First Chapter – Contract for Chaos by Judy Alter

“We got to get outta property management, Kelly, or else I’m gonna blow my stack at someone.”

 

Keisha sipped at her wine, put the glass on the coffee table, and sank back into the couch.

 

Keisha is my office manager, confidante, trouble-shooter, and general all-around angel. She came to my office through a work-study program at an alternative high school, and I’ve blessed the day ever since. Big and black, Keisha is a style show unto herself, specializing in colorful, loose, flowing outfits, spike heels, and equally spiky hair, often tinted to match the outfit of the day. She and her new husband, José, are in their late twenties, whereas Mike and I are pushing uncomfortably close to forty. The age gap makes not one whit of difference in the closeness of our families.

 

I had taken a day out of the office, even though nowadays I was mostly back there, taking twelve-month-old Gracie with me. She had her own Pack ’n Play and almost a complete nursery in one corner of the office. After the kidnapping scare when she as an infant, I still couldn’t bring myself to trust anyone else with her care, except occasionally Keisha and her husband, José. I’ve never left my baby with my mom, who lives just blocks away. That, as you can imagine, is the source of some bitter comments.

 

Today, I just wanted to stay home with my baby. I knew the baby days would pass too quickly. Keisha was reporting on a young man who wanted to rent a house. It was property we managed for a client, not something I would have ever added to our company holdings.

 

“He came in, took one look at me, and asked, ‘Where’s the boss?’ Polite as I could, I said you were out for the day, but I could help him. He looked real displeased, but he told me he and three other ‘men’ wanted to rent that house on Alston. Saw our sign.”

 

I knew the house only too well. It was a square box, two-story, four bedrooms upstairs, living, dining, and kitchen down. The owner was a good client, who had bought and sold much more costly residences through our office, and I didn’t want to alienate her. My suggestion that she sell this property fell on deaf ears, but she did paint and update the kitchen and bathrooms. Still it wasn’t charming or old or Craftsman, not one of the houses that distinguished our historic neighborhood.

 

“I whipped out the form, asked him to fill it out, told him we’d check his references and get back to him, and that we also needed references for his roommates. All this time he stood in front of me like a statue, no smile, no introduction. I indicated the chair by my desk, but he stayed standing. When I said we’d need to meet the other tenants, he looked disdainful.

 

“‘I’m sure that won’t be necessary,’ he said. ‘I’ll discuss it with the realtor when he returns to the office.’ I told him the owner was Ms. Kelly O’Connell, and he got that sour look on his face again.”

 

“I wonder what his problem is,” I said idly. Honest, I was more interested in watching Gracie’s efforts, so far unsuccessful, to pull herself up. It wouldn’t be long, and she’d be standing . . . and then walking. I sort of hated to see my baby grow up.

 

Keisha’s next words pushed Gracie and kidnapping right out of my mind.

 

“Kelly, you know what his problem was. It was me. I’m black. I bet he’s one of those supremacist folks or something. I got a bad feeling about this.”

“We don’t have any supremacist organizations in Fort Worth,” I protested. “I’m sure, but I’ll check with Mike when he comes home.”

 

Mike Shandy, my husband and Gracie’s father, is the division head of the downtown Fort Worth police district. He’s wary of my inquiries and worse into police business, but sometimes I can’t help myself. At least this would be an innocent question, just to prove Keisha wrong. And I made a note to call the young man. “What’s the tenant’s name?”

 

She giggled. “Whitehead. Tom Whitehead. Fits, don’t it?”

 

* * * *

 

Me? I’m Kelly O’Connell, proud mom of Maggie, who turned seventeen just before this school year started and is, gulp, a junior in high school. She’s a star on the basketball court and a good student, a bit shy around the boys, which is why that evening was a big occasion. She was bringing a boyfriend for supper, a new experience for all of us. Maggie’s popularity had grown exponentially when Mike and I gave her a used Honda for her birthday. It wasn’t smart, showy, or any of those things, but it was reliable, safe, and low maintenance. She was thrilled.

