SHOWCASE: Misdirection The Rusty Diamond Trilogy by Austin Williams


Posted by Ryder Islington, author of ULTIMATE JUSTICE, A Trey Fontaine Mystery and coming soon: ULTIMATE GAME, A Trey Fontaine Mystery

Misdirection

The Rusty Diamond Trilogy

by Austin Williams

on Tour at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours October 17 – November 21, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Published by: Diversion Books

Publication Date: June 24, 2014

Number of Pages: 266

Series: 1st in The Rusty Diamond Trilogy

ISBN: 9781626813557

Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

A street magician needs more than sleight-of- hand to survive getting embroiled in a murder case in this blistering novel of suspense, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and George Pelecanos.

After years of chasing fame and hedonistic excess in the bright lights of Las Vegas, Rusty “The Raven” Diamond has returned home to Ocean City to piece his life back together. When he finds himself an innocent suspect in his landlord’s brutal murder, Rusty abandons all hope of maintaining a tranquil existence. Acting on impulse, he digs into the investigation just enough to anger both the police and a local drug cartel.

As the unsolved case grows more complex, claiming new victims and inciting widespread panic, Rusty feels galvanized by the adrenaline he’s been missing for too long. But his newfound excitement threatens to become an addiction, leading him headfirst into an underworld he’s been desperately trying to escape.

Austin Williams creates an unforgettable protagonist in Rusty, a flawed but relatable master of illusion in very real danger. As the suspense builds to an explosively orchestrated climax, Williams paints a riveting portrait of both a city—and a man—on the edge.

Read an excerpt:

The bloodstain was shaped like Florida. Rusty didn’t know much about geography, probably couldn’t point out more than a handful of states on a map. But he knew what Florida looked like, even though he’d never been there. And the mass of drying blood stretching across the hardwood floor, coming to a rounded tip a few inches from his leather boots (this tip just slightly darker than the wide stream comprising most of the stain) was a dead ringer for the Sunshine State.

He knew it was a strange thing to consider, given the circumstances. Hardly an appropriate mental response to such an intensely disturbing situation. He wasn’t in shock, exactly, but he had no idea what to do with himself. There was nothing he could do until the police arrived. Which should be any minute now. In fact, he was starting to wonder what the hell was taking so long.

Rusty wasn’t sure of how much confidence to place in the Ocean City Police Department. When it came to traffic stops and busts for disorderly conduct, open containers, public nudity and the like, the OCPD was surely qualified.

But murder? That had to fall well outside the parameters of what the local law was accustomed to handling on a regular basis. Or so Rusty mused, mainly to occupy his mind and not keep checking his wristwatch every ten seconds.

Rusty stared at the bloodstain’s surface congealing in the reflection of an overhead lamp. About two feet in width at the center, it grew wider near its source. That source was the throat of a frail silver-haired woman who lay crumpled on the floor. The upper half of her body reached into the living room while her legs protruded onto the dull yellow linoleum of the kitchen. One orthopedic shoe lay on its side next to the stove, the other still on her left foot.

Two more minutes and I’m calling 911 again, he told himself.

This house in which he was currently the sole occupant—not counting its recently deceased owner—wasn’t technically located in OC proper but in a remote enclave called Ocean Pines, separated from the main town by eight miles of salty bay water. A quiet upscale community, Rusty had a fairly complete knowledge of its character, having spent the first eighteen years of his life here and moving back ten months ago.

Next Thursday would be his thirty-sixth birthday. He had little awareness of that fact, and less interest in it.

For all Rusty knew, this was the first murder to darken the Pines’ suburban pastoral facade since the town was incorporated in 1958. And it definitely was murder, of that he had no doubt. No one could conceivably take their own life in such a manner, and certainly not a frail seventy-eight-year-old spinster.

The opening in Ms. Garrett’s throat was not long, maybe three inches at most. It looked like more of a gouge than a slash. There was no knife or sharp implement anywhere in the room, and Rusty didn’t dare step over the body to take a look in the kitchen.

The skin around the gash didn’t appear to have been torn with a blade, but hacked away by a cruder implement.

Fingernails? Teeth?

Rusty shuddered as he pondered the options, and forced himself to stop thinking about it.

The hum of a car’s engine and pebbles crunching underneath a set of tires claimed his attention. He walked to the front door, pulling aside a sash by the adjacent window to look outside into the hazy afternoon light.

Finally.

