First Chapter of "Diamonds and Blood" by BR Kingsolver
Diamonds and Blood
Book 5 of the Chameleon Assassin Series
By BR Kingsolver
Copyright 2019 BR Kingsolver
Nothing disrupts a burglary plan like the owner of the house coming home. So, when the aircar landed on the roof of Joseph Morgan’s sixtieth-floor penthouse, I started packing up and getting ready to leave, thinking that my plan would have to wait until another night.
But a short time later, the aircar rose from the roof and headed in the direction of the St. Lawrence River. That surprised me, and when I thought about it, I decided that someone going out an hour before midnight probably wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon. Shouldering my bag, I crossed the street and entered the high-rise apartment building through the door used to haul away trash.
Joseph Morgan was the largest dealer of fine gemstones in Canada. His main office in Montreal was a fortress, and his penthouse on the sixtieth floor of the fanciest apartment complex in the city was secured almost as well as his business locations. His shops in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle and San Francisco were wonders to behold. He employed the finest craftsmen and catered to the wealthiest clientele.
Morgan was only forty-six years old. His father left him a single jewelry shop, a list of connections, and as much knowledge as the old man could pour into the head of a stubborn, willful, entitled party boy. Then his father had a heart attack at the age of fifty.
From that modest beginning, Morgan built an empire. His instincts were incredible, and his tastes were impeccable. Every society gathering and charity had him on their mailing lists. Every woman of any means knew his name, and every corporate executive needing to placate his trophy wife and mistresses had his local store on speed dial.
Joseph Morgan was a golden boy, and he had made only two mistakes in his meteoric career.
Morgan asked for bids on a security system for his apartment. I spent six months working on that bid and got screwed. I was pissed. My bid would have cost him less, provided more security, and I never burglarized my customers.
One of the things about sending out a request for design on a security contract was that the company had to identify all the places and things they wanted secured in excruciating detail. That also meant that those who didn’t win the contract knew the facilities to the same extent as the company that won the contract. And if the winning contract didn’t cover all the weaknesses, there could be trouble. Of course, all Chamber of Commerce certified security contractors were squeaky clean and would never do anything illegal.
And the tooth fairy is real.
When I first entered Morgan’s apartment, I did an infrared scan, just to double-check that no one was home. Then I started exploring. A lot of the lights were on, which seemed odd. Normally, when no one was at home, a program would turn off all but emergency lighting to save energy.
I identified and packaged three small paintings for travel. Artwork wasn’t my primary target, but those were so valuable, and so tempting, that I couldn’t resist. I also found a terracotta clay plaque, small enough to hold in my hand, depicting a man standing and penetrating a woman from behind. No big deal, except three-thousand-year-old Babylonian pornography, with the provenance attached, would probably go for a few million at auction.
But my main objective was the safe in Morgan’s home office. His crack-proof, indestructible vault had an electric keypad. Since I was a mutant who short-circuited such keypads when I touched them, I didn’t have much faith in them. But most people preferred the ease and convenience compared to an old-fashioned, but more secure, dial lock.
The vault opened, and I stood there admiring the sparkling array of treasures lined up in front of me. An oval-cut ruby the size of my thumbnail. A brilliant-cut blue diamond almost as large. Both were worth a king’s ransom but were virtually impossible to sell. The whole world knew that Morgan had them.
Half-kilogram bags of cut diamonds, on the other hand, sorted by size and grade, were very difficult to trace. Morgan had thousands of diamonds in the safe, but I was interested only in flawless diamonds of color codes D through F, plus a small bag of blue diamonds. After all, I had to be able to carry the loot to make it out of the place. So, I took stones I knew my dad could move without too much trouble. As he always told me, don’t get greedy.
I tucked away five bags of diamonds ranging from half-carat to two-carat stones. I figured the take would be roughly sixty million, and I would get half of that. Not a bad night.
Closing the safe, I decided to check the rooms I hadn’t entered yet, thinking I might find something else of interest that would fit in my pocket. That’s when I discovered Morgan’s second mistake. In addition to trusting the wrong security company, he had also invited the wrong person into his home. Flipping on the light in a room decorated with African art and artifacts, I about jumped out of my skin as I came face to face with Joseph Morgan. A long, nasty-looking African tribal spear pinned him to the wall. The expression on his face indicated that he was as shocked as I was at how his evening turned out.
Based on how dry the blood was, and how cool his skin was when I touched him, he hadn’t been dead long. Was he in the aircar that arrived earlier? Or did his killer arrive by aircar, kill him, and then leave? Obviously, the aircar I saw taking off earlier carried someone else away.
Someone who had the codes to engage the security system when he or she left. Someone who probably didn’t have the combination to the vault with diamonds. But I considered that assumption to be unconfirmed. I had no idea what was in that vault prior to me opening it. Morgan’s murderer could have carried off the crown jewels of Antarctica for all I knew. But someone who wasn’t interested in stealing any of the millions in art or jewelry?
What I did know was that I didn’t want his murder to be linked to a burglary that in any way might be linked to me. I rehung the three paintings and replaced the terracotta engraving. The diamonds I kept. Before anyone knew they were missing, Morgan’s corporation and the insurance company would have to do a complete audit of his entire inventory. Assuming, of course, the stones I took were listed in that inventory. Why would he keep them at home instead of the corporate vault?
I slipped out the way I came in. I couldn’t reset the security code because I didn’t know it, so I programmed another one based on the date when Morgan made his first million. I always picked up trivia when researching a mark.
