Category Archives: Mystery

Wired for the Weekend


A Jade Weekes Art Mystery

A Jade Weekes Art Mystery

Wired went live on Smashwords in the early hours of March 15th, and is already flying off the virtual shelves. It’s available for Free through March 29th as I tweak the formatting, cover image, and promo copy. While there are a lot of moving parts to coordinate for the official launch, I’m excited to finally have it available, and look forward to feedback from readers.

Wired is the first installment of the Jade Weekes Art Mystery series, with the 2nd novel, Enigma, scheduled for release late 2013. Set in Paris, St. Pete, and Chicago, this mystery unravels an organized crime gang, solves a murder, and reveals the haunting past of main character, Jade Weekes.

Here’s the promo copy from Smashwords:

Short description
Read for FREE through March 29, 2013! Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past.

Extended description
Jade Weekes leaves Paris to track a priceless Van Gogh from St. Pete to Chicago. Her contacts are shady and she is beginning to think there is more to this job than a buyer wanting a gift for his wife. Otherwise, why would Simon Morrell, a rival thief, cross her path just as the FBI begins asking questions?

Caught up in the six billion dollar international art theft industry, she enlists help from unlikely sources: film actor Alex Ford, and veteran FBI specialists Stewart Connor and John Young.

No one is who they seem, most of all Jade Weekes.

You can download Wired for your e-reader here.

The Red PencilLook for me to return to blogging on a regular basis as I vet ideas for novel number 3 in the series (working title The Missing), and ramble on techniques for character development. Enjoy your weekend, and get outside to soak up the extra sunshine. ;)


When Your Characters Go Public


Salvador Dalí, on the steps of the Philadelphi...

Salvador Dalí, on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sure this happens to all writers from time to time. It’s our curious nature that’s to blame and our quest to provide realism to our work. I’m talking about the odd stares from strangers for doing what comes so naturally to us, thinking like our characters in public.

While doing research for WIRED and ENIGMA, I came across an article profiling the behaviors museum staff and security are trained to spot as suspicious. It explains why there always seems to be a Docent close by, and when I leave an area, someone new takes up the post and I often spy them eyeing me as I wander around.

Jade Weekes, the main character in WIRED and ENIGMA is an art thief and a savant when it comes to museum security. If she could just get over her amnesia, she would remember she designed a very clever security system for her late father’s gallery. To walk in her shoes and let my imagination run with her personal obsession for impressionist art and all things Salvador Dali, helps me develop her personality and add concrete details to help readers see through her eyes.

When I’m channeling Jade, this is a bit of what I do:

  • I like to walk the floor plan of the exhibit several times to see the traffic flow, and what physical and psychological barriers have been implemented to keep the public in place. (I attended a great seminar on the Rembrandt exhibit last year and gained a lot of insight on the subject.)
  • I often take notes of these observations which include the placement of security cameras, staff and any climate sensing devices. Since photography is allowed (without flash) in most galleries, I use my phone to snap pictures for later scene building.
  • I usually step to the sides of painting to see how they are secured to the wall and determine if any wires or hardware are visibly attached (security devices).
  • I also note any missing gaps between paintings which could mean a work was removed for repair or other reasons.

Odd behavior for sure, but do I merit being tailed? A small vase or Rembrandt isn’t safe around Jade or the underworld types she deals with, but they are perfectly secure in my company. I need them on display so I can let my characters fight over them and scheme ways to ferry them from the museum without notice. That’s the part of the puzzle I love to work out as I note the emergency exits and service elevators.

So far, Jade has never been arrested, but she is well-known to law enforcement in three countries.

As writers, we should think and behave a bit odd, because that’s how fiction turns from isolated ideas to page-turning stories.

Suspicious? I think not… just creativity at play.


What’s in a Title?


The plugboard (Steckerbrett) is positioned at ...

The plugboard (Steckerbrett) is positioned at the front of the machine, below the keys. When in use, there can be up to 13 connections. In this photograph, two pairs of letters are swapped (S↔O and A↔J). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am soooooo indecisive at times. I finally decide to eat out, but can’t decide where to go. I want to paint a room, but come to a stand still when selecting a color. It’s easier for me to make decisions for my characters than myself.  Afterall, their choices are governed by the personality I give them and has to give the reader clues to their inner world. That’s merely laying out puzzle pieces.