An Ocean City Police Department patrol unit sat in the driveway, engine idling. Rusty saw the door swing open, and a powerfully built officer stepped out. He grimaced. The cop didn’t appear to be much older than a high schooler. Probably fresh out of the Academy with plenty to prove behind the badge.

Why didn’t they send a detective, Rusty wondered, unlatching the door and opening it slowly so as not to make a surprise appearance on the front porch. Well, it was possible the OCPD’s homicide unit didn’t keep more than one ranking detective on any given shift. They probably didn’t need more than that.

The young patrol cop was taking purposeful strides toward the house, fleshy face set tight as he spoke into a shoulder mic, confirming with a dispatcher his arrival at the location. His eyes widened just slightly before narrowing as he made a quick appraisal of Rusty Diamond.

“You’re the one who made the call?”

Rusty nodded.

“She’s in there,” he said, stepping aside to let the patrol officer enter the house.

The cop had not taken two full steps into the living room when he stopped abruptly, one hand falling onto the service revolver holstered on his right hip.

“Jesus Christ.”

“Yeah,” Rusty said. “That was pretty much my reaction.”

For a moment they stood there, two tall male shapes looming over a plump female form in a spattered floral dress.

“Found her just like this?”

“That’s right. I didn’t touch anything.”

“How long?”

“Can’t be much more than fifteen minutes. I called right away.”

“You know her?”

“Her name’s Thelma Garrett. She’s my landlord.”

The sound of that didn’t sit right with Rusty; it was too removed and devoid of any kind of feeling. He almost added something like, ‘She was kind to me’, but figured that was bound to come out wrong.

The cop finally looked up from the old woman’s body, seeming to peel his eyes away by an act of will.

“You live here?”

“No. She owns … owned a second house not far from here, on Echo Run. I’ve been renting it.”

Those words brought on a sudden rush of memory. Rusty could see with total clarity in his mind’s eye the day he first met Ms. Garrett. Just over ten months ago, on a frigid January morning. The meeting didn’t happen here but at the rental house he’d occupied ever since.

At the time Rusty was so disoriented at finding himself back in Ocean Pines after such a prolonged absence that he had some difficulty maintaining a conversation with the chatty spinster. He agreed to her proposed rental fee, which seemed low for a three-bedroom furnished property overlooking Isle of Wight Bay. Location alone must have made the house a highly desirable piece of real estate, and he couldn’t figure why she was willing to rent it out for such a reasonable sum.

Speaking in the kindly, crinkly voice he’d come to associate with her in all moods, Ms. Garrett replied she had no use for the property or a large boost in income. Once shared with her husband and the scene of many festive gatherings, it was too big for her current needs. And too lonely. Living as a childless widow in a modest two-bedroom tract house on nearby Heron Lane was much more comfortable.

Thelma (she’d insisted Rusty use her first name) didn’t want to go through the hassle of trying to sell the larger house in a lackluster market, and was glad to simply know it would be occupied after many dormant years. It depressed her to think of the house where she and her family had shared so many good occasions sitting dark and forlorn all this time. Rusty signed the lease, feeling halfway guilty for paying so little.

“How’d you happen to find her?” the patrol officer said, yanking Rusty back from his reverie.

A slight whiff of something Rusty didn’t like crept into the cop’s voice. A taunt, almost, most likely the by-product of youth and rattled nerves. He scanned the badge pinned to the kid’s chest.

“Tell you what, Officer Neely. Why don’t we go through the whole thing when a detective gets here. Someone’s on the way, right?”

“I’m the one you need to talk to now.”

“Officer, trust me. I’m going to give my full cooperation. Whoever did this needs to …”

He stopped. The cop was looking at him with a new kind of scrutiny. Now that the initial shock of seeing the dead woman was fading, he seemed to take a full view of Rusty for the first time. The expression on his face didn’t make much of an effort to hide a sense of disgust.

Rusty suddenly wished he’d kept his leather jacket on, but the living room had become stifling as he stood here waiting for the cavalry to arrive. The jacket lay draped on a sofa and he was wearing a black tank top, leaving his shoulders and arms open to easy view. Perusal would be more accurate, given the snaking tracks of words and symbols tattooed across much of his upper torso, coiling around the back of his neck and splitting into two vines that reached down both arms almost to the wrists.

“Latin, for the most part,” he said with a self-deprecating shrug. “Just for looks, really. I don’t know what half of it means myself.”

