|Product dimensions:||6.24(w) x 9.70(h) x 1.25(d)|
Read an Excerpt
We were three.
We took our names for their meanings.
Guido, the leader.
Ulisse, the hater.
Brizio, the craftsman.
We were young and wild. We killed cheap. A trio of urban mercenaries.
A game? Yes. A game of hide, seek and destroy. It eased the boredom while we waited for a purpose and no one ever knew; no one ever found out.
Until Ulisse betrayed Brizio and Guido broke the pact. Guido found a conscience and confessed to another.
Guido died a perfect death: slow agony, a traitor's reward.
Ulisse, ah Ulisse. He still plays the game of hide-and-seek, but waits patiently to destroy again, to avenge.
I am Brizio the craftsman. My skill is sublime, the results perfect. I open like a surgeon, swift and sure, but I never close the wound.
See them bleed.
I might stop, but I am forced by Guido's confessor to continue. This so-called man of honor blackmails me to kill for him.
For now I enjoy playing his game.
Excitement swells, beats beneath my skin. My beautiful knife is ready to cut again. Already I see the fear, the blood, hear the pleading, smell the fecund odors of terror.
Kiss them goodbye.
The first day
Hay-ell. Saved by the bell, or the egg he guessed he should say, the golden egg. That big and unexpected dude had gotten itself laid in the nick of time, and right at the feet of Louis Martin, Attorney At Law, of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Driving to Iberia, just about through Iberia until the parish all but ran out and melted into St. Martin Parish, wasn't Louis's idea of a good time, but he wanted to make this trip. He had good reasons, the best of reasons.
There'd been a fire in the Patins' famous New Orleans restaurant and David Patin -- owner and the glue that held the business together -- had died. Nobody guessed David had hidden huge losses and brought the business so low it would have to be sold. Except for Louis, who had known all about it.
Louis rolled the driver's window of his powder-blue Jag down a crack to let in a sideswipe of warm September afternoon air scented by the eucalyptus trees that arched over the road-way. To his left, Bayou Teche made its sluggish, slime-slicked way past banks where bleached cedars dripped Spanish moss.
An okay place to visit, he guessed, but he belonged in the city and the minute he'd given David Patin's widow, Charlotte, and their daughter Vivian the good news, he'd be heading east once more. East and New Orleans before nightfall. He would lock himself away with his memories and dreams. There would be even more to think about.
His destination was Rosebank, the house David had inherited from his older brother, Guy, not more than a couple of weeks before his own death. Guy had planned to leave the property to a preservation society but changed his mind on his deathbed, possibly because he knew about his brother's financial mess and wanted to help.
Louis slowed to a crawl to drive through a village bleached and dried by sun and etched with moss. Aptly named, Stayed Behind had died but no one had thought to bury it yet.
A general store with wide slat siding weathered to the color of bones, a scatter of single-storied houses, brown, gray, green, on blocks, their porches decorated with refrigerators, swings and dogs, and not a soul in sight. Louis itched to slap his foot down on the gas but figured that somewhere there were eyes watching and hoping he'd do just that. He surely didn't see any way for the folks around here to bring in a little revenue other than from speeding tickets.
Honeysuckle or jasmine -- he'd never been too good at recognizing flowers -- or some such cloying scent made him think of hot honey dropped from a spoon. Sweet, golden, and sticky.
He took a bite from the hamburger balanced on the passenger seat beside his briefcase and chased it with a clump of french fries.
In what felt like seconds, Stayed Behind receded in his rearview mirror. There wouldn't be another settlement before he got where he was going. Occasionally he caught glimpses of fine old plantation houses set back from the road and surrounded by mature gardens. Trees shaded most of them and if you looked quick enough, each facade might have been a black-and-white photo missing only the stair-step lineup of parents and children dressed in white and posing out front.
The next perfumed attack was easy to recognize, roses, banks of white roses intended to be clipped into an undulating hedge but shaggy today. Louis slowed a little and leaned to peer over the wheel. The gold signet ring on his left pinky finger felt tight and he twisted it through a groove made by swelling. The heat made his head ache.
Rosebank. Guy Patin's shabby pride and joy sat on a deep five acres surrounded by hedges like this one. Charlotte and Vivian had told him they intended to make the place pay. Something about a hotel. He didn't remember the details exactly because he had other things on his mind, like how he'd make sure Charlotte remained his client. After all, he couldn't see how two women alone would turn a rambling old house into anything, particularly when they had no money to speak of. Although Charlotte had agreed to the first loan he'd arranged, she wouldn't hear of taking another and the money was running out.