There are now 3 working titles for the follow-up novel to WIRED: Enigma, Persistence of Vision and Persistence of Time.  Each works for different reasons.

Enigma play on the plot theme of art looted by the Nazis during WWII.  The Enigma machine encoded German communications which was later cracked by Alan Turing.  Jade is in pursuit of a painting that was auctioned in 1939, only to find it leads her to her father’s killer, thus cracking the code of her past.

Persistence of Vision refers to the phenomenon of the eye to hold an after image.  Jade’s dreams are revealing the after image of the past she’s buried deep in her subconscious.

Diagram of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spoc...

Lastly, Persistence of Time…. also a Salvador Dali painting, refers to the artist to whom Jade has a strange affinity. It is one of his lost works she’s trying to uncover. 

Usually, when you find the right title it resonates for you.  This time I can’t decide which fits best. I may have to resort to Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock. (sigh)

Now, back to writing….


Time Stand Still


“Freeze this moment a little bit longer. Make each impression a little bit stronger.” ~ Rush

I love to travel and any place I visit is open game as a story setting. I often take photos to remember the details of a place and to jog my memory of the sensory bits that add realism to a description.

This first photo was taken from Notre Dame in Paris.  In case you’re wondering, the buses and trailers were part of a production set for the TV series Highlander with Adrian Paul. Looking at this, I remember how incredibly cold it was.  The wind blew along the river with a ferocity that cut through my coat and several layers of sweaters. The water smelled pas frais as it swirled in eddys along the wall.

The images and memories formed a basis for the setting of WIRED which begins and ends in Paris.  The final scene takes place on the bridge in the distance.  There are also scenes that take you into the catacombs underneath the city and introduces another side of Paris usually not mentioned in the tour guides.  For those locations, I relied on research and discovered there’s a French Police unit that patrols the underground keeping peace and deterring criminal behavior. Photos become valuable tools for writing and enhances your ability to convey mood and let the setting take on its own character role.

The second photo is a church yard in England, but my memory is faulty on the exact location.  I’m thinking it may be in Suffolk. I do recall the church was well over 1,000 years old and was marred by medieval graffiti on the ancient floor tiles.  This will be in the follow-up novel to WIRED which has the working title Persistence of Time.

Now that the digital age is upon us, I snap photos constantly with my phone, trying to capture fleeting moments and emotions I can use later.

I also freeze bits of time by being completely present in the moment and noting everything around me. Each time I’ve done this, I’ve been able to later recall details that would have likely gone unnoticed… such as Ray Davies changing his wrist watch mid concert in 1983 or a woman in a black sweater doing yoga in Russell Square while a breeze blew spray from the fountain across the stone walk (2007).

By adding realism and sensory detail, your readers will be able to escape into your writing. Photos help me make time stand still long enough to share it with you.


13 Titles – An Incomplete List of Books I Love


The Monster at the End of this Book13

I don’t think I could count how many books I’ve read over the years, but some stand out in my memory for various reasons.  Instead of telling you what’s special about each, I’ll let you enjoy them for yourself. 

The Professor’s House Willa Cather
Through the Looking Glass Lewis Carroll
Walden Henry David Thoreau
A Wizard of Earthsea Ursula K. Le Guin
Lost Michael Robotham
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson
A Parchment of Leaves Silas House
Books A through V Sue Grafton
Far and Away; A Prize Every Time Neil Peart
Outlander Diana Gabaldon
The Monster at the end of this Book Jon Stone & Michael Smollin
Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak
Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein


Hey, Look Over Here!


There’s only so much jumping up and down and waving your hands you can do before people stop paying attention.

So how do you get noticed in the digital age? The simple answer is Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etcetera… etcetera…. all of the above. How’s your traffic? Tweeting and updating your social media is great, but what if a few tweaks could significantly increase your traffic? It’s not about getting attention, it’s about being found in a sea of tweets and email blasts.

