Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 21

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

The doorknob twisted. Anne released the lamp and whirled. She had to get out. She slipped into the kitchen as the front door swung in. Her fingers trembled as she shoved the window up and open. Confident steps sounded on the wooden floor of the living room, coming straight for her.

She sat on the window sill and thrust her legs out onto the fire escape. Her heart seemed suddenly to plunge from her chest to the ground twenty feet below. Dear God, she’d forgotten all about Jilly sleeping peacefully in the bedroom.

She turned back just as the kitchen door eased inward. No time. No time. She twisted her torso to flee through the window.


She stiffened and looked back. “Erik?”

Eyebrows raised and mouth pursed in bemusement he stood in the middle of the kitchen carrying a brown paper sack. “Something wrong?”

Hand to her chest, Anne clambered back into the apartment. “Only that you scared me to death.”

“I know I don’t look my best in the morning, but don’t you think that’s an exaggeration.”

Anne smoothed her hands over her skirt. She must have looked like an utter idiot. “I thought you were one of the gang.”

“Why would you think that?” He plunked the bag down on the table.

Anne licked her lips. He had lectured her for at least twenty minutes about the dangers of going back to her apartment unaccompanied. Best to sidestep the question if she could. “I guess my imagination got the better of me. It’s the writer’s blessing and curse, you know.”

He continued to eye her oddly. “Maybe next time you have an uncontrollable craving for lemonade we ought to send someone else.” He reached for the bag and upended it. A dozen or more, sunny, yellow lemons bounced and tumbled onto the table.

“Why did you get so many?”

He huffed air through his nostrils. “Better to many than too few. So what’s with the demand for citrus?”

Anne grinned and pulled Carol’s papers from her skirt pocket. “I’ve been thinking about it and the answer may lie in The Adventure of the Notorious Note.”

He continued to look mystified and Anne held up one of the lemons. “Lacey Carew solved that one by using lemon juice to reveal a message that had been written in invisible ink.”

Understanding lit his eyes then and he grinned.

She laid the papers out and he handed her a knife and a clean kitchen rag. She cut the lemon in half and squeezed juice over the cloth. The fresh scent of lemon filled the kitchen. Carefully she dabbed at the first page, covering every inch of its surface. Hardly able to breath, she waited.


She repeated the process with the other pages, as Erik looked on expectantly.


She slumped into a chair. It didn’t make any sense. She’d been so sure. So if there wasn’t a hidden message, what about these papers made them so special that VanDyke’s gang would resort to kidnapping and maybe murder to get them back.

Erik sat beside her and patted her arm in commiseration. He picked up the slightly damp pages and held them up to the light. “Maybe it’s faded.”

Anne shook her head. It was nice of him to try to make her feel better, but there were limits. “No. It’s not.”

He frowned and lowered the papers. Now she’d hurt his feelings. He hung his chin, thumb and forefinger rubbing the document in absent contemplation. It was on the tip of her tongue to apologize when he lifted his head and met her gaze. His grin was so infectious that she couldn’t help but respond.

“It’s the paper.”

She swallowed her smile. A late night and an early morning errand for lemons had obviously left him overly tired. “Um, yes. It’s paper.”

“No.” He waved a hand. “They want the paper. There’s no code or hidden message. It’s the paper itself that is important.”

Anne shook her head.

“U.S. currency is printed on a special kind of paper made from cotton fibers. This kind of paper.” He thrust the pages under her nose.

Her jaw dropped in the manner patented by actresses everywhere to indicate surprise.

“This is the proof we need. I’ve got to get it to the office. Will you be okay if I head downtown?” He looked at her and then glanced at the window. “Maybe it would be best if you come with me.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 20

(To read from the beginning go Here.)


Anne jolted awake. She lay still for a moment, every inch of her tensed like a jack-in-the-box poised to spring. Rosy afternoon sunlight slipped through the cracks in the unfamiliar blinds. Jilly snored peacefully next to her on the bed.

Anne blinked against the sleep that threatened to overwhelm her again. Pigeons cooed and warbled outside the window. Traffic rumbled in the street, the lullaby of the city. Her eyelids drifted lower.


She had to wake up, to remember. Anne forced herself away from the bed’s comforting embrace. Barefoot, and wearing nothing more than her slip, she stood in the center of the room. Eyes narrowed she stared at the cheerful, but barren lemon colored wall.


Yes, that was it.

She had to find Erik. Her clothes from the night before were laid at the end of the bed and she wriggled into them in a flash.

Why hadn’t she thought of it before? Lacey Carew and the Adventure of the Notorious Note had been Carol’s favorite growing up. It all made sense.

Erik stood in his kitchen dumping coffee into the percolator. His movements were so slow she wondered for a second whether he was sleepwalking.


