I’m pleased to share with you the first chapter (well, the prologue) from the suspense thriller novel The Trojan Conspiracy, a new book coming to stores June 2014.
She smiled at the man she was going to kill.
He grinned lazily back at her, other intentions on his mind.
“I’ll get you another,” the man glanced over his shoulder to catch the eye of the dutiful waiter whom he had no doubt tipped well to keep the drinks flowing. As he turned back around, his beady eyes lingered on her cleavage. After several drinks, any sense of discretion had left him.
“I don’t know,” she said with a faint southern twang. The woman with blond hair leaned forward and gently placed her hand on his leg. “I’m starting to feel tipsy. I’m such a lightweight.”
Before she could protest further, the waiter, a young man in crisp khaki shorts and a white cotton shirt, appeared with another stiff margarita for her and whiskey sour for him.
“You are so bad,” she locked eyes with him over the rim of her glass. “Can I at least pay for this round?”
“I’ve got it,” the man reclined in his wicker seat, his shirt parting to reveal a clump of sweaty chest hair. His name was Gerard. Fitting, for a weasel with slicked-back hair and greasy gray whiskers.
“Aw, thanks,” she purred. “Billy’s so cheap, he’d probably make me pay my own way. He’s no gentleman like you.”
Tonight, she was Charlotte, a young, 23-year-old girl looking for her big break in the modeling industry. She was here on vacation with her reluctant boyfriend, who was in their hotel room puking into a toilet. Billy—everyone else called him Will—didn’t like the thought of her becoming a model, nor did he like traveling. He just wanted to go back to the U.S. of A., but she wanted to see the outside world for the first time in her life. She wanted to learn and experience everything. Everything.
That is what she had told Gerard, anyway.
Of course, Billy, or Bill, or William didn’t exist. Nor did her interest in modeling. In fact, Charlotte didn’t exist.
“I can’t possibly think of anything better than being here right now with you,” Gerard raised his glass, though she knew he was thinking of at least one thing he’d rather be doing with her right now.
“It’s so peaceful. Most everyone has already left,” Charlotte finally broke eye contact with him and looked around. “It feels so early.”
It wasn’t early. The outdoor bar was slowly emptying. A few hotel guests still lingered, sipping wine against the rail that separated them from the black abyss beyond. The hotel, a sprawling white paradise embedded into the craggy rocks of the coastline, glowed under the star-splashed sky. The grand terrace, like the hotel, sat perched on the edge of a cliff.
Charlotte rose from her seat and strode to the railing just a few meters away. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a beefy islander stir, his massive frame bulging against a sweat-stained T-shirt. The bodyguard didn’t look concerned. He had no reason to be. His employer was relaxing at an upscale hotel on the Venezuela coast and she was a blonde in a bikini and sarong with nowhere to hide a weapon. The bodyguard was also drunk.
“It’s so beautiful,” she said when she sensed Gerard arrive beside her. “You can’t see the ocean at all.”
The smallest of breezes soared up the sea cliffs, gently slipping through the humid air that was just as cloying as it had been at high noon. She barely noticed it. Her attention was fixated on Gerard.
“It’s one of my favorite resorts in the world for a reason.”
“Do you really live here?”
“For the time being,” Gerard gloated. “Maybe next week it’ll be Cyprus. Or Sri Lanka. It’s hard to say what I’ll be in the mood for.”
“You must be rich,” she giggled. “I bet you have an amazing view from your room.”
Gerard licked his lips. “It’s extraordinary.”
“My room is so boring. I don’t even have a view.”
“That’s really unacceptable. Do you want to see mine?”
Charlotte grinned at him, her eyes sparkling. He stared back at her, waiting breathlessly for a response, looking a little too eager. “I don’t know… Billy might think… well, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
She had no desire to spend a minute longer here than required, among the socialites and vacationers and families who scoffed at slow service and complained about sunburns and other silly inconveniences. And she hadn’t needed long with Gerard. He’d been sitting alone at his reserved table, gnawing on a bloody steak, watching for drunk college students or local girls who would ignore his pockmarked cheeks for free booze. Within minutes of her sitting down next to him, he would have bought her a yacht if she had asked for one.
Gerard led her to his suite where he’d lived in bliss for the last several weeks, all the while chatting her up about his investment in tech stocks. They were all lies.
