May 222019
 

The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan

The Company Files: 2.

The Naming Game

by Gabriel Valjan

on Tour April 22 – June 22, 2019

The Company Files 2 The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan

Synopsis:

Whether it’s Hollywood or DC, life and death, success or failure hinge on saying a name.

The right name.

When Charlie Loew is found murdered in a seedy flophouse with a cryptic list inside the dead script-fixer’s handkerchief, Jack Marshall sends Walker undercover as a screenwriter at a major studio and Leslie as a secretary to Dr. Phillip Ernest, shrink to the stars. J. Edgar Hoover has his own list. Blacklisted writers and studio politics. Ruthless gangsters and Chief Parker’s LAPD. Paranoia, suspicions, and divided loyalties begin to blur when the House Un-American Activities Committee insists that everyone play the naming game.

Praise for The Naming Game:

“With crackling dialogue and a page turning plot shot-through with authentic period detail, Gabriel Valjan pulls the reader into the hidden world of the 1950’s Hollywood studio scene, involving murder, McCarthyism and mayhem.”
~ James L’Etoile, author of At What Cost and Bury the Past

“Terrific historical noir as Gabriel Valjan takes us on a trip through post-war Hollywood involving scandal, McCarthyism, blacklisting, J. Edgar Hoover and, of course, murder. Compelling story, compelling characters – and all the famous name dropping is great fun. Highly recommended!”
~ R.G. Belsky, author of the Clare Carlson Mystery Series

“Brilliantly written, Gabriel Valjan’s The Naming Game whisks the reader back in time to postwar Los Angeles. Spies, Communism, and Hollywood converge in a first-rate thriller.”
~ Bruce Robert Coffin, Agatha Award nominated author of Beyond the Truth

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction
Published by: Winter Goose Publishing
Publication Date: May 4, 2019
Number of Pages: 210
ISBN: 978-1-941058-86-2
Series: The Company Files: 2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

Gabriel Valjan

Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan is the author of two series, The Roma Series and The Company Files, available from Winter Goose Publishing. His short stories have appeared in Level Best anthologies and other publications. Twice shortlisted for the Fish Prize in Ireland, once for the Bridport Prize in England, and an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest, he is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime National, a local member of Sisters in Crime New England, and an attendee of Bouchercon, Crime Bake, and Malice Domestic conferences.

Q&A with Gabriel Valjan

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads
Reading and Writing:

What inspired you to write this book?

Griffin Fariello’s Red Scare inspired me. For readers unfamiliar with the book, which appeared in 1995 and is now available in digital format, Fariello is a journalist who compiled interviews with victims and those who abetted McCarthy’s drive to expose Communists in every stratum of American life. You become cognizant of contradictions, the contagious paranoia, and the frenzy that McCarthy stirred up without ever providing one shred of proof. With only innuendo and the flimsiest of evidence, he hounded people to ruin and, in some cases, early death. Throughout all this surrealism, I was already aware of how government and corporations used Hollywood to shape public thought prior to McCarthy. I became intrigued as to how Hollywood studios, after he’d appeared on the scene, found creative ways to get films written and produced, when the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) had blacklisted writers. Note: HUAC existed before (founded in 1938) Senator McCarthy and it did not officially disband until 1975. It seems that money, regardless of circumstances and politics, had to be made, a profit turned.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

Flow. When you write historical fiction, a writer wants to avoid information dumps or anything that impedes the flow of the story. Smart editing trims the unnecessary or identifies areas where more details are needed. As with anything conjuring up the past, an author doesn’t want their dialogue to sound as if it came from a film noir or a Shakespearean play. Turns of phrase like fashion come and go, but human emotions and concerns remain universal. We love. We hate. We fear what we don’t know or understand. We have hindsight to judge the past, to slap our foreheads with amazement that anyone could believe such-and-such;
but to those people, it was as real as the sky is blue. A writer is challenged to make all that real to the reader. The Spanish Flu and polio once terrified people, just like AIDS and Ebola do today. Communism was yesterday’s terrorism. Technology has improved life, made things once thought impossible, but fundamental conflicts between people and nations have not changed; only names and places.

Give us a glimpse of the research that went into this book.

There is no end to the number of resources on Golden Hollywood or Los Angeles of yesteryear. I didn’t want to recycle familiar tropes (the inherent danger of Raymond Chandler as an inspiration). I dug around for bits and pieces that I thought were obscure to readers. Everyone who has read enough stories about LA in the Forties and Fifties knows of Musso and Frank, or the Trocadero. In The Naming Game, I went farther afield. I mentioned a nightclub called Slapsie Maxie, which went by another name in 1951, the year of my story. People then still referred to it as Slapsie, but for accuracy I gave the new name after the establishment changed hands. Other examples: I mention a property once owned by Charlie Chaplin. Because the story was set in 1951, I consulted maps to make sure I had the names of streets and highways right, especially for the artist colony called Malibu. I sought out photographs of the Cocoanut Grove, cocktail menus and researched clothing and cars and the cost of things, so readers could ‘feel’ the snapshot of time. Research conveys fidelity to the era, creditability to the story for the knowledgeable reader, and integrity on the writer.

How did you come up with the title?

Not sure. I certainly wanted an enticing title, and to have this novel evoke the McCarthy era. I picked ‘naming game’ because, in my mind, it denoted a childhood game reminiscent of ‘I Spy.’ The difference, of course, is I’m pointing towards real history and the game resulted in disastrous consequences.

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

My routine is not terribly exciting. Writing involves sitting in a chair with the hands and mind engaged in translating what’s inside your head onto the screen. Other than that, I write in the morning after exercise. I don’t outline, though I may jot down a word or a phrase as a reminder. When I factor in research, I’ll have notes nearby.

Tell us why we should read your book?

With The Company Files, I introduce readers to forgotten chapters of American history. When readers think of the CIA (The Company is a euphemism for the agency), they think and expect high-tech thrillers. James Bond. The reality is far more prosaic. The intelligence community then was inept, made terrible decisions and mistakes, and was easily manipulated by foreign enemies and domestic politicians. This mix of history and fiction makes for compelling reading.

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

The Company Files: 3. Diminished Fifth is written and ready for editing. I’m working on a third book in another series. A little superstitious about providing too much detail, but it involves Shanghai in the Thirties, the European elites of that society and various crimes that require solving.

Fun Questions:

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

The writer in me would like to see unknowns play the roles, but I think there are numerous contemporary actors who have the talent to take viewers back to an earlier era. I can see Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Walker. Donnie Wahlberg as Whittaker from the first book. Michael Shannon as Jack. Gretchen Mol as Vera. Keri Russell or Jennifer Connelly as Leslie.

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

Long walks, working out, and drinking coffee. I’m always on the lookout for excellent movies or a series. I don’t care if they are vintage or contemporary. I love a good story, excellent writing and dialogue at work.

Favorite foods?

I’m a bit of a foodie, so I’m an adventuresome eater. I have a short list of what I won’t eat, otherwise I’m game and I enjoy food paired with wines because you can learn so much about culture, geography, and history from a meal.

Catch Up With Gabriel On:
gabrielvaljan.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

At seven minutes past the hour while reviewing the classified documents at his desk, one of the two colored phones, the beige one, rang. He placed the receiver next to his ear, closed the folder, and waited for the caller’s voice to speak first.

“Is this Jack Marshall?”

“It is.”

“This is William Parker. Is the line secure?”

“It is,” Jack replied, his hand opening a desk cabinet and flipping the ON switch to start recording the conversation.

“I don’t know you Mr. Marshall and I presume you don’t know me.”

A pause.

“I know of you, Chief Parker.”

“Were you expecting my call?”

“No and it doesn’t matter.” Jack lied.

“Fact of the matter, Mr. Marshall, is an individual, whom I need not name, has suggested I contact you about a sensitive matter. He said matter of security so I listened.”

“Of course. I’m listening.”

“I was instructed to give you an address and have my man at the scene allow you to do whatever it is that you need to do when you arrive there.”

“Pencil and paper are ready. The address, please.”

Jack wrote out the address; it was in town, low rent section with the usual rooming houses, cheap bars, about a fifteen-minute drive on Highway 1 without traffic.

“Ask for Detective Brown. You won’t miss him. Don’t like it that someone steps in and tells me how to mind my own city, but I have no choice in the matter.”

Jack ignored the man’s defensive tone. He knew Detective Brown was a dummy name, like Jones or Smith on a hotel ledger. Plain, unimaginative, but it would do. Most policemen, he conceded, were neither bright nor fully screwed into the socket. A chief was no different except he had more current in him. The chief of police who ruled Los Angeles by day with his cop-syndicate the way Mickey Cohen owned the night must’ve swallowed his pride when he dropped that nickel to make this call.

“Thank you, Chief Parker.”

Jack hung up and flipped the switch to OFF.

Whatever it was at the scene waiting for Jack was sufficient cause to pull back a man like Bill Parker and his boys for twelve hours. Whoever gave this order had enough juice to rein in the LAPD.

Jack took the folder he was reviewing and walked it across the room. He opened the folder once more and reread the phrases ‘malicious international spy’ and, in Ronald Reagan’s own choice of words, ‘Asia’s Mata Hari’, before closing the cover and placing it inside the safe. His review will have to wait. He put on his holster and grabbed a jacket.

Betty came out on the porch as he was putting the key into the car door.

“I won’t be long. Please kiss the children good night for me.”

“Can’t this wait, Jack? The children were expecting you to read to them tonight. Jack Junior set aside the book and you know Elizabeth will be crushed.”

“It can’t wait. I’m sorry. Tell them I’ll make it up to them.”

“You need to look them in the face when you tell them sorry.”

He opened the door as his decision. She understood she dealt him the low card. “Want something for the road?”

“No thanks. I’ll see you soon.”

He closed the door with finesse. He couldn’t help it if the children heard the car. He checked the mirror and saw her on the porch, still standing there, still disappointed and patient, as he drove off.

Detective Brown, sole man on the scene, walked him over to the body without introducing himself. Jack didn’t give his name.

At six-fifteen the vet renting a room down the hall discovered the body. Detective Brown said the veteran was probably a hired hound doing a bag job – break-ins, surveillance, and the like. Recent veterans made the best candidates for that kind of work for Hoover, Jack thought. Worked cheap and they went the extra mile without Hoover’s agents having to worry about technicalities like a citizen’s rights going to law.

