Oct 102017
 

The Grand

by Dennis D. Wilson

on Tour October 1-31, 2017

Synopsis:

The Grand by Dennis D. Wilson

Chicago cop Dean Wister takes a forced vacation when he is on the brink of a breakdown after the death of his wife. During his summer solstice in Jackson Hole, where he met her years before, he is called in to consult by local police when a notorious Chicago mobster is found dead in the Snake River. Dean’s investigation threatens to uncover the secrets of a group of memorable suspects, ranging from rich tycoons to modern day cowboys, and threatens to derail the Presidential prospects of the Senator from Wyoming. As Dean follows the leads from Wyoming to Chicago to Washington D.C., he also struggles to cope with the personal loss that threatens his mental stability, as the nocturnal visits from his deceased wife suppress his will to let her go and make him question his purpose in life. The climactic scenes contain reveals the reader will never see coming. A funny, romantic, sexy, roller coaster thriller.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Water Street Press
Publication Date: December 2016
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-1-62134-330-1 (ASIN: B01N682LXW)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Kindle 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Guest Post

CM: Additional facts about the main character, Dean Wister, not included in the story.

DW: Dean’s background is pretty well fleshed out in the story, but here are 10 pieces of Wister Trivia that may interest readers:

Dean has sandy blonde hair and blue eyes and has been told he resembles Matthew McConaughey.

Dean is a lefty.

Dean is a big fan of crime novels and, in particular, James Lee Burke’s crime novels and westerns.

Dean returned an intercepted a pass in his high school state championship game of and returned it for a touchdown. His high school coach was a college classmate of the head coach of the University of Illinois, and was instrumental in arranging for Dean’s football scholarship.

Dean rides a motorcycle, but this wasn’t mentioned in the book. It could provide fodder for a future adventure.

Dean plays the banjo, and played in a bluegrass band in college.

Dean is a huge fan of Taylor Swift, and his wife Sarah would tease him incessantly about this.

Dean’s favorite movie is The Godfather, which he estimates he has seen a hundred times.

Dean’s favorite food is Chicago deep dish pizza, but he also fasts for 36 hours once each month.

Dean has never traveled outside of the U.S.

Read an excerpt:

1

SENATOR THOMAS MCGRAW sat back in the hand-distressed, buffalo-hide easy chair and contemplated the room around him. This was his first visit to the brand new, custom-designed mountain home of his lover. When their affair started a little over a year ago, what a sweet and savory surprise it had been to both of them. A business relationship grew into friendship, and then suddenly and unexpectedly exploded into something else— a red-hot, cross-country, obsessive romance fueled by shared erotic tastes. The senator felt sexually liberated under the spell of his exotic lover, and he was pretty sure those feelings were mutual. True, they needed to be discreet for a variety of reasons— indiscretion had nearly cost them everything— but they had worked it out. Although hectic schedules limited their rendezvous to only a couple of weekends a month, the deprivation and anxiety of anticipation made these weekends that much more satisfying. He was generally in a frenzy by the time he could get to her.

The room was the den of a typical ten-thousand-square-foot vacation home of the rich and powerful in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Decked out in nouveau western, its reclaimed timbers, Wyoming sandstone, and river rock were either complemented by— or detracted from, depending on your esthetic point of view— the original modern paintings depicting bold and most definitely non-earth-toned western landscapes and various forms of neon-colored wildlife. As Tom sipped his twenty-three-year-old Pappy Van Winkle, he studied the visage of a purple and orange moose head sculpted from California mahogany hanging dispiritedly over the fireplace. Damn, any self-respecting Wyoming moose would be embarrassed to know that this is some guy’s idea of what a trophy moose should look like. His personal style was more traditional Western— big wooden beams and a glut of real dead animal heads on the walls. But, the sex was still new and novel, unlike anything he had felt before, and he was willing to overlook these stylistic differences for the time being or, who knew, maybe for a long time. As his mentor had told him a long time ago: “Pussy is a powerful motivator.”

“I am soooo happy we were able to start our weekend a day early,” his lover called from the other room. “I’ve been so horny this week that I’ve been bouncing off the walls. I brought back something special for you from Chicago. Just give me another minute, sweetie.” Charlotte Kidwell dressed, and undressed, to accentuate her best features: her big green eyes, her long, toned legs, and her perfect bubble butt. Her regular head-to-toe salon appointments, personal trainer, and strict dietary regimen were essentials to the healthy, put-together appearance that women of her age and social status often have, if they have the money and motivation to work at it. In her younger days, her insecure attempts to add sex appeal fell short, and she’d ended up with an oddly unfeminine look with her clumsy and unsuccessful experiments with cosmetics. But middle age had actually softened her features, and as she became more adept at the finer points of female grooming, she began to realize how much she resembled her sister. During what she referred to as “The Sexual Awakening,” she had finally developed the confidence in her sexuality to consciously emulate her sister’s makeup and dress. Her older sibling had always exuded effortless sexuality, and throughout high school and college had gone through more boys in most years than Charlotte had dated for her entire youth.

The senator had certainly surprised her. Although his belly professed his lust for food and drink and a disinclination for exercise, his face was the opposite, exuding an irresistible cowboy masculinity. At middle age, most people have to choose between a wrinkle-free face and a toned and youthful body. What was it her friend in Chicago called fat? “Nature’s botox.” He had chosen his beautiful face at the expense of his body, but that was fine with her, because he was a sexual artiste. Certainly no one who knew him could possibly conceive of the hot spring of sexuality that was percolating beneath his surface. In spite of their distinctly different personalities, she considered him her soul mate. The first man in her forty-four years who had ever laid claim to that title. The thought made her giggle.

“Hurry up, baby, and get your pretty little ass out here.”

Appearing in the doorway, she framed herself with the hand-on-the-hip pose so popular with women much younger than herself. “You like? I know this little specialty boutique in Chicago, and it ain’t Macy’s Intimate Apparel.”

He liked the look very much. The red lace push-up bra, matching thong panties, silk kimono, and six-inch stilettos appealed to the man who’d had a weakness for strippers in his younger days. Though the untied robe looked more like a cape than boudoir attire, and the entire outfit reminded him of a porn movie he once saw— Superslut, a parody of Superwoman, he had to give her an “A” for effort. “Wow, you look like a very sexy Little Red Riding Hood. And where in the world did you find a bra that makes those pretty little A cups of yours look like Cs? Now turn around and let me admire your world-class bootie.”

She did a little twirl for him, grinned, and pushed together her bra cups to emphasize her cleavage. “It’s called a miracle bra, and see, it does work miracles. Now you just sit there and sip your whiskey. I have another surprise for you.” She strutted over to the bookcase, flipped a switch, and AC/ DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long” filled the room. And she began to dance.

“Oh my.” Tom took a big swallow and relished the burn. “You are just full of surprises tonight.”

“Just sit back and enjoy, Senator. I’ve got a few more surprises coming your way.”

Watching her rehearsed moves, the familiar hunger began to stir below his opulent belly. And then, in a maneuver that would have been impressive for a woman of any age, she turned away from him, spread her legs, touched her toes, looked straight up at him from her bare inverted V, and twerked. She had been practicing all afternoon, and when she saw the image of her quivering butt in the mirror she couldn’t wait to see his reaction.

“Oh, my god, where did you learn that?” The stirring rising now to a different level. And he was also wondering… her dance routine looked really professional.

“I have a very good friend in Chicago who does this for a living, and she’s been giving me some lessons.”

“Judging from that pose, sweetie, your friend must be an instructor in ‘stripper yoga’.” The senator, feeling the fire down there, leaned forward and reached for that perfect ass. “Get over here and let me take you the way I like, the way I know you like.” Putting his hands on her bare cheeks and grabbing two hands full, he left his chubby fingerprints as indentations on her flesh. Crazed now, pulling off his pants and underwear but not bothering with his shirt and tie, he pulled her thong aside, mounted her, grunting, sighing. Both of them grunting, sighing, grunting some more. And now just the sounds of flesh slapping flesh. And AC/ DC, urging them on…

Hayden Smith was running late. He was always running late. It was common knowledge in town that you had to book every appointment with Hayden an hour early to get him to show up on time. Attorney, county commissioner, real estate broker and developer, owner of a property management company— all that, plus trying to live up to the moniker of Teton County’s most eligible bachelor as determined by Mountain Woman magazine, well, that could take a toll on a man, even a man as fit and athletic as Hayden. And it was taking its toll on Hayden today. Sometimes he thought there was little point in taking any time off because you had to work twice as hard just to clear your schedule.

The last item of the day on his long list was to make sure all was in order in the home of his newest property management client before their arrival the next morning. But what he really was thinking about, as he put the key in the door, was that he was already an hour late for a dinner date at the home of one of Teton County’s richest and most beautiful socialites. And so if he hadn’t been fantasizing about the evening’s upcoming sensual activities, and if he hadn’t assumed that it was his cleaning crew that had left that open bourbon bottle on the counter, and if he hadn’t been formulating the words he was going to use to chew Pablo’s ass about getting control of his maintenance team, and if he had checked his voicemail after his last two meetings instead of engaging in licentious banter on the phone with the young socialite, then he might have reacted differently to the pounding bass of one of the most iconic rock anthems of the 1980s. He might not have followed the mesmerizing sound of Brian Johnson’s sandpaper voice into the den, assuming that he would find some of his employees having an unauthorized party; and he might not have witnessed the sight in front of him that would not only drastically change his life but would also set in motion a chain of events that had the potential to change the course of American history.