Officer Neely’s posture tensed visibly. His fingers once again found a place to rest on his gun.

“Turn around slowly, and show me your hands.”

Rusty tried to pretend he’d misheard.

“Sorry, what?”

“Come on, do it.”

“You’re going to cuff me? I’m the one who called this in, remember?”

“Just turn around. We’ll keep you nice and snug till backup gets here.”

“Look, I’m as freaked out as you are. But I didn’t do anything to this poor woman.”

“You’re resisting? I said let’s see those hands.”

He unsnapped the button on top of his holster. It seemed like a good moment to do something.

“For the last time, turn around!”

Rusty knew he could disarm this uniformed frat boy in just about 2.7 seconds. The task wouldn’t present much of a challenge. He could easily divert Neely’s eyeline with a lateral, non-aggressive movement of his left arm.
Momentarily distracted, the cop would never see the fingers of Rusty’s right hand extracting a one-inch smoke pellet from a customized hidden pocket in his jeans. Pinched at the proper angle, the pellet would explode in a blinding flash followed by a plume of gray smoke. Utterly harmless but highly effective for misdirection.

The span of time Officer Neely would need to recover from his surprise would offer Rusty ample opportunity to relieve him of the gun. Using his fingertips, he’d grab the wrist and isolate pressure points causing Neely’s hand to open involuntarily. From there, Rusty would simply reposition his body at a 45-degree angle and use his left hand to retrieve a sterling set of monogrammed handcuffs tucked in a different hidden pocket. One more second would be sufficient to cuff the young patrolman to a column of the bannister directly behind him.

They were only trick cuffs, but Officer Neely didn’t know that. And unless he could perform with great precision, the sequence of twisting wrist movements needed to unlatch them, the knowledge wouldn’t do him any good.
So, yes, the maneuver would surely come off. Just as successfully as it had in a thousand performances, even if those all occurred some time ago and Rusty’s reflexes were no longer quite what they used to be.

But what would any of that accomplish other than to greatly amplify a sense of suspicion for his role in a brutal murder he had absolutely nothing to do with? Plus bring on a raft of other charges for failing to comply with orders, impeding police business, assault, et cetera. Obviously it was a bad play all around, however tempting.

So Rusty slowly turned 180 degrees and lowered his hands. Audibly relieved, Officer Neely stepped forward and bound them with a pair of un-monogrammed OCPD handcuffs. They closed around his wrists more tightly then necessary, pinching hard on the skin.

Hearing the cuffs snap shut, Rusty glanced up and was startled by his reflection in a mirror above the sofa. He’d deliberately removed all mirrors from his own residence the day he moved in, and hadn’t gotten a good look at his face in many months.

Given his appearance today, he could hardly fault this overeager junior lawman for wanting to lock him in restraints. For a guy who’d once placed such a premium on maintaining a well-cultivated exterior, it was shocking to see just how unkempt he was. Had he really let himself go that much in the past year? Evidently, if the mirror was to be believed.

His long black hair, once treated daily by a personal stylist, was now a ratty mane. The two-pointed devil’s goatee, formerly a key visual hallmark of his stagecraft, looked no more than an uneven graying scrub. And all that ink: pentagrams, death’s head skulls and weird incantations etched up and down his sinewy arms.

Hell, anyone with a working pair of eyes would find Rusty Diamond a more than credible murder suspect.

 

Author Bio:

The new thriller by Austin Williams, Misdirection, is now available from Diversion Books. It is the first novel of The Rusty Diamond Trilogy.

Williams is the author of the acclaimed suspense novels Crimson Orgy and The Platinum Loop. He is the co-author (with Erik Quisling) of Straight Whisky: A Living History of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll on the Sunset Strip.

He lives in Los Angeles.

Learn More:

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SHOWCASE: Cornered by Alan Brenham


Posted by Ryder Islington, Author of ULTIMATE JUSTICE, A Trey Fontaine Mystery

Cornered

by Alan Brenham

on Tour September 2014

Cornered by Alan Brenham

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Published by: Black Opal Books

Publication Date: July 19, 2014

Number of Pages: 320

ISBN: 9781626941380/9781626941373

Purchase Links:

 

Synopsis:

He’s haunted by the memory of a kidnapping case gone wrong…

Not wanting history to repeat itself, Detective Matt Brady struggles to solve the disappearances of seven young women, but he quickly finds himself pitted against a criminal organization that knows as much about police procedure as he does—an organization that will do whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of him. His troubles are compounded when a young veterinarian injects herself into the investigation and is targeted to become victim number eight. When he tries to protect her, he finds himself in the crosshairs of a professional cop killer. Can Brady solve the case in time to save his new love, or will this investigation be the death of both of them?

