The Color of Greed is a mystery thriller introducing Raja Williams, a private investigator, and his sidekick Vinny, a skilled computer hacker. Although the story starts as a simple murder mystery whodunnit, it quickly leads Raja into a multi-layered tale of intrigue.
When the young husband of a wealthy heiress is found dead on his yacht floating off the California coastline, his death is ruled an accident and the case is closed. The grieving widow, certain her husband was murdered but getting no help from the police, turns to Raja Williams who has dedicated his resources to help those in need of justice. When Raja arrives in Los Angeles and more bodies begin to pile up, he suspects a cover-up that may go up as high as the governor. With the help of Vinny, Raja must unravel the case before everyone involved, including the two of them, winds up dead.
It’s an old-fashioned detective story with current themes.
Targeted Age Group:: young adult to adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I’ve always been a fan of hard-boiled mysteries and wanted to try my hand at creating an enjoyable crime-fighting duo. I quickly fell in love with Raja and Vinny and am working on my fourth book in the series.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Pure creation. Once they started, they seemed to create themselves.
A forty-foot cruiser floated idly next to the dock at the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, just north of Seal Beach on the Southern California coast. A recent storm in the Pacific had churned up enough sea to send choppy waves now and again into the bay. As the boat rocked up on a wave, the name Maid Marion flashed momentarily into view in the moonlight. The sound of two voices interspersed with giggles echoed from below deck.
A tan young man and a cute girl in shorts and a halter top were making out on the curved bed in the boat’s lower cabin. As he heated up, the young man made his move to climb on top of the girl. Realizing where things were headed, the girl straightened her arms between them and managed to break his grip momentarily.
“Darryl, are you sure no one will see us out here? What if someone comes along? I don’t feel safe on this boat.”
“Are you kidding? It’s just like a house on the water. We are completely alone, Sandy. Trust me.” Those two words were uttered countless times by a boy to a girl to invoke favor from the gods of love. Darryl’s hopes that they would work yet again soared when Sandy smiled, untied her top and dropped it onto the floor. The two resumed their fevered grappling until a loud thud echoed in the cabin followed by an unpleasant scraping sound. Darryl ignored the interruption twice and pressed on, but when it happened a third time, Sandy’s eyes bugged wide and her body stiffened.
Darryl knew then he would have to deal with whatever was making the horrible sound.
“What was that?” said Sandy, right on cue, reaching for her top.
“Wait here,” ordered Darryl, impatiently. He was halfway to the stairs. “I’ll be right back.” He thought it was probably a tourist who hadn’t secured his boat well enough. A couple of quick knots and he’d be back for business. Darryl climbed up to the deck and peered around. The thump repeated behind him. He turned and saw a forty-foot sports yacht scraping against the seaward side of the dock. It was an Azimut 40, high-end luxury and nicer than most, and there didn’t appear to be anyone on board. The edge of the hull screeched loudly as the boat pushed itself outward. Darryl hopped onto the dock and ran toward the boat that now drifted ten feet away.
“Hello? Anyone on board?” he shouted, listening in between for any sign of life. Nothing. When the boat drifted back toward the dock again, he leaped onto the rear deck. “Hello,” he said, once more. There was no sign of anyone. As he searched in the pale moonlight for a line to tie the boat, something bumped into the back of his ankle. He jumped and let out a girlish yelp. It was only an orange mooring buoy that had rolled across the deck. Darryl laughed at himself, shook his head and continued searching until he found the dock line. He tied the back end of the boat to a cleat on the dock, and then went below to look around.
Meanwhile Sandy managed to get her top back on and came up on deck just in time to see Darryl ducking into the interior of the derelict yacht. She pulled on her sneakers and hopped onto the dock and from there to the rear deck of the other boat. She noticed the yacht’s name Clarice painted in cursive on the back panel. Several gruesome scenes from the movie The Silence of the Lambs flashed into her head. Sandy shivered involuntarily and decided not to follow Darryl below deck. Feeling safer in the open air, she climbed up to the overhead flybridge. There was a sundeck behind a control panel full of dials. She noticed a rumpled piece of canvas along the railing. When she pulled one edge to move it out of her way, the canvas shifted and a man’s body rolled out and flopped on its back in the center of the deck. The face was bloody and had no eyes. Sandy screamed.
Chapter One: Seagulls
The police showed up within minutes, despite the late hour. Even a call from a small yacht club like the Alamitos got fast service. Yachts meant wealth, and wealth meant there were bound to be important people demanding action through their most influential connections. By default the case fell to robbery-homicide. Hearing the location, Detective Rafferty knew better than to bitch. Cases involving the wealthy rolled downhill—fast. He raced to the scene, hoping to get out in front of the media noise. Most of these calls were not crimes, and if they were, the parties involved usually wanted them swept under the rug as quickly and quietly as possible. Rafferty arrived at the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club at three thirty, wishing he had stopped for coffee. He hated cases like this. They reminded him how long he had until retirement, and how unlikely it was he would ever save enough to buy even the cheapest of the boats he saw docked there.
Detective Rafferty stopped and took in the whole scene. The local uniforms had detained the young couple who had found the body, and were getting their statements. The coroner’s office had sent Dr. Sharon Becker, their top pathologist, who was already examining the body. Rafferty liked her. She knew her business and didn’t try to get into his. One of the uniforms approached him.
“What are we looking at?” asked the detective.
“White male, thirty-two. ID we found says the vic’s name is Randall Hope. The boat is not registered at the local yacht club.”
