Done Rubbed Out
Reightman & Bailey Book 1
by Jeffery Craig
Genre: Crime Mystery, Thriller
In this first book of the Reightman & Bailey Series, deceit, corruption and murder tangle together with vivid, unconventional characters in a story of unlikely new friendships and their power to change us.
Things are going well at the Time Out Spa, but the night young proprietor Toby Bailey discovers his former lover naked and dead on a massage table, more things are spoiled than just his white leather shoes. Detective Melba Reightman and partner, Sam Jackson are called in to investigate and soon become embroiled in the most perplexing homicide case seen in years.
After a Hunting knife engraved with Toby's name is found in a pile of wet, bloody laundry, he's arrested for the murder of Geraldo Guzman. He enlists the aid of Madame Zhou Li, practicing attorney and owner of Green Dragon Chinese Herbs and Teas. The peculiar octogenarian seems an unlikely choice to defend him, but has a few tricks up her sleeve. Toby joins forces with Reightman and Jackson and a shocking string of clues leads them closer to the killer. The bad news? Successfully solving the crime might unleash a firestorm on this southern city, and come with a price none of them are prepared to pay.
THE FIRST THING Toby Bailey remembered thinking when he turned on the lights and stepped into the larger of the two treatment rooms was, “Oh shit!” Nothing else. No other reaction. Just one, simple, two word expletive phrase. The second thing he remembered thinking was that he’d never get all the blood out of the new Italian white suede loafers, on which he’d blown his non-existent shoe budget for the next several months.
The blood in question pooled in large, sticky puddles on the neutral bamboo floors, embellished by random, lurid accent spatters on the matte light café mocha walls and the strategically placed lush tropical plants. It wasn’t a good look for the room which had previously been his favorite in the Time Out Spa.
Toby stood in place; one hand still slapped against the brushed chrome switch plate, and took in the gore. Three glistening puddles of diminishing size were linked by bloody streams, leading his gaze to a massage table and the body arranged on top of a pile of blood soaked, sky blue sheets. The only sound was the gentle, but steady rhythm of blood dripping from the table’s edge to join the rest on the floor. He didn’t even hear himself breathe. He eventually realized he was, in fact, holding his breath.
He inhaled, and then exhaled. “Jeez-us!” he exclaimed, catching the metallic smell of blood, bodily fluids, and something else. Fear maybe. He’d read somewhere that fear had an actual smell.
Toby considered rushing to the body on the table. After all, his shoes were beyond help. However, he stayed frozen in place. There was no need to rush. He could tell from where he stood the dead man on the table was already beyond help – ruined, just like the white suede on his feet.
“Stop thinking about the shoes, Toby!” he told himself. “Focus!”
Even from across the room, he could easily identify the body. Geraldo Guzman – or Geri, as he liked to be called – was laid out in well-toned, naked splendor, with a shock of black hair falling against his now ivory cheek and jaw. His green eyes stared directly at Toby, vacant and empty, and light reflected off the single diamond stud in his left ear and the silver Star of David hanging from the thick chain on his neck. He looked peaceful, if you ignored the stark, angry gashes scattered across his body, the slowly trickling blood, and the open eyes.
The third thing Toby remembered thinking was he’d better call the police.
He took a deep breath, and carefully bracing himself against the doorframe, lifted first his right foot, and then his left, out of his ridiculously expensive footwear. He turned carefully to make his way to the phone by the reception desk in the front room, shocked and disturbed by what he’d discovered. He hadn’t yet allowed himself to remember the worst thing of all. He hadn’t let himself remember the feeling of grief.
Done Rubbed Out. Copyright © 2016 by Jeffery Craig Schwalk
Reightman & Bailey Book 2
In this second Reightman & Bailey thriller, Detective Melba Reightman is distraught over the murder of her friend and partner, Sam Jackson. The Guzman murder case has been closed, but she knows the real killer is still out there somewhere. Toby Bailey’s discovery of a set of incriminating photos proved there were more people involved in Geri Guzan’s death than just Dr. Lieberman, but getting anyone to listen is more of a challenge than she’d ever imagined. She’s going to need help convincing the powers that be that the case needs to be reopened, but she’ll find a way to do it. It’s the only choice she has if she wants to discover who’s behind it all.
