The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey Banner

The Crushing Depths

by Dani Pettrey

on Tour July 1-31, 2020

Synopsis:

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey

When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker on the first drilling platform off the North Carolina coast, Coast Guard investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent to take the case. Tensions surrounding the oil rig are high and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the structure from being completed, while rumors are being whispered about ancient curses surrounding this part of the ocean.

Mounting evidence shows the death may not have been an accident at all. Was he killed by one of the activists or, perhaps more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only a plethora of suspects, but also their own past and attraction to each other.

Just as the case seems like it’ll break open, worse news arrives. A tropical storm has turned their way and soon they’re cut off from any rescue–and right where the killer wants them. It’s a race to discover his identity before he eliminates the threat they pose.

Book Details:

Genre: Inspirational Romantic Suspense
Published by: Bethany House
Publication Date: June 30th 2020
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0764230859 (ISBN13: 9780764230851)
Series: Coastal Guardians #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook| Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Late September

Thirty-eight miles off North Carolina’s coast

Greg Barnes clinked along the grated metal steps, his boot heels rasping with each shuffle as he headed topside for a much-needed breath of smoke. Thrusting the door open with a resounding creak, he stepped out into the night air. A litany of protestors’ chants mimicked the shrill whining of cicadas. He glanced at his watch. 1930. Didn’t those eco-nuts ever give it a rest? As if the cursed rig wasn’t enough—they had the dang relentless protestors going practically day and night. Exhaling, he rubbed his thumb along the smooth surface of the tarnished gold lighter in his pocket. His tight muscles seized, making his movements stiff. He shook his head. Those people needed to get a life. Edging around the far corner of the main separator facility, he pressed his back against the structure’s cool outer wall. Generators whirred across from him, finally drowning out the clatter. He scanned his surroundings and exhaled in relief. Finally, alone. His leg twitched. Just one drag . . . maybe two. It’d been an awful day, and that was the gentleman’s way of putting it. With unsteady hands, he pulled the plastic-wrapped pack from his shirt pocket. It crinkled beneath his hold and the sweet scent of tobacco wafted beneath his nose. He tamped the cigarette in his palm and slid it between his cracked lips. Just one drag. Tugging the lighter from his pocket, he flipped it open, then rolled the pad of his thumb across the ignitor. A spark flashed and fire roared, hissing over him in a sizzling cascade of torment.

Chapter Two

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina Rissi Dawson sat at the long table on Dockside’s waterfront deck, gaping at Mason Rogers. He turned to look at her, his green eyes illuminated in the bright pole lights lining the wooden structural beams. She averted her eyes as heat rushed up her throat, spreading across her cheeks. He’d caught her staring again. Embarrassment drenched her. It’d been three days since his arrival, and she still couldn’t wrap her mind around the fact he was actually sitting next to her. The boy she’d had the biggest crush on as a teen was back in her life. And on her Coast Guard Investigative Service team. He handed her the basket of hush puppies the restaurant served instead of bread to start everyone off. His hand brushed hers with the movement, and her heart fluttered. “Thanks,” she said, keeping her gaze fixed on the red basket as she pulled two balls of fried cornmeal from it. She plopped the still-warm puppies onto the round plate to the right of her Coke. Get it together, girl! The whir of a boat’s motor dropping to an idle sounded over the deck’s edge. A teen jumped out of the white outboard and onto the pier, tying her up to the cleat. Rissi loved living in a place with a boat drive-thru. Noah raised his glass of iced tea. “Everyone . . .” The team lifted their glasses in response to their boss’s prompting. Noah dipped his chin. “Welcome, Mason. Happy to have you on board.” The team clinked their glasses together, even Caleb who sat brooding to her left. Observant as he was, there was no chance he missed the way she looked at Mason. In recent months, he’d developed feelings for her, so it wasn’t surprising he’d bristled at Mason’s arrival—especially after learning she and Mason shared a past, though he didn’t know the half of it. Only that they spent time in a children’s home together for a handful of months as teens. The opening riff of “Sweet Home Alabama” emanated from Noah’s jean pocket. He hitched up as he extracted his phone. “Rowley,” he answered. “Yes?” Standing, he headed down the ramp toward the restaurant’s pier. “Rockfish tacos,” the waitress said, placing the plate in front of Rissi. The sweet, tropical scent of the mango slaw swirled in the air. The waitress handed out plate after plate to each of them, setting Noah’s burger at his spot while he continued to pace the pier. Caleb bit into his Carolina BBQ pork sandwich, the scent of vinegar wafting in the night’s gentle breeze. Finn Walker did the same with his crab cake sandwich. He and Noah, who was from Maryland, had argued for months over which state had the best crab cake. Finn had been convinced it was North Carolina, right up until Noah had crab cakes flown in fresh from Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Baltimore. It took two bites for Finn to concede the win. “Sorry about that, folks,” Noah said, retaking his seat. “Everything okay?” Emmy Thorton asked. Rissi looked forward to seeing the quirky angel every day at the station. “Rissi, Mason.” Noah lifted his chin in their direction. “I’ve got an assignment for you.” Her and Mason? They’d worked a case his first day on the team, but Finn had joined them for most of the investigation. This would be the two of them . . . alone. A mixture of elation and fear sifted through her. “Great.” Mason set down his lemonade. “We’ve got a death out on the Dauntless.” “The offshore oil platform?” Mason asked, swiping a drop of lemonade from his bottom lip. Stop staring, girl. So he’s jaw-dropping gorgeous. So you share a past. Still, staring is plain rude. Despite not having a mother to teach her, Rissi knew or, at least had come to learn, her manners. Noah laid his napkin across his lap. “You two need to determine if the death was an accident or if foul play was involved. Helo is leaving from Textra Oil’s copter hub in forty-five. I need you both on it.” Mason pushed back from the table. “No problem.” “Great,” Noah said. “You’ll be joining the head of operations, a commercial diver, and the deceased’s replacement on the company copter.” Rissi took one last bite of her taco before setting it down. She dabbed the corner of her lips with a napkin. “They aren’t wasting any time in replacing the deceased.” “The deceased’s name is Greg Barnes. I talked to the head of operations, Bob Stanton, and he said they needed to replace him ASAP.” “Must be an important position.” She reached for her glass and took a final sip. “You’d think,” Noah said. “But Bob said the main reason they need to replace him fast is they’ve been working with a skeleton crew.” Mason’s brows pinched as he stood. “Why?” “Several guys didn’t show up for their three-week rotation transport out,” Noah said, popping a fry in his mouth. “I know why they didn’t show up for that copter ride out there.” Tom Murphy leaned toward them from his table situated to their right. “Why?” Mason asked, moving around to the back of Rissi’s chair. He held it out for her as she stood. She glanced over her shoulder at him and smiled. “Thanks.” He nodded. Tom, one of Wrightsville’s most colorful fishermen, crooked his index finger, drawing them in. “That rig’s cursed.” “Cursed?” Caleb chuckled. “You can’t be serious?” Tom waggled his finger. “It’s no laughing matter, young man.” “I’m sure it’s a good story, Tom,” Rissi said. No reason not to be polite. “But I’m afraid we’ve got to catch a copter ride.” Tom shrugged and turned back to his food. “It’s your lives at stake.” “What do you mean?” she asked before they passed his table, unable to stem her curiosity. “You’ll see.” He smiled, his right incisor missing. “Henry’s curse is real.” “Henry?” Why was she letting herself get sucked into this? Tom let out a high-pitched chuckle. “Oh, you’ll learn all about Henry.” “Shall we?” Mason said, gesturing to the wooden ramp leading down to the gravel parking lot. Excusing themselves, they moved down the ramp. Mason leaned in. He smelled of the ocean and warm spice. He whispered, “Did that guy seriously just cackle?” She nodded, strangely curious about the old man’s ghost story. “I thought people only did that on Scooby-Doo.” She let out a slip of laughter. “I wouldn’t be laughing,” Tom called after them as they rounded the ramp on his side of the deck. “You two be careful out there, you hear? It’s a dangerous place to be. Just ask the men on board.” *** Excerpt from The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey. Copyright 2020 by Dani Pettrey. Reproduced with permission from Dani Pettrey. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Dani Pettrey