If he had looked directly at the man’s face, he almost certainly would have recognized one of the most well-known faces in Wyoming, soon to be equally famous throughout America. However, Hayden looked everywhere but into his face. The man, still dressed for business on top but naked from the waist down, was humping a pretty redhead doggie style, and Hayden was fascinated that with each thrust, her red stilettos would come off the ground about twelve inches, and then at the end of the thrust, the tips of her heels would bang down on the pine floor. Thrust, bang, thrust, bang, thrust, bang. Later when he played that video clip back in his mind, he captioned it “porn star tap dancing.”

He looked all around the room, but his eyes kept coming back to those red shoes, maybe because he didn’t really want to look at the man’s jiggling ass, or maybe because when his eyes followed those shoes north he was treated to a pair of the finest legs and most delicious bootie that he had ever seen. If he had been thinking clearly, he would have just turned around and walked right out of the house and he would have been able to go back to his great life as Teton County’s busiest and most eligible bachelor. But for whatever reason— the shock of the scene, or his own perverse voyeurism— he did not turn back around. He knocked on the door jamb with his clipboard and stammered loudly enough to be heard over AC/ DC. “Ah, ah, ah, I thought you weren’t coming in until tomorrow. I just came to check on the house. Is everything OK? I mean, just call me if anything isn’t OK. Sorry to interrupt. I’ll just let myself out…” And then he backed out of the room and nearly sprinted out the door.

Tom jumped up with impressive agility considering his exertion and girth, partly hopping, definitely bobbing. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”

Charlotte rolled over onto her side. “What the fuck, I left him a message that I was coming in today. What was he thinking?”

And the senator just kept repeating, “Oh, shit, oh, shit, oh, shit.” Then, catching his breath, added to his mantra, “I’m sure he saw me, I’m sure he saw me, I’m sure he saw me.”

His lover, handing him the rest of his twenty-three-year-old Pappy, said, “Here, drink this,” trying not to let the panic sound in her voice. She thought for a moment. “We’ll call Mario. He’ll know what to do. If that asshole tells anyone it’ll hurt Mario as much as us. Well, maybe not quite as much as us, but you know what I mean.”

Tom sat down for a minute, his white dress shirt soaked through, wheezing from the exertion, from the excitement, from the fear, his heart a thumping kettle drum in his chest. Neither of them said a word for a minute, then two. Finally realizing the heart attack wasn’t coming, he took a huge breath and said, “OK, call him.”

Charlotte punched the number into her mobile phone. “Mario? Sorry to bother you, but we have a problem. Some asshole just walked in on the two of us. Walked in on us… you know. What do you think we were doing? How could he not recognize him? Yeah, he’s my property manager. Hold on. Honey, would you hand me that business card on the table?”

2

THE FIRST TIME Dean Wister had visited the Tetons was twelve years ago, the summer before his senior year in college. Although he said it was adventure he was looking for, it was escape that he was really seeking when he answered an ad to guide for one of the rafting companies that run whitewater trips down the Snake River, just south of Teton National Park. It was a grueling twenty-four-hour drive from his home in Chicago to Jackson Hole, the mountain town at the foot of the spectacular Teton Range, and the route that he was taking, I-90 across Illinois, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, was one of the most monotonous and boring stretches of highway across America. Hour after hour he would stare at the road between truck stops, trying to keep alert for the highway patrol and the erratic driving of drowsy long-distance truckers. He tried listening to music and audio books, but his mind wouldn’t let him focus. Lately, he had a lot of trouble focusing. He’d once tried meditation, taking a Transcendental Meditation workshop with his wife, Sara, but meditation wasn’t for him. His mind would inevitably wander from the rhythm of his breathing to some problem from work that he was trying to solve. Dean had always been more of a ruminator than a meditator. And so he ruminated for hour after hour. He ruminated about all that had happened over the last twelve years. He ruminated about the horror of the last year. And he ruminated about what the future might, or more importantly, might not, hold.

That first trip had also been a time of transition for him. His mother died after his freshman year in high school, and his dad was killed in a work accident at the lumber yard just before Dean started college. As an only child he had led a solitary existence growing up, but by the time he left for college he was officially an orphan, no parents to cheer him as the starting safety on the University of Illinois football team, and no siblings to share the empty and confused feelings of losing the only responsible adults he had ever known. His hometown of Summersville, West Virginia, was near the banks of the Gauley River, one of the most famous whitewater-rafting rivers in the East, and the gray, small-minded, and cruel little town resembled what Mayberry may have looked like if Andy hadn’t been born. Until he was seventeen, Dean had never met a college graduate outside of a classroom, and growing up with his nose stuck in a book most of the time, his peers, and even most of the adults he knew, looked down on his habit as a sign of either homosexuality, laziness, or both. Maybe it was resentment for not living the fantastic and interesting life of the characters in the books that he read, or maybe it was the bullying that he experienced from his literature-averse peers, or maybe it was his sense of insecurity and inferiority from his hillbilly background, or maybe it was just his nature— for whatever reason, there was a well of anger deep inside of Dean.

The bullying stopped the first time he stepped on a football field. He loved to play defense, and putting the hammer to the ball carrier or receiver was equally pleasurable to him, whether in practice or during an actual game. He loved the rush of power he felt when a body crushed beneath him as he delivered the blow. As he would take aim at his target coming across the field, he imagined his body as a sledge hammer and he would launch himself, helmet first, at his opponents, relishing the pain he received nearly as much as the pain he delivered. As his scrawny adolescent body matured into a six-foot, one-hundred-ninety-pound defensive back, his football hits became ever more fearsome, and attracted the attention of a recruiter for the University of Illinois. Football would end for him upon college graduation for, as a pro scout told him, “Son, you sure have the meanness for pro football, but not the speed.” But that was all right; football had served its purpose.

The first time his dad had taken him along to run the rapids of the Gauley he was only nine years old, but after that he was addicted to the river. Working as a gofer for one of the rafting companies, imagining himself as one of the cocky swaggering guides, he would do anything to be near the river. The owner of the company took a liking to him, and broke the rules to put him on as a guide at sixteen. He worked on the Gauley through high school and college. But, with the death of his father, West Virginia held too many painful memories; he needed to get away. He heard from some fellow guides that the Snake River in Wyoming, south of Jackson, could be fun. Sure, its mostly Class 2 and 3 rapids were nothing compared to the Gauley, but he had always wanted to see the Rockies, and it was about as far away from West Virginia as he could imagine. That summer on the Snake, in the Tetons, revealed another side that he didn’t know he had. He learned how to cap that well of anger, to regulate the flow, to use it instead of letting it use him, and for the next decade was able to let it out only when his job demanded it. He discovered that there was another well, an untapped well, within him. A well of love and sweetness, of kindness and generosity. And the auger that tapped that well was Sara.

He’d just sent some food back at the Pioneer Grill, the coffee shop in Jackson Lake Lodge in Teton National Park. His order of sautéed Rocky Mountain rainbow trout appeared on his plate as buffalo meatloaf. His anger rising at this inexcusable display of disrespect and incompetence, he called over the pretty blonde server and pointed at the food in front of him. “Miss, do you think you would recognize a Rocky Mountain rainbow trout if you saw one?” She’d looked first at the gravy-smothered brown glob, and then directly into his twisted angry face, and behind her best smile said, “Apparently not, but I can recognize an asshole when I see one.”

Dean was overmatched by the spunky girl with eyes of a deeper blue than the summer skies over the Grand Tetons, and he fell in love on the spot. They laughed at the story forever, and she still called him “meatloaf asshole” on occasion, either when she was feeling especially fond or, more often, particularly annoyed with him. She loved to tease him and ridicule his quirks, calling him “schizo” for the many paradoxical elements in his personality: jock/ intellectual, hot head/ sentimentalist, loner/ showoff. But when she would call him “schizo” and flash him her irresistible smile, it would always soften his mood, and he was able to laugh at himself.

As a trust-fund baby of a power couple in Chicago’s legal community, Sara’s suburban childhood was exactly the opposite of Dean’s. Her bookworm ways were admired by her parents, friends, and her community. The vivacious blond with the sharp wit and the ability to fit in with every social group was a psych major at the University of Chicago, less than a two-hour drive up the interstate from Champaign if you are a hormone-crazed college boy, more like three hours for everyone else. Her well of anger was only a fraction of Dean’s and reserved exclusively for bullies and people who abused children, animals, and the less fortunate. But if you happened to occupy that territory, her fierceness could make even Dean flinch.

When he thought of their first summer, it played back in his head like some film made from a Nicolas Sparks novel. As he watched the movie, alone in the theater seat of his Jeep Cherokee, he smiled at the “meet cute” first scene in the coffee shop, marveled at the on-location, awe-inspiring backdrops of the Snake and the Tetons, was moved to tears by the scene where he makes love to Sara for the first time. And he couldn’t criticize the filmmaker’s decision to leave every sex scene of the summer in the movie. There they are making love on the window seat in the tiny apartment shared by Dean and his four other river rat roommates. There they are making love after a picnic at Schwabacher’s landing, the Tetons reflected like a painting in the beaver pond. And there they are on their last day of the summer, on a picnic in the alpine meadow they had discovered on their long hike into the mountains. The meadow they had named “Sara’s Meadow.” The meadow where Dean proposed. The meadow they pledged to return to each year on their anniversary. They talked of it often, and relived the moment every year on that special day. But they never came back. Life, and careers, and bullshit got in the way.

