Saturday, April 28, 2012

I've been told I've been remiss, so....

Blurbs for my three books coming out in June. 

'Forbidden Fruit' - June 2nd 

When PI Sam Young takes on the case of a philandering wife he has no clue it will lead to theft and murder. 

And when he stops for supper at his favorite diner he doesn’t know he’ll end up meeting Jamie, a young man with aqua eyes who lives in terror of his ex lover.
It will take all that is in him for Sam to discover who killed his client, while at the same time trying to protect Jamie. In the process will he be able to convince emotionally battered young man it is possible to truly love, and be loved, in return?  

* * * * *   * * * * *

'An Honorable Man' - June 16th (for Father's Day)
Paxton, a forensics scientist whose wife has deserted him and their twin sons, becomes embroiled in trying to catch a serial killer when the boys discover a human finger-bone while rock-hunting. As more bodies turn up, and his housekeeper takes temporary leave, Paxton turns to Jordon, the boys’ grade school teacher, to watch them after school.

There is only one problem, Paxton and Jordon were lovers before Paxton married. Now, with his wife gone for the past two years, Paxton finds he still has feelings for Jordon, feelings which may be reciprocated. For the sake of his sons who hope their mother may someday return home, and his own belief that she might, he fights to be an honorable man.

* * * * *   * * * * *

'One Plus Two Equals...' - June 30th

When Julyan meets Duane he thinks he’s a man he might learn to love. Then Auden comes into his life, demanding what Julyan isn’t certain he can give. Which man will win his heart, or will it be both of them?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Families are messy - 27

Casey was on his feet immediately, ignoring the pain in his ankle as he wrapped his arms around Alma. She took a deep breath, let out a sob, and then steeled herself although she didn’t pull away. “Why?” she asked, her voice low and bitter. “And what did that detective mean about ‘other incidents’?”

“Let’s sit down and I’ll explain,” Casey looked at Darla and Bing, “to all of you.” He smiled slightly, adding, ”I guess I’m not going to be making it in to work today either.”

“Not dressed like that,” Bing told him. “Hang on; I think I have some sweats in the trunk of my car.” He did, coming back to hand them to his brother.

Once Casey was dressed and seated again beside Alma he began telling them exactly what had happened. His brother and sisters listened, shock and anger crossing their faces as the story progressed.

“That explains the bandage,” Bing said at one point, glancing at Casey’s wrist. Casey nodded and continued. When he was finished there was a long silence and then Bing remarked, almost casually, “You though it could have been Sammy.”

“Sorry, but yes that did cross my mind. You and he weren’t together during two times when I was attacked. The first time I figured it was just coincidence, but when you told me he was off with a client last night and hadn’t come home...“

“I understand. Honestly I can’t blame you for that. Damn, Casey, you must have been going through hell wondering which one of us it was.”

“At least he had this young woman to help him,” Alma said, reaching out to take Marcia’s hand. “I... owe you an apology for the nasty things I said to you.”

“That’s alright. I probably should apologize for the nasty things I was thinking about you,” Marcia replied with a small grin. Then she knelt down beside Alma, saying, “If there’s anything you need.”

Alma smiled bitterly, wiping her hand across her cheeks to get rid of the tears that were slowly rolling down her face. “A new husband who... I don’t understand why. What was he thinking?”

“I suspect, once the police dig deeply enough into his finances, they’ll find he needed money and fairly quickly,” Fairchild replied from where he stood leaning against the porch railing.

Alma nodded. “But to do what he did.” Her sigh was deep with pain as she stood up. “I have to go home and decide what I have to do next.” She turned to Darla. “Would you...?”

“Of course.” Darla got up as well, stopping long enough to bend and kiss Casey’s cheek before following her sister to the street. Moments later they were both out of view as they drove away.

“You’re going to need a place to stay for a while,” Bing pointed out to his brother. “Feel free to use our guestroom again until you either find a new house or get this one back in shape.” He looked down at Duke who had finally gotten up from his family-safe spot at the far end of the porch to join them. “You can come too, dog, as long as you stay out of the flower beds.” Bing pulled his hand back quickly when Duke attempted to lick it.

They all laughed, and then Casey thanked Bing, telling him he’d take him up on his offer. “I have to go through the place and gather up what survived on the ground floor. At least what I want to keep. So I’ll see you this afternoon?”

“Good.” Bing checked the time and shook his head. “I guess I’m taking the day off too, all things considered. Tell you what, I’ll call in and then I’ll let Thomas know what’s going on as well. He’s probably in panic mode now since you’re not there.” He patted Casey’s shoulder. “I’ll see you when you get to my place.”

After Bing left Fairchild offered to help Casey pack up whatever he was planning on salvaging from the fire.

