Archive for the ‘Consulting’ Category

As some of you might know, I just got a new office at Thrasher Development. I’m pretty excited about it, but there’s not a lot for me to do there.

Mostly, I go to Thrasher when Uncle Joey needs me for something. I sit in on his meetings and stop by my office to leave my purse in the desk drawer. Sure, I can sit at my desk for a minute or so, but there’s nothing there for me to do besides look at the fabulous painting on the wall.

Since I hated to let the space go to waste, I decided I might as well make good use of it, and meet there with a client from my consulting business. Uncle Joey hadn’t said I couldn’t, but he hadn’t said I could, either. And, knowing he liked people with initiative, I decided to go ahead with my plans. If needed, I’d ask for forgiveness later.

I’d received a phone call from a guy who sounded a little desperate for my help, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to use my office. I also made sure to schedule our meeting at a time that I knew Uncle Joey wouldn’t be there, just in case.

I arrived at the office a little early, surprising Jackie. “Shelby? What are you doing here? Joe’s at a meeting, so he’s not here.”

“Oh…this is something else. I’m meeting with someone in my office. He should be here in about ten minutes. I’ll watch for him so you don’t have to do anything.”

She nodded, but her eyes narrowed, and she wondered what I was up to. It wasn’t something for Joe, so what could it be? Then she remembered Joe complaining that I had my own consulting business and he didn’t like it much. Was that what this was about?

If I was meeting with clients from my business, she’d definitely let Joe know, because she wasn’t sure he’d like that. Still, it wasn’t really hurting anything, and my office mostly sat there empty and unused. She just wished I’d okay-ed it with Joe first.

“Uh…just so you know, it’s okay with Uncle Joey,” I added, wanting to calm her down and hoping it was true.

“Oh…good.” She smiled and her shoulders relaxed. Then she glanced at me with raised brows. “Is it about something juicy, like an affair?”

I gave her an indulgent smile. “I don’t know. But I guess I’ll find out soon enough.” I hurried down the hall so I wouldn’t have to answer any more of her questions, and propped the door open. That way, I could hear my client when he came in, and I could meet him before Jackie had to do anything.

Sure enough, I heard a man’s voice asking for me. “I’m looking for Shelby Nichols?”

While Jackie answered, I jumped out of my chair and hurried down the hall to greet him, excited that I looked totally professional with an office and everything. “Hi David. I’m Shelby.” We shook hands and I told him to follow me to my office.

He came inside and took the seat in front of my desk, thinking I must do really well for myself. He’d heard of Thrasher Development, but couldn’t place the company. Was it in real estate? He glanced at me and wondered why my office was here. It didn’t make sense, unless I worked for Thrasher and did this on the side.

Since that was exactly the case, I sent him a smile. “How can I help you?”

“Well…” he began, then paused. His eyes widened and he caught my gaze, realizing all at once where he’d heard of Thrasher Development. The company was owned by Joe Manetto, and there were rumors that he was a mob-boss.

“Um…I’ve changed my mind,” he said, standing abruptly. There was no way he was telling me his troubles just so I could use them against him. Was that what I did? How could I call myself a legitimate consultant?

“Wait! My business has nothing to do with Thrasher Development. It’s totally separate, I promise.” He was thinking that it sure didn’t look that way, so I continued. “I know it doesn’t look that way, but everything we say and agree to here in this office is totally confidential.”

That calmed him down a little, but he knew his problem could be exploited, and he didn’t want to take a chance on me. “Sure. But I’ll pass. Thanks anyway.”

He left in a flash. By the time I got to Jackie’s desk, he was long gone. I hadn’t even picked up what he’d needed me for. Wow. What a bummer.

I glanced at Jackie, and she gave me a rueful smile. “That was quick.” She knew something had scared him off, and she was pretty sure what it was.

“Yeah. I guess I won’t be meeting with clients here after all.”

She shrugged. “Some people might think it’s a good thing. I guess he wasn’t one of them.”

“True. Well…uh…I guess I’ll go home now.”

She nodded, thinking she couldn’t wait to tell Joe. He’d certainly get a kick out of it. But she felt a little sorry for me just the same. It was a nice office, and she didn’t blame me for wanting to use it. “Maybe next time you can mention that your office is in Thrasher Development and ask if they have a problem with it. That way you can weed them out before they get here.”

“Yeah. That’s a good idea. I’ll think about it.” I wanted to ask her to keep this little mistake between the two of us, but her loyalty was to Uncle Joey, so I knew that wasn’t going to happen. “I guess I’ll see you later.”

I gathered my things and left, discouraged that it hadn’t worked out the way I’d hoped. Maybe it was a good thing? At least I didn’t have to worry about upsetting Uncle Joey.

So…as much as I like my office, I guess using it for my consulting agency is probably not a good idea.

 

 

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I don’t know about you, but it’s been HOT this summer.

So when Savannah asked if we could go swimming at the country club where Josh is working as a lifeguard, I couldn’t say no. We’re not members of the swanky country club but, because Josh is working there, we’ve been given special dispensation to use the swimming pool.

Of course, that might have something to do with Uncle Joey, my ‘adopted’ uncle who happens to be a mob-boss, and for whom I also work (mostly under duress). In fact, he helped Josh get the job. Needless to say, he has a lot of clout…and not just at the country club. He’s even talked about sponsoring me and my husband so we can join up, but after taking a look at the monthly fees…let’s just say they were a little on the ‘way-out-of-our-league’ side.

Even though we could use the pool, we hadn’t yet because I was uncomfortable since we weren’t actual members. But with Savannah’s incessant whining, and Josh’s encouragement, I decided to throw caution to the wind, and try it out.

In retrospect, I think the heat had something to do with it. Or maybe it was temporary insanity. Either way, I gave in and got ready to go.