 

Kudos:

“Alan Brenham’s Cornered is a taunt thriller filled with murderous twists and turns that will satisfy readers who love good crime fiction. As a cop and a lawyer, Brenham has been there and done that and in this, his second outing, the authenticity of his storytelling ability continues to shine through.”
– Michael McGarrity, New York Times Bestselling Author of Hard Country & Backlands

Read an excerpt:

Brady moved next to Killebrew. “So you find anything?”

“No prints. But we did find a nine millimeter shell casing outside.” He pointed at the door. “The witness said she used a key to open the door when Becker failed to answer the doorbell.”

Brady knelt down next to the body and peered at her head. One apparent gunshot wound above the right eye. Her half-opened dilated pupils stared straight up towards the ceiling.

Killebrew stepped close to the wall opposite the front door, pointing at a hole. Blood spatter was on the lower half of the wall. “We removed the bullet from here. The round appears to be a nine millimeter. Same as the shell casing.”

He stood up and surveyed the living room. The front window was covered with flowery-patterned drapes. A piano sat in the far corner by the front window. He was no expert on furniture but the furniture appeared to be fairly expensive pieces. He saw some mail lying on the coffee table. Using a pen, he sifted through it, checking the sender’s address, but nothing jumped out at him. A family portrait of her, an ordinary-looking man with narrow shoulders he assumed was Burt Smith, and twins—a girl and a boy—sat on the end of the table.

 

Author Bio:

Alan Behr served as a law enforcement officer and criminal investigator for seventeen years before earning a law degree from Baylor University. After obtaining his law license, he worked as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney for twenty-two years. His personal and official travels took him to several European and Middle Eastern countries, Alaska and almost every island in the Caribbean. He has lived in Berlin, Germany while working with US military forces. After retiring from government service, he has authored two crime novels – Price of Justice and Cornered – under the pen name of Alan Brenham. He is presently working on two more novels. Alan and his wife, Lillian, currently live in the Austin, Texas area.

 

Tour Participants:

1.  9/01 Review @ Buried Under Books

Giveaway:

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.

SHOWCASE: Hide and Seek by Amy Shojai


Hide and Seek

by Amy Shojai

on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense/Thriller

Published by: Cool Gus Publishing

Publication Date: January 2014

Number of Pages: 254

ISBN: 978-1621251477

Purchase Links:

 

Synopsis:

A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours.

A STALKER hides in plain sight.

A VICTIM faces her worst fear.

AND A DOG seeks the missing—and finds hope.

Eight years ago, animal behaviorist September Day escaped a sadistic captor who left her ashamed, terrified, and struggling with PTSD. She trusts no one—except her cat Macy and service dog Shadow.

Shadow also struggles with trust. A German Shepherd autism service dog who rescued his child partner only to lose his-boy forever, Shadow’s crippling fear of abandonment shakes his faith in humans.

They are each others’ only chance to survive the stalker’s vicious payback, but have only 24 hours to uncover the truth about Macy’s mysterious illness or pay the deadly consequences. When September learns to trust again, and a good-dog takes a chance on love, together they find hope in the midst of despair–and discover what family really means.

“Recommended for anyone who likes a ‘bite-your-nails, hold-your-breath’ kind of thriller.” — Dr. Lorie Huston, Cat Writers Association President

Read an excerpt:

HIDE AND SEEK

Prologue

Tommy Dietz grabbed the car door handle with one bloody fist, and braced his other hand against the roof, worried the carcasses in the back would buck out of the truck’s bed. Despite the precaution, his head thumped the muddy window. He glared at the driver who drove the truck like he rode a bronco, but BeeBo Benson’s full moon face sported the same toothless grin he’d worn for the past two weeks. Even BeeBo’s double chins smiled, including the rolls at the nape of his freckled neck.

The ferret thin guy in the middle snarled each time his Katy Railroad belt buckle chinked against the stick shift he straddled. Gray hair straggled from under his hat and brushed his shoulders. He had to slouch or he risked punching his head through the rust-eaten roof. Randy Felch’s snaky eyes gave Dietz the shivers even more than the freezing temperatures spitting through windows that refused to seal.

