Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Episode 5

Billy Adams' Window

The body was sprawled in a pool of blood on the stone terrace. Forensics was processing the scene, which Donati could see at a glance would be one helluva mess to clean up. Despite the circumstances, he recognized the vic. Even lying on his side with his head cracked open like an egg, Frankie Lassiter still looked like the nasty piece of work every cop in town knew. Donati didn't wish death on anyone, particularly a violent death, but Lassiter was bad news and his demise meant one less bad guy on the streets.

It probably hadn't been more than six weeks since the last time Lassiter had been busted. Possession of alcohol and driving on a suspended license. Before that, he'd been nabbed for speeding while smoking a pipe-full of K-2. He'd weaseled out of the drug charges, since K-2 wasn't yet on the books as an illegal substance, and he'd simply ignore the license suspension.  Before that circus, Donati had spent the better part of a year trying to connect Lassiter to the drug supply at the high school, but the guy was too slippery. Lassiter was young, not even twenty-one. He was a drifter with records in Florida, New York, and Michigan, and Donati wanted him gone, but not like this.

"Hey, Chief, we got something." Sgt. Connell handed over a slim wallet that had been in the dead man's pocket. Donati didn't need to open it to know that Lassiter's current address was 630 Kincaid, a rundown rental property in the unincorporated area three miles south of Pine Lake. The house was nicknamed "The Roach." Toss-up as to whether that was for the critters or the smoking materials.

That area south of Pine Lake, known to the old-timers as "Fish Town," was a magnet for trouble. In addition to the underpaid busboys, landscapers, and maids who worked in Pine Lake but couldn't afford to live there, Fish Town was the kind of no man's land that attracted an unsavory element.

"We also found this," Connell said, handing his boss a plastic evidence bag encasing a blood-stained business card.

There was a lot of blood. Donati looked down at the corpse. Lassiter was on his left side, left arm bent out underneath his torso, right leg hooked up at a forty-five degree angle. The one eye that was visible was open. Judging by the state of the left side of the skull, he must have landed head first. The blood splatter was impressive: it had strafed the French doors and run heavy enough from the wounds to form a dark pool under the body and cascade down three of the flagstone steps.

Glancing up, Donati saw there was a shallow balcony just above. Obviously, Lassiter had taken a nose dive from there. Less obvious was if the guy had jumped, fallen, or been pushed. And least obvious of all--what the hell was a low-life like Frankie Lassiter doing at the Adam's mansion? With Biff Monroe's business card?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Episode 4

"Everything all right?" Helen asked, knowing full well it wasn't. She'd been handing Mr. and Mrs. Palmer menus when she'd seen Nick storm over to the table where Selena and Biff were sitting. Whatever Nick had said to their daughter and her date had caused them to get up and leave without even touching their drinks. Now Nick stood beside the empty table looking as if he was half a second away from a king-sized temper tantrum.

Nick glowered down at her. "When the hell did that Monroe kid come back to town? I thought he was gone for good."

"He's been back for a couple of weeks," Helen answered casually. Just to push him, she added, "What did you say to those two? You know it looks really bad when people walk out of here like that."
"I don't want him around our daughter," Nick replied.

"Selena's twenty-two; you can't tell her who she can see and not see anymore."

"I can in my own restaurant. And Monroe is no good."

"You're overreacting. Biff might have been a little wild as a kid, but that was years ago."

"Yeah, well, he comes from bad stock. Everyone knows Claire Monroe is a slut."

"Nick, watch what you say. We're in public." Helen glanced nervously around the roomful of diners, but no one seemed to be taking note of their conversation. "And as far as I can tell, Claire is a lovely person who made one mistake when she was young. And that was so long ago, you have to be the only person in town who ever gives it a thought."

"Not true." Nick Kallias gave his wife a look of annoyance. "You didn't grow up here, so you don't know. I don't want that fellow within ten miles of Selena."

"This isn't the time or place to discuss this," Helen replied. She turned away, heading toward the party of six that had just come through the front door. 

