He we are, Copperheads! Your chance to launch into the Jake Legato PI series has arrived! The adventure begins with this novella (only 99 cents on Amazon!). Look for Book Two in August!
Check out an excerpt:
After a quick stop in the men’s room, Legato found the office, knocked twice and heard an uneasy chirp. “Yes?”
“I’m here for the interview?”
“Come on in,” she said, voice relaxed now.
The detective in Legato had Cicely pegged seconds after strolling inside. She was the girl every guy sat next to in high school but never noticed. A sweetheart, eager to please. Always does her homework and yours too if you ask nicely. Yearbook committee, school dance planner, honor roll. But you forgot her name days after graduation.
He took a seat, gave her timid hand a shake. “Jake Legato, nice to meet you”
“I’m Cicely Russo, the manager here,” she answered, eyes aimed at the desk. She forced a grin and asked, “So, what do you think of Bootsie’s so far?”
“I could handle working here, if that’s what you mean. Don’t know much about it.”
“Not much to know, I suppose. It’s a… strip club,” she said, kind of embarrassed by it all. “I got in touch because Andy told me you needed a job.”
“Yeah, tells me he’s had enough of Minnesota weather and would love to get back to San Diego.”
With Cicely reaching into a stack of resumes, Legato stole a glance. Her thick, jet-black eyebrows reminded him of the olive-skinned Greek girls from Astoria he’d see working in diners and run-down family owned coffee houses.
But Cicely gave off a different vibe. Her Maria Callas eyebrows slashed against pale Minnesota skin like skid marks in the snow. And she seemed to be hiding behind somebody else’s face. A gawky introvert in disguise.
“Legato. That’s a nice name,” she said. “Puerto Rican? Dominican?”
She lifted her gaze from the papers, eyes narrow. Maybe aimed at his wide nose – or focused on his mocha-tinted skin. “Italian? Really?”
He choked back a groan and answered the question she was too polite to ask. “Half-Italian, half-black.”
Cicely grinned the awkwardness away. “Andy speaks highly of you. He says you’re a good friend. Somebody he could always trust.”
“I like to think so.”
But her face curled a little, signaling more awkwardness on the way. “He also says you left the police force under… complicated circumstances.”
“You could say that.”
“Could you tell me more?”
“I could. Or I could tell you about growing up in a Brooklyn neighborhood with bars on the windows and a school with metal detectors at the door.”
“That’s nice, but what I wanted –“
Legato leaned forward, time for the sweet talk Big Trick recommended. “What you want is somebody who speaks the language your customers understand. Am I right? Somebody who can keep this place safe even if that means slapping around a little. I’m guessing that matters more in this place than a spotless record.” Playing the tough guy New Yorker role to a Minnesotan was always an option. Sometimes it even qualified as sweet talk.
The lady fought off a schoolgirl’s blush and said, “Can you start tomorrow?”
“What time do you need me?”
“Ten in the morning. We’ll train you for a while, start you as soon as you’re ready.”
Legato reached for a handshake, but three bangs at the door froze them both.
Cicely’s eyebrows lifted. “Yes?”
A woman’s voice aimed for a scream, but couldn’t get there. “The police need you! It’s… they need you.”
She gathered Legato’s papers. “Just a second, Tammy. Jake, I look forward to –“
Three more knocks, louder, almost angry. “Cicely, it’s… Please!” Now the voice was soaked in sobs. Cicely raced to the door, opened it to find somebody crouching there like her legs had given out. A stripper clad in a robe, crying.
Cicely kneeled, mouth open, gasping. “What is it, Tammy?”
Tammy sputtered words that almost made a sentence. “Cassandra. Because the… police and. They called and she’s…”
Cicely turned to Legato, her face now slack. “We’ll… talk tomorrow,” She gave him a flaccid handshake then repeated, “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
Knowing a thing or two about the delivery of bad news, Legato recognized her shattered look. And he knew that too many words was always a bad idea at those moments. “Thank you,” he said, warm hand on her shoulder, another move he’d learned from his detective days. Contact always made the news less awful.
But Cicely pulled away from the contact, shuddering, eyes scanning the hallway for answers. And Tammy didn’t move at all.
So he slipped away, took a seat at the bar and nodded to Big Trick. “Whiskey, neat.”
And he drank. With every sip, the tortured squeals coming from Cicely’s office slowly faded into somebody else’s problem.
Legato tried to piece everything together. Was Cassandra a dancer? Was she dead now? And who killed her?
He was detecting again, a habit he needed to break. That’s why he had to take off, pull himself away from the bar – even if it meant leaving behind a half-full glass of whiskey on a night he really needed it.