And still publishing ….

Arggggggggggggggggggh

Writing this damn book was easier than sorting out the cover. Struggled for 2 hours to get a picture of the right dpi. Each time I select one, even their inbuilt pictures, the DPI is wrong. Eventually, after much swearing, using an online program and saving the file in some weird format, I actually made the right picture the right DPI. Wooohooo. So, final checks, then I can click publish … and then wait 72 hours … and betting I tweak things before I ever let anyone know what the link is? For like maybe a week. Basically, on the home stretch, but don’t hold your breath just yet.

Still publishing

So, I’ve decided to self publish … got my Amazon account all hooked up and downloaded their templates and software to help me create my ebook and print edition. The ebook creation went fairly well. The ebook cover was fairly painless. Well, alright, so it took a lot of tweaking and playing with, but it’s the first time I’ve done this, so there’s a learning curve. Set a price of $0.99 – the lowest price I could select – which gives me $0.35 per book sold. So far, so good. All I have to do now is click publish, and I’m good to go. But before I do that, time to sort out the print version. (Well, I want an actual physical version of my book in my hand … I know, but I Want One).

Argh!!!!

Ok, so I selected everything and then had to choose a size. I went for the standard settings on the grounds that everyone can’t be wrong (I hope). Then I downloaded yet another template and entered my text. Easy, right? Wrong. Well, it was easy, but when I upload it, my contents page is outside the margins, and my page breaks are completely mad. Ok, so today is gonna be a fun editing day. Tomorrow the print cover ….. this could take longer that I hoped.

To be continued.

Publishing a book

Ok, so long time since I posted, but that’s because I’ve been busy in RL, and on polishing my Tom Calder/nano story for publication. Should be ready within the week (fingers and toes crossed). More news to follow.

Nano 2015 – Chapter 20

I watched the interrogation back at Police HQ from the relative darkness of the side room, through the one-way mirror. Benny joined Flint inside the brightly lit room, sitting down on the third plastic chair. I wasn’t sure it was going to take both of them to question her. From where I stood, she seemed completely deflated. She had done ever since Flint asked her to accompany him back for questioning. Bitter and unrepentant, and yet the fight had simply drained away from her. Benny started the questioning.

“We need to ask you some questions, Mrs Read. Are you sure you don’t want to wait for your lawyer.”

She sighed. “It doesn’t matter any more. Nothing matters any more.”

“You’re happy to proceed without your lawyer present?”

“Yes, go ahead.” Her voice sounded even more brittle than I remembered it.

“So why did you do it, Mrs Read? Why steal from your own charity?” Flint was starting with the part that would be the easiest to prove. The tech guys were already busy with her laptop, and from the brief glance I’d had, they seemed to have been able to recover a lot of the information she’d attempted to delete. The money trail would be fairly easy to follow.

“I was sick of my life being defined by ungrateful people in another country. That’s all anyone ever talked about. Those poor orphans.” She snorted derisively.

“Was it you that suggested taking the money, or Duval?”

“Oh, it was my idea. He’d never even thought about it. Of course, once we started and he saw what that amount of money could do, he was more than willing.” She smiled a little wistfully. “And he was quite an attentive lover, as it turned out.”

“Your husband never suspected the affair?”

She shook her head with a self satisfied smile.” Heavens, no. He was far too busy with his ‘mission in life’. He never noticed anything I did, unless I bought a new dress. He noticed that quickly enough. Well, he noticed the bill for it. Always complaining about the money I spent. I told him, if you want me to look my best at your events, then I have to spend money.”

“So how did it end up as murder?” asked Benny.

She sighed. “Jonathan developed a wandering eye. Or that little tramp seduced him. That was what he claimed anyway. Anyway, I overheard her on the phone to her mysterious new boyfriend, and I followed her when she went out to meet him. I saw her get into Jonathan’s car.”

“And that was enough for you to kill your own daughter?” Benny sounded slightly incredulous, although I knew he had to have heard far worse over the years.

“She wasn’t my daughter,” snapped Martha. “She was his daughter. She was always ‘Daddy’s girl’. And then she stole Jonathan from me. That was the last straw. We’d been lovers for years. We’d almost got enough to go away together, to allow us to live comfortably for the rest of our lives. She spoiled everything!”

“I can understand you being angry with her, but why kill her? Why not simply go away with Duval?” asked Flint.

“I confronted him last week, about seeing the little slut. He confessed everything to me. The idiot had even told her about skimming the charity. He was trying to impress her, but it backfired. She threatened to tell David. I couldn’t let her ruin everything we’d worked for.”

“So you killed her to keep her quiet?”

“She left me no choice. The charity banquet was ideal. I said I had a headache and needed some air. David didn’t care. He was busy pumping the Mayor for something or other. They had Jonathan with them. And the other guests were too busy gorging themselves on the hors d’oeuvres and champagne. They never even noticed I was gone.”

“And you broke into the school looking for her diary in her locker?”

“Do I look like the type of person who breaks into a school?” she sneered. “That was Jonathan. I didn’t even know she had a diary. I called him later that night, to tell him what I’d done.” She paused and shook her head. “You’d have thought I’d told him the world had just ended. Honestly, men can be so weak. He panicked. Said she kept a diary and he was scared she’d written about him. I told him I’d look in her room, but all I found was her cell phone. He broke into the school.”

“And then you shot Duval.” Flint didn’t even bother making it seem like a question, It was a plain statement of fact. She didn’t seem to notice.

“He was infatuated with that girl. You should have seen the texts between them. It was disgusting. I tried to persuade him that we could just leave like we’d always planned. We had enough money, we could have been happy together.” There was a moment when her face lightened and she looked almost wistful. And then it was gone, replaced by the sneer again. “He wouldn’t listen. He said she didn’t deserve to die like that. He gave me no choice.”

I’d seen enough, and from the looks on Benny and Flints faces, they’d heard enough too. I was glad I wasn’t the one writing up the paperwork for this one. Then again, I had to send an invoice and a report to David Read, telling him his wife had an affair with his Financial Director, that the pair of them stole from his charity, and then, when Duval decided to get intimate with his daughter as well, his wife killed them both. This was a report where I was going to have to select my words extremely carefully.

