It took fourteen years to construct a safe world for her and her son–and only one night for her ex to unravel it.
Celebrated Seattle restaurateur Callie James is more than a little thrown when her ex-husband, French investigative reporter Daniel Odile-Grand, shows up after fourteen years asking for her help. Even more disturbing: as she throws him out, Daniel is deliberately hit by a car, hurled through the front window of her restaurant–broken, bloody and unconscious. He flees from the hospital and breaks into Callie’s apartment, where he passes out. Reluctantly, Callie hides him. When she gets back to her restaurant, two assassins walk in, insisting that she find Daniel for them by tonight or pay the consequences.
Overwhelmed and hopelessly out of her depth, Callie hires the only man she knows who can help her: Cash Logan, her former bartender, a man she had arrested for smuggling ivory through her restaurant two years earlier, and who still hasn’t forgiven her.
The assassins blow up her restaurant. It’s Callie’s nightmare. And the worst is yet to come as she and her unlikely, incompatible ally discover that the most perilous dangers are far closer to home than they’d imagined.
Burt Weissbourd is a novelist and former screenwriter and producer of feature films. He was born in 1949 and graduated cum laude from Yale University, with honors in psychology. His book, Danger in Plain Sight, published on May 15th 2020, is the first book in his new Callie James thriller series. His earlier books include Inside Passage, Teaser, Minos, and In Velvet, all of which will be reissued in Fall 2020.
Between 1975 -1987 I was a film producer in Hollywood. My initial focus, and eventually my specialty, was developing screenplays. I worked with writers whose work grabbed viewers viscerally, not with explosions but with multi-dimensional characters that would draw you into a deeply moving story. I spent countless hours working out the stories and shaping the people in them. I worked with the following screenwriters, some of their most famous works noted in parentheses: Frederick Raphael (“Two for the Road”), Alvin Sargent (“Ordinary People”, “Julia”), Andy Lewis (“Klute”), Joe Esterhas (”Basic Instinct”), Ron Bass (“Rain Man”), Stewart Stern (“Rebel Without a Cause”). William Wittliff (“Lonesome Dove,” Raggedy Man”), Larry D. Cohen (“Carrie,” “Ghost Story”), etc. These writers’ film credits are for identification purposes with the exception of “Raggedy Man” and “Ghost Story,” as I did not work on these films.
I’ve just finished my fifth novel. All are character-driven thrillers. I love to write well drawn, complicated people who eventually are able to do unexpected things. I learned to do this from working on screenplays and studying movies. I’d like to describe one movie and screenplay that profoundly impacted me:
KLUTE — screenplay by Andy and Dave Lewis, directed by Alan Pakula, starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland
People still argue about whether KLUTE is a thriller or a love story. The answer, I believe, is both, and it makes my point about character-driven stories. In KLUTE, Jane Fonda (Bree Daniels) is a conflicted call girl trying to change her life. Donald Sutherland plays a small-town police detective, (John Klute), who is trying to find a missing man, a friend, from his town who was one of her clients. Eventually, the detective learns that his friend was killed, and discovers that the killer is stalking Bree. That’s the entire plot. What grabs you, makes you care viscerally about the outcome, and is finally deeply moving, is the growing, often ambivalent relationship between these two people. The director, Alan Pakula, is also very psychologically minded and between him and the writers, they manage to keep the tension, the frustration between them, even the angry clashes, grounded in their respective emotional realities. The encounters between Bree and her therapist still set the standard for meaningful, authentic treatment interactions in film.