 

Then there’s Em, thirteen, and in her first year of high school. Em is a sweet, protective child—and I use that word advisedly. While Maggie shot into high school and its supposed sophistication, Em remained the child who loved to be home. Now she dotes on her baby sister. I dread the day she’ll discover the outside world.

 

Maggie and Em are the children of my first marriage, which I would write off as a total disaster, except that it gave me these two amazing daughters. Their biological father no longer walks this earth, and I am sorry for him that he is missing seeing the girls grow. My husband, the wonderful Mike Shandy, adopted the girls with love in his heart, and he is the only father they know.

 

Baby Gracie got off to a rough start in this world, though she’d never know it. Someone who I’d crossed in my sometimes-misguided efforts to protect others and defend my neighborhood decided to take revenge by threatening to kidnap Gracie. Of course, we didn’t know who it was at first, and for agonizing weeks we lived in a cloud of fear. Mike increased the security system at home, doubled the bolts on the doors, and even asked occasionally for police surveillance. José brought a guard dog, and we prayed a lot. We are out from under that threat now, but it had been a rough patch for me as a mother and for us as a family. It taught us the color of fear, the fact that fear can make the closest families turn on each other. I bless Keisha for holding us together and upright during that ordeal.

We are recovering and trying hard to once again be the happy, cohesive family we had been before fear took over our lives. We still occasionally snap at each other, and I’m not sure when I will ever feel safe with Gracie out of my sight, but little by little we are clawing our way back to normality. That bit of history is one reason I was overly cautious about Maggie’s new boyfriend.

 

Those three girls sound like enough to keep me busy every day, but I am also the owner of Spencer & O’Connell Real Estate. The Spencer was my late husband, proud of what he claimed were aristocratic English ancestors and always a bit scornful of my Irish roots. We specialize in renovating Craftsman houses—I use that pronoun proudly, but it’s just Keisha and me, and we both like it that way. Of course, there’s also my construction manager, designer, and carpenter extraordinaire, Anthony. The three of us focus on the Fairmount Historic District in Fort Worth, Texas and we’ve done enough houses to leave our mark on the neighborhood, in a positive way. But there are plenty of houses left that need our attention—some classic beauties suffering from deferred maintenance, some that have been “updated” in a way that hid or distorted the wonderful features of Craftsman homes. You might call me a lady on a mission.

 

We also buy and sell other properties that come our way in Fairmount and surrounding neighborhoods, and we do property management for a few select clients. That’s how Tom Whitehead landed in our laps.

 

As I watched Gracie and listened to Keisha, a part of my mind was even then on supper. Cooking is not my forte but I’m getting better, and I wanted to fix a special meal. Maggie asked for Doris’ casserole, a dish Keisha had taught us that was meat and tomato sauce, and noodles with sour cream, cream cheese, and green onions, all topped with grated cheddar. One friend calls it American lasagna.

 

By the time Keisha arrived with her tale of woe, the casserole was ready to go in the oven, the salad crisping in the fridge, and bread ready to broil at the last minute. Em had set the table, so I was ready and more than willing to sit for a quiet glass of wine.

 

Keisha declined to stay for supper, though I knew she was busting out of her panties to see the boy Maggie had invited to meet the family. “That’s a big deal,” she said, “when you bring a guy home for dinner. I don’t want to intrude, but you tell me every detail, don’t forget nothing.”

 

“I don’t want to think about a big deal, Keisha. She’s only seventeen.”

 

“Oh, she won’t marry him. Don’t worry.”

 

“You’re welcome to stay for supper, since José is working. You know that.” José is the night patrol officer in our neighborhood, commonly called the NPO for Neighborhood Police Officer. He usually works from three to eleven or thereabouts.

 

She laughed, that deep, hearty laugh. “Baby girl would think I’m spying on her. Naw, I won’t ruin your dinner party.”