Praised by New York Times best-selling author Dee Henderson as “a name to look for in romantic suspense,” Dani Pettrey has sold more than half a million copies of her novels to readers eagerly awaiting the next release. Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance.

Her novels stand out for their “wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters” (Publishers Weekly), “gripping storyline[s],” (RT Book Reviews), and “sizzling undercurrent of romance” (USA Today).

Her Alaskan Courage series and Chesapeake Valor series have received praise from readers and critics alike and have appeared on the CBA, ECPA, Publisher’s Weekly, and Amazon #1 bestseller lists. Dani has also been honored with multiple awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award, two HOLT Medallions, a Christy Award finalist, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award.

Catch Up With Dani Pettrey: DaniPettrey.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

07/01 Guest post @ Quiet Fury Books

07/02 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader

07/04 Showcase @ Just Books

07/06 Interview @ BooksChatter

07/07 Review @ sunny island breezes

07/08 Review @ Reviews by Marthas Bookshelf

07/08 Showcase @ 411 ON BOOKS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHING NEWS

07/09 Interview/showcase @ CMash Reads

07/10 Showcase @ Eclectic Moods

07/12 Showcase @ La libreria di Beppe

07/13 Guest post @ Nesies Place

07/14 Guest post @ Its Raining Books

07/14 Review @ Avonna Loves Genres

07/15 Review/Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews

07/16 Showcase @ Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!

07/17 Review @ Cheryls Book Nook

07/18 Review @ FUONLYKNEW

07/19 Showcase @ Eien Café

07/20 Showcase @ Reading A Page Turner

07/21 Review @ Thats What Shes Reading

07/23 Review @ Bring on Lemons

07/24 Interview @ A Blue Million Books

07/27 Showcase @ Brooke Blogs

07/29 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty

07/31 Review @ Teatime and Books

08/19 Podcast w/Fran Lewis

08/19 Review @ Just Reviews

Enter To Win!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Dani Pettrey. There will be 4 winners. Two (2) winners will each receive an Amazon.com Gift Card and Two (2) winners will each win THE CRUSHING DEPTHS by Dani Pettrey (Print ~ Open to U.S. addresses only). The giveaway begins on July 1, 2020 and runs through August 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Anarchy Of The Mice by Jeff Bond Banner

Likability in Popular Fiction

Every writer starts out in publishing with blind sports, things they don’t realize or quite understand about the market. For me, this was likability. I knew in a general way that protagonists should be empathetic and interesting enough to entice readers into following them for 300-odd pages. In English classes as a student, I had crossed paths with a wide range of protagonists—quirky, headstrong, sometimes moral but often not. When I began writing books of my own, I knew I wanted to populate them with authentic, well-rounded characters who did the best they could given their circumstances. I had faith that if I portrayed them in a fair, unvarnished light, readers would respond positively.

Through my first few books, most have. But some haven’t, even if they liked other aspects of the story. What I misunderstood was just how singular likability is to many readers of popular fiction. They wanna LOVE their heroes. They wanna root for them through thick and thin, to cry with them, to pump their fist at triumphs, to reach through the page and grab their shirts when the bad guy’s hiding around the corner. They want raw, visceral attachment—and don’t much appreciate character traits that get in the way.

My third book, The Pinebox Vendetta, featured characters who were compromised across the board, locked into a generational political feud, or a rotten domestic situation, slogging through lives with no perfect choices. I wrote the book and, of the three protagonists, loved maybe one-and-a-half of them. I tested the book extensively with beta readers, and they loved the story, too, almost unreservedly.

When I released the book into the wild, though, there was a small but unmistakable group of readers who disliked everybody. I was surprised. The book had tested so well and in fact received top prize in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards soon after its release, but still, some readers were feeling let down—that Pinebox didn’t give them a character to root for.

The problem, I think, was the difference between “popular fiction” and “English class.” How-To-Write-a-Bestseller guides may tell aspiring writers to make their heroes imperfect and give them flaws, but I’ve come to believe these flaws are bit like that job interview question, “What’s your biggest weakness?” The right answer isn’t “I get distracted easily” or “I can nurse a grudge too long.” You’re best off giving a non-weakness like “I just can’t pull myself away from work at the end of the day.” In popular fiction, whether romance or suspense, the author is safest giving their hero or heroine a trait or two that complicates their journey—a stubborn attachment to tradition, over-reliance on themselves—but doesn’t fundamentally diminish their likability.

English class books aren’t like this. Literary fiction isn’t like this. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen is one of my all-time favorites, but scroll through its reviews and you’ll find a huge faction that finds all his characters loathsome and impossible to care about.

Thankfully, by the time I wrote the last few revisions of Anarchy of the Mice, I’d learned these lessons. I had three main characters: Molly McGill, a single mother and private investigator in the Stephanie Plum mold; Durwood Oak Jones, a West Virginian ex-marine and literary cousin to Jack Reacher; and Quaid Rafferty, the charming womanizer, half Robert Redford and half Fletch. (That movie reference is going to date me.) I knew they all needed to be likable; the Third Chance Enterprises series was going to be genre fiction all the way, whereas a couple of my earlier titles had a more “literary thriller” vibe. I took my best shot in the drafting phase, then enlisted a whole slew of beta readers drawn from a wider, less book-ish crowd than my Pinebox readers—different nationalities, political sensibilities, ages, genders, sexual orientations.

I always take whatever beta feedback I get seriously, but this go-round, I was laser focused on a single question: Do you like this trio?

Mostly, people did. I saw that I wouldn’t need wholesale changes, but certain aspects required attention. Durwood had a scene or two where he was too unfeeling. Molly struck some as too domestic, and I had to clip out a few lighter home episodes to keep her on an equal footing with the guys. This is always a difficult balance for me because, being the primary parent of 8- and 10-year-old girls myself, I could write home scenes all day and never run out of material.