Here are some tips:

Search Engine Optimization

  • Your blog or website is your public persona and billboard for branding, writing and winning over new fans. How do people find information on the web? Search engines. Is your blog Search Engine Optimized (SEO)? It’s not so scary or hard to tweak your site content to be search engine friendly. Begin with a list of words closely associated with your branding. Now look through your recent blog posts and see if these words appear. If not, you’re not giving a clear message to readers of who you are and what you’re about AND search engines, which send out crawlers, will not find you and deliver your site to new readers. Optimization should come after you’ve written your post and before you publish as part of the proofreading/revising stage. Key words should feel natural, not planted.

Appeal to Short Attention Spans

  • Bullet points allow readers to skim and read information they feel is relevant to their needs. If they like what they skim, they’ll take the time to read more.

 Infographics

  • Map your characters, plot, or anything that delivers a fun nugget of information to your readers.

 Use Cool Tools

  • Find innovative ways to use new media tools. Pinterest is the hot new social media trend, but how do you use it for gaining attention rather than pinning random pictures? Try creating a board that’s all about your writing genre, or the novels that most influenced your writing. How about organizing pix and links for your writing research? This lets your readers see into your creative process. I’m building a board titled The Art of Art Theft. I’m pinning famous work, giving the artist and date the piece was stolen. Some of these will be mentioned in my new art crime thriller, “WIRED” and the follow-up novel “Persistence of Time”.  

Branding… or how to find your keywords

  •  Branding is what you’re all about: your writing, your genre, your style, your theme. It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer selling novels or a business promoting a new product, the words should represent what you want others to identify with you. Without thinking too deeply, jot down the words that come to the top of your mind. Now imagine a triangle. At the top is what you’re trying to accomplish, on the lower corners you have your list of key (branding) words and your novel/product. They should all work together to make a cohesive message. If you wanted to find you on the internet without using your name or the name of your novel/product, what words would you choose?  

At the top of my triangle I’ve written Build Audience. The lower left corner lists key words Thriller, Mystery and Art Crime. The last corner lists “Perfect Copy” and “WIRED”.

My Last Tip…

  • Check out LinkedIn groups related to social media, your interests, or writing platform.  The conversations shared will give you a fast track to new trends and tools to help you get noticed.

Yes, I fell off the face of the earth.


Well, at least my sense of balance was off kilter.  Life does that to you.  I just find it ironic that I last wrote about Tweeting and Blogging and yet hardly touched my apps in two weeks.  I did read the witty comments of others on the stream and enjoyed Anne Charles’ Optical Delusions in Deadwood… really too funny to put down.

The more complicated my life becomes, the more I want humor and a good mystery to help me escape.  But now I am emerging from my quiet corner to work on novels at hand and follow through on my writing commitments.  Here’s my list of priorities:

  • Update Amazon with new edited version of Perfect Copy. Let me know if you’d like a free read:)funny happens
  • Shape up WIRED to send to my editor by April 15 (Yes, I borrowed the deadline from the IRS)
  • Get on board more blog tours for the summer
  • Be a better IBC (Indie Book Collective) member and help with the workload

That should be enough for the moment.

While on sabbatical, I listened to several audio books, paying close attention to how the author wove multiple plot lines for the main character. Everyone has a lot going on these days, so why not the characters in our stories? Just today, I’m juggling a dozen client projects/calls/setting video shoots, writing a blog post, planning a vacation, making a mental grocery list, managed to fit in a haircut at lunch so no eating = starving, and what comes next?  I don’t know; it’s too much to track without a TO DO list. 

If that’s my boring life, imagine what your over-achieving super clever hero is doing. He’s piecing together clues while wondering if the strange tapping coming from the bath pipes means anything.  She just wanted a frappucinno when she got pulled for driving mph in a school zone. The police detective couldn’t help but notice the location of the crime scene looks like the house where he grew up.

Humans are so funny….in a good way.  Our brains can’t stay in one place, we want to daydream and worry and notice odd things as we go through our day.  To steal a line from the movie “Up”, “Squirrel!” Yep, we are easily distracted.

Have fun with your characters this week and let their minds wander.  You may end up with a brilliant twist to your story.


