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The Wrong Places
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ISBN-10: 1-89484-112-3
Genre: Mystery
eBook Length: 237 Pages
Published: January 2002

Total Readers: 1

From inside the flap

"The Wrong Places" is a comedy of manners masquerading as a mystery.

Marcel Maki (Marc) is a gigolo and a "kept man". He doesn't see it that way, and he's the writer. The reader should know better. Marc's a ghost-writer, specializing in celebrity autobiographies. When his wealthy university "sweetheart" asks him to look into the disappearance of her father he resists until she and her family make it clear that he has no choice but to do what they want. Trouble is, all the members of the family want different things.

Reviews and Awards

The author has given us a lopsided look at the life of a writer practicing at being a PI with an unexpected ending. The story is imaginative and a fun read. Makes you wonder what will happen to Marc in the next book.

Review by Anne K Edwards, author of "Death Comes Knocking"

Four Stars!

THE WRONG PLACES also provides enough twists and turns in the plot to keep readers guessing and an ending that features several surprises, making it a highly satisfactory experience.

Reviewed by: Karen McCullough
Scribes World Reviews

The Wrong Places (Excerpt)

Chapter 1

Refusing to answer the phone can get a man into all sorts of trouble. I should have picked up the first time it rang. Or the second, five minutes later. Or even the third, half an hour deeper into the night. But only a cad leaves a lady-in-need unattended and Bobbi Jo had needs. She did open heavy-lidded eyes and say in her indescribable drawl, "It maht be impawatant, Marc." Said between gasps, I thought her words lacked conviction. I should have listened to her then, should have interrupted what we were doing and answered the damn phone. It rang again sometime around four. I was on my way to the bathroom; I turned off the ringer. Mistake.

The enormity of that mistake became obvious a short while later when I heard the door to my condo squeak open. Only one other person had the key.

Bobbi Jo was asleep. She worked out of Atlanta but her accent hailed from some dank corner of Loozeeana. We'd met in a downtown hotel bar not a dozen hours earlier. Her pheromones and mine took such a liking to each other it was only natural for her to play hooky from the evening session of whatever conference had brought her to Noronto. By sunset, conditions in my apartment rivalled the steamy climate of her natal swamp.

The first time the phone rang our mingled sweat had us glued in each other's arms.

"Right now you're the only person I want to talk to," I told her, running a finger up her spine. "Besides, I don't get important calls." It was true. I didn't, not at night. And since my "day job" was ghost writing celebrity autobiographies, not even days. Especially not recent days. I was "between projects".

"I'll bet it's a woman." Her voice was somewhere between teasing and troubled. "It's probably important to her, Marc. She'd be devastated if she knew you were ignoring her. I know I would." She waggled her hips. An arched eyebrow made her accompanying smile one of unrepentant decadence. "Then again, I hope you don't want to talk to me right now either."

I didn't. Our communication was non-verbal, good anywhere in the world if somewhat illegal in certain jurisdictions. When the phone rang again, five minutes later, she didn't suggest I answer. If I had she'd have been disappointed, perhaps even insulted. It's possible the damn thing rang once more in the next half hour but the sweet music of the bayou was ringing much louder. When I went to the bathroom a bit after four it rang and I stopped to turn off the ringer. I'd check my calls in a few hours--morning wasn't far off.

Morning proved closer than I thought. Bobbi Jo was asleep when I crawled back in bed. I cuddled up and was drifting off when it happened.

There's something about being almost asleep. You hear things that normally pass unnoticed, like a siren blocks away or an early-morning jet thundering in distant skies. The refrigerator deciding to defrost, with the trickle of water sound that comes with it. The wind whistling quietly through a crack in the window.

Or your own door squeaking.

There's this struggle between believing it's part of a dream--to the point of finding a fantasy that fits with the sound--and the possibility it's real. Then come the shivers, and I mean real shivers; ice up the backbone fear.

My bedmate's soft and satisfied, glowing heat was no match for cold trepidation. If a key hadn't been used, I was being burgled.

My short and silent prayer that it be a burglar got the answer self-seeking prayers deserve: no.