Josh said there were great changing rooms, but I decided Savannah and I would wear our suits there, since I didn’t want us to intrude where we didn’t belong. He didn’t understand what the big deal was, but he also didn’t read minds like me, and didn’t know how much that affected my decisions.

The bathing suit I chose to wear was one I’d bought in Orlando last summer. I hadn’t worn it since and, even though it was on the cheap side, I really wanted to wear it, mostly because it reminded me of Ramos and the time we’d spent there.

So against my better judgement, I pulled it on. Then I slipped a gauzy, light blue cover-up over it, and grabbed my beach towel. I loaded a bag with my sunglasses, a book, and plenty of sunscreen, and was ready enjoy the afternoon.

We arrived before Josh’s shift and hurried inside together. Josh led the way to the pool, and we soon claimed a couple of lounge chairs in the corner under a big umbrella. There weren’t many people there, and I began to relax, hoping that no one would notice us.

As we got settled, Josh came back out and made his way to the lifeguard chair. The current lifeguard spoke to Josh for a few moments, then Josh motioned to us, and led him over to introduce us.

His name was Liam, and he was a lot older than Josh. In fact, he’d just graduated from High School and knew Miguel. This drew Savannah’s interest, and she was thinking that he was really cute, and she admired his toned abs and muscled arms.

I tried not to roll my eyes and wondered if he was interested in Savannah. I was ready to tell him she was only thirteen, but as he walked away, he was thinking that I was a babe and I must be Josh’s step-mom or something, because I looked way too young to be Josh’s mother.

I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face, since that kind of surprised and pleased me at the same time. Then I caught that he thought Savannah had potential, and he’d have to remember to look her up in a couple of years.

I huffed out a breath at that, but a sliver of unease gripped my chest. Sure, she was thirteen now, but in only three years, she’d be sixteen. Yikes! What would I do when I heard thoughts like that about her then? A vision of me smacking boys upside the head didn’t help.

Before I got carried away, I shoved those unhelpful thoughts out of my head, and got busy applying sunscreen to her back. After she’d done the same for me, she jumped into the pool and I soon followed after her. The water felt amazing, and I was so happy we’d come.

A little later, I got out, eager to relax on my chair and start reading a good book.

It wasn’t long before a few more people showed up, and a stick-thin woman wearing makeup, and her hair perfectly styled, took possession of the chairs beside mine. I knew she wasn’t about to get in the water and mess up her face. I smiled a greeting, and went back to my book, hoping she’d get the idea and leave me alone.

Unfortunately, she had other plans, mostly because she’d never seen me before and wanted to know who I was. She also thought my swimming suit looked a little tacky, but at least I wasn’t fat.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Crystal Davenport. I don’t think we’ve met.”

“Shelby Nichols. Nice to meet you.”

She waited for me to continue, but since I didn’t she began to question me like a pro. “Nice to meet you too. I come almost everyday, and I’ve never seen you here before. Are you new members?”

“Uh… my son is one of the lifeguards, so we thought we’d spend a few hours here.”

“Oh. I see. That’s nice.” She was lying. She didn’t think it was nice at all, mostly because her son had wanted the job, and he’d been passed over for someone else. It must have been because of my son.

Then she realized I’d never said we were members. “So you’re not members of the club?”

“Not at the moment.”

“Oh.” She nodded, but her eyes glazed over with anger. She thought being a member was a requirement. But even if it wasn’t, those who were members should be considered for the lifeguard job before those who weren’t. This was totally wrong, and she wasn’t going to stand for it. Her son should have gotten the job, not mine.

“Excuse me.” She smiled politely, then headed toward a group of women on the other side of the pool and began talking to them about me.

Oh great! She was going to get Josh fired! All because of me.

I picked up what I could from the other women. They hissed their disapproval, but deep down, most of them could care less. Still, they glared at me for her sake. All but one of them, who looked my way with a puzzled frown. Didn’t she know me from somewhere?

Crystal glanced my way with a triumphant gleam in her eyes. She was going to make a formal complaint and get me kicked out. With her head held high, she left the pool area to find the person in charge.

I sucked in a breath and sat up, ready to gather my things and leave. I glanced at Savannah. She’d been having a great time. To be honest, so had I. Should I allow this woman to ruin my day? It wasn’t my fault that her son didn’t get the job. This wasn’t my fight, even if she made it look that way.

With a determined sigh, I lay back down and picked up my book. She was not going to get the best of me. It took a while to get back into the story, but once I did, I completely forgot about her until I realized she stood directly over me.

With her arms crossed and her lips flattened into a grim line, she began to speak. “I don’t know how you did it, but you don’t belong here. I think you should leave.”

Whoa. Now that was going too far. “You first,” I said.

“I’m a member, you’re not. So get out.”

“No.” Her mouth dropped open. Before she could say a word, I continued. “What did you say your name was?”

“Crystal Davenport. My husband owns Davenport Security. I’m sure you’ve heard of him.” She was thinking that she had a lot of clout, and I shouldn’t mess with her or my son would be out of a job by the end of the day.

“Yes, of course I’ve heard of him. Now, if you want to make a formal complaint, go ahead, but I’m not leaving, and you’re blocking my light.”

She inhaled sharply and opened her mouth to let me have it, but one of the ladies from the other side of the pool grabbed her arm. “Crystal, my dear. What are you doing?” The woman asked. “You need to calm down and apologize.”

The woman glanced at me. “I’m Rosalyn Fairbanks. We met at the Museum Gala. My husband introduced us.” She hoped I put it together that her husband was the mayor, and he’d presented me with the honorary plaque that was now hanging on a wall of the museum.

“Of course,” I said and smiled. “It’s nice to see you again.”

“It’s an honor to have you here.” She turned to Crystal. “Shelby is a major contributor to the arts. Just last year, she found the man responsible for the stolen Monet and the other paintings. She recovered them for us.” She glanced at me. “And didn’t you help capture that escaped convict that was terrorizing the community a few weeks ago?”