Three across the cramped seat would be a lark for high school buddies out on the town, but the men were decades beyond graduation. Dietz was in charge so Felch could either ride the hump or share the open truck bed with two carcasses, and the new Production Assistant.

Dietz stifled a laugh. Not so high-and-mighty now, was he? The man must really want the job. Vince Grady had turned green when he was told to climb into the back of the truck. Just wait till he got a load of the dump. Dietz remembered his first visit three years ago when he’d been out scouting locations. He wondered how the spit-and-polish Grady would react.

He’d hired locals for the rest of the crew. They needed the work, and didn’t blink at the SAG ultra-low pay scale, the shitty weather, or the stink. In this business, you took anything available when pickings were slim. Then the show got picked up and union fees grabbed him by the short hairs. Amateur talent screwing around and missing call times cost even more money, so he needed a Production Assistant—PA in the lingo—with more polish and bigger balls to keep the wheels greased. A go-to guy able to think on his feet, get the job done. No matter what.

If Grady wanted the PA job, he’d have to be willing to get his hands dirty, and stand up to BeeBo and his ilk. Riding in the open truck bed was illegal as hell, though here in North Texas even the cops turned a blind eye unless it was kids. This was an audition, and Grady knew it.

He had to give Grady props—he’d not blinked, but clenched his jaw and climbed right in when they collected him at his hotel. He’d been less enthusiastic after following the hunters most of the morning, tramping to hell and gone through rough country until his eyes threatened to freeze shut. Something drove the man, something more than a PA credit for piss-poor pay and worse conditions. Hell, something drove them all to work in this unforgiving business. Dietz didn’t care about anyone else’s demons as long as they let him feed his own.

Dietz craned to peer out the back to be sure the man hadn’t been tossed out the tailgate. Grady gave Dietz a thumbs-up. Probably wants to point a different finger, Dietz thought.

Grady wore the official Hog Hell blue work gloves and ski mask—dark blue background and DayGlo red star on the face—or he’d be picking his frostbit nose off the floor.

Prime time in the back woods. Dietz’s quick smile faded. Nothing about this trip was prime, not even the butchered Bambi in the back. Deer season ran November through early January, and it was always open season on hogs, so they were legal for any follow up film footage. The two deer hadn’t looked good even before BeeBo dropped them, but that’s what viewers wanted. Crocodile wrestlers, duck dynasties, and gold rush grabbers with crusty appeal and redder necks.

Nobody wanted actors anymore. Casting directors looked for “real people.” So he’d caught a clue, jumped off the thespian hamster wheel, moved to New York and reinvented himself as Tommy Dietz, Producer. He’d found his calling with a development company relatively quickly.

A movie star face didn’t hurt. Everyone these days had a little nip-and-tuck; it was part of the biz. He’d been selling his version of reality for years anyway, and always came out on top. He hit it out of the park on his third project. Hog Hell kicked off the next step with a Texas-size leap. He’d show them all, those who’d laughed at his dreams, calling him a loser. And he’d make them sorry.

The shabby pickup lurched down and back up again, and its engine growled and complained. Dietz was surprised the seat hadn’t fallen through the floor. The overgrown road the hunters called a pig path consisted of frozen ruts formed from previous tire treads. They damn well better not get stuck out here.

“Don’t worry, she’ll make it.” BeeBo talked around the stub of his unlit cigar. “This ol’ warhorse made the trip so often, she could drive herself. Ain’t that right, Felch?” BeeBo reached to downshift and Felch winced as the other man’s ham-size fist grabbed and jerked the stick between his knees.

Dietz sighed. Out the window, skeletal trees clawed the pregnant sky. Weird flocks of blackbirds moved in undulating clouds, exploding from one naked tree after another to clothe the next with feathered leaves. Spooky.

Thank God the icy weather stayed dry. Heartland, Texas had dug out of a record-breaking snowfall, and the locals hadn’t quite recovered. It put a kink in Hog Hell filming and they’d barely met the deadlines. Delay turned his balance book bloody with red ink.

Back home in Chicago they’d been hit with the same blizzard and so had NYC. But big cities knew how to manage winter weather. Apparently North Texas rolled up the sidewalks with even the hint of flurries. He wondered if BeeBo and Felch knew what to do in the snow, and didn’t want to find out. The thought of hunkering down overnight in the truck with these men turned his stomach.

