Here's a brief excerpt from current work in progress. It's tentatively entitled Kisses and Lies, and it's book two in what I hope is a long series about the detective duo of Harry and Dee Shalan. This book is somewhat different in form in that every other chapter is written in 3rd person and is basically a 13-year-long flashback from the point of view of a man name Happy Hillman, who is central to the case the Shalans are investigating. The goal is to weave the two story lines together neatly by the last chapter. Hopefully the two sides of the bridge actually meet in the middle. What I'm including is one chapter narrated by Harry and part of a chapter about Happy. To clarify, the man being discussed in the chapter is not Happy, but his brother Willy. Enjoy, and please keep in mind that this is a first draft, so please be forgiving. Just thought you might want a sneak peak. And I left out the end of the second chapter because I don't want to give away whether she says yes.
I could tell by his tone of voice that the encore was going to have to wait.
“We got a problem,” said Otis. “Thought you might want to know in case he comes after you.”
“How?” I feared I knew the answer before I even asked.
“His wife. Sweet-talked the guard into going to the vending machine. Got back and they were both gone. You’ll recognize the guard by the way he walks now. Hard to move with a size 12 wing-tip lodged in your rectum.”
“How’d she get him out of the cuffs?”
“Didn’t. He demolished the bed.”
“Ripped the railing right off. Snapped it like a twig. This guy’s a beast.”
“Maybe he has her hostage, then.”
“After she lures the cop away?”
“We both been in this business too long to believe that.”
I let it drop. I knew he was right. I was concerned for her, but so furious at her that I couldn’t think clearly. “Any clue where they went?”
“No, but we have a BOLO out on her car. Every cop in two states is on the lookout and city, county, and state cops in Wood, Wirt, Ritchie, Athens, and Washington counties are actively searching. We’ll get them.”
“Need a couple extra sets of eyes?”
“Sure, meet me at the station. A couple sets. So she’s back. Sorry. You probably would rather be welcoming her home.”
“Did. Was hoping to welcome her home again.
“You don’t have to rub it in.”
“Already did that too.”
He hung up. It was mean, I knew. My best friend had been in love with my best girl for nearly as long as I had known them both. That she chose me has puzzled and delighted me since the day she said yes. Otis and I had never discussed it, but I knew. And he knew I knew. But we both also knew he would never act on it. Otis would sooner take a bullet than disgrace her or hurt me. And we both also knew that, defying all human logic, she was one hundred percent mine and always would be. I tried to be sensitive about it, but when the perfect woman, the woman of your dreams—the woman of whom dreams are made—chooses you, it’s hard not to allow a little hubris to creep in once in a while.
I dropped the phone in the charger and wondered how to tell Dee that we needed to go to work so soon after she got home, but she figured it out from my end of the conversation and was almost dressed when I got back to the bedroom. By almost dressed, I mean she had underwear and a blouse on, though her blouse was completely unbuttoned. She was staring into her bedside stand trying to decide which gun to take.
“That is my favorite way for you to wear a blouse. Can you always wear them that way?”
“Willy’s gone. Alyssa helped him.”
“After all this?”
“That’s what I said.”
“Women who let their men abuse them. You know what’ll happen if you ever try that with me.”
“Frying pan. Square in the face.”
“And I’d deserve it.”
“But it won’t happen.”
She chose a weapon, slid it into its holster and turned to me, putting her arms around my neck. “You’re the gentlest tough guy in the world,” she said before kissing me quickly but insistently. I was dangerously close to taking that encore if she kissed me like that again, so I kissed her forehead and slipped out of her arms to get dressed myself and she could dry her hair.
Twenty minutes later, we were tooling, Ellie’s top down, toward downtown. I noticed men staring at Dee every time we stopped for traffic. It didn’t bother me. In fact, I kind of liked it. Dee, on the other hand, was completely oblivious to it. It did seem to aggravate some of the women the guys were with, though. One guy got Gibbs slapped on the back of his head by his unhappy companion as we were pulling through an intersection. Dee saw it too and snorted.
“Did you see that?”
“Wonder why she did that?”
“Didn’t you see him staring at you?”
“Staring at me?” There was no guile in her voice. She was genuinely surprised. “Why?”
“You have that effect on men.”
“Thought it was only on you.”
“One of the million reasons I love you is that you actually mean that.”
We pulled into a metered spot and I put Ellie’s top up while Dee fed the meter. She always put in the maximum amount possible even if she knew she was going to park for only a few minutes so that whoever came after her could have free parking. A smile played across my face as I watched her. She caught me.
“Nothing. I just love you babydoll.”
“I love you too Mister Man.”
We walked hand-in-hand into the station. We’d both been there so many times that no one even questioned us. Several uniformed cops, most of whom I knew by name, nodded and said hi, giving Dee big smiles, to which she reciprocated in kind. As we approached Otis’ desk, she slipped her hand from mine, sneaked quietly behind him, and put her hands over his eyes.
“Please tell me you finally dumped that big ape and you’re here to run away with me.”
