A Body on the Hill (A Mitch O’Reilly Mystery #2)
I paced from the entrance to the office to the side of his desk. He kept looking over like he was distracted, but never said anything. Each time I walked, I’d go a little farther past his desk and a little closer to the exit door, so I could unlock it.
I broke the silence. “Do you mind if we talk while you work?”
“As long as it’s not too distracting. It’s not more about your investigation, is it? I don’t know how much more I can tell.”
“This is about Rachel Roundtree.”
He swiveled his chair toward me and crossed his arms. “I know Rachel very well.”
“Yes, every six months to a year she performs here. I make out her checks and hand them to Luna to give to her. In other words, I know how to spell her name and that’s it.”
“You’ve never met her at all?”
“How about Zach Pickering? What do you know about him?”
He dropped the pen in his hand on to the desk. “The answer to that is even more of a nothing. I don’t know anyone with the name Zach, or with the last name Pickering. I don’t think I can help you further, do you?”
It was at that moment my opportunity arose. Wesley stretched out his arms to crack his knuckles, knocking his inbox to the floor in front of his desk.
I asked, “Do you need a little help?”
“No, thanks. Everything goes in a specific order.”
While Wesley fumbled with his paperwork on one side of his desk, I cautiously backed up on the other side until I reached the exit door. I stepped forward when he was half standing, but papers slipped out of his hands and back to the floor.
This time I wasn’t so hesitant. I looked around and turned the tiny lock on the doorknob. A glance over my shoulder showed me he was still scrambling on the floor, giving me enough time to unlock the deadbolt. I slid back beside his desk just as he stood again.
“What a day this has been,” he said.
“Maybe it’d be good for you to relax at home.”
“You know what?” He smiled and smacked his hand on the desk. “I think you’re right. It is time for me to go.” His cell phone rang.
“Hello? Yes, it’s Wesley…I don’t need to come up there. It’s not my responsibility… …No, Luna is not here…No…No, I will not come up there…No…No, I will not…I’ll be right there.”
“Trouble?” I asked.
“It sounds like an employee, or likely a guest, got their hands into one of our tills upstairs and the supervisor is out of his mind. Says he doesn’t want to go to jail for the missing money.”
“It’s rare, but no time to talk. I need to get up there.” He grabbed my elbow. “Why don’t I notify the bartender that you’re waiting for Luna, and you can have a couple of drinks on the house. How about we leave a voicemail for her to find you there?”
Wesley left Luna the message and escorted me through the restaurant to the front lobby. Josie jumped from her seat and followed several paces behind. When we reached the seating station, the young woman who chastised me earlier spoke up.”
“Wesley, this man—”
“I’m in a rush, Anna, would you please escort Mr. O’Reilly to the lounge and set him up with some drinks.”
“You know who he is?”
“Of course, I do. Please tell the bartender the drinks are on Luna.” He trotted up the stairs to the club.
“Goodnight, Wesley,” I said.
“Follow me, sir,” the attendant said. “I’ll talk with the bartender.”
“One moment, please, miss. I need to have a discussion with my cohort.”
She backed away, grabbed some menus, and escorted a family of five to a table near the front window.
“I’m going outside, Josie. I need you to stay back and ensure Wesley does not get into his office before I get out.”
“How are you getting in there. He locked it.”
“No worries, I can get in from outside.”
“How do you expect me to stop him if he comes back?”
“I don’t know. Anything. Tell him you want to apply for a job. He’ll tell you he’s too busy, and you’ll need to demand the right. Be crazy. You know, act normal.”
“Not funny, Lil’ Bro.”
I told the woman at the front desk that I was leaving for a while, but Josie was staying behind to wait for Luna. I exited the building and strolled around to the small alley between the club and the bank building next door. As expected, the door opened with no hesitation when I turned the knob.
Wesley’s mad rush out of the office left a nice unprotected computer for me to get my hands on. My biggest concern was that a lock screen would have been timed to close before I got there, but apparently, he didn’t have one on. I threw my finger down on the space bar the instant I hit the room just to be on the safe side.
Having no idea what I was looking for, I put in my thumb drive and dragged every spreadsheet I saw into it. Wages, invoices, profits and losses, tips, and more.
As I waited for a file called Inventory 2, Wesley started clamoring in the hall outside the office.
“Young lady, I told you, I do not take applications. The people at the front counter will be happy to help you. Now let go of my arm.”
I dove behind a file cabinet when I heard a key going into the lock.
