Enjoy this short story!
The leggy blond sauntered down the long staircase one carefully measured step at a time. Angelique Leone the iconic bombshell with the curvaceous silhouette and come hither pout that adorned many soldiers walls, was in her third day of shooting. She was headlining in her second motion picture for Sandstone pictures of a four movie deal contract. The studio had pumped a ton of money into the flick and even more money into her glamorization makeover. Angelique Leone’s name on her birth certificate which was stashed discreetly away in her father’s safe in Texas, was Jane Lenny; not exactly a top billing box office name.
She arrived in Hollywood at twenty years of age with ten dollars in her pocket and a prayer to land any kind of studio contract until a friend in the business revealed to her the real game. It was a hard lesson and one Jane wasn’t happy to learn. Crying alone in her small rundown apartment after losing her virginity to a fat balding casting director on the proverbial casting couch, she contemplated suicide. Returning home would only garner her shame for her actions.
The call came that evening just moments before she was ready to swallow a handful of pills with the joyous news of a studio contract. Apparently the casting director liked her ‘audition’ and recommended her for a small role in a new movie. If the camera agreed with her she would be considered for a larger role in the next one. The meeting she had with the movie’s director the next morning would change her life forever, 1940 was going to be her year. The first thing he did was give her a new name, a name that would soon be synonymous with sultry sensuality and unbridled sex, a name that went before a team of studio execs to be decided upon and a name she was not allowed to have a choice in deciding.
“Cut!” the grumpy red faced director Ronald Sizemore yelled. “Damn it! Who’s to dumb fuck that put this stupid plant at the bottom of the stairs? Get it out of here.” He kicked the fake potted plants over. “Everybody take five!”
Angelique threw her hands up in the air and marched down the stairs. “How many times are we going to do this? My feet are tired!” She flipped her long platinum blond hair from her shoulders.
The 6’2” stoutly director glared at her. “You’ll do it as many times as I want you to. Don’t forget your place!”
Her place was becoming one of more influence thanks to her overnight meteoric rise in celebrity and he knew it. He hated the idea that this shy little Texan girl was learning how to wrestle control in a male dominated industry.
“I’m going to lie down. I’ll be in my dressing room alone.” She emphasized loudly.
“Lay off the pills today.” He barked back. His brown eyes angrily dared her to disobey.
She turned on her heel sashaying off the set and into the early afternoon sun. Donning her sunglasses she made her way across the studio lot and hopped on a golf cart heading to her private oasis, the dressing room she demanded without hesitation as her star power started to shine. It was a dangerous game of wills and she knew it. The studio machine had the power to make or break her if she didn’t play her cards right, a heady position for a twenty two year old who gained a lifetime of wisdom in the eighteen months since that fateful audition.
Her dressing room was decorated in all pinks, every shade available was represented. From the deep pink special ordered carpeting to the bubblegum lampshades. She hated pink. Angelique was simply sticking it to the studio for what she considered rape by the fat, nasty smelling casting director. The temporary dressing room cost about as much as a new car to redecorate. Ironically the more she misbehaved the more her star power grew.
The public loved her. Young ladies longed to be her. Men self fulfilled their sexual fantasies against the backdrop of her half naked pinups. The attention her small role in that first movie garnered her was a Hollywood dream. A well placed one liner catch phrase with fantastic lighting of her pouty full lips and she became America’s new sweetheart. It had even taken the studio execs by surprise. No one was more surprised than the demanding narcissistic director Ronald Sizemore who had hoped she would be another young girl in his stable of bevy beauties he could call upon for licentious scenery and behind the scenes sex. He assumed she was an innocent kitten he could use and abuse till she was washed up.
Angelique proved to be tougher than she looked given in part to her hard scrabble upbringing in the vast expanse of her father’s Texas ranch. Not to mention his liberal use of a belt for discipline. Her brothers fared worse under his tutelage of hard farm work and beatings, both boys leaving his tyranny as soon as they came of age. She was the only one left at home when his second wife also made an escape. Frightened to stay knowing she would be an easy target for his drunken anger, she boarded a bus and headed to L.A. with a promise of fame and easy fortune.
Frantic knocking on her dressing room door woke her from her slumber. Wrapping her silk dressing gown around her she opened the door to reveal two LAPD officers.
“Sorry to disturb you ma’am. We need you to come with us.” The tall uniformed officer said.
