Monday, October 8, 2012

DEADLY POLITICS

by Maggie Sefton, New York Times author of DEADLY POLITICS, first in the new Molly Malone Suspense Series, and CAST ON, KILL OFF, latest in the Kelly Flynn Knitting Mystery Series




Today, I thought I would share a short excerpt from DEADLY POLITICS, so readers could meet Molly Malone in person as she's returned to her hometown of Washington, DC, to start her new job  working for the newly elected Independent Senator from Colorado,  John Russell.  Enjoy!  


EXCERPT from  DEADLY POLITICS---

     “Ryan, I’m dying for some coffee.  Those Midwestern congressmen talked me dry,” I said, snatching a sausage-stuffed mushroom from his tray.  “Could you bring me some in the library, please?  Peter left a list for me there I need to go over.” 
         “Sure thing, Molly.  Be back in a sec,” Ryan said, scurrying towards the kitchen.
         I was about to head to the library when I spotted Casey coming from the kitchen.  “Is there any real food left, Casey?  All I’ve had are appetizers between politicians, and I’m starving.”
         “They’re starting cleanup now, Molly.  There may be something in the storage boxes.  Lots of coffee, though,” he said as he headed back to the fast-dwindling group of guests in the living room.  Suddenly, he stopped and turned. “Oh, I checked on your niece outside nearly an hour ago, and she was fine.  Talking on her cell phone in her car like you said.  Earlier, I made it a point to walk Molinoff outside myself.  Since you told me your niece was in her car, I wanted to make sure he didn’t head in her direction.  So I escorted him to the sidewalk and pointed towards Wisconsin Avenue in the opposite direction.  It was obvious he was pissed I was standing there and telling him where to find a taxi, but I watched him walk all the way down the street.”
I had to smile.  “That was really good of you, Casey.  At least you got Jed away from Karen.  Thanks for that.”  I looked around the room but didn’t see Karen.  Still making phone calls, I figured, as I checked my watch.  Nearly eleven o’clock.  “When will these people leave?” I whispered to Casey.
         “Sometimes you wonder, Molly.  I just had to help two staffers into cabs and another into the upstairs bathroom to throw up.  Be glad you’re just talking to them.”
         “Whoa, thanks for sharing,” I said and laughed all the way to the library.  Ryan caught up with me at the doorway. 
         “I spied a few cookies, so I grabbed those, too,” he said as I gratefully accepted the ceramic mug of coffee.  Steam wafted off the black brew, tickling my nose. 
         “Thanks, Ryan, you’re a lifesaver,” I said, snatching the cookies as well.  “When can you leave?”
         “Oh, in another half hour, probably.  See you later, Molly.”  He was already halfway out the door.
         There was Peter’s folder on the desk, so I took a deep drink of coffee and pulled the phone from my pocket.  I stood, paging through Senator Russell’s dinner schedule and munching cookies, while I dutifully entered the dates on my electronic calendar. 
         I did notice that with the exception of this weekend, Russell did the majority of his entertaining during the week, clearly leaving weekends free for return trips to Colorado.  I’d been impressed with his regular attendance to his home state and constituents.  Smart man. 
         “We’ll keep you busy, Molly,” Brewster said, strolling into the library.  “You’ll be earning your salary for sure.”
         “I can see that, Peter.  My dance card is practically full.  I notice Russell leaves weekends open.  Back to Colorado, right?”
         Peter nodded, sipping from a square cut crystal glass.  It looked like Scotch.  “Absolutely.  Gotta keep in touch with the people who sent him here.”
         I flipped through the pages again, this time noticing the suggested guest lists.  Several names jumped out at me, faces appearing.  More faces and names coalesced as I went through the pages.  “You’ve done a good job of arranging these lists, Peter.  Did you do it, or does Russell pick and choose?”
         “A little of both, Molly.  Incidentally, if you see any potential conflicts in the guest lists, I’d appreciate your input.  We can always move people around in the interests of congeniality.”
         I smiled as I read.  “Congeniality, huh?  I never pegged you as an optimist, Peter.”  Spotting a couple of names, I said, “Now that you mention it, you might want to separate these two.”  I pointed to the names of two Western congressmen. 
         “Why’s that?” Peter asked, peering over the list.
