Lowcountry Private Investigator Blu Carraway needs a new client. He’s broke and the tax man is coming for his little slice of paradise. But not everyone appreciates his skills. Some call him a loose cannon. Others say he’s a liability. All the ex-Desert Storm Ranger knows is his phone hasn’t rung in quite a while. Of course, that could be because it was cut off due to delinquent payments.
Lucky for him, a client does show up at his doorstep—a distraught mother with a wayward son. She’s rich and her boy’s in danger. Sounds like just the case for Blu. Except nothing about the case is as it seems. The jigsaw pieces—a ransom note, a beat-up minivan, dead strippers, and a missing briefcase filled with money and cocaine—do not make a complete puzzle. The first real case for Blu Carraway Investigations in three years goes off the rails. And that’s the way he prefers it to be.
Burnsworth has delivered a solid man’s-man detective story, a mash-up of early Ace Atkins’ Nick Travers books and The Expendables, replete with the laid back but deadly middle-aged, former Army Ranger living on the edge. This is the second in a series with Blu Carraway, and the author continues to work off the rough edges of this character and his friends. The story here is clever and kept my interest, although I found it hard to like some of the characters, especially the young man Blu is hired to find.
There’s a lot of familiar tropes here – the crusty ex-military hero, his even crustier friends, the beautiful women who are drawn to the “dark side,” the crooked philanthropists, the spoiled rich millenials – but there are some interesting, unique aspects to Carraway and his world. The wild horses Blu cares for, and his “little piece of paradise” island home add interest and set Blu apart from other P.I.s in the genre.
From a technical perspective, the writing could use some tightening up. For instance, there are way too many sentence fragments. While this is a technique which can add interest and emphasis to writing if used sparingly, it’s overused here. There is also an inexplicable emphasis on vaping, which I just found weird.
As I wrote above, this is a man’s man story which will appeal to those who prefer their detectives hardboiled. There’s certainly an audience for this, and I expect Burnsworth will be selling Blu Carraway books for a long time. Recommended.
Lowcountry, South Carolina, early June, Thursday morning
The old rotary phone sitting on the desk refused to ring. No matter how much Blu Carraway wanted it to. He looked out the window of his makeshift office at the surrounding marsh and sighed. Crumpled up in his right hand was the latest tax assessment, in his left was an electronic cigarette. Without thinking, he took a hit off the vaporizer, which replaced Camels as his only vice. Well, that and pirated satellite TV.
And still the receiver remained silent.
One more good job.
It was all he needed.
Then Charleston County would be happy for another year, and he’d get to keep his little island home. Just. One. Good. Job.
The hula girl on his desk a Desert Storm buddy had given him when he first hung out his PI shingle bobbled at him as if to say, “How long did you think you could keep this up, tough guy?”
He swatted her off the desk with the tax bill. “At least another year, Dollie.”
As the plastic figure skittered across the old plank flooring, Blu heard the sound of tires on his crushed shell drive. With the sole air-conditioning being a ceiling fan and open windows, he heard everything happening on his little slice of paradise. But he suspected his tenure there was on borrowed time. The house and land, which had been in the family for next to forever, were his free and clear. Except nothing was free and clear. He still had his yearly rent payment to the county, which seemed to think nine acres of mostly sand and marsh with a small herd of free-roaming scraggly horses was worth one helluva lot. Even though they neglected to consider it relevant enough to route the mosquito sprayers anywhere near the place.
A black Mercedes, the new big one, sliced between two live oaks and rolled to a stop beside his ancient Land Cruiser. Blu watched as the driver’s door opened and a man in a suit and tie exited the car. Just as Blu was about to run outside to greet him, he noticed the man walk around the expensive German machine, open the rear door, and extend a hand to assist whomever was in the backseat.
A pale white hand grasped the driver’s. After a moment, a woman with shoulder-length gray hair and sunglasses stood beside the car as the driver shut her door. She was not unattractive—in a wealthy, snobby kind of way. Her pose accentuated thin, but not frail, limbs and a torso hinting at personal trainer visits. Her crème-colored sleeveless blouse, tailored slacks, and shoes his daughter had once told him were called wedges exuded confidence. The woman held what looked like an expensive pocketbook.
