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Let's Play Make-Believe
With James O. Born
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 2, 2016. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Lightning-fast stories by James Patterson
- Novels you can devour in a few hours
- Impossible to stop listening
- All original content from James Patterson
The young reporter tried to keep her eyes on the camera as it tracked past her to the mansion facing South Ocean Boulevard and the Atlantic on the island of Palm Beach. She thought back to all her journalism and broadcast classes and tried to keep calm. Even with that effort, her voice cracked when the studio anchors cut to her live.
She said, “I am here in the town of Palm Beach as the police try to sort out what has occurred at this South Ocean residence. We know that at least one person has been shot to death, and the killer is believed to be still inside, possibly with a hostage.” The young reporter threw in a few improvised lines, then hit the points the producers wanted her to make. “Police have closed this section of South Ocean, and early-morning traffic is backing up as far as the Southern Boulevard Bridge, as we wait to hear exactly what has led to the tense standoff with police on the island of Palm Beach.”
Someone off-camera was directing her to step to the side so that the early-morning sun didn’t reflect off the lens. As the camera panned to follow the young reporter, there was a growing crowd of neighbors gawking at the scene. Nothing like this had ever happened east of the intracoastal. Police activity of this nature was much more common in West Palm Beach or Riviera Beach. Most of the locals thought Palm Beach was immune to serious crime.
The reporter motioned for the camera to focus back on her and said, “We’ve heard reports that the town police chief has asked for assistance from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in case they have to make a forced entry into the house.”
In the background, near the front of the house, a police officer started to speak into a megaphone. The reporter stopped talking so the camera operators could pick up the audio and show the police officer crouched behind a cruiser.
“Martin Hawking, come out of the front door with your hands up and empty. No one will hurt you if you do it now.” There was about a twenty-second break. Then the police officer said, “Come out right now, Mr. Hawking.”
I somehow managed to slide onto a stool at one of the prime high-top tables near the front door of the Palm Beach Grill. From here you could see the bar, get waited on easily, and keep an eye out for anyone of note who wandered through the main entrance. Landing this high-top was close to a miracle on a Friday evening at seven o’clock, when the place was clogged with Palm Beachers. Julie, the sweet and personable maître d’, stopped by, and I gave her a hug.
I needed a night out and a few laughs with my friend Lisa Martz. Like me, Lisa was going through a rough divorce, but she’d hit the ground running and never looked back. The whole thing had struck me a little harder, mainly because it had come out of left field. Lisa was happy to be out of her prison, whereas I’d never thought I was in one.
Lisa signaled to the waitress that we needed another round of margaritas.
I laughed and said, “That’ll be my third drink tonight! I’ll have to run twenty miles to burn it off tomorrow.”
Lisa put her hand on my forearm and said in her sweet Alabama accent, “Don’t even talk to me about losing weight. You look fabulous. When Brennan asked for a divorce, it was the best thing that ever happened to you. Everything about you has changed. You look like a cover model with those cheekbones and that smile. If you tell me you’re a natural blonde, I might have to stab you with a fork right now.”
I had no desire to be stabbed, so I kept my mouth shut. I appreciated my friend’s attempt to build my confidence. The fact is, I had been going across the bridge and working out at CrossFit in West Palm Beach, as well as jogging on the beach a couple more days a week. My husband, who was six years older than me, had turned forty a few months ago and decided I was too old for him. He may have phrased it differently, but I’m no idiot. It stunned me then and it still stings now. But I was making every effort not to let that loser dictate the rest of my life. As my dad used to say, “Life is tough enough, don’t be a dumbass.”
Suddenly, Lisa was waving frantically at a guy across the room, who smiled and worked his way toward us. He was about my age and got better-looking with each step. In good shape, a little over six feet tall, he was dressed casually in a simple button-down and a pair of jeans. A nice change from the usual show-offs on Palm Beach.
Lisa said, “Christy, this is my friend Martin Hawking. Marty, this is Christy Moore. Isn’t she gorgeous?”
I admit I liked the goofy, shy smile and the slight flush on Marty’s face as he took my extended hand. He had a natural warmth that was intriguing. His short, sandy hair was designed for an active man: it required minimum styling. Before I knew it, we were sitting alone as Lisa got on the scent of a recently divorced gynecologist who was having a few drinks at the other end of the bar.
I said, “I’m sorry if Lisa messed up your evening by dumping you here with me while she went off on the hunt.”
Marty let out a quick, easy laugh and said, “I have to be completely honest. When I saw the two of you walk in and she stepped up to the bar beside me, I asked if she would introduce us. I know her from working on the addition to her house over on the island.”
“Are you a contractor?”
“No, I’m legit.”
He made me laugh, even at such an old joke.
“Actually, I’m an architect. That’s just a general contractor who doesn’t have enough ambition to make any money. What about you? What do you do?”
I wanted to say, Make poor choices in men; instead I said, “I’ll tell you when I grow up.”
“What would you like to do until then?”
I thought about things I did as a kid growing up in New Jersey. My friends and I kept playing the same games but adapted them as we grew older. I said, “I like games.” His hand casually fell across mine on the table and he looked me directly in the eye.
“What kind of games?”
I wasn’t used to flirting. I felt like I was crushing it after being so out of practice. Instead of telling him about some lame game I liked as a kid, I said, “Maybe you’ll get to find out.”