Dietz adjusted his own ski mask. He’d folded it up off his face so the blue cap hugged his head while the red star painted a bull’s-eye on his forehead. He wore the official coat, too; dark blue and a bright hunter-safe star on the front and back, with the Hog Hell logo. The Gore-Tex fabric crackled with newness, and his blistered feet whimpered inside wet, dirt-caked boots. No way would he wear his new $300 Cabela’s, purchased for photo ops at the upcoming watch party. He had a gun, too. In Texas nobody cared if you carried. They expected it.

BeeBo’s preferred weapon, an ancient short barreled shotgun loaded with deer slugs, contrasted sharply with Felch’s double gun he’d had custom made last season. Felch shot 44 Magnums, and the cut down double barrel rifle boasted enough firepower to take out an elephant, or a charging feral boar hog.

They sleeved the guns in canvas cases stowed in the back of the truck, but the hunters cared far less about their own attire.

BeeBo and Felch would wear official Hog Hell gear at the watch party in five weeks, but not before. Dietz didn’t want them stinking up the outfits. Today they wore wash-faded coveralls, heavy work coats, earflap hats, clunky boots with thorn-tangled laces, and frayed gloves with fingertips cut out. A bit of peeling DayGlo tape formed an “X” on the back and front of each coat after Dietz insisted on the nod to safety, even though he knew the two hunters paid little mind to official start and end dates during hunting season.

That was the point of the original reality program Cutting Corners that focused on people forced to skirt the rules to make ends meet. The unlikely stars of a single episode, though, turned Felch and BeeBo into overnight sensations and birthed the new show after Cutting Corners tanked. The two hunters were experts at skirting rules. Dietz was no slouch, either.

In the truck bed, Grady swayed back and forth. He’d pushed up the ski mask enough to expose his mouth. White breath puffed out in a jerky tempo, and Dietz wondered if the man would pass out. If Grady took a header off the truck bed, the liability would kill the show. “Find a spot to stop, BeeBo. I think our new team member has had enough.”

Felch grunted. “No place to stop till we get there. Unless you want us to get stuck.” He grinned, but the expression never reached his eyes. “You don’t want us lugging that shit back to your hotel. The stink ain’t something you want close by.”

BeeBo guffawed. “Got that right. With all the hunters unloading, it’s what y’all might call a ‘renewable resource.’” He twisted the wheel and the truck bucked, jittering the decades old pine-shaped deodorizer suspended from the rear view mirror. “The critters take care of the stink pretty quick, though.” His hairless wide-eyed face was a ringer for the Gerber baby. “It’s around that next bend. You might even catch a whiff of Jiff by now.”

Dietz wrinkled his nose. The pungent aroma wasn’t assuaged by the air freshener that had probably come with the vehicle. He shielded his head from another thump, and squinted ahead through the crusty windshield. Wiper blades had torn loose on the passenger’s side and smeared the detritus rather than clearing the view. It didn’t bother BeeBo.

The trio remained silent during the final bump-and-grind through the trees. They pulled halfway into the clearing, and Dietz waited impatiently until BeeBo cranked the steering wheel, turned, and backed beneath a massive tree with pendulous clusters decorating the branches. Grady ducked, or he would have been scraped off by low limbs.

Several similar trees bordered the clearing, and another smaller truck squatted at the far end of the area. An elderly man stood in the truck bed and flailed tree branches with a long pole, while the woman dodged and weaved beneath to gather the resulting shower in a bucket.

“What’s that?” Grady wasted no time jumping off the truck bed. He gagged when the wind shifted.

“Nuts.” Felch unfolded himself from the cramped middle seat. “Pecan trees. They’re gleaning the nuts.”

Dietz’s stomach clenched. He pulled the ski mask over his lips and breathed through his mouth, imagining he could taste the odor that closed his throat. Neither Felch nor BeeBo seemed to notice the stench.

Grady wiped his watery eyes. The breeze paused and he gulped a less contaminated breath. “Pecans? To eat?”

The truck squeaked, rocked and grew two inches when BeeBo stepped out. “Back in town they’ll pay $8 to $10 per pound, once shelled. I got my daddy’s old commercial sheller—held together with baling twine and spit, but works okay. I only charge fifty-cents a pound to shell.” He shrugged. “Every little bit helps. It’s too early for most of the big-name commercial farms, but for the gleaners, if ya wait too long the squirrels get ‘em off the trees, or the pigs root ‘em off the ground. Pigs eat lots of the same stuff the deer and turkeys eat, acorns and suchlike. But they get ground-nesting bird eggs, too. Pigs’ll root up and eat damn near anything.” He jerked his chins at Felch. “Gimme a hand.” He lumbered toward the back of the truck and waited by the taillights.