Toby’s still struggling with Geri’s death and the shock at having been the target of a hitman. Detective Jackson took the bullet meant for him and saved his life, and he doesn’t understand how things could have gone so very wrong. No one should have known about the evidence Geri left behind, but it’s the only explanation that makes any sense. He has a hunch things are going to get worse, so he’ll just have to pull up his pants and get on with whatever needs to be done to help Detective Reightman figure things out.
And as for John Brown? He’s just worried he won’t get paid after botching the hit on Toby, and can’t help wondering what will happen next. It wasn’t really his fault. Mistakes were bound to happen when things got complicated, but who knew this would be such a hard job?
Things are heating up in this southern city.
John Brown didn’t sleep much after he made it home from the botched hit on Toby Bailey. He cleaned his gun and sat down in his favorite chair and just thought things over. “It all got too complicated, too fast,” he told himself. He’d known it was risky, and he’d hated taking unnecessary risks. He didn’t like it when there were too many pieces in play, and right now there were more than he thought wise. Last night unfolded very differently than he’d planned, and a simple drive-by murder had gone to hell because of it. He wished they’d just called it off and waited for another opportunity. John Brown wondered if he’d even hit the man he was supposed to take out. He got his answer when the phone in front of him buzzed.
U KILLED A COP
He stared down at the phone as he digested the words. He wasn’t sure what to say. It was unfortunate, but the screw up wasn’t his fault. If his employer had listened to him, none of this would have happened. He was inclined to just ignore the message, but knew there’d be a high price to pay down the line if he did. He thought it over some more, and decided he could at least respond.
SORRY, he eventually typed, adding a sad, frowny face after the word. When he didn’t receive a response, he typed a question:
Now John Brown was worried he wasn’t going to collect his pay, and that wouldn’t do at all. He’d done his best, and he deserved his money. He wasn’t about to let himself get screwed again by the person who’d hired him.
WHAT NOW? He typed, after thinking though the possible impact to their already hostile relationship.
The response didn’t take long.
John Brown could do that. He turned over the phone and got up from his chair. He had plenty of other things to do today, and there was no point in worrying about what might happen next. He didn’t like worry. It made things complicated.
He locked up his gun and headed for the shower. A shower was always a good way to start the day. A shower always made him feel better. He emerged from the steam a few minutes later, fresh and clean, and took a look in the mirror. He liked what he saw.
His hair was a medium brown, neither too straight or too curly. His hazel eyes picked up the colors around him, but never caused comment. His body was good, but not overbuilt or worthy of immediate notice – at least with his clothes on. He wasn’t model handsome, but that suited him just fine. Being too good looking wasn’t an asset in his line of work.
He changed expressions a few times and then grinned. He could be whoever he needed to be, and that was perfect. His grin turned into a smile as he studied his reflection for a second more. John Brown was ready for a new day.
Hard Job. Copyright © 2016 by Jeffery Craig Schwalk
Reightman & Bailey Book 3
In Skin Puppet: Reightman & Bailey Book Three, the whole gang from Capital Street is back and almost ready for business. It’s just two weeks until The Reightman & Bailey Agency officially opens, but Melba Reightman and Toby Bailey have things pretty much under control. After the horrific events of the last six months, things are starting to feel normal again.
An inconvenient lisp from a busted lip isn’t slowing Toby down, but it makes him sound embarrassing like a cartoon character. And there’s the whole awkward situation with Jon Chiang. One minute Zhou Li’s nephew is cold and distant, and the next minute…well, Toby could swear the guy might be interested in something more. It’s all very confusing.
Melba’s got her hands full completing last minute paperwork so they can open for business. There’s the huge stack of invitations Madame Zhou dropped off, all needing to be hand-addressed. Melba doesn’t see the need for a huge grand opening party, but there’s no point in arguing with the bossy owner of Green Dragon. To top things off, Zhou Li is strongly hinting that Melba needs a new dress.
With so much going on, the reports of children missing from the local area haven’t really registered on anyone’s radar. The single flyer posted by a desperate mother looking for her daughter was disturbing, but it’s really a matter for the local police, not the Reightman & Bailey Agency. Right?
Wrong. Things are never that easy.
WARNING: This novel deals with mature subject matter.