Blu walked outside and approached the pair. “Can I help you?”
The woman, who was more attractive up close with high cheekbones, a small nose Blu guessed was natural, and a perfectly- proportioned neck adorned with modest pearls, said, “I’m looking for a Mr. Carraway.”
“You found him.”
“Good.” She turned to the driver, who upon closer inspection had an athletic build with a slightly visible shoulder rig beneath his suit coat. “Told you this was the place.”
He said, “Yes, ma’am.”
It didn’t sound like the man was convinced.
Two of Blu’s horses, at least he called them his because they wouldn’t leave his property even though there was no fencing, clomped around the house and approached. These were the curious ones from the herd, and not the brightest. He’d named them Dink and Doofus.
The woman’s mouth opened in surprise.
Her driver, apparently startled, reached inside his jacket where the shoulder rig was.
Blu said, “Don’t mind these two. They’re harmless. But if you see a black stud, best keep your distance.”
The woman watched the horses approach. Dink, the brown male with a tangled mane, lowered his head and sniffed. Doofus, his coat best described as dirty snow, lumbered up to the woman. In a past life, these two must have been canines.
Blu said, “Come on, guys.”
As if the horses just noticed he was there, they both raised their heads and snorted. Doofus gave his mane a quick shake.
The woman reached out and touched Dink on his nose.
The horse granted her hand a big lick before she could retract it.
Dink and Doofus didn’t approach just anybody. Blu had recognized this trait in them a long time ago. They liked this woman. Or else they just thought she had a treat for them.
Blu said, “What can I do for you fine folks?”
“Mr. Carraway,” the woman said, maneuvering around Dink and offering a business card. “I’m Cynthia Rhodes.”
Blu held the card. “That’s exactly what this says.” It also gave a Charleston, South Carolina address. South Battery, no less. Big money.
Real big money.
She said, “Yes, well, I’d like to talk to you about employing your services.”
Tapping the card on his open palm, he said, “I appreciate your effort to get here, Ms. Rhodes. I would have gladly met you somewhere closer to Charleston. Saved you the forty-minute trip.”
The driver stepped forward and the horses retreated to the other side of the vehicles. “There must be something wrong with your phone.”
An image of a stack of unpaid bills came to mind, specifically the one marked “third and final notice.” Blu didn’t reply.
Cynthia Rhodes said, “Is there someplace we can sit and talk?”
Coming to his senses, Blu said, “Of course. I’m sorry. I don’t normally receive clients out here. Please come this way.” He ran through a mental checklist: the office was one chair short for this group, the desk was a mess, the hula girl was on the floor, and the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned in, well, he couldn’t remember when.
Ms. Rhodes and her driver followed him, all of them crunching on the shell drive, up the porch stairs, and into the office he’d created out of the living room of the one-story bungalow his great- great-grandfather had built.
His guests didn’t comment on the disheveled appearance.
The driver pulled out the single client chair in front of Blu’s desk and Cynthia Rhodes sat.
Blu made an assumption the man would prefer to remain standing seeing as how his role could best be described as armed chauffer. Walking around his desk, being sure to step over the hula girl on the floor, and noticing the crumpled tax bill flittering in the wind of the ceiling fan, Blu sat on the ripped cushion of his ancient captain’s chair. It gave a long, un-oiled squeak. “Okay, Ms. Rhodes, tell me why you think you need my services.”
Cynthia Rhodes removed her sunglasses and held them in her lap.
She looked at him with deep blue eyes. “Mr. Carraway, I have a situation I’m not sure how to handle.”
The horses’ intuition and this woman’s bold and transparent acknowledgement of uncertainty regarding her situation had him trusting her almost immediately. Well, those reasons and the big tax bill he had to pay.
“Can I get either of you something to drink?” he asked. “I’ve got tap water or cold—I mean iced—coffee.” Cold was a more accurate statement, but he didn’t think it sounded sophisticated enough.