Criminal Fun


Workshops

January is starting off great with an online workshop with former FBI agent Lucinda Schroeder, “Inside the Criminal Mind”. I’ve taken about a half-dozen workshops at savvyauthors.com and the information shared is worth the small fee, usually anywhere between $15-25. Plus, anytime you can get first hand information from a specialist you have a valuable tool to add realism to your fiction.

Research

It’s no secret that my next few titles center on art theft. To that end, I’ve spent some time researching art news, thefts, controversies and the role this has played in modern history. My Google alert continues to send daily links to blogs and news articles from around the web. A predominant trend is the theft of public art for the value of the metal. Scrap yards are on alert for these works, some valued in the 10’s of thousands while the perps melt them down for a few hundred dollars of scrap. Whatever your writing topic or interest, Google alerts are an easy way to get a roundup of information that is current as well as keeping you up to date on evolving stories and opinions.

The North Carolina Museum of Art is also providing invaluable information via their Lunch and Lecture series. Recent topics include registering priceless works for a major exhibition (procuring insurance, security, transportation and installation) to designing crowd flow and security for an exhibition with an expected attendance of over 150,000 people. Again, learning the titles and job responsibilities of museum staff will add depth and immerse the reader into my character’s world. If you look around, I’m sure you’ll find unconventional sources of information for your work in progess too.

Pleasure

Portrait of a Gentleman Wearing a Gold Chain /...
Image via Wikipedia

Again, the North Carolina Museum of Art is one of my favorite places. Their current Rembrandt exhibit, which runs through January 22nd, presents the largest collection of Rembrandt paintings ever displayed in the United States.

The meaning of a painting is affected by the other works displayed around it. In this case, the story of Rembrandt’s life, the evolution of his work and his legacy is well told. For hundreds of years, works by his students have been incorrectly attributed to Rembrandt, but the side by side comparison clearly shows the mastery he commanded. It’s more than the brush stroke which can be taught, or the lighting which can be imitated. There is an intangible quality that places thought and emotion within the eyes and faces of his subjects.

Fun

In keeping with the art theft and criminal mind theme, here’s a bit of fun from Art Series Hotels. The Cullen, The Olsen and the Blackman Hotels in Australia are designed in the style of 3 of their greatest artists. Until January 15th, guests are invited to steal an original Banskey valued at $10,000. Once the steal is successfully executed, the guest gets to keep the art.

“No Ball Game” was pinched December 19th by a guest posing as a hotel employee who even managed to get the staff to help her place the stolen work in her car.

If you want your chance to play cat burglar, there is another Banskey now on the wall, “Pulp Fiction”.

Good Luck.


The Art of Procrastination


I’ve been in a writing abyss for the past 2 months. Any and every word is taking four times the effort to write and I catch myself wondering if the there is a point to the self-inflicted suffering.

It’s the holidays, my day job is overbooked crazy and there are a million other things to take care of at home including folding and putting away 10,000 loads of laundry.

So, it’s time to find my motivation. If I were a method actor, I’d dig deep into the character’s psyche for that lost nugget of hope. So far I haven’t found it. Here’s where I’ve looked:

Read a sample.

  • Scrabble for iPad (I’ve now won more than 50% of the games played #inyourfacecomputer! )
  • Neverland (SyFy miniseries)
  • Tossing Runes at façade.com until they say what I want to hear
  • Audible books (47 hours of Connie Willis’ Blackout and All Clear)

Being a writer means I have special powers when it comes to creating distractions. Now I have to AIS (Ass In Seat) and get the last chapters tweaked and sent to my editor. Then—and only then—I can relax and enjoy the eggnog.  Granted, I still have a gingerbread house that needs decorating and presents to wrap and 5 pounds of shrimp to pickle, and….and…and…

I never have writer’s block, just procrastination pains. How do you deal with the urge to do nothing?

I’m trying to focus on the prize at the end of the work… being published.


Magically Mundane


In my professional life, I have to focus on message and concision and visuals while usually constrained to 30 seconds.  Yes, I produce those dreaded commercials:)

However, it does lend resources to my writing life.  I’ve learned there is only one best word for each use and it has to be active, visual and interesting. It has to help move my message–my story–forward.

The process takes me back to a high school art class where we were instructed to create art that makes the ordinary interesting and makes the viewer see the content in a new way, guiding their eye to what you want them to notice.