But Guy's treasure hunt had come to light exactly as the man had planned and the little ladies should have no financial difficulties once they secured their windfall. They'd have to find it -- darn Guy's perverse fascination with intrigue -- but he had promised that the sealed instructions now in Louis's briefcase would require only clear minds and perseverance to follow. The envelope, with a cover letter to Louis, had arrived from Guy's lawyer two days previous. Apparently these would never have been revealed unless there was danger of Rosebank passing out of Patin hands. The lawyer had been left instructions to decide if this was ever the case and apparently took his duties seriously.
White stone pillars topped with pineapple-shaped finials flanked the broad entrance. Louis swung past an ancient maroon station wagon, a Chevy, and onto the paved drive. He braced his arms against the steering wheel to ease his cramped back. The quack said Louis needed to lose God knew how much weight. Garbage. He might be softer than he used to be because he was too busy to work out, but it wouldn't take so much to tighten up those muscles.
Beneath the avenue of live oaks that framed the driveway, a tall figure walked toward him on the verge. He wore all black except for the white clerical collar visible at the throat of his short-sleeved shirt. Louis felt a pang of irritation at the man's cool appearance. Then he remembered. The handsome face, dark curly hair and broad shoulders belonged to Father Cyrus Payne of St. Cécil's Parish in Toussaint, a town just over the line between Iberia and St. Martin parishes. He'd been visiting Charlotte and Vivian the last time Louis came down.
Money-grubbing man of God. Probably fishing around for fat contributions. Well, Louis would find an opportunity to make sure the ladies didn't waste money, or anything else, in that direction. It was his responsibility to guide them now.
Father Cyrus waved and smiled and Louis grudgingly stopped the jag. He rolled down his window again. "Afternoon, Father." Curtness would be wasted on this heartthrob ray of sunshine. Louis bet that those clear and holy blue-green eyes only had to look sincerely at all the sex-starved wealthy widows, or bored wives -- and their daughters -- around these parts to make sure he got plenty. Louis didn't believe abstinence was possible.
"Good afternoon," the priest said, ducking to look at Louis. "Mr. Martin, isn't it? Louis Martin?"
Louis made an affable, affirmative sound.
"Well, welcome," Payne said. "Charlotte and Vivian will be pleased to see you. They mentioned you were coming."
The guy was too buddy-buddy with the Patin women who were both good-looking. He checked his watch. "That's right. I'd better get along or they'll be wonderin' where I am. Afternoon to you, Father."
"And to you." The priest nodded and straightened his long, muscular body before setting off for the road.
Louis eased the car onward, but watched the man in the wing mirror, disliking every easy swing of those big, wide shoulders. Oh, yes, he'd surely have a word with Charlotte and Vivian. He drove around a bend and lost sight of Cyrus Payne.
What the fuck? Sweat stuck his shirt to the soft leather seat. He closed the window and turned up the air-conditioning.
A homemade detour sign, nailed to a stake and stuck into the soil beneath a large potted laurel bush pointed in the direction of a side road through thick vegetation. The holy man could have warned him.
Crawling the car between brambles he was convinced would scratch his shiny new blue paint, Louis squinted through the windshield and sucked air through his teeth at the sound of scraping branches.
He stuck to the narrow, overgrown track, jogging right, then left, and right again.
"Freakin' crazy." He stomped on the brakes. This wasn't helping him get back to New Orleans before dark and he didn't see so well at night.
Knuckles rapping glass, close to his head, startled Louis. He swallowed the bile that rushed to his throat, turned, and stared at the masked face of a man who hooked a thumb over his shoulder and indicated he wanted to speak to Louis.
Sucking in air through his mouth, Louis threw the car into reverse only to back into something. He looked in the rearview mirror and saw a tall shrub falling, a tall potted shrub that hadn't been there seconds ago.
The man hammered on the window and gestured for Louis to stop.
Louis put the car in Park and rolled the window down an inch.
"Allergies," the man shouted, pointing to his covered head. "This thing works best for keeping stuff out. Damned hot though."
Reluctantly, Louis lowered the window all the way. He felt sick.
The man pushed his head abruptly inside the car. Alarmed, Louis drew as far away as possible.
"You lost?" the man said, repeatedly scratching his face through the dark mask. "You -- "
"Dead end." Louis pointed to the freshly painted board and added, "Wouldn't you say that's a redundancy? I'm not lost, just pissed. I'm a busy man. I don't have time for paper chases. I'll just get that thing back there out of the way and turn around."
"No need for that," the man said and opened Louis's door. He placed himself with the door at his back so Louis couldn't attempt to close it. "Just follow my directions and you'll get where you're supposed to go."