“What makes you think he was hired out?” Jack asked.

Brown, a man of few words, handed Jack his notebook, flipped over to the open page he marked Witness Statement and said politely, “Please read it. Words and writing are from the witness himself.”

“The man was a no good ‘commonist’.”

“Nice spelling. A suspect?”

“No, sir. The coroner places the death around early afternoon, about 2ish. Our patriot was across the street drinking his lunch. I verified it.”

Jack viewed the body. The man was fully dressed wearing a light weave gabardine suit costing at least twenty-five. The hardly scuffed oxfords had to cost as much as the suit, and the shirt and tie, both silk, put the entire ensemble near a hundred. Hardly class consciousness for an alleged Communist, Jack thought.

The corpse lying on his side reminded Jack of the children sleeping, minus the red pool seeping into the rug under the right ear. The dead man wore a small sapphire ring on his small finger, left hand. No wedding band. Nice watch on the wrist, face turned in. An odd way to read time. Breast pocket contained a cigarette case with expensive cigarettes, Egyptian. Jack recognized the brand from his work in the Far East. Ten cents a cigarette is nice discretionary income. Wallet in other breast pocket held fifty dollars, various denominations. Ruled out robbery or staging it. Identification card said Charles Loew, Warner Brothers. Another card: Screen Writers Guild, signed by Mary McCall, Jr. President. Back of card presented a pencil scrawl.

“Find a lighter or book of matches?”

Detective Brown shook his head. Jack patted the breast pockets again and the man’s jacket’s side-pockets. Some loose change, but nothing else. The man was unarmed, except for a nice pen. Much as he disliked the idea Jack put his hands into the man’s front pockets. Nothing. He found a book of matches in the left rear pocket, black with gold telltale lettering, Trocadero on Sunset. Jack flipped the matchbook open and as he suspected, found a telephone number written in silver ink; different ink than the man’s own pen. Other back pocket contained a handkerchief square Jack found interesting, as did Detective Brown.

“What’s that?” he asked, head peering over for a better look.

“Not sure,” answered Jack, unfolding the several-times folded piece of paper hidden inside the hanky. The unfolded paper revealed a bunch of typewritten names that had bled out onto other parts of the paper. It must have been folded while the ink was still wet. It didn’t help someone spilt something on the paper. Smelled faintly of recent whiskey. Jack reviewed what he thought were names when he realized the letters were nonsense words.

“Might be a Commie membership list. Looks like code.” But Brown zipped it when Jack folded the paper back up and put it into his pocket.

“The paper and the matches stay with me. We clear?”

“Uh, yes sir. The Chief told me himself to do whatever you said and not ask questions.”

“Good. Other than the coroner – who else was here? Photographers, fingerprints?”

“Nobody else. Medical pronounced him dead, but nothing more. Chief had them called off to another scene – a multiple homicide, few blocks away. We’re short-staffed tonight. The Chief said he’d send Homicide after you leave. They’ll process the scene however you leave it. They won’t know about the matches or the paper. Chief’s orders.”

Jack checked his watch. Man down, found at six fifteen. Chief called a little after seven. He arrived not much later than seven forty. The busy bodies would get the stiff by eight or eight thirty, the latest. Perfectly reasonable Jack thought. He squatted down to see the man’s watch, noticing light bruising on the wrist and the throw rug bunched into a small hill near the man’s time hand. Intriguing.

“Thank you, Detective. I’ll be going now. If I speak to the chief I’ll let him know you’ve done your job to the letter.”

“You’re welcome. Night.”

Jack knew he and the chief would be speaking again.

Outside on the street, Jack pulled out his handkerchief and wiped both hands for any traces of dead man as he headed for the parked car. Compulsive habit. He pulled up the collar on his jacket. It was cold for late May.

The street sign said he was not far from Broadway. In this part of town thousands lived crowded in on themselves as lodgers in dilapidated Gothic mansions or residence hotels, working the downtown stores, factories, and offices, riding public transit and the other funicular railway in the area, Court Flight, a two-track railway climb towards Hill Street.

Los Angeles changed with the world. The war was over and there was a new war, possibly domestic, definitely foreign. Court Flight is gone, ceased operations. Its owner and his faithful cat had passed on. His good widow tried. In ’43 a careless brush fire destroyed the tracks and the Board of Public Utilities signed the death warrant; and now Jack was hearing whispers Mayor Bowron planned to revitalize the area International Style, which meant dotting the desert city with skyscrapers.

Jack opened the door and sat behind the wheel a moment. He took the family once to nearby Angels Flight. Junior wondered why there was no apostrophe on the sign. Betty tolerated the excursion, indifferent to Los Angeles because she preferred their home in DC. He released the clutch. Betty disliked LA because it changed too much without reason. She might have had a point. He shifted gear. Pueblo city would level whole blocks of thriving masses just to create a parking lot. He pulled the car from the curb.

***

Excerpt from The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2019 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

 

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gabriel Valjan. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on April 22, 2019 and runs through June 24, 2019. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

May 152019
 

Bad Pick

by Linda Lovely

on Tour April 1-May 31, 2019

Synopsis:

Bad Pick by Linda Lovely

Vegan Brie Hooker lives and works with her feisty Aunt Eva at Udderly Kidding Dairy, a hop, skip, and jump away from South Carolina’s Clemson University. Brie’s fun farm outreach attempt backfires when religious extremists decide goat yoga is a form of devil worship. Believing one of the zealots might be persuaded to see reason, Brie’s free-wheeling friend Mollye convinces her they should call on the young woman. Big mistake.

Picketers at Udderly’s gates soon become the least of Brie’s troubles. Not only is she accused of murder, she worries the death might actually be her fault. Danger mounts when an old family friend’s visit ensnares Brie in a high-stakes feud between a U.S. Supreme Court nominee and the woman determined to expose his secrets. In her personal life, Brie’s still torn between the town’s two most eligible bachelors. While she’s edging toward a decision, she must first survive a cunning killer adept at crafting murders that look like tragic accidents. Will Brie be another “accident” victim? Pay a visit to Udderly Kidding Dairy and find out!

Praise for Bad Pick

“There’s such a lot to enjoy in Linda Lovely’s third Brie Hooker mystery Bad Pick. Of course, I came for the goat yoga and the religious extremists (I’m only human), but I stayed for the love triangle, the female friendships, the family members rubbing along so realistically, the sidelights on vegan cooking and the rich depiction of small-town life. And what kept me flicking the pages fast enough to cause a draft? The twisty, knotty, killer plot underneath all that charm. Bad Pick is a good un!”—Catriona McPherson, Multi-Award-Winning Author of the Last Ditch Mysteries.

“Wow! In Bad Pick, Lovely wrote an amazing novel only to see one part of the plot come to life in headlines all over the country. A fringe religious cult, a Supreme Court nominee, and goat yoga combine together in a tale that fans of mysteries won’t want to miss. –Sherry Harris, Agatha Award Nominee and Author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries.

“The Brie Hooker mysteries from author Linda Lovely continue to entertain, this time with extremists who really don’t like the farm’s new goat yoga offering. You’ll find yourself muttering, “What the feta?” as you follow the action around not one but two murders from the edge of your seat. Fix yourself a chevre sandwich and sit down to enjoy a delightful – and suspense-filled – read.”—Edith Maxwell, Author of the Local Foods Mysteries and the Quaker Midwife Mysteries.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Number of Pages: 270
ISBN: 9781635114744
Series: Brie Hooker Mystery Series
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Linda Lovely

Hundreds of mystery writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Her new Brie Hooker Mystery series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. Bad Pick is her eighth published mystery novel. She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.

Q&A with Linda Lovely

Writing:
Which of your characters do you dislike the most and why?

Jeannie Nickles. She’s a sweet-smiling, kindly-grandmotherly-appearing hypocrite who projects an image of Christian virtue but manipulates everyone in her orbit to do decidedly un-Christian things.

Which of your characters was the hardest to write and why?
Ursula Billings. She’s a celebrity judge on a reality TV show. It was hard to imagine her day-to-day life and mesh it with her history.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through writing?
Once you have even a hazy idea of your plot and characters just start writing. You can’t edit and improve on a blank page. After you start writing, your characters will get in the act and suggest plot twists and options that never occurred to you when you began.

What has been your biggest challenge to your writing career?
There are so many books written each year—many of them excellent—that it’s very hard to be “discovered.” I also handicap myself in this regard by my ineptness at social media. I don’t get Twitter, and I resent spending a lot of time on social media posts when I could be working on a book.

What was your biggest challenge writing this book?
Bringing together the main plot with two different subplots and finding ways to ensure all the villains were brought to justice. That’s one of the reasons I write crime fiction—to show that good can triumph over evil and to make sure villains get their just desserts. That’s what I call a happy ending.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope they enjoy reading my books as much as I do writing them. I try to balance the crimes and villains in my mysteries with humor and romance. When they turn the last page of one of my books, I want them to feel every loose end has been tied up and they have a reason to smile. Of course, I’d also love it if they’d leave reviews, which are so important to authors in this age of algorithms that often determine a book’s online visibility.

Fun Questions:
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

Emma Stone would make an excellent Brie Hooker. I loved Stone in the movie, The Help.

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series
I owe the Writers’ Police Academy and the many subject experts I’ve met and made friends with there over the years for both giving me ideas for plots and for helping me with forensics and other details to make my books as realistic as possible. For example, in BAD PICK, WPA friends provided me with several alternate scenarios when I wanted a tainted dish served at a luncheon to prove fatal to one person while only making the other guests sick. This August I’ll attend my seventh Writers’ Police Academy, which I’m helping to organize. It’s a unique once-a-year, four-day event that gives authors and fans of crime fiction a chance for hands-on learning with instructors who normally teach law enforcement professionals from around the world.

Favorite foods?
I love most pasta dishes, the entire Thanksgiving menu including turkey, gravy and all the sides, and, of course, I love chocolate.

Favorite activities?
Reading, tennis, walking with my husband, kayaking, gardening, spending time with friends and family.

 photo SmallBestBench.jpg

Catch Up With Our Author On:
lindalovely.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

ONE

“How many people did you con into trying this goat yoga?” Aunt Eva asked as she slapped two strips of cold bacon in a skillet.

