by Lisa Towles
Genre: Political Action Thriller
Brock “BJ” Janoff and his older brother Jonas run a private investigation firm in Venice, CA. BJ is randomly approached by a stranger on the street with a proposition he can’t refuse – one million dollars to deliver a single envelope to a hotel lobby. They pay him up front, which sounds good on the surface, but now BJ’s life is in danger if he doesn’t deliver the envelope in time. Obsessed with the envelope’s contents and the “why me”, BJ follows clues to investigate the players behind what he believes is an organized crime scam. When an act of brilliance changes the balance of power, the safety of everyone he loves is in jeopardy. And the more he digs, the closer he gets to truths he can’t bear to face – about the elusive Bilderberg Group, his missing father, and about the fate of everyone he loves.
**Releases November 30th!!**
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What would you do if someone offered you a million dollars to bring an envelope to the reception desk of a luxury hotel? That’s it. Sure, a no-brainer. A relatively inconsequential risk, easy money, right? Trouble is, anything involving a million dollars might not be what it seems.
So many questions. Namely why me, BJ Janoff, should be offered this seemingly innocuous task. There were no answers available, no consultants waiting with details or clarifications. One million dollars in cash to perform this social experiment. Right now. Yes or no?
I know what my older brother Jonas would do. He’d say no because of the multitude of potential hazards his paranoid mind would concoct, keeping him tied to the past, still wearing the same ugly khakis from ten years ago, stuck in the protective bubble of his big house in Ladera Heights and his geriatric Mercedes. So, of course I didn’t tell him. Yet.
Then there was Lacy Diaz, the girl-next-door-turned-lawyer, who drives a car flashy enough to get a speeding ticket if she goes over fifty on the freeway. “Hell, yeah, I’d take it,” she said, with about a hundred caveats. What do you expect; she’s a lawyer. “Wear rubber gloves,” she said. “Ask to see the contents of the envelope first. If it’s money, fan it out so you can see the bill denominations. Take photos of the payor.”
“Photos of the payor?” I laughed and closed my eyes, a response Lacy inspired by pretty much everything she did. “Excuse me sir, would you mind if
“I’m just trying to protect you from potential—”
“Potential. Now you sound like Jonas. His whole world is so much potential there’s no room for now.”
“He’s your brother. You can’t choose your family so get over it.” So be it.
A million dollars? Hell yeah, of course I said yes, I’m not stupid. Luckily, the task was intended for not only the most beautiful hotel in LA but the one I went to almost every morning. Sure, the cappuccinos were okay at the Peets counter, but the staff was even more noteworthy.
“Good morning,” I said, loping up to the counter. “Is it?”
“Pretty sure.” I didn’t let my eyes fall below Raquel’s neck, given her choice of a low-cut blouse.
I watched the Westin Bonaventure Hotel staff moving wordlessly through their tasks today. A keen observer of human behavior, I knew something was going down when Mario the bellhop pushed an empty cart past me and lowered his eyes to the floor. No banter, humming, rapping, high fiving me. No smile.
“Hey?” I called after him. “What am I, invisible?”
Alena, who managed the daytime housekeeping staff, hurried after him toward the elevators. Her face looked like she’d been crying all morning. No makeup and she was buttoning her uniform top while she walked. Maybe I’m paranoid.
Raquel was moving slowly and clearly not interested in talking. So I took three steps to the left to get a view of the reception desk. The typical chorus line of coiffed, perky concierges today included a confused, twenty-year-old in a wrinkled t-shirt. Something, no doubt related to the FedEx envelope I’d tucked into the back of my pants, was afoot. Out of coffee sleeves, I burned my fingers on Raquel’s cappuccino and hunkered low on a lobby sofa watching and sipping. A cadre of men in identical black suits marched to the reception desk. Here we go. I calculated my distance to be roughly fifty feet from the polished, walnut counter, maybe forty-five. Lucky for me, the acoustics in here rivaled the Guggenheim and I could hear everything. One suited man in front, nine underlings huddled behind awaiting instructions. I heard the word envelope posed as a question. The misplaced pothead behind the counter looked like he might start crying any moment. He gazed through the suits into the cavernous lobby space. Don’t look at me, buddy, I don’t exist right now. I took three more sips of
coffee then back to my morning theater.