“You can wait outside,” Gerard told his guard at the door. He must not have been wholly unsuccessful in luring beautiful young women to his room as his protector showed little surprise at her interest in Gerard. The man simply nodded as Gerard urged her inside with a nervous hand at the small of her back. He closed the door behind her without turning on the lights.
The balcony doors were open, the moonlight casting long shadows across the marble floor. Despite a soft breeze, the room was stifling hot.
“Where’re you from?” he murmured, his hand caressing her hip.
“Tennessee,” Charlotte said as he guided her to the balcony. Off in the corner, she noticed a desk, and on it a closed laptop. This was going to be easier than she had thought.
“Tennessee, a beautiful place,” he said automatically. Another lie, she detected. He had never been.
“Yeah, you really like it?” she asked innocently, turning her back to him. The balcony extended beyond the edge of the cliff, a straight drop to the shadows. The warm ocean churned forty vertical meters below, but from above it appeared as nothing more than black glass. During the day, the view must have been spectacular. At night, it felt like the edge of the world.
“I do,” he said. “Come here.”
She let him draw her close, ignoring the alcohol heavy on his breath. His small, greedy hands coiled around the straps of her bikini top, though he was too drunk to properly untie them. Charlotte leaned towards him innocently and let him kiss her. His tongue flicked down her neck and between her breasts, his hands following suit. She embraced him tightly and pulled him to the bed. He fell on top of her, his head still buried in her chest, and she hastily removed his shirt.
He breathed loudly, sucking in large gasps of humid air as she ran her hands across his oily skin. She flipped him onto his back and climbed on top, her slender body looming over his. He gazed up at her with fascination, aroused.
“I want to do all kinds of things to you, Gerard,” she tilted her head toward him. “All kinds of things.”
“You can do anything you want, my dear.”
It’s amazing how fast a man sobers up when he realizes he’s gotten himself into serious trouble. When Charlotte’s smile faded, as the soft innocence of her expression turned to ice, and as her hands, which had so playfully been teasing him, slid up his chest and coiled around his neck, Gerard knew within seconds that he’d made a horrible miscalculation.
“You’ve done a bad thing, Gerard,” Charlotte, who was no longer Charlotte, said, her southern accent gone.
“Who are you?” he blurted out, though the volume of his voice was choked by her tightening fingers. He gasped, trying to take in a full breath of air. She wouldn’t let him. He scratched at her arms, but his pathetic attempts at escape didn’t faze her. She stared down at him, her eyes cold and face expressionless.
“You know what this is about,” the woman glanced over her shoulder at the desk. “That computer over there. Does it have what I’m looking for on it?”
“I don’t know what…” he squeaked, but she responded by striking him hard across the face. Gerard’s nose ruptured and blood splattered across the white pillows. He tried to scream, but she retightened her grip on his throat, allowing him just enough air to croak out a response.
“It’s on there,” he said after the initial shock had worn off. “It’s all on there. But it’s too late! I already—”
“Who hired you to do it?” she cut him off again, but this time not with a blow.
“You know what I’ll do if you don’t tell me.”
“Fuck you, bitch,” his lips curled, revealing blood-soaked teeth. She struck him across the face again and he began to cry silently, his mouth twisted and wide.
“They’ll kill me. They’ll—”
“You don’t need to worry about what they’ll do to you. You need to worry about what I’ll do to you.”
He coughed up some blood. “Listen, all I did—”
“All you did?” she asked contemptuously. “Tell me or I’ll beat you to death.”
The rodent gave her what she needed, just as she knew he would. He was like so many others, wannabe gangsters who buckled under the slightest pressure. They were reliable for all the wrong reasons.
She looked down at the man. Gerard had relaxed, believing he was safe. But her grip around his neck didn’t relax. A moment later, he was dead.
The woman with blond hair climbed off her broken victim, heading straight for the desk. In less than a minute, she deftly cracked the password. As she copied the contents of the laptop to a flash drive she had tucked into her bikini bottoms, she marveled at the tranquility of the room. The only sound was the ocean crashing into the rocks below.
Then, the woman climbed onto the balcony’s railing, closed her eyes as she felt the tug of wind on her body and gracefully leapt over the edge.