Archive for November, 2013


on November 24, 2013 in Misc 10 Comments »

My darling readers, I wish I could continue the saga of Layla’s  adventures in Chicago, but just for today I need to take a break.

See, I’ve had a really stinky day.  A really bad, godawful day and emotionally I’m just drained.  I can’t go into the details, but I can tell you that it involves my writing, my books, and an old and good friend, and sadly that friendship now appears to be at an end, which breaks my heart.

Ever had one of those painful shoulda woulda coulda moments, when you look back and think, If only I’d done such-and-such months ago?  I hate regrets.

Ah well.  Life goes on.  Please forgive my downer vibes.  Next Sunday Layla will be back, along with the bad guy and the mysterious man and Annie.

Have a great week and a warm and happy Thanksgiving.




The Complication

on November 18, 2013 in Misc 8 Comments »

For the remainder of 2013, my posts will be from Layla Daltry’s perspective.  She’s the hero of The Compass Master, a daring antiquities hunter, and while on the trail of a rare, precious artifact is living undercover in Denver as Helena Soister…

My heart started beating faster.  Was Annie in any kind of danger?  I got my answer when the gorgeous stranger reached out and took her elbow.  It appeared to be a gentlemanly gesture—he was merely guiding her forward.  But for me alarm bells went off.

This stranger was Arabic, possibly Egyptian, and such men never touch women outside their families.  What he was doing now was strictly forbidden in his culture.

I could tell that he knew I knew something was up, and he knew Annie knew I had come to this museum for a rendezvous for the stolen scroll, but he couldn’t know that I knew how to use the stiletto up my sleeve or that Annie knew how to take care of herself too.

My first thought was to help Annie.  I walked faster and away from the rottweiler man, and as I moved I took off my hat and innocently held it out to her.

“Do you have a comb?” I asked.  “My hat made my hair such a mess.”

She didn’t even blink at the word “mess”—one of our signal words.  Instead she held my hat for me and said something about not having a comb, all the while slipping the poison-tipped hatpin into her pocket.

“We have met before,” said the mysterious stranger.

I looked into his dark eyes and for one dangerous moment hoped that Annie wouldn’t hurt him.  Then his eyes shifted toward the grand staircase behind me and he scowled.  I glanced over my shoulder.

The rottweiler man was hurrying away from us and down the stairs.

“The scroll!” I whispered.  If he disappeared, my chances of getting my hands on the scroll and clearing my name would disappear with him.

I bolted down the stairs.  But the rottweiler had already reached the vestibule below and was vanishing into the crowd.  I caught sight of him again when he reached the museum’s open doors and stepped outside…


The Set-Up

on November 11, 2013 in Misc 10 Comments »

For the remainder of 2013, my posts will be from Layla Daltry’s perspective.  She’s the hero of The Compass Master, a daring antiquities hunter, and while on the trail of a rare, precious artifact is living undercover in Denver as Helena Soister…

The stranger took a step closer to me.  He had the breath of a dog that had been licking itself, and he scratched his jowls with a rolled-up art magazine.

“Eeww,” I mumbled, and backed away.  If this rottweiler of a man was planning to set me up for a fall, I had to protect myself.  “Looks like we’re alone,” I said.  “But there are security cameras everywhere.”

“That’s why I don’t got the scroll with me.”

His accent was thick and Middle Eastern.  “You’re Egyptian?” I asked him in Arabic.

He sneered and stuck to English.  “I’m from nowhere.  But my scroll is from Egypt.  Gnostic.  Third Century.”

“Impressive.  It must be worth a small fortune.”

“About thirty thousand dollars.”

Ouch.  That would be a big chunk out of my life savings, at least if I were planning on buying the smuggled antiquity, which I wasn’t.  What I needed instead was to turn the game around and trap this unsavory underworld character.

“I take it you’re not alone in this little… public offering.”

“Doesn’t matter who I’m with!” he growled.  “You deal with me.  Now do you want to see the scroll or not?”

You need to be on a leash, I wanted to say.  “I don’t think I should go anywhere with you.  Besides, how do I know you really have the scroll?  How can I be sure this isn’t a trick and…”

Suddenly the stranger unrolled his magazine and held it open for me.  I gasped in horror.  “You bastard!” I whispered.

A photograph was stuck inside the magazine and showed an unrolled ancient papyrus sheet covered with writing.  Behind it was yesterday’s front page of the Chicago Tribune, and close to them both was a man’s hand – HIS hand – holding a burning match.

“It’s a very fragile scroll,” the stranger said with a sadistic chuckle.

I struggled to regain my cool.  “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt for me to examine your scroll more carefully.”

“That’s more like it,” said the stranger.

He gestured toward the open doorway.  As we moved out of the room and toward the museum’s grand staircase, I reached up my sleeve and found the handle of my stiletto.  Maybe if I stabbed him as soon as we were outside and alone again…  Maybe if I could force him to hand over that poor, endangered scroll I could get away and…


It was my friend Annie calling to me.  She was leaving the gallery of Asian sculptures, and right behind her was the drop-dead gorgeous man I had mistaken for the contact.  No, not behind her, with her.  But his eyes were locked on me.

What was going on?

For the remainder of 2013, my posts will be from Layla Daltry’s perspective.  She’s the hero of The Compass Master, a daring antiquities hunter, and while on the trail of a rare, precious artifact is living undercover in Denver as Helena Soister…

When I walked into the Art Institute of Chicago, there was a knife in my boot, a stiletto up my sleeve, and the hatpin in my elegant black hat was tipped with poison.

I wasn’t taking any chances.

The moment I had read the professor’s note that told me the rendezvous point was in the museum, I knew I was in trouble.  How had those smugglers discovered that Annie and I planned a visit to it this afternoon?  Had they discovered my blog? I really should be careful about what I posted.

“Tell me again why you know where to go,” Annie said as we walked past hordes of tourists and up the museum’s grand staircase.

“My master’s thesis that I wrote at the University of Chicago…”

“You mean that Layla Daltry wrote.”

“Hush!” I whispered.  “I’m undercover.  Anyway, the thesis was about the Book of Revelation, and there’s only one painting here that depicts the author John.  If those criminals know about me and why I’m here, that must be the rendezvous point.  So let’s split up.  Keep your distance from me, and keep an eye out.”

Moments later I saw the painting—Landscape with St. John on Patmos, by Nicholas Poussin.  I didn’t like the painting, but I liked the look of the man standing in front of it.  He was wearing an expensive dark suit and was built like an Egyptian god.

I walked over and stood beside him.  From the corner of my eyes I saw his profile.  Damn, he was handsome.

“Interesting picture,” he remarked.

“I never liked it.  I only like that it shows John writing on a scroll of vellum.  Or papyrus.  I’m interested in papyrus scrolls.”

The stranger seemed perplexed.  “Perhaps there are scrolls in another wing,” he said, and walked away.

Oh hell, the gorgeous man wasn’t my contact after all.  But maybe he’d like to have a drink in the museum’s bistro followed by an intimate conversation in a dark corner…

“Interesting painting,” growled a voice behind me.

I turned around.  I was facing a man who smelled like old cigars and looked like a mangy rottweiler.  Of course he was ugly.  Contacts in these situations were always ugly.

“I’ve got a scroll,” he said.

“I’m interested,” I said.

He made a crookedsmile.  I began to get a very bad feeling…