The Rain City Hustle

Release Date: 9-15-2022

To pull it off, they’ll have to  move fast and stay one step ahead.

Wedding bells are about to ring for Danny Logan and Toni Blair. The date’s four weeks out and this time there will be no more delays, no more postponements, no more excuses.  Nothing will stop them.  But then . . .  . .

Danny bumps into an old army buddy at Starbucks one morning.  Her father’s prize  French Impressionist painting has been stolen off the living room wall of his Bellevue condo by her conniving boyfriend, who had the bright idea to use it as collateral for a business loan.  Trouble is, the lender he chose is a notorious loan shark who knows all about how valuable the painting is and he doesn’t want to give it back.  Logan PI  is her last chance to recover the painting before it’s gone for good.

In an unlikely pairing, the Logan PI team joins forces with Henry Parker – America’s most famous practitioner of the “big con” in a rollicking, off-the-wall tale that will remind you of The Sting. From the country club to the race track to the tech centers of Seattle, in order to pull it off, they’ll have to  “move fast and stay one step ahead”

PRAISE

“Grayson, a fine storyteller, notes in his acknowledgements that he was inspired to become a writer after viewing the classic 1973 film The Sting, and here he creates his own intriguingly clever caper.  An entertaining and engagingly complicated joyride.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Like any grand heist or hustle stories, all the ticking pieces slotting together seemingly into one fluid motion is what makes them so enjoyable.  I was entertained by The Rain City Hustle enough to be interested in reading more books from this series and going back to read the earlier books to learn more about Toni and Danny.” – LoveReading.co.uk

EXCERPT

Chapter 1

Midnight at Hunts Point

 

The tall cedar trees on the sloping grounds of the majestic Hunts Point home swayed back and forth in the moonlight, moving to the warm night wind like sensuous dancers, casting long wavy shadows across the expansive, carefully manicured lawn. Within these dark, undulating shapes, Seattle private investigator Danny Logan silently made his way up the incline, dashing from one shadow to the next, pausing briefly here and there to make sure he’d not been discovered, then moving on. One hundred yards from the shore, he ducked behind a tall rhododendron and carefully parted the branches.

Ahead, perhaps another fifty yards up the slope, a low brick wall with wrought-iron pickets marked the top of the rise. Beyond the wall, a huge home lay shrouded in darkness—quiet, dimly lit, the outline barely visible.

Danny took his time and scanned the building and the grounds. Glancing back, he could see the waters at the eastern edge of Lake Washington lapping quietly against the shore. Three miles across on the lake’s far western side, the lights of Seattle cast reflections that shimmered all the way across the surface, rippling in rhythm with the waves. A dark hole in the lights near the water’s edge marked the spot where a jet-black Zodiac Hurricane inflatable waited for him, engines idling. At the helm was a lone darkened figure—a woman, dark hair flowing in the gentle wind. Toni Blair, Danny’s business partner and fiancée, watched the home and the grounds through the green lenses of night-vision goggles while the small boat’s powerful twin engines gurgled softly, barely audible above the crickets and the breeze whistling through the trees.

The sound of the boat’s engines was further masked by a rhythmic thump-thump-thump of a hip-hop tune coming from ahead up the slope. Danny studied the source of the music—the estate’s guest house—a small cottage offset from the main house and situated just below the brick wall near a walkway that led all the way down to the water and a large boat dock.

In stark contrast to the quiet main house, the guest cottage was alive with activity. Lights spilled out through a sliding glass patio door, rolled across the deck, and then washed over the lawn. Loud voices came from inside the house—laughing, yelling.

Danny continued to study the guest house a moment longer before the earpiece he wore crackled to life with Toni’s voice. “It’s noisy up there.”

“Yeah. How ’m I looking?” he whispered into the microphone at the end of his earpiece.

“You’re clear. You sure you still want to do this?”

“Yeah—got to. I promised Kate.” He paused. Then, looking up at the main house, he added, “You were right—this place is something.”

“Told ya. Frank Thorne’s doing all right for himself.”

