Monday, September 30, 2013

Excerpt from The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied-Meeting the Cartwright's

Here's an excerpt from Book 2 in our series, The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied. In this snippet, our psychic detectives Aiden and Danielle meet with the grieving family of Jason Cartwright. Enjoy!

The JTC Technology Corporation campus occupied several hundred acres of San Jose real estate. The driver dropped Aiden and Danny off in front of the company's headquarters. For a few seconds they stood gaping at the sharp inclines and daring angles of the building's structural design which looked like some futuristic spacecraft from a science fiction movie. Security officers awaited them as they stepped into the expansive five-story complex. After signing the two of them in, giving them guest badges, and taking Danny's laptop out of her messenger bag and giving it a once over before giving it back to her, they were allowed to pass into the lobby.

Stepping into the headquarters was like entering a time machine into the future. The building's interior consisted of polished chrome, black marble and mirrored glass. Twin, glass enclosed elevators were located in the middle of the first floor, while a staircase that looked more like a glass art sculpture offered access to all levels of the building. The sun was nearly blinding, reflecting off the polished tile floor of the lobby. Since it was around lunch time, the atrium was hectic with activity. Mixed among the mundane sea of neutral office attire were what Danny assumed were the more relaxed creative geniuses in their brightly-colored classic cartoon and superhero T-shirts.

A man, no older than thirty of Asian descent was standing in the lobby near a large bronze sculpture of a hand holding a globe. His thin body was pretty much built like a stick figure, his polo shirt and khakis a couple sizes too large, hanging off his lanky frame. The smile he greeted Danny and Aiden with was as inviting as a bathtub full of ice cubes.

“I'm Carter Wu, lead software developer for JTC Technology. Welcome.” He said boringly as if they were stopping him from doing more important work. “If you come with me, I'll give you a tour of the facility.”
“I thought we were supposed to meet with the Cartwright’s?” Aiden spoke up as they started to follow.

Carter sighed and rolled his eyes, his tone of voice condescending. “Unfortunately, their board meeting is running a little late. By the time our tour is over they should be ready for you.”

Carter didn't sound very enthused to be doing what some would consider babysitting. With as much heart as an automaton, he gave them the abridged history of JTC Technology.

The company started in Boston, where Jason Cartwright a technological prodigy, was attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT at the age of fifteen. He had programmed his first computer operating system at the age of sixteen. That same year, with his parents insistence he had started JTC Technology out of the family's garage.

Eight years later JTC was a highly successful Fortune 500 company. Though they were successful in the private sector with their computer programs and consumer gadgets, the bulk of the company's profits came from their contracts with the United States Defense Department. JTC did everything from create simulators where military recruits could enact crucial combat situations to supply electronics military personnel used on the battlefield.

They were given a full tour of the grounds, which included the Research and Development building located east of the main complex and the programming wing where computer programs were born. With the tour completed, Carter took them to the fifth floor of the headquarters where the board meeting was just ending. Sullen-faced board members were filing out as they approached

“Your guests, sir.” Carter snidely announced to Tim Cartwright, CEO and the victim’s father. “Would you be requiring anything else?”

Tim seemed to narrow his eyes on Carter as if silently reprimanding him and his unpleasant attitude. “It's alright, Carter, we can take it from here.”

Dismissing the software developer,Tim took Danny's hand in his own and kissed it. Aiden glared. He didn't approve at all! Jealousy reared its head in him, and all he could do was to keep glowering at the man. Tim Cartwright failed to notice. 

Tim smiled widely showing off a set of teeth worthy of a tooth paste commercial. He was rakishly handsome, the type of man who only looked better with age. He was a few inches shorter than Aiden. His height and wide-shouldered build hinted at a previous athletic career, evident in his stance and the graceful way he moved. His dark hair was surrendering to gray with strands of silver mixed throughout.

He led them into the conference room where Barbara, or Barbie as she liked to be called, was waiting. She and Tim looked to have coordinated their attire, both of them dressed in black power suits. With the shake-up at the company and with their son the brainchild missing and presumed dead, Danny assumed they were trying to keep up a united front for the stockholders.

“Thank you so much for coming.” Barbie welcomed them, offering them a seat at the oblong mahogany table. She took a seat at the table's head with Tim to her right. Introductions were made all around with the Cartwright’s insisting on being addressed by their first names. Danny and Aiden also offered their condolences.

