EXCERPT FROM ACTS OF MALICE
Day Ten, Morning
Wrapped in my ratty robe, I sat in George's recliner with my feet dangling off the raised end in equally shabby, fluffy slippers. Savoring my first mug of coffee, I watched a favorite home buyer’s, renovators, and flippers cable show. On this morning's episode, a petite woman with aqua combs in her frosted hair, and an artistic bent, shopped for a tiny house.
My mother waltzed into the living room in her kimono, carrying a steaming mug.
I pointed at the home improvement show. "Isn't that A-frame adorable? I can see myself in it."
"Oh, sure. I see you bumping your head when you climb that silly ladder trying to get into the loft to go to sleep." She sat on the sofa.
"It's got wheels. I could move anywhere I wanted. There are so many places I'd like to visit."
"And just how would you haul that thing around?" Her laugh conveyed skepticism.
"I'd buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee and tow it wherever I went."
My mother stared at me. "Lavender, I think you've lost your mind since George died."
I lowered the sound. "Why? Tiny houses are the new rage. Lots of people, from all walks of life, buy them or build them."
"Well, Strickland's don’t do that sort of thing."
"Mother, I'm no longer a Strickland. Haven't been one for a long time. I'm a Raines." What she could never be told was why I longed to run away. The problem was, I'd take the image of George's tortured body with me wherever I went.
She placed her mug on the coffee table. "Lavender, darling, for your own good, I think you should come live with me for a while."
I turned off the television. "Mother, I appreciate your offer. I do, but I'm going to stay right here. I'm not running off in a tiny house on wheels, as appealing as that might seem."
"You exasperate me. I'm worried about you."
I walked over to the sofa, sat beside her, and hugged her. "I love you."
"I never doubted that. I love you too." She stood and swiped at a tear. "How about some more coffee?"
I followed her into the kitchen and sat at the table while she brewed a fresh pot.
She turned to face me. "Kendall and I will be leaving this morning. She can't miss any more classes. Duke will be only so forgiving."
"Yes, she has to get back to school." I stood and wrapped an arm around my mother's waist. "Thank you for chauffeuring her."
She stepped back and took a long look at me. Her head bobbled for a moment. "Really, Darling, you must do something with your hair. That bun is falling apart."
"It's a loose chignon. It's a mess right now, and I don't care one bit." I laughed and gave her a quick hug.
"Darling, I swear, somebody switched you at birth. You can't be mine." She emptied the old coffee out of our mugs and filled them with fresh brew.
I placed two percent milk and artificial sweetener on the table, added a splash of the milk to my coffee, and doused hers with both the sweetener and the milk.
We sat at the table in somewhat companionable silence, drinking coffee.
I placed my mug on the tabletop. "I have to review our finances to see if Kendall can remain at Duke next year. We're not broke by any means. George always did the responsible thing and, of course, had a life insurance policy. That only goes so far, and we don't have George's salary coming in."
Mother blinked twice.
Oh, my, I didn't dare laugh. She'd already put on her false lashes.
She stared and blinked again. "I'll pay for Duke. Kendall is not going to some state school."
Resisting her would be emotionally exhausting, and she'd drag Kendall into it. "Thank you, Mother. Kendall loves Duke. I know she'll appreciate your generosity." I took a sip of coffee. That was one thing off my plate.
Kendall would be happy at Duke. That left two things.
How I was going to get the information, I didn't know, but I had to find out what had happened to George. Agent Lightfoot had stopped returning my calls.
And what was up with Randall Creston? Why was he intimidating Abigail and Olivia?
Day Ten, Morning
Mac "Mackey" Mackenzie
The water sluicing over my body was bracing, but in an abbreviated wetsuit, not frigid. I kept swimming out to sea. The waves were with me. I caught a big one and rode it farther out. The return would be the trial.
My dive watch told me I'd gone far enough, so I stopped and treaded water.
Through a pair of military-grade goggles, I fixed my eyes on the shore and began the strenuous swim back. My thigh muscles strained as my legs sliced through the waves, which were now against me. I hadn't worn flippers intentionally, to make the swim more difficult. When I reached the shore, I was winded.
Sunrise Boulevard ran north and south along the beach. It had a bike path and sidewalks on either side but no parking along the road. Three large public lots intruded onto the beach, having hard-packed sand due to constant vehicle usage. They were spaced evenly apart along the beachfront. I walked to my graphite colored Jeep Wrangler, parked in the lot at Sunrise and Beaumont.
I shed my wet suit, slipped a pair of jeans over my swimming trunks, and fastened a clip-on holster to my belt. Then, I stowed my wetsuit in the four-by-four's cargo space.
A seagull swooped low over the vehicle as I opened the driver's side backdoor. I removed the floor mat, punched a code into a tiny panel, and lifted the cover of a custom-built secret compartment beneath the floor. I pulled out my Berretta and secured it in my holster. After I threw on a black untucked, long-sleeved shirt, I was good to go.
That's when I noticed Lavender Raines walking on the sidewalk next to the bike path. The early morning sun, rising over the ocean, played with an occasional red strand of hair in the bun that looked as if it was about to fall apart. Her hair was lush and dark, but not quite as dark as I had thought.