“Uh…yes. I did.”

“You lead such an exciting life. Maybe someday you can share some of your most interesting cases with us. I’m sure we’d all love to hear some of the more intimate details.”

My brows rose into my forehead and my mouth dropped open. “Uh…maybe.”

“Don’t worry, my dear. I don’t mean now. We’ll let you get back to your book. Oh…how’s your Uncle doing?”

“Uncle Joey? Uh…great.”

“Good.” She glanced at Crystal. “Joe Manetto is her uncle.” She turned back to me. “Tell him hello from me, won’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Good.” She nudged Crystal, who glanced at me with widened eyes.

“Uh… Sorry for earlier. Uh…can I get you anything? A drink or something?”

“Oh…no. I’m good.”

She nodded. “Maybe next time, then?”

“Yeah, sure.”

With that, the women left, and I tried not to smile too big. It had surprised me that the mayor’s wife remembered me, but I couldn’t complain since she’d come to my rescue. Of course, she also knew Uncle Joey, and I gathered that had more to do with it.

Now it looked like I could come to this pool anytime I wanted. Like I was a big-shot celebrity or something. I sighed. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, but relaxing here by the pool… I had to believe that, every once in a while, there had to be some perks for all the times I’d put my life on the line.

So I might as well enjoy it, right?

I work for a mob-boss. Doesn’t that sound nuts? There are some days I can’t believe it either. But, I have to say that he’s not your typical mob-boss, mostly because he runs several legitimate businesses, and he’s never been arrested…not even once.

Before you start thinking that I’m rationalizing about working for such a person, let me just clarify that I do it under duress. He found out my secret that I can read minds, and threatened harm to my family if I didn’t cooperate.

Sure, it may seem like I enjoy it, and sometimes I really do, but since I’ve nearly died a few times because of it, I know I should work harder at getting out from under him.

Still, if I’m honest, I do like being an indispensable part of his organization. That feeling of importance is pretty amazing. He’s also made sure I have someone to watch my back when I get in trouble, and I’ve grown quite fond of that person…and his motorcycle. Uncle Joey’s also deposited copious amounts of money into my checking account, and given me bonuses. I’ve even gone on his private jet to some great cities a few times.

So…what I’m trying to tell you is that I guess I’m in too deep to get out now. That should bother me a whole lot, but what can I say? I passed that point a while ago. Which brings me to my next conundrum. I also help the police. My partner, Detective Harris, aka Dimples, knows that I sometimes help Uncle Joey, he just doesn’t know how much.

So far, he hasn’t made a big deal out of it, but I just found out that he’s looking into it. What am I supposed to say when he tells me that he has a plan to take Uncle Joey down, and he wants my help to do it, especially when I know he’s doing it for my sake?

To top it all off, my husband also works for Uncle Joey as his lawyer. Could this get any worse? Actually, yes, because now my kids think Uncle Joey is my uncle and therefore related to them. In fact, our whole family had a chance encounter with his. I had to introduce my kids to his wife and son. Since then, he’s claimed us as part of The Family.

My thirteen-year-old daughter, Savannah, has a huge crush on Uncle Joey’s eighteen-year-old son. She thinks he’s not blood-related because of a story I made up about how Uncle Joey was first married to my aunt but they got a divorce and his son is from a different relationship. Complicated, right?

It’s no wonder that when taking a good look at my life, and all the complications involved in it, that I start to get a little stressed out. Which brings me to my next conundrum. You see, I’m meeting with Dimples this afternoon, and Uncle Joey just asked me to spy on the police department about a special case that could have repercussions for him.

He’s never really asked me to do that before, although it’s been implied, and it’s stressing me out. Can a good person work for people on both sides of the law? How long can I sit on the fence between the good guys and the bad guys without getting caught, hurt, or killed?

Honestly, I don’t want to find out, because I know one thing for sure…I could never betray Uncle Joey. But just as important, I don’t want to end up in jail either. So I guess for now, I’ll just have to keep balancing on that tightrope, and hope I don’t fall off.

It’s what you’d do, right?

Wish me luck – I’m going to need it!

 

 

As most of you know, I’m a paid consultant for the police. I help out when they have a difficult case and not much to go on. They don’t know the truth that I can read minds, and I try to keep it that way by telling them I have psychic abilities – like premonitions and such.

This works great when they are questioning suspects, mostly because I can pick it up pretty quick if the suspect is guilty. After that, it’s usually easy for me to ask the suspect leading questions that either trick them into admitting their guilt, or trick them into giving away important information that only they would know. This usually freaks them out so bad that they confess to the whole thing. In the process, it makes me look pretty awesome.

Only today didn’t go quite so well.

I was at the precinct waiting for Dimples to arrive, when the chief got the call about a double homicide. Dimples is the only detective who knows the truth about me, and we’ve become partners. But since he wasn’t there yet, the chief asked me to go with Detective Bates.

Normally, Bates would have refused to take me with him, since he doesn’t like me much. But things have changed in the last couple of months, and he’s more accepting of my psychic abilities. He’s now a believer, since he’s seen first hand how good I am at finding the guilty party.

But right then, I wished he still hated me, because I wasn’t sure how I could help at a crime scene. I couldn’t read dead people’s minds, and the killer was probably long gone. But what could I do? As I stood there with indecision, Bates smiled encouragingly, thinking I hesitated because he hadn’t been very nice to me, but he was willing to let bygones be bygones.

Great! How could I tell him to go without me after that? “Uh… I’m not too good with blood. Maybe I’d better stay here?”

At this point the chief noticed my hesitation and frowned at me, thinking that with my ability, I might pick up something his detectives would miss and they’d get a jump start on the killer. So why was I hesitating? Isn’t this what they paid me for?

“But if you really need me,” I continued. “I’ll go.”

“Good,” the chief said. “Detective Harris has been held up on another case, but I’ll send him to the house as soon as he’s available.”

