25 November, 2022

November 25, 2022 0

#Interview with Manoj Kumar Sharma, Author of Me No Pause, Me Play - #ContemporaryFiction #Giveaway @ManojSharmma

 

 




MIRRRO fame self-styled author Manoj Kumar Sharma has brought his next Novel from a different genre altogether ‘Woman Fiction’.
Delighted by the Best Seller status of MIRRRO in specific multiple timelines, Awards from renowned Literature Houses, moral boosting reviews by book lovers, and, guiding critics, the Author do feel more responsibility for continual inclusive excellences to next levels.
Feel blessed as ‘MIRRRO’ been adjudged for prestigious Awards from renowned Literary Houses…..
1. Best Debut Author Award 2020 from ‘ICMDR’
2. Best Debut Novel Award 2020 among Top 100 Debut Novels from ‘CRITICSPACE’.
3. Best Fiction (Thriller) Award 2020 from ‘The Indian Awaz Foundation’
4. Best Thriller Book of the Year 2020 by ‘Literary Mirror’ 
5. Best Fiction Book of the Year 2020 by ‘AIY AGHAAZ’
6. Best Writer Award 2020 by ‘Yashassvi Awards’
The Story “Me No Pause Me Play” born out of day-to-day life in our society, where every now and then our Women are made to feel the pinch of Nature’s Laws and of Society’s hypocritical Patriarchy and Misogyny. 
We talk a lot and even do a lot for Gender equality, Woman Liberation, Woman Empowerment…but, the practical realities are far far away from the truth and still painful. 
Author is right now working on the sequel of MIRRRO and parallely working on few more Books of varied genres on various known issues of our day-to-day lives…but, in ways beyond innovativeness… 
As an overview the Author believes that Writing is a Soulful Act, blessed by Maa Sarasvatiji & Muse... not by the Author.


Author on the Web:


Interview with Manoj Kumar Sharma

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?

It was the aspiration, naturally incepted in early childhood while schooling, when I used to read a lot. 
As a natural inclination towards study materials, particularly books. The touch, its aroma, which kept me hooked with books most of the times in my daily routines. And slowly slowly started reading books from various genres, being made available from whatever sources including school library and professional libraries in the market.
While reading children comics, magazines, religious & spiritual books, News Papers, our ancient Literature and mythology books, Novels (Various Indian and international Authors) and then participating & winning in Literature Competitions (Essay, Poetry, Story, etc)…….initiated craving to write own Books of stories, poetry, Novel etc.
But nothing materialized till the preponed retirement.

What inspires you to write?

The world around us is the great inspiration to me to write.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?

Again few real life observations around me since many many years, inculcated the idea to develop into this story. 

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?

Yes, there are few stories, which are still in drawers… waiting for alighting.

Tell us about your writing process.

Not well defined like a professional writer or author. When Time and Nature supports, writing happens, else spending time in blank.

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?

Author is mother of book, who is in natural love with its each and every cell. So, to me each pixel of the book is favorite.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?

Secrets can’t be shared.

What is your most interesting writing quirk?

Yet to happen, actually till date nothing like that happened. 

Do you read? Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?

Yes I do read a lot, that also repetitively the same book sometimes. 
There are lot of very good authors, it will be injustice to take names of few and leaving others.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?

The best advice to me seemed as to focus at the size of the book.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?

Write, write and write till its published…

What would be the Dream Cast for you book if it was to be turned into a movie?

Better to keep secret as of now!!!

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?

A bag having -
Hanuman Chalisa and Bhagvad Geeta
Cooking pot with spoon
Bed sheet

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?

Sleeping in free time.
There are lot of places in the list, but, rarely getting chance to leisure.

What do you have in store next for your readers?

The third book is in the process of publishing, expected to get published in 4-5 months from now.
Then first draft of 6-7 books from different genres are there waiting for publishing….

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?

Like TV reality show Competitors, I would like to share my request to the book lovers to buy and read my book as much as possible to boost my morale for more and more writing…… 


About the Book:

This story revolves around Woman and Womanhood through lenses of Social Kaleidoscope.

The essence of this story is overcoming the intricacy and complicacy of Womanhood through innovative measures with calculated risks.
Though since ages wise men never ever denied the unique importance of Women in their lives, but, at the same time couldn’t restrain from autocratic patriarchy and disguised misogyny.
Even Nature’s unworded Laws cruelly dumped Women after manipulating them to the fullest.
How long Woman will have to continue bearing the ongoing sufferings?
Nobody knows, even Woman herself…
But, there are exceptions as well sometimes…
One key protagonist takes the Woman sufferings as challenge, and, not only resolves the physical health and mental agony, but, unexpectedly raises the bar to the next level of inspirational excellences…
After all its own belief system, which can create anything anywhere anytime…
Let incommunicado with our Ethos & Egos… 
Let the status quo of our Women should not PAUSE…
Let our Women PLAY ever and ever and ever and ever… for ever…

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon.in * Amazon.com


Giveaway:
1 Paperback Copy of Me No Pause, Me Play by Manoj Kumar Sharma (for Indian Residents)
1 Kindle Copy of Me No Pause, Me Play by Manoj Kumar Sharma (for International Residents)

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24 November, 2022

November 24, 2022 0

Read an #Excerpt from Duplicity by Shawn Wilson - #Mystery @partnersincr1me

 

Duplicity by Shawn Wilson Banner

Duplicity

by Shawn Wilson

October 31 - November 25, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Duplicity by Shawn Wilson

This was not the homecoming Brick envisioned.

After the trauma of his last case, and after three months spent recovering in Ireland, life is looking up for newly retired homicide detective Brian (Brick) Kavanagh. Back home in Washington, D.C., a new job shows promise when he’s asked to train criminology students in cold case techniques.

Then he’s off to a whirlwind weekend in Chicago with Nora, an Aer Lingus flight attendant he’d met in Ireland. There he receives shocking news that his former partner’s wife and twin infants have been kidnapped. Brick rushes to D.C. to support Ron, the man who’s always had his back—but as days pass, Brick questions how well he really knows this man.

Brick’s cold case—the unsolved hit-and-run death of a college student—is heating up. Brick finds gaping holes in the original investigation. Is it possible diplomatic immunity granted someone a “get-out-of-jail-free card”?

Meanwhile, Ron’s family tragedy unfolds in a most bizarre manner, and the escalating cold case points to D.C. corruption at the highest level. Things are getting complicated . . . very complicated . . . and dangerous.

Praise for Duplicity:

"...it’s a cracking good time. One doesn’t have to be a mystery fan to relish this."

Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"Duplicity is a compelling read with depth and a protagonist you’ll want to spend more time with. I’ll be first in line to see what’s next for Brick Kavanagh!”

David Putnam, bestselling author of the Bruno Johnson crime series

"...you’re in for an engrossing and entertaining read.”

Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today bestselling author

"Duplicity is a delightful, twisty thriller featuring a hero it’s impossible not to love… I raced through the pages ‘til three a.m. rooting for him to succeed.”

Matt Witten, author The Necklace

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: October 2022
Number of Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781608095100 (ISBN10: 160809510X)
Series: The Brick Kavanagh Series, 2 | Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.”
Proverbs 12:5

September 2013 Inishmore, Ireland

Chapter 1

Brick Kavanagh stepped to the edge of the cliff and watched the waves crash against the rocks. He closed his eyes, hoping this sight would be seared in his brain the same way his mind tended to store images from twenty years of being a cop.

During all those years with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., he didn’t recognize the emotional toll the job was taking. But there was no denying the price he paid after the devastating conclusion of his last homicide case. How to deal with the aftermath of a case that became so personal? The sage advice of bar owner Eamonn Boland provided the answer—a one-way ticket to Ireland. He figured he’d probably be there for a week, maybe two. Now, with his stay closing in on ninety days, he needed to leave or be in violation of the country’s visa-free travel regulations.