 

Before I could ask if her sixth sense had kicked in or not, she turned serious. “And, Kelly, let me handle Mr. Tom Whitehead. You don’t be running interference.”

 

My mouth was still open when she waltzed out the door.

 

* * * *

Dave Tucker was, at best, a nice looking but unremarkable young man, and I couldn’t understand why Maggie chose him. But then I remembered some of the boys I’d subjected my folks to and the fact that I chose from a limited field—boys were much more interested in cheerleaders and party girls than in the shy bookworm that was me. Of course, I saw Maggie as neither shy nor overly studious, but who knew how she came across at school. Besides, who can understand teenage attractions? Not me.

Maggie buys her clothes, with my approval, mostly from online boutiques these days. Dave’s shirt and jeans looked like they’d come from J. C. Penney or Sears, and while they were clean, they were rumpled and wrinkled. His hair was just a bit too long, but his face was scrubbed and his fingernails clean. Yeah, I notice details. If he’d worn glasses I would definitely have classified him as nerdy. Maggie was wearing glasses these days, because she finally confessed she had a hard time seeing the blackboard at school. She wore what she called her “geek glasses.”

 

When Maggie and Dave came in after school, I gave them lemonade and sent them out to the yard to play with Clyde, our dog. It was a smart move, because they were still outside when Mike came home. Em and Gracie were in the living room, so I corralled Mike in the kitchen.

“Remember, Maggie brought a friend home for supper tonight.”

 

Judy Alter is the award-winning author of three mysteries series: Kelly O’Connell Mysteries: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, Danger Comes Home, Deception in Strange Places, Desperate for Death, and The Color of Fear; three in the Blue Plate Café Series: Murder at the Blue Plate Café, Murder at the Tremont House, and Murder at Peacock Mansion; and two Oak Grove Mysteries: The Perfect Coed and Pigface and the Perfect Dog. She is also the author of historical fiction based on lives of women in the nineteenth-century American West, including Libbie, Jessie, Cherokee Rose, Sundance, Butch, and Me, and The Gilded Cage, and she has also published several young-adult novels, now available on Amazon..

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame.

Judy is retired as director of TCU Press, the mother of four grown children, and the grandmother of seven. She and her dog, Sophie, live in Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Follow her at (Amazon) http://www.amazon.com/Judy-Alter/e/B001H6NMU6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1377217817&sr=1-2-ent;

her blog: http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com;

and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857

 

Buy link for Contract for Chaos:

https://www.amazon.com/Contract-Chaos-OConnell-Mysteries-Number/dp/0996993509/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1535316347&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=contract+for+chaos

 

Buy link for Murder at the Bus Depot:

 

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A CHARACTER IN SEARCH OF A STORY by Jackie Minniti

Every so often, a character takes up residence in a writer’s mind and refuses to leave until his story is told. That’s what happened to me with my latest novel, One Small Spark. I really had no intention of writing another middle grade historical, but an eleven-year-old boy who lived in Boston in the 1760s had a different idea.

This is how I got to know Christopher Seider.

I’d learned in elementary school that Crispus Attucks was the first casualty of the American Revolution, so imagine my surprise when I found out that I’d been mistaken for more than fifty years. It happened one evening while I was channel surfing and came across a program on National Geographic titled Legends and Lies: The Patriots. I’m not sure what it was about the show that caught my attention, but I put down the remote and settled in to watch it. The storyline focused on the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. Boston was in crisis.  Part of the population wanted to break away from England , but not enough were actually willing to take up arms. The colonists were engaged in a boycott of British goods that was taking its toll on the English economy. Samuel and John Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock, and some other patriots had formed a secret society known as the Sons of Liberty to try to foment anti-British sentiment. They recruited a gang of boys to harass merchants who broke the boycott and vandalize their businesses. British soldiers were occupying the city because of the unrest, which added to the colonists’ outrage.

