“Jeff found scuff marks on the windowsill.”

“Yes, from your shoes.”

“I wasn’t wearing shoes.”

“You weren’t?”

“No. I was in my stockinged feet. Cassidy, someone climbed in that window before I fell out of it.”

Monday, March 30, 2020

Milo Finds a Body: Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders


Since we are all sheltering in place, I thought I'd take the opportunity to regale you with excerpts from all my books. This is the second installment.

What would you do if you found a body in a dark, empty, warehouse and you’re all alone? Panic? Find out what intrepid needlepoint artist Milo Everhart does in Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders.


Artful Dodging brings together a cast of eccentric characters, from Milo the heroine needlepoint artist, to Tekla, ebony-tressed Russian sculptress, to Jacob, the fanatic environmentalist, to Archie who literally lives in the art center, to handsome lawyer Tristram, to the statuesque Ursula. The plot revolves around the discovery of two bodies who seem to bear no relation to each other or to anyone else. They are found in the tower room of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, an old munitions factory turned art studio center on the waterfront of Old Town Alexandria. Since the city is considering proposals to close the art center, Milo and her friends have their hands full trying to save it, at the same time trying to solve the murders. Her budding romance with Tristram is complicated by both her continued grief at the loss of her husband and Tristram’s involvement in a plan to turn the torpedo factory into a box store.

The Torpedo Factory

The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, is a hulking former munitions factory right on the waterfront. Since the 1970s it has been host to art studios, a museum, and an art school. It’s never been renovated and is still a vast open central space surrounded by meandering corridors and rooms tucked away here and there. It is topped by a tower reached by hidden stairs. So you can imagine how our heroine, Milo Everhart, felt when she had to traverse the narrow stairs, open fire doors, and walk through a huge dark hall, to let the police in.

Excerpt (G): The Body

“Hello! Hello? 911?”
“Please state the nature of your emergency.”
“A body. There’s a b…b…body.” The word came out as a gurgle.
“Yes, ma’am. Now tell me where you are.”
Milo looked wildly around the darkened corridor. “Second floor. No lights.”
“Ma’am? Second floor of what?”
“Oh, er, the Torpedo Factory. I ran downstairs. I…”
“The Torpedo Factory? You mean the building at 105 North Union Street?”
Milo almost snapped, “How many torpedo factories do you know?” but thought better of it. “Yes.”
“All right, ma’am. Now, you say you’ve found a body? Is it dead?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course it’s dead. Dead. A dead body. In the office.”
“The office?”
“The tower. Look, can you send the police? I’m all alone in the building. Except for the body, of course. I mean, it’s pitch black in here. Please?” She knew she sounded less than rational, but weren’t 911 operators trained to weed out the gibberish and cut to the chase?
“I’ve already sent out a call. The police should be arriving any minute. Now, will they be able to enter the building?”
“Oh! Er. I don’t know. Archie’s already locked up.”
“Archie?”
“The super. He’s long gone, though.”
“Can you get to a door to let them in?”
Milo’s shoes must have found bubble gum on the floor all by themselves, since they appeared to be stuck. “I…uh…I can’t get to the doors.” Nothing but silence on the other end. She must think I’m lazy. Or a coward. I’ll bet she knows how to wait people out, to force them to do her bidding. “I’m not lazy, miss. I’m just…I’m wondering. What if the murderer is hiding somewhere, still in the building?”
“Murderer? You think the victim was murdered?”
Every CSI show she’d ever watched, plus a couple of X Files, fast-forwarded through her brain. Somewhere in the reruns she found the answer. “I don’t know. That’s for the experts to decide.” Thank you, Gil Grissom.
“Okay, ma’am. Listen to me carefully. If the building is locked, the police will have to break the door down, but first they’ll have to go to a judge and get a search warrant. So you see, the quickest way they can help you is if you let them in. Now, do you think you can go down the stairs to the door?”
Milo drew in a long, ragged breath, holding it until her head began to spin. As she let it out, she managed, “Yes. I’m on the landing. Can you stay on the line with me in case I’m attacked?”
“I sure will.”
Milo felt her way with one hand toward the middle stairwell. “I’m on the stairs now. Now I’m walking down the stairs.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
The central staircase of the factory only had a single metal railing and thus was exposed to the entire main hall. If anyone still lurked in the building he could easily see (and hear) her. She stopped halfway down and looked across the main lobby to the front entrance, a set of doublewide, glass-paned sliding doors. “There are flashing lights and sirens coming from Union Street.”
“Yes, ma’am. That would be the police.”
Well, duh.

