In Green-Eyed Lady we find that U.S. Senate candidate Warren Burkett has a history of marital infidelity. Three weeks before Election Day, Burkett comes to the aid of a beautiful green-eyed lady, only to find himself alone and naked in a stranger's home from which a priceless painting is missing. As the resulting scandal threatens to tilt the election, the painting turns up in a most unexpected place…as does a dead body.
Hired to defend Burkett and unravel the deepening mystery, Jack must traverse a mine field of ruthless politicians, felonious art dealers, swarming paparazzi, the amorous wife of Burkett's billionaire opponent, her mobbed-up brother, and a District Attorney with an old score to settle. With the electoral clock ticking and the press following his every move, Jack's investigation leads him on a roller-coaster ride through the lofty heights and gritty depths of Southern California, a quest that lends new meaning to the adage that all's fair in love and politics.
Chuck Greaves, a member of RMFW since 2012, is the author of Hush Money, the critically-acclaimed first installment in his Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries from St. Martin's Minotaur. Hush Money won the grand-prize Storyteller Award in the SouthWest Writers' International Writing Contest, and has been named a finalist for a number of national honors, including the Rocky Award from Left Coast Crime, the Reviewer's Choice Award from RT Book Reviews, and the Audie Award for Best Mystery audiobook of 2012. Green-Eyed Lady, also from Minotaur is the second novel in the series.
And now, without any further ado, I give you the
Prologue to Green-Eyed Lady by Chuck Greaves
Even now, in vivid hindsight, he could not recall which he’d noticed first: her crumpled shape on the blacktop or her voice echoing across the nearly empty parking lot. A cry of anguish, he’d thought at the time. A cry for help.
She was already to her feet by the time he’d reached her. There was a rip in her hose at the knee; that much he remembered, and a dislodged crocodile pump at which she’d stabbed, hopping, with the nylon dagger of her foot.
“Are you all right?” he’d asked her, breathless, lamenting this banality even as he uttered it.
She’d been leaning forward then, with one hand braced on the big Mercedes and her auburn hair hanging like a theater curtain, partially obscuring her face.
“Did you see him?” she’d asked as she straightened. Her eyes, he’d noticed then in the sodium lamplight, were green. Not blue green or hazel, but the bright, mossy tincture of verdigris on an old copper lantern.
“That man.” She’d waved vaguely toward the traffic on Hollywood Boulevard. “My purse.”
He remembered that he’d stepped in the direction she indicated, frowning into the darkness and the strolling tourists and the flaring headlights, a histrionic gesture.
“Never mind.” She’d sighed, brushing at her hip. Her skirt was tight and it rode up her thighs as she twisted to inspect behind her. “You’ve been very kind.”
They’d stood in silence, both regarding the car.
She’d moved her head side to side. “In the purse. Along with my phone.”
“I have a phone,” he’d offered, reaching into his suit jacket, but she’d ignored this, gazing instead toward the hills that stood in dark repose above the bright lights of the city.
“Not to mention my auto club card, my credit cards, all my cash,” she’d said then, more to herself than to him. “Shit!”
“Shall I call the police?”
“The police? What would they do?” She’d straightened her skirt, wriggling at the hips. “Fill out forms? File them in a drawer?”
“My office is just down the street” is what he’d said next, when actually he’d been thinking, we could both use a drink. Musso and Frank is just around the corner. They make a killer martini.
She’d fixed him with the eyes then, emerald cold and probing, as if reading his private thoughts.
“Perhaps you could call me a cab. That would be very kind of you.”
“Do you live nearby? I’d be happy to drive you.”
“No, thank you. I couldn’t impose.”
“Don’t be silly.” He’d smiled his campaign smile then, the hundred-watt dazzler that showed his dimples to best advantage. “It would be no bother at all.”
He’d pegged her for forty, over twenty- five years his junior. Taut and tanned. Gym membership, yoga classes, maybe a beach house on the weekend.
Two diamond studs, a Cartier wristwatch, and no rings, but a woman with that face and that body had to have been married. Divorced, probably.
A messy divorce, with Beverly Hills lawyers and a big battle over the prenup.
“Have I met you somewhere before?” she’d asked him as they merged with the eastbound traffic.
“Warren Burkett,” he’d replied, and to his surprise, she’d shown no reaction. A promising development.
He’d offered his hand, and she’d hesitated before taking it.
“Green Oak, you said?”
“Do you know the Observatory? It’s just to the west. Miles out of your way, I’m sure.”
“Why? Do I look like I live on the wrong side of the tracks?”
She’d flashed her own smile then, white in the oncoming lights.
“Not at all. You look very prosperous. And very trustworthy.” She’d smoothed her skirt with her palms, her eyes drifting to the neon storefronts. “That must come in handy, what ever your line of work.”
The house was back from the road, the driveway dark and curving. Huge, in the sweep of the headlights. Faux Georgian in style. He’d parked his Jaguar under the porte cochere, and there she’d turned again to face him, offering her hand.