Brick fumbled in his pocket for the slip of paper Eamonn had given to him before he left D.C. It was wrinkled and the ink was smudged but it didn’t matter; he almost knew the quote by heart.

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether to sail or to watch it—we are going back from whence we came.”

When Brick first arrived, the words John F. Kennedy delivered to the America’s Cup crew didn’t have much significance for him. But the longer he stayed, the more they resonated. Spending time in a place surrounded by the ocean had a cleansing and calming effect he hadn’t expected. He was grateful he would be leaving in a much healthier state of mind than when he had arrived.

Brick checked his watch. He still had time to take in one last view from Dun Aengus. He made his way to the prehistoric fort, being careful not to photobomb any of the selfie-taking tourists along the way. He didn’t feel like a tourist himself anymore as he stood on the highest point of the cliffs. He looked in every direction absorbing the breathtaking panorama before he fell in step with the others making their way in the direction back to the boat dock.

Dark clouds were now blocking the sun and the wind had picked up. In the three months Brick had been here, he had gotten used to the weather changing quickly. Part of the charm, although it would probably mean a choppy ferry ride back to Rossaveal. For the sense of tranquility he had experienced, forty minutes of rocking and rolling was a small price to pay. Standing on the upper deck of the boat, Brick watched as Inishmore became shrouded in fog.

* * *

It was after six o’clock when Brick arrived back in Galway. He was starving and knew where he wanted to have his farewell dinner. He headed to Gaffney’s, a small pub that served the best lamb stew he had ever eaten. Tonight, he would be dining alone, but when he was here previously, he had had dinner with a woman he met earlier in the week at Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop on Middle Street. Nora Breslin introduced herself after a brief conversation in which they discussed a book of poetry by Seamus Heaney. Upon hearing her name, Brick jokingly asked if she was related to Jimmy Breslin. Surprisingly, he was a distant cousin and the well-timed question led to more conversation about the legendary American journalist and his connection to Son of Sam. With the bookstore about to close, the nearby pub provided the perfect place to continue talking over a pint of Guinness and a view of the swans on the River Corrib.

Two nights later, they met again for dinner at Gaffney’s. Unfortunately, plans for a trip together to Dublin got derailed when Nora, a flight attendant with Aer Lingus, had to unexpectedly fill in for a colleague. Before leaving, she suggested getting together on the other side of the Atlantic since her regular assignment was the Shannon-to-O’Hare route. Would it happen? Brick wasn’t sure, but he had enjoyed the brief time they had spent together. One thing he had learned recently was that it’s far better to appreciate what was, than anticipate what might be.

Brick seated himself at a small table with his back to the wall so that he could have an unobstructed view of the restaurant. Some habits die hard; some never do. When the waitress approached with silverware and a menu, he placed his order. She returned shortly with a pint of Guinness. Brick would never mention this to Eamonn or his nephew Rory when he got back home, but the Guinness seemed to taste better here than what they served at Boland’s Mill. Then again, maybe it was his imagination. He’d chalk it up to that. Boland’s Mill. As long as tomorrow’s flight wasn’t delayed, Brick figured he’d probably be having dinner there and thanking Eamonn for suggesting—well, insisting—that time away from D.C. wasn’t an option, it was a necessity. The old man knew what he was talking about, but now it was up to Brick to figure out what to do next. He was young, forty-two, owned his condo, and his pension from the police department would be enough to pay the bills and keep food on his table, but Brick was a live-to-work, not a work-to-live kind of guy. Aside from an email he had received from the Assistant Director of the School of Public Affairs at Abraham Lincoln University, regarding a project involving graduate students attempting to solve a cold case, he didn’t have any other employment prospects. He would check it out, but it didn’t sound like his forte. Working a cold case was right in his wheelhouse but teaching a group of college kids would be a whole lot different than mentoring a detective newly assigned to the Homicide Squad.

One thing was for sure—he wasn’t going to figure it out tonight so he might as well just savor the stew the waitress placed in front of him. Maybe he would suggest to Eamonn that the chef at Boland’s should consider adding barley to their lamb stew recipe. Maybe he should consider an entirely new career and enroll in culinary school. On second thought, for the sake of the dining public, probably not a good idea. Best to leave cooking to the pros. That’s why he frequented Boland’s Mill far more often than the Giant or Safeway.

Brick wasn’t about to waste a slice of brown bread. He used it to soak up the last of the herb gravy on his plate.

“Another Guinness?” the waitress asked as she cleared the table. “No thanks, just the check when you get a chance.”

Brick took the long way back to his airbnb. Most of the shops were closed, but the bookstore was open for another half hour and he needed something to read for tomorrow’s flight back to Washington. After browsing for a few minutes at a shelf displaying a number of books by contemporary Irish authors, he chose an autographed copy of The Guards by Galway-born Ken Bruen. Even though he had to leave the west coast of Ireland, at least he could be there vicariously by reading about it.

***

Excerpt from Duplicity by Shawn Wilson. Copyright 2022 by Shawn Wilson. Reproduced with permission from Shawn Wilson. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Shawn Wilson

Shawn Wilson is a produced playwright and author of Relentless, the first novel in the Brick Kavanagh mystery series. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Administration of Justice from American University in Washington, D.C. and spent over thirty years working for the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Having traveled on five continents, she is very happy to call Chicago home.

Catch Up With Shawn Wilson:
www.ShawnWilsonAuthor.com
Goodreads
BookBub - @shawn152
Facebook - @shawnwilsonauthor

 

 

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22 November, 2022

November 22, 2022 0

Read an Excerpt from A Hero’s Heart by Amber Daulton - A Limited Edition #HolidayRomance #Anthology @AmberDaulton1


Cancel your plans and spend this holiday season with 27 romance authors who have teamed up to bring you a delicious holiday treat. 


Lies. Betrayal. A blown undercover mission.

After ten years away, DEA agent Jarrett Brandt heads home to pay his respects to his deceased brother and hide out from the cartel kingpin who wants him dead. The last thing he needs is Marissa, his high school sweetheart, tempting him with her sassy smile and showing him the life he gave up. Add on his judgmental parents, and he’s ready to hit the road.

Widowed mom Marissa Reinn never had much luck with the Brandt boys. First Jarrett broke her heart, then she lost his brother—her husband—to a bullet. Vowing to uncover Jarrett’s secrets, she succumbs to the passion still burning between them instead.

When a team of assassins find him, Jarrett and Marissa will have to work together to survive and protect her son. How will they seize their second chance at love with their lives on the line?

Download this FREEBIE


Read an Excerpt from A Hero’s Heart


“You can trust me, Jarrett. I won’t tell your parents anything you don’t want me to.” She sighed and stood as well. “You used to tell me everything. We never kept secrets.”
Jarrett paced between the coffee table and fireplace. “My parents’ opinion doesn’t matter. Dad would still throw up my juvie record or the fact that I’m not a cop, even if I was a model citizen. I’m not that lost, angry kid anymore. I know who I am now, and it’s not someone you’d want to know.”
“I disagree.”
“God, you don’t understand. Marissa, I’ve missed you so damn much. I’ve laid awake so many nights wondering what my life would’ve been like if I’d stayed here.” When he made love to other women, he imagined Marissa beneath him or above him, panting his name. When the nightmares of blood and gore faded, he dreamed of her. Those bittersweet memories and what if scenarios were almost worse than the nightmares. “I’ve done things I’m not proud of.”
“I hated you after you left, but I’ve gotten over it. Everyone feels regret and guilt over something. It’s all about being human.” She dashed away her tears. “I told you mine last night. Will you please show me the same courtesy?”
“I can’t.”
“At least tell me what you did last Christmas. Jason made it crystal clear that he didn’t want you alone. He wants you to have a tree.” She pointed at the Douglas fir. “Well, there you go. What did you do last year?”
Jarrett licked his dry lips, heat swelling in his cheeks.
He’d joined the Consuelo gang last December and spent the holiday in a slummy apartment with five thugs who sold cocaine on the streets of Albuquerque. Living around his drug of choice had nearly destroyed him.
“What about your last birthday?” Marissa blocked his path and braced her hands on her hips. “Did you have cake or go out with a bunch of buddies and get drunk? Did something horrible happen? Why won’t you tell me anything?”
He shoved a hand through his hair. “Damn it, Marissa. Yeah, I got drunk. A few of us went to a strip club where I fucked two dancers in a backroom. Is that what you wanted to hear?”
Her eyes widened as she stepped back.
Way to go, you fucking idiot. He brushed his shaky hands on his button-down shirt to steady them. “Marissa—”
She strode past him with a high head and left the room.
Her cold shoulder skewered him, but he didn’t deserve better.


