She thought she was ready for the hard cases, but that was before she met him…
Emilia Hammond recently earned her gold shield as a detective with the New Orleans police department and is working on her first assignment, eager to prove herself capable of handling her promotion. After a series of attacks on prostitutes in the French Quarter, she finds herself going undercover to investigate. In the process, she’s called to the scene of a murder at an attorney’s office. She has a good lead, a solid case, until her prime suspect turns the tables on her.
He’s trying to clear his innocent brother, and now he’s a murder suspect himself…
Attorney Lincoln Eisenger is from a prominent New Orleans Garden District family. His brother Myles is in Angola Prison for a murder he didn’t commit, and Linc is determined to clear his brother’s name and bring him home. But when his law partner is killed, Linc becomes the prime suspect. Now he has to clear himself as well as his brother, all the while trying to ignore the sparks igniting between him and the spunky female detective he thought was a prostitute.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Eisenger Element by Sherry Fowler Chancellor, Emilia Hammond has just earned her detective’s badge. Now she has to prove that she’s worthy of the promotion and it wasn’t just because she has several family member on the force. So when she gets called to the scene of a homicide, and everything points to Lincoln Eisenger as the prime suspect, Em pounces on him as the murderer and is blind to everything else. However, she can’t ignore the sparks flying between them. Linc, on the other hand, is trying to prove that his brother was wrongly convicted of murder, and he doesn’t appreciate some smart aleck new detective trying to blame him for killing his law partner when he wasn’t even there. While he is more than a little attracted to her, her prickly personality and bad attitude prove they have nothing in common—but lust, even if they are both too professional to act on it. Add to that the fact that Em has been working undercover as a prostitute, trying to solve the murder of one, and you have a very complicated situation.
Chancellor’s characters are well-developed, realistic, and charming. You just can’t help rooting for Em, even when her gung-ho attitude gets her in hot water. The plot is strong and the story fast-paced. And the sweet little romance between Linc and Em give this cozy mystery a little extra punch.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Eisenger Element by Sherry Fowler Chancellor is a cute, clever cozy mystery combined with a sweet, wholesome romance. Our heroine, Emilia Hammond, has been newly promoted from patrolling a beat to homicide detective. Since her grandfather, father, and brothers are all with the New Orleans Police Department, too, Emilia is determined to prove herself as the youngest homicide detective in the history of the department. Investigating the murder of a prostitute, Emilia goes undercover, walking the streets, looking for a motive for the murder of one prostitute and the brutal beating of another. Our hero, attorney Lincoln Eisenger, has a soft, compassionate heart and wants to help prostitutes get off the streets and find another way to make a living. So when he sees Emilia dressed and acting like a prostitute, he thinks she is underage and tries to help get her off the streets. Which, of course, is the last thing she wants. And when she is called to a homicide scene at Lincoln’s office, she finds evidence pointing to him. But her over-zealous attitude and firm belief in his guilt without any evidence that he can see gets his back up. Since his older brother was railroaded for a murder he didn’t commit, Lincoln is convinced that the New Orleans PD has set him up to take the blame for the murder of his law partner. The fact that these two are very attracted to each other only complicates an already complicated case.
The Eisenger Element is well-written with strong characters, lots of fast-paced action, and some very unexpected villains. I love it when I can’t figure out ‘who done it’ until the author reveals it. Like my collection of Agatha Christie novels, this is one you’ll want to keep and read again and again.
Leaning nonchalantly on the lamppost outside the law office where he worked, Lincoln Eisenger pretended to smoke the cigarette in his left hand. He glanced down at his steel Rolex where it rested on his right wrist. It was almost time for the girl to walk past, if she kept to her normal schedule. He wasn’t sure exactly what he planned to do to try to rescue her, since he wasn’t really equipped to go up against an unknown pimp, but something had to be done. The urchin had to be under age fifteen and she sure didn’t need to be on the streets selling herself.
Why he was compelled to try to rescue this particular child was a mystery to him. He’d lived in the Garden District of New Orleans his whole life and, when he left his safe neighborhood, he saw so much decadence and crime, as well as prostitution, he’d thought he was immune to it. Linc couldn’t fathom why this one small hooker preyed on his mind but she did and he made a point each work day to be on the street when she passed. One day he was going to get the nerve to question her and find out which pimp was putting minors on the streets. What he’d do with that information was unclear.