“I can’t thank you enough. You’ve been so very helpful.”
“Scout’s oath,” he’d told her, smiling again, holding her hand a moment too long. “On my honor to do my best to help a lady in distress.”
“ ‘Honor.’ I haven’t heard that word for a long time,” she’d said, opening the car door, her long legs swinging onto the gravel, her sudden absence manifest in the plastic glare of the Jag’s dome light. He’d moved his hand to where she’d sat, the leather warm yet to his touch.
His car idling in the darkness, he’d leaned across the console to watch as she mounted the steps, paused, then turned, fists on hips, speaking words he couldn’t hear until he killed the engine and opened his own door and stood hopefully amid the cricket song and the wash of city lights that ran for endless miles below them.
“My house keys!”
Her footsteps had crunched on the broken glass as she crossed the foyer to key in the security code.
“Won’t your husband be upset?” he’d asked her then, trying to sound casual as he unwound the handkerchief from his fist. To which she’d replied by tossing her jacket onto a chair back and striding into the gloom. Her heels klack-klack-klacking on the polished hardwood, fading until the metered ticking of a grandfather clock was the mansion’s only sound.
He’d stood in the darkened foyer until a light appeared, and she’d returned in silhouette, moving toward the staircase.
“There’s ice in the freezer,” she’d told him. “And a bar just over there. I’ll have a Scotch, if you’re not in too great a hurry.”
She’d not been gone a minute when the telephone rang, and he’d heard her voice upstairs in quiet conversation. He’d fumbled for a table lamp, and loosened his tie, and taken down a pair of cut tumblers from a shelf behind the bar. Then, in the stainless- steel vastness of the kitchen, he’d found the ice.
When she’d returned downstairs to find him in the living room, it was not, as he’d vaguely hoped, in some filmy negligee, but in the very same clothes she’d been wearing before. Except, he’d noticed, that her legs were bare.
“Here,” he’d offered, but she’d only gestured, and he’d set her drink on the table.
She’d worked the room lights then, adjusting the dimmers, and then she’d moved to the stereo cabinet. A classical radio station.
“There,” she’d said, turning at last to face him. “Isn’t that better?”
The room’s appointments were tasteful, and expensive, and thus of a piece with their owner. There was a piano in the corner, black and gleaming, and a matched pair of Chinese vases that flanked the marble fireplace. Above the mantel hung a painting in a heavy gilt frame: two women in a garden setting, playing at croquet.
She’d stood before the painting, her gaze uplift ed, and he’d moved to stand beside her.
“Do you know art?” she’d asked him.
“It’s a Morisot. From the Bonhams auction in 2007.”
“It’s very beautiful.”
She’d slipped her arm inside his, her eyes still on the painting. “I collect beautiful things,” she’d told him then. “Beautiful things that make me happy.”
She’d begun to undress him right there in the living room: his jacket, his tie, his belt. Then, after he’d stepped out of his trousers, she’d led him by the hand, as a mother might lead a child, back through the foyer and up the stairs. His brain was swimming, the klack- klack of her heels a measured counterpoint to the wild beating of his heart.
Inside the master suite, she’d turned him around and pushed him roughly onto the bed, standing over him as she tossed her hair and worked the buttons of her blouse.
“I’m going to use the bathroom,” she’d said, more than a little breathless.
“I won’t be a minute.”
Had he been thinking clearly, the fact that she’d exited through the hallway door would have been his first clue, and that she’d stooped to retrieve her torn pantyhose from the floor. But at that particular moment, his thinking had been anything but clear.
The next clue, however, could not be missed — even by a naked man in a strange bed whose imagination was not, he was mortified to recall, the only aspect of his arousal — coming, as it did, in the form of two LAPD officers bursting through the bedroom door with their guns drawn.
“Christ!” one of them had said, lowering his weapon. “Holy shit.”
By the time the detectives had arrived, the crime scene investigators had all but finished lifting prints from the table lamp, the freezer, the crystal glasses. Nothing, he’d noticed, from the light switch or the stereo or the alarm console. The detectives had parked their Crown Victoria under the empty porte cochere, and they’d beckoned him into the living room, where nothing hung over the mantel.
“I don’t suppose we could find a way to keep the press out of this?” he’d asked them, tempering the panic in his voice.
The detectives shared a glance as they opened their notebooks. They’d clicked their pens and crossed their legs, their faces hard and impassive.
“No, I suppose not.” He’d smiled weakly. “Perhaps I’d better call a lawyer.”
Green-Eyed Lady and Jack MacTaggart’s world.
You can pre-order Green-Eyed Lady on Amazon, or order Hush Money now!
Also writing as C. Joseph Greaves, Chuck publishes literary fiction with Bloomsbury. Hard Twisted, his novelization of a Depression-era true crime, is a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award in fiction. You can learn more about Chuck and his books at www.chuckgreaves.com.
Janet is the author of Soliloquy, an award-winning historical romance, and co-author of the military history best seller, Fogg in the Cockpit.