Mystery

NASHVILLE: Music and Murder, by Tom Carter

cover-low-resTitle:  NASHVILLE:  Music and Murder

Genre: Mystery

Author: Tom Carter

Website: http://www.authortomcarter.com

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

Set against the backdrop of Nashville’s thriving country music industry, Nashville:  Music and Murder introduces an unforgettable protagonist: country music’s reigning queen for over two decades, legendary vocalist Maci Willis.

When the novel opens, Maci Willis has taken the stage at Bridgestone area. Performing an unbelievable string of hits to legions of adoring fans, Maci is back for her fourth encore…until a gunshot rings out in a shocking attempt on her life.   But who would want country music’s queen dead?  And why?

Beloved to fans, but widely known offstage for extraordinary talent and unnecessary drama, Maci miraculously escapes with her life—a life that quickly begins to spiral out of control.  Eager to do damage control for the scandalized starlet, Maci’s record label launches an extensive publicity tour in the wake of the shooting. But when an overzealous fan gets way too close for comfort and dies under dubious circumstances, Maci is forced to flee.

Out of the spotlight and on the run, Maci has to face the music.  As her carefully-constructed façade crumbles, Maci realizes just how empty, hollow, and meaningless her life has become.  But soon, Maci discovers a shocking truth:  there’s something sinister behind the music, and beneath the glittery veneer of fame and fortune lurks an unseemly underbelly of greed, deceit, and deadly intentions.  Could it be that Maci Willis is worth more dead than alive?  Seems like someone is poised to make a killing in country music…

Will Maci finally come to see the light?  Or will she even live to see the light of day?

About the Author: 

Bestselling author Tom Carter is a longtime Nashville who lives with his wife, Janie, a few miles from Nashville’s legendary Music Row.  

Connect with the author on the Web:

http://www.authortomcarter.com/

https://www.facebook.com/authortomcarter

https://www.instagram.com/authortomcarter/

Chapter One

Singer Maci Willis faked another smile, then gazed wearily across a sea of 18,000 jubilant fans. Twenty years ago, she would have given her heart and soul to

draw a crowd this size. But tonight, the demanding masses were draining her of everything she had.

As her eyes scanned the room, she heard not the adulation of an army of admirers, but the deafening roar of a thousand lions that had just spotted a solitary gazelle named Maci.

Looking down, she told herself that she could hold her composure together for a few more minutes. The rhythmic stomping of feet told her what she already knew – that people were hungry for more musical manna – and were hoping for a third encore.

With her nod to the band, the opening chords of one of her signature hits filled the arena. Then, as a sea of smart- phones flashed at her, she waved her hand, a gesture to stop the music.

“You probably heard I’m not too big of a fan of these phones,” she said.

A few hundred fans who had seen the previous month’s tabloids hooted in approval. They’d read the story of how Maci, while dining at a riverside restaurant, was approached by a fan who tried to force her into an unwanted selfie. In one swift, nearly choreographed motion, Maci snatched the boy’s phone and threw it into the river. When the press called the next day, her only comment was, “I don’t know why they call it a smartphone when there always seems to be an idiot attached to the  screen.”

Now, in front of a capacity crowd, Maci decided to double down. Rather than address the entire audience, she turned her attention to a pudgy teenage girl in the front row, who was still squinting into her phone as she recorded Maci.

“Darlin’,” she said. “You. Open your eyes. You’re sitting beneath a thirty-foot Jumbotron. Me and my band are standing here in front of you, larger than life. And your mama paid two hundred dollars for that seat. And now, you want to squeeze us all down into a teeny, tiny, four-inch screen.

“Well, I’m waaay too big for a four inch screen!”

The crowd roared in support of Maci. When the Jumbotron captured the image of the young offender, it finally dawned upon her that she was the target of Maci’s  remarks.

“Honey, just look at yourself,” said Maci in a voice that blurred the chasm between sarcasm and concern. “You’re scarcely fourteen years old, and you’re already at least thirty   or forty pounds overweight, maybe more. That ain’t living, darlin’. Put down that stupid phone. Throw it out. Get out of your chair. And get up on your feet and   dance!

“In fact, everybody, put down your phones!” Maci yelled  to the audience. “Get up on your feet! You  didn’t come here   to see Samsung! You didn’t come here to see Apple! You came here to see the greatest female singer alive—and to hear the best songs in the history of country music! Now get up and dance!”

The band instantly ripped into the opening bars of the third encore. Maci had worked the crowd into such a frenzy that only a few noticed the glistening tears rolling down the chastised girl’s reddened face. Just as two other teenagers left their seats to console her, the Jumbotron cut away from her and back to Maci, and the cries of the crowd reached a new crescendo.

Winding down from two hours of singing and shuffling across a 40-foot stage, Maci took a deep breath. The sprawling screen above the platform magnified the sweat that beaded on her brow. Her normally erect posture was slightly bent, as if she carried not just the weight of the night’s performance, but of the entire world’s.

“Maybe not the entire world,” she thought to herself. “Just thousands of fans, a production crew of sixty, and five truckloads of equipment. Plus a sizeable part of the country music industry.”

Outside, additional Jumbotrons on the façade of Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena thrust Maci’s voice and image out to the throng of fans without tickets. Throughout the evening, she’d intermittently talked directly to the sidewalk followers, who for the most part were a bit more drunk that those inside. A drone-mounted camera occasionally panned the crowds who came to life each time they saw themselves on the massive screens. One man shot the moon to his fellow fans and a few women flashed their  breasts.

The frenetic sea of Maci’s fans stretched down Broadway for two blocks, nearly reaching the bank of the Cumberland River. From that vantage point, most could neither hear nor see Maci’s show; they’d come primarily to drink and mingle with other folks, and occasionally they’d contribute their own song and dance. Temporary beer stands had taken root in the middle of the road, which had been closed off to accommo- date the crowds. In each booth, bartenders poured a   steady stream of ice-cold lagers for the mob, who had come as much for the beer as for the  music.

“You folks outside should have scooped up some tickets from the scalpers,” Maci shouted into her microphone. “The cost would have been outrageous, but I’m worth the money!” The lilt in her voice hinted that her energy was waning like a jet aircraft leaking fuel. Even so, her little asides ignited smatterings of applause from both inside and outside the arena.

“How much more do these people want from me?” Maci mumbled off microphone. “How much more can I give? Let’s see what the old gal’s got left.”

Lifting the microphone to her lips, she blasted out the first few words of “Come and Get It,” her chart-topper from nearly fifteen years earlier. As the band joined in, the audi- ence once again rose to their feet. Maci crossed the stage, dragging the spotlight with her, toward her steel guitarist. Feigning astonishment, he leapt from his seat on cue, and Maci playfully pushed him away. Sitting in his chair, Maci sloppily played a three-string verse without a chorus, and then jumped atop the borrowed chair where she wobbled back and forth to the delight of her  audience.

Just as she expected, a hefty faction of the crowd mimicked her movements by jumping up and teetering on their seats. Unaccustomed to balancing on their chairs, people were laughing, spilling beer and falling like leaves in a windstorm. Holding her microphone to her waist, Maci made sure her admirers could see, but not hear, her exaggerated breaths, which were worthy of a boxer after going twelve rounds with Muhammad Ali. The theatrics once again worked the crowd

into blistering ecstasy as the lights began to  fade.

“Bye bye, folks,” she thought as the darkness embraced her. “I’m leaving my stage, leaving it without an ounce of remaining energy. Time for y’all to go back home to your bored and boring lives.”

Precisely as the curtains dropped, the room’s semi-dark- ness was shattered by the burst of the arena’s house lights which pierced the air like a thousand tiny suns. Their idol gone from sight, fans squinted into the glare, contorting their faces like animals surfacing from a long winter’s hibernation. Many hummed or sang as they headed toward the exits. Most were smiling, and a few were teary eyed from having finally seen a living legend. The Queen had left her throne. There was no High Princess in the wings. The music had silenced, and so had the listeners’ world.

Or so they thought.

Before the fans could leave, the arena was thrust into total blackness. Scattered exit signs eerily dotted the  darkness like flickering fireflies. Some fans wondered aloud if there had been a power failure. Then, in a flash, the surprised audi- ence released a collective gasp as spotlights sliced through the ocean of black. As the crowd slowly realized what was happening, their murmurings rose from unexpected joy, to unbridled jubilation to outright nirvana.

“Nobody returns to the stage four times!” shouted the announcer through the sound system. “Except for Maci Willis!!!!”

Like shoppers squeezing through a Black Friday turnstile, the departing fans wrestled madly to get back to their seats. “The show must go on—again!” yelled the announcer. “You won’t miss what you don’t see, so you’d better see what

you might miss!”

Shouts, sometimes profane, resounded from fans, espe- cially those bottlenecked inside the exit tunnels where ushers struggled to herd them back  inside.

Then she appeared.

Alone in seven spotlights, Maci stood motionless as she was lifted through the stage floor, bathed in an aura of pastel footlights. Then, as the band played the opening chords of another signature song, she began to frantically dance in place with the fervor of a barefoot child on a tar roof.

“You didn’t think I’d leave without singing my favorite song, did you?” she screamed into her earset microphone. “You ain’t getting rid of me that easy. I’d NEVER leave you!” Separated from their assigned seats, the confused audi- ence shifted like a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces had sprung to life. As the band began to play, Maci ripped away her designer gown, flashed her legs beneath her mini-dress and the musical madness became as loud as New Year’s Eve at Times Square. The crowd, startled yet joyous,   unanimously

wondered how long the show would actually go on. Except for one fan. He knew exactly how   long.

Having followed Maci’s touring extravaganza through  three cities, he’d memorized the show down to its smallest detail. He knew this encore was truly the last. He knew just when Maci would strut across the stage,  and  exactly  when and where she’d stop to pose for one last flurry of photos like   a gloating minstrel. Like a legend finally at rest.

Like a perfect target.

While the houselights had sent most of the crowd to the exits, he waded against the plethora of fans, working his way closer to the stage. He knew the arena well; the route back- stage, the nearest exit, the gateway through which he could sink safely and silently into the night.

Like a child seeking a hidden toy, he slid his hand gently under his black, all-weather coat to reaffirm the presence of his .357 Magnum whose steel jacket bullets could penetrate an engine block. Patting the weapon’s cold steel contours, he marveled at its sleeping power which he would soon awaken.

“The entire crowd’ll want to kill me,” he whispered to  no one. “But that won’t be personal. They’ll want to kill me because I killed  her.”

Like a salmon battling its way upstream, he wove his way through the widening flow of torsos engulfing him.

Still too far to see Maci clearly, he repeatedly glanced upward at the Jumbotron as he inched toward the stage. The face he saw no longer had the youthful glow that had filled her early album covers. He could see the streaked mascara and the tired lines on her face that resembled creases on silk. “Maci’s  exhausted,” he told himself. “She needs to   rest.

She needs . . . me.”

He drifted, lost in the crowd, moving slowly but methodi- cally closer to the stage. As the song entered its second verse, he smiled wryly, realizing he could now ignore the Jumbotron and look straight into Maci’s eyes.

“I love you, Maci,” he yelled, his voice buried beneath the blare of the music and the roar of the crowd. “I understand your songs better than all of these simpletons!”

As he continued his journey toward destiny, his excite- ment over seeing Maci was matched only by his disdain for the audience. They were fools. They didn’t understand Maci. They didn’t understand her or her songs. Not like he did. Idiots. All of them.

Maci and four backup singers slipped into an a cappella refrain as the band members raised their hands high to kindle a round of unified clapping throughout the arena. Not content to merely clap, the crowd began to stomp their feet in time with the music. Feeling their cadence through the soles on his boots, he knew the crowd’s emotions were rising. As were his. None of them realized how close they were to the end of Maci’s show, and of her life.

But he did.

An unimpressive row of security ushers, dressed in canary yellow sport coats, stood rigidly a few feet apart from each other, forming what passed for a protective line in front of the stage and the performers standing on it.

“Useless geezers,” he smirked aloud, safe  and  smug  in  the knowledge that his spoken words still could not be heard above the din and fray. He could announce his plans aloud and no one would hear. He shook his head at the inept, unintimi- dating guards. “A Girl Scout could get by you. Maci deserves better than a handful of escapees from an old folks’ home.”

His heart raced. He was now close enough to count Maci’s finger rings, and was more energized than ever. His voice beginning to rasp, he couldn’t hear his own words this close to the stage, no matter how forcefully he shouted.

Realizing he was no longer struggling amid the masses, he drew a deep breath as he turned to gaze at the people in the front row, who rhythmically danced in place. Like the Pied Piper, he would soon abandon everyone on the ground floor before scaling to his lofty perch, and taking his place onstage aside his beloved Maci Willis.

“I’m closer to Maci than anyone else in the hall except her people on stage,” he said, congratulating himself.

His starstruck eyes suddenly filled with lust, he barely noticed the nearby security guard waving at him. For a moment, he was tempted to leap up, grasp the lip of the plat- form, and pull himself onstage.

“Not now,” he told himself. “Move now and they’ll stop you.”

The guard continued to  wave.

“Me?” he mouthed as he pointed to himself, faking confusion.

The glorified usher nodded and signaled for the misplaced man to come to him.

