The HBS Author's Spotlight SHOWCASES Mark Pannebecker's First Novel: Fraternity of Fractures.
Mark Pannebecker is the author of crime novels and short stories. He is the founder of the St. Louis Indie Book Fair organized to help foster authors of fiction and nonfiction.
Fraternity of Fractures
Author: Mark Pannebecker
Barnes and Noble
Phoenix and Justin Sunder are master cat burglars and best friends until Dylan Panicosky enters their circle of hedonism and crime. Set in the blighted city of St. Louis in the '80s, Fraternity of Fractures is a love triangle played out in an urban setting full of nocturnal decadence and danger, with all the players fractured in their own way.
Excerpt from Fraternity of Fractures
It was a perfect time for a robbery. Any earlier and there’d be too many people walking around; any later and the bars would be closing, causing too much activity; and later still, it would be unsafe as well as raise suspicion. Phoenix knew what she was doing. She sat in her car listening to the Dead Kennedys, watching the thick smoke from the corner Vietnamese restaurant roll out from the exhaust fan and hang there ten feet above the sidewalk; she could smell the familiar spices of Asian cooking. The white smoke stagnating in the stale air added to her discomfort and she hoped for a breeze to cool her off.
Phoenix didn’t want to sit under the dimly lit, haloed streetlights for too long and draw attention to herself, but she saw a squad car in the rearview mirror nestled in the oncoming traffic and decided to wait; but just sitting there made her feel heavy, the gray St. Louis sky weighed her down. She started to sweat and looked again in her rearview mirror. To keep her mind off the suffocating weather she thought about the security system of Chin’s Orient Emporium and went through a mental list of what she needed to do to break it. The short rush of traffic finally drove past her, spiraling the cloud of smoke from the restaurant and sending it clutching into the night like skeleton fingers.
The half-dozen cars continued down the two mile stretch of Grand Boulevard lined with inexpensive restaurants, cheap retail shops, and boarded-up buildings. When it was clear, Phoenix checked the area one more time: a handful of people, a couple of parked cars, little activity this time of night in the Tower Grove neighborhood.
She grabbed her Walkman and a cassette tape as she prepared to walk the block in a half to Chin’s Orient Emporium. When she stepped out of her car, she was immediately wrapped in the humid July weather, her black one-piece, tight around her five-foot frame, stuck to her body as she moved her oversized black nylon bag onto her tenuous shoulders.
Standing outside the building, shrouded in its shadow, Phoenix slipped surgical gloves onto her fine hands. Partly protected by the blue haze of the new moon’s light, she grabbed her small metal Mac flashlight, a pocket-sized version of what the police carry and a present from Justin Sunder, her friend and mentor, the first night they danced together. When she turned the head of her flashlight a strong white beam shot out and landed precisely on the store’s telephone line. Phoenix stood in her suit of night, poised in the dark, her muscles tight, her jaw slightly clenched, and her nipples hard. Her large green eyes followed the narrow, focused light as she traced the phone line down the side of the two-story building. When she heard a couple approaching, she quickly turned off the light, pressed against the building, and squinted.
“Your eyes are like beacons in the night,” Justin once told her, “close them.” She wished he were with her now because—although she was good—she wasn’t as good as Justin Sunder. Even though she knew Chin’s system could be easily breached she still felt a little uncomfortable dancing alone for the first time since meeting him two years ago.
She had come to depend on his expertise. And she enjoyed dancing with him.
Her eyelids dropped to form two crescent moons while waiting for the couple to pass. When it was safe, she opened her eyes again, turned the light back on, and continued to track the correct wire to the security box that flashed a red light. Phoenix knew with a system like this, bells and whistles went off if someone broke a window because the concern wasn’t to catch the criminals but to draw attention to their activity. With a quick snip, she disabled the security system Chin’s employed. In the distance a police siren sang, but Phoenix wasn’t concerned—as Justin was prone to say, “It’s the ones you don’t hear that get you.” Phoenix took black electrical tape and connected the severed lines so they appeared to be undamaged.
In the back, she found the small window she needed, just large and low enough for her to climb through. She covered the window with duct tape then tapped it several times with her flashlight, the muffled noise of breaking glass barely audible. She peeled away the gray tape, quietly bringing the broken glass with it, leaving a clean hole for her to enter through.
Once inside she felt comfortable again, the familiar feeling of excitement and confidence returned, and she took her time. Phoenix knew what she wanted. She didn’t steal everything she could get her hands on, when she wanted a VCR she broke into a store and took a VCR, she didn’t loot the place; she didn’t break windows and grab whatever she could to sell later, that was for amateurs and punks; she didn’t shoplift and she wasn’t a kleptomaniac. She practiced her art with deliberation. Inside Chin’s Orient Emporium, she only wanted three items. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the dark and she made her way through the store, straight for the kimono rack. She tried on several styles, checking the mirror to see how they looked, and finally chose an ivory colored lace kimono with a large, hand-sewn rose stitched on the back. She then walked over to the display case that housed the legal weapons. Using her lock-pick set, she opened the case for her second item. Phoenix slid open the glass panel and picked out a Balisong knife with red handles and a black tempered-steel blade, exactly like the butterfly knife she lost last year, the one her girlfriend Dena gave to her in New Orleans. She flicked her wrist three times and the six-inch blade shot out, revealing a deadly weapon in less than a second. She skillfully opened and closed it several times—like Dena had taught her.