Their evolving relationship is multi-faceted and at one point she fights with him and goes back to her pimp. By then, you’re routing for her getting together with this small town, soft-spoken, very smart and sensitive detective. By then, you’ve understood that she’s also very smart and becoming more and more self-aware as she struggles to get out of the call girl life. In the end, he saves her life when the killer attacks her. The final scene has both of them in her apartment. She’s packing up to go with him back to his small town. There’s no certainty that they’ll succeed together, but the audience is hoping mightily that they will. The reason you feel that they have a chance is the way they’ve grown, learned, separately and together about each other and what they both know that they could have together. This self-knowledge is earned the hard way, and this hard-earned character development gives us hope for their life together. I did not work on the screenplay for Klute, but I worked with Andy Lewis on four other screenplays, and in every single one he pays the same careful attention to the people.
Working with screen writers was a great experience. As a producer developing a screenplay, you learn to look for stories with strong, complex characters and a “rich stew” — that is to say a situation with conflict, emotional intensity, and the potential to evolve in unexpected ways. That is exactly how I approach the books that I write, and I learned how to do that as a producer working on screenplays.
It was 1:15 a.m. when Kelly and Gray returned. They must have been watching, because they came in as the last patron left. Will showed them to the bar, where Callie was waiting at her table. They sat facing her, different suits this time. Gray wore a thin gold square-link chain around his neck and a matching gold earring—stylish and expensive. Kelly wore a similar gold necklace with a floating diamond solitaire pendant. As Will was asking where their suits had been made, Callie interrupted. “A drink?”
“Another time,” Gray said, all business now. “Have you found Daniel Odile-Grand?”
“No, as I said before, I have no idea where he is.”
“That’s unacceptable,” he said matter-of-factly. He turned to his partner, who nodded, regretfully smiling her agreement.
Callie was prepared. Cash had told her to hit her “ice mode” button—a phrase he’d coined for her chilliness when irritated—at any sign of trouble. He’d recognize that and take it from there. “I beg your pardon?” she replied, classic subzero. She sipped her tepid San Pellegrino with lime.
“As I explained, urgent matters are at stake.” Gray waved his hand to include the dining room downstairs. “I’m told this fine restaurant is underinsured.”
“Yo, Callie.” Cash had materialized behind her, carrying chips and guacamole for the table. “I thought you said we were well insured.”
“We are, in fact, well insured,” she agreed.
Cash leaned in. His physical presence didn’t seem to faze these people. “So we don’t need insurance, then, we’re fine,” he pointed out.
Gray leaned in, too, measuring Cash, finding him wanting. “Listen carefully, cowboy, this is not your concern.” He said it slowly, advising a dim-witted child.
Kelly shook her head and spoke for the first time. “No, surely not.”
Cash’s eyes locked onto Gray’s. “Then this is your unlucky day, pardner. From now on, to get to the lady, you go through me.” He flashed a shit-eating grin. “Did you call me Cowboy?”
Gray grinned ever so slightly. Kelly smiled, picture perfect.
“Cowboy?” Cash repeated, frowning now as he emptied the bowl of guacamole on Gray’s cream-colored silk suit.
Gray was up, going for his gun. He fell to the floor, writhing, when Andre planted his metal prosthetic in the hit man’s groin. Cash already had Kelly’s arms pinned at her sides. Andre took her gun from its shoulder holster and trained it on Gray, who was on the floor, covered with guacamole.
“Let this go,” Cash told Gray. “You don’t want a war. Not with me.”
“Nice suit,” Andre added, and lifted Gray’s gold necklace with the black metal toe of his prosthetic leg. “Love the bling.”
More from Danger in Plain Sight
Cash closed his eyes. He had to do something to divert his mind from these horrific insects. He turned away, stretched his sore arms, flexed his tense back, focusing on Callie. Callie James . . . Okay, it was working. Picturing her face, the corners of his mouth turned up and his spirits soared.
Callie James . . . Why did he feel so wholly in love with her?
He stood, arms extended behind him, as he considered his on-again, off-again history with women.