The greatest challenge, though, would be Quaid. Quaid Rafferty boasts a long history of romantic liaisons with exotic accomplices. His former life as governor of Massachusetts ended with his impeachment after a pair of call girl scandals, the truth of which remains ambiguous to the reader in Anarchy. This was going to make him a hard sell, particularly in the #meToo era. (My first draft predated the movement.) I definitely wanted the womanizing and for Quaid to be a moral relativist, creating a sharp contrast with righteous Durwood. Readers of this first effort said things like, “Molly could do better” and “Quaid’s sort of a jerk.”

Could I resuscitate him?

I thought I could. Well, I hoped. Readers only see what an author shows them of a character. I have one writer friend who recently complained that an editor didn’t like how his male protagonist checked a women out every time she walked into his shop. “But he’s a guy, that’s what guys do,” my friend said.

Maybe. Guys also go to the bathroom, scratch themselves, and sleep seven hours a day—but authors don’t go around portraying those realities on the page. With Quaid, I felt like I could shine a brighter light on his positive traits—a fervent optimism and belief in himself and others, a commitment to progressive charities (sorry, Republicans: Durwood’s your man), and a genuine conversational interest in everybody he meets. I revised the whole manuscript with these qualities in mind, while at the same time nixing a few of his going-to-the-bathroom and/or scratching-himself scenes.

The next round of betas saw Quaid differently. One fresh reader proclaimed him her favorite character, and another said I’d “nailed that whole lovable jerk thing.” (She used a different word than “jerk.”) This process may sound manipulative or cynical, but it’s only the natural work of revision. I’ve always loved Quaid in my imagination, the same as I’d loved Molly and Durwood. It just took some doing to tease that Quaid out of my head and onto the page.

Anarchy of the Mice

by Jeff Bond

on Tour July 1 – August 31, 2020

 

Synopsis:

Anarchy of the Mice by Jeff Bond

From Jeff Bond, author of Blackquest 40 and The Pinebox Vendetta, comes Anarchy of the Mice, book one in an epic new series starring Quaid Rafferty, Durwood Oak Jones, and Molly McGill: the trio of freelance operatives known collectively as Third Chance Enterprises.

How far could society fall without data? Account balances, property lines, government ID records — if it all vanished, if everyone’s scorecard reset to zero, how might the world look?

The Blind Mice are going to show us.

Molly McGill is fighting it. Her teenage son has come downstairs in a T-shirt from these “hacktivists” dominating the news. Her daughter’s bus is canceled — too many stoplights out — and school is in the opposite direction of the temp job she’s supposed to be starting this morning. She is twice-divorced; her P.I. business, McGill Investigators, is on the rocks; what kind of life is this for a woman a mere twelve credit-hours shy of her PhD?

Then the doorbell rings.

It’s Quaid Rafferty, the charming — but disgraced — former governor of Massachusetts, and his plainspoken partner, Durwood Oak Jones. The guys have an assignment for Molly. It sounds risky, but the pay sure beats switchboard work.

They need her to infiltrate the Blind Mice.

Danger, romance, intrigue, action for miles — whatever you read, Anarchy of the Mice is coming for you.

Book Details:

Genre: Action-Adventure

Published by: Jeff Bond books

Publication Date: June 15, 2020

Number of Pages: 445

ISBN: 173225527X (978-1732255272)