“No conning needed,” I answered. “Everyone’s looking forward to the class.”

“You sure goat yoga’s a good idea?”

I laughed. “I’m sure. People love it. Admittedly, a sense of humor’s required, but it’s caught on all across the country. Why don’t you join the fun? Class starts at three. We don’t have many Sunday customers this time of year. We’ll probably have the farm to ourselves by then. You up for some downward-facing dog?”

“No.” Eva harrumphed. “Don’t go insulting our noble dogs. Bad enough you’ll expose our baby goats to human pretzels. It’s bound to confuse the poor kids. Won’t know which human end is supposed to be up. They’ll think all us two-legged beings are bonkers. So who’s coming?”

“Jayla, our yoga instructor, wanted to limit the trial class to four students so it’s just Mollye, Fara, Mimi, and me.”

I pulled out a bag of frozen blueberries I’d picked at the Happy Berry Farm last summer. While Udderly Kidding Dairy, my home for the past seven months, boasted dozens of blueberry bushes, our four-hundred goats called first dibs on the fruit.

“Oh, and Paint’s shooting video to promote the class,” I added.

Aunt Eva chuckled as she flipped her sizzling bacon strips. “Not a hardship for Paint, videoing young ladies in nothing but skivvies and tutus.”

I glanced heavenward. “We don’t wear tutus. Our workout clothes show less skin than you do on the Fourth of July.”

Eva cocked an eyebrow. “Could be you’re helping Paint select babes for the weeks he’s not your designated beau.”

I opened the cupboard and grabbed a microwave packet of steel-cut oatmeal. “Paint sees a variety of ladies when we’re not dating, and he knows everyone in this class. No behind-the-camera scouting required.”

“Maybe, but as far as I know, he hasn’t seen any of them with their ankles up around their ears.”

“And he won’t today.”

“If you say so, but I swear my old bones creak just looking at some of those yoga contortions.”

Eva cracked two eggs in the hot bacon grease, while I used our microwave—a new kitchen addition—to thaw my frozen berries and heat the oats. My usual February morning fare. At Udderly, we didn’t chow down until the morning chores were done. That meant I was starved and in dire need of a caffeine injection.

Eva glanced over. “So how’s that boyfriend-for-a-week plan working? Who’s ahead in the Brie Hooker heart throb race? Any close calls on the clothing discard clause?”

I smiled. “Paint and Andy try to outdo each other in dreaming up ways to initiate a striptease. Despite their enterprising efforts, the nude- default clause remains unchallenged.”

Last November, I’d agreed to this bizarre boyfriend pact with Andy Green, our veterinarian, and David “Paint” Paynter, an entrepreneurial moonshiner. Though strongly attracted to both thirty-four-year-old hunks, I’d sworn I’d date neither. Didn’t want to lose them as friends or come between them. They’d been best buds for thirty years, practically since they left diapers.

The boys came up with an alternative. I’d date Paint one week, Andy the next, until either I selected a fulltime beau, one of them opted out, or a ridiculous nudity clause kicked in. If I disrobed on any date, the magician who assisted in making my clothes disappear would win by default. Both men swore the arrangement would not affect their friendship.

Me? I felt like I’d been locked in a chastity belt. Foreplay’s a lot less fun when there’s no after.

“You know it can’t last, don’t you?” Aunt Eva asked, giving voice to my own misgivings.

“Yep, I do. But like today’s sunny warmth—way too early for mid- February—I’ll enjoy it while I can.”

TWO

Jayla Johnson, our tall, willowy teacher waved as she walked toward me. Had to admit Paint would get an eyeful watching her stretch every which way. He was male, and Jayla was a stunner. As a shorty—I’m five four—I’d always envied long-legged ladies like Jayla. Somehow those extra inches made them look cool and sophisticated.

Luckily, Jayla wasn’t in the running to join Paint’s off-week harem. She was happily married to one of Clemson University’s football coaches and had a darling three-year-old son.

“Do we have a plan B?” Jayla glanced up at the Carolina blue sky. “It’s really warm for February, but the ground’s too muddy to put our mats down in a pasture. After five minutes, we’d look like we’d been mud wrestling.”

“Agreed. It’d be a shame to get that outfit muddy.” Jayla looked like an Oreo cookie, her ebony skin a sharp contrast to her snowy outfit. “I did warn you baby goats aren’t potty-trained, didn’t I? Accidents can happen.” “Not to worry.” Jayla smiled. “My laundry room has one whole shelf devoted to stain removers for husband-son accidents. So where are we setting up?”

“The horse barn. Plenty of room and it will be easier to keep Curly, Moe, and Larry contained.”

“Who?”

“Curly, Moe, and Larry are the baby goats—five-day-old triplets. We named the kids after The Three Stooges. Full of energetic hijinks. They’re also super cuddly.”

We turned as Mollye Camp’s psychedelic van crunched down the gravel drive. Her van’s midnight blue paint job served as a backdrop for a galaxy of glittering stars, a super-sized harvest moon, and a broom-riding witch. Moll, my best friend since childhood, was a gifted potter who sold her creations along with an eclectic hodgepodge of homeopathic remedies, herbs, and astrological doodads in her Starry Skies shop.

Moll jangled as she hopped down from her ride. She adored jewelry and had more piercings than a rapper. A vibrant purple streak adorned her white-blonde hair. She chose a new neon hue every month.

Mollye hustled over. “Who we waiting for?”

“Mimi and Fara,” I answered. “We’re keeping the group small for the test run. Paint’s shooting video.”

Mollye checked the amount of cleavage revealed by her scoop-necked purple top and inspected the seams of her orange leggings as they meandered south of her shorts. “Glad I didn’t wear anything too revealing. Don’t want folks thinking I’d participate in some racy video.”

Mimi and Fara’s arrival cut short Jayla’s and my eye rolls. Racy might not be Mollye’s middle name, but outrageous could be. I loved Mollye and her adventurous spirit though it sometimes landed me in hot water. Okay, in one case, freezing water.

With rolled mats tucked under their arms, the class newcomers looked like an odd couple. Mimi, who’d emigrated from Vietnam at age two, stood four feet nine on tiptoe, while Fara, a busty blonde with long braids, topped out at five ten. Mimi was a pharmacist; Fara grew up in her family’s funeral parlor and was now the town’s youngest funeral director.

Hard for this class to be more diverse. Paint would enjoy himself. “Hey, Fara, you boxing anyone up today?” Mollye joked.

“Maybe you after class,” the funeral director quipped. “You want the deluxe mahogany coffin or a pine box? I’m thinking you and Brie have used up eight of your nine lives. Better not exert yourselves today.”

Jayla clapped her hands. “Now children. Snarky is not the proper frame of mind for yoga. Think serenity. We want to clear our minds, be one with nature.”

I chuckled at the good-natured kidding. “Follow me to our classroom. We have the horse barn to ourselves. The smell alone will remind you we’re one with nature. I evicted Rita and Hank. They’re grazing in the pasture. Figured Lilly’s mule and Eva’s horse were more inclined to nicker than meditate.”

“Where are the goats in this goat yoga?” Fara asked.

“Eva will bring Curly, Moe, and Larry in after we start. We need to leave the barn door open for the light. Jim, our Border collie, will keep the little goat Houdinis from escaping.”

The triplets’ antics drove Jim nuts. Yesterday Moe pranced on top of a picnic table for five minutes taunting the poor herd dog. Jim ran circles around the table, barking in protest, unable to figure out how to nudge Moe back to her pen. After we placed our mats, Jayla led us through a series of simple warm-up stretches and breathing exercises. I’d been an avid runner and swimmer for years, but yoga was a new pursuit. I was pleasantly surprised to find its emphasis on breathing and mindfulness and its practiced movements helped me shed stress and fall asleep faster.

Believe me, falling asleep quickly is a prized skill for anyone required to rise before the sun. At Udderly, one of my jobs appeared to be waking the roosters.

Jayla announced the cat pose. I knelt on my mat and set my arms to provide four-point support. Then I arched my back like cats do when threatened. I lowered my head, giving my neck muscles a pleasant stretch.

“Looking good, ladies.” With my head down I heard the man’s voice before I saw him.

“Don’t mind me,” the newcomer continued. “I’m gonna wander around and take photos.”

The sexy baritone belonged to Paint. It should be outlawed.

“Have fun, kids—human and goat.” Eva laughed as she let the baby goats loose in the barn. Moe immediately darted under my arched back, executed a one-eighty, and raced back again as if she were playing a game of London Bridge.

My concentration faltered as Curly discovered she had easy access to one of my earlobes and began to nibble with her lips. It tickled.

Fara broke out laughing as Larry scrambled up her arched back and danced a little jig on his newly discovered perch.

“I’ve got a miniature geisha doing a four-footed massage.” Fara giggled. “Actually feels kind of good, though very strange.”

“No talking,” Jayla admonished. “Concentrate on your breathing, your muscles. Be one with nature.”

Paint hooted. “Nature’s winning.”

Paint obviously felt he was exempt from Jayla’s no-talking reprimand. The instructor began laughing, too. Moe had curled her body around Jayla’s legs as she attempted to hold the Big Toe pose.

We were all bent in half, butts in the air, when a loud voice brayed, “Oh dear God, save us. They are bowing to the devil, mocking the Lord Jesus by thrusting their bottoms at heaven above.”

THREE

What the feta?

I snapped around to see who was calling us devil worshippers. Was this a joke?

Flipping out of downward dog, I body slammed the mat. A second after hitting the plastic, a furry comedian bounced against my side. Curly shook her head as she attempted an impressive four-legged hop. She’d taken my tumble to the ground as an invitation to play. The little goat butted my side again.

“Lord Jesus, help us keep these devil worshippers from claiming more souls!” the stranger bellowed.

I was flabbergasted. No other word for it. Then my shock morphed into anger. Who did this woman think she was, calling us devil worshippers? Who invited her to our private workout? How did she even find out about it?

The plump leader held a super-sized wooden cross before her as if she were fending off a clutch of vampires. I figured her for mid-fifties. Gray streaks wound through her mousy brown hair. Light glinting off oversized spectacles lent her the look of an alien with round yellow bug eyes.

Two cross-carrying acolytes hovered about a foot behind her.

Were these people serious? I felt the blood rush to my cheeks. My heartbeat raced. Angry? You betcha.