Women found him attractive, and he’d been with many of them. His relationships, however, rarely lasted as long as he expected. There was some part of himself that he held back, and women sensed this and eventually moved on or asked for more of a commitment than he could make. Over time, he realized that it wasn’t a part — like a piece — but rather some portion of his unusual intensity. He understood that he was very accepting of other people and only offered as much as a woman looked for — some essential emotional minimum — to sustain the relationship. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It was a strong, keenly sensitive person’s way of protecting a partner from unwanted, possibly unsettling intensity. It’s who he was. Everything that he did, he did well but sparingly. So in some way he didn’t understand, he was choosing women who were less intense than he was.
Callie was the first woman he’d ever been with who demanded one hundred percent at all times. She was relentless, and even when she wasn’t aware of it, every bit as intense as he was. He didn’t hold anything back with her — yet she always wanted an explanation, an elaboration, an argument, or an answer to a difficult question. She’d never idealized him, that’s for sure. And he never pretended with her. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but the out-of-the-blue way this had happened between them, the strength of it, was something entirely new for him. Did he trust it? Yes, unequivocally. Did he know why? Yes, unequivocally again — it was because Callie James could never be untrue to herself.
Cash sat down, and turning back, he watched the horrible insects squirming in the jar.
No, he couldn’t lose her. Not now.
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He opened the back door and then led Christy up the stairs to apartment 2D. Will opened the apartment door, held it for her. Christy came through the door into the living room. Will closed the door behind her.
“Christy,” Callie called from where she’d been standing behind the door.
When Christy turned, confused, Callie whispered, “You miserable bitch,” and she fired two barbed, dart-like electrodes from her Taser into Christy’s chest. The electrodes created a circuit in the body, essentially hijacking the central nervous system, causing neuromuscular incapacitation.
Christy fell to the floor, writhing in uncontrollable muscle spasms. When the writhing stopped and she’d curled into the fetal position, Callie and Will cuffed her hands behind her back.
When they were able to get her on her feet, Callie said, “We’re trading you for Cash Logan and Amjad Hasim.”
“What are you talking about?”
Callie slapped her, as hard as she was able. The blow tore Christy’s lower lip, drawing blood, and bruised her cheek. Callie hadn’t planned to do that—it was her second time, and she’d never hit anyone nearly so hard in her life—but red-hot rage was coursing through her veins. She was trembling, though her ever-present anxiety had receded, and she sure as hell didn’t feel helpless.
“Are you crazy?” Christy cried out.
“Don’t even try that. I know what you and Avi have done—to Daniel, to my restaurant, to my friend Doc. You almost killed us all on the boat. And now you have Cash, damn you!”
Christy’s face changed; she got it—Callie had somehow put it together. “You low-life skanky cunt, I’ll kill you myself.” Christy spit in Callie’s face.
Callie slapped her again, a fierce crack, astonished, yet again, by the rage she felt welling inside. And in that moment, she understood that her usual internal restraints—her rules and regulations—were no longer in place. It was as if an anvil had been cut loose from around her neck.
Blood dripped from Christy’s lip, her left eye was partially closed, and tears streamed down her face.
Callie stepped closer. “If anything happens to Cash, if you hurt him again, I’ll kill you, Christy Ben-Meyer. I swear that on my son’s life.”
Five minutes later Christy was standing on a stool in the center of the room. Her hands were cuffed behind her back. Her feet were bound. Her mouth was covered with duct tape. There was a noose around her neck that was tightly tied off to the pair of sturdy eyehooks that Will had screwed into the ceiling beam earlier. Christy’s head was tilted back and up; the rope was that tight. Another rope was tied to the leg of the stool. If the stool were pulled out from under Christy’s feet, she would hang.
Callie held a handgun to Christy’s kneecap.
Will was shooting a video with Callie’s iPhone.
Callie spoke to the camera. “Avi Ben-Meyer, I promise you that I will shoot out Christy’s left kneecap in fifteen minutes if you haven’t arranged the exchange with Itzac by then. In thirty minutes, I’ll shoot out her other kneecap and hang her. Believe me on this — if Cash Logan is hurt in any way, I’ll torture her without mercy before she dies.” Callie nodded, done. She walked to a corner of the room, fighting for breath. Dear God! What had she just said? Torture Christy? Damn it, if they hurt Cash . . . She gasped — she’d never even known that she could have feelings like that.
