Here is Chapter Eleven of COVERT REICH my friends. This chapter involves one of my favorite characters in this book--Gem Michaels. To me Gem is savvy, fun, and the kind of woman I would want to be friends with. I hope you enjoy! Have a great Wednesday!
Georgia Michaels—Gem for short—ran her fingers through her pixie cut, wondering how many grays were hidden beneath the Clairol Golden Blonde she’d been using since she was twenty-one and first spotted one of those nasty buggers. That was eighteen years ago, and she had no doubt the stress of raising two teenage boys—not to mention the strain of her job—had turned her hair snow white by now. There was a time, before she’d had the boys, when she’d wanted to become an international correspondent. But her hopes and dreams of interviewing and producing stories for CNN were dashed when her first son came along. She’d taken mothering as seriously as she’d taken anything in her life, and although Austen hadn’t been planned, she’d fallen in love with him at first site and loved being a mom.
But kids grow up, divorces happen, and finances dwindle. For the past few years, she’d gotten back into reporting and her dreams were alight again with possibilities for the future. Probably too middle-aged and not pretty enough to be on television, but she still had brains and brawn, and could sniff out a good story and hunt down information like nobody’s business.
Gem stared at the computer screen in front of her. Deadline, deadline, deadline. Jesus, it’s just another homicide. Write the damn thing, and get it to Stu before he hunts you down.
But God it was hard getting back into the swing of things. Gem had just returned from a week in Puerto Vallarta. Finally! Vacation. With a handful of forty-something divorcees drinking a shit-load of margaritas and eating way too much good food. Five pounds heavier and craving salt, lime, and tequila…the last thing Gem wanted to do right now was her job.
Homicide, schmomicide. They were all the same. So-and-so was killed at such-and-such location, by whomever using whatever—if they even knew that much. At least this one had some intrigue to it. It wasn’t the typical boy-meets-girl, fall in love, girl falls out of love, boy goes psycho and blows her brains out story. No. This time one of the top pathologists in the state had been offed right in the middle of County Hospital. Whoever toasted this guy was a total nut job or at least had some real balls. Or was some kind of hired hand. Maybe the doctor owed the wrong people some cash? Could be anything.
Gem was checking into the ex-wife. From what she’d heard, the split between Dr. Hamilton and his ex had been messy. The wife made off with most of his money and was living large. Of course the death of her ex meant those alimony checks were going to stop rolling in. On the other hand, if she had an insurance policy on the doc, or if he had failed to change his beneficiary over on an existing policy, well, then…that could certainly be reason enough for murder.
Or maybe it wasn’t about money. Gem had done enough checking into this thing to discover Dr. Hamilton had eyes for a pretty pediatrician who ran the neo-natal intensive care unit at County—a Dr. Morales. Gem wondered who had instigated the divorce between the Hamiltons. The ex could have a whopping jealous streak.
She looked at the blank screen that stared unforgivingly back at her. One would think this wouldn’t be a problem to write. This was her place, her people. Noises from the newsroom, people dashing about, crazed writers high on caffeine or nicotine (or both) typing away as their minds raced at a clip their bodies could certainly never keep up with, always poised to pounce on the next big story...Jesus, she should be able to write this story in her sleep.
Big story. This one had the feel to it, like a lion hiding in his den waiting to come out for the hunt. The photo of the guy was really all she had at the moment other than the usual rumor and conjecture from a handful of hospital employees—all filled with speculation. She had insiders at the police station, but the strange thing was, no one was talking. At all. The cops had given a brief statement, and that was it. Detective Pazzini, who Gem thought was a decent cop and a helluva good-looking one, told the media once forensics was finished investigating, the press would receive clearance from the hospital and get a detailed report. Great. A lot of good that did her right now.
Her phone buzzed and snapped her back to the here and now. “Yeah?”
“It’s Goldman.” She cringed. It was her boss, Stuart Goldman. “How’s your story coming? About finished? It’s a front pager. We have to go to press in a couple of hours.”
“Just about. Without the police saying much, it’s a little on the light side.”
“Well, you have to give me something. This guy was an important member in the community. Loved and respected. Go on that.”
“Right,” she replied, holding out her hands and looking at the light pink, chipped polish on her fingernails. The call from the boss was the motivation she’d needed. Gem turned off everything else around her and went to work, pounding out the best story she could. Once finished, she opened up her e-mail and attached the story to send to Goldman. She buzzed his office and let him know it was on the way.
Before heading out for the evening, she figured she’d better take a look and see if she had anything interesting in her inbox. She really was back now. E-mails aplenty. Her numero uno rule while down in Mexico was no computer and no cell phone.
Ah. L.A. was too far from Puerto Vallarta.
She scrolled down and saw the typical story pitches, lots of forwards from her book club friends, who she had consistently asked to stop sending her those damn jokes and chain letters. There was a short e-mail from her mom reminding her to make reservations early for her and the boys to fly back to New York for Christmas. The usual stuff. Except…one e-mail caught her eye. It was from ChemMadderhorn@gmail.com. At first she figured it was one of those skanky ads for Viagra or Cialis. God knew she received a ton of those, even with the filters on, but it was the subject line that grabbed her. “Your Neighbor, Chad.”
She opened the e-mail and read the short note. Watch your neighbor. Three years ago, San Diego, Ca., Petersen family.
“Oh my God,” she heard herself whisper. “What is this?” She knew about the Petersen family. Everyone in Southern California and pretty much in the U.S. had heard of them. And Gem had met her neighbor, Chad. But there was no way he’d been connected to that grisly, horrible crime. No way. She went to delete the e-mail, thinking it was some sick joke, but something held her back—her gut, her instinct, her sixth sense. She wasn’t sure what, but she closed her e-mail and opened her documents on the Petersen family.