Forcing a smile, he walked slowly toward the yellow coat and the old man wearing it. As if seeing a long lost friend, he thrust his arm around the fellow and pretended to yell into his ear. Moving stealthily, he slid his hand into his coat’s inside pocket. With a magician’s sleight of hand, he quickly found his Taser and dropped the guard.

Maintaining his grasp on his prey, he called out to two of the nearby guards.

“Need some help here,” he shouted. “Looks like heatstroke.”

The two guards discretely eased their companion to the ground, trying their best to not distract attention from the show.

A drunk from the front row, deciding that a dousing of liquid was the best way to revive someone, flung the contents of his plastic cup into the fallen guard’s face. Upon seeing this, two more guards left their posts to drag the drunk away.

With five guards out of the way, half the stage was now  his.

“Hell’s bells,” he shouted, his voice still inaudible to the crowd. “I was expecting a challenge. Seems like you clowns are actually trying to help.”

A shiver ran through him. “Like you’re trying to help,” he said. “Like it’s meant to be. Like it’s   destiny.”

Glancing at his watch, he counted in time with the beat as the music approached its bridge into the third  verse.

“Three . . . , two . . . , one . . . ,” he shouted. “Showtime!” High above the arena, a thunderous cloudburst exploded from the ceiling, raining colorful, vibrant foil confetti    upon

the crowd like blessings from Walmart.

Despite the full saturation of stage lights, he knew the torrent of tinsel would conceal his movements as he pulled himself onstage in one quick, coordinated maneuver.

There, behind the cascade of colored paper, illumination and glitter, he slowly rose, invisible to the audience. While the crowd was swept away by sensory overload, his focus sharpened. His entire world was now reduced to Maci, his gun and his hand.

Her back turned to him, he watched her take her first step to stage right. There, she’d halt to wave goodbye to fans, lingering for a moment in a frenzy of camera flashes. He waited until she struck a photo-worthy pose, which she’d hold for several seconds, just as he’d seen in her last two concerts. Inhaling slowly, he steadied his breath as she hit her mark at stage right. He vowed she’d never make it to stage left.

Holding his breath, he pointed his gun squarely into the back of her heart. His thumb cocked the hammer as he made a mental note to squeeze, not pull, the trigger. Resting rigidly on his knees, he felt his forefinger easing toward him.

The impact of the policeman’s tackle ignited the shooter’s reflexes. His elbow buckled and his grip tightened as the officer collided with his arm. The force knocked the stalker violently to the floor, sending the pistol sliding across the stage.

The officer had acted quickly—but  not  quickly  enough.  As his head hit the platform floor, the shooter saw a spurt of blood and hair from the left side of    Maci’s  head.

Amid the blinding spotlights and the relentless storm of tinsel, most of the audience had failed to see the three-feet- long flash from the weapon’s  barrel. Those who discerned   a policeman wrestling a man to the floor assumed it was another case of an overzealous fan trying to get too close to the star.

But onstage, it was a nightmare come to life. The stage- hands and musicians had been close enough to hear the cannon-like blast of the weapon. A few of them joined in the melee, helping the officer subdue the stalker. Others started to join, but were stopped mid-step by the sight of a fallen Maci Willis, whose head lay in a widening pool of crimson.

On cue, the thicket of confetti stopped. People in the higher seats, along with everyone viewing the Jumbotron, saw the ongoing skirmish taking place on the stage.

And they saw the fallen Maci.

The crowd emitted a bone-chilling chorus of shrieks, as  if the entire arena had been cast into an inferno. The music ceased, the house lights were raised, and everyone under the cavernous ceiling could now see the four-man fracas at stage right, violent and unexplainable.

As the shrieks gave way to shouts, sobs and pandemonium, Maci’s sparkling dress reflected the spotlights that were still swirling in time to the now-silenced music. Only the scurrying of first-responders was able to lower the arena’s volume, and a concerned, unintelligible murmur filled the air. In seconds, Maci was hoisted upward by emergency personnel, while the stagehands and musicians fumbled about helplessly, equally torn between the urge to look and the urge to look away.

From the first row to the top tier, confused and terrified fans fell into a hush. For the first time all night, the arena was silent.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Chapter reveal: Naked Alliances, by S.K. Nicholls

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Title: NAKED ALLIANCES

Genre: Mystery

Author: S.K. Nicholls

Website:  www.sknicholls.com

Publisher: Brave Blue Heron Books

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book: In Naked Alliances, novelist S.K. Nicholls takes readers on a witty, wild, wickedly fun romp that exposes a side of Orlando tourists rarely see. The debut release in The Naked Eye Private Investigator Series, Naked Alliances introduces lone wolf P.I. Richard Noggin.

 When a young immigrant woman and an exotic dancer are forced to flee men with guns and have no place to hide, Richard Noggin, P.I., can’t turn his back—even if helping out makes him a target. Richard plans to impress an aspiring politician by taking on a big white-collar case that could take him from the streets to an air-conditioned office. Instead, he’s handed a cold case and quickly finds himself sucked into a shadowy world of sex, secrets and…murder. Marked for a bullet and stretched thin by his investigations, Richard reluctantly teams up with the unlikely, brassy custodian of the young woman on the run. With bodies piling up, Richard and his companion are forced to go undercover in a most unlikely locale: the Leisure Lagoon, a nudist resort.  Going undercover in this instance will mean going uncovered…but lives are at stake—and this Naked Eye will have to juggle to keep his balls in the air and connect the dots before anyone else is murdered. As his pulse-quickening quest for answers leads from the dark corners of Orlando’s Little Saigon to the sunny exposure of the Leisure Lagoon, Richard will be put to the test. Just how much will this Naked Eye have to bear…or bare? The heat is on in this quirky Sunshine State crime thriller.

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About the Author: S.K. Nicholls’ family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the nation located in Central Florida, Cypress Cove. Her experience gives her a deep understanding of the lifestyle choice and how it is extremely different from the sex industry, yet harbors clandestine elements of intrigue and fascination. Social issues are at the forefront of her writing. A former sexual assault nurse examiner, she has a special interest in the subject matter of sex-trafficking. A native of Georgia, she lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband, Greg.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sknicholls/

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CHAPTER ONE

There was only one thing worse for business than not solving cases and that was keeping a new client waiting. Already running late for a meeting, Richard Noggin drove north on Orange Avenue through moderate nighttime traffic in his silver, two-seater Mercedes convertible, the top down and the air-conditioner blowing high cool. As he approached Michigan Avenue, coming into downtown Orlando, two figures darted onto the road from his left.

Swerving and slamming on the brakes, tires squealed as he screeched to a halt. They stood in the light of the headlamps, transfixed, a tall woman and a young girl. An eighteen-wheeler thundered by, its horn blasting him senseless. The woman whacked the car’s hood with a pair of stilettos and jumped, grabbing the girl close.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Richard yelled as cars whizzed past. The woman marched the girl by the shoulders around to the passenger’s side. “Hurry. Let us in!” Releasing the girl, she tried the locked door, then grabbed the window ledge with both hands, shoes dangling.

He eased off the brakes, starting to roll, and looked across the car. Standing in the street in her sequined white halter and miniskirt, the woman looked terrified, panting and wiping her windswept, auburn locks back from her face. The almond-eyed girl even more so, with facial bruises and a busted lip. He took his foot off the gas. Dammit, he couldn’t drive off and leave them there in the middle of the road. Before he could let them in, the woman tossed the high heels and her oversized shoulder bag inside, threw her long, lean leg over the door, and plopped herself into the passenger’s seat. She yanked the young girl over onto her lap.

“Drive,” she screamed. “Drive!”

Richard raced to the intersection.

“Turn left here!” she ordered.

“Isn’t this the direction you came from?”

“Just do it!”

He had a green light and took a hard, fast left in front of oncoming traffic, heading for Orange Blossom Trail, a highway known locally as O.B.T. Then it hit him – these two had come off the hooker trail in the red-light district. This was asking for trouble, but his investigative curiosity took over. “Why are you running?”

“Because standing on the curb waiting on a bus wasn’t an option.” A black car raced past in the opposite direction. She crouched down in her seat, forcing the girl forward. “I don’t think they saw us.”

“How could they have missed you? She’s sitting with her face pressed against the windshield.”

“You’re exaggerating.” The woman sat upright, shifted the girl in her lap to one side, and stroked the dash of the car. “Damn, your payments on this pretty girl must be more than Donald Trump’s monthly tab for hair spray.”

“She’s paid for.” He rolled his eyes and shot her a quick look. “Who are you hiding from?”

“Men with guns. Damn, I hate guns.”

“What men?”

“All I know is I was coming out of the Brown Pelican Lounge on south O.B.T. when this girl came charging across the parking lot next door in front of the Shady Breeze Motel, screaming, ‘Help, men with guns!’ I looked at her and her bloodied lip, and hearing ‘Guns!’ figured we ought to run. I snatched off my shoes and did just that.”

“Why didn’t you take her inside and call the police?”

“Let’s just say there were a few gentlemen inside whose company I didn’t care to keep.”

“So, you ran with her?”

“You catch on real quick. Two guys chased us on foot and two ran for their car.”

“Now what am I supposed to do?”

“Turn right at the light and take me home.”

“You live on the Trail?” he asked, only half-joking. He slowed for traffic at the intersection. Her scent caught him. The voice was mellow and raspy, like a smoker, but her fragrance was cinnamon and oranges, her skin, the color of fine café latte. Arms wrapped around the young girl made her cleavage deepen. She turned to him with emerald eyes sparkling.

“I’m staying at the Parliament House.”

“The gay club?”

“Resort. The Parliament House Resort. I’m a showgirl. Name’s Brandi, formerly Brandon.”

Richard did a double take, swallowed hard, and took a right turn, proceeding north. “Where were you taking her?”

“The twenty-four hour pharmacy on Michigan, to get something for her lip, and let them figure out what to do with her. I dunno. What would you do?”

“I’d probably call the police.” He sped up and passed a few cars ahead.

“I’m sure those guys with the guns would’ve waited for us to do that.” Her sarcasm as strong as her perfume. “I used to be a cop and I know they’re not gonna do a damn thing for her. As far as they’re concerned, she’s just another poor girl walkin’ the streets.”

“Somehow, you don’t strike me as a cop.”

“It was a brief stint.”

He ran through the caution light at Kaley Avenue. “Call the police and have them meet us at the Parliament House. I have an important dinner appointment in Winter Park and I’m already late.”

“And I have a show to do tonight,” Brandi fired back.

“Well, I can’t keep her.” He glanced at the silent girl. “What’s your name?”

“Cara Kieu.”

“Where do you live?”

“I not know much English. Cara Kieu scared.”

Richard gave Brandi a hard look. “Listen, I can’t manage her. You’re going to have to figure this out.” He reached into the pocket of his sport coat. “Here’s my card. Call me later if you can’t deal with her, and I’ll see what I can do.”

She took the card. “Richard Noggin, P.I. Just my luck, I get picked up by Dick Head, P.I.” She tucked the card into her purse at her feet.

“Yeah, I get that a lot.”

He felt her soft touch on his shoulder and cringed, her hand caressing as it moved up his neck. What the hell was he getting himself into?

She nudged him and smiled. “Has anyone ever told you that you have the most striking crystal-blue eyes? They’re really set off by your thick, dark hair.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot, too.”

“I notice things about men.”

“I’m sure you do.” He leaned away, hoping she’d get the message that he wasn’t interested.

They crossed the intersection at West Church Street. A black Nissan pulled out behind them. Brandi jerked back her hand and ducked, pulling Cara down with her. “Holy shit, it’s them!”

“Hold on.”

He took a fast right onto West Central and another onto Parramore. The Nissan followed. He sped through the stop sign at Jackson and turned left into oncoming traffic on South Street, a busy, three-lane, one-way road. Cara screamed and clung to Brandi.

“You’re going to get us killed!”

“Wasn’t that your problem in the first place?” In his rearview, he noted the Nissan cross South Street behind them.

Horns blared as cars roared by left and right. He saw a black Nissan speeding along on the next street over. Dodging angry traffic, he careened past the Amway Center, turning onto yet another one-way at Hughy. With no sign of their pursuers behind them, he plowed through.

Cara Kieu screamed again as he swerved to avoid a head-on collision with a city bus. After a couple of blocks and a quick left, he drove around the State Marshall’s Building, then made several fast turns through the downtown neighborhood streets.

With tousled passengers shrieking, he’d made a complete, albeit dangerous, wide circle. Relieved when they reached Orange Blossom Trail in front of the Parliament House, he parked on the corner. “Get out.”

Brandi looked at him in disgust. “You can’t just leave us here.”

“You need to get out and run. I don’t know how long we’ve got before these guys are back on our tail.”

“Okay, we’re outta here.” She opened the door, pushed Cara from her lap, grabbed her shoes and bag, then jumped from the vehicle and slammed the door. “Thanks for the ride, dude.”

Richard watched as they crossed the busy highway. RuPaul’s Raja: Heaven Scent gleamed on the billboard. Beneath all the neon multicolor, Brandi dazzled, looking like she was right where she belonged.

He sped away north up the Trail, and east onto Colonial through Little Saigon, then headed north on Mills Ave, with no sign of the black Nissan all the way to Winter Park.