He whirled, coffee scattered, his right hand leapt to his left side in search of his holster.

“Whoa.” Palms out, she stepped back.

His cheeks flushed and his shoulders sagged. “Sorry, I’m not used to having people around my place.

“I need a lemon.”

“A lemon?”


“Um.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Now?”

“As soon as possible. It’s important.” Anne reached for the coffee. “I’ll do that, you go scrounge a lemon.”

“Can I shave first?”

“Not unless you want me to go do it myself.”

He shook his head. “I’ll go. I’ll go. I assume you don’t have any objections to me putting on shoes?”

“Not if you hurry.”

He grouched from the room, muttering something uncomplimentary about women and setting the swinging kitchen door to squealing.

Anne put the coffee to perking. The front door banged shut, and she scurried from the kitchen in search of her pumps. She had to hurry.

Her heels clicked on the stairs as she hurried up the stairs to her apartment. She tore through into the kitchen and knelt by the table. Her fingers brushed the underside of the table, searching, reaching.

Her heartbeat pounded in her ears. What if The Guide or one of his fellow bogeymen were lurking nearby in the hopes she was foolish enough to come back alone?

She reached further. There it was. Triumphant she pulled the taped envelope from beneath the table. She pounded back down the stairs and back into Erik’s apartment, locking the door behind her.

She leaned up against the door, for some reason she couldn’t quite catch her breath. Somehow they needed to solve this. Living with this fear for much longer would drive her batty.

The doorknob rattled and a heavy weight thudded up against it. Anne sucked in a breath so quickly that she half-choked. She sidled away from the door.

The knob rattled again.

Her arm brushed against a lampshade, and she picked it up by the neck.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 19

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne glanced down at Jilly. There was no way she could continue the cat-and-mouse game with her injured ankle. But maybe she could make one short dash.

Anne risked another peek to gauge the car’s distance and speed. They’d only have one chance. Tugging on Jilly’s hand, she hauled her friend back up the stairs.

“Wait.” Her whispered caution wafted on the air, barely discernible above the grumble of the car’s engine.

The car grew nearer, prowling the streets for trouble. It was about to find some.


Half-crouched, Anne sprinted from hiding. She waved her hands trying to draw the driver’s attention. Knowing the men looking for them were just across the street, she couldn’t quite bring herself to scream. Jilly had no such compunctions and at the sound of her blood-curdling shriek, the police car skidded to a stop.

Still crouched to avoid getting shot, Anne rapped on the driver’s side window. “You’ve got to help us.”

“Men are trying to kill us.” Jilly rested against Anne’s back.

The officer started to open the door.

“No!” Both Anne and Jilly blurted.

“Please take us with you.”

In a breathless rush, Anne spilled their story.

The officers glanced at one another. They said not a word, but seemed to communicate with one another regardless. Shaking his head, the driver opened the door for them, and they climbed inside.

So far, so good. They had made it. Surely the goons wouldn’t risk firing on a police car.

“So, uh, where’s this place where you were held?”

Anne leaned forward. “It’s just down the street there.”

They cruised down the street the way Anne and Jilly had just come. Dark shadows dodged and scurried before the car’s headlights. Hunched low in the back seat, Anne peered out the window. Every house in the row looked the same. Which one held Van Dyke and his hoodlums?

She glanced over to Jilly. Her friend shook her head. She didn’t recognize the house either. Anne rubbed her forehead. The cops were already giving each other the lets-humor-the-overwrought-females look.

They made three passes up and down the street, but Anne couldn’t say with any certainty which house they had come from. It was somewhere in the middle, and that was hardly helpful.

“Why don’t we take you ladies back to the station and we’ll have one of the detectives take a report.”

Defeated, Anne nodded.

Together she and Jilly spilled the story to a skeptical Jack Morris. She couldn’t summon any enthusiasm for the tale. It sounded far-fetched as it tumbled out in disconnected strands. Shaking her head she asked to make a phone call.

Erik answered on the first ring.

Weariness hit her like an anvil landing on Daffy Duck. She couldn’t even summon any rage when Detective Morris effectively patted them on the head and sent them on their way with a few bucks for the train ride back to New York.

The sun was rising, looking entirely too cheerful for Anne. Jilly refused to go to the hospital to have her ankle checked out. If possible, she looked even more wrung out than Anne felt.

Erik met them at the station. The expression on his face boded unpleasant conversation to come. He refrained for the moment, however; and Anne wanted to kiss him for not jumping down her throat.

Instead, after one look at them, his eyes turned tender and he shepherded them out to his car. Granted, it was a rattletrap old Plymouth but it was miles better than the subway.

“You can’t go back to your apartment. Since they know where you live it wouldn’t be safe.”