Careers included the single-minded ambition they shared. Dean’s resulted in a meteoric rise to detective in the Chicago Police Department and, after being handpicked to join the Midwest Organized Crime Task Force as the only local police detective among FBI and ATF agents, his days and weeks became an unending blur of clues, criminals, and cases. Sara’s graduate degree at Northwestern led to a tenure track appointment at Loyola University. But tenure track meant running never-ending, back-to-back-to-back marathons of teaching, research, and publishing. Their career ambitions allowed no room for children, or travel, or a return to Sara’s Meadow.

And then, over the last year, came the bullshit. Dean was working eighty-hour weeks on a high-profile case involving government and police corruption, and many of the Chicago cops whom he considered friends turned away from him. And then, just when they thought they were getting close to breaking the case, the investigation was shut down and he was reassigned. He was exhausted, disappointed, stressed, and his friends treated him like a traitor.

And then there was Sara. She had been diagnosed with cancer just as Dean began the investigation from hell. After her initial treatment, she received a clean report, and he was too preoccupied to notice when she continued to lose weight. A check-up a few months later showed that the cancer had returned. The rebound was aggressive, additional treatment failed to stop the spread, and she continued to get weaker and weaker in spite of what she would call “frequent invitations for happy hour cancer cocktails with my oncologist.” She even made up names for the cocktails based on the side effects she would experience afterward. There was the Diarrhea Daiquiri, the Migraine Martini, and the Vomit-rita. No subject was out of bounds for her wicked and irreverent sense of humor. Once, when she was bedridden near the end, Dean asked her how she was feeling, and in her best Sally Field Mama Gump imitation, she said “Well, Forrest, I’ve got the cancer.”

Dean wanted to take a leave to stay at Sara’s bedside, but she made up her mind that that was not an option. And when Sara made up her mind about something, he had learned to let her have her way. So Dean was relegated to spending every hour that he wasn’t working by her side, holding her close, imagining how they would live their lives differently when she was well.
The night she died, she asked him to describe that day in Sara’s Meadow. And when he finished, she said, “Promise we can go there when I get well. Will you take me there next summer?” He nodded, unable to speak. She slept peacefully that night for the first time in quite a while, and in the morning she was gone.

Strangely, although she was the center of his universe, the only person that he could say he ever truly loved, he showed little emotion when she died. He didn’t cry. He felt almost as if he were an outside observer of these terrible events. He experienced only numbness. An unrelenting, withering numbness. A numbness interrupted only by random bursts of anger that disturbed even the hardened cops he worked with. Dean was not unaware of his problem, and tried to channel the anger by hooking up with Manny Cohen, a mixed martial arts coach and self-proclaimed king of “Jew-Jitsu”. He loved the physicality of the MMA bouts, and that the jiu-jitsu moves he learned permitted him to disable much bigger and stronger fighters, even if he was on the ground being pummeled. He justified the training as part of his law-enforcement skills, but he knew what it was really about— the ability to inflict some of the horrible hurt he was feeling on others.

The changes in Dean since Sara’s death were most troubling to his boss, Carlos Alvarez. Carlos had been crushed when, on the verge of busting a Chicago mob guy who had both political and police connections, which evidently reached all the way to Washington, the whole operation had been shut down. In his heart, he knew it was those same connections he was investigating that had defeated him. He looked at Dean and watched one of the most competitive spirits he had ever known flicker out, starved for the oxygen that Sara could no longer supply. The case they had put their hearts and souls into for the last year was ripped out of their hands and Dean, who normally would be just as pissed off as he was, seemed to be only going through the motions.

But the most disturbing problem, as far as he was concerned, was Dean’s refusal to mourn Sara. Carlos watched as Dean’s isolation became extreme, and he refused all offers to talk or socialize. Dean’s robotic demeanor and increasingly unpredictable violent outbursts were scaring him. When Carlos sent him to meet with the psychologist assigned to their department, he refused to cooperate. He insisted that he was fine. But Carlos knew he wasn’t fine. He saw a man on the brink of a breakdown and finally decided that drastic action was needed to rescue the man from himself. One morning he walked into Dean’s office and handed him a letter worded as an authorization, which was actually an order, to take a three-month leave of absence.

“But where will I go? What will I do?” Dean said, seemingly incapable of entertaining any change to his barely functional routine. Carlos looked toward the picture on his desk, the one taken twelve years earlier. It showed Dean standing on a whitewater raft. Sara was sitting in the boat looking up at him with a combination of love and lust in her eyes. In the background, the grandeur of the Tetons loomed. “You have to get out of town. You have to get away from here, from all this. And I know where I would go if I had no obligations and three months off. I’ve been envying that picture since the day you moved in here.”

What his boss didn’t know, and what Dean couldn’t tell him, or anyone else for that matter, was the real reason that he wouldn’t see the psychologist— something that would make him seem crazy to outsiders. Hell, he often had that thought about himself. Not every evening, but maybe two or three nights a week, he would spend the night with Sara. He would wake up a couple of hours after he went to sleep, and she would be there, sitting in the chair next to his bed. He would get up, and they would talk just like they used to, about everything, what was happening in his life and in his job, or what was going on in the news. They would make love, and it was every bit as passionate and real as before she was sick. When he would wake up in the morning, she would be gone. At first, he tried to convince himself that it was all a dream, until one night he washed the sheets before he went to bed, and the next morning her perfume lingered on the bedding. She was really there, and she was as real as anything he had ever experienced.

He had nothing against psychologists. He had seen a therapist in college after a particularly hard break-up and had found it very helpful. In fact, he visited that same therapist when Carlos was pushing him to see the department shrink— he wasn’t about to have his craziness officially certified to his employer. And his own therapist confirmed what he instinctively knew himself. “Your hallucinations of your dead wife will go away when you allow yourself to fully mourn her.” But that was exactly the problem. Her very real apparition was the only tangible thing he had left of her. Her visits were the only thing that let him get through the day, that kept him from becoming totally out of control, and he wasn’t going to let anyone take that away from him. He was determined to hold on to whatever was left of her, for as long as he could.

Sara was the one that convinced him to take the trip. She told him during one of their nocturnal visits that he could use the time off; that she knew he was stressed out. He agreed on one condition. That she would come with him. She gave him her mischievous smile, the one that had captured him that first day in the coffee shop, and said, “That’s not a problem. I’m not going without sex for three months. And the ghosts here are too creepy to sleep with.”

That first summer twelve years ago, he had come into town from the south, getting off I-80 west of Rock Springs, approaching Jackson via Alpine and driving up through the Snake River canyon so that he could view the whitewater section he would be working. Wyoming is mostly high plains except for the northwestern part, which is an endless vista of scrub grass, prickly pear, sage brush, with occasional red-rock battleships and gargoyles. On that first trip he was able to view the Wind River Range in the distance outside his window, but he didn’t really get a good view of the Teton Range until he reached the outskirts of the town of Jackson. This time he had decided to take the Northern route via I-90, because he wanted to see the Black Hills, one of the few topographic areas of interest that is easily accessible from the interstate. So he was not really prepared for what happened when his Jeep rounded the bend on Route 26, east of Teton National Park, and he looked west. The fragrance hit him first. He had the windows in his Jeep rolled down and, as the road increased in elevation, the air turned cooler and became infused with snow runoff blended into mountain streams and the bouquet of lodgepole pine forests to form the unique perfume that his unconscious associated with his first summer there. He was looking down for a station on the radio when he felt the jolt, as if a switch was flipped in his brain, and when he turned his face back to the road, the windshield was suddenly and magically filled with the panorama of the majestic purple, snow-tipped peaks of the mountain range that symbolized all that had been true and pure in his life. All that was lost and would never ever return. The image struck him like a bullet in his chest, sucking all the air from his body. The next thing he knew, he was out of his car, on the side of the road, on his knees, gasping for air, heaving, sobbing. “Oh, Sara. My sweet, sweet, Sara.”

***

Excerpt from The Grand by Dennis D. Wilson. Copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. Wilson. Reproduced with permission from Dennis D. Wilson. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Dennis D. Wilson

After a career working in an international consulting firm and as a financial executive with two public companies, Dennis D. Wilson returns to the roots he established as a high school literature and writing teacher at the beginning of his career. For his debut novel, he draws upon his experiences from his hometown of Chicago, his years living, working, hiking and climbing in Jackson Hole, and secrets gleaned from time spent in corporate boardrooms to craft a political crime thriller straight from today’s headlines. Dennis lives in suburban Chicago with his wife Paula and Black Lab Jenny, but spends as much time as he can looking for adventure in the mountains and riding his motorcycle.

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Oct 042017
 

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on Tour from September 18 – October 2, 2017

Synopsis:

The Names of Dead Girls by Eric Rickstad

William Morrow is thrilled to present the sequel to the New York Times and USA Today mega-bestseller The Silent Girls, which went on to sell more than 300,000 copies. The Names of Dead Girls is a dark, twisty thriller that once again features detectives Frank Rath and Sonja Test as they track a perverse killer through rural Vermont. By popular demand, the story picks up after the shocking cliffhanger on the last page of The Silent Girls and reveals what exactly happens between Rath and his nemesis, Ned Preacher. Although The Names of Dead Girls is a sequel, it reads perfectly as a standalone – new readers can dive in seamlessly.