 

 

Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Chapter reveal: Death Steals A Holy Book, by Rosemary and Larry Mild

cover-artTitle: Death Steals A Holy Book

Authors: Rosemary and Larry Mild

Release: September 2016

Publisher: Magic Island Literary Works

Available at Amazon

Husband-and-wife mystery novelists Rosemary and Larry Mild have created a tightly woven, cleverly plotted and supremely suspenseful tale in Death Steals A Holy Book.  Resplendent with action, intrigue, wit, and a to-die-for cast of characters, Death Steals A Holy Book is bound to delight.

Reluctant sleuths Dan and Rivka Sherman yearn for a tranquil life as the owners of The Olde Victorian Bookstore in Annapolis, Maryland. But when the Shermans acquire a rare volume, they find themselves embroiled in a firestorm of deceit, thievery, and violence.

Israel Finestein, renowned restorer of old books in Baltimore, has just finished his work on the Menorat ha-maor, “The Candlestick of Light.”His life is brutally snuffed out and the book disappears. What makes this rare text so valuable that someone is compelled to kill for it? Two Baltimore detectives find a puzzling number of suspects. Is it the controversial woman whom Israel plans to marry? The rare book agent who overextended himself in the stock market? Israel’s busybody cousins who resent his changed lifestyle? Or the wayward lad who thinks a gun is the way to big bucks?

This case could be one for the books…

Chapter 1

Loss of Innocence

Monday, January 8, 2007 

A wooden sign over the door read “Fine Old Books Restored.” The tiny shop at 59 Beuller Street reeked of fermenting leather, neatsfoot oil, and musk—exuding from rare tomes and the noble attempt to resurrect them. Could such an unusual stench follow the dreadful journey of two rare manuscripts?

The shop’s small front room served to greet customers. Beyond it lay the inner sanctum, the artisan’s hallowed workroom. A man in a yarmulke, a black knit skullcap, sat hunched over his large work table, deep into the project before him: a rare ancient manuscript he had just restored. No longer any sign of mildew—the pages more pliable—their stains now barely perceptible—the cover and binding newly supple. With a tweezer-like tool, this fifty-two-year-old artisan carefully tugged at a frayed re-weave of the original stitching. His cotton-gloved hands and sinewy forearms moved with a deftness and assurance that only an experienced and loving craftsman might display. No ordinary shopkeeper or tradesman here. Nothing was bought or sold here. He simply provided a valuable, singular service.

A broad blue mask with thick binocular lenses hid the upper half of his angular face, while its strap disappeared behind his head into ridges of bristled, gray-black hair. The skullcap personified his belief in the ever-presence of God above him. Beneath a generous coffee-stained mustache, his thin lips exposed a hint of protruding pink tongue, a boyish gesture suggesting the deep intensity required by the task at hand. There, almost finished, he thought.

The tiny bell above the street door jingled, startling him. He’d flipped the OPEN sign to CLOSED several hours earlier at 5:30. He wasnt expecting any customers this late. Ah, it’s probably my lovely Peggy schlepping my supper. He had left the shop’s door unlocked for her. She’s such a good woman, a friend like I’ve never had before. A little meshugge with all that Goth makeup and jewelry, but I’m in love with her anyway—God forgive me.

He heard footsteps in the dark front room, and wondered why she wasn’t calling to him.   Pushing his chair back, he stood up, eager to receive her. But actually seeing who had entered was impossible with the magnifying aid in place. As he slipped the mask up his forehead, a gold-monogrammed briefcase caught his attention. It dropped to the floor near the table. Without warning, the business end of a Saturday Night Special loomed into his view from out of the darkness. Before he knew who or why, Israel Finestein heard a shot and looked down to see blood pouring out of his own chest. He never heard the second shot, nor the abandoned .38 caliber revolver falling with a thud on the vinyl floor. Israel slumped first into an awkward heap. Then gravity slowly leveled him out flat.

The killer picked up the tan leather briefcase, set it upright on a corner of the table, and undid the buckles on the two straps. Black-gloved hands removed a chamois cloth and spread it out on the table. The dark-clad figure gently closed the rare old text and laid it in the middle of the cloth, wrapping it securely before tucking it into the briefcase. After buckling the straps, the killer turned off the lone lamp and exited quickly to the faint sound of the doorbell jingle.

* * * *

Peggy Fraume was on a happy mission: to bring her lover his supper. In her left arm she cradled a tuna-noodle casserole inside an insulated bag. Under the streetlights, she began walking to his shop only a few blocks away. Izzy had entrusted her with the keys to his apartment. It was his supper she carried—in his yellow crockery bowl, prepared by him in his kosher kitchen, and merely reheated by Peggy in his oven.

Peggy worried about him. He often skipped meals or ate them unheated, so a few times each week she took his own hot food to him at his shop, enough for a couple of days, knowing that he sometimes slept in that old schleppy recliner in a corner of his workroom. This woman with short, punk, black hair and wild gypsy eyes felt far more than compassion for her friend. Peggy and Izzy lived in adjacent apartments on the eighth floor of a quiet Baltimore City neighborhood. They had immediately connected when they discovered they both played chess. After several months of casual dating and hours-long chess games, fondness had bloomed into passion to the point where they were planning a most unlikely marriage. They had even sent out save-the-date notices without considering all the contrasting consequences. They were blindly in love.

As Peggy approached the first-floor shop, she hesitated. Why is it so dark inside? Could he have left early without letting me know? She looked at the illuminated dials of her watch: eleven minutes past eight. The hairs at the nape of her neck bristled. She tried the door. Surprisingly, it wasn’t locked. She stepped inside and flipped on the front room light switch next to the door. Without looking about, she lifted the yellow crockery bowl out of its insulated bag and set it, along with her purse, atop the nearest display case. Only then did she venture into the darkness of the workroom.

Peggy moved cautiously. This is so strange. Where’s Izzy? Is he okay? She fumbled for the overhead light switch on the wall to her right, and while she adjusted to it, she heard a muffled moan. It came from behind the massive work table. She followed the source of the faint uttering. Izzy was sprawled out on his stomach, with the left side of his head on the floor and his face turned toward her. She knelt beside him. He wasn’t moving, but his mouth whispered what sounded like the Sh’ma, the prayer at the heart of Judaism, a pronouncement of the Oneness and Greatness of God. Then he mumbled something she couldn’t quite discern. The letters M-P-S or N-T-S maybe. Peggy knelt closer. Did he say “briefcase”? Then she thought he was asking for the police. As soon as the pitiful mumblings ended, her Izzy died.

As the pool of blood rapidly expanded, Peggy, still on her knees, backed away until she encountered something hard under her left shin. Reaching down, she grabbed the uncomfortable object—and screamed. She had retrieved the murder weapon. Realizing she’d left her fingerprints all over the grip, she gathered up the hem of her long skirt with the intention of wiping away those prints.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said a booming voice behind her. “Just lay the damn gun on the floor and get up. Slowly now, woman! Keep your hands where I can see them. It’s murder all right, and I’ve caught you red-handed.” A stocky, red-faced, uniformed police officer stood over Peggy with his service weapon pointed directly at her.

“But…But I found him this way!” Peggy screeched. “Izzy was already dying.”

“His name was Izzy?”

“Israel. Israel Finestein, but I called him Izzy. Officer, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t kill him. He was my fiancé! I loved him. Why would I kill him?”

“Put both your hands on the arms of that recliner,” the officer commanded. “You have the right to remain silent…,” he recited while frisking her one-handed, clumsily, near her breasts and down her hips and legs. Satisfied with the search, finding no additional weapons, and having finished with her Miranda rights, he seized and cuffed each of her wrists behind her back and pushed her into the front room. The officer followed so closely she could smell his cheap aftershave.

Nodding toward the yellow crock on the display case, she decried her innocence once more. “I was just bringing my fiancé his supper. See there on the counter? It’s a tuna-noodle casserole. I just heated it up for him. Doesn’t that make sense to you?”

But Officer James Francis O’Mera wasn’t listening. He was busy reporting a crime, speaking into his shoulder microphone. “Yes, sir! A woman yelled out a second-floor window at me. Said she heard shots in the shop downstairs, and I responded….No, sir! I didn’t get any names yet. Found a woman perp hovering over the male victim with a recently fired gun in her hand. Yeah, she’s in custody. Got ’er cuffed. Sure I read ’er her rights….No, I didn’t touch anything….Okay. I’ll wait for the detectives and transportation.”

Letting go of the transmitting button, Officer O’Mera turned to his prisoner. “What’s your name, lady?”

“Fraume, F-R-A-U-M-E, Margaret Fraume. But I tell you I’m innocent. You’re letting the real killer get away.”

“Sure, sure, I got it all wrong. That’s what they all say. I got you dead to rights, ma’am. You got any ID, Fraume?”

“My purse,” she said, tilting her head toward the counter and indicating the black cloth shoulder bag sitting there. She watched him upend the purse contents onto the countertop: lipstick, compact, cell phone, keys, handkerchief, a Kleenex mini-pack, and a vinyl wallet. He flipped open the snap and spread the wallet until he saw her driver’s license in its compartment window.

“Ah, Margaret Fraume it is. Age forty-eight. You don’t look it, lady.”

“Thanks, but I—”

“So who’s the poor slob on the floor in the other room?” Officer O’Mera began to write in a small notebook he’d taken from his breast pocket.

“His real name is Israel Finestein, but everybody calls him Izzy. And don’t you dare call him a poor slob. I love him. He’s a wonderful, hard-working mensch, and the proprietor of this shop.”

“Does he own the joint?”

“He rents from some lady upstairs. I don’t know her name.” Peggy shuddered. She suddenly realized she was talking about her beloved as if he were still alive.

Vehicles screeched to a halt out front and car doors slammed shut. “Homicide!” the first man through the door said. “Officer, I’m Detective Sergeant Shap and this here is Detective Sullivan. He’s assisting me in this investigation. Anything appear to be missing from the shop? Cash or something else valuable?”

“Nothing obvious, sir. I haven’t had much of a chance to look around yet.”

“Good thing,” said Shap. “Wouldn’t want you lousing up my crime scene now, would I?”

“Yes, sir. I mean no, sir. Didn’t touch a thing.”

The two detectives perused the crime scene room for about fifteen minutes before calling in the lab people. Then Shap called Peggy into the workroom and sat her down in the recliner. He stood before her in a leather jacket and black pants, almost six feet tall, with a clean-shaven, handsome face and wavy walnut-brown hair brushed back with no part.

“Ma’am, I’m Detective Sergeant Shap. Did you know Mr. Finestein well?”

“Very well. We are—I mean, we were—neighbors and best friends. More than that. He was my fiancé, for heaven’s sake.” A sob caught in her throat. “The only reason I’m here is that I brought Izzy his supper, in that yellow crock in the front room on the counter. I didn’t kill him. I couldn’t do anything to harm that lovable man. Did you know we were engaged?”

“No, I didn’t know?” he responded sarcastically. “How could I?” Shap circled behind her, and examined her cuffed hands. He saw two rings on her right hand, one a carved silver rose, the other a black onyx stone. “So where’s the diamond ring if you’re engaged?”

“We hadn’t gotten around to that yet.”

“I see,” said Shap. “And if you were engaged, why would Officer O’Mera believe you murdered your lover? Was it a lover’s quarrel?”

“No, no, no!” Peggy, near tears now, said, “I’ll explain everything, but can’t you take off these horrible cuffs? They’re cutting into my wrists and my shoulders are getting sore.”

“No way.”

It occurred to her that the detective was enjoying her misery. She had no choice but to relate her whole story, beginning with finding the shop dark and ending with the attempt to wipe her fingerprints from the murder weapon. At several junctures she proclaimed her innocence. She was so despairing, so distraught that Izzy’s final utterings had completely slipped her mind. She offered them now.

Shap said, “You say you found the room dark. Why would Finestein be working late in the dark?”

“That’s just it,” she replied. “He wouldn’t be in the dark. He’d be working late to finish the rare holy book for Rivka and Dan Sherman. They’re supposed to pick it up the day after tomorrow. The book is gone! It should have been on the work table with the light over it. That’s why I became so concerned.”

“Who are these people, the Shermans?”

“They own The Olde Victorian Bookstore in Annapolis and they’re good friends of mine as well.”
“So where’s this so-called holy book now?” asked Shap.

“I just told you—it should have been on the work table. Otherwise, it would be stored in the locked cabinet for safekeeping.”
“In there?” he pointed. The steel cabinet’s door was slightly ajar, indicating that it had been left unlocked. Shap swung both doors open wide and saw two books and a rolled papyrus parchment. “One of these?” He gestured with his open hand.

“No!” Peggy said. “The Shermans’ rare book was at least twice the size of either one of those. And much older.”

“Just how holy was this book?” Shap pressed on. “It’s obviously not the Bible or the Torah or Haftarah.”

Peggy eyed him with curiosity. “How would you know? Are you Jewish?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Shap was once Shapiro. My father’s idea entirely.”

She’d never met a Jewish cop before. “Well, Detective, it’s the Sefer Menorat ha-maor.”

“Never heard of it.”

Sefer means book. Menorat ha-maor means The Candlestick of Light. The way Izzy explained it to me, it’s a precious book of religious truths and ethics. This copy is in Yiddish and there are other translations, too. It was the most popular book in Jewish households in the Middle Ages. How the righteous should live their lives.” She steadied her voice, praying that she was appealing to his more rational side. “So you see, robbery is the real motive here, and I don’t have the book. Ergo I am innocent.”