         He had an affair with his first wife years ago,” I answered, pointing to the names.  “You might want to invite them to separate dinners.  In the interest of congeniality.”
         Peter chuckled.  “Thanks, Molly.  See, you’re a great help already.  Senator Russell has a lot of plans---”
         I didn’t hear the rest of Senator Russell’s plans.  Another list had caught my attention and another name.  I stared at this name.  Congressman Edward Ryker.  I didn’t have to search for this face.  It rocketed from the back of my mind and out of the past.  The past I’d tried so hard to bury.  Old memories seared through me, cutting off my breath.  Finally, Peter’s voice pierced the fog.
“Molly?  Are you all right?”
I blinked, then shook off the past to meet Brewster’s confused gaze.  “I. . .I’m sorry, Peter.  What were you saying?”
Peter peered at me.  “Never mind, Molly.  I’m more interested in what you saw that transfixed you so.  You didn’t even hear me.”         
“Old memories from the past, that’s all.”
“Old memories or old enemies?”
I held his gaze.  “Both.  I’ve got a lot of history in this town, Peter.  And a lot of ghosts.  It’s only inevitable they start creeping around.”
“If there’s any function you don’t care to attend, just let me know, Molly.  The Senator will understand.  And so will I.”
I saw that he meant it.  “Thanks, Peter.  I’ll bear that in mind.”
The insistent ring of a cell phone sounded then, and Peter reached into his pocket as he headed toward the doorway.  “Excuse me, Molly.”
“At eleven thirty, I hope that’s a girlfriend,” I said, following after him.  I’d had enough of schedules and lists and names for tonight.
“Don’t I wish,” he said with a grin as he flipped his phone open.  “Peter Brewster.”
I drained the last of my coffee as I headed down the hallway and glanced about the nearly empty living room.  No sign of Karen.  Was she still making phone calls?  Good Lord.  That girl had one heckuva contact list.  I glanced into the kitchen and saw a remnant of the catering staff finishing up.  Wiping down the counters.  The evening was wrapping up at last.
Spotting Casey assist a wobbly gentleman down the hall, I waved as I walked to the front door.  “I’ll be back in a minute, Casey.  I want to let Karen know the party’s over.  Time to go home.” 
“Yes, indeed,” Casey said, walking slowly to match the elderly man’s stride.
Lamp light and lanterns cast enough light to illuminate the yard, and I raced down the steps, shivering in the chill spring night as I headed for the gate.  Summer’s heat had yet to come.  My luscious silk jacket felt cold against my skin, and I rubbed my arms while I walked, wishing I’d chosen the new suit for tonight. 
         Reaching the outside sidewalk, I searched the narrow residential street for Karen’s car, but most of the cars looked the same in the dark.  I walked along the sidewalk, peering into the vehicles, expecting to see Karen sitting in her Honda, still negotiating on the cell phone. 
         Albert’s voice startled me from behind. “Are you looking for your niece, Molly?”
         I jumped around.  There was Albert, escorting a middle-aged couple to their car.  “Yes, I am.  Karen was making phone calls in her car.  Have you seen her?”
         “About an hour ago.  Her car’s a little farther down, Molly,” Albert said as he assisted the woman into the passenger seat.
         I kept walking and peering into the darkened cars.  Georgetown streets were tree-lined and shady.  Great during the day, but dark during the night.  Tall streetlamps cast shadows as well, tricking you into thinking you saw someone in a car when you didn’t. 
         Finally I spotted Karen’s car, and there she was sitting inside.  She must still be talking and negotiating.  Talk about a work ethic.  Just like all of the Graysons.
         I waved at her behind the wheel as I approached.  She didn’t appear to be on the phone.  Excellent.  We could leave now.  “Hey, Karen.  We can finally go home,” I called.  “I’ll be riding with you, since I didn’t drive over here.  Albert brought me.”
         For some reason she didn’t answer, so I leaned over and knocked on the window to get her attention.  She was looking straight ahead. 
         “Karen, did you hear me?  We can---”
         That’s when I saw it.  The blood.  Blood on her face.  On her hair.  On her clothes.  I stared at the blood.  At Karen.  Sitting so still, looking out the windshield.  I blinked.  The night shadows were still playing tricks on me.  That couldn’t be blood. . . .  

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