Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Join the Artistic Pursuit

Frank Jennings is an FBI agent looking for redemption. Leslie Carlton is an Interpol agent looking for a thief. Attraction flares from the moment they meet on a case searching for a stolen triptych of unique Tiffany windows, but after a single night of stunning passion, Leslie is called back to London to continue his search there.

When the case heats up again, Leslie returns to the States—and to Frank—but their investigation is complicated by their tumultuous feelings. Is it possible for two dedicated detectives to pursue each other while they’re tracking down stolen art and the unscrupulous man who steals it?


A file whacked harder than necessary on his desk, and Franklin looked up from where he was filling out a report. “Try not to screw up this one too badly,” his supervisor said without a hint of his usual humor, and Franklin knew exactly why. His last assignment hadn’t gone exactly according to plan, and one of the men on the team had been shot. Franklin took a deep breath and stopped himself from lashing out at the man the way every fiber in his being urged him to. What happened hadn’t been his fault, and Franklin knew it, as did everyone else, but that didn’t seem to matter—they needed someone to blame, and he was it.

“Nice show of support,” Franklin muttered under his breath. As the junior member of the team, he knew he was going to take crap for everything that happened, but he didn’t have to like it.

“Hey!” Harvey, his supervisor, snapped, leaning close to him. “We all know you got bad information, but you messed up because you didn’t double-check the address on your way over. You could have and should have. Because you went to the wrong house first, you lost the element of surprise, and Stevens got shot. You were in charge of the operation because you asked to be, so you take the lumps.” Harvey’s expression softened a little. “Everyone messes up; it’ll pass.”

“Yeah, but not everyone messes up and gets someone shot,” Frank retorted, and that was the heart of the issue. Frank knew he’d made a mistake, one that could have cost someone their life. Stevens didn’t blame him, but everyone else did, and more importantly, he blamed himself.

“So make up for it with this one,” Harvey told him before turning and walking into his glass-walled office near the corner. Frank opened the folder and began to read. As he did, he wondered why Milwaukee PD had turned this case over to the FBI. It seemed like a simple theft. Persons unknown had stolen a set of valuable windows from the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music. Sure, the items stolen had been valuable, but that didn’t warrant an investigation by federal agents.

“Don’t go to the wrong house this time,” Martinson taunted as he passed Frank’s desk.

“Thanks, Martinson. Don’t trip over your own feet,” Frank retorted with little humor. He’d be damned if he was taking flak from the department geek. Yes, he’d made a mistake, but Martinson was a total fool, and Frank couldn’t figure out why he was still around except that the man was great with numbers and computers, just not people. Martinson continued on his way, completely unfazed, and Frank watched as Martinson nearly fell into his chair, then looked at the floor, probably trying to figure out what he’d tripped over.

“Frank,” Harvey called from his office, “you finish reading that case file?”

“Yes.” Frank got up and walked into Harvey’s office. “Why’d this get bumped to us? Looks like a straightforward theft.” Frank stood in front of Harvey’s desk. He hadn’t been invited to sit, and no one sat in Harvey’s office unless invited.

“If it were, we wouldn’t have the case,” Harvey said, staring at Frank, waiting for him to continue. “So….”

Frank fidgeted slightly, knowing there was something he was missing, and it pissed him off. “There must be more to it. I saw the reports about this theft a few days ago. These windows are worth millions, but shit… who’s going to buy them? They have to be nearly impossible to sell. You think they were stolen to order?”

“That’s what you need to find out. I need you to get down there right away. The reason we’ve been called in is because this is bigger than a simple theft, or at least MPD and Interpol think so. Interpol is sending some agent of theirs, her name’s Leslie something, and she’ll meet you at the scene in half an hour. The school’s director is still pretty upset about this whole thing, so do your best not to piss the guy off.” That was Harvey’s idea of a dismissal, and Frank turned toward the door and stopped.

“Can I ask why you assigned this to me?”

