No Way To Die
“Danny Logan and crew dive into the world of cryptography and applied mathematics to get to the bottom of a questionable suicide in this Danny Logan Mystery Series novel from Seattle mystery author M.D. Grayson..”
Seattle mathematician Thomas Rasmussen had everything to live for. He had a beautiful, loving wife and two great kids. He was well known and respected in his field. His startup company Applied Cryptographic Solutions recently finished building a revolutionary decryption device called The Starfire Protocol that was already attracting offers in the millions.
With all that going for him, why would Thomas drive to Discovery Park at six-thirty on a dark, rainy morning, put a .357 Magnum to his head and pull the trigger? The police say the evidence is conclusive—it was definitely a suicide. But that made no sense to his wife, Katherine. So she did what people in Seattle do when they need help on matters such as these. She turned to Danny Logan and the Logan Private Investigation Agency.
Logan, along with his associates Antoinette “Toni” Blair, Kenny Hale and Joaquin “Doc” Kiahtel roll into action, determined to find out what really happened. Did Thomas really die by his own hand? Or was he murdered? Either way: why? The answer to these questions would lead the team through a trail full of lies, conflicting evidence, and extreme danger. But one thing was certain: alone—in a car—in a dark parking lot—in the rain—that’s surely No Way to Die.
No Way to Die has almost 500 5-Star reviews on Amazon.
“There is an incredible amount of research that went into this book. What appears to be an open and shut incident never is. Instead, the reader is led through a series of complex subplots- that are explained in great detail, logically possible and always related to a simple incident occurring in the first few pages of the book. Because the incidents are so logical and the characters so engaging, the reader flys through the novel with interest and marvel at the skill of the author. Grayson is a thinking person’s author; the book a true pleasure to read!”
-DR. CHARLES VOLUSE
“This is definitely the way to write a book.”
-SILVER SCREEN VIDEOS
MONDAYS ARE MY lazy days—at least from a training perspective, that is. When it comes to hauling my butt out of a warm bed at oh-dark-thirty, lacing on my running shoes, and hitting the pavement—if it’s Monday—I don’t do it. Here’s the deal.
I’m a serious runner, and I follow a pretty rigid full-time training program year-round, rain or shine. The program for each day is different, designed to work out a particular aspect of my game—speed, endurance, strength, and so on. The intensity of the training program varies depending on the time of year. The common denominator, though, whatever week of the year, is that Mondays are always “recovery” days. In other words, I get to sleep late and not feel guilty about it.
This explains why at oh-six-thirty on the fifth of March 2012, I was sitting at the dining room table in my apartment overlooking Lake Union, wearing pajamas and drinking coffee. I was looking outside, watching the rain fall against my patio door instead of pounding uphill and feeling the same rain hit me in the face. Don’t get me wrong—I like the rain. If I didn’t, I’d probably be wise to find another place to live. I’m used to it, and running in the rain doesn’t bother me at all. But sitting in the warm apartment, drinking coffee, and surfing the net on my iPad isn’t so bad either—a bit of a treat, actually.
I have a habit of turning on the TV to one of those cable news channels that continuously scrolls the headlines across the bottom of the screen. Then I turn the sound off so I don’t have to listen to the perpetual drone of the announcers. Instead, I turn some music on low. This particular morning I was listening to an old acoustic standby—Bruce Cockburn’s Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws.
I heard the shower kick on in the bathroom down the hall across from my bedroom. The smell of coffee filled the room. All in all, a very nice Monday morning. Then my phone rang. Caller ID: my dad. Wondered why he was calling so early.
* * * *
“Hey, Dad,” I said, as I turned the music down a notch just as “Wondering Where the Lions Are” started.
“Morning, Danny. I wake you up?”
“Yeah, right.” This was a joke. He knows I’m an early riser.
He chuckled. “How was your weekend? Did you have a good time?”
I’d spoken to him on Friday and told him that I’d be “unavailable” over the weekend and would have to miss a Sunday morning breakfast we’d scheduled earlier. “You bet,” I said, recalling a very nice weekend indeed.
“Anyone I know?”
“Stop prying, Pop,” I said. I heard the shower doors slide open, and then, a moment later, a voice from the bathroom was singing loudly, “Wondering Where the Lions Are.” I smiled. Doesn’t get much finer than a beautiful woman singing in your shower to start off your morning. “You know I’ll fill you in when you have a need to know.”
He laughed again. “‘Need to know,’ huh? You act like I’m the one who was in the army. Well,” he continued, “you never were one to kiss and tell, were you?”
“You know me too well, Pop.”