Cynthia Rhodes said, “No, thank you.”
Meeting her deep blue gaze, he guessed she was mid-fifties, about ten years his senior. He asked, “How can I help?”
“I was told you could be trusted.”
“By whom?” he asked.
With the name, Blu immediately understood the depth of her need, if not the specifics.
She continued. “He said you got his daughter back for him when those awful men took her.”
“More or less.” Kincaid’s daughter was returned to her father intact, physically if not emotionally, without paying any ransom. And the world had lost a half-dozen kidnappers. “Has your daughter been kidnapped?”
With a tight-lipped smile and a slight headshake, she said, “I have a son.”
He said, “What is it you think I can do for you?”
“How do you know?”
She looked down. “My son and I have a strained relationship, to say the least. The only way I know he’s okay is because he makes withdrawals from his trust fund.”
Blu said, “He hasn’t made any in a while?”
“Two weeks.” She looked at him. “I was told you handle unique situations. That they were your specialty.”
Her driver smirked.
Blu said, “You don’t want the police involved?”
“No,” she said. “I mean, not yet.”
He sat back. “What would you like me to do?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” she asked, her voice breaking for the first time.
“You’d like me to find him?”
It sounded more like a question.
He said, “I can do that.”
“My son is a sweet boy. He likes art—painting. If something’s happened to him, I’m not sure what I’d do.”
Blu had a hunch the real reason she was here was about to surface.
She said, “Mr. Kincaid told me you made the men who took his daughter pay for their sins.”
“You think someone did something to your son?”
Folding her arms across her chest, she said, “I hope not.”
Blu shook his head. “Anything that may or may not have happened in Mexico was a by-product of the goal of the job, which was to get his daughter back.” It was a true statement, but not really the truth.
Cynthia Rhodes reached into her pocketbook, removed a check, and handed it to Blu.
The amount written in neat, precise cursive would do a lot more than just pay his property tax for the year. He handed the check back, trying hard not to show any reluctance to do so. “I don’t take on blood jobs.” Another true statement which wasn’t the truth.
Sometimes they ended up that way—bloody.
Her eyes were wide. “But you’re my last hope.”
Blu laced his fingers together and placed his hands on the desk. “That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.” With a slight head jerk, he motioned to her driver. “Why not send trigger-happy Rick, here?”
Blu already knew the answer. The man was mostly show. He appeared to be in shape. But he did not have a killer’s gaze.
She looked at her driver who shifted his weight between his feet as if he were nervous.
Holding a hand up, Blu said, “You don’t want to have things too close to home. I understand. Better to hire some schmuck and make him do the heavy lifting.”
“You’re mistaken,” she said. “I heard you were the best.”
“I am the best,” he said. “Can’t you tell by the crowds of folks lining up for my services?”
With a smile breaking the tension in the lines of her face, she said, “Adam also said you had an odd sense of humor.”
Blu didn’t know what to say, so he kept quiet. Filling voids in conversation only gave away too much.
Cynthia Rhodes filled in the void for him. “If it isn’t enough money, I’ll double it.”
The Kincaid job had netted enough to keep Carraway Investigations solvent for three years, with only a modest contribution from an insurance or surveillance job here and there. And lately, some day laboring. The offer in front of him was eerily similar. Of course, Blu and his partner, a biker and fellow Ranger named Mick Crome, had barely made it out of Mexico alive with Jennifer Kincaid. Blu was three years wiser now, and he enjoyed the cliché “getting older by the minute” more than the one about “being worm food.”
He ignored one of his golden rules: Decisions made under duress were usually tainted. “Okay. I’ll look into it. But if all you want is a trigger puller, I’m out.”
And then he lied to himself about it not being because he needed the money.
After Cynthia Rhodes signed a standard, boiler-plate contract, which had jammed Blu’s ancient printer twice in the process, and gave him a picture of her son, she and her driver left. Happy to be working again, Blu headed into town, taking the decade-old photo of Jeremy Rhodes with him, the most recent one his mother had. It showed a good-looking, normal kid with clear eyes and a boyish smile and dimples.