Enter young Christopher Seider. The son of poor German immigrants, Christopher was working as a servant in the home of Grizell Apthorp, a wealthy widow. On a cold February day, Christopher had joined a gang of boys who were demonstrating against a local merchant named Theophilus Lillie. Lillie had spoken out against the non-importation boycott and became the target of the Sons of Liberty, who enlisted some of the neighborhood ruffians to teach him a lesson. No one is certain why  Christopher was present in the protest. Was he a political ally, a curious kid, or just someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? While his motive is lost to history, his decision turned out to be deadly.

Ebenezer Richardson, a man of ill-repute and a known British informant, tried to intervene on Lillie’s behalf. The gang followed him home and began pelting his house with snowballs and rocks. When an upstairs window broke, Richardson fired his musket into the crowd, injuring one boy and mortally wounding Christopher. When news of this tragedy began to spread, the colonists were enraged. The Sons of Liberty saw this as a perfect opportunity to promote their cause. Newspapers throughout the colonies recounted in heart-breaking detail the final moments of Christopher’s life. When Christopher was laid to rest in the Granary Burying Ground, over two thousand Bostonians attended his funeral. Speeches were made by local dignitaries touting the bravery of the little lad. More than 500 schoolboys walked in a procession behind his coffin, which bore a velvet drape with a Latin inscription that read, “The serpent lurks in the grass. The fatal dart is thrown. Innocence is nowhere safe.” written in Latin. By the time the sun set on February 26, 1770, the colonists were ready to take the final step toward armed revolt. A week later, five Bostonians, including Crispus Attucks, were killed in what became known as the Boston Massacre, and the American Revolution was underway.

When I clicked off the television, I was amazed that I’d never heard of Christopher Seider. How could someone so pivotal to our country’s past become lost to history?  When I went to bed that night, Christopher whispered to me in my dreams, and I knew then I’d have to tell his story.

The next day, I began my research and discovered that, while there were accounts of Christopher’s death and mentions of him in some history books, no one had written a book about him. Since he was the perfect age for a middle grade novel, I decided to write for that audience. This led to a thorny problem. I knew I couldn’t make Christopher the focal character because he would eventually be killed, and that’s not something that would sit well with younger readers. After thinking about this for a few days, I decided to tell the story from the point of view of a boy who became his friend. I thought Christopher would like that. And as I wrote, the Christopher Seider in my head began to come to life on paper. When I finally typed The End, I could almost see Christopher jump from my head into my pages. I hope his story will be an inspiration to young readers, and I’m glad that they won’t have to wait fifty years (like I did) to meet this important young man.

 

Jackie is currently a columnist for The Island Reporter in St. Petersburg. She is a member of the Florida Writers Association, the Bay Area Professional Writers Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Several of her stories have been included in Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. She lives on Treasure Island with her husband, John, and two noisy macaws and enjoys reading, walking on the beach, boating, and visiting her three children and six grandchildren in New Jersey. Jackie has been a featured speaker at schools, book clubs, women’s clubs, and libraries and writes a blog featuring Florida writers (www.fabulousfloridawriters.blogspot.com.She can be reached through her website: http://www.jackieminniti.com.

Website URL: http://www.jackieminniti.com

Blog URL: http://www.fabulousfloridawriters.blogspot.com

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/Jackie-Minniti-writer-125991605555/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jackieminniti

Skype: jackie.minniti

 

Barnes & Noble buy link for Jacqueline:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/jacqueline-jackie-minniti/1122339883?ean=9780996329088

 

Amazon buy link for Jacqueline:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011SCVPJS?keywords=jacqueline%20minniti&qid=1452463585&ref_=sr_1_1&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Spotlight: Death’s Favorite Child by Frankie Y. Bailey

Death’s Favorite Child

By Frankie Y. Bailey

 

ISBN-10: 1628158026

ISBN-13: 978-1628158021

Speaking Volumes, LLC

Paperback: 318 pages

November 30, 2017, $16.95

Genre: Romantic suspense

Series: A Lizzie Stuart Mystery

 

When They Met, Murder Was Only the Beginning

 

African-American, 38, a crime historian, Lizzie Stuart has spent most of her life in Drucilla, Kentucky. When her grand­mother dies, Lizzie decides it is time for a vacation. She joins her best friend, Tess, a travel writer, for a week in Cornwall, England, in the resort town of St. Regis. Lizzie finds her vacation anything but restful when she becomes an eyewitness to murder and the probable next victim.