I headed for home. I needed food, and beer, and I needed to hug my dog. Yes, alright, so I can be a softy sometimes. I pulled up on my driveway, next to Gus’s SUV, and was greeted by an excited Zak, who insisted on having his ears rubbed before he’d let me inside. I expected to find Gus sat on my sofa watching TV, but he was helping Jake stack boxes in my hallway.

“Moving out?” I wasn’t being serious. I knew he still had to find a place to live.

“Yes,” grinned Jake. “Well, not right this second, if that’s ok with you, but I’m moving some stuff to my new place. I get to move in at the end of the week, once Gus has finished with it.”

“New place?” I looked at Gus, who shrugged with a smile.

“There’s this place, not far from here. Small shop with an apartment above it. It’s been empty a couple of months now. O’Learys.”

I chuckled. “Yes, I know. I pass it nearly every day. Small surf shop. The last tenant moved up the coast to a bigger shop. He used to repair boards and sell surf leashes, stuff like that. What about it?”

Gus managed to look slightly embarrassed. “Well, I figured Jake needed a new career. Make a go of the bracelet things he makes.” He shifted uncomfortably as I raised an eyebrow.” What? You said they’re good.”

“They are. I’m still not sure where this is leading.”

“You really think they’re good?” asked Jake.

“I do, yes. And I’ve bought a fair few of them over the years, from all over the world. Meanwhile, back to this new career and new place.”

“Well, you see, well …” Gus was actually struggling to find the right words.

Jake helped him out. “Gus has bought the surf shop and he’s going to rent it to me. I can sell my bracelets and other stuff, and repair boards too. I like repairing boards. And there’s a small apartment above it, so I can live on site.”

“With Gus as your landlord.”

Jake beamed. “I know. I’ll have to pay my rent on time. Stay off the weed and really make a go of this. Come on, grab a box and help.”

I watched as Jake headed out to the SUV. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Gus shrugged. “I owe him. I feel responsible for his place getting trashed. And even if it all goes pear shaped, it’s another property in my portfolio. Oh, and I was kinda hoping you’d keep an eye on him. Make sure he’s doing ok. Put the word out that he’s open for business. Maybe even collect the rent.”

I grinned. “You’ve really got this all worked out, haven’t you?”

Gus smiled. “Let’s just say, this could all work out to my advantage.”

I rolled my eyes and picked up a box. I had a feeling life was definitely not going to be boring in the foreseeable future.

Nano 2015 – Chapter 19

I timed the journey to the Read’s apartment. We deliberately didn’t rush, and it still only took us six minutes. Read was not too thrilled to find us back on his doorstep.

“What are you doing here again? This is bordering on harassment, Detective.” He turned his wrath on me. “And as for you, I hired you to find my daughter’s murderer, not to badger me with ridiculous questions.”

Flint smiled calmly. “We’re actually here to talk to your wife.”

Read looked surprised. “Martha? What on earth do you want to talk to her about?”

“Mr Read, I’m sorry to tell you this, but from Jonathan Duval’s bank records, it looks as though he was stealing money from your charity.” I watched him closely as I spoke, and his bewilderment seemed genuine.

“Ridiculous. A clerical error.”

Flint raised an eyebrow. “A seven million dollar clerical error?”

Read sat down abruptly. “Seven million?” His voice trembled slightly as he spoke. “No, that can’t be right.”

Flint softened his tone slightly. “I’m afraid it is, Sir. And I find it hard to believe that he was acting alone. There’s also the matter of two murders, both committed by someone with access to your gun.”

“It wasn’t me,” protested Read. “And I don’t believe Jonathan would have killed Sarah. I can’t believe it.”

“We know that, Sir. The Mayor just provided you both with an alibi for your daughter’s murder. You and Duval were with him the entire evening. Unfortunately, he can’t provide an alibi for your wife.”

Read stared at him blankly for a moment before the realisation hit him. “Oh my god. No! You can’t possibly think Martha was involved.”

“If we could just talk to her, maybe we can clear this up. Where is she?”

Read was shaking his head in disbelief. “She went out an hour or so ago. She said she had to clear her head. I don’t know where she went. Maybe to the office.”

I glanced around the living room, thinking back to the missing money. Someone had transferred it from Duval’s accounts to the Cayman Islands. Probably by computer. “Does your wife have a computer here, Sir?”

Read waved his hand in the direction of the study. “A laptop, in there.”

Flint half smiled. “Would it be alright for us to take a look at it?”

“Yes, yes, go ahead. I can’t believe any of this. It’s just … preposterous. there must be some mistake.”

Flint sat down at the desk and watched as the laptop sprang into life. It seemed Martha Read was one of those people who think closing the laptop, turns it off. That could work in our favor.

“Email or internet history?” asked Flint.

“Email.” People have a tendency to delete their internet history, but are usually a lot less paranoid about their emails.

Flint opened up the email program and whistled. “We’re going to need the tech guys to look this over, but I can see a confirmation of a couple of bank transfers.” He clicked a few icons. “Internet history has been deleted. Tech guys might be able to retrieve something.”

I peered over his shoulder. “There’s an icon for Delta Airlines. Looks like it wasn’t shut down properly.”

“Shit.” Flint clicked the icon. “A list of scheduled flights from LAX to the Cayman Islands.”

I checked my watch. “The next flight leaves in two hours.”

Flint was already heading to the door. “We need to get there, fast!”

Los Angeles Airport isn’t in LA itself. It’s actually 15 miles away. This was good for us, as it meant we could just tear up the freeway towards it, without worrying about how the hell we were going to negotiate LA traffic. All we had to worry about was the freeway and then negotiating the largest airport in California with millions of passengers passing through its gates every year. Easy.

Flint drove like a madman, despite the 4 lanes of occasionally stationary traffic between us and the freeway. The lights were flashing on his dashboard, his horn was honking, and there were a lot of hand gestures that I was pretty sure he hadn’t learned on any police driving course. I concentrated on calling Benny to let him know what we were doing.

Things got a little less frantic once we reached the freeway. We had four lanes of reasonably moving traffic to weave in and out of. I swear, I suddenly developed a whole new appreciation for slalom skiers. We could have turned off the I-5 onto the 73 state highway, and then onto the I-405, but we’re locals and we know better. The 405 is well named. It’s one of the most congested roads in the area, and if you manage an average speed of 4 or 5 mph, you’re doing well. So we took the longer route and stayed on the I-5. I’d like to describe all the beautiful scenery we passed, but most of it was concrete walls and construction sites. Besides, I wasn’t really watching the scenery. I was too busy trying not to get car sick.