About the Author:



Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through Daulton Publishing, The Wild Rose Press, and Books to Go Now, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.
She lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats. 



Amber on the Web:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon Page



21 November, 2022

November 21, 2022 0

Read an #Excerpt from 1 Last Betrayal by Valerie J Brooks - #Crime #Thriller @ValinParis @partnersincr1me

 

1 Last Betrayal by Valerie J Brooks Banner

1 Last Betrayal

by Valerie J Brooks

November 14 - December 9, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

1 Last Betrayal by Valerie Brooks

A complicated history. A deadly future. Can one woman survive another deep dive into the rotten underbelly of crime?

Angeline Porter craves a return to normalcy. But when the former criminal defense attorney receives an alarming text, she races in desperation to Florida only to find a ransacked apartment, a poisoned dog, and a missing half-sister. Determined to rescue her sibling, she follows a trail of shockingly incriminating clues and plunges into a life-or-death fight with the Boston mob.

Taking advantage of old ties with a charming FBI agent and trying to outsmart a violent syndicate boss with powerful federal connections, Angeline and dubious allies begin tracking down the kidnappers… until she uncovers a supposed protector’s crafty deception. And while a nefarious rogue agent, a long-lost relative, and a possibly corrupt cop close in, the gutsy woman makes the risky decision to go it alone.

Is her headlong race to save her sister about to zip her into a body bag?

1 Last Betrayal is the suspense-laden third book in the Angeline Porter Trilogy of femmes-noir thrillers. If you like bold heroines, riveting twists, and balancing on the knife’s edge, then you’ll love Valerie J. Brooks’ gritty descent into the underworld.

Praise for 1 Last Betrayal:

"Steeped in suspense, chilling encounters, and shocking twists, Brooks drops us into the dark underbelly of organized crime, and we love her for it."

Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and The Over

"A twisty plot, great locations, and a gutsy protagonist you’ll root for all the way. A fabulous finale to a sophisticated series that can also be enjoyed as a stand-alone title."

Kaira Rouda, USA Today and Amazon Charts bestselling author

"A seductive, intricately twisted suspense-thriller that’s nearly impossible to put down... get ready for a wild ride with plenty of suspense, action, and shocking surprises"

Kevin O'Brien, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Night She Disappeared

Don't Miss the Book Trailer for 1 Last Betrayal:

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Black Leather Jacket Press
Publication Date: September 2022
Number of Pages: 298
ISBN: 9781732373242
Series:The Angeline Porter Trilogy, Book 3
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple | BookShop | IndieBound | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

If I ever get out of this alive, I’m going to have a tattoo needled on my arm like others of my generation. Of what I don’t know. But if I’m alive, I’ll be able to make a decision then. I’m throwing off the conservative persona I once had as a criminal defense lawyer. My sister Sophie would be saying, “It’s about time.”

From Portland, Oregon, I’d hopped a red-eye and was on my way to Hollywood, Florida. I was back in the game and in the right headspace, ready to bring down the Boston mob once and for all while protecting Bibi, my sister Sophie’s twin. Bibi needed me. She was tough, but this mob had a new and younger crime boss. Talia “Shawn” Diamandis. She didn’t play by the old-fashioned rules of mobsters.

Like the rest of the world, there was no honor anymore among thieves, whether they be members of gangs, political parties, or religious sects. There was no “one for all and all for one.” That only happened in the movies. So, to energize my fighting spirit, I put on my headphones, pulled up “Rebel Yell,” one of Sophie’s old favorites, and put it on repeat. We used to jump up and down to that song in her living room—but that was before the mob.

Yes, I was back in the game, but I wasn’t happy that I had to leave my dog Tempest again. How I’d ever come to love a dog that much, I’ll never know. Maybe I relate to her being a rescue. More probable is how much we’ve been through together.

The plane dropped and bumped, almost spilling my coffee. The pilot announced that we were hitting some turbulence and to keep our seatbelts fastened. I shook my head. What did he know about turbulence?

Then the plane bucked and dropped hard, causing a few people to swear and the flight attendant to grab onto a seat. A child cried. I took a deep breath. The plane continued to buck and weave back and forth. Finally, it leveled out and a collective sigh went up from the passengers. My phone was clutched in my hand. It remained silent.

I closed my eyes and leaned my head back. Why hadn’t Bibi texted me? Maybe, hopefully, she’d fallen asleep. Bibi and I had been talking and texting for the past twenty-four hours about Shawn and what to do about her. But what did you do with a mob boss telling you that you were part of her “organization” whether you liked it or not? As my sweet, dead husband Hank would have said, Bibi was in “deep shit.” I knew what that deep shit was like. I’d been in it for a few years.

Shawn sure had cojones. She’d already broken into Bibi’s apartment—and in broad daylight. What I found frightening was how thoroughly Shawn had prepared. She knew about Otto, Bibi’s dog, a dog that should have scared the daylights out of her. But Shawn had fed him a treat while telling Bibi that there would be a meeting of the three partners, and Bibi was expected to join them. Join them, as in becoming one of the partners.

My main question was “Why?” Why would Shawn take such a risk as to get into Bibi’s apartment just to tell her that she was expected to make this meeting? She could have met her in the lobby. I had a hunch: Shawn needed to know the layout of the apartment and get friendly with the dog. She planned on breaking into the place again. Again, the question was Why?

Bibi reported the “break-in” to management, a report was filed, and the police notified. Security camera footage was watched. But nothing seemed amiss. Shawn never showed her face and seemed to enter the apartment no problem, so she could have had a duplicate keycard. Nothing suspicious. Bibi was pissed because the police said she must have given Shawn a card. As I said to Bibi, a large wad of cash would have bought a duplicate from someone in the hotel or was there some type of master keycard?

My phone dinged, and I jumped. It dinged with two more messages. It was Bibi.

I’m in danger. I’m not paranoid! Otto keeps growling. There are footsteps outside my door and muffled voices.

I didn’t tell you this before, but I found incriminating evidence against the mob in Betty’s stuff. I created a safe place for it. You’ll figure it out.

If something happens to me, promise you’ll take care of Otto. You know what he’s like. He’s sweet and needs his ugly striped afghan. He also knows a lot.

I reread the texts. Fuck! It was 4:02 a.m., and we wouldn’t land for another two hours. I texted back.

Don’t answer the door, Bibi. Don’t let anyone in. Call the police.

I tried to stay calm. Footsteps and voices didn’t necessarily mean anything. Maybe it was nothing more than late-night revelers or an assignation. Yet my heart raced. Shawn had been there once. Why not again? I texted another message and tried to convince myself that she would text back and say it was nothing. Had Otto barked at the noise? He wasn’t much of a barker, more of a growler. He was a big gentle brute the size of a Shetland pony, but there’s only so much a dog could do against greedy criminals who were willing to kill people, never mind dogs. But Shawn had already made friends with him. OK, what else? Bibi carried a gun. Good. But you had to be willing to shoot to kill. I knew very few good people capable of that, even in a life-or-death situation.

I sent another text.

Do you still have your gun? Load and keep it handy.

A text came in. I almost dropped my phone.

It was my lawyer. I ignored him.

I squirmed in my seat. Why hadn’t Bibi told me about the incriminating evidence before? What had she planned on doing with it? I chewed a cuticle. Maybe she didn’t really trust me.