“What is the meaning of this?” She demanded.
Officer Brady responded. “Ronald Sizemore is dead. Please get dressed and come with us or we will be forced to take you like this.” The officer looked her up and down lecherously grinning.
She stumbled back and fell into her lounge chair. “Dead? But how?”
“That’s what we want you to tell us.”
The squad car pulled up in front of the station with its siren blaring, someone had already tipped off the newspapers and fan rags as light bulbs flashed incessantly blinding her even with her sunglasses on. Officer Brady roughly grabbed her arm from the back of the black and white dragging her away from the throng of cameras and reporters calling out her name.
She was seated in a hard wooden chair in a lonely room, her silk scarf still wrapped around her head and neck. She pulled a cigarette and holder from her purse. “Can I please get a light?” She yelled, aware that they were watching her from behind the two way mirror. Detective Jarden entered with his lighter in hand. Sitting himself across from her he lit her cigarette as she crossed her legs allowing her skirt to rise up enough to tantalize him. It didn’t go unnoticed.
“Am I under arrest?” she asked.
“No.” he replied.
“Do I need a lawyer?”
“Depends, did you shoot him?” He licked his lips as she adjusted the hem on her knee.
She raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow at him. “Up until now I didn’t even know how he died, how could have I shot him?”
Detective Jarden snickered pushing an ashtray her way. “You were seen having words with Mr. Sizemore before he died and it’s been rumored you had a beef with him. Do you own a gun Ms. Leone?”
“Of course, a single girl has to protect herself in this big bad city, but that doesn’t make me a killer.”
“You’re right, but what about the argument? You had words with him and then disappeared.” He lit his own cigarette and placed his fedora on the table next to his notebook.
“Ronald was a hard man to work for detective. He made many questionable demands and berated the staff constantly, doesn’t mean I wanted him dead. He had enough enemies for that.”
“But he is dead. Can you account for your whereabouts after one o’clock?”
Angelique sighed. She knew where this was headed. She had verbally threatened to shoot Ronald if he ever touched her again several weeks before. He didn’t like to be told no so he had punched her in the face daring her to complain, promising to ruin her if she didn’t comply with his demands. The bruises took days to disappear putting the movie shoot seriously behind schedule. The studio attributed it to the press as Ms. Leone’s ongoing bought with the flu.
“I was in my dressing room napping.” She advised curtly.
Sitting back in his chair unbuttoning his suit coat, Detective Jarden gave her a sly smile. “Napping? Was there anyone with you?”
She glowered in contempt. “No, I was alone the whole time.”
“Too bad, no one to corroborate your story.” He said tapping his ash in the tray.
“You also have no proof it was me. I know my rights detective, I demand you let me leave.”
Detective Jarden snapped his fingers and the two officers who brought her in appeared. “Take Ms. Leone home please.” He told them. “I’ll be in touch.” He said as she walked away.
Angelique took her constantly ringing phone off the hook, dressed herself in a silk floral nightgown and poured herself a drink. It had gone as planned. That jackass would never force himself on her again. The back alley abortion he had forced her to have that nearly killed her was listed as another bout of illness by the studio. Her son had laid in pieces on a crude table next to the coat hanger used to destroy him and she vowed then to kill the man who did this to her. She held the evening’s paper in her hands reading the headline. ANGELIQUE LEONE QUESTIONED IN DIRECTORS DEATH! Even bad publicity was good publicity.
She closed her eyes reliving her day. He had appeared in her dressing room ready for another romp. The whole scene on the set of overturned flowers and anger at the staff to call a break was planned by him so he could get her alone. They had done this dance before and she knew her steps well, he had seen to that with his repeated threats and punishments. He showed up to her dressing room fifteen minutes after her departure as to not arouse suspicion. Three knocks on the door was his signal it was him. She opened the door holding a handkerchief as a sign to the unseen men hovering around the corner hallway. George and John Lenny, her older brothers, gagged and bound Ronald dragging him to a waiting car behind her dressing room taking him back to the empty set. The always punctual catering truck took care of any set crew that lingered behind. The studio paid free food was always a sure fire guarantee to draw a crowd.
Her brothers had slipped him in the back entrance unnoticed amid the props and various scenery’s. Unbinding their victim and removing his gag, she gave him only one command.“Run.” She said as she raised her hand pulling the trigger. No one would have paid attention to the shot thanks to the noisy western they were filming in the next sound stage. Her aim was as good as any man’s her father had made sure of that. It was after all a necessary skill if you lived on a Texas ranch.
