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Authors: Merry Jones

Outside Eden

BOOK: Outside Eden
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Table of Contents

A Selection of Recent Titles by Merry Jones

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Harold Clemmons Had ...

A Selection of Recent Titles by Merry Jones

The Harper Jennings Series

 

SUMMER SESSION *

BEHIND THE WALLS *

WINTER BREAK *

OUTSIDE EDEN *

 

THE NANNY MURDERS

THE RIVER KILLINGS

THE DEADLY NEIGHBORS

THE BORROWED AND BLUE MURDERS

 

* available from Severn House

OUTSIDE EDEN
A Harper Jennings Mystery
Merry Jones

 

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

 
 

First published in Great Britain and the USA 2013 by

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital

an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited

Copyright © 2013 by Merry Jones.

The right of Merry Jones to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Jones, Merry Bloch.

Outside Eden. – (The Harper Jennings series ; 4)

1. Jennings, Harper (Fictitious character)–Fiction.

2. Evil eye–Fiction. 3. Women veterans–Fiction. 4. Iraq

War, 2003–2011–Veterans–Fiction. 5. Tel Aviv (Israel)–

Fiction. 6. Suspense fiction.

I. Title II. Series

813.6-dc23

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8264-6 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-417-1 (epub)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

To Robin, Baille and Neely

Acknowledgements

Deepest thanks to:

Rebecca Strauss, my agent at McIntosh and Otis;

the team at Severn House, especially Rachel Simpson Hutchens, my editor;

Adi and Gal Ben Haim and the many other Israelis who helped me get a sense of life there,

Robin, Baille and Neely, who helped me trek around Israel for research;

Supportive fellow members of the Philadelphia Liars Club, including Jonathan Maberry, Gregory Frost, Solomon Jones, Jon McGoran, Kelly Simmons, Marie Lamba, Dennis Tafoya, Don Lafferty, Keith Strunk, Keith DeCandido, Ed Pettit, Steve Susco and Chuck Wendig;

My encouraging friends and family, most of all, my first reader and beloved husband, Robin.

H
arold Clemmons had been cheated. Suckered. Scammed. Duped.

Even worse: his wife had been the one to discover it. She’d gone online, totaling their credit card expenses, and boom – there it was. A charge for two hundred dollars. And he’d caught hell about it. Dot had kept him up the whole damned night, listing all the treasures she could have bought for the money if he hadn’t simply signed it away. Even now, as he approached the gate of the shuk, he could still hear her.

‘Didn’t you even look at the sales slip? You just signed? Genius. They could have put down ten times the amount – they could have put down anything they wanted. Why don’t you just wear a sign saying, “I’m a chump; cheat me. Take my money!”’ Dot’s voice had a piercing, nasal twang that jangled his skull, reverberated in his mind. ‘So where is it?’ She’d stared at him, her hands on her hips.

It took a moment for him to realize that ‘it’ was the receipt for the purchase. He had no idea where the thing was, hadn’t paid attention. They’d been in a crowded street in the teeming marketplace of Jerusalem’s Old City, and she’d bought souvenirs for what amounted to less than twenty dollars. Was he supposed to have kept track of every receipt for every paltry purchase she made? How was he supposed to have known the guy was going to rip him off? Dutifully, to appease her, he’d gone through his wallet and miraculously he’d found the thing. Sixty-eight shekels.

But Dot had been unrelenting. She’d gone on and on, calling him everything she could think of – irresponsible, careless, foolish, soft. Saying that he was an easy mark, that he all but invited people to take advantage of him, that it was the same back home. That he didn’t command respect, let alone fear. Sometime after two in the morning, he’d pretended to be asleep, while in reality he’d lain awake, simmering. Mad at the vendor, mad at Dot. Mad enough that, as soon as the sun came up, he’d gotten up and showered, gone downstairs to breakfast, leaving Dot asleep, mouth wide open, but at least silent.

As soon as the shops opened, Harold entered the Jaffa Gate, passing through the tall white granite walls into the Old City. He hurried past security guards and busloads of tourists, rehearsing what he would say to the vendor, if he could find him. Practicing standing tall and looking fierce like a man not to be messed with. At some point he stopped, getting his bearings, not sure exactly where he was. He walked along a main street, saw endless rows of shops. Clusters of travelers and shoppers. Schoolgirls in plaid skirts – but wait. Their uniforms looked Catholic or maybe Greek Orthodox. Definitely not Muslim. So he must have wandered out of the Muslim section, away from his vendor.

Harold changed direction, wandering the labyrinth of intersecting paths in the shuk, surrounded by booths displaying their wares. Sandals, jewelry, water pipes, scarves. Fragrant spices. Aromatic toasted nuts. Fresh fruits and flowers. Hundreds of booths, but not the booth he was looking for.

The morning was warm, and Harold’s shirt was already damp. He went up an alleyway, around a corner, around another. Every display seemed familiar, identical. Vendors called to him: ‘Come, sir. Buy a gift for your wife.’

‘I have excellent souvenirs for you to bring home. Anything you like.’

‘Come in. Take a look – just for one minute.’

Harold kept moving, grinding his teeth, determined to find the culprit. Turning left, then right, he found himself in a dank and shadowy passageway that came to a dead end. Harold stopped. He was wet with sweat, breathing too hard. Needed to slow down, cool down. Wiping his brow, he retraced his steps to the wider alley and continued searching the booths, hearing the clamor, seeing the monotony of trinkets, T-shirts, brass camels, brocade elephants, wallets, candlesticks, sun hats, harem pants. How was he to find the vendor he was looking for?

In fact, he almost didn’t. He walked right by it, probably more than once, but finally, he saw them: Big brown eyes, too big for their bony face. Dark hair clipped almost to his scalp.