The journey to the airport is one I’ve made many times. It’s normally about a 90 minute trip. Heavy traffic, and it can take over 2 hours. Light traffic, like today, and it can take just over an hour. We made it in 45 minutes. And despite the usual congestion caused by commuters and freight haulers, we actually made it one piece, which I considered to be a major miracle. There were obvious advantages to having blue lights flashing on your dashboard.

Benny called us back as we were nearing the airport. He’s got hold of airport security to warn them we were on our way, and they’d arranged to meet us at terminal 5. That’s Delta’s own terminal these days, which meant it should be easier to track Martha Read down. However, since Delta pride themselves on their service and the privacy they offer their customers, it could be a little tricky gaining access, without a warrant.

Flint parked the car, relatively neatly, and we wasted no time heading inside. I have to admit, Delta certainly had pulled out all the stops with their new terminal. A spacious main lobby, private check-in, private entrance and plenty of people available to handle the baggage. Even the elevator between the levels was private. Very luxurious and swish, and not the way I was used to travelling. It was also going to be difficult to stop Mrs Read boarding her flight.

Flint tried his best with the manager. “We really need to speak to Mrs Read, quite urgently.”

The manager was not about to be swayed by a police detective flashing a shiny badge. “I’m sure you do, Sir, but without a warrant, I’m afraid the privacy of our clients is our first priority.”

I listened for a couple of moments while Flint tried all his best lines, but the manager was obviously not going to back down. I could understand Flint’s frustration, but I could also see the managers point of view. He had a job to do, and that job was ensuring his clients had a serene experience at the airport. We needed a warrant, and I wasn’t convinced we’d get one. All the evidence we had so far was circumstantial, unless the tech guys could turn up something, and that was going to take time. Time that we didn’t have. Unless we could get a warrant pretty damn quickly, she was going to board her flight and be out of our jurisdiction. Maybe it was time for a PI approach.

I motioned to one of the airport security officers who’d followed us into the Delta terminal. They couldn’t really help us get past the Delta manager, but maybe they could help me find an alternative route. I stepped to one side, and he followed me.

“I’m assuming there’s a place to relax before a flight?”

“Absolutely. They have a bar, seating, and a dining area. Hell, they even have luxury showers.”

I grinned. “And how easy would it be to sneak into this dining area, to check if someone is there.”

The security man grinned back. “Fairly easy, if airport security cleared you and you were wearing a white uniform jacket.”

I followed him through a security door, and through a maze of winding passages. He nodded towards a door. “They keep spare jackets in there, just in case.”

I rummaged around and found one my size, swapping it for my hooded top. Luckily, today I’d chosen to wear my black jeans and sneakers, and with the white jacket on, I could just about pass for a waiter. As long as no one stopped me and asked for a snack or a drink anyway. I handed my gun and top to the security man to look after as he swiped his security card on the elevator.

“Good luck. And if anyone complains, I never saw you do that.”

I grinned and nodded and stepped inside. The service elevator was fast and quiet, and in a couple of seconds I found myself in the service area of the Delta Sky Club. I glanced around a little warily, but everyone seemed too busy concentrating on the jobs they were doing to notice a stranger in their number. I picked up a tray and a menu from a counter and drifted through the corridors, avoiding the kitchen. The last thing I needed right now was an irate chef yelling at me to deliver an order.

I emerged through a silent swinging door and found myself in the Delta Sky Club. If Flint had thought the golf club was luxurious, this place would have blown his mind. Thick pile carpeting throughout, highly polished white surfaces and subdued lighting, and comfy armchairs in small clusters around the room. People were relaxing, reading their complimentary newspapers and taking full advantage of the free WiFi to check their phones. The full length bar was backlit in blue, and had a couple of customers sat on the stools, sipping cocktails and helping themselves to the complementary snacks on offer. The barman was wiping a glass, although I was pretty sure it didn’t need wiping.

I glanced around the room, but couldn’t see Martha Read. I could wander around, peering over peoples newspapers and generally drawing unwanted attention to myself, or I could ask if anyone had seen her. That would also draw unwanted attention, unless I chose the right person to ask. I chose the barman. I headed to one end of the bar, away from the customers. I’m not sure if he was curious, or expected me to give him a drinks order, but he followed me anyway.

“I don’t suppose you know if there’s a Martha Read in here, do you? Only, I have a message for her, from her husband, and they don’t want to have to tannoy a message unless they really have to.” Ok, so it was a long shot, but I figured it was worth a go.

The barman shook his head. “I don’t ask their names, I just serve their drinks.”

“According to her husband, she’s medium height, good figure, medium length brown hair and brown eyes.” I realised as I said it, that I wasn’t exactly narrowing down the search field a whole lot. “Oh, and she has one of those voices that set your teeth on edge. Tinny and screechy at the same time. You know the sort.”

The barman winced and nodded. “Vodka Martini on the rocks, extra dry, stirred, with an olive. She’s over there, by the window.”

I thanked him and headed over to Martha Read. Without the barman’s help, I’d have waked past her without noticing. The armchair she was in had such high sides, it was practically an isolation booth. I stood quietly beside her, and waited for her to register my presence. She looked up, slightly annoyed at the interruption, and paled the moment she recognised me.

“Mrs. Read. Fancy meeting you here. Detective Flint is at the front desk, and he’d like to talk with you, if that’s convenient.”

She regained her composure almost instantly. “Well, it’s not convenient. I have a flight to catch. I don’t need any more of his silly questions.”

I nodded thoughtfully. “Fair enough. Well perhaps it will be more convenient for me to ask the questions here instead. Loudly. And with lots of details about two dead bodies and a seven million dollar fraud.”

She paled again and regarded me through narrowed eyes. “You wouldn’t dare.”

I smiled back at her benignly. “Try me.”

Nano 2015 – Chapter 18

I headed back to my place the following morning, leaving Jake at Uncle Marks, with Zak. Uncle Mark was heading into work as well, but Jake would be fine with Zak to keep an eye on him. Digger’s SUV was parked in my driveway, alongside my own Jeep. I was happy to see it. The Escape had been alright, as a short term loan, but it didn’t really suit me. The Jeep was way more my style.