“You’re gonna hafta look out for yourself now, Phoenix,” Dena said just before leaving New Orleans. “I’m not gonna be around to protect you from assholes that can’t leave pretty thangs like you alone.”
“Pretty thangs”—the phrase echoed in Phoenix’s mind—she loved the way Dena said ‘pretty thang’ to her, like it was a precious title. She hadn’t thought about her for years, and for a moment she and Dena were together again, saying good-bye. Phoenix touching Dena’s flawless dark face, her cropped white hair, kissing her full lips one last time and pressing against her. Phoenix began to touch herself but then a light flashed on the side of the building and Phoenix was thrown back to St. Louis—Chin’s. If the cop controlling the searchlight had better aim, he would have lit up Phoenix through the window, surprising her like a deer caught in headlights. She quickly dropped to the floor. When the officer positioned his light to shine through the window, Phoenix was already hidden.
The cop slowly panned it across the store, illuminating the clothing racks; a full-length mirror that reflected the light onto the video shelf; onto the cash register above the weapons counter; and then across an opened curtain in the changing room against the back wall. Satisfied that nothing was wrong, the police slowly drove off, shining the light past the security box and then down along the row of storefronts.
After the store became dark again, Phoenix rolled out from under the counter and went over to the robes. She picked out the last item she wanted: a thick, hooded green robe, intricately and elaborately decorated with a dragon. Phoenix smiled as she pushed the heavy back door open and walked out into the alley, recalling the week before when she innocently walked into Chin’s to simply browse but after recognizing the store’s security system, and instantly knowing its faults, decided to dance there instead. She hit play on her Walkman and listened to Patti Smith as she ambled back to her car.
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Mark Pannebecker started falling asleep just over ten years ago when he lost his desire to write. Thinking it was just a nap, a writer’s block, he closed his eyes. But attempts to awaken and force himself out of his writer’s block failed. Months rolled into years where Mark wrote nothing yet still called himself a writer. The years languished over him as he slowly lost his dharma. And so he slept, without a life purpose, following the dreams of others. Until an insignificant event occurred that awoke him. He lost a job that held great promise (one of many). After all the yoga and kirtans and meditation and breath-work and chi gong and getting in touch with his feminine and chanting and searching the metaphysical for answers and the soul searching and the soul expansion and the embrace of the Goddesses, the Buddha, the Hindu gods, it was this seemingly insignificant event that lifted the veil. And just like that, Mark’s muse returned carrying his dharma.
Mark had never tried to get published in the past for he loved the process of creating and was happy riding his motorcycle, traveling, living, loving, and writing. But it is time now to put the body of his work out there and pick up where he left off. He is proud of his past work that he offers now and hopes you enjoy it. Mark is in the process of preparing and writing new work, alive and fresh from a long slumber.
Mark Pannebecker is an author of fiction. He started out as a filmmaker but soon fell in love with the creative writing process and began to shift his focus from producing and directing films to writing screenplays. He wrote in whichever genre held the narrative best.
He’s written screenplays, stage plays, novels, novellas, and has recently published a collection of poetry titled Motorcycle Boy Lives and a collection of short stories titled Godsfood. His first novel, Fraternity of Fractures, was originally written as a screenplay and was published in 2015. His second novel, Myth of Love, will be published in the latter part of 2016.
Author's Book List
- A Collection of Short Stories
This collection of short stories is a tasty morsel that rests softly on the palate and an important part of every meal. Sometimes the stories leave a lump in the throat and other times a smile on the lips. From the haunted past of Sylvia in The Isle of Shoals to the lovable bear living The Big City in The Adventures of Sparky the Bear, Godsfood delivers a cornucopia of diverse writing and unique characters.
Visit a white man in the Midwest struggling to keep his honor in The Curman Brothers, and a black man in L.A. during the 1992 riots displaying his in The Unhealing Wound. Walk with two lost souls in Maribella of the Moors, and one found in My Brother’s Garden. Listen in as a father tells his son a charming bedtime tale in The Hip O’ Cat, and a spirit guide tell a young woman a transformative one in Salmon King. And don’t forget to plan for the afterlife buffet in Godsfood.
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MOTORCYCLE BOY LIVES
Motorcycle Boy Lives is a collection of poetry that is essentially a book in three acts. It documents the journey of the poet as he begins to express his dreams and desires in the first act, then continuing into the second act where the poet navigates through the conflict of his life as he attempts to embrace the positive and confront the negative, and finally ends with the hope and promise of being a better person through it all. It’s sometimes sentimental and personal, and other times profound and universal, but always honest. The poetry chosen was written over a span of many years and included in this story as the best poems to convey the poet’s path to enlightenment, understanding, and love.
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