“How did it get here?” demanded Rafferty.
“Working on it,” said another detective who had arrived at the scene.
“Those two found his body on his boat.” The officer pointed to the scared young couple sitting on the back of an emergency vehicle. The girl looked to be in shock.
Rafferty walked over to the kids who had found the body. “You two all right?” he asked, almost sounding like he really cared.
“I am,” said the boy. “Sandy is pretty shaken.”
The girl was in that state of shock where she looked like she was going to cry, but she couldn’t. She wouldn’t be much help.
Rafferty talked to the boy. “So you’re Darryl Harmon?”
“And this boat?”
“It’s my dad’s. He lets me use it sometimes.”
“I’m sure he does. You found the other boat drifting?”
“Yeah. It rammed the dock a few times. I went on board to tie it up. That’s when we found the body.”
“See anyone else?”
“No, sir. Just the dead guy.”
“And you don’t know him?”
“Never seen him or his boat. It’s a nice one, though.”
“I’m not so sure he would agree. Okay. Make sure we have your phone number and such. You can go. I’m done with these two,” he said to one of the uniforms standing by.
The other detective returned. “The boat—is it a boat or a ship? I can never remember.”
“Go on, go on,” urged Rafferty.
“Oh yeah. It’s registered to a Clarice Smith Hope—she is the vic’s wife. It’s registered at the Catalina Island Yacht Club. Very exclusive. He must have been out somewhere near the island, and then the Catalina Eddy must have pushed the yacht into the mainland.”
“Catalina Eddy? Sounds like a pirate name.”
“It’s a weather phenomenon that swirls around the Catalina Island area. Currents and wind can move a boat around.”
Rafferty turned to the uniformed policeman. “You get anything else?”
The uniform looked at his notes. “No sign of a struggle. The witnesses claim not to know him. And—”
“Yes?” said Rafferty, impatiently.
“What about them?”
“He doesn’t have any.”
Rafferty got interested for the first time. “Show me.”
The officer led him to the yacht that was now secured properly to the dock. Spotlights had been rigged up and Rafferty could see Dr. Becker working up on the flybridge.
“Hey, Doc. Hell of a night to be working. Anything interesting?”
“Always. Come on up, Tommy.” Rafferty loved when the doc called him Tommy. It had a ring of familiarity he longed for. One of these days he would return the gesture. Rafferty stepped carefully onto the yacht’s rear deck and climbed the stairs to the flybridge. Lying face up on the sundeck was a man with empty sockets for eyes.
“He wasn’t kidding,” said Rafferty, in the detached manner you might expect from a veteran homicide detective in LA. He had seen much worse.
“Who wasn’t kidding?”
“The kid downstairs. No eyes. What do we got? Some freaky ritual murder?”
“Not unless you want to start arresting the seagulls.”
“You’re telling me seagulls did that?”
“Here’s a gull feather and those are bird droppings,” she said holding up a white and grey feather and pointing to several splotches on the deck. “Gulls eat shellfish—clams and oysters—and scavenge. Probably took his eyes for a couple of oysters on the half shell.”
“Thanks a lot, Doc. I won’t eat oysters any time soon.”
“The point is, no ritual murder. No sign of murder at all. Of course, we’ll need a tox screen and full exam to be sure. But with the hemorrhage in his cheeks, if I had to guess I’d say heat stroke or heart attack.”
“You’re no fun today, Doc.”
“Got to call ’em like I see ’em.”
“Okay. Let me see if I understand this correctly. We have a stupid rich guy who stayed out in the sun too long, had a stroke and got blown over here by a wind called Eddy. That sounds like a wrap to me. Doc, let me know if anything turns up on the autopsy. Otherwise, I’m closing the book on this one.”
“Will do, Tommy,” said Dr. Becker. Rafferty liked the sound of that.
Chapter Two: The Widow
The phone ringing next to the bed had not woken Raja. He kept the volume down to a barely perceptible level. Nor had the woman’s distraught voice on his computer messaging system pulled him from sleep. Although the early sun was just peaking over the treeline and into the bedroom of his three-story home on the northern tip of Clearwater Beach, Raja Williams had been awake for almost an hour. He had an uncanny sense of trouble when it was coming. Much like the internal clock that tells nocturnal beasts to head for the safety of their homes long before daybreak, or an animal’s recognition that a storm is coming before there is any change in the weather, Raja had a sixth sense about trouble. He thought of it as his own internal version of stormwatch. However, in Raja’s case, he always headed right toward the storm. Although someone might say that made him dumber than the animals, Raja saw it as a point of responsibility. If he knew about something, he should do something about it.
And this morning he knew about something. The signs had been building inside him for nearly a day. That’s why he was awake and alert when the voice began.
“Mr. Williams, my name is Clarice Hope. I need your help.” The voice sounded sad and desperate, two things Raja could never resist, especially in a woman. He grabbed the phone.
Jack Thompson is an international bestselling author finding voices in many genres. In addition to his popular Raja Williams mystery series, Jack writes science fiction, political thrillers, paranormal romance, children’s stories and fairy tales.
According to Jack, whether reading or writing, what makes a story great is how well it communicates to the reader. Whether presenting him with a hero he wishes he could be or a villain he chooses to hate, the characters must relate to the reader on a personal level. A reader will leave a good story in an improved condition. He may have learned something new about the world or himself, or simply been well entertained. That’s why Jack writes.
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