I let out a relieved breath since Detective Harris is my partner, Dimples. I hoped he didn’t take took long since he could run interference for me if things got tricky. Plus, I didn’t like going out on a case without him. I knew Dimples had my back if something went wrong, and I couldn’t say that about Bates.

Before I knew it, we arrived at the house with the dead bodies, and a wave of dread washed over me. Even worse, there were a lot of police officers there, but Dimples wasn’t one of them.

Bates noticed my white face and thought I was a big wimp. He shook his head thinking it was a mistake to bring me. Sure, I’d been right a few times, but I didn’t seem to have the mojo to be a real detective.

The grudging respect he’d held for me slipped a few notches. So I offered him a quick nod, and jumped out of the car. I even led the way to the door, but a police officer stopped me from entering, and Bates had to tell her it was okay to let me in. As obnoxious as that was, it restored Bates’ good mood, so I couldn’t be too upset.

With misgiving, I took a deep breath and followed him in. The first thing I noticed were the rusty red blood spatters all over the living room wall. Then came the coppery smell of death and the sight of two women’s bodies sprawled out on the floor. I stopped in my tracks, then managed to cover my nose and avert my gaze until I found an out-of-the-way spot near the doorway to the kitchen.

I swallowed a few times to keep from throwing up. I hadn’t expected the dead people to be women. Somehow, that made this whole thing worse. I glanced into the kitchen and noticed food on the table along with three place settings. So where was the other person? Was that person still there? Was that person the killer?

My neck tingled and a sudden chill ran down my spine, as if someone’s icy breath had brushed against my skin. I hunched my shoulders and glanced behind me, catching sight of blond hair and wide eyes before it registered that my reflection looked back at me from a tall mirror at the end of the hall.

Letting out a breath of relief, my shoulders slumped and I closed my eyes. Then I heard a sound, like a woman singing. What the freak? It came from the end of the hall where two doors stood open.

I wasn’t about to go that way, but an icy tingle crept against my neck and across my shoulders, pushing me in that direction. The singing got a little louder and I followed the sound to the room on the right.

I held my breath and peeked inside, letting it out to find the room empty. As I took a step inside the singing stopped, and I caught the scent of roses. Then a picture frame on the dresser toppled over. I inhaled sharply, then squealed with alarm as a hand clamped down on my shoulder.

“Whoa! It’s just me,” Bates said, catching my arms before I hit him. “Didn’t you hear me? I called your name twice.”

“You did?” My breath came hard and fast. At his nod, I shook my head. “I didn’t hear a thing. But I think you’d better take a look at whoever’s in that picture frame on the dresser.”

“Why?”

“Because it just fell over for no reason!”

His eyes narrowed. He was thinking that maybe my imagination was working overtime. He’d seen that happen at homicides before, because of the shock of dead bodies and all that blood. But what if there was something to it? Was it part of my powers at work?

“Sure. I’ll get it.” He moved to the dresser and pulled on some rubber gloves before picking up the frame.

I glanced over his shoulder into the photo of a smiling man wearing a suit and tie. “I don’t know who that is,” I said. “But I think he might be the killer.”

Bates glanced at me, thinking that maybe it wasn’t a waste to bring me after all. “Sure. I’ll look into it.”

I closed my eyes and let out a relieved breath. “Is it okay if I go sit in the car now?”

“Yeah, go ahead. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I held my breath and hurried out of the house, keeping one eye closed so I wouldn’t see the dead bodies again. After pushing through the door, I stumbled down the porch steps in my haste to get out of there.

I managed to keep my balance and continued toward the car, where I stopped to plant my hands on my knees and lean over to settle my stomach. Sheesh! That was horrible!

As I opened the car door and sat down, I decided then and there, that I was never going to a crime scene again. I’d much rather sit in on a suspect’s questioning than get scared half to death by a departed spirit.

On the other hand, at least it was Bates and not Dimples who’d been there. Bates wouldn’t question my ability, but Dimples would have had questions that I didn’t want to answer. How could I tell him that sometimes I heard dead people… Of course, since he knew I could read minds, did it really matter?

Probably not. But maybe working for Uncle Joey and not helping the police so much would be better for me… even if it wasn’t exactly the right thing to do.

Helping the police has always been a little nerve-wracking, mostly because the local mob-boss, Uncle Joey, doesn’t like it much. So I try to keep a low profile when I’m helping my partner, Dimples, or I should say, Detective Harris, solve a difficult case. Since Dimples knows my secret that I can read minds, we make a good team. I also feel like it eases my conscience to help out the good guys once in a while, since I’m sort of obligated to help the bad guys out the rest of the time.

This can sometimes be a little tricky, but I do my best to keep things on the low-down. Even so, things can get complicated. Like today.

Dimples and I were  just returning to the police station when a call came through about a man with a gun at the State Capitol Building. We were only a block away, so naturally, Dimples flashed on his lights and siren, and swerved the car around to rush to the scene.

We were the first to arrive, and Dimples told me to stay in the car, while he jumped out to run inside and save the day. Naturally, I couldn’t let him run into danger like that if I could help. So, much to his consternation, I quickly followed.

“What the … Shelby, you can’t come, you’re not armed.”

“I’ll stay behind you.”

Since there wasn’t time to argue, he just swore a blue streak in his mind, and continued up the steps with me right behind him. Then I caught that he wished I wasn’t there, since he’d have to worry about my safety, and it kind of hurt my feelings. I mean, seriously, I can read minds… that’s a huge help, and it can also keep me safe since I’ll know what’s coming ahead of time, right?

We passed several people running out the doors, and I picked up that the man with the gun had cornered s few people in the rotunda by the busts of all the former governors. As we hurried inside, I relayed that information to Dimples, and his annoyance with me dissipated a little.

As we approached the back of the rotunda, Dimples slowed his steps and then came to a stop just out of sight. We could hear a woman trying to calm the man with the gun, so I took the opportunity to zero in on the man’s thoughts.