The bullet landed squarely in the back of Ronald’s head and exited out the front taking half his skull with it. Her brothers stealthily slipped her back to her dressing room and in mere minutes were driving out of town with the fired pistol.
“Ms. Leone, Ms. Leone, how does it feel to be cleared of all murder charges?” the hapless reporter pestered her on her way to the red carpet premiere of her new movie ‘Femme Fatale’.
She stopped and turned in her red dress designed just for her movie premiere placing her hand on her ample hip with a big toothy smile. “Darlings, was there ever any doubt!”
Enjoy a sneak peek at the first chapter in the third book in The Body Hunters series. The Body Hunters: Dirty Secrets, Naked Truths by Raven Newcastle http://amazon.com/dp/B00GOZ7ULC/ …
Alistair Brogan’s eyelids cracked open a little after one in the morning. Through sheer stubbornness he continued to lay there, willing himself to fall back to sleep. After nearly an hour of watching the digital digits on his alarm clock mark the passing time, Alistair gave it up. At the moment sleep wasn’t going to allow him to escape the mess of his creation.
He forced himself to sit up. He ran a hand through his tousled grey hair, which stood straight up like muddy icicles. The space in the king size bed beside him was empty; a few blond hairs on the pillow the only trace of the high priced call girl with whom he’d spent part of the evening. Obviously his meter had run out and she’d gone off in pursuit of the next paying client.
Alistair winced as the soles of his feet touched the frigid bedroom floor, the wood cut from some rare tree from the Amazon. He slipped into a pair of handcrafted silk slippers, monogrammed with his initials. He was considering not even bothering with a shower, until his own body funk assailed him.
Alistair shuffled to the bathroom with its heated tile floors, his worries heavy on his shoulders. He gazed at his nude form in the bathroom mirror. He didn’t look too bad for a chap well beyond the half century mark. His eye sight had been corrected with laser surgery so he no longer required the grandfatherly glasses he used to wear. His hair was expertly cut by a stylist known to have clipped the hairs of U.S. Presidents and heads of state. His fingers pinched his waist, finding no trace of the love handles that had plagued him for years, his belly flat and taut like a fashion model half his age. His unforgiving personal trainer had seen to that and the man’s exorbitant fee had been money well spent.
A personal shopper made sure that his walk in closet was overflowing with fine garments and shoes that befitted a man of his wealth and stature. A fleet of fine automobiles filled the garage of his mansion, while a handful of servants waited on his every beck and call. When Alistair talked, people paid attention. Everywhere he went people knew him and wanted to be around him. To the outside world Alistair Brogan was the picture of power and influence, but why did he feel so hollow inside?
When Alistair looked at himself in the mirror all he saw was staring back at him was the face of a con man and a thief. Alistair Brogan, CEO of Capital Securities Associates or C.S.A. was guilty of running a Ponzi scheme. He’d duped corporations, charities, middle class workers, and little old ladies out of billions of dollars. Over the years, he kept telling himself that he’d go on the straight and narrow and clean up the mess he’d started, but as the years went by he only got deeper and deeper in the tar pit of his own making.
Just a few months ago, Alistair had developed a plan that would allow him to pay off all his investors back in full. The plan would take time to pay off, precious time he no longer had. Unfortunately, there was no more sand in his hour glass and two weeks ago the whole house of cards came crashing down.
A legion of FBI agents in their windbreakers descended on C.S.A.’s headquarters in Savannah in search of a paper trail. The SEC had been investigating him for years and finally had gathered enough evidence for a warrant. Like buzzards swooping down on a carcass, the media was all over the story. Cameras and microphones were shoved into the faces of clueless C.S.A. employees and Alistair’s equally clueless friends and family.
Alistair was exiled from his circle of friends as soon as the news broke. He’d gone from a VIP to the most hated man in America in mere days. His victims now paraded outside the gate of his mansion with their torches and pitchforks, calling for the head of the monster. His former friends treated him like he was poisonous, avoiding any contact with him. Alistair felt like he didn’t have an ally in the world.
