Wednesday, November 19, 2014

An Excerpt from Finding Jessica, a Mystery by Parker Riggs

Omnimystery News: An Excerpt courtesy of Parker Riggs
Finding Jessica
by Parker Riggs

We are delighted to welcome back author Parker Riggs to Omnimystery News.

Last week we spent some time with Parker discussing her debut mystery Finding Jessica (Mainly Murder Press; October 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats) and today we are pleased to introduce you to it with an excerpt from it, the first three chapters.

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Finding Jessica by Parker Riggs

HAL CAPPODECCI LOCKED HIS CAR and stood on the edge of the lawn. A few hours earlier he'd stocked the cottage's refrigerator with the food his client had asked for, but he'd forgotten to leave a light on for him. He hadn't expected the dark to be so complete, and he hesitated before walking across the grass. A relative newcomer to country living, he was leery of the dark. He liked to be so close to his nearest neighbors he could smell what they were cooking for dinner. The nearest neighbor to the cottage wouldn't have heard him if he yelled at the top of his lungs.
  He hurried across the yard, zipping his windbreaker as he went. After about fifty yards he was breathing hard. Rose had been bugging him to try different diets, but she jogged five miles a day and kick-boxed for fun. He'd stick to burgers and fries, throw in a diet soda once in a while to look like he was making an effort.
  Thinking about Rose made him smile suddenly. He'd watched her that afternoon, drinking beer with Emily, laughing at Rocky's lame jokes, playing horseshoes with their kids, and he'd felt the way a dad might of his grown-up daughter. He felt proud. A lone wolf, Rose had spent her life traveling, hardly ever getting close to anyone; and after her husband died he'd been worried about her, a beautiful, aloof woman who hadn't made an effort to fit in. But maybe, Hal thought as he neared the steps of Solitude, she'd finally started to take his advice, to warm up, trust people, be part of a community. Maybe she was finally going to be able to kick back and laugh once in a while.
  A band of clouds moved across the sky, blocking the moonlight, and he heard a rustle in the woods to his left. Afraid of wild animals, he picked up speed, wishing again he'd left a light on in the cottage. He was about to head back to where he'd hidden the key under the mat when the sound of a car on the gravel drive made him stop. The moon reappeared from the clouds. Someone walked around the corner of the house. He raised a hand in greeting. "Hey," he called out. Then he saw the semi-automatic, and fear shot through him. If he'd been thirty pounds lighter, he could have made a run for it. Instead, he lunged forward to grab the gun, but he was too big, too slow, and it fired.
  He could smell dirt, could feel the newly cut grass on his cheek. A searing fire was spreading through his chest. He sensed the person standing over him, felt hands on his shoulders turning him onto his back. Hal moved his mouth, trying to speak, but his lungs filled. Nothing came out. He stared at the night sky. There were so many stars. He wondered how long it would take to reach them.
  