His underlying desperation hit me first, but his thoughts didn’t make a lot of sense. The harder I listened, the more I realized I could hear three distinct voices all trying to talk at the same time. They were arguing about doing whatever it took to get what he needed. One was pushing him to put the gun down, but another was arguing to use it to get them to listen to him. It scared me so bad, I jerked out of his head.

“What’s wrong?” Dimples whispered, noticing my widened eyes and shallow breath.

“He’s crazy.” At Dimples’ raised brows, I continued. “I mean, literally… he needs his medication. Wait…that’s what this is all about. He has no insurance and can’t pay so he came here to get help. At least that’s what it sounds like.”

“Do you think he’ll shoot someone?”

“I don’t know…” I listened to the different voices and thought I just might go crazy. Then I caught it. “I don’t think the gun’s loaded.”

“Are you positive?”

Before I could answer, we heard soft footfalls and turned around to find a fully armed and loaded SWAT team slowly coming our way. A couple of them crept up the stairs where they could get a clean shot and take him out before he killed someone.

Knowing I didn’t have much time, I caught Dimples’ gaze, then took a deep breath and walked around the corner. “Hey Benny, it’s Shelby. I’ve got your meds for you.” He turned around, pinning me with his startled gaze, and raising his gun in my direction. “Uh…Jerry wants you to put the gun down now. He says everything’s going to be all right. But you have to put the gun down first. You should listen to Jerry and not Cindy. Jerry’s got the right idea. He doesn’t want anyone to get hurt, and I don’t think you do either.”

Benny’s brows rose  with astonishment. “He… told you that?”

“Yes.”

His mouth opened and closed, then he shook his head. “Cindy’s going to be mad.”

“She’ll get over it. You should listen to Jerry and put the gun down. He’s right you know.”

“O..kay. If you’re sure…”

“I am.”

With his brows drawn together in confusion, he lowered the gun to the ground.

Dimples rushed in and kicked the gun away before pulling Benny’s arms behind his back and cuffing him. All at once, police officers came out of the woodwork and surrounded us. They had Benny subdued before I could blink. That’s when I realized that with Benny’s focus on me, all the hostages had taken off.

I glanced toward Dimples to find him examining Benny’s gun and hurried to his side. His gaze caught mine and he shook his head, thinking that I’d taken a hell of a risk talking to Benny like that… because the gun was fully loaded.

“Are you serious?”

He let out his breath and nodded, then thought that even though I was wrong about the gun, I was right about everything else, and it was kind of creepy the way I talked to that guy. But it worked.

I let out a breath, grateful it was over, and a little wigged out by the whole thing. And now I had to worry about the unwanted attention that was sure to come my way. “You did this, not me,” I whispered. “I’ll meet you at the car.” I turned around to get out of there before someone stopped me.

Luckily, I made it to the car before I heard my name. Cringing, I turned to find Billie Jo rushing my way, and knew it was time to lie my head off. “Oh hey Billie, Dimples saved the day in there. You should go talk to him.”

After asking me a couple of questions, she high-tailed it up the steps and I breathed a sigh of relief. That was close, and I thanked my lucky stars that the hostages and the police didn’t witness my conversation with Benny. At least I sure hoped not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met some of the girls I’d grown up with for dinner the other night.

As you can imagine, I’d managed to avoid dinner with them for a while, mostly to save myself from hearing thoughts that might hurt my feelings. Not that these friends are mean or anything, but there’s always that element of competitiveness that comes when a group of women get together.

The drill goes like this: We start out by getting updates on what everyone’s doing in their lives. This is accomplished by going around the table so everyone gets a chance to talk about themselves. That’s when we get to hear about the cruises, trips, new cars, houses, and what activities the children are involved in, and how smart they are. Then we usually end with the latest gossip about other people we know. Pretty standard, right?

In some ways, I really wanted to go because I’ve got some crazy stories I could tell that might just top anything anyone else had to say. I’d also know how much of the truth they told, and how much they embellished their stories just to sound good.

But on the other hand, I’d know what they really thought about each other … and what they really thought about me. I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea, even as much as it enticed me to know.

Anyway, it just so happened that I was free on the night of the scheduled dinner. And in a moment of weakness, I told them I’d be there. That’s how I ended up in the restaurant, surrounded by six other women whom I’d known since grade school, but hadn’t talked to in almost a year.

When it got to me, I decided to tell them about my consulting agency. I picked up curiosity, and a lot of astonishment, that I had the guts to do something like that. They had a ton of questions for me about what kinds of cases I’d worked on. Mostly because they didn’t quite believe I was telling the truth, or that I was totally legitimate.

In fact, there were a couple of them who thought I couldn’t possibly be a real investigator, and it was just a hobby, or something I said to impress people. Then someone asked if I’d ever worked on a murder case, but she was thinking that was the true test of my legitimacy as a consultant.

So naturally, I took the bait, and told them about the case where I’d helped a young woman find her mother who’d been missing for ten years, but whom I found out had actually been killed by a serial killer. That got their attention, and they listened with astonishment to the whole story, amazed that I got out alive. And who was this Ramos person? (I’d sort of glossed over that part, since I couldn’t exactly tell the truth. But I had to say something about him. I mean, how could I leave him out when he’d saved my life?)

By the end of our dinner, I had their grudging respect, but they also didn’t want me to think I was too high and mighty for them. So they took what I said with a grain of salt, not quite believing all of it. (Mostly the Ramos part.)

It also made me realize that if one of them had told my story, I’d probably have a hard time believing it too, so maybe it was all right.

Still, as we left, I had a strong desire for Ramos to show up on his motorcycle and take me for a ride, just to prove it was all real. That would show them, right? Plus, they’d probably all die of jealousy.

But, as satisfying as that scenario might be, all it would really prove was that I was lots more competitive than I thought. Even worse, that I’d enjoyed being the center of attention and having the best story of them all.