The arraignment was mercifully quick and his hot shot lawyer was able to get Alistair released on bond and put on house arrest. Thankfully he was able to avoid wearing one of those awful tethers, since the lawyer negotiated the surrender of his passports. Alistair was now confined to his luxurious seven bed room, Savannah, Georgia mansion. With the house empty since he fired his staff, the mansion was even more like a prison. Save for the occasional call girl, Alistair was in solitary confinement with no other human contact.
As he stood in the shower letting the steaming jets of nearly scalding water work over his exhausted muscles, Alistair reminisced over his past transgressions and his pitiful existence.
He’d never been much of a husband or father. He knew now that he was never worthy of his first wife, his one true love, Cindy Good. She was truly a saint who’d put up with his lying and cheating for years, but even saints have their limitations. She’d taken their children and had been living happily ever after for years.
Wife number two was a conniving temptress who was only after his money. She’d abandoned him as soon as she’d gotten word of the charges against him and the possibility of losing everything of which she’d grown accustomed.
The disappointment in his eldest son’s face whenever he looked at him was enough to kill him. It was a wonder that Alistair Jr. didn’t change his name to avoid all association with his fallen father. Luckily he was spared the judgment of his daughter who lived in Europe with her husband and children. It was one thing to be a bad father, another to be publicly branded a crook.
How ironic that the one child he could truly lean on at this time was his problem child, his youngest son Carl, by his second wife. It was Carl, the former drug addict, who comforted Alistair with words of wisdom and encouragement. While he was never charged with anything as serious as running a Ponzi scheme, Carl had seen the inside of a jail cell on several occasions in his relatively short life and knew what they were up against.
Ceasing the ruminations on his children and turning off the punishing spray of water using the digital touch screen panel, Alistair stepped out of the glass enclosed shower. The scent of his musky imported body wash and shampoo lingered on his skin. Donning just his silk bathrobe, he headed downstairs, taking in the things he’d accumulated over the years.
As he passed the baby grand piano in the living room, he reminisced on the items he’d acquired. There was the antique Persian rug he’d acquired in Morocco, the antique vase from Malaysia, a collection of hand blown glass ornaments from Italy. These items he cherished would soon be auctioned to the highest bidder to cover the losses that his clientele had suffered because of his schemes. His bank accounts were already frozen and it was only a matter of time before his property was seized.
His breath caught in his throat as if he could feel the walls of justice closing in on him. His lawyer insisted on pleading not guilty, but Alistair knew that his days were numbered. He was guilty as sin and he was going to spend the rest of his earthly existence and part of the afterlife in a federal prison.
Trying to shake off the stress, Alistair arrived at the room containing his indoor pool. The combination of the chlorine and the heated water made the room hot and the air hard to breathe. Shrugging out of his robe, he stepped into the warm waters. He swam laps around the pool until his arms and legs felt like they’d been injected with lead. The dull pain helped to lower his anxiety level.
“Nice day for a swim, huh?” A masked figure dressed in black emerged from the shadows, a gun gleaming in its hand.
“Wh-who are you?” In near panic, Alistair quickly cinched the robe around his waist.
The intruder never answered, letting the sound of the gunshot speak for him. A jet of red black blood sprayed like a fountain from Alistair’s perfectly tanned neck. He fell to his knees, his hands around his own throat, desperately attempting to stop the bleeding as his life flowed through his fingers. Alistair’s voice was replaced by thick garbled static, the blood in his throat nearly gagging him.
The dark figure stood less than a foot from Alistair’s crouching form and pulled the trigger again. Grey matter and blood spatter made a mess of the white tile. Alistair collapsed in a heap. Death overrode any modesty as his robe fell open, leaving his naked body fully exposed. The intruder fired two more rounds into Alistair’s skull before kicking the dead man into the pool.
A murky red cloud surrounded Alistair as he floated on top of the water like an overfed goldfish. Satisfied with their handiwork, the intruder fled the room, carefully avoiding the blood on the floor.
Enjoy a snippet from the second novel in our series The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied. This is the murder of Eric Winston our suspect’s first husband.
Eric Winston expertly trekked soundlessly over the rugged Alaskan terrain of Denali State Park. Mount McKinley, the highest mountain summit in North America, was in the backdrop, its snowy peaks stretching into the early morning sky. With the plush clouds and fluffy snowcaps, the breathtaking skyline looked like it had been painted by the hand of God. Denali State Park’s scenery varied from lushly populated green forests to seemingly untouched icy tundra. Year round frozen glaciers jutted from the landscape like jagged shards of glass feeding into the cool channels and streams. Denali State Park was a nature lover’s paradise.