The voice was expressionless, serene even, and with the power to raise hair on the back of the neck. "I'll do just fine," Louis said. He screwed up the courage to say, "Can I give you a lift?" even as he prayed the fellow would refuse.
"I'm goin' to be your guide, Mr. Martin."
Louis shivered. "How do you know who I am?" Instinct suggested he should hit the gas and shoot backward out of there, no matter what he had to drive over, only he could likely kill this menacing nuisance. It might be hard to convince a judge that a person with no visible means of making trouble, had scared the shit out of Louis who then acted in self-defense.
"Pass me the briefcase."
Louis's throat dried out and he coughed. He moved his right hand to put the car in reverse.
"You don't want to do that again. Turn the car off. Give me the briefcase and I'll let you go."
Louis didn't believe him and his hand continued to hover over the gearshift. The inside of his head hammered.
The man reeked of rancid sweat and when he pressed even closer, Louis turned his head away.
What had to be a gun jabbed into his ribs and the sharp point of a knife, pressed gently against the side of his neck ensured that Louis didn't make any more moves. "Turn off the ignition."
Louis did so.
"Good. Now the briefcase. Slowly. Keep your left hand on the wheel and pass over the case."
That was when Louis saw that the man wore tight-fitting gloves.
"No. I've changed my mind. Put it on your lap and open it."
Louis did as he was told. He shifted slightly and felt the blade open a nick in his skin. A trickle of warm, silky blood drizzled from the wound.
"Open it," the man repeated in his soft voice. "Thank you. I want the envelope. You know the one."
Oh, my God, I'm going to die. Louis's hands shook as he opened the case wider. The Patin file, and the envelope in question were all it contained.
"Good. Really good. Remove the envelope, then close the briefcase and put it back on the seat. Good. Now throw the envelope out of the car, backward, away from the door."
Louis made himself chuckle. "I was bringing these to you all the time. Yes, indeedy, these would have had your name on them if I'd known it. You're going to do what I should have thought of -- find a fortune for yourself. The Patin women don't know a thing about it, y'know. I was supposed to tell them today. I can be a friend to you. I can make it easier to get what you want."
"Throw it out, please."
"We need to study the map in there. Honestly, I've wanted to do this, to take what they don't know they've got coming. You may not find it on your own, but with me it's a cinch. I'll -- "
"You're making this more difficult. I'd be so grateful if you'd do as I ask. Then we'll discuss your kind offer."
Hopelessness weighted Louis's limbs. The freak's painful deference only increased the menace. Louis tossed the envelope on the ground and the man kicked it away. "Now," he said, returning his whole attention to Louis. "Why don't you tell me all about how you can make my job easier?"
"There's treasure. It's hidden at Rosebank."
Slipping the knife from his right to his left hand, the man settled it against the other side of Louis's neck, the right side. "I'm sorry, but it's news I want and you don't have any, do you?"
There hadn't been a gun. The guy had faked it just to make doubly sure Louis didn't try too hard to escape.
"It's not easy to think straight like this," Louis babbled. "But I do know things you couldn't know. Give me a chance to look at the map with you. Get in the car and we'll go over things. Charlotte and Vivian know me. They trust me."
"Stupid of them but never mind. They'll have me and they already trust me."
"But -- "
There wasn't a lot of pain. The knife blade sliced deep into his neck, just the right side of his neck, and he flopped slowly sideways. Thunderous pulsing roared in his ears and he saw red, red everywhere. His blood pumped from the carotid artery in gushes. It hit the windshield and splattered over the lovely ivory leather interior of the car.
Red and black. Bleeding to death. Life draining out.
Louis opened his mouth but couldn't speak.
He slid until his head rested on the briefcase.
"I'm only doing my job," a distant voice said. "Brizio always does his job."
Louis convulsed. His mouth filled with blood. No pain at all now, just soft, gray numbness gathering him in.
"Sleep tight. This is your dead end, sucker."
"Vivian Patin, I'm your mother. You have absolutely no right to speak to me in that manner."
Charlotte paused to peer down the passageway leading from the big, antiquated kitchens to the hall and the receiving room where their next-door neighbor, Mrs. Susan Hurst, waited for tea. After taking no notice of Charlotte and Vivian since they moved in months earlier, she had appeared on the doorstep today, just appeared without warning and invited herself for tea. Imagine that. With a plate of cookies in hand, she'd showed up to be "neighborly."
"Mama," Vivian said in a low voice but without whispering. "I'm a little old to be treated like a child. Now tell me what you've been up to. No, no, don't tell me you haven't been up to anythin' because I can tell. Guilt is painted all over your face."