Felch vaulted in the bed of the vehicle, and adjusted his gloves. He pointed. “Smorgasbord, y’all. Hey Slick, you might want to get video of this. Bet your big-city cronies never seen the like.” His yellow teeth gleamed. He bent low, and grunted as he pushed and tugged the black plastic bag to the tailgate, hopped down and joined BeeBo. Together they slung the truck’s cargo into the pit.

Yipping and growls erupted from below. Dietz stayed back, he’d seen it before. This stuff he wouldn’t put on the air. This’d be too much even for the hardcore viewers without the added value of aroma.

Grady covered his mouth and nose in the crook of his elbow. He edged closer to the deep trough, a natural ditch-like runoff that sat dry three-quarters of the year. Piles of gnawed and scattered bones mixed with carcasses in various stages of decomposition. A family of coyotes tried to claim BeeBo’s tossed deer remains, but was bluffed away by a feral boar.

Grady ripped off his ski mask, puked, wiped his mouth, and grabbed his camera with a shaking hand. He spit on the frozen ground and jutted his chin at Dietz. “So?”

Dietz smiled. “You got the gig.”

***

The damn ski mask dragged against his hair so much, the normally clear adhesive had turned chalky. Victor had removed the wig after dissolving the glue with a citrus-scented spray, a much more pleasant olfactory experience than the afternoon’s visit to the dump. A shower rinsed away any lingering miasma, but he gladly put up with the stink, the rednecks, and the sneers. The payoff would be worth it.

Until then, he couldn’t afford for anyone in Heartland to recognize him. His tool kit of fake teeth, makeup and assorted hairpieces kept him under the radar. For the price, nearly fifty bucks for a four-ounce bottle of adhesive, it damn well better hold the new wig in place for the promised six weeks. He rubbed his hands over his pale, bald head and grinned. Even without the wig, she’d be hard pressed to recognize him.

Muscles had replaced the beer gut, Lasik surgery fixed his eyes, a chin implant and caps brightened his smile. He’d done it all, one step at a time, over the eight years it took to track her down. He’d even changed his name and transformed himself into a man she couldn’t refuse.

He’d done it for her. Everything for her.

He dialed his phone. “I want to order flowers. Forget-Me-Nots, in a white box with a yellow ribbon. Got that? And deliver them December eighteenth. It’s our anniversary.” He listened. “Use red ink. The message is ‘payback.’ Got that? No signature, she’ll know it’s me.” He picked up a news clipping that listed the address, and admired the picture. She was lovely as ever. “Two-oh-five Rabbit Run Road, Heartland, Texas. Deliver to September Day. The name is just like the month.” He chuckled softly. “Yes, it will be a lovely holiday surprise.” He could hardly wait.

 

Author Bio:

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, and the award winning author of 26 bestselling pet books that cover furry babies to old fogies, first aid to natural healing, and behavior/training to Chicken Soupicity. She is the Puppies Expert at puppies.About.com, the cat behavior expert at cats.About.com, and has been featured as an expert in hundreds of print venues including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and Family Circle, as well as national radio and television networks such as CNN, Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101. Amy brings her unique pet-centric viewpoint to public appearances. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed dog viewpoint thriller LOST AND FOUND.

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants:

6/01 ~ Suspense Magazine Blog Talk Radio
6/02 ~ Interview @ Lauries Thoughts and Reviews
6/03 ~ Review & Giveaway @ 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, MOmmy, & Sissy, Too!
6/05 ~ Guest Post @ Writers and Authors
6/10 ~ Review @ Vics Media Room
6/11 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Deal Sharing Aunt
6/16 ~ Showcase @ The Book Divas Reads
6/17 ~ Review @ Hotchpotch
6/18 ~ Interview & Showcase @ CMash Reads
6/20 ~ Guest Post & Showcase @ Thoughts in Progress
6/24 ~ Interview @ Mochas, Mysteries and More
6/25 ~ Review @ Hezzi-Ds Books and Cooks

7/8 ~   Showcase @Ryder Islingtons Blog
7/15 ~ Review & Giveaway @ Marys Cup of Tea
7/26 ~ Showcase @ Hott Books