Writerly Wednesday Welcomes Susan Fleet

Diva by Susan Fleet

Welcome Susan Fleet to Writerly Wednesday!

Please forgive the late posting, for some reason only known to software writers and customer service people, my computer, internet and google did not work together and although I could look at Susan’s files, I couldn’t edit or compose a post last night.

My website

Buy Link http://www.susanfleet.com/fleet-diva.html

Bio:  Before I began “killing” people, I was a freelance trumpeter in
the Boston area
for many years. While teaching at Brown
University and Berklee
College of Music, I published biographical entries for several musicians for Scribner’s’
American Biography. Then I took a
scriptwriting course, fell in love with writing fiction and got in touch with
my “dark side.” In 2001 I moved to New
Orleans and began writing crime novels set in The Big
Easy.

Blurb:  DIVA

Beautiful, talented and ambitious, flute soloist Belinda Scully wants to be a
star. But fame can be dangerous. Someone is stalking her. Rejection stokes the
fires of his lust. Her manager dies suddenly. NOPD Detective Frank Renzi
believes he was murdered. But murder may not be the worst thing that Belinda
must face.

 

Excerpt: Diva: Chapter 1

 

Thursday, 12 October 2006

 

 

With military precision, he thrust his torso upward, arms rigid,
palms pressed to the floor. Oblivious to the dingy carpet that reeked of
cigarette smoke from the previous tenant, he feasted on the slick color brochure
that lay below him. Belinda Scully, celebrated soloist on the cusp of stardom.

Gazing up at him. Enticing him with her come-hither smile. Admiring
his naked hard-body.

Audiences loved her fiery passion, her magical way with the flute. He
loved her, too.

Desire flamed his groin. He lowered his body and brushed her
photograph with a kiss. He wanted to lick every inch of her, wanted to make her
moan with ecstasy and make her beg him for more.

A final burst and his pushups were done. He sprang to his feet,
bathed in sweat. Even in October the New
Orleans humidity was a killer. He’d shut off the air
conditioner. Paying for this shitty studio apartment was bad enough; he didn’t
need sky-high electric bills to boot. His money paid for more important things:
air fares and hotel rooms and concert tickets.

He toweled sweat from his face and sank onto his cheap metal futon.
Large posters on the opposite wall hid cracked plaster and chipped paint:
Belinda at Tanglewood, Belinda at the Hollywood Bowl, Belinda in St. Louis. The first two
he had obtained after the concerts, asking nicely. The third he’d stolen from a
glass display in a quick smash and grab.

The photos didn’t do her justice. She was far more beautiful in
person. The insistent throb in his groin became a full-fledged erection.

“Dazzling technique and a sensuous dulcet tone,” the Times-Picayune
reviewer had gushed.  A rave
review—justly deserved—of her performance with the Louisiana Philharmonic last
weekend.

From his fourth row seat he had watched his beloved pour her emotion
into the music. Thirteen years of heartache. He knew what that was like.

At the after-party, he’d watched the LPO benefactors fawn over her,
rich old men lusting after his beloved, seduced by her captivating smile,
sapphire-blue eyes and the coppery hair cascading in waves to her shoulders.
Watched them and hated them. Lurking behind her, aching to touch her, he had
edged closer, close enough to smell her favorite perfume, Mambo.

He flexed his fingers. It had been ages since he’d touched a piano.

Years since he’d talked to his beloved.

She hadn’t responded to any of his messages. How dare she ignore him?

A sea of burning acid roiled his gut. Tonight he would send her a
different message.

______

 

“Damn it to hell!” Frank Renzi stared at his computer screen: Ink
Cartridge Empty
. Two hours writing reports, the last thing he needed was a
dead printer. He wanted to go home. Not that anyone was waiting for him, but he
could have a beer and chill out with a Clark Terry CD.

He strode to a metal supply cabinet, opened it and cursed again. No
print cartridges. SOS, fourteen months post-Katrina, half the residents still
gone, violent crime off the chart and NOPD short 400 officers, not to mention
money for equipment. The thugs were winning.