Opting not to employee a guide like some inexperienced novice, Eric left camp at daybreak to explore the park. Not satisfied with the nature trails that catered to the tourist population of the park, Eric decided to walk on the wild side, literally. The temperature was comfortable, in the mid 60’s, his sweat cooling off his body before it could accumulate. Eric was six foot tall, his body composed of lean muscle mass acquired from his active outdoors lifestyle. A mutinous mop of black hair covered his head and his eyes were the color of flint. His female fans on the blogs called him a heart throb. One zealous devotee even commented that he was a pretty boy, but the tangible type, not one of those Hollywood guys that needed makeup before they left the house. Eric liked the critique very much.
Today he was traveling light, dressed in loose fitting camouflage pants, a black long-sleeved t- shirt that clung to his upper body, and a hunter’s orange hoodie. His lucky, well-worn Timberland boots protected his feet from toothy rocks and the roughened topography. Over his back he lugged a backpack full of health bars, water, his digital camera, batteries, and other necessary equipment, while on his left shoulder was a quiver full of arrows. He held his newly purchased compound bow in his hand, ready for his quarry.
For the better part of the morning he had been tracking a large, bull caribou. Being mid-August, he was just in time for caribou hunting season, and he wasn’t going home empty handed. Eric kneeled, observing the fresh caribou tracks running along the stream. He cursed, having just missed the beast by mere minutes. The creature had stopped to drink from the stream before heading right back into the wilderness. Consulting his compass, Eric noted that the beast was headed east. He had been on the caribou’s trail for awhile and wasn’t going to lose him now.
Shifting the weight of his backpack and quiver on his muscled back, Eric followed the hoof prints. A stark white snow hare darted out of his path. Songbirds anointed him with their serenades as he entered the wooded area. Solid thickets of plant life impeded his travel, low hanging limbs from young spruce trees slapped him in the face, but he would not be deterred. This is the life he loved.
Eric Winston was the Wildman, or so he was called on his internet viral videos. He had started off filming some of his outrageous outdoor adventures and daredevil stunts, and the videos had become so popular he was nearly a household name. Taking advantage of his Harvard Business degree, the twenty-eight-year-old turned his love of the outdoors and extreme sports into a lucrative multimillion dollar enterprise. His was the face that graced bottles of sports drinks, outdoor equipment, and sportswear. His agent was even working out a deal for an MTV reality show. He had literally become his own brand. He was living the American dream.
A year ago he had finally met the woman with whom he wanted to share that dream. Amanda McDuff, or Crystal Rose as she was called during her stripping days, was now his wife. He had first met Mandy when he was out partying in Boston and visited a topless bar with some of his randy friends. As soon as Crystal Rose took the stage, Eric was immediately mesmerized and had to have her. Model tall with coffee brown, shoulder length hair and topaz brown eyes, Crystal Rose seemed to be looking right into his soul. The woman knew how to captivate the room, leaving every male in the bar drooling and ready to leave their wallets and credit cards with her. With her stunningly perfect breasts and even more perfect backside, Crystal Rose was exactly what men’s fantasies were made of. With her first twirl around the pole, Eric was ready to throw her over his shoulder and lock her away in his apartment.
Instead, he waited around for her until the club closed. Sitting on the hood of his Porsche he was biding his time for her. At first she turned him down when he asked her out. But after three consecutive weeks of him showing up at the club on the nights she performed, Mandy finally relented.
Amanda was a Boston Community College Student, a computer programming major, stripping to pay her way through school. When they got engaged, Eric insisted that she give up her college aspirations to help with his career. She’d remained hard headed about the subject, refusing to give up her schooling, but things were about to change.
Two days ago they made it official and finally tied the knot. After a lavish private ceremony, he had spirited them away on a private jet to Alaska. To say that she didn’t appreciate their honeymoon destination was an understatement.
At first she complained that she didn’t want to sleep in a cold tent, let alone spending their wedding night making love on an air bed. After having to rough her up a little, Mandy let him have his way. She woke up complaining about the cold, and he was forced to get her straight again. Now that they were married, he wasn’t going to be putting up with her nagging. She was going to do things his way, or else.
On his way out to hunt, she whined about bears and wolves in the woods, so he decided to leave her with his hunting rifle. The gun was probably too cumbersome for her, but it would stop her bellyaching. Besides, if any wolves or bears came around, she would probably be toast anyway.
