While waiting for my editor to finish Return to the Stars I started a new novel, or more likely a novella. It is suspense story concerning kidnapping and the sex slave trade. I am about three fourths of the way through it now so it should be out within a few weeks. I am posting a sample from it here today and would love any comments on it. So here is the first chapter of my so far untitled suspense story.
Water splashed away from Dean’s boots as he walked down the dark alley. He was filled with frustration and didn’t care that he was getting his pants wet or that the bottom few inches of his long coat were soaked. All he could think about was Eve and the way she had thrown him out. She had screamed, “I never want to see you again!” so loud he was sure the whole building must have heard and he hated that. He was a private person and didn’t want the world knowing his problems. He reached the end of the alley and turned up the wet street. Raising his head a little so he could see more than three feet in front of him he dumped water off his hat and it went down his back. Great that makes me feel better, he thought. All he had done was be an hour late for their date. So what if he had spent the time with a woman. It was business and he had to see her or lose a lot of money. He had found what she was looking for and he needed to collect the money. That was how he made a living. Finding things for people. And she was mad at him for making a living. It wasn’t his fault the woman had shown her appreciation with a kiss. He smiled. It had been a good kiss too. If he had just remembered to wipe the lipstick off he would be on his way out to dinner with Eve now.
Realizing he had passed his street he turned around and headed back the way he had come. Retracing his steps for half a block he noticed movement on the other side of the road. Someone had stepped back into the shadows of an entrance. Now what he grumbled in his head. Turning the corner onto the street he wanted Dean continued for two blocks before he stopped to tie his boot lace, or at least he pretended to. Getting a look back down the wet pavement he saw the form move into the shadows again. This time he got a better look but still didn’t know who it was. Just that it was a tall person in dark clothing, with long hair. That didn’t even tell him if it was male or female.
Straightening up he went on his way trying to listen for footsteps but could hear none. He was in a bad mood and didn’t want to deal with this tonight. He kept going past his rundown building and on down the street to a small diner he ate at stepping in out of the rain. Removing his hat and long coat he hung them on a hook by the door and sat down at the worn counter.
“Evening, Dean,” the man behind the counter nodded to him. The short unshaven man was wearing an apron that used to be white and a faded ball cap that said Roy’s on it.
“Evening, Roy,” Dean returned. Looking the board behind the counter over he tried to decide what to eat. He didn’t need to read the menu, he knew what was on it from eating here several times a week. Starring at the list for a while he finally said, “Number five, Roy, and coffee.”
Roy nodded and went back into the tiny kitchen. Glancing around while he waited Dean saw a handful of regulars and two people in the end booth he hadn’t seen before. That was about normal. Roy served good food at reasonable cost but most people kept it a secret so the place wouldn’t get too popular. Roy was fine with that since he made a decent living but didn’t have to hire more help or expand. He was happy with things the way they were. As he looked around the small diner Dean also glanced through the large front window and out into the wet street. Through the drizzle he could just make out the tall form of his follower standing in a doorway across the empty street.
Hearing a plate settle on the counter he turned to a meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, and green beans. Roy was pouring him a cup of freshly made coffee that smelled delicious. “Thanks,” he said and started eating. He had taken about three bites when he realized Roy was still there. Glancing up he saw the man had an amused look on his unshaven face.
“What?” Dean questioned.
“Not going out with Eve this evening, huh?” the man in the apron asked.
“The only thing that ever puts you in the mood you look to be in is Eve,” the cook stated. “Did she throw you out?”
“Not that it’s any of your business but yes,” Dean growled.
“I don’t blame her,” Roy chuckled as he wiped off the counter with a wet towel.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”Dean looked up at the man with irritation.
“That lipstick on your face isn’t her shade. You should look in a mirror once in a while,” the cook told him with a smile.
Picking up the stainless steel napkin dispenser next to him he looked at his reflection and saw the smear next to his mouth. Wiping it off he said, “Thanks” and went back to his meal. Roy walked off to refill a coffee cup for another customer laughing all the way.