 

Criminologist Frankie Bailey has five books and two published short stories in a mystery series featuring crime historian Lizzie Stuart. The Red Queen Dies, the first book in a near-future police procedural series featuring Detective Hannah McCabe, came out in September, 2013.  The second book in the series, What the Fly Saw came out in March 2015. Frankie is a former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime.

Website URL: http://www.frankieybailey.com

Twitter:  @FrankieYBailey

 

 

Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Deaths-Favorite-Lizzie-Stuart-Mystery/dp/1628158026/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1526180479&sr=1-2

 

Spotlight: Murder at the Bus Depot by Judy Alter

Judy Alter is the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, four books in the Blue Plate Café Mysteries; and two in the Oak Grove Mysteries. Pigface and the Perfect Dog follows The Perfect Coed in this series of mysteries set on a university campus. Judy is no stranger to college campuses. She attended the University of Chicago, Truman State University in Missouri, and Texas Christian University, where she earned a Ph.D. and taught English. For twenty years, she was director of TCU Press, the book publishing program of the university. The author of many books for both children and adults primarily on women of the American West, she retired in 2010 and turned her attention to writing contemporary cozy mysteries.

She holds awards from the Western Writers of America, the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Texas Institute of Letters. She was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and recognized as an Outstanding Woman of Fort Worth and a woman who has left her mark on Texas. Western Writers of America gave her the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement and will induct her into its Hall of Fame in June 2015.

The single parent of four and the grandmother of seven, she lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her perfect dog, Sophie. Follow her at (Amazon) http://www.amazon.com/Judy-Alter/e/B001H6NMU6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1377217817&sr=1-2-ent; her blog: http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com; and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857

 

Murder at the Bus Depot

By Judy Alter

 

ASIN: B078WFDJPR

Alter Ego Press

Print Length: 220 pages

April 6, 2018

Genre: Mystery

Series: Blue Plate Café Mystery 4

 

Also available in Kindle format

 

 

Is the depot a symbol of the worst episode in a town’s history or does it stand for revitalization, bringing the citizens of Wheeler together with pride in their community?

Kate Chamber’s trouble antenna goes up when Dallas developer Silas Fletcher decides to help “grow” Wheeler. She and her brother-in-law, Mayor Tom Bryson, have less spectacular and drastic ideas for revitalizing the town. When Old Man Jackson dies in an automobile accident, the specter of the past comes back to haunt the town. Thirty years ago, Jackson’s daughter, Sallie, was murdered at the bus depot. The murder is still unsolved.

Kate and Silas clash over almost everything, from the future use of the abandoned depot to a fall festival celebrating Wheeler. Another murder at the depot blows the town apart, and Kate knows she must do something to solve the murders and save her town, let alone the festival she’s planning.

 

Other books in the series:

Murder at the Blue Plate Café

Murder at the Tremont House

Murder at Peacock Mansion

Spotlight: Flying Jenny by Theasa Tuohy

Theasa Tuohy is a long-time journalist who has happily turned her life experiences and reporting skills to fiction featuring female reporters. She is the daughter and namesake of a pioneering pilot who flew an old-World War I “Jenny” with an OX-5 engine. Theasa worked for five daily newspapers and the Associated Press. Her “first woman” stints included assistant city editor at The Detroit News and the copy desk at The (Newark) Star Ledger.

 

Her first novel, The Five O’Clock Follies, was published in 2012. Flying Jenny came out May 1, 2018. She is currently working on a mystery series set in Paris and is co-author of the book for “Lawrence,” an award-winning musical about the life of D. H. Lawrence.

She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and lives in Manhattan.

