Excerpt // Caught Up In It by David Burnsworth
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mid-July, Saturday late night
Blu Carraway, Private Investigator and sometimes, like at present, private security consultant, handed off his client to her boyfriend’s security team. In truth, there wasn’t an actual handoff. It was more of a formality since Jennifer Kincaid started seeing Mandel, the industrialist’s son. His security team was rivaled only by the Secret Service.
The exclusive club they were in had several levels, each with their own VIP list. Thanks to being a one-percenter and the aforementioned wealthy boyfriend, Ms. Kincaid was at the top of every list which meant Blu was at the top of every list. He parted the strings of beads hanging down as a curtain that was some decorator’s bad idea of kitsch and entered the innermost bar, a darkened room made up of marble, mahogany, gold, and leather— the best of materials.
The only other person in the room was the bartender, a pretty- boy type with short, styled hair, a trimmed beard, a starched white shirt with knife-edge creases, and a nod. He said, “What can I get you, Mr. Carraway?”
It had been a long thirty-six hours. The last batch of Millennials, those currently in their early twenties including his client, apparently did not sleep. Blu had been on the job the whole time along with Mandel’s team. Even with exclusive VIP lists, he did not trust his client’s protection to anyone else while in public places. Blu took a seat at the bar, the soft leather stool offering comfort for his tired glutes. “Black coffee—iced.”
“You got it.” This being the club in the city and Blu being on the list meant he could do pretty much whatever he wanted. Right now he wanted—needed—nicotine. As the bartender set a glass of chilled coffee in front of him, Blu pulled out his vape pen and took a few hits. The coffee and the vapor had been the two things keeping him going but he knew he was set to crash soon.
The bead curtains parted again and C walked in. Twenty-seven years old, shoulder length hair an unnatural shade of orange, various tattoos down her arms, and the prettiest face Blu had seen all evening, C was the reason he was at this particular club. Ms. Kincaid had talked her boyfriend into contracting C for a private show. As the girl whom Rolling Stone called the hottest act of the decade with Grammys and platinum albums, C was in high demand.
Here, this morning, at what Blu felt was the end of a hellacious run, the pop star was alone.
With a loud sigh she took the seat next to him. He was not really a fan of her music, some form of synth pop with a mixture of Arabian and Latin influence. He preferred eighties alternative and punk, but she had talent and a pretty face.
To the bartender, she said, “Get me a Guinness, Jesse.” Blu took another hit on his vape pen, realized he was staring, and stopped.
She said, “I saw you with Jennifer and Mandel. I’m Ariel.” C was her stage name. He shook her offered hand. “Blu.” Jesse the bartender set a pint of dark liquid in front of her with a perfect shamrock in the head.
Raising her glass, she said, “To new friends and quiet bars.” As he clinked her glass of stout with his iced coffee, Blu said, “To the end of a long night and a soft bed with my name on it.”
With a smile, she said, “We’re both on the job, aren’t we?” Something wasn’t right about the scene, and if Blu hadn’t been so exhausted he would have picked up on it sooner.
She was alone. Twenty million albums sold, two Grammys, and no personal security at the moment. She had a unit assigned to her. Blu knew the man in charge of her safety, didn’t like him, but thought he was competent. Except that he didn’t have her covered at the moment. It was not professional and left an opening for something bad to happen to C. With as much subtlety as he could muster, Blu checked to make sure he still had his Glock.
As he did that, a clipped sound came from the other side of the beads just before they parted around a suppressor, the kind screwed on the end of a firearm.
Blu had his Glock out and aimed. To Ariel, he said, “You better follow me.”
She saw the look in his eyes and did not question. Because the entrance covered by the beads faced the right side of the room, and he and Ariel were seated at the front, he had time to take Ariel’s hand and guide her to the other end of the massive wood bar. They ducked.
The suppressed automatic fired twice, bullets ricocheting off the bar’s marble surface.