“First I have to see if there’s anything to salvage,” Casey replied with a groan. “I’m almost afraid to look.”

Fairchild opened the front door and shrugged. “It could have been worse, but you’re not going to be living here for a while, that’s for damned sure.”

Hobbling over to take his first look, Casey swore softly under his breath. “I’m not all that sure I even want to think about remaining here. Between the fire and the water damage...“ He shook his head. “And the memories of why it happened on top of it all. No, I’m going to find somewhere new to live. It’s not as if I’ve been here all that long anyway.”

Marcia joined the two men as they moved inside, taking in the destruction facing them. “If you’re going to move out then let’s get with the program and see what survived down here. Do you have a ladder somewhere Casey because if so Ezra or I can get to the second floor and maybe pack up some clothes for you as well?”

“No ladder,” Casey told her, surprised that she was even offering to help out, and not quite certain he even wanted her to.

Fairchild took that decision out of his hands by announcing, “Since she seems to be volunteering to stick around I’m going to leave the two of you to it and head to my office.”

“Deserting me in my hour of need?” Casey shook his head in mock dismay. “I owe you big time for all you’ve done. Thank you.”

“That you do, and I’ll send you my bill just to prove how much you owe me,” Fairchild replied with a grin. “Seriously, I’m glad I could help out.” Turning to Marcia he said, “Don’t be a stranger young lady, and let me know when your show opens. I’ll buy front row seats.”

“I will,” she promised, giving him a hug.

“Good.” He hugged her back and then slapped Casey on the back. “Keep in touch, and out of trouble.”

“Going to try to. Again, thanks for everything.”

“Any time.” They shook hands and then Fairchild took off.

“Marcia, you don’t have to stick around. I can pack up what’s I’m going to take with me.”

Marcia shook her head. “First off you’ll aggravate your ankle if you keep standing on it, to say the least of walking around too much. Secondly, once we get your stuff together you’ll need me to drive you over to Bing’s place.”

“There is something called taxi service. I think I’m capable of calling for one when I’m ready.”

“You really don’t want me here, do you?”

Leaning against the door jamb to take weight off his ankle, Casey scrubbed a hand over his face before answering. “Could I use you help, yes. The problem is what then?”

“I don’t know, Casey. We can get you out of here and then go our separate ways. Or we can take a stab at seeing if what I think we were starting to feel for each is real.”

“It was real on my end,” he admitted.

“Was or still is?” She looked away and then back at him when he didn’t reply. With a sigh she finally said, “That’s answers that. Do you have some boxes somewhere? I’ll get them and we can get this done and then...“ She started towards the kitchen, intent on getting away from him before he saw the tears in her eyes.

“It still is,” he said quietly.

Without turning to look at him she asked, “Are you sure?”

“As sure as I’ve been about anything recently.” He crossed the small distance that separated them to wrap his arms around her from behind, pulling her tightly against his body. “Is it love? I don’t know, yet. I do know I don’t want you vanishing out of my life.”

“I don’t want to vanish.” She turned in his arms to look up at him. “Maybe this will work, maybe it won’t, but I think it’s worth tying to find out.”

“Absolutely.” He cupped one hand under her chin, kissing her softly. “And that was not for show,” he said with a grin when they broke apart. “That was for real.”

“Trust me,” she grinned back, tapping the tip of his nose, “I knew that.”

The End

But there's more to come of the Winterfield saga

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Families are messy - 26

The detective turned to see who had spoken and smiled slightly. “Hello, Ms. Lamberti, nice to see you again. However, as much as I hate to point this out, from the sound of it neither you nor Mr. Fairchild seems to have been keeping that close an eye on him.”

“Well in all fairness,” she replied, patting Casey’s thigh to make him move over enough so she could sit down on the swing beside him, “we weren’t really called in until after the carbon monoxide incident.” She shot a look at Casey which asked him to back her up on that for now. He nodded in agreement.  

At that point the fire inspector excused himself to go inside the house and continue his investigation.

The detective pulled up one of the porch chairs and sat, asking, “Why do you think this is family related?”

Between the three of them, Casey, Marcia and Fairchild laid out their reasoning and the facts behind it.

“So,” the detective said when they had finished, “you were going to pull the classic mystery writer’s gambit and have all the suspects in one place, hoping one of them would what, confess that he was trying to kill Mr. Rothem?”

“I guess it sounds pretty stupid,” Casey replied, looking a bit sheepish.

“It does. That only works in detective stories.”

“We might get a chance to test if it works or not right now,” Casey said as he saw a car pull up and double park, the driver apparently oblivious to the fact that they were next to a police vehicle, or uncaring. Moments later another car came into view, pulling into the driveway next door to Casey’s house.