Wild Rose Press, 7/20/2016; Imprint Crimson Rose 
Theme(s): Mystery/Cozy Mystery
Contemporary romantic Suspense, M/F, 2 flames
Ebook, 66,830 words; Print 268 p. 

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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Jailhouse Blues--The Pit & the Passion: an Excerpt

Since we are all sheltering in place, I thought I'd take the opportunity to regale you with excerpts from all my books. Today's offering is the Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel.



Jailhouse Blues

Come listen to Rancor whine (he’s so good at that!) from a Paris jail in an excerpt from my cozy mystery romance The Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel . Set on Longboat Key, Florida, the Pit and the Passion takes place on the spot where John Ringling began building a luxurious hotel in the 1920s. Left to slowly disintegrate over the decades, it inevitably came to be called the Ghost Hotel.


Blurb
At midnight, in the darkness of a deserted hotel, comes a scream and a splash. Eighty-five years later, workmen uncover a skeleton in an old elevator shaft. Who is it, and how did it get there? To find out, Charity Snow, ace reporter for the Longboat Key Planet, teams up with Rancor Bass, best-selling author. A college ring they find at the dig site may prove to be their best clue.

Although his arrogance nearly exceeds his talent, Charity soon discovers a warm heart beating under Rancor’s handsome exterior. While dealing with a drop-dead gorgeous editor who may or may not be a villain, a publisher with a dark secret, and an irascible forensic specialist, Charity and Rancor unearth an unexpected link to the most famous circus family in the world.

Paris

Paris is featured in many of my books because I have a soft spot for it. In The Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel, I contrive to send my hero Rancor Bass off to Paris in pursuit of his editor. He lands himself in jail, which gives our heroine Charity Snow a chance to see Paris for the first time. In fact, due to his misadventures, Charity—who’s never been out of Florida—gets to travel a LOT.