Managing to steal two more glances across the street as he finished his meal he saw that his tail was still there. Downing his second cup of coffee he dropped a ten dollar bill on the counter and stood up. “See ya, Roy,” he called to the cook and headed for the door. Putting his wet hat and coat back on he stepped out into the light rain and headed home. The shadowy figure followed him the three blocks to his building.
Entering his room he went to the window and checked outside without turning on a light. His tail was still there standing in the alley across the street. Shaking his head he hung his coat and hat on the rack without turning on a light. No sense showing them which room was his. Stripping off his wet clothes he lay back in the recliner and pulled an old blanket over him. He picked up his gun and closed his eyes. If they wanted to come in after him for some reason he would be ready. There was no sense in staying awake to wait though. He was used to trouble like this and was a light sleeper.
Deans eyes popped open but it took a minute for his mind to catch up. When it did he remembered where he was and why he held his gun. There must have been some kind of noise close by for him to awaken like this. Without moving his head Dean looked at the digital clock on the other side of the room. Two o’clock. He had only been asleep for an hour. He could tell there was someone else in the room with him. He didn’t know how but he could sense them. He could feel their presence somehow. Shifting his finger to the safety on his automatic he readied himself for sudden action but then froze when he felt the blade of a very sharp knife suddenly press against his throat.
“Set it on the table,” a husky voice said in his ear. He could feel his attackers breath on the side of his face as she spoke. He could just make out a flowery scent like the kind a woman’s shampoo might leave. It didn’t matter if it was a man or woman who held the knife. It was against his throat and he was going to obey. Slowly moving his arm he lay the automatic on the table next to the recliner. When he had settled back in the chair he felt the knife move as his attacker shifted her weight to reach for the gun. For an instant he considered trying to break free but if he startled her she might cut his throat unintentionally. She hadn’t killed him immediately so she must want something. He would have to wait and see what that was before he tried to escape.
“Don’t move until I tell you to,” the voice said as the knife left his throat. He heard her moving in the room but couldn’t pinpoint her location. Then he heard the rustle of the blinds being moved as if to look out into the street. After a few seconds the voice told him,”Ok, turn on the light next to you.” Reaching up slowly to the lamp on the table he slid the switch and after a slight hesitation a soft light bathed the room, increasing slowly to full brightness. He hated these new fluorescent bulbs. He was going to have to see if he could find some of the incandescent bulbs somehow. The shadowy shape that had been following him moved into his vision bringing his thoughts back to the problem at hand.
She was tall even in the flat soled shoes she was wearing. He could tell she had an athletic build but that was all he could see in the dim light. She had on a long black hooded coat. that covered her from head to mid calf.
“Well?” he asked,rubbing his throat and then checking his hand for blood. “What’s this about. Why are you sneaking into my room and holding a knife to my throat?”
“I’m sorry about that,” the husky voice spoke from under the shadows of the hood. “I don’t know you and didn’t want to risk anything.” She paused for a second before continuing. “I want to hire you.”
“And why would I want to work for someone who puts a knife to my throat?” he asked.
“For money,” the husky voice said, “Lot’s of it.”
He sat looking at the shadowy form for a few seconds, then said, “I’m listening.” He could use lots of money. Money was good.
“I was told that you find things for people. I need you to find something for me and I’m willing to pay well. How much do you normally charge?”
“That depends,” he answered. He wanted to find out what she was willing to pay before he gave her a price. “If it’s something small and local, not too much. If it’s something larger or involves travel then I charge more. If there’s much danger involved the price really goes up. And having a knife to my throat is something I consider danger, so the price has already gone up.”
“Fine,” she growled. “I’ll pay you five thousand, and if it takes longer than a week we can negotiate for more then.”
Dean swallowed hard and he tried not to show surprise. Five thousand dollars was a lot of money. He was lucky to make that in two months and she was willing to pay that much for a week. It scared him too. That much money meant danger. How much danger he was going to have to find out. “What is it you want me to find?” he asked. “And who’s going to try to kill me for looking?”