He’d once had a grand plan to fix some of the ills of this place but that had fallen apart when, first, his father died, and then, shortly thereafter, his brother was arrested for murder.
Linc knew a few cops he might call to aid this young girl but most of them didn’t like him, since he sometimes had to ask them hard questions on the witness stand. He knew they might not relish working with him when so many times they were on the opposite sides in the courtroom.
“What are you doing? You’ve been out here every day this week.” Linc’s law partner, Clifford Van Nuys came by and stopped beside the lamppost. “I didn’t even know you smoked. How have you kept that a secret? We’ve been partners for a while and I had no idea.”
Linc held up the cigarette. “I’m faking it.”
Clifford threw his head back and laughed. “As a senior partner and one of the founding members’ great-great-great-grandsons, don’t you have the right to take a fifteen minute break without pretending to have that vile habit?”
“I can take a break whenever I want. It’s really not your business what I’m doing, is it?”
“Whoa.” Clifford held his hands up in front of his face. “Where’d that come from? I’m merely shooting the breeze and you take off my head?”
“Sorry. I’m a little tense. I’ve got to head out to Angola later and I always get a bit anxious when it’s time for that.” Lincoln tried to keep his temper but it was difficult. Clifford hadn’t been particularly supportive when Myles had been convicted and sent to Angola prison for a twenty-five-to-life sentence.
“Man, I sure am sorry about your brother. I know it’s gotta be breaking your mamma’s heart to see him out there.”
“Mom never visits him. She pretty much disowned him, as you well know.” Linc flicked the ashes from the cigarette. If this buffoon didn’t go away soon, he’d still be here when the child prostitute came by and all hope of talking to her to offer assistance would be gone. He really disliked Van Nuys and hated that the man was a partner in the firm founded in 1840 by the Eisenger family. Linc had voted against making Clifford a partner but he was the sole dissenter of the other nine partners in the firm. Even Myles cast his vote to allow the man to be a partner before going to prison. Linc wasn’t sure why the man rubbed him the wrong way but the mere sound of his voice made him cringe inwardly.
“Sorry about that but I guess she has her reasons.” Clifford smirked. “Like a son committing murder. Not something a grand dame of the Garden District wants in the family tree, is it?”
Linc barely controlled the urge to punch the man in the face. Yes, Myles had been convicted of murder but he was innocent and it was Linc’s mission in life to prove that fact and to get him released. “Keep your mouth shut about my family, Van Nuys.”
“Or what?” Clifford’s smile was smarmy and Linc wanted to erase it from the jerk’s face. “What do you think you’re going to do about it?”
“Hey, guys, what’s going on?” Tamela Jones, another lawyer with the firm, strolled up with a plastic bag in her hand. “You both look like you want to kill each other.”
“I think Linc wants me dead, for sure.” Clifford took hold of Tamela’s free arm. “Escort me inside to my desk? I feel safe with you.”
Linc held back his breakfast that threatened to expel itself on the sidewalk as he watched the bald man try to flirt with the sexy red-haired newest associate. Please. Did the man think he actually had a chance with the young lawyer? She had brains and looks and could have any man she wanted. She sure wouldn’t settle for the paunchy jerk of the firm.
Tamala looked back at Linc. “I’m going to take Cliff in and eat my take-out at my desk. You can relax your fists now.” She disengaged herself from Van Nuys and turned to open the door. “See you later. I wanted to run some figures by you before I send a settlement letter on the Myers case.”
“Fine. I’ll be back from Angola later this afternoon.” Linc glanced down. Yep, he had fisted his hands. He hated to think that he might have actually struck the man right here in the street. He decided to make a better effort to get a grip on his emotions before he did something he would, most likely, regret.
As soon as they disappeared into the building, Linc faced west down the sidewalk since that was the direction he’d seen the child come from the last few days. He hoped he hadn’t missed her while his jackass law partner had him distracted.
In a few moments, the girl he wanted to save strolled into view. It broke his heart to see someone of her age dressed the way she was. She had on fishnet stockings that had a long tear along one thigh, a pair of over the knee black fake leather boots, and the shortest pair of shiny purple shorts Linc had ever seen. The young hooker also wore a short, cut-off white T-shirt that exposed her belly and an outrageous red wig with a riot of curls flowing down her back. It was clearly a wig, as God never intended any real human being to have hair that color.