The drive into Charleston gave Blu time to think. A few things about this new job already bothered him. First: Cynthia Rhodes, the kid’s supposed mother, didn’t have a current picture of her son. Second: For all he knew, Jeremy could be trying to run away from dear old mom.
Cynthia Rhodes had no idea where her son was and couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen or spoken with him. When Blu asked about drug use, she seemed flippant. All she knew was Jeremy had gone to the College of Charleston and majored in Liberal Arts, graduating two years ago.
Frankly, if it weren’t for the money and his lack of it, Blu wouldn’t have been so eager to take the job. The fact she’d doubled the offer erased any hesitation he might have had.
When he turned onto King Street, he found a parking spot at a meter in front of Willie’s Music Shop. He put some change in the meter and walked inside. His friend Willie Day had owned and run the place since the eighties, weathering Hurricane Hugo and urban blight. Willie always seemed to know what was going on no matter what Blu asked about. After Willie had passed on to the other side not too long after 9/11, his daughter took over, running the store during the city’s current rejuvenation. And, like her father, she had connections all over town.
Billie Day stood beside a wall display of Fender guitars, talking to a very early twenty-something white male. A black tank top and a short crop of hair exposed Billie’s light brown arms and neck. Her jeans accentuated curves that always put Blu in a good mood. She gave him a slight nod but kept her main focus on the customer.
Blu rotated his sunglasses to the top of his head and pretended to browse while he waited for Billie to make the sale. Desert Storm had done a number on his hearing, but he distinctly heard the sum “thousand even” and silently congratulated Billie.
After the kid had paid and walked out with his purchase protected in a nice case she’d talked him into buying, Billie walked over to Blu.
With hands on nice hips, she said, “What can I help you with?”
What she said was a little more formal than Blu had been looking for in a greeting. Apparently, Billie was more than a little pissed at him for not calling. It had been six months, right about the time his tax situation derailed him.
He said, “Hi, Billie.”
“Hi, Billie? Is that what you’re going with?”
She put a finger to his lips. “Don’t even try to dig yourself out of this one, Blu.”
He looked into powerful, deep brown eyes and almost winced.
Her gaze lightened. “Why didn’t you just tell me your tax troubles?”
Blu looked down. He should have assumed she knew.
She lifted his chin. “Friends help each other. They don’t shut each other out.”
“It’s my problem to fix,” he said.
“But it doesn’t have to be, baby. You made it so.”
A lot of thoughts ran through his stubborn head. Like how someone five years his junior had it so much more together than he did. And how someone could care about him so much after all these years.
He said, “I’ve got another job now. A good one. Hell, the retainer alone is enough to pay off Charleston County and then some.”
“You’ve got a job now, huh? Is that why you’re here?”
“Not the only reason.”
She patted his chest. “Before we get to that, you’ve got to make this up to me.”
With a nudge from her hip, she said, “I don’t want to hear excuses. I want you to take me out and treat me proper. Everything has a price. My price for being ignored is a date. Take it or leave it.”
He’d always loved this woman. The timing was never right. He’d come back from the war all screwed up and she’d just turned eighteen—bad timing.
By the time he’d gotten his head screwed back on straight, she was twenty. And he married someone else—bad timing.
When he’d been about to get a divorce, his wife turned up pregnant. They stuck it out another five years before ending it just in time for Billie to marry someone—bad timing.
And then Billie divorced, she and Blu were set to be together, and his money problems started—bad timing.
But now he had this new job, his money problems abated, and she was still available. He just hoped he wouldn’t mess it up this time. So, in answer to her request for a date as restitution for him being a complete moron, he said, “Okay. I’ll take it.”
“Good,” she said. “Pick me up at eight.”
He thought about going ahead and asking her if she knew Jeremy Rhodes, but he decided not to push his luck. She wasn’t his only source, just his favorite.
He smiled and gave her a peck on the cheek.
She said, “Are you going to call Crome?”
