Ransom Beach (Stephanie Chalice Thrillers Book 2)

BOOK: Ransom Beach (Stephanie Chalice Thrillers Book 2)
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Ransom Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawrence Kelter

Ransom Beach Copyright © 2008 by Lawrence Kelter

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.

 

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Formatting by Bob Houston eBook Formatting

 

Fourth Edition – November 2012

 

 

For Ken

 

"Good is good and bad is bad. But you don't know which one you had."


Sheryl Crow

One—OUT OF THE BAG

 

The sky was gray above the rooftop peaks. A construction worker jack-hammered the asphalt as steam billowed from an open manhole cover and ascended through the frigid air.

Gil Diaz watched attentively from his ground floor apartment window as he sipped rum from his favorite glass, the heavy one, the one with the thick base that filled the expanse of his huge hand. He weighed it in his open palm, admiring its heft. "Take someone's kid? Really, you would do that?"

"I don't know. I'm just saying. I mean it's an idea. And the money—"

"That's pretty cold, man—you're not exactly a family man, huh?"

"Family man? No."

"I got an eight-year-old niece. I tell you right now, someone mess with my sister's kid, I'll stick my boot right up their ass—know what I mean?" Diaz had lived a cursed life; always in the wrong place at the wrong time—the guy that always took the fall. He was no longer prone to hasty decisions.

"New York's a tough town—I'm just trying to score a little cash. Shit happens every day, man. I mean what's the big deal?"

"New York's a tough town, but not as tough as prison—you thought about that? Bad choices, bro—they cost you."

"Not worried about prison, I—"

"You nothing, man. You don't know about prison. So you been through juvie, big fucking deal. Juvie ain't prison—it's pussy shit compared to the joint. You don't know what it's like. It'll change you, man. It'll change you for life."

"You sound like one of those damn born agains...I ain't worried cause I ain't gonna get caught."

"Na,
man,
that's fucked up. I mean you know I ain't no Boy Scout but I'm not gonna get messed up with any shit like that. A kid, bro, na, that's a real bad idea." Diaz turned back toward his guest. He glared at him unhappily. "Hey, stop fooling around with that thing."

"Sorry."

"Just be careful with it—ain't no toy."

"Got it."

Diaz walked back to the kitchen table and added a splash of
Captain Morgan
to his empty glass. He offered another hit to his guest, but he refused. "Other ways to make a buck, bro... Damn."

"I'm not good with my hands like you."

"Check the want ads, man. There's plenty of work if you ain't lazy."

"Ain't like I'm gonna hurt the kid—it's just about the money."

"What if something goes wrong? You prepared to deal with that? You want a dead kid on your conscience?"

"Ain't nothing going wrong; it's all been figured."

"Oh, so now you're some kind of genius mastermind or something? Come a long way, bro." Diaz chuckled. "Why don't you knock over a convenience store first; work your way up slow-like. How much money you figure on getting anyway?"

"Lots."

"What's that mean?"

"A shit load."

"A shit load? Okay, so who's kid you thinking about snatching, Bill Gates?"

"No."

"No, then who?"

"You in or out?"

"I ain't in for nothing. I'm just asking."

"Don't you worry, they gonna pay plenty for this kid."

"You think you just gonna waltz in and take some billionaire's freaking kid? They got security, man. They got ex-CIA, Navy SEALS and shit. They'll stick a fucking homer up your ass. You think these are some fools you're playing with?"

"I told you—all figured out."

"Man I hope you're right—I think swiping a kid's a federal crime. You know how they treat kidnappers in the Federal penitentiary?" Diaz shook his head woefully. "Now I told you to stop playing with that thing."

"Sorry."

"Don't be sorry, man, just put it down."

"Okay."

"So I'm asking you, you serious about this?"

"Dead serious. So you want in or what?"

Diaz was back at the window. Outside, one of the construction workers blew into his hands for warmth. "Shit, imagine working outside on a day like this—freeze your balls off." Diaz leaned against the radiator and felt the heat permeate his jeans. It wasn't so long ago that he'd be outside working on a brutal winter day just like this one. His apartment wasn't much, but it was warm and he was current on his bills. "No man, count me out."

"That's a shame, man, I was depending on you."

The sound of the revolver's hammer snapping into place spun Diaz around. "That's it, bro, give me that, I'm gonna put it away."

"Just cool out."

"No, man, you don't listen. Just put it—don't point that at me, asshole. Put it the fuck down."

Outside, the jarring thunder of the jackhammer obliterated the sound of the discharging .38 and the sound of the heavy glass as it tumbled from Diaz' hand and crashed to the floor.

Two—DREAM
A LITTLE DREAM
FOR
ME

 

The cathedral doors opened. Three hundred heads snapped in my direction like Disney Animatronic robots. Ma's eyes burned into me, imploring me to take the first step. I could feel her urging me—could read the words on her lips. "Do it, Stephanie. For God's sake, just do it!" I could see the wheels turning in her head—she was already changing diapers and knitting booties—God, she can be scary. Here we go: Stephanie Chalice about to walk down the aisle. Can you believe this?