I almost yelled one of my old-time favorite curses. Years back, I cleaned up my salty language for dear old Mom. As a vegan, processed- meat-and-cheese exclamations had become my exclamatory substitutes. But Cruddy corndogs! didn’t quite express my outrage.

Mollye, closest to the barn door, marched toward the scowling leader. “Susan, what in blazes do you think you’re doing?” she growled. “I got a restraining order to keep you and your looney-tune zealots off my property. Now you’re following me?”

“I didn’t know you’d be here,” the intruder raged, “though I’m not surprised. Goat yoga! What blasphemy. At church this morning, one of our faithful told me you were planning this abomination. I prayed on it, and decided we had to stop the spread of this evil in Ardon County.”

She waved her cross at us. “In the name of the Father and the Son we demand—”

“You need to leave,” Paint spoke through gritted teeth. “The only evil here is you.”

Susan closed her eyes and rocked back and forth on her heels. “You are Satan’s handmaidens duping people into believing Baphomet goat worship is fun.”

Susan’s diatribe was accompanied by a murmur of “Amen, Sister, Amen” from her backups. The sidekicks still wore church-go-to-meeting dresses, nylons, and heels. They kept sneaking peeks at the ground. Worried their high heels might sink in goat doo-doo during their barnyard sortie?

One of the acolytes looked to be Susan’s age; the other much younger, about my age.

“Knights Templar worshipped Baphomet as a deity.” Susan’s tone changed. Her words flowed in a singsong chant. “These monsters with their snake eyes are his descendants.”

“Are you nuts?” Jayla broke in. “How can you think these adorable babies are evil?”

Susan’s rant hadn’t cowed my friends.

The harpy wasn’t deterred. “Open your eyes. The Satanic goat is a source of evil.” Her yellow bug eyes flashed at each of us in turn. “You worship the Devil. We won’t allow your sickness to infect the pious people of Ardon County.”

Aunt Eva appeared in the barn door carrying two pails of goat milk. “You’re trespassing and you’re scaring the baby goats.”

My aunt’s face flamed red.

“We’ll leave,” Susan said. “But this isn’t over. We will fight to the death for the soul of Ardon County. Goat yoga will not corrupt our world.”

Curly made a break for it. The tiny kid ran pell-mell toward the barn door, which happened to be a few feet beyond where the intruding trio stood. Susan screeched. Did she really believe the Devil inhabited the itty- bitty creature?

The woman raised her leg to kick Curly.

Eva flung both buckets of goat milk, drenching Susan. The white liquid plastered her beehive hairdo to her scalp and her puffy blouse to her chest.

Oh my, was she really wearing a flaming red teddy under her prim white cotton?

A laugh bubbled up. I laughed so hard I doubled over.

Susan shrieked like a storm-warning siren and ran. Though only a few drops of goat’s milk spattered her companions, they caterwauled like they’d been doused with acid as they scurried after their leader.

The entire Udderly Kidding Dairy crew exploded in laughter.

Eva halted her hee-haws long enough to imitate a cackling witch. “You’ve been baptized with the milk of Baaa-Phooey. Your souls belong to us!”

Susan spun when she reached a shiny Chevy van. “You’ll pay for this!” she yelled. “Laugh all you want. You’ll see Hell sooner than you thought.”

I quit laughing as abruptly as I’d started. It was Susan’s tone not her words that gave me the heebie-jeebies. We’d embarrassed the woman. Humiliated her. Perhaps she’d started this protest as some form of ecclesiastical theater, art for show, a way to rally the troops.

Now it was personal. Susan had been scorned.

***

Excerpt from Bad Pick by Linda Lovely. Copyright © 2019 by Linda Lovely. Reproduced with permission from Linda Lovely. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



 

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Linda Lovely. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on April 1, 2019 and runs through June 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
;

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

May 082019
 

STRONG AS STEEL by Jon Land
Genre: Thriller
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date:
ISBN: 0765384671
ISBN13: 9780765384676
Pages: 336
Review Copy from: Author
Edition: Signed ARC
My Rating: 5

**Stop by tomorrow for a Guest Post by Jon Land**

Synopsis (via PICT)


Tough-as-nails Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in this electrifying ninth installment of the series, by USA Today bestselling author Jon Land

1994: Texas Ranger Jim Strong investigates a mass murder on a dusty freight train linked to a mysterious, missing cargo for which no record exists.

The Present: His daughter, fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, finds herself on the trail of that same cargo when skeletal remains are found near an excavation site in the Texas desert. She’s also dealing with the aftermath of a massacre that claimed the lives of all the workers at a private intelligence company on her watch.

These two cases are connected by a long buried secret, one that men have killed and died to protect. Caitlin and her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters must prove themselves to be as strong as steel to overcome a bloody tide that has been rising for centuries.

My Thoughts

Hold on to your hats, bad ass Caitlin Strong, Texas Ranger, is taking the reader on another wild ride!!!

Twenty-five years ago, Caitin’s father, Jim Strong, was on a case that wasn’t resolved and now Caitlin finds herself dealing with the same case.

Some people want what was buried 25 years ago, which has eluded them, but Caitlin has to figure out who these people are and what are in the buried ossuaries. And bodies are also piling up.

This book is the 10th book in this series but reads as a stand alone.

What I enjoy in this series is the profound and immense research that goes into the books interweaving historical facts into the story. It is not only a thrilling read but I always learn new facts.

For me, this was a page turner, trying to keep up with the action and to see what really was in those ossuaries. The action is nonstop!

I highly recommend that you pick up a copy and I guarantee you will be hooked!

Check out my reviews for previous books in this series: Strong To The Bone, Strong Cold Dead

Purchase Links:Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land. There will be 1 winner of a $20. Amazon GC. The giveaway begins on April 22, 2019 and runs through May 24, 2019.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
;

 

REVIEW DISCLAIMER

  • This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
  • I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
  • I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.
  • May 012019
     

    Below The Fold by R.G. Belsky

    Below The Fold

    by R.G. Belsky

    on Tour May 1-31, 2019

    Synopsis:

    Below The Fold by R.G. Belsky

    Every human life is supposed to be important. Everyone should matter. But that’s not the case in the cutthroat TV news-rating world where Clare Carlson works. Sex, money, and power sell. Only murder victims of the right social strata are considered worth covering. Not the murder of a “nobody.”

    So, when the battered body of a homeless woman named Dora Gayle is found on the streets of New York City, her murder barely gets a mention in the media. But Clare―a TV news director who still has a reporter’s instincts―decides to dig deeper into the seemingly meaningless death. She uncovers mysterious links between Gayle and a number of wealthy and influential figures. There is a prominent female defense attorney; a scandal-ridden ex-congressman; a decorated NYPD detective; and―most shocking of all―a wealthy media mogul who owns the TV station where Clare works. Soon there are more murders, more victims, more questions. As the bodies pile up, Clare realizes that her job, her career, and maybe even her life are at stake as she chases after her biggest story ever.

    MY THOUGHTS/REVIEW

    5 stars

    I am always a bit skeptical when I start reading the second book in a series, when the first book, in this case, YESTERDAY’S NEWS, blew me away. Did BELOW THE FOLD stand up to the comparison?

    Clare Carlson, news executive at Channel 10 news and former Pulitzer Prize winner for a missing child that she covered when she was a journalist, decides that the murder of a homeless woman, Dora Gayle, would be an item on the evening news, even though it fell below the fold. What she didn’t see coming, was that this story would become a major news story involving a former Congressman, a defense attorney, a stockbroker, an NYPD homicide detective, and a multimedia mogul, who is also her boss.

    The Dora Gayle case fell “below the fold” which does not make it important enough to make the top news story, but Clare had a gut feeling about it. She was right because bodies are starting to pile up since the broadcast. A list of names was left at the scene of the second murder. but what is the connection between these 4 people to the homeless woman? Clare lives and breathes news’ stories, always on the hunt for the BIG story, which this one is becoming, and she doesn’t let up, even when it has come to an end. Or has it?

    Clare Carlson takes the reader through a maze of leads and tips, with some being significant parts of the puzzle and others a dead end. Or is it really a dead end?

    An exciting narrative with lifelike characters that was hard to put down! A heart pounding read with so many moving parts! A frantic story that will have you turning the pages as fast as you can!

    Did this book let me down? Absolutely NOT!! And since there were hints about the previous case that was in YESTERDAY’S NEWS, I can’t wait to see what and where Clare Carlson will take us on her next big story!!!!

    KUDOS Mr. Belsky!!! I’m hooked!!!

    Book Details:

    Genre: Mystery
    Published by: Oceanview Publishing
    Publication Date: May 2019
    Number of Pages: 357
    ISBN: 978-1-60809-324-3
    Series: Clare Carlson #2
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

    Read an excerpt:

    OPENING CREDITS
    THE RULES ACCORDING TO CLARE

    Every human life is supposed to be important, everyone should matter. That’s what we all tell ourselves, and it’s a helluva noble concept. But it’s not true. Not in the real world. And certainly not in the world of TV news where I work.

    Especially when it comes to murder.

    Murder is a numbers game for me. It operates on what is sometimes cynically known in the media as the Blonde White Female Syndrome. My goal is to find a murder with a sexy young woman victim to put on the air. Sex sells. Sex, money, and power. That translates into big ratings numbers, which translates into more advertising dollars. These are the only murder stories really worth doing.

    The amazing thing to me is not that there is so much news coverage of these types of stories. It’s that there are people who actually question whether they should be big news stories. These critics dredge up the age-old argument about why some murders get so much more play in the media than all the other murders that happen every day.

    I don’t understand these people.

    Because the cold, hard truth—and everyone knows this, whether they want to admit it or not—is that not everybody is equal when it comes to murder.

    Not in life.

    And certainly not in death.

    It reminds me of the ongoing debate that happens every time Sirhan Sirhan—the man who killed Robert F. Kennedy—comes up for a parole hearing. There are those who point out that he’s already served fifty years in jail. They argue that many other killers have served far less time before being paroled. Sirhan Sirhan should be treated equally, they say, because the life of Robert F. Kennedy is no more or less important than the life of any other crime victim. Me, I think Sirhan Sirhan should be kept caged up
    in a four-foot by six-foot cell as long as he lives—which hopefully will be to a hundred so he can suffer every minute of it. For God’s sakes, people, he killed Robert—freakin’—Kennedy!