Eric tried on a wry smile at the thought of her, the typical city girl, trying to survive an animal attack. He stopped short, spotting his prey in the next clearing. Like a ghost, Eric silently plucked an arrow from his quiver and pulled it back against the bow string, all in one fluid motion. He was envisioning having the caribou’s head mounted on his office mantle as a wedding gift to himself.
A crack of thunder sent the startled caribou back into the woods. It was funny because the weather forecast hadn’t predicted any rain at all. Eric started to look up and realized he couldn’t move, but there was an agonizing pain in his back, like someone had ripped it open with a crowbar. Slowly he touched his fingers to his chest, to find them slick with blood.
There was another crack of thunder and he was face first on the forest floor, slowly slipping out of time and into eternity. The assailant stood over Eric and emptied two more bullets into the back of his skull for good measure. Stepping carefully around the body, the attacker headed back out of the forest.
Eric was dead, steam escaping from his body and dissipating into the cool, morning air. The scent of blood drew carrion crows who began feasting on the body. The crows scattered when a rogue grizzly bear approached. The bear nuzzled the body, before grabbing it by the leg and dragging it to its den.
Here’s an excerpt from Book 2 in our series, The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied. In this snippet, our psychic detectives Aiden and Danielle meet with the grieving family of Jason Cartwright. Enjoy!
The JTC Technology Corporation campus occupied several hundred acres of San Jose real estate. The driver dropped Aiden and Danny off in front of the company’s headquarters. For a few seconds they stood gaping at the sharp inclines and daring angles of the building’s structural design which looked like some futuristic spacecraft from a science fiction movie. Security officers awaited them as they stepped into the expansive five-story complex. After signing the two of them in, giving them guest badges, and taking Danny’s laptop out of her messenger bag and giving it a once over before giving it back to her, they were allowed to pass into the lobby.
Stepping into the headquarters was like entering a time machine into the future. The building’s interior consisted of polished chrome, black marble and mirrored glass. Twin, glass enclosed elevators were located in the middle of the first floor, while a staircase that looked more like a glass art sculpture offered access to all levels of the building. The sun was nearly blinding, reflecting off the polished tile floor of the lobby. Since it was around lunch time, the atrium was hectic with activity. Mixed among the mundane sea of neutral office attire were what Danny assumed were the more relaxed creative geniuses in their brightly-colored classic cartoon and superhero T-shirts.
A man, no older than thirty of Asian descent was standing in the lobby near a large bronze sculpture of a hand holding a globe. His thin body was pretty much built like a stick figure, his polo shirt and khakis a couple sizes too large, hanging off his lanky frame. The smile he greeted Danny and Aiden with was as inviting as a bathtub full of ice cubes.
“I’m Carter Wu, lead software developer for JTC Technology. Welcome.” He said boringly as if they were stopping him from doing more important work. “If you come with me, I’ll give you a tour of the facility.”
“I thought we were supposed to meet with the Cartwright’s?” Aiden spoke up as they started to follow.
Carter sighed and rolled his eyes, his tone of voice condescending. “Unfortunately, their board meeting is running a little late. By the time our tour is over they should be ready for you.”
Carter didn’t sound very enthused to be doing what some would consider babysitting. With as much heart as an automaton, he gave them the abridged history of JTC Technology.
The company started in Boston, where Jason Cartwright a technological prodigy, was attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT at the age of fifteen. He had programmed his first computer operating system at the age of sixteen. That same year, with his parents insistence he had started JTC Technology out of the family’s garage.
Eight years later JTC was a highly successful Fortune 500 company. Though they were successful in the private sector with their computer programs and consumer gadgets, the bulk of the company’s profits came from their contracts with the United States Defense Department. JTC did everything from create simulators where military recruits could enact crucial combat situations to supply electronics military personnel used on the battlefield.
They were given a full tour of the grounds, which included the Research and Development building located east of the main complex and the programming wing where computer programs were born. With the tour completed, Carter took them to the fifth floor of the headquarters where the board meeting was just ending. Sullen-faced board members were filing out as they approached
“Your guests, sir.” Carter snidely announced to Tim Cartwright, CEO and the victim’s father. “Would you be requiring anything else?”
Tim seemed to narrow his eyes on Carter as if silently reprimanding him and his unpleasant attitude. “It’s alright, Carter, we can take it from here.”