“You can ask anything you want. Doesn’t mean I’m going to answer,” Harvey said before turning his attention to his computer screen, beginning to swear under his breath. Frank made a hasty retreat. Everyone knew to get the hell out when Harvey tried to do anything with computers. E-mail alone was a challenge, and more than one keyboard had been thrown through his doorway.

Frank grabbed his keys off his desk along with the file and headed out of the downtown office building, driving through the heavy downtown traffic to the lakeshore. He pulled into the conservatory parking lot and got out of his blue sedan that just screamed “Federal Agent.” Walking around toward the front door, he saw what had to be a student carrying a violin and bow, and said, “I’m looking for Mr. Temple.”

“He’s in his office.” She pointed the way with the bow and then hurried up the stairs. Frank couldn’t help looking around the room before walking in the direction she’d pointed and knocking quietly on a closed door.

“Mr. Temple,” Frank said when the door opened, “I’m Agent Frank Jennings from the FBI. We’ve been called in to help investigate the theft of your windows.”

“Thank God,” the man responded, and he opened the door fully, indicating for Frank to come into the office. “I’ve been frantic for two days, and I’m wondering when we’ll get our windows back.” Mr. Temple motioned Frank to a chair and sat in the one opposite.

“That’s what I’m here to help with. Can you answer a few questions for me?”

“Of course. Anything to help get them returned. They were the source of inspiration for many of our students, and it seems wrong for them to be gone,” Mr. Temple said, and Frank could see he seemed genuinely upset.

“Do you have pictures of the windows? The ones in the file I received weren’t very clear. And I was wondering when you saw the windows last.”

“They were still in place Monday night, and when I came in Tuesday morning, they were gone,” he answered easily, and Frank continued to watch him for any hint of deception, but saw none.

“Are there lights on that side of the building?” Frank pulled out a pad and began taking notes. Mr. Temple got out of his chair, and Frank noticed that he was a strikingly handsome man, even if he was somewhat older than Frank usually liked. Keep your attention on the case, Frank reminded himself as he stood up as well, but he couldn’t help noticing the trim cut of Temple’s suit and his large, bright eyes. Blinking a few times, Frank cleared the lascivious thoughts and got his mind back on work.

“There are,” Temple added a little sheepishly, leading him out of the office and down a hallway before opening what looked like a closet door. “When we did the renovations to the building, we had lights installed on that side of the building to illuminate the windows in the evening.” Mr. Temple pointed to a timer mounted near the electrical box. “The lights come on when it gets dark and go off at 11:00 p.m., when we close the building.” He looked dejected. “To think if we wouldn’t have tried to cut costs on the lighting, we might still have our windows.” Frank wanted to reassure him, but he couldn’t, at least not yet, so he stayed quiet and kept his eyes open.

“Mr. Temple, there’s someone asking for you at the front door,” a young man said from behind them.

“Thank you, Jimmy. Tell them we’ll be right out.”

“That could be the person I’m supposed to meet. My supervisor said a woman was going to meet me here.” Frank wasn’t sure how much he should tell Mr. Temple about who he was meeting, so he kept quiet and followed Mr. Temple back down the hallway and toward the front door.

Frank saw a tall man standing near the front door, and since this wasn’t who he was waiting for, he figured he’d go around the building before Leslie arrived. He was about to head outside when the man stopped him. “Are you Frank Jennings?” he asked in a pronounced British accent with a half smile, and when Frank nodded, the man continued, “I’m Leslie Carlton. I believe you’re expecting me.”

Frank stared. When Harvey had said Leslie, Frank had expected a woman, and Harvey obviously had as well, but instead, Frank was looking into the deepest blue eyes of the most amazingly attractive man he’d seen in a long time. Remembering where he was and what he should be doing, Frank extended his hand. “Sorry. I’m Frank Jennings, and this is Mr. Temple, the director of the conservatory.” Leslie shook both their hands.


Tina Donahue said...

Wow - this looks like a great book, Andrew. The cover is amazing!! Congrats on its release. :)

jean hart stewart said...

Congratulations on the release of your book and lots of sales....

Andrew Grey said...

Thank you so much Tina and Jean. Anne Cain does amazing work.