    And so, to those who think that we in the media make too big a deal out of some of these high-profile murder stories, I say that’s completely and utterly ridiculous. I reject that argument completely. I won’t even discuss it.

    * *

    Now let me tell you something else.

    Everything I just said there is a lie.

    The truth is there really is no magic formula for murder in the TV news business. No simple way to know from the beginning if a murder story is worth covering or not. No easy answer to the question of how much a human life is worth—or what the impact will be of that person’s death by a violent murder.

    When I started out working at a newspaper years ago, I sat next to a veteran police reporter on the overnight shift. There was an old-fashioned wire machine that would print out police slips of murders that happened during the night. Most of them involved down-market victims in bad neighborhoods whose deaths clearly would never make the paper.

    But he would dutifully call the police on each one and ask questions like: “Tell me about the body of that kid you found in the Harlem pool room—was he a MENSA candidate or what?” Or, “The woman you found dead in the alley behind the housing project—any chance she might be Julia Roberts or a member of the British Royal Family?”

    I asked him once why he even bothered to make the calls since none of these murders seemed ever worth writing about in the paper.

    “Hey, you never know,” he said.

    It was good advice back then, and it still is today. I try to teach it to all my reporters in the TV newsroom that I run now. Check every murder out. Never assume anything about a murder story. Follow the facts and the evidence on every murder—on every crime story—because you can never be certain where that trail might take you.

    Okay, I don’t always follow my own advice in the fast-paced, ratings-obsessed world of TV news where I make my living.

    And usually it does turn out to be just a waste of time.

    But every once in a while, well . . .

    Hey, you never know.

    ***

    Excerpt from Below The Fold by R.G. Belsky. Copyright © 2019 by R.G. Belsky. Reproduced with permission from R.G. Belsky. All rights reserved.

     

     

    Author Bio:

    R.G. Belsky

    R.G. Belsky is an author of crime fiction and a journalist in New York City. His newest mystery , YESTERDAY’S NEWS, was published in May 2018 by Oceanview. It is the first in a series featuring Clare Carlson, the news director for a New York City TV station. A second Clare Carlson book, BELOW THE FOLD, will be out in May 2019. Belsky’s last book, BLONDE ICE, was published by Atria in October 2016. It is the third in a series of books from Atria about Gil Malloy, a hard-driving newspaper reporter with a penchant for breaking big stories on the front page of the New York Daily News. The first book in the Gil Malloy series – THE KENNEDY CONNECTION – was published in 2014 and SHOOTING FOR THE STARS came out in 2015. Belsky himself is a former managing editor at the Daily News and writes about the media from an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and TV/digital news. At the Daily News, he also held the titles of metropolitan editor and deputy national editor. Before that, he was metropolitan editor of the New York Post and news editor at Star magazine. Belsky was most recently the managing editor for news at NBCNews.com. His previous suspense novels include PLAYING DEAD and LOVERBOY. BLONDE ICE was nominated as a finalist for the David Award at Deadly Ink and also for the Silver Falchion at Killer Nashville in 2017. He was the Claymore Award winner at Killer Nashville 2016 and also a Silver Falchion Finalist in both the mystery and thriller categories.

    Catch Up With Our R.G. Belsky On:
    rgbelsky.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

     

     

    Tour Participants:

    Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



     

    Enter To Win!:

    This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for R.G. Belsky. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on May 01, 2019 and runs through June 02, 2019. Void where prohibited.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway
    ;

     

    Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

     

    REVIEW DISCLAIMER

  • This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
  • I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
  • I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.
  • Apr 292019
     

    Caught Up In It

    by David Burnsworth

    on Tour April 22 – May 25, 2019

    Synopsis:

    Caught Up In It by David Burnsworth

    The award-winning diva, C, has got a big problem: someone wants her dead. A team of mercenaries attempts to gun her down in Kuala Lumpur. Lucky for her, Lowcountry Private Investigator, Blu Carraway, is already on the job there for a different client. Double-lucky for C, they make their move when she’s chit-chatting with him in a bar. Unlucky for the mercenaries, four of them end up dead.The hunt is on now for the mega-pop star. Where does she go to hide out? The sleepy islands around Charleston, South Carolina—Blu’s backyard. He’s already proven himself once, so C hires the Blu Carraway Investigation Agency to protect her for real. The job takes Blu halfway around the world and several cities in between. The search for the truth reveals what could drive a person to want someone else dead. And Blu Carraway ends up right in the way.

    MY THOUGHTS/REVIEW

    4 stars

    Blu Carraway and his associates are back and the bodies are piling up!

    Lucky for Ariel, aka C, the hottest singer of the decade is in Malaysia when four men try to kill her. Her own Security team has failed her so she hires Blu Carraway Investigation Agency to protect her. But who and why does someone want her dead.

    Having read previous books in this series, I knew it was going to be one heck of a ride and it was!!!

    The story takes the reader around the globe, from Malaysia , to California , to Las Vegas and to Blu’s backyard, Carraway Island in South Carolina .

    Blu and his team soon find out that there is a lot going on with entertainment moguls, Private Security agencies, and even human trafficking but still no link to Ariel. Until the war is fought on Blu’s home turf. And will they find out how Ariel is involved?

    Having read previous books in this series, I knew I was in for a fast paced read and I wasn’t disappointed. I kept turning the pages to see how it was all connected and who would survive.

    Another exciting read by David Burnsworth!!! And looking forward to the next book!!!

    Read my reviews of the previous books: BLU HEAT, IN IT FOR THE MONEY and BAD TIME TO BE IN IT

    Book Details:

    Genre: Mystery
    Published by: Henery Press
    Publication Date: April 23, 2019
    Number of Pages: 285
    ISBN: 9781635114751
    Series: Blu Carraway Mystery #3
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

    Read an excerpt:

    Chapter One

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mid-July, Saturday late night

    Blu Carraway, Private Investigator and sometimes, like at present, private security consultant, handed off his client to her boyfriend’s security team. In truth, there wasn’t an actual handoff. It was more of a formality since Jennifer Kincaid started seeing Mandel, the industrialist’s son. His security team was rivaled only by the Secret Service.

    The exclusive club they were in had several levels, each with their own VIP list. Thanks to being a one-percenter and the aforementioned wealthy boyfriend, Ms. Kincaid was at the top of every list which meant Blu was at the top of every list. He parted the strings of beads hanging down as a curtain that was some decorator’s bad idea of kitsch and entered the innermost bar, a darkened room made up of marble, mahogany, gold, and leather— the best of materials.

    The only other person in the room was the bartender, a pretty- boy type with short, styled hair, a trimmed beard, a starched white shirt with knife-edge creases, and a nod. He said, “What can I get you, Mr. Carraway?”

    It had been a long thirty-six hours. The last batch of Millennials, those currently in their early twenties including his client, apparently did not sleep. Blu had been on the job the whole time along with Mandel’s team. Even with exclusive VIP lists, he did not trust his client’s protection to anyone else while in public places. Blu took a seat at the bar, the soft leather stool offering comfort for his tired glutes. “Black coffee—iced.”

    “You got it.” This being the club in the city and Blu being on the list meant he could do pretty much whatever he wanted. Right now he wanted—needed—nicotine. As the bartender set a glass of chilled coffee in front of him, Blu pulled out his vape pen and took a few hits. The coffee and the vapor had been the two things keeping him going but he knew he was set to crash soon.

    The bead curtains parted again and C walked in. Twenty-seven years old, shoulder length hair an unnatural shade of orange, various tattoos down her arms, and the prettiest face Blu had seen all evening, C was the reason he was at this particular club. Ms. Kincaid had talked her boyfriend into contracting C for a private show. As the girl whom Rolling Stone called the hottest act of the decade with Grammys and platinum albums, C was in high demand.

    Here, this morning, at what Blu felt was the end of a hellacious run, the pop star was alone.

    With a loud sigh she took the seat next to him. He was not really a fan of her music, some form of synth pop with a mixture of Arabian and Latin influence. He preferred eighties alternative and punk, but she had talent and a pretty face.

    To the bartender, she said, “Get me a Guinness, Jesse.” Blu took another hit on his vape pen, realized he was staring, and stopped.

    She said, “I saw you with Jennifer and Mandel. I’m Ariel.” C was her stage name. He shook her offered hand. “Blu.” Jesse the bartender set a pint of dark liquid in front of her with a perfect shamrock in the head.

    Raising her glass, she said, “To new friends and quiet bars.” As he clinked her glass of stout with his iced coffee, Blu said, “To the end of a long night and a soft bed with my name on it.”

    With a smile, she said, “We’re both on the job, aren’t we?” Something wasn’t right about the scene, and if Blu hadn’t been so exhausted he would have picked up on it sooner.

    She was alone. Twenty million albums sold, two Grammys, and no personal security at the moment. She had a unit assigned to her. Blu knew the man in charge of her safety, didn’t like him, but thought he was competent. Except that he didn’t have her covered at the moment. It was not professional and left an opening for something bad to happen to C. With as much subtlety as he could muster, Blu checked to make sure he still had his Glock.

    As he did that, a clipped sound came from the other side of the beads just before they parted around a suppressor, the kind screwed on the end of a firearm.

    Blu had his Glock out and aimed. To Ariel, he said, “You better follow me.”

    She saw the look in his eyes and did not question. Because the entrance covered by the beads faced the right side of the room, and he and Ariel were seated at the front, he had time to take Ariel’s hand and guide her to the other end of the massive wood bar. They ducked.

    The suppressed automatic fired twice, bullets ricocheting off the bar’s marble surface.

    Blu leaned out from the lower part of the bar, sighted in a figure in a black suit holding the gun, and fired. His Glock barked twice and the figure, a young Asian man, went down.

    A second figure, another twentyish male, dove for cover on the other side of the bar.

    Blu climbed onto the marble surface to give himself a better sightline.

    Jesse the bartender lay on the floor behind the bar, two red holes in his chest. His eyes were open but not seeing anything anymore.

    The second figure rose up. Blu saw him first and blew him away.

    An alarm sounded from somewhere in the club. Hopping off the bar, Blu asked, “Where’s your security detail?” Ariel, obviously in shock by the blanched color of her already white skin and bloodshot eyes, shook her head. She sat on the floor.