“You bet,” he said. “Say, I’ve got something you might be interested in.” Ah, I didn’t think he’d be calling at six-thirty in the morning just to check up on my weekend.
“While you were off enjoying yourself, I was contacted over the weekend by a client. She’s actually quite a young woman, but I’ve had a long-standing relationship with her family—her parents, to be precise. Did I ever mention the Berg family to you?
“Berg?” I said, mulling the name over, trying to recall hearing it. “It sounds familiar, but I can’t place it.”
“Well,” he said, “our family’s known the Bergs for a long time. Karl Berg was a client of your grandfather’s first. Then I took over when your grandfather retired.” My dad’s a fourth-generation Seattle lawyer. There’s been a Logan attorney in Seattle continuously since 1892. I was supposed to be the fifth generation, but I opted for the army instead—a move that continues to confound my extended family to this day, especially given my current career choice as private investigator. Not to worry, though: I have three cousins who are members of the firm. The Logan place at the bar is secure.
“I think I might remember that,” I said, vaguely recalling the name. “Didn’t the Bergs have something to do with furniture?”
“That’s right,” Dad said. “Very good. Karl Berg founded the Seattle Furniture Expo in the mid-fifties. He grew it into the largest furniture retail operation in the Northwest—he was big here. Also in Spokane—even Portland. Karl sold the business to a national chain in the mid-eighties. He had a good run. I represented them in the sale. He and Ingrid retired then and started spending a lot more time with their daughter, Katherine.”
“Katherine came along a little later in life for Karl and Ingrid. They were probably in their mid-forties when she was born in—” he paused to remember, “—in 1974, I think. Katherine was their real joy—a godsend for them. Once they retired, they traveled and generally enjoyed life with their daughter. Sadly, both Karl and Ingrid have passed on within the last five years.”
“No other siblings?” I asked. “Katherine’s the sole survivor?”
“Yes, that’s right. She’s the last of the original Berg family—in Seattle, anyway. The good news is that Katherine got married to a fine man and bore two beautiful children of her own. So I guess you could say the line goes on.”
“That’s good,” I agreed. “But you said ‘the good news.’ Sounds like you’re about to hit me with some ‘bad news’?”
“Sadly, yes,” he said. “Does the name Thomas Rasmussen ring a bell?”
“Thomas Rasmussen?” I closed my eyes and concentrated. “Yeah. Isn’t he the tech guy that killed himself in Discovery Park a couple of weeks ago?”
“Correct. It pains me to have to say it, but Thomas Rasmussen was Katherine’s husband and the father of their two young children.”
The line was quiet for a second. “Geez,” I said. “I’m very sorry to hear that. That’s got to be a tough burden for Katherine to carry.”
“It is. As the sole inheritor of her parents’ estate, she’s very well off financially, of course. But emotionally, it’s very tough. As you say, it’s a hard thing to have to deal with.”
“I can’t even imagine,” I said. “Bad enough when a husband dies. But to lose someone to suicide has to create all kinds of issues in the minds of those left behind.”
“Indeed. Which brings me to the point of the call,” Dad said.
“And that is?”
“Katherine’s not convinced it was a suicide.”
This got my attention. “Really? What makes her feel that way?”
“I’d rather she told you yourself,” he said. “I want you to hear it the way she told me, word for word—not secondhand.”
“Fair enough,” I agreed. “When do you want to meet?”
“I apologize for the short notice, but how about breakfast at eight o’clock?”
“Eight o’clock this morning? As in the eight o’clock that’s just a little more than an hour from now?”
Fortunately, I didn’t have anything pressing this morning. Besides, my dad sends us quite a bit of business. For that (and other reasons), I owe him big-time. Not to mention the general fact that he’s always been a pretty cool dad, and I go out of my way to help him whenever I can. “Where’d you have in mind?”
“Lowell’s in Pike Place.”
“Lowell’s? Really? Come on, Pop.” Most of the Pike Place restaurants are mobbed with tourists.
“It’s fine,” he said. “If you get there early, it’s not crowded, and they have great breakfasts.”
I shook my head. “All right,” I said. “Lowell’s. But I get to pick the next restaurant.”
He chuckled. “Of course,” he lied. Dad always picks. “Excellent. Thanks for accommodating the short notice.” He paused for a second, and then added, “Do you think you’ll have any trouble getting yourself free by then?”
“Don’t be wise, Pop. It’s unbecoming. I’ll be there.”
He laughed. “Thanks, Danny. I owe you.” Just before I started to hang up, he said, “Oh, Danny! One other thing—tell your lady friend she has a fine singing voice.”
* * * *
I hung up and walked down the hall. I poked my head into the steamy bathroom and called out, “Hey!” over the noise of the shower. “You almost done in there? I just found out I’ve got an eight o’clock appointment, and I haven’t showered yet.”
