Category: JJ’s Blog

Meet the Cast of Mr. Smith and the Roach

Meet the Cast of Mr. Smith and the Roach

My latest novel, Mr. Smith and the Roach, will be released three weeks from today (but you can pre-order it now!), and each week leading up to the release, I’ll be back to talk a little more about the book.

This morning, I want to tell you about who would play the characters if the book ever made it to the big (or small) screen.  This is actually a pretty easy exercise, because the story originally came from a joke on a friend’s podcast back in 2007, with one of the hosts throwing out titles for absurd possible shows.  “Mr. Smith and the Roach” was one of those titles, and me, being the geek I am, came up with a premise, characters and even an online episode guide for this totally fake show (sadly, that guide is gone thanks to a website crash back in 2010).  I cast every character in the show, and they’ve lived on in my mind since then.  So when I started writing the story as a real novel earlier this year, I already had mental pictures of everyone in the “cast.”

Mr. Smith is a retired New York City homicide detective.  He’s 61 years old, and the obvious choice to play him 10+ years ago was Michael Ironside. My opinion hasn’t changed since then.


The voice of the Roach was always Anthony Steward Head.  His voice was always British, from the very beginning.

Mr. Smith’s friend, the owner of his favorite bar In Vino Veritas, Hilary Jackson, was originally meant to be played by Kathleen Turner.  But I’m not sure she’s the right choice in 2018.  It’s a completely different look for the character, but I think that Rena Sofer (currently starring on The Bold and the Beautiful) would do a fantastic job as Hilary.

Lauren Ambrose, of Six Feet Under fame, was my choice in 2007 to play Mr. Smith’s niece Jeannie.  At the time, she was 29, so playing a 22-23 year old wasn’t unreasonable.  Today, it might not work quite as well, but I think she’s got the right look and personality for the character, so we’ll stick with her.

Jeannie’s mother (and Mr. Smith’s sister) Abigail Jeanne Marie Smith Kane Jensen Morrissey Frankenhurst Blakesley, has to be played by a soap opera diva, and what better choice than Deidre Hall of Days of Our Lives.

To play Jeannie’s roommate, Melissa Barnaby, I picked another soap actress, Camryn Grimes (currently on The Young and the Restless).  She’d be a good choice for Jeannie if I had to pick someone closer to the character’s age, as well.

Mr. Smith’s neighbor, creepy entomologist Dr. Greg Brooks, is totally Fisher Stevens (I still think of him as Ethan Hawke’s scuzzy older brother in “Mystery Date”).

The super of Mr. Smith’s building, “Big Eddie” Sluntkin, was always Danny DeVito.  Who else could it be?

One of the villains of the story is a crooked Wall Street banker, Peter Franks.  I like soap star Thorsten Kaye (currently on The Bold and the Beautiful).  Doesn’t he just look like somebody who could scam retired police out of their pensions?

He doesn’t actually show up in person in this book, but mobster Charlie Peaches is mentioned several times in the book, and the sequel is titled THE RETURN OF CHARLIE PEACHES, so it’s pretty clear he will have a big role there!  And in the fake-TV version of this story, he was played by Val Kilmer.  That hasn’t changed.

Hilary’s friend, opera singer Felicia Bonaventure, doesn’t show up in this book, either, but she was a regular “guest” on the fake TV show, and I expect her to show up in the sequel.  And she’s played by British singer Kate Bush.

Felicia has a bitter rival, Callie Marbella, who’s friends with another of Mr. Smith’s neighbors in the apartment building.  One of my favorite quotes from the fake episode guide (yes, I came up with memorable quotes for each “episode”) was applied to Callie.  She’s referred to as a “tone-deaf, role-stealing, attention-seeking whore.”  So, who else to play her but an actual opera diva, Renee Fleming?  She’ll also appear in the sequel.

Callie’s friend is Caitlin Walker, who has a history with Hilary Jackson (as Mr. Smith explains to the Roach, Hilary “may have killed her husband back in the 1980’s”).  She’s played by Genie Francis.

Dr. Brooks’ scummy brother Carter could only ever be Kevin Smith, from “Clerks” (and too much else to mention here!)