She kissed the top of his head and bent down, put her cheek next to his, and wrapped her arm around his neck. He patted her forearm and shot me a sly grin.
“I don’t deserve you, sweetie,” she said, plopping herself onto his desk. Anyone but Dee would have been roughed up and thrown in the tank for doing that. It was her spot and he guarded it jealously
“I think I’m insulted,” I said, sitting in the chair next to his desk.
“I don’t deserve either of you,” she said, using her full wattage smile. She could’ve asked any guy in the room at that moment to step into an airplane propeller running at full speed and we would all have simply asked whether she preferred face first. Luckily for all of us, she was careful to use her power only for good.
I knocked on his desktop; he pulled the left top drawer open. I sorted through his stash, pulling out a butter flavored toffee, which he kept just for me. I held up Dee’s favorite, a peppermint. She held out her hands and I tossed the candy at her. She nabbed it expertly from the air. “So what’s the plan, guys?”
“Well, we’re just basically looking everywhere we can think of. Uniforms are canvassing the neighborhood around the hospital, though her car’s gone, so that’s mostly just due diligence. Harry, you know more about this guy than any of us, so you probably have a better idea where to search anyway, so what do you think?”
“Already looked where I found him?”
He looked at me like I had horns growing on my head. “Wish we’d thought of that.”
“Well, then, have you checked back at Happy’s office?”
“Still people there.”
“Willy and Alyssa’s house?”
“Just did. Empty.”
“They could be on the road to anywhere,” said Dee. “Why are we looking here only?”
“First, we’re here,” said Otis. “Other cops can look for him elsewhere. Second, assuming they’re running away is the same as assuming something is a coincidence. Doesn’t do us any good. And he’s lived here his whole life”
“Went to college and works at a school ten minutes from the house he grew up in,” I said. “Helped with his dad’s business since he was old enough. He’s within twenty minutes, I’ll bet my bottom dollar.”
“But it doesn’t make sense for him to stay around,” she said. “He’d be better off just getting as far from here as he can get.”
“What makes sense almost never enters into what people are most likely to do,” I said. “We fall back on what we know, especially when we’re stressed.”
“I feel stupid when I listen to you guys. How do you know all this?” she asked, her eyes widened.
“Do this work forever,” said Otis, “and you get to know how people work. Patterns.”
“Okay, then,” said Dee with a shrug, “where do we start?”
“Otis, can you look up Happy’s address?”
September 17, 2000
The sun shone brilliantly on what guaranteed to be a gloriously clear, warm early fall day. Happy felt the day would turn out to be a winner regardless of the weather, for it was his birthday. He would never have guessed just two months ago that things could have turned out how they had. After turning his back on his family as well as Marissa, nearly dying, and having a brush with addiction, here he was in his first semester at West Virginia University, enjoying his classes as well as his time with the woman who was, he hoped, going to be his fiancée before the day was over.
The two of them had stayed over Friday night and gone to the Mountaineer football game on Saturday. WVU won over Maryland, a regional rival, 30-17, though neither of them paid much attention to the game. Between the rowdiness of the student section and the sheer ardor of the early stages of their renewed romance, the game was simply background noise. While many of those around them were so drunk that they passed out, Happy and Marissa were simply intoxicated by being together. They shared a distaste for the way many college couples openly necked and groped each other and were too self-conscious to show much affection publicly anyway, so they settled for sitting as close together as they could without her actually being on his lap and exchanging longing looks and occasional quick kisses the whole game.
They drove home immediately to celebrate his birthday, first by having a quiet dinner on Saturday evening at home with her parents and older sister. The real celebration, however, was to take place with his family later the next day. His father was roasting a lamb on the giant rotisserie he had built himself in the back yard. Many of his high school friends had been invited, as well as dozens of family members and friends from all over the state and even a few from Virginia and Florida. The event was doubling as a spontaneous family reunion. The gathering would likely swell to almost 100. Nearly everyone was enthused for the fete that was to come. The only dark spot was Willy, who was, at best sullen and distant. Though he felt selfish for it, Happy was glad that his brother was rarely home, especially now that football season was in full swing.
The crowd started gathering around 1:00pm, but it, along with his anxiety, really began to balloon around 3:00pm. The proposal, which he planned to do after dinner but before dessert, was to be simple. One knee, a short speech, and the ring, a ridiculously small diamond that he would be making payments on for the next three years, though it was the best he could afford with the little money he had scraped together in such a short time at his job at a vet’s office in Morgantown. He wasn’t worried about that, though, because Marissa, tall and slender with straight, fine, nearly silver blonde hair, had always worn little jewelry and even less makeup, and was that relatively rare woman who truly didn’t care about those things. What really scared him was not that she would say no, but that she would be forced to turn him down in front of all those people. If she wasn’t ready to promise him her hand yet, it would humiliate both him and her. He honestly wasn’t sure whose embarrassment would vex him more. The problem was that she had this habit of crying when both happy and mortified and, as well as he knew her, he had yet to figure out how to tell one from the other.