“Not so fast, lady. You could have had an accomplice. Mrs. Fraume, I—”

“It’s Ms. now since my divorce and I don’t have any accomplice.”

“Ms. Fraume, while your version of what transpired here may well be plausible, there are circumstantial facts sufficient to cast doubt on your explanation. Enough for you to remain in custody, at least for the time being. The question of your guilt or innocence may well rest with the courts. You may be able to get bail fixed at your arraignment.”

In the front room, Officer O’Mera shifted from foot to foot. He was alone and had nothing to do. He’d worked with Detective Shap before, arrogant SOB, and right now O’Mera’s stomach grumbled, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten anything since two doughnuts on his morning coffee break. He lifted the lid of the yellow crock, plus a corner of the Saran wrap, and sniffed. Mmm! Smells good and it’s still warm. It’ll go to waste if it just sits there. Besides, it can’t be evidence. Who’s gonna miss a coupla mouthfuls anyway? He took another sniff and checked to be sure nobody could see him. Using three fingers, he scooped up a small bundle of tuna and noodles covered with cream of mushroom soup, and popped it into his wide-open mouth. Delicious. He faced the door so no one would see him chew and swallow. With nobody watching, he repeated the procedure until only a quarter of the casserole remained.

Just as Peggy and the two detectives emerged from the workroom, the crime scene investigators arrived in a long white van. At the door, gloves and cloth footies were distributed to the team. Soon both rooms were taped off, leaving only a narrow passage from the entrance to the workroom. They even covered that with heavy brown paper. A crime-scene announcement prohibiting entry to unauthorized persons was posted on the window next to the shop’s front door.

No one noticed Shap lifting the cover off the yellow crock. He peeked under the Saran wrap, smiled, and nodded. Just as I thought. “Let’s get out of their way so they can dig up some more juicy evidence,” he said to Sullivan. His sidekick shrugged. Blue-eyed, with a crew cut, he tended to be an obliging sort.

“What about my purse?” Peggy blurted out as Shap guided her toward the black unmarked cruiser.

“Your purse is now inventoried evidence. It will be returned to you as soon as the lab people have cleared it.”

“But it’s my whole identity,” she protested.

“Sorry, miss,” replied Shap, his voice hard and not at all sorry. He pushed down on her head as she reluctantly entered the rear seat of the unmarked police car.

 

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Chapter reveal: Dating Death, by Randy Rawls

DD Cover for MGTitle:  DATING DEATH

Genre:  Mystery

Author: Randy Rawls

Website: http://www.randyrawls.com/

Publisher: White Bird Publications

Purchase at Amazon

About the Book: 

Dating Death, the latest mystery by acclaimed novelist Randy Rawls, features South Florida PI Beth Bowman.   She’s tough, tenacious, brash, and bold, but Beth Bowman knows that when the Coral Lakes Police Chief calls, she’d better listen. So when Chief Elston invites Beth for a meeting at the Coral Lakes police headquarters, Beth agrees to hear him out. Seems Elston has a rather unseemly request…

To Beth’s surprise, the topic du jour is South Florida politician Roger Adamson.  Adamson may be loved by his constituents, but he’s for sale to the highest bidder, a fact not lost on the local police.  Elston wants Adamson not just for normal bribes and influence peddling, but for access to the crime lord who supports Adamson’s extravagant lifestyle. Adamson agrees to cooperate— at his own pace, on his terms—if Elston agrees to keep him safe.  And that’s where Beth comes in. After all, someone will have to protect Adamson during public appearances, and who better than Beth Bowman?

Beth agrees, even though accepting the assignment means temporarily upending her life, including her burgeoning romance with Dr. David Rasmussen. Unbeknownst to Beth, this dirty job with a dirty politician could take a shockingly nasty turn…

Adamson’s a sleazy, arrogant jerk, and protecting him is certainly no walk in the park. But this job is leading Beth down a dark, dangerous, and downright deadly path.  Quickly and viciously swept up into a vortex of kidnapping, multiple homicides and violence, Beth Bowman is on the edge of losing everything—including her life.  Backing down isn’t Beth’s style, but this time Beth may have met her match… 

Swiftly paced, shocking, and full of twists of turns, Dating Death is a sizzling, action-packed tale.  Brimming with edge-of-your-seat suspense and a pulse-racer of a plot, Dating Death is hotter than a South Florida summer.  Randy Rawls, who has earned a well-deserved place among the fine writers who call the Sunshine State home, delivers a solid, irresistible and entertaining tale in Dating Death.

About the Author:

Randy Rawls grew up in North Carolina, then spent a career in the Army before retiring to Florida.  After retirement, he returned to work with the Department of Defense as a civilian. Somewhere along the way, he fell in love with writing—a natural progression as he has always been an avid reader. Randy Rawls lives in Delray Beach, Florida.

DATING DEATH

By Randy Rawls

CHAPTER ONE

Beth Bowman, P.I. pulled into a visitor’s parking space and killed the engine on her nondescript Toyota Camry. She sighed and leaned back in the seat staring at the building. Not her first choice for a place to be at ten in the morning, but she felt obligated to be there. The invitation from Chief Elston to meet with him at the Coral Lakes police headquarters could have been declined, but she needed to keep a good relationship with him and his people—or stated differently, she didn’t need to make it any worse.

She stepped out of the car and felt the heat and humidity slam into her—South Florida was living up to its reputation. She knew to enjoy it while she could. Since it was the rainy season, the afternoon and evening could be filled with thunderstorms, lowering the temperature but raising the humidity.

Beth entered through the front door and saw Officer Gantry manning the desk. “Hi. The Chief called me in for a meeting. Can I go back?”

“Yep, he told me to keep an eye out for you. The meeting is in his office. You know the way, don’t you?”

Beth walked past and headed down the hallway. At the Chief’s office, she stopped and blew out a long breath before tapping on the door.

The door swung open. “Come in, Beth. We’ve been waiting for you.” Chief Elston stood and ushered Beth to a chair at the end of his desk.

She looked around. No one there except the Chief and a man she didn’t recognize. He seemed familiar, though. VIP came to mind, but she couldn’t be sure of it. Whatever, he looked like he either had a severe case of heartburn or would prefer to be about anywhere else.

Before she could sort through her memory bank, Chief Elston performed as host. “I’m sure you know Roger Adamson, one of our city councilmen. Mr. Adamson, this is Beth Bowman, the lady I told you about.”

“I gathered that when you called her Beth. Now that introductions are behind us, I’m not sure why you’re wasting my time. Like I said before, how the hell do you expect a five foot, hundred-pound piece of fluff to keep me alive?”

Chief Elston smiled, but it appeared strained. “What I expect is for you to keep an open mind. As I told you, I know what I’m doing. You’re judging the package, not what’s in it.”

“Humph. Do I have to remind you it’s my life that’s in play, not yours? From what I see, she definitely won’t do. You’re going to have to—”

“Just a damn minute—”

“Hold it,” Beth said. “I didn’t come here so you can talk over me like a head of cabbage. Somebody better tell me what’s going on, or I’m out the door.” She scowled at Adamson. “Getting a bikini wax is more enjoyable than listening to this jerk.” She hesitated. “Also, I’m five feet, five inches tall and weigh one hundred twenty-five pounds. I can run a half-marathon, am an expert in self-defense, and trained in the use of firearms. And, just so there’s no misunderstanding, I don’t need shit from you—whatever you are.”

“Not only that,” Chief Elston said, “she can shoot the wings off a gnat, drop a six-six linebacker, and turn a hungry pack of wolverines into a passel of docile pussycats. There are folks in this town who learned the hard way not to get on her bad side. A couple of them are on my force. She kicks like a mule. Now, either you settle down and listen, or I call the Assistant State Attorney and tell her no deal. Make your choice.”

Beth looked from Elston to Adamson and back. City Councilman versus Assistant State Attorney? Good story potential. She leaned back in her chair, willing to listen.

Adamson puffed up like a blowfish, then deflated. “Alright. You’re holding the high cards. I’ll listen, but if this is the best you have, I might be better off in a white-collar lockup. In fact, right now, I’m tempted to change my mind.”

Too much. Beth stood. “I’ve heard enough. If you boys decide to get serious, give me a call. I didn’t come down here to watch two sumo wrestlers circle one another.” She started toward the door.

“Beth, please stay,” Elston said. “I’m sorry. This is not the way I intended the meeting to go. Let me start from the top.”

She stopped. “Okay, but for the record, and you can write it in permanent ink, if this character cracks on me once more, I may kick his flabby butt.”

“If he cracks on you once more, he’s on the short path to a solitary jail cell. That, I promise.”

Beth studied Adamson, her mind pulling pieces together. Roger Adamson, Coral Lakes Councilman. She’d seen an article in the Coral Lakes Post about an official under investigation for accepting bribes. No name, of course, a confidential source. Could Mr. Adamson be the person of interest? If so, where did she fit into the picture?

“Okay, Chief.” She looked at her watch. “I have a manicure in one hour—thirty minutes from here. That gives you twenty-five minutes to convince me I didn’t rush breakfast for no good reason. Let’s go.”

Chief Elston took a deep breath and laced his fingers on his desk. “Mr. Adamson is a dirty politician. By that, I mean he admitted—after we nailed him red-handed—that he takes bribes. Many of them are the standard South Florida stuff—land developers, folks wanting zone changes, unions, etc. You know, the routine leeches that make politics profitable here. However, we believe he also is the beneficiary of some really nasty people, folks who have no qualms about feeding witnesses to the fishes. Those are the people I’m interested in.”

Beth studied Adamson. “I can’t say I’m surprised. He looks the type—greasy, slicked back hair, scruffy beard, Hollywood looks. Where do I fit in? I’m not about to get involved in any kind of undercover stuff.”

 

 

Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chapter reveal: Irish Jewel, by Julie Ann James

Irish Jewel JpegTitle:  IRISH JEWEL

Genre: Suspense

Author:  Julie Ann James

Website:  www.peppertreepublishing.com

Publisherwww.peppertreepublishing.com

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

When Irish Jewel opens, bride-to-be Amy Reid is living out a fairy tale.  She’s engaged to be married to the love of her life, Michael Cambridge, an Irishman. Michael, a member of one of Dublin’s most  prominent families and heir to the Cambridge precious gem business, is everything a girl could dream of—and more.   He’s handsome, loving, charming, smart, successful, and, as icing on the wedding cake, Amy and Michael will be married in an elaborate ceremony in Dublin. This lavish, spare-no-expense event will be an exquisite dream-come-true-affair—a beautiful beginning to their lives together.

But this dream-come-true quickly turns into a nightmare:  what begins as a vague threat quick escalates into something much more sinister. On the eve of what should be the happiest day of her life, Amy is quickly swept up in an insidious web of danger, kidnapping, and murder.

When long buried truths emerge and dark secrets come to light, this fairy tale will be irretrievably fractured.  Nothing is as it seems—and the only way to win this deadly game is to get out alive. But the odds are stacked against Michael and Amy.  Will they even live to see “till death us do part”? Expect the unexpected in this twisted tale…

Irish Jewel

Julie Ann James

Chapter One

The captain’s deep monotone voice interrupted the restless sleep of some 120 passengers to prepare them for touchdown. They were about 20 minutes outside the Dublin airport at the end of a smooth but long flight, something that Amy Reid was still getting used to since her engagement to the love of her life, an Irishman, Michael Cambridge. They had met two years earlier as seatmates on a flight out of Dublin to her hometown of Sarasota, Florida.

Since then, they had been inseparable, other than the exasperating fact they lived across the pond from one another, which put an unexpected spin on the term, “long distance relationship.” Last summer, his proposal was sweet and romantic. Following a shared meal, he offered her an after-dinner mint, and hidden inside the wrapper, a princess-cut diamond ring, a whopping three-carats! His family is in the jewelry business. How lucky can a girl be to wear on her left hand what are literally the family jewels?

It was hard to believe that their wedding would take place in ten days after months of planning, choosing the perfect dress, and brilliantly persuading her entire family to make the trip to Ireland. Now that most of the details had fallen into place, she felt as though she had conquered all. A March wedding in Ireland—inside a castle—was a dream come true for any girl.

The seatbelt sign turned off, giving passengers permission to move about the cabin. Amy rifled through her purse making certain all her belongings were in order, pulled her carry-on out from the overstuffed compartment, and took her place in the crowded aisle.

The flight attendants thanked the passengers for flying Aer Lingus and provided concise directions on how to get from the gate to the baggage claim. Amy couldn’t care less what they were talking about, as her mind was in an entirely different place. She couldn’t believe she was going to marry someone she considered to be her soulmate. As corny as that sounded, she made sure complete strangers were aware that she was about to marry a “Cambridge.”

The Cambridges were known for their generosity, as they donated to charitable organizations throughout the country. They hosted elaborate parties at their estate located just outside County Clare—all on behalf of the miracle of medical research for so many causes. This made a lasting impression on Amy and was one of the many traits she admired about Michael. The Cambridge donations made a huge difference in many deserving lives. The family’s name and pictures were plastered in the newspaper quite often, but for the greater good, which was refreshing to say the least.

Michael wasn’t able to pick her up from the airport due to a work thing, so she was prepared to hail a cab to take her to their temporary flat in the city. It felt so good to be back in Ireland, where the Celtic history overflowed in each charming town. It wasn’t unusual that one of their endearing people would offer a 30-minute dissertation of that history in response to one simple question.

