Thursday, 10 June 2010

Excerpt Day - Dead Ruby Slippers © Sandra Sookoo


“Open up. FBI.” He banged a fist on the red-painted door when no one immediately came at his call. His hand poised to knock again, but he stepped back in surprise when the door opened and a woman’s pale face looked back at him.

“Hello, I’m Special Agent Quentin Banks. I’ll have to ask you to step aside, ma’am. I’m here to investigate the murder of…” He shoved a hand in the pocket of his suit for his notebook, but she beat him to the punch.

“Ruby. Ruby Slippers.”

Quentin nodded. “That’s right.”

He took the opportunity to study her as she hesitated in the doorway. Probably in her early thirties, she had the most gorgeous brown eyes he’d ever seen. He frowned to see they didn’t reflect any trace of sadness, only wariness. Quentin wasn’t immediately concerned. The murder was still too fresh. He flicked his gaze over the rest of her. Maybe not more than five and a half feet, she had a sweet, rounded face framed by thick, wavy honey-colored hair and enough curves to distract even the most dedicated men.

“I need to see the body.” He cleared his throat when he acknowledged his statement might have come across a tad unclear. Did he want to see the murder victim, or the very delectable form he knew lurked under the stylish clothing of the woman before him? What would Sarah say about that?

“Of course.” She seemed to shake herself out of her stupor then stood aside so he could enter. “I’m so sorry. It’s been a…trying time here.”

“Murder never is a party.” As he squeezed past her in the entryway, he caught a whiff of her perfume or soap or whatever it was. Sharp, citrusy, like tangerines on a summer day. The breezy, playful scent didn’t match the woman’s appearance. What did she hide beneath that outer facade of careful indifference?

“Follow me.” She glanced over her shoulder as he trailed her down the hall past a staircase and into a large living space.

The tension in the room hit him in the stomach like a physical blow. Layers of emotion filled the air and more than a little guilt as well. It was almost as if various personalities fractured from their human shells to float through the room as ghosts, to watch and wait. What caught and held his attention was the body on the coffee table. Before he could deal with any of that, he went straight to the cluster of four officers in navy blue uniforms. “Agent Banks.” He flashed his badge. “What’s the story?”

A mustached officer with a slight paunch frowned. “Looks like the murderer knew the victim since the death happened in the middle of a party. Crime scene’s on the way but they’re stretched thin on a few other cases. Could be a while.” He shrugged. “Houseful of women and two men. Typical case of jealousy, I’d say.”

Knowing that the Institute wouldn’t be involved without just cause, Quentin stared hard at the man. “You got a feel for who did it?”

“Nah. That whole bunch looks pretty skittish to me.”

“All right. Let me take a look at the body then I’ll get back to you.” He moved swiftly across the hardwood floor, his steps echoing until he hit the colorful checked rug. “Is this Abigail Carlton?”

“It was.”

Quentin glanced sharply at the speaker: a vibrant redhead with a sour expression on her heavily made-up face. “And you are?” Something in her defensive attitude put his senses on alert.

“Frances Wellington.”

With a nod, he gazed down at the dead woman’s petite body arranged on the coffee table in a dramatic pose. She lay on her back, one hand reposed on her synthetic chest, the other draped over the side of the table. Clad in a white dress made of some sort of gauzy material, the skirt covered her legs. Very delicate and very vulnerable, even in death. Almost angel-like. One foot peeked out beneath the hem, a glittering red tap shoe strapped on the tiny foot.

Now he understood the name Ruby Slippers. A flash of the late-night commercial on TV occupied his brain. She had certainly been popular.

But what interested Quentin the most was the silver-handled chef’s knife in her chest, right through the heart. Wet blood marred the fairy-like dress but strangely enough, no blood pooled on the white tabletop. He touched his fingertips to Ruby’s neck. No longer warm but not cold. She couldn’t have been dead for more than a couple of hours.

Then why the hell had he just now been notified? What were these people doing during the gap in time? Did they work together to dispose of the dancer? Suddenly, the case was no longer cut-and-dried.

One thing was clear. Someone wanted the woman dead enough to wield a knife with deadly force. He leaned over the body, careful not to touch anything. Only one stab wound, which meant the murderer either knew exactly what they were doing and didn’t hesitate or an accident had occurred. A crime of passion or opportunity? He wondered if there were fingerprints on the sleek handle, but experience taught him it had probably been wiped clean. His eyes rested on the utensil, on the handle that curved upward toward Ruby’s face.

There was something else.

Quentin swept a glance around the room at the assembled people, guilt evident in every one of their faces. He could feel it and knew this case wouldn’t be easy.

A vague tingle in the air made his nose twitch. Magic was definitely involved. No way could he allow the local law enforcement handle this one.

With a soft “damn,” Quentin pulled out his cellphone and speed-dialed Sarah’s number.

“What’s wrong, handsome?” Somehow, the woman could sense his moods before he even said a word.

“I’m gonna need Liam after all.”

Dead Ruby Slippers © Sandra Sookoo

Dead Ruby Slippers

Author: Sandra Sookoo

Publisher: Lyrical Press

Genre: Romance/Contemporary/Fantasy

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Dancing may be hard…but no one expected it to be murder.

When sexy tap dancer Abigail Carlton, aka Ruby Slippers, is found dead and arranged in an artistic fashion on her coffee table it’s up to Special Agent Quentin Banks to solve her murder.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Not only is Quentin a FBI career man, he doubles as an officer for the Institute of Magical Instruction…and the dancer’s death has super natural energy written all over it.

Quentin must find who murdered Abigail and he only has24 hours to do it before it’s taken over by his superiors.

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