“Do you have a picture of Jason?” Danny asked.

Reaching into his jacket pocket, Tim produced a picture of his son and slid it across the table to Danny. Jason smiled back in the photo which apparently was taken on his graduation day from MIT since he was wearing his cap and gown. He was a good looking kid, a scrawny carbon copy of his father.

“Is it OK if I keep it?” She asked.

“Of course you can.” Barbie said with a nod.

“We really hope you can help us.” Tim's jovial expression had softened, his hands clasped in front of him. He looked to be on the verge of tears, worry lines creasing his brow.

“We'll try our best, Tim.” Danny sincerely offered.

“You two come highly recommended. What is your experience with cases such as this?” Barbie asked.

“Well I worked with both the New Orleans and the New York Police Department along with my brief experience with the FBI as a consultant. I also worked as a contractor with the Federal Government solving cold cases.” Danny said, offering her references.

“I served with the Marines for three tours in Afghanistan. After that I worked with the FBI for two years in their Criminal Investigation Division.” Aiden informed them.

“You were the one with Cassie when she was kidnapped by Gerard right? Weren't you his fiancĂ©e?” Barbie asked Danny. Upon hearing Gerard's name, she took a deep breath to answer, but Aiden spoke up before she could get a word out.

“Yes, she was, and I was the agent that rescued them.”

“Well then it looks like we're in good hands.” Tim observed, nodding to his wife. “Hopefully you can help us track down that woman our son was fool enough to marry.”

Danny looked confused. “I thought we were also trying to locate your son? He's still missing isn't he?”

Frowning, Barbie waved her hand indifferently. “At this point it's more of a recovery operation than a rescue. The authorities were only able to recover two bodies from the yacht's wreckage. They say we may never find Jason's body.”

“You try to protect your kids, but sometimes they just won't listen.” Tim hid his reddened eyes with the palm of his hand and started bawling. Supportively, his wife clenched his other hand.

Vengeance blazed in Barbie's eyes. “Whatever it costs to find that murderous bitch, we'll pay it. We'll give you access to our private jet, and we'll provide you a company credit card to cover any expenses you may incur. Whatever you need, name it and it will be provided to you.”

Danny and Aiden considered the offer to be quite generous, and they were able to come to agreeable terms with the Cartwright’s as far as their fee for their investigative services.

Curiosity got the best of Barbie. “Tell me, you two are working together, but are you lovers as well?”

Danny gave a sharp intake of air, the sound similar to someone suddenly letting the air out of a balloon. “What?”

Aiden stepped in for her, his tone stern and reproachful. “With all due respect, whatever our relationship is, it's between us. Danielle and I have worked well together in the past, and it will in no way affect how we work on finding your daughter-in-law.” Just because they were rich and paying for their services didn't give them the right to pry into their personal lives.
Barbie apologized profusely. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend or be so forward. Since that business with Gerard and hearing that you were her rescuer, well there just seems to be a certain kind of chemistry between the two of you.”

“Please don't mention that monster's name again. It's over and in the past now.” Aiden said.

“Please accept our apologies. I can see that would be a very horrible memory. We didn't mean any harm, right honey?” Barbie nodded in agreement with Tim's statement.

“Apology accepted, Now if we can get down to business let's just focus on finding your daughter-in-law.” Danny changed the subject and opened her laptop ready to take notes. “What can you tell me about her?”

“She's a gold digging, white trash bitch. How's that for a start?” Barbie spat venomously.

“Ah OK, let's start with where did she and Jason meet?” Aiden clarified the questioning.

Barbie turned to Tim, and he shrugged. “I think they met when she was still married to Jason's friend. What was his name?” Tim snapped his fingers repeatedly as if it would help him remember. “What was his name…Winston? Eric Winston. I know for a fact Eric met her at a strip club where she was performing.”

Danny and Aiden exchanged a look. They weren't privy to that particular nugget of information.

“She was a stripper?” Aiden asked.

Tim nodded grimly.

“She killed him, you know. Shot that poor boy to death and left him in the woods. The animals had devoured him before his body was found.” Barbie informed them, snatching a handful of tissue from a nearby box and blowing her nose. “My poor son. We don't even have a body to bury. I swear she's going to pay for what she did.”

“I'm so sorry for your loss.” Danny offered, patting Barbie's hand.

