Monday, December 20, 2010

Bad Coffee and Worse Company

Today is Monday - Personal Blogfest Day!  I decided to take a break from my current WIP, Bayou Blue, and post an excerpt from the book that started the series. 

Purple Knot is a romantic suspense about a private detective who is forced to work with her ex-fiancĂ© to solve her best friend's murder.  As their romance rekindles, so do the memories of their tragic undoing. Can their fragile love survive the dark secrets revealed by Reyna's investigation?  
Reyna "Rain" Cruz is the main character, Jimmy is her ex-fiancĂ©, and Summer is Reyna's best friend and Jimmy's twin. 
This is the first chapter...

Purple Knot
Chapter One

I lurk in the shadows of the normal world. A recorder of sins, I dwell in the grey of secrets and lies. I capture images of infidelity, and follow the printed trails of stolen promises. Nothing stays hidden from me, no matter how deeply you bury it. I am a purveyor of all that is protected, and I am very good at my job.
            That is how I came to be on the fourth floor of an abandoned carpet warehouse with my camera on its tripod and a Styrofoam cup of coffee in my hand. A client of mine, for whom I’ve done numerous jobs, asked me to keep an eye on his business partner. For the last four weeks I’d tracked balding, middle- aged, Norman Bower from his lunch meetings to his handball matches and back to the office. I’d snapped images of him buying shoes, awkwardly flirting with a waitress way too young for him, and sneaking cigarettes in the parking garage before heading home to his wife and kids.
My client was convinced Mr. Bower was passing information about their sealed job bids to a rival company and wanted proof of cavorting with the enemy to use in a take-over. Unfortunately, Mr. Bower’s only vice was that he was incredibly boring. Still, I was on retainer, so I took a few more shots of Mr. Bower seriously testing the strength of his sweat suit material while trying to achieve the downward dog position in his beginning yoga class across the street.
            My phone buzzed in my pant’s pocket, and I answered it while packing up my equipment. There’s no way Bower would try to court a client while sweating like a junkie and fighting off a heart attack. I was done here.
            “Reyna Cruz,” I answered.
            “It’s me.”
            My heart sank when I heard Summer on the other end. I recognized the way her words sounded through a busted lip, and I grit my teeth, willing myself not to get upset. Summer’s husband was an animal.
            “Yeah, Summer. How are you?”
I shoved my camera into the case and rubbed my eyes.
“I’m at the hospital. Jimmy wanted me to call you.”
Jimmy was her brother and the only decent male in her life. He wasn’t a cop, but monitored the chatter on the sheriff’s frequency whenever he could. Jimmy listened for domestic dispute calls almost compulsively. That he happened to wind up hearing his sister’s was only a matter of time, really.
            I was not shocked. Summer was married to a prominent pharmaceutical executive who happened to consider beating his wife a valid form of communication. She was also eight months pregnant.
            “Which hospital?”
            “Don’t worry about it. He just wanted me to give you a call.”
            “The name, Summer. Are you in Woodside?” I pushed.
            “I’m not staying,” she said. “It’s nothing.”
            “Did your lip need stitches?”
            “How did you…?”
            “Where is he Summer? Did they arrest him?”
I refused to say his name. I refused to grant evil the courtesy of the familiar.
            “Jimmy made the sheriff haul him in. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
            Her voice cracked, and I knew she was trying to hold back tears.
            “You press charges is what you do.”
            I’d lost count of the times we’d had this conversation.
            “It’s out of my hands,” she said. I heard her blow her nose. “Jimmy lied to them. He said he pulled up in his car and saw Parker hit me, but it was all over by then. Now Jimmy’s gone and made it worse.”
            I said a silent thank you for Jimmy. He loved his sister and put his job on the line for her. She was always too afraid or felt too guilty for upsetting Parker to file charges against him. Maybe this time something would finally change.
            “You shouldn’t wait for him to use you as a punching bag to defend yourself.”
            “Rain, I don’t want to get in another argument with you.”
She and Jimmy were the only ones that called me Rain.
            “I’m not trying to argue.”
           “I know you don’t like him, but he’s my husband. I had a part in all this. I fought with him, and it just got out of hand.”
I ground my jaw.
“Oh, you fought with him. I see. How many stitches did Parker need? Did you crack one of his ribs?”
            She didn’t answer me, and then I heard her sniffling. I felt like a jerk. The last thing she needed was for someone else to make her feel like she was in the wrong. I took a deep breath and tried again.
            “I’m sorry Summer. I just…I hate that he does this to you. It’s going to get worse. I know you don’t want to hear it, but one of these days he will kill you.”
