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Dead Birds Don't Sing [Alex Masters Series Book 1] [MultiFormat]
eBook by Brenda Boldin

eBook Category: Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: This first in the Alex Masters series will leave you eager for the sequel. Alex Masters has given up prostitution, lives on the "right" side of town, has a respectable job and is about to launch a singing career on the side. While making a deposit for her employer at Bay City Central, her past catches up with her in the time it takes a bank robber's bullet to pierce her arm. Alex finds herself caught in a tangle of robbery, murder and blackmail. Clearing herself of suspicion means returning to her former haunts while still maintaining her new-found respectability. Which "life" will win the balancing act when it's all over?

eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, Published: 2000
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2005

23 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter 1

Alex Masters entered the Bay City Central Bank at full speed, grateful the door hadn't been locked yet. Several people waited in line for the tellers. She was going too fast and lurched into the last man standing in line.

"Oh God, I'm so sorry," Alex said as the stranger whirled around to glare at her. An explanation seemed necessary as he continued to stare at her. "I need to get this deposit in before two o'clock." Alex held up the heavy canvas bag. "I ran all the way here."

The stranger looked at his watch. At least six feet tall, he towered over her. He was in good physical condition. She knew the type: an ex-jock trying to keep in shape but not look like a jock. His dark blond hair was natural. She guessed his age to be in the early-to mid-thirties. Something familiar about his stance nagged at her.

"You got ten minutes."

"What!" She grabbed the man's wrist and looked at his watch. Only when she felt him tug against her grasp did she realize what she had done. Releasing his wrist, she felt a warm flush creep up her face. "I--I, well," she held out her watch for him to see. It read one minute after two. "I must be fast."

He grinned, his dark grey eyes lightening to a silver blue. "I can see that," he said.

They stared at each other for a moment. She knew what he was thinking as he took in her petite trim figure, bleached blonde hair and green eyes. Men were pretty much the same wherever she went.

The blond stranger's eyes began to wander, not something she was used to happening. He seemed to be focusing over her right shoulder.

"Get down!" he said between gritted teeth.

"Wh--?" Alex began, but he'd disappeared from sight.

Gun fire erupted.

A woman screamed.

Chaos surrounded Alex as she stood in a stupor.

"For God's sake don't stand there you fool!"

A hand reached up and grabbed her by the wrist as a fierce, hot pain seared through her arm. She fell to the floor.

The gun fire ceased.

"On the floor! Everyone down on the floor!" Alex's stomach tightened and she felt about to vomit. She knew that voice.

"What the hell's wrong with you?" The whispered question came from the blond she had bumped into earlier, the one who had pulled her to the floor.

"What's going on?" Peering up she saw four figures wearing knitted ski masks making their way toward the tellers.

"Keep your head down!" The stranger's voice was low and he pressed her head down.

"Listen up," Beau's guttural voice assaulted her ears. "Everyone co-operate and no one gets hurt. Stay away from the damn alarm, lady!"

Another burst of gunfire caused everyone to huddle closer to the floor.

"Fill up the bags, and hurry."

Alex felt light-headed. Her companion still had a firm grip around her shoulders and pulled her closer. She yelped in pain.

He looked at her and pulled his hand away. It was covered in blood. He gave a dismayed shake of his head and began to crawl across the floor on his stomach.

He found sanctuary behind a partition between some nearby desks then motioned for her to join him.

Alex was more concerned about Beau and his cohorts. One had returned to the front doors, keeping an eye on the street. She didn't recognize him. She tried to pinpoint Beau and put names to the other two men. A hand grabbed her by the ankle and she felt herself sliding across the floor.

She still possessed enough common sense not to let out a vocal protest.

"What the hell did you do that for?" she whispered at the blond stranger once she was safe behind the partition with him.

"We've got to stop the bleeding."

Alex shook her head.

"No. Don't attract attention." The last thing she wanted was for Beau to see her.

"No one's looking this way, they're concentrating on getting the money."