“Oh, Wesley, please don’t be so mean to me,” Josie cooed.
“Excuse me? Who are you?”
The file completed downloading, so I dragged the next one into the thumb drive.
“You don’t recognize me, Wesley? I’m so hurt.”
“I’ve never seen you before.”
“I sure have seen you. I see you a lot.”
“What on earth do you mean?” Wesley was flustered.
“I sit right over there, at that dining table several times a week, so I can watch you come and go.”
“Are you a mad woman?”
“I don’t know about mad, but I’m crazy. Crazy for you.”
There was a loud thud against the door. I believe it was Wesley’s back being pushed against it.
“Dear God. Is this your insane way of finding a job?”
“It’s you that I want to give a job, but not the kind that has you waiting tables.”
I clenched a hand across my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Fear and hysteria were battling inside my head. Josie was doing a great job of stalling the man, but she was going to get me caught if I couldn’t hold back from cracking up. There was another bang against the door. It was softer this time.
Wesley said, “Move away from that door before I call security. I’m giving you ten seconds.”
“Don’t you find me attractive?” Josie wept.
“Oh, for the love of God! I think you’re a lovely young woman, but I’m a married man.”
“Yes, very happy.” His voice had gotten more tense and stern.
“I’m happy that you’re happy, but I have no doubt I can make you happier.”
“I’ve had enough of you. I’m calling security. You need to be in an institution.”
There was a smack followed by a crack.
“Look what you did to my cell phone?”
“I didn’t mean for you to drop it.”
“What on earth do you mean? You slapped it right out of my hand.”
“Janet,” Wesley called out. “Would you call security immediately.” His voice quivered with a mix of fear and anger. “Now you’ve done it. Security will be here any second.”
“I’m giving up, Wesley! It’s obvious you’re unable to love me the way I love you.”
The sound of Wesley hitting the door happened again. “Let go of my shirt. What are you doing?”
“I want a kiss goodbye, but I know you won’t give it to me,” Josie sobbed. “I guess I should go.”
“That would be a good idea. Let me escort you out.”
“You’re going with me?”
“Right out the front door.”
While they walked away, I took the chance to download at least one more file. I wanted to ensure I got as many as I could to Harold. Once it completed downloading, I locked the deadbolt and doorknob, and cautiously stepped into the hall. I locked the office door behind me as Wesley came around the corner.
“What are you doing here? You were going to wait in the bar for Luna to get back.”
“I was, but I need to get going. I was just going to leave her a note.”
“I need to get out of here. Call and leave her a voicemail or send her a text.”
“Good idea. I’ll try that.”
Wesley unlocked his door and stomped into his office.
“Good night, Mitch.” He slammed the door.
“Good night, Wesley,” I said under my breath as I walked to the lobby.
I forwarded the files to Harold that night.
PI Mitch O’Reilly is hired by big-time Hollywood director T.J. Mooney to follow his son Austin who is starting an acting career without riding the coattails of his powerful father. T.J. isn’t happy his beloved son has changed his last name and chooses to live in a sketchy apartment and not the family mansion in Bel Air.
To Mitch, it’s another routine stakeout until Austin’s body is found on the hill below the Hollywood Sign. Was the body left there to send a message? If so, deciphering that message could lead Mitch to solving the crime.
After growing up in Michigan and North Carolina, I crisscrossed the country while working in the hotel industry. In addition to working in hotels as a bellman, front desk clerk, and reservation call center director, I managed coffee houses, waited tables, sold potato chips off a truck, and even hawked pre-burial funeral plans.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak developed my first interests in art and storytelling. I’d spend hours on the floor sketching and painting and writing stories.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George gave me my first inklings that I’d like to be a novelist someday. Authors Lawrence Block, Sue Grafton, Gregory Mcdonald and Robet B. Parker, influenced my love of mystery.
I was delighted when I discovered the gay mystery subgenre and the list of writers who inspired me to follow this more comfortable direction are too numerous to mention.
Though my interest in writing began at an early age, entering the hotel business soon after graduation steered me in a different direction. The secretary, the big office and a prestigious title were great for the ego but weren’t all that fulfilling.
As a grownup I was thinking of what I wanted to do when I became a bigger grownup and the answer was obvious. My fingertips have been on the keyboard ever since.
I’m a proud dad, beach bum, and coffee house squatter.
I currently live in the Los Angeles South Bay with my husband, Maurice.
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