Investigative reporter Alexandra Smith (no relation to Mr. Smith!) is played by Danielle Nicolet, currently on “The Flash” as Cecille West.

For imprisoned Mafia boss Jimmy Hagen, who else but James Caan?

And, last but not least, in the original fake TV show, I had the idea that real-life actress Susan Lucci was a neighbor of Mr. Smith’s.  Since I’m actually publishing this book, I can’t really do that, but in her place is former soap opera star Lucie Susans (Mr. Smith can never remember which show she actually starred on), played, obviously, by Susan Lucci.


And there you have it – the full cast of Mr. Smith and the Roach!


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A Reel Christmas in Romance

A Reel Christmas in Romance

Good morning, and welcome to the release day for A REEL CHRISTMAS IN ROMANCE!

Owner of the lone movie theater in Romance, Marianne Carter loves the old movies she shows on the big screen. She’s just struck up an email friendship with a newcomer to town. Unaware of his identity but feeling loyal to him, she fights her attraction to a handsome man she keeps bumping into around town.

Under a false identity, Jack Nelson comes to Romance to investigate the historic movie theater and decide if it should receive the status of a historical landmark. Little does he know the woman sending him charming emails is the same one who owns the theater.

While Marianne’s theater plays the old classic film The Shop Around the Corner, Marianne and Jack unknowingly play out the same story in real life. Will they figure it out in time to write their own happy ending?




I really enjoyed writing this book.  I owe most of it to my wife, who’s brought me around to becoming a big classic movie fan – the story is inspired by The Shop Around the Corner, and the heroine owns the only movie theater in town, so you can see how that would work.

One quirk of our heroine, Marianne Carter, is that she’s also a huge classic movie fan, and she sometimes dresses up like the heroines of the movies she’s showing at her theater.  As you can see in this illustration:

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Christmas in Romance!

Christmas in Romance!

Merry Christmas!

Yes, I know it’s only November 1st.  But today is the launch for the first of six books in the Christmas in Romance collection.  They’re all novellas, set in the town of Romance, Oregon (just as my story last fall, FINDING DORI, was…and that book is on sale for $0.99, by the way!)

For the next six days, one book a day will be released, starting today with Sleigh Bells Ring in Romance by the wonderful Shanna Hatfield.








We’ve got a Facebook launch party tonight at 6 PM (Eastern time) – please come by for fun, prizes and great people!









Finally, here’s a fun illustration showing the heroines of all six books in the collection!  Can you match up each person in the picture with her correct book?  If so, come to the party tonight and you could win a prize!

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A Reel Christmas – pre-order now!

A Reel Christmas – pre-order now!


























My new Christmas romance, part of the Christmas in Romance collection, is up for pre-order now!

Owner of the lone movie theater in Romance, Marianne Carter loves the old movies she shows on the big screen. She’s just struck up an email friendship with a newcomer to town.
Unaware of his identity but feeling loyal to him, she fights her attraction to a handsome man she keeps bumping into around town.

Under a false identity, Jack Nelson comes to Romance to investigate the historic movie theater and decide if it should receive the status of a historical landmark. Little does he know the woman sending him charming emails is the same one who owns the theater.

While Marianne’s theater plays the old classic film The Shop Around the Corner, Marianne and Jack unknowingly play out the same story in real life. Will they figure it out in time to write their own happy ending?

This book is one of six novella that will all be released the first week of November…












Sleigh Bells Ring in Romance by Shanna Hatfield – A determined widow and a persistent rancher need a nudge toward love.  Release date November 1st!

A Merry Miracle in Romance by Melanie D. Snitker – It’ll take a Christmas miracle to turn a grudging friendship into true love.  Release date November 2nd!

Holding Onto Love in Romance by Liwen Y. Ho – A small town inn owner and a big time pop star need a reason to keep holding onto love. Release date November 3rd!

A Christmas Carol in Romance by Franky A. Brown – A bitter-on-love radio DJ and his girlfriend of romance past need a second chance. Release date November 5th!

Santa’s Visit in Romance by Jessica L. Elliott – Santa’s got his work cut out for him to help a reluctant couple find love during the holidays. Release date November 6th!


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Audiobook Madness!

Audiobook Madness!