Being trapped on a plane made it impossible to do anything. I had to keep my wits about me though. Did Shawn know about the incriminating evidence? I doubted it. My bet was on Shawn targeting Bibi’s inheritances—two huge estates and all the assets. What a rat’s nest of relationships! Bibi’s godmother, Betty Snayer, had been the crime boss of this mob until she died trying to kill me in Kauai. But before that, Betty had taken in a young, homeless, talented black girl, my half-sister Bibi, and given her a life in the arts. Then Betty had fallen for Shawn, at the time a streetwise, ragged, coke snorter who had addicted Betty to sex and white powder. That left Bibi adrift as to Betty’s affections. So, there I was with a new half-sister who didn’t know I’d killed her sainted godmother. What a mess.

The first-class flight attendant leaned over the empty seat next to me. “Anything I can get you, Ms. Porter?” She smiled with her bright red lips, her eyes sparkling behind her cat-eye glasses.

“Scotch, please. A double.”

I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans. After sending another message to Bibi, I waited. Again, nothing. Finally, resigned, I set the cell on the empty seat next to me, and when my drink came, I tried not to knock it back, but that was impossible.

Maybe Bibi had called the cops, but I doubted it. I knew she didn’t trust the FBI. Being African American, she probably didn’t trust the cops either, especially after they did nothing to follow up on Shawn. I rubbed my chest, drew in some air, and let it go. Sophie often scolded me, saying I held my breath when stressed. Taking advice from my dead sister? Better late than never.

I pushed up the window cover. The bright light made me wince. Below, the ocean bordered the serpentine edge of land. Lakes littered the middle of the state. The pilot announced we were flying over Orlando and Disney World. People oohed and aahed.

On the seat next to me, I found my notebook and pen under the New York Times, and as I flipped open the notebook, my hand trembled. I’d always been pretty good at compartmentalizing, something I found necessary as a lawyer, but it was getting more difficult. I needed to keep my mind busy until I was off the plane and could make calls. I wondered where Gerard was. I figured from our conversations that he was back undercover with the mob. When I told him I was heading to Florida to help Bibi, he told me not to and was upset when I wouldn’t back down. When he realized I wouldn’t change my mind, he said he’d meet me there. Fine.

I made a fist, squeezed, then shook out my hand, needing to write something down, maybe work through what I knew and come up with a plan of sorts. Since my law school days, I’d written to-do lists, observations, even lists of conjectures and theories about people and cases. It kept me focused. It also helped me solve dilemmas, and even, at times, find something that wasn’t immediately apparent. Clients were told to keep a journal of every move they made, with dates and times, plus anything that could help their case. People were unaware of the evidentiary heft a written journal provided when entered into court records. I’d won several cases on the written word alone when the opposition had what I called a wormy case.

But what to write?

The scotch had warmed its way down to my body, and I could feel my nerves relaxing, my brain focusing. I tapped the pen against my lower teeth. Going back to the beginning with Shawn, I wondered why Betty had been interested in her? Bibi said it was cocaine-fueled sex. I believed that. Betty was older and not a looker, so it could have been the excitement and ego boost. I believed Bibi when she said Betty took Bibi in because she saw her talent and wanted to support her. Being a cynic at heart, I figured Betty had done that to make herself feel good. I’m sure it made her look good to her wealthy patron friends. Bibi was beautiful too—a dark version of Sophie—dizygotic twins from different fathers. So that would give Betty even more cred for being inclusive. A great way to get grants for her non-profit art ventures.

There I go again—the cynic.

The flight attendant swooped in and removed my cold coffee. I ordered another scotch, a single this time, thinking about Gerard, my FBI special agent pain-in-the-ass contact. In the beginning, he’d suspected Bibi was another one of Betty’s lovers. Men. They always think sex is involved. Sometimes it was. I could attest to that.

So how had Shawn become the crime boss of Betty’s mob? Maybe Betty had put her in charge when she went to Kauai. I know that Betty was using heavily by the time she came to the island. She was in Kauai, doing a godmotherly thing—setting up a hit on Bibi’s brother who hated Bibi. Bibi was adopted and the parents favored her over their flaky son. Her brother lived communally on Kauai and dressed as the grim reaper to get peoples’ attention about climate change. So, he didn’t fit his parents’ mold. Bibi, however, was the golden child, always thankful for everything they did for her. But they died before the will was changed, and the brother inherited the bulk. Hating Bibi, he gave her nothing. Betty figured she’d get rid of the brother so Bibi would inherit. At least Betty felt she was protecting Bibi. I wonder if Shawn had put that idea into Betty’s head, thinking Bibi would eventually bring in even more assets to the “organization.”

When I met Betty in Kauai, I didn’t know I had a sister named Bibi. I didn’t know a lot of things. I was hiding out from the mob. They wanted the millions my sister Sophie stole. But Betty knew who I was. I was the one who had killed one of her partners—in self-defense. But that didn’t matter to her. She must have been overjoyed to think she could take care of two marks on the same trip.

I had to assume that Shawn took over the crime boss position when Betty and her bodyguard never made it back to Boston. Gerard and I thought Shawn was a minor character, one of those people who target the wealthy to live luxuriously for a while, snort coke all day, then when things go dumpster, they disappear. She fooled us.

Plus, I had to remember she was a good actor. Shawn had gone from messed-up street urchin to high couture. What really bothered me was her telling Bibi that she laundered the money for the mob. True? Or was that a way to entrap Bibi? If Bibi knew that, she’d be vulnerable if she didn’t join the mob. Shawn was smart, no matter her motive.

I sipped my second scotch. If I kept in lawyer mode, I could keep my shit together. So, who was Shawn? Did she have a police record? What was her M.O.? I’d lost the connection with Snoop, my hacker, just as she was going to tell me what she found on Shawn. I haven’t heard from her since, and that’s not good.

Shawn might be a psychopath, but she had to be a strategist, someone with patience, someone who had planned her ascent with the crime group. This was conjecture, but her actions pointed to it.

This felt good, building a case, listing all the possibilities, hopefully tracing them to their logical conclusion either with evidence or what I’d discovered in the process.

I listed questions about “Shawn the Strategist”:

  • Getting Betty hooked on cocaine: loosens the tongue, makes her vulnerable
  • Reason for admitting money laundering: trap Bibi into the gang; something else?
  • Need background check on her: laundering takes guts, know-how, and connections
  • Has Shawn already taken Bibi somewhere? Under guise of meeting?
  • How much does Bibi know about Betty?
  • Maybe Shawn knows more about Bibi than I do

I suspected that Bibi couldn’t live in Betty’s house all that time and not notice any illegal activities. But Bibi seemed to have no idea, and as she said, she’d been fully engaged in school, her art, and her friends.

The plane’s engine noise changed. We were approaching Fort Lauderdale. I slipped on my shoes and buttoned my military-style jacket, readying myself for landing. I’d dressed with a casual elegance so people would take me seriously but not authoritatively as with a suit. Instead of perfume or aftershave, the cabin smelled like a locker room, and I hoped I didn’t smell that way. I thought of how Gerard would smell when I met him. As if reading my mind, Gerard sent me a message.

I’ll get to The Circ before you. Meet you in the residency lobby.

Between my teeth, I hissed, “Asshole.” He’d insisted on meeting me in Florida, but I told him to do nothing until I got there. That was like pissing in the wind with him.

I finished the scotch. I couldn’t get off the plane fast enough.

The pilot came on the intercom and gave the usual instructions, telling everyone to take their seats, buckle up, seats upright, tray in position. The flight attendant quickly gathered up all the bottles and glasses. I snapped my tray into place, gathered up everything on the empty seat, and threw them in my satchel, something I’d bought because it was more like a briefcase but not a briefcase. The flight attendant had just buckled herself in when the plane dropped like a trap door had opened. Someone squealed. A kid cried. Then the plane leveled off.