Dang. I hoped that didn’t make me a bad person. It might also mean that I’d better keep my mouth shut next time. With as much trouble as I seem to get into, it’s probably a good idea.

 

 

As most of you know, I began my consulting agency nearly a year ago. So much has happened in that time that it kind of blows my mind. To say the least, it has been one adventure after another! I always seem to have my hands full, and right now is no exception.

I’m helping a police detective, whom I call Dimples, with a murder investigation. He found out my secret that I can read minds a few months ago, but he is the only one on the police force who knows the truth. Naturally, he wants my help when he’s assigned a hard case. I usually don’t have too many problems finding the guilty party, since all I have to do is talk to the major suspects and listen to their thoughts. The guilty person always thinks about how they did it, and I can usually wrap it up pretty quick.

But not this time.

So far, every single suspect I’ve talked to is innocent, and my ability isn’t as helpful as I’d like. The police chief is even getting a little upset with me and wondering what happened to my ‘premonitions.’ (This is what I call my ability to keep my secret safe). So now Dimples and I are scrambling to find the guilty party, and I’m finally learning what it’s like to do real detective work.

But after this morning, I’m ready to quit. Some evidence Dimples gathered yesterday makes it look like organized crime might be involved. Dimples actually had the gall to ask me to spy on Uncle Joey. He knows I used to work for Uncle Joey, but what he doesn’t know is that Uncle Joey knows my secret and I still work for him.

I can’t very well spy on Uncle Joey for the police, can I? So what am I supposed to do? If Uncle Joey is involved, does that mean I should warn him about the investigation? Maybe if I did, he could do something to cover up his involvement. But isn’t that aiding and abetting? I could go to jail for something like that.

On the other hand, if I find he’s not involved, that would be a good thing, too. My only way out, is to find the real killer and hope he’s not tied to Uncle Joey. Still, I think I might mention the investigation to Uncle Joey, just in passing, so it’s not like I’m actually warning him about anything. Then he’d be prepared, right?

Besides, I think if Uncle Joey had the guy killed, the body wouldn’t have been at the crime scene. From what I’ve picked up about how he does things, there probably wouldn’t have been a body to find in the first place. So in that respect, it couldn’t have been Uncle Joey, and all my worry is for nothing.

Ugh! See what I mean about quitting? As much as I enjoy having my own consulting agency, it’s not an easy thing to work on both sides of the law. In fact, it’s downright stressful. If I don’t quit the agency altogether, I should probably make a decision to either help the police, or work for Uncle Joey.

Or maybe I’ll just take some time off and quit working for both of them. That way, I’ll only have personal cases to work on, and I won’t end up in such dangerous situations all the time.

Of course, that’s not always true either. I’ve had a few of my own cases that nearly got me killed anyway. See my dilemma? If I had to choose between Uncle Joey and Dimples, I don’t think I could do it. I owe Uncle Joey too much to ever break ties with him, and Dimples is my friend and knows my secret.

So… I guess I’ll just keep going with what I’m doing and hope for the best. As long as I have plenty of Mylanta handy, I should be able to handle it, right? Especially if Ramos is around to save my bacon…and maybe take me on a motorcycle ride or two. But see what I mean about being between a rock and a hard place?

 

I got a phone call recently from someone I thought was out of my life for good. It really threw me to hear Kate’s voice saying hello and asking me how I was doing. I have to admit I wasn’t very friendly. That’s when she told me she was in town on business, and wanted to know if I’d go out to lunch with her. Seriously?? She thought I’d do that? To set the record straight, Kate is one of my least favorite people, and that is putting it mildly. At one time, she was after my husband, and nearly got me killed. Why she thought I’d like to go out to lunch with her boggled my mind. Until she mentioned we wouldn’t be alone. Then it kind of clicked. She had a new associate, and was hoping to get my opinion on his trustworthiness. As in, she wanted me to read his mind.

“Sure,” I said. “But just so you know, my going rate is five hundred dollars an hour.”

Without hesitation, she quickly agreed, and now I was committed to spending a whole hour with my former nemesis. I didn’t know if I’d done the right thing, but I had to admit, I was certainly curious to find out what kind of trouble she was in, and the money didn’t hurt either. I arrived at the restaurant to find her seated with a tall, gorgeous, blond guy, who loaded on the charm, and greeted me as Kate’s old college buddy. Since she was about six years younger than me, I took that as a complement. I picked up enough from her thoughts to answer his questions about our college days together, and then started asking questions of my own. By the time lunch was over, I knew lots more about their relationship than I wished. After lunch, he had an appointment and had to leave, which suited Kate’s plans perfectly, giving her a chance to ask me what I’d found out. It was tempting not to tell her everything, but since she was paying me, I had to give it to her straight.

“You’re right,” I began. “He’s hiding something from you.” Her face paled, but she motioned for me to continue. “First of all, he works for your rival… Wayne?… and the plan was to make you fall for him, because of his considerable amount of charm and good looks, and then undermine your organization so that Wayne can take a big cut of your profits. But now he’s having second thoughts because… he’s fallen in love with you. He doesn’t want to go through with the plan, but now he’s worried that his boss will kill him. He’d tell you, but he thinks once you find out he was going to double-cross you that you’ll kill him too. So basically, he’s decided he’s pretty much toast.”

“Thank you Shelby.” She handed me five one hundred dollar bills and stood. She was thinking that was the best news she’d heard in weeks and it was worth every penny.

We said our goodbyes, and I smiled at this turn of events. Kate was in love, and I’d helped her. She was going to do everything she could to save her man. Who would have thought? And what a mess! Phew! It made me realize that even with all the trouble I get into, I’m still glad I don’t have her life.