Series: Third Chance Enterprises, #1

Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE The first I ever heard of the Blind Mice was from my fourteen-year-old son, Zach. I was scrambling to get him and his sister ready for school, stepping over dolls and skater magazines, thinking ahead to the temp job I was starting in about an hour, when Zach came slumping downstairs in a suspiciously plain T-shirt. “Turn around,” I said. “Let’s see the back.” He scowled but did comply. The clothing check was mandatory after that vomiting-skull sweatshirt he’d slipped out the door in last month. Okay. No drugs, profanity, or bodily fluids being expelled. But there was something. An abstract computer-ish symbol. A mouse? Possibly the nose, eyes, and whiskers of a mouse? Printed underneath was, Nibble, nibble. Until the whole sick scam rots through. I checked the clock: 7:38. Seven minutes before we absolutely had to be out the door, and I still hadn’t cleaned up the grape juice spill, dealt with my Frizz City hair, or checked the furnace. For twenty minutes, I’d been hearing ker-klacks, which my heart said was construction outside but my head worried could be the failing heater. How bad did I want to let Zach’s shirt slide? Bad. “Is that supposed to be a mouse?” I said. “Like an angry mouse?” “The Blind Mice,” my son replied. “Maybe you’ve heard, they’re overthrowing the corporatocracy?” His eyes bulged teen sarcasm underneath those bangs he refuses to get cut. “Wait,” I said, “that group that’s attacking big companies’ websites and factories?” “Government too.” He drew his face back ominously. “Anyone who’s part of the scam.” “And you’re wearing their shirt?” He shrugged. I would’ve dearly loved to engage Zach in a serious discussion of socioeconomic justice—I did my master’s thesis on the psychology of labor devaluation in communities—except we needed to go. In five minutes. “What if Principal Broadhead sees that?” I said. “Go change.” “No.” “Zach McGill, that shirt promotes domestic terrorism. You’ll get kicked out of school.” “Like half my friends wear it, Mom.” He thrust his hands into his pockets. Ugh. I had stepped in parenting quicksand. I’d issued a rash order and Zach had refused, and now I could either make him change, starting a blow-out fight and virtually guaranteeing I’d be late my first day on the job at First Mutual, or back down and erode my authority. “Wear a jacket,” I said—a poor attempt to limit the erosion, but the best I could do. “And don’t let your great-grandmother see that shirt.” Speaking of, I could hear Granny’s slippers padding around upstairs. She was into her morning routine, and would shortly—at the denture-rinsing phase—be shouting down that her sink was draining slow again; why hadn’t the damn plumber come yet? Because I hadn’t paid one. McGill Investigators, the PI business of which I was the founder and sole employee (yes, I realized the plural name was misleading), had just gone belly-up. Hence the temp job. Karen, my six-year-old, was seated cheerily beside her doll in front of orange juice and an Eggo Waffle. “Mommy!” she announced. “I get to ride to school with you today!” The doll’s lips looked sticky—OJ?—and the cat was eyeing Karen’s waffle across the table. “Honey, weren’t you going to ride the bus today?” I asked, shooing the cat, wiping the doll with a dishrag. Karen shook her head. “Bus isn’t running. I get to ride in the Prius, in Mommy’s Prius!” I felt simultaneous joy that Karen loved our new car—well, new to us: 120K miles as a rental, but it was a hybrid—and despair because I really couldn’t take her. School was in the complete opposite direction of New Jersey Transit. Even if I took the turnpike, which I loathed, I would miss my train. Fighting to address Karen calmly in a time crunch, I said, “Are you sure the bus isn’t running?” She nodded. I asked how she knew. “Bus driver said, ‘If the stoplights are blinking again in the morning, I ain’t taking you.’” She walked to the window and pointed. “See?” I joined her at the window, ignoring the driver’s grammatical example for the moment. Up and down my street, traffic lights flashed yellow. “Blind Mice, playa!” Zach puffed his chest. “Nibble, nibble. The lights had gone out every morning this week at rush hour. On Monday, the news had reported a bald eagle flew into a substation. On Tuesday, they’d said the outages were lingering for unknown reasons. I hadn’t seen the news yesterday. Did Zach know the Blind Mice were involved? Or was he just being obnoxious? “Great,” I muttered. “Bus won’t run because stoplights are out, but I’m free to risk our lives driving to school.” Karen gazed up at me, her eyes green like mine and trembling. A mirror of my stress. Pull it together, Molly. “Don’t worry,” I corrected myself. “I’ll take you. I will. Let me just figure a few things out.” Trying not to visualize myself walking into First Mutual forty-five minutes late, I took a breath. I patted through my purse for keys, sifting through rumpled Kleenex and receipts and granola-bar halves. Granny had made her way downstairs and was reading aloud from a bill-collection notice. Zach was texting, undoubtedly to friends about his lame mom. I felt air on my toes and looked down: a hole in my hose. Fantastic. I’d picked out my cutest work sandals, but somehow I doubted the look would hold up with toes poking out like mini-wieners. I wished I could shut my eyes, whisper some spell, and wake up in a different universe. Then the doorbell rang. CHAPTER TWO Quaid Rafferty waited on the McGills’ front porch with a winning smile. It had been ten months since he’d seen Molly, and he was eager to reconnect. Inside, there sounded a crash (pulled-over coatrack?), a smack (skateboard hitting wall?), and muffled cross-voices. Quaid fixed the lay of his sport coat lapels and kept waiting. His partner, Durwood Oak Jones, stood two paces back with his dog. Durwood wasn’t saying anything, but Quaid could feel the West Virginian’s disapproval—it pulsed from his blue jeans and cowboy hat. Quaid twisted from the door. “School morning, right? I’m sure she’ll be out shortly.” Durwood remained silent. He was on record saying they’d be better off with a more accomplished operative like Kitty Ravensdale or Sigrada the Serpent, but Quaid believed in Molly. He’d argued that McGill, a relative amateur, was just what they needed: a fresh-faced idealist. Now he focused on the door—and was pleased to hear the dead bolt turn within. He was less pleased when he saw the face that appeared in the door glass. The grandmother. “Why, color me damned!” began the septuagenarian, yanking open the screen door. “The louse returns. Whorehouses all kick you out?” Quaid strained to keep smiling. “How are you this fine morning, Eunice?” Her face stormed over. “What’re you here for?” “We’re hoping for a word with Molly if she’s around.” He opened his shoulders to give her a full view of his party, which included Durwood and Sue-Ann, his aged bluetick coonhound. They made for an admittedly odd sight. Quaid and Durwood shared the same vital stats, six one and 180-something pounds, but God himself couldn’t have created two more different molds. Quaid in a sport coat with suntanned wrists and mussed-just-so blond hair. Durwood removing his hat and casting steel-colored eyes humbly about, jeans pulled down over his boots’ piping. And Sue with her mottled coat, rasping like any breath could be her last. Eunice stabbed a finger toward Durwood. “He can come in—him I respect. But you need to turn right around. My granddaughter wants nothing to do with cads like you.” Behind her, a voice called, “Granny, I can handle this. Eunice ignored this. “You’re a no-good man. I know it, my granddaughter knows it.” Veins showed through the chicken-y skin of her neck. “Go on, hop a flight back to Vegas and all your whores!” Before Quaid could counter these aspersions, Molly appeared. His heart chirped in his chest. Molly was a little discombobulated, bending to put on a sandal, a kid’s jacket tucked under one elbow—but those dimples, that curvy body…even in the worst domestic throes, she could’ve charmed slime off a senator. He said, “Can’t you beat a seventy-four-year-old woman to the door?” Molly slipped on the second sandal. “Can we please just not? It’s been a crazy morning.” “I know the type.” Quaid smacked his hands together. “So hey, we have a job for you.” “You’re a little late—McGill Investigators went out of business. I have a real job starting in less than an hour.” “What kind?” “Reception,” she said. “Three months with First Mutual.” “Temp work?” Quaid asked. “I was supposed to start with the board of psychological examiners, but the position fell through.” “How come?” “Funding ran out. The governor disbanded the board.” “So First Mutual…?” Molly’s eyes, big and leprechaun green, fell. “It’s temp work, yeah.” “You’re criminally overqualified for that, McGill,” Quaid said. “Hear us out. Please.” She snapped her arms over her chest but didn’t stop Quaid as he breezed into the living room followed by Durwood and Sue-Ann, who wore no leash but kept a perfect twenty-inch heel by her master. Two kids poked their heads around the kitchen doorframe. Quaid waggled his fingers playfully at the girl. Molly said, “Zach, Karen—please wait upstairs. I’m speaking with these men.” The boy argued he should be able to stay; upstairs sucked; wasn’t she the one who said they had to leave, like, immedia— “This is not a negotiation,” Molly said in a new tone. They went upstairs. She sighed. “Now they’ll be late for school. I’m officially the worst mother ever.” Quaid glanced around the living room. The floor was clutter free, but toys jammed the shelves of the coffee table. Stray fibers stuck up from the carpet, which had faded beige from its original yellow or ivory. “No, you’re an excellent mother,” Quaid said. “You do what you believe is best for your children, which is why you’re going to accept our proposition.” The most effective means of winning a person over, Quaid had learned as governor of Massachusetts and in prior political capacities, was to identify their objective and articulate how your proposal brought it closer. Part two was always trickier. He continued, “American Dynamics is the client, and they have deep pockets. If you help us pull this off, all your money troubles go poof.” A glint pierced Molly’s skepticism. “Okay. I’m listening.” “You’ve heard of the Blind Mice, these anarchist hackers?” “I—well, yes, a little. Zach has their T-shirt.” Quaid, having met the boy on a few occasions, wasn’t shocked by the information. “Here’s the deal. We need someone to infiltrate them.” Molly blinked twice. Durwood spoke up, “You’d be great, Moll. You’re young. Personable. People trust you.” Molly’s eyes were grapefruits. “What did you call them, ‘anarchist hackers’? How would I infiltrate them? I just started paying bills online.” “No tech knowledge required,” Quaid said. “We have a plan.” He gave her the nickel summary. The Blind Mice had singled out twelve corporate targets, “the Despicable Dozen,” and American Dynamics topped the list. In recent months, AmDye had seen its websites crashed, its factories slowed by computer glitches, internal documents leaked, the CEO’s home egged repeatedly. Government agencies from the FBI to NYPD were pursuing the Mice, but the company was troubled by the lack of progress and so had hired Third Chance Enterprises to take them down. “Now if I accept,” Molly said, narrowing her eyes, “does that mean I’m officially part of Third Chance Enterprises?” Quaid exhaled at length. Durwood shook his head with an irked air—he hated the name, and considered Quaid’s branding efforts foolish. “Oh, Durwood and I have been at this freelance operative thing awhile.” Quaid smoothed his sport coat lapels. “Most cases we can handle between the two of us.” “But not this one.” “Right. Durwood’s a whiz with prosthetics, but even he can’t bring this”—Quaid indicated his own ruggedly handsome but undeniably middle-aged face—“back to twenty-five.” Molly’s eyes turned inward. Quaid’s instincts told him she was thinking of her children. She said, “Sounds dangerous.” “Nah.” He spread his