I scanned the well wishers before me—warm smiles all around. All the women were saying, "She's so beautiful." The men were happy that I was sporting a little cleavage.

My bridesmaids were dabbing at tears—probably crying about having to shell out five hundred a piece for the dresses they were wearing. I'm not the type to spend other people's money, but what the hell—it was, after all, my wedding, and I wasn't going to have the bridesmaids wearing chiffon muumuus from the Jaclyn Smith Collection at K-Mart.

The best man leered at the maid of honor. She was looking fine in her Donna Karan strapless. She leered back. Do you believe that little slut? She's engaged to my cousin, Anthony.

What am I doing here anyway? My betrothed's eyes beamed at me from the wedding altar, sparkling with anticipation. Oh, yeah, now I remember—him. Gus Lido looked amazing in his topcoat and tails. I wondered if anything that spectacular looking could last. The odds were against it—two New York City cops taking their vows at the dawn of the twenty-first century. What were the chances?

I took that big first step; one year from my first anniversary, two years from maternity clothes, three years from Prozac, four years from my first extramarital affair, and five years from legal separation. Jesus Christ, get me the hell out of here!

"Stephanie." I heard a voice calling from behind me, a compelling, throaty baritone.

Batman stepped up alongside me, his cape bristling behind him—I stopped dead in my tracks and took his arm. My mouth dropped. "Caped Crusader, what in the name of all that's holy are you doing here?" His dark eyes called out to me from behind the mask. I was close enough to notice that the areas around his eyes were blackened. "Say, are you wearing mascara?"

"Face paint, actually. The stuff football players smear under their eyes to cut down on glare," he replied.

"Oh, I see. That's ever so much more butch." I'd never been this close to a real, live superhero before. I took the opportunity to give him a thorough once over: the broad shoulders, the flowing cape, the chiseled body armor—wow, nice codpiece.

"You don't have to go through with this, Stephanie. You've got your whole life in front of you and the Joker's returned to plague Gotham City. I could really use your help."

I glanced back at Gus. The presence of a brooding superhero didn't seem to affect him one iota. "It'd break Gus' heart."

"Gus is a big boy, he'll get over it," Batman whispered. "We can fight crime together, just the two of us."

"Gus means the world to me."

"Does he have any really cool gadgets? How about a Bat Signal?"

"No, but...what about the Boy Wonder?"

Batman shrugged. "He'll deal. He can still live at stately Wayne Manor—not too shabby for a kid whose family traveled with the circus. Are you completely sure you're ready to devote the rest of your life to one man?"

Admittedly, Batman wasn't half wrong. Gus and I had only been dating six months. True, it had been an incredible six months, but there was definitely an argument to be made for greater familiarity. "When can I see the Bat Cave?"

He scooped me up in his arms. "How about now?"

Wow, this is one take-charge guy.

I felt the warmth of his face next to mine. His incredible strength pervaded my entire body. His Kevlar-covered muscles rippled—at least they appeared to. His dark eyes gleamed. God only knew what this twisted creature had on his mind. Do you think he goes
commando under
the
body
armor? Would there be a three-way with him and Robin? "I'm not sure about this, Batman. I'm really in love with Gus."

Batman pointed to the skylight in the cathedral's ceiling. He had one of those grappling hook gadget thingies in his hand. "You'll have to make up your mind, Stephanie. The Batmobile's parked in a tow-away zone."

I looked up toward the skylight, my eyes twinkling like an awestruck teenage girl's. "Are we going up there?" Batman nodded. He was so masterful and self-assured. "Promise you'll never ask me to clean Wayne manor. I hate cleaning and the mansion is so damn big."

"No cleaning," he assured me. "Alfred would never allow it."

I turned to Gus and closed my eyes. I heard his soft voice calling to me. It started off in the distance and then drew closer.

"Stephanie. Stephanie." My eyelids felt so heavy. I opened them slowly. Lido was next to me in bed. "You were dreaming again."

"Oh," I said with a sleepy face and a hint of disappointment, which I hoped he wouldn't pick up on. Lido's gorgeous and I love him deeply, but you have to admit that I was in the middle of one hell of a lusty fantasy. Better he shouldn't suspect, don't you think? Anyway, I pretended to be really groggy. "Let me go back to sleep."

"You alright?" Lido asked with concern.

"I'm fine." More than fine actually. I felt warm and tingly all over.

"You were moaning like a virgin during a Zulu mating ritual."

Now that made sense. "Oh?" There was no covering up that one. I shrugged and tried to look innocent, but Lido wasn't buying it.

"What were you dreaming about?" he asked pointedly.

I sat up. Lido did the same. He was naked from the waist up. The gym was paying off big dividends—his chest and abs were sliced and diced—just the way I like my meals prepared. "Oh, nothing," I said. How do you tell your man that you just pictured him on the wedding altar and fled in the arms of another man? Do you think he'd understand? I mean it was only a dream and it was Batman for Christ's sake.

"You might want to talk with Dr. Twain if your dreams persist."

BOOK: Ransom Beach (Stephanie Chalice Thrillers Book 2)
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