 

Flying Jenny

By Theasa Tuohy

 

ISBN-10: 1617756210

ISBN-13: 978-1617756214

Kaylie Jones Books

Paperback: 288 pages

May 1, 2018, $15.99

Genre: Fiction

 

Also available for Kindle and Nook

 

People are doing all sorts of screwy things in 1929. It is a time of hope, boundless optimism, and prosperity. “Blue Skies” is the song on everyone’s lips. The tabloids are full of flagpole sitters, flappers, and marathon dancers. Ever since Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic solo, the entire world has gone nuts over flying. But everyone agrees that the stunt pilots take the cake.

Jenny Flynn defies the odds and conventions in her pursuit of the sky. She attracts the attention of Laura Bailey, a brash reporter crashing through her own glass ceiling at a New York City newspaper. Laura chases the pilot’s story–and the truth about her own mysterious father–on a barnstorming escapade from Manhattan to the Midwest.

Flying Jenny offers a vivid portrait of an earlier time when airplanes drew swarming crowds entranced by the pioneers–male and female–of flight.

Theasa Logan Tuohy, the author’s mother.

“The heroes and heroines and the characters Tuohy brings to life in the book were derived from tales told to her by her mother, the daring, petite fire-cracker female pilot (named Theasa as well), who was a contemporary of Will Rogers and friend of Wiley Post, the first pilot to fly solo around the world.”
Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine

“It is August 1929, and this romp through the early days of women’s aviation history arrives with all the immediacy of a late-night edition. Theasa Tuohy memorably limns the adventures of not one but two pioneering women. Debutante pilot Jenny Flynn and cub reporter Laura Bailey carry the spunk of Thelma & Louise to new heights as they fight for space in the cockpit and the city room.”
Janet Groth, author of The Receptionist: An Education at The New Yorker

https://www.theasatuohy.com/

Spotlight on Honey Baked Homicide by Gayle Leesom

The owner of a delightful Southern café tastes the sharp sting of suspicion in this delectable comfort food mystery . . .
 
It’s fall in Winter Garden, Virginia, and business at Amy Flowers’ Down South Café has never been better. So when struggling beekeeper Stuart Landon asks Amy to sell some of his honey, she’s happy to help. The jars of honey are a sweet success, but their partnership is cut short when Amy discovers Landon’s body outside the café early one morning.
 
As Amy tries to figure out who could possibly have wanted to harm the unassuming beekeeper, she discovers an ever-expanding list of suspects—and they’re all buzzing mad. She’ll have to use all of her skills—and her Southern charm—to find her way out of this sticky situation…

Excerpt from HONEY-BAKED HOMICIDE by Gayle Leeson

 

We were on our way back home when we saw an old pickup truck speeding in the direction of Landon’s Farm. In fact, it appeared to be Mr. Landon’s truck, but neither Ryan nor I could see well enough in the dark to determine if it was.

Ryan drove until there was a wide enough space on the shoulder of the road to pull over. Then he took out his cell phone and called the police station.

“Hi, it’s Ryan. I’m out on Route 11 just outside of Winter Garden. What appeared to be an antique Chevy truck just passed me going in the opposite direction. The vehicle is speeding, and I’d like for you to alert the officer on call—maybe contact the county dispatch as well.”

He ended the call and placed the phone back in the car’s center console.

“I’d hate for Mr. Landon to get a speeding ticket,” I said.

“We’re not sure that was Mr. Landon . . . or even if that was his truck. If it was, whoever was driving it took the expression drive it like you stole it to heart and deserves a ticket.”

“I hadn’t thought of that—that it could be his truck but not him driving. Maybe someone did steal Mr. Landon’s truck. How awful.”

Ryan picked up my hand and kissed it. “We don’t know anything for sure right now. Given what we know about Mr. Landon, I doubt that was him or his truck.”

“But we don’t know for sure. There could be something wrong. Let’s turn around and drive out to Mr. Landon’s place to see if we can help.”

