Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Episode 14

"Where did you say you are from, Mrs. DuMont?" Ginny Franklin smiled brightly at the young woman across the desk from her. A new client, especially one who had money, always put a smile on her face. This one was wearing a gorgeous fur coat and carried a Barney's handbag. The enormous diamond earrings looked real, too.

"Florida. Sarasota." Jenni DuMont sighed. "I recently lost both my husband and my brother. So tragic."

"How terrible for you," Ginny said, trying to muster a tone of sincerity. Her true thoughts, however, were focused on opportunity, not sympathy. This might be her best chance to sell a property at the new Hunter Ridge development. Ginny and her husband Danny were heavily invested in what was supposed to be a no-brainer real estate deal, but but with only four of the ten proposed homes built, things weren't going according to plan. They desperately needed a buyer or the new work would be halted indefinitely, and nothing killed deals like half-finished, abandoned construction sites.

"My husband was quite a bit older than me and in poor health. He passed away three months ago." Jenni took a lace hankie from her bag and dabbed at her eyes. "Then to lose my brother, Frankie, so unexpectedly, well... that was a shock."

"Frank Lassiter was your brother?" Ginny was intrigued. She loved gossip. Everyone in Pine Lake knew about the man's mysterious death at the Adams' mansion, but who knew he had a sister? This was big news. Ginny focused her attention more closely, "Tell me, do the police have any idea what happened?"

"No, not really. Although Chief Donati said they will be questioning a person of interest." Jenni was tiring of the other woman's questions. She wanted to find a place to live quickly, settle in, and get to work on a law suit against the Adams. "In any case, I've decided to stay in Pine Lake, so I need to find a house."

"What did you have in mind?"

"I want new construction, something nice. I'm all alone, but I'm not interested in some pokey little place. My poor husband was sweet enough to leave me well-off, and I figure real estate is as good a place as any to invest."

Ginny's eyes glittered. "It just so happens I have several properties you might like."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Episode 13

Billy Adams broke out in a sweat even though it was 30 degrees outside, Pine Lake was covered with snow, and he wasn't wearing a jacket. It was bad enough that he'd been hearing voices--well, a voice--but now he was seeing things, too.

The woman looked like Lassiter: the same dark, beady eyes set in a rodent face, same kind of wire brush hair. It was like she was wearing a mask of his face over her own. Maybe she was an alien, Billy thought. Aliens did that kind of shit. Took over bodies. But why would an alien pick Lassiter?

Billy put his head down as he shuffled along the sidewalk. Just on his way to get some smokes, minding his own business, when he'd seen her, and now he couldn't get that face out of his head. Lassiter was haunting him again. In broad daylight. On a public street.

Every damn day he heard the guy's voice, that same taunting sing-song, "Billy, they're gonna get you. The cops are gonna pin my murder on you and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. You and I know that I fell off that balcony all by myself while I was trying to sneak out of your house. But the cops won't think that. They're gonna think you pushed me, and they'll toss you in the hoosegow and throw away the key. Or maybe they'll figure out you're crazy. You are crazy. Totally gonzo. Either way, looney bin or the slammer, you're done. We all know what happens to little boys in those places."

Billy clamped his hands over his ears. He hadn't touched any drugs since the night Lassiter bought it, but his head was still messed up. Maybe he was crazy. Maybe the aliens were crawling inside him. New panic surged. He wrapped his arms around himself protectively as he continued down Third Street.


"I would have been here sooner," Jenni DuMont had said to the police chief, "but I just buried my husband three months ago." She dabbed delicately at her dark eyes with a hankie and made a small mewing sound. "Tell me again, how did Frankie pass?"

Donati shifted uncomfortably in his chair. 

"Truth is ma'am, we're not sure."

Maybe it was just because Mrs. DuMont looked so much like her brother, but something about the woman triggered Donati's cop sense, that part of his brain that instinctively smelled a rat in the room. As he recounted the facts of Frankie's death, he tried to push this feeling aside, knowing that later, he'd be doing a background check. His instincts rarely failed him.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Episode 12

There was old money in Pine Lake. Most of it came from the logging business, and there had been commercial fishing once, too. The wealthy of Pine Lake build grand homes along the shoreline and expected the best that money could buy.  In 1952, Ralph Robinson had capitalized on that when he opened an upscale clothing store in town. Over the decades, the shop he had founded had consistently offered top-quality casual clothes and elegant evening apparel to Pine Lake's elite. Business had always been good, and now, despite the general economy, was better than ever. This was due in part to Ralph's granddaughter, Gina, who ran the shop with a keen eye for fashion and solid business sense. It didn't hurt, either, that a cluster of new-construction mega-houses, called Hunter's Ridge, had sprung up on the far side of Fish Town. If the old guard of Pine Lake considered the Hunter's Ridge people to be as ostentatious as their sprawling, turreted homes, Gina Robinson was less particular. Her bank balance didn't distinguish between new and old money.