“A necklace with a small locket on it. It’s a family heirloom that was stolen and I want it back. As for the danger involved I guess that depends on who stole it, and how you go about getting it back. I’m willing to pay whoever has it much more than it’s worth.”
“What about the police?” Dean asked. “Aren’t they trying to find it?”
“It’s not high on there list of priorities,” she answered. “After a while they stop trying and the file gets buried. After two years they don’t really care anymore.”
“Two years!” he exclaimed. “You expect me to find a necklace after two years? How am I supposed to do that?”
“That’s your problem.” she told him. “I was told if anyone could do it you could. Now, do you want the job or not?”
It was unlikely he could find a small necklace after two years but he was intrigued now and it was a lot of money. Also he was curious as to what this shadowy woman looked like and if he turned her down she would leave and he would never know. “Ok,” he told her, “I’ll give it a try. I need half the money up front and you still have to reimburse me for my expenses.”
The woman stood silently for a minute and then said, “Agreed.” Reaching into the side pocket of her coat she produced an envelope. Tossing it into his lap she said, “There’s five thousand in there. Keep your receipts and if I think they are reasonable I’ll pay for them. There is a number written on the inside. Text me if you find it. And don’t just tell me you found it at some pawn shop somewhere. I want to know who stole it. I’ll contact you in a week if I don’t hear from you.”
She moved as if to leave and he asked,”How do I know what it looks like?”
“Look in the envelope,” the husky voice told him and she headed for the door. As she turned the light shown under her hood for a second and he caught a glimpse of full lips, green eyes and long black hair. She was extraordinarily beautiful. He starred at her as she went to the door and opened it slightly, checking the hallway before she stepped through and was gone.
He sat for a minute letting the events of the past few minutes sink in. He had five thousand dollars sitting in his lap and possibly more to come. From the way she spoke and the brand of coat she was wearing he could tell this woman was well off. If he pulled this off then maybe he could get more high dollar business. Maybe a nicer place to live and better car. He would have to see if he could milk this for a second week and get a little more money from this woman. Don’t get ahead of yourself, Dean. He shook himself. You have to find this thing first.
Raising the recliner up into a sitting position he flipped up the little metal tabs and opened the yellow envelope. Reaching in he pulled out a stack of hundred dollar bills with a rubber band around them. With an involuntary smile he held it for a minute and then set it on the table. He saw the phone number on the inside of the envelope flap and pulling out his cell phone he entered it into the phone book and hit save. Something small was rattling around so he dumped it out into his hand. It was a small flash drive. Getting up from the chair he stepped over to his small desk and hit the power button on his laptop setting the flash drive next to it.
Crossing to the fridge he got out a bottle of water and opened it drinking half of it in one gulp. He was glad his throat still worked. While waiting for the computer to boot he went to the window and looked carefully at the street below. It was still drizzling and there was no sign of the shadowy figure that had just left his room. Returning to his desk he plugged the drive into the usb port and waited for it to open. When it did there was only one file on it and it was a video. Opening his favorite open source media player he dragged the file to it and watched it start up. The file appeared to be a clip from a video taken for insurance purposes. It was only a few seconds long showing the necklace and locket being lifted from a jewelry box and turned around to show all sides. There was no sound so it must have been stripped from the video file. Re viewing the clip he froze it at an appropriate spot and printed out the frozen frame showing the necklace and locket from the front.
Shutting the computer down he took the flash drive and four thousand of the cash and put it in a plastic storage bag. He put the other thousand in his wallet and then took the plastic bag to the kitchen. Opening the cabinet under the sink he taped the bag to the back of it behind the sink bowl. Returning to the other room he picked his gun up from the chair the woman had set it in before she left. Settling back in the recliner again he glanced at the clock. Three o’clock. Lying back he closed his eyes and fell instantly asleep.