With my heart in my throat, I forced my mind back to Bibi and Betty. From everything I knew, Betty wanted Bibi to devote herself to being an artist. What if Betty had recognized Shawn’s killer instinct and started grooming her to take over the business?

I checked my cell one more time. Nothing from Bibi.

The plane headed toward the landing strip. I held the notebook against my chest. As a defense attorney, I’d met many criminals and could usually sniff out the liars. Bibi’s panicky text from Florida was not something easy to fake. But I had no body language to go with this to assure me she was being straight with me.

Far too many unknowns.

I sat back, closed my eyes, and prepared for landing.

***

Excerpt from 1 Last Betrayal by Valerie J Brooks. Copyright 2022 by Valerie J Brooks. Reproduced with permission from Valerie J Brooks. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Valerie J Brooks

Multi-award-winning author Valerie J. Brooks is the author of the Angeline Porter trilogy, femmes-noir thrillers starring a badass disbarred attorney.

NYTimes bestselling author Kevin O’Brien called her second novel TAINTED TIMES 2 “… a real nail-biter from first page to the last.” Heather Gudenkauf, NYT bestselling author of THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE and THE OVERNIGHT GUEST calls Brooks the Queen of the Femmes-noir Thriller and says her upcoming 3rd novel 1 LAST BETRAYAL is “explosive” and “Brooks drops us into the dark underbelly of organized crime, and we love her for it.”

Brooks is a member of Sisters in Crime. Her awards include an Elizabeth George Foundation grant and five writing residencies. She teaches workshops and classes on writing noir and creating plot twists. Brooks found her love of thrillers as a teen after turning in a hitman to the FBI.

She lives in Oregon with her husband, Dan Connors and their Havanese pooch Stevie Nicks.

Catch Up With Valerie J Brooks:
ValerieJBrooks.com
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Twitter - @ValinParis
Facebook - @FemmesNoirFiction
Pinterest - @ValinParis
TikTok - @ValerieBrooksAuthor

 

 

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18 November, 2022

November 18, 2022 0

Read an Excerpt from Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton - #Mystery #Suspense #FemaleSleuth @baer_charlton @partnersincr1me

 

Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton Banner

Secrets of the Gold

by Baer Charlton

November 7 - December 2, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton

Concealed in his jacket are ingots of gold; he just doesn't remember why.

A young girl running from an abusive foster home kidnaps the older biker with a mystery for a past.

Leaving the mining town in Colorado and crossing state lines, anything can happen.

What neither is looking for or expecting is friendship.

But in the cold of the desert night, life lessons can go both ways—even if they are not about a million dollars in gold.

Growing up is hard enough, even without the shooting.

 

Praise for Secrets of the Gold:

"kept me spellbound"

"you will have a very hard time putting this book down!"

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Coming of Age, Female Sleuth
Published by: Mordant Media
Publication Date: March 2022
Number of Pages: 374
ISBN: 1949316203 (ISBN-13 9781949316209)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Books2Read

Read an excerpt:

Eight Years Before

Someone unexpected at the front door is exciting—for a nine-year-old girl. But time and experience change people.

“I’ll get it,” she squealed.

The sound of cheap sneakers slapped on the cheap flooring. Military housing, even off-base, has never changed. Expensive big toys were always more exciting for congressional representatives than looking after the troops and their families.

“Check the peephole before you open the door.”

The polished brass belt buckles dully reflected the peeling white of the door. The dark blue of the uniforms wasn’t what she was used to seeing around the base, but she had seen them occasionally.

Pulling on the door, she yelled over her shoulder. “It’s a couple of marines like Daddy.”

The enormous crash at the back of the small apartment ricocheted off the rigid walls and out the open door. It hit the two lieutenants hard.

One with their mouth half open.

The man looked at his female companion as she hurried into the apartment. The man reached for the girl’s arm.

“Mom?”

* * *

The California sun did nothing to brighten the day. The two lieutenants in dress blues stood a short distance away. The casket sat draped with flowers, but only two adults and a young girl filled the fourteen chairs.

The girl’s hazel eyes appeared washed out—more watery-blue than green. The swell of her lower lip slowly sucked in and then released over and over. The blink had nothing to do with what the chaplain was saying. It had nothing to do with her world. The black dress didn’t fit her, but at least it covered the scrapes and scars on her knees. The long sleeves performed the same service for her arms. The rusty blonde hair, chopped at the center of her neck, was the only acknowledgment of her being less than delicate.

The deep low rumble of the officer’s voice left his Minnesota lips motionless. The sound carried only to his partner. “What now?”

The woman shrugged slightly.

“Any relatives at all?”

The woman turned her head slightly. “There’s an older uncle. He’ll be available, possibly in ten to fifteen—if he behaves this time.”

The man frowned and looked out from the side of his eye. They had worked together long enough for the silent shorthand.

“Aggravated homicide with extenuating circumstances.”

His eyes didn’t move. He was waiting for the boot to drop.

“Beat his wife and then cut off her breasts and legs to let her bleed out.” Her eyes moved to lock on his. “He caught her in bed with his best friend.”

The man’s frown furrowed deep. “And his friend? What did he do to him?”

The woman’s eyes snapped to a distant tableau—seven marines with seven rifles for a different burial. “You mean her. His best friend since high school. He beat her to death with the waffle iron.”

They both came to attention and saluted the three-shot salute of the honor guard from across the cemetery. The other funeral was well attended, even though it was unusual for military internment with honors to be held in a civilian cemetery. The passing thought was that the funeral was for a much-loved senior member of a large family.

“Did they cross-check the weapon of choice for a match…?”

If the dead were not theirs or family, they were fair game for lighthearted banter.

“The prints matched. The iron was still hot when he struck.”

The last rifle volley faded away as three riflemen gave their squad leader a cartridge. The two officers watched as the squad leader marched over to the casket and began folding the flag with the rest of the honor guards. The three shells folded into the flag forever. Some thought the seven riflemen firing three volleys was a twenty-one gun salute. But the tradition didn’t come from salutes of Man-O-War dreadnaughts but to let an opposing army know they had cleared the field of battle of their dead. The three spent shells also had a simpler meaning than many thought—the flag was from a military funeral. Nothing more. They presented the folded flag to the soldier’s spouse or parent.

The two officers couldn’t tell the woman’s age through the black veil. The man nodded his chin toward the small girl, who looked frightened by the whole proceeding. After that, they resumed standing at ease.

The female lieutenant spoke softly. “Child Services is picking her up this afternoon.”

“None of the family friends could take her? Keep her in the same school or with people she knows?”

The woman rolled her eyes shut and opened them again as she faced the man. “You grew up a navy brat. How many new schools did you go to before you got out of high school?”

“Fifteen or sixteen.” He looked back at the woman. “Dad was on the fast track. We lived on sixteen bases in seven different countries. He wanted dragons on both arms.”

She nodded. “Yeah. A double shellback. I’ve seen a few. The tattoos become muddy, ugly, and smeared by the time you’re eighty. But by then, who cares?”

***

Excerpt from Secrets of the Gold by Baer Charlton. Copyright 2022 by Baer Charlton. Reproduced with permission from Baer Charlton. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Baer Charlton

Baer Charlton, is an Amazon Best-Selling author, and a Social-Anthropologist. His many interests have led him worldwide in search of the unique.

As an internationally recognized Photo Journalist, he has tracked mountain gorillas, been a podium for a Barbary Ape, communicated in sign language with an Orangutan named Boolon, kissed a kangaroo, and had many other wild experiences in between. Or he was just monkeying around.

His love for sailing has led him to file assignments from various countries, as well as from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean aboard a five-mast sailing ship. Baer has spoken on five continents, plus lecturing at sea.

His copyrighted logo is “WR1T3R”. Within every person, there is a story. But inside that story, even a more memorable story. Those are the stories he likes to tell.