Writing is the same.  We want our readers to see what’s special about our characters and care.  They don’t want a caricature of the same people they see everyday.  They want details and new angles.

When I’m shooting video, I look for unusual ways to frame the shot or change the height from how we would normally see the scene. In my current novel, I have multiple viewpoints looking at the same subject: art theft. Each character is developed not only by their words and actions in their perspective viewpoints, but also by the observations and opinions of other characters.

I like to give my characters limitations either physical or mental which they have to overcome.  I love characters who are clever and notice the details in an ordinary scene that gives them the advantage.  I love love love characters that surprise me.

Case in point: as I’m re-writing the last chapters of WIRED, my sister, and first beta reader guessed who I planned to kill off.  Guess what?  Now he lives!  hahahaha.  Seriously, I’m changing the entire ending to keep the reader guessing until the very last word.  The first rule in making the mundane magical is to do the unexpected.

Happy writing.


WIRED


I’m getting close to the final edits on WIRED and just can’t resist sharing a few chapters. You met Stewart Connor on Sample Sunday, now meet Simon Morrell and Jade Weekes: both are smart and resourceful, however, only one will survive an FBI sting and a crime syndicate turf war.

Chapter 1

Simon Morrell slipped a razor blade through the paper and peeled the image from the frame. He did this again and again until six master pieces lined a cardboard tube.

Less than two minutes later, he dropped the tube into a crate, latched it shut, and affixed a shipping label to the outside. He added a forged manifest to the clip board for the morning outgoing stock and opened the door. Alarms rang instantly.

He ran the half block to a Peugeot idling in the dark, dropped the knife to the floor boards and signaled his driver to move a moment too late. A car swerved, blocking the road, lights flashed and too quickly to be luck. Hands pulled him and Henri to the sidewalk.

“Monsieur,” he smiled, twisting his head to look at the office. It was not the Paris police, but the Gendarme. “What is this?”

They patted him down and hauled him to his feet. Henri was face down on the Peugeot’s hood with his hands cuffed.

“Do you want to explain what you were doing at the Musee de Moderne?”

Morrell continued to smile, “I’m sitting and waiting for a friend that is late. Why all this?” he motions to the cuffs and lights.

He was interrupted by a third Gendarme that pulled in behind them. This one was dressed in street clothes and had a day of stubble on his face. He searched Morrell’s car.

“Nothing’s here.” He slammed the car door and pointed a flashlight in Morrell’s face. “Simon Morrell,” he said.

Morrell recognized the voice and dark gray eyes and the wrinkled suit. He’d be out by morning, he thought.

The third officer nodded to the others and Morrell was helped into one of the cars, Henri into another. The officer climbed in with him and pulled the car into the road and toward police headquarters.

“Jarvinen sent you?” asked Morrell.

“Of course, someone had to haul your ass out. Is it done?”

“It will be finished soon enough. When I have the money, Jarvinen gets the paintings.”

Chapter Two

Jade Weekes tapped the speed dial on her phone and waited. “I have the item you want.” She half listened as a waiter planted a glass of pinot on the table along with a basket of hard bread. She smiled, the cafe owner stood in the doorway watching. She turned back to the conversation, the deep voice almost garbled on the mobile signal.

“When? I’ll meet you Wednesday. Noon at the Maison du Livre on Rue Saint-Honore.” Her French was good, but flat with an American intonation. She ended the conversation, scanning the faces passing by on the sidewalk, then the couple sitting at the far end of the patio. It was early for dinner, especially in the Paris tourist district. A few people lingered by the menu posted outside the cafe.

“American?” asked a voice from the table behind her. Jade turned and met the stare of a young man– barely a man, she corrected and smiled. She considered not answering, but decided to play.

“Yes, and you?” The side-ways game of dodging amorous Frenchman amused her, and he was rather cute. They all assumed Americans were rich and easy.

Her cell phone rang, saving her from further joisting, the number she recognized, Chicago. “Yes, Robert?”

“Can you talk?” he asked.

“More or less, can you?”