Dismissing the software developer,Tim took Danny’s hand in his own and kissed it. Aiden glared. He didn’t approve at all! Jealousy reared its head in him, and all he could do was to keep glowering at the man. Tim Cartwright failed to notice.
Tim smiled widely showing off a set of teeth worthy of a tooth paste commercial. He was rakishly handsome, the type of man who only looked better with age. He was a few inches shorter than Aiden. His height and wide-shouldered build hinted at a previous athletic career, evident in his stance and the graceful way he moved. His dark hair was surrendering to gray with strands of silver mixed throughout.
He led them into the conference room where Barbara, or Barbie as she liked to be called, was waiting. She and Tim looked to have coordinated their attire, both of them dressed in black power suits. With the shake-up at the company and with their son the brainchild missing and presumed dead, Danny assumed they were trying to keep up a united front for the stockholders.
“Thank you so much for coming.” Barbie welcomed them, offering them a seat at the oblong mahogany table. She took a seat at the table’s head with Tim to her right. Introductions were made all around with the Cartwright’s insisting on being addressed by their first names. Danny and Aiden also offered their condolences.
“Do you have a picture of Jason?” Danny asked.
Reaching into his jacket pocket, Tim produced a picture of his son and slid it across the table to Danny. Jason smiled back in the photo which apparently was taken on his graduation day from MIT since he was wearing his cap and gown. He was a good looking kid, a scrawny carbon copy of his father.
“Is it OK if I keep it?” She asked.
“Of course you can.” Barbie said with a nod.
“We really hope you can help us.” Tim’s jovial expression had softened, his hands clasped in front of him. He looked to be on the verge of tears, worry lines creasing his brow.
“We’ll try our best, Tim.” Danny sincerely offered.
“You two come highly recommended. What is your experience with cases such as this?” Barbie asked.
“Well I worked with both the New Orleans and the New York Police Department along with my brief experience with the FBI as a consultant. I also worked as a contractor with the Federal Government solving cold cases.” Danny said, offering her references.
“I served with the Marines for three tours in Afghanistan. After that I worked with the FBI for two years in their Criminal Investigation Division.” Aiden informed them.
“You were the one with Cassie when she was kidnapped by Gerard right? Weren’t you his fiancée?” Barbie asked Danny. Upon hearing Gerard’s name, she took a deep breath to answer, but Aiden spoke up before she could get a word out.
“Yes, she was, and I was the agent that rescued them.”
“Well then it looks like we’re in good hands.” Tim observed, nodding to his wife. “Hopefully you can help us track down that woman our son was fool enough to marry.”
Danny looked confused. “I thought we were also trying to locate your son? He’s still missing isn’t he?”
Frowning, Barbie waved her hand indifferently. “At this point it’s more of a recovery operation than a rescue. The authorities were only able to recover two bodies from the yacht’s wreckage. They say we may never find Jason’s body.”
“You try to protect your kids, but sometimes they just won’t listen.” Tim hid his reddened eyes with the palm of his hand and started bawling. Supportively, his wife clenched his other hand.
Vengeance blazed in Barbie’s eyes. “Whatever it costs to find that murderous bitch, we’ll pay it. We’ll give you access to our private jet, and we’ll provide you a company credit card to cover any expenses you may incur. Whatever you need, name it and it will be provided to you.”
Danny and Aiden considered the offer to be quite generous, and they were able to come to agreeable terms with the Cartwright’s as far as their fee for their investigative services.
Curiosity got the best of Barbie. “Tell me, you two are working together, but are you lovers as well?”
Danny gave a sharp intake of air, the sound similar to someone suddenly letting the air out of a balloon. “What?”
Aiden stepped in for her, his tone stern and reproachful. “With all due respect, whatever our relationship is, it’s between us. Danielle and I have worked well together in the past, and it will in no way affect how we work on finding your daughter-in-law.” Just because they were rich and paying for their services didn’t give them the right to pry into their personal lives.
Barbie apologized profusely. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend or be so forward. Since that business with Gerard and hearing that you were her rescuer, well there just seems to be a certain kind of chemistry between the two of you.”
“Please don’t mention that monster’s name again. It’s over and in the past now.” Aiden said.
“Please accept our apologies. I can see that would be a very horrible memory. We didn’t mean any harm, right honey?” Barbie nodded in agreement with Tim’s statement.
