Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Hunt for Avon’s Ghost

By DB Dakota
Cozy Mystery, 239 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans

From down the hall, Jorge hurried forward. “What took you so long?”

“It was that El Ecbat what’s-his-name guy that Jake rescued.”

“Do tell. Name? Can’t help you. I don’t keep lists.”

Thornburgh said, “I can tell you who it was not, and that name, I’ll swear, is Jester Yorick. Not him, not Yorick. The guy I’m bettin’ on who did the thieving—Gwen Bonnard told me his name is Vuelta Attar Hakim.”

“Pleased to hear that, except I don’t remember the character, haven’t heard of him. Now, how about me running along? I’ve got another case that—”

“Wait a minute. You know what? I take it back about Yorick. He still could be— Think clockwork.”

“I will, I will.” Prima frowned. “I did. Now what?”

“One half of the heist team. Yorick waited outside in the bushes while Hakim waited in the closet.”

“Everybody’s waiting. Waiting for what?”

“For the guard in the lobby, Brad Hardy, to leave,” she replied. “His shift ends sometime around midnight.”

“What happened after that?”

“How’s this? There’s only one way Hakim could have done it. He sneaks out of his hiding closet inside, this one right here that I was just in, and walks back through the empty building, the totally vacant conservatory…sneaks back to the lobby, grabs up the lighthouse, trots back to the little back-end service door and with the lighthouse in the bag, squeezes out onto the grass in the bushes, fastens the latch and, wow, outta here.”

“What about the clockwork Yorick person?”

“That’s my question too. What about Yorick? We don’t need Yorick. Hakim didn’t use him. Did it all by himself. So, okay, he fastens the latch, Hakim does, and—”

“He’s gone from here.” Prima chuckled. “By himself, alone, solo. Gotcha.”

“Makes a run for it, yep.”

“Where to?”

“El Ecbat, don’t you imagine? Think you anyplace else?” Thornburgh asked.

“Fine. But if you have plans to go there, you can’t, we can’t, so we won’t.”

“I know, I know, it’s a colony, whatever, foreign territory, a country, a nation inside a state of the United States, man, is that cockeyed or what? And we have to show a pass or something to get in, I assume.”

“I’d rather have a ticket to Disneyland. Who wants to visit a towel-headed miniature I-ran?” Prima noted. “You just want to catch Little Sire Hakim and make him cough up the lighthouse.”

“Is it getting sticky in here?”

“Awkward and hairy somewhat, yes it is sticky, and smelly. What say we send for the Marines to march across that pasteboard colony border, just storm in there and drag that kleptocrat outta there?”

“What we’ve got to figure out is what Hakim’s black market is.” She stared at the floor. “He can’t peddle it. There’s no market for a lighthouse, I wouldn’t think.”

“That means he already has a customer for it, for that particular lighthouse. Meaning, yes, he can peddle it. Gwen Bonnard knows of people who bid for it.”

“If she doesn’t have a list of would-be buyers,” Prima observed, “we’ve got to get a list together, haven’t we? But do with it, what? Start dogging each customer on the list, each one that lost out on the bidding? Impossible…wouldn’t be reliable. People lie, hide their swag. How about we wait till we hear of a mysterious explosion?”

“A lighthouse blowing up? Then we’d know. We sure will know who stole that lighthouse. Jorge, I keep thinking about the Joe Crystal call to Gwen, warning about the bombshell in the model. On some level, the two people, Crystal and phone caller, had to be acquainted. That person had to have put in a bid for the lighthouse. It was gone, already sold. So why did the caller call?”

“Sour grapes?”

“Said the fox. Thank you, Dr. Aesop. We’ve talked about that. But why the call? To frighten buyers away from the lighthouse, drive it onto the flea market table so it can be picked up for a song. Anyhow, the burglar turned out to be Hakim, an El Ecbatski, according to the candy bar wrapper, a student who was into Shakespeare lore off and on. His education is Western, Hakim’s is. There are bound to be others like him, Americanized. I can’t believe he stole the lighthouse for his personal pleasure.”

“Can you believe he stole for someone else?” Prima asked. “Or that he’s got a partner? A fence, maybe?”

“Had to have! That’s right, an accomplice. Not talking about Yorick, though. I will lay dollars to Danish there’s not a solitary soul in El Ecbat who cares one whit or even knows about Shakespeare and that lighthouse, except—”

“A fence. I already said that.”

“That’s a question, isn’t it, Jorge?”

“I’m thinking like you’re thinking, yeah, sure, no penalty in me being stupid, is there?”

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Anh To Be Surprised

By Sef Bumaat
Contemporary Romance, 340 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald
February 17th
“Please be online,” I told Trang. “I have news for you, haha.”

“I’m here. I just finished lunch and I’m about to wash the dishes. What news? Ticket booked?”

“You got it! I found a round trip Manila-Hanoi ticket for $154.75. Good things surely come to those who wait. Thank God!”

“Cool! Congrats!!”