“Sure is.” A moment later, he said, “Okay, I’m moving.” With a final look around to make sure all was clear, he started to take a step forward when suddenly he froze.

He slid back into the shadows. “One other thing—almost forgot. What about the dogs? You said the boys saw dogs this afternoon.”

“I did. But not now. You’re clear . . . still.”

Danny furrowed his brow. “Still?” he mouthed, raising an eyebrow. He waited a moment, then he moved out. He sprinted up and across the yard to his left, making a beeline for the corner of the guest-house deck, deviating slightly only to avoid the areas of lawn illuminated by the lights from the party. Ten seconds later, he reached the safety of the shadows and ducked alongside the building. While he caught his breath, he waited and listened. No alarm, no dogs.

The layout of the guest house and deck was simple—a small L-shaped building wrapped around a wood-planked deck oriented toward the lake. A steaming hot tub dominated the middle of the deck and was flanked by a table with a folded umbrella and a couple of wooden chairs. Two sliding glass doors opened onto the deck from the house—one from each side of the L. Both were closed. The room behind the first slider was dark, the window covered with curtains. The other glass door appeared to lead to the small home’s brightly lit living room. It was not covered.

Danny glanced upward and noted a single security camera on the eave, but it was mounted directly above him and aimed at the hot tub. It should not be a factor. He stepped over the low rail and swung himself up onto the deck. Pressed against the wall to stay out of camera view, he began a stealthy shimmy toward the living room slider. At the edge of the door, he paused for a moment. He took a breath, then he stole a very quick glance inside. No one there. An empty champagne bottle sat on the coffee table alongside an ashtray full of cigarette butts. Although the music still played, he no longer heard any voices. He ducked back behind the wall.

Hidden in the shadows, he tilted his head and pursed his lips. A moment later, he shrugged and shook his head. Then he took another look, slower this time—more careful, more deliberate.

Still no one there.

Peering around the edge of the door, Danny began scanning the room from left to right, one segment at a time. Halfway through, he froze when he spotted a large oil painting resting on an easel in a corner of the room, perched like an information poster in a hotel lobby. He stared at the brilliant orange, yellow, and blue painting, barely breathing. This was no hotel poster.

“It’s here!” he whispered into the radio, his eyes still fixed on the painting. “It’s right here—right where she said it would be, right out in the open, not more than fifteen feet away.”

“Good. Now you can tell Kate. Take a picture, and then let’s get out of here.”

“Roger.”

“Make sure your flash is off.”

He smiled, but still he double-checked before he grabbed a picture with his phone. He continued to stare at the painting, studying the masterpiece, his head tilted first one way, then the other. After a long minute, he started to turn away at the very instant the motor on the hot tub behind him suddenly burst to life with a low scream like a jet’s turbine engine. The steaming water began to boil with bubbles.

He fumbled his phone, snatched it out of midair, then jumped sideways, back into the shadows, where he flattened himself against the wall. Almost immediately, the music inside the guest house clicked off, and the night fell silent, save for the whine of the hot tub. The bedroom glass door began to slide open. Danny froze, barely breathing, his muscles tensed.

A moment later, someone inside pushed the heavy blackout drapes aside, revealing the corner of a bed. Bright lights spilled out onto the deck, illuminating the hot tub and half the deck—fortunately the half on the other side of the hot tub, away from Danny. A shapely leg appeared, then a short young woman with long blond hair stepped outside.

She wore a scanty white bikini, barely more than a collection of strategically placed strings. In her hand was a half-full champagne flute. The young woman took a couple of tentative steps, wobbling slightly, her empty hand extended as she tried to find her equilibrium. She steadied for a moment, seemed to sniff the air, then took another unsteady step forward. The movement was apparently too abrupt for her, and again, she started to lose her balance. She lurched toward the doorpost behind her and spilled her champagne on the deck.

“Oops!” she said, giggling, grabbing on to the post and swaying, sloshing champagne on the rail.