In the time it took her to get the newcomers seated, Nick disappeared. He was probably in the kitchen venting his rage on some hapless busboy. Helen had been married to him nearly twenty-five years, and she knew his temper. He was the stereotypical fiery Mediterranean, quick to anger, quick to love. Bossy, controlling, chauvinistic. Loyal, protective, and passionate. He could be a total pain in the ass, but Helen loved him. Over the years, he'd put that love to the test a few times, but Helen had never wavered.
If other men found her attractive (and she'd been offered a few opportunities to play around), she wouldn't dream of being unfaithful. Helen knew that underneath the rough facade, her husband was as emotionally vulnerable as s child, and she could never bring herself to hurt him. Still, she didn't understand his unreasonable dislike of Claire Monroe and her son, Biff. Nick's insistence that Claire and Biff were trash didn't ring true. Most people in town regraded Claire as a kind and thoughtful person. If she had steadfastly refused to tell anyone, including her son, who his father was, well, that was her business.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Episode 3

Biff Monroe's Car

"Come on Biff, let's go to the Rainbow," Selena said. She was talking to Biff Monroe, but she was looking at her father, quite enjoying the expression of frustrated rage on his face. 

Biff was the first guy Selena Kallias had ever kissed. Her father had gone ballistic after catching them in a lip-lock out in the parking lot. He'd fired Biff on the spot. Selena thought he was way overreacting, even if, at the time, she'd been only fourteen. So what if Biff was twenty-four? It was only a kiss, for God's sake. She'd been trying to get him to notice her for the entire six weeks that he'd been waiting tables at Taverna, and it was totally unfair that her father had to ruin everything. 

For most of the eight years since then, Biff had been away from Pine Lake. Now, he was back in town; she'd seen him in Starbucks this morning and impulsively, she'd asked if he'd have dinner with her. Now she felt guilty that her father was being so rude. Biff wasn't as bad as everyone said, but no one in this town had ever given him a break. 

The two of them walked out of Taverna, leaving Nick standing beside an empty table with two full glass of red wine. Never a good sign to other diners.

"I'd forgotten about the Rainbow," Biff said as they drove six blocks across town in his dark green Mustang Cobra. Selena was impressed with the car. It wasn't new, but Biff obviously kept it in top condition, and while he drove fast, he was careful. He kept his eyes on the road. He wasn't the handsomest man she'd ever been out with--his shaggy blond hair was dull and his nose was crooked-- but there was something kind in his gray eyes. 

"The Rainbow hasn't changed," Selena replied. "It's still nothing but a greasy spoon with cheap liquor."

"So it doesn't give Taverna much competition?"

"No. Completely different clientele. But Dad hates the place anyway. He says it gives the town a bad name and draws in creeps."

"He could be right about that."

"And he could be wrong. My dad doesn't know everything, though he'd like you to think so. Anyway, why are you defending him after the way he treated you?"

"I haven't always been a model citizen, Selena. And he'd just trying to protect you. I can't fault him for that."

"He treats me like a child."

Biff deftly maneuvered the car into a parallel parking place half a block from the Rainbow. He turned to her, tracing a line from her cheekbone to her chin with his index finger. "Pretty girl, I promise I'm not going to treat you that way."


Genevra Adams was accustomed to being in complete control over any situation. She could handle anything. Hadn't she single-handedly created her own publication? Pine Heart, a gorgeous (if she did say so herself) glossy magazine, covered interesting events, people, and businesses in and around Pine Lake. Subscriptions were on the rise in spite of the economy, they'd recently won an award for best small publication, and she loved her job. Two weeks ago, she'd hired Biff Monroe as a full-time photographer, which might have been going out on a limb a little bit, but he was talented. She'd seen the work he'd been doing in the last five years as he traveled around the country freelancing, and she was willing to give him a chance.

They would not, however, be covering what would no doubt be the story of the year. John Donati was on the terrace right now, standing over the body that Genevra had discovered shorty after she and Blake returned home this evening. Taking another large sip of her scotch, she relived the shock of the moment.

