Wednesday, April 1, 2015

As promised, here it is!

Even though it's April Fool's day, I'm not going to trick you. I really am keeping my promise to post the first chapter of my second Niki Brooks mystery, Beach House.

I'm so excited to bring Niki back to life and hope you'll enjoy her latest adventure. This story involves a few of the characters from her first exploit and introduces some fun and exciting NEW characters! But you'll have to read the entire book to meet them.

Let me know how you like this first little look!





Chapter 1

“I’m aiming right between your eyes, asshole!”
Niki cocked the hammer on her .38 Special and took a deep breath as she zeroed in on her target. Once certain her feet were firmly planted and her gun was pointed right where she wanted, she squeezed the trigger releasing the bullet.
“I hope you die you son-of-a-bitch!” she wailed as she pulled the trigger.
“Calm down, sweetie!” Rico said, stepping back to face Niki. “This is only target practice.” He leaned toward his own firing lane and frowned. “I didn’t hit my smiley face once. I told you it would not be good for me to shoot a gun.”
“Rico, it’s been thirty years since you accidentally killed that bird. You should forgive yourself and get over it.”
“That’s the last memory I have of being with my father,” he said. “My mom never let me see him again after that. Sophia said he was a bad influence. She hates guns—and loves birds.”
Niki Brooks and her sidekick, Enrique Rivera Rodriquez Gonzales, aka Rico, had just finished their last shooting lesson included in the “Buy Four Get Four Free” discount program offered at the country’s largest indoor shooting range, Scottsdale Gun Club. 
“It was nice of them to let me take the Ladies of Liberty lessons with you even though I’m not a lady,” Rico said.
“Well, you kinda’ are,” Niki said.
“Still, I think it will be best for me to use brawn and brains, not bullets, in our new PI business.”
Thinking of her own slim five foot, seven inch frame, Niki knew she would have to rely on Rico if an altercation ever did become physical. “I will have to look to you for the brawn, we both have brains and hopefully, neither of us will have to use bullets,” she answered. “Lorna claims Russell doesn’t even know how to shoot a water pistol at the carnival. Let’s hope she’s right.”
Niki’s good friend and former call girl employee, Lorna Simms, was missing and Niki was certain Lorna’s ex-husband, Russell, had taken her. Niki and her right-hand gay man, Rico, were planning to find her.
For a Latin, Rico was a brawny man: six feet, two inches tall and fifty inches in girth. His chiseled muscle weighed in at roughly two hundred pounds. You wouldn’t know he was gay by looking at him, but the minute he opened his mouth to speak, all bets were off.
Niki turned back to her target and released three more bullets—boom! boom! boom!—before removing her ear covers and laying her gun down on the counter. She pushed her cinnamon curls off her forehead and removed her clear plastic eye protectors.
As she pressed the button to retrieve her target sheet, the Range Master, who looked like he had just walked off the set of Sons of Anarchy, walked by. “I’m not sure we’ve ever had someone so enthusiastic about shooting practice before. I could hear you over the gunfire.”
“I need to find the loser who has kidnapped my friend,” Niki said. “And when I do, I need to be prepared.”
“But if you kill him, will you find your friend?” he asked.
Niki took the target sheet from its hanger and nodded her head in pleasure. “Not too bad, huh?” She was not expecting a response from anyone; she was simply admiring her own work. Then she addressed the manager’s comments. “No,” she answered. “I guess killing Russell first would reduce my chances of finding Lorna since he’s the only lead we have.”
The manager smiled. “Let me know if you need any more ammo.”
Niki motioned for Rico to join her outside the range. He removed his protective gear and followed behind her.
“I feel like I’ve had enough self-defense training,” she said as they entered into the main room of the gun club.
“For the day?” Rico asked.
“No, forever. And for today. I couldn’t handle being next to that cannon the guy in the wheelchair was shooting. I jumped three feet every time that thing went off.”
“I know,” Rico agreed. “When would a gun like that ever be necessary? The barrel on that thing was a foot long. And his hygiene. Did you see the hair growing down the back of his neck?”
“Eeewww,” Niki sighed. “No, and I’m glad you didn’t point that out earlier.”
She turned to see the man in the wheelchair coming out of the gun range just as Rico turned his back toward him. “U-S-G-A,” Rico muttered.
“What?” Niki was confused. She turned to Rico and repeated her question. “What did you say?”
“I was speaking to him,” Rico whispered, nodding toward the man. “Well, not to him directly.”
Niki waited until she was certain the man with the cannon was out of earshot. “And what is U-S-G-A? Is that text abbreviations again? You know I don’t speak text.”
“Come on honey, everyone speaks text. Get with the current century. U-S-G-A.”
“Under-Siege-Get-Away?”
“No! No! You-Stink-Go-Away!” Rico slapped Niki on the shoulder. “I couldn’t smell him in there with all the gun smoke his cannon was leaving behind but out here, it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t bathe very often.”