Anne let her head fall back against the seat. She heaved a sigh that started all the way down in her toes. She couldn’t make any more decisions. “Where are we to go?”

“We’ll sneak you into my apartment.”

Anne cracked open a single eye. “Doesn’t the secret service have some sort of safe house or something?”


“So, what? We don’t rate?”

Erik pretended to focus on the nearly non-existent traffic. “No, it has nothing to do with you.”

Anne shook her head. She was too tired to try to work out what he meant.

He cleared his throat. “It’s me. I’m, um, relatively new to the agency. So I don’t have much—any clout.”

She narrowed her eyes. So that was why he hadn’t pushed her harder. “You’ve been investigating this all on your own, haven’t you?”

The furious flush that seared his cheekbones was all the answer she needed.

“How did you swing the apartment?”

The tiniest grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. “I’m new to the city. I had to find someplace to live.”

At the back of her mind, the sense that she ought to be put out with him pricked her, but she couldn’t summon the energy for an argument. At least not that one.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 18

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

The brick and concrete canyon of the street ricocheted the sound of their pounding feet back at them. Anne stumbled, too busy trying to glance over her shoulder. At the most they had two or three minutes head start.

Steadying herself with a snatch at a stoop railing, she managed to stay on her feet. They needed people, light, noise, some sort of shield against recapture. Were there no nightowls in East Orange? Not a single light shone in any of the windows that lined the street. Should they try to rouse someone? How long would it take them to get to the door? Screaming might draw all the wrong kinds of attention and no help.

In front of her, Jilly staggered and sprawled. The heel of her shoe stayed planted in a crack in the sidewalk.

Anne knelt beside her. “Are you okay?”

Jilly winced and sat up, one hand rubbing her ankle. Anne truned as she caught the wash of light down the street as a door opened. Their time was up.

“Come on, kiddo. We’ve got to get going.” With Jilly’s arm around her neck she hauled her friend up.

Her frantic gaze found not so much as an alley between the block of row houses. They weren’t far from the corner. If they could just get out of sight they might have a chance to hide. There was no chance they could outrun Van Dyke and his minions now.

She was stupid, stupid, stupid. She should never have ditched Erik. What she wouldn’t give to see him right now. IF they got out of this mess, she would go straight to him.

They skittered around the corner. Poor Jilly was hobbling as quickly as she could, her face set in a grim mask of pained determination. Anne scanned the street. There had to be someplace to hide.

A dark narrow alley bordered the back row of the houses. They could dive in there, maybe even double-back the way they had come. Unless of course VanDyke had sent one of his goombas out the back to make sure they hadn’t gone that way.

A narrow stairwell leading to the basement of a butcher’s shop, and half hidden by a conglomeration of trashcans showed itself on the other side of the street.

Behind her heavy feet thumped in big band rhythm, nearer, faster.

She couldn’t waste time dithering. The stairwell would have to do.

“C’mon, Jilly. Just over there.” Anne nodded with a thrust of her chin.

Jilly nodded agreement sweat beading on her forehead. Together they scrambled for the scant cover.

Jilly collapsed on the bottom step, bending until her head touched her knees. Fingers kneading her ankle as her shoulder shuddered with silent sobs.

Anne stood and peered through a gap between trashcans. The Guide and Handsome stood at the corner, heads swiveling in either direction.

The mutter of a car engine up the road hit Anne’s ears. The beam of a pair of headlights sliced a gulf between her and the goons. She craned to see the approaching vehicle.

A squad car!

Handsome and The Guide pulled back into the alley opposite.

Anne licked her lips. They could stay put and risk being found and shot, or risk getting shot sooner as they tried to flag down help. Could nothing ever be easy?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Special Edition-Beyond This Moment by Tamera Alexander

After a devastating mistake, Dr. Molly Whitcomb, professor of Romance Languages at Franklin College, is forced from the only life she's ever aspired to. Packing up her pride along with her beloved books, she leaves to teach school in Timber Falls, a little town in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. There she meets Sheriff James McPherson who shows her the beauty to be found in her new lifestyle. Everything begins to unravel as the web of deception she has used to protect herself begins to fray. My biggest complaint about the book is that it ended too soon. I simply wasn't ready to let go of Molly and James.  

Ms. Alexander is a master of her craft. She keeps you flipping the pages avidly, even when you're not certain you want to know what happens next. Definitely Recommended.

You can easily find it at Christianbooks.com or Amazon, or in brick and mortar stores such as Barnes and Noble. I know you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Must Reads

  • All the Tea in China-Jane Orcutt www.revellbooks.com
  • In the Shadow of the Sun King-Golden Keyes Parsons www.goldenkeyesparsons.com
  • Wings of a Dream-Anne Mateer