After years spent retired as a private investigator, Frank Rath is lured back into his role as lead detective in a case that hits far too close to home. Sixteen years ago, depraved serial rapist and killer Ned Preacher brutally murdered Rath’s sister and brother-in-law while their baby daughter, Rachel, slept upstairs. In the aftermath, Rath quit his job as a state police detective and abandoned his drinking and womanizing to adopt Rachel and devote his life to raising her alone.

Now, unthinkably, Preacher has been paroled early and is watching—and plotting cruelties for—Rachel, who has just learned the truth about her parents’ murders after years of Rath trying to protect her from it. The danger intensifies when local girls begin to go missing, in crimes that echo the past. Is the fact that girls are showing up dead right when Preacher was released a coincidence? Or is he taunting Frank Rath, circling his prey until he comes closer and closer to the one he left behind—Rachel? Rath’s investigation takes him from the wilds of Vermont to the strip clubs of Montreal, but it seems that some evil force is always one step ahead of him.

Eric Rickstad is a master of the bone-chilling, nightmare-inducing thriller, and The Names of Dead Girls is one you won’t want to miss.

MY REVIEW

5 stars

This book was calling me with the cover, synopsis, and reviews that I had seen and I made quite a good decision to read it, which I did in two sittings. Even though this was 2nd in the series, it read easily as a stand-alone.

The novel had layer upon layer of suspense with a cast of unsavory characters that I had difficulty in trying to figure out the “whodunit” and even then, was quite shocked with the climatic ending. Didn’t see that one coming!!!

The story flowed at a frantic pace. An exciting and thrilling read!! This author is now on my “authors to read list” and will be reading his previous books while patiently waiting for his future novels.

I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a thrilling and tense read!!

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: September 12th 2017
Number of Pages: 400
ISBN: 0062672819 (ISBN13: 9780062672810)
Series: The Silent Girls #2
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Rath drove the Scout as fast as he could without crashing into the cedars along the desolate stretch of road known as Moose Alley that wound through thirty miles of remote bog and boreal forest. The rain was not as violent here, the fog just starting to crawl out of the ditch.

Rath hoped the police were at Rachel’s and had prevented whatever cruelty Preacher had in store; but hope was as useful as an unloaded gun.

The Scout’s temperature gauge climbed perilously into the red. If the engine overheated, Rath would be stuck out here, miles from nowhere, cut off from contact. In this remote country, cell service was like the eastern mountain lion: its existence rumored, but never proven.

Finally, Rath reached the bridge that spanned the Lamoille River into the town of Johnson. His relief to be near Rachel crushed by fear of what he might find.

At the red light where Route 15 met Main Street, he waited, stuck behind a school bus full of kids likely coming from a sporting event.

He needed to get around the bus, run the light, but a Winnebago swayed through the intersection.

The light turned green.

Rath tromped on the gas pedal. The Scout lurched through the light. On the other side of the intersection, Rath jammed the brake pedal to avoid ramming into the back of the braking bus, the bus’s red lights flashing.

A woman on the sidewalk glared at Rath as she cupped the back of the head of a boy who jumped off the bus. She fixed the boy’s knit cap and flashed Rath a last scalding look as she hustled the boy into a liquor store.

The bus crept forward.

No vehicles approached from the opposing lane.

Rath passed the bus and ran the next two red lights.

The rain was a mist here, and the low afternoon sun broke briefly through western clouds, a silvery brilliance mirroring off the damp asphalt, nearly blinding Rath.

Rachel’s road lay just ahead.

Rath swerved onto it and sped up the steep hill.

A state police cruiser and a sheriff’s sedan were parked at hurried angles in front of Felix and Rachel’s place.

He feared what was inside that apartment. Feared what Preacher had done to Rachel.

Sixteen years ago, standing at the feet of his sister’s body, Rath had heard a whine, like that of a wet finger traced on the rim of a crystal glass, piercing his brain. He’d charged upstairs into the bedroom, to the crib. There she’d lain, tiny legs and arms pumping as if she’d been set afire, that shrill escape of air rising from the back of her throat.

Rachel.

In the moment Rath had picked Rachel up, he’d felt a permanent upheaval, like one plate of the earth’s lithosphere slipping beneath another; his selfish past life subducting beneath a selfless future life; a niece transformed into a daughter by acts of violent cruelty.

For months, Rath had kept Rachel’s crib beside his bed and lain sleepless as he’d listened to her every frayed breath at night. He’d panicked when she’d fallen quiet, shaken her lightly to make certain she was alive, been flooded with relief when she’d wriggled. He’d picked her up and cradled her, promised to keep her safe. Thinking, If we just get through this phase, I won’t ever have to worry like this again.

But peril pressed in at the edges of a girl’s life, and worry planted roots in Rath’s heart and bloomed wild and reckless. As Rachel had grown, Rath’s worry had grown, and he’d kept vigilant for the lone man who stood with his hands jammed in his trouser pockets behind the playground fence. In public, he’d gripped Rachel’s hand, his love ferocious and animal. If anyone ever harmed her.

Rath yanked the Scout over a bank of plowed snow onto a spit of dead lawn.

He jumped out, tucked his .22 revolver into the back waistband of his jeans, and ran for the stairs that led up the side of the old house to the attic apartment.

He hoped he wasn’t too late.

***

Excerpt from The Names of Dead Girls by Eric Rickstad. Copyright © 2017 by Eric Rickstad. Reproduced with permission from Eric Rickstad. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Eric Rickstad

Eric Rickstad is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of The Canaan Crime Series—Lie in Wait, The Silent Girls, and The Names of Dead Girls, psychological thrillers set in northern Vermont and heralded as intelligent, profound, dark, disturbing, and heartbreaking. His first novel Reap was a New York Times Noteworthy Novel. Rickstad lives in his home state of Vermont with his wife, daughter, and son.

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Giveaway:

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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.
DISCLAIMER

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Oct 032017
 

37 Hours by J.F. Kirwan

37 Hours

by J.F. Kirwan

on Tour October 1-14, 2017

37 Hours by J.F. Kirwan

Synopsis:

 

The only way to hunt down a killer is to become one…

Imprisoned by MI6 for two long years in solitary, Nadia suddenly finds herself free again. But there is a price to pay for her release. Another dangerous and near impossible mission – retrieve the Russian nuclear warhead stolen by her old nemesis, the deadliest of terrorists.

But he is always one step ahead, and soon Nadia finds herself at the front line of preventing London from disappearing into a cloud of ash. Only this time, she is ready to pull the trigger at any cost.

And with the clock counting down from 37 hours, time is running out…

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication Date: March 2017
Number of Pages: 315
ID: B01N3KP711 (ASIN) 9780008226978 (BN)
Series: Nadia Laksheva Spy Thriller Series, Book 2 | 37 Hours is a Stand Alone Novel (You’re welcome to read/review 66 Metres if you’d like)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | iTunes 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Vladimir was cuffed and hooded, but his guards had made a fatal mistake. His hands were behind him, but not attached to the inner structure of the military van, a standard Russian UAZ 452 – he’d know those rickety creaks and the pungent blend of oil and diesel anywhere. The vehicle trundled towards some unknown destination where he would be interrogated, beaten some more, then shot in the back of the head.

Three of the four men chattered as they picked up speed down a straighter road. Their second mistake. Clearly they weren’t Special Forces – Spetsnaz – like he’d been until recently. They were regular army. He’d only seen the two heavies who’d snatched him from breakfast with his daughter. Now he knew there were four – one other had engaged in the banter, another had remained silent but was referred to as the butt of several bawdy jokes. The hierarchy of the men was also clear. The leader was in the front passenger seat, the silent one the driver, leaving the two musclemen in the back with him.

He waited. They’d been driving for an hour or so, initially dirt tracks, now a highway, which meant they were on the E119 to Vostok. If they turned right, he had a chance, as they would have to cross the Volga River. Then he would make his move.

If they turned left, he was a dead man.

Vladimir wasn’t one for options, or for hedging his bets. Not a question of making the right choice, but of making the choice right. In all his missions he’d never cared much for a Plan B. Leave too many options open, and events control you. You invite failure.

The van would turn right.

Vladimir mapped the van inside his head. The van layout was standard: two seats in the front facing forward, two benches in the back facing each other. Two front doors on the driver and passenger side, a double door at the rear. He was on the left-side bench, a heavy beside him, one opposite. The leader was in the left-hand front seat, the driver on the right. He needed to know if there was anything between him and the driver, in front on the opposite side, such as a vertical strut, or a metal grill. Because if there was either of those things, his plan wouldn’t work.

Nobody had talked to him since his arrest. Why talk to a hooded, dead man? But they were military, or at least they had been at one stage or another, so it should work. He waited for a pause in their talk fuelled by bravado – they were probably wondering which one of them would get to pop him in the skull. He reckoned they’d make the driver do it. A rite of passage. Probably a rookie, not yet blooded.

The pause came.

‘Cigarette?’ he asked, nodding through his hood to the one opposite. ‘My last, we all know that.’

Silence, except for the van’s creaking suspension and the drone of its throaty engine. He imagined questioning looks from the musclemen to the leader, the driver fixing his eyes on the road, maybe a glance in the rear-view mirror.

The dead man had spoken.

A sigh, the rustle of clothing, a pocket unzipped, the sound of a cigarette tapped from the pack. He could smell the nicotine despite the strong diesel fumes. A hand heavy on his shoulder – the muscleman by his side – while the hood was pulled up, just above his mouth, by the one opposite. Vladimir felt cool air on his lips, and smelt the stale coffee breath of the man about to give him a cigarette.