Blu stepped out of the music store and onto the broken sidewalk of upper King Street. The nice shops had been encroaching this direction for some time and had almost made it. Willie’s Music had always been a novelty. Now it was a novelty on prime real estate. And Billie had politely turned down several decent offers to sell. Blu couldn’t blame her. The business held its own, and she liked what she did.
Her asking if he was going to call Crome meant she was more than a little concerned about the job.
Mick Crome, his sometime business partner, had vanished with his half of what was left of the fee after expenses from the payout of the Kincaid job. The last Blu heard, Crome had ridden his Harley all the way down to Key West and hadn’t come up for air since. And not a day went by that Blu didn’t think about his friend.
He’d give Crome a day or two. The guy had a knack for showing up at the right time. If he hadn’t returned to Charleston by then and things got out of hand, Blu would make a few calls.
The picture Cynthia Rhodes gave him of her son didn’t help as he would have to assimilate what Jeremy looked like now, most likely factoring in extensive drug use as an age agent.
What he needed was a current picture, at least one more current than ten years. Because he’d let his cell phone plan expire when he ran out of money, he bought a prepaid “burner” phone at a drug store. The teenage girl who rang up his purchase helped him set it up and he gave her a five-dollar tip.
Using the cigarette lighter in the Land Cruiser to power the phone, he dialed a number from memory.
It went to voicemail.
When prompted to leave a message, he said, “Gladys, this is Blu Carraway. I know it’s been a while, but I could use a favor. Call me when you can.” He left the burner’s number and closed the phone.
With that accomplished, some theme music was required. He selected a cassette and loaded it in the Land Cruiser’s tape deck. After a moment, the bass riff from “The Waiting Room” by the punk band Fugazi played through the speakers—what a band.
The phone vibrated on his leg. He turned down the music volume and answered the call.
Gladys said, “Certainly has been a while, Mr. Blu Carraway. What lowlife are you after now?”
Ten years ago, about the same time the picture of Jeremy Rhodes was taken, Blu intervened in a domestic abuse situation. Gladys found him through a friend and tried to hire him. Apparently, none of the other local private investigators would bother to talk with her, much less take her job. At the time, her husband was taking out his frustrations for being a bakery delivery man on Gladys. When Blu found out she worked at the DMV, he handled the job pro bono, figuring the connection was worth it. In the end, a police investigation confirmed her husband had died while trying to beat her again—a clear case of self-defense as far as anyone was concerned. Blu didn’t lose any sleep over it when the police found the knife sticking out of the man’s neck with Gladys’ prints on it. In Blu’s mind, any man who struck a woman in anger deserved no less. Gladys had done the deed, but only after Blu suggested she already had enough evidence to prove self-defense. He’d been a stone’s throw away when it happened, which most likely also encouraged and empowered the woman to take action.
And Gladys, with her connection to every licensed driver and registered vehicle in the state of South Carolina, had indeed proved helpful. The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of ’92 protected a driver’s information from getting outside the appropriate government agencies. But it didn’t apply to licensed PI’s like Blu who had a wide range of access. Through experience, Blu found an inside source usually trumped his own sleuthing skills. With her abusive husband gone, Gladys’ life had changed dramatically for the better. He knew she would happily keep returning the favor.
He said, “I need a photo of someone.”
“Let me get something to write with.” A pause, then, “Okay, shoot.”
He gave the name and approximate age of Jeremy Rhodes.
She said, “I get off work in two hours. Buy me a milkshake at the Chick-fil-A down the street.”
“You got it.” He ended the call.
With time to kill, Blu had two things in mind. One was to research exactly who Cynthia Rhodes was. And the second was to squeeze in a workout at the gym. His first stop was the local library where he signed onto a computer and looked up his new client. Normally he would have done this before accepting the job, but her check was awfully big.
Cynthia Rhodes was indeed a Charleston socialite. She managed a charitable organization named Lowcountry Second Chances and booked fundraisers all year long. A major benefactor for the charity was a shelter in North Charleston.
Once divorced, her ex-husband being one Jack Rhodes who had passed away five years ago from a heart attack, Jeremy was their only child. Jack had been a big deal in lowcountry real estate up until his passing.