The new front door looked pretty similar to my old one, from a distance, Up close and personal, it was a lot stronger, and had more dead bolts too. I headed into the kitchen, with a yell to Digger, to let him know it was me, although I was pretty sure he knew before I’d even reached the door. Sparky was sprawled in my lounge, surrounded by wires and circuits boards.

“More security?”

Sparky shrugged with a sheepish grin. “Extra CCTV. Covers the garage, the back door and the side gate now. I’ve also put an alarm on your fence.”

I closed my eyes and shook my head. “Tell me you’re joking.”

Digger chuckled. “He’s not joking.”

“It still opens like before,” protested Sparky. “It’s just, now, if it gets opened when you don’t want it to, you’ll know about it.”

I rolled my eyes and made a mental note to disable that particular alarm as soon as Sparky had left, before swapping vehicle keys with Digger. I glanced at my new key fob. “Tell me you didn’t fit one of those deafening alarms on the jeep.”

Sparky managed a slightly hurt expression. “It’s alarmed, and it’ll get noticed if it goes off, but it’s not as loud as the SUV. Which reminds me, I need to tone down the alarm on the Escape.”

“Thanks, Sparky. Tell Gus I owe him.” I figured Gus was already well aware of that and plotting how to call in the favor, but it seemed the right thing to say.

“We’ve cleared Jake’s place. All his stuff is in boxes in your spare room. We’re going to fix what got broken there today, and then get his bond back from his landlord.” Digger’s tone of voice was nonchalant. Normally I wouldn’t have rated anyone’s chances of getting their bond back for a place that had been trashed, but somehow, I didn’t think Digger would have too many problems. “Gus is out sorting out alternative accommodation for him.”

I frowned. “Better check with Jake what his budget is. He has the rent on the fishing shack to take care of too.”

Digger grinned. “Don’t worry, it’s in hand.”

I shrugged and decided not to ask any more questions. If Gus had it under control, then it was under control. I decided to head off to Police HQ and leave them to it. I arrived in the bull pen just in time to hear Pete deliver his report to Flint and the Captain.

“Alright, so your suspected suicide, Jonathan Duval. His hands came back negative for GSR. On it’s own, that’s not proof positive that he didn’t fire the gun, but there were no powder burns around the wound either. That means he’d have had to shoot himself from an impossible distance. In my opinion, he didn’t fire the shot.”

“So we’re looking at a second murder? Great.” Benny rubbed his forehead. “Any good news?”

“Well, the gun you found in his hand was definitely the one that killed him. It was also the one that killed Sarah Read. It’s registered to David Read.”

“One killer who leaves the murder weapon in the hand of his second victim?” mused Benny.

“Or someone trying to cover their tracks,” suggested Flint. “Kill Sarah, and then kill Duval to put us off the scent. Make it look like he killed Sarah and then killed himself. Except, they didn’t make too good a job of it. Besides, when we met him, he didn’t exactly seem suicidal.”

“Maybe they thought our interview would rattle him enough to make him a likely suspect?” I frowned and stared out the window. “Maybe we did rattle him. Maybe he called someone and forced their hand.”

“What did we ask that could have rattled him?” asked Flint. “We only asked what his job entailed and if he was close to Sarah.”

“From the look of his apartment, either the charity were paying him too much, or he was skimming money somehow. Maybe he thought we were onto him.” I sighed. “I don’t know.”

“Maybe he wasn’t working alone,” suggested Benny. “Skimming money from a charity like that, isn’t as easy as you might think. Someone usually notices. Is there a deputy Financial Director? Someone who checks his figures?”

Flint consulted his notes and shrugged. “I have no idea. We might get a better idea when we get hold of Duval’s bank records. At least then we’ll know if he really was ripping off the charity. At the moment, we’re just guessing. In the meantime, I think we should go and see David Read again. See if he had any suspicions about Duval. Have we released news of his death yet?”

“No,” said Benny. “Still trying to contact his parents in Philadelphia. No reason why you can’t let Read know though.”

Back at Read’s place, there was a new man on the front desk. He scrutinised Flint’s ID and called up to Read to let him know we were on our way up.

“What happened to Wallace?” I asked, casually.

“It’s his day off. You know the apartment right? 51.”

We thanked him and rode the elevator up to the top floor. Read opened the door as soon as Flint knocked.

“Is there any news? Have you caught my daughter’s killer?”

Flint put on his best inscrutable face. “Is your wife here, Sir?”

“She went down to the offices. She’s been trying to distract herself with work. She was there most of yesterday.”

“And have you been there yourself, Sir?”

“No, no I haven’t. Jonathan has been holding the fort. I don’t know what we’d do without him. He’s been so supportive.”

“Did you speak to him at all yesterday?”

Read frowned, obviously unsure where these questions were leading. “No, I didn’t. Sarah spoke to him, at the office. What is this about?”

“And you didn’t go visit him, at his apartment?” persisted Flint.

“I didn’t leave the apartment at all yesterday. Look, what is this about?”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you, Sir, but Jonathan Duval was murdered yesterday. At his apartment.”

“Oh my god.” Read sank back onto the chair behind him, the color draining from his face. “That’s terrible.” He looked at me. “How did he die?”

“He was shot, Sir. And I’m sorry to have to tell you, that your gun was the murder weapon.” I watched him carefully, but he seemed genuinely stunned.

“That’s impossible! No, this can’t be happening. First Sarah, and now Jonathan. What am I going to tell Martha? She’ll be heartbroken.”

Flint and I exchanged glances. We were both thinking that she might have more of a reason to be heartbroken than David Read was aware of. Unless he really was aware of just how closely his wife worked with Duval, in which case he had one hell of a good motive to want the guy dead. This case was getting more confusing by the minute.

“One more thing, Sir.” Flint made a show of consulting his notebook. “Mr Duval was the charity’s Financial Director, right?”

“Yes, yes, that’s right.” Read looked confused.

“Is there any chance he could have been skimming money from the charity?”

“Absolutely not! I’ve known Jonathan for years. He simply wouldn’t do something like that. Preposterous.”

When we got back to Police HQ, the bank records had arrived, and Benny was peering at them over a detective’s shoulder. I was beginning to think this was how he spent his days. Standing around, peering over people’s shoulders. Rather him than me. I much preferred working on my own. Granted, it was good to have someone to bounce ideas off, but right now we had so many ideas bouncing around, we seemed to be confusing ourselves.

