Saturday, May 26, 2012

From At Large--Bad News on the Home Front

From At Large, Josephine goes home after a rough day at the Women's Job Skills Center. Looking for her straying cat, she knocks on the building manager’s door.

Maxine answered the door. She was a short, full-breasted woman in her sixties with wildly cut gray hair. Today she wore a mauve sweat suit and hoop earrings.

"Hi, Jo. You're back early."

"I finished up. Thought I'd come home. Where's the bird? He's awfully quiet. Is he okay?" Groucho, her green Military Macaw had a shriek that could be heard blocks away and he usually made some sort of preparatory shrieks when he saw that Maxine's attention was focused into the hallway, rather than on him where it properly belonged.

I blinked in surprise when a face popped up behind her shoulder. A man squeezed up behind Maxine and wrapped his arm around her substantial middle so that her breasts flowed over his forearm, nearly but not quite covering the crude tattoo that snaked up from his wrist to curl around his elbow. Without meaning to, I took a step backward into the hall.

"I've been threatening to put him on a spit for dinner, but Maxine won't let me. Her daughter took him down to her place, the noise was driving me apeshit," the man said with a gravelly voice. "Don't worry—Bird lives!

"Can you believe I've hooked up with a literate jazz buff?" Maxine said in tones more appropriate for baby talk.

"Hope took in Groucho?" I said in disbelief.

"Oh, she was glad to take him." Maxine's new friend grinned broadly. "She hustled that cage outta here in ten minutes flat, once I told her I liked him a lot and I'd like him even better fried with biscuits and gravy."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Meeting the "Other Woman" in the Worst Possible Way

From At Large, Josephine goes to the apartment her ex-husband is sharing with the woman whom he left her for...but a stranger rushes out the door and calls out as she runs off, "Don't go in there! Call the cops, she's dead!"

I turned back to confront the polished stairs leading up into the townhouse. I took out my cell phone. The top autodial button was programmed for 911. I didn't press the button though. Instead, I kept it in my hand as I cautiously went up the stairs. Confronting me at the top of the stairway was a larger-than-life, beautifully framed print of a color photograph of Francesca. It dominated the entry. It was clearly Griff's work, and he had done her justice. It showed her hanging from a wall of sapphire ice, supported by two ice axes and the crampons attached to her boots. Her hair had been shorter in that picture, and the hood of her parka had fallen back a little to show a spiky halo around her determined face. The sun that illuminated the blue ice reflected in her blue eyes. She looked great. It was easy to see why Griff had fallen for her. She looked like a snow goddess—the petite version.

At the top of the stairs I saw a series of huge prints of Griff's pictures hanging along the back wall. Every one showed Francesca in climbing gear. From the massive peaks in the background, I guessed that these were taken during the early days of their relationship in Nepal.

The condo had high ceilings and hardwood floors. The cathedral effect was heightened by the sparse furniture, which gave the place a cavernous empty quality. The place seemed deserted except for the persistent buzz of a fly. The main room was blocked from view as you rounded the top of the stairs by a glass cabinet that must have been seven feet tall, filled with sports trophies and climbing memorabilia.

I went around the trophy display, and tripped over a black leather case that had been unceremoniously dropped at the edge. I went down sprawling on the hardwood floor, cursing myself for awkwardness. I lay for a second, assessing any damage, cringing in expectation of laughter and expecting to look up and see the petite and athletic Francesca sneering at my huge awkward self, complaining that I had scuffed the waxed floor.

Instead, cautiously getting to my feet, I saw a long oak table with a new canvas tarp half pulled off it, and what appeared to be a dummy, submerged in a welter of climber's gear—harnesses and rope, caribiners, crampons, pitons. I had never climbed a day in my life but I'd watched enough people pack and unpack their gear to easily commit it to memory. I didn't see any ice axes, although I saw the harness with the holster from which most climbers hung a couple of axes with their claw-like heads for climbing ice, the way Francesca had in that huge photo.

I went a little closer, puzzled. Mountaineers are usually very particular about their gear. After all, their lives depend on it. Someone had scattered Francesca's stacks of pitons like matchsticks. Her ropes were tangled into a spider's nest, hanging half off the table.