The thieving vendor.

Harold pushed past a hanging carpet, bumped a rack of dresses, and entered the tiny shop.

The vendor smiled broadly as if he’d never seen him before. ‘May I help you?’

Harold stood at the small wooden board that served as a counter, shoved a display of beaded necklaces and charm bracelets to the side, dumping out his sack of key chains and scarves. He stood up tall and narrowed his eyes. ‘I’m returning these . . .’

‘Sorry?’ The vendor’s eyes widened, his hands raised, palms up.

‘I bought these from you yesterday . . .’

‘I don’t know. I see many customers.’

‘Well, I know. You sold me this stuff.’ Harold’s voice sounded thin. His pulse pounded, face sweltered. Sweat rolled down his back. ‘And you overcharged my—’

‘But why would you return these things?’ The vendor picked up a key chain, examining it. ‘Nothing is wrong with the merchandise.’

‘Seriously? It’s crap—’


Crap
?’

‘And you charged me sixty-eight shekels for it, but you billed my credit card—’

‘Only sixty-eight shekel? For all this? Well, you must have bargained well. That was an excellent price—’

‘No – that’s not the point.’ Harold felt flustered, wiped his forehead. ‘Point is you overcharged me—’

‘But all our sales are final. So what I can do for you, because I want you to be happy, is to let you exchange this—’

‘No, I don’t want to exchange anything. I want my money back.’ Harold sensed people standing behind him, watching. Fine. He’d let others know what was going on in this place. ‘You charged my credit card two hundred American dollars – that’s a lot more that sixty-eight shekels.’

The vendor looked astonished. ‘This is not possible – show me the paperwork.’ The vendor scowled, crossed his arms.

Harold presented his receipt.

‘This says sixty-eight shekels.’ The vendor pointed to the number.

‘And I was charged six hundred and eighty.’

‘No, sixty-eight. See?’

‘But you charged my credit card—’

‘How can I be sure?’

Harold took his phone out, began punching up the credit card information his wife had obtained the day before. He heard the people behind him moving, watching, listening. Good. If he embarrassed the vendor enough, maybe he’d get his refund.

The vendor didn’t wait. He waved his hands. ‘Either way, it’s between you and your credit card company. It doesn’t involve me. Anyway, we don’t give refunds. I’ll tell you what; look around. Find something you like. I’ll give you a good price . . .’

‘Nothing doing.’ Harold squared his shoulders, trying to look powerful. ‘I want you to refund my credit card!’

‘Is there a problem, Ahmed?’ Someone bumped Harold from behind; someone else stood beside him, shoulder to shoulder.

Harold turned. Three beefy men with dark shining eyes stood in an arc around him.

‘No, no problem,’ the vendor said. ‘This man simply can’t make up his mind what to buy.’

Harold was surrounded. The vendor in front of him, a man to his side, two others blocking his exit.

‘What will it be?’ The vendor smiled, gestured at the wall of brass figurines. ‘How about a lovely chimpanzee? Only six hundred and eighty shekel.’ He lifted one, held it out.

Harold turned slowly, facing the three newcomers, looking from one to the other. Finally, head down, he stepped toward them. They didn’t move. He was alone, outnumbered in the crowded, cubby-holed shuk. If they wanted to, they could make him disappear, never to be seen again. Never return to the hotel; never again see Dot or his mother in Ohio.

‘Excuse me.’ He turned to leave, managing to look the largest one in the eye.

‘Wait,’ said Ahmed, the vendor. ‘You forgot your chimpanzee.’

Harold looked at him, at the brass ape, then at the men blocking his way.

‘Only six hundred and eighty shekel.’ Ahmed began wrapping the thing up.

Harold’s face burned; blood roared in his head. He was trapped. He reached into his pocket, took out his credit card. Handed it to Ahmed, who processed the purchase and handed the package to Harold, smiling. ‘Enjoy your ape.’

Harold turned to go, faced a wall of large, smirking men.

The biggest one waited a beat, then stepped back, clearing the way. Harold rushed out of the booth, down the passageway. At the corner, he looked back, saw the men following him. He kept going, hurrying. Pushing past shoppers, going deeper and deeper into the shuk, becoming completely lost. Sweat poured down his face; he didn’t bother to wipe it away. It trickled down his nose, off the tip. He kept moving, trying to get away, running up a staircase, down a narrow lane, around shoppers, through a small courtyard. Finally, rounding a corner, he came to a shadowy, abandoned area where the booths were all shuttered. He stopped, looked back, didn’t see the men. He stepped back, peeked around the corner. Saw nobody. He’d lost them. Probably they were back with Ahmed, laughing at him, dividing up the money from the dumb American they’d chased away and ripped off. Twice.

His face got red again. He could feel it, hot and pulsing. But never mind. All he wanted now was to get back to his hotel. He thought of Dot, what she’d do when she found out he hadn’t gotten a refund – that, instead, he’d dropped another 680 shekels. Harold gathered his breath, trying to figure out what to tell her, and realized that he’d have to find his way out of the tangled paths of the shuk before he could tell her anything. Why had he ever set foot in the cursed place? He should have left it alone, let Dot rant and scold. But no, he’d had to be a hero, had to show her what a tough guy he was. How he could fix it. He regarded the package in his hand.

The chimpanzee was an insult, a symbol of his humiliation. He looked for a trash can to throw it away, then saw two people approaching. They looked American; one wore a T-shirt and jeans, the other a plastic raincoat. Odd, since it was hot and there was no chance of rain. But Harold was elated; the two would help him find his way out of this godforsaken maze. He walked toward them, and they smiled, came closer.

BOOK: Outside Eden
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