Rich and Gone publishes today, but you can still purchase the Kindle version on Amazon for 99 cents through Sunday, June 2. Free to Kindle Unlimited users.
As Red Farlow investigates Woody Cunningham’s disappearance, he’s also trying to locate $300 million stashed in money havens around the world. A daunting task for any investigator, this is Red’s biggest challenge on the case.
He confronts someone posing a bigger threat. Here’s an excerpt from the novel:
The sun went down across the river, behind the Union-Journal building, the old railway terminal, and Beaver Street as the sky darkened into the evening.
The nighttime provided an excellent time to do some reconnoitering. I drove out on Hendricks Avenue, followed the split to San Jose Boulevard, and headed south to Mandarin. By this time, things started to cool into a chilly fall night. I proceeded past I-295, took a sharp right, and followed a road canopied in 200-year-old oak trees. I recalled my first visit to Mandarin when the narrow streets twisted and curved around the oaks. Many a drunk weaving late at night on the area’s roads never made it home. All too easily, the inebriated person rounded a curve, slammed into a stonelike trunk, and died beneath the wondrous, giant trees regarded as near sacred.
I slowed around the turns as the road approached the St. Johns River. Crawling to a near stop, I looked for and finally found Big River Road, fifty yards or so from the river. I passed it, and a half-mile down made a U-turn and drove back. A few houses stood on large lots, all situated well off the street. The abundant shrubs provided cover, and I found a parking spot for the Honda in a palmetto thicket near a large oak.
I walked down the road and checked each address until I found the number. Up the pebble driveway, the two-story house faced the river. Few lights glowed inside. I stepped into bushes when a car approached and watched it roll past. So far, so good.
The vehicle parked by a side door. The driver got out and went into the house. Now for a closer look at the over-priced SUV. I waited a few minutes until a light on the second floor came on before stepping closer to the building to examine the license plate. No need to write it down because I already knew the number, the make, model, and exact color. Just needed to confirm it. I hoped, too, to get a better look at the driver, but didn’t.
Slipping back into the shadows, I headed back down the driveway to Big River Road.
Near the Honda, a flashlight glared into my eyes. I raised my arm to shield against the light.
The voice sounded about as redneck as they get. “What the hell we got here?”
I steadied myself and kept quiet.
“Who are you, buddy?” the man asked.
Now, who could this be? The voice sounded so familiar, albeit from way back in an old memory trunk of my brain. The one marked “early seventies.”
“Now look, who the hell are you and what are you doing along here?” the man demanded.
Neighborhood patrol, I figured from what looked like a security firm patch over the left side of his windbreaker. The guy might just talk harshly. I wondered if he was an off-duty cop. A real one. Likely not, or he already would have identified himself. Who was he? He sounded so familiar. My mental database didn’t spit out enough instant clues. The brain’s memory remained stubbornly frozen.
“My car broke down,” I finally said. “Just looking for someplace to make a call.”
“Shore ’nough?” the man said. He stepped closer to me and pointed the flashlight downward. “Thought you city boys carried cell phones.”
Damned, very familiar. The man came close enough for me to smell alcohol on his fetid smoker’s breath. I squinted in the dark and took a closer look at the patch on his jacket. “Blackjack Security Patrol.” I sensed something. Slowly. Recognition. Not the Blackjack part, but him. Some time, somewhere, I had crossed paths with this clown. I rifled through my memory banks, picked up a mental file folder, and dusted it off.
“Don’t want any trouble, friend,” I said in a colloquial South Georgia drawl.
“We don’t want none either. Hit’s why they hired me.” He exhaled a gust of alcohol. “I’m going to need to see your driver’s license and ask you to step over here to the truck.” I resisted and refused to identify myself to this rustic. The guy could have already noted the rental car tag number. Or maybe he recognized me from way back when. Probably not, so I took a chance.
“It’s in my billfold, right here in my pants.” I reached very slowly for my hip pocket. “Here’s the license, if you’ll just shine your light here.” My right hand went up to the guy’s face. As soon as the light moved, so did I. My right fist slammed into the watchman’s nose, followed by a hard sock in his rather ample beer gut. He collapsed in “oomphs!” and “umphs!” onto the ground while holding his nose and abdomen.
I lost no time going to his older model pickup, taking the keys, and tossing them into nearby bushes. I hurried back to the rental and departed the area to San Jose.
My eyes stayed on the rearview mirror all the way. No one followed. I took the entrance ramp onto I-295 north, crossed the St. Johns going west, and retreated north along Blanding Boulevard into town, the long way to my hotel.
I had confirmed who owned the big luxury SUV, and that matched the auto’s registration records. The question lingered, what did it mean? At some point, I would have to talk with this person. More information was needed first.
Back to the neighborhood cop. Who was the guy?
Finally, mental pictures emerged from a particular time in my past. Suddenly, one of my darkest memories unfolded in my brain.
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