Audible is running all kinds of specials this week, so I figured it’s a good time to remind y’all about my own audiobooks, since with all the cool stuff Audible’s doing, there won’t be a better time to get them…

The best deal I’ve got is my box sets.  You can get three – yes, THREE – audiobooks all together for the price of one.  Either the first three Dream Doctor Mysteries, or all three of the Jane Barnaby Adventures to date, collected in one Audible box set!

On the other hand, if you want to listen to something shorter, I’ve got you covered there, too!   You can get Betty & Howard’s Excellent Adventure, a short story set during the Dream Doctor Mysteries, and narrated by Doctor Who star Nicole Bryant, or the romance novella Finding Dori, which I think you’ll love, too!

You can also get the rest of the Dream Doctor Mysteries – each and every book is on Audible!
Dream Family
Waking Dream
Dream Reunion
Dream Home
Dream Vacation
Fever Dream
Dream Wedding

And remember, you can follow me all over the Interwebs…

My website
Amazon Author page page
YouTube video book trailers
Audiobook samples

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Welcome to the Dream Doctor Mysteries!

Welcome to the Dream Doctor Mysteries!











Welcome to the brand-new Dream Doctor Mysteries!  I’ve re-launched all my books, and I’m thrilled by how they’ve turned out.  I hope you will be, too!


The series now begins with Dream Doctor.   Sara’s about to be married, and ready to start her first year of medical school…but her supernatural dreams are starting up again, too.  Everyone around her seems to be dreaming about the same thing – killing one of her teachers.  Now, Sara has to figure out who’s just dreaming of a harmless revenge fantasy, and who’s really trying to kill him.  Which would be a lot easier if Sara didn’t hate him, too…

Dream Doctor is on sale for just $0.99, and it’s also available (as are all the other books in the series) in paperback, and as a professionally-narrated Audible audiobook!





If you want to see how it all began, the FREE prequel novel Dream Student is for you!  We meet Sara back in college, before she met her fiance, and before she had any idea that her supernatural dreams actually were supernatural.

I’m staring at my clock radio.  According to the big green digital numbers, it’s exactly 3:14 AM.  I think it might be off by a minute or two, but that’s not really the point.  The point is that I’m awake to know it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:14 AM.

This is not by choice.  Actually, it sort of is, I guess.  I’m awake because I don’t want to fall asleep.  And why I don’t want to fall asleep?  It’s a fair question I’d ask if it were someone else.

The answer sounds stupid, even to me.   If I’m honest, I have to admit I’m just being a baby about this.  I don’t want to fall asleep because of the dreams I’ve been having.  “Nightmares” is a better word.  I don’t think even that really gets the point across, though.  Is there a word for dreams that are worse than nightmares?  There should be…









You can hear free samples from the audiobook editions of all the books on Soundcloud.  And you can watch the video book trailers for the Dream Doctor Mysteries on YouTube!

If you want to see how much Sara changes over the series (the books cover 25 years of her life!), take a look at this fantastic illustration I had commissioned…















And if you want to know more about me, well, I’m a marketing professional by day (you’d think that would help me selling these books, wouldn’t you?), a lifelong New York Giants fanatic, anopera devotee, a huge sci-fi and fantasy nerd, and my wife and I are in the process of being trained by our cat, Danny.













You can follow me at my website, on Facebook, on Twitter, at my Amazon author page, and on Goodreads!


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Changes Coming Soon!

Changes Coming Soon!

You’re about to see a new look to my books – the Dream Series will soon become the Dream Doctor Mysteries.  And here’s a sneak preview of what the covers will look like…














There may be some slight tweaks, but this is pretty much the final new cover!



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Featured Author – Lynn Almengor and “Now That We’re Adults”

Featured Author – Lynn Almengor and “Now That We’re Adults”

I want to introduce you to another one of the amazing authors I met earlier this month at AwesomeCon.  Today, please say hello to Lynn Almengor!

Lynn Almengor holds a BA in Video Communication from Arcadia University, and previously wrote/directed guerrilla-style independent films. Because her parents were right about art rarely paying, she also works as a Web Producer in her hometown of Philadelphia, PA. When not writing, Lynn can usually be found playing video games, watching “bad” movies, or goofing off with her husband and their ferrets.