Barbie sniffled and dabbed at her eyes. “It's OK darling.”

Tim had since composed himself. “She killed the Winston kid on their honeymoon. Good kid that he was. Jason felt sorry for her and offered to pay for Amanda's legal defense. The prosecutors didn't have enough to bring her to trial so they dropped the case. Next thing I know Jason is hanging around with this girl, and last week we find out they've eloped.”

“Eric didn't put her in the will as his beneficiary so his family contested her inheriting his millions. She didn't follow through with the legal battle because she got her hooks in another rich victim; my son.” Barbie said.

“I think the wise thing to do is start where it all began and track her from there.” Danny said to Aiden. “It's only been a few days. She hasn't gone that far.”

He nodded, turning to the Cartwright’s. “You said they eloped to Hawaii?”

“Yes. They were secretly married two days before the boat explosion.” Tim said.

“Jason and the girl used our private villa in Hawaii before the explosion. The police weren’t able to find any leads there and have given it the all clear. You two are welcome to use it. I'll have it prepared for your arrival.” Barbie said, taking her smart phone and rapidly sending a text message.

“That's fine. It may take a day or two, though” Aiden agreed. “We need to get back to Georgia, touch base with our government contacts and go from there.

After another twenty-five minutes of ironing out the details and arrangements, both of them caught the waiting Town car back to the hotel. 

Haters in Disguise

"Yeah, I've got this new project I'm working on that I'm really excited about." I say, not able to hide my huge grin.

"Oh really? What's that?" My friend narrows her eyes and takes a sip of her coffee.

I proceed to tell her all about my new endeavor as an indie author. I watch as her expression goes from curious to something akin to amusement. After I finish my story she pummels me with questions about what I'm working on, all of them with a negative slant. After her interrogation she redirects the conversation to focus on this magical project she's working on, which she never mentioned until I mentioned mine. Of course her project is way better than mine in every way possible. In the mean time I'm seriously starting to second guess myself. After we part ways self doubt is nagging at me and I'm starting to question my project.

If you're doing anything outside the box, I'm sure you're run into people like that, sometimes even in your inner circle. They humor you, sometimes giving you a pat on the head and a Scooby Snack. They think you're so cute with your delusions of grandeur and dreams of success. As they're talking, you feel your enthusiasm for your project begin to wane. You trust these people since they're supposedly your friend and they only have your best interests at heart. They wouldn't steer you wrong would they?  Don't fall for it.

Recognize them for what they are; a hater in disguise. Because they're wearing a friendly face, it's hard to identify these creatures for what they really are. Your friend couldn't possibly be a hater, could they? Oh they may be polite and nice about it, claiming to just be looking out for you, they are your friend after all. The fact still remains that they want to stop you in your tracks. Sometimes it may be just outright jealousy that you're on a path to pursue your dreams and they're stuck in the same rut. It may that they hate change and want to keep you confined to the safe little box. They may be afraid that with your new project you won't have the same time available to devote to your friendship. Whatever the case may be, as long as you're not doing anything illegal or that can hurt you or someone else, don't let these human roadblocks stand in your way.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It Ain't Easy

If you talk to anyone who blazed a new trail or started their own business, they'll tell you how hard they had to work to get it off the ground. They can tell you stories about the nights where they got little sleep or the ulcers they got while working to make their dream a reality.  Having your own business is certainly not for the lazy or the faint of heart. Doing your own thing is hard.

My writing buddy and I have been on this journey for over a year; starting working on our first novel June of 2012, since that time we've released two projects with a third being edited right now and the fourth currently being written with a script for Amazon Studios also in the works. Not too soon after we started our endeavor, we discovered that the writing is the easy part.

One can not simply put their book on Amazon and wish it to sell, you've gotta hustle. Along with our day jobs, we have to write, and find time in our schedules to tweet, network, and blog. There are never enough hours in the day and any time you spend with trivial things can be time better spent building our brand.

Like crumbs to a starving person, we get our little signs that we're headed in the right direction. Maybe while out in about we'll see the exact make, model, and color car one of our character drives or maybe we'll one across someone with the same name living in the same location that our characters are from. Or happen to be driving behind someone with a vanity plate that says 'Author'. We don't see these as coincidences, but as mile markers on our journey.

