Authors: Lee Hanson
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery, #Suspense, #Crime, #Mystery & Detective, #Murder, #Detective, #General, #Thrillers, #Romance, #Women Sleuths, #Thriller
|Lee Hanson (2010)|
|Tags:||Mystery, Detective, Murder, Mystery & Detective, Crime, Romance, General, Suspense, Women Sleuths, Thrillers, Fiction, Thriller|
On a foggy morning in January, the pale body of a young woman is discovered adrift in an errant swan boat on Lake Eola in the middle of a jewel-like park in Downtown Orlando. The cause of her death is a single, deep slash on her right wrist, and the knife - with her clear left handprint - is found beside her. There is no sign of anyone else having been at the scene and her car is parked by the lake. After a fruitless inquiry, the police conclude that successful and beautiful Dianna Wieland, 28, took her own life. Body language expert, Julie O'Hara - who was out running in Eola Park that morning - isn't buying it. She volunteers to help Joe Garrett, a private investigator hired by the family. And that makes Dianna's killer very nervous, indeed... Since Julie O'Hara is the one person most likely to figure it out.
* * * * *
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Copyright 2010 by Lee Hanson
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* * * * *
For Janice Jerome,
my invaluable Reader-in-Chief
* * * * *
e was naked and slick with sweat,
despite the coolness of the room. Moonlight sliced through the
partially open verticals, casting a striped pattern of light across
his body. The ceiling fan made a low, hypnotic sound and was
spinning so fast its blades were invisible. The weighted bottoms of
the vertical cloth slats moved silently in the breeze. Within reach
on the nightstand, a plethora of prescription drugs stood ready to
aid sleep or relieve pain. Surprisingly, the needle slipped right
into the vein on the first try.
If there’s a hell, I’m going there…
* * * * *
nlike most Floridians, Julie didn’t
want to live by the sea. Her condo overlooked Lake Eola Park in
Downtown Orlando, fifty miles inland and twenty miles northeast of
Disney. It was an older building with only four floors, but Julie
had the whole top-right corner with a clear view of the urban lake
across the street, which was interesting and pretty…and small
enough not to give her bad dreams.
It was just after eight in the morning and
the French doors to the balcony in both her bedroom and her living
room were flung wide to let in the balmy September air. Julie was
in her tee shirt and shorts, lying in the sun on her chaise. She
had closed her eyes and knit her hands together on her chest. Her
legs were too long for the chair and her narrow, bare feet hung
over the cushion.
She had towel-dried her shoulder-length hair,
planning to let the sun finish the job while she read the Sunday
paper, but she’d become so comfortable that she had let the bulky
edition slide to the floor. She was lulled. Breathing deeply, she
savored the rain-washed air that brushed her skin like a satin slip
and rustled gently -
- through the ancient
A Mockingbird sang one soft trill after another.
Julie was pleasantly drifting off when the
unmistakable sound of smashing pottery snapped her back. Her eyes
“Shit, Sol! What did you do now?”
Quickly rising, she scooped up the newspaper,
dropped it on the outdoor table and hurried inside. Her living
room/library was arranged more for work than leisure, with a large
cherry and glass desk sitting in front of a wall of books. Her big
Bengal cat lay there, peering over the edge. He had knocked over an
oversized coffee mug, which had shattered on the dark hardwood
floor and dumped Julie’s cache of odd pens and pencils.
Sol was a year old when Julie adopted him
directly from his overwhelmed owner. A genetic throwback, the
exotic-looking spotted cat was twice the size of a typical housecat
and couldn’t be let outdoors. Now, for her trouble, he was
gleefully crouched on her desk like a leopard cub that had just
whacked a rabbit.
“Damn it, Sol. How come I’m not the alpha cat
here? How come that only works with dogs?”
Sol sat up to his full height on the desk,
dwarfing the computer monitor. He cocked his head, curious at her
reaction, as if she were a littermate with very odd priorities.
She was picking up the mess and scolding him
when the phone rang.
So much for the Sunday paper…
She decided that she wasn’t going to answer
it, but out of curiosity, she checked the caller ID. To her
surprise, the call was from Boston, but she didn’t recognize the
Pete. Pete Soldano.”
“Pete! My God! It’s been years! Are you
coming down to Orlando?”
“No, I’m not, Julie, but you might wanna come
up here. I guess you didn’t see the paper yet?”
“My paper? The newspaper?”
“Julie, it’s about Marc Solomon. He’s dead. A
drug overdose. It’s in the paper up here, I don’t know if it’s in
“That can’t be right! I just saw Marc and
David, not more than a month ago!”