In her contrary way she let herself in to the apartment unasked, but tapped on my bedroom door. Maybe they do teach the proper etiquette for all imaginable situations in finishing school, but when they said to wait after knocking she was daydreaming, staring out the window. Or maybe she missed that class. Or it could be just that Sharon always played with different rules, her rules.

She opened the bedroom door and turned on the lights. As always she was dressed in black. It happened to be my favourite shade of black... black black, the elemental and essential "little black dress" recommended in every fashion magazine ever printed.

Bobbi Jo woke up. "Ungh?" She even grunted with a drawl. Fair enough. She'd moaned and screamed with one. She emerged from the sheets, saw Sharon, and shrank away from me, clutching the top sheet like a security blanket bunched up under her chin.

"I didn't know he was taken. Honest, I didn't. Please, don't kill me."

Sharon kept her eyes on me. "You weren't answering your phone."

"As you might be able to tell, I had a good reason not to... and speaking of good reasons..." I narrowed my eyes, "... you have one?"

"Hah! Getting brave in your old age, darling? I'll have to do something about that."

She was in "full-predator" mode: sapphire-blue eyes tearing into me, smooth voice a pendulum--moving with the sway of a body swinging from the gallows. I tried to gather Bobbi Jo in but, for the first time since I'd met her, she didn't cooperate. If the jealous wife, girlfriend... whatever... pulled a gun, the further way from me she was, the better.

We weren't in that immediate a danger... the dead can't be made to suffer. I didn't tell Bobbi Jo that. She wouldn't have believed me.

I took too long to answer Sharon's challenge. She pulled a chair next to the bed and sat. "Father is missing."

"So... you wanted to party?"

"He may have been abducted. He might even be dead."

Unlikely as it seemed, she sounded frightened. Sharon and her father had been estranged--to put it mildly--ever since I'd met her... half a lifetime ago. Bobbi Jo sat up and the sheet fell away, uncovering a lush southern savannah.

"Hey, you're Sharon Thatcher!" Her voice held a tone of awe I thought inappropriate to the occasion.

"She's recognized you, Sharky. I guess we all know what this means."

A glower--either for my Hollywood B-movie gangster delivery, or for my use of her in-family nickname. Tough. I didn't consider my bedroom a public place, even if she did. Sharon's cold blue eyes shifted to Bobbi Jo.

"I'm aware of who I am, thank you... and you are?"

"Bobbi Jo Talbot." She grabbed for the covers she'd dropped. "I saw your talk at the Women in Business conference yesterday... you were brilliant... ah... ah'm from Atlanta...." Her voice trailed off. She'd probably realized that, to Sharon, she was nobody.

"Ran out of domestic blondes and thought you'd try an import?" Eyes back on me, her smirk said that while no one could effectively challenge her status as the archetypal blonde in my life, Bobbi Jo was a particularly pathetic contender.

"You're not..." Bobbi Jo's eyes moved from Sharon to me and quickly back.

"Jealous? Currently involved? Going to kill you? None of the above, dear... and I do hope he managed to enjoy you." Without looking she patted Bobbi Jo's thigh like it was the faithful family dog. "Now, maybe you can take a shower while Marc and I talk." It wasn't a suggestion. Bobbi Jo flipped out of bed and ran from the room.

"Been a long time since we've been alone like this." Sharon moved to sit on the edge of the bed, legs curled under her.

"Fifteen years--no, sixteen--how time does fly. About your father?"

"Scarlett any good in the sack, Mr. Rhett?"

I smiled. That was none of Sharon's business, although I knew she wouldn't agree. The truth? Bobbi Jo was accomplished but predictable--same old same old. A flower of Southern womanhood, a goddess between the sheets... that's what I'd told her. It was the right thing to say. Her own perception was that she was in all ways exceptional. I didn't lie; I told a higher truth. For someone, she would be. Not for me. For me she'd been a night of not being alone.

"About your father? Dexter?"

"I know his name, jerk."

"Now that's the Sharky I love."