Jeremy Rhodes, unlike his mother, had done a good job of flying under the radar. There was quite a bit on both of his parents on the web, but nothing about him except a few notifications of past showings of his artwork at some of the local coffee shops.
Being a private investigator wasn’t in and of itself difficult work. Blu felt he had to keep his mind sharp and be able to think on his feet. And he had sources providing a lot of what kept him ahead of things. But it was also physical—he had to stay in shape. Quitting smoking, or at least switching to vapor, had several benefits, one being he could no longer afford it anymore anyway. And it also helped him breathe better during workouts.
With the preliminary research complete, Blu went to the gym. He kept a bag of gym clothes and gear in his truck, because he never knew when he’d get the opportunity. While his cardio had gotten a lot better since he switched to vapor, he still preferred the weights and got a good hour set in. Even with his money troubles, the gym membership would have been one of the last things to go.
Gladys faced a pink-colored milkshake in a booth in the restaurant when Blu sat across from her. A lot of people spent a lot of money to fight against looking their age. Gladys was not one of them. Past fifty, she had thick strawberry-framed glasses, gray hair, and a healthy dose of paunch. She had a few more years before she’d have her time in with the state and she could retire on a full ride. When that happened, Blu would need another source. Gladys made it easier than having to deal with a lot of red tape, even though he also knew a lot of cops.
She sipped from the straw and slid a nine-by-twelve-inch envelope to him. Her short, plump body was mostly hidden by the table. “They know me here. I told them you’d be paying. You gotta go to the counter.”
Blu stood, went to the counter, ordered a sweet tea, and paid for their drinks. He got his tea, sat across from Gladys again, picked up the envelope, and slipped out two sheets of paper, one an enlarged driver’s license picture and the other a vehicle registration for a late model Volkswagen Jetta. Listed was the South Battery address on the business card his mother had given Blu.
Gladys remained quiet.
Unlike the clean-cut boy in the photo Cynthia had given him, in this picture Jeremy Rhodes had black hair shaved on one side of his head with the length on top combed over to the other like an upside down mop. It contrasted with pale white skin like his mother’s—obviously not a beach dweller. He also had quite a few piercings: ears, nose, eyebrows, and both cheeks.
Blu pushed the photo back into the envelope. “Thanks.”
“Kid looks like a degenerate, you ask me.”
He hadn’t asked her, but let it go. “How’s your mom?” Last time he spoke with her, she was in the hospital.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Gladys nodded but didn’t reply. Aside from the results of her lethargic and static lifestyle, she really did look much different from when she first walked into his office. Her usual grumpy demeanor aside, he knew she’d become a new woman, quite content with who she was. With her newfound freedom from the abusive husband came what he’d observed to be inner strength.
She said, “One more thing. I checked around. The car’s in impound. Been there a week.”
“Thanks,” he said, “Anything I can do for you?”
She finished another round of slurping, licked her lips, and swallowed. “Nah. I’m good.”
Blu slid out of the booth and was ready to roll when she said, “They got good sandwiches here.”
His first thought was she didn’t want to eat alone. Even though he wanted to get back to the job, he said, “Why don’t we get something to eat? I’m buying.”
She smiled for the first time. “Okay by me.”
After they ate chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, and he listened to her complain about her sister, Blu left the ray of sunshine that was Gladys and drove back into the city.
He wanted to check out the kid’s car, and he knew someone who would give him access, but it was too late in the day. First thing in the morning, he’d make a call.
The feeling Cynthia Rhodes wasn’t telling him everything weighed heavy on him. Gladys had said Jeremy Rhodes looked like a degenerate. It wasn’t his call to make, but Blu wouldn’t hire the kid to pick shells on the beach, much less do anything requiring responsibility. If he was alive, what was the kid doing for money? It wasn’t as if he’d ever had to work for anything.