There is no more complex and incredible story than those coming from the human experience. Whether it is a Marine finding his way home as a civilian or a girl who's just trying to grow up, Mr. Charlton’s stories are all driven by the characters you come to think of as friends.

Catch Up With Baer Charlton:
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Twitter - @baer_charlton
Facebook - @WR1T3R

 

 

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14 November, 2022

November 14, 2022 0

Read an Excerpt from The Midnight Call by Jodé Millman - #Suspense #Thriller #RomanticSuspense @worldseats @partnersincr1me

 

The Midnight Call by Jodé Millman Banner

The Midnight Call

by Jodé Millman

October 3 - November 18th, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Midnight Call by Jodé Millman

Who would ever suspect that their mentor, teacher, and friend was a cold-blooded killer? Jessie Martin didn’t—at least not until she answers the midnight call.

Late one August night, Jessie’s lifelong mentor and friend–and presently a popular, charismatic, and handsome high school teacher–Terrence Butterfield calls. He utters a startling admission: he’s killed someone. He pleads for Jessie’s help, so out of loyalty she rushes to his aid completely unaware that she’s risking her relationship, her career, and her life–and that of her unborn child–to help Terrence.

Does Jessie’s presence at Terrence’s home implicate her in the gruesome murder of the teenage boy found in the basement? Why does Terrence betray Jessie when he has a chance to exonerate her of all charges? Has he been a monster in disguise for all these years?

To reclaim her life and prove her innocence, Jessie must untangle the web of lies and reveal the shocking truths behind the homicide. The quest turns out to be the fight of her life: to preserve everything and everyone she holds dear.

Praise for The Midnight Call:

WINNER OF THE 2020 BRONZE IPPY AWARD, 2020 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER BOOK AWARD FOR SUSPENSE/THRILLER AND THE 2020 AMERICAN FICTION AWARD FOR LEGAL THRILLER.

"A Must-Read"

USA Today Network

"The tricky legal maneuvering intrigues...Millman writes with verve."

Publishers Weekly

"If you like courtroom battles, this legal thriller fits the bill!"

Chanticleer Reviews, Four Star Review. The Midnight Call won First Place in the 2014 CIBAs in the CLUE Awards

"An intriguing courtroom thriller."

Top Shelf Magazine

"Friendship, insanity, the drama of a courtroom, with a touch of romance rounding out the narrative, will have readers struggling to answer the question: What happens after you answer that terrifying midnight call?"

Booktrib.com

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Romantic Suspense
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 2022
Number of Pages: 400
Series: Queen City Crimes, Book 1
Book Links: Amazon

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

“I think I killed someone,” the man’s voice whispered across the phone lines.

“Terrence,” Jessie Martin’s voice croaked, husky with sleep. She’d know her mentor’s voice anywhere, anytime, even in the middle of the night. In the pitch darkness she bolted upright in bed and blinked the sleep out of her eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“I’ve done a terrible thing, committed a sin against God,” he said.

The anguish in his voice made the fine hairs on her skin prickle with fear, and her hand flew up with a desire to protect the baby tumbling around inside her swollen belly. Yet, it was the slow, quiet monotone of his voice that frightened Jessie even more than his confession. Her mentor usually had a confident, intense voice that commanded attention. Tonight, it was flat, as if he were no longer aware of reality.

“There’s blood everywhere.” Terrence’s hollow voice cracked. “He was just a boy... a boy. I don’t know how it happened. Oh my God, what have I done?”

Nothing was making any sense. Terrence Butterfield. Her mentor. Her teacher. Her friend. A killer? Impossible. But if what he said was true, the only way for her to help him was to remain cool and calm. She inhaled deeply to repress the panic crushing her chest and blew it out in a slow, cleansing breath as she’d learned in Lamaze class.

She turned toward Kyle’s side of the bed. Empty. She gripped his pillow in her fist. She’d find him in a moment.

“Terrence, how—what happened? Was there an accident?” She tried to control the tremor in her voice.

“No, it was not... an accident.”

Jessie tried to get him to talk, pushed him for more details. It wasn’t normal for Terrence to stay quiet for so long about anything. Ever. So his lengthy, heavy silence only intensified her unease over his vague confession about killing a kid. If she’d gone into criminal law instead of corporate law, the right questions would’ve rolled off her tongue. For now, she’d have to rely on the adrenaline rush and her instincts.

“Just tell me where you are,” Jessie demanded. “Whatever’s happened, I can help you.”

“I’m at home and… I have a gun. I can’t continue to live. I need to make peace with God.”

“Listen to me. Put the gun down.” Jessie’s mind raced. If Terrence had intended to kill himself he wouldn’t have called her. He wanted her to keep him alive. “There are people who love you. Your family, your students —we all love you.”

“I don’t know what to do. I’m so confused.”

“This is what you are going to do.” It felt odd commanding him, reversing the roles so that she was the mentor and he was the pupil. Hopefully, Terrence had enough wits about him to comply with her instructions, but there was no response except for the clicking of his tongue as he wheezed into the receiver. “Just put down the gun and call the police. Tell them there’s been an accident. Don’t say anything else. Are you with me? I’m on my way. I’ll be there in a few minutes. Please don’t do anything foolish. Promise me.”

The cell phone hung like a dead weight in Jessie’s hand as the line went dead. Moist palms stroked the curve of her child in a strong, circular motion. A tiny foot rose up to accept the caresses like a cat seeking to nuzzle, and once sated, the appendage receded into the depths of her womb.

Jessie thought there must be some mistake, but she knew what she’d heard. The stretched-thin quality of his voice convinced her that something was seriously wrong.

Kyle, her fiancé, hadn’t returned to their room, so she called out his name. No answer. Flinging back the covers, Jessie set her bare feet on the cold wood floor and ran toward the dresser.

Get dressed. Find Kyle. Go to Terrence. Before — She didn’t want to consider the possibilities.

“Kyle,” Jessie called out again, rifling through the drawers. Three shirts spilled out onto her feet. She grabbed a striped t-shirt and wriggled into it. It was a bit snug over her belly, but there was no time. She had to go. “Kyle!”

The bedroom door flew open with a crash and Kyle burst into the room, wild-eyed. “Is it the baby?”

“No, no, it’s not me, I’m fine, but we’ve got to go,” Jessie said, yanking on her sweatpants. “Terrence said that he’s killed someone and he’s going to kill himself.” She gathered her flyaway hair into a ponytail and hurried toward the bathroom door, but Kyle stepped in front of her blocking her path.

“You scared me half to death… and this was, yet again, about that old—I mean, about Terrence.”

Jessie flinched and jerked back, glaring at him.

“Let’s a take a second before you do anything crazy and discuss this.” Kyle paused. “Babe, as odd as he is, you don’t believe that Terrence killed anyone, do you?” He raised his eyebrows and cocked his head. When she didn’t respond, he added, “Just in case, why don’t we call the police and let them handle it?”

Jessie shook her head adamantly. “Kyle, there’s no time to get into this right now so please, call my dad. Have him call Terrence.” She shivered uncontrollably from the tension ricocheting through her body, her teeth chattering so violently she believed they’d shatter. “Ma-make him stay on the phone until we g-get there.”

“Come ‘ere.” His tone softened. Kyle encircled her in his arms and a tender hand reached down to embrace their child. She trembled, immune to the warmth of his touch and his soft, cajoling whispers in her ear. “You shouldn’t be running around in the middle of the night.”

“Sweetie, look, I’ve got to go and I’d appreciate it if you came along,” she said, disguising her fear with determination.

After four years together, Jessie knew that Kyle knew better than to argue with her; after all, she was a lawyer. A damn good one, and once she set her mind on something there was no stopping her. It was all part of her job. Her clients demanded it. But this was the first time the call had come before the arrest. And it was the first time the late night call had been from Terrence.

Kyle growled and released her, shaking his head in resignation. “I guess I can’t stop you, can I?” He stepped into the crumpled jeans lying on the floor, then zipped them up and was tugging a Yankees sweatshirt over his head when she disappeared into the bathroom. When she returned to the bedroom, it was empty.