Two
  
In the wooded countryside surrounding the town of Haven, New Hampshire, in a log house along the shore of Two Isle Lake, a red miniature dachshund sat on the back of a couch, looking out a window. His owner, Rose Chandler, sat in soft lamplight, trying to read a book. It was a futile effort. She hadn't turned a page in over twenty minutes. Instead, she listened to her own breathing, the ticking clock on the fireplace mantel, the sound of the icemaker clicking in the kitchen. Emily and Rocky and the kids had been over earlier to grill the last of the freezer's venison and, she was pretty sure, to keep her mind off what day it was. Without Jasper, Jake and Janie jumping on sofas, begging to swim in the lake, playing wiffle ball out front and eating a whole bag of roasting marshmallows, the house felt deathly quiet.
  The day was a milestone, but nothing to celebrate. Cameron's death had happened on a summer morning one year ago on the country road leading to Tibber's Basin, the kind of road you make plans to drive along in the fall because the trees are bursting with color. But that morning the road had been deadly; that morning Cameron's motorcycle had hurdled down an embankment, his body thrown to the ground, tumbling almost a quarter mile to Lover's Ravine. The emergency response team told her he'd died instantly. She wanted to believe them, had tried to use this news to soothe herself, but for the past year, while she kept her PI business going and Cameron's gallery chock full of the best artists, she'd secretly felt as if she were drowning, struggling to the surface, wishing she could wake up from this terrible dream.
  From his perch on the back of the couch, Cosmo watched restlessly out the window. A white ray of moonlight split the night and illuminated the lake. Cosmo didn't understand why Cameron never returned home. Confused and nervous, he moved over to Rose's side and licked her hand. She scratched his ears. "Don't worry," she said finally. "Everything's all right." Saying those words aloud, she realized that at some point she had started to cross a threshold into acceptance. Tomorrow dawn would break, life would go on. It really was all right. She leaned back and closed her eyes.
  When the phone rang, Cosmo leapt off the couch, and Rose grabbed her cell off the table.
  "Is this Rose Chandler of Chandler Investigations?"
  Rose looked at her watch. It was almost midnight. "Who's this?"
  "Marcie Payne. Barrington Bigelow's agent?" the woman's accent was pure New York. "He hired Chandler Investigations to find some godforsaken girlfriend he's been mooning about since he was practically a child?"
  "Yes," said Rose. "I'm well aware of that. We've been on the case, but it's strictly confidential, even if you are his agent …"
  "And I can't get in touch with your PI, Hal," the woman interrupted her, "who was supposed to be setting up his rental for him, and Big is totally lost and can't find the place, and this Hal is not picking up his phone."
  "Hal's probably sleeping," Rose said, and how dare you wake him up? "But I could talk to him if he's lost. Does he have a GPS? The address should be on there."
  "Of course he has GPS," the woman snapped. "It's Barrington Bigelow."
  "Yes, I know," Rose said. "I've already been on the phone with him quite a bit."
  "Right," the woman said. "Big tells me you own the investigation business, and you're the owner of the gallery where he wants to show his photographs," the woman plowed on, not waiting for Rose to respond. "Barrington is not a photographer, understand, he's a painter. He shows at the major museums and all the best galleries in Europe, and why in the world he wants to sell his photographs at a little gallery in the middle of nowhere, no offense intended, is beyond me."
  "No offense taken." Rose rubbed her eyes. This woman was exhausting. "Actually, I was also wondering why he'd want to sell his work in Haven," she said.
  "Hold on," Marcie told her. "There he is." She clicked off. Rose closed her eyes and felt her lids sting. She'd been thinking how weird it would be to have Barrington Bigelow's work in Mountain Arts. Stepping up as the dealer after Cameron died hadn't changed the gallery's excellent reputation, but they showed regional artists. None were represented by agents in New York.
  "He's fine," Marcie said brusquely when she clicked back on. "He's in the driveway. He'll see you in the morning to talk about the investigation," she said, "and those photographs for your gallery." Before Rose could say anything more, Marcie clicked off.
  As she carried Cosmo to bed and tucked him in beside her, Rose tried to ignore the pain in her left shoulder, the remnant of an old bullet wound that had been flaring up all day, a symptom of stress. It would keep her up all night unless she took something for it, so she rolled over for the little bottle of ibuprofen on her bedside table and swallowed one without water.
  Lying back in the dark, she could just make out one of Cameron's paintings above the dresser, the lake on a summer day, thick clouds reflected in the water, trees full and lush along the shoreline. She remembered how much Cameron loved Barrington Bigelow's work. Early in their marriage, when her own appreciation of art had still been in its infancy, he'd dragged her to the Currier Museum of Art to see a special exhibition of his paintings. She had been struck by the artist's range. There was something both cataclysmic and melancholic about his work, as though he'd stood on a precipice and seen how the world ended and had come back to show it through his paintbrush. She was looking forward to meeting him in person.
  