    This wasn’t good. “We need to move,” he said. “In case they have friends.”

    “Friends?” she asked. “More guys with guns,” Blu said. With an arm around her waist, he lifted her up and guided her to the side door of the club, the one he’d seen on the architect drawings of the building when he’d scouted the place two days ago. He kept his gun pointed where he looked, glancing back periodically to watch their six.

    Another alarm started blaring when he kicked the door open but he didn’t care. They needed to get out. Who knew how many of the gunmen there were?

    Through the door, they found themselves in a narrow landing with stairs leading up and down from where they stood. Blu closed the door behind them and led her down, his gun pointed directly ahead. No one met them as they descended the stairs.

    Blu pulled out his phone and hit redial. The call was answered with, “Yo, you on your way or what?”

    “I need a car at the back entrance to the club. Now.”

    “What? I thought Goldilocks left with the baby bear?” He didn’t have time for this. “Give me an E.T.A. Now.”

    “Yeah, um, hold on.” What the hell? His team had been on point the whole day and a half. An hour off the clock and they fell apart?

    The man came back on the line, “We’re on our way. I hope two is enough. Are we coming in hot?”

    “Safeties off. Don’t shoot until I say otherwise.”

    “E.T.A. ten minutes.”

    “Roger.” Blu ended the call. At the bottom of the steps, Blu leaned Ariel against the wall and inched the door open, slipping his pistol out the slight opening as he got a read on the situation.

    Two men with submachine guns stood guard facing the street along with a waiting van, its side doors open. They were all dressed like the two he’d capped upstairs–nice dark suits, ties, expensive shoes. He fired twice, taking them both out with single head shots.

    The van took off down the street, its open doors swinging shut. Blu kicked the back door to the club fully open and unloaded his clip into the speeding vehicle as it bucked and bounced around a corner. When the magazine was empty, he ejected it and jammed in a full one.

    He checked the street which was really an alley, saw no one else around, and slipped back inside the building. Sirens wailed in the distance.

    Ariel still leaned against the wall. He put an arm around her and guided her to the exit, slipping the door open as before, training his pistol out first. He didn’t see anyone else around besides the two downed mercenaries with the machine guns.

    The walkie talkie app on his phone chirped with, “We’re two blocks away.”

    “I’m in the alley on the south side. I’ve got a female with me. Safeties still off. Four unfriendlies down. Maybe more around.”

    “Roger that.” Thirty seconds later, a black Mercedes SUV charged around the corner and screeched to a stop in front of them.

    The front passenger, a man with a military build, got out holding a submachine gun. He opened the back door.

    Blu pushed Ariel inside the truck and dove in after her. The armed passenger jumped back in and the driver accelerated away.

    The passenger, the one Blu had called on the phone, a man named Colton, said, “What the hell, Blu? I thought we were clear for the night?”

    Blu peered out the back window. “So did I.”

    “Who’s th—” Colton looked at Ariel and stopped himself. “You’re C. Jesus, Blu. What the hell is going on?”

    “Not sure,” Blu said. “Get us to the compound and we’ll figure it out from there.”

    The driver, a man named Brack Pelton who’d recently joined Blu’s team as a wheel man, knew to keep quiet. His skills as a mercenary were many, but they paled in comparison to his driving. He hustled the two-and-a-half-ton SUV through the back streets like an ace. Of course it helped that the truck was the AMG model with 600 horsepower.

    Brack didn’t drink any more but Blu couldn’t say the same for Colton whose reflexes were not one-hundred-percent at the moment.

    While they rode, Blu called the compound to give the new details. He didn’t begin to relax until they’d crossed the Klang River and were almost there. His client’s father, Adam Kincaid, had homes around the world. With his daughter spending more time here since she’d met the prince charming, he’d reinforced the barriers and increased the security detail. Blu had been contracted to make improvements and had complete authority.

    Ariel seemed to come out of her shock. She looked over at Blu, then the men up front, and then back at Blu.

    He said, “You’re okay. We’re going to Jennifer Kincaid’s house.”

    “Can you take me to my hotel?”

    “Where’s your security detail?” Blu asked. “I’d feel better handing you over to them.”

    Looking down at her lap, she said, “I don’t know. I thought they were at the club.”

    Blu said, “There wasn’t anyone left besides you, me, Jesse, and some of the wait staff.”

    She looked up. “Jesse? Where is he? Is he okay?”

    “Jesse didn’t make it.”

    “Huh?” she asked. “They shot him.”

    “Oh, God.” With that, she collapsed in her seat again.

    The first traces of daybreak peeked out of a halo on the horizon as they arrived. The Kincaid compound was a bungalow in the hills just outside the city. Jennifer had wanted an apartment in town but Blu and her father felt it was safer here. The home sat on the top of a hill overlooking the city.

    Pelton circled the fountain and eased to a stop at the entryway of the home.

    Colton got out first and opened the rear door. Blu exited and then helped Ariel get out, her tight dress preventing her from too much mobility.

    She looked around. “I still don’t know why I can’t go back to my hotel.”

    Blu said, “Call Teller. Find out where the h—” He caught himself. “Find out when he can be here to collect you.”

    Jack Teller was supposed to be her head of security. While Ariel made her call, Blu phoned Adam Kincaid and explained what had happened. The man had enough money to fix anything. Four dead mercenaries in a foreign country were no big deal. After Blu explained that Kincaid’s daughter was safe, he described the situation. Adam listened and then said he’d call back after he found out what the authorities were doing.

    Jack Teller showed up at the Kincaid compound four hours later. Blu watched him exit an Audi SUV, all six-foot-five of himself, blond hair, blue eyes, and tanned muscle.

    Blu met him at the door. Before he could speak, Teller said, “I don’t need you butting in on my job, Carraway.”

    No “thank you for saving my client” or “I’m glad my client is alive.”

    “Really,” Blu said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you in the room when the two mercs with suppressed automatics came in blasting.”

    Teller scowled. It seemed to Blu that the man was somewhat embarrassed and was trying to save face, but this was a stupid way to do that.

    “Where’s Ariel?” Blu motioned toward the sitting room just off of the entryway. The flooring and walls were stone and the ceilings stretched twelve feet at the lowest points. Their footsteps echoed as they walked.

    Ariel, sitting on one of the leather couches and hugging a pillow, looked at Teller. Without saying a word, she stood up, tossed the pillow to the other end of the couch, and walked past her head of security.

    Blu hadn’t known her very long, but he got the feeling she was not happy with the service she was being provided. He’d used the opportunity of waiting for Teller to hand her a business card earlier in case she felt the need to make a change.

    Teller eyed Blu one last time and then followed his client outside.

    Ariel was waiting at the SUV for someone to open the door for her.

    That showed a couple of things. The first was she was letting Teller and his men know that they still had a job to do, and opening the door for her was part of it. The second was that she was telling them that she was still willing to submit to being in their care.

    Blu had dealt with Teller before. He might do things differently than Blu, but he wasn’t known for being sloppy. Ariel should never have been alone in that club.

    At the sight of the Audi SUV’s exit off the compound and the closing of the gate, Blu turned to Colton and Pelton.

    “I’m taking a shower and hitting the sack. We are back on in six hours. I suggest you rest up.”

    And with that, he retired to his room.

    Chapter Two

    Three days later, Wednesday, Barrier Lowcountry island south of Charleston, South Carolina, Residence of Blu Carraway

    “I think it’s Colic. We need to get him to his feet.”

    Blu Carraway didn’t look at the man who’d spoken to him. He kept his eyes on the magnificent creature lying two feet away from him in the shade by his house. The black horse was older than Blu recollected and he was sick.

    The man, a local vet named Dick Campbell, knelt by the horse Blu had named Murder and listened to his breathing with a stethoscope.

    The other horses stood close by. Dink and Doofus, normally on post by the front door awaiting treats, seemed to be making the rounds comforting the other members of their ragtag herd.

    Blu wiped sweat from his brow. “This horse saved my life.” Without an ounce of condescension, the vet gave him a nod. For most of his life, Murder had chosen to live on the opposite side of the island. Blu’s nine acre plot, depending on the tide, had been the place they both called home. Murder had made it his in his own way, leading the rest of the herd of Carolina Marsh Tackeys.

    Dick raised himself up. “He’s going to be tough to move, so we need to make him as comfortable as we can where he is. But we need to get him up. Keep him shaded and hydrated. I’ll come back with an I.V.”

    Blu wanted Murder patrolling their island forever, not lying on his sickbed, which at the moment was a mixture of crushed shells and pine needles.

    “If you want,” Dick said, “I can get a canopy set up.” Blu felt his head droop. An involuntary sigh came out. He shut his eyes and opened them. “Yeah, okay. That would be nice, Dick. Thanks. How do we get him up?”

    “If he won’t stand on his own, we’ll have to lift him.” He put a hand on Blu’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. I have some friends who know what to do.”

    The vet gave him another nod and walked toward his Suburban which was parked in front of the house.

    Murder’s chest rose and fell. If Blu listened hard, he could hear how labored the animal’s breathing had become. This was not something expected. It seemed like yesterday, this horse led the rest in a stampede in front of the house, running from one end of the island to the other. So full of life.

    And now this. “Hey, Blu?” Dick called from the tailgate of his truck. “Yeah?”

    “One of my assistants is on his way with the canopy and liquids. Should be here within the hour. The sun won’t be on that side of the house until later so we have some time.”

    Blu didn’t think Murder really had any time to spare. It wasn’t worth debating. Whatever’s going to happen was going to happen. And it really sucked eggs.

    Blu said, “Thanks.” But he didn’t really mean it. At the moment, the rumble of a Harley Davidson could be heard in the distance and getting louder.

    Mick Crome idled his way across the bridge and onto Blu’s island paradise. He swung the bike in a semicircle and stopped next to Blu’s four-year-old Nissan Xterra. Wearing his normal biker garb of a do-rag to keep his long hair under control and out of his face, aviator sunglasses, handlebar mustache, black T-shirt advertising a Harley dealership in Bangkok, ripped jeans, and biker boots, Crome looked at Murder and then at Blu.

    “What the hell’s wrong with him?”

    “Campbell thinks Colic. He’s going to get someone to lift him back onto his feet.”

    Crome took out a vape pen and inhaled a lungful. On the exhale, he said, “I guess you told him money’s no object. Cause I’m gonna chip in whatever you need.”

