Deadly Production (Mapleton Mystery Book 4)

BOOK: Deadly Production (Mapleton Mystery Book 4)
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DEADLY PRODUCTION

Terry Odell

 

Copyright

Copyright © 2014 by Terry Odell

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

 

DEADLY PRODUCTION

 

Dedication

For Lucy

1918 - 2015

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Gordon Hepler paused before rolling into his parking space behind the Mapleton, Colorado Police station and stared at the new sign proclaiming the spot as reserved for the Chief of Police. A subtle hint that the city approved of the job he was doing? A smile played around his lips. Nice to be accepted.

Interrupted by a vibration at his hip, he unclipped his cell and checked the screen, his smile turning into a frown as he replaced the phone into its case on his belt.

No text from the mayor, not even with a “forthwith” was going to spoil the moment. He glanced at the sign again. Had the mayor voted with or against the Town Council on this one?

He stepped out of his official police SUV and gazed at the burnished-gold aspens standing in stark contrast against the deep greens of the pines, like unruly streaks of paint, as the sky brightened with the sunrise. He inhaled deeply, drawing in the cold, crisp autumn air. Fall in Mapleton. His favorite season.

Gordon was early—a side effect of spending the night with Angie. She was up well before dawn, getting things ready for breakfast service at her diner, Daily Bread, and he’d grown to enjoy the peace and quiet of the station prior to shift change. Gave him time to catch up on reading the night reports before most of the citizens of Mapleton awoke.

He chirped the locks on his vehicle and used his key to open the rear entrance to his office. Inside, he flipped on the lights, shrugged out of his jacket, and draped it over the back of his chair. He savored the aroma of coffee from his travel mug—the one daily cup of fully caffeinated brew his doctor permitted—then appreciated that first sip. He needed to remember to ask Angie if her supplier made the same blend in decaf.

Only after he’d finished half his coffee did he reach for the phone and dial the mayor’s office. And what was the man doing in his office at seven on a Monday morning? Could it actually be important? The man tended to interrupt him at lunchtime, or when Gordon was about to leave the office. He put the phone on speaker and pulled up the latest budget figures on his computer. Had he gone overboard on his last requests?

“Chief Hepler. Thanks for returning my call.” The mayor’s voice carried a hint of irritation, not urgency. Upset at being kept waiting, even five minutes?

“Mayor McKenna,” Gordon said, and waited for the mayor to fill the silence, still scanning the budget. Nothing out of line. Had the grant for the in-vehicle computers come through? Or been rejected? But why would the mayor find out before Gordon did? After a pause, which Gordon assumed was because the mayor expected him to question the reason for the call, the mayor spoke again.

“I need you in my office.”

No please, no explanation. With a weary sigh, Gordon shut down his computer. “On my way.”

But first, Gordon moved to the closet and changed into his uniform. Looking like the chief gave him a boost of confidence, which always helped when dealing with politics. And besides, since Gordon had no clue how long the meeting would last, he’d be ready for his favorite task of the day—crossing guard duty at the elementary school.

He grabbed his jacket and hopped into his still-warm SUV. As he drove the short distance to City Hall, he automatically ran through the possible reasons for the summons. He reminded himself that the current mayor was hardly the corrupt tyrant his predecessor had been, but the immediate reaction to being called in without warning sent tendrils of doubt swirling through Gordon’s gut. He served at the pleasure of the mayor, and an out-of-the-blue call before seven a.m. was hardly going to come about because the mayor wanted to give Gordon a medal, or even shower him with praise.

After the special election to find a new mayor when Martin Alexander had left, Hunter McKenna had tested the waters one toe at a time. Now that he was hip-deep in running Mapleton, when it came to the police department, he’d become more hands-on than Gordon liked. In their last two face-to-faces, the mayor had hinted, and not so subtly, that Gordon’s contract had been with the old mayor, and it had been a gesture of goodwill on the mayor’s part not to demand blanket resignations from everyone.

Toe the line or you’re out
had come through loud and clear.

No, a summons couldn’t be good.

Bracing himself for whatever Mayor McKenna might want, Gordon parked on the street and took a deep breath, enjoying one more view of the fall colors before entering City Hall. He strode across the worn but polished wooden floor, smelling lemon and wax, his footfalls echoing in the empty lobby. Then, already preparing his expression with a smile, he climbed the curving staircase with its wrought-iron balustrade to the mayor’s office. After a brief moment to regroup in front of the frosted-glass paned door with its gilt lettering proclaiming it the Office of the Mayor, Gordon twisted the knob and entered.

The anteroom was empty. Apparently, the mayor hadn’t seen the need to involve his admin in this meeting. At least whatever the man had in store for Gordon, it was likely to be private. He tapped on the inner door.

“Come in.” Hunter McKenna’s deep bass carried across the space.

No asking who it was. Then again, at this hour nobody would be showing up unless they were expected. Gordon opened the door.

The mayor rose as Gordon entered, a campaign-worthy smile spreading beneath the man’s walrus-worthy moustache. He emerged from behind his desk and pumped Gordon’s hand. “Thank you so much for coming at such short notice.”

Only then did Gordon see the woman seated on the sofa to his right. He couldn’t help but assume the warm greeting was for her benefit, not his. She stood and crossed the room, extending her hand. “Marianna Spellman.”

Mari-
ah
-nah, she pronounced it. Big-city woman was Gordon’s first reaction. And not big as in Denver, but big as in New York, Los Angeles, or maybe Chicago. Gordon took in the fingernails with polished white tips—a French manicure, he recalled Angie saying. Smooth olive skin. Deep chestnut hair, streaked with strands of amber. Brown eyes outlined in black, shiny brown lids, and eyelashes that almost brushed the lenses of her rectangular black-rimmed glasses. A pert upturned nose that didn’t match the rest of the Mediterranean appearance. After-market, he surmised. Full red lips painted almost the shade of her short-skirted red suit. Knee-length shiny black boots—the high-heeled, pointy-toe kind, not the cowboy variety most people around Mapleton wore. A spicy perfume surrounded her—expensive, he guessed, although he wasn’t familiar with the scent.