The shower curtain slid open, and Jennifer Thomas smiled at me, her wet blond hair pasted slick against her head, a drop of water hanging on the end of her cute little nose. “You can always hop in with me,” she said, grinning seductively.
“Yeah, right,” I smiled. I leaned forward and kissed her lightly on the lips. “That’s supposed to save time? It’s tempting, but I’d probably never make it to my appointment.”
“And I’d probably miss my flight,” she said. “I’ve got to hurry as it is. My flight’s at nine-thirty. Get out of my way and stop tempting me.” She pushed me back and closed the curtain. “I’ll hustle,” she called out.
Jennifer is a senior special agent for the FBI Seattle office whom I met six months ago while working a case. She’s very pretty. She has blond hair and blue eyes. She’s about five six or so and has a movie-star body. Trust me—she looks nothing like what you’d expect an FBI agent to look like. In fact, she looks more like one of those good-looking cable news anchors instead—the kind that look like models and have law degrees, which, as it so happens, Jen does. She was friendly with me last summer, but I had no idea she was interested in anything other than a professional acquaintance until a month ago when she suddenly showed up on my doorstep.
It was about nine o’clock in the evening about a month ago when I heard a loud knock at my door. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and when I answered, I was surprised to see Jennifer. I hadn’t seen her since last August, and only briefly then. That said, she was quite memorable.
“Logan,” she said in a serious tone as she stepped into my doorway, “we can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way.”
Uh-oh, I remember thinking. I was racking my brain, wondering if I was going to get busted for something, but then I noticed her start to smile. She put both hands on my chest and pushed me back into my apartment. She followed me in.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about you,” she said.
“I have.” She stepped toward me. I wasn’t sure what was happening. I retreated a step.
“I’ve been thinking,” she continued. “Here we are in Seattle. I’m single. You’re single. We’re both young and alive. We share similar interests, similar careers.” She took another step toward me. I tried to take another step backward, but I was up against the back of my sofa and had nowhere left to retreat. “I think,” she said slowly, “we should—” she hesitated, and then said, “hang out.” The words rolled seductively off her beautiful lips.
“Hang out?” I asked, haltingly.
“Yeah,” she said. “Hang out. You know, spend a little time together. No commitments—just good . . . clean . . . fun.” She pressed even closer.
I looked at her wide-eyed, trying to catch up mentally to what she was suggesting.
She sighed and said, “Okay, I see how this is going to work.” She backed up. “So it’s the hard way. Get your shoes on, grab your coat, get your ass in gear, and let’s go get a coffee and talk. After that, we’ll see what happens.”
So we did. We talked. Then we came back to my apartment that night, and we’ve “hung out” a whole lot ever since then.
We found that we liked each other. Jen’s from Georgia—joined the FBI right after graduation from the University of Georgia Law School. She’s smart and she’s easy to talk to. She’s very direct—about as subtle as a club to the head. She had no problem making it very clear that when it comes to romance, her notion of “long-term” means next weekend. All she wants to do is “hang out.” This works for me—I can be a pretty uncomplicated guy when circumstances call for it. I’m pretty good at taking things one day at a time. With these ground rules firmly in place, I’ve enjoyed the last few weeks with Jen.
* * * *
Thirty minutes later, we were both ready to go. “See you in a week or so, lover boy,” Jen said from her car as I stood at the curb in the rain. She was off to FBI headquarters in Virginia.
“I’ll miss you.” This was no lie.
“Don’t miss me too much,” she said. “I’ll be back.” She smiled at me as she drove off.
* * * *
I’d already pulled my Jeep out of the garage before she left, so I hopped in and headed for my office on Westlake Avenue on the western shore of Lake Union. My apartment sits on a bluff almost directly above the office, so it’s only a few minutes away. I’d already called my associate, Antoinette “Toni” Blair, and we agreed to meet out front at 7:40.
Toni and I have an interesting relationship. We met at the University of Washington in 2007 when we were both seniors majoring in Law, Societies, and Justice—similar to a Criminal Justice degree. I was still in the army, stationed at Fort Lewis where I was a special agent for the 6th MP Group—Criminal Investigation Division. This means, basically, that I was a sergeant in the army—an army cop who investigated felony offenses committed by army personnel all over the western United States. Toni was a waitress at the restaurant her mom ran in Lynnwood. We had both wanted to become private investigators after we graduated with our LSJ degrees (which was also about the same time I was discharged from the army).