My phone buzzed with an incoming call. Jonas, who I suppose qualified as my business partner even though I wasn’t paid an equal salary, and there was no legal agreement in place that formalized our working arrangement.
“Hey, bro,” I whispered.
“Hey, bro?” Repeating was one of his annoying traits. He had so many. “What?”
“Where the fuck are you?”
“On a job,” I lied. “Where are you?” I laughed inside, knowing this would unglue him. He hated the idea of my taking side jobs because he felt I was
unqualified to be a private investigator. When our partner Archie Dax was still around, we used to laugh about this. He and I were so similar. He understood me almost better than anyone. I’d only had my investigator’s license for less than a year when he died, but he never thought that mattered. Said I had the right head for PI work. Aww, Arch. My world’s not the same without you.
“Job? What job?”
Poor Jonas. I still hadn’t told him.
“Okay look, we’ve got the Bergman family coming in at nine tomorrow morning and I need the…” He exhaled long and hard, specifically to relay his frustration and inspire guilt. That ploy never worked with me.
“What, Jonas—WiFi? Maybe you’ve heard of something called the internet.
Yes, I know, and we’re good.” “Router! Router. That’s it.”
Lord. “It’s not the router, it’s the modem speed and the unit will be upgraded within the hour. We’re fine. Just let them in when they arrive.”
“Are you crying?” I asked. “Pacing? Take your pill, Jonas.” “Fuck off. Say hi to Raquel for me.”
I hung up and the phone rang again. “Dude, what?”
“And please don’t wear your stupid backwards baseball hat. Please? I beg you. The Bergmans have money, a lot of it. We need that right now.”
“Okay Jonas, no hat. Happy now?” “We’ll see.”
Okay, so about the Bergmans. Jonas had been talking with them, Sten and Estelle, for the past two days about their vanished eighteen-year-old daughter, Anastasia, heir to their multi-billion-dollar estate, and how her net worth made her an especially enticing ransom target to what they described as “the underworld”. LA’s not utopia but not sure I’d call it an underworld.
Just two more errands today. First, I put a five-dollar bill in Raquel’s tip vase even though she didn’t see me. She still deserved it for being open at 6 a.m. and for looking so goddamn beautiful first thing in the morning. Then I held a small, black plastic ball in my hands and set it on a side table with a perfect view of the hotel’s reception area. The table was on the other side of the seating area so that meant roughly thirty feet from the front desk. The plastic ball, a nanny cam designed to look like an air filter, was partially concealed by the fat leaves on a fake rubber tree plant. Unless someone moved that plant, or the filter for that matter, I’d be able to see the front desk of the Bonaventure Hotel for the next twenty-four hours via an iPhone app, which I suspect would be time enough to see why someone would pay a stranger a million bucks to deliver a stupid envelope.
Lisa Towles is an award-winning crime novelist and a passionate speaker on the topics of fiction writing, creativity, and Strategic Self Care. Lisa has eight crime novels in print, including Hot House, Ninety-Five, The Unseen, Choke, and under the name Lisa Polisar Escape, The Ghost of Mary Prairie, Blackwater Tango, and Knee Deep. Her next title, Salt Island, is the second book in her E&A thriller series and will be forthcoming in late 2022. Her thriller, Ninety-Five, was released in November 2021 and won a Literary Titan Award for Fiction. Her 2019 thriller, The Unseen, was the Winner of the 2020 NYC Big Book Award in Crime Fiction, and a Finalist in the Thriller category of the Best Book Awards by American Book Fest. Her 2017 thriller, Choke, won a 2017 IPA Award and a 2018 NYC Big Book Award for Thriller. Lisa is an active member and frequent panelist/speaker of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She has an MBA in IT Management and works fulltime in the tech industry in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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