Darla reached the porch first, with Alma and Parker just seconds behind her. “Are you alright? I was watching the TV and saw the news and, and I was scared to death even though they said you were okay,” Darla exclaimed.

“The same here,” Parker said. “Alma insisted we come right over.” He smiled as his wife almost pushed Marcia out of the way so that she could hug Casey tightly.

When Casey managed to extricate himself from the unexpected embrace he said, “I’m fine, honest, other than a badly wrenched ankle and a house that’s going to need some major repair work.”

At that moment he saw Bing pull into a recently vacated parking place. He hurried over; telling Casey that Sammy had called to let him know about the fire.

“Called? Don’t tell me, Sammy had an early morning meeting,” Casey replied.

“Actually, a late night one; one of the joys of being a lawyer with well-to-do clients, they expect him to drop everything when they need his help. One of them called him in a panic because his kid had been picked up on a DUI. I guess Sammy spent the night getting him bonded out of jail.”

Fairchild shot Marcia a look which only she saw. She gave a tiny nod in return just as Casey’s cell rang.

Everyone knew immediately that it was Kathy from the shake of Casey’s head as he said, “I’m fine, honest… No you don’t have to come over… Yes I think I’m postponing the barbecue until a later date.” He glared briefly at Alma who just smiled back, not looking at all guilty. After he’d hung up, sighing in relief, he politely asked his family if they’d mind leaving now. “Despite all this,” he explained with a small smile, “I do have a business to run and I’m more than late as it is, and… damn, what the hell am I going to wear? I bet everything I own smells like smoke.”

“To say the least of the fact that you can’t get up the stairs to get to your clothes,” Parker said.

Marcia and the police detective looked at him, frowning. “I don’t remember there being any mention in the news reports of where in the house the fire was,” Marcia said quietly.

“Of course there was, wasn’t there sweetheart.” Parker turned to Alma, waiting for her to back him up.

“I really don’t know. I never saw the news. You dragged me out of bed to tell me we had to get over here, that there’d been a fire.”

There was a long, pregnant pause as everyone realized what had just happened.

“It was on the news,” Parker stated, trying to force conviction into the tone of his words.

“No it wasn’t,” Darla said very softly but firmly. “All any of them said, even on the radio, was that there had been a fire at the home of prominent jewelry shop owner Casey Rothem. I know. I was dressing as I watched the TV and switching between channels, trying to find out if Casey had been hurt.”

The police detective moved to face Parker. “Mr. Gordon, I think we should continue this at the station house.”

“Am I under arrest?” Parker asked, blanching.

“For the moment, no, I’d just like to ask you some questions pertaining to the fire and other incidents.”

Parker’s mouth tightened as he said, “Alma, call my lawyer. I want him at the station before I get there.” Then, with the detective beside him, he walked across Casey’s front yard to the police car.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Families are messy - 25

“This is getting to be a habit,” the EMT said, smiling slightly as he checked Casey over for damages. “It looks like other than the ankle you came through unscathed,” he told him moments later.

“I can’t say the same for my house,” Casey replied angrily as he watched the firemen begin rolling up the hoses.

One of the firemen came over to where Casey was seated at the back of the ambulance. Casey immediately asked if he knew what had caused the fire.

“It’s too soon to say for certain but first guess is that you had a faulty extension cord and too many things plugged into it. As far as we can tell there was a lamp going plus the radio and it looks like a space heater as well.”

“No way! First off I don’t own a space heater and if I did it’s for damned sure I wouldn’t plug it into an extension cord. Hell I don’t use extension cords if I can help it. There are plenty of outlets in every room.”

Instead of replying the fireman beckoned to a man in a suit to join them, telling Casey to repeat what he’d said to what turned out to be a fire inspector. Casey did while wondering why there was an inspector here so quickly. He found out when a police officer joined them, one of the ones he’d dealt with before.

The officer said, “You seem to be either very careless or very unlucky.”

Casey smiled wanly. “Or suicidal according to your reports. But trust me if I were I for damned sure wouldn’t go for death by fire.”

“Believe me, sir, I know this time it wasn’t a suicide attempt. One of your neighbors saw you coming back from walking your dog. I doubt you’d do that if you were planning on killing yourself.”

“So I’m just accident prone.”

“If what you told me is true,” the fire inspector interjected, “this was no accident.”

Scrubbing a hand over his face Casey nodded. “I know it wasn’t, but before I explain would it be alright if I made a call?”

“To whom?” the police officer asked.

“Ezra Fairchild. He’s—“

“I know who he is,” the officer said, the look on his face a bit sour as he handed Casey his phone.

* * * *

Fairchild pulled into the only available parking space left on the street, shaking his head at the media circus taking place in front of Casey’s house. It looked as if every television station had people there as well as the newspaper and at least one radio station. They would have been in Casey’s face with their microphones if two police officers weren’t keeping them at bay. That didn’t however keep them from shouting out questions.

