The Devil’s Necktie
Publisher: Gallery Books, Simon&Schuster/Karen Hunter Publishing
Number of pages: 384
Word Count: 89,520
A Sizzling thriller for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell. An exciting tour into the real-life world of cops, crime, and murder. Retired inspector Jack Bertolino had strict rules when dealing with confidential informants. But Mia had the kind of beauty that could make a grown man contemplate leaving his wife, his job, and his kids. After a passionate night together, Mia is found murdered – and Jack is the lead suspect. Facing threats from the LAPD, the 18th Street Angels, and a Columbian drug cartel, Jack delves deeper into the seedy world of drug dealers and murderers and discovers that the top players knew Mia personally. And now Jack is torn between fearing for his life and seeking revenge for his slain lover…either way, the body count will rise.
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkyDF7KNdJ8
Jack Bertolino stood on the balcony of his loft in Marina del Rey,
tending a dry-aged New York steak on his prized possession, a top-ofthe-
line Weber gas grill. He didn’t miss winter, not one little bit. Here
he was manning the barbecue in his new uniform, a black T-shirt and
jeans, while his cousins were chasing heart attacks shoveling snow off
their Staten Island driveways. That image never ceased to put a smile on
his face. That and the salty ocean breeze that floated in over the marina.
Jack nursed a glass of cabernet and watched the long line of bright
white FedEx trucks return home from their final deliveries and park in
neat rows in the lot next to his building. It sure beat the sight of patrol
cars jammed onto the sidewalk in front of a precinct house.
Early evening was Jack’s favorite time of day. The sun was just
starting to paint the clouds a muted orange. From his fourth-floor
vantage point, Jack could see a string of jumbo jets in the distance,
silently making their final approach to LAX. Stacked eight planes deep,
their slim silver bodies glinted in the setting sun.
For the first time in Jack Bertolino’s life, he felt at ease.
His cell phone chirped, snapping him out of his reverie. He tossed
some Japanese eggplant onto the grill, closed the lid, and checked his
cell phone screen for the name of the caller.
“How’s my Italian stallion?”
“Mia!.!.!. ,” he said instantly, his tone neutral, giving away nothing.
“All the planets are aligned, Jack. It’s time for you to man up and
make an honest woman out of me.”
Jack couldn’t help but smile. Mia’s throaty voice and light Colombian
accent had the power to make a grown man weep. More important, it
could make a bad man give up his secrets.
He hadn’t really been surprised when he received her text. He knew
it was only a matter of time. Payback’s a bitch.
“What can I do for you, Mia?”
“It’s what I can do for you, papi. My lips!.!.!. they’re still magic.”
“I love it when you talk dirty.”
“Only for love or money.”
Although Jack was enjoying the back and forth, he was no longer in
the business. “Why are you calling, Mia?”
Mia dropped her act as well. “We need to talk.”
“It’s not a good time,” Jack said as he opened the lid of the grill and
pressed his fork against the steak, checking for doneness.
“I’m not in New York.”
“That’s why I’m in Los Angeles.”
Jack didn’t reply right away. He did a quick analysis of how Mia
could know he was living in L.A., what kind of trouble she might be
in, what kind of blowback he was going to suffer just from having this
conversation. He came to the instantaneous conclusion that however
this new wrinkle in his life played out, it would definitely have an impact
on his newly found state of bliss.
Mia answered some of his unspoken questions. “I’m still connected,
Jack, and you’re still on the radar screen. There are certain people"who
will remain nameless, because I’m not on your payroll anymore"who
are not convinced you’re out of the game.”
“I’m happily retired,” Jack fired back, wondering if his response
sounded forced, wondering why he cared.
“And happily divorced?”
Jack didn’t respond. His private life was none of Mia’s business. He
had strict rules when dealing with confidential informants, a line in the
sand he never crossed.
But Mia had the kind of beauty that could make a man contemplate
leaving his wife, his job, and his kids. Jack had never taken the bait, but
had to admit he’d been tempted.
Mia was one of the best CIs in the business, and she and Jack had
done groundbreaking work together. With the help of Mia and DEA
agent Kenny Ortega, Jack and the team of NYPD narco-rangers he
headed up had put away a heavy hitter in the cocaine trade.
Manuel Alvarez was the head of a Colombian drug cell that had
been importing a thousand keys of coke into Florida on a weekly basis,
and the poison was dripping into New York City. Jack and his group had
put away a major cartel scumbag, and Mia had gotten rich.
The feds had a financial equation in place when dealing with
CIs. The greater the quantity of drugs an informant was responsible
for delivering, the more money it was worth to the United States
government. They were happy to give to get. Mia did very well for
herself at great personal risk. Informants had a short shelf life. Once a
major domo got busted, the cartels worked very hard to discover where
the “sickness” had come from. If your name ended up on the short list,
you turned up dead.