Blu leaned out from the lower part of the bar, sighted in a figure in a black suit holding the gun, and fired. His Glock barked twice and the figure, a young Asian man, went down.
A second figure, another twentyish male, dove for cover on the other side of the bar.
Blu climbed onto the marble surface to give himself a better sightline.
Jesse the bartender lay on the floor behind the bar, two red holes in his chest. His eyes were open but not seeing anything anymore.
The second figure rose up. Blu saw him first and blew him away.
An alarm sounded from somewhere in the club. Hopping off the bar, Blu asked, “Where’s your security detail?” Ariel, obviously in shock by the blanched color of her already white skin and bloodshot eyes, shook her head. She sat on the floor.
This wasn’t good. “We need to move,” he said. “In case they have friends.”
“Friends?” she asked. “More guys with guns,” Blu said. With an arm around her waist, he lifted her up and guided her to the side door of the club, the one he’d seen on the architect drawings of the building when he’d scouted the place two days ago. He kept his gun pointed where he looked, glancing back periodically to watch their six.
Another alarm started blaring when he kicked the door open but he didn’t care. They needed to get out. Who knew how many of the gunmen there were?
Through the door, they found themselves in a narrow landing with stairs leading up and down from where they stood. Blu closed the door behind them and led her down, his gun pointed directly ahead. No one met them as they descended the stairs.
Blu pulled out his phone and hit redial. The call was answered with, “Yo, you on your way or what?”
“I need a car at the back entrance to the club. Now.”
“What? I thought Goldilocks left with the baby bear?” He didn’t have time for this. “Give me an E.T.A. Now.”
“Yeah, um, hold on.” What the hell? His team had been on point the whole day and a half. An hour off the clock and they fell apart?
The man came back on the line, “We’re on our way. I hope two is enough. Are we coming in hot?”
“Safeties off. Don’t shoot until I say otherwise.”
“E.T.A. ten minutes.”
“Roger.” Blu ended the call. At the bottom of the steps, Blu leaned Ariel against the wall and inched the door open, slipping his pistol out the slight opening as he got a read on the situation.
Two men with submachine guns stood guard facing the street along with a waiting van, its side doors open. They were all dressed like the two he’d capped upstairs–nice dark suits, ties, expensive shoes. He fired twice, taking them both out with single head shots.
The van took off down the street, its open doors swinging shut. Blu kicked the back door to the club fully open and unloaded his clip into the speeding vehicle as it bucked and bounced around a corner. When the magazine was empty, he ejected it and jammed in a full one.
He checked the street which was really an alley, saw no one else around, and slipped back inside the building. Sirens wailed in the distance.
Ariel still leaned against the wall. He put an arm around her and guided her to the exit, slipping the door open as before, training his pistol out first. He didn’t see anyone else around besides the two downed mercenaries with the machine guns.
The walkie talkie app on his phone chirped with, “We’re two blocks away.”
“I’m in the alley on the south side. I’ve got a female with me. Safeties still off. Four unfriendlies down. Maybe more around.”
“Roger that.” Thirty seconds later, a black Mercedes SUV charged around the corner and screeched to a stop in front of them.
The front passenger, a man with a military build, got out holding a submachine gun. He opened the back door.
Blu pushed Ariel inside the truck and dove in after her. The armed passenger jumped back in and the driver accelerated away.
The passenger, the one Blu had called on the phone, a man named Colton, said, “What the hell, Blu? I thought we were clear for the night?”
Blu peered out the back window. “So did I.”
“Who’s th—” Colton looked at Ariel and stopped himself. “You’re C. Jesus, Blu. What the hell is going on?”
“Not sure,” Blu said. “Get us to the compound and we’ll figure it out from there.”
The driver, a man named Brack Pelton who’d recently joined Blu’s team as a wheelman, knew to keep quiet. His skills as a mercenary were many, but they paled in comparison to his driving. He hustled the two-and-a-half-ton SUV through the back streets like an ace. Of course, it helped that the truck was the AMG model with 600 horsepower.
