Monday, February 10, 2014

Excerpt from my upcoming Jamie Quinn Mystery, "Peril in the Park"

There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

                                                               Chapter 1

               "You know how Floridians always say--'We don't care how you did it in New York?'" Kip asked, sounding exasperated.

            "They don't really say that," I joked, dropping bread in the toaster with one hand and scrambling eggs with the other. "They just write it on bumper stickers."
            "My point is, they don't care how I did it in California either." Kip rested his forehead on my kitchen table and stared dejectedly at the floor, deep in thought, or deep in denial, maybe both.
            Only six months ago, Kip (who wasn't my boyfriend yet, well, actually he was still my ex-boyfriend--it's a little complicated) had moved here from California to take over as Director of Broward County Parks and he was having a rough time of it. When he'd first started, it was all about org charts and flow charts, flora and fauna mapping (both indigenous and invasive), and employee morale boosters. Honestly, nobody could've been more gung-ho than Kip. But all that went out the window when he realized that he had bigger problems--like the Machiavellian politics of upper management. Instead of doing their jobs, park supervisors spent their time trying to sabotage each other while lower level employees spent their time complaining about the supervisors. The only thing everyone agreed on was how much they hated the new director. So, in a way, Kip had brought them all together. Minus the morale boosting, of course.
            And then the vandalism started. It jumped from park to park with no obvious pattern, but seemed to be the handiwork of one person--a person who liked to leave snarky messages at the scene. The latest incident had occurred just two days earlier at Markham Park, in the southwest part of the county. Boy Scout troop number 256 had awoken from an overnight camping trip to find what looked like crop circles in a nearby field. Hoping to see aliens, they stampeded across the campground to check it out. The first scouts to arrive gave a whoop and soon laughter rippled through the crowd of adolescent boys like a wave at a football game. Even the scoutmasters snickered when they saw the message mowed in the field in twenty foot letters, as if written by a cranky giant. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to express himself, but there was no mistaking the sentiment. As clear as the morning dew, the words, "Bite Me!" were etched in the grass for all to see.
            "Jamie, do you know how long it will take for the grass to grow back?" Kip complained, after he'd told me about it. "I can't leave it like that."
            "Hmmm, why don't you add some letters to change the message? Like, how about, um, I've got it, Bite…Mel Gibson!  He certainly deserves to be bitten." I snorted with laughter. I crack myself up sometimes.
            Kip was only slightly amused. "Just what I need," he said, "a lawsuit from Mel Gibson. And my defense will be what--my lawyer girlfriend told me to do it? Who would believe that?"
            "Anyone who knows me," I said, as I plunked our breakfast down on the table. I took a seat next to my hunky boyfriend (I know--I can't believe it either) and proceeded to drown my eggs in Tabasco. It's the one sure way to wake myself up because, let's face it, I'm not a morning person.
            "How's your breakfast?" I asked, waiting for accolades.
            "Great, but it's missing something," Kip gave me a half-smile as he buttered his toast.
            "Not that again!" I groaned. "Don't say it, Kip--"
            "Where's the bacon?"
            "Now, you've done it! You've hurt Mr. Paws' feelings," I chided.
            Kip looked at me like I was crazy. "Why would your cat care about my missing bacon?"
            I rolled my eyes. "You know he's best friends with Miss Saigon."
            "Huh? Is that another one of your Broadway references?"
            "No. Miss Saigon is the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig that lives next door. The cat adores her."
            Kip laughed. "You can't make me feel guilty about eating bacon, Jamie. And you'll never convince me to become a vegetarian, either."
            I jumped into his lap and started nuzzling his neck. "I can be very convincing, you know."
            He pulled me close. "Really? And what are you trying to convince me to do right now?"
            "Go in late to work…"
            "I don't know," he murmured. "What would the boss say?"
            I nibbled his ear. "You are the boss."
            "Oh, that's right, I am," he said, and kissed me. "You smell delicious."
            "I do, don't I?"
            Kip scooped me up and started carrying me out of the kitchen. "Yes, you do. Almost as good as bacon."

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