I did wonder who else had the original code. Morgan was a bachelor, with a rake’s reputation, and didn’t currently have a paramour—girlfriend or boyfriend. He employed a chauffeur and three domestics to keep his sixteen-thousand square foot apartment, plus rooftop pool house and terrace, sparkling clean—but none of them lived on the premises. Oddly, he didn’t employ a bodyguard.
Every sign pointed to his killer being a friend, a lover, or a trusted associate. Motive? Completely unknown.
It was after midnight when I flashed my pass and the bouncer waved me into the nightclub. Nellie was on stage belting out “Love Me Like a Man,” and the band was hot. The dancefloor looked like a giant, packed subway car. Fighting my way to the bar, I ordered a beer and a double whiskey, then fought my way to the stage-side table where Nellie’s brother Tom and the rest of her protection unit sat.
“Well, so glad you could join us,” Tom said with a huge smile. “Thought you stood us up.” He made a show of looking at his chrono. “Must be nice, show up for two hours and get paid for ten.”
I stuck my tongue out at him. Yes, Entertaincorp was paying me to bodyguard Nellie while she did a two-month engagement in Quebec, but Tom had been teasing me since I was six years old, and I knew the only thing he was ever serious about was protecting his family.
“Just for that, I won’t buy the next round,” I said.
The other bodyguards immediately shouted him down, apologized for him, and told me how pleased they were to see me. I laughed, signaled a waiter over, and gave him our order.
Nellie Barton had one of the great R&B voices of all time, and Entertaincorp owned her contract. One of their vice presidents also paid for her apartment, her clothes, cosmetics, jewelry, and her time when he wanted it. For a girl with an eighth-grade education, it was heady stuff, but Nellie never played the diva. Too many people in the neighborhood she grew up in lived on the edge between making it or starving, including her own family at times before she hit it big.
She finished her set and came down off the stage, her movements as graceful as a cat’s. If all Nellie had going for her was her voice, she would have been a star. But combine the voice with her spectacular beauty, fantastic dancing, and sparkling personality, and you had a megastar. Dark skin and waist-length straight black hair, a curvy but not exaggerated body, and the face and lips of a slutty angel drew every eye in the place.
Our waiter appeared at our table as if by magic, set Nellie’s preferred drink down in front of her, then distributed my order.
“You sound great tonight,” I told Nellie. She leaned over and gave me a quick kiss, then took a long pull on her drink.
“She sounds great every night,” Tom rumbled.
“Yeah, life’s just not fair,” I said. “She not only got all the talent, but also all the brains in the family.”
Everyone at the table laughed, including Tom. “Yeah, but I got better taste in women than she does,” he said, and winked at me. I threw a popcorn kernel at him.
Leaning close to me, Nellie asked, “Everything go all right?”
I shook my head. “I’ll tell you about it.”
Nellie and I had adjoining rooms at the hotel—or rather I had a room off her large suite. One could always count on corporate executives to put the hired help in their place. Nellie could have been classified as hired help, but Richard O’Malley—the vice president who managed her contract—was too sharp for that. He classified her as a producing asset. And it wasn’t entirely business for Richard. Contrary to sound business practice, he had fallen in love with her.
“What happened?” Nellie asked breathlessly when we were alone. She didn’t know what I was doing that evening, only that I had a job.
“Ever heard of Joseph Morgan?” I asked.
She held out her wrist with a diamond tennis bracelet. “No, of course not. The stork brings these things along with babies.” Then her eyes widened. “You didn’t. You ripped off Joseph Morgan? His house or a store?”
I shrugged. “I sort of took a self-guided tour of his apartment. Really flashy, but not to my taste.”
“What? Did you get caught? Had to dive forty stories into the St. Lawrence? Shoot up half the Montreal Police force? C’mon, quit stalling. What happened?”
“I found Morgan dead.”
She covered her mouth with her hands. “Oh, no! You mean, he was already dead?”
“Yeah, before I showed up. I got out. It was pretty strange.”
Things got even stranger the following morning. We managed to haul our asses out of bed for a room-service breakfast at eleven. Nellie turned on the TV.
“Police are now saying that Richard Brodeur, jewelry mogul Joseph Morgan’s chauffeur who was found dead in Morgan’s limo in the St. Lawrence this morning, was murdered, and he died prior to the car entering the river,” the announcer said in French. “Police said that they are trying to reach Monsieur Morgan, but at this time his whereabouts are unknown.”
Nellie shot me a glance. She understood Quebecois fairly well, though she didn’t speak it.
I translated, just in case she missed something, then added, “I saw the car leave before I went in. I thought Morgan was in it.”
“You’re sure it was Morgan?” Nellie asked.
“The dead man? Either him or his twin.” I shrugged. “I didn’t take a DNA sample.”
My father called an hour later. “Are you all right?” he asked as soon as I answered the phone. I knew he’d seen the news.
“Yeah, I’m fine. The accident happened before I got there. I saw the aftermath, but I wasn’t involved.”
I heard him blow out air in a sigh. “So, I guess the party was called off?”
“Oh, no. I got the contract signed. If you need the original copy, send a courier for it, otherwise I’ll bring it when I come home.”
“Well, I think it’s probably safer with me. You young kids and your partying, who knows where you might misplace it. I’ll arrange a courier.”
Some people’s parents don’t really care about them. Mine encouraged me to enter the family businesses and were as supportive as anyone could ever hope for. But I did hope my mom lived a very long time. I had no idea what I would do if I inherited her brothel—about the only legal family business other than my security company.
Diamonds and Blood was released on February 17, 2019, and is available for purchase on Amazon.com. Happy reading!
- Updated: 17 February 2019