“We can’t. I’m off duty, and we’ve already sent help his way. If anything’s wrong, the police will get Mr. Landon the help he needs.”

“I hope so,” I said. “I’ve got a really bad feeling about this. I can’t imagine Mr. Landon ever speeding down the road like that.”

“Would it make you feel better to call the man?”

“No. He might think I was crazy to call him at this time of night to ask him if he was speeding down the road. And like you said, it probably wasn’t him . . . or his truck.”

When I arrived at the café the next morning, I was surprised to see Stu Landon’s truck haphazardly parked at the far right corner of the lot. I took my usual spot in the parking space farthest away from the front door to the left of the building. Gathering my keys and purse and stepping out of the car, I could see Mr. Landon sitting in the driver’s seat of his truck. I gave him a smile and a wave, wishing he’d have let me know he’d planned on being here this early so I wouldn’t have kept him waiting.

He didn’t wave back, and I wondered if he was angry. Or maybe he hadn’t seen me. Then again, he could simply be preoccupied.

I unlocked the door, put my purse under the counter, and waited for Mr. Landon to bring in the honey I’d requested yesterday. When he hadn’t come inside after a couple of minutes, I went to check on him. Maybe he really hadn’t seen me arrive . . . or noticed my car in the parking lot. Unlikely, but I guess it was possible.

I walked over to Mr. Landon’s truck. No wonder he hadn’t seen me. His straw hat had slid down over his eyes. Had he been waiting on me for so long he’d fallen asleep?

I rapped my knuckles lightly on the window. “Mr. Landon?”

When he didn’t respond, I knocked a little harder. Still, no response. I was getting concerned. What if Mr. Landon had suffered a stroke or something?

I heard a car pull into the lot. I glanced over my shoulder and was glad to see Luis parking beside my Beetle. Luis was our busboy and dishwasher. He could help me get Mr. Landon out of the truck and inside the café if need be.

After knocking on the window again and still getting no response from Mr. Landon, I carefully opened the door of the truck. Mr. Landon began sliding out onto the pavement. Was that blood on his shirt?

“Luis! Can you help me?”

I heard Luis’s feet pounding the pavement as he ran to us. “What’s going on?” He gasped. “Amy, he’s bleeding.”

“I see that. And right now, he’s falling out of the truck. Could you help me get him?”

“I don’t think we should. Let’s put him back inside the truck and call for help.” He stepped between the door and Mr. Landon and gently pushed the man toward the passenger side of the truck.

Mr. Landon fell over and I could see that his throat had been cut. I was barely aware that I was screaming until I felt Luis’s hands on my shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s anything we can do for him,” he said. “Let’s get you inside.”

“No. No, we have to stay with him. We have to wait here until help comes.”

I heard Luis talking, but it wasn’t to me. He’d called 9-1-1.

“Thank you,” I said as he returned his phone to his pocket.

“You shouldn’t be looking at this.” He gently turned me away from Mr. Landon’s truck. “The man is dead.”

We walked a few feet away from the truck.

“You’re shaking,” he said. “You need to sit down.”

He needed to sit as badly as I did. Still, I wasn’t about to leave Mr. Landon until after the paramedics arrived.

“I’m fine,” I told him, knowing fully well that neither of us was fine.

I was relieved when I heard sirens approaching. Poor Mr. Landon was almost out of my incapable care.

Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent. I also write as Amanda Lee. As Gayle Trent, I write the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series. As Amanda Lee, I write the Embroidery Mystery series.

 

I live in Virginia with my family, which includes her own “Angus” who is not an Irish wolfhound but a Great Pyrenees who provides plenty of inspiration for the character of Mr. O’Ruff. I’m having a blast writing this new series!

The Last Deception by DV Berkom

What is The Last Deception about?

