Excerpt from Stilettos and Scoundrels
I need to talk to you right away!” It was Helen Daniels, hysterical. I could
hardly understand her.
is it, Helen? What’s wrong?” I had fallen asleep, but the sound of fear in
Helen’s voice quickly woke me up.
meet me at Gardner’s old warehouse in thirty minutes. If you’re not there, I
will not be able to wait. It’s not safe. You have to hurry!”
Calm down, safe from whom? Why all the drama? Helen…Helen?” She’d hung up. I
glanced at my watch. Crap! I’d never
make it there in thirty minutes. All I could hope for was Dirt and his deputies
were out investigating the Senator’s murder rather than trying to keep the
streets safe from speeders.
ran out of the house, running past my mother still working in her garden.
where are you going?
be back in a bit.”
don’t know.” I said exasperatedly. I didn’t need the third degree.
are you going?”
explain later. Just eat without me if I’m not back.”
pushed seventy in a forty-five mile an hour zone, my Kia humming, just hoping
to get there on time. I was surprised my car could go that fast. In Chicago, the
traffic was so bad you didn’t really have a chance to speed this much. My phone
rang again, but I didn’t look at it. I needed to concentrate on my driving.
Gardner’s warehouse, located about twenty miles outside of town, used to be a
production plant for some automotive part. The plant closed years before, when
I still lived here. It was so long ago that I couldn’t remember what the
company actually produced.
pulled in the parking lot, gravel flying, hoping Helen was still here. The
clock on my dash said it had been thirty-three minutes since she called me. I
pocketed my keys, not wanting to weigh myself down with my purse, and jogged
around to the front entrance. I had on flip-flops, not the best jogging shoes,
but I was so startled when Helen called I just ran out of the house without
paying attention to what I had on. This was a big place, and I huffed trying to
catch my breath. I really must get in
shape, I wheezed to myself.
hadn’t specified exactly where to meet her, so I assumed she might be at the
front entrance. She wasn’t waiting outside for me, so I tried the front door or
what I presumed was the front door. It was unlocked, which I thought strange
for an abandoned building, but I assumed Helen had unlocked it. Though had it
been locked, I could have crawled through one of the many broken windows. I
carefully stepped inside the building and the darkness engulfed me. The little
bit of light in the building was let in by the broken windows, and it took a
few minutes for my eyes to adjust. It smelled dank and musty, and I could hear
the scurrying of what were probably little furry rodents. I shuddered
involuntarily and didn’t want to think about what type of creepy crawlies were
in this building, especially with me in flip-flops. I wasn’t thrilled about
stepping any further into the building.
I called softly. No answer. Where the
hell is she? I tiptoed a little further into the building in an effort to
be quiet, though I still couldn’t see very well, so tiptoeing wouldn’t do me
any good if there was anything in my way. All of a sudden, I felt a hand on my
arm; I jumped about ten feet and started to scream.
Presley. It’s just me,” Helen said. “Do you think you could be a little
don’t ask me to come to an abandoned building and grab me when I’m not
expecting it. I can’t see! You could have been anyone or anything,” I retorted.
“I am not a big fan of the creepy things I am sure are in this building.” I
took one look at Helen and grew concerned. She was usually one of those women
who always looked impeccable, but her dark brown hair, usually in a knot at the
nape of her neck, was disheveled and loose. I could tell Helen had been crying,
from her smudged make-up. She definitely wasn’t her normal well put together
self. I could see that, even in this poor light. I still felt a stab of
jealousy because, even a little worse for wear, Helen looked better than most
women. Not fair at all.
what is going on, Helen? Why all the cloak-and-dagger stuff? Why did we have to
meet here, of all places?” I asked, looking around and waving my arms. “Should
we even be here? The place looks about ready to fall down. I’m sure the owners
wouldn’t be too happy if we fell through the floor or something. This building
is quite a liability.”
the only place I could go where I could easily see if I was being followed.
Besides, we own the building. Or rather, I do now,” Helen, replied giving a
little laugh—the hysterical kind, rather than the ha-ha kind.
would anyone be following you?” I took a step forward, concerned Helen might
really be in danger. It seemed so surreal.
tried to keep herself from crying again. “They called my house, Presley. They
called my house and demanded money. They said if I didn’t pay up, they would
make sure I met the same fate as Tom. I knew they would want their money, but I
didn’t think it would be like this. I thought I would have some more time. I
can’t get my hands on that kind of money right now. It would look too
suspicious; besides, I don’t even know yet where I am going to get it!” Helen
then burst into tears.
waited for a few uncomfortable moments for the tears to subside. To help Helen,
I needed her to calm down and tell me everything she knew. Plus, I had a few
questions of my own.
you know who it was that called you, Helen? Who did the Senator owe money to?”
don’t know specifically who the caller was, nor who Tom owed money to. I didn’t
recognize any voices and they didn’t tell me their names. Tom tried to hide as
much as he could from me about this aspect of his life, I told you that
already, and when I forced the issue, he told me as little as possible. Usually
just enough to get me to shut up. To be honest, it got to where I didn’t even
ask much because I didn’t really care.”
else knows about the Senator’s gambling problem? Maybe that’s who called you.
Could it be blackmail?” I thought blackmail seemed as good a reason as any.
only people who know about this, besides the people he owed the money to, are
me and Tobey. As the Senator’s assistant, Tobey was privy to a lot more
information than I thought he should have been,” Helen explained. “Tom said he
would find out anyway, and that we could trust him. I don’t think Tobey is the
type to try to blackmail anyone. Other than that, there is no way Tom would
have told anyone else. He might have been a gambler, but he wasn’t stupid. At
least not that stupid.”
“What about Garrison Palazzo.”