"I'd tell you where to stick it, Maki, except it's probably been there lately." She waited. I didn't react. Still none of her business. "Okay, be like that. Father and Alex went to Stuart Lake over the May long weekend, with their bimbos of the moment."

"Deborah wasn't invited?"

"Don't act any stupider than you are. That scrag's over the hill. I'm surprised the old man hasn't replaced her on a permanent basis." Her father's second wife, Deborah, was a couple of years older than Sharon. Alex, Sharon's half-brother, was Deborah's only child. In most families it would seem remarkable for a father-and-son outing to include cheating on mom. Not with the Thatchers. "Anyway..." A smile banished Deborah from the conversation. "...Saturday evening someone spoiled the party by peppering the side of the cabin with bullets. No one was hit--I gather it wasn't even close. Alex and attachment left as soon as they were sure the shooting was over. Father didn't."

"Your father's friend?"

"Stayed the night. He sent her back in a limo. According to her, Father figured it was probably drunks. He loaded up the hunting rifles and said there was no way he'd run away--he'd stick around until Monday as planned."

"And did he?" It was early Wednesday morning.

"Would I be here if I knew?"

"I don't know why you're here anyway."

"You're going to find out what happened to him."

That made no sense. In the first place, why did she care? Second place, why me? "Enthralled by undertaking methodical investigations" wasn't a phrase I'd put on even my most untruthful resume. Some things can't be faked. I'd taught English and been a ski bum. I wrote fabricated biographies of people who'd lucked into fame. And I picked up lonely women in bars, on the street, or wherever--and brightened their nights in exchange for the company. I wasn't a detective. I didn't want to be one.

I put on my best "Sorry, far too busy" look. "Me? Don't you have people working for you who do that sort of thing? You own a security agency or two... not to mention a few police forces." Some people collect ceramic giraffes. Sharon? She collected souls.

She sighed. "Anyone I can buy, someone else can buy from me. The only people I can trust right now are those who love me."

I understood her problem. The people who might even possibly love her could be counted on your fingers. If you excluded family, you'd only need the stump of your chopped-off hand--that would be me. What was our relationship? Friends? No--yes--sometimes--our lives were so irrevocably twisted together that giving the kinked mess a name was pointless. I tried to run away once and discovered it couldn't be done. Our relationship was an understanding. She worked it her way; I worked it mine.

Bobbi Jo appeared in the doorway, modestly wrapped in a towel. She shifted from foot to foot, waiting--uncertain. Her stuff was strewn around the room--bra on the lamp beside Sharon. She mimed that I should throw her something. Sharon hooked Bobbi Jo's panties with a foot and flicked them towards her. They fell short. Bobbi Jo dove to the floor. Her towel unfurled.

"I'm going to take a shower, too." I got out of bed. Sharon hadn't seen me naked in a while. She refreshed her memory. I slipped past Bobbi Jo on my way to the bathroom. "Don't worry, she doesn't bite." It was a lie, and a request that the shark lady behave herself. I doubted she would. I'd called her "Sharky" for a reason. For their own, undoubtedly different reasons, the nickname caught on with her family.

I took my time in the shower. From the little she'd told me, the case of the disappearing Dexter could have waited until daylight--or next week--or forever. There was more going on than Sharon was saying. That was normal. Her nocturnal visit wasn't.

Assume she had her reasons for wanting to find Dexter and for not trusting anyone but me. Fine. The way she'd broken in on me with Bobbi Jo still didn't make sense. Did Bobbi Jo work for a company Sharon was out to buy? Did someone hear Bobbi Jo bad-mouthing Sharon at the conference? Forget that. For one thing, Bobbi Jo wasn't stupid, far from it. What's more, her opinion would mean as much to Sharon as the opinion of the cow who provided her dinner steak.

So what was left? It was about me. Okay, why? She valued my intellectual prowess? Bulldog tenacity? Street-fighter instincts? Yeah, right. My brain was low on her list of favourite body parts and there was younger, more durable flesh available to fulfil her insatiable physical needs. One thing was certain; Sharon wanted me for something.

Finding Dexter was a pretext.