Let’s double up, he said. The gig pays $5,000 for the week, he said. Where else can you make that kind of money for just standing around looking intimidating? That’s what my ex-partner, Detective Ben Mickerson, told me when he friend-guilted me into helping him bodyguard Vonda Allen. Personal security work was his side hustle, a lot of cops had one. In Ben’s case, he offered big cop buffer to a lot of Chicago biggies–sports stars, CEOs, TV personalities–he even guarded Bozo once. Bozo!
Me? I don’t normally do side hustle. My regular hustle is hustle enough. I’m a PI. The name’s Cassandra Raines, Cass. I head up Raines Investigations where I’m the sole operator. I’m not exactly a titan of industry, but I do all right. Anyway, Ben came to me yesterday, Sunday, with this dog of a job. Security. Five thousand for the week. He has his eye on a sweet little leisure boat and this job was how he was going to help pay for it. Whatever. I know Ben. I know Ben well. I had a feeling the Allen gig wasn’t going to be as easy as he led me to believe, but he’s a pal and I had the time, so I signed on.
First, Vonda Allen, the publisher of her own magazine, a magazine, by the way, normal people can’t get three pages into before their eyes glaze over, was known to be a stone-cold diva, a pill. She was haughty, high-handed, difficult and devoid of even the slightest hint of humility. The kind of woman who needed to get over herself real quick. Strike one.
Oh, and I forgot this little gem. Ms. Vonda Allen needs this very visible security presence because someone is sending her anonymous flowers and threatening letters scribbled in blood-red ink. Now most people faced with blood letters would run straight to the police and ask them to find the numbskull sending them, wouldn’t they? Queen Vonda was choosing to ignore the whole thing, aside from securing personal protection, not wanting the publicity, not giving her stalker, as she put it, “the satisfaction” of a response. Can you believe that?
Anyway, yesterday, I’m in her office with Ben getting introduced to the Great Lady, and I’m there less than five minutes before she starts getting all queeny. She begins asking all kinds of personal questions, like why I choose to work alone and why I left the police department. She really tried to dig deep, hoping to intimidate me and knock me off my game, I guess? HAHAHAHA. It didn’t go the way she expected it to go. But, again, Ben, pal, free time.
We didn’t exactly hit it off, but still I’m in there trying to help the woman, urging her to take the threats seriously, to involve the police, to at least lay low until they find the guy harassing her. Allen won’t go for it. Then, as I’m sitting there, I’m thinking, the woman’s rich. She’s got resources up the wazoo. Why is she hiring a moonlighting cop and a female PI as security when she could easily hire the swankiest security outfit in town? Smelled fishy to me. Strike two.
Now I’m lying here at five a.m., Tuesday, just twenty-four hours into this weeklong gig from Hades, staring up at my bedroom ceiling, knowing full well that I’ve got to get up and shadow fake Anna Wintour around her glitzy health club while she rich-lady sweats it on overpriced ellipticals. Allen told me to wear workout togs. Togs. What human being uses the word togs? If somebody comes after her, does she really expect me to chase after them in neon Spandex and a crop top? Where does she think I’d stow my gun, in my sock? Look, I’m wearing bodyguard togs—jeans, blazer, flats I can run in. If she doesn’t like it, she can go fish.
I should get up. I’m supposed to be at Allen’s by six. SIX. Strike friggin’ three.
Hopefully, nobody tries to off Allen at the club. Those letters really were bone-chilling. The writer addressed them DEAR BITCH. Not good. I joked to Ben that it sounded like the writer was someone who knew Allen, but it really isn’t funny. Stalkers are erratic, unpredictable, unhinged most times, dangerous always. Allen made it clear, however, that she was paying for protection, not investigation. I’m not completely sure I can offer the first without at least taking a stab at the second. My life is on the line too, right, and Ben’s? If someone comes gunning for her, we’re the ones standing in front of her.
I need to get up.
If I were to investigate I would imagine the list of suspects would be as long as my arm. Vonda Allen doesn’t exactly flit through life with little fairy wings. Prima donnas. I don’t deal with them well. Ben knows this about me, so if I can’t hold it together, I’m blaming him. Togs. Seriously?
Okay. I’m up. Let’s do this.
What You Don’t See is the third book in the “Chicago” traditional mystery series, coming May 26, 2020.
Former cop Cass Raines knows the streets of Chicago all too well. Now she’s a private investigator and getting an exclusive glimpse into how the other half lives—and how they die . . .
Wealth. Power. Celebrity. Vonda Allen’s glossy vanity magazine has taken the Windy City by storm, and she’s well on her way to building a one-woman media empire. Everybody adores her. Except the people who work for her. And the person who’s sending her flowers with death threats . . .
As Vonda’s bodyguard, off-duty cop Ben Mickerson knows he could use some back-up—and no one fits the bill better than his ex-partner on the police force, Cass Raines. Now a full-time private eye, Cass is reluctant to take the job. She isn’t keen on playing babysitter to a celebrity who’s rumored to be a heartless diva. But as a favor to Ben, she signs on. But when Vonda refuses to say why someone might be after her, and two of her staff turn up dead, Ben and Cass must battle an unknown assailant bent on getting to the great lady herself, before someone else dies.
Cass finds out the hard way just how persistent a threat they face during the first stop on Vonda’s book tour. As fans clamour for her autograph, things take an ugly turn when a mysterious fan shows up with flowers and slashes Ben with a knife. While her ex-partner’s life hangs in the balance, Cass is left to find out what secrets Vonda is keeping, who might want her dead, and how she can bring Ben’s attacker to justice before enemies in the Chicago Police Department try to stop her in her tracks . . .
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About the author
Tracy Clark, a native Chicagoan, is the author of the Cass Raines Chicago Mystery series, featuring ex-cop turned PI Cassandra Raines, a hard-driving African American gumshoe working the mean streets of the Windy City dodging cops, cons, killers and thugs. Her debut, Broken Places, made Library Journal’s list of the Best Crime Fiction of 2018 and was short listed in the mystery category on the American Library Association’s 2019 Reading List. CrimeReads also named Cass Raines Best New PI of 2018. The novel was nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, an Anthony Award for Best Debut Novel and a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel. Her second Raines novel, Borrowed Time, has been nominated for the 2020 Lefty Award for Best Mystery Novel and shortlisted for the 2020 G.P. Putnam’s Sons Sue Grafton Memorial Award. Visit her website at TracyClarkBooks.com.
All comments are welcomed.
As previously posted on Dru’s Book Musings