Spotting Fairchild, Casey waved him over to where he was now sitting on the porch swing, one leg stretched out in front of him, well wrapped in bandages. Beside him were two men that he introduced as a fire inspector and a detective. Fairchild nodded to the inspector and greeted the detective by name. Then he asked to be filled in on what had happened.

Casey told the story one more time, starting from when Duke had awakened him at the ungodly hour of six a.m. to the moment the fire department had shown up to put out the fire. While he did the police managed to get the various reporters to leave by dint of pointing out that “Mr. Rothem would not be allowed to answer any more questions as this was now a police investigation.”

“And that’s about it,” Casey said in conclusion, “other than that the fire wasn’t an accident.”

Fairchild nodded, stepping close enough to ask him quietly if he’d told the police about the other ‘accidents’.

“Not yet,” Casey replied. “I wanted you here first to,” he shrugged slightly, “To back me up I guess.”

“Well now that he is would you mind explaining just what’s going on with you, Mr. Rothem,” the detective said.

Casey nodded and did so. When he finished the detective shook his head, wondering aloud why the hell he hadn’t come to the police after the second apparent attempt on his life.

“Because,” Casey replied quietly, “I think it’s one of my family members doing this.”

“And so you were willing to take the chance that they’d succeed rather than letting us do something about it?”

“Well I did hire Mr. Fairchild.”

“And he had me watching his back too,” a voice said from behind the detective.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Families are messy - 24

Casey was relieved that Marcia didn’t insist on staying at his house overnight to keep him safe. He wasn’t comfortable with that idea, both on the ‘I’m male, I don’t need a female protector’ level and due to the fact that despite his every instinct telling him not to trust her on any emotional level he still found her to be the most interesting woman he’d ever met. If he was going to admit it, he knew that he had fallen for her. And if she’d stayed the night he might have said or done something he would regret later when everything was over and done with.

He did promise her he’d lock the house securely and make certain the alarm system was armed, even though that was false security since all of his family knew the code, just as he knew theirs. That had been Bing’s idea as a safety precaution in case of emergencies and it had started long before Casey and Kathy had parted. 

When he told Marcia he could see her debating the wisdom of his even staying at the house but he put his foot down, insisting that he would be very careful, and would lock his bedroom door, “and even put a chair under the door handle.”

“So help me if I get a call saying you’re dead I’m going to kill you,” she’d growled before finally leaving to the sound of his laughter at her comment.

He actually managed to sleep well, much to his surprise. He decided the fact that he’d allowed Duke to keep him company in the bedroom had something to do with that. Bloodhounds might not make great watchdogs but Casey had put a blanket down for the dog right against the door. If nothing else he knew the dog would react by baying if someone woke him in the process of trying to force the door open.

The only drawback to having Duke in the room with him was that the dog took advantage of it to wake him way too early for his walk. Grumbling mightily under his breath Casey had hit the bathroom and then dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt before meeting the dog at the front door. After attaching Duke’s leash to his collar the two of them went out to be greeted by the threat of rain in the air. They made it as far as the park before the threat became reality so they raced to huddle under the awning of a small mom-and-pop grocery store half a block away, where they remained until the torrent tapered off to a light sprinkle.

Once they arrived back at the house Casey headed upstairs to shower and get changed for work. As he stood under the hot water, trying to get rid of the bone-deep chill, Casey heard Duke suddenly start to bay and seconds later the smoke detector was blaring. Jumping out of the shower he grabbed his robe off the back of the bathroom door, pulling it on as he raced into his bedroom. The smell of smoke greeted him as he grabbed his cell from the dresser and stepped into the hallway, dialing 911 as he did.

There were flames at the bottom of the stairs and through the thickening smoke he saw Duke pacing agitatedly back and forth in the living room looking for a way to get up to him. He shouted for Duke to “Go”, pointing to the kitchen. The dog kept howling but followed his orders. As soon as he was certain the dog was out of immediate danger he told the dispatcher to send the fire department. The moment he knew they would he sped into his bedroom to grab his keys and then down the hall to the far end, throwing open the window. Climbing onto the sill he looked down, judged his chances of landing without breaking anything major, and then jumped, pushing off hard enough to land on the grass rather than the concrete of the driveway.

Staggering to his feet, letting out a sharp cry of pain when his ankle threatened to give way under him, he hobbled slowly to the back door leading to the kitchen. Unlocking it, not caring that the alarm system began blaring as loudly as the smoke alarm, he called to Duke. The dog was at his side in seconds and the two of them moved slowly to the back yard. 