At suppertime, still an hour before he had to leave to meet Billie, Blu filled the water trough for the horses with a garden hose. His grandfather had made the first mistake a long time ago when he gave one of the animals an apple. Since then, the herd of Carolina Marsh Tackeys, a breed indigenous to the lowcountry, had slowly become family, and caring for them had grown from a novelty to a chore. His father and Cuban mother had continued the practice while they lived there as well. The horses still fed mostly on the vegetation of the property and took care of themselves, the exception being when it froze. During the one week a year it got frigid in the lowcountry, Blu bought a few bales of hay to carry them through. Trying to get them into a barn would be a waste of time. They’d sooner trample him than be corralled.
By the time he finished and put the water hose away, he heard tires on the crushed shell drive.
“Twice in one day,” he said to no one in particular.
He didn’t know how prophetic the statement really was until he watched Cynthia Rhodes’ shiny black Mercedes cut between the trees and pull up next to his old Land Cruiser, as before.
The driver got out of the Mercedes but didn’t open the rear door. Instead, he marched toward Blu. Same dark suit and tie and bright white shirt. He wore sunglasses, just like Blu. It looked like Trigger Rick had come alone this time.
Dink and Doofus kept their distance.
When Trigger Rick got close, Blu said, “Howdy.”
The man didn’t look happy. But then again, he didn’t look happy the first time Blu had met him either. “Howdy yourself, Carraway.” He thumb-pointed to himself. “I could do the job. I’m not sure why Cynthia thought she needed the help of some washed- up dick who hasn’t had a real job in three years.”
Blu didn’t reply. What was there to say?
Trigger Rick continued. “The reason I’m here is because Cynthia wanted a way to be in contact with you.” He reached into his jacket pocket and handed over a smartphone.
“I don’t like those things,” Blu lied. More like he couldn’t afford a smartphone. The service plans required monthly payments, something he hadn’t been in a financial position to commit to in a while.
“Like I care.’”
Blu held it out for the driver to take back. “Still, I can’t accept it.”
“You can and you will.” He retreated to the car. “You think I’m going to go back and tell Cynthia I didn’t give it to you?”
Blu watched the man start the car, turn around, and drive away. Then he looked down at the phone in his hand. It was a nice iPhone.
While he was examining it, the device vibrated in his hands. He almost dropped it.
The name “Cynthia Rhodes” displayed on the screen.
Blu touched the green answer button and held it up to his ear.
“Mr. Carraway?” It was her voice.
“Good. I hope you don’t think me presumptuous, but I wanted to make sure we had a way of communicating.”
Blu watched as Dink, Doofus, and a mare named Molly Mae drank from the trough. He said, “I appreciate the gesture, but I can’t accept this.”
“What I mean is I need to get myself one for my business anyway.”
“Consider it a part of our deal and a bonus afterward. It’s unlocked, and I’ve paid forward enough to last the rest of the year.”
He realized he wouldn’t have to worry about getting the landline reconnected. It showed several bars of coverage even on his own slice of paradise located forty minutes away from anywhere else.
She said, “I also managed to get the last four digits to spell out ‘blue.’”
“That’s okay, isn’t it?” she asked. “I mean, you can use it as a marketing gimmick if you want. You know, like ‘don’t feel blue, call Blue.’”
He wondered how long she’d worked on that one. Hopefully not too long. He decided not to correct her spelling of his name. “I really appreciate the gesture, Ms. Rhodes.”
“Call me Cynthia.”
Her driver had called her Cynthia. How close were they?
He didn’t mention that either. Instead, he said, “Okay. And you can call me Blu.”
“How long has your driver been working for you?”
“Rick? Around two years. Why?”
If Blu handled this poorly, it could jeopardize being able to continue calling her Cynthia. He said, “Why isn’t he looking for your son? I can tell he believes he’s capable.”
After a pause, she said, “Mr. Carraway. That is precisely why I hired you.”
The call ended.
And Blu wondered if he could still call her Cynthia.
Excerpt from In It For The Money by David Burnsworth. Copyright © 2017 by David Burnsworth. Reproduced with permission from David Burnsworth. All rights reserved.
David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. He is the author of both the Brack Pelton and the Blu Carraway Mystery Series. Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home.