Brack didn’t drink anymore but Blu couldn’t say the same for Colton whose reflexes were not one-hundred-percent at the moment.
While they rode, Blu called the compound to give the new details. He didn’t begin to relax until they’d crossed the Klang River and were almost there. His client’s father, Adam Kincaid, had homes around the world. With his daughter spending more time here since she’d met the prince charming, he’d reinforced the barriers and increased the security detail. Blu had been contracted to make improvements and had complete authority.
Ariel seemed to come out of her shock. She looked over at Blu, then the men up front, and then back at Blu.
He said, “You’re okay. We’re going to Jennifer Kincaid’s house.”
“Can you take me to my hotel?”
“Where’s your security detail?” Blu asked. “I’d feel better handing you over to them.”
Looking down at her lap, she said, “I don’t know. I thought they were at the club.”
Blu said, “There wasn’t anyone left besides you, me, Jesse, and some of the wait staff.”
She looked up. “Jesse? Where is he? Is he okay?”
“Jesse didn’t make it.”
“Huh?” she asked. “They shot him.”
“Oh, God.” With that, she collapsed in her seat again.
The first traces of daybreak peeked out of a halo on the horizon as they arrived. The Kincaid compound was a bungalow in the hills just outside the city. Jennifer had wanted an apartment in town but Blu and her father felt it was safer here. The home sat on the top of a hill overlooking the city.
Pelton circled the fountain and eased to a stop at the entryway of the home.
Colton got out first and opened the rear door. Blu exited and then helped Ariel get out, her tight dress preventing her from too much mobility.
She looked around. “I still don’t know why I can’t go back to my hotel.”
Blu said, “Call Teller. Find out where the h—” He caught himself. “Find out when he can be here to collect you.”
Jack Teller was supposed to be her head of security. While Ariel made her call, Blu phoned Adam Kincaid and explained what had happened. The man had enough money to fix anything. Four dead mercenaries in a foreign country were no big deal. After Blu explained that Kincaid’s daughter was safe, he described the situation. Adam listened and then said he’d call back after he found out what the authorities were doing.
Jack Teller showed up at the Kincaid compound four hours later. Blu watched him exit an Audi SUV, all six-foot-five of himself, blond hair, blue eyes, and tanned muscle.
Blu met him at the door. Before he could speak, Teller said, “I don’t need you butting in on my job, Carraway.”
No “thank you for saving my client” or “I’m glad my client is alive.”
“Really,” Blu said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you in the room when the two mercs with suppressed automatics came in blasting.”
Teller scowled. It seemed to Blu that the man was somewhat embarrassed and was trying to save face, but this was a stupid way to do that.
“Where’s Ariel?” Blu motioned toward the sitting room just off of the entryway. The flooring and walls were stone and the ceilings stretched twelve feet at the lowest points. Their footsteps echoed as they walked.
Ariel, sitting on one of the leather couches and hugging a pillow, looked at Teller. Without saying a word, she stood up, tossed the pillow to the other end of the couch, and walked past her head of security.
Blu hadn’t known her very long, but he got the feeling she was not happy with the service she was being provided. He’d used the opportunity of waiting for Teller to hand her a business card earlier in case she felt the need to make a change.
Teller eyed Blu one last time and then followed his client outside.
Ariel was waiting at the SUV for someone to open the door for her.
That showed a couple of things. The first was she was letting Teller and his men know that they still had a job to do, and opening the door for her was part of it. The second was that she was telling them that she was still willing to submit to being in their care.
Blu had dealt with Teller before. He might do things differently than Blu, but he wasn’t known for being sloppy. Ariel should never have been alone in that club.
At the sight of the Audi SUV’s exit off the compound and the closing of the gate, Blu turned to Colton and Pelton.
“I’m taking a shower and hitting the sack. We are back on in six hours. I suggest you rest up.”
And with that, he retired to his room.
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David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. He is the author of both the Brack Pelton and the Blu Carraway Mystery Series. Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home.
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