To her pleasant surprise, a limo waited for her arrival outside the airport doors—Michael’s doing no doubt. The driver, in a sleek black suit and top hat, rescued her from her heavy bags and opened the door with a gracious nod and smile.

“Thank you so much—this is great. I can’t believe Michael did this for me. Wait, what am I talking about? Of course, he did this—he’s Michael. You will have to forgive me, driver. I often talk to myself, so pay no attention to me. I am just so very excited to be getting married in ten days—count them, ten days—in Ireland for that matter.” Amy held up her freshly manicured hands to give the visual of ten days as she slid into the back seat.

“So I have heard, Miss Reid. That rumor has been spreading all around town. Believe me, everyone knows of your upcoming wedding. The Cambridges might just as well be royalty.” His eyes sparkled directly at hers, and then he closed the door.

“I am going to be a bride, Michael’s bride.” She giggled and danced her feet on the floorboard of the moving limo.

Amy settled back into the plush leather seat and pulled out her overstuffed wedding planner, skimming the pages for the final “to dos” before the “I dos” actually took place. Of course, her newly launched ad agency back in Sarasota had been somewhat difficult to leave behind and was always on her mind. But she had great confidence in her staff. They should be able to hold down the fort in her absence.

Her clients were few, but the word of mouth proved to be steady and went beyond her wildest expectations. She hoped to double her clientele by the end of next year. She wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the rest of them and push her business hard, all the way to the top. Her goals, which had been in place since she was twelve, were to get married before she turned thirty, start her own business, and travel the world—not too shabby for a 28-year-old University of Florida graduate.

Now that her feet were touching solid ground, the reality set in about why she was in Ireland, and the butterflies started to work on her stomach. There was a chill in the air, the kind that went straight to the bone. It didn’t matter how many layers of clothing were applied, one never seemed to warm up. A Florida girl through and through, the frigid cold was something she might never get used to.

The scenery was breathtaking as usual, never disappointing. It was picture-perfect and resembled one of the many postcards she had collected and received from Michael in the past two years.

Suddenly she realized she didn’t recognize the part of town they were driving through. “Driver, excuse me, but I believe you missed the turn back there somewhere, but I could be wrong. Didn’t Michael give you directions to our apartment?”

“He had a change of heart as to where you will be staying for the next few days and wanted it to be a surprise. By the way, my name is Matt—not driver.”

“My apologies, Matt. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I have quite a few friends and relatives flying into the Dublin airport. Will you be picking them up too?”

“Yes, I’m Michael’s new personal driver, and I’ve been instructed on your family’s flight plans, arrivals, and departures.”

“Great, I’ll check that off my list. I thank you, kind sir.”

Amy’s eyes were to her list and not the scenery, so her confusion and wonder peaked when they arrived at a 15-foot wrought iron gate, the entrance to the most enormous castle she had ever seen.

Matt opened the limo door and escorted her up the walkway to the massive entrance. Waiting for her on the other side was a familiar face.

At six foot two, Michael Cambridge’s rugged Irish looks and wavy brown hair would stop anyone in their tracks, as they might wonder how one person could be so amazingly handsome and perfect from head to toe.

“Darling you are finally here! Welcome.” He took her hands in his, and pulling her close, kissed both of her cheeks and her soft lips.

“Michael, what are we doing here? What is going on?”

“Now, don’t worry your pretty little head about anything. God, you look gorgeous. It is so good to see you.”

“I thought you were at work.”

“Nope, I lied,” he said with a sheepish grin.

“What do you mean?” Her voice ascended an octave.

“I lied because that’s the only way I could have pulled off your surprise.”

He opened the double doors to the ballroom proudly. Her entire family stood in the center of the room, each with a glass of champagne in their hand, ready to toast the birthday girl and soon bride-to-be.

“Oh my God, what did you do? I thought they weren’t flying in until midweek.” Tearfully, Amy hugged Michael.

“They wouldn’t miss your birthday, pretty girl.”

“Wait a minute,” she stuttered. “I’m still 28 in my head.”

“Not anymore. You are officially 29, Ireland time.”

“Michael, you say the sweetest things.” As they laughed together, he handed her a glass of sparkling champagne and proposed a toast. Amy listened to his eloquent speech of adoration and flushed with embarrassment from the attention.

“To my blushing bride, Amy, Happy Birthday, my love.”

The sound of glasses clinking echoed, and the crowd called out, “here, here” and “to Amy.”

“Are you surprised, darling?” he whispered in her ear, his strong arm wrapped around her slender waist.

“Surprised? Of course! You never cease to amaze me, Michael Cambridge. This is why I love you so much.” Then she whispered, “I just wish I would have dressed more appropriately. I still have airplane on me, if you know what I mean.”

“But you look amazing to me. You could be wearing a potato sack and still look great.”

“Oh Michael, you are so funny. Who talks like that?”

“I suppose I do,” he confessed.

“I do,” she repeated. “I cannot believe we will be saying those two little words to each other in just a few short days.”

The next 30 minutes or so were spent getting reacquainted and greeting relatives from both sides of the family. Coming together for the first time, the Cambridges met the Reids. It was so odd to see, but at the same time, it felt right. The conversations were mostly small talk, both pleasure and business, but they always segued back to the happy couple.

Dinner was served sit-down style in a smaller room adjacent to the main ballroom. Irish food, something pureed no doubt. Either one loves it or hates it. Mostly, it’s tolerated.

Michael stepped out of the room to take a phone call from the concierge’s desk. While he was gone, one of the servers tucked a note next to Amy’s dinner plate, but said nothing and just refilled her water glass and walked away.

How strange, she thought. She glanced over her shoulder to see the server who had delivered the note, but she only caught a glimpse of the back of his head before he quickly made his exit.

She searched the faces at the table, but it didn’t appear that anyone was looking her way. They all seemed engaged in their own bubbly conversations.

Dabbing at the corners of her mouth with the embellished napkin, she unfolded the note and discreetly read it.

“He is not who you think he is…”

Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Chapter reveal: ON EDGE, by Gin Price

Title:  ON EDGE

Genre:  Mystery/YA Mystery

Author: Gin Price

Websitewww.thepoisonedpencil.com

Publisher: Poisoned Pencil

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

When a serial-killing graffiti artist starts painting your picture all over town…it puts a girl on edge.

Emanuella “LL” Harvey puts her gymnastic skills to good use as a member of her brother’s Parkour group. Freerunning, jumping, and climbing over their corner of the city like it’s an obstacle course gives them something to take pride in and keeps them out of trouble—sort of. But trouble finds LL when she runs into Haze, a talented graffiti artist whose sister Heather was murdered two years before. Freerunner and Writer promptly fall in love, but they decide to hide their relationship till they’re sure it’s the real thing—and until they can find a way to placate LL’s hotheaded brother, who has it in for Haze and his gang. But when portraits of LL—done in Haze’s distinctive style—start popping up on city walls, all hell breaks loose. LL’s brother threatens a gang war, which LL tries to avert by identifying the Writer who is really responsible for the paintings. But when another teen is murdered, it looks bad for Haze, especially when LL discovers that Heather’s killer and her portrait-painter are one and the same.

ON EDGE 

Gin Price 

Chapter One 

            I wasn’t going to make it.

I had a stitch in my side as widespread as the distance between the Pizza Pie Pagoda and the apartment roof we ran across, so the chances I’d screw up and smack my head against the concrete waiting below were pretty good. The waist of my yoga pants began to unroll, the fabric sliding down with every pump of my aching legs and I had to waste precious energy to pull them up. But if I didn’t, and I stepped on a hem, I’d stumble.

Stumbling would be bad—like lose a tooth on the balance beam the day before prom bad. Already I could feel the quiver of fatigue in my knees signaling my eventual burn out.

“He’s going to catch me, he’s going to catch me,” I chanted between panted breaths.

I spoke more to myself than my companion, but he answered anyway. “Nah, Baby-girl, you got this. Forearm, shoulder, booty, then knee up and walk away. Daily cake.”

I grunted. Easy for him to say. This fiasco made it five consecutive hours of balls-out athletics for me while he was on hour two and only slightly less out of breath than I.

“Get back here!” The voice behind bellowed, growing closer.

I threw off my rhythm a fraction to look behind me. “Damn, he’s on us. How’d he get up here so fast?”

“You realize I had you this time, right?”

Appalled at my friend Surge’s attempt to claim a victory when the game had clearly been called due to weather conditions—it was raining cops—I ran faster, pushing myself beyond my limits toward the roof’s edge. I didn’t care if my pants fell around my ankles mid-flight; I was going to win our little game today—and moon the state of Michigan doing it.

But first, I had to stay out of jail.

“Whoa! Come back.” The cop yelled. He sounded more concerned now than angry.

Too late. There was no coming back once we’d made the decision to run.

“Boosh!” Surge yelled as we both hopped the lip of the roof and leapt across the expanse between the buildings, sprawled out and reaching through the air like action heroes.

Unlike the movies, nothing happened slow enough for me to process the danger of a jump. I committed to the plunge and depended on ingrained knowledge to take over.

The Pizza Pie Pagoda building came up fast. I bent my legs to absorb the shock and let my exhausted body fall forward and to the side. The remaining energy of the landing pushed me over in a Side-Roll, taking the impact from thigh to shoulder until the momentum brought me up to my feet again. Hurray incoming bruise.

Surge’s Roll was swankier than mine, but for once he didn’t gloat. Probably because we didn’t have time.

“You kids all right?” The cop called from the building over.

We didn’t take the time to answer him verbally. We just waved off his concern and continued to ignore his command to give ourselves up. Surge grabbed my elbow and helped me to the side of the pizza place where we were able to hang off the side of the roof and drop down into the alley.

“How you doing?” Surge asked me, once we were making distance between us and the cop.

“Well, I worked my butt off in gymnastics practice, ran around the mall only to get kicked out because of your food court tabletop trick—”

“You’ve got to admit that was swank,” he interrupted. “How was I supposed to know they were going to call in the real blue?”

“And now I’ve spent the last ten minutes upgrading from a trespassing ticket to an arrest.”

“Only if we got caught, which we didn’t. So you owe me five bucks.” He grinned at me and I couldn’t help but return it.

“We aren’t off main, yet.” I slapped his extended palm away. “When I’m home and couching you’ll get your five.”

I tugged off my black hoodie as we walked, stuffing it behind a dumpster to come back for later. We knew the drill. You didn’t walk around wearing the same colored clothes after a cop was running you down. The next corner you turned would probably have you stuffed in a squad car before the first lie left your mouth. Changing shirts wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing. Besides, with my hoodie on, most cops mistakenly took me for a guy. I guess they thought girls had better things to do than monkey around the cityscape.

“Damn, there’s the cop,” Surge said.

I looked down the block from where we stood and frowned. He didn’t seem to notice us any more than the other pedestrians, but to be safe, I tugged Surge into The Slow Drip.

The few tables the coffee-shop had inside were up front with a window view, while racks and racks of tee shirts and other gift items created an aisle to the registers in the back. Outside, a few more two-seater tables were full of the loitering public, making blending in a little easier.

“I guess we take a time-out for refreshments,” I said.

Surge paced, looking out the store front with his lips pursed. “He’s going to keep circling and look in here eventually. Not sure stopping was a good idea this time.”

“Hey Surge,” a girl called out from behind us.

I turned and nodded a greeting at Ramona as she chatted Surge up. Dressed in her coffee-pot-shaped apron and teardrop visor-hat, she was clearly working the counter.

Wenda, her best friend and my gymnastics nemesis, walked up and stood next to her. We were all on the same team but no one would know it the way they acted—except Wenda and I were both wearing our Kennedy Gymnastics Team tee shirts.

“Hey guys,” I said, trying to be a beacon of polite through the thick fog of seething hatred. Ramona tried to smile but settled on a grimace. Wenda didn’t even try to hide her nostril-flare face.

“Ramona-girl, you think you could get us out the back of this place?” Surge asked.

Standing on her tiptoes, Wenda leaned up to whisper something in Ramona’s ear while staring at me.

Subtle.

“I can take one of you through,” Ramona started to say.

Surge snorted. “Forget it.”

“No, no.” I knew this was a good opportunity to draw less attention to ourselves. “Surge, you go out the back and I’ll go out the front.” I smiled my second best smile at Wenda, while talking to him. “We’ll meet up at the library and finish what we started earlier.”

His glare at the two girls melted when he turned to me, and I suspected he did that on purpose to show anti-bitchery support. “Ooo. I accept your challenge! I’ll even beat you there.” He winked and then turned to Ramona. “Lead the way, mama.”

With Ramona taking Surge out the back door, Wenda and I were left standing there. “Guess I’ll see you next practice.” I said.

“Oh didn’t you hear? We’re going to do individual practices until coach returns from her vacation.”

Odd. I hadn’t heard, but I wasn’t exactly surprised. Since Regionals and even at practice earlier, I suspected some of the girls were mad at me. Now I had my suspicions confirmed.

“Well, then. See ya at school.”

“Whatever.” She did the hand brush-off and turned her back on me, cutting me down without saying another word.

Shaking my head, I turned and left the coffee shop.