"Mrs. Raines." I waved. No time like the present to do as The Old Man requested. Check up on her.
She stopped and placed the flat of her palm over her eyebrows, to ward off the morning sun, as she tried to figure out who I was. Then she smiled.
I trotted to her. "It's good to see you. How are you doing?"
She clasped her hands together. "I'm fine. Thank you for asking. Mackenzie, is it?"
"Yes, ma'am. It's so good to see you again." I'd never been accused of having a way with words.
"So kind of you." She backed up a step.
A kid on a skateboard propelled himself forward by repeatedly striking his foot on the sidewalk. He lost his balance and the skateboard left the pavement, flying six inches off the ground, directly at her.
She let out a small, frightened cry.
I grabbed her and turned her away from the wooden missile. We both staggered backward.
The skateboard grazed my calf. I winced.
"Ouch, my ankle," she cried.
The kid ran after his board, and we never saw him again.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. I tried to get you out of the way."
She held onto my arm. "Don't apologize. I'm grateful to you. Are you hurt?"
"Nothing much at all." I'd have a bruise and would feel it for a while.
She took a halting step but found it difficult, painful. "I think I twisted it."
Her leg buckled. As she collapsed to one side, she tried to break her fall by grasping my waist. Her head jerked and her eyes opened wide. She withdrew her hand from my weapon as if a snake had bitten her. If she hadn't known I carry concealed, she did now.
I lifted her, holding on to her until she was able to stand up more-or-less straight. "Keep your weight off your foot."
"I'll do my best."
"If I brace you on one side, can you hobble to my Jeep?"
We took a faltering step, then another. A three-legged dog could've done much better. When she whimpered, I scooped her up in my arms and carried her to the Jeep.
Once I got her comfortably settled, I ignored her protests as I untied her running shoe, slipped off the sock, and examined her foot. "There's nothing major broken. Still, you could have a hair-line fracture. Would you like to go to the emergency room?"
"No. No, thank you. I was on my way to my friend Emmi's house. It's on Beaumont off of Catalina-- not far from here. If you could drop me there."
I shimmied the sock back onto her foot over pale-pink painted toes that matched her fingernails. Then, I slid the shoe back on. After I tied the laces, I gently patted the shoe. "All done."
When I got behind the wheel, she looked directly at me. "A lot of men in Florida carry concealed, but you're more than you appear to be. From what George told me, Mr. Agard, he's pretty important in the government."
I looked straight ahead. "I don't know that much about what Mr. Agard does." True, very true.
"At the funeral, you said you knew my husband. Do you know what happened to him? He said he was going to New Orleans and they found his tortured body in Caracas?"
"I can tell you with absolute certainty, it had nothing whatsoever to do with another woman."
"I already know that," she snapped. She closed her eyes and took a breath. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to take it out on you."
"No apology necessary. Your world has been turned upside-down. I'll take you to your friend's house." I fired up the engine, determined now more than ever to learn what had happened to George Raines. The man should be home with his wife.
ABOUT ACTS OF MALICE
A taut and compelling classic murder mystery with a national security underlying theme. Interpersonal relationships, greed, dry humor. Unrequited Love. Uplifting.
Lavender Raines gets the 'doorbell ring' no wife ever wants to get. Her husband has been brutally murdered, and the FBI is more secretive than helpful. The problem is, his body was found in Caracas when she thought his business trip had taken him to New Orleans.
Mackenzie just opened a second beach resort-town restaurant, this one in Ribault Beach, Florida…but now the clandestine national security organization that from-time-to-time sends him on covert missions wants him to find Lavender's husband's killers.
Forces from within the "Deep State" have shaped circumstances that will alter the course of both their lives. Then a local man is murdered. Lavender and Mackey are polar opposites. He is emotionally shut down about his life, but protective of others. She is a pillar of strength in her family, but distrusting of Mackey and guarded around him. Can they find common ground amidst this treachery and turmoil?
ABOUT NIKE N. CHILLEMI
Nike N. Chillemi writes classic murder mysteries/detective novels. It's been said she writes literature that reads like pulp fiction. Plenty of action, a dash of grit, wry humor as her characters navigate through situations and relationships. There's usually a national security/public safety underlying theme to her work with an uplifting message. She likes her bad guys really bad, her good guys smarter and better. Her newest endeavor is ACTS OF MALICE.
Nike is the founding board member of the Grace-Filled Fiction Spotlight (formerly the Grace Awards) and its Chair, a platform to promote excellence in Christian fiction. She has been a judge in mystery and thriller categories in the Carol Awards, Genesis Awards, First Impressions Awards. And also, the Inspy Awards. She has a very active blog that delves int murder mystery writing, Christian fiction, and many of the challenges we all face in life. She lives in NE coastal Florida and revels in being a Floridian. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the John 3:16 Marketing Network. https://nikechillemi.com/
Purchase ACTS OF MALIC on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Acts-Malice-Lavender-Raines-Mackenzie-ebook/dp/B0817846KG/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=Acts+of+Malice%2C+nike+n.+chilli&qid=1573665381&s=books&sr=1-1-fkmr0
Nike N. Chillemi Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nike-N-Chillemi/e/B0050ZD44O?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1557057271&sr=1-1-spell
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