The sweet scent of jasmine wafted through the window bringing sounds
of the night: the rumble of a delivery truck, the honk of a taxi, the clangor
of Bourbon Street
one block away, bars and strip joints bursting with workers who’d come to New Orleans to rebuild
the city.

He returned to his gunmetal-gray desk, one of four jammed together in
the center of the Eighth District homicide office. They were short a detective,
and stacks of unsolved case files stood atop one desk. He cancelled the print
run and yawned. It had been a back-breaking day, starting with a homicide at Iberville,
a public housing complex north of the French Quarter plagued by gangbangers and
drug dealers. When he and his partner arrived, a crowd encircled the victim, a
young black male with two GSWs to the head, the body count climbing in an
eruption of drug-related hits. A second teen had taken bullets in his legs. No
wits, of course. Nobody knew nothin’. Any kind of luck, the second kid would
live to see another day.

Any day without a murder was a good day inNew Orleans.

His internal phone line buzzed: the desk officer calling.

“Sorry, Frank,” said Bill Poche. “I hate to bother you this late.”

During his four years with NOPD, Franklin Sullivan Renzi had acquired
a certain reputation. He wasn’t sure if this was due to his ruthless pursuit of
thugs, or his expletive-laden tirade at the Deputy Chief one day when the fool
tried to tell him how to do his job.

“What’s up, Bill?” Please, not another homicide. He was ready
for a beer, not another corpse.

“I got a young couple here want to report a possible murder attempt.”

He heard a male voice in the background: “. . . tried to kill her.”

“Yes, sir,” Poche said, “you can tell Detective Renzi all about it.”
To Frank, he said, “By the way, don’t forget that big bash tomorrow.”

Big bash. NOPD-code for VIPs. Just what he needed, nine-thirty at
night. He took out an Incident Report form, set it on his desk and went to the
door, playing the Who’s-the-VIP Game. No shortage of show-biz celebrities in New Orleans: John
Goodman, Nick Cage, Brad and Angelina roaming the Big Easy.

A door at the end of the hall opened and a well-dressed couple, early
thirties tops, approached him. The woman was a knock-out, five-seven and
willowy in her skimpy aqua dress. Great legs, except for the scrape on one
knee. Her companion was six feet tall and skinny, his lips a grim line between
his dark moustache and beard. Frank didn’t recognize them, made a bet with
himself: Whoever speaks first is the VIP.

The woman smiled, a dazzling smile that lit up the dreary hallway.

“Belinda Scully,” she said, raising her chin like an Olympic gymnast,
as if to say: Watch me! I am the best.

The name didn’t ring a bell, though she looked vaguely familiar, even
features, copper-colored hair skimming her shoulders. Attractive. Amazing eyes.
Great bod. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

“Jake Ziegler,” said her companion. No smile, a worried frown and a
limp handshake.

He led them into the office and gestured at two visitor chairs beside
his desk. “Looks like you scraped your knee, Ms. Scully.”

“Please, call me Belinda.” Claiming the chair nearest him, she
crossed her legs and arranged her skirt. “I’m fine. This is a big fuss over nothing.”

Ziegler folded his gangly frame onto the other chair, his dark eyes
smoldering. No wedding rings, but it seemed clear that Belinda wore the pants
in the relationship, whatever it was.

“Tell me what happened,” he said.

“We had dinner at Trattoria Bella,” she said, gazing at him with her
startlingly blue eyes. “It’s a great restaurant. Have you been there?”

“Yeah, home-cooked Italian,” he said, and realized she was staring at
his chin. Fourteen hours since he’d shaved, the two-inch scar was probably a
white zig-zag amidst his dark stubble.

Radiating annoyance, Ziegler fidgeted in his chair. He cleared his
throat, an ugly rasp, but said nothing. Was he waiting for her permission to
speak?

Frank looked at Belinda. “Did the incident happen in the restaurant?”

“No. In the parking lot.”

“We were walking to the car,” Ziegler said, agitated. “I heard a
high-pitched whine and screeching tires and this car came out of nowhere—”

“And then the headlights came on—”

“Right, Belinda. And then the bastard tried to run you down!”