Jessie discovered Kyle downstairs in the kitchen. He shoved his phone into his jean’s pocket and fiddled with her car keys with his free hand.

“Did you call my dad?”

Kyle nodded. “Ready? Come on, let’s go.”

She reached into the pocket of her hoodie and discovered her phone wasn’t there. “Damn, I must have left my phone upstairs. I’ll be right back.”

He twisted his mouth in a soured expression. “Okay. I’ll meet you in the car.”

As she returned upstairs, she tried to remember where she’d last seen her phone. She’d been in such a rush to get ready that she could have set it down anywhere in the bedroom or bathroom. She couldn’t believe she’d been so stupid, especially with Terrence’s life at stake.

Jessie entered her bedroom and gave the room a quick once-over. Her phone was nowhere in sight.

#

Several minutes later, Jessie slipped into the Jeep that was idling in the driveway. Kyle was anxiously tapping his fingers on the steering wheel.

“Sorry I took so long. My phone was under the nightstand. I must have knocked it there when I was getting dressed.”

Kyle grunted, threw the car into reverse, and backed out of the driveway.

Jessie’s eyes were drawn to the keychain dangling from her Jeep’s ignition. It contained the motley gray rabbit’s foot that Terrence had bagged on one of the many hunting trips with her father. They’d made an odd couple, her father and the younger teacher, but they had a lot in common, and they’d always come home with a kill or two. After one trip, Terrence had presented the token to her with great flourish on the night before she’d left for law school, attaching it to a Black’s Law Dictionary and a pound of Ethiopian coffee beans. Jessie had kept it with her always for good luck: during finals, the bar exam, and her job interviews. Whenever the fates needed an extra boost.

Now, the sight of the cherished charm made her shudder as it assumed a more grisly visage. She felt sorry for the little critter so brutally killed and felt a twinge of doubt as to whether she really knew the man who’d been on the other end of the line—the patient friend who’d spent his Saturday mornings laboring with her over her college admission essays, the charismatic bachelor who’d delivered yellow roses on her mother’s birthday, the popular high school teacher who’d brought history to life by dressing as Genghis Khan, George Washington, and Gandhi. And who, ever since she was a teenager, had been the keeper of her deepest secrets and dreams.

For Terrence’s sake, Jessie hoped that he’d been mistaken tonight. Otherwise, he’d need more than her rabbit’s foot to protect him.

Kyle screeched to a halt at the curb in front of Terrence’s home, and she glanced toward the small white clapboard ranch. While the neighboring houses were dark, Terrence’s house shone like a beacon among the Cape Cod cottages nestled along the quiet, tree-lined boulevard in Poughkeepsie, New York. In the humid August night, hazy lights blazed from every window, illuminating the well-manicured lawn and beds of roses and daylilies that she’d helped him plant more than a decade ago.

Terrence’s tall, lean silhouette was framed within the front bay window. He was speaking on the phone, presumably to her father. The front door stood ajar, inviting her to enter.

In the darkness, Jessie glimpsed two black and white cop cars creeping toward them from the opposite direction. With sirens silenced and headlights extinguished, the cars glided toward the far curb and parked. Bathed in the amber glow of the overhead street lamps, the officers were motionless inside their cars.

“Did you call the police?" Jessie asked.

Kyle didn't answer. “What are they doing?” he whispered, as though the cops could hear.

Jessie eyed Kyle, but there were more pressing matters. “They’re probably waiting for back up. Come on. Let’s go.” She cocked the door handle, but Kyle grabbed her arm and squeezed. She glanced over at him, confused.

“You’re not going out there, Jessie.”

“This is Terrence’s life, Kyle.” Her voice trembled with conviction, fear, and the desire to help the one man she trusted and revered almost as much as her own father. Kyle never understood that before Terrence entered her life, she’d floundered in school. At best, she’d been a B student. Terrence’s energy and enthusiasm had ignited a spark inside her, instilling knowledge, values, and moral lessons that had helped her achieve her goal of law school. She’d had many teachers and professors over the years, and recognized the rarity of such a man. She was deeply grateful to Terrence but Kyle insisted that the man was a fraud.

Jessie started at the sudden sound of the patrol cars’ doors banging open like cannon fire. She blinked rapidly to dispel the horrible image unfolding in slow motion. A pair of officers emerged from each vehicle. They drew their guns and strode in the direction of Terrence’s house. Her eyes tracked them through the pools of streetlight dotting the avenue, knowing they were on a collision course with Terrence. She felt paralyzed, like during the surreal seconds before an automobile accident, and the powerlessness of skidding toward the unavoidable impact.

“Come on, Kyle.”

“Please stay in the car, at least until we know it’s safe.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Terrence won’t shoot us.” Instinctively, Jessie ran a hand over her belly, and in response to the baby’s sharp jab to her ribs, she yanked her arm free from Kyle’s hold. Opening the door, Jessie slid out of the Jeep and sprinted up the sidewalk toward the broad front steps with Kyle trailing on her heels.

“Stop! Police!” commanded a gravelly voice. “Hands up. Over your head, where we can see them.”

Jessie gasped, stopping in mid-stride. She froze in place, the toes of her sneakers flirting with the bottom step of the porch. Fumbling through the pitch darkness, she threaded her fingers in her fiancé’s. Kyle clasped them, tugged her close to his side, and slowly, they raised their joined hands into the air.

“Sir, I’m here to see Mr. Butterfield. I’m an attorney. He’s expecting me,” Jessie shouted. Judging from the cop’s voice, he was still a good fifty feet away. Far enough for her to make a mad dash for the front door. The door was so close, but Kyle’s grip tightened, digging her engagement ring into her flesh.

“Miss, don’t move,” the officer said. “Please remain where you are. For your own safety.”

“It’s all right, Jessica.” Terrence leaned against the doorjamb, swinging the screen door open to the night air. His voice sounded distant, otherworldly, and his fine-boned features were obscured by the night’s shadows. “Officers, please come in.”

The four police officers swarmed past them with their pistols aimed at the waiting figure. Two officers inched their way up the steps onto the front porch, while a few yards away, the other two covered them from the bottom step. As the team passed, Kyle stepped forward, shielding her from danger and obstructing her path to Terrence.

Terrence might need her, she thought, so she skirted around Kyle and waited and listened. She needed to be ready.

“Sir, are you Terrence Butterfield?” an officer asked.

“Yes.”

Jessie had instructed him to keep quiet and sensed that he was about to break the golden rule—never admit anything.

“We’re investigating a report about the discharging of a firearm at this address. Sir, do you have a weapon? Please show me your hands,” said an older officer with a pockmarked face, as he edged another step closer.

Terrence raised his hands over his head. In his right hand, he gripped an old-fashioned revolver, like Jessie had seen in the Westerns. “I think I have killed someone.”

“Terrence, stop talking!” Jessie exclaimed.

As long as Terrence kept his mouth shut, maybe she could salvage the situation. There had to be a reasonable explanation. Maybe there had been some horrible accident. Maybe he’d stood his ground against an intruder. Maybe he was drunk or stoned or he was hallucinating. She needed to know. To hear the truth from him.

“Sir, I’m Sergeant Mike Rossi and this is my partner, Officer Jen Macy.” Rossi crossed the threshold, while Macy signaled for the other team to spread out around the back of the house. Cautiously, Rossi inched his way toward Terrence. “Mr. Butterfield, please set the gun on the floor.”

Terrence’s trembling hand offered him the weapon.

Rossi stepped backward, looking startled by the movement, but keeping his gun steady, trained on his target. “Just do as I say. Put the gun down and place your hands on top of your head.”

“Please take it. I don’t want it.”

