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Thursday, September 20, 2012
MEET JOHN BARTLETT AND BENJAMIN WEST - A DEADLY GAMES! EXCERPT
The alarm clock sounded promptly at five a.m.
Benjamin West reflexively tapped the snooze button, returning the apartment once again to blessed silence. The last thing he wanted to do was wake Sarah this early, especially since she usually stayed up until the wee hours working in her studio. She was a great many things, but a morning person was not one of them.
Slowly, Benjamin unfolded Sarah’s left arm from across his chest. She grumbled something unintelligible before rolling over and falling quickly back to sleep with her head buried in a pillow. Benjamin slid out of the King Size bed as quietly as he was able, which wasn’t nearly quiet enough. He stubbed his toe against the stair railing as he moved from the elevated bedroom loft to the expanse of the apartment below and tried to silence the cursing that followed. The metal stairs were mighty chilly this morning.
It would take time for him to get used to where everything was located. Especially since he didn’t have a hand in the decorating. Given a little time he knew he would get comfortable in these surroundings, then he would stop bumping into things, provided Sarah could resist the urge to redecorate without telling him. It wouldn’t have been the first time she had gotten a wild hair and moved the furniture around while he was out. Once, while he had been on an assignment that kept him out until the wee hours, he came home to their old apartment and fell over the love seat because he wasn’t expecting it to be where it was. Thankfully, he hadn’t been hurt and they shared a good laugh at his expense. It remained one of Sarah’s favorite stories to tell at parties.
He hoped she could control her impulses and not rearrange the furniture again without giving him some kind of heads up, but she could be rather impulsive. That was just one of the many charms he has grown to love about her. Without her impulsiveness they might not have met.
It took Ben nearly ten minutes to find a decent pair of pants out of the boxes yet to be unpacked. Finding a clean shirt proved to be an even tougher challenge, but after much rummaging, he found adequate clothing for his day in the sticks. Then, still trying to be as quiet as possible, Ben moved across his new apartment to the shower.
On his way there he noticed the unfinished painting that Sarah had started the night before. Although her usual taste tended more toward landscapes and fantasy pieces, Sarah had begun a beautiful portrait of herself and Benjamin that she told him she planned to hang over the fireplace in the living room. She had only gotten the heads painted before he finally convinced her to come to bed. Knowing Sarah, she probably would have stayed in her studio all night if he had not intruded on her and reminded her that she was mortal and had to sleep. Reluctantly she agreed and he led her upstairs to the bedroom.
The portrait was beautiful. Sarah was an extremely gifted artist. She could do things with a paintbrush that amazed him no end. Considering his drawing ability peaked at stick figures, Benjamin marveled at the amount of talent his wonderful girlfriend possessed. He made a mental note to tell her how much he liked it after he got back from the reading of the will, but that would be later on tonight. It could wait. He saw no reason to wake her just for that. She needed her rest because she would probably still be hard at work when he arrived home.
He smiled, not fully realizing until that moment how completely happy she made him. Even when she was asleep in another part of the apartment he just felt happy.
It must be love, he told himself.
Or something really, really close.
* * *
Benjamin West was ready to leave an hour after rolling out of bed.
He mentally patted himself on the back for somehow managing to not wake Sarah from her slumber. Once outside he could make all the noise he wanted.
He had decided to take his motorcycle out of storage and drive it to Morehouse’s estate just north of Sommersville, Georgia, which was roughly sixty-five miles away. Benjamin figured it would take at least an hour or so to reach his destination. Plus, he would give himself an extra half an hour for those “just in case” moments that happen all too often in this city. Add to that, the fact that Atlanta traffic was well known to be horrendous, especially during the weekday rush hour so he factored in an extra hour. He hated to be late.
West had the Atlanta transportation situation down to a science.
Most times he was even right.
Zipping his windbreaker up as he stepped outside into the brisk morning air, he immediately noticed the black limousine parked across the street from his apartment. The driver was leaning against the front fender smoking a cigarette. From the number of butts lying on the ground near his feet the reporter assumed he had been waiting there a while.
“Mr. West?” the driver asked upon seeing him walk down the steps.
West noted that this man was very well built. He looked more like a bodyguard than a chauffeur. The man was definitely a bodybuilder from the look of him.
“Benjamin West?” the limo driver asked again, adding the first name for clarification.