“Gordon Hepler,” he said. And waited.

The mayor motioned her to her seat, and Gordon to a visitor’s chair across from the large cherry-wood desk. Mayor McKenna had refurnished the office when he’d taken over. Instead of a steely-eyed portrait of himself above his desk, a Rocky Mountain landscape provided a much less disconcerting view. The former Oriental carpet had been replaced with a beige area rug with blotches of shades of red that made Gordon think of spilled wine. He stepped across its plush surface and lowered himself into the comfortable leather chair. And waited once again.

Marianna Spellman didn’t seem to mind the silence, but the mayor was compelled to fill the vacuum. “I’m sure you’re wondering why we’re here this early.” Since the question was directed at Gordon, not Marianna Spellman, he assumed she was the reason he was here, but he gave a short dip of his chin in response.

“Miss Spellman is in Mapleton on business,” McKenna continued. “I’ll let her explain what she’s doing. I’ve assured her she’ll get your complete cooperation.” The mayor flashed his teeth again, smiling and nodding at Marianna as if to say,
See. You have nothing to worry about. Chief Hepler’s going to take care of everything.

With that, Gordon’s worry meter redlined. Right now, he figured a discussion of the budget would be more to his liking.

Marianna Spellman scooted to the edge of the loveseat. “I’ll start at the beginning, Chief Hepler.”

She reached beside her to a boot-matching, carryon-size black purse and fished around. Her smile widened as she handed him a business card.

Gordon scanned it, noting a logo of two stylized Vs. According to the card, she worked as a production manager for a company called Vista Ventures. No address, and he didn’t recognize the area code of the phone number. He smiled. “I’m listening, Miss Spellman.”

“Please, call me Marianna,” she said. After a brief nod in the mayor’s direction, she faced Gordon again, pausing expectantly. Was he supposed to say “Call me Gordon?” Wasn’t going to happen. Yet. He nodded, indicating she should get on with it.

“I’m with Vista Ventures, but I’m sure you figured that out from my card. We’re independent film makers, and I’m here for some shoots for our upcoming production, a film tentatively titled
Seesaw for One
.”

Shoots? What shoots? Why hadn’t he heard about this? He’d have remembered. Gordon’s pulse kicked up, but he kept his expression neutral. He’d take it up with the mayor later. “What is it you want from me, Miss—Marianna?”

The mayor interrupted before Marianna could speak. “I believe the preliminary arrangements were made during my transition into office, and I might have incorrectly assumed you’d been notified. I’ve assured Marianna she and Vista Ventures will have our full cooperation, and that you will provide traffic and crowd control for any of her shoots. In return, she’s assured me there will be as little disruption as possible to the normal, everyday routines of the citizens of our city.”

The way McKenna said
city
belied that Mapleton was hardly more than a small town. But one thing Gordon had learned was that regardless of the political head of the city, it was all about revenue. He imagined heavy-duty discussions of financial arrangements had already taken place, and his life was about to become much more complicated.

“I was here a couple of months ago,” Marianna continued, “and have locations and a shooting schedule laid out. Normally, we don’t operate quite so last-minute, but our first choice of location fell through, and I remembered thinking Mapleton would be a perfect choice. Mayor McKenna has been most cooperative.” She fished into the depths of the black hole of her purse again and handed him an envelope. “You’ll find everything in there.”

With no small amount of trepidation, Gordon opened the envelope.

“What you have is a schedule of our Mapleton shots,” Marianna said. “We’re also shooting in a couple of the more rural areas outside your city limits, and I’ve already received the necessary permissions for those. While it’s
possible
to recreate some of your locales on a sound stage setting, it would lack the flavor from shooting on location. We’ve found that locals are generally receptive to appearing as background characters, and property owners are well-compensated for any disruptions to their lives or livelihoods.”

Gordon scanned the pages, although it seemed he’d been included only as a formality, since the mayor had already given the project his stamp of approval. Hell, he assumed the whole reason for the mayor rubber-stamping the project was because it would pad Mapleton’s coffers, both in fees and in added tourism. The mayor was all about making Mapleton shine in the eyes of the public.

The words
Daily Bread
jumped out at Gordon. Three days of shooting on the street in front of the diner. How would Angie take that? His gut reaction was that she’d jump all over it. Then he checked the list of names and saw the actors who’d be involved. Damn right, Angie would jump all over it. Would she try to be cast as one of the extras? Or was that already decided? Gordon ignored the flutters in his gut. He wasn’t jealous. No, not one little bit.

“I guess—” Gordon said.

“Then it’s settled,” the mayor said before Gordon could finish his thought. “Welcome to Mapleton, Miss Spellman.”

She smiled, but there was no question she was several steps ahead of the mayor and had assumed no less than full cooperation. “The crew will be bringing in trailers and other staging equipment starting tomorrow. We’ll be at Aspen Lake first. After that, they’ll set up in the public parking lot adjacent to—” she consulted a tablet— “Finnegan’s, which is convenient to our shooting.”

She stood, picked up her purse, and extended her hand toward Gordon. “I’m looking forward to working with you. Perhaps we could start discussing what I’ll expect from you over breakfast at the Daily Bread.”

What she’d
expect
from him? Gordon shot a glance at the mayor, but the man either didn’t hear Marianna’s words, or didn’t catch the undertones. She was already taking control.

BOOK: Deadly Production (Mapleton Mystery Book 4)
13.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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