She caught her balance and looked up—directly at a frozen-in-place Danny. He was in full stealth mode, dressed in black, from his dark trail-running shoes to his stocking cap. Even his face was painted with black and green camo grease. He remained completely motionless, holding his breath.

The young woman stared for a moment, but her eyes had not yet fully adjusted to the dark. She turned away and, gathering herself, took a few lurching steps toward the deck rail facing Lake Washington, opposite Danny. When she reached the safety of the rail, she braced herself and stared at the lights. A minute later, she leaned forward and threw her arms wide in a classic I’m-the-queen-of-the-world-Kate-Winslet-on-the-bow-of-the-Titanic pose, her long hair flowing in the breeze. She breathed deeply of the night air. Then she called out, “Billy! Come here. You gotta see this. It’s awesome!”

Danny shifted his gaze back to the door and shook his head slowly. “No, you don’t, Billy,” he whispered. He started to slink toward the rail and escape, but then a new noise came from inside the bedroom, a quiet tap-tap-tap behind the curtain. He froze again.

“Come on, Billy!” she called out.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” a man answered from inside. “I’ve seen them lights a million times.” The tapping resumed. “Hey, I’m cuttin’ some lines here. You want one?”

The woman didn’t answer, her attention captured by the lights.

“Chloe!”

“What?” She paused, then said, “Oh yeah. ’Course I do.” She turned around and took a step toward the door, and this time, her eyes now acclimated to the dark, she saw Danny.

She stopped and rocked backward, then forward, her eyes wide, mouth open. She wobbled slightly and struggled to make sense of the dark shape hiding in the shadows before her.

Danny remained still for a couple of seconds, but when the young woman took another step toward him, he slowly raised his finger to his lips.

She gasped and stopped, but she didn’t cry out. Danny smiled. Nodding slowly, as if to reassure her, he started to take a side step toward the rail. This broke her trance, and an instant later, the young woman let loose a blood-curdling scream that shattered the quiet night.

 

                                        * * * *

 

Danny was airborne before the scream was done echoing off the main house. He easily vaulted the deck rail but landed hard in the soft dirt of a planter, where he stumbled and sprawled forward on his hands and knees on the lawn. He recovered quickly, though, and burst into a sprint down the hill, toward the water. He’d taken only a few steps when he heard the unmistakable RACK! of a pump-action shotgun being cocked from close behind him.

“Damn!” He zigged hard to his left, toward the shadows, just as a huge divot in the lawn exploded into the air not more than a yard to his right, accompanied by a deafening BOOM!

“Stop!”

“Like hell!” he gasped. He zigged again, this time to the right. Another loud RACK! BOOM! followed, along with another piece of exploding turf, this one to his left and not quite so close.

His radio crackled to life. “You need help?”

“No! Be ready to go!”

He raced down the middle of the hill, weaving wildly in a random fashion as the shots continued sporadically.

Halfway to the boat, near the rhodie bush where he’d paused on the way up the hill, the shots stopped. “I think . . . I’m okay,” he gasped into the radio, slowing slightly.

Then he heard the dogs. “Uh-oh!”

“You need help?” Toni said again.

“No! Wait there!”

He leaned into his sprint with renewed vigor as the barking dogs quickly drew closer. Seconds later, lungs bursting, he reached the bottom of the slope and sailed over the seawall, landing on the soft gravel beach without the slightest stumble or buckle this time. The dogs were close enough that he could hear them panting. Danny shot across the beach in three long strides and hit the water with an awkward splash just as the dogs flew over the seawall.

He took two giant floundering steps in the dark lake water and then hurled himself clumsily over the boat’s inflatable side tube, landing hard on the fiberglass floor of the forward deck. Behind him, the dogs skidded to a halt at the water’s edge, barking furiously. Danny turned to Toni. “Go! Go! Go!”

Toni slammed the throttles forward, and the boat shot backward away from the shore. Fifty yards out, she throttled back for an instant and shifted into forward. “Hang on!” She spun the wheel hard to starboard and shoved the throttles full forward again. The small boat nearly leaped completely out of the water as it spun around and sped away to the west, soon disappearing into the night.

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