Her mother's pretty, fair-skinned face and innocent, liquid brown eyes couldn't hide a thing from Vivian. Charlotte Patin feared nothing and would dare anything. Her close-cropped gray hair and petite frame added to the impression that she was a dynamo. In fact, she rarely stood still and she hatched a plan a minute. And Vivian adored her. She also knew that her mother was putting a great face on her grief. She and Vivian's father had lived a love affair. Mama was brave, but David Patin had only been dead a year and Charlotte's odd, empty expressions, which came and went without warning, made lumps in Vivian's throat.
"Mama, please," Vivian said gently. "I know whatever you've done is with the best intentions. But -- and I'm beggin' now -- put me out of my misery."
Charlotte hushed her and leaned out of the kitchen door once more.
"Just tell me what you're up to," Vivian said. "I'm worried out of my mind about Louis Martin. Where can that man be? That should be all you care about, too, but you're up to something else. You got off the phone real quick earlier." Her mother in a stubborn mode was a hard woman to break down.
"I'd better call Louis's offices in New Orleans and see if he ever left," Charlotte said, knowing she was going to be on thin ice with Vivian. "I don't hear any hammerin' or bangin' in this house, do you? No? That's because workers have to be paid and we're about out of money." A mother had to do what a mother had to do and right now this mother had to safeguard the little surprise she had planned for the evening.
Vivian shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans. She decided they were better there than taking out her ire on some innocent dish -- particularly since most of the dishes around here were actually worth something. "Don't try to distract me with what I already know," she said, raising her voice a little. 'Tell me the straight truth."
"She'll hear you," Charlotte whispered. "She's only here because she's a nosy gossip who finally decided to come and poke around. That woman will run straight from our house to chatter about us to her cronies. She behaves like the lady of the manor visiting the poor on her estates. I can only imagine what she'll say about us."
"If I shout at you, she'll have a lot to say."
"Oh, all right, I give up. You have no respect. I called that nice Spike Devol and invited him to dinner this evenin.' A handsome man like that all on his own. Such a waste."
Vivian took a calming breath. "He has his daughter and his father," she said while she turned to water just under her skin, all of her skin, at the mention of that man. "Anyway, I'm sure he didn't accept. Why would he?"
For a smart woman who, until months ago, had managed an exclusive hotel in New Orleans, Vivian, Charlotte thought, could be plain stupid. "Well, he did accept and he'll be here around seven. He may be a deputy sheriff and we know the pay's not so good, but I hear he does well with that gas station and convenience store his daddy runs for him, and now he's got his crawfish boilin' operation."
She watched for Vivian to react and when she didn't, said, "He's obviously not afraid to work and he's had his hard times with his wife leaving him like that. For a bodybuilder. There isn't a thing wrong with Spike's body as far as I can see. Of course, I haven't seen --" Vivian's raised eyebrows brought Charlotte a little caution. "Well, anyway, he's just about the best-looking single man in these parts, and quiet in that mysterious way some strong men are. I'm tellin' you, Vivian -- "
"Nothing." Vivian hardly dared to speak at all. "You are telling me nothing and from now on you won't make one more matchmaking attempt. Y'hear? I can't imagine where you got all your personal information about him."
"You like him, too. You have since you first met him. That had to be a couple of years back. I've seen how the two of you talk -- "
"Not a thing, Mama. You will not do or say another thing on the subject. Give me that tea." With that, she snatched up the pot. "Bring the cups and saucers and help me get rid of this woman quickly."
"He had a disappointing thing with Jilly at the bakery in Toussaint -- All Tarted Up," Charlotte said from behind Vivian. "I guess everyone thought they were goin' somewhere but it didn't work out. They're still good friends and I always think that says a lot about people."
"I know that," Vivian said.
"Father Cyrus and Spike are good friends so Spike must be a good man."
Copyright © 2003 Stella Cameron
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First Line: Hay-ell.....and, IMO, it went downhill from there.Vivian Patin and her mother Charlotte have inherited a huge old estate houseand grounds named Rosebank in Louisiana, after Charlotte's husband (andVivian's father) David, perished in a fire at their very successfulrestaurant in New Orleans. But (oddly enough) there was no insurance (yeah,right!) and the two women are nearly broke. They have decided to turnRosebank into a hotel and restaurant, but will have to go slowly due to lackof funds. Then they receive a mysterious phone call from David's attorney,saying he is on his way to visit them and has something with him that willchange everything for the two ladies. But the attorney never arrives and isfound in his own car on the estate grounds, with his throat slashed, a kissmark on his cheek and a single white rose lying on his chest. His breifcaseis empty and the mystery deepens.Well, it never got very deep for me, I have to tell you. A treasure map,old enemies, voodoo women, this book was a hodge-podge of crap, IMO, poorlywritten and barely readable. If I hadn't been nearly desparate I'd neverhave finished it. Can I award a negative number? Probably not. So, thisone gets a ZERO from me.
