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Without Blood

Without Blood

A Victor Lessard Thriller
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Running from the Dead
Excerpt

 

“I’m looking for a girl. She’d be under twenty, around five-feet tall, and wearing a lot of make-up.”

 

Diane flashed a look over Jones’ shoulder; probably at Sheena who was still out of earshot. She turned up the volume. “You’re looking for a girl?”

 

Jones held up his hands. “I’m not looking for a girl, Diane. I think this girl might be in trouble.”

 

Diane looked Jones over. “You a cop or something?”

 

“I’m a something.”

 

From her tone, Jones could tell that the possibility of a yes had excited her; his answer left her feeling confused. “What does that mean?”

 

“I’m a private investigator.”

 

Diane laughed. “Shut up. That’s not a real thing.”

 

“It is,” Jones said. “So tell me, Diane, do you remember a girl under twenty with a lot of eye make-up in here in the last four days?”

 

Diane thought about it for a second and then she laughed. “Hey, how’d you know my name was Diane? You really must be a private investigator.” She put her hand on his arm again. “A good one.”

 

“The girl,” Jones said.

 

Diane leaned closer and laughed. “Oh, right. Duh. I’m such a scatterbrain. It’s the wine,” she leaned in a little closer. “I get into so much trouble when I have too much.” With her hand still on Jones, she said, “Let me think.” Her thumb moved back and forth over the fabric of his jacket. When she spoke, her voice was quiet—an invitation to come closer and share a secret. “I think I might remember someone like that. Why don’t you buy me a drink and we can talk about it?”

 

“You think you saw her?”

 

Diane smiled. “Maybe.”

 

“She would have been left handed.”

 

Diane looked. Jones caught her.

 

“Sorry.”

 

Jones shook his head. “Nothing to be sorry about. I’m not left handed. Listen, why don’t you let me buy you that drink.”

 

Diane smiled wide. “If you insist.”

 

“I do.”

 

The promise of a drink loosened the grip on Jones’ arm. He watched Diane walk back to her table with a lot of hip thrown into her gait.

 

“I gotta ask. How the hell do you know she’s left handed?”

 

Jones looked over his shoulder and saw that Sheena had made her way back. “The smudges,” he said. “Her knuckles made them when her hand moved to the right.”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

Jones turned and rested his elbows on the counter. “The place she picked to write was another dead giveaway. No righty would have picked that spot. It would have been too hard to write there. That’s why most of the other tags are in the middle of the door.”

 

“What are you, some kind of handwriting expert.”

 

Jones smiled and lifted his arm. “Used to be left handed.”

 

Sheena looked at the empty jacket sleeve unimpressed. Jones put it down and instantly liked her more than he had a second before. She rested her back against the prep-counter opposite Jones and crossed her arms. “Are you really a private investigator? Like in the movies?”

 

Jones shook his head. “If this were the movies, I’d have already the case solved.”

 

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Work for a Million

Work for a Million

The Original Novel
by Eve Zaremba
cover design or artwork by Sami Kivelä
edition:Paperback
tagged : noir, lesbian
More Info
River of Lies
Excerpt

February 1

Tasha looked at the toes of her new boots and worried. Her workday was done. She had pushed open the school’s service door, checked outside, and shut it again with a shiver. Indoors was all brightness and warmth, but outside ’twas definitely a dark and stormy night.

Shouldn’t have changed from her grubby work shoes into these beauties till she got to Shaun’s apartment. The school’s parking lot would be riddled with puddles, and the boots were special; over-the-knee burnished-gold faux suede. The fabric wouldn’t take mud well.

She had chosen to wear the new boots for Shaun, along with her favourite slinky dress. She wanted to show up at his doorstep looking like a princess, not an off-duty janitor. Because it was February, the month of romance, and he was going out of his way to make her feel special. Only the first of the month and he’d already dropped off a sparkly, heart-smothered Hallmark card. No, appearing at his doorstep in sloppy work clothes was not an option.

She blew out a breath. Tonight would be their fourth date, and she expected there would be sex involved. Like last time, what he had called dynamite, and what she called painful. Shaun was a tad too big for her, when it came to sex.

She thought about the card he’d given her. Her friends said it was charming, and she supposed it was. She wondered if he would carry out his threat of delivering a pre–Valentine’s Day card every day till the fourteenth, a sort of twelve-days-of-Christmas shtick.

Honestly.

They were both in their midthirties, hardly kids anymore. She hoped that in the long run she would get used to his charm and that their relationship would build into something solid. Her parents were looking at her with that loud, unspoken question, Why are you still single? Same question from her friends. Same question from herself, really, because she wanted a husband and lots of kids, and none of that would drop out of the blue if she didn’t do her bit.