This was a cruel joke surely. I went a little closer, my steps echoing on the hardwood. The tarp had been partially pulled off the gleaming oak table. The climbing gear made a disorderly still life.

My stomach lurched when I realized that the totally still figure at the center of the disorder was no dummy. Francesca Etheridge, a rope around her neck, her red face distorted, lay among her gear, one of her ice axes planted in the soft base of her throat. The bloodied rips and tears in her thermal undershirt showed where she had been hacked before dying. She was clearly lifeless. The blood long clotted. Twisted where she had fallen like a broken doll, her arms were trapped by the ropes and frozen at an awkward angle, not by cold but by death.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A fun week with Large Target--Now the Plot Thickens in At Large

Last week we celebrated May 6th, International No Diet Day by offering free ebook copies Large Target from May 6-10. During that 5-day period, 12,007 copies of Large Target were downloaded/given away at!

Thank you to everyone who spread the news of the giveaway! I hope that some new readers will check out the other Josephine Fuller mysteries. The 3rd book in the series to be reissued soon is At Large--here’s another sample:

Josephine Fuller discovers that the Francesca Etheridge, the woman who broke up her marriage is accusing one of the Women’s Job Skill Center temps of stealing her laptop.

I didn't admit to myself until I parked across the street that I was going to try to contact her. Francesca's building bore a stylized logo of a killer whale and the words Orca Harbor I hadn't seen her since that morning when she was pasted up against Griff in the hotel lobby in Kathmandu.

I couldn't very well pretend to be someone else because she might easily remember me from the time we met briefly in Nepal—even though there was also the possibility that she wouldn't recognize me if I wasn't sitting next to Griff and wearing a wedding ring.

My memory was that she had examined me with some calculation, as she might have considered a steep but not insurmountable stretch of glacial ice. Then she set her sights, with a total lack of pretense, on Griff. Standing on the doorstep, I toyed with an opening line such as, "Remember me? You stole my husband. And speaking of theft, what's all this about a missing laptop?"

It never occurred to me that Francesca might refuse to see me until I buzzed the number labeled Etheridge, and got no answer. Of course, she could be out. I felt a flush of embarrassment wondering if Griff might answer the door. That was when I noticed that the door was slightly open, which was highly unwise in a city the size of Seattle. I was reaching out to push it inward, when it was yanked open, and I was literally shouldered out of the way by a tall blond woman who left the door wide open.

She paused at the bottom of the stairs long enough to turn back and call out, "Don't go in there! Call the cops, she's dead!" she turned and ran across the street.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Celebrate INDD with a FREE copy of LARGE TARGET

[Note--apologies if you get this twice or saw my typo and confusion ensued! My brain went fuzzy for a minute when I typed the subject line and I put "At Large" when I meant "Large Target"--saw it as I was posting on Facebook and corrected it.] You can snare a FREE COPY of Large Target in honor of May 6th, International No Diet Day. The offer is good May 6-10th check it out at this link Pearlsong Letter Free Copy info

Here’s a taste of Large Target in seven paragraphs from a scene where Josephine, escaping from an ambush with a spiderweb crack in her rental car windshield has tracked the kidnappers to their lair. She discovers that the admiral has escaped her captors but he’s worried that she might be with the kidnappers. She reminds him that they met when she threw a drink on him at a party.

"I'm sorry, you'll have to be more specific."

"At your son Dwight's place last week. You were rude and abusive and I threw a drink on you."

"If you can't give me more than that to go on, I'll never remember. Can we talk somewhere else? I don't want to get locked up back up in that warehouse when the others get back."

“I just gave them the money. Didn't they let you go?"

"They did not. The skinny kid cuffed me to a loose table leg. I just got out a little while ago. I was going to walk out of here but when I saw you, I thought I could hitch a ride or with a car like that you might have a cell phone. That was before I saw your lovely windshield."

I was heading back toward the last place I had seen a service station, figuring they would have a phone. As we passed the street with the warehouse on it I looked down it just in time to see the van come hurtling into the intersection and plow into my right front bumper with a horrific crunching sound.

It spun us nearly a hundred and eighty degrees. The admiral and I both saw that he was backing up to have another run at the car. With a remarkable display of unity, we scrambled out the driver and passenger doors and began to run along the chain-link fence away from the van, which had backed up and was now swerving around the now-crippled rental car to follow us.