“Anything interesting?” asked Flint, dropping himself into his chair and taking a huge bite of his sandwich. Yes, we’d stopped to grab something to eat on our way back.

Benny stared at the sandwich longingly. I grinned and handed over the sandwich we’d brought for him. He brightened immediately.

“I should team you up with Flint more often. He never brings me food. And yes, we have found something. It looks like Duval has been stealing from the charity for years.”

“How much are we talking about?” I asked. Well, I had to ask. Flint had a mouthful of pastrami.

“So far, it looks like he had five accounts, with a total of seven and a half million.”

“Had?” mumbled Flint.

“Yes, had. Past tense. Last night it was transferred to an off-shore account in the Cayman Islands.”

“Clever trick, seeing as how he was dead at the time.” I tossed my sandwich wrapper in the bin.

“Duval had to have someone working with him on the fraud. They must have transferred the money.” Flint stared up at the ceiling. “And since we didn’t release news of his death to the media, they probably killed him. What about the cell phone we found? Did the tech guys get anything from it?”

Benny frowned. “It wasn’t Duval’s cell phone. We haven’t found that. Turns out, it was Sarah Read’s.”

“Did Duval have it all along? Or did the killer take it with them when they went to Duval’s place?” I scratched my head, thinking it through. “Could Duval have killed Sarah, because she knew he was skimming money from the charity, and then David Read killed Duval because he found out Duval was way too close to his daughter?”

Flint shrugged. “I guess it’s possible, but he seemed genuinely surprised when we told him Duval was dead. I’ll lay you odds that whoever killed Sarah, killed Duval as well. And why would Read kill his own daughter? I know Grace had that theory at one point, but then, she also thought the best friend did it. Hell, I’m surprised she didn’t suggest Martians did it.”

Benny glared at him, but made no comment.

“So where does that leave us?” I asked.

Flint sighed. “So far off track, we’re going to need a new sat nav.”

We were all considering our next move, when my cell phone rang.

“Don’t tell me, Gus wants to know where to install the man traps.” Flint chuckled to himself.

I rolled my eyes as I answered the phone. “Hi, Uncle Mark.”

“Ah, Tommy. Can you come to the Golf and Country Club? Bring Flint with you. I have a couple of people you may want to talk to.”

I grinned. “We’ll be right there.”

Flint whistled as we drove up the private road to the clubhouse. The tarmac on the road was so pristine, I couldn’t help but wonder if they cleaned the road on a daily basis. Single spruce trees lined the drive, each one exceptionally neat and straight. Beyond the road we caught glimpses of the golf course, with its manicured greens and neatly trimmed fairways. Even the paths that ran alongside the fairways were neatly paved.

“How the other half live. We sent Grace to interview the manager here. He said the night Sarah was killed, the Read’s were here all night, hosting their charity event.”

“Did she ask about Duval?”

Flint pulled a face. “Probably not. Alright, so if the Doc thinks we need to speak to someone here, we’ll speak to someone. But I’m not going to roll over and play dead just because these people have money.”

“No one’s asking you to. Hell, come on, Flint. How long have you known me? Would I ask you to do that? Would Uncle Mark ask you to do that?”

Flint’s expression softened slightly. “No, you wouldn’t. Alright, I’ll play nicely.”

We parked in the visitors section of the elegantly landscaped parking area, and headed to the clubhouse. It was an impressive two storey stone building, with a large outside seating area, and some equally impressive views of the golf course and the valley. The course itself appeared to wind gently through ravines and lakes. I’m no golfer, but it looked good to me. The kind of place you could happily while away an afternoon, always supposing hitting a little ball into a small hole using various metal sticks is your idea of a good time anyway.

We stepped into the reception area, and Flint flashed his badge. The young lady behind the desk directed us towards the ballroom. The ballroom was every bit as impressive as the rest of the place. It was very spacious, and currently laid out with a number of tables, each elegantly dressed and laden with more cutlery than I have in my kitchen. One wall was floor to ceiling windows, which opened onto a large patio, again with magnificent views of the golf course and the natural landscape surrounding it. Uncle Mark was sat at one of the tables, talking with a man I vaguely recognised as our Mayor. I could practically hear Flint’s eye roll, but we both smiled and headed over.

“Ah, Mayor Bradfield. This is my nephew, Tom Calder, and Detective Ryan Flint. Gentlemen, the Mayor was at the Read’s charity event the other night.”

We shook hands and sat down at the table. I made a supreme effort to avoid putting my elbows on the table.

“So I understand you have concerns over David’s alibi the night his daughter was murdered. Most unfortunate. A sweet young thing. Anyway, I can assure you, David Read was here the entire evening.”

“Please don’t think I’m doubting your word, Mayor, but how exactly can you be sure he was here the entire evening?” Although it was a question, Flint managed to make it sound more like a statement of fact. “After all, it was a charity event. Surely he mingled with his guests.”

The Mayor didn’t seem to take any offence at the question, or the blunt way it was asked. “Oh, he did, Detective, in the beginning anyway. He was here to greet people, to press the flesh, so to speak. Following that, there was a banquet. David was sat at the head of the table. We’d all have noticed if he’d left. After the meal, the three of us retired to a private room to share a bottle of brandy, and discuss some business. Future events and the like.”

I had to wonder if the Mayor was as concerned as some of the charities other benefactors about where the money was going. Or maybe, David Read was trying to impress the mayor with his plans for more orphanages. Either way, I didn’t think asking the question would get an answer. Well, not one that would help us right now anyway.

“So you’re saying that David and Martha Read were with you the entire evening.” Flint’s voice had an air of boredom already.

The Mayor smiled. “Oh, Sarah didn’t join us. She stayed with the main party. We … well, we don’t really get along all that well I’m afraid.” He glanced around and lowered his voice. “She flirted with me once, a little too openly for my liking. I’m a happily married man, you know. I made some comment about it being a little inappropriate, and she took it quite the wrong way. No, when David and I discuss business, the ladies don’t join us.”

I scratched my head. “So who was the third guy?”

“Oh, that was Jonathan Duval, David’s Financial Director. Terrible news about him, simply terrible. But I can assure you, neither he nor David was out of my sight for more than say five minutes the entire evening.”