He pulled out his shirt tail and dug a pocket knife out of his jeans. A little pair of scissors snapped out and he clipped the fabric at the bottom button hole. The sound of ripping material seemed to echo through the bank, and Alex shivered, certain Beau would hear. She noticed though, that her rescuer kept one eye on the activity going on behind her as he worked quickly to bandage the wound.

"Shit!" he muttered, quickly tucking the knife back into his pocket. Alex could hear the footsteps coming up behind her, and knew her fears had been realized. They'd been spotted.

"What the fuck are you two doin' over here?"

"This woman is bleeding. She needs medical attention."

"Who the hell cares?"

Alex didn't believe she could feel any worse. But she knew this man's voice too, no mistaking Shorty's deep bass. She could guess now who the other man was--Trey.

She buried her head in her knees, hoping to avoid notice.

"Look just take what you want and leave us alone!"

This guy must be some kind of idiot, talking like that to a man with a gun. Another word out of him and they'd all be dead. Shorty's name didn't come from his stature, but his temper.

"What is this?" Beau's voice thundered just above her. "I told you keep your mouth shut!"

"I think these two are up to somethin'."

Every inch of Alex's body trembled in fear. The pain in her arm was excruciating, but it didn't matter at this moment. If she got out of this alive, she'd never forgive the blond man for trying to help.

She felt thick fingers entangle themselves in her hair and yank her head up. "Oh yeah? Did the poor little lady--shit!"

Beau's grip on her hair tightened as he recognized her. He yanked her to her feet. They were face to masked face for a brief moment and she could see the hate and revenge in his eyes.

Alex clenched her jaw and prepared to die.

"Let's get outta here!"

Beau's command as he pulled her along by the arm shocked the hell out of her.

"No! Wait!" That idiot again! "Take me! I'm not injured. I'll make a better hostage."

Beau released Alex and walked slowly back to the blond man kneeling on the floor.

"Oh yeah?"

In the next instant the man was doubled over in pain from a sharp kick directly to the stomach.

"Now ya are!" Beau laughed, grabbed Alex again and shoved her in front of him toward the doors.

Trey and the other man stood waiting at the doors of the bank, holding heavy drawstring bags.

Beau and Shorty herded Alex out in front of them.

A beat up white van waited at the curb. Beau practically threw her into the back of the van. Alex stumbled and hit her head against the wall of the van. Her world spun around, going black just as the van lurched forward.

* * * *

Alex woke as the van rolled to a stop. The doors swung open. She blinked several times trying to accustom herself to the bright July sunlight.

"Get out!" Beau yanked her by the good arm. She stumbled and fell, scratching her knees on the rough, stony macadam.

"Damn it Beau!" If she was going to die, she wasn't going silently. She scrambled to her feet, arrows of pain shooting through her arm, fueling her anger and frustration.

"You don't have to do this, I'm not going to tell anyone I know you."

"Shut up bitch!"

He pushed her ahead of him.

"Get 'er in there and find some way to tie her up."

"There's duck tape in the van," Trey offered.

"Then get it, ya fuckin' idjit!"

Shorty dragged Alex into a large, dirty storeroom, and shoved her onto the cement floor. Light trickled in through grimy windows along the top of the corrugated walls. He and Trey fought the duct tape until the man she didn't know stepped over. He silently handed Shorty a switchblade and walked away.

"Look," Alex whined as they wound the tape around her ankles. "You guys know me. I'm not about to tell the cops I recognized you. You gotta convince Beau of that."

"Ain't gotta do nuthin'," Shorty grunted.

"Right now you can make a clean get away. If he does anything to me and the cops don't get you for murder, just think what King will do to you."

The two men exchanged looks.

"Shut up!" Shorty slapped a piece of duct tape over her mouth.

How the hell had she gotten herself into this mess, Alex asked herself. A simple request from her boss, Mrs. Shelby, to take the deposit to the bank. What happens? She's trussed up and sweating like a pig in some filthy warehouse about to die.

Beau and the others gathered in a far corner of the room.

"Now what the hell are we going to do with her?" Trey demanded.

"Keep your damn voice down!" Beau growled, glancing over Shorty's shoulder and glaring at Alex.

The entire thing made no sense to Alex. Beau knew better than to try to hit a bank in Bayside. It just couldn't be done.