Toby’s head bounced as he hit the wooden floor. He rolled and pulled himself to his knees, groaning at the effort. He had to get on his feet fast, or he’d be finished. He shook his head, trying to clear his dazed mind and, in the process, scattered bright, ruby-red droplets around him. The sight distracted him for a minute, bringing to mind a host of images and bad memories from the last time there’d been blood on the floor. He touched his split lip gingerly, then struggled to his feet and turned to face his attacker.
The man standing a few feet away was sizing him up with emotionless gray eyes. He was about the same height as Toby, but probably had twenty or so pounds on him—all of it muscle. The gray eyes narrowed, and the man shifted his blunt wooden stick from hand to hand. Before Toby was anywhere near ready, he attacked again. Toby dodged out of the way, trying to get into a position he could defend. “Damn! This guy is fast!” he thought as the thick wooden stick came at him from the side. “I don’t think I can hold out much longer.” He quickly glanced to the side where his friend and partner, Melba Reightman, was trying to pull herself up from the floor. She looked in pretty bad shape herself. He didn’t have the time or the energy to spare her much thought. He had to keep his attention on the stick. She’d have to look out for herself.
They’d been ambushed the minute they’d walked through the door. Neither of them had been prepared for the fury of the surprise attack and barely managed to fling themselves out of the way. They’d regrouped and, for a minute or two, it looked like they had the upper hand. After all, there were two of them and only one bad guy. Boy, were they wrong about that!
He dodged again, trying to avoid another hit and flinched as a fist came from the side. He lunged out of the way, desperately trying to catch his breath and thinking about his next possible move.
He’d been fighting a losing battle for the last few minutes, and he knew it. He’d tried to protect his head and face and, at the same time, keep his focus on the man in front of him. The stick came flying again and narrowly missed his temple. To avoid the jabbing foot that followed, Toby dropped to the ground and rolled. The man was on him in a flash. Toby knew he had to get up and put more distance between them. “I could use some help here!” he yelled, hoping Melba was ready to step in. At this point, he wasn’t ashamed to admit he needed reinforcements.
To his relief, she was ready. She launched herself into the fray with fists flying. She gave a blood-curdling yell, attacking the man from behind. He turned like lightning and, with two swift jabs, she was back on the floor. Quicker than Toby believed possible, the man was in his face again. “Think, dumb ass! What are you supposed to do in situations like this?” He knew he needed to focus, but was having difficulty just staying out of the man’s reach. “Think!” he commanded himself again. There had to be something he could do. He surveyed the room, hoping to spot anything he could use to defend himself. There were a couple of possible weapons at the side of the room, but he had to figure out how to get to them. Before he could come up with a plan, the stick struck him hard across the left shoulder. Toby cried out in surprised pain. He only had one option left. “When it’s time for a last stand and you’re almost out of gas, focus and then give it everything you’ve got. And remember--fight dirty.” He took one more breath, then narrowed his eyes and went on the offensive. He barreled his way into the man’s space and dropped to the ground. He kicked out with one leg and made contact. The man stumbled for a minute and, taking advantage of the unexpected opening. Toby levered himself up and punched him in the back of the knee. The man grunted in surprise.
Toby felt a surge of elation. “Take that, asshole!” he shouted. He punched his fist into the back of the other knee and moved to the side as the man went down. “I think I’ve got him now!” A thrill of excitement rippled through him, and he thought maybe he’d survive after all. He started to stand, but lost his balance when he stepped in a few drops of blood. The man jerked upright and swept a foot in front of him, catching the back of Toby’s ankle. Toby stumbled and tried to regain his footing. He started to panic and looked away for a moment, trying to locate Melba. He never saw the fist that laid him out cold. The last thing he remembered before he passed out was that he forgot to protect his head. Again. Jon Chiang was going to be so pissed off about this.
Skin Puppet. Copyright © 2017 by Jeffery Craig Schwalk
Jeffery Craig is the writing pseudonym of the author, used for fictional works. Jeffery resides in the southeastern United States and shares his life with his husband and partner, and a menagerie of much-loved pets. For several years, he worked as a executive providing technology and consulting services to help clients meet business needs. He's an avid supporter of the arts and co-owns a local art gallery/gift store that provides an outlet for area artists to showcase and sell their works.
When he isn't writing, he might be found working on a painting or enjoying the covered front porch of his historic southern home with a good book in hand
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