“I’m sorry, Julie. I’m afraid it’s true.
Look, why don’t you go see if the story’s in your paper, then call
me back. The funeral’s gonna be up here. If you wanna come up, you
can stay with Joan and me. We can go together.”
Julie was stunned; it took her a full minute
to reply. “Okay, Pete. Uh, okay. I’ll call you back.”
Shaking, she scribbled the number on a pad,
and ran out on the balcony. She stood at the table, flipping
frantically through the paper. If any birds were singing, she was
no longer aware of it.
KEY WEST ARTIST DIES
The art world lost a rising star on September
18th, with the death of Marcus Solomon. The artist’s body was
discovered early Saturday morning by his companion, David
Key West Chief of Police Jeffrey Sanders was
cautious in responding to reporters’ questions about the
possibility of a drug overdose. “It’s too early to speculate about
Mr. Solomon’s death. We cannot confirm intentional or accidental
death. We’ll leave that determination to the medical examiner.”
Mr. Solomon was 38 years old…
There was more, mostly biography.
Julie exhaled a cry, grabbed her stomach and
fell into the nearest chair as if she’d just taken a punch to the
We were celebrating… We danced at the Sunset
Party! Yes, he had AIDS…but he was doing well…
There’s no way…not
It had to be an accident!
Oh no, no…
After a time, she managed to compose herself.
She called Pete back, and found out that the Solomons hadn’t
scheduled the wake and funeral; the body hadn’t been released to
A wave of nausea gripped her, held her.
She managed to tell Pete she was definitely
coming up and asked him to please call her as soon as he knew any
more. And then she hung up and cried, and cried some more.
When the endless day grew dark, she
slept…empty and shattered like the mug that had once held together
her pens and pencils.
* * * * *
he pain of the previous day had given
way to a pervasive, deadening grief that filled every part of
Julie’s body. Like an automaton, she left her red Honda scooter
behind and struck out for her office on foot. Her destination, a
two-story vintage house, was less than a mile away on Cypress, a
dead-end street on the east side of Lake Eola.
The sky was a robin’s egg blue and a light
breeze wafted through the giant oaks, lifting their lacy hems of
moss. Neighbors, walking a dog or pushing a carriage, smiled at her
as they passed. Julie was so numb that none of it registered. It
seemed to her that she had just left her building and suddenly
found herself facing the lake at the end of Cypress, turning left
into the bricked parking area in front of her office. The handsome
amber house was angled toward the water, white columns gracing a
wide veranda. Only the gold plates on the dark green double door
hinted at the business done inside. The left one read, “Garrett
Investigations”. The right plate had only one word…“Merlin”.
For the past three years, Julie had leased
her office space from Joe Garrett, a private investigator who lived
upstairs. Her office was on the right and his was on the left. For
a change, she was actually hoping to see him.
At that moment, Joe Garrett came out and
started down the front steps. He was a tall, broad-shouldered guy
in a dark tee shirt and jeans, a little older than Julie, perhaps
forty. He was ex-military, which probably accounted for his
no-nonsense haircut. He smiled when he looked up and saw her.
“Morning, Merlin,” he called out. “You’re up bright and early.”
As she approached, he saw the desolation on
her face. “What’s the matter? You look like your best friend
Julie handed him the paper coldly, folded to
show the article. “He
my best friend.”
“Oh, Jesus, I’m so sorry, Julie…”
Grief pierced the dullness like a sharp
knife. Joe was one of the few people she knew who called her
“Merlin” one time and “Julie” the next …just like Marc had always
“Wait a minute,” he said, scanning the
article. “Is this the guy you visit down in the Keys?”
“Yes, it is. Marc and his partner, David. I
haven’t been able to get David.”
“So it just happened yesterday?”
“I guess so,” she said, holding back tears.
“Joe, I was thinking about your friend, Jake Goldman, the attorney
in the Keys. Do you think he could get some more detail about
“I don’t know, but sure, I’ll call him.”
Concerned, he put a hand on her shoulder.
“Good, thank you,” she said, moving away.
Joe got the message. “Well, I’ll call you
“That’d be good. Thanks a lot. I’ll be here
most of the day.”
Julie turned, quickly climbed the steps and
went into her office.
Luz Romero, Julie’s assistant, was already at
her desk, sipping coffee. She was a tall, well endowed woman in her
late forties who was blessed with thick and glossy black hair which
she twisted in a chignon at the nape of her neck. Unfortunately,
the same Latin genes had given her equally heavy lashes which
seemed to pull the outer corners of her lovely brown eyes downward,
suggesting a sadness that was rarely the case.