Damage Control

Lou, a renegade cop, stands on a deserted winter beach trying to summon the courage to bash his own head in with a rock as a way of covering up a murder. Cheryl, a bartender, fends off a request that she kill her best friend’s husband. Bernard, a young college graduate, struggles to overcome the guilt of having caused somebody’s death.

These are the wounded and the confused, the maladjusted and the malevolent. These are just some of the people in “Damage Control,” a collection of short stories by Frank Diamond, a columnist with the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.

These stories focus on the rough edges of human connectedness, as characters struggle to make the best of troubled circumstances that they helped to create.

The Pilgrim Soul

Wally Snyder carries baggage to his high school class’s 15-year reunion. You see, Wally wasn’t just a nerd, he was the nerd. “Why would you even want to go?” Wally’s mother snaps.

Because Wally wants to see the golden boy, Frank Stanton. Wally needs to show that he has changed — even though he hasn’t quite convinced himself. Wally, however, finds Stanton to be as arrogant as ever. Out of spite, Wally, who has a gift for mimicry, calls Stanton’s former wife, the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader Bridget McNally, and pretends to be Stanton.

That’s as far as the prank goes. He thinks. Then, Stanton dies that very night. Wally does a little digging to find out that the golden boy wasn’t so golden. When Wally nearly “accidentally” dies, he realizes that somebody knows what he knows. Now, if only Wally knew what he knows.

So begins The Pilgrim Soul, a mystery by Philadelphia Bulletin columnist Frank Diamond that will keep you on the edge of your seat.