Ray Ward spends nights thinking about his brother’s death and the blood-soaked days that followed.
Dean Fokoli is off the force, disgraced by his dirty dealings, left to scrape for pennies as a private eye.
When Ray receives a mysterious package from his sister containing a plea for help and a reel of 8mm film, there’s a problem – Ray doesn’t have a sister.
Now two former enemies must team up, travel halfway across the country to search the dark shadow of Hollywood’s spotlight. In for more than they bargained for, Ray and Fokoli plunge behind the silver screen to unearth tinsel town’s dirty secrets. And two men with nothing left to lose can stir up some serious trouble.
“Hello, Cindy. You’re out late.” A man’s voice. I spun to see where it came from. At first I missed him sitting in the chair beside the bed. My eyes ran back to him as he stood. A tall sandy blond with a thin mustache and a light tan suit, a great tie surely one of a hundred in his closet.
“Relax, Robert. I brought a friend.”
Suddenly the room seemed exactly the size of a boxing ring. I kept my back to the ropes, my hands went up on their own, defending against an unknown threat.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“This is my brother, Robert. Robert this is Ray. He’s looking for his sister.”
“And where did you two meet?” He seemed uninterested in knowing me.
“A diner just east of L.A. He needed a ride.”
“So no car, no bags. A guy with no suit on looking like a bum out of the gutter?”
I opened my mouth to protest but she beat me to it. “Hey, knock it off. It was slim pickings.”
“Oh well. Let’s see what he’s got.” Robert brought his hand out of the pocket of his linen suit and flicked open a switchblade. I didn’t know what to think other than it was a joke. I turned to Cindy who looked away.
“Cough it up, pal,” Robert said.
“Your wallet, bub. Let’s have it.”
I stood still, stunned. This was a shakedown. Cindy was acting. She should get a contract with Louis B. Mayer; this girl’s got the stuff. Fooled me like Houdini on a good day.
She stepped up behind me and reached into my pocket to remove my wallet. I let her, not wanting to provoke the switchblade before I knew more about the man holding it. She tossed my billfold to Robert then stepped quickly away from me. She still wouldn’t meet my eye. She turned to the dresser where a whiskey bottle stood, open and half gone. She splashed some into a short glass, no ice, and took it in one shot.
Robert had my cash in his hand. “Two hundred and some. Nice take.”
Guess he was lousy at math, it was over three hundred. My whole bankroll for the trip. “Give that back,” I said.
“What for? So you can blow it all on a dame you meet in a diner? Did he even buy your coffee, Cin?”
“What’s with the bum’s clothes, pal? You steal this wad? A guy with this much dough usually has on something made in New York. Nice work, Cin. Grifting a grifter.” He tossed my wallet on the bed and stuffed the cash into his front pocket.
“Can we wrap this up?” Cindy was obviously afraid of him. As solid as her acting was with me she let her guard down around Robert and her fear showed through. She turned to the bottle again and refilled the glass.
“At least he knows the game. Okay, pal, you and me are gonna take a ride. I’ll let you off a few miles down the road. Don’t give me any guff and no one gets hurt. I bet you’ll have your pockets filled again in no time, smart kid like you. Say goodnight to your dream girl.”
Gesturing with the point of the knife he pointed to the door, expecting me to obey. He must have been used to suckers who were husbands, traveling salesmen, middle aged doughboys who didn’t know how to fight back.
I’m not that sucker.
Beetner and Kohl’s partnership is a unique one in that they live on opposite coasts (he in LA and she in Virginia) and they have never met. They’ve never even spoken on the phone. Their collaboration is done entirely by email. At this point they have become superstitious about it and have no plans to meet.
When JB wrote Eric in his capacity working with the Film Noir Foundation a friendship was born. When he read her debut novel The Deputy’s Widow, he wrote to tell her how much he enjoyed it and sent along a sample of his own writing that had been circulating the crime fiction webzines. She was hooked and asked if he would ever consider collaborating on anything. They took the first few tentative steps with nothing to lose and it all came so easily that before long an entire novel was finished and soon after, a sequel.
They each continue to write solo novels.
JB Kohl lives in Virginia with her husband and three children. In addition to writing fiction she works as a freelance medical and technical writer/editor. Her first novel The Deputy’s Widow, was released in 2008.
Eric Beetner is an award-winning short story and screenwriter. His short work has been anthologized in Discount Noir (Untreed Reads), Needle magazine, Crimefactory, Murder in the Wind (Second Wind publishing) as well as all the major online crime fiction outlets. He was selected in the top 3 for Storysouth’s Million Writers award for 2010.
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