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Rare Danger
Author: Beverly Jenkins

 


PROLOGUE

They cut off his hands!

Outwardly, Elliot Vernon showed no reaction to the phrase echoing in his head like a drumbeat, but inwardly, the terror had his sixty-five-year-old hands shaking so badly on the Cadillac’s steering wheel, he was surprised he hadn’t driven up over the curb.

“It was a nice memorial,” stated his wife, Loretta, seated beside him. “I wonder if the police will ever find his hands.”

Avoiding her eyes, he feigned casualness. “Who knows?”

“People do that in countries overseas—cut off thieves’ hands. You think he stole something from the wrong people?”

Pretending to concentrate on the highway traffic and not his heart-pounding, soul-screaming fear, Elliot shrugged.

The “he” was Elliot’s business partner, Otis “OB” Boyd, found dead a week ago in his new Chrysler on Belle Isle, the city’s island park. His hands had been severed at the wrists. The murder rated only a passing mention in a city as violent as Detroit could be, and the police hadn’t made the missing hands public to avoid copycats. Having seen The Godfather back in the day, Elliot had nightmares of those hands showing up in his bed, or in his car, or in a box mailed to the antiques and appraisal business he and OB jointly owned. He’d no idea who the murderer might be, but the list of suspects could be long. He and OB had been quietly cheating customers for years. That he might share OB’s fate scared him shitless. “I think I want to go up north for a week or two.”

Loretta turned to him. “Why?”

“This mess with OB’s really got me shook up. I need to get away. Clear my head.”

“The police told you not to leave town.”

“I’m not a suspect.”

“They didn’t say you were, but what if they have questions?”

“They have my cell number. They can call me.”

She shook her head. “I think we should stay here.”

“We’re going up north,” he countered firmly. “Soon as we get home, I want you to pack.”

“I have things to do tomorrow! We can go in a couple of days.”

“We’re leaving today.”

“No, we aren’t.”

“Yes, we are.”

Silence reigned for the rest of the drive home. As he pulled into the driveway, he tried to explain. “Look, Loretta. The reason I want to take off is because I’m worried whoever killed OB may want to do the same to me.”

“I thought you said you didn’t know why he was killed.”

He looked into the skeptical but still beautiful brown face of the woman he’d married over forty years ago and lied. “I don’t, but suppose whoever did it thinks I know something.”

“Something like what?”

“I don’t know.”

Her skepticism deepened. “You want to know what I think?”

He didn’t but asked anyway. He was her husband, after all. “What?”

“I think you and OB did something stupid that’s circled back to bite you in the butt.”

“You’re wrong.” But the truth made sweat break out on his back.

“And you’re lying.” She opened her door, got out of the car, and went into the house.

He dropped his forehead to the steering wheel and wailed inwardly. They cut off his hands!

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

Jasmine “Jas” Ware was on the worst date of her life. His name was Wayman Childs, supposedly a big-time LA music producer who’d relocated to Detroit. Not only had he been thirty minutes late picking her up in his burgundy Bentley, but he’d spent the entire drive from her condo to the restaurant trying to impress her with his connections to the music industry, how much money he made, and the number of cars he owned.

He’d failed. Badly.

Admittedly, he’d chosen a nice place to eat. The cozy, newly opened spot was inside one of Detroit’s rehabbed Victorian mansions. It was a Tuesday evening, and only three other couples shared the open-concept space. Smooth jazz played softly in the background.

“How many of your friends own Bentleys?” he asked self-importantly. And before she could respond, he replied, “Not many, I bet. You being a librarian and all, you probably don’t run with the elite.”

She eyed him over the top of her menu. He was nice looking in a Hollywood kind of way. His hubris was not. She was on this adventure thanks to her best friend, Terri, whom Jas planned to strangle as soon as she located a place to hide Terri’s body where it wouldn’t be found.

The server, a young Black woman with a crown of dreads, appeared. “Are you ready to order?”

Due to Childs’s incessant pomposity, Jas’s appetite had left the building thirty minutes ago, taking with it most of her patience. “I’ll just have the Caesar salad, please.”

“Oh, come on,” he challenged with a laugh. “Everybody knows how boring librarians are, but you could at least order oysters for later, if you know what I mean.” He grinned at her like a wolf in a cartoon.

Jasmine glanced up at the server, who responded with a slightly raised eyebrow. “Just the salad, thanks.”

“And you, sir?”

He ordered a steak—rare—mashed potatoes, and oysters as an appetizer. Jas wondered if her Uber account was still active.

As they waited for their meals, he stopped touting himself long enough to ask, “What do you like to do on vacation?”

“Sit on a deserted beach and kick back with a good book.” She’d been an avid reader her entire life. Books were her thing. In fact, her boutique business, CODEX, was a book supplier to a small but growing clientele.

“Really? A book. Not with a man?”

“Since I’m not married or currently seeing anyone, a book.”

“Going on vacation with a book? No wonder you’re single.” He viewed her critically. “I mean, you’re real cute. Some guys may think you’re a little heavy, but I could work with a big girl.”

“If calling me a little heavy is meant to be insulting, try again. I’m real happy with these God-given curves,” Jasmine responded coolly.

He showed shock, then embarrassment. “My apology. I didn’t mean for us to get off on the wrong foot.”

“Wrong foot, wrong shoe, wrong size.”

He raised his water glass. “Touché. I like you.”

She rolled her eyes.

His nonstop self-glorification resumed, focused now on his favorite vacation spots and the bikini-wearing women who’d accompanied him. While he babbled on, she casually looked around the restaurant and took in the framed old-fashioned portraits of distinguished-looking African Americans gracing the room’s whitewashed brick walls. Her hometown had such a rich cultural history, and she wondered who the people were. She promised herself a return visit to ask about them and to enjoy the music and ambience. Sans Childs.

Their food arrived, and as they began eating, he asked, “So, do you like being a librarian?”

“I do.”

“Do you work at the main one downtown?”

“No. I own a librarian-type business.”

“What does that mean?”

“I provide books to my clients.”

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