A few months ago I read ¿Now You See Him¿ which I found out, albeit too late, was a prequel to ¿Kiss Them Goodbye¿. Had I known that I would never have bought this book which was actually worse than the first and a waste of money. My fault, I should concentrate more. Spike and Vivian behaved like 12 year olds. One or the other was always getting their feelings hurt, usually because they¿d completely misread what the other one said/did. Spike would start snapping at Vivian and she¿d have no idea why or vice versa. Hello¿they¿re both supposed to be adults with responsible jobs and Spike is raising a daughter, but they can¿t even communicate with each other? Ex: He tells her he¿s worried that she¿ll sell Rosebank and move away from him. Instead of comforting and reassuring him she screams at him, ¿How do you know what my feelings are? Thanks for the confidence!¿ and then she slaps him. Why he didn¿t run in the other direction as fast as he could is more of a mystery than the plot was. Or almost as bad, a character would say/think something like ¿I know what that means.' or ¿He realized then what was happening.¿ Wonderful, how about sharing it with the readers because we are clueless? I suppose I read this one to the end because the optimist in me kept hoping it would get better. Instead, by the end of the book, I was highly annoyed. I think I¿ll give Stella a wide berth from now on and if I¿m interested in reading another of her books, I¿ll get it from the library.
David Patin died in a mysterious fire that destroyed his popular New Orleans restaurant mere weeks after inheriting Rosebank from his brother, Guy. Rosebank had once been a magnificent plantation on the banks of Bayou Teche. Guy had decorated Rosebank with hundreds of monkeys and pineapples. ......................... When David's wife, Charlotte, and daughter, Vivian, learned that the family finances were poor, they decided to make Rosebank prosper. With Vivian's degree in hotel management and charlotte's restaurant expertise, they would slowly turn Rosebank into a resort hotel. ....................... Their dream began to crumble when the family lawyer was murdered on Rosebank's grounds. He had been coming with big news for Charlotte and Vivian only to be killed within walking distance of the estate. The envelope containing the wonderful news had vanished, leaving the Patins clueless as to what it had contained. ........................ Unsatisfied with the laughable investigation by the local police (Errol Bonine), Vivian turned to Spike Devol, the deputy sheriff of a nearby town. Not only was Spike known to be smart and wily, not to mention sexy, but he had also been present when Vivian stumbled upon the first body (her lawyer). Spike and Errol are totally different and tempers toward each other run hot. However, Spike's growing attraction to Vivian will not let him back off from investigating on his own. ................ ***** Author Stella Cameron has written another winner, in my opinion. The lush background of Louisiana accents the scenes, lending a beautiful but chilling tone to the story. A variety of characters abound in this tale of greed, murder, and romance. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Highly recommended reading here! *****
Back to Toussaint, Louisiana. A killer strikes at Mardi Gras and Ellie Byron from the Hungry Eye bookshop in Toussaint is the main witness. The killer is jailed and everything calms down--until a jail escape puts the murderer on the run and another woman died. Joe Gable, the town's only lawyer wants Ellie. He's wanted her for a long time. When she gets warnings that she may be on the terminator's list she and Joe cling together and try to stop Ellie from becoming the next victim
Not long after his brother Guy died, New Orleans restaurateur David Patin dies in a fire at his establishment Chez Charlotte. Besides grieving their loss, his wife and daughter Vivian are shocked to learn how in debt they are. They move to Guy¿s former estate Rosebank, which they inherited planning to convert the property into an exclusive resort. Their lawyer Louis Martin drives out to give them some good news that Guy left with his inheritance. However, someone kills the attorney just before local Sheriff Spike Devol arrives for dinner. Bullying Detective Bonine leads the investigation in which he suspects the Patin women killed Louis since Vivian inadvertently destroyed the crime scene. As Bonine pressures the two women, Vivian and Spike fall in love, but first he must uncover the identity of a killer and resolves to discover what Guy left them to keep them solvent. Fans of police procedural romances will enjoy this delightful thriller. The story line is loaded with action as the audience will appreciate the lead couple and their efforts to do the right thing. Except for the police detective the secondary cast adds depth to the plot. KISS THEM GOODBYE is a strong Bayou suspense tale, a novel that lives up to Stella Cameron¿s reputation as a great author. Harriet Klausner