******** ******** ********

Phoenix Rising
Book One of the Phoenix Rising Series

Available today, April 14th


Hex Phoenix, entrepreneur and businessman, arrives in New Orleans to conduct business. assisted by his long-time lover, Urbain Fortier. Life would be easy except for one small problem, someone wants to kidnap Hex. Why? Not because of who he is, but because of what he is, the mythical Phoenix. 

After escaping his enemies, resurrecting as Conleth Feu d'Oiseaux,  and reuniting with Urbain, he is now being hunted by the RIRA. The beautiful Giuliana is also searching for Conleth for reasons of her own. With danger and jealousy surrounding him, Conleth finds once again that being the Phoenix is not an easy life.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Families are messy - 23

“Not quite four-star,” Marcia said in amusement as Casey parked in the lot behind the restaurant.

“No, but the food is actually edible.” He waited until she got out and then took her hand as they walked around to the front door. “A bit noisy,” he observed as the sound of several televisions showing a football game hit them when they stepped inside.

“Your sister likes sports?” Marcia asked in surprise.

“Nope, but she likes men and other than clubs this is one place to meet them.”

Marcia looked around and had to agree as the majority of the unaccompanied diners were males in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. “Major meat market,” she commented with a laugh.

“Makes me feel very out of place,” he replied with a small chuckle as they found a vacant table. “Especially since I’m not big on sports.”

“You fit in otherwise though. I bet when you come here alone you get more than your fair share of the looks from the single women.”

“I haven’t been here since Kathy and I split up so I wouldn’t know.”

“Well take it from a woman, for a female on the hunt this is one place to go shopping. And you would be very popular.”

Feeling slightly embarrassed, Casey was very glad when the waitress appeared to take their drink orders. When she left he quickly picked up the menu to see what looked good. Marcia smiled and did the same. They discussed the options, finally deciding on beef tenderloin for him and chicken with almonds and cheese for her. The waitress returned with their drinks by then and took their dinner orders.

“To a successful conclusion to our problem,” Marcia said, lifting her wine glass.

Casey smiled, tapping his glass to hers with a nod, wondering as he did if ‘our problem’ was keeping him alive or if there was a deeper meaning behind her words.

They were half way through dinner when someone wrapped their arms around him from behind. He turned his head to look up at Darla who was studying Marcia with interest.

“What brings you to my neck of the woods?” Darla asked finally.

“Just taking my lady to dinner,” Casey replied as his sister released him and sat down.

“So you’re the infamous, what was your name? Mary, Mabel, no Marcia, right?”

“Yes Darla, this is Marcia. And Marcia, in case you haven’t figured it out this is my sister Darla,” Casey said by way of introductions.

“Alma told me about her.” Darla laughed. “Not too flatteringly I’m afraid but that’s Alma.”

Marcia chuckled at that. “Yes, she seemed to think I was not up to his usual choice in women.”

“Meaning Kathy.” Darla rolled her eyes. “My sister is a bit of a social climber, right Casey.” She looked at him for confirmation and he nodded. “Now me, I go for the kind of man who’s interesting, not stuffy. Oh, you’re going to just love Dirty.”

Casey snorted out a laugh. “You go from Skull to Dirty. Not so sure that’s an improvement, Darla.”

“Well his real name is Ringo but that was taken.”

“If you tell me his last name is Starr I’ll know you’re pulling my leg.”

“No, silly, it’s Winn. He’s not that old.” She turned to Marcia again. “So tell me all about yourself. How did you meet Casey, was it love at first sight, have you two done the deed yet?”

Marcia laughed at the look on Casey’s face before settling down to give Darla all the details, spinning the tale out of a whole cloth with quick looks at Casey to see how he was taking it. “And that,” she said to Darla in conclusion, “is exactly how it happened.”

Darla seemed about to reply when someone caught her eye. She was up immediately, planting a kiss on Casey’s cheek. “I’ll see you both on,” she frowned for a second, “Wednesday night, right?”

“Yes Darla,” Casey replied with a chuckle.

“Oh,” she held out her hand. “I don’t suppose you could, umm—“

Shaking his head, Casey took out his wallet and handed her a couple of bills. She looked at them, sighed in disappointment that there weren’t more, then thanked him and hurried across the room towards her intended target.

“What do you want to bet she shows up at the barbeque with someone named Knute or Shaq, instead of Dirty,” he muttered.

“Might be an improvement, but who knows. She seems sweet, if a bit ditzy.”

“Don’t let that fool you. Underneath the ditz is a smart if very spoiled young woman.”

“So you’re not ruling her out,” Marcia said, turning serious.

“No,” he replied with equal seriousness, “I’m not ruling any of them out, unfortunately.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Families are messy - 22

Casey felt someone behind him and swung around defensively, only dropping his hands when he realized it was his brother. “Damn, you startled me,” he said in explanation.