Frown lines formed between her eyes. “He wasn’t trying to—”

“Yes, he was! He drove straight at us.” Like a Cocker Spaniel begging
for a treat, Ziegler gave him an imploring look. “Detective Renzi, if I hadn’t
pushed Belinda aside, the car would have hit her!”

“Jake, it was just some kid—”

“Hold it.” He rubbed his temples to ease a budding headache. Was this
a lover’s quarrel? Was Boyfriend working on his Hero merit badge? He fixed
Ziegler with a hard stare. “What makes you think it was deliberate?”

Zeigler tugged his beard with long slender fingers. Every nail was
bitten to the quick. “Belinda’s a public figure. Don’t you know who she is?”

He spread his hands, a weary disclaimer. “Sorry. You got me there.”

Ms. Celebrity smiled. “Not everyone is a classical music fan, Jake.”

Then he remembered the photo-spread in the Times-Picayune last
week. “Oh, right. You’re the flutist that played a solo with the LPO
last weekend.”

“Yes. Seven years ago the LPO gave me my first break, a solo
performance with a professional orchestra, and I fell in love with the city. Four
years ago I moved here from Boston.”

“Me, too,” he said, and wished he hadn’t when he saw the spark of
interest in her eyes.

“Why did you move to New
Orleans?”

Because my wife divorced me, and a little girl
died that shouldn’t have.

“I hate shoveling snow.”

She gazed at him, somber-eyed. Her eyes were stunning, deep pools of
emotions he couldn’t decipher, a hint of pain, then nothing.

“I bet it’s more complicated than that.”

The comment surprised him. Had she seen something in his face, some
remnant of the anguish he’d felt when he decided to leave Boston? Maybe there was more to Belinda
Scully than celebrity-hood. Maybe a real person lurked beneath her carefully
groomed exterior: aqua eye-shadow, lip gloss, not a strand of coppery hair out
of place.

He started to print her name on the Incident Report.

“Don’t put my name on that,” she said, her voice edged with steel.

“Use mine then,” Ziegler said. “I don’t care what she says. Someone
tried to kill her.”

This was getting tedious. “Can you describe the car, Mr. Ziegler?”

“No. It happened too fast. It was dark.”

“The car was dark?”

“Yes,” Ziegler said, his voice rising in exasperation. “Dark and big.
A big dark sedan. We were walking along, talking the way you do after a meal,
and a car came out of nowhere and homed in on us like a . . . like a missile!

“Did you get a look at the driver?”

“No. I was too busy looking out for Belinda.”

She shot Ziegler a nasty look, but Ziegler ignored it. “Whoever it
was tried to kill her.”

For the briefest instant, he saw a flash of fear in her sapphire-blue
eyes. Then her carefully-crafted mask reappeared. No window to the soul through
those baby-blues now. She kept denying Ziegler’s assertion that someone had
tried to kill her. Maybe she wasn’t so sure.

“What makes you think someone wants to kill Belinda Scully?”

Ziegler stared at the floor, clearly uncomfortable.

He’s hiding something and so is she. They both have secrets. 

Hoping to jolly it out of them, he said, “What? You think it’s open
season on flutists? Someone didn’t like her solo?”

Belinda grinned at his flip remark, as though they were
co-conspirators. They weren’t. She wanted to flirt. He wanted to go home.

Ziegler’s jaw muscles bunched. “There’s more to it than that. This is
an anniversary of sorts. We have dinner together every Columbus Day, the day
her parents—”

“Jake,” Belinda snapped. “Detective Renzi isn’t interested in hearing
my life story.”

He felt the beginning of headache build behind his eyes. Then his
cellphone chimed, always trouble at this hour.

It was Kenyon Miller. “Frank! Cop down in Lakeview. Where y’at?”

Cop down. His heart
hammered his chest like a drummer bashing cymbals. “At the station. Call you
back when I’m on the road.”

He opened the bottom drawer of his desk and took out the leather
holster that held his SIG-Sauer.

The well-dressed couple beside his desk stared at him, wide-eyed.