arms, wide and forthright. “You’re working with the best here: the top small-force, private-arms outfit in the Western world. Very minimal danger.” Like the politician he’d once been, Quaid delivered this line of questionable veracity with full sincerity. Then he turned to his partner. “Right, Wood? She won’t have a thing to worry about. We’d limit her involvement to safe situations.” Durwood thinned his lips. “Do the best we could.” This response, typical of the soldier he’d once been, was unhelpful. Molly said, “Who takes care of my kids if something happens, if the Blind Mice sniff me out? Would I have to commit actual crimes?” “Unlikely.” Unlikely? I’ll tell you what’s unlikely, getting hired someplace, anyplace, with a felony conviction on your application…” As she thundered away, Quaid wondered if Durwood might not have been right in preferring a pro. The few times they’d used Molly McGill before had been secondary: posing as a gate agent during the foiled Delta hijacking, later as an archivist for the American embassy in Rome. They’d only pulled her into Rome because of her language skills—she spoke six fluently. “…also, I have to say,” she continued, and from the edge in her voice, Quaid knew just where they were headed, “I find it curious that I don’t hear from you for ten months, and then you need my help, and all of a sudden, I matter. All of a sudden, you’re on my doorstep.” “I apologize,” Quaid said. “The Dubai job ran long, then that Guadeloupean resort got hit by a second hurricane. We got busy. I should’ve called.” Molly’s face cooled a shade, and Quaid saw that he hadn’t lost her. Yet. Before either could say more, a heavy ker-klack sounded outside. “What’s the racket?” Quaid asked. He peeked out the window at his and Durwood’s Vanagon, which looked no more beat-up than usual. “It’s been going on all morning,” Molly said. “I figured it was construction.” Quaid said, “Construction in this economy?” He looked to Durwood. “I’ll check ’er out.” The ex-soldier turned for the door. Sue-Ann, heaving herself laboriously off the carpet, scuffled after. Alone now with Molly, Quaid walked several paces in. He doubled his sport coat over his forearm and passed a hand through his hair, using a foyer mirror to confirm the curlicues that graced his temples on his best days. This was where it had to happen. Quaid’s behavior toward Molly had been less than gallant, and that was an issue. Still, there were sound arguments at his disposal. He could play the money angle. He could talk about making the world safer for Molly’s children. He could point out that she was meant for greater things, appealing to her sense of adventure, framing the job as an escape from the hamster wheel and entrée to a bright world of heroes and villains. He believed in the job. Now he just needed her to believe too. CHAPTER THREE Durwood walked north. Sue-Ann gimped along after, favoring her bum hip. Paws echoed bootheels like sparrows answering blackbirds. They found their noise at the sixth house on the left. A crew of three men was working outside a small home. Two-story like Molly’s. The owner had tacked an addition onto one side, prefab sunroom. The men were working where the sunroom met the main structure. Dislodging nails, jackhammering between fiberglass and brick. Tossing panels onto a stack. “Pardon,” Durwood called. “Who you boys working for?” One man pointed to his earmuffs. The others paid Durwood no mind whatsoever. Heavyset men. Big stomachs and muscles. Durwood walked closer. “Those corner boards’re getting beat up. Y’all got a permit I could see?” The three continued to ignore him. The addition was poorly done to begin with, the cornice already sagging. Shoddy craftsmanship. That didn’t mean the owners deserved to have it stolen for scrap. The jackhammer was plugged into an outside GFI. Durwood caught its cord with his bootheel. “The hell?” said the operator as his juice cut. Durwood said, “You’re thieves. You’re stealing fiberglass.” The men denied nothing. One said, “Call the cops. See if they come.” Sue-Ann bared her gums. Durwood said, “I don’t believe we need to involve law enforcement,” and turned back south for the Vanagon. Crime like this—callous, brash—was a sign of the times.  People were sore about this “new economy,” how well the rich were making out. Groups like the Blind Mice thought it gave them a right to practice lawlessness.   Lawlessness, Durwood knew, was like a plague. Left unchecked, it spread. Even now, besides this sunroom dismantling, Durwood saw a half dozen offenses in plain sight. Low-stakes gambling on a porch. Coaxials looped across half the neighborhood roofs: cable splicing. A Rottweiler roaming off leash. Each stuck in Durwood’s craw. He walked a half block to the Vanagon. He hunted around inside, boots clattering the bare metal floor. Pushed aside Stinger missiles in titanium casings. Squinted past crates of frag grenades in the bulkhead he’d jiggered himself from ponderosa pine. Here she was—a pressurized tin of black ops epoxy. Set quick enough to repel a flash air strike, strong enough to hold a bridge. Durwood had purchased it for the Dubai job. According to his supplier, Yakov, the stuff smelled like cinnamon when it dried. Something to do with chemistry. Durwood removed the tin from its box and brushed off the pink Styrofoam packing Yakov favored. Then allowed Sue a moment to ease herself down to the curb before they started back north. Passing Molly’s house, Durwood glimpsed her through the living room window. She was listening to Quaid, fingers pressed to her forehead. Quaid was lying. Which was nothing new, Quaid stretching the truth to a woman. But these lies involved Molly’s safety. Fact was, they knew very little of the Blind Mice. Their capabilities, their willingness to harm innocents. The leader, Josiah, was a reckless troublemaker. He spewed his nonsense on Twitter, announcing targets ahead of time, talking about his own penis. The heavyset men were back at it. One on the roof. The other two around back of the sunroom, digging up the slab. Durwood set down the epoxy. The men glanced over but kept jackhammering. They would not be the first, nor last, to underestimate this son of an Appalachian coal miner. The air compressor was set up on the lawn. Durwood found the main pressure valve and cranked its throat full open. The man on the roof had his ratchet come roaring out of his hands. He slid down the grade, nose rubbing vinyl shingles, and landed in petunias. Back on his feet, the man swore. “Mind your language,” Durwood said. “There’s families in the neighborhood.” The other two hustled over, shovels at their shoulders. The widest of the three circled to Durwood’s backside. Sue-Ann coiled her old bones to strike. Ugliness roiled Durwood’s gut. Big Man punched first. Durwood caught his fist, torqued his arm behind his back. The next man swung his shovel. Durwood charged underneath and speared his chest. The man wheezed sharply, his lung likely punctured. The third man got hold of Durwood’s bootheel, smashed his elbow into the hollow of Durwood’s knee. Durwood scissored the opposite leg across the man’s throat. He gritted his teeth and clenched. He felt the man’s Adam’s apple wriggling between his legs. A black core in Durwood yearned to squeeze. He resisted. The hostiles came again, and Durwood whipped them again. Automatically, in a series of beats as natural to him as chirping to a katydid. The men’s faces changed from angry to scared to incredulous. Finally, they stayed down. “Now y’all are helping fix that sunroom.” Durwood nodded to the epoxy tin. “Mix six to one, then paste ’er on quick.” Luckily, he’d caught the thieves early, and the repair was uncomplicated. Clamp, glue, drill. The epoxy should increase the R-value on the sunroom ten, fifteen, units. Good for a few bucks off the gas bill in winter, anyhow. Durwood did much of the work himself. He enjoyed the panels’ weight, the strength of a well-formed joint. His muscles felt free and easy as if he were home ridding the sorghum fields of johnsongrass. Done, he let the thieves go. He turned back south toward Molly’s house. Sue-Ann scrabbled alongside. “Well, ole girl?” he said. “Let’s see how Quaid made out.” CHAPTER FOUR I stood on my front porch watching the Vanagon rumble down Sycamore. My toes tingled, my heart was tossing itself against the walls of my chest, and I was pretty sure my nose had gone berserk. How else could I be smelling cinnamon? Quaid Rafferty’s last words played over and over in my head: We need you. For twenty minutes, after Durwood had taken his dog to investigate ker-klacks, Quaid had given me the hard sell. The money would be big-time. I had the perfect skills for the assignment: guts, grace under fire, that youthful je ne sais quoi. Wasn’t I always saying I ought to be putting my psychology skills to better use? Well, here it was: understanding these young people’s outrage would be a major component of the job. Some people will anticipate your words and mumble along. Quaid did something similar but with feelings, cringing at my credit issues, brightening with whole-face joy at Karen’s reading progress—which I was afraid would suffer if I got busy and didn’t keep up her nightly practice. He was pitching me, yes. But he genuinely cared what was happening in my life. I didn’t know how to think about Quaid, how to even fix him in my brain. He and Durwood were so far outside any normal frame of reference. Were they even real? Did I imagine them? Their biographies were epic. Quaid the twice-elected (once-impeached) governor of Massachusetts who now battled villains across the globe and lived at Caesars Palace. Durwood a legend of the Marine Corps, discharged after defying his commanding officer and wiping out an entire Qaeda cell to avenge the death of his wife. I’d met them during my own unreal adventure—the end of my second marriage, which had unraveled in tragedy in the backwoods of West Virginia. They’d recruited me for three missions since. Each was like a huge, brilliant dream—the kind that’s so vital and packed with life that you hang on after you wake up, clutching backward into sleep to stay inside. Granny said, “That man’s trouble. If you have any sense in that stubborn head of yours, you’ll steer clear.” I stepped back into the living room, the Vanagon long gone, and allowed my eyes to close. Granny didn’t know the half of it. She had huffed off to watch her judge shows on TV before the guys had even mentioned the Blind Mice. No, she meant a more conventional trouble. “I’ve learned,” I said. “If I take this job, it won’t be for romance. I’d be doing it for me. For the family.” As if cued by the word “family,” a peal of laughter sounded upstairs. Children! My eyes zoomed to the clock. It was 8:20. Zach would be lucky to make first hour, let alone homeroom. In a single swipe, I scooped up the Prius keys and both jackets. My purse whorled off my shoulder like some supermom prop. “Leaving now!” I called up the stairwell. “Here we go, kids—laces tied, backpacks zipped.” Zach trudged down, leaning his weight into the rail. Karen followed with sunny-careful steps. I sped through the last items on my list—tossed a towel over the grape juice, sloshed water onto the roast, considered my appearance in the microwave door, and just frowned, beyond caring. Halfway across the porch, Granny’s fingers closed around my wrist. “Promise me,” she said, “that you will not associate with Quaid Rafferty. Promise me you won’t have one single thing to do with that lowlife.” I looked past her to the kitchen, where the cat was kinking herself to retch Eggo Waffle onto the linoleum. “I’m sorry, Granny.” I patted her hand, freeing myself. “It’s something I have to do.” *** Excerpt from Anarchy of the Mice by Jeff Bond. Copyright 2020 by Jeff Bond. Reproduced with permission from Jeff Bond. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Jeff Bond Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. His books have been featured in The New York Review of Books, and his 2020 release, The Pinebox Vendetta, received the gold medal (top prize) in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