Flint and I exchanged puzzled glances. It seemed like both David Read and Jonathan Duval were in the clear for Sarah’s murder. The Mayor stood up.

“Well, if that’s everything, gentlemen, I have a round of golf to play.” He shook hands with us both. “Mark, I hope to see you here again soon.”

We sat back down, trying to digest what we’d just learned.

“That was pretty convenient,” said Flint.

“Now, now, Ryan,” scolded Uncle Mark. “The Mayor may be a politician, but I’m sure he was telling the truth about that evening. What possible reason could he have to provide an alibi for a dead man?”

Flint stared at him. “Yes, about that. You told him Duval was dead.”

Uncle Mark shrugged with a sheepish grin. “I told him in confidence. James loves to hear the latest gossip before anyone else. And it worked, didn’t it? He told you what you wanted to know without having to wade through miles of red tape.”

Flint sighed. “Yes, it worked. Thank you. I’d still like confirmation of what the Mayor said from someone else though.” He pulled a face at the look Uncle Mark shot at him. “Yes, I know. Call me a cynic. It’s just this case has more twists in it than a corkscrew, and I want to make completely sure of my facts.”

“Well, you could always speak with Ray. He’s the events manager here. I’ll go see if he’s available. A good man, Ray,” remarked Uncle Mark. “Very organised, and a good memory for details.”

We watched as Uncle Mark headed off towards the reception area. “I didn’t know he was a member here,” commented Flint, casually.

I shrugged. “Uncle Mark is a member at a lot of clubs. And I don’t just mean golf. You know what he’s like. He takes up a new hobby, throws himself into it, buys all the gear, joins the right clubs … and then he loses interest and moves onto something else. Golf was last years passion. I bet he hasn’t played since fall.”

Uncle Mark came back, with a man in a smart suit in tow. “Ray Child, meet Detective Ryan Flint, and my nephew, Tom.”

We shook hands and he sat down, looking around the ballroom with a critical eye. I had a feeling he was mentally noting every piece of cutlery that was a fraction out of alignment.

“How can I help you, gentlemen.”

“You hosted a charity event here a few days ago,” said Flint.

“Ah, yes, the charity banquet. Indeed, I liaised with the Mayors team for a few weeks, to make sure everything was to his satisfaction. The Mayor doesn’t endorse every worthy cause that comes his way, and he likes to make sure the events go well.”

I translated that as ‘the Mayor likes to look good’.

“So did the event run smoothly?”

“Absolutely. Smooth as silk. Absolutely no problems. It was a very successful event.”

I decided that meant ‘the Mayor came out of the event smelling of roses’.

“Did the Mayor stay long?”

“He was here while after midnight.”

“I see. Do you know David Read?”

“Absolutely. He’s a member here, although I don’t think he’s played golf for a while. It was his charity that hosted the event. We’ve held functions for his charity here before. He’s always a real pleasure to work with.”

Or in English, ‘he pays his bills on time’.

“Do you know if he left the club at all that evening?”

“No, Detective. He stayed in the club all evening. We keep tabs on all the main guests.”

Alternatively, ‘we keep an eye on where the paying customers are so that we can make sure they’re happy’. I decided it was my turn to try with a question.

“How about Jonathan Duval? Do you know him?”

“Yes, Sir. He was here that evening as well, and he made a lot of the preparations for the event. As a matter of fact, he’s a member here as well.”

“And he was here all evening?”

“Yes, Sir. Both Mr Read and Mr Duval were here all evening. After the banquet, they retired to a private room with the Mayor. They didn’t leave until after midnight.”

“What about Martha Read?” I was clutching at straws, but something bothered me about that lady, and it wasn’t just her voice. “Did you see her that evening?”

“Oh, yes, Sir. She mingled with the guests until her husband was ready to leave. I believe she was driving as her husband had been drinking.”

I translated that as ‘we keep an eye on our guests to ensure no one drink drives as we’d get a reputation we don’t need’. I was beginning to think I was becoming as cynical as Flint.

“So she never left at all.” Flint sounded dejected.

“Well, she did step outside at one point. She said she had a headache.”

Flint suddenly perked up. “How long was she gone?”

Ray frowned as he thought back to that night. “Oh, not long. Maybe twenty minutes. Thirty at most.”

Flint and I exchanged glances, and thanked the man for his time. He rose and smiled at us both.

“Please, gentlemen, feel free to return should you need any more information. One of your colleagues was here just after the tragedy. She seemed a little more interested in a complete guest list than the movements of specific individuals. I don’t think we ever got around to sending her a list. Would it help if I found a list for you?”

Flint smiled broadly at him. “Thank you, Mr Child, but I don’t think that will be necessary. However, I do appreciate the offer to return if we have any more questions. Thank you for your time today. Much appreciated.”

Ray smiled warmly at Flint and headed back towards the reception area.

“I told you Ray had a good memory for details,” remarked Uncle Mark.

Flint chuckled. “Yes, ok, so the Mayor was telling the truth. There is no way David Read killed his daughter that night. Martha Read on the other hand …”

I was busy calculating the time it would take to get to the Read’s apartment from the golf club. “I think she could have made it back to the apartment, by car, in maybe five minutes. If she was gone for twenty, she’d have had the time.”

“She had enough time,” agreed Flint. “But what the hell was her motive?”

Uncle Mark smiled. “Maybe you should go and ask her.”

Nano 2015 – Chapter 17

Duval lived in a condo in southwest Hillington. It was pretty close to the beach and a number of up market stores, so I guessed it came with an impressive price tag. The parking lot was tastefully landscaped, with colorful shrubbery, all pretty low maintenance. Duvals condo was a lower unit, usually described as “easy access without the hassle of stairs”. Basically, it meant that the best views would be from the upper apartment. Duval’s view would be restricted by the roofs of the blocks in front. Pay your money, take your pick. Personally, I’d have gone for the view.

“115. This is Duval’s place.” Flint knocked on the door and waited. There was no response. He knocked again, harder this time. Still no response. Just the dull throb of music in the background, which could have been from Duval’s place, or a neighbors.

“Maybe he’s out.”

Fint frowned. “We called the office. They said he’d gone home.”

“He could have stopped for groceries or something.”

Flint stepped to the railing and looked around the parking lot. “His car is there. He must be home.” He knocked again, really loudly. “Mr Duval. This is the police. Open the door.”

