Thursday, 1 July 2010

Excerpt Day - Grey Randall: Private Dick Casefile #1: Lily White Rose Red © Catt Ford

Excerpt

You’ve heard of the big fish in the small pond. That was Vegas in 1948 for casino owners, mobsters, and movie stars—but not for me. I’d had a few jobs since I landed in town and even did some very clever work, but it was all small potatoes: the cashier with sticky fingers operating the till at Woolworth’s on Fremont, the dame who slipped the leash her bookie boyfriend had her on and was seeing a blackjack dealer on the sly. And then there was my favorite case, the newsboy who cut in on the other kids’ territory. I never thought I’d be catching a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind, but he had the goods all right. Went around on the other boys’ routes, collecting a day early. He was counting on the fact that most people just don’t look that close at the kid who rides by and tosses the paper on their front step. And he was scoring big-time, at least till I got on his trail. Probably had a blooming career ahead of him when he got a little older.

No, I was the little fish in the big pond. None of the bigs came around calling on me to get their problems solved, at least not until that one day when she walked into my office.

Femmes fatales had been noticeably absent since I hung out my shingle, but the day she opened the door without knocking, I knew I’d hit the jackpot.

She was a doll all right, a little out of my age range, maybe in her early forties although she didn’t look it, but everything was positioned right where it should be. She was tall and slim, dressed all in black: the fashionable suit with the big shoulders, expensive furs, the jaunty hat with a little veil and a sweeping feather, but the somber color just set off her shiny red hair and that famous peaches and cream complexion. They said it extended way down past what I could see with all her clothes on.

“Mr. Dick,” she announced in a velvety tone that spoke of seduction and made you want to get dirty.

“Call me Mr. Randall, that’s my name, Miss—?” I stood up politely. My mother was a stickler for proper manners.

“You may call me Lily.”

I admired her strategy. By putting us on a first name basis right off the bat, she managed to stay incognito and get us on a cozy footing. A lot of people don’t like admitting that they need a dick’s help. But I recognized her, all right. Miss Lily McIntyre had been a dancer, not just a dancer, only the most famous dame to have ever strutted her stuff on a Vegas stage. She wasn’t hoofing for dough any more, but retirement seemed to agree with her.

There was something about her that suggested that if she were yours, each day would be filled with fascinating and exciting surprises. Her laugh made the little lines around her eyes stand out a bit more, despite the expert make-up. She might be getting on in years, but she was still an astoundingly beautiful woman. And she had something that transcended beauty, that elusive quality called charm that would make her the center of attention when she was eighty. She flashed me the kind of smile that had probably gotten her that fur stole around her shoulders and the sparkly bracelet on her wrist. She really piled on the rocks, but she could carry the weight.

Miss McIntyre came a little closer, and I got a whiff of her perfume. Expensive, just like everything else about her, from the diamonds sparkling in her ears to her exquisite coiffure. She had on a four-string pearl choker with a diamond and emerald catch; probably she thought that was toned down for days, but under it I caught the glint of a fine platinum chain studded at intervals with diamonds that disappeared down into the deep V of her silk blouse. I’m no expert in women’s fashion, but hers was top-drawer. First class all the way for a dame like her. I wondered who was keeping her now that dancing wasn’t paying the bills.

“All the girls must love you. Such beautiful eyes and those long, thick lashes, simply wasted on a man. You’ve got something, haven’t you, Mr. Randall?”

I couldn’t help smirking. “I don’t know about that.”

“You’re skinnier than I thought a private dick would be.”

She had a way of saying “dick” that made it sound very dirty, and I could tell she liked doing it.

“Wiry. I’m wiry, not skinny.”

“Of course. Wiry, but tough.” She ran a gloved fingertip over my cheekbone, the one that had healed a little funny. “Where did you get that?”

“You didn’t come here to get my life story, did you, Miss Lily?” I caught her hand and held it away from my face.

She just smiled and strolled to the window, looking down at the street through the blinds. I wondered if I’d remembered to dust them lately.

“Would you like to sit down?” I went around my desk to hold a chair for her.

Of course she homed in on the good one, the green leather chair. She sank down onto the seat, light as a feather, and crossed her legs. Stems a million miles long, and they looked good, damned good. She made sure I got a good gander by surreptitiously hiking her skirt up above her knees, which were worth the attention. Knees in general can be problematic, but if shorter skirts came in, Lily wouldn’t have to be ashamed of her knees at all. I wondered how her toes were.