“Sorry,” Bing replied with a laugh. “What are you doing, buying out the store?”

“Feels like,” Casey admitted as he looked at the overflowing shopping cart. “But I’ve got an excuse; I decided to celebrate my birthday at my new house with a barbeque. I expect to see you and Sammy there.”

“If you insist,” Bing said, sounding as he felt quite put upon. Then he laughed. “Of course we’ll be there. Wednesday? Or are you pushing it back from the look of that cart it better be Wednesday or we’ll be eating wilted lettuce.”

“For sure. I did think briefly about doing it last Saturday but then I realized that was even shorter notice than this is and that you and Sammy would probably already have plans.”

“If you consider the fact that the store doesn’t close until nine on Friday and Saturday as always then I did. And Sammy had some legal-eagle event he had to attend. He didn’t get home until close to midnight.”

“No wonder you two make sure you’ve got Sunday’s to yourselves.” Casey chuckled. “I think I’m getting old, I always forget about your later hours.”

Bing smiled. “Short term memory loss there, Casey? Guess we’ll have to get you some of that, what’s it called? Biloba?”

“Yep, and a big bottle of it.” Casey laughed while checking out the selection of cheeses, debating which ones to get. Bing made a couple of suggestions and between them they added enough to the cart that Casey wondered if he’d get it to the checkout stand without loosing the top layer. As he pushed it in that direction he asked casually, “Did you come in here to buy something for lunch?”

“No, just to pick up some water, which we passed three aisles back. I’d better get it and get back before the lunch crowd overwhelms my employees.” Bing paused saying, “You’re not working today?”

“Nope. Once I got the brainstorm for the party I figured I’d better get things in motion so I called in sick.”

“Smart man. Well have fun getting all that home. If you need help on Wednesday give me a call.”

Casey nodded, watching as his brother headed away, and then got into the checkout line, chuckling when the person coming up behind him took one look at his cart and immediately moved over to the next lane.

* * * *

Once Casey got home from his shopping trip and put all the food away he made some calls. The first one was to let Thomas know about the party, putting it on his shoulders to tell their employees about it. “Don’t make them feel obligated to come,” Casey cautioned. “I want this to be fun, not a command performance.” Thomas agreed although Casey had a feeling, knowing the man, that he would do his best to make certain everyone came even if he had to lay a guilt trip on them.

Next he called Alma. She surprised him by sounding almost civil, saying that she and Parker would definitely be there. He thanked her, giving her the same story he had given Bing about deciding to do it on the day rather than the previous Saturday, figuring that that would have been too short of a notice.

She agreed, saying somewhat scathingly, “You can not expect people to give up their weekend plans unless you give them at least a two week’s notice. Mid-week is much better if you’re going to be inconsiderate.”

He rolled his eyes, asking as if he cared, “And what would you have been giving up?”

“Why the hospital’s charity ball of course. Certainly you got an invitation, Casey. That in and of itself should have told you not to throw your party Saturday night.”

“I got one, but quite honestly I didn’t want to run into Kathy,” he replied.

Alma  humphed, said a few choice words about that, and hung up.

His last call was to Darla. She practically bubbled with enthusiasm, asking if it would be alright if she brought her newest boyfriend, who it turned out was not the infamous Skull but some wannabe rock musician she’d met at a club Saturday night. He told her that was fine with him and left it at that after making certain she wrote down the time and day. Knowing his younger sister he was very aware that she’d forget moments after the call ended if she didn’t.

Now he leaned casually against the fender of his SUV as he waited for Marcia to come out of the door leading to the theater’s parking lot. As he watched the door flew open and a group of people exited, Marcia among them. She was talking animatedly to a very good-looking young man who appeared to be intently listening to whatever she was saying. When she’d finished he replied with something that made her laugh. And then she spotted Casey and sobered, obviously excusing herself from the group before coming over to join him.

“You did show up,” she said.

“I did, though from your face when you saw me anyone watching would think you wished I hadn’t.”

“Sorry.” She looked at him and then smiled, wrapping an arm around his neck and kissing him quickly. “Better?”

“As far as what we’re trying to pull off, yes,” he replied, not willing to admit that he would have returned the kiss if she’d given him half a chance. He really hated these up and down feelings he had about her but there was nothing to be done about them for now. If their plan was going to work he had put aside the feeling of betrayal and go with the ones he’d begun having before her revelations.  

“Any place you’d rather go eat?” he asked once they were both in his vehicle.

“Not really as long as it’s public. One close to where one of your family lives maybe.”

He nodded. “I know just the restaurant. Darla’s not big on cooking so she might just show up there.”