The smack in the mouth wasn’t entirely unexpected. Stunned him all the same. He slid off the bench onto the floor, and while three of the men burst out laughing, he stretched out his left leg towards the rear of the driver’s seat – nothing in the way, no vertical strut. But there could still be a wire mesh separating the rear compartment from the front. He rocked back onto his knees, and addressed the one who’d hit him. He lowered his head, bychit-style, a bull about to charge, and spat out the words amidst spittle and blood from a split lip.

‘Mudak, suka, blyad!’

This time the punch was fully expected. He railed back and up, travelling with the force of the uppercut, his head in the gap between the driver and the leader. That cost him a whack from the latter on the top of his head. Didn’t matter. No wire mesh. Rough hands slotted him back on the bench where he’d started. Profanities poured forth. Nothing he hadn’t heard before, or said himself. His face stung. He ignored it. Things settled down. The banter resumed.

He began drawing long breaths, oxygenating his body. He was chilled, because he had no coat. The other men were wrapped in thick commando jackets. It was early spring, still cold. The Volga would be near freezing. Not a problem, he bathed in it every morning. For them, though, it was going to be a different story.

The van slowed. The tick, tick, tick of the indicator. They slowed down further. Stopped. A truck passed fast ahead of them, rocking the high suspension van in its wake. The leader bellowed a command, though he wasn’t stupid enough to name the destination. ‘This way, this way.’ Another lorry – no, a tractor, given the smell of manure – the leader cursing the young driver for not pulling out sooner. The engine revved, the gears engaged, the van pulled forward.

And turned right.

***

Excerpt from 37 Hours by J.F. Kirwan. Copyright © 2017 by J.F. Kirwan. Reproduced with permission from J.F. Kirwan. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

J.F. Kirwan

After school J.F. Kirwan studied psychology, then worked in heavy industries, including offshore oil rigs in the North Sea, and nuclear power plants in the UK, US and Japan. Lately he’s been working with airplane safety, which enables him to travel to some far-flung places.

His job is about trying to prevent large-scale accidents. Having studied them for years gives him a sense of how catastrophic events start off slow, simmer awhile, then gather speed and accelerate towards the final event. He uses this experience when writing, and calls it tourniquet plotting. He also spent years as a martial artist, training in Hong Kong, and knows a thing or two about writing fight scenes. But his main passion is diving. He used to be an instructor, and has dived all over the world, and so all three books have an underwater element. Readers – whether divers or not – often say that the books are most vivid in the underwater scenes.

After a scuba-diving injury, and surgery on his back, he couldn’t dive for eighteen months. He missed it so much he started a novel about a young woman, Nadia, who was coerced into working for the Mafia. A fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, as well as other thriller writers such as David Baldacci, Stieg Larsson and Andy McNab, he wanted to create a female protagonist who could mete out justice when required. What started out as a bit of fun gathered momentum as a couple of agents got interested, and then HarperCollins snapped it up with a three-book deal.

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Tour Participants:

Visit the 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 J.F. Kirwan. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on October 1 and runs through October 20, 2017.

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Oct 022017
 

http://www.partnersincrimetours.net/murder-misread-p-m-carlson/

Murder Misread

by P.M. Carlson

October 1-31, 2017 Book Tour

Synopsis:

Murder Misread by P.M. Carlson

In 1977, statistician Maggie Ryan returns to her alma mater to help Charlie Fielding analyze his reading research. Charlie, professor and film buff, is studying the eye movements of skilled readers. Maggie’s work is interesting, her kids have good daycare, and her actor husband Nick O’Connor is working nearby. But the happy summer plan is disrupted when Charlie’s popular colleague and rival, Tal Chandler, is found shot near campus.

When a turf war between town homicide detectives and image-conscious campus police hinders the investigation, Maggie and Nick team up with Tal’s grieving widow to get some questions answered.

Don’t Miss These Great Reviews:

“Maggie is an engaging everywoman– wife, mother, professional– who conducts her crime-busting with quiet panache.” — Margot Mifflin, Entertainment Weekly

“Thoroughly believable characters with depth and humor and finely realized senses of grief and anger. Carlson plays fair with the reader while making the unmasking of the criminal a surprise indeed.” — Susan L. Clark, The Armchair Detective

“As usual, P.M. Carlson gives us a spell-binding, multidimensional puzzle, interesting background material, and fascinating and appealing characters.” — Phyllis Brown, Grounds for Murder

​“[Maggie Ryan] has been a role model for women since the beginning and I loved watching her merge marriage and children with her talent for solving mysteries!” — Margaret Maron

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: The Mystery Company / Crum Creek Press
Publication Date: August 2015
Number of Pages: 241
ISBN13: 1932325468 (ISBN13: 9781932325461)
Series: Maggie Ryan and Nick O’Connor #7
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Smashwords 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

“Murder Misread” by P.M. Carlson, the Maggie Ryan Mystery #7

Statistician Maggie Ryan, actor Nick O’Connor, and their two small children are looking forward to a relaxing summer away from New York City. Maggie’s working at her alma mater as consultant to reading expert Professor Charlie Fielding, and Nick has a gig at a summer theatre nearby. But then the body of Charlie’s retired predecessor, Professor Tal Chandler, is found near campus. It seems to be suicide–– but the gun was in left-handed Tal’s right hand. With help from Tal’s grieving widow, Professor Anne Chandler, Maggie and Nick find that friendly, nosy Tal had uncovered some dark secrets about his university coworkers––secrets that could lead to murder.

Read an excerpt:

Sunlight sifted through the trees. The creek giggled below. A little child galloped down the path, paused to pick up a pebble from the mud, ran back to her smiling mother. They moved on past, until their happy chatter merged into the rustling of the leaves.

A sweet day for a murder.

***

To get to Plato’s for Tal’s celebration, they had to cross the gorge. Maggie unhesitatingly chose the right path from among the several that meandered down into the wooded ravine. “I see you still know your way around,” Charlie observed.

“Yeah, it comes back. It was only seven years ago that I left. Which way do you prefer here?” Maggie paused at a fork in the trail, where one path led to a green-painted metal pedestrian bridge, and another wound lower and under the bridge along the edge of the little creek that had patiently carved out this gorge.

“The lower one’s prettier if you don’t mind steps. But it may be soggy still from the thunderstorm yesterday. I generally use this upper path.”

“Fine, let’s be prudent.” That warm Diane Keaton smile again as she turned toward the bridge. “I love this walk, don’t you?”

“Yes. I’m a hiker. You must miss the woods, living in New York.”

“Not as much as I expected. We’re only a block from Prospect Park, so we’ve got plenty of woods and meadows and ravines to explore.”

“Aren’t those big city parks dangerous?” He had to stretch to keep up with her athletic strides.

“Well, I don’t wander through them alone at night.” She hesitated, glancing at Charlie with an ambiguous smile. “Somebody did try to rape me once. But it wasn’t in Prospect Park. It was only a few miles from this very spot, when I was a student here.”

“God!” What could he say? What a horrible experience, to have someone forcing himself…. He mumbled inadequately, “That must have been terrible!”

“Yeah. Well, help arrived fast and we sent him up for ninety-nine years. Happy ending.” She didn’t sound happy, her shoulders hunching under the sky-blue cotton. “Anyway, I’ve learned to stay alert. Did you notice the guy under the bridge just now?”

Charlie looked back, frowning, and pushed his glasses up on his nose. The ravine was a visual crazy-quilt patched from dark earth, green leaves, splashes of sunlight. The original camouflage design, quivering as the breeze riffled the leaves. Below, the creek glinted; trunks and branches traced irregular dark lines through the trembling foliage. Nearer, the artificial pea-green of the bridge shafted straight-edged across the little chasm. “I don’t see anyone.”

“See where the trail widens? That muddy patch?”

“Yes. Oh!” He saw him then: standing nearly hidden by a clump of bushy young maples, only a bit of gray sleeve and a dark shoe visible from here. “Wonder what he’s up to?”

“In Prospect Park he’d probably be a bird-watcher,” Maggie said lightly, and turned back up the path toward College Avenue and Plato’s.

* * *

Excerpt from Murder Misread by P.M. Carlson. Copyright © 2017 by P.M. Carlson. Reproduced with permission from P.M. Carlson. All rights reserved.

P.M. Carlson

Author Bio:

P.M. Carlson taught psychology and statistics at Cornell University before deciding that mystery writing was more fun. She has published twelve mystery novels and over a dozen short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar Award, a Macavity Award, and twice for Anthony Awards. Two short stories were finalists for Agatha Awards. She edited the Mystery Writers Annual for Mystery Writers of America for several years, and served as president of Sisters in Crime.

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Tour Participants:

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Join In:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for P.M. Carlson. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card & 5 winners of one (1) P.M. Carlson eBook. The giveaway begins on October 1 and runs through November 2, 2017.

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Sep 262017
 

In It For The Money

by David Burnsworth

on Tour September 11 – October 11, 2017

Synopsis:

In It For The Money by David Burnsworth

Lowcountry Private Investigator Blu Carraway needs a new client. He’s broke and the tax man is coming for his little slice of paradise. But not everyone appreciates his skills. Some call him a loose cannon. Others say he’s a liability. All the ex-Desert Storm Ranger knows is his phone hasn’t rung in quite a while. Of course, that could be because it was cut off due to delinquent payments.