Completely ignoring Rico’s comments about the man’s lack of hygiene, Niki went back to the text abbreviation. “How did you expect me—or anyone—to know what that stood for? I don’t think that’s one people use very often, at least not adult people.” Niki grabbed Rico’s elbow, pulling him toward the gun display area. “No more text speak. I have to choose what firearm I want in case of a potential altercation with Russell. David suggested I look at a semi-automatic and promised he’ll clean it for me. He was a sharp shooter in the Army, you know.”
Niki had been married to David Brooks for over twenty-five years . They had met at a gas station on her lunch break and said “I Do” just six months later. Her friends and family had told her she was nuts but she knew he was The One. And she had been right. David had been a wonderfully supportive husband, probably more supportive than she deserved. They shared two beautiful daughters, Grace and Lilly, and one large dog, a one-hundred-pound Labradoodle named Hudson. Although David was leery of Niki’s plans to play PI with Rico to try to find their friend Lorna, he had agreed not to stop her. This latest planned adventure was tame compared to what David had put up with in the past.
Niki saw the man in the wheelchair heading back their way and nodded to Rico, who took a deep breath and held it while the man rolled by. “I do know that,” Rico said as he expelled his breath after the man had passed. “Why isn’t he here? I thought he was going to check out the guns with you.”
“He’s in Tucson opening his new mortgage office so this is a perfect time for you and me to go look for Russell and Lorna. He’s going to be gone at least a couple weeks and of course, the girls have their own lives now so they won’t miss me.”
As young adults, Grace and Lilly were old enough to fend for themselves. Niki knew she and David had given them the proper foundation to make good decisions on their own. Each lived in their own condo in Tempe while attending college but Lilly had agreed to stay at Niki’s to take care of Hudson while both Niki and David were gone.
“How exciting for David,” Rico acknowledged, “but let’s get back to you. You do realize that as a convicted felon you can’t buy a gun, right?”
I don’t plan to buy it.”
“That means I’m buying it, doesn’t it?”
“I thought that was a given,” Niki said. “Let’s pick out something now so we can start our search as soon as possible. We need to get this show on the road.” They stopped at the front desk to turn in their rentals. Niki pulled Rico through the lobby which led to the retail gun shop in an adjoining building. There were rows and rows of slanted plastic shelving affixed to the back wall. Each shelf held eight to ten guns. Niki had no idea where to start.
A hairy young man, maybe in his mid-thirties, followed them into the room. “Can I help you choose a gun?” he asked. His head sported a mop of dark curls and his chin and cheeks were covered to match. He was dressed head-to-toe in mismatched camo.
Apparently resigned to the fact that he would purchase a gun in his name for Niki’s use, Rico immediately spotted something he liked. “Honey,” he said, “look at this darling pink thing!” Rico was waving a neon pink revolver in Niki’s face. “You could add bling down the handle. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?” He was showcasing the gun like Vanna White showcases letters.
Niki noticed the gun shop employee rolling his eyes.
“No,” Niki shook her head. “I’m not a girlie girl, Rico. You know that.”
“What are you looking for?” the employee asked.
“I’m not sure,” Niki said. “My friend here is the one looking.” She pulled Rico to her side, forcing him to put down the pink gun.
Rico looked the employee up and down. “Are you one of those survival guys?” he asked.
The man seemed perplexed.
“You know, one of those guys you see on reality TV who goes out into the woods with a jackknife and some rope and builds a shopping mall?”
“Dude.” The man’s voice was stern. “Are you here to buy a gun or just to piss me off?”
Niki immediately jumped in. “That Smith & Wesson looks good.” She pointed to a .45 Smith & Wesson, noticing on the label that it was a semi-automatic model. David had said semi-automatics were slimmer, lighter and easier to conceal. They also held more rounds of ammunition. He said if she were ever to find herself in a compromising position, she would not want to depend on only one shot to stop her assailant, advising one should always fire at least three rounds, just to be sure.
“What was that all about?” Niki asked as they made their way to her car. “You could have gotten us killed!”
“I think you’re exaggerating,” he said. “Besides, I meant it as a compliment. He reminded me of Grizzly Adams and I found him oddly attractive.”
“If that’s your idea of flirting, you need to go back to junior high.”
They got settled into Niki’s Escalade for the ten-minute drive to Rico’s bungalow.
            Niki lowered the thermostat on the driver’s side to seventy-two. The air in August in Phoenix felt like car exhaust.  
            “What about the police looking for Russell after his hit-and-run?” she asked, enjoying the cool air directly on her face. “Have you gotten an update on that?”
