Jake's Burn [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Randy Rawls
eBook Category: Mystery/Crime/Mainstream
eBook Description: The phone rings at three in the morning launching Arthur Conan Edwards (Ace) into an investigation that places him and his cats, Sweeper and Striker, in the crosshairs of a killer. Jake Adams, an old friend hires him to find the arsonist who torched Jake's house in Cisco, Texas. Smoking remains, two charred bodies, romance and the antics of Ace's cats are only the beginning of an exciting and fast-paced action adventure.
eBook Publisher: Quiet Storm Publishing, Published: Trade Paperback, 2003
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2005
"Fans of private sleuth tales will appreciate the fabulous Jake's Burn that proves one cannot go home even to his own home. The action-packed story line with a wicked sense of humor engages the audience from the moment Jake rehires a reluctant Ace to look into deadly arson until the final brawls. A sidebar romance humanizes the hero who proves to be an ace of a detective and readers will demand further adventures of this charismatic hero."--Harriet Klausner
"Engages the audience."--Midwest Book Review
He tore two matches loose. The small print below a local bar's slogan said, Close Cover Before Striking. He complied.
From his position in the entryway, the crystal chandelier reflected in his eyes. A deep sigh escaped as he blinked rapidly, fighting tears. His attention turned upward, up the winding staircase to the second floor balcony and he frowned. His head slowly rotated toward the study as his face evidenced sadness and regret.
He stared at the matches. It had to be done, and it had to be done now. But still he hesitated, studying the lines of dampness running from him into the study, up the stairs, and over the sofa and the drapes. His eyes watered from the gasoline fumes that filled the room. With a shrug and a half-grimace, he struck the matches and tossed them onto the wet Persian rug, an original.
The whoosh and tongues of flame startled him as he stooped to pick up the cans. He spun, his heart racing. The flames leapt upward, grabbing at the furniture, the drapes, the walls, everything in its path.
Spurred by the fierce heat, he ran from the house, intent only on escape. A tree root snaked upward in the darkness and grabbed him, sending him into a forward sprawl, the cans flying in different directions.
The force of an explosion forced him forward. He caught himself, then whirled toward the blazing inferno. The flames curled from the second floor windows greedily reaching for the third. Glass tinkled to the ground from exploding windows. The shrubbery withered, then burst into flame. The fire appeared bright enough to alert all of Eastland County.
Gotta get out of here. That primary thought dominated the top layer of his consciousness. Fear, fear of the fire and fear of retribution occupied the second level. There was no third.
His pickup truck loomed before him and he yanked the door and jumped in. A second later, he sped from the inferno he'd created.
Only when he reached the outskirts of Cisco did he relax and breathe normally. He slowed and looked over his shoulder. The glow from the burning house atop the distant hill filled his mind.* * * *CHAPTER ONE
My ears screamed that a phone rang while my brain refused to acknowledge it. I turned my head and squinted at the clock. Right brain yelled, I don't want to be called at three in the morning. I rolled toward the lamp but a heavy lump in the middle of my chest slowed me--Striker. Anytime I sleep on my back, he thinks I'm a kitty-bed.
My ears alerted again and Striker hissed quietly plunging his claws through the blanket into my chest. That sped my waking process. Who could it be? And, where's Sweeper? My mind cleared enough for me to curse and vow not to answer.
On the next ring, other senses yelled at me to do something to stop that nerve-scraping sound. Was it my imagination or were the rings longer and louder? Although it could cost me, I decided to let the answering machine get it. Besides, most of my business calls came during the morning after the wife found lipstick on her husband's collar.
I grabbed my blanket and rolled to my right, away from the phone. That's when I discovered Sweeper. How can a twelve-pound cat be so heavy and fill so much space when he's asleep? One of those quirks of nature, I suppose. I gave up on the blanket and rolled without it. Striker rode with me and ended the move sitting on my side, firmly anchored to the bed covers.
Finally, the fourth ring. Time for the answering machine. In spite of my desire to sleep, I wondered who it was. Figured I'd listen to see if he, or maybe she, left a message. Nope, not much chance of a she. I was between shes and didn't know any who would call me any time. Well, maybe my ex-wife, but I didn't need to hear from her.
The answering machine kicked on with the cute message I'd recorded. It started with the theme from Dragnet.
Dum, de dum, dum. Edwards here, Ace Edwards, Private Investigator. I can't take your call right now. Give me your name, number and a message. I'll get back to you because I'm Ace Edwards, Private Eye. Dum, de dum, dum.
It seemed humorous when I recorded it, but at three in the morning, it only sounded stupid.
"Arty, wake up. I know you're there."
That woke me. Arty! Only one guy called me that, and he only did it to get my goat. I reached over, dislodging my cats, and switched on the bedside lamp.
Striker complained, "Meow."
Sweeper woke and scowled at me as he stretched. I suppose his curiosity overcame his natural inclination to sleep through anything. Well, if curiosity killed cats, I'd have lost him long ago.
"Okay, you're ignoring me," the speaker phone said. "Won't work, I know you're there. Here's some blue grass for your machine."
Fiddle-sawing in an up-tempo number raked across my nerve endings. Sweeper and Striker jumped from the bed and ran underneath. They share my tastes in music, and that does not include fiddle mutilation.
I snatched up the phone. "Jake, you son-of-a-bitch, what do you want?"
"Why Arty, is that any way to talk to an old friend? I'm sitting here watching my house smoke and thought of you."
"Don't call me Arty." I was set to give him hell when I realized what he'd said. "What do you mean, watching your house smoke?"
"Just what I said. I got a call from the Eastland County Sheriff's office about two hours ago. Said my house was burning." He hesitated, then continued in a softer voice. "By the time I got here, it was gone. Nothing left but the chimneys, and smoking ashes."
I heard passion in his voice and hoped he wouldn't cry. That I could not handle at three in the morning.
"Wait a minute. Are you telling me your house burned?"
"That's why I like you, Arty. You're really quick."