 

 

 

 

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How My Years of Experience Developing Screenplays Has Influenced My Work Writing Novels

How did I come to eagerly want to write character driven thrillers?

It began years ago when I went to Hollywood.

I came to Hollywood in 1975 to produce feature films. I was 26 years old, I didn’t know anyone in the movie business, but I’d stumbled onto a timely idea — I was going to work with, and most importantly, back screenwriters. That is to say, stand behind their work — and I say this with hindsight — protect them from being rewritten, include them in the process of choosing a director, casting the picture, all of the decisions that go into making a feature film.

At that time, the Writers Guild minimum for a high budget screenplay was $9,600. No, I’m not leaving out any zeros. You could hire the most accomplished screenwriter, if he or she agreed to work for the minimum, for $9,600. Also, screenwriters were at the bottom of the Hollywood food chain. Their screenplays were often rewritten at the whim of a star or a director or a studio executive. They weren’t often consulted about most of the important choices that go into making a movie.

Finally, it was a golden age in Hollywood — filmmakers were taking risks and studios were giving directors free reign to make daring movies. In this creative context, writers were eager to work on exciting projects, especially if they could stay with the project as it moved toward becoming a film.

In Chicago, I’d learned filmmaking working on educational films. I was the first one on and the last one off — doing everything from writing, to cinematography, to directing actors, editing, etc. But it was a big jump to producing feature films in Hollywood, so I went to business school and raised a small amount of money (less than $100,000) to go to Hollywood to finance screenplays.

I was young, optimistic, and emboldened by the films being made. I approached writers that I loved and made unconventional deals. I was successful enough developing screenplays, and attracting actors, that early on, studios were financing the screenplays I wanted to develop.

Early in my producing career, I had the privilege of working with author Ross Macdonald, a legend in crime fiction, on his only screenplay. Working with him, I began to see how characters could drive plot.

This was the New Hollywood (1967 -1980), and I worked with writers whose work grabbed viewers viscerally, not with explosions but with multi-dimensional characters that would draw you into a deeply moving story. I spent countless hours working out the stories and shaping the people in them. I worked with the following screenwriters, with some of their most famous works noted in parentheses: Frederick Raphael (“Two for the Road”), Alvin Sargent (“Ordinary People”, “Julia”), Andy Lewis (“Klute”), Joe Esterhas (”Basic Instinct”), Ron Bass (“Rain Man”), Stewart Stern (“Rebel Without a Cause”). William Wittliff (“Lonesome Dove,” Raggedy Man”), Larry D. Cohen (“Carrie,” “Ghost Story”), etc. These writer’s film credits are for identification purposes with the exception of  “Raggedy Man” and “Ghost Story,” as I did not work on these films.

