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.
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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
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.
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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.
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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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