I liked being mysterious for once, and this guy seemed nice and was enjoying it. I couldn’t ask for much more right about now.
After our margaritas at the Palm Beach Grill, we ended up at the HMF inside the Breakers Hotel. By then we were on our own, and Lisa was firmly attached to the divorced gynecologist. Marty and I just chatted over drinks. We talked about everything. It was easy, light, and fun. I even found myself opening up about my separation and the pending divorce. He told me a little about his own divorce and how his wife had moved to Vero Beach just so they wouldn’t run into each other. It was a good plan.
We threw down some specialty drink at HMS that, as near as I could tell, had vodka, some sort of pink fruit juice, and a lot more vodka. Marty thought we were drinking at the same pace, but I was being much more careful.
I thought hard but just couldn’t find the right words to tell Marty how much I’d like him to come back to my place. In my whole life, I’d never picked up a man for a one-night stand. It was new and a little bit scary to me, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of excitement to it as well.
He gazed at me and said, “You have the most beautiful eyes.”
“That’s just the alcohol talking.”
“No, I mean it. All four of them are beautiful.” He weaved his head back and forth like someone pretending to be wildly drunk, and it made me laugh out loud.
That was all I needed to screw up the courage to say, “How would you feel about coming back to my place for a nightcap?”
“How far is it?”
I gave him a look. “It’s in Belle Glade, about an hour away.”
“No, Mr. Clueless, it’s here in Palm Beach. No one’s ever more than ten minutes from their house when they’re on this island.”
We grabbed a cab back to my temporary residence at the Brazilian Court Hotel. Although Brennan was beating me out on almost everything in the divorce based on some prenuptial agreement I signed when I really believed he loved me, he didn’t want the locals to view him as a complete jerk, and he had put me up in a nice apartment inside the hotel. The cost meant nothing to him, and at least I had a base of operations on the island.
No one asked questions at the Brazilian Court, and Allie, a girl from my CrossFit class, was the evening clerk there. She gave me a heads-up whenever she saw Brennan stomping through the lobby to confront me about one thing or another and generally looked after me like women our age usually did.
Once we were in the room, I realized I was still a little tipsy. I had never used that word in my life until I moved to Palm Beach. Everyone was always getting “a little tipsy,” no matter how much they’d had to drink, but in this case, I really was just a little tipsy.
The tiny apartment consisted of a living room and a comfortable bedroom, with a bathroom in between. The balcony in the back looked into the thick tropical foliage that rimmed the property, which was about three blocks from the ocean. This was a trendy place to stay, and the bar could get interesting some nights.
Marty took a look around the place and turned to face me. “We could use some music,” he said with a slight slur to his words.
The next thing I knew, we were blasting an older Gloria Estefan song through the oversize external speakers for my iPhone. We also managed to make it to the bamboo-framed couch, and started to make out like teenagers. It was fun and I was getting swept up in it. I lost track of time until I heard a rap on the front door. It might’ve been going on for a while because it just sort of crept into my consciousness past the music and Marty’s kisses.
Someone was now pounding on the door.
Marty reached back and shut off the music as I stood and straightened my cocktail dress. He gave me an odd look and scooted to the bedroom. I realized he was doing it for my benefit so no one would ask any embarrassing questions.
A smile crept across my face as I slowly stepped toward the door, giving Marty time to disappear into the rear of the apartment.
I carefully opened the door a crack, to see my friend Allie’s face. I could tell something was wrong.
“What’s up, Allie?” I said, without slurring any words. The pride had to be written across my face.
She kept her voice low but said, “My God, Christy, you may want to keep it down a little bit with your new friend. We had complaints from downstairs, as well as people on either side of your room. It sounds like a South Beach nightclub in here.” Her slight Serbian accent made it a bit hard to understand her.
“What are they gonna do? Call the cops?”
Her smile told me not much was going to happen.
The old me would’ve been unbelievably embarrassed; instead, there was something liberating about showing off how much fun I was having. After Allie left, but before I could slip back to tell Marty, there was another knock at the door. I thought Allie had come back.
This time I flung the door open to scare my friend, but then I saw that it was two uniformed Palm Beach cops. I recognized one of them from around town. A typical buff, tan, friendly Palm Beach cop.
He said, “Allie told us she spoke to you, but we have to follow up because someone called us directly and made a complaint.”
I used a serious tone even though I wanted to laugh. All I said was “I understand.”
“No more loud music.”
The tall cop sighed and said, “We’ve got enough to do.”
“Do you? Do you really?” I couldn’t help myself.
The cop smiled and shrugged. “Maybe not, but keep it down anyway.”
He could’ve been a jerk, but luckily, Palm Beach cops are known for being polite to residents, and at least for now I was still considered a Palm Beacher.
I headed back to the bedroom and found Marty looking sober and ready to flee.
“What’s up? You’re not leaving, are you?”
“I heard the cops. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”
“It was nothing. Just a complaint about the noise. You don’t have a problem with cops, do you?”
“Cops and I have a great understanding; I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me. It works out for us all. Especially in a place like this, where they wouldn’t like my West Palm Beach address.”
I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. “Paranoid much?”
When he didn’t seem to get it, I gave him a smile and said, “It’s fine. I don’t need loud music to prove I’m having a good time.”
“You’re enjoying yourself?”
- On Sale
- Aug 2, 2016
- Page Count
- 144 pages