“Yeah, I’m Ben West,” the reporter said carefully. He felt an odd sensation knowing that this man had been waiting for him. The hairs on the back of his neck rose, curious about the man waiting outside his new home. He had not even given his new address to his friends at work yet. How did this guy know where to find him?
“And you are?” West asked.
“I... don’t have a driver.”
The man shrugged. “You do now, I guess. I’m supposed to drop you and another passenger off at the reading of a will or something.”
“Uh huh,” West snorted. Suddenly it all made sense. This was another one of Morehouse’s games. It had to be. Even dead, that bastard was still pulling their strings. “Who sent you?”
“The attorney handling the will,” the driver said as if he were used to being questioned. “I guess it was part of the arrangements, I really don’t know. They just pay me to drive. They say go here and pick this guy up, I go there and pick that guy up.”
“This attorney you work for, he have a name?”
“I’m sure he does, sir.”
Smartass, West thought. Aloud he said, “And that would be...?”
“I’m only paid to drive you and the other person to the estate in Sommersville, sir. I don’t know anything beyond that. I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t so knock off the twenty questions, okay?”
“What if I prefer to take my own car?”
The driver shrugged.
“I guess that’s your choice, sir.”
“Uh huh.” West wasn’t convinced.
“I just drive the car,” the driver said again as he opened the door, ushering the befuddled reporter into the car. “I do have another guest to pick up, Mr. West. Are you coming or not?”
Reluctantly, the reporter slid in the back seat. He was more curious than worried, but he decided it best not to let his guard down. Unconsciously, he thanked the driver once inside and the door closed even as he said it. The driver quite possibly didn’t even hear it.
“Just sit back and enjoy the ride, sir,” the driver said as he took his place behind the steering wheel in the front seat.
“Who is the other passenger you have to pick up?” West asked, remembering that the driver had mentioned it before.
“Another person named in the will. A cop, I believe..”
“A cop?” West asked, trying to keep the groan from his voice.
“That’s what they tell me, sir.”
“Great,” the reporter said. “Just great.
The driver smiled thinly, enjoying the younger man’s discomfort.
Benjamin West let out a stressed breath.
“It’s going to be a long day.”
* * *
Twenty-three minutes later the limousine stopped next to the curb on the side of a small two lane road in a Marietta subdivision.
The driver parked the limo in front of what the reporter guessed was the home of John Bartlett. It was an older house with a carport off to the side and a walk up to the front door. He assumed, based on other houses he had seen that from the front door you could either go upstairs or down. The house was nice, but it was past due for a fresh coat of paint.
Benjamin West had never actually visited the police officer’s house before. That probably had something to do with the fact that the two men weren’t exactly friends. Truth be told, half the time it was all the two men could do not to slug one another.
Once upon a time, at Sarah’s urging he had made a concerted effort to make nice with John Bartlett, but the officer was, well let’s just say he was less than receptive to the idea. He chalked it up to the man having something against reporters and moved on.
Now that he was looking at it, the exterior of Bartlett’s home seemed to fit its owner’s rough exterior. West knew that Bartlett had been married once upon a time. Elizabeth, he thought was her name, but he wasn’t certain. He was also aware that their split had not been a pleasant one. Rumor had it that she had left him without a word and that they had not spoken a word to one another since. Her leaving had messed him up pretty bad, West remembered. Bartlett fell apart for a time and he started drinking heavily, which had a negative impact on his job. The reporter remembered hearing stories about how Bartlett came within a hair’s breadth of losing his job. Thankfully, with the help of a friend of his named Mac Sperling, he had been able to pull himself back from the brink.
This was early during the Morehouse case and Bartlett and West were nothing more than passing acquaintances at the time. Not that they were exactly close friends now, but there was definitely more familiarity. West thought Bartlett was a pain in the ass, but that didn’t mean he didn’t like him.
“We’re here, sir,” the driver said as he killed the ignition.
“You don’t say,” West quipped.
The driver shot him a nasty look.
Although he rather enjoyed rattling people’s cages, especially people with attitudes --and brother, did this guy have an attitude-- West decided not to press his luck any further than he already had. It was going to be a long enough day as it was and the last thing he needed was more hassles. He didn’t relish the idea of spending the majority of the day with Morehouse’s people. That was bad enough, but he sure as hell hadn’t planned on having to put up with John Bartlett all day either. Although, he had to admit it was nice to have back up just in case things went sideways. And when Morehouse was involved, dead or alive, things had a habit of going sideways very quickly.