Both she and Blake had arrived home around half-past eight. (The police would be asking for a statement; she needed to think over the details.) After pouring a nightcap, Genevra had gone to the garden room to relax. The late September evening air was pleasant, so she'd opened one of the French doors. At first, she'd thought Billy had left  pile of clothing on the stone terrace, but as she looked more closely, she'd seen that it was a person--a man--lying in a pool of dark blood. She'd screamed, actually screamed, Blake's name, and for once, he'd come running.

Genevra heard voices in the hallway. Chief Donati stepped into the den. "Mrs. Adams, can we talk?"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Episode 2

The Adams' House

John Donati figured he was in for a weird shift. He'd lived in Pine Lake his entire fifty-two years, and he knew the place better than anyone. Knew all the streets, most of the people, and more than his fair share of the secrets. He could tell by the feel of the air how things would go down on any given day. It was part of what made him a good cop.

Since this morning, he'd sensed something in the air, kind of like a low hum, but so far nothing had been out of the ordinary on this late September day as he cruised Zone 6. The first couple of hours had been typical evening shift. By the end of rush hour, he'd popped three cars for speeding. Just after dark, he'd caught a couple of high school kids with a twelve pack of MGD. Half an hour late, he'd run by Matt and Caroline Wilson's to cool down a domestic. Again. John didn't get what made a couple stay together when they fought that hard and often.

He was tempted to swing out to Zone 3, see if April was home. Eight-twenty by the dashboard clock. He'd wait until later. Or not go at all. Last time he went, it just pissed him off. He'd been working midnights and had driven past her place at two in the morning. There was a sleek BMW 650 in the driveway, so naturally he'd run the plates. Car belonged to a Paul Harrison, white, male, 56. Chicago address that sounded pretty swanky.

Well, bully for her. They'd been divorced for eight years and John still didn't know if he loved her or if she made him too crazy to function in the real world. Probably both. The only good thing to come from their marriage was Jack. Great kid. John just wished he'd grow up a bit.

At twenty-five, Jack should be getting himself established in a solid job, instead of screwing around waiting tables and hoping to be discovered as the next Brad Pitt. Not that the kid didn't have looks or talent. Especially the looks. John glanced in the rear-view mirror. His last name might be Italian, but he and his son both had the coloring and features of John's Irish mother. Dark blond, blue eyes, symmetrical features that most women found appealing. April was still pretty hot, too, for a woman past forty. John rethought doing a quick drive-by.

He was headed south on Sheridan when he caught Tanya's voice on the radio. Though the frequency was shared by three towns, all the cops on the Pine Lake force recognized Tanya's voice above the general chatter.

"Zone six, we've got a reported D.O.A. at 1600 Lake. Ambulance enroute."

Holy crap. 1600 Lake was the Adams' mansion. Who the hell had died?


Built in the 1920s, the house at 1600 Lake Road was not the only mansion on the shores of Pine Lake, but it was among the most impressive. Artisans from all over Europe had been imported to create the decorative plaster moldings, install flooring fashioned from 19th century sailing ships, and set the extraordinary tile work in the master bath.

Blake Adams paced the hallway between the formal living room at the south end of the house and the rooms at the north end where the family spent their time. On a normal evening, he'd be in his study reviewing the day's transactions. Genevra would be in her office or the garden room. Of their three children, there would be little evidence. David had his own digs in town. Whitney spent most of her time at Taverna or with her friends. Their youngest, Billy, would be wherever the hell Billy went these days.

Tonight, Genevra was in the den with a large scotch. The garden room, her favorite place, was not a good choice tonight. Even she wasn't that cold-blooded.

Blake heard the sirens, and his stomach roiled. Reaching in his pocket, he tore a couple of Rolaids from the packet he always kept nearby. The chalkiness almost choked him, but without the stuff, he'd be doubled over in pain. He bit his tongue to encourage saliva flow, swallowed a couple of times, took a deep breath, and went to the front door. In a few minutes, whatever peace there had been in this house would be shattered for God knew how long.