Today's Reading

His ears still ringing, Dez leans toward the woman and shouts, "M'sieu M'Bolhi?"

The Shot-Caller from Elsewhere mimes blowing smoke from the barrel of her SIG, Wild West style, and holsters it.

Dez nods.

Rafik drags a med kit out of his rucksack and, without asking, begins cleaning blood from the woman's shoulder. She says, "My intel wasn't perfect."

Dez says, "Few things in life are."

Rafik applies an adhesive pad to her wound. "Chef is thinking of retiring. To California."

She ponders that a moment. "A lot of pretty girls in California." She points, in this order, at the filing cabinet, the hard drive, and the unconscious Basque. "Get this shit to M'Bolhi's cars."

Men stow their rifles, pick up the loot and the wounded, head toward the garage.

The Shot-Caller from Elsewhere observes the walkway, the now-smoldering ruins of the crenellated walls, the car batteries attached to the great gate. She makes eye contact with Dez, then looks down at the tattoo of Janus on his inner forearm. She gives him only the second smile he's ever seen from her.

"Gatekeeper?"

"Beginnings an' gates," he says. "Transitions an' times. Duality an' doors. Passages an' endings."

She starts walking toward the garage. "California," she says. "You could do worse."


CHAPTER ONE

CALIFORNIA
SIX MONTHS LATER

Dez stands and yawns in front of one of six gilded elevator doors of the Hotel Tremaine in downtown Los Angeles, checks the paper sleeve of his room key, and stabs the up arrow.

It's one of those grand old hotels that hint of a more glamorous era, with WPA heft, and vaguely socialist workers murals, and a lovely old baroque lobby with green velvet furniture. Dez has just spent the past three hours in a club that shares part of the ground floor, playing bass guitar, covering American rock and blues and soul, laying down the support for a petite waif of a lead singer whose voice can growl and wail, can soar and sink, and can surprise Dez every single damn time he hears her.

Dez is five-eight but built like a tank, with a barrel chest, thick arms, and short, bowed legs. His inevitable uniform these days is jeans and a black T-shirt and boots. His hands are oversized, knuckles crisscrossed with fighting scars, and it's hard to imagine those fingers playing the guitar.

It was a good set, he thinks. The vocalist and percussionist and keyboards lad had headed off to another club to hear someone else play. They'd invited Dez but he'd demurred. The elevator arrives and he enters, hits his floor, leans back against the frost-filigreed mirror, sets down his bass guitar case, and thinks deep thoughts about a tall beer.

Before the door closes, a hand slips through the door, breaking the light beam. The hand is tan and strong and feminine, with long fingers and no rings. A woman steps on board. The woman is tall and dark, angular and lithe, wearing a black power suit, a white shirt open low, and four-inch heels. She's, well, remarkable. Her eyes are
expressive and very dark.

She's with two men who can only be described as bodyguards: tall, well-built, nice suits, eyes everywhere. They both tower over Dez. Dez recognizes the woman. She'd been in the audience in the club. She'd been meeting an Asian gentleman who, himself, had had bodyguards. International trade of some sort. The Asian fella and his bodyguards left during the last set.

As the car rises, she makes eye contact with Dez's reflection in the mirror to the left of the door. "You were playing in the club." The voice is low and smoky.

"Aye."

"You sounded good."

"Ta. Appreciate it."

"From England?"

"Thereabouts."

The woman is classy and rich and exudes a level of sophistication Dez could never match. Her hair is up in a complicated chignon, pinioned by lacquered Chinese sticks. Her wristwatch is mannish and likely cost more money than Dez has ever owned at any one given time. Her perfume is a subtle gardenia. Twenty thousand leagues out of me reach, Dez thinks. Not even worth considering.

The car reaches the tenth floor, and he surprises himself. "Fancy a drink?"

Nothing ventured...


This excerpt ends on page 12 of the hardcover edition.

Monday, October 3rd, we begin the book Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton.
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...