The over the top make-up she sported only served to emphasize that she was underage. Way too much purple eye shadow and false eyelashes didn’t add one year of age to the child. Lincoln was disgusted to think about the men who paid to have encounters with the young girl. She didn’t even have breasts yet, for God’s sake.
Linc watched her progress down the sidewalk as she slung her hips in what she must’ve thought was a provocative way, but was really kind of sad. When she was almost upon him, he tossed the cigarette to the ground and stubbed it out with the toe of his Italian loafers.
The girl stopped in her tracks and, tapping the toe of her high-heeled boot, glared at him. “This right here is what’s wrong with this city.”
Stunned that she spoke to him with such anger in her voice, Linc took a step back. “What?”
“People littering the streets with their cigarette butts, spilled drinks, and even vomit. I swear this place gets worse every year.”
Her words struck him as hilarious. What was she? Fourteen? And she thought the city was worse every year? What would she think when she was the ripe old age of twenty?
“What the hell are you snickering about, mister?” she asked.
“It had to be something or you wouldn’t be doing it.” The girl stepped right up to him and with her chest almost touching his stomach, she snarled, “Back off and leave me be.”
“I wasn’t doing anything. I was out here taking my break and minding my own business.”
Dear God, how had she gotten him on the defensive like this? Wasn’t he supposed to be soothing her and telling her he wanted to help her out of her predicament?
How did she turn the tables around so fast?
“You were messing up my city with your litter.” She backed up and pointed at the sidewalk. “Pick it up and throw it away in a proper receptacle.”
“What kind of prostitute cares about litter?” Lincoln couldn’t believe the question came out of his mouth. He didn’t mean for it to fly out like that but it was curious that this girl would care so much for the state of the sidewalk.
She gaped at him for a moment, as if lost for words, then shook her head. The red curls swayed in the slight breeze from the river. Recovering from whatever silenced her, she snapped, “This kind of prostitute.” She leaned closer. “Did you want to have a good time?”
“No. I want to help you. I can assist you in getting out of that life. I want to get you and others like you off the streets.” Linc held his hand out as if to take hold of hers. “Will you let me help you?”
“What are you, some kind of do-gooder? Why would you want to help me? I don’t even know you.”
“You’re underage. I’m sure you probably ran away from home and didn’t know this was how you’d end up. I’d like to get you and any of your friends in the same situation off the streets. I can offer you some help.”
She recoiled from him, turned, and broke into a run. He watched as she turned the corner, amazed that she could run so well in those high-heeled boots. As she disappeared from view, he realized he’d probably blown any chance he had of helping her. She probably wouldn’t come back this way ever again.
As he moved to enter the building where he worked, he knelt down and picked up the cigarette butt. Remembering the oddness of a prostitute caring about litter, he scratched his head with the hand that held the butt, leaving the scent of tobacco on his hair.
“Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot.” Emilia Hammond strode up the stairs of Precinct Five in the French Quarter. She stomped her feet so hard, her boots sounded as if they were puncturing holes in the risers. Once on the second floor, she turned the corner, pushed open the swinging half-gate leading to the bull-pen, and snatching the red curly wig off her head, flung it on her partner’s desk.
“Bad day, sweetie?” Howard Mills shoved the wig away from his cup of tea that he was stirring some sugar into.
“You bet. There’s some crusader out there who thinks I’m an underage hooker and he wants to get me and my little friends off the streets.” Emilia said the last words in a sing-song voice.
“I bet that went over well with you. Did you kick him in the nuts?”
“No. I ran away.”
“What? The great Emilia Hammond ran from a do-gooder? My illusions of you as a ball-buster are crushed.”
She flopped down in the green metal chair next to Howard’s desk with her legs sprawled across the space between it and the next desk. “I would’ve stayed behind to crush his soul but I’d already screwed up and almost gave away my undercover operation.”
“How’s that?” Howard took a sip of his tea.
“The stupid clown had thrown down a cigarette butt.”
Howard put his hand over his mouth, but Emilia could see some of his tea spurt out between his fingers. “Don’t laugh at me,” she warned.
“I can’t help it. I ain’t never seen nobody like you when it comes to cigarettes.” Howard had swallowed his tea. “Why do you get so up in arms over them things?”
“You know they killed my grandma. She could never kick them. Granddaddy gave them up but she couldn’t get free. I wish they were against the law. The least I can do is try to make people see it’s not a good thing to smoke.”
“So, this do-gooder who wants to rescue you is a smoker?”