I retreated behind my desk, glad to have that shield between us, sat down, and waited.

She said, “Nice office, Mr. Randall.”

I had to laugh. It was pretty basic and located on the side of town that dames like her just don’t get to very often. “You didn’t come to admire the décor, either.”

“What are your rates?”

She had me hoping she wasn’t shopping for a kept boy. Maybe she hadn’t read the sign on my door. “Depends on what you want me to do.”

“I want you to find and catch a killer for me, Mr. Randall.”

I sat up straight. Murder? Now we were talking! Miss Lily McIntyre and a murder case. I rubbed my hands together, and she seemed amused by my eagerness. “Why me? Why not the police?”

Her peachy, luscious lips thinned for a moment, and that was a pity. She had nice lips, meant for smiling in that come-hither way she tried on me earlier. She couldn’t know she was wasting her ammo. “The police have had forty-eight hours to catch him, and they’re no nearer to finding out the truth than they were when they first found her body.”

Her?

“Sometimes it can take a while, Miss Lily, even for the cops. Believe me, they like stamping ‘case closed’. Makes them look good to the public.”

“A while will be too long. Time is of the essence, Mr. Randall. And I have it on good authority that you’re the man for the job. Perhaps the only man who can solve this case.”

Of course a guy likes to hear that, but I also wanted to know who gave her the word. “And who told you that?”

She smiled. “Does it really matter?”

“Maybe. We can come back to that.” I pulled out a pen and a pad of lined paper. “Who got murdered and when?”

“You’re very businesslike. I like that.” She let the fur thing slip off her shoulders, and somehow she managed to make it look as hot as if she’d just taken it all off. It had to be a practiced technique from her dancing days, when word was if the stakes were high enough, she did more than just shake her stuff. “It was a woman, only a girl, really. Miss Marguerite Saint-Ville. Very talented, and only at the beginning of her career.”

“And who was this girl to you?”

“A protégé,” Miss McIntyre said. “And a charming young friend.”

I was beginning to have an inkling that she was lying to me. They all do, the people who bring me their troubles. They want me to dig them out of a hole, but they never want to tell me the whole story. They seem to like making you work for the money. “You taught her to dance?”

“You can tell I’m a dancer, then? You’re very observant, Mr. Dick. May I ask how you knew?”

“You have a certain… grace. And it’s my job to be observant.”

“I see,” she said. “Every year I take on a student or two. However, Miss Saint-Ville was different. Special.”

“In what way?”

“She was a lovely girl, and she should have been a star. She could dance, sing, entertain. She had a bright future ahead of her.”

Suddenly I understood the all-black get-up. I would eat my hat if I didn’t find out there was a closer acquaintance between the two than just teacher and student. But Miss McIntyre didn’t betray any sign of grief. Not that she would show any emotion she chose not to. Those soft furs and silky glad rags covered a lady made of steel.

“When was she killed?”

“Two nights ago.” Miss McIntyre leaned forward and gazed at me intently. “She was found in an alley, in the warehouse section behind Union Station.”

I got the sense of some powerful emotion being held firmly in check. “What was she doing there?”

“I was hoping you’d find that out, Mr. Randall,” she said somewhat tartly. “So far no one has been able to tell me a thing.”

“How was she killed?”

“Strangled.”

© Catt Ford

Read rest of Chapter One HERE

Lily White Rose Red 

Grey Randall: Private Dick Casefile #1

Author: Catt Ford

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Genre: GLBT

Buy Link
Meet Grey Randall, a hard-boiled detective whose sense of humor makes it hard for him to stay strictly noir. It's 1948 in Las Vegas—the newborn Sin City—and he's just landed his first murder case. He's more at ease among the lowlifes, but his new client, a beautiful, wealthy woman, a real femme fatale, moves in the upper crust of society.
Grey's hot on the trail of a killer, despite obstructive cops who don't want a private dick sniffing around and digging up secrets. And he starts getting close to the truth, but one of his suspects, Phillip Martin, AKA Mr. Big—AKA Mr. Beautiful—proves to be a man who could force Grey to reveal a dark secret of his own.

3 Speak To Me:

Chris on 1 July 2010 at 20:46 said...

Another maybe for me!

Lily on 2 July 2010 at 00:59 said...

Hmm, not my favorite genre or time period. But I like the title. :)

Erotic Horizon on 6 July 2010 at 21:24 said...

@Chris & Lily..

Not my time period either, but sometimes books just jump out at you..

and I like Cat Ford voice - so a win win all round..

E.H>