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He waited until the last of the line had entered the cinema for the eight o'clock movie.
"All right, let's take a tour," he said to the boy at the wheel.
The boy drove slowly around the parking lot.
"Here," he said.
The boy stopped the car.
The man looked at the parked vehicle. It was an older Ford commercial van, well cared for and clean. "Wait a minute," he said. He got out of the car and grabbed his tool bag. "Drive over to the edge of the parking lot and wait. When you see the van's headlights go on, follow me home. I'll be making a lot of turns."
"Yessir," the boy said.
He slipped a pair of rubber gloves on, then walked over to the van and tried the door. Unlocked. It took him less than a minute to punch the steering lock and start the van. He switched on the lights and checked the odometer: 48,000 miles; not bad. He backed out of the parking space and drove out of the lot, onto the highway. In the rearview mirror he watched the boy fall in behind him, well back. He drove for a couple of minutes, constantly making turns, checking the mirror, then he turned down a dirt road, drove a hundred yards and stopped. The boy stopped behind him. He sat in the van and watched the traffic pass on the highway for five minutes, then he made a U-turn and went back to the highway and headed west. He had two hours before the van's owner would come out of the movies and discover his loss, but he needed only half an hour.
Twenty-five minutes later, he drove into the little town, and five minutes after that, he pulled the van into the large steel shed behind his business. Half a dozen men, who had been sitting around a poker table, stood up and walked over.
"Looks good," one of them said.
"It'll do. Only 48K on the clock, and it runs like a sewing machine. Let's do it."
Everybody went to work. First, they donned rubber gloves, then they washed the van thoroughly and cleaned the interior, and fastened two rough wooden benches to the floor. Two men unrolled a large decal and fixed it to the side of the van. Environmental Services, Inc., it read, and in smaller letters, Cleaning up after the world. There was a phone number, too. If anyone rang it, they'd get a pizzeria on U.S. 1. They fixed an identical decal to the opposite side of the van, then changed the license plates, tossing the old ones into the van.
Somebody looked under the hood, fiddled with a couple of things, then closed it. "Good shape," he said. "The man knows how to take care of a vehicle." He checked a sticker on the windshield. "Had it serviced last week; nice of him."
"I hope his insurance is paid up," someone else said.
"All right," their leader said, "let's go over it again." The poker chips and cards were removed from the big round table, and a large floor plan was spread out. "Number two," the leader said, "take us through it."
"We all know it by heart," somebody said.
"You will when I'm finished," the leader said. "Then you can all get a good night's sleep."
When the van was ready they went home and left him alone in the shed. He went to an elongated safe in a corner, tapped the combination into the keypad, and opened it. He removed six Remington riot guns-12-gauge pump shotguns with 181Ú4-inch barrels, normally used for police work-and took them to the van, laying them on the floor. He went to a locker and removed six blue jumpsuits-all the same size-took them to the van and put one where each man would sit. Back to the locker to find six yellow construction hard hats, six dust masks and six pairs of tinted safety goggles, which he laid neatly on top of the jumpsuits. He then laid a shotgun on each seat, and placed a box of double-aught shells and a pair of latex surgical gloves beside each shotgun. Finally, he went back to the gun safe, removed six 9mm semiautomatic handguns and boxes of ammunition and distributed them inside the van. The weapons had been bought, one at a time, at gun shows or from unlicensed dealers, then stripped, inspected and, if necessary, repaired. Before reassembly, each part of each weapon had been washed clean with denatured alcohol and oiled. There would be no fingerprints or DNA samples on them.
When he was done, he sat down at the table, stripped off his gloves and poured himself a drink from a bottle of bourbon. He looked at the newspaper clipping again. Eleven o'clock at the courthouse. "Happy occasion," he said aloud to himself. "And oh so convenient."