Three
  
A mile down from Rose's house, the artist Barrington Bigelow relaxed on a loud floral print sofa in a small yellow cottage. Outside, a wooden sign with the word "Solitude" carved on it creaked in the wind. He'd rented the cottage sight unseen from the owner, and although the flowery décor was fundamentally opposed to his own modern sensibilities, it was neat and clean, and he was lucky to have gotten it so late in the season. The first thing he'd done when he'd walked in the door was lay the photographs he hoped to sell at Mountain Arts on the dining room table. The second thing he'd done was pour a glass of Jack Daniels.
  Almost as soon as he sat down, his cell phone rang. "Marcie," he said to his agent. "What's up?"
  "Well, now that you're in that godforsaken place and not wandering around, I wanted to tell you I canceled your trip to Stockholm," she said. "The director of the Musée d'art Moderne was not happy, and I doubt the galleries in San Francisco and Seattle will ever let you back in."
  "The cottage is quite comfortable, thanks for asking." He checked his Rolex. It was close to 1:00 a.m., but Marcie rarely slept.
  "Chandler confirmed your meeting for ten o'clock at the gallery. As for that other matter, I still think it's a shot in the dark, Barrington."
  "Oh?" Marcie had made him millions over the years, but she was pushy and opinionated, and he didn't know if he could stand talking to her after that grueling eight-hour drive from the city.
  "Hasn't it occurred to you that when Jessica left, she might have been pregnant with another man's child? I mean, really, I was eating at Balthazar tonight, and Jack was talking about this woman who had this other man's child, and her husband didn't know about it until she was dead in the grave."
  This was a new angle for Marcie to try, and he took another swallow of his drink. With Marcie twisting the knife deeper, he was glad he hadn't heeded the doctor's advice. "Based on what Delores told me at the opening, Jessica was three months pregnant when she left me." He tried to keep his voice patient. He thought of Jess the day before she'd left, standing in front of Gustav Klimt's The Kiss at the Met, that white dress with its blue sash, her long brown hair draped over one shoulder. You, too, she'd told him, are going to be a master one day. Then she'd kissed him softly on the mouth, a goodbye he hadn't recognized until it was too late.
  "I was at the opening, remember?" Marcie was relentless. "I saw that woman talking to you. She was so drunk she could barely stand, and you're going to believe her?"
  "Well, I would have known if Jess was involved with someone else. We were together every minute of every day."
  Marcie laughed. "You were so self-absorbed back then you wouldn't have noticed if someone had been sending her flowers every day."
  "Thank you," he said, "for reminding me I was a jerk."
  "You're dangerously close to acting like one again. Look, Big, just come back to New York."
  "There's a good possibility Jess is here." Barrington got up and opened the sliding glass door. He could hear waves rolling onto the lakefront. Along the edge of the yard he thought he saw something moving, but he told himself it was just the pine shadows waving in the wind. He stepped onto the deck. "I have to know if she had my child." He put his drink on the deck railing and looked up at the sky. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen so many stars. "I gave up trying to find her years ago." He wanted to explain to Marcie that a person reevaluates his life after he almost loses it, but he didn't think she would understand. "I'm not going to give up again," he said.

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Parker Riggs
Photo provided courtesy of
Parker Riggs

Parker Riggs’ love of writing began as a teenager growing up in New Jersey penning short stories and poetry. Her dream to be a published author got set aside for a career in Washington, D.C. where, for two decades, she supported politicians and lawyers. Yet the dream never died.

She is now permanently settled in New Hampshire with her husband and a lively mini dachshund named Pippa.

For more information about the author, please visit her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Finding Jessica by Parker Riggs

Finding Jessica
Parker Riggs
A Mystery

What happens to gorgeous, red-haired, ex-CIA agent Rose Chandler when she takes on internationally acclaimed artist, Barrington Bigelow, as her new client? Trouble, big trouble.

Summer's heating up, and so is the search for Barrington's past love, Jessica. The small town of Haven has two murders in its otherwise peaceful midst, and Rose has to face a wicked demon from her past.

With a maddening FBI agent breathing down her neck, and hidden identities to unravel, she's got a score to settle, a deadly secret to face, and a decision to make that threatens to change her life forever.

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