    This vet bill could go real high in a hurry and still not save the horse. Blu said, “Thanks.”

    Crome put an arm on Blu’s shoulder. “I mean it. Whatever it takes.” Not knowing what else to do for the horse at the moment, and with Dink and Doofus and Sally, another horse from the herd, standing nearby keeping Murder company, Blu felt it was okay to step away.

    As they turned to go into the house, the crunch of tires on the crushed shell drive stopped them. They waited to see who it was, Blu hoping and then not hoping it was Tess Ray, the woman in his life at the moment. She was great, but made him feel both younger and older at the same time.

    It wasn’t Tess; at least it wasn’t Tess’s convertible Beetle. The grey sedan had rental practically stamped into the doors and the shock of orange hair on the driver confirmed it wasn’t Tess.

    Crome said, “I could be wrong, but that looks a hell-of-a-lot like that pop star named C.”

    “So it is,” Blu said, suddenly concerned because like the first time he’d met her there was no security detail present. She was alone. Ariel waved and pulled in next to Crome’s bike.

    Blu and Crome waved back. “You listen to C?” Blu asked. “You get a look at her?” The biker said. “Remember those pictures?”

    Of course. It had nothing to do with the two Grammys she’d earned and had everything to do with the nude photos leaked all over the internet a few months back.

    “One question,” Crome said. “Why’s someone as famous as she is and worth thirty-million-bucks driving herself anywhere?”

    “I’m guessing, once again, her security detail has come up short.”

    “Once again?” Crome asked.

    “Long story,” Blu said. “The short version is Jack Teller fell down on the job.”

    “Teller? Really? He’s a tool, but I never thought he was incompetent.”

    Ariel got out of her car, looked at the horses, and then at Blu and Crome. “I didn’t believe it when I heard you have an island in paradise with a bunch of horses.” She swatted at a mosquito.

    Dink and Doofus did not leave Murder’s side. His illness had affected the whole island.

    Blu approached her. “Nice to see you again. Um…”

    “Why am I here?” she asked, flailing her arms at the full on parasite assault.

    “Before you answer your own question, let’s get you some bug repellant.”

    He led her, rather quickly, to his side porch, picking up a bottle of the good stuff. “Are you allergic to anything that might be in this?”

    She swatted at her legs. “Spray me! Spray me!”

    “Close your eyes,” he said. She did and he gave her a thorough dousing. Ariel breathed a sigh of relief. She had a few welts forming, but otherwise looked like she did the last time he’d seen her.

    Crome cleared his throat. Blu said, “This is my business partner, Mick Crome.” Holding out a hand, Crome said, “It’s a pleasure.” She said, “I’m sorry but I don’t remember seeing you at the club. I was kinda out of it.”

    “He wasn’t there,” Blu said. “Can I offer you something to drink?”

    Crome said, “He’s got tap water and cold—I mean iced— coffee.”

    “Anything’s fine,” she said. “What my partner’s trying to tell you,” Blu said, “is he’s got beer in his saddle bags.”

    She looked at them. “You rode a horse?”

    “Naw,” Crome said. He lifted the lid on one of the bags mounted on the side of his bike. In it were an insulated pouch of ice and some cans of beer.

    She took the offered can, popped the top, and took a long drink. Crome said, “Honey, try not to make everything you do remind me of your videos.”

    Risqué would be a polite way to describe them. Pornographic might be how a certain demographic labeled them. Either way, Crome seemed to enjoy thinking about them. She gave him a smile. “You’re cute.” He popped the top of one of his beers, tapped it to hers, said, “Here’s to your health,” and drank half of it down.

    “Back to the question you asked yourself,” Blu said. “Why am I here?” She smiled. “Because I fired Jack.”

    “He leave you high and dry or something?” Crome asked. She looked at Blu. “You didn’t tell him?”

    “I was getting around to it,” he said. Not giving him the chance, Ariel said, “Your partner here saved my photogenic behind.”

    Eyeing Blu, Crome said, “You don’t say?”

    “He shot four men and got me to a safe house.” Blu said, “I meant to ask, where was Teller in all that?” She huffed, took a drink from her beer, and swallowed. “Said he thought I’d told him I didn’t need him anymore. I don’t remember saying that. All I remember is seeing Jesse lying in a pool of his own blood as you shot the second one with the gun. Say, what’s with that horse on the ground over there?”

    “His name is Murder and he’s sick,” Blu said.

    “He one of yours?” she asked. “In a way.” Crome said, “They sorta came with the island. Blu might be afraid to, but I’d call them family. We’re worried about Murder.”

    Still looking at Murder lying on the ground, Ariel said, “That’s sad. Anything I can do to help?”

    “I appreciate the offer.” Blu pulled out his vape pen and took a quick hit to calm his nerves. “My vet’s the best horse doctor in the lowcountry.”

    “The what? Lowcountry? What’s that?”

    “You’re standing in it. The low lands of South Carolina. Marsh and pluff mud and fill dirt. That’s what makes up most of Charleston County.”

    “Yeah,” Crome said, swatting at a bug. “And parasites like Blu here.” She laughed. “And you, too?”

    Crome bowed. “At your service, m’lady.” Blu took a last look at Murder and then motioned for them to sit on the chairs on the patio under the working ceiling fan. It was cooler than the inside which did not have air conditioning at the moment.

    They sat. Blu and Crome watched Ariel. She said, “I guess I need to explain what I’m doing here.”

    “Only if you want to,” Crome said. “We could always play a guessing game.”

    As if ignoring him, she said, “Teller is no longer on my payroll.”

    “Who’s managing your security then?” Blu asked. “You, I hope.” Crome said, “You mean you flew commercial from Malaysia, rented your own car, and drove yourself here all by yourself?”

    She leaned in and gave him a blank look. “I can walk and chew gum at the same time as well.”

    “What he’s doing a bad job of saying,” Blu said, “is that someone in your position puts themselves in danger when there is no plan accounting for risks.”

    She sat back and took a breath. “Sorry. There are a lot of men in this business who enjoy cutting women down. I have a habit of not letting things go.”

    Crome said, “Apology accepted. I can see you’re tough. But part of the reason me and Blu are in business is because there are some real pikers out there that tend to take things up a few notches. Wouldn’t want that to happen to you.”

    “So you’ll take the job?” she asked. “What is the job?” Blu asked. “Handling my security.” Before Blu could say anything, but with thoughts of every reason his biker business partner would not want to have a long term commitment like this one, Crome said, “Hell yes.”

    Blu blinked a few times. Then he said, “What is the timeframe you are looking for, here?”

    “Permanent.” Holding up a hand, Crome said, “We talkin’ twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week?”

    “Yes.” He looked at Blu. “I been looking for something a little more long term that our normal jobs. How about you?”

    This coming from the man who vetoed a similar opportunity guarding a rich banker with six-figure paychecks for both of them and, frankly, a much easier task than trying to guard someone who books hundred-thousand-seat stadiums.

    “No offense,” she said, “but I want Blu on point. He already proved he’s capable before I offered to pay.”

    “Of course,” Crome said, and toked on his vape pen. The change in his demeanor was minor, but Blu could sense she inadvertently just threw Crome’s ego in a blender and hit the high- speed button.

    Blu said, “We work with a few contractors, handpicked by us of course. But without knowing more specifics, I’m not sure I can tell you we’ll be able to handle the job.”

    Brushing strands of orange hair off her face from the ocean breeze in the air, she said, “What do you want to know?”

    “If we’re on the hook round the clock,” Blu said, “we need to see where you live, what your studio and tour schedules are, and where you spend your leisure time, if you have any.”

    “Is that all?” she asked. “No,” Crome said, recovering from the brush off, “we need to know all of your friends and business associates. We like to do background checks on everyone.”

    “You’re kidding,” she said. “I’m afraid not,” Blu said. “You mean Jack didn’t go through all of this with you?”

    She said. “With him, I felt like luggage.” Blu inhaled a lungful of vapor, thought for a moment, exhaled, and then said, “How do you feel about handguns?”

    “I don’t mind them,” she said. “But I’ve never shot one.”

    “Reason I ask,” Blu said, “is because those guys meant business back at the club. We need to talk about them. And if you’re agreeable, I’d like Crome to take you to the range and teach you handgun safety and how to shoot.”

    She looked at Crome as if to ask, “Him?” Blu said, “Crome’s rough around the edges—”

    “Thanks a lot.”

    “But,” Blu continued, “he’s the last person to pull a handgun in a fight which makes him the best instructor for you.”

    As if finally getting what Blu was saying, Crome offered, “I’m more of a leg-breaker type.”

    “I see.” It was clear she didn’t see or understand, but was going along with it. As Blu understood the situation, she was already here and asking for help. It would seem disingenuous for her to back out now, no matter how unsophisticated Blu Carraway Investigations appeared.

    “Good,” Blu said. “Now, about those four men with guns.”

    She sunk back in her chair. “I have no idea what they were after.” Blu got the feeling, and it wasn’t the first time with a client, that she was not telling the whole truth. Or at least as much as she knew. He said, “I’m told they were contract killers. Not exactly high end, but killers none-the-less.”

    Kincaid had gotten the information from the local authorities back in Kuala Lumpur.

    “Well I have no idea why they’d be after me.” Almost the same thing she’d said before. Blu wouldn’t get more out of her at the moment, but he would eventually. “Okay, then.” He turned to Crome. “Mick, why don’t you take her to Pop’s place and get her started on her training?”

    “What are you going to do?” she asked. “There is a lot of work even before we review your schedule and lifestyle.”

    “What about a contract or something?” she asked. “How about this,” Blu said. “We sign on for one week while we figure the situation out. If a lot more killers come knocking, Crome and I won’t be enough and I’ll have to refer you to a bigger shop.”

    Chapter Three

    Carraway Island south of Charleston, South Carolina

    Crome sucked down vapor, wondering how this was all going to work. What started out as maybe something amusing and superficial had turned into a real job and not much of a fun one if you asked him. He thought someone with orange hair and a bunch of tats would be a little less formal when it came to rules and such. But apparently C was more than she appeared.

    “Okay, Mr. Crome,” Ariel said, “I hadn’t planned on shooting guns today and probably am not dressed appropriately.”