Jack had made a promise to Mia that if things ever got too hot to
handle, he would do whatever he could to help her out of the jam.
Mia was turning in her chit.
“Meet with me in an hour, after I get settled in.”
“I’m about to have dinner, Mia.”
“Vista Haven Road, 3468. You owe me, Jack.”
“It was a two-way street,” he reminded her.
“And I don’t want it turning into a dead end.”
Jack was about to protest, but she clicked off. He turned back to his
grill, but now he was unsettled. Mia had always been a cool customer,
but there was an edge of panic in her voice. Jack let out an irritated groan.
He shut off the grill with a hard snap. He wouldn’t be able to eat anyway
until he found out what the hell was wrong.
The San Diego Freeway was a more direct route to the house where Mia
was staying, but Jack liked the way Beverly Glen snaked up the hillside
to Mulholland Drive. Eclectic homes lined the tight canyon and his
sterling gray Mustang GT convertible held fast to the winding road. Out
here he felt as if he was in the country in the middle of the city.
Jack hung a right onto Longbow and felt a touch of vertigo as he
made the sharp winding descent, leaning on his brakes most of the way.
Two blocks down, he made a left onto Vista Haven. The street was thick
with Beemers, Lexuses, and Mercedes. Someone must be having a party.
Jack discovered it was the house next door to Mia’s when the Mustang’s
British GPS voice informed him that he had arrived at his destination
on the right.
The single-story midcentury modern home had an Asian feel. It
was set back from the street, allowing Jack to pull onto the paver-lined
driveway. He swung a one-eighty, so that his car was facing the street.
Old habits, he thought.
Jack knocked on the large black-lacquered door and waited. He
knocked again and waited, wondering if the GPS could have gotten it
wrong and he was now standing foolishly in front of the wrong house.
He could hear screams from next door as the partiers dove into their
pool, followed by splashes, laughter, and the loud barking of the family’s
dogs. The music was rowdy, and even though a thick hedge separated
the two properties, it did little to dampen the sound.
Jack was about to use his cell phone when the door opened and
slender arms pulled him inside.
In the shadowed hallway Jack stared at Mia, taking in the changes
she’d made to her physical appearance since the last time he had seen
her. He was at a loss for words. Breathtaking would have worked. Her
striking blue eyes, offset by her now darkened hair, were stunning. Her
skin was perfect, her scent intoxicating.
Mia was saying words of welcome to Jack in Spanish, but he wasn’t
listening. He stood there mesmerized by Mia’s pearl pendant earrings,
which swayed gracefully as she tilted her head to look up at him with
those killer eyes that crinkled slightly as she smiled. She was selfpossessed,
and aging well. Jack didn’t know if it was her scent or the
sway of her pendant earrings, but he was falling under her spell.
Mia kept talking as Jack’s eyes moved from her eyes to her earrings,
back and forth, guided by the hypnotic lilt of her voice and the tilt of
her head. Jack could almost hear himself saying, “No fucking way,”
as she stepped in closer, but he chose silence. Twenty-five years of
discipline and resolve and lines in the sand disappeared as if they were
Mia folded into Jack’s arms and he lifted her easily off the polished
hardwood floor. As he held her close, he could feel her heart beating
wildly. It reminded him of an injured sparrow he had cupped in his
hands as a young boy. He realized that his heart now matched hers, beat
for beat, as if an electric current was passing from Mia’s body into his,
then from Mia’s lips to his.
Jack carried her down the hallway and into the bedroom. The duvet
cover had been pulled back, as if Mia had foreseen the outcome of his
visit. Jack didn’t care. He felt good, damn good.
They never broke eye contact as they undressed each other. The
sound of laughter filtered through the screen door, but Jack didn’t hear.
He unclasped Mia’s sheer lace bra and his lips found the pink swell
of her breast. The slight friction of his teeth played over her taut skin,
eliciting a ragged exhale of breath.
Jack gently laid Mia’s head on the silk pillow, kissed the side of her
neck, lingering to take in her scent, and then moved slowly down the
valley between her perfect breasts. Mia grabbed his hair and guided him
lower. Her stomach quivered and her hips rose slightly as Jack traced her
sex with his lips. Their eyes locked as he parted her with his tongue. Her
moan was deep, haunted, and then hungry.
She rolled Jack onto his back and mounted him, rhythmically
tightening and rocking.
He closed his eyes and calmed his breathing, wanting to prolong
the feeling, prolong the perfect moment. He sat up, wrapped his arms
around her smooth back, and pulled her tighter against him, slipping
deeper inside. Then the lovers dissolved into a fury of flesh and lips.
They were wet inside and out as Mia buried her head in Jack’s chest.
About the Author :
John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.”
He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows.
During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop, Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano.
The Devil’s Necktie is his first novel.
A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.
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