Lucky for him, a client does show up at his doorstep—a distraught mother with a wayward son. She’s rich and her boy’s in danger. Sounds like just the case for Blu. Except nothing about the case is as it seems. The jigsaw pieces—a ransom note, a beat-up minivan, dead strippers, and a missing briefcase filled with money and cocaine—do not make a complete puzzle. The first real case for Blu Carraway Investigations in three years goes off the rails.

And that’s the way he prefers it to be.

READ MY REVIEW AND ENTER THE GIVEAWAY HERE

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: September 12th 2017
Number of Pages: 278
ISBN: 9781635112436
Series:A Blu Carraway Mystery, #1
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

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.

GUEST POST

Blu Who?

—Carraway. Blu Carraway. That’s his name. He’s the primary owner of Blu Carraway Investigations.

Ten things?

About Blu? Let’s see…He’s forty-four-years-old this year. His father is an anglo and his mother fled Cuba on a small boat in 1962.

Blu lives on a nine acre (depending on the tide) island in a small house his great grandfather built. His “pets” are a small herd of Carolina Marsh Tackeys that showed up and never left. Even after Hurricane Hugo wiped just about everything in the lowcountry off the map, the horses showed back up the same time Blu’s parents returned from evacuation. There was no way the wild animals would have allowed themselves to be corralled long enough to take them to safety.

He has a twenty-year-old daughter named Hope. Lucky for her she got her mother’s looks and brains and Blu’s stubbornness and eyes. Lucky for him his ex-wife lives in Charlotte.

He’s got a rogue business partner named Mick Crome who’s been missing since their last big job three years ago. Blu believes Crome’s ability to be faithful to anything stops at his Harley Davidson. He’s the same age as Blu, but meaner.

As far as a music preference, Blu’s stuck in the eighties. He’s been known to load a punk cassette into the deck of his ancient Toyota Land Cruiser while on the job.

Blu learned how to handle himself while playing football in high school. His athletic ability allowed him success in the Army as a paratrooper and then Ranger. He served dutifully in Desert Storm and came back mostly intact.

A smoker since high school days, he recently switched to vapor. He’s hoping to be off the habit in a few months. We’ll see.

If you’re looking for a suave PI to do a background check, look elsewhere. But if you’ve got some money and need private security in a third world county, Blu’s you’re man. Ditto for discouraging an abusive husband from violating a restraining order. He may be rough around the edges, no matter how much his daughter tries to change him, but he’s loyal and not afraid of much. And he’s got connections at the highest levels of the Charleston elite.

And you can read about him in the first book of his series, IN IT FOR THE MONEY.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
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Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Lowcountry, South Carolina, early June, Thursday morning

The old rotary phone sitting on the desk refused to ring. No matter how much Blu Carraway wanted it to. He looked out the window of his makeshift office at the surrounding marsh and sighed. Crumpled up in his right hand was the latest tax assessment, in his left was an electronic cigarette. Without thinking, he took a hit off the vaporizer, which replaced Camels as his only vice. Well, that and pirated satellite TV.

And still the receiver remained silent.

One more good job.

It was all he needed.

Then Charleston County would be happy for another year, and he’d get to keep his little island home. Just. One. Good. Job.

The hula girl on his desk a Desert Storm buddy had given him when he first hung out his PI shingle bobbled at him as if to say, “How long did you think you could keep this up, tough guy?”

He swatted her off the desk with the tax bill. “At least another year, Dollie.”

As the plastic figure skittered across the old plank flooring, Blu heard the sound of tires on his crushed shell drive. With the sole air-conditioning being a ceiling fan and open windows, he heard everything happening on his little slice of paradise. But he suspected his tenure there was on borrowed time. The house and land, which had been in the family for next to forever, were his free and clear. Except nothing was free and clear. He still had his yearly rent payment to the county, which seemed to think nine acres of mostly sand and marsh with a small herd of free-roaming scraggly horses was worth one helluva lot. Even though they neglected to consider it relevant enough to route the mosquito sprayers anywhere near the place.

A black Mercedes, the new big one, sliced between two live oaks and rolled to a stop beside his ancient Land Cruiser. Blu watched as the driver’s door opened and a man in a suit and tie exited the car. Just as Blu was about to run outside to greet him, he noticed the man walk around the expensive German machine, open the rear door, and extend a hand to assist whomever was in the backseat.

A pale white hand grasped the driver’s. After a moment, a woman with shoulder-length gray hair and sunglasses stood beside the car as the driver shut her door. She was not unattractive—in a wealthy, snobby kind of way. Her pose accentuated thin, but not frail, limbs and a torso hinting at personal trainer visits. Her crème-colored sleeveless blouse, tailored slacks, and shoes his daughter had once told him were called wedges exuded confidence. The woman held what looked like an expensive pocketbook.

Blu walked outside and approached the pair. “Can I help you?”

The woman, who was more attractive up close with high cheekbones, a small nose Blu guessed was natural, and a perfectly- proportioned neck adorned with modest pearls, said, “I’m looking for a Mr. Carraway.”

“You found him.”

“Good.” She turned to the driver, who upon closer inspection had an athletic build with a slightly visible shoulder rig beneath his suit coat. “Told you this was the place.”

He said, “Yes, ma’am.”

It didn’t sound like the man was convinced.

Two of Blu’s horses, at least he called them his because they wouldn’t leave his property even though there was no fencing, clomped around the house and approached. These were the curious ones from the herd, and not the brightest. He’d named them Dink and Doofus.

The woman’s mouth opened in surprise.

Her driver, apparently startled, reached inside his jacket where the shoulder rig was.

Blu said, “Don’t mind these two. They’re harmless. But if you see a black stud, best keep your distance.”

The woman watched the horses approach. Dink, the brown male with a tangled mane, lowered his head and sniffed. Doofus, his coat best described as dirty snow, lumbered up to the woman. In a past life, these two must have been canines.

Blu said, “Come on, guys.”

As if the horses just noticed he was there, they both raised their heads and snorted. Doofus gave his mane a quick shake.

The woman reached out and touched Dink on his nose.

The horse granted her hand a big lick before she could retract it.

Dink and Doofus didn’t approach just anybody. Blu had recognized this trait in them a long time ago. They liked this woman. Or else they just thought she had a treat for them.

Blu said, “What can I do for you fine folks?”

“Mr. Carraway,” the woman said, maneuvering around Dink and offering a business card. “I’m Cynthia Rhodes.”

Blu held the card. “That’s exactly what this says.” It also gave a Charleston, South Carolina address. South Battery, no less. Big money.

Real big money.

She said, “Yes, well, I’d like to talk to you about employing your services.”

Tapping the card on his open palm, he said, “I appreciate your effort to get here, Ms. Rhodes. I would have gladly met you somewhere closer to Charleston. Saved you the forty-minute trip.”

The driver stepped forward and the horses retreated to the other side of the vehicles. “There must be something wrong with your phone.”

An image of a stack of unpaid bills came to mind, specifically the one marked “third and final notice.” Blu didn’t reply.

Cynthia Rhodes said, “Is there someplace we can sit and talk?”

Coming to his senses, Blu said, “Of course. I’m sorry. I don’t normally receive clients out here. Please come this way.” He ran through a mental checklist: the office was one chair short for this group, the desk was a mess, the hula girl was on the floor, and the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned in, well, he couldn’t remember when.

Ms. Rhodes and her driver followed him, all of them crunching on the shell drive, up the porch stairs, and into the office he’d created out of the living room of the one-story bungalow his great- great-grandfather had built.

His guests didn’t comment on the disheveled appearance.

The driver pulled out the single client chair in front of Blu’s desk and Cynthia Rhodes sat.

Blu made an assumption the man would prefer to remain standing seeing as how his role could best be described as armed chauffer. Walking around his desk, being sure to step over the hula girl on the floor, and noticing the crumpled tax bill flittering in the wind of the ceiling fan, Blu sat on the ripped cushion of his ancient captain’s chair. It gave a long, un-oiled squeak. “Okay, Ms. Rhodes, tell me why you think you need my services.”

Cynthia Rhodes removed her sunglasses and held them in her lap.

She looked at him with deep blue eyes. “Mr. Carraway, I have a situation I’m not sure how to handle.”

The horses’ intuition and this woman’s bold and transparent acknowledgement of uncertainty regarding her situation had him trusting her almost immediately. Well, those reasons and the big tax bill he had to pay.

“Can I get either of you something to drink?” he asked. “I’ve got tap water or cold—I mean iced—coffee.” Cold was a more accurate statement, but he didn’t think it sounded sophisticated enough.

Cynthia Rhodes said, “No, thank you.”

Meeting her deep blue gaze, he guessed she was mid-fifties, about ten years his senior. He asked, “How can I help?”

“I was told you could be trusted.”

“By whom?” he asked.

“Adam Kincaid.”

With the name, Blu immediately understood the depth of her need, if not the specifics.

She continued. “He said you got his daughter back for him when those awful men took her.”

“More or less.” Kincaid’s daughter was returned to her father intact, physically if not emotionally, without paying any ransom. And the world had lost a half-dozen kidnappers. “Has your daughter been kidnapped?”

With a tight-lipped smile and a slight headshake, she said, “I have a son.”

He said, “What is it you think I can do for you?”

“He’s missing.”

“How do you know?”

She looked down. “My son and I have a strained relationship, to say the least. The only way I know he’s okay is because he makes withdrawals from his trust fund.”

Blu said, “He hasn’t made any in a while?”

“Two weeks.” She looked at him. “I was told you handle unique situations. That they were your specialty.”

Her driver smirked.

Blu said, “You don’t want the police involved?”