I was impressed with her from the moment I saw her. Who wouldn’t be? There’s a lot to be impressed with when it comes to Toni. To begin with, she’s basically brilliant. I’m not stupid, but she’s way smarter than I am. She has a huge talent for detective work. She’s tough. She knows Krav Maga—the Israeli army martial art—almost as well as I do. I’ve seen her drop a two-hundred-pound man straight in his tracks with a flying back kick to the nose—he didn’t stand a chance. I don’t like to practice with her anymore because a) she’s really good, b) she hates to lose, and c) if all else fails, she cheats. And usually, while all this is happening, everyone’s watching her because—hell, everyone always watches her. By the way, she’s also a crack shot, although she hasn’t had to fire her Glock 23 “for real” since she became my first employee when I started Logan PI in March 2008.
And to completely prove that God does play favorites, whereas Jennifer Thomas is damn pretty, Toni is drop-dead frickin’ gorgeous in a Seattle-grunge-meets-Victoria’s-Secret sort of way. She has thick, medium-length dark hair—almost black. Her eyes are a brilliant blue the color of the Hope diamond. She’s five eight and built like a swimsuit model. She has a full array of smiles—from coy little grins to sincere ones that put people at ease all the way to full-on movie-star dazzlers that can melt a glacier. I’ve seen her with a variety of studs and piercings, depending on the occasion. To top it all off, she has a striking full-sleeve tattoo on her left arm and a Celtic weave tattoo on her right. She may have others, but if so, they’re better hidden and I don’t know about them.
And, I suppose, therein lies the rub. I’m not much of a ladies’ man—sure, I’ve had my fair share of successes, but I’m the first to admit that I just can’t figure them out. But a guy would have to be brain-dead not to make a play for Toni—even me. As it so happens, though, I have this thing that I picked up in the army that says office romances are to be strictly avoided. Most often, the situation gets complicated, and if things go south, you end up losing a friend, a lover, and a great employee all at the same time. Best to just not go there in the first place.
Toni and I’ve actually had this conversation in the past. For some reason, she sees me the same way I see her. That is, she likes me, but she also thinks the “hands-off” strategy is best. If we didn’t work together, who knows what would happen. But, since we do, and since we both love our jobs, we’ve decided to keep it strictly professional. We’ve never touched each other romantically.
That said, she’s the first one I turn to for advice and for backup. She often sees things that I don’t. More than once, she’s bailed me out of sticky situations. I know she always has my back, as I have hers. I rely on her completely. I once considered her my best friend, and I think she thought of me in the same way.
Yet despite the easygoing, uncomplicated, untangled history we had, something had changed between us—and not in a good way. Ever since I got back from visiting a friend in Hawaii in January, things have been different—more distanced.
She was pretty subtle about the coolness between us. She still smiled and talked openly around work. She still joked with the guys, but not so much with me. Around me, Toni’d been strangely withdrawn recently. She used to have no trouble at all telling me exactly how the cows ate the cabbage. If I needed support, she was there. If I was acting like a shithead (it happens), she’d tell me—right then, right to my face. She’d drop by my apartment for beers in the evenings. We’d sit out on the patio and talk. Sometimes, we wouldn’t talk, we’d just listen to music—Nirvana, Soundgarden, whatever.
But she hadn’t been over to my place since New Year’s. We seldom talked anymore, except about work-related things. Damn, I really missed the talks.
* * * *
I pulled the Jeep to the curb in front of the office. Toni was standing beneath an overhang, out of the rain, waiting for me. When she saw me pull up, she ran over and hopped in.
“Good morning,” I said, cheerfully.
“Hey there. Hi,” she said, as she closed the door.
“Thanks for getting here early.”
“You look really nice today.” She wore black jeans with black Doc Martens boots, a white blouse, and a bright yellow North Face rain jacket. The yellow jacket made her dark hair and her blue eyes even more pronounced.
“Thanks,” she answered.
I’d hoped that my compliment to her would warm things up a little between us, but it didn’t look like that was going to happen. She didn’t say anything for several minutes.
I’m not terribly patient, and it wasn’t long before I couldn’t stand the silence any longer. “Are you okay?” I asked, as I drove south on Highway 99.
She glanced at me. “Yeah, I’m okay. Why?” she said. “Am I doing something wrong?”
I shook my head. “No, you know you’re not doing anything wrong. I’d have told you.” I paused. “Except, is something bothering you? Something I did? Did I do something wrong? If I did something, you need to tell me, you know.”
“It’s nothing,” she said. “You didn’t do anything. We’re okay.”
We drove in awkward silence for a couple of minutes.
“Who are we going to see, anyway?” she asked, finally breaking the ice.
“My dad called this morning.” I explained our phone conversation. I finished just as we reached Pike Place Market.