Holly Barker opened her eyes and felt for Jackson. His side of the bed was empty, and she could hear the shower running. She moved her hand to the warm place on her stomach and found Daisy's head. She scratched behind an ear and was answered with a small sigh. Daisy was a Doberman pinscher, and she liked to sleep with her head on Holly's belly.
Holly heard the shower turn off and, a moment later, Jackson's bare feet padding across the bedroom carpet. She raised her head, tucked a pillow under it and eyed him-naked, wet hair, in a hurry. She liked him naked.
"So," she said, "where am I going on my honeymoon?"
"Same place as I am," Jackson replied, stepping into his boxer shorts and selecting a white shirt from a drawer.
"I'm relieved to hear it," she said. "And where is that?"
"Someplace you'll probably like," he said.
"Probably like? You're not even sure I'm going to like it?"
"I think you will," he said, "but, in the immortal words of Fats Waller, 'One never knows, do one?'"
"This is how you treat your wife?"
"I don't have a wife."
"You will by high noon, or my daddy will shoot you."
"Ham wouldn't shoot me; he's too nice a guy."
"He would, if he knew you wouldn't tell me where I'm going on my honeymoon."
"He knows, and that's enough for Ham."
"Wait a minute," she said. "My father knows where I'm going on my honeymoon, and your wife doesn't?"
"I told you, I don't have a wife."
She sat up on one elbow, and the sheet fell away from her breasts. "How will I know what to pack?"
"You packed yesterday," he said, "and I told you what to pack, remember?"
"Men never know what to pack. What if you screw up?"
"I'll just have to take that chance." He pulled on his trousers, found a necktie and started to tie it.
"You're driving me crazy," she said, falling back onto the pillow.
"If you don't pull that sheet over your breasts, you're going to drive me crazy," he replied, looking at her in the mirror.
She kicked the sheet completely off, disturbing Daisy's sleep. "Take that," she said.
"I intend to," he said, "when we arrive in...whatchacallit."
"Why are you rushing off?" she asked seductively.
"Don't point that thing at me," Jackson said. "I've got a closing in half an hour, then I have to do some dictating before I leave the office and then, on the way to the courthouse, I have to pick up the tickets at the travel agent's and stop at the bank for some travelers' checks."
"Why didn't you have the tickets sent here?" she asked.
"Because you would have ripped them open to find out where you're going on your honeymoon."
He had her there. She fumed.
He slipped into his suit jacket, adjusted his tie, came to the bed and bent over her.
"Why didn't you dry your hair?"
"I'll put the top down." He kissed her on one nipple, then the other.
She giggled. "Sure the closing can wait a few minutes."
"Would you muss my wedding dress?" he asked. That was how he referred to the white linen suit he had had made for the occasion.
"No, you're too beautiful."
"Tell you what, if you'll call yourself Mrs. Oxenhandler for the rest of your life, I'll tell you where you're going on your honeymoon."
"Jackson, I keep telling you: nobody would choose to be called Mrs. Oxenhandler. You're stuck, you were born with it. Can you imagine my cops calling me Chief Oxenhandler? They couldn't keep a straight face."
"I think that's a very dignified name for a chief of police," Jackson said, trying to look hurt.
"It's a very dignified name for someone who handles oxen," she said.
"Well," he sighed, "I guess you'll find out where you're going on your honeymoon when you get there."
She pulled the sheet over her head. "You won't even tell me then!" she cried. She pulled down the sheet again, and he was standing in the bedroom doorway, looking splendid in his new suit.
"See you at the courthouse," he said.
"In Judge Chandler's courtroom, and you'd better be there early!" she called after him. She fell back on the bed. She would always remember that picture of him, standing in the doorway in his white linen suit and gold tie, with his hair still wet.
Holly got out of bed, brushed her teeth and got into the shower, reaching for the shampoo. She had let her hair grow, and it was nearly down to her shoulders, though she wore it up when she was in uniform, which was most of the time. She was allowing herself two hours for the process-washing, rolling and drying her hair, putting on a little makeup, which she rarely wore, and getting into the short white sheath that would be her wedding dress.