“No,” she said. “I mean, not yet.”

He sat back. “What would you like me to do?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” she asked, her voice breaking for the first time.

“You’d like me to find him?”

“Yes.”

It sounded more like a question.

He said, “I can do that.”

“My son is a sweet boy. He likes art—painting. If something’s happened to him, I’m not sure what I’d do.”

Blu had a hunch the real reason she was here was about to surface.

She said, “Mr. Kincaid told me you made the men who took his daughter pay for their sins.”

“You think someone did something to your son?”

Folding her arms across her chest, she said, “I hope not.”

Blu shook his head. “Anything that may or may not have happened in Mexico was a by-product of the goal of the job, which was to get his daughter back.” It was a true statement, but not really the truth.

Cynthia Rhodes reached into her pocketbook, removed a check, and handed it to Blu.

Chapter Two

The amount written in neat, precise cursive would do a lot more than just pay his property tax for the year. He handed the check back, trying hard not to show any reluctance to do so. “I don’t take on blood jobs.” Another true statement which wasn’t the truth.

Sometimes they ended up that way—bloody.

Her eyes were wide. “But you’re my last hope.”

Blu laced his fingers together and placed his hands on the desk. “That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.” With a slight head jerk, he motioned to her driver. “Why not send trigger-happy Rick, here?”

Blu already knew the answer. The man was mostly show. He appeared to be in shape. But he did not have a killer’s gaze.

She looked at her driver who shifted his weight between his feet as if he were nervous.

Holding a hand up, Blu said, “You don’t want to have things too close to home. I understand. Better to hire some schmuck and make him do the heavy lifting.”

“You’re mistaken,” she said. “I heard you were the best.”

“I am the best,” he said. “Can’t you tell by the crowds of folks lining up for my services?”

With a smile breaking the tension in the lines of her face, she said, “Adam also said you had an odd sense of humor.”

Blu didn’t know what to say, so he kept quiet. Filling voids in conversation only gave away too much.

Cynthia Rhodes filled in the void for him. “If it isn’t enough money, I’ll double it.”

The Kincaid job had netted enough to keep Carraway Investigations solvent for three years, with only a modest contribution from an insurance or surveillance job here and there. And lately, some day laboring. The offer in front of him was eerily similar. Of course, Blu and his partner, a biker and fellow Ranger named Mick Crome, had barely made it out of Mexico alive with Jennifer Kincaid. Blu was three years wiser now, and he enjoyed the cliché “getting older by the minute” more than the one about “being worm food.”

He ignored one of his golden rules: Decisions made under duress were usually tainted. “Okay. I’ll look into it. But if all you want is a trigger puller, I’m out.”

And then he lied to himself about it not being because he needed the money.

After Cynthia Rhodes signed a standard, boiler-plate contract, which had jammed Blu’s ancient printer twice in the process, and gave him a picture of her son, she and her driver left. Happy to be working again, Blu headed into town, taking the decade-old photo of Jeremy Rhodes with him, the most recent one his mother had. It showed a good-looking, normal kid with clear eyes and a boyish smile and dimples.

The drive into Charleston gave Blu time to think. A few things about this new job already bothered him. First: Cynthia Rhodes, the kid’s supposed mother, didn’t have a current picture of her son. Second: For all he knew, Jeremy could be trying to run away from dear old mom.

Cynthia Rhodes had no idea where her son was and couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen or spoken with him. When Blu asked about drug use, she seemed flippant. All she knew was Jeremy had gone to the College of Charleston and majored in Liberal Arts, graduating two years ago.

Frankly, if it weren’t for the money and his lack of it, Blu wouldn’t have been so eager to take the job. The fact she’d doubled the offer erased any hesitation he might have had.

When he turned onto King Street, he found a parking spot at a meter in front of Willie’s Music Shop. He put some change in the meter and walked inside. His friend Willie Day had owned and run the place since the eighties, weathering Hurricane Hugo and urban blight. Willie always seemed to know what was going on no matter what Blu asked about. After Willie had passed on to the other side not too long after 9/11, his daughter took over, running the store during the city’s current rejuvenation. And, like her father, she had connections all over town.

Billie Day stood beside a wall display of Fender guitars, talking to a very early twenty-something white male. A black tank top and a short crop of hair exposed Billie’s light brown arms and neck. Her jeans accentuated curves that always put Blu in a good mood. She gave him a slight nod but kept her main focus on the customer.

Blu rotated his sunglasses to the top of his head and pretended to browse while he waited for Billie to make the sale. Desert Storm had done a number on his hearing, but he distinctly heard the sum “thousand even” and silently congratulated Billie.

After the kid had paid and walked out with his purchase protected in a nice case she’d talked him into buying, Billie walked over to Blu.

With hands on nice hips, she said, “What can I help you with?”

What she said was a little more formal than Blu had been looking for in a greeting. Apparently, Billie was more than a little pissed at him for not calling. It had been six months, right about the time his tax situation derailed him.

He said, “Hi, Billie.”

“Hi, Billie? Is that what you’re going with?”

“Um—”

She put a finger to his lips. “Don’t even try to dig yourself out of this one, Blu.”

He looked into powerful, deep brown eyes and almost winced.

Her gaze lightened. “Why didn’t you just tell me your tax troubles?”

Blu looked down. He should have assumed she knew.

She lifted his chin. “Friends help each other. They don’t shut each other out.”

“It’s my problem to fix,” he said.

“But it doesn’t have to be, baby. You made it so.”

A lot of thoughts ran through his stubborn head. Like how someone five years his junior had it so much more together than he did. And how someone could care about him so much after all these years.

He said, “I’ve got another job now. A good one. Hell, the retainer alone is enough to pay off Charleston County and then some.”

“You’ve got a job now, huh? Is that why you’re here?”

“Not the only reason.”

She patted his chest. “Before we get to that, you’ve got to make this up to me.”

“I—”

With a nudge from her hip, she said, “I don’t want to hear excuses. I want you to take me out and treat me proper. Everything has a price. My price for being ignored is a date. Take it or leave it.”

He’d always loved this woman. The timing was never right. He’d come back from the war all screwed up and she’d just turned eighteen—bad timing.

By the time he’d gotten his head screwed back on straight, she was twenty. And he married someone else—bad timing.

When he’d been about to get a divorce, his wife turned up pregnant. They stuck it out another five years before ending it just in time for Billie to marry someone—bad timing.

And then Billie divorced, she and Blu were set to be together, and his money problems started—bad timing.

But now he had this new job, his money problems abated, and she was still available. He just hoped he wouldn’t mess it up this time. So, in answer to her request for a date as restitution for him being a complete moron, he said, “Okay. I’ll take it.”

“Good,” she said. “Pick me up at eight.”

He thought about going ahead and asking her if she knew Jeremy Rhodes, but he decided not to push his luck. She wasn’t his only source, just his favorite.

He smiled and gave her a peck on the cheek.

She said, “Are you going to call Crome?”

Chapter Three

Blu stepped out of the music store and onto the broken sidewalk of upper King Street. The nice shops had been encroaching this direction for some time and had almost made it. Willie’s Music had always been a novelty. Now it was a novelty on prime real estate. And Billie had politely turned down several decent offers to sell. Blu couldn’t blame her. The business held its own, and she liked what she did.

Her asking if he was going to call Crome meant she was more than a little concerned about the job.

Mick Crome, his sometime business partner, had vanished with his half of what was left of the fee after expenses from the payout of the Kincaid job. The last Blu heard, Crome had ridden his Harley all the way down to Key West and hadn’t come up for air since. And not a day went by that Blu didn’t think about his friend.

He’d give Crome a day or two. The guy had a knack for showing up at the right time. If he hadn’t returned to Charleston by then and things got out of hand, Blu would make a few calls.

The picture Cynthia Rhodes gave him of her son didn’t help as he would have to assimilate what Jeremy looked like now, most likely factoring in extensive drug use as an age agent.

What he needed was a current picture, at least one more current than ten years. Because he’d let his cell phone plan expire when he ran out of money, he bought a prepaid “burner” phone at a drug store. The teenage girl who rang up his purchase helped him set it up and he gave her a five-dollar tip.

Using the cigarette lighter in the Land Cruiser to power the phone, he dialed a number from memory.

It went to voicemail.

When prompted to leave a message, he said, “Gladys, this is Blu Carraway. I know it’s been a while, but I could use a favor. Call me when you can.” He left the burner’s number and closed the phone.

With that accomplished, some theme music was required. He selected a cassette and loaded it in the Land Cruiser’s tape deck. After a moment, the bass riff from “The Waiting Room” by the punk band Fugazi played through the speakers—what a band.

The phone vibrated on his leg. He turned down the music volume and answered the call.

Gladys said, “Certainly has been a while, Mr. Blu Carraway. What lowlife are you after now?”

Ten years ago, about the same time the picture of Jeremy Rhodes was taken, Blu intervened in a domestic abuse situation. Gladys found him through a friend and tried to hire him. Apparently, none of the other local private investigators would bother to talk with her, much less take her job. At the time, her husband was taking out his frustrations for being a bakery delivery man on Gladys. When Blu found out she worked at the DMV, he handled the job pro bono, figuring the connection was worth it. In the end, a police investigation confirmed her husband had died while trying to beat her again—a clear case of self-defense as far as anyone was concerned. Blu didn’t lose any sleep over it when the police found the knife sticking out of the man’s neck with Gladys’ prints on it. In Blu’s mind, any man who struck a woman in anger deserved no less. Gladys had done the deed, but only after Blu suggested she already had enough evidence to prove self-defense. He’d been a stone’s throw away when it happened, which most likely also encouraged and empowered the woman to take action.