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Families are messy - 21

“Children, enough! This is getting us no where fast. Marcia, get over here and sit down. Now.” Fairchild glared at both of them.

“Who died and made you ruler,” she grumbled in response, but she did as he’d asked.

“Casey, what did you tell your people to explain why you’re not at work today,” Fairchild asked.

“I called in sick. I am allowed to do that.” He smiled slightly. “The prerogative of being boss. Whether they believe it or not is their problem.”

“So you’re covered and no one knows that you were in the hospital.”

“Nope, not them and not family, at least as far as I know.”

“Well one person must since there’s been no report of your death.”

“More than one,” Marcia said, “The emergency personnel and his neighbors who saw the ambulance there, again.”

Fairchild looked at Casey. “Has anyone in your family tried to get in touch with you within the last twenty-four hours?”

Taking out his cell, Casey checked for messages and then for missed calls. “Nope. But that’s my loving family, they only call when they want to yell at me or ask for money. Well except for Bing, he’s pretty good about keeping in touch but yesterday was Sunday and that’s his and Sammy’s alone time together. They stick to that rigorously unless there’s an emergency.”

“So even if he was the perp he probably wouldn’t have called because it would have seemed out of character.”

“True. God I hope it’s not him, he’s the only one in the family I really trust.”

“Well one way or the other we’re going to find out and soon. You just have to decide which way you want to play out the next step.”

“We have a big fight,” Casey said at the same time that Marcia replied, “We advance this so-called romance.”

“Not happening.”  Casey glared at Marcia.

“Happening,” Fairchild barked out. “I’m making the call since the two of you can’t seem to. Leaving you unprotected might give this person a better chance to get to you and the whole idea is to keep you alive, Casey. So, we’ll figure out a game plan that stands a chance of working.”

Casey smiled slightly as an idea came to him. “Since this whole thing is like something out of a bad movie let’s play it that way. My birthday’s Wednesday and so I’m going to celebrate it with a barbeque at my place; a medium-sized gathering of family and employees.”

“Isn’t that rather short notice? And what about Kathy?” Marcia asked.

“They’ll grumble, especially Alma, but they’ll show. And given her rather pointed comment about my getting down on my knees and apologizing to Kathy I have the feeling Alma will see it as the perfect time to force that by asking Kathy to come with her and Parker.”

“Alright, set it up,” Fairchild said succinctly. “Now I have to dismiss the two of you. I actually do have other clients that need my attention.”

“I still want to know where everyone was Saturday night,” Marcia said as she and Casey left Fairchild’s office.

“I can find out where they’ll say they were, if that helps. I have to call them to let them know about my birthday bash. I’ll figure out some way to ask that sounds natural.” Tapping his foot while they waited for the elevator to come, he gave that serious consideration and then swore when he realized something else he had to do.

Marcia looked at him in question, and chuckled when he told her he needed to go shopping if he was going to have food for the barbeque. Then he thought of something else equally as important.

“Isn’t today your first rehearsal?”

“Damn it, yes, in,” she looked at her watch as they stepped into the elevator, “three hours. I totally spaced it with all that’s happened and I have to go over the script one more time.”

Casey refrained from pointing out that she’d had all day yesterday to do that. He didn’t want to start yet another argument at the moment. “So you go do that and I’ll go shopping and make some phone calls. And before you say anything I should be just fine on my own at the moment. I got here without anyone trying to run me over or push me off the highest building in town.”

“Just why would you be on top of a high building?” she asked as the elevator doors opened on the building’s lobby.

“I wouldn’t be,” he admitted with a small smile. “Not until this is over.”

“Good, you do have a bit of common sense.” When he held the door for her she nodded her thanks before saying, “You will be very careful, understand, unless you want me calling Fairchild to get his ass down here and play tag along.”

“Which he can’t because he’s busy. When are you finished with rehearsal?”

“With luck, around six, why?”

“I’ll pick you up then.”

“I thought you didn’t want anything to do with me if you could help it.”

“I don’t but it’s not going to look as if we’ve got an escalating relationship if we don’t spend time together. So I’ll pick you up and we’ll go get dinner.”

She nodded. “You have a point there. Alright, see you then.” She kissed his cheek quickly and then strode off down the street to where she’d parked her car.

Seconds later Casey’s cell rang. There was a text from her that said, “That was for show only. Don’t get any ideas.”

He rolled his eyes as he texted back, “Trust me, I knew that and I’m not.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

Families are messy - 20

“I don’t care what the cops say, it’s bogus. Casey wasn’t trying to kill himself.” Marcia glared at Fairchild.