“I have an assignment.” She could sense his annoyance. “Are you interested?” Behind Robert’s voice, gunshots popped in succession.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“I’m with a buyer at a shooting range.”

“Is that wise?”

“In this case, yes. Are you in?” he asked.

“Where and what is it that you need?”

“It’s in the home of a collector in St. Pete. It’s been out of circulation for a while. How soon can you get there?” Out of circulation, that meant stolen or smuggled, Robert rarely cared which. His word choice lead her to surmise his phone was bugged as usual.

“How much is your client willing to pay to obtain this collector’s piece?” She took a sip of her wine and folded open the menu, pretending to read.

“Five hundred.” A half mill, that would be worth a plane ride but she was pissed he’d call her in front of a buyer and when his phone could possibly be tapped.

“I’ll think about it and get back to you. Can you send me a photo of what he wants?”
Robert agreed, ending the call abruptly. The young man behind her had left and the sky was darkening to a rose and steel blue twilight.

The last deal she’d helped Robert White pull off had nearly ended her life and blown her reputation. It took two years to repair the damage and reestablish her contacts. Half a million dollars. That would let her take time off and perhaps build her collection. Maybe I’ll open up an art house, she thought, then smiled. She’d have to actually buy the works and prove their provenance.

She laid cash on the table and headed toward the river. There was a man there she liked to talk with on occasion. He’d be there with his Rottweiler and bag of stale bread which he would throw into the water to watch the fish snatch up.

She pictured the bench in the evening shadows of Notre Dame and the barges lined up along the quay. He lived there part of the year; the rest of the time, Jade had no idea where he went. She needed him to fill in a few missing pieces to her story, the one he’d started telling her about a thief and the Musee de Moderne.

Chapter Three

Morrell scratched a hand over his head and stretched his jaw trying to get his face to relax. His muscles twitched and a cramp prevented him from turning his head to the right. Jarvinen waited.

He’d chosen to meet in the metro under Charles de Gaulle. Jarvinen blended in with the crowd and only the familiar faces of several men around him signaled the security he commanded. Morrell approached and Jarvinen offered a cigarette.

Morrell nodded and lit the fag before speaking. “The delivery came through as scheduled. It’s all there, Van Gogh, Degas and Chagall.

“Clever, Simon. The Musee mailed us their own art and then sent the police all over France looking for them. I admire innovative thinking.”

“Thank you.” Morrell nodded, proud of the simplicity of his plan. The Musee staff, unaware of the crate’s contents, shipped their own stolen works to an associate who’d arranged to have it moved to a warehouse in London. It was on its way to Saudi Arabia and into a private collection and a large sum was headed to Morrell’s bank account.

Commuters shoved their way past them and the ring of body guards closed in. Something hid behind Jarvinen’s expression: tension. He seemed to be focused on his thoughts and stared at Morrell intently.
“One more, Simon,” he said.

Morrell’s skin prickled, clammy sweat chilled his skin. “A last job?” he asked with a forced smile. “I plan to retire.”

Jarvinen ignored him, “St. Pete.” He laid a newspaper against Morrell’s chest. “Read this and get back to me with your ideas. Three days, Simon,” he warned.

An armed police team walked by, scanning the crowd. Jarvinen and his guards faded into the foot traffic along the platform, blending. It was a refined survivor tactic for Jarvinen.

Morrell looked at the paper he’d been handed. It was the St. Pete Times, folded to the business section with a photo of a young man and a middle aged woman staring back at him. Alex Ford, the caption read, generously donated six priceless Van Gogh’s to the Red Door Foundation for Fine Art. Behind the couple, leaning against a gold painted easel, was the unmistakable image of what Jarvinen really wanted.
He tucked the paper under his arm and headed up the escalator.

The Wind Beaten Tree went gone underground in 1972, so this was must be one of the study pieces.
He scanned the photo again and began drawing lines from Ford to Van Gogh to Jarvinen. The next course of action was clearly illustrated. It would take more than three days.