No one had ever looked at me with such hatred before, and I couldn’t figure out where it came from. I knew gymnastics competition pitted us against each other a lot, and I’d definitely ridden the group hard at Regionals at the end of last season, but it seemed like there was more to her attitude than just rivalry, but whatever. I couldn’t puzzle through her bullshit when I still needed to get a few blocks away to avoid a tour of the city jail.

Losing my concern for Wenda was easy once I was Freerunning again on my way to the Library. No troubles or stressful thoughts stood a chance against the heart-pumping adrenaline rush that was Parkour.

I raced down streets using the objects in my way to increase my pace instead of slow me down. I swung under a metal railing and leaped over its parallel twin. I jumped over a fire hydrant and the three bikes locked on the rack right next to it, all without choking up.

My seamless movements cancelled out Surge’s head start, and as I rounded the corner on the last block to the library, I caught sight of my friend a block to my right.

At the same time, he noticed me.

I heard his laugh across the distance and the challenge within it spurred me on. “Oh you are so gettingshown,” I promised quietly, forcing my legs into motion.

So close, so close! If I could get to the lion statue first, I’d get the prize, but Surge wasn’t going to make it easy on me. We both ran full speed, coming closer to each other and to our destination.

I vaulted over one wide stone railing, Kong-style, with my feet straight out in front, ready to catch me for my landing.

I didn’t expect anyone to be standing there.

Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized, Young Adult | Leave a comment

Chapter reveal: Dying to Tell, by Tj O’Connor

DTT Cover 800 jan 2016 copyTitle:  DYING TO TELL

Genre:  Mystery

Author:  Tj O’Connor

Websitewww.tjoconnor.com

Publisher:  Midnight Ink

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

In Dying to Tell, the latest mystery by award-winning novelist Tj O’Connor, Oliver “Tuck” Tucker—dead detective extraordinaire—is back for the case of a lifetime, or, rather, the afterlifetime.  

A former police detective who now solves mysteries from beyond, Tuck doesn’t appreciate just how perilous the past can be till his wife, Angel, is nearly killed and reclusive banker William Mendelson is found dead in a hidden vault.  Tuck knows there’s more to Mendelson’s murder than decades-old skullduggery. As murderers, thieves, and spies descend on small-town Winchester, Tuck joins up with Angel, old detective partners, and a long-dead grandfather still on an army mission from 1942. With the case unfolding around him, Tuck must confront haunting family secrets and the growing distance between his death and Angel’s life.  The outcome could be a killer of its own, but Tuck is set on solving this case. Dead set.  After all, some things never die…

 CHAPTER ONE

Dying is as perilous as secrets and lies. Depending, of course, on

who is keeping the secrets and who is telling the lies. Trust me, I’m

in the secrets and lies business—I’m a homicide cop. Well, I was.

Secrets and lies can lead to big problems—like murder—although

it’s not in the secrets or the lies themselves. It’s that someone always

wants to tell. The urge is like an addict needing a fix. You need to

tell—you cannot help it—you have to tell. Sometimes it’s out of

guilt. Sometimes it’s for revenge. Sometimes it’s just spite. No matter,

in the end, someone is always dying to tell.

And then bad things happen.

An auburn-haired beauty with green eyes—eyes that could hypnotize

vampires—walked down the outdoor Old Town Winchester

mall through a dusting of blowing December snow. She stopped

momentarily to adjust her long wool overcoat over her athletic legs

and curvaceous, bumpy body—a good bumpy. She looked around

the mall, twice back from where she’d come, and turned down the

sidewalk to the annex behind the First Bank and Trust of Frederick

2

County. When she caught sight of me, her smile—one that normally

could charm snakes—looked more like that of a cobra ready to strike.

I ran to catch up.

No, not because I’m obsessed with vampires or snake charmers.

And no, I wasn’t stalking this classy university professor on her way to

some mysterious early morning appointment. She was my wife, but

she was on her way to a mysterious appointment—and I didn’t know

where or why. So, being the former detective I was, I followed her.

“Angel, where you going?”

“To the bank.” She reached the employee entrance door and stopped.

“Why are you following me?”

Silly question. “Because you’re going to the bank at seven in the

morning. It’s closed.”

She checked her watch. “And it’s almost seven thirty.”

“Haven’t you ever heard of banker’s hours? Who do you think is

here this early?”

She rolled her eyes—a signal that my wit or charm had disarmed

her. “I’ll explain later at home.”

“I’ll wait. We can get pancakes.”

“You hate pancakes. What’s wrong with you lately? Are you spying

on me?”

I did hate pancakes, but watching her eat steak and eggs—my

favorite breakfast—was much more painful. “Spying, no. Me?”

“I didn’t think the dead could be so frustrating.”

Oh, did I mention I’m dead? No? I’m Tuck, formerly Detective

Oliver Tucker of the Frederick County Sheriff ’s office. Now I’m just

Tuck to my friends—those living and dead. I was a hotshot homicide

detective before I went investigating noises in my house late

one night. Those noises led someone to put a bullet in my heart.

3

That was nearly two years ago. And it’s taken me that long to come to

terms with it. Sort of. It helped to catch the bastard who shot me and

put an end to his killing spree. And it helps to have my wife, Angel,

and Hercule, my black Lab, around, too. Dead and gone are two totally

different things. I’m dead, but as Angel and Hercule will tell

you—well, maybe not Hercule, he’s a dog—I’m just not gone.

“Angel, listen, I …”

The steel security door at the employee entrance door burst open

and banged against the brick annex wall. A masked gunman—a tall,

strong-looking figure dressed in dark clothes and the traditional bank

robber’s balaclava—ran from the annex, turned, and fired a shot from

a small revolver. He slipped on the sidewalk, freshly adorned with an

inch of snow, and crashed to the ground. He cursed, jumped to his

feet, and locked eyes on Angel.

“Run, Angel. Run!” I yelled.

Too late.

The gunman scrambled the three yards to us and grabbed Angel

by the arm. “Come here!” He spun her around, pulled her to him

like a shield, and faced the annex doorway.

A bank security guard emerged through the door, gun first.

“Freeze! Let her go!”

The gunman fired two shots in rapid succession. One hit the security

guard and the other slammed safely into the wall two feet beside

him. The guard grunted, staggered back, and went down, striking

his head on a stone flower planter beside the entrance.

“Angel, stay calm,” I said. “I’ll get you out of this.”

“Tuck, help me!”

I dove for the gunman and took two vicious swings trying to free

her. Both blows struck him in the face and neither caused him to

4

flinch. I struck again—lashed a kick to his knee, a jab to the rib cage.

Two more body blows.

Nothing.

“Angel, fight. You have to fight. I can’t help.”

Angel was not a timid or slight woman and she erupted like a

wildcat, taking the gunman by surprise. She twisted and fought

against his grip and nearly broke free.

“Dammit, lady, stop!” He jammed the revolved to her cheek. “Or

else.”

“Tuck,” she cried out, “help me! Tuck …”

Rage boiled over and the explosion started inside me everywhere.

A second later, my fingers tingled and my body burned from

the inside. Seconds were all I had. I lunged forward and struck the

gunman in the throat with the heel of my hand. He staggered back,

relaxing his grip around Angel. I struck two more vicious punches

to his face and followed with a kick to his midsection.

“What the f—” He released her and turned in a circle, his eyes

darting around.

I struck two kidney punches and a sharp kick to the inside of one

leg. He umphed and crumpled sideways down onto one knee. I

crushed him with a two-fisted hammer punch to the back of his neck.

“Run, Angel—go!”

She was only four or five strides from the gunman when he lifted

his revolver and took aim.

A gunshot split the air from behind us, searing a lightning bolt

through me on its way to the bank robber. It struck him in the upper

arm and spun him sideways. A second shot followed but missed him

by mere inches. The gunman was stunned but regained his footing—

his injury wasn’t stopping him. He staggered back, lifted his

5

revolver, and pulled off a shot before he ran around the rear of the

bank annex and disappeared.

“Angel?” I spun around. “Are you all right?”

Apparently, she was fine.

A tall, square-jawed, distinguished man in a heavy wool overcoat

stood beside her now. He had one arm around her, speaking slowly to

her—consoling her—and his other arm hung to his side, a black, compact

.45 semiautomatic handgun in his grasp. He looked like a younger

Clooney, but perhaps better looking. I instantly distrusted him.

“I’m fine, Mr. Thorne, really.” Angel slipped from his arm and went

to the security guard lying on the snowy ground beside the annex

door. She moved over him, checked his wounds, and tried to wake

him. “Call an ambulance. He’s been shot and is unconscious.”

Thorne—a man I’d never seen before—pulled a cell phone from

his overcoat pocket. “Right, and the police. Is Conti all right?”

“I’m not sure.” She investigated a small, thin hole over the guard’s

left breast through his blue suit coat. From inside the coat, she pulled

out a paperback book and held it up. “Agatha Christie saved his

life—Murder on the Orient Express. The bullet hit this and didn’t go

through.”

I put a hand on her shoulder to comfort her—or perhaps, to

comfort me. The rage had passed, and with it, the last of my connection

to the physical world. “Are you okay, babe? I …”

“I’m fine. Go see if anyone else is hurt inside.” She caught Thorne

eyeing her. “There may be more employees inside, right?”

“Not at this hour, no. Let’s wait on the police.”

No, I wasn’t waiting.

6

A voice beckoned me into the bank and I followed. It wasn’t a

voice—not really—it was more like someone telegraphing words

into my head: “It isn’t over, kid, follow me.”

The bank annex was dark. The faint morning light was barely

enough to cast more than a dull haze through the lobby windows. I

went through the grand lobby, down a long, dark corridor into the

executive wing. At the end of the corridor were three offices. I stopped

at the suite of William H. Mendelson, Chairman of the Board, First

Bank and Trust of Frederick County—or so said the brass plaque

below the oversized portrait of a silver-haired titan.

The voice from nowhere whispered, “Hurry up, kid. Inside.”

I followed the voice into the pitch-black office and through a

second doorway in the corner of the room—a closet, I thought—

but it was the entrance to a stairwell leading down into more darkness.

Two floors below, in a sub-basement, the stairwell opened to a

wide landing at a heavy steel security gate that looked like a prison

cell door. Beyond the gate was a small anteroom lit by a dim fluorescent

light overhead. The gate was unlocked and open and the anteroom

beyond was empty except for a small metal work table and

two battleship-gray chairs. In the rear of the room was a monstrous,

turn-of-the-century steel vault door—the nineteenth century. To my

surprise, the door was cracked open, and a sliver of eerie light from

inside the vault etched the anteroom wall.

“Inside, Oliver.” The voice was all around me now. “Go inside.”

Oliver? “Who the hell are you?”

“Just go. Quit stalling.”

I turned and found a strange man—a fellow wraith—leaning

against the anteroom wall watching me—not in a casual way, but

trying to appear casual. He had one hand in a pocket of his leather

7

bomber jacket and he tipped a baseball cap that had a big “W” on it

off his brow with the other.

“Trust me, kid. This isn’t the way it looks.” He threw a chin toward

the vault. “Go on in. I’ve done my part. Now it’s your turn.”

Inside I found the Chairman of the First Bank and Trust of Frederick

County.

William H. Mendelson always reminded me of Lionel Barrymore’s

Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life. He was a starchy, arrogant

old banker who made rare appearances around town. When he

did, he never spoke, didn’t wave, and never, ever smiled. And to

those who knew him, he was never William or Bill—God, never

Billy, either. He was Mr. Mendelson—or more often, the Chairman.

Like he was Frank Sinatra or something, right?

William sat behind a square steel counting table in the middle of

the vault, facing the door. He was dressed in the same blue doublebreasted

suit he must have worn yesterday—from the smell, he’d

been here a while. A dark blood stain ruined his starched white shirt

and expensive silk tie—the result of a small-caliber bullet hole in his

heart. Both hands rested on the tabletop like he was waiting for a

sandwich—or pancakes—and they were stuck to the blackish gooey

remains of his life.

And hanging in the vault air was the heavy, pungent odor of

smoke.

The bomber-jacketed man—strangely familiar—said, “Remember,

kid, it’s not what you think.”

“Hello, William,” I said, looking at the murdered chairman. “I’m

Tuck and I’ll be investigating your murder. Perhaps you can tell

me—what should I think?”

 

 

Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SHERLOCK HOLMES, The Missing Years: Timbuktu, by Vasudev Murthy

9781464204524_FC

Title:  SHERLOCK HOLMES, The Missing Years: Timbuktu

Genre: Mystery

Author: Vasudev Murthy

Website: http://vmurthy.blogspot.com

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Purchase on Amazon

Still wondering what Sherlock Holmes was doing between his reported death in 1891 and his reappearance in 1894? All the world knew that Sherlock Holmes died at the Reichenbach Falls, tumbling over the jagged cliff in a deadly embrace with his nemesis Moriarty. But for history’s greatest detective, death was only the beginning. Rumors abounded that Holmes had been sighted advising the Japanese emperor, studying with the Dalai Lama, and protecting the president of the United States, but only Dr. Watson knew the truth. From 1891 to 1894, Sherlock Holmes was dead to the world—and having the grandest adventures of his career.