And Gladys, with her connection to every licensed driver and registered vehicle in the state of South Carolina, had indeed proved helpful. The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of ’92 protected a driver’s information from getting outside the appropriate government agencies. But it didn’t apply to licensed PI’s like Blu who had a wide range of access. Through experience, Blu found an inside source usually trumped his own sleuthing skills. With her abusive husband gone, Gladys’ life had changed dramatically for the better. He knew she would happily keep returning the favor.

He said, “I need a photo of someone.”

“Let me get something to write with.” A pause, then, “Okay, shoot.”

He gave the name and approximate age of Jeremy Rhodes.

She said, “I get off work in two hours. Buy me a milkshake at the Chick-fil-A down the street.”

“You got it.” He ended the call.

With time to kill, Blu had two things in mind. One was to research exactly who Cynthia Rhodes was. And the second was to squeeze in a workout at the gym. His first stop was the local library where he signed onto a computer and looked up his new client. Normally he would have done this before accepting the job, but her check was awfully big.

Cynthia Rhodes was indeed a Charleston socialite. She managed a charitable organization named Lowcountry Second Chances and booked fundraisers all year long. A major benefactor for the charity was a shelter in North Charleston.

Once divorced, her ex-husband being one Jack Rhodes who had passed away five years ago from a heart attack, Jeremy was their only child. Jack had been a big deal in lowcountry real estate up until his passing.

Jeremy Rhodes, unlike his mother, had done a good job of flying under the radar. There was quite a bit on both of his parents on the web, but nothing about him except a few notifications of past showings of his artwork at some of the local coffee shops.

Being a private investigator wasn’t in and of itself difficult work. Blu felt he had to keep his mind sharp and be able to think on his feet. And he had sources providing a lot of what kept him ahead of things. But it was also physical—he had to stay in shape. Quitting smoking, or at least switching to vapor, had several benefits, one being he could no longer afford it anymore anyway. And it also helped him breathe better during workouts.

With the preliminary research complete, Blu went to the gym. He kept a bag of gym clothes and gear in his truck, because he never knew when he’d get the opportunity. While his cardio had gotten a lot better since he switched to vapor, he still preferred the weights and got a good hour set in. Even with his money troubles, the gym membership would have been one of the last things to go.

Gladys faced a pink-colored milkshake in a booth in the restaurant when Blu sat across from her. A lot of people spent a lot of money to fight against looking their age. Gladys was not one of them. Past fifty, she had thick strawberry-framed glasses, gray hair, and a healthy dose of paunch. She had a few more years before she’d have her time in with the state and she could retire on a full ride. When that happened, Blu would need another source. Gladys made it easier than having to deal with a lot of red tape, even though he also knew a lot of cops.

She sipped from the straw and slid a nine-by-twelve-inch envelope to him. Her short, plump body was mostly hidden by the table. “They know me here. I told them you’d be paying. You gotta go to the counter.”

Blu stood, went to the counter, ordered a sweet tea, and paid for their drinks. He got his tea, sat across from Gladys again, picked up the envelope, and slipped out two sheets of paper, one an enlarged driver’s license picture and the other a vehicle registration for a late model Volkswagen Jetta. Listed was the South Battery address on the business card his mother had given Blu.

Gladys remained quiet.

Unlike the clean-cut boy in the photo Cynthia had given him, in this picture Jeremy Rhodes had black hair shaved on one side of his head with the length on top combed over to the other like an upside down mop. It contrasted with pale white skin like his mother’s—obviously not a beach dweller. He also had quite a few piercings: ears, nose, eyebrows, and both cheeks.

Blu pushed the photo back into the envelope. “Thanks.”

“Kid looks like a degenerate, you ask me.”

He hadn’t asked her, but let it go. “How’s your mom?” Last time he spoke with her, she was in the hospital.

“Dead.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Gladys nodded but didn’t reply. Aside from the results of her lethargic and static lifestyle, she really did look much different from when she first walked into his office. Her usual grumpy demeanor aside, he knew she’d become a new woman, quite content with who she was. With her newfound freedom from the abusive husband came what he’d observed to be inner strength.

She said, “One more thing. I checked around. The car’s in impound. Been there a week.”

“Thanks,” he said, “Anything I can do for you?”

She finished another round of slurping, licked her lips, and swallowed. “Nah. I’m good.”

Blu slid out of the booth and was ready to roll when she said, “They got good sandwiches here.”

His first thought was she didn’t want to eat alone. Even though he wanted to get back to the job, he said, “Why don’t we get something to eat? I’m buying.”

She smiled for the first time. “Okay by me.”

After they ate chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, and he listened to her complain about her sister, Blu left the ray of sunshine that was Gladys and drove back into the city.

He wanted to check out the kid’s car, and he knew someone who would give him access, but it was too late in the day. First thing in the morning, he’d make a call.

The feeling Cynthia Rhodes wasn’t telling him everything weighed heavy on him. Gladys had said Jeremy Rhodes looked like a degenerate. It wasn’t his call to make, but Blu wouldn’t hire the kid to pick shells on the beach, much less do anything requiring responsibility. If he was alive, what was the kid doing for money? It wasn’t as if he’d ever had to work for anything.

At suppertime, still an hour before he had to leave to meet Billie, Blu filled the water trough for the horses with a garden hose. His grandfather had made the first mistake a long time ago when he gave one of the animals an apple. Since then, the herd of Carolina Marsh Tackeys, a breed indigenous to the lowcountry, had slowly become family, and caring for them had grown from a novelty to a chore. His father and Cuban mother had continued the practice while they lived there as well. The horses still fed mostly on the vegetation of the property and took care of themselves, the exception being when it froze. During the one week a year it got frigid in the lowcountry, Blu bought a few bales of hay to carry them through. Trying to get them into a barn would be a waste of time. They’d sooner trample him than be corralled.

By the time he finished and put the water hose away, he heard tires on the crushed shell drive.

“Twice in one day,” he said to no one in particular.

He didn’t know how prophetic the statement really was until he watched Cynthia Rhodes’ shiny black Mercedes cut between the trees and pull up next to his old Land Cruiser, as before.

The driver got out of the Mercedes but didn’t open the rear door. Instead, he marched toward Blu. Same dark suit and tie and bright white shirt. He wore sunglasses, just like Blu. It looked like Trigger Rick had come alone this time.

Dink and Doofus kept their distance.

When Trigger Rick got close, Blu said, “Howdy.”

The man didn’t look happy. But then again, he didn’t look happy the first time Blu had met him either. “Howdy yourself, Carraway.” He thumb-pointed to himself. “I could do the job. I’m not sure why Cynthia thought she needed the help of some washed- up dick who hasn’t had a real job in three years.”

Blu didn’t reply. What was there to say?

Trigger Rick continued. “The reason I’m here is because Cynthia wanted a way to be in contact with you.” He reached into his jacket pocket and handed over a smartphone.

“I don’t like those things,” Blu lied. More like he couldn’t afford a smartphone. The service plans required monthly payments, something he hadn’t been in a financial position to commit to in a while.

“Like I care.’”

Blu held it out for the driver to take back. “Still, I can’t accept it.”

“You can and you will.” He retreated to the car. “You think I’m going to go back and tell Cynthia I didn’t give it to you?”

Blu watched the man start the car, turn around, and drive away. Then he looked down at the phone in his hand. It was a nice iPhone.

While he was examining it, the device vibrated in his hands. He almost dropped it.

The name “Cynthia Rhodes” displayed on the screen.

Blu touched the green answer button and held it up to his ear.

“Mr. Carraway?” It was her voice.

“Yes.”

“Good. I hope you don’t think me presumptuous, but I wanted to make sure we had a way of communicating.”

Blu watched as Dink, Doofus, and a mare named Molly Mae drank from the trough. He said, “I appreciate the gesture, but I can’t accept this.”

“I insist.”

“What I mean is I need to get myself one for my business anyway.”

“Consider it a part of our deal and a bonus afterward. It’s unlocked, and I’ve paid forward enough to last the rest of the year.”

He realized he wouldn’t have to worry about getting the landline reconnected. It showed several bars of coverage even on his own slice of paradise located forty minutes away from anywhere else.

She said, “I also managed to get the last four digits to spell out ‘blue.’”

“Oh.”

“That’s okay, isn’t it?” she asked. “I mean, you can use it as a marketing gimmick if you want. You know, like ‘don’t feel blue, call Blue.’”

He wondered how long she’d worked on that one. Hopefully not too long. He decided not to correct her spelling of his name. “I really appreciate the gesture, Ms. Rhodes.”

“Call me Cynthia.”

Her driver had called her Cynthia. How close were they?

He didn’t mention that either. Instead, he said, “Okay. And you can call me Blu.”

“Good.”

“Cynthia?”

“Yes?”

“How long has your driver been working for you?”

“Rick? Around two years. Why?”

If Blu handled this poorly, it could jeopardize being able to continue calling her Cynthia. He said, “Why isn’t he looking for your son? I can tell he believes he’s capable.”

After a pause, she said, “Mr. Carraway. That is precisely why I hired you.”

The call ended.

And Blu wondered if he could still call her Cynthia.

***

Excerpt from In It For The Money by David Burnsworth. Copyright © 2017 by David Burnsworth. Reproduced with permission from David Burnsworth. All rights reserved.

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