Identity Check – Excerpt

New exciting mystery-thriller now available on amazon.com on Kindle or paperback. Here’s a scene with Scott and Jessie meeting Scott’s mother for the first time…

They pulled up in front of a three-story Victorian mansion that would have cost a fortune located anywhere else in the world. Scott told Jessie how the house had been constructed in the late 1800’s by a railroad tycoon, and that his mother had been able to keep most of the antique furnishings and decorations originally imported from Europe.

Jessie stared at the impressive structure. “You didn’t tell me you lived with the Adams Family. Who do you keep locked up in the tower?”

“Mother reserved that room for you.”

She gave him an indignant look. “Well, don’t expect me to weave any straw into gold.”

Scott tried to find a place to park, but cars lined the street on both sides for three blocks in each direction. All the lights in the house blazed away, illuminating the neighborhood like a Cincinnati Reds night game.

 

“What the heck’s going on?” Jessie asked.

Scott shook his head. “Mother must be entertaining again.”

He squeezed the MGB into a spot half on the driveway, half on the lawn, and turned off the engine.

Jessie snorted. “Look at the size of this place. You guys must be dripping with dough.”

“We do all right.”

“Just you and the Royal Family.”

They climbed the steps to the wrap-around front porch. Scott pushed down on the latch at the top of the s-curved handle and the elaborately-carved, seven-foot high, oak door swung open. A cacophony of conversations, music, and light spilled out into the night.

Jessie grinned. “Sounds like a party.”

Scott led the way through his home. Guests, dressed in their finest, drank champagne and held monogrammed plates loaded with bite-sized cucumber sandwiches, scallops wrapped in bacon, and goose liver on crackers that they had purloined off silver trays carried by an endless number of penguin-like waiters. Other invitees, clustered about in groups of three and four, were busily exchanging liberal opinions or spouting political half-truths.

They arrived at the ballroom–a huge space, with a soaring ceiling, illuminated by a pale blue crystal chandelier. An antique Steinway grand piano sat in the corner, its majestic notes supported an accomplished jazz octet attempting one of Dave Brubeck’s more accessible compositions. A few couples were trying to dance to the tune on the highly polished Carrera marble floor.

“Are you sure we got the right house?” Jessie asked.

Scott’s mother, Christina Harold, swept into the room, wearing the latest designer frock, with a “Kendall for President” button that nearly covered her entire left breast. She immediately descended upon Scott and smothered him in hugs and kisses.

Jessie answered her own question. “Yep, must be the right place, or else people are really friendly in Middletown.”

Several of the nearby guests turned to acknowledge the newcomers for the first time–frowning at their casual attire. Jessie announced with a queenly wave of her hand, “My Paris original didn’t arrive as planned, but they’re flying it over on the Concorde as we speak.” She whispered to Scott, “Should I flash ’em?”

“And you must be Jessica Sterling,” said Christina, extending her hand. “Scott has told me so much about you.”

Jessie did a once over of the attractive, shapely lady in front of her. She stood about five-foot-five, with dark brown hair, and appeared way too young to be the mother of a college junior. But something about her style commanded attention and Jessie found it hard to believe she had remained single all these years.

Scott complained. “Mom, you didn’t say anything about a fundraiser this weekend. I thought we’d spend some quiet time together for you to meet and get to know Jessie.”

“I’m so sorry, darling, but campaign funds for President Kendall are dangerously low, so I had to do it. The primaries are only weeks away. Don’t worry; by eleven at the latest, these people will consume all the alcohol and food, and then simply drift away. Go amuse yourselves for a few hours. I’m sure Jessie can come up with something for you two to do together for that long.”

She winked at Jessie, and then turned away as quickly as she had appeared; floating off to the next group of partygoers, who judging from Christina’s charm and panache, wouldn’t even blink if she asked them to hand over all their cash and jewelry.

Jessie remained looking in the direction Christina had disappeared. “What was that?”

Scott looked at the floor. “Ahh…my mother can be a bit overwhelming when you first meet her, but she’s really quite nice–almost shy.”

Jessie chuckled. “Yeah right, like Attila the Hun. Where’s the food at this party? I’m starving.”

Scott offered his arm and escorted Jessie to the buffet table, where she filled up two plates with slices of chicken, assorted dim sum, stuffed mushrooms, and jumbo shrimp drizzled with cocktail sauce, while he absconded a chilled bottle of vintage white Burgundy and two wine glasses.

Scott said, “Let’s go upstairs for a little privacy and to escape all the noise.”

“I think she liked me,” Jessie shouted over the band, as they climbed the staircase to the second floor, “But hard to tell from–you must be Jessica.”

“Give her a chance. She only acts like that in front of an audience.”

“What’s the big deal about President Kendall anyway? He’s a creep who’s done a lousy job for the country.”

“Don’t let her hear you say that. Mom loves the guy. He’s the reason she got into politics in the first place.”

“I thought all rich people were Republicans.”

“That’s a dirty word in this house.”

“Rich or Republican?” Jessie asked.

“If you mention Republicans, my mother will wash your mouth out with soap.”

Jessie folded her arms. “I’d like to see her try.”

When they arrived at the study, Scott opened a set of French doors and switched on the lights. Antique furniture filled the room, including a roll-top desk and a stuffed empire sofa. Several leather bound books rested on the polished mahogany bookshelves, along with a matched set of deep-blue Venetian vases, and a scattering of family photographs in ornate gold frames. A boxed out semi-circular window seat with a flowered cushion enhanced the alcove on the south wall.

“How do you like this room?” he asked.