It begins when an Italian scholar travels from Venice to 221B Baker Street, to beg the help of the legendary detective. He carries an ancient parchment, written in the hand of Marco Polo himself. It is a rubbing made from a brass disc found in the libraries of Kublai Khan, and it was torn in half centuries ago to protect the world from a terrifying secret, one that, apparently, first Marco Polo, then another great traveler, the Moroccan Ibn Battuta, took dramatic steps to guard. Where, if anywhere, is its missing half? Holmes springs into action. He fakes his death at Reichenbach, and proceeds undercover to Venice. A murdered scholar, an archivist from the Vatican, British imperial politics and, of course, the dire hand of Moriarty propel Holmes and a surprised but resolute Dr. Watson, playing the roles they assumed in Morocco, on a perilous journey down the Sahara to the ancient city of Timbuktu…and beyond. In deepest Africa, Holmes will confront ruthless criminals, an ancient culture, and a staggering surprise.

CHAPTER ONE

“O thou who goest to Gao, turn aside from thy path to breathe my name in Timbuctoo. Bear thither the greeting of an exile who sighs for the soil on which his friends and family reside. Console my near and dear ones for the deaths of their lords, who have been entombed.” – Ahmed Baba

A Visitor from Italy

“Ah Watson! A merry affair there at Norwich! The constabulary in ferment, I see!”

“Indeed, Holmes. Would you call it merry though?  Six murders in two months! And not a clue in sight! One wonders why the authorities have not reached out to you yet!”

“Frankly Watson, I would prefer they did not. The answer is so obvious that I would not wish to embarrass them. However, if it pleases you, and since the loss of life is a regrettable matter, perhaps you could send a wire to the Inspector in charge – Cowley? – to interview Lazarus Smith, the village blacksmith, who very kindly took them to the scene of the crime in the second case. Ask them to inspect the attic. They are wasting their time talking to Donahue. Being Irish and ugly is not a crime.”

“Yes, Holmes,” I said, making a note.

I was visiting Holmes after a long interval. Consequent to my marriage, our meetings had become infrequent but were always warm. My wife was away on a visit to Glasgow and I had taken the liberty of travelling to London to meet Sherlock Holmes and attend to sundry business.

We had spent the better part of the day talking about past cases and discussing the eventual fates of many notables.  The bitter January cold had seeped inside our room, and we moved a few inches closer to the fireplace that Mrs. Hudson had so thoughtfully prepared. Outside, the fog swirled and I could hardly imagine that anyone would be foolhardy enough to walk about risking life and limb. It was not an evening for profitable crime.

Holmes was stretched across the sofa languidly, violin resting carelessly on his left thigh and his right leg dangling on the floor. He was leafing through a copy of Debrett’s Peerage.

“Well, well, I see that the Duke of Beaufort studied classics at Oxford in 1875. I happen to know that he was almost rusticated for suspected plagiarism. And at about the same time, the Earl of Breadalbane played cricket there and was challenged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Two very different personalities, Watson, but both with some claim to a common experience at the same moment in time. Debrett’s say nothing about their scandals! The world is filled with strange people, eh, Watson?”

Before I could respond, he flung across a wire.

“What do you make of this, Watson?”

I looked at it.

“Why would anyone be interested in this parchment? The British Ambassador in Rome suggested I meet you urgently on a matter of utmost sensitivity. 1030 pm tonight. Grazie. Antonio Rozzi. Venice.

“An Italian travelling all the way from Venice to meet you, Holmes? Very flattering.”

“It must be very sensitive for him not to find it prudent to write. Something has happened that has made him abandon his routine tasks. He seems to be a man given to objectivity. A historian, I would wager, given the reference to a parchment. Ah, the time draws near! A carriage just outside, Watson.”

We heard the creaks of a carriage and the shuffling and snorting of horses, as they settled outside 221B Baker Street. In a few moments, we heard the sounds of someone taking the stairs quickly. Shortly, there was a polite knock.

I opened the door.

The man opposite was about my height, though stout. He was clean shaven, bald, with luxurious sideburns, and immaculately dressed. He looked quite English.  He stooped a little, was about fifty-five years old, and carried a valise.

He bowed.

“Signore Holmes? I am Antonio Rozzi from Venice.”  His accent was distinct.

“No, I am Dr. John Watson. Do come in.”

I helped him with his overcoat, while Holmes watched.

“I apologize for this late meeting,” said Antonio Rozzi, bowing to Holmes. “I had no choice.”

“You reached London this afternoon. There must have been something of interest at the British Museum that detained you for a few hours. But do sit down.”

Signore Rozzi gasped. “Che cosa! You are quite right, Signore Holmes! I visited a friend at the Chinese antiquities section. But how did you know?”  He seated himself heavily on a chair, catching his breath, valise in hand.

Holmes shrugged. “The wire was sent from the Post Office at Great Russell Street at about three in the afternoon. I would expect a historian from the continent to visit the Museum first, practically as a religious duty. “

Si, si!” exclaimed Signore Rozzi. “That is so!”

“And how may we help you, Signore Rozzi?”

“Ah Signore Holmes, a very strange situation! I met your Ambassador at Rome, Lord Dufferin, and he said that you were the best person to help me. A most vexing matter, I am afraid, si. Extremely confidential, if I may say.”

Holmes nodded. “Please proceed. Everything remains within these four walls.”

Signore Rozzi looked relieved and began.

“I am the Chief Conservator of the Venice Museum, Signore Holmes. We have a very strange situation and need your advice.”

Holmes listened patiently.

“Have you read the Bible, Signore Holmes?” Signore Rozzi leaned across and peered intently at Holmes.

“As a matter of academic interest, yes. I am not a believer per se, but the book is entertaining and has its merits.”

“In what language was it written, do you know?”

“Yes, originally in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.”

Signore Rozzi sat back, beaming. ‘Superbo! Very rare, Signore Holmes, for anyone to know this, very rare!”

“I would like to show you something very sensitive.” He opened his valise with great deliberation and carefully took out a document.

He placed it on the table and invited us to come closer.

It was a dull brown parchment with unusual faded markings. Some were in red and some were in black.

Holmes examined it very carefully against the light.

“Where is the other half?”

Signore Holmes, you are very clever! Si, this is the left half of a manuscript. The right half is missing. And it has always been missing since this came into our possession shortly after the death of Marco Polo in the year 1324.”

“The script is perhaps Aramaic, since you touched upon the matter of the Bible.  The parchment looks very old. And wait, the indentations on the paper seem to indicate the words were embossed in some way and then coloured.”

Si! Si! How correct you are! Someone has taken an impression of the text from a surface and then coloured it. Which means it is a copy.

“This manuscript is about two thousand five hundred years old, we think, pre-dating Christ. But the script is, surprisingly, not ancient Aramaic. It is not even related, as far as I know. It is Meroitic, which, sadly, I cannot read, but which I know originated in the Nile valley. Indeed there are very few scholars who can read that script. This is the reason why I visited the British Museum to meet Signore James Conway, who is such a scholar, and can read Meroitic with some effort. However, he was not available, so I shall be meeting him tomorrow.”

Holmes peered intently at the manuscript. “There seems to be some kind of a map at the bottom, perhaps. And only half of it.”

“Correct! We think so too.”

“And how may I help you? Surely this is not a treasure hunt.”

“It is much more than that, Signore Holmes.” Signore Rozzi looked grave.

“About two months ago, I started receiving strange notes in Arabic, which I happen to be able to read. Here is one. They are almost all identical.”

 

١- أعد النصف الاخر على الفور و الا عليك مواجهة العواقب

“And this means …?”

“’Return the other half immediately or face consequences’“

“To what address?”

“A post box in Casablanca, Morocco.”

“I see. And the reference is to this manuscript?”

Si, we believe so now, but we did not know about this until a month ago.

“You see, Signore Holmes and Dottore Watson, we get many anonymous letters at the Museum. People are fascinated by history and often believe that some object truly belongs to them. They ask for its return, claiming it belonged to an ancestor. We routinely ignore such letters.”

“I see.”

“But a month ago, we had an attempted burglary in the Chinese antiquities section. An alert security guard foiled the attempt and challenged the intruder, who stabbed him.  The guard described the intruder as having Arabic features. Most unfortunately, the guard passed away the next day because of his injuries.

“When I examined the antiquities, I found that everything was in order, except for the section that contained old manuscripts. We have thousands and most of them are of unknown origin. They are often trivial – they could be books of accounts or a journal of a ship’s voyage. It appeared that the intruder had just started looking there when he was surprised. However, while going through the manuscripts, I found this parchment. And I stopped.”

“A parchment with Meroitic inscriptions in the Chinese manuscripts library?”

“Yes, it was very surprising. But then again, it was not, because they were in the papers bequeathed to us by Marco Polo.”

“The great traveller,” nodded Holmes. “Well, yes, he did travel to China and would have brought back many articles of interest including manuscripts picked up along the way.”

“That is correct, Signore Holmes. The matter became a bit clearer when we saw that there was a note in the hand of Marco Polo with this parchment. Here it is.” He took out something from the valise and spread it on the table. The three of us gathered around to look at it.

“It is in Old French, so let me translate it for you.”

He read the manuscript in a halting voice.

“Many come to me, as I lie dying, asking me to proclaim that my account of my travels to China is a falsehood. I have not done so. Indeed, I have not revealed even half of what I know to Rustichello da Pisa, when we were in prison together in Genoa, since the haughty citizens of Venice have no regard for anything that goes against what they think is the truth. Let them mock at me. I go to the Heavenly Father with a clear conscience.

Oh, our ignorance! Only travel will erase it, but how can I insist?

I beg my descendants to guard this document with their lives. It has value beyond money.

I left the court of the great Kublai Khan with immense sadness. The Khan himself wept, for I was like a son to him, and he, to me, was like my father. He asked me to take anything I wished from his Kingdom, a generous offer that we accepted in small amounts. Yes, gold, paper, gunpowder, vases – these were his gifts.  You know, perhaps, that I was escorting a princess from his court to Hormuz in Persia to be wed,

But I spent time in his ancient and large library seeking books for they have great and everlasting wisdom and felt that they would have permanent value.

The many books which you see, along with this letter, are from his library, and reflect his infinite generosity to me and the Catholic Church.

I found a strange copper sheet in a dark corner of his library and became curious. It had peculiar inscriptions etched on it – they were neither in Chinese nor in any other language that I was familiar with. Yet it looked very pleasing, though out of place in the library. How is it that such a copper sheet was found in the library of Kublai Khan of China? No one had any idea as to its origin or value. I sought permission to take it because my interest was piqued. The Great Khan agreed as he could not find any use for it. For safety, I made a print of the copper sheet by pressing a sheet of paper down and then colouring the indentations created by the etches. I thus created a paper manuscript.

After the parting, about which I have written, I sat down in the ship that we had boarded at Zaitun and tried to translate the manuscript. It was impossible as I had no knowledge of this peculiar script. And yet, somehow, I felt uneasy. It was as if the letters were appealing to be read and understood.

Weeks later, we docked at the port of Calicut in India where I befriended the Zamorin of Calicut who welcomed me with great honour. We became good friends very soon and he gave me additional gifts and mourned with me for the shipmates I had lost on the way.

He introduced me to some priests of the Syrian Catholic church who seemed knowledgeable about ancient languages. Since I was concerned about the contents, I was cautious, and gave only tiny bits of the letter to them requesting them to translate it, which they attempted to do with enthusiasm, employing guesswork and experience. I then pieced the document together as best as I could.

As I learned how to read the faint letters and read out the words, I felt their impact. I will not tell you now what it was.

I took a decision to safeguard this manuscript in an unusual way for I was afraid of what would happen if someone with evil in his heart were to read it, fully understand and act on it. And so I tore the manuscript in two and requested that the Zamorin keep half of it in his custody, saying that it was a letter guaranteeing safety to those who wished to meet me in Venice. The Zamorin kept it carefully without asking questions and said that he would wait for someone to claim the letter someday.

I left directly for Persia.  I had memorized the contents of the manuscript, of course, and chanted them to myself quietly as my ship bore west. My head was full of dark, angry clouds and confusion. In a moment of extreme fear, I flung the copper sheet into the sea, as though it were on fire; I instantly regretted my action, but of course, it was too late.

We reached Hormuz and then you know the rest.

Keep this letter with the manuscript, for everyone’s safety. It is too valuable to be destroyed and yet too dangerous to be complete. Let us pray that mankind does not find the other half. It will bring infinite misery, though many will believe, foolishly, that it will be the opposite.

Marco Polo

Citizen of Venice

I was flabbergasted by this peculiar story. We sat in silence absorbing the words. Holmes puffed at his pipe and said nothing, waiting for our visitor to continue. We could hear the beat constable just outside. “We feel convinced, Signore Holmes, that the attempted burglary pertained to this document.” “What would you like me to do?”asked Holmes, after some reflection. “Visit Venice with me and help us to understand the matter better.” Holmes shook his head firmly. “We are working with conjectures. And my current engagements will not permit a trip. Why can your police not assist?” “They lack the scientific approach, Signore Holmes. More importantly, we think this requires secrecy and if we were to go to the local police, we cannot say with certainty that the matter would not become widely known, resulting in new complications. And we want to understand the mystery. Why is someone so interested in this parchment? “ “Why can you not get this document translated? Would that not help, even if partially?” “Yes, it would. This is why I visited the British Museum, as I said. And I shall do so again tomorrow. However, we think your involvement is needed. The Catholic Church worked closely with Marco Polo and sent some Sepulchral oil to the Khan on his request; there is an interesting story there that I could tell you about some day. Marco Polo was buried in the Church of San Lorenzo in Venice but his body was lost. Father Agnelli of that church is very knowledgeable about him. The Patriarch of Venice has expressly asked for your involvement after he consulted the Pope, though I must add that the decision was opposed internally at the Vatican. Though there are ancient Aramaic and demotic scholars in Rome, who could have perhaps tried to translate the Meroitic, it was felt that the matter must be kept very confidential, which is why I have brought it here. This may have ramifications beyond murder and a simple translation.”