Daisy lay on the bathroom mat, watching her through the clear glass shower door, waiting patiently for her breakfast and to be let out. Holly laughed. Daisy would be her maid of honor; Holly had trained her to carry the bouquet all the way to the front of the courtroom before handing it to her. Daisy could do anything.
Holly felt that she could do anything, too. She was bursting with happiness and expectation and with trying to figure out where Jackson was taking her on her honeymoon.
She got out of the shower and called her office's direct line.
"Chief Barker's office," her secretary and office manager, Helen Tubman, said.
"Hi, it's me. What's happening?"
"Nothing, and if something were happening, I wouldn't tell you," Helen said. "It's your wedding day, so I want you to hang up and do whatever you're supposed to do on your wedding day."
"How many are coming?" Holly asked. She had posted an invitation on the squad room bulletin board.
"Let me put it this way," Helen said, "if there's a murder in the middle of Beach Boulevard this morning, the body will have to lie there until you're married and on your way to the airport."
"Oh, God," Holly said. "That many?"
"Tell me their names, and I'll put them to work."
"I'll do no such thing," Helen said. "Now you go get beautiful, and don't bother me again." She hung up.
Holly hung up the phone, laughing, then went to feed Daisy and let her out into the dunes for her morning ablutions. She felt completely, insanely happy.
The men assembled after breakfast, and the leader set up a drawing pad on an easel and ran them through their individual roles once more.
"Any questions?" he asked.
A hand went up. "Under what circumstances are we authorized to fire?"
"Danger to your own life or another of us," the leader replied. "The two guards will already be disarmed, so, unless a civilian is packing, we're not going to have to deal with being shot at. Of course, there's always the chance that some cop will wander in to cash a check and come over all brave, but the sight of our shotguns is going to put the fear of God into anybody who understands what a shotgun can do."
"Are we authorized to kill, if necessary?" the man asked.
"Only if absolutely necessary," the leader replied. "But if it becomes necessary, don't hesitate. But remember, the police will work a lot harder on a murder than a robbery."
The man nodded.
Nobody said anything.
"Just remember: nobody moves until the armored car leaves. The guards will be locked in and safe, and they've got a radio." He looked around. "All right, we drive separately to the shopping center, and each of you waits beside your car. Enter and leave the van one at a time through the front passenger door. Let's go."
The group broke up and went to the four cars parked outside. The leader gave them a ten-minute head start, then he pulled on his gloves, got into his coveralls, hung the dust mask and goggles around his neck and put on his hard hat. He got into the van and drove out of the building, closing the garage door behind him with a remote control. He left the town and drove east, toward Orchid Beach. Half an hour later, he pulled into the parking lot. It was a big shopping center for a small town, anchored by a huge supermarket, with other stores strung out along both sides. The lot was three-quarters full. He drove up and down the lanes, stopping whenever he came to one of his men. Each was wearing a baseball cap, dark glasses and latex gloves. Each entered by the front passenger door, then moved to the rear and took a seat on one of the facing benches. After twenty minutes, all the men were in the van, costumed in their jumpsuits, masks, goggles and hard hats. They began loading their weapons from the ammunition on the bench beside them.
Each had four clips of 9mm ammunition and a box of double-aught shotgun shells. Each loaded four shells into a shotgun, racked one into the chamber, then loaded one more shell. Each put the spare ammo into the side pockets of his jumpsuit.
The leader glanced at his watch. "Right on schedule," he said. Each weapon had had its serial number removed. None would ever be traced, except to the factory where it had been manufactured years before.
As he turned the van into the parking lot, the armored car entered the other end of the lot, exactly on time. He parked the van and switched off the engine. "It's going to get hot in here," he said, "but I don't want anyone to notice a van with the motor running."