Selena Kallias had never bought anything at Robinson's; the prices were too steep for her budget. However, she had often coveted things in the display windows: a beautifully cut emerald-green silk blouse, an evening gown sparkling with crystal beads, or something as simple as a classic wool coat.

With her slim figure, lustrous dark hair, and classic features, Selena was one of those women who could make any article of clothing look great. Her picture had appeared in "Pine Heart" on any number of occasions--Genevra recognized a born model when she saw one, even if Selena was just a tad too short to be on a big city catwalk. They had formed a mutually satisfying relationship whereby Genevra paid a stipend that she considered ridiculously low, but that Selena was delighted to accept as the magazine's premier model.

When Genevra decided to run a story on the history of Robinson's, the oldest business in town, highlighting their designer fashions, Selena jumped at the chance to model the beautiful clothes. That the man she'd been dating for the past few weeks was now the magazine's full-time photographer sweetened the deal even more.

"So, babe, what do you think?" She stepped into the reading room of the Pine Lake Public Library wearing an ultra-short red satin drape dress with a plunging neckline--less than two yards of fabric that retailed for $620.

Biff Monroe whistled his appreciation. The two of them were in the library after hours because he thought the reading room, with its fireplace and leather wing-back chairs, would make suitable backdrop for the photos and, for once, Genevra had agreed with him.

"You look even more luscious than usual." Biff reached for her, but she backed away.

"Don't smear the make-up," she said, coyly. "Besides, we're not alone."

The head librarian had let them into the building, then had gone off to her office to work while they were shooting.

"We could be very quiet," Biff said, with a suggestive leer. "I've never done it in a library before."

Selena returned his naughty expression, "I have to be careful with this dress."

"So take it off." He stepped toward her.

Selena made a shooing motion with her perfectly manicured hands. "Biff. Get to work. We can play later."

With a frustrated sigh, Biff did as he was told. He was good at his job and for the next two hours, he took shot after shot of Selena in each of the five elegant dresses that Robinson's had loaned for the story. Keeping his mind fully on the task was impossible, though.

Selena was different from any woman he'd ever met. She could match him step for step being rowdy and then, like him, she could turn serious without becoming self-righteous. She was beautiful, irreverent, and smart. Biff thought of all these things as he looked through the viewfinder of his camera. He adjusted the lighting to better show the delicacy of her features, the shine of her hair, and the brightness in her eyes. As he worked, her realized how deeply and truly he loved this woman, and when he asked her to turn a bit so she was facing the camera, he could see in her eyes that she loved him, too.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Episode 11

Genevra Adams sat quietly in her office looking over proofs for the next edition of "Pine Heart." She loved her job as publisher and editor-in-chief of this glossy magazine about the citizens of her community. In the past five years, she'd taken the publication from a thin concept to an eighty-page, full-color periodical full of photos and articles that everyone in town read, whether they admitted it or not.

Today, however, Genevra was finding it hard to concentrate. Thanksgiving had been the usual disaster, and the rest of the holidays promised to be just as grim.

Genevra's son, Billy was being very difficult. He refused to talk to her, and his behavior had been increasingly odd, even by Billy's standards. His newest quirk was sleepwalking. At three this morning, she'd found him crouched in the dark upstairs hallway, muttering to himself about ghosts. When she shook him, he snapped out of whatever trance he'd been in, insisting that he'd just had a bad dream. Everything was fine.

Billy's sister, Whitney, was almost as annoying as her brother. She stayed out until all hours of the night, supposedly at "work." At least Bake agreed that it was completely unacceptable for their daughter to be tending bar, especially at Taverna. Of course, the very reason the silly girl chose the job was to irritate her parents. Blake and Genevra had never made it a secret that they despised Nick Kallias and wouldn't think of setting foot in his restaurant. However, as frustrating as it might be, Genevra knew better than to voice her objections to Whitney's ridiculous employment. It would only stir up unpleasant issues that were best forgotten.

"Morning, Boss." Biff Monroe walked into Genevra's office without bothering to knock. He sauntered over to her desk. "What do you think if the winter wonderland shots?"

"They're fine."

"Doesn't look much like the old golf course, does it?" Biff said, tapping the pink- and blue-hued photo of a frosted landscape that Genevra had selected to be on the magazine's next cover.

"No. I know that course rather well, and I'd never guess. It's a lovely picture."

Genevra had to acknowledge that Biff was an excellent photographer. In the weeks that he'd been working for her, his images of Pine Lake gardens, landscapes, and social events had greatly improved the aesthetic aspect of "Pine Heart." Advertising sales had skyrocketed, and subscriptions were growing.

In spite of his talents, Biff was a risk. There were days when Genevra worried that he might be more of a liability than she could manage. He had a bad reputation, and he was too independent, but so far, so good.