I’ll be right back, sir.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” West said as he watched the driver step out of the car. He followed the man’s lumbering path up the driveway to the front door. There were four concrete steps up to a small porch with an old wooden box full of plants that were long dead. The driver took the steps in two strides. West found something off putting about the driver, but choked it up to his nervousness about the day.
But it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on the man just in case.
The driver knocked twice and waited at the front door for a few moments. He was about to knock again when the door opened and a bleary-eyed John Bartlett peered out at the man on his porch. Clearly, he had awakened the officer from a deep sleep.
They exchanged a few words and Bartlett waved the driver away. Soon, the driver was standing beside the limo much as he had been when West saw him outside his own apartment. He pulled a pack of cheap cigarettes from his inside pocket and lit one.
“He’ll be along in a minute, sir,” the driver told the reporter, who had not asked.
“Of course he will,” West muttered as he stretched and leaned his head back against the seat. He closed his eyes for a moment, deciding it best to get a little rest before the police officer arrived. On a good day, Barlett was an irritable lout. He could only imagine how grumpy the man could be first thing in the morning.
He closed his eyes, certain it would be the last rest he would get until the business with Darrin Morehouse’s will was far behind him, a distant memory best forgotten.
Yes. It would be better when this was over. At least that’s what he told himself.
It had to be.
He did not see how it could get any worse.
* * *
Benjamin West awoke with a start, gasping for air.
“Welcome back to the land of the living,” he heard John Bartlett’s voice say from somewhere nearby. “I was beginning to think you were going to sleep the whole way.”
“Where...” he coughed. “Where are we?” the reporter asked groggily.
Bartlett looked out his window and shrugged.
West could see trees moving past the window in a blur.
“We’re roughly ten miles from a small town called Sommersville,” the driver said plainly. “We should be at the estate in about twenty minutes or so.”
“Great,” West said. “Maybe I can get a nap in before we get there.”
Bartlett leaned in close to the reporter. “Try to stay awake, huh?” he whispered. “I want you to be alert when we get there.”
“Is that concern I hear in your voice, Detective Bartlett?”
“Not likely,” Bartlett muttered instead of ignoring the sarcasm. “Look, West, I know we aren’t best buddies or anything like that, but we are walking into what could be one hell of a trap.”
“Or an ambush.”
“Or an ambush,” Bartlett agreed. “I would like to go into it awake and alert. Backup wouldn’t hurt, but since I don’t have any backup you’ll have to do.”
West rolled his eyes. “You’re all heart, John.”
“I do what I can.”
It’s going to be a long day, West thought for the second time that morning.
And the day was only just beginning.
* * *
Want to read more? Check out DEADLY GAMES! at the following booksellers or wherever you buy your favorite books.
BEN Books (paperback)
Barnes & Noble (paperback)
Amazon (Kindle ebook)
Smashwords (multiple formats ebook)
Barnes & Noble (Nook ebook)
Drive Thru Fiction (ebook)
BEN Books is proud to present Deadly Games! a thriller by Bobby Nash.
They played the most dangerous game of all and death was only the beginning...
Six years ago, Police Detective John Bartlett and journalist Benjamin West were instrumental in the capture of notorious master criminal Darrin Morehouse. Their story played out in the media, rocketing both Bartlett and West into local celebrity status.
Today, Morehouse, still a master game player and manipulator, commits suicide while in prison. His death initiates one final game of survival for the people Morehouse felt wronged him the most. At that top of the list are Bartlett and West, who must set aside their differences to save the lives of Morehouse's other victims and solve one last game before a dead man’s hired killers catch them and his other enemies.
Deadly Games! is a fast-paced action/thriller featuring action, suspense, murder, and the occasional gunfire from Author Bobby Nash, the writer of Evil Ways, Domino Lady, Lance Star: Sky Ranger, and more.
Written by Bobby Nash
Publisher: BEN Books
Related Categories: Fiction / Thrillers
Visit BEN Books at http://BEN-Books.blogspot.com
Visit Deadly Games! author Bobby Nash at www.bobbynash.com
John Bartlett and Benjamin West return in an all-new thriller in 2013.