The Last Deception is the latest Leine Basso crime thriller, which pits the former assassin against a Russian general in the GRU, with help from a billionaire arms dealer. As with the other books in the series, the settings are international with scenes in Moscow, Athens, and Washington, DC. This time, though, instead of working a case for the anti-trafficking organization, SHEN, Leine learns of a deception that could lead to nuclear war, and must try to convince the powers that be to take her warning seriously. Here’s the blurb:

Lies. Deception. A nation on the brink of war.

In the Cold War, you knew who your friends and enemies were. In war today, there’s no difference. Just when Leine Basso thinks she’s free from the business of murder and deception, a desperate call from a friend drags her back into the dark world of espionage and arms dealers.

Leine uncovers information that implicates a well-known Russian businessman in a horrendous deception that affects national security and could have global repercussions. It’s up to the former assassin to persuade the powers that be to ignore the obvious and trust her, or disregard the information and bring the world to the brink of a devastating war. Can she make it in time to stop The Last Deception?

 

Why did you choose The Last Deception for the title?

 

I was looking for something that communicated how dire the choices in the novel would be, and also give a hint to its espionage component. Readers who have followed Leine through the series have come to expect a certain kind of thriller (e.g., anti-trafficking, smuggling, organized crime, etc.) but I wanted to take her in a different direction and bring back some recurring characters from her early life. Since she used to work as a black ops assassin and has been attempting to cut all ties from her former life, I thought it was time for her former bosses to return and try to drag her back into that world.

 

Why an espionage novel?

 

Why not? Ever since I discovered spy novels at the age of nine, I’ve devoured as many as I can get my hands on. Maybe it’s the heart-in-your-throat, mortal danger of a double-cross, or maybe it’s the twisted logic of the end justifying the means that accompanies so many of the operations I’ve studied and read about—agents, double agents, lies, deception, tricks, and games, many of them deadly, all to achieve some end. It’s endlessly fascinating, and way too much fun to write.

 

You mention a terrorist organization called Izz Al-Din in the book. Are they real? And what do they have to do with Russia?

 

No, Izz Al-Din is entirely fictional, but certainly based on terrorist groups operating in the world today. Bringing Russia into the mix was a natural, especially when you consider both the US and Russia have fought proxy wars against each other using various warring factions. It’s certainly not a stretch to imagine the events that happen in the book.

 

How do you research this stuff? Have you ever worked as an assassin?

 

I’m sorry but if I told you, I’d have to kill you…

 

Seriously, though, when I first started writing about organized crime and assassins, I’d traveled a lot and had some understanding of how things worked, but certainly not enough. So, I quickly began my search for people who would be able to fill in the blanks for me. In the course of writing these books, I’ve met some amazing people, many of whom I never would have had the opportunity to know if it wasn’t for the wonders of social media and networking with other authors. I’m lucky in that I find people fascinating—what drives them? what makes them who they are? and I believe I communicate that when I approach folks for information. I love to put myself into another person’s shoes, especially someone with an entirely different worldview than my own. I’ve been fortunate to have interviewed and worked with some amazing folks, many of whom were generous in sharing detailed aspects of their lives. Serendipity has played a role in my research, too. The perfect contact always seems to appear just when I need them.

 

What’s next for Leine?

 

Currently I’m working on the as-yet unnamed Leine Basso thriller #7. I’ve got a new antagonist for this book, one who is unlike any of Leine’s previous nemeses. It’s sure to be a page-turner, and quite explosive, if I do say so myself.

 

When will The Last Deception be available?

 

The Last Deception is available for pre-order right now across all platforms for $2.99 (USD), with a publication date of September 20. (The price will increase at that time.) Go to http://www.dvberkom.com/tld/ to find out more.

 

To connect with me online:

 

Website: http://www.dvberkom.com

 

Blog: http://dvberkom.blogspot.com

 

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

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dvberkom

 

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/dvberkom/

 

Google+: google.com/+DVBerkom

 

Instagram: https://instagram.com/dvberkom/

 

Amazon Author Page:

US: http://amzn.to/oMUb1Z

 

UK: http://amzn.to/pBwClD

 

Smashwords Profile: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/dvberkom