The citizens of Bay City mentally divided the city into three separate parts. Bayside consisted of the three block wide section on the east that ran along the beach front. Everyone who lived in Bayside had income in or above six figures. To the far west was the six city block square section known as Lafayette. Lafayette Ave. was the eastern border. Residents in Lafayette were lucky to have an income at all. Everyone else resided in what was generically termed as Center City. There was very little interaction between any of the sections of town. The police did everything in their power to see that all the trouble stayed in Lafayette and out of Bayside.

Who had talked Beau into this foolish idea? Something like this never would have happened when King Marshall was in charge. But King was in the state penitentiary and Beau controlled Lafayette now.

Voices on the other side of the room became louder again.

"The man promised us--" Beau started.

"Yeah, well that was before you decided to bring some extra company along!" Trey shouted at him.

"You know damn well we couldn't.... "Beau's voice trailed off into an indistinguishable whisper. But everyone was staring at Alex and she knew exactly what he was saying.

The summer sun beat down on the corrugated roof and the heat in the warehouse was suffocating. The tape over her mouth made breathing more difficult still. Alex's clothes clung to her. Blood and sweat soaked the fabric wrapped around her arm, the saltiness stinging like a knife cut. She felt ready to die.

"We can't count on the man for anything now," Trey shouted. "You got us into this crap. You better get us out."

Beau looked over at her and nodded his head at the door. The group exited the storeroom.

To block scenarios of her upcoming fate from her mind, Alex continued trying to figure out what Beau was up to.

He'd taken her hostage to keep her from identifying him and the others to the cops. But anyone in the bank should be able to identify Beau. His distinctive voice, harsh and raspy from a blow to the throat in a fight six or seven years ago was enough. Then there was his build. How many men built like a gorilla went around holding up banks, for God's sake? Why in the world had he come on this job himself? The pieces just didn't fit together.

He had to have other plans for her. She didn't even want to begin to contemplate what they could be.

The door slammed open and Beau strode into the storeroom. He knelt beside her and ripped the tape off her mouth.

The pain was excruciating.


"Aw, is da little princess hurt?"

He ran a finger down her cheek. Alex jerked away from his touch and he grabbed her by the throat.

"Don't mess with me."

He squeezed until she gagged. Laughing, he loosened his hold, but did not let go.

"Quite a coincidence, running into you, wouldn't you say?"

"Look, you gotta know I'm not gonna narc on you. What would be the point? I'd have cops all over me."

"They got nothin' on you anymore. What you worried about?"

She tried another tack. "If I was you, I'd be worried what King will do if he finds out you laid a hand on me."

Beau laughed. "What's he gonna do to me from behind bars? Besides," he released her and reached into his shirt pocket and produced a syringe. "I wasn't necessarily thinkin' of doing away with you. At least not yet."

She looked at the liquid in the syringe and felt her entire body tighten.

"Yeah, see? I thought we might have a little fun first. King'll just think you had a change of heart and came back. In a few weeks, you OD, nobody'll give a damn."

Without warning he hit her across the face with the back of his hand, his signet ring digging into the flesh of her cheek. She let out a cry of pain.

"I'm in charge here, unnerstand? Now. Give me your arm."

He yanked a length of elastic out of a back pocket and grabbed her good arm. Her arms being taped together, the injured one followed. She could feel the blood oozing from her biceps.

As he tied the elastic around her arm, she made one last attempt.

"You can't do this. It won't work. You know it'll kill me."

He laughed as he prepared the syringe, tapping it lightly.

A flood of anger welled up in Alex. He could shoot her, stab her, choke her, but she wasn't going out of this world by the needle. Not after all she'd been through to get to this point.

As he held the needle poised to puncture her arm they heard a sound outside. Beau turned toward the noise giving her just the opening she needed.

She pushed against him with all her might and sent him stumbling backward. He hit a crate. The syringe flew out of his hand and the gun he'd had tucked into his waistband slid across the floor.

The exertion proved to be too much for her. The room whitened and began to swirl around her. As she slid into a faint she could have sworn she saw the blond stranger standing over Beau with a gun.

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