. He had to make a decision about his trip to USC and he had to make it now. He clanked another free throw off the rim.
“What’s wrong, Joey?”
Mallory scowled as she bounced the ball to him. She knew what Joey’s dad was like. Dutch Blade was an unfiltered, heart- on-his-sleeve guy. He could chew someone out one moment and be hugging them the next.
“He doesn’t want you following in the immortal footsteps of O.J.?”
Joey gave her a look. Mallory was always a smartass. Three weeks ago, in his last high school football game, the Shadow Mountain Matadors had de-feated Apache Junction, last year’s state champion, 28 to 24. Joey rushed for 264 yards and scored all four touchdowns for Shadow Mountain. After the game, he was contacted by every school in the PAC 10, all promising that he would have a bright future playing football for their university.
He thought it would be cool to have all that attention, but it was really like trying to date five girls at once. Everyone insisted their school was the best choice for Joey. He didn’t like disappointing people and he didn’t want to string anyone along, so he quickly narrowed the search to USC in Los Ange-les and the University of Arizona in Tucson.
He dribbled out to the foul line and took another turnaround jumper. The shot was a foot short and wide left.
Mallory scampered over and picked it up. “You can’t blame that one on me.”
Joey tried spinning the ball on his index finger, but he couldn’t keep his fo-cus. “Dutch grew up in Tucson. He loves the Wildcats. He’s always said that if his folks had had the money, he would have gone to U of A instead of Vi-etnam.” He glided out to the corner again. “Ball!” he shouted. Mallory fired a chest high pass to him and he swished a fifteen-footer.
“Maybe he just wants to keep you close so you can help with the family busi-ness,” Mallory said with a faux expression of innocence.
Dutch had started Blade Engine and Crankshaft when he returned from Vi-etnam. With the help of Joey’s mom, Callie, it had become the largest engine rebuilder in the southwest.
“My dad thinks anyone who goes to California just wants to be a movie star.”
Mallory tilted her head and squinted at him. “You’re pretty cute with that curly hair and those girly eyelashes. I could definitely see you in the mov-ies.”
“Shut up, Mallory. This is serious.”
“What do you want to be when you grow up? A football player? Or are you planning to take over the business?”
Joey gave her the finger. They’d had that discussion before. “I want to be a writer. USC would be better for that, but to my dad, a writer is even worse than a movie star. He doesn’t think it’s a real job unless you’re sweating.”
“So, your big problem is deciding between a free education in California or Arizona?” Mallory arched her eyebrows, suggesting that was the kind of problem most people would love to have. Then she grinned and said, “You want to come over to my place for a glass of ice tea?”
“Uh . . .” Joey stared down at his feet. Mallory was cool, but he couldn’t stand her father. Donny Stewart worked at Blade Engine as a mechanic do-ing engine installs. He thought he was some kind of comedian. He was al-ways telling stupid, dirty jokes and his delivery sucked. He acted like Joey was disrespecting him for not laughing his ass off. Joey knew Stewart re-sented him because he was the boss’s kid. Donny Stewart was an all- around creepy guy.
“My dad’s running the install center today.” Mallory said. “He won’t be home for two hours.
“Ice tea sounds great,” Joey said.
Thank you, Len Joy and FSB Associates
About the Author
Len Joy is the author of Dry Heat (2022). He has published three previous novels, Everyone Dies Famous (2020), Better Days (2018) and American Past Time (2014) and a collection of short fiction, Letting Go (2018). Len is an All-American triathlete and competes internationally representing Team USA. He lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife, Suzanne Sawada