Male Revues and Subterfuge
The Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries #4
by Heather Weidner
Genre: Mystery, P.I. Female Sleuth
Delanie Fitzgerald picked up her iced coffee from the counter at Sacred Grounds, an eclectic hangout for students and creative types near Monroe Park and the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. She found a lemon-yellow straight back chair at a homey table in the corner and settled in to wait. Brightly colored paintings of cows and hedgehogs dotted the lime green walls. She chose the chair that faced the door and large glass windows. Setting her purse on the table next to her, she wiggled out of her coat, located her phone, and pretended to be engrossed.
Half-way through her drink, a gangly millennial opened the front door and glanced around. Delanie pushed the button that activated the hidden camera in her purse. He ambled over and dropped a black messenger bag in the lavender chair across from her. “Hi, Kelly. It’s good to finally see you in person. I’ll be right back.”
Delanie nodded, acknowledging the name she had given him online, and returned to her phone while he ordered. She glanced at a local news alert. Another creepy doll had been found in the Richmond metro area. That is the fifth or sixth one in two weeks. Odd, child-sized dolls in a variety of costumes, had been spotted at intersections and area businesses. Half the town was curious to find the perpetrator, and the other half seemed to be spooked.
She looked up as the man approached again. Turning on her best smile, she pocketed her phone. “Hi, Donnie. It’s nice to finally meet you, too.”
“Yeah.” He pulled out the aqua chair and sat down. “I feel like we’re old friends. We’ve talked for days online. I feel a connection. We’re on the same page with our dreams and goals and stuff.”
Delanie smiled again. “I’ve enjoyed our chats. So, what news do you have for me?”
He blew on his coffee. “I’ve thought this over. I’m in. I’m not happy with where my job is going. When I joined, it was a startup company with a mission to make a difference. Kip, the owner, had all these lofty plans of doing pro bono work and donating large amounts of the profits from the regular work to social groups. He got us all hyped up about being the change. We didn’t mind giving up our lives and working round the clock for a cause. Tons of dollars later that hasn’t happened.” He took another sip of his drink and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “And now there are rumors that he’s looking to sell the company and retire early. He’s going to pocket bazillions and trade us all like commodities. That’s not what I signed up for. I gave my blood, sweat, and tears to this, and all I got were broken promises.” He had a lost-puppy look in his eyes as he stared at her across the table.
“I think our relationship can be mutually beneficial. And I hope it helps you find your center again.” Delanie flipped her long, red curls over her shoulder and flashed a toothy smile.
Donnie leaned forward and pulled something out of his pocket. “Here. This should give you enough to start with. You’ll get more after I receive payment.” He pushed a black thumb drive across the table.
Delanie picked it up and waved it around in the air in front of her purse. “It’s amazing that something so tiny can hold something so important. This will be extremely helpful to my client.”
He snatched the thumb drive from her grasp. “I’m not doing this for the money,” he whispered. “It’s my way of righting the wrongs of corporate America. But the money will provide me a cushion when the job comes to an end. Maybe with your help, I can strike out on my own and do consulting work. You can have this when the funds reach my account.”
“I’d like for us to work together again.” Delanie licked her lips. “I’ll make sure the bitcoin is transferred to the account you gave me. You should have confirmation this afternoon. Let me know and then we’ll talk about some future work. But I kinda need that now, or you’re going to have to meet me this afternoon to do a handoff.”
Donnie’s gaze darted around the room. “I guess I can trust you. We’re friends, right?” He dropped the thumb drive on the table and picked up his bag and coffee. “Okay. I’ll be watching for my money. I’ll text you when it lands. I have to get back to work.”
“Thanks,” Delanie replied. “I’ll let my client know immediately. He’ll be pleased to get this.”
Donnie nodded and rose. “I’m available and interested. I am the change.” He pumped his fist in the air as he walked out.
Delanie turned off her camera and texted her client about the encounter. The video and thumb drive were enough to confirm Kip Thornhill’s suspicions that one of his employees was stealing his corporate data.
Male Revues and Subterfuge is Heather Weidner’s fourth novel in the Delanie Fitzgerald series. Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Murder by the Glass, and Deadly Southern Charm. Heather also writes the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries and the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries (2023).
She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Sisters in Crime Chessie, Guppies, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
Through the years, she has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.
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