Will placed a calming hand on her back, and he gave her the phone. Callie noted the time, then sent the video to Itzac.
More from Danger in Plain Sight
The martinis arrived, each one with an extra inch of refill in a glass tumbler. “The angel’s share,” Cash explained. He raised his drink, a toast. “To you, Callie, to what you could become.”
She clicked his glass with hers. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
“You have a shot at extraordinary.”
“You think so?”
“Possibly. But it’s an entirely different kind of extraordinary than turning-me-over-to-the-cops-for-smuggling-erotic-netsuke-into-your-restaurant extraordinary.”
“I deserve that. Jesus what an unforgiving, righteous gal I was.” She raised a palm. “Your words. And you were right. I’m sorry.” She touched his arm. “I was mean-spirited, foolish—just plain wrong — and I’ll always regret that.”
“Suppose we let that go.” Cash raised his glass again.
She touched her glass to his. “Thank you.”
“Speaking of regrets, honestly, I never anticipated that this past week would be so difficult—the anxiety, hiding Lew, the mace, the damage to your restaurant, the explosives on the boat . . . It was especially hard to lose Doc . . .” He let it drift.
She nodded, found his eyes. “I misjudged you early on . . . Conventional thinking sometimes blinds me—how you look, how you dress, what your job is. Long story short, you’re not at all what you seem. I listened carefully to you with Detective Samter today. You’re so smart, so able in the world. And in your way, though you’d never admit it, you try to get it right. Yes, you present whatever you’re proposing as practical, a calculated, opportunistic thing. What I’m learning, though, is that with you that’s also, as you see it—after carefully weighing pros and cons—the best for all involved. Or as I would say it, theright thing. How you get there is often confusing to me, but you do get there, way ahead of me, and, well, I admire you.”
“Thank you . . . That’s a two-way deal.” Cash watched her, surprised by her expressiveness. “Truthfully, this past week, I underestimated you. You’ve been right there, as hard as that must have been for you. You kept defying my expectations. Just when I was ready to give up on you, you did the smart thing, the hard thing, under protest, but you did it. And now, I’m watching you in the eye of a serious storm, just when I’d expect you to cave in, fall apart. But no, you manage. You even stand tall. Callie, you have a fine, strong heart.”
She smiled. “I’m a restaurateur. I never knew what to do outside my restaurant. I was always afraid.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“It took a lot of work and a huge amount of energy to accomplish that deception. I mean you can’t imagine what it was like for me to find you — ask for your help — at the Dragon. It was all I could do to look at you, to keep even a semblance of composure.”
“And that’s changing?”
“Yes, I think so. I hope so.”
“How did this happen?”
“It’s you, Terry.” She looked at him, eyes serious. “In your tenacious, patient way, you dragged me—kicking and screaming—out into the world, step by baby step, and though it’s every bit as frightening and even more unsettling than I imagined it, I’m okay with it. Yeah, I’m even getting my sea legs.”
“Bravo, then, Callie James. To both of us.”
She raised her glass. They toasted silently.
“Truthfully, Cash, at times I even like it out here.”
“Well, it suits you.” Cash watched her smile.
“I even like talking with you . . . And I was never a talker.”
“I’m guessing we have some great, contentious conversations ahead of us.”
“I like the idea of that.”
“Cash and Frosty, tête-à-tête.”
He took her small, delicate hands in his big, busted-up mitts.
Their kiss was tender, sweet, Cash thought. After, there were tears in Callie’s eyes.
Excerpt from Danger in Plain Sight by Burt Weissbourd. Copyright 2020 by Burt Weissbourd. Reproduced with permission from Burt Weissbourd. All rights reserved.
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