“Yeah. I’ve noticed him outside that one office building around the corner. He seems to be out there every time I go past. The bad thing now is that I need to avoid that area but I also need to be around there in order to investigate this case we have.” Emilia snapped her fingers. “Wait. I know what we can do.”
She grinned over at her partner.
“Oh, no, honey. This skinny dark-skinned man is not going to go in drag to stroll the boulevards just because you messed up with your pretty little self.”
“I can’t help it if I look like I’m twelve.” She glanced down at her chest. “You think these will ever grow in?”
“It would be weird if they did since you’re a little mite of a thing, so be glad you’re not out of proportion like poor old Barbie.”
“Funny. I don’t want to be a mutant like her but it would be nice to have cleavage.”
Howard smiled. “Only on Saturday nights. The rest of the week you’d want to be built exactly like you are so you can take down some bad guys without anything getting in the way.”
“You’re right, and speaking of those bad guys, what are going to do about Mr. I Want to Save Underage Hookers? He’s going to get in the way of this investigation. I know that as well as I know that I’m sitting in an uncomfortable green chair that’s as old as me.
“Want me to talk to him?”
“What are you going to do, dress as my pimp and put a whipping on him?” Emilia grinned. She scratched her scalp vigorously. That wig really hurt.
“My mamma would say whupping, not whipping.”
“Either way. Is that the plan?”
“I don’t think so. We really can’t take a chance on him interfering with the case. I think we have to avoid that area of the city.” Howard held his hands up. “Hang on. I know what you’re going to say and yes, I know, you have to stroll that street as well as the ones around it. What I’m suggesting is that when you’re ready to head that way, that you radio me and I’ll take a walk down there and distract your man. We can’t give up and I think that’ll work.” Howard half-rose from his seat. “Let’s go talk to the captain about what’s up. He may have a better suggestion on how to deal with your would-be rescuer.”
“Sit down. Let’s not bug the captain. We can handle Mr. Expensive Clothes ourselves.”
“If you keep changing his name, I won’t know who we’re trying to outsmart, Emilia.”
“I’ll make a playbook like my brothers’ football coach did in high school. How would that be?”
Howard grinned. “That would be a good thing. Just so I don’t get confused.”
Emilia leaned forward with her elbows on her thighs and looked her partner in the eyes. “Don’t be an idiot. Everyone in this precinct knows you could give Sherlock Holmes lessons in sleuthing. You put on that oh shucks persona but anyone who spends more than ten minutes with you knows you’re the one to beat on smarts. You have every player in place and can read most people in five seconds flat.”
“I’ve been fooled before by some pretty smart criminals but I think I can figure out your rescuer quickly. I need to amble down the street and see what’s what. Go wash that gunk off your face and change into your street clothes. We’ll go for a po-boy and you can show me which building he works in. Maybe we can get a glimpse at him from afar.”
“Sounds good. I’m famished.” Emilia stood. “It’ll take me a few minutes. Be right back.” She clomped back down the hallway to the locker room where she grabbed her jeans, white blouse, and blazer to change into after her shower.
Once she was clean and dressed, Emilia tucked her service weapon in the back of her waistband, drawing on her jacket to cover it. She ran her fingers through her wet hair, grateful that she’d inherited the texture of her mother’s blonde hair and a little bit of the curl from her father’s kinky hair so she could wash it and go. No muss, no fuss. She slipped on her black rubber-soled work shoes and tied the laces. Leaving the locker room, she returned to the bullpen to the sounds of the other detectives whistling and cat-calling at her.
She took a bow and shouted, “You like Emilia the homicide cop better than Amy the Hooker?”
“Hell, no, but that Amy girl would charge us for each whistle,” one of the guys in the corner yelled.
“You got that right and well she should. She’s a working girl,” Howard called out as he took Emilia by the elbow.
“Let’s get out of here. I’m famished and these guys are obnoxious.” Emilia made sure she said the words loud enough for the rest of the squad to hear.
They headed down the stairs to the exit. Emilia led the way toward the street. She sure didn’t want the well-dressed man who’d stopped her on the sidewalk to prevent her and Howard from solving their latest case. She hoped Howard’s plan would work to get the guy out of her hair so she could roam freely on her quest for her murder suspect. Proving herself as a capable homicide detective was imperative. As the youngest member of the team, it was vital that she succeed.
© 2015 by Sherry Fowler Chancellor