Chapter 4

Jade bobbed and weaved through a crowd of students following a red-jacketed guide. She caught snatches of his speech which caused her to glance up at the old church. The stone-work was medieval, but the glass newer, installed shortly after WWII when smashed by invading soldiers. The American students seemed to only half listen, pre-occupied snapping pictures or talking. How could they appreciate art that had taken a hundred years to build, one day to nearly destroy and a half century to repair? Paris carried the marks of history like battle scars, its museums holding artifacts that had been hidden from Nazi forces and repatriated in the years since. She knew these museums well.

She cut through an alley between a hotel and a row of shops and came to the quay. It was quieter here. Andre sat on his bench with Gustavo, his pure bred Rottweiler, resting in the straggled grass.

“Bonjour, Andre,” she said, sitting. He didn’t turn. His attention settled on the far bank where a group of workers worked, repairing a bridge abutment.

“I’m surprised to see you today,” he said in English, his accent light and refined. “I thought you would have moved on by now.”

“I have a job waiting, but first I wanted to see if you know of a man named Morrell.”
“Why?”

“I hear his name around.” She watched his expression for a reaction.

“You don’t want to know him. He has terrible luck and even worse breath.”

“Seriously, Andre, I’m heading to the states for awhile, can you keep an eye on him and let me know if he does… well, anything interesting?”

“The Musee de Moderne was burgled last night. The thief, or thieves, took six items, all of outstanding quality.”

Jade studied his profile trying to discern his intent. “I was occupied last night and nowhere near the Musee, or are suggesting it was Morrell,” she asked. “I have a delivery to make and then I’ll be out of France at least until the end of the month.”

“Are you working with Morrell?” Andre asked in turn.

“No, but I got a tip that he vouched for a buyer in London. I want to know how good his relations are with the group.” The group referred to a small network of crooks, con men and wise guys that specialized in cultural artifacts ferreted to the black market. She’d crossed paths with them before and worked very hard to stay out of their way.

“Morrell has been around awhile, don’t trust him to be honest, but you can trust him to be an excellent crook. I wouldn’t make any deals with him.” Andre reached into his jacket and produced a small yellow envelope and handed it to her. “Happy birthday.”

She took the envelope, but didn’t open it. “What’s this?”

“Information.” Finally he turned to look at her, his tone moving from playful to serious. “There are rumblings and sometimes I hear your name mentioned,” he paused, “there’s a mole in the Gendarme. He may or may not be helpful.”

“Why are you telling me this? Do you know something about the Musee job last night? You weren’t asking because you thought I did the job.”

Andre didn’t speak. She opened the envelope and removed a newspaper clipping. The story was about an American student that had disappeared in 1997. “Is this me?” she asked.

He shrugged. “It’s your memory that plays tricks. I try to fill in the landscape.”

“Before I leave,” she started, not know how to say it right. “I want you to know that I am grateful.”

“For giving you a job or for fishing you out of the river?” he asked.

Jade folded the paper and put it back in the envelope. “Both, but mostly for fishing me out of the river. I’m too good at stealing to have ever been anything else.”

“Steal? No, you are redistributing resources.”

“I know what I am, I just don’t know who I am.” Her near drowning in the river was where her life began.

Andre chuckled. “That is an old question for all of us.”

“It gives me all the comfort I need. Don’t you think a life worth returning to would also be worth remembering?”

On impulse, she leaned over and kissed his rough cheek. He smelled of musk and oak, the smells of his house boat that bobbed in the water nearby. “I have to go.”

“I know,” he said.

Jade walked away from the smell of brackish water and diesel fuel from a tug churning along the waterway. The scent never failed to dip her mind to the night Andre had pulled her from the oily river wash. The chaotic flashes of that evening remained more clear to her memory than the previous twenty-some years that had become a blank check. She owed Andre her life, and sometimes, she thought, perhaps more.


A Prize Every Time


Today I am guest blogging with Kat Lively on one of my favorite topics: Rush.

Neil Peart has a new book out titled Far and Away; A Prize Every Time. It is part travelogue, part personal memoir and part motorcycle adventure, with philosophical insights to pull it all together.

This will be a hit with Rush fans, but also for anyone who has traveled a long road filled with obstacles, fear, exhilaration and satisfaction.

Thanks Kat, for letting me hang out!

If you haven’t had a chance to read Kat’s Dead Barchetta, by all means download or order a copy today. She is the mistress of Mysteries that Rock.


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