“Leave your contact information at the front desk, Mr. Ziegler. I’ll
call you tomorrow.”

=============================

My website

Buy Link http://www.susanfleet.com/fleet-diva.html

Interview

1. In three days, all electricity is going to be shut off for a very
long time. What items are you going to gather in preparation for this event?

 

Having survived Katrina, I know what that’s like! First, I would buy
lots of ice, put it in the freezer, and cook whatever’s in the freezer. But
just as importantly, I would buy lots of batteries for my portable CD player. I
can’t live without music!

2. Where did the idea for the work you are
promoting arise?

 

DIVA was inspired by the horrible experiences a woman brass player
friend endured when she was stalked by a deranged repairman. My stalker is very
different, but the fear and terror my Diva character experiences are reality
based. My friend eventually escaped. But will the Diva?

3. What do you like to read?

 

I enjoy thrillers like those written by Lisa Gardner, Lee Child,
Patricia Cornwell and John Sandford. But I also read non-fiction, especially biographies
and books about American history from the Civil War era to the present. I just finished
Dennis Lehane’s historical novel The
Given Day
, about the 1919 Boston Police strike. It’s a great read!

4. Tell us about the most exciting place you have ever visited?

Several years ago I was traveling in Europe
with a musician friend, and we went to Lyon,
France. We had some
great meals at the local bistros, but the most exciting part was when we visited
the site of some ancient Roman ruins and walked around the amphitheater. We
were the only people there, and I could almost “feel” the spectators. What were
they watching? A play? A concert? A duel to the death between a Roman gladiator
and a lion? I have no idea, but it was a mystical experience that raised goosebumps
on my arms.

5. What is the most mundane, day to day, thing you can share about
yourself?

 

I hate telephone-calls that interrupt me when I’m writing, any
kind of calls: advertising, surveys, you name it.

 

6. What scares you the most?

 

Because
I’ve played a loud instrument for many years, I have significant hearing loss.
It scares me to think that my hearing might deteriorate to the point where I
couldn’t listen to music.

 

7. Tell us anything but keep it G rated.

 

I
love getting feedback about my novels. Two years ago I met with a book club
that read my first thriller, Absolution, and enjoyed their comments and
reactions immensely. Writing is a solitary endeavor, and it’s tremendously
satisfying when readers of my novels contact me through my website to tell me
their reactions to the book.

 

Buy Link for Diva

Next week Writerly Wednesday Presents Mike Emmett.

By Sally

Sally Franklin Christie Blogger and Author of If I Should Die and Milk Carton People.

5 comments

  1. Interesting excerpt … One day though, I’d like to read a thriller like this where the stalkee turns the tables and terrorises the stalker!

  2. Thanks Kathryn, so happy you liked the excerpt! Sorry to hear about your brother’s hearing loss. It’s a big problem in the music industry. And yes, I survived Katrina. When it hit I was in Boston visiting my daughter, couldn’t get back for a month. My car was destroyed (flooded) and there was some damage, tho no flooding, to my apartment.

    The biggest problems were … 1) having to buy a new car and avoiding used ones that had been under water … 2) buying a new refrigerator (everyone in the state needed one … the bugs ya know?) … 3) having to move because my apartment complex closed (all first floor apartments were flooded. But I did indeed survive. We Irish girrrrls are tough! 🙂

  3. Susan,
    liked the excerpt a lot. I like crime/mystery stories.
    My brother is a musician also and he has lost a lot of his hearing and now wears hearing aids, so I understand you worrying about that.
    So you actually went through Katrina? That must have been a difficult experience. Good luck with your new book! Fellow author Kathryn Meyer Griffith

  4. Thanks Gary. The ruins experience really was exciting … almost mystical, maybe because we were the only two people there. If you ever get a chance to visit them, go! And thanks also for reading the book sample. It is indeed “hot” as you put it. It also gives great insight into the conditions in New Orleans after Katrina.

  5. I’ve always wanted to visit some Roman ruins. (Well, I like ruins in general, but you get the idea.) Feeling a presence in such an area must have been exciting!

    Good luck with the book–it sounds pretty hot!

Comments are closed.