We waited again. Still no sounds of life. We exchanged shrugs. I stood on the railing by the front door and tried to peer in the next window, but the blinds were drawn and I could see very little. The music was definitely coming from Duval’s though.

“See anything?”

“Not really.” I tried to shift my position, though the exterior was lacking in decent handholds, and my position on the railing was a little precarious. It may have been a lower floor condo, but because of the slope the buildings were on, there was a fair drop to the ground below. I managed to grab a hold in the guttering, and with a bit of a struggle, I swung myself across to the patio area. I had a better view now. I peered in through the partly closed blinds, trying to work out the individual shapes in the room. A sofa … a table … a shoe. Worryingly, the shoe was at a strange angle, and appeared to have a foot in it. Anything else was hidden by the sofa.

“Don’t quote me on this, Flint, but I think he’s hurt. He seems to be laying on the floor.”

Flint wasted no time in breaking down the door. There was a small delay, and then he opened the patio door to let me in, with his cell phone at his ear.

“No, Captain, we don’t need an ambulance. Uniforms would be good, and a CSI.”

I stepped around Flint and took a brief glance at the body. I had to agree. If the hole in his head and the pool of blood around it were any indication, it was definitely a little late for an ambulance. I knew Flint would have checked for a pulse, so I stayed clear of the body and started to look around the condo, while he finished making the necessary calls.

The living room was spacious, and tastefully decorated. Dark leather sofas, glass topped coffee tables, with metallic tubular legs. There were a few abstract type pictures on the wall, and very few ornaments. There was also a distinct lack of dust, so either he was house proud, or employed a cleaner on a regular basis. The living room opened into a separate dining area, and then a separate kitchen. The flooring throughout was polished hardwood, with a couple of thick pile rugs in the living area.

The kitchen was one of those elegant gourmet style kitchens you see in magazines in waiting rooms. Granite countertops, state of the art stainless steel appliances, recessed lighting. It was the kind of kitchen that looks really good in a magazine, but you’re not sure anyone ever actually uses it for cooking. I pulled on a pair of gloves and checked the fridge. Several bottles of champagne, a few cans of expensive beer, a bottle of green colored gunk with a that declared itself to be a healthy smoothie, and some sliced pastrami. I smiled to myself. Even my fridge was better stocked, despite Jake’s best efforts.

I passed back through the living area, glancing at Flint, who was busy examining the area around Duval’s body, before heading towards the bedrooms. There were two spacious bedrooms, each with their own bathrooms. The second bedroom looked as though it was rarely used. The master bedroom held a King sized bed, complete with black satin sheets. I thought they’d gone out of fashion a long time back, but it seemed no one had told Duval. The wardrobes were filled with designer suits and shirts. I flicked open the top drawer beside the bed. Odd coins and a couple of watches, and one photograph. Jonathan Duval and Sarah Read in a park, and I was willing to bet the matching photograph to this had been the one taped inside her locker. So Duval had been the mystery new boyfriend. The photograph was the one sign of Sarah in the bedroom that I could see.

The master bathroom had granite countertops, and a modern designer tiled floor. There was a stack of fluffy towels on a wooden stool in one corner, an array of masculine colognes in the vanity unit, and a single toothbrush at the sink. Nothing feminine at all. I went back to the living area. Flint was just bagging something up.

“Cell phone. Someone’s smashed it up completely. The tech guys might be able to do something with it. Any sign that anyone else lives here?”

I shook my head. “Fridge is pretty empty, single toothbrush in the bathroom, and only mens clothes in the closets. Interesting photograph in the top drawer in the bedroom though. You might want to take a look when you get a chance. Did he shoot himself?”

Flint’s brow wrinkled up as he thought. “Maybe. There’s a gun in his hand. The music would have covered the noise.” He frowned and looked at the music system, before stepping over and turning it off. “Looks expensive.”

“So does the TV. Real state of the art. In fact, everything in here looks extremely expensive. If I’d known working for a charity paid this well, I’d have given it a go myself.”

Flint chuckled. “I have a feeling he didn’t pay for these with his salary alone. Maybe we’ve found where the money has been going. Maybe Duval was the one ripping off the charity.”

There was a knock at the door. Flint answered it and let the CSI in. I recognised him from Tyler’s school. Pete. He smiled and nodded at me.

“Hi guys, I’m here about the body.”

“That’ll be the guy on the floor covered in blood,” deadpanned Flint, as there was a second knock on the door.

Pete grinned. “Thanks for the help, Flint. I wasn’t quite sure.”

Flint came back with Fred Riley on his heels. Pete knelt beside the body and quickly checked the pockets. He held a key up to Flint, who took it from him and dropped it in a bag.

“Too small to be the key to his apartment,” mused Flint.

“His apartment keys are in a fruit bowl in the kitchen.” I shrugged at the look Fred shot at me. “What? I was checking for signs of life.”

“Tell me he has a gun,” muttered Fred.

“He has a gun,” replied Flint. “Besides, I came in through the kitchen. I knew it was empty.”

I decided it was probably best not to tell Fred that I’d checked the bedrooms as well.

“Could be Read’s missing safe key,” said Flint, peering at the key. “We can soon check. Pete, let us know what you find here, as soon as you can. I want to know if this was a guilt ridden suicide, or whether I have a murderer on the loose. Oh, and there was a cell phone by the body as well.” He handed the bag with the smashed cell phone to Pete. “I know it’s not in the best shape, but take a look and see if there’s anything you can get from it. And grab any photographs you might find in the top drawer in the bedroom.” He shook his head as Pete opened his mouth to speak. “Don’t ask, just check it out. Fred, check if the neighbors saw or heard anything, and give this place the once over.”

Fred’s radio crackled with something indistinguishable, and he stepped away to try and get a better signal. He returned looking worried.

“I think you should head for home, Tom. We just got a call that someone’s trying to break in.”

Flint made the five minute drive in just under four minutes. We screeched to a halt outside my place, right behind Gus and Digger, who were already running towards my house, guns in hand. I had no idea how they’d got here before us, and I wasn’t about to ask.

“Three masked guys with crowbars,” shouted Gus.

Flint nodded and drew his gun. I drew my own gun and followed him.

“Maybe you should wait by the car,” suggested Flint.