He watched as the two guards on the armored car went through their drill; they looked bored. As they unloaded, a civilian, a man, drove up in a convertible, got out and went inside. The guards regarded him closely, then entered. They were inside the building for less than two minutes, then returned to their vehicle and entered it through the rear door, locking it behind them. The driver put the car into gear and drove out of the parking lot.
The leader waited while the armored car stopped for a traffic light, then turned left onto Highway A1A. "Here we go," he said. He started the engine and drove to the spot outside the main entrance that the armored car had just vacated. "Hats, masks and goggles on," he said. He waited ten seconds, then looked at his wristwatch, a chronograph. He pressed a button. "Two minutes," he said, "starting now."
Everybody got out of the van and started for the front door.
—From Orchid Blues by Stuart Woods, Copyright (c) October 2001, Putnam Pub Group, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.
Posted December 17, 2012
Posted January 26, 2012
Posted August 10, 2010
A good story but marred by a major plot screw-up.
First, a major character enters in the beginning, Stone Barrington, then he just disappears. His airplane's tail number is N123TF. Later on, long after Stone is gone, we suddenly see the antagonist "John" flying a plane with the exact same N123TF tail number. I could have let it go, but the number is continually in your face, like it's important. But no, it's not! Holly never makes the connection.
I think what happened was that early on in the writing of this novel, the author wanted to weave the tail number into the mystery, but then couldn't figure out how to do it. So the connecting plot mechanism is dropped from the plot, but the tail number remains.
This was either a global cut and paste error or the author sent the wrong draft to the publisher.
Hello, it's an ebook. Can't someone correct this?
The discrepancy really spoiled the ending for me, and will continue to for alert mystery readers.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 19, 2014
Orchid Blues - Holly Barker is quickly becoming a favorite of mine!!
For a more in depth review, please visit my blog, Chorley Chronicals!
I have found that I rather enjoy the Holly Barker series, and found that I absolutely enjoyed listening to Orchid Blues, Book #2, by Stuart Woods!
I absolutely love Holly as a character! She is the perfect woman character for me. She is strong, charismatic, independent, and doesn't give a darn what anyone else says or thinks, she does what she feels is right! She reminds me of Lisa Gardner's D.D. Warren. Holly Barker is quickly becoming one of my favorite leading ladies. And Ham, her father, is just as awesome! He is witty and brave and is obviously where Holly gets all of her great traits from! I'm so glad that he continued on in this series in book two!
The story was intense and suspenseful! It wasn't your typical detective mystery, which is what I liked most about it! It involved the Orchid Beach Sheriff's Department, the FBI, and mainly the Secret Service, just to give you an idea of the hugeness of the crime at hand, with Ham right at it's center!
I really enjoyed the fact that there were two narrators for the reading of Orchid Blues. Dick Hill and Susie Breck are such wonderful selections for Holly and Ham. Granted, they do read the other characters, but they do the main characters such justice! I also thoroughly enjoyed the music provided at the beginning and end of each disc.
Overall, I can't wait to continue with this series, and loved listening to Orchid Blues.