You can follow Lynn all over the Interwebs: at her website, on Twitter, on Facebook, on YouTube and also on Goodreads.

Lynn’s first book is called Now That We’re Adults, and it’s fantastic.  I read it, and I thought it was really truthful, insightful and moving as well (but also really funny), and I totally recommend it.

A group of geeky 20-somethings in Scranton, PA, struggle to form post-college identities without alienating each other in the process.

When happy-go-lucky Wade is dumped by his longtime girlfriend, he’s left to wonder whether she might have a point about his lack of ambition. Needing a distraction from the heartbreak, he begins programming a video game, which soon becomes a passion project as he strives to prove he can follow through on his own.

Meanwhile, his brother Ian barely has time for games now that he’s overloaded at work and struggling to connect with pregnant wife Kat, who’s starting to doubt whether she wants a baby at all. In fact, without the shared experience of college, their entire friend group is splintering.

Needing his friends more than ever, Wade becomes obsessed with turning back the hands of time. But with everyone’s hopes and expectations so tangled up, it might take an outsider—someone like painfully shy librarian Eleanor—to provide some much-needed perspective. That is, if she could get out of her head long enough to risk making a connection.



The book is on sale this week for just $0.99, so you have absolutely no excuse not to go and buy it right now!

I’ve also got an interview with Lynn – check it out!

Who is your favorite author?

My favorite unpublished author is my husband, who’s currently in the middle of writing a fantasy series. But my favorite published author, who you can (and should) go out and read right now, is Dan Burley. He writes character-driven crime fiction that spans the entire lives of Detective Reggie Harper and his crime novelist daughter, Elizabeth—and his dissection of family dynamics is just as compelling as the cases themselves.

How do you describe your writing style?

My writing style is very matter-of-fact. I tell you exactly how it is and get to the point using the fewest words possible. Coming from a filmmaking background, I also like to let the majority of my scenes play out in cinematic real time so you feel like you’re right there next to the characters.

Why should we read your book?

Because it’s honest. A lot of stories infantilize 20-somethings by playing into sitcom clichés about trouble doing laundry or paying bills on time, without digging deeper into the serious fears motivating that behavior. I went to a lot of dark places while writing this book, but the tone is still hopeful. Sure, you can fail miserably, disappointing yourself and everyone else, but as long as you’re still alive you get a chance to learn and choose differently next time.

Have any of your characters been modelled after yourself?

There are bits of me woven into each of my characters, but none of them are specifically based on me. It’s more like I took everything I’ve experienced, thought, or witnessed over the years, chopped it up into tiny pieces, and rearranged those pieces into entirely new stories.

If you could exchange lives with any of your characters for a day which character would you choose and why?

Definitely Rob. That guy gets up to some pretty crazy antics off-page. The first draft actually had more scenes alluding to his secret life, but they didn’t advance any of the main characters’ arcs so I had to cut them. Which is fine, because ultimately, I prefer letting Rob remain mysterious.

What books have most influenced your life?

“The Catcher in the Rye” holds a special place in my heart. When I first read it at age 15, Holden was my hero. Then, by the time I read it again in college, I’d pretty much become Holden, so it was like reading about myself. Finally, when I read it for a third time, closer to age 30, I realized Holden was just a regular kid going through regular kid problems. And that’s when I realized I’d grown up!

Beatles or Monkees? Why?

I was never particularly into either, but I’m biased toward the Monkees because my sister has been obsessed with them since high school and still goes to their concerts. Plus they’re fun, and sometimes you just need fun music!

Who should play you in a film of your life?

Dakota Fanning. I never think celebrities look like me, but recently saw a poster for “The Alienist” and did a double-take! If you gave her glasses, messy red hair, and a pair of plaid pants, she could totally play me.





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Guest Post – Janet Elizabeth Lynn and the Skylar Drake Mysteries

Guest Post – Janet Elizabeth Lynn and the Skylar Drake Mysteries

Please welcome two special guests today – author Janet Elizabeth Lynn and her husband Will Zeilinger!

Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn write  individually until they got together and created the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955.  Janet has published seven mystery novels and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.

The next Skylar Drake Mystery, fourth in the series, SLICK DEAL will be available April 16, 2018 and yes…we are still married!