The challenges one faces while working their dreams are there to weed out the weak from the strong. Nobody ever said pursuing your dream would be easy; ask the people who've been through it.  If you keep your eyes on the prize than it will be yours. One day this will all pay off, until then we'll just keep blogging, networking, and tweeting.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Leave Me Out of That Drama!

"Yeah, I don't know why she stopped talking to me all of a sudden. Now every time I walk past she rolls her eyes and turns her back."
"Oh, I don't know anything about that. She didn't say anything to me."

I nod my head understandingly, lying through my teeth the entire time. You see I know exactly why Ms. G has a beef with Ms. V, but I'm not opening my big mouth.

I learned early on in my career to stay out of drama. My very first job was a store where 98% of the employees were women. I don't know what it is about women, but if you get too many in the same place at the same time there's bound to be some issues. Somebody doesn't like somebody else and this woman is talking behind the back of this woman. It doesn't make sense because you can get two guys who have a knock out, drag out, punching match and by the end of the night they're having beers and watching the football game. What is it about women that we can't get along?

There's a feud going on with the women in my department. You see, last week, Ms. G overheard Ms. J talking about her with Ms. K. Feeling outraged, Ms. G told off Ms. J, who proceeded to call Ms. K on her off day and tell her what happened. Now both Ms. K and Ms. J are totally ignoring Ms. G who could care less. Now Ms. G went to our supervisor with an account that Ms. V was supposed to be working on, but she messed it up. Now our supervisor has warned Ms. V that Ms. G is sharpening her axe behind her back.

I don't know if everybody is PMS-ing at the same time or what. All I know is that we had a weekly lottery pool going then all of a sudden I get a text from Ms. G that she wasn't participating anymore. I asked some stupid questions about what was going on and found myself in the center of a possible cat fight.

Now I'm in the awkward position of being approached by the women who are feuding who want to rest their troubles on my shoulders. I'm the type to get along with everybody, so I'm still talking and interacting with these women, despite the visible friction. I make a point of not saying anything negative about the other parties involved, instead I offer neutral words of support, mindful of not committing to any side in this arms race. Like my mother says; A dog that brings a bone will carry a bone. In other words if they bring you info on someone, they'll take what you say to the other party. I don't want anyone saying that I said anything about any body so I took myself out of the equation.

As women, we have a lot of issues to deal with, which makes it even sadder that we can't stick together. Hopefully the cooler fall temperatures will chill the tempers in my department and things will go back to normal. Whatever these women decide to do about their situation, I know one thing is true; I'm staying my behind out of all that drama.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Extremes of Fitting In

This week on The Talk, co-host Julia Chen confessed that she gave in to pressure from her boss and a potential agent to have surgery that would make her eyes less Chinese and more Caucasian. They felt that the eyes she was born with were not expressive enough for an anchor's position. The plastic surgery seemed to work for her because she excelled in her career and her co-hosts applauded her for doing the right thing. So when is it okay to change who you are to please other people?

If my boss tells me I look too black, my nose is too big, or my hair is too nappy to make it in the workplace, where do I draw the line? Do I succumb to racist peer pressure for the sake of a job? We're talking more than not dressing business professional, we're talking about the features a person was born with. My dad's eyes, my mom's smile, the light spots on my legs I got from my grandmother, the moles that were passed down from my maternal great grandmother's native American side, all these things make me who I am. It makes me unique. Is changing my outside appearance even worth it.

What about kids who are bullied? I've seen stories where parents who have a kid who's being teased takes their child for cosmetic surgery to correct the 'problem'. What lesson is that teaching? Yes, they're right, there is something wrong with you, let's fix it. What does that do to a person's self esteem? Why not give kids the ammunition to get past bullying?

Is it okay now to let other people's opinions affect what we see when we look in the mirror? Do I really want to disfigure myself because my looks offend some jerk who really needs a trip to Human Resources? What about the thirteen year old girl who gets a boob job so the kids can stop teasing her about her flat chest?

Is a job or fitting in even worth that much trouble? If I have to make all these changes to fit in, maybe it's not a place where I really want to be.

Life is tough, we all know that. There will be bumps, bruises, and roadblocks along the way.  How nice is it to face all those challenges and still be intact when we reach the finish line?  True, Ms. Chen got her dream job, but is the victory still sweet when she looks into the mirror and sees a totally different person staring back at her? How does it feel to reach your goal, knowing you took the easy route?