“I love it.” Jessie nodded toward the alcove. “Let’s eat by the window.”

The two sat down, overlooking a sleepy row of houses along a tree-lined street below. In the distance, the faint glow of Cincinnati illuminated the evening clouds.

“As a kid, I would play in here, while mom worked at the desk.”

Jessie said, “I can see why you liked growing up here.”

“Yep, this little berg is crime-free and all the neighbors are friendly. We can even claim a celebrity singing group.”

“Who’s that?”

“Middletown is the birthplace of the McGuire Sisters. Remember Sincerely, or Sugartime, big hits back in the 1950s?”

Jessie shrugged. “Sorry.”

Scott said, “Well, they were pretty famous around here.”

Jessie perked up. “You’d like my town too. Venice is one huge beach, the Pacific Ocean, and babes in bikinis skating up and down the boardwalk, dodging a steady parade of local characters and tourists. I’ll bet you can’t find medical marijuana in your town at midnight.”

Scott smiled. “You can’t do anything in Middletown after ten p.m., they’ve rolled up the sidewalks and gone home.”

“Hey, how about giving me a tour of this place? I need to pee like a banshee after all that wine.”

“I’ll make a bathroom our first stop.”

Several rooms later, they returned to the study. From below, Scott could hear a steady stream of guests making loud inebriated farewells and the front door kept slamming. “Sound like the party is ending. My mother should be up soon.”

Jessie walked over to the bookcase and picked up a frame with a picture of a beautiful young woman holding a baby. “Is this you and your mom?”

Scott looked over her shoulder. “Yep, ever see a cuter baby?”

She picked up another. “And your high school graduation?”

“Right again. I’m the one wearing the cap and gown.”

Jessie moved on to the next photo…a soldier standing in a jungle clearing with his shirt off, wearing a red bandana around his neck, and surrounded by ten other young smiling Marines.

“Scott’s father was a Marine,” Christina announced, as she entered the room. “Sorry, it took me so long to clear out the place.”

“No problem, mother,” said Scott.

Christina turned to Jessica. “Has my son been boring you with our ancient history?”

Jessie placed her arm through Scott’s. “I find his life story utterly fascinating.”

Christina smirked. “Of course you do.”

Jessie handed the picture to Christina. “Mrs. Harold, your guy was quite the stud muffin.”

“I prefer to remember Lieutenant Scott Harold as a wonderful husband, soldier, and patriot–not a stud muffin.”

“Sorry, I meant no disrespect, but he’s awfully cute.”

Christina smiled but didn’t respond.

“How did he die?” Jessie asked.

“He was killed in a firefight somewhere near the Cambodian border, but not before saving the lives of three of his men. Scott, Sr. was only twenty-two at the time.” Christina put her hand to her mouth and turned partially away.

“You must be very proud,” Jessie said, “He made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.”

Christina sighed. “I am…but regret that Scott Jr. grew up without a father.”

“It had to be hard on you too.”

“We managed.” After a long awkward silence, Christina asked, “So…how did you two meet–Laundromat, bowling alley…brothel?”

Scott frowned. “You know how we met, mother.”

“Oh, Scott, I don’t really care. Lust is natural in a boy, of course, but girls today; with their loose morals and provocative manner of dress. No wonder there are so many unwanted children. I suppose you two will want to sleep together.”

Scott restrained Jessie.

“First of all, I am not sleeping with your son–and even if I were, it’s none of your damn business. Where do you get off making snap judgments of people? I’ve half-a-mind to…”

“I don’t doubt the half-a-mind part, but Scott is my only son and I want what’s best for him.”

Jessie said, “He can make his own decisions.”

Scott interrupted. “Can I say something about this?”

Both women turned and yelled at the same time, “No!”

Christina addressed Jessie again. “You may think I’m an overprotective mother, but I don’t want Scott to climb on the first cute bus that comes along.”

Jessie clenched her fists. “He hasn’t climbed on anything yet.”

“All right, that’s enough,” Scott said. “Mother, you are being very rude to Jessie, and although she can be hot headed at times…”

Jessie shoved him. “Who’s hot headed?”

“…as I was saying, even though her temper flairs occasionally, I love her.”

Jessie said, “Sweet,” to Scott, and then got up into Christina’s face and stuck out her jaw. “See, he loves me.”

Scott forced his way between the women. “You both are acting like children. I expect it from Jessie, but mom you’re the adult here. Now either you two make up, or we’re leaving right now.”

The ladies stood their ground. Scott started for the door.

Christina grabbed his arm. “No, don’t go, I haven’t seen you in weeks.” She paused. “I might have been a bit harsh…”

“You got that right,” Jessie replied.

“Jessie…” Scott warned.

Jessie nodded toward Christina. “I’ll play nice if she will.”

Christina composed herself. “I’m sorry I spoke so bluntly. How about we start over?”

“Please, Jessie,” said Scott.

Jessie went silent for a moment. “Oh, all right. What the hell.”

Christina smiled. “Splendid. Let’s go downstairs for a cup of tea. You can tell me all about yourself, and I can share some of Scott’s little quirks.”

“Quirks, mother?” Scott asked.

“Yes, dear, she’s entitled to all the facts.”

Scott observed in amazement as his mother and Jessie walked off, chatting away like old friends as if nothing had happened. “Don’t worry about me,” he shouted after them, but neither one looked back. Scott would never understand women. He shook his head, had second thoughts about the whole “meet the mom” idea, and then went off to bed–alone again.

*********************************************

Check it out on amazon.com. Honest reviews welcomed!

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