I’ll turn it over to Janet now…


My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylark Drake Murder Mystery series, a hardboiled series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, Slick Deal, begins News Year’s Eve 1956 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, The first murder and clues lead to Avalon, Catalina.

We spent a week in Avalon researching the life and times of the island in 1956 and made an amazing discovery.  A group of California sportsmen approached Philip Wrigley, (son of William Wrigley, Jr.  the owner of Catalina Island) and proposed having a motorcycle race on Santa Catalina Island.  The men were inspired by a race that began in 1907 on the Isle of Man, off the coast of England.  Mr. Wrigley saw it as a way to draw attention to the island and agreed

The Catalina GP drew hundreds of racers from across the country, packing boats from Southern California with riders ready to test their motor cycle on the streets and hills. It was a two day, 60-100 mile race. Because  the race was held on an island only accessible by boat, the Catalina GP was a one-of-a-kind race. The regular racing rules didn’t apply, allowing motorcycle manufacturers to race test new technology not allowed at other regular events.

I found the article in the Avalon Library. I went through old newspapers from 1956 (with white cotton gloves.) As soon as I finished reading it, an amazing subplot came to me. I handed the article to Will, he read it and he was also inspired. We took copious notes, put everything back and got back to our hotel to write.

We went back the next day to research more about the popular race and why it no longer is held. The race was discontinued after 1958 for many reasons. Some motorcycle racers and their fans, began to take on a tough, hard drinking, rebellious image. They took advantage of the small town and its citizens.  Property damage, actual attacks on island residents (the mayor being one of them).

          What seemed to burst the balloon, was actor Lee Marvin. It was reported that he tried to incite a mutiny on the homebound ship. Full of drunk and rough housing people, the captain took Lee seriously, put on his side arm and contacted the Harbor Patrol. As the article said,Marvin had some explaining to do.

The local police force was small. To help with the large crowds coming for the event, volunteer law enforcers were recruited from the town.  However, with their inexperience, they were helpless and outnumbered. The decision was then made to discontinue the race and initial steps were also taken to change over from the local police to an agreement with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The event returned, in 2010. One of the original four Yamaha bikes from 1958 raced after a 52 year absence.

SLICK DEAL is the fourth in  the series…and yes we are still married!







Follow Janet and her husband at their websites!

Janet  Elizabeth Lynn –

Will Zeilinger –

Here’s more about the new book, Slick Deal!

On the eve of the New Year, 1956, oil tycoon, Oliver Wright dies suspiciously at a swanky Hollywood New Years Eve party. Some think it was suicide.

His death is soon followed by threats against the rest of his family.

Private Investigator Skylar Drake and his partner Casey Dolan are hired by an L.A. gangster to protect the family and solve Oliver’s mysterious death.

Clues lead them to Avalon, on Santa Catalina Island, a Hollywood movie star playground.

A high profile scandal, mysterious women, treason and more deaths complicate matters, putting Drake and his partner in danger.

Twenty-three miles may not seem far away but false identity and corruption on this island could squash their efforts to answer the question—How in the world can a dead man commit suicide?




Last but not least, here’s an excerpt!


Almost midnight. I was working security for the New Year’s Eve bash at the posh Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with my partner Casey Dolan. The rented tuxedos we were wearing made us look like we belonged with the rich crowd down on the ballroom floor, but we were working. This was one of the most exclusive parties in the city. I’d been here before and I’ve never known any other hotel with the kind of history this place had. Our job tonight was to keep an eye out for trouble…and I suppose this was a much better way to greet the new year than sitting at home in front of the television with a bottle of whiskey. As a matter of principle, I didn’t take security work. But Dolan thought D&D Investigations would benefit from this job by keeping the lights on and paying our secretary. He was right.

I scanned the crowd and checked my watch—a minute before midnight. The noise level in the room escalated with anticipation. I spotted Dolan at his post under an archway on the other side of the room and smiled. He nodded. From my spot on the catwalk above the ballroom floor I watched as they counted down the last seconds—five, four, three, two…  Just as the clock on stage struck midnight, the room exploded with shouts, horns, balloons, and a snowstorm of confetti. The band played “Auld Lang Syne” while a banner unfurled above the bandstand that proclaimed: HAPPY NEW YEAR 1956.

