Sneak preview of STALKING MIDAS
Chapter 1 – Whiteout
Cassandra Maza targeted cranky old folks, ones so ornery that only ankle-biting Chihuahuas or feral cats could tolerate them. Their bitter isolation from family and friends made her work easier. Case in point: her eighty-two-year-old neighbor, Lydia.
A January blizzard rattled the windows of Lydia’s golf course condominium. The woman slumped in her recliner, feet propped up, eyes half-closed. An empty tea cup dangled from a finger. She’d finished the brew Cassandra had prepared for her and it was working nicely, giving blessed relief from Lydia’s incessant complaining about her arthritis.
Cassandra rubbed lotion into Lydia’s bare foot, toes warped and twisted. “Doesn’t this feel nice, dear?”
“Muggins,” Lydia whispered. Her Shih Tzu’s name. The ragmop dog yapped from inside the coat closet where Cassandra had secured him.
“I’ll take very good care of Muggins, darling,” she murmured as she lifted Lydia’s robe to expose gaunt thighs and cotton underwear. She slipped a syringe from her pocket and removed the plastic cap with her teeth, then slid the needle into the deep crease in the groin where a puncture would never show. Her aim was good.
Lydia jerked but Cassandra held firm until the potassium emptied in the femoral vein. She used her elbow to compress the flesh for thirty seconds to prevent bleeding.
The fragile teacup crashed to the floor.
By the time Lydia’s heart stopped, Cassandra had recapped the syringe, returned it to her pocket, and was rummaging in the dresser drawer.
The dog’s barking rose to a high-pitched staccato.
Cassandra plucked a ruby and diamond choker from a jewelry box and admired the light dancing in the facets. How had the foul-tempered old woman rated such a gift from her late husband? Probably caught him cheating and extorted the necklace as penance.
She tucked it in her cleavage, then closed the drawer and released the frantic dog from the closet. Muggins raced to Lydia and catapulted into her lap. No response.
At the front door, Cassandra paused to don her coat. “Don’t worry, Lydia darling. Muggins will soon be playing with doggie friends.”
Crouching against the blast of windswept snow, she hurried to her own condo at the opposite end of the four-unit building. The whiteout masked her movement if anyone happened to be looking out a window. By the time she reached home, the blizzard had already filled in her footprints, wiping away any trace of her final visit with Lydia.
* * *
If a lawyer saves you from prison and gives you a job, you’ll do anything he asks. At least that’s how Tawny Lindholm felt. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be driving at a crawl in the middle of a January blizzard.
Two hundred cookie-cutter condominiums lined the maze of looping lanes in Golden Eagle Golf Resort, ten miles outside Glacier National Park. She needed to find the unit where her boss Tillman Rosenbaum’s father lived. The father he refused to talk to.
A good six inches of fresh snow already layered the street, more heaped on the curbs. Tawny parked her Jeep Wrangler in front of what she hoped was the right building and crunched through white banks, shuffle-scuffing on the buried walkway. Icy bullets stung her cheeks and nose.
She pounded on the door with her gloved hand. Waited. Pounded again. Waited. Her teeth chattered.
At last, the door swung open. Moshe Baruch Rosenbaum filled the entrance, a startling preview of what her boss would look like in thirty years. Long lanky limbs, tight iron-gray curls, and a jutting lower jaw that dared the world to take a swing at him. He could have been Tillman’s older identical twin, except this man was black. That explained her boss’s bronze skin tone, which, until now, she’d assumed came from a tanning booth.
“What?” Moshe Rosenbaum snarled.
Tawny smiled with as much warmth as she could manage in a wind chill of twenty below zero. “Mr. Rosenbaum, my name is Tawny Lindholm. I wonder if I could have a few minutes of your time.”
“You’re too old to be selling Girl Scout cookies.” The door started to close.
“I’m not selling anything, sir. I work for your son and he asked me to—”
“I have no son!” His baritone roar sounded like God in a cave.
Even though she’d anticipated the rebuff, Rosenbaum’s fury unnerved her. She forced her smile wider, despite chattering teeth. “Sir, I need to talk to you. It’s important.”
The elderly man glared down at her.
Tawny often felt the same rage from Tillman and had learned to stand up to him. Would that work with his father? She met his angry, dark eyes with a steady gaze and took a chance. “Mr. Rosenbaum, you know as well as I do that your son is a big pain in the ass. If I don’t do what he says, he’ll fire me and, sir, I really need this job.”