So, week one is in the record books! A whirlwind of activity and hearing from readers – BIG THANK YOU to all the fans who dove right into The List Conspiracy and have pre-ordered Book Two, The Traitor’s Revenge. My favorite part is all the chitchats about their crazy grandmother (LOVED the fan whose grandmother took different pics of stranger’s butts so she’d feel better about her own posterior – may have to use that in a future novel), or how they stayed up too late reading. Makes all of those days in front of a computer screen so worth it…
On to the snippet (a sneak read for those fans just joining us). Second snippet is from The Traitor’s Revenge, which is on pre-order and goes on sale this Thursday. Book Three – The Keeper’s Return goes on pre-order the same day – December 8th! So, to get you ready, excited and staying up late some more… here is a snippet. Enjoy and keep those comments coming – you can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WallisJonesSeries/. Enough with the talking… On with the snippet!
Oscar Newman loved his job, loved the way people took a step back when they saw him coming in his deputy uniform. It was the only thing in his life that made sense to him.
He walked briskly up to an older brick building in the bowels of Shockoe Bottom, located down near the James River and in the shadow of the few high rises in downtown Richmond. He quickly entered one of the old defunct tobacco warehouses with a faded logo for Pall Mall’s painted across the three-storied building.
The fresh wound that made a thin line down one side of his face was still smarting a week after it happened. “Damn bitch,” he muttered, growing angrier.
Oscar was determined and angry as he pulled open the side door and stepped into a large warehouse filled with men, black and white, rich and poor trading slips of paper and quietly reeling off short series of numbers to each other. It was the central count house for the city’s numbers organization.
“Six, eight, nine. Give me six, eight nine.” “How ‘bout triple three’s.”
The response from a small group standing at the front was always, “Quarter, quarter.”
All of the men who were taking the bets were wearing the same style of suit, trading numbers out of the same kind of leather briefcase, filled with more slips of paper and a ledger. They still preferred the old fashioned method to computers, which left too obvious of a trail to follow.
At one side of the room was a chalk board with recent dates and three numbers written next to each date. It was an old form of lottery the locals called combinating and worked the same as a daily lottery, only cost less to play and was never legal.
Everyone stopped mumbling and turned to look at the deputy sheriff. “Get out here!” yelled Oscar, his hand moving down toward his gun. A few men slowly rose as if to run or at least get out of the way. Most look annoyed.
“Where the hell is Davey?” said Oscar, his hand resting on the holster. A very large black man, tall as he was wide and sweating profusely, slid a pile of papers into his hands and quietly ducked behind a table. Oscar spotted the movement and barreled toward Davey, his hand clenching the holster. A path was cleared for him as Davey tried to right himself back to standing, a few wisps of paper falling to the floor.
“Come on, Davey! Didn’t I tell you these numbers were crap?” said Oscar, his hand sliding off of the gun and into his pocket as he pulled out a wad of small papers and threw them in Davey’s face.
“Those were your combinatings,” mumbled Davey. “You picked your own combinatings.”
Oscar unsnapped his holster, pulled out his revolver and pointed it briefly at Davey as a murmur went around the room. Davey shrank back, letting go of most of the papers and shut his eyes. Oscar hesitated, rolled his eyes, and seemed to resign himself to something as he took aim at the blackboard behind Davey, shooting out the top line.
The sound echoed for a moment in the cavernous building.
“Yeah, like I’d shoot you here,” said Oscar, sounding annoyed as he helped Davey to his feet. “Put this on seven, eight, nine,” he said, pulling out a dollar bill. He removed a thick brown envelope from the inside of his jacket and put it in front of Davey. “Here’s everybody else’s. Captain says you owed him a free one.”
Across the room two black men in tidy pinstriped suits were going over a ledger. “Somebody’s got to do something about that crazy jerk. He’s bound to hit Davey one of these days.”
“You’d think so, with a target like that, and Oscar being an ace shot. Hasn’t he told you yet?” Both men snickered.
“Where’s Parrish?” asked one of the men, looking around.
“He’s out doing his own thing, you know that. He’ll get the job done, always does. One of our best runners. Keeps it all up here,” said the other man, tapping his forehead. “Never even writes down a combinating or a nickname. Never had a complaint. Genius for the details, and brings in more money than anybody else in this room. Can’t do enough for a man like that.”
Across town a well-dressed, tall elegant man with close-cropped hair, Rodney Parrish, was getting ready to head back to work. He gently pushed open the screen door of a well-kept modest blue and tan bungalow on a tree-lined street in an older neighborhood.
Parrish stepped out, quietly and deliberately pulling the door shut behind him while straightening his suit jacket and checking his expensive silk tie, tapping lightly on the white lapel pin of an American flag trimmed in gold. His breathing was even and calm and he wore a faint smile as he walked down the short sidewalk lined with brightly colored plastic daisies turning in the slight breeze.
The briefcase that was hanging loosely from his right hand gave only a small swing, keeping a perfect rhythm with his stride as he took each step down the walk before turning toward the east, heading for the Boulevard and away from the older suburbs. His three-piece pin striped suit, the combinating room’s idea of a uniform, was spotless.
Down the sidewalk from where Parrish had just been visiting, past the row of neat identical bungalows was the little cottage where Lilly Billings had moved to shortly after separating from her husband. The door looked undisturbed and everything was exactly as it should be until a little further into the living room where Lilly still sat with her feet crossed at the ankles, her hands neatly folded in her lap and her back to the door. The only thing out of place was the left side of her head, bashed in past her ear, and a look of surprise on the part of her face that was still intact.
But there was no blood, no mess at all, and no sign of any kind of struggle. Nothing was out of place. Only the best pieces of jewelry were missing, Parrish’s payment, but that was all. No blood spatter was left to complicate things, no sign of how the killer got in. No clues at all.
Parrish had a demanding standard for himself and he always liked to keep his customers happy.
Just as he reached North Boulevard where he’d be able to blend into the small bit of foot traffic in the city, he pulled out his cell phone and typed in a short message. ‘Job done, no reward.’
Lilly didn’t know anything about a thumb drive or the list. She had made that clear, swearing on her life.
Parrish got into the dark blue Ford Explorer that he always kept neat as a pin and drove off to deliver the winnings from the morning bets. It never looked good to miss a deadline.