Title: Postcards of Ruin
Entry Nickname: Blood and Baguettes
Word count: 80K
Genre: Adult Thriller Romance
Paralegal Bri Fortes quits her job and moves to France to pursue her deceased father’s footsteps. If she passes the fluency test at the end of a summer program in Rouen, she’ll clinch entry to the same law school he attended. She brings along postcards of Rouen her dad saved from his time abroad almost thirty years earlier, reading the backs only at their locations. Standing in the same spots he once stood, while pursuing a J.D. from his alma mater, lessens the guilt that has followed Bri since she was ten – the age at which she killed him.
The study program pairs her with a language tutor, Alexandre. He challenges her, dripping sex appeal while correcting conjugations. When admirers out him as the heir apparent to Monaco, Bri’s world transforms. Prince Alexandre provides a personal tour of Normandy, connecting with Bri across barriers, but red flags make her question his intentions. Rumors reach Bri of women disappearing around him then she is threatened by an unknown aggressor; she realizes being with him makes her a target. When Alexandre tries to trick her into facing her greatest fear, she breaks up with him.
Devastated by Alexandre’s actions but determined to uncover the truth, Bri finds herself in the middle of a plot extending all the way home to California. She must decide if following her father’s path will provide forgiveness or if ignoring the present will lead to the same fatal mistakes.
Blood oozes from my index finger, bright red against the scuffed tile of the train station lobby. A pool forms along the nail bed. I close my eyes, unable to look even now, fifteen years after the fact, but the flesh throbs. The smell of iron reaches my nostrils and wets my tongue, piquing the outer taste buds. This can’t be happening. Not here, not yet. My fingers fly to each jeans pocket until I withdraw a napkin and press it to the paper cut. A red blot spreads across the absorbent square but it’s only when the throbbing slows do I release the breath I’ve been holding. I raise my gaze to the glass entrance then translate bronze letters above with a frown.
Welcome to Rouen.
French conversation echoes from down the cavernous hall and announces a new wave of arrivals. I retreat off to the side then notice I left my father’s bundle of postcards in the middle of the lobby. Clutching my napkin in hand, I sprint back to the center and grab the bundle’s twine bow as the fastest walkers step around me. A spot of blood marks the postcard on top. As the crowd carries me to the mouth of the entrance, I take a deep breath and repeat my mantra.
I can do this. I have to do this.
Sunshine warms me all over in my light t-shirt, the heat still mild at the beginning of June.
~ VERSUS ~
Title: Coded For Murder
Entry nickname: Croissants kill!
Word Count: 73,000
Genre: Adult Mystery
As the early morning mist lifts from Montreal’s quaint riverfront, a cry bleeds across the water. There’s been a murder.
Even jaded and renowned Chief Inspector Derek James of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal is shocked by the faceless corpse hanging from a tree. But not as shocked as when his car explodes at the crime scene, and he realizes his boss is trying to kill him.
The corpse leads James to a health tech startup — a company celebrated for its success in customizing treatments for each patient. But James knows that glamour and innovation have their price, and secrets can burn through lives like acid through the corpse’s face. Enter razor-sharp CEO Holly, a gay black woman driven to sell the startup at all cost. Frightened of losing the acquisition, and revealing her secret that she was once a man, she destroys vital evidence and sabotages James’s case, aggravating his tentative cease-fire with his boss.
There are suspects all around: Holly, the founders, genius engineer Jimmy, his barista girlfriend Kate, the corpse’s widow — all of them liars more concerned with the startup than the truth, and one of them the masked assailant who strung up the body from the tree.
With Holly attacked and Jimmy poisoned before he can confide in the police, James must choose his path — light or dark — to unearth the killer, to save a twelve-year-old witness, to expose a conspiracy coded for murder.
April 2, 6:50 am
“Strung up by the river? Without a face?”
Chief Inspector Derek James of the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal tucked his cold hands into his pockets and looked up. A rope looped over the middle branch of an oak in the urban beach park. Above him hung a body with an exposed skull, framed by sparse hair on top, ears on either side, and a wrinkly neck puckered in a noose. The face was stripped to the bone with eroded teeth set in a perpetual grin as if the skull were enjoying a joke at everyone’s expense.
James’s gut tightened, but he stilled the reaction in an instant, regaining his calm.
“I’m sure we’re thinking the same thing, Derek.” Forensic Pathologist John Seymour exercised professional restraint, but his eyes were bright and keen. “What could this poor guy have done to deserve this?”
James took his time responding. Dawn cast a blue light on the water and snow. A damp cold sank through his coat and into his bones. It was amazing how the usually peaceful beach park took on a menacing air: the St. Lawrence River choppier than usual, swirls of sand and snow rolling like tumbleweeds, the sky heavy and low. But a children’s playground lay behind the hanging body, and its red swings, bright yellow slide, and empty wading pool offered a marked contrast to the swaying corpse.
“What can you tell me, Doctor?”