    “Nobody except the military, cops, crazies or hunters plans on shooting guns,” Crome said, “but I find their wardrobes lacking.”

    She laughed. “A joker. Now I’m beginning to figure you out.”

    “As far as your wardrobe,” he motioned to her t-shirt, vintage jeans, and Doc Martens, “it looks like you take lessons from Blu.”

    “I was trying to travel incognito.” Her signature orange hair prevented her being incognito in any situation unless it was under a wig. Something to think about for later.

    He said, “How about you hand me your car keys and I drive us to the range?”

    “You’re not on my rental plan.” Again traces of formality and rules. “I think someone with your credit score wouldn’t need to worry about things like that,” he said. “But if it’ll make you feel better, Blu tells me we have a pretty hefty umbrella policy in case I blow off the wrong person’s head.”

    “Still,” she said, giving him a smile that almost melted his guts, “I’d rather not risk it.”

    Crome couldn’t believe it when she instead donned a ball cap, walked over, mounted his bike, raised the kick stand, and started it up.

    Blu, who’d been silent through the whole exchange, laughed, patted Crome on the shoulder, and walked inside his house.

    Blu listened as the rumble of the Harley’s engine dissipated in the distance.

    The first call he made was to Brack Pelton, a local Charlestonian and the wheel man he’d used in Malaysia. Starting right now, Ariel would no longer drive herself anywhere. She was as safe as could be expected riding on the back of Crome’s bike, especially with no one the wiser that she was in town. While she was strikingly beautiful, she and Crome together looked the part of bikers, or something like that.

    Pelton answered the call with, “Darcy doesn’t believe me that we had C in the car with us while on the job with Jennifer.”

    “Listen, Brack,” Blu said. “The last thing I should be doing is giving marital advice. But I’d recommend you let her win this one.”

    “Why’s that?”

    “Because you can prove your point when you bring your lovely wife over to my house for dinner tonight.”

    “Prove my point?” he asked. “What’s that supposed—wait a minute. She’s there isn’t she?”

    “No.” It was a true statement. “Then how am I going to prove my point?”

    “Crome took her to Pops’ range to teach her about handguns. They’ll be back for dinner.”

    “Hot damn.”

    “Helping you impress your wife wasn’t the goal of my call,” Blu said.

    “Sorry. What can I do for you?”

    “I’m not sure yet, but I think Crome and I are going to take over her personal security.”

    “No kidding? You need a driver?”

    “Yes, and may need a second home base if things go south here.”

    “No problem,” he said. “How’s Murder?”

    “Not well.”

    “Man, I hate to hear that. Let me know if there is anything we can do for you there. Even if it’s to come and sit with him or whatever. We’re here, okay?”

    “Thanks, Brack. Right now, plan on coming for dinner. In fact, can you have your restaurant cater it? I don’t normally keep much on hand and don’t have time to go shopping. I’m going to call my daughter. When Tess and Harmony get wind of it, the count’s eight.”

    “We’ll take care of everything,” Brack said. “Darcy’s gonna love this. Thanks for thinking of us.”

    “See you at six.” The call ended. With dinner now planned, Blu contacted Adam Kincaid. Unbeknownst to Crome, Blu had signed an extended contract with the Kincaids. The sole purpose was to watch Jennifer Kincaid when she traveled outside of the country, which happened every couple of months. More often now that she was dating Mandel. Blu thought she could do better, maybe someone who wasn’t afraid of actual work. Any kind of legitimate effort would suffice.

    Crome congratulated himself on having the foresight to call ahead and ask for the private room. Ariel, or C, whichever name she went under, sold a bunch of albums with her picture on the cover. She’d also done a Super Bowl half-time show and a New Year’s Eve party with a wardrobe malfunction that was broadcast on a major network. There was no way she was going anywhere without being recognized, which brought up another thought—if she flew commercial, people already knew she was in town. That might cause some problems.

    Plug It and Stuff It, the taxidermy and gun range Blu and Crome liked to use, had been around a long time. So had its owner, Pops. Crome dropped the kickstand next to a twenty-five-year-old F-150 with new Trump decals and faded “W” stickers on the tailgate.

    Ariel read the faded wooden sign on the front door: “We can help you load it and shoot it. If your pistol still don’t fire right, see a doctor.”

    “Whaddaya think?” he asked. She looked at the weathered and run-down building, the cracked asphalt parking lot that was mostly empty, and the surrounding buildings and lots that weren’t any better. “I love America.”

    “Pops is good people,” Crome said. “You’ll see.”

    “You don’t understand,” she said. “These are my people, too. My family runs a hunting lodge in Michigan. Their regulars work in the car factories.”

    He felt like saying, “You ain’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy,” but thought better of it. She had enough money to buy the rust belt, no matter how much she thought she was just like everyone else.

    As Blu ended the conversation with Adam Kincaid, another call buzzed in. It was Tess. He and Tess were, well, he wasn’t sure what they were. Since leaving the now defunct Palmetto Pulse news organization, she had worked as an independent news correspondent along with her cohort, Harmony Childs. Tess spent most nights on his island home in his bed but was gone by dawn. There was none of the usual new romance rituals of “couldn’t wait to talk to you” or “just thinking of you” phone calls, jittery lunches, candlelight dinners, or bouquets of flowers. Okay, that last one was on him, but she didn’t have an office he could send them to and wasn’t home long enough to receive or enjoy them.

    All that passed through the black hole that was his brain as the phone rattled and hummed with her number displayed on the screen. It was the middle of the afternoon and they weren’t working on a similar story—the only other reason they talked during the day.

    He answered with, “Hey, Tess.” She said, “Didn’t you tell me you saved C’s life in Malaysia?”

    “I did.”

    “Well, there are several fan-selfie posts with her on a flight to Charleston. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was on her way to see you.” He wondered how many other people knew. “Um…”

    “She’s already there, isn’t she?” Tess asked. “Not exactly.”

    “Am I going to have to play twenty questions or are you going to give me the story.”

    “She’s at the shooting range with Crome. He’s teaching her handgun safety. She came to town to contract me and Crome for her personal security.”

    “No kidding?” Thinking fast, he said, “The Peltons are bringing dinner over tonight. Call Harmony and come over at six.”

    “C is going to be at your house for dinner tonight.” She said it as if she were trying to convince herself it was the truth.

    “That’s right.”

    “Oh. My. God.” He thought he heard her give a slight squeal. It was times like this, and there weren’t that many of them, when he felt the other side of their twenty-year age difference. Most of the rest of the time he played catch-up, her being so much more mature.

    “So you’ll be here?”

    “Can I call Hope?” That one caught him off guard. He wasn’t used to—or better yet—didn’t expect Tess to want to have a relationship with Blu’s twenty-two-year-old daughter. “If you want.” It didn’t come out with a whole lot of confidence, but he hoped she didn’t notice. “Just don’t tell her who’s going to be here.”

    “Great! See you tonight.” The call ended.

    Crome watched Pops help Ariel reload the clip for the thirty-two he’d set her up to use. The old man was patient with her, almost grandfather-like, and she showed him respect that only came with good upbringing. At least, what Crome imagined good upbringing would do. He wouldn’t know for sure. His father walked out when he was nine and his mother worked two jobs just to keep the lights on. He pretty much grew up on his own.

    Pops wore a ball cap with a confederate flag on the front, a red flannel shirt, and blue jeans and looked every bit of his seventy years. He was a Vietnam vet who chain-smoked cigarettes and Crome and Blu were like the sons he never had.

    Ariel shoved the clip in, aimed at a fresh target twenty feet away, and put four holes center mass.

    She clicked the safety on, turned to Pops, and said, “Yes!” Pops accepted the gun from her and put it on the table. She gave him a hug, almost knocking his hat off. When Crome and Ariel had entered through the front door, Pops’ ten-year-old granddaughter smiled from underneath a head of dark curly hair. She received her light-brown skin and African features from her father but she had Pops’ brown eyes. Crome wasn’t sure where the girl’s mother, Pops’ daughter, was.

    Ariel had been a good sport and a better student than Crome would have thought. It helped that Pops became enamored with the young woman, taking a liking to her immediately, orange hair and all.

    Crome thought he was going to have to do all the work, but all he had to do was carry a few boxes of thirty-two rounds to the private room where they were. After that, he was free to stand back and vape.

    Pops lit a cigarette, inhaled, and blew out a puff of smoke. Ariel did not seem to mind. He said, “You sure are a good shot, young lady.” She curtsied. “Thank you, kind sir.” Pops ate it up. He had no clue how famous she was. His granddaughter, recognizing Ariel right away, squealed and tried to explain it to her grandfather but it all went over his confederate cap.

    Crome said, “So what do we owe ya, Pops?” The old man scratched his five-o’clock shadow. “The thirty- two and three boxes of shells. How about Ms. Ariel signs a poster for my granddaughter? She seems to like your music.”

    “I’ll be glad to,” Ariel said. “But we’re going to pay you for the pistol and bullets.”

    “And the lane and instructions,” Crome said. “Hell,” Pops said, “it ain’t every day I got a celebrity in here. Donate some money to the V.F.W. and I’ll call it even.”

    Ariel kissed his cheek. “You are too much.” Pops blushed for the tenth time. It seemed to Crome as if everyone but him was getting all the female attention. Blu walked into a room and women swooned. Pops gets a kiss from the artist of the year. And all Crome ever got was blown off.

    What was the world coming to?

    Enjoyed this sample?

    Read more about it and David at www.henerypress.com

    ***

    Excerpt from Caught Up In It by David Burnsworth. Copyright © 2019 by David Burnsworth. Reproduced with permission from David Burnsworth. All rights reserved.

    Author Bio:

    David Burnsworth

    David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. He is the author of both the Brack Pelton and the Blu Carraway Mystery Series. Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home.

    Catch Up With David Burnsworth On:
    Website, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

    Tour Participants:

    Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



    Giveaway!!!:

    This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for David Burnsworth. There will be 6 giveaway winners. There will be 1 Grand Prize winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. There will be 5 2nd Prize winners of one (1) Print or eBook Edition of Caught Up In It by David Burnsworth (US Mailing Addresses only). The giveaway begins on April 22, 2019 and runs through May 26, 2019. Void where prohibited.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway
    ;

    Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

     

    REVIEW DISCLAIMER

    • This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
    • I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
    • I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.