            “Last I heard they had zero leads on where Russell may have gone and no one on the victim’s side is raising a stink so the cops don’t seem to be motivated.”
            “You know he was either going to or coming from Lorna’s apartment the night he hit that poor man and since no one has heard from Lorna since that night—”
            “That’s not exactly true,” Rico said, interrupting Niki.
            “Wait. What do you mean? Has Lorna contacted someone?” Niki had been ‘away’ at the Phoenix Women’s Correctional Facility for the previous ninety days doing time for a slight misunderstanding with the authorities—something about a money laundering felony connected to her call girl business—so she wasn’t yet fully up-to-date on the situation involving Lorna’s disappearance.
            “They’ve dropped her missing person’s case, Nik.”
            “WHAT?” Niki was stunned. She pulled the Escalade over to the side of the road and stopped so she could fully focus on the conversation. “They have to know that Russell took her. It’s been three months and no one has heard from her.”
            “They don’t consider Lorna ‘missing’.”
            “When did they decide that? That day we met them at her apartment they encouraged us to file a missing person’s report because they said it appeared there may have been foul play.”
“A few weeks after you went . . . away . . . they called me to say they were dropping the case. They had not been able to find any other information to lead them to believe she was taken against her will. I heard then that even her parents don’t believe she’s been kidnapped.”
“Unbelievable.” Niki pushed her curls off her face. She was beginning to sweat, even with the air conditioning on.
            “Detective Rosco called me yesterday. Apparently her parents produced a letter from her saying she left with Russell on her own. I didn’t want to tell you before your gun lessons were over as I knew you would take off without being properly trained.”
            “Rico, you know that can’t be true! Russell forced her to send that letter! She would have never gotten back with him, especially knowing that he’s wanted in Phoenix for a hit-and-run. Now more than ever I know he’s behind this. We have to find her on our own then.” Niki turned the thermostat even lower due to her body temperature rising even higher. “Now I’m trained and tomorrow I will be armed . . . and dangerous. He’s going to be sorry he messed with one of my girls.” She checked over her left shoulder to make sure she could safely pull back into the traffic and put the Escalade in ‘drive’.
            “Niki, sweetie,” Rico said sternly, leaning toward her to pat her knee. “I understand your momma bear instincts when it comes to Lorna, but you’re not her madam anymore and going after her crazy ex-husband half-cocked—pun intended—is not smart. We need help to handle this. But we have to be careful. We don’t have our PI license yet so if we get into trouble, we’re in B-I-G trouble.” Rico curled his lip. “I was spelling. That wasn’t a text acronym.”
            “In the past few years I’ve transitioned from a real estate broker to a call girl madam and now it’s time for me to begin again . . . again,” Niki said. “We all knew the madam thing was not a long-term plan. Maybe our thrift store shopping skills will make us great at hunting for missing people too.”
            “One can only hope,” Rico sighed.
            “As our new employer, we’ve promised VeVe we will find her best friend. And Lorna means so much more to all of us now. I realize they aren’t ‘my girls’ anymore but all the girls who worked for me have become my friends. VeVe is willing to pay us and since the cops aren’t doing anything, we are Lorna’s only hope.”
            “Yes, I agree. But can I say one more thing?”
            “If I said no, would that stop you?”
            Rico sighed. “I don’t think it’s wise to take a gun along.”
            “I’m not planning to use it but I am going to carry a weapon for protection. We have no idea of what—or who—we may run into.”
            “Yes, I understand you have the right to bear arms, but because you’re a convicted felon, for you that means wearing a sleeveless top. Get it? B-a-r-e arms?”
            “Yeah. I get it.” Niki did not find Rico’s humor amusing. “Then let’s hope if we get into an altercation with Russell, you’ll be able to use your brawn to take him down and it won’t be necessary for me to draw my weapon.”
            “I don’t like that idea either,” Rico said.
            “I didn’t think you would.”
            Despite turning down the temperature, Niki continued to sweat and grabbed a Starbucks napkin from the driver’s door pocket to swipe across her forehead. Reality had set in. “Holy crap, Rico. I thought we would be able to work with the police to find Lorna but now we’re going to be on our own to get to her back before Russell does something really stupid.”
            “Let’s hope it’s not already too late,” Rico sighed. “And let’s try hard not to do something stupid ourselves.”
            “We have to remain positive,” Niki urged. “I’ve watched CSI—Miami and Las Vegas, Law & Order, and Castle for years. I’m sure I’ve learned something that will come in handy.”


1 comment:

  1. The first chapter of your Niki adventure is quite interesting.Is it based on your real life.Looking forward to read remaining chapters of your book.

    ReplyDelete