Excerpt (G): April in a Paris Jail
Charity dropped the phone. After picking it up and waiting for the panicky breaths to slow, she said as calmly as she could, “Before I shell out any more money, you need to answer a few questions, mister.”
“Fire away. It’s funny—here in France I’m allowed not one but two phone calls.”
“I presume your first one was to the American embassy.”
“That’s next on my list. This may come as a surprise to you, but I so longed to hear your voice that I decided to check in with you first. Get the money ball rolling, as it were.”
“It’s always about money, isn’t it?”
“Well, in this case, it’s pretty crucial. The French police may be enlightened as to telephone communications, but not so much about accommodations. So what do you say?”
“I say, get on the horn to the embassy without ado.”
He was silent for a minute. Finally, he said gently, “Don’t you want to hear what happened?”
“Let me guess. You were caught in flagrante delicto with a beautiful fugitive from justice.”
“Not at all. My heart is true. I’ve been faithful to you even if you don’t deserve it.”
Charity decided to let that pass—and maybe revisit it later at her leisure. “Tell me then.”
“Well, said beautiful fugitive managed to turn the tables on me. I found her, but instead of consenting to come along quietly, she screamed bloody murder. In a performance worthy of Sarah Bernhardt—you know who she was, don’t you? The greatest actress of her age. The Divine Sarah. Why, her Tosca was emulated by thousands of would-be swans. I—”
“What did she claim?”
“Who? Oh, Isabella? That I—Rancor Bass, author of eleven wildly acclaimed books—had stolen her manuscript! The gall of the woman.” He subsided into incoherent rumblings.
“And?”
“And since this is France, the gendarmes refrained from asking any searing questions for fear of injuring the nymphette’s fragile sensibilities. They swallowed her line without so much as a tittle of qualm and arrested me. It’s appalling, really. These chaps are totally sexist. Chauvinist dinosaurs…”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Well, I’d love the money as soon as you can send it. How’s that done nowadays? They used to say ‘I’ll wire it,’ but I’m pretty sure technology has moved on. No matter, that was five hundred if you recall. I guess I can exchange it here—ooh, I just thought of something. It’s euros, isn’t it? Not francs. What a shame…this Eurozone crap has got to stop. It’s ruining all the color and spice of Europe. Did you know French farmers can’t sell cheese that isn’t pasteurized? Criminal.”
“Rancor? Have you by any chance not eaten in a while?”
“What? No, la bonne femme—that’s ‘wife’ to you Yankees—of Monsieur le Brigadier Dumont provided me with a cheese omelet and a Picardie glass of a refreshing Sancerre. Her name is Antoinette. A very warmhearted woman.”
I’ll bet she is. “All right, then why are you babbling?”
“I think it’s the cell walls—so close, so confining. They’re beginning to get to me. Did I ever mention I have claustrophobia? I’m trying to fend it off with logorrhea.”
“Logo…what?”
“Logorrhea. It’s like diarrhea except with words rather than…well, you know.”
Let’s just skip on ahead. “All right, I’ll see about the money. Who do I send it to?”
“My lawyer—a Monsieur Carotte. Hang on, let me find his email address…here it is. CarotteatAubergineCarotteAsperge-dot-com. That’s all one word. Do you want me to spell it?”
“No, I’ve got it. Wait—you have a lawyer? Why do you need me?”
“He was assigned by the judge. He doesn’t care about me the way you do, Charity. In fact, he actually hooted when I suggested he bail me out. Like a hyena, not like an owl. Most unsettling.”
“How do you know he won’t keep the money?”
“Oh dear, I hadn’t thought of that. Just a minute.” From a distance, she heard a dialogue in rapid French. Rancor came back on the line. “The officer has kindly offered to take custody of the funds. Send it to Brigadier Raoul Dumont, in care of the Commissariat de Police, eighth arrondissement, one Avenue du General Eisenhower, Paris, 75008. Got it?”
“All right. I’ll do it first thing tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow! Can’t you do it tonight? It’s not exactly Shangri-La here.”
What time is it there?”
More French. “Dumont informs me it is three o’clock in the morning. So it’s tomorrow.”
“Well, it isn’t tomorrow here. You’ll get the money when you get it.” When he didn’t answer, she said sweetly, “Do call me when you get out.”
“Will do,” he whispered his voice tight. “You’re a saint. I’ll be at l’Hôtel Paris, 13 rue des Beaux Arts, Paris 75006. Number is 33-1-44-41-99-55.”
“Hotel Paris? Where’s that? By the train station?”
“No, dear. That’s Hôtel de la Gare. It’s always Hôtel de la Gare. L’Hôtel Paris is one of the most famous of all French hostelries. I’m shocked you don’t know this.”
“Rancor, I’ve never been to France. I’ve never even been to New York.”
“Why, you sad, pathetic creature. While I still have you on the line, I shall tell you more. All kinds of famous people have rested their weary heads on the silken sheets of l’Hôtel, the most eminent being Oscar Wilde. I believe he breathed his last bon mot there. So naturally, it’s the most suitable hotel for a wielder of clever phrases such as I, don’t you think? Plus, it’s a five-star and really rather special. Did you know its rooms are classified Mignon and Bijou? That tells you how precious it is.”
Not having any response to this little speech, she said goodbye and hung up.
An hour later, money having been sent and receipt confirmed, she went to bed, resolved to force the little reptile to confess just how he managed to bunk in a five-star hotel and yet still had to borrow bail money.

The Wild Rose Press, January 22, 2018 (Crimson Rose)
Mystery, Humorous/Romantic Comedy
Rating: PG13
418 p.; 97370 words

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