“What kind of ramifications, I wonder.  Hmm. Perhaps I should think about it. Shall we meet again at eight tomorrow evening after you consult your friend?”

‘Si, si!  Let us hear what he has to say.”

With that, Signore Rozzi stood up, placed the documents back into his valise, bowed, and left the room quietly.

“Very interesting, Holmes,” I remarked.

“Indeed, no clear case, but an atmosphere of history and mystery. Well, let us wait until tomorrow. Meanwhile, Debrett’s beckons!”

And with that, Holmes sank back into his sofa and was shortly lost in the vagaries of British royal lineage.

 

Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Chapter reveal: The Flying Dragon, by Georges Ugeux

9781480818569_COVER.inddTitle:  THE FLYING DRAGON

Genre:  THRILLER/SUSPENSE

Author:  Georges Ugeux

Website: http://www.georgesugeux.com

Publisher:  Archway Books

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book: 

Celebrated non-fiction author Georges Ugeux delivers an intense, imaginative and intriguing financial thriller in his debut novel, The Flying Dragon.  Set against the backdrop of the high-energy, high-tension world of global finance, The Flying Dragon plunges readers deep into a world where power, greed, money, and passion can intersect in a most dangerous way.

The Flying Dragon introduces protagonist Victoria Leung, a beautiful, brilliant, fearless, and highly accomplished financial fraud investigator.  Responsible for taking down Sun Hung Kai Properties’ Kwok Brothers, a real estate empire, Victoria not only established herself as a formidable talent, but earned the nickname “The Flying Dragon” in the process. When she leaves the fraud department of the Hong Kong Police, Victoria accepts a position as a senior detective at Pegasus, an international security firm based in London.  The Pegasus job affords Victoria much-needed freedom, but that calm is shattered when Victoria receives an urgent message from her close friend Diana Yu. It seems Diana’s ex- boyfriend Henry Chang is in danger.  Henry’s co-worker, Bertrand Wilmington, head of the derivative trading desk of a global bank, has fallen from a window of the twenty-second floor trading room.The Hong Kong Police Force quickly concludes that the death was a suicide, but is there more to this story than meets the eye? Henry Chang thinks so—and knows that if anyone can find answers, it’s Victoria, the Flying Dragon herself. Hong Kong and Mainland authorities are unsuccessful in cracking the case, but Victoria uses her expertise to discover key clues. And Victoria, a dogged, tough, tenacious investigator, won’t back down until she gets answers. As she races to piece together the puzzle of what really happened, Victoria is swept up in a world of danger, deception, and deadly consequences.   Can she extricate herself from this perilous web of arrogance, power, money and greed? Will she expose the corruption and bring down a financial giant?  Or will time run out? The clock is ticking….

Chapter 1 

The crowd around the Hong Kong Arts Center seemed happy as they streamed out of the concert by talented Chinese pianist Yuja Wang. They enthusiastically shared their impressions about her beauty, musicality, and talent. Some of the patrons had seen videos of Yuja Wang playing Chopin at the age of six. Victoria Leung was so in sync with the music she had played tonight: Schubert’s impromptus. She also felt so close to the pianist, who commanded the keyboard and seemed on the verge of tears when the third impromptu moved from lightness to depth and passion. At twenty-seven, Yuja Wang was one of the best-known pianists of her generation and now lived in the United States. She had the same drive, intensity, and grace as Victoria herself.

The Center’s superb architecture had always given Victoria pleasure. It was modern without ostentation, and its acoustics were close to perfect. Over the years, classical music had increasingly been a source of inspiration in the Chinese world, and the public was ecstatic. For a Chinese pianist to reach this level of excellence and artistry was a source of pride.

Since she had left the financial fraud department of the Hong Kong Police Force, Victoria Leung had enjoyed the freedom attached to her new status of senior detective at Pegasus, an international firm headquartered in London. She intended to fully enjoy this period of her life. Having a family was not on her agenda. Like most thirty-six-year-old women, though, she was starting to give it some thought. Her biological clock inexorably ticked. She knew it. But at the same time, she didn’t know what to do about that reality.

Victoria was an assertive and attractive young woman well aware of the impact she had on the male-dominated financial world of Greater China. She had initially faced difficulty demonstrating her leadership and competence, partly because of her good looks, femininity, and youth. She had learned to turn these qualities into assets that she used subtly and wisely. While she remained vulnerable to some aggressive behavior from male colleagues, she knew how to garner respect. Her body was slim and strong; she exercised regularly. She liked having the freedom to wear dresses and skirts rather than a police uniform. But what struck everybody who met her was the power of her demeanor and her smile, which revealed her complexity.

 

++++

 

Wearing a short red dress, Victoria drank her green tea as she peered through the glass of her office windows into the Hong Kong morning: Kowloon Bay on one side and the old British Empire buildings and parks at the center of Hong Kong on the other.  The traffic was penetrating and created an impression of energy and intensity. Hong Kong was not a city for the fainthearted.  Victoria was an early bird, and relished the atmosphere of the office before anybody else was in. She was in control and serene.

Victoria looked down at the document on her desk:

Henry Chang is in danger. I urgently need to meet you. Meet me at 9:00 a.m. at the Mandarin Oriental for coffee.  I desperately need your help. —Diana Y. 

Victoria was stunned. For Diana Yu to send such a dramatic message was unusual.  Henry Chang was Diana’s former lover until he broke it off and publicly humiliated her. Now, Diana was asking Victoria to help the bastard. It didn’t add up. Did Diana still have feelings for him? Victoria hoped not, but it was the only explanation that made sense.

She sighed. If it had been Chang asking, Victoria would have said no. But Diana was a dear friend. If she was willing to swallow her pride and ask for help, then the least Victoria could do was find out why.

Diana Yu and Victoria had started together at the Hong Kong Police Force. Soon after, Henry Chang became Diana’s boyfriend. While she had given the relationship all she had, she was never sure whether Henry was playing or being earnest. Unexpectedly, after they had dated for a year, he dropped her for a Hong Kong socialite, Helena Lee. He then became head of the fixed-income department of the Bank of Hong Kong and Shanghai, or BHS.

The breakup had been particularly painful for Diana since Henry had been cruel enough to do it publicly at a 2012 New Year’s party.

Diana was now reaching out through a confidential police cable; whatever had happened to Henry must have been fairly dramatic. The Wan Chai Police headquarters was close to Hong Kong Central and near the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

 

 

Categories: Mystery, Thriller, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chapter reveal: Karma’s a Killer, by Tracy Weber

Title: KARMA’S A KILLER

Genre: Mystery

Author: Tracy Weber

Website: www.tracyweberauthor.com

Publisher: Midnight Ink

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

A fun, fresh, feisty new mystery featuring Seattle yoga teacher Kate Davidson and her trusty canine companion Bella, Karma’s a Killer is a taut tale with more twists and turns than a vinyasa yoga class.   In this charming, clever and utterly captivating cozy mystery, Kate Davidson discovers that when it comes to murder, there’s no place like om. 
When she agrees to teach doga—yoga for dogs—at a fundraiser for Dogma, a local animal rescue, Kate believes the only real damage will be to her reputation. But when an animal rights protest at the event leads to a suspicious fire and a drowning, a few downward-facing dogs will be the least of Kate’s problems… The police arrest Dharma, a woman claiming to be Kate’s estranged mother, and charge her with murder. To prove Dharma’s innocence, Kate, her boyfriend Michael, and her German shepherd sidekick Bella dive deeply into the worlds of animal activism, organizational politics, and the dangerous obsessions that drive them.   And if solving a murder weren’t complicated enough, Kate will also have to decide whether or not to reconcile with the estranged mother who abandoned her over thirty years ago.  Not to mention having to contend with an almost-bankrupt animal rescue, a cantankerous crow, an unwanted pigeon houseguest, and a rabbit in a doga class. What could possibly go wrong?

CHAPTER 5

The shouts that drowned out Maggie’s words were impassioned, if a little misguided.

“Break down the cages!”

“Close the dog warehouses!”

“Animal ownership is slavery!”

Over twenty people, all wearing black shirts with orange flame insignias, cut a swath across the grass, waving picket signs and yelling at top volume.

Two teenage girls held onto opposite ends of a banner that read “Humans for Ethical Animal Treatment. Turn up the HEAT!”

Raven—the younger woman I’d seen arguing behind the paddle boats earlier—marched next to them holding a sign in one hand and a leash attached to the neck of a handsome, thirtyish, olive-skinned man in the other. Eduardo, I assumed. I shaded my eyes with my hand and examined the object of the two women’s confrontation.

Even from a distance, I could understand his appeal. With broad shoulders, deep cocoa eyes, and wavy black hair that curled under his ear lobes, this man would easily make more than one woman’s heart go atwitter. His one glaring fault was the sandpaper-thick layer of dark stubble covering the lower half of his face. No amount of shaving would keep that beard-in-the-making under control. Even thinking about it made my skin itch.

His dark leather jacket and matching motorcycle boots contrasted hypocritically with the sign that he carried: “Animals Are Sentient Beings, Not Possessions!” His face wore a trapped, agonized expression, though that might have been part of the show.

I scanned the area behind him, looking for Dharma and Goth Girl. I didn’t see either.

The dog walkers stopped talking, stared at the ruckus, and scowled. No one seemed to be having fun anymore, which was probably the protestor’s intention. A short, rail-thin young woman stomped away from the picket line, knocked a hot dog out of a child’s hand, and yelled, “Meat is murder!”

Michael pulled out his cell phone. “That’s it. I’m calling the police.”

Maggie closed her eyes and sighed. “I can’t believe she’s actually going through with this.”

“You know one of them?” I asked

She shuddered, but her eyes never left the protesters. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter. Sally, take Mrs. Abernathy to the pet first aid tent and …”

Her voice trailed off. She glanced left and right. “Where on earth did Sally go?”

The Bunny Lady wrinkled her nose, ill humor back in full force. “Sally left a few minutes ago, which is exactly what I should have done. You obviously don’t have control over this fiasco.” She slipped the rabbit into her bag and stomped several feet away before turning back to spit out two final sentences. “Don’t bother cashing that check I gave you earlier. I’m putting a stop payment on it as soon as I get home!”

Maggie cradled her face in her hands. “Can this day get any worse?”

She shouldn’t have asked.

The words barely escaped her lips when Dale’s head jerked up. “Do you smell that?”

I did. I would have recognized that smell anywhere. Gasoline.

I heard a loud swoosh, punctuated by a louder explosion. New, significantly more frightening, words rang out across the field.

“Fire! Somebody help! The garbage cans are on fire!”

Dale’s face turned as white as his beard.

“Oh no! The goats!”

Michael and Maggie ran toward the registration desk, while Dale, Bandit, and I tore off to the petting area. Picketers and dog walkers scattered in every direction.

By the time we rounded the corner, the fire was already spreading. Hot yellow flames licked from the recycle bins to the loose hay surrounding the petting area. Within seconds, the entire line of straw bales had ignited, creating a flaming, Hades-like fence.

The teenage volunteers had already rushed the children outside the fenced area, but the goats were still trapped, huddled together in the corner farthest away from the fire. Michael skidded to a stop behind me and blasted the straw bales with an extinguisher, but the fire was spreading too fast. He may as well have been spraying the Towering Inferno with a garden hose.

Dale tossed Bandit’s leash to a gawker. The blond volunteer held the gate open while his brother, Dale, and I scrambled inside. Michael kept spraying the extinguisher, holding the flames back as best he could.

The goats refused to move.

“Force them to the entrance,” Dale yelled.

I channeled my inner Goth Girl, waved my arms, and yelled. “Go you stupid goats! Run! Get out of here!”

The three of us screamed and clapped and pushed and stomped, until the terrified animals bolted from the enclosure and charged into the park, straight past the onlookers, who were too transfixed by the flames to do anything but watch.

Dale gathered the final fear-frozen spotted kid in his arms and carried it away from the flames. Sirens wailed in the distance.

“Get the truck,” he said to the blond teen. He handed the baby goat to the other.

It seemed like a century passed, but it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes before firemen started dousing the area with cold water. Dale kept a watchful eye on his skittish herd, huddled several hundred feet away. A few people broke off from the crowd and tried to approach them. “Stay back!” Dale yelled. “Just block them from the road. And for lands sake, don’t chase them.”

Michael came up behind us. “Shouldn’t we try to round them up somehow?”

Dale’s expression was grim. “They’re too riled up. Give them a few minutes to calm down. They’ll come to me.” His voice didn’t sound confident.

The blond teen drove a livestock truck onto the field and parked. He jumped out of the cab, opened the back, and pulled down a wide ramp. Dale grabbed a metal pail from inside and filled it with grain from a five-gallon bucket.

“Hope this works,” he muttered.

Categories: Mystery, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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