Working closely with these great screenwriters was a rare opportunity to learn how to create complicated characters and to see how these complex people enriched storytelling.

As I had some success, I began developing screenplays working directly with actors including: Robert Redford, Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Sally Field, and Jill Clayburg. I had a memorable trip to NYC to read a Frederic Raphael screenplay I had worked on with Diane Keaton and Al Pacino.

As I reflect, I can see how working with fine actors helped me later — I was able to draw complex, conflicted characters without being too heavy handed.

I am a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and, as such, I spent a lot of time thinking about what makes good movies work.

I left Hollywood in 1987 — the golden age was over and I wanted to write. To me, the best screenplays I’d worked on never got made. Nevertheless, it was a great experience. As a producer developing a screenplay, you learn to look for stories with strong, complex characters and a “rich stew” — that is to say a situation with conflict, emotional intensity, and the potential to evolve in unexpected ways. That is exactly how I approach the books that I write. I learned how to do that as a producer working on screenplays.

I am now 71 years old and I continue to write character-driven thrillers, including my latest novel: Danger in Plain Sight.

Burt Weissbourd is a novelist and former screenwriter and producer of feature films. He was born in 1949 and graduated cum laude from Yale University, with honors in psychology. His forthcoming book, Danger in Plain Sight, will be published on May 5th 2020 and is the first book in his new Callie James thriller series. His earlier books include Inside Passage, Teaser, Minos, and In Velvet, all of which will be reissued in June 2020.

Danger in Plain Sight

by Burt Weissbourd

on Tour June 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

Danger in Plain Sight by Burt Weissbourd

It took fourteen years to construct a safe world for her and her son–and only one night for her ex to unravel it.

Celebrated Seattle restaurateur Callie James is more than a little thrown when her ex-husband, French investigative reporter Daniel Odile-Grand, shows up after fourteen years asking for her help. Even more disturbing: as she throws him out, Daniel is deliberately hit by a car, hurled through the front window of her restaurant–broken, bloody and unconscious. He flees from the hospital and breaks into Callie’s apartment, where he passes out. Reluctantly, Callie hides him. When she gets back to her restaurant, two assassins walk in, insisting that she find Daniel for them by tonight or pay the consequences.

Overwhelmed and hopelessly out of her depth, Callie hires the only man she knows who can help her: Cash Logan, her former bartender, a man she had arrested for smuggling ivory through her restaurant two years earlier, and who still hasn’t forgiven her.

The assassins blow up her restaurant. It’s Callie’s nightmare. And the worst is yet to come as she and her unlikely, incompatible ally discover that the most perilous dangers are far closer to home than they’d imagined.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Blue City Press
Publication Date: September 8th 2020
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN: 1733438211 (ISBN13: 9781733438216)
Series: A Callie James Thriller, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

It was 1:15 a.m. when Kelly and Gray returned. They must have been watching, because they came in as the last patron left. Will showed them to the bar, where Callie was waiting at her table. They sat facing her, different suits this time. Gray wore a thin gold square-link chain around his neck and a matching gold earring—stylish and expensive. Kelly wore a similar gold necklace with a floating diamond solitaire pendant. As Will was asking where their suits had been made, Callie interrupted. “A drink?”

“Another time,” Gray said, all business now. “Have you found Daniel Odile-Grand?”

“No, as I said before, I have no idea where he is.”

“That’s unacceptable,” he said matter-of-factly. He turned to his partner, who nodded, regretfully smiling her agreement.

Callie was prepared. Cash had told her to hit her “ice mode” button—a phrase he’d coined for her chilliness when irritated—at any sign of trouble. He’d recognize that and take it from there. “I beg your pardon?” she replied, classic subzero. She sipped her tepid San Pellegrino with lime.

“As I explained, urgent matters are at stake.” Gray waved his hand to include the dining room downstairs. “I’m told this fine restaurant is underinsured.”

“Yo, Callie.” Cash had materialized behind her, carrying chips and guacamole for the table. “I thought you said we were well insured.”

“We are, in fact, well insured,” she agreed.

Cash leaned in. His physical presence didn’t seem to faze these people. “So we don’t need insurance, then, we’re fine,” he pointed out.

Gray leaned in, too, measuring Cash, finding him wanting. “Listen carefully, cowboy, this is not your concern.” He said it slowly, advising a dim-witted child.

Kelly shook her head and spoke for the first time. “No, surely not.”

Cash’s eyes locked onto Gray’s. “Then this is your unlucky day, pardner. From now on, to get to the lady, you go through me.” He flashed a shit-eating grin. “Did you call me Cowboy?”

Gray grinned ever so slightly. Kelly smiled, picture perfect.

“Cowboy?” Cash repeated, frowning now as he emptied the bowl of guacamole on Gray’s cream-colored silk suit.

Gray was up, going for his gun. He fell to the floor, writhing, when Andre planted his metal prosthetic in the hit man’s groin. Cash already had Kelly’s arms pinned at her sides. Andre took her gun from its shoulder holster and trained it on Gray, who was on the floor, covered with guacamole.

“Let this go,” Cash told Gray. “You don’t want a war. Not with me.”

“Nice suit,” Andre added, and lifted Gray’s gold necklace with the black metal toe of his prosthetic leg. “Love the bling.”

More from Danger in Plain Sight

Cash closed his eyes. He had to do something to divert his mind from these horrific insects. He turned away, stretched his sore arms, flexed his tense back, focusing on Callie. Callie James . . . Okay, it was working. Picturing her face, the corners of his mouth turned up and his spirits soared.

Callie James . . . Why did he feel so wholly in love with her?

He stood, arms extended behind him, as he considered his on-again, off-again history with women.

Women found him attractive, and he’d been with many of them. His relationships, however, rarely lasted as long as he expected. There was some part of himself that he held back, and women sensed this and eventually moved on or asked for more of a commitment than he could make. Over time, he realized that it wasn’t a part — like a piece — but rather some portion of his unusual intensity. He understood that he was very accepting of other people and only offered as much as a woman looked for — some essential emotional minimum — to sustain the relationship. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It was a strong, keenly sensitive person’s way of protecting a partner from unwanted, possibly unsettling intensity. It’s who he was. Everything that he did, he did well but sparingly. So in some way he didn’t understand, he was choosing women who were less intense than he was.

Callie was the first woman he’d ever been with who demanded one hundred percent at all times. She was relentless, and even when she wasn’t aware of it, every bit as intense as he was. He didn’t hold anything back with her — yet she always wanted an explanation, an elaboration, an argument, or an answer to a difficult question. She’d never idealized him, that’s for sure. And he never pretended with her. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but the out-of-the-blue way this had happened between them, the strength of it, was something entirely new for him. Did he trust it? Yes, unequivocally. Did he know why? Yes, unequivocally again — it was because Callie James could never be untrue to herself.

Cash sat down, and turning back, he watched the horrible insects squirming in the jar.

No, he couldn’t lose her. Not now.

More from Danger in Plain Sight

He opened the back door and then led Christy up the stairs to apartment 2D. Will opened the apartment door, held it for her. Christy came through the door into the living room. Will closed the door behind her.