It seemed as though everyone in the world was dancing, hugging, and kissing. My mind disappeared into the past. I remembered my late wife, Claire, and how we celebrated every New Year together. Even when she was big with our daughter, Ellie, Claire was stunning. I pulled out my wallet and gazed at her photo. I miss you honey, so very much.

A man’s voice boomed over the P.A., “Is there a doctor in the house?” My dream with Claire evaporated. I looked down at the stage where a man had grabbed the microphone from the band leader’s hands and shouted, “We need help in the main lobby.”

I motioned for Dolan to stay put while I ducked behind the heavy drapes and crossed the hall to the lobby mezzanine. Fourteen steps would take me down to the lobby floor. I think I only used five. My hand automatically went to my holster, just in case.  Pushing through the crowd, I found a portly man on his back in a pool of blood on the terracotta-tiled floor. A tuxedo-clad man loosened the tie of the victim but I knew he was gone. I’d seen that vacant look in his eyes a hundred times back when I worked LAPD homicide.

Somewhere in the crowd I heard “Make way please, we’re nurses.” A couple of women in evening gowns appeared. I held the curious crowd back while the women knelt on the bloody floor and checked for a pulse. One shook her head and placed a lacy handkerchief over the dead man’s face.

Screaming sirens outside announced the arrival of the police. Partygoers scrambled. More than a few were probably here with someone other than the one to whom they were legally and lawfully wed. I identified myself as hotel security to the first officers to come through the door.

“You were first on the scene?” one asked.

I nodded. “Me and about a hundred other people.”

“You see this happen?” I shook my head. Another officer shouted to the crowd, “Anybody here see this happen?”

More police swarmed the lobby with news reporters on their heels. I wasn’t surprised. This party attracted reporters like flies on a dead cat. All around camera flashbulbs popped, making the room as bright as day.

Someone grabbed my arm. I looked into the eyes of a dark-haired woman wearing a full-length fur coat. With all the commotion, I thought she was a tipsy guest who wanted to kiss me. Instead, she pulled in close and whispered in my ear, “Please help me get out of this place. I can’t be seen here.” She turned her back to the cameras. With one hand, she yanked the combs from her hair and let it cascade down to her shoulders. She had the aroma of flowers. Then she turned up the collar of her fur coat to cover part of her face. Tears rolled down her cheeks. I saw the desperation in her eyes.

“Please.” She squeezed my arm. “I don’t know this hotel.”

The elevators and outside doors were blocked by uniformed cops. I whisked her toward a side room.

A cop in a cheap brown suit noticed us walking away and yelled, “Hey, you two. Get back here.”  I used to be a cop and I knew one when I saw one. This guy was probably a plainclothes detective. “You’re interfering with a police investigation,” he yelled.

“Maybe we should go back.” She stopped. “I’d hate to get you into trouble.”

“Believe me. It wouldn’t be the first time. This way.”

I noticed her striking resemblance to Ava Gardner. I pulled her along and headed to an empty room.

The cop caught up with us as I pushed open the door and turned on the light. I pulled out my PI license. He grabbed it from my hand just as I moved my jacket to show him my gun.

“Oh hell. Skylar Drake. I should have known.” He tossed my license back. “Why do you have to mess around with this investigation?”

“You have your job and I have mine.” I nodded toward the raven-haired beauty standing behind me.

“You stay put, Drake, while we sort this out.” I held up three fingers in a Boy Scout salute. He frowned and backed out the door.

I reached into my tuxedo jacket pocket and handed her my business card. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows went up. “Skylar Drake, Private Investigator.”

I nodded. “Now I need to get back to work.”

“I can’t be seen here.” Her tearful emerald green eyes sparkled in the light. “May I count on you to be discreet?”

My mind raced with a hundred things she wanted me to be discreet about.

Another plainclothes detective from my old precinct stormed in. I remember him as a real blowhard. “Drake. What the hell are you doing here?”

“Working and I was just leaving.” I nodded to the woman. “Nice to have met you, miss.”

Before the detective could get out another word, I slipped out the door and walked back to the lobby.

I checked the time—two a.m. The police had finished with most of the guests and allowed them to leave. The party was over. My job was done.


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