“Hey, don’t yell at me, I’m on your side on this. I managed to get in to see him, well,” Fairchild smiled, “sneak in to see him yesterday afternoon. He’s going to be fine by the way according to his nurse. She’s something else.” He shook his head in amusement. “But that’s beside the point. He told me what happened, as much as he could remember. The nurse did confirm one thing that makes his story that much more believable. Who ever cut his wrist picked the wrong one. He’s right-handed and they slashed his right wrist.”

“Either they didn’t think about what they were doing or were just stupid.”

“Agreed. There’s one other thing, the dog. Straight out of Sherlock Holmes.”

“He didn’t bark?” Marcia almost smiled at that. “So Duke must have known the person, but that isn’t so surprising since we’re sure it’s someone in Casey’s family.”

“That just might eliminate Mr. Harman,” Fairchild said pensively. “I’ll have to ask Casey about that.” He leaned back to watch Marcia who was now pacing his office like a caged tigress. “So what went on between you and him? He said you’re the one who found him, and he didn’t seem very happy about that.”

You’re what happened. You told him about me and he blew up.”

“So things were getting personal between the two of you?” When she nodded he said, “Sorry, but he had a right to know that his wife had set you on him. That, Marcia, is part of why he hired me, to keep him safe and informed about everything.”

“I know,” she sighed. “It’s my own damned fault.” She stopped her pacing to stare out the window. “If I’d been up front with him from the moment I thought...“ She sighed again. “But I wasn’t.” Spinning around to look at Fairchild she said forcefully, “We have to find out who’s doing this to him.”

“No shit Sherlock. And the first thing is to find out were everyone was Saturday night.”

“We can’t quite knock on their front doors and ask.” Marcia frowned. “Has anyone notified his family that he’s in the hospital?”

Fairchild shook his head. “Not as far as I know unless the cops did. Casey told me he wants to keep it on the QT. He’s hoping whoever is doing this will try again but more blatantly since they’ve failed four times now. And this time he’ll be ready for them.”

“That’s beyond stupid,” Marcia growled. “Doesn’t he understand how many ways they can still get to him? Hell, they might even drop the idea of making it look like an accident or suicide and just go for the throat.”

“I don’t think so,” Fairchild replied. “Murder him openly and everyone will be under police scrutiny including the killer. They’re doing it this way for exactly that reason.”

“So he goes to the police and lays it out for them the way he has for you. Surely they’ll see what’s happening and open their own investigation.”

Fairchild didn’t reply, looking past her to the door to his office instead.

Casey stood there, having come in moments before Marcia’s last words. Now he said, “As far as the police are concerned I’m in their records as having tried to kill myself twice. They’re not going to believe anything I tell them to the contrary.” He glanced at Fairchild. “Are they?”

“They’ll certainly look askance at you if you try to convince them otherwise. You have no proof to back you up.”

“Exactly.” Casey crossed to sit in the chair by Fairchild’s desk, pointedly ignoring the fact that Marcia was also in the room. “So it’s up to you and me to put a stop to this, Fairchild.”

Fairchild tapped his fingers on the desk. “You’d be asking for a quick death I think if you try to put yourself in position to be attacked again. This person has to be getting desperate. And,” he took a long look at Casey, “you’re hardly up to par at this point.”

“I agree, I’ve felt better but I’m up and walking and haven’t fallen on my face, yet. That said we have to set up something so that they won’t succeed even in my less than healthy state.”

“I can hardly spend twenty-four/seven with you, Casey. People might talk.” Fairchild grinned. “And Gabe would shoot me before your stalker got to you.”

“They wouldn’t think anything about me being with him,” Marcia said quietly from behind Casey.

“Not happening,” Casey growled.

“Maybe, maybe not,” Fairchild interjected before the situation could turn ugly. “We can play this out one of two ways. First, that the two of you are becoming much more serious about each other. That would push this person to act fast before you do something to make the relationship permanent.”

“You realize I couldn’t do that until my divorce is final,” Casey pointed out.

“But it could still look as if you were heading in that direction. That’s one scenario. The other is that the two of you have a very big, very public fight, one that makes it seem she’s breaking up with you. That, plus the pending divorce, could push you over the edge, or so it would seem if you were found dead by your own hand.”

Marcia shook her head. “If we do it that way that leaves him unprotected because there’s no reason for me to be with him.”

Casey shot her a sour look. “I’m quite able to keep myself safe.”

“Oh yeah, I can see that.” She looked pointedly at the bandages on his wrist that were showing beneath his shirt cuff.

“It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been pissed at you and not paying attention.”

“Right, blame me.” She smacked him across the back of the head before going to the window again, staring out at the street.

“What’s so interesting out there?” Fairchild asked.

She turned, leaning against the window frame. “Nothing. Just trying to regain control of my temper before I do him serious damage.”

“Maybe she’s the one after me,” Casey muttered, rubbing the back of his head.

“If I were you’d be dead,” she countered.