SECRETS THAT KILL
A SHELBY NICHOLS ADVENTURE

Chapter One
When I was a kid, the best part of my trip to Disneyland wasn’t the park, the rides, or the entertainment. It was the swimming pool at my cousin’s house where we stayed. I loved going to their house after a long hot day, and gazing into the pool’s clear blue water. With the pool light turned on, there was just something about that water that made me want to jump in. With the dark starry night overhead, it was soothing and magical.
That’s why, on the last day of our vacation to Orlando, I found myself sitting beside the pool. It was late, and most everyone had gone to bed, so I was there by myself. If I could have gone swimming, I would have, but the pool had just closed for the night. So I sat back in a chair and gazed into the water, smelling the slight odor of chlorine, and feeling the tension ease out of my body.
It felt so good to have my thoughts to myself that I almost cried. Hearing people’s thoughts in all the crowds these last two weeks had been murder on my poor brain. I had put up my shields as much as I could, but it left a constant tension between my eyes, and worse, I was sure I had new wrinkles to show for it.
I had no idea there were so many different theme parks and attractions in Orlando. We had visited at least five parks, with several other attractions thrown in. Although we’d taken a couple of days off in-between to recover, mostly for my benefit, the constant barrage of thoughts had gotten on my nerves, making me irritable and short-tempered. I’d done my best, but I knew that Chris and the kids were happy to leave me at the pool and go inside for bed. Chris tried to understand, but I knew it bothered him.
It bothered me too, but for different reasons. Sure, I had the ‘super-power’ of reading people’s minds, but this vacation had proven that even I had my limits. I might have handled one week, but two was over-kill. Today had proven that. I cringed to remember how I’d yelled at the father who was only ‘thinking’ his cute daughter was a pain in the butt, and today was one of those days he wished she’d never been born. I’d told him to quit being so selfish and enjoy this time with her. That she’d grow up before he knew it, and he’d be sorry and full of regret for his poor attitude.
The problem was, she was just a baby, and had thrown up all over him. So I had probably over-reacted. His first thought in reaction was guilt that I was right. But his second impulse quickly over-rode the first, and hot anger turned his face red. How dare I chastise him in front of all these people when he hadn’t done anything wrong?
Acting fast, Chris wisely pulled me away and apologized over his shoulder, telling the guy I had forgotten to take my medication. My outrage at Chris quickly changed to embarrassment and then self-loathing. Chris couldn’t believe I could be so callous and mean. What was wrong with me? Where were my shields? My behavior was totally unacceptable. Not only that, but he was so embarrassed he could hardly stand it.
But he only thought all of those things, so I couldn’t be too angry. Especially when he also thought being privy to everyone’s thoughts had to be rough on me, so he needed to cut me some slack. Still…
Shame and regret flowed over me, so I shoved the memory away and glanced up at the stars. Our flight tomorrow didn’t leave until three o’clock in the afternoon, so we still had some time in the morning to relax. Or at least Chris and the kids did. I had an errand to run for Uncle Joey. He was the mob-boss I had to work for since he knew my secret.
Although he compensated me for my time, we had a tenuous relationship. It had evolved over the last few months, and I liked to think it was now based on mutual respect rather than fear that he would kill me. Still, it was a balancing act to work for him on my terms rather than his.
When he found out I was coming to Orlando, he’d asked me to deliver a letter for him. Not a big deal, right? So I’d saved his errand until the last moment, hoping it wouldn’t ruin my vacation. That was a big mistake, since thinking about delivering the letter everyday had done exactly that. I should have just delivered it the first day we’d gotten here instead of dragging out the torment. That was just plain stupid.
First thing in the morning, I’d take care of it. Then we could go home. Our vacation was over. With the exception of that embarrassing incident today, we’d had a fun time here, and I was grateful we’d come, but now I was eager to go home and get back to normal. Plus the extra space from all the people wouldn’t hurt.
Ha! Who was I kidding? I could hardly wait to be alone in my own house. Just thinking about it brought such a profound sense of relief that I was a bit giddy. Did that mean I was losing it? Had the stress finally gotten to me? Maybe I did need some kind of medication. What I’d done today was…I shook my head and sighed. A cool breeze brushed my skin, making me shiver. It was time to put a stop to these gloomy thoughts and go to bed.
***
Chris checked the address one more time. “Are you sure you’ll be all right delivering this by yourself?” He was thinking how worried he was about me, and wishing I hadn’t waited until the last moment to do this. He could have come with me if I’d gone earlier. What was I thinking?
“Yeah. It’s no big deal. I’ll be fine.” I gave Chris a reassuring hug and kiss, wanting to ease his worry and escape his censure. “See you at the airport. Bye kids.” Engrossed in their packing, they absently waved.
I took the elevator to the lobby and hurried out the door. A cab was waiting for me, and I got in, giving the driver the address. “How long will it take to get there?” I asked.
“About twenty-five minutes,” he replied.
“Okay,” I answered. It was a little before ten a.m. and I didn’t have to be to the airport until one, so I had plenty of time. I would probably get to the airport long before Chris and the kids, but I wanted to play it safe and not miss my flight.
“How far is it from this address to the airport?” I asked the driver. I probably should have checked a map since I was basically clueless as to where I was going.
“Um…probably about twenty minutes,” he said.
“So do you think I’ll make it by one?” I asked, mostly for his benefit so he’d know I was on a schedule.
“Of course,” he said. “Unless you plan on staying for more than a few minutes, you should be to the airport by…eleven-thirty or so.”
“Oh, okay. Thanks.” Maybe I shouldn’t have left so early, but with my luck it was probably better to plan for extra time.
I spent the drive making sure I had everything in my carry-on bag that I needed for the flight. Chris was in charge of my luggage, so I didn’t have to drag it around with me, but I still felt loaded down with both my carry-on and my purse. Luckily, my carry-on was just a big bag so I could carry it over my shoulder. In fact, if I moved things around, there was probably enough room to stuff my purse inside as well.