“Maybe you should shut up.” This was my house, and when I left it, my dog and my friend were inside. I wasn’t about to abandon them to idiots with crowbars.

Digger and Gus made their way round the house to the side gate. Flint and I took the direct approach. The door was open, and it hadn’t been unlocked with a key. Splinters of wood stuck out at weird angles.

“I’m gonna need a new door.” Right now, I was hoping that was all I was going to need.

“It would be easier if they came out,” remarked Flint.

I glanced at the SUV, borrowed from Gus, parked in front of my garage and grinned. “I might be able to arrange that.”

I pulled my keys from my pocket and hit the key fob. The alarm on the SUV started up immediately. The lights flashed on and off and the siren wailed, loudly. I had the urge to stick my fingers in my ears, but since my gun was in my hand, that would have been a bad idea.

Flint grimaced. “Remind me to have a word with Sparky about noise regulations.”

There was a thudding of footsteps, and one man came charging out of the remnants of my front door, straight into Flint. I’m not sure the man even knew what was happening. One minute he was running, the next he was face down on my front lawn, with Flint’s knee in his back and his hands cuffed behind his back. Lopez and his partner arrived as I turned the car alarm off, to the relief of everyone’s ears. Flint handed his prisoner over with a grin.

“Two more to find. Keep an eye on this one.”

Flint nudged the door wide open with his foot, and slowly edged inside. There didn’t seem to be any signs of life, or much damage for that matter. There were books on the hall floor from my upturned bookcase, but that was about it. We headed into the living area, guns at the ready, but apart from the fact that my sofa had been moved slightly, there were no signs of damage and no signs of life. The patio doors were slid open wide. I glanced outside and grinned.

“How many guys are we looking for?”

“Two,” said Flint, following my gaze. “Ok, so that should be all of them accounted for.”

Below us on the lawn, Digger had one guy in an arm hold that must have been extremely painful, judging by the way the man was dancing around on tiptoe. Zak had another man pinned to the ground. Gus was stood beside him, trying to persuade him to let the man go. Zak didn’t seem too keen on that idea. I whistled, and Zak growled, before stepping back, teeth barred, waiting for a false move. Gus dragged the man to his feet, non too gently.

We quickly checked the rest of my place, but it seemed to be empty. No one hiding in the closets, and no one under the beds. We made our way outside. Gus and Digger had the two men neatly restrained with handcuffs. One of them looked like he had the makings of a real nice black eye, while the other looked like someone had accidentally stood on his hand. Digger had both their crowbars in one hand.

“Zak, where’s Jake?” I was relieved that I hadn’t found Jake crumpled in a heap anywhere, but I was wondering where the hell he’d got to.

Zak yipped and padded to the fence. I grinned and pushed the fence panel, opening it to next doors garden. I followed Zak through and up to Harry’s house. Harry opened the door as I got there, with Jake at his shoulder.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” said Jake. “I saw these guys on the CCTV screen, and they looked liked they meant business. I remembered what you said about the fence and just ran for it. Zak wouldn’t come with me. We called the cops straight away.”

I grinned at him. “Zak has this instinct to protect his property. You did good, Jake. Thanks, Harry.”

Harry nodded, the worry lines on his face fading.

“Everything alright? Much damage?”

“Not a whole lot. The front door is wrecked, inside doesn’t look too bad. I don’t think they had much of a chance to do much damage.”

“What were they after? You? Me?” Jake still looked edgy.

“No idea. I’ll go see if Flint has got any sense out of them.”

Flint was sat on the garden steps, rubbing his temples. “Un fucking believable.”

I sat down beside him, as Zak nuzzled his hand. Flint scratched his ears absentmindedly. “What’s unbelievable.”

“The reason they tried raiding your place. Apparently, they wanted Barrowski’s drugs.”

“What? But the police have those.”

Flint nodded. “I know that, and you know that, but it seems Grace rather conveniently left that out of her media release, so all the press reported was that Barrowski had been arrested. These bozos decided that the drugs must still be at large somewhere.”

“But why my place?”

“No idea. I mean, none of these guys are exactly Einstein.” He shrugged. “I need to get back to HQ and process these losers. You should get your door fixed. And make sure you keep your gun handy. Pretty sure the Captain is going to issue a press release, making it clear the drugs are in our possession, but best to play safe.”

I took a deep breath, hoping I was wrong. “You think someone gave them my name and told them I had the drugs?”

He sighed and rubbed his temples again. “Let’s just say, I think Grace is going to have some explaining to do. After all, she was the one handling this case. I’ll call you later.”

I wandered over to Gus and Digger, who were handing their prisoners over to Lopez and his partner.

“How did you get here so fast? Not that I’m complaining.”

Gus smiled ruefully. “We were at Jake’s place. His alarm had gone off. Probably these same idiots. They pretty much wrecked his place. We were just leaving when we heard the radio message about your place. Barrowski and his drugs?”

I nodded. “Flint seems to think so. How they made the leap from Jake to me is a little worrying though.”

“I’ve got a team coming over to sort your door, and Sparky is going to give the alarm the once over. Your side gate held well though. Once they made it out to the back lawn, Zak had them cornered.”

Digger laughed. “He’s greedy too. Didn’t want to hand them over.”

Even if Gus’s guys sorted my door in record time, I didn’t much fancy staying in my own place overnight. I stared thoughtfully next door. I knew Jess was home, and keeping Tyler inside out of the way, and I really didn’t want to put them in any danger, so staying there tonight was not even a possibility. And I had Jake to think of too. I tugged out my cell phone and called Uncle Mark.

An hour later, and Jake was settling into Uncle Marks guest bedroom. I dumped my bag in my old room and headed outside to stare at the ocean. Zak harrumphed and stretched out at my feet. Uncle Mark came out and stood beside me.

“You did the right thing. Stay here tonight. I’m sure Gus will keep an eye on your place.”

I half smiled. “He will. Or at least, Digger will. I almost feel sorry for anyone else trying to break in tonight.”

“Is Jake’s place really wrecked?”

“Gus says so, and he doesn’t tend to exaggerate stuff like that. He was keen for Jake to find a new place anyway. Somewhere with fewer tempting ‘tomato plants’.”

Uncle Mark smiled and nodded. “The way Jake was talking the last time he was here, I think he’d already reached that decision for himself. This could be just the push he needs.”