Murder By Proxy

an excerpt



Chapter One

The black BMW sat in the parking lot of the Windsor Hotel close enough to afford the two occupants a clear view of the entrance to the elegant building. A fine mist shrouded the tall pine trees that were scattered throughout the parking area, planted to give the illusion of less concrete and more California greenery.

"What does this say about us?" Jeff Stevens broke the pervading silence.

Nick Fallon glanced briefly at the handsome, dark-haired man sitting next to him in the steamy interior of his car, before turning away to stare out the window again at the hotel entrance.

"I don't know, Jeff," he said trying to keep his grin out of his voice. "What does it say?"

"Okay, you and I are sitting here waiting for some sleazebag to exit this hotel so you can get a photograph of him leaving with whichever bimbo he's seeing this week. Meanwhile, our respective partners are living it up at a gala in the Ritz, being wined and dined by Laguna's rich and famous."

Nick groaned. "Don't even talk about it. Have you any idea the flak I took when I told Eric I couldn't go with him tonight?"

"The flak you took!" Jeff's laugh was derisive, if a little over the top. "I was almost cinderized by the look Peter gave me when I told him the exact same thing!"

"Well, y'know," Nick said with a philosophical air, "these guys have to understand the vagaries of the business we run. We're not bound by nine to five business hours. Sometimes we have to-"

"Oh, can it," Jeff groused. "You think I don't know what you're goin' to say? And the guys know it too. This is a big night for them, being voted number one art gallery in Laguna. Peter keeps telling me it's all due to Eric and the way he keeps that gallery looking pristine."

Nick chuckled. "Well, I think Peter's paintings hanging on the walls have something to do with it, too, proud as I am of Eric getting his own award. Wait-" Nick came to full attention, his eyes trained on the hotel entrance. "There he is ..."

"Camera."

"Yeah, I got it. Man, this guy doesn't give a fuck, does he? Look at him, with all those other people."

"I think that's the problem," Jeff said wryly. "He does give a fuck-only to all the wrong people."

"Yeah..." Nick chuckled, bringing the camera up to the level of his eye. "Got him, and her. Jeez, what's a beautiful girl like that doing with a sleaze like him?"

"A sleaze with a boatload of money, don't forget."

"Yeah, but she's--"

The sudden sound of a loud crack nearby made both men turn to look behind them.

"What the hell?"

Nick's gaze went back to the hotel entrance. The man they'd been waiting to photograph with his ‘just announced' fiancée was on his knees, clutching at his chest.

"Fuck, he's been shot!" He and Jeff leapt from the car and ran over to where the group of people were now milling about in confusion, some running back inside, others starting to yell and scream.

Nick reached the scene first. Robert Landers, the man they'd been paid to follow was now lying face down on the concrete, blood pooling under his inert body. His companion, a tall willowy blonde, stared down in horror as Nick knelt at Landers' side, his fingers probing the man's neck for a pulse. There was none.

"Shit..." Nick looked up at Jeff. "He's dead."

"I'll call 9-1-1," Jeff said, pulling out his cell phone.

The blonde started to scream. Nick jumped to his feet and grabbed for her as she swayed on her heels, looking like she was about to keel over. She fell into his arms and he gently supported her and led her over to where the rest of the entourage was standing with horror stricken expressions on their faces.

"Here," Nick said quietly, directing her to a bench. "Sit here until the cops and the paramedics arrive."

She clutched at his hand as he turned to leave. "Thank you," she whispered, then she was surrounded by her friends and Nick was able to extricate his hand and walk back to where Jeff waited.