“I’m arriving in No(i Bài Airport at 12:30 am on March 9th, Sunday. I’ll leave by the 12th of March, Wednesday. I’m gonna ask Cherry to fetch me. I will see you and Anh, but don’t tell her. Tell her instead that you and Cherry will hang out on a Sunday, so she can cancel any appointments and the three of us can visit her house for my surprise.”

“Surprise plan again, wow! That’s just a few weeks from now but with only three days here, hmmm, that’s kinda short for me.”

“Well, it’s the quality of the visit and the moments I’ll spend with her. I hope she goes with me to Ha Long Bay for a date, haha.”

“It would be too cold by then and I'm afraid she has classes,” Trang said. “But I think exploring Hanoi is enough for three days and two nights, hehe.”

“Anh told me days ago that she still has time to hang out despite her schedule and oh, haha! I love cold weather.”

“Okay, wait ’til you come here and say that. Cold weather now comes with drizzle and high humidity. It’s the worst weather for me.”

“So I’ll better bring a coat, like the one we had in Tokyo?”

“Yup! Bring a thick one.”

“Maybe you can invite Anh for a group hangout on March 9th.”

“Aha!” Trang exclaimed. “March 8th is International Women’s Day!”

“Great! Invite her for a post-Women’s Day party. I’ll ride with Cherry on his bike and then you’ll drive Anh.”

“So you just want to have the three of us?”

“No, I mean, we will meet the rest, haha. But at night, maybe you and Cherry will stay so I can talk with Anh. You will be our chaperones. Or, you can suggest any creative surprises later.”

“I’m thinking of Cherry inviting everyone to his house for a celebration, then you appear as a surprise to all of us, or at least, to Thuy Anh.”

“Yeah! Cherry is a great host with his four-story mansion. Then I’ll give Thuy Anh flowers, or shall I do it only when it’s just the two of us?”

“We’re planning to have dinner at his house this weekend,” Trang said. “Probably you should give the flowers to her in private.”

“Oh yeah, because you VPYs love to tease.”

“March 8th in Vietnam is as important as Valentine’s Day. So, does Cherry know about you liking Thuy Anh?”

“Not that I know of. Why?”

“If he knows, he might be happy organizing it.”

“I didn’t know that. I’ll tell him when I arrive.”

“I can’t, however, ask for a post-Women’s Day party. It’s up to the boys if they want to do it.”

“All right, Trang. Is it expensive to travel from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay by bus?”

“Not really. Traveling there costs you about four dollars and it’s about two hours and a half.”

“Hmm, it looks like Sunday is the only day Anh could possibly be vacant for long, other than Monday and Tuesday. I’d love to take her to the bay on a Sunday but the problem is how to make her go. This couldn’t be a surprise as I have to check her availability. What do you think?”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mariah’s Gift

By Lilly Linville
Christian Mainstream, 278 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald

A full moon cast long, dark silhouettes across the pasture from the tall bare trees surrounding the farm. The clear night sky glistened like diamonds in the cold November air. Joe and Mariah huddled together watching the splendid display of shooting stars.

Snuggling closer to keep each other warm, he nuzzled her neck. Joe wrapped his arms tighter around his very pregnant wife as their eyes followed another star streaking across the sky. “Honey, did you make a wish on that one?”

“I did.” She smiled and placed her hands over his. “I wished that our child would be here soon. But I’m trying to be patient.”

“From the strong kick I just felt, I don’t think it’ll be long before your wish comes true.”

Mariah leaned back against her husband’s warm body. “I’m so excited about becoming a mother. I can hardly wait to hold our baby in my arms.”

He laid his head on her shoulder. “You just have to be patient a little longer. I already know you’re going to be a wonderful mother. I remember how the children back home always flocked around you. Your sweet ways drew them like a magnet.”

“Joe, have you thought about how special this year will always be for us with the baby coming next month? Our lives will never be the same.

“When I was a little girl, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I always told them I wanted to be a mother. I guess that didn’t sound very ambitious, but I can’t think of anything better than having a family and being just like my mama.”

Joe turned toward the house. “Why don’t we go inside? The wind’s beginning to pick up, and I can feel you shivering. We can sit by the fire and warm up before we go to bed.”

She took his hand and walked by his side. “It’s such a clear night and I love star gazing. I wanted to stay out and enjoy it, but I admit I am freezing. How about I fix us a cup of hot chocolate?”

“That sounds like a great idea and will definitely warm us up. I’ll add some more wood in the cook stove for you.” Joe picked up a pail of kindling by the door. It only took him a few minutes to get the fire built back up as Mariah washed her hands and took a small pot out of the cabinet.

“Do you think you’ll want more than one cup?” Mariah asked.

“Nope, one will be plenty for me.”

“Hot chocolate was one of the first things I remember my mama teaching me to make. I must have been about six years old at the time and scorched it a few times before learning it had to be heated slowly. Guess it was my first lesson in patience. Mama told my sisters and me that the vanilla was her secret touch and we had to keep it between us.”

Mariah placed a cup in front of Joe on the table and sat down beside him with hers.

The rich aroma of chocolate filled the kitchen. “It smells great, Mariah. This was one of my grandpa’s favorites, and many winter nights my grandma fixed it for us. I don’t know if she added vanilla to hers, but it really gives it a great flavor.”