“Apology accepted, Now if we can get down to business let’s just focus on finding your daughter-in-law.” Danny changed the subject and opened her laptop ready to take notes. “What can you tell me about her?”
“She’s a gold digging, white trash bitch. How’s that for a start?” Barbie spat venomously.
“Ah OK, let’s start with where did she and Jason meet?” Aiden clarified the questioning.
Barbie turned to Tim, and he shrugged. “I think they met when she was still married to Jason’s friend. What was his name?” Tim snapped his fingers repeatedly as if it would help him remember. “What was his name…Winston? Eric Winston. I know for a fact Eric met her at a strip club where she was performing.”
Danny and Aiden exchanged a look. They weren’t privy to that particular nugget of information.
“She was a stripper?” Aiden asked.
Tim nodded grimly.
“She killed him, you know. Shot that poor boy to death and left him in the woods. The animals had devoured him before his body was found.” Barbie informed them, snatching a handful of tissue from a nearby box and blowing her nose. “My poor son. We don’t even have a body to bury. I swear she’s going to pay for what she did.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” Danny offered, patting Barbie’s hand.
Barbie sniffled and dabbed at her eyes. “It’s OK darling.”
Tim had since composed himself. “She killed the Winston kid on their honeymoon. Good kid that he was. Jason felt sorry for her and offered to pay for Amanda’s legal defense. The prosecutors didn’t have enough to bring her to trial so they dropped the case. Next thing I know Jason is hanging around with this girl, and last week we find out they’ve eloped.”
“Eric didn’t put her in the will as his beneficiary so his family contested her inheriting his millions. She didn’t follow through with the legal battle because she got her hooks in another rich victim; my son.” Barbie said.
“I think the wise thing to do is start where it all began and track her from there.” Danny said to Aiden. “It’s only been a few days. She hasn’t gone that far.”
He nodded, turning to the Cartwright’s. “You said they eloped to Hawaii?”
“Yes. They were secretly married two days before the boat explosion.” Tim said.
“Jason and the girl used our private villa in Hawaii before the explosion. The police weren’t able to find any leads there and have given it the all clear. You two are welcome to use it. I’ll have it prepared for your arrival.” Barbie said, taking her smart phone and rapidly sending a text message.
“That’s fine. It may take a day or two, though” Aiden agreed. “We need to get back to Georgia, touch base with our government contacts and go from there.
After another twenty-five minutes of ironing out the details and arrangements, both of them caught the waiting Town car back to the hotel.
When we went about creating our hero for our first novel, The Body Hunters, we wanted him to be different. The white guy with the unruly hair and the roguish countenance had been done to death and we were tired of the sparkly vampires. Our guy had to be exotic and a man all his own. When Danielle saw him for the first time, we wanted her to be like ‘Whoa!’. I wish I could get a mental picture of what our readers fantasize about when they read about him. I know who we looked to for inspiration when we created him.
Like Danielle, Aiden is psychic, what we call a physical medium who can access the memories stored in objects. Danny may be a prodigy with her abilities, having been formally trained by her Grandmere, but Aiden needs work. She has to teach him how to use his new found psychic powers.
Our male lead had to be an alpha male foremost. It would suit him well since he would be Danielle Labouleaux’s friend, lover, confidant, and protector. Making him a former military man was no question, which would eventually lead to his career as an FBI agent. Though Danielle or Danny as we call her is headstrong and feisty, he needed to be her voice of reason during her emotional crisis. He’d give her so much leeway to misbehave, before reigning her back in.
We also needed him to reside on 64 Gutter Lane. A hero is no fun without the bad boy edge, so Aiden definitely has a one track mind that runs right into the gutter. His flirtatious comments always make Danny blush and make for some fun banter and situations between the two.
Though he may sound like the perfect man, we also wanted to ground him in reality. Aiden isn’t perfect, in fact he’s far from it. He’s bad with money and spends it like there’s no tomorrow. He also has a bad temper and can sometimes be a slob. That’s where Danny comes in to help him where he’s weak, while he does the same for her.
Our readers gravitate to him like bees to honey. Though we wanted women to love our hero, we didn’t think they’d love him to the point of taking his side in arguments and blaming Danny for all their problems. In creating Danny’s soul mate, we may have just created a monster. I’m pretty sure that Aiden Stone would be happy with that.