            “I can handle it. I don’t need you barreling in here trying to fix things for me. But I do appreciate that you care. I really do.”
            “Whenever you need me; just call and I’ll come and get you. I have plenty of space for you and the baby.”
            I heard her laugh in her quiet way; like she used to do when we were kids.
            “Are you at work right now?”
            “Yeah, I gotta make my nut for the month.”
I rested my head against the metal warehouse wall, a headache coming on.
            “Oh sure, must be hard keeping up all those properties.”
            I had invested in lake-side cabins all over California when my business had taken off. A company took care of maintenance and rentals for me. I’d done well over the past ten years and now took clients by referral only. My five figure retainer kept me in a nice building in the Mission District of San Francisco. A brass plate with Rain Associates was the only evidence of my professional life. Discretion was my bread and butter.
            “You know you could take one of them over.”
I was desperate to convince her.
“I have a cabin at Lake Gregory near Lake Arrowhead. It’s cozy and there’s a little town a half mile down the road. I know its not what you’re used to, but…”
            “I’m fine, but thank you.”
Her voice was tense, defensive. Defeated, I heard another voice in the background, and then the phone changed hands. I was talking to Jimmy.
            “Hey Rain.”
 I heard Jimmy’s laid back drawl and his crooked grin flashed behind my eyes. Originally from Louisiana, he and Summer had moved with their family to Seattle when they were fourteen. They were twins and my very best friends in the world. Jimmy, at one time, had been much more than that.
            “It’s Reyna. Rain was my nickname in grade school,” I said sternly.
            He ignored my comment.
            “Summer has a fat lip and I’ll bet her wrist is sprained. Talk some sense into her. Tell her to go and visit you for a while.”
            “I already tried that. Did they book him, Parker?”
            “I made sure they did.”
I could tell he was looking at Summer by the way he emphasized his words.
“You coming up here, Rain?”
            “Probably not.”
            “Why not?”
            “Why not, Jimmy? Are you serious?”
I said it a little too loudly. My hands shook and I fought for control.
“I can’t go and see her face all bruised up and be able to make out Parker’s fist print. I just can’t. Do you know how many times I’ve had to read her pain medication bottle for her because her eyes were swollen shut?”
            “I can’t do this any more. I’m tired of trying to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.”
 I was angry. At Parker for being who he was, at Summer for being a victim, and at myself…for thinking that way. Jimmy was silent. I looked at my phone to be sure I was still connected.
            “You probably have to go, so I’ll give the phone back to Summer.”
I could tell he was mad. Jimmy never gave up on anything, ever. I had disappointed him. I could hear it in his voice.
            “Jimmy, I’m still here for her. I just can’t run out there every time she lets him hurt her.”
            “It’s not a ‘letting’ thing, Rain. Do you really think that?”
            I hesitated. I didn’t want to fight with Jimmy, but then again, I did believe that.
            “Jimmy, on some level, at some point, she needs to stop letting him do this to her by leaving. I have places for her to stay. I have money. I’ve even researched OB/Gyn doctors here. But she needs to take the first step and she won’t. Short of dragging her here by the feet, I don’t know what more I can do.”
            “You can try again. You can be here for her.”
            “Like you’re there? Heck of a lot of good that’s done her.”
            Jimmy was silent. I could imagine him grinding his jaw on the other end. I sighed. This wasn’t his fault.
            “I understand what you’re saying Jimmy. But I’m done for now. I can’t take this anymore.”
            He didn’t answer me. I just heard him say something to Summer and then the phone was back in her hands.
            “What did you say to him? He stalked off.”
            My stomach twisted.
“I told him I’m not coming down.”
            She was quiet for a moment and then she whispered into the phone.
            “I’m sorry I keep disappointing you. You’re the last person in the world I want angry with me.”
            My eyes filled and it felt like I was stepping across this widening chasm, away from Summer and Jimmy.
            “You don’t disappoint me, Summer. I just love you too much to watch you self-destruct like this.”
“Right as Rain.”
“You always did do the right thing, instead of the easy thing.”
She used to say that to me all the time in high school. It still made my heart ache.
            “I love you, you know that right? I’m here if you want. Anytime of the day or night.”
            She was silent on the phone, letting what I’d said sink in.
            “Will you come and see the baby? When he or she’s born?” She said finally.
            “Wild horses couldn’t keep me away.”
            I don’t know if I would have said anything different had I known that it was the last time I would ever 
hear her voice. 

That's it for chapter one. As always, I love to get feedback. Until next time...Go Write!
Photograph by Mikeblogs.