On the bottom porch step, Jessie balanced on her tiptoes, craning her neck to spy on the action through the screen door and windows. She held her breath as Terrence and Rossi eyed each other across the barrel of the shiny gun aimed point-blank at Terrence’s chest. Tension seized Terrence’s muscles, accentuating the slight tic along his jaw that appeared only when he felt threatened. It was a sign that he could attack with little provocation, something she’d witnessed more than once when he’d fended off troublemakers in his classroom.

Locked in a stalemate, Terrence and Rossi continued to glare at each other. Time seemed to stand still, interrupted only by the echoes of the midnight freight trains snaking along the banks of the Hudson River.

Jessie’s pulse thrummed in her ears as she watched, too terrified to move.

The seconds ticked by and then, suddenly as if his nerve had drained away, Terrence’s jaw slackened. He lowered his hand and set the weapon on the coffee table to his right. Then, he hung his head and cradled his temples with his hands.

“Drop to your knees,” Rossi shouted, backing Terrence away from the window so that both men vanished from sight.

Jessie inhaled, inviting humid, sweet air into her lungs, and steadied herself against the steps’ banister. “I should really be in there.” She edged her way up to the next step. “He needs me.”

“Let the police do their job, babe.” Kyle’s fingers clamped around her wrist like a vice. His eyes darted to her baby bump, and then they shifted, staring directly into her eyes, concern crinkling his brow.

Jessie’s gaze swung back toward the house, consumed with the frustration that a bizarre tableau was being played out only a few yards away. Helplessly, she listened to doors slamming, footsteps thundering through rooms, and snippets of conversations and commands drifting outside into the night. As hard as Jessie tried, she couldn’t hear Terrence or see him, and she prayed that he was holding up under the pressure. At least Terrence knew that she and Kyle were there for him and had his back.

Relief flooded her when Rossi herded Terrence back into view in the front hallway, but her chest tightened when a voice crackled over the two-way radio dangling from the officer’s belt.

“Sarge, can you read me? You need to see this… down here in the basement. Copy?”

A scowl hardened on Kyle’s face, and his fingers turned to steel bands squeezing her wrist past the point of pain. Jessie flinched, and he released her.

“Keep your eye on Butterfield,” Rossi said to Macy. “I’ll be right back.”

Jessie massaged the shelf of her belly as the baby’s angular limb stabbed deep into her chest cavity. She lowered herself to the dew-covered steps to ease the wooziness engulfing her like fog. The hour. The heat. The rush. It was all catching up with her.

She needed to shake it off. Stay alert and focused for Terrence. He’d always been there for her—the proms, graduations, fender benders, and panic attacks before the bar exam. Now, it was Jessie’s turn. She owed it to him, and herself, to unearth the truth.

“Terrence, we’re still here. Just do as they say,” Jessie blurted, hoping that the sound of her voice would give him the strength to carry on, although her grit was circling the drain.

“Let’s go.” Kyle loomed over her, his mouth pinched at the corners. “You can’t even stay on your feet. You’re tired and there’s nothing more you can do for him. Not tonight.” He offered her a hand.

Jessie glared at him with an anger that recharged her depleted battery. Kyle knew better. Once she committed to a cause, she never budged. “I’ve got to help him get this mess cleared up. There’s been a mistake.”

“A mistake? It looks to me like Terrence finally flipped out and killed somebody. But I can’t expect you to be objective about him. You wanted him to be our kid’s godfather.” Kyle paused, clenching and unclenching his fists. “You know, sometimes Terrence seems like a third party to our relationship.”

Kyle had a way of believing the worst whenever it came to Terrence. It never bothered her when Terrence called to chat about the latest movies or books he’d read or stopped by to watch a football game with Kyle. He was Terrence being Terrence, and she knew that there was no ulterior motive on his part. Ever since she’d been a kid, she and Terrence had been close, and over the years he’d done plenty for her. And she for him. He’d worn many hats in her life—friend, confidante, teacher, mentor, even an uncle—and Kyle had known that from the beginning but Kyle insisted that Terrence was taking advantage of their friendship by calling and popping in uninvited. Why couldn’t he acknowledge that each man had a special place in her life?

Low voices discussed the need to secure the crime scene and call the paramedics, the forensic team, the district attorney, and the medical examiner. Although criminal law was outside her wheelhouse, Jessie knew the working parts of a homicide investigation, so these whisperings confirmed her worst suspicions. First, there was a dead body or bodies somewhere in the house —probably the basement. And second, Terrence was implicated in the homicide.

Suddenly, the screen door swung open, and the dark figure of Terrence Butterfield emerged from the house in handcuffs shepherded by Rossi and Macy. With his head drooped forward against his chest and his limp arms shackled at the wrist, he shuffled across the whitewashed porch and down the entry steps.

Terrence drew closer and the veil of night shadow enshrouding his face and body revealed something much more sinister. His handsome face was smeared with glossy red liquid and his dark brown hair was clumped into a tangled mess. A rank stench, like rotten cabbage boiled in sulfur, emanated from the tattered, bloody shirt clinging to his chest. The smell of death on him hit her like a slap and grew worse with every step he took toward her.

Stifling a gag, Jessie garnered her strength and stepped into their path. She double-checked the name on his silver badge. “Officer Rossi, I know that you’ve got a job to do, but I do, too. Before you take Mr. Butterfield anywhere, I’m putting you on notice that he is not to be interrogated without my being present.” She cleared her throat. “And has he been read his rights?”

Rossi eyed her with contempt, as though insinuating that she had no right to question his actions or authority. “We can discuss that after Mr. Butterfield has been booked.”

“I think that we should discuss it now.” Jessie’s tone was insistent, hard.

Before they could respond, Terrence spoke up, “I believe that I’m entitled to speak with my attorney.”

“You can speak with her down at the station. Move along, Mr. Butterfield,” Macy said, shoving the captive’s shoulder. “Ma'am, please move out of the way.”

For a long moment, Jessie remained stationary, considering how far she could push the cops before she crossed the line. Her heart urged her to defy Rossi and speak with Terrence right then and there, yet her head warned her to follow the protocol. Strategically, the latter would be best for both of them.

“Not a word,” Jessie counseled him as she stepped aside. Terrence stopped before her and gently rested his cuffed hands on the round of her belly. She smiled and cupped her hands over his in reassurance. “Don’t worry. We’ll be right behind you.”

Gazing into his eyes, she searched for the truth, but instead, found cold, dead-fish eyes, and his dry, cracked lips were curled in a crooked, haunting smile. She shrank away from him, huddling against Kyle to steady her buckling knees.

The officers grabbed Terrence’s shoulder, ushered him toward their patrol car, and loaded him into the back seat. The engine started and with lights flashing and sirens blaring, the police car sped off into the night.

Nothing in her thirty years of life had prepared her for this moment. This tragedy.

Terrence’s life was in her hands. And in that instant, Jessie realized that she must follow her heart. She knew the kind, caring friend, teacher, and confidante that he’d been to her. She needed to disregard the blood, the stench, and the nagging worry that he was a cold-blooded killer. She’d prove him innocent. She owed him that.

As the police car taillights disappeared into the darkness, an undeniable dampness seeped onto Jessie’s abdomen. Her eyes widened in horror as she looked down at her sweatshirt. Beneath the Syracuse University logo, a grisly tattoo of handprints smeared across her belly. Jessie flipped over her quivering hands and stared at her palms, black and sticky with blood.

“Oh, my God.”

***

Excerpt from The Midnight Call by Jodé Millman. Copyright 2022 by Jodé Millman. Reproduced with permission from Jodé Millman. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Jodé Millman

Jodé Millman is the acclaimed author of HOOKER AVENUE and THE MIDNIGHT CALL, which won the Independent Press, American Fiction, and Independent Publisher Bronze IPPY Awards for Legal Thriller. She’s an attorney, a reviewer for Booktrib.com, the host/producer of The Backstage with the Bardavon podcast, and creator of The Writer’s Law. Jodé lives with her family in the Hudson Valley, where she is at work on the next installment of her “Queen City Crimes” series —novels inspired by true crimes in the region she calls home.

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