The second novel from Sudetenland author George T. Chronis is a fast-paced detective thriller. The place is Los Angeles, the time is just after World War II during the early days of the Cold War, and people are turning up dead on the streets of Hollywood. A smuggled Nazi ceremonial weapon is hidden somewhere in the city and several factions have no compulsion against killing to possess this objet d’art that conceals a valuable secret. Suspicion falls upon Tom Jarrett, a man with many secrets of his own from the war, who is forced to put his new life on hold so that he can unravel the mystery… if only he can stay alive long enough.
from Chapter 4
The fog was lifting… not all at once but in small, scattered sections. Jarrett tried opening his eyes but was rewarded with pulsating colors in various shapes and dimensions. He closed his eyelids tightly and breathed in. The air tasted old and dusty like a moribund attic. The possibility crossed Jarrett’s mind that he might be hallucinating. There was only one way to find out for sure. Jarrett forced his eyes open a second time and waited for the pulsations to even out and his vision to focus. A light bulb was hanging on a wire from the ceiling above him. The Monarch was too new to sport one of these original electrical installations. That and the stale air told Jarrett he was someplace else, the question was where? As soon as he attempted to prop his arms behind him, Jarrett regretted the effort.
“Don’t move,” Lydia hurried over holding a bowl of water with a small cloth draped over the lip. “You are going to–“
A bolt of pain coursed along the back of Jarrett’s neck, stopping his upward progress cold. “–Ouch.”
“You should learn to listen,” Lydia crouched close to him, dampened the cloth and applied it to the sore area.
“Yeah, I will work on that,” Jarrett looked up slowly but did not dare attempt turning his neck to look at her. “Did you see the truck that ran me down?”
“Big, ugly and not too friendly,” Lydia continued dabbing his neck. When she worked the cloth under shirt collar the back of her fingers rubbed up against something bulky hidden inside the jacket. “What do you have back here?”
“A little insurance policy,” Jarrett felt steady enough to reach back with one arm to pat her hand and gently pull it away from the hidden knife.
“Like I said, I appreciate a man who comes prepared,” Lydia leaned back to gauge his progress.
“Didn’t stop me from sticking my neck out,” Jarrett looked around the dark room. His sense of smell had been reliable. The windows were frosted with age, dust and grime – blocking out much of the afternoon daylight. Of more interest, he could make out bars over the windows. There were three more bulbs hanging from electrical wires running in a line down the center of the ceiling. By the scuffs etched onto the old wood planks of the floor, it looked like they were what must have been a storeroom. “Any idea where we are?”
“Someplace none too prosperous east of downtown. They made so many turns it was hard to keep track where we ended up,” Lydia was glad nothing was busted permanently on the guy and he had his wits about him.
“How long have I been out?” Jarrett felt good enough to sit up straight.
“All day,” Lydia put the bowl down on the floor.
“Thought so,” Jarrett massaged the back of his neck. “Our hosts provide the water there?”
“Yep… after we were thrown in here the mugs got extra concerned about your well being.” Under different circumstances, Lydia would be a little peeved she was not the primary object of attention.
“How considerate of them. That probably means they have a little conversation planned for me,” Tom shifted his body so he could see the one door leading into the room. “I imagine the door is locked.”
“Nice and tight. The windows back there are nailed shut too,” Lydia had even tested the window glass with her shoe but it was thick enough not to break.
“Looks like we are not going anywhere,” Jarrett did not see many options available to them.
“How are you feeling?” Lydia reached out grip his upper arm.
“Good enough to wonder why I take risks saving pretty little numbers like you,” Jarrett attempted getting his feet under him to stand up.
“You must be feeling better if you are throwing out compliments,” Lydia took her hand back.
A wave of dizziness overcame Jarrett as he stood. Losing his equilibrium, he teetered precariously a few moments before toppling forward.
“Ah hell,” Lydia rushed forward to catch the big lug. Wrapping her arms around him, she held Jarrett upright while trying to figure out what to do with him.
Jarrett regained his composure sufficiently to realize his predicament and put his arms around her waist to help steady himself.
“Thanks,” Jarrett became aware their chests were pressed together. “Do you make house calls?”
“Only for special clients,” Lydia considered letting the clown drop to the floor when she heard the bolt lock unlatch behind them followed by the door flying open. The man that Jarrett had knocked unconscious back at the Monarch stepped into the room, a bandage applied around his wounded temple. Following behind him was a taller compatriot with a deep scar cut along his cheek.
“Well, ain’t we cozy,” the assailant from the hotel room appraised his catch.