That accomplished, I heaved a sigh of relief, grateful I wouldn’t have to worry about lugging two bags around. Before zipping it all up, I found the letter from Uncle Joey that I’d put in a special compartment, and pulled it out.
It was addressed to Warren Peace, which I knew had to be a fake name, or maybe even a code of some sort, and held it gingerly. Getting rid of this couldn’t come fast enough for me. I’d tried to tell Uncle Joey to mail it, but he wouldn’t, saying he needed my ‘special touch’ so I could tell him what Warren was thinking. That worked fine as long as Warren didn’t take it out on me. Especially since I had a feeling that the message it contained couldn’t be good.
The cab pulled to the curb and came to a stop. I glanced up at an apartment complex, and realized I was in trouble if he wasn’t home. What was I going to do then? I didn’t even have a phone number.
“I’ll only be a minute, if you don’t mind waiting,” I told the cab driver.
“No problem, as long as you know the meter’s still running.” He sent me a friendly smile and settled back in his seat to wait. He hoped I’d take my time and pulled out a book to read.
I got out, taking my bag with me, and scanned the apartment numbers. I found the one I was looking for on the bottom level, which was basically in the basement. The outside light was on, and for some reason that made me nervous. Did that mean he wasn’t home? What would I do then?
Taking a deep breath and letting it out, I started down the stairs and rang the bell. I heard some rustling inside before the curtain parted and someone glanced out at me. I caught sight of a bearded face and glasses, before the door opened a crack.
“I’m not interested,” he said, and began to close the door.
“Wait,” I said, pushing against the door to keep it open. “Are you Warren Peace? I have a letter for you. Then I’ll go. Here…” I held it out, “Just take it.”
His eyes widened, and he glanced behind me, then stuck his head out the door to look up the stairs. “Are you alone?” he asked, frowning.
“Yes. I’m only here to deliver this letter and take your response back to Uncle Joey.”
He hesitated, then his thoughts filled with about every swear word imaginable repeated several times. I would have held my hands to my ears if it had done any good. “All right,” he finally said, still not taking the letter. “You’d better come in.”
I hurried inside and he closed and bolted the door behind me. “Did anyone see you come here?” he asked.
“Well, no…just the cab driver. He’s waiting outside for me.”
This time he cursed out loud. “You’ve got to get rid of him! A yellow cab like that will draw attention. Quick, before someone notices.”
“I can’t,” I said, alarmed that he was freaking out. “He’s taking me to the airport. Just read the damn letter and tell me your answer!” I tried to shove the letter into his hands, but he held them up.
“I don’t have to read it. I know what he wants, and I just can’t do it.” He sent a searching glance at me, desperation filling his eyes. “You’ll have to do it for me, or I’m a dead man. Please…I just need you to take what Manetto wants back with you. You can give it to him for me. If you don’t, I swear I’ll be dead by morning.” He grabbed a wad of bills from his pocket. “Pay off the cabbie and I’ll take you to the airport. It’s not safe for you or me with him sitting out there like a yellow beacon. Manetto has no idea what he’s gotten you into here…Hurry! Go!”
I took the cash and hurried out the door. He wasn’t lying about my safety, or anything else he’d said, and that scared me. I paid the cabbie, giving him an extra twenty for a tip, and hustled back to the apartment. Warren waited at the top of the stairs, watching up and down the street until I came back. He ushered me into the apartment, locking and bolting the door behind us.
“Hopefully, we have a little time,” he said. “At least I’ve prepared for this moment. I just didn’t know Manetto would make his move so soon.” He was thinking about everything he needed to get before we left. He had stashed all his cash along with his passport and ID in the freezer.
“Wait,” I interrupted. “Read the letter first, and then tell me what’s going on.” I shoved the letter into his hands, and planted my feet in front of the doorway to the kitchen.
With great reluctance, he tore open the envelope and pulled out the letter. As he read, I heard the words in his mind.
Warren…I need the information you’ve obtained for me. I know it might put you in danger, but I’ve discovered through my sources that it’s time you moved on anyway. Bring it to me without delay, and I’ll help you disappear. The lovely woman delivering this letter is Shelby Nichols. Tell her you’ll bring the item to me, and then send her on her way. If anything happens to her because of you, you’re A Dead Man. Don’t keep me waiting. Yours…etc…Joe E. Manetto.
Warren glanced at me and licked his lips. Maybe he’d been too hasty in sending the cab driver off and enlisting my help. Manetto didn’t make threats he wasn’t ready to keep. “What time does your flight leave?” he asked.
“Three o’clock,” I answered.
“Oh good,” he said, checking his watch. “We’ve got plenty of time. Should be a piece of cake.” He was thinking it would be close, but it could still work. As long as I hadn’t been spotted by Carson’s goons. “I’ll get my stuff, and we can leave in a few minutes.”

A Hot Ride

Posted: August 19, 2012 in Consulting, Experiences, Thoughts

I have a friend who helps me out sometimes. Mostly when I get in trouble. In my line of work, I’ve decided it’s a good thing to have someone around who’s willing to watch my back now and again. Not too long ago, this friend and I needed to talk to some people without revealing our identities. As part of the disguise, we had to ride his motorcycle. I’ve never been riding on a motorcycle before. I couldn’t even tell you what kind of motorcycle it was, except it was black and all shiny and nice. My friend was looking pretty bad-ass, so he fit the motorcycle to a tee. Me, not so much. In fact, I was wearing a skirt, of all things. But somehow we made it work, and I was clutching his middle pretty hard when we roared out of the parking garage. Woohoo! I have to tell you it was pretty exciting, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Me, a muscled hot dude, and a motorcycle… yup… fun times. The only problem? Well, besides my skirt flapping in the breeze (you should never wear a skirt on a motorcycle), the helmet he gave me was too big. I could hardly see a thing. It kind of ruined my experience. So next time, (and I hope there is a next time) I’m finding a smaller helmet. And I’m wearing pants.