“Christy,” Callie called from where she’d been standing behind the door.

When Christy turned, confused, Callie whispered, “You miserable bitch,” and she fired two barbed, dart-like electrodes from her Taser into Christy’s chest. The electrodes created a circuit in the body, essentially hijacking the central nervous system, causing neuromuscular incapacitation.

Christy fell to the floor, writhing in uncontrollable muscle spasms. When the writhing stopped and she’d curled into the fetal position, Callie and Will cuffed her hands behind her back.

When they were able to get her on her feet, Callie said, “We’re trading you for Cash Logan and Amjad Hasim.”

“What are you talking about?”

Callie slapped her, as hard as she was able. The blow tore Christy’s lower lip, drawing blood, and bruised her cheek. Callie hadn’t planned to do that—it was her second time, and she’d never hit anyone nearly so hard in her life—but red-hot rage was coursing through her veins. She was trembling, though her ever-present anxiety had receded, and she sure as hell didn’t feel helpless.

“Are you crazy?” Christy cried out.

“Don’t even try that. I know what you and Avi have done—to Daniel, to my restaurant, to my friend Doc. You almost killed us all on the boat. And now you have Cash, damn you!”

Christy’s face changed; she got it—Callie had somehow put it together. “You low-life skanky cunt, I’ll kill you myself.” Christy spit in Callie’s face.

Callie slapped her again, a fierce crack, astonished, yet again, by the rage she felt welling inside. And in that moment, she understood that her usual internal restraints—her rules and regulations—were no longer in place. It was as if an anvil had been cut loose from around her neck.

Blood dripped from Christy’s lip, her left eye was partially closed, and tears streamed down her face.

Callie stepped closer. “If anything happens to Cash, if you hurt him again, I’ll kill you, Christy Ben-Meyer. I swear that on my son’s life.”

Five minutes later Christy was standing on a stool in the center of the room. Her hands were cuffed behind her back. Her feet were bound. Her mouth was covered with duct tape. There was a noose around her neck that was tightly tied off to the pair of sturdy eyehooks that Will had screwed into the ceiling beam earlier. Christy’s head was tilted back and up; the rope was that tight. Another rope was tied to the leg of the stool. If the stool were pulled out from under Christy’s feet, she would hang.

Callie held a handgun to Christy’s kneecap.

Will was shooting a video with Callie’s iPhone.

Callie spoke to the camera. “Avi Ben-Meyer, I promise you that I will shoot out Christy’s left kneecap in fifteen minutes if you haven’t arranged the exchange with Itzac by then. In thirty minutes, I’ll shoot out her other kneecap and hang her. Believe me on this — if Cash Logan is hurt in any way, I’ll torture her without mercy before she dies.” Callie nodded, done. She walked to a corner of the room, fighting for breath. Dear God! What had she just said? Torture Christy? Damn it, if they hurt Cash . . . She gasped — she’d never even known that she could have feelings like that.

Will placed a calming hand on her back, and he gave her the phone. Callie noted the time, then sent the video to Itzac.

More from Danger in Plain Sight

The martinis arrived, each one with an extra inch of refill in a glass tumbler. “The angel’s share,” Cash explained. He raised his drink, a toast. “To you, Callie, to what you could become.”

She clicked his glass with hers. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“You have a shot at extraordinary.”

“You think so?”

“Possibly. But it’s an entirely different kind of extraordinary than turning-me-over-to-the-cops-for-smuggling-erotic-netsuke-into-your-restaurant extraordinary.”

“I deserve that. Jesus what an unforgiving, righteous gal I was.” She raised a palm. “Your words. And you were right. I’m sorry.” She touched his arm. “I was mean-spirited, foolish—just plain wrong — and I’ll always regret that.”

“Suppose we let that go.” Cash raised his glass again.

She touched her glass to his. “Thank you.”

“Speaking of regrets, honestly, I never anticipated that this past week would be so difficult—the anxiety, hiding Lew, the mace, the damage to your restaurant, the explosives on the boat . . . It was especially hard to lose Doc . . .” He let it drift.

She nodded, found his eyes. “I misjudged you early on . . . Conventional thinking sometimes blinds me—how you look, how you dress, what your job is. Long story short, you’re not at all what you seem. I listened carefully to you with Detective Samter today. You’re so smart, so able in the world. And in your way, though you’d never admit it, you try to get it right. Yes, you present whatever you’re proposing as practical, a calculated, opportunistic thing. What I’m learning, though, is that with you that’s also, as you see it—after carefully weighing pros and cons—the best for all involved. Or as I would say it, theright thing. How you get there is often confusing to me, but you do get there, way ahead of me, and, well, I admire you.”

“Thank you . . . That’s a two-way deal.” Cash watched her, surprised by her expressiveness. “Truthfully, this past week, I underestimated you. You’ve been right there, as hard as that must have been for you. You kept defying my expectations. Just when I was ready to give up on you, you did the smart thing, the hard thing, under protest, but you did it. And now, I’m watching you in the eye of a serious storm, just when I’d expect you to cave in, fall apart. But no, you manage. You even stand tall. Callie, you have a fine, strong heart.”

She smiled. “I’m a restaurateur. I never knew what to do outside my restaurant. I was always afraid.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“It took a lot of work and a huge amount of energy to accomplish that deception. I mean you can’t imagine what it was like for me to find you — ask for your help — at the Dragon. It was all I could do to look at you, to keep even a semblance of composure.”

“And that’s changing?”

“Yes, I think so. I hope so.”

“How did this happen?”

“It’s you, Terry.” She looked at him, eyes serious. “In your tenacious, patient way, you dragged me—kicking and screaming—out into the world, step by baby step, and though it’s every bit as frightening and even more unsettling than I imagined it, I’m okay with it. Yeah, I’m even getting my sea legs.”

“Bravo, then, Callie James. To both of us.”

She raised her glass. They toasted silently.

“Truthfully, Cash, at times I even like it out here.”

“Well, it suits you.” Cash watched her smile.

“I even like talking with you . . . And I was never a talker.”

“I’m guessing we have some great, contentious conversations ahead of us.”

“I like the idea of that.”

“Likewise.”

“Cash and Frosty, tête-à-tête.”

He took her small, delicate hands in his big, busted-up mitts.

Their kiss was tender, sweet, Cash thought. After, there were tears in Callie’s eyes.

***

Excerpt from Danger in Plain Sight by Burt Weissbourd. Copyright 2020 by Burt Weissbourd. Reproduced with permission from Burt Weissbourd. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Burt Weissbourd

Burt Weissbourd is a novelist and former screenwriter and producer of feature films. He was born in 1949 and graduated cum laude from Yale University, with honors in psychology. His book, Danger in Plain Sight, published on May 15th 2020, is the first book in his new Callie James thriller series. His earlier books include Inside Passage, Teaser, Minos, and In Velvet, all of which will be reissued in Fall 2020.

 

 

 

Catch Up With Burt Weissbourd On:
BurtWeissbourd.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

 

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