Posted December 8, 2012
Posted November 21, 2012
Posted November 21, 2012
Posted October 31, 2012
Posted December 5, 2009
Stuart Woods did it again. I've never read one of his books that was not fantastic...and this one is no exception. Holly Barker is just enough "out of the norm" to make her a fun character to follow. The cast of characters around her just compliment her character. I highly recommend this book just for fun reading. Once you start it, you'll have a hard time stopping. I do recommend...that you read each of the Holly Barker series of books in sequence. Mr. Woods builds the characters and uses events in one book to springboard into the next. They can be read as "stand alone" and are fantastic in their own right, but they are much more enjoyable if read in sequence.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 21, 2002
I enjoyed all the Stone Barrington novels,but was disappointed with his new character Holly Barker. I found the relationship with her father hard to believe, who discusses their sex life with their parents! Also, much slower than the Barrington novels.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 1, 2002
I have been a fan of Stuart Woods for quite some time now and still get excited when I see a new title by him. He does a stupendous job of creating characters that the reader can easily associate with, and instantly care about. This remains true for Holly Barker and her father Ham. I've read some other reviews that credited Woods' use of previously existing characters to populate his newer titles. I must commend him on this practice as well. Stone Barrington pops up in Orchid Blues, only briefly and with limited plot importance, to give a familiarity to this novel and its setting. As always, I greatly enjoyed Woods style and choice of settings. His knowledge of technology is extensive, yet he explains it in layman's terms. My only criticism would be to provide better closure, or perhaps explanation, on the relationship between the heroine Holly and her FBI friend Harry. Tensions and mistrust existed between them at the end and were never resolved. Otherwise an excellent read and great fun.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 9, 2002
Once again, Stuart Woods has written a delightful book that cannot be put down. The story grips you in the first few pages and the excitement continues to the very last page. I was reminded again why I like to read his books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2002
As usual, once I started reading, I couldn't stop. This one grabs your interest from page one, and makes you want to keep reading even after the last page. I loved the cameo appearance of Stone Barrington and the mention of Will Lee. I think Stuart Woods is setting us up for a really big one: Stone Barrington, Holly Barker and Will Lee, all together in one awesome book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 26, 2001
Another great read by Stuart Woods. Hope many more Holly and Ham novels are coming. Maybe Stone Barrington will have more than a cameo appreance in future books. Dog lovers will love the maid of honor. I really enjoy Stuart Woods novels but am ready for a more complete book from him rather than the 'TV episodes' he has been turning out lately. One on the line and depth of 'Chiefs' would be welcome.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 24, 2001
Just as two heads are better than one two voices, those of Dick Hill and Susie Breck, beat one in this satisfying reading of the second adventure of Police Chief Holly Barker and her erstwhile companion, Daisy, an unbelievable Doberman. Holly isn't thinking work but wedding as she's about to tie the knot with her boyfriend, Jackson Oxenhandler. The path to the altar turns rocky when a crime occurs - a bank robbery in Orchid Beach, Florida, and a vicious one at that as the thieves take everything with them except for a dead body. Her investigation takes Holly and her father, Ham, a retired Army sergeant to a rather strange town, Lake Winachobee. Despite its name not much is placid in this little burg as it turns out to be a hotbed of white supremacists who are planning the assassination of an important leader. Stuart Woods has once again proffered a rapid fire plot and a stunning conclusion.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 21, 2001
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and read it in one day. Holly is suppose to be the star but Ham, her father, takes the lead in this story. However, Holly does get to meet Stone Barrington and who knows where this could lead? Holly's fiance is killed on her wedding day and she takes the lead investigaing the murder/bank robbery and discovers that it is much deeper than a back robbery gone bad. A must read for Stuart Woods' fans.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
Holly Barker is going to the chapel to get married. Her best friend Daisy, her Doberman Pincher, will serve as the maid of honor. However, Holly¿s elation abruptly turns to horror when her fiancé is murdered during a bank robbery that turned violent. Holly leads the official investigation that takes her to a town not found on the most detailed of maps. The inhabitants are white supremacists who recruit Holly¿s dad Ham into joining their organization. <P> Ham pretends to join the militia and quickly assumes a key role amidst the group. Holly and her law enforcement peers obtain Ham¿s cooperation and he places listening devices in the organization¿s encampment. This enables them to learn that Ham is selected to assassinate a VIP, but no one knows whom the intended victim is. Unless they can learn the identity of the target, someone will die. <P> Stuart Woods has his more famous character Stone Barrington makes cameo appearances in ORCHID BLUES, which allows fans to feel a greater connection to the Barker series. Holly is a humorous independent soul who copes with grief by diving headfirst into a mystery filled with more twists and turns than that found in a maze. This is a good read on a cold winter¿s night. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 20, 2011
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Posted February 15, 2010
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Posted September 26, 2010
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