She pushed the service door open farther and took another peek at the sky. The rain had stopped, and she decided that instead of changing back to her runners, she would simply avoid the puddles, walk with care. She left the warmth and safety of the school and took her first tentative steps across the asphalt. So far so good — the basketball courtyard was fairly smooth and puddle-free. But ahead stretched the chain-link fence that separated finished ground from unfinished, and that’s where it was going to get gross.

Under lamplight a new worry sprang on her, more serious than the fear of muddy boots — the sense that she was being followed.

Tasha wasn’t easily frightened. Always aware, always prepared, that was the key to survival. She glanced over her shoulder, then did an about-face and stopped. Over by the school’s main entrance, had something just moved, sliding behind one of the support posts? She sniffed, wrinkled her nose, caught the faintest whiff of burning marijuana.

Just some kids. They hung out under the shelter there, sneaking smokes, craving danger, as kids will do. Even at this time of night and in this horrible weather.

She went on her way, thinking she actually wouldn’t mind a bit of danger herself. Not a huge amount, just enough to give her something to tell Shaun, ’cause sex and food, that’s all he seemed to care about, and not necessarily in that order. Spin up a tale, start a conversation, mix it up a bit. She was already framing the narrative as she reached the gate to the gravel parking lot. She saw it was polka-dotted with puddles, worse than she expected. It wasn’t a big school, not a huge parking area, space enough for maybe fifty cars. Of course there weren’t fifty cars here at this time of night. Just two.

Two?

Hers and who else’s?

A long black sedan. Unoccupied. It was parked near the rear entrance that led to the school’s lower level. She had been the only one on the premises, she was quite sure. No office lights burned, no late meetings underway. But a staff member might have left their car, got a ride with somebody. Teachers drank a lot, she’d been told. Maybe someone had decided they’d pick up their wheels in the morning. She gave one more look around before setting foot on the gravel. At the far end of the lot and all along one side was a smudge of forest. A little scary.

Careful what you wish for.

She had her keys in hand, in readiness to beep open the doors, and thought about her best friend’s self-defence tip. Hold your keys like this, pointy ends out, not a bad set of brass knuckles in a pinch. Second line of defence of course was the Toyota’s alarm button, which she sometimes set off by mistake, making herself and everyone around her jump.

This creepy guy was following me, her exciting story would go. I had to outrun him. Barely made it to my car. Luckily I set my key alarm going and he ran off.

Silly to spook herself like this. She was now moving forward, stop and go, tippy-toeing around bodies of mud-grey water. Heavy winter rains had flooded the lot and the puddles spread out, broad and gleaming. Behind her the chain-link gave a metallic shiver. She could hear traffic. She could see the lights of houses in the distance. A far cry from solitude, but in a way she might as well be on Mars.

The school entranceway looked so distant now. Nobody creeping or crawling about. She laughed aloud at her own tall tale of danger, faced her car once more and stopped. She peered through the darkness, not believing her eyes. Only a stone’s throw away now she saw the front right tire was flat. Flat as a pancake.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” she cried.

“Hey, what’s up?” somebody called out.

She whirled. A twitch of her fingers set off the fob alarm and the car’s horn went mad, onn-onn-onn. She yanked the keys from her pocket and pressed the red button. Silence, except the soft whish of the wind playing around her ears.

“Sorry,” she said. The pounding of her heart slowed, and she smiled at the man. He hadn’t been inside the black car, so must have come up from behind her. If he’d been a stranger she’d be busy forming her brass knuckles. But she recognized him. He was a nice guy. They had exchanged friendly hellos in the halls.

She snugged her coat around her tighter, hugged her handbag. The wind was awful, trying to knock her sideways. Her neck felt cold and vulnerable. She beeped open her car to grab a scarf off the passenger seat. Slammed the door shut and said,“Whatcha doing here this time of night?”

“Had to pick up something. Papers. You know.”

He must have arrived as she left, dashed in, grabbed the docket he held under his arm.

He wasn’t as tall as Shaun. Older than Shaun, more serious. Not bad looking. She’d seen him in the halls. What did he teach? Something interesting, like science or social studies, she’d bet. Was he single?

She focused on the flat tire. He followed the direction of her stare and pulled a clownish face of horror. Just being funny. Kind of corny, but it made her laugh.

Laughing felt good. She always laughed at Shaun’s jokes, but sometimes it took effort.

She wondered if this teacher’s life was as humdrum as hers, that a flat tire late at night was the most excitement he’d had in a while. Maybe this chance encounter would lead to a conversation, then to friendship, then to something valuable.

Unlikely, but things like that did happen, didn’t they?

“So,” he said, done being funny.“Sabotage, or bad luck?”

“I’m guessing sabotage. I know who did it, too. And I bet I know why.”

He raised his brows at that.“No kidding? Tell me all about it. But first let’s get going on this flat of yours. Got a spare?”

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