BY: SUNNY FRAZIER
Amateur astrologer Christy Bristol and her best friend Lennie Watkins find themselves on the fringes of Kearny society and a “members-only” sex club as they reluctantly take on a missing persons case. A prominent business man has disappeared and his wife says she can’t go to the authorities. Armed with only a prescription bottle and matchbook as clues, the two young woman infiltrate the Knights of Sensani sex club and run head first into more than their own sexual inhibitions. Convinced that the missing man is a victim of the same perp who killed three other men, Christy and Lennie—using nothing more than guts, determination, and an astrological chart of the victim—start an investigation that could not only land them in hot water…it could get them killed.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Where Angels Fear by Sunny Frazier, Christy Bristol makes an astrology chart for a client’s husband, who is missing. When the chart is complete, Christy is hired to find him since his wife says she can’t go to the police. The investigation leads Christy and her friend Lennie to a BDSM sex club, where they discover that three of the missing man’s associates have died recently and are tied to the same club and a mysterious book of matches. This information leads our intrepid heroines into some wacky detective antics, that would be hilarious if they weren’t so deadly.
Frazier intersperses humor in with the terror and suspense. Add in the strong plot and charming characters and you have a very entertaining read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Where Angels Fear is the second book in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries series by Sunny Frazier. Our heroine, Christy, is up to more shenanigans, when the husband of an astrology client turns up missing. The wife of a wealthy businessman, who is also a Vietnam vet, has been missing for days and his wife says going to the police would ruin her husband’s reputation and damage their business. When Christy does an astrology chart on the man, she discovers that, like three of his associates who recently died, the husband’s time is running out unless Christy and her sidekick Lennie can find the man and rescue him. Dodging the cops she works with, Christy and Lennie infiltrate a sex club, whose name they found on a matchbook the husband had in his pocket. And boy, do they get a surprise. Nothing turns out the way Christy was expecting.
I love the fact that Christy isn’t a blonde bombshell, just an average, insecure, good-hearted woman in over her head and trying to do the right thing. The story is charming, exciting, and just down-right fun.
The sharp click, click, click of her red spiked heels annoyed her, but not enough to slip them off. She paced the ten-foot-square room, careful to step over the loose floor board each time. Think, think, think her mind sang in accompaniment with her shoes. She wandered down a maze of possibilities, each time running into a dead end. There was no other solution. She picked up the cell phone hit speed dial.
“Wazz up?” he answered, his usual greeting slurred by sleep.
“I need you.”
“Baby, it’s two a.m. Nobody needs nothing bad enough at this time of night.”
“Cut the crap. I have another situation on my hands.”
All sleepiness evaporated from his voice. “No, girl, you promised. You said it was an accident before and you’d be more careful.”
“Stan, I don’t need a lecture. I need a body bag. Get over here.” She hit the off button and snapped the phone shut.
This one had actually pleased her. He didn’t have a beer gut like most men his age, and she admired his attempts to keep his muscles toned. Not that it mattered in the end.
She walked over to the man and planted a shoe on the floor at either side of his body. His chest was bare and, even in the weak light of the flickering candle, she could see his skin had a gray-green cast. She’d been rough the last few days, but she wasn’t sorry. That was the way the game was played. She leaned over him, straining the leather jumpsuit. Her long, coal-black hair brushed his face as she shook her head slowly from side to side.
“You have to be careful when you love,” she crooned to the corpse. With a single, blood-red fingernail, she traced a valentine on the left side of his bare chest. “The heart can only stand so much of a good thing.”
Detective Jimmy Kerwin, of the Central County Sheriff’s Department, got out of his county car and pulled a hard pack of Camels from his breast pocket, a Bic lighter from his pants. The knee-jerk reaction was a result of the administration’s latest dictum forbidding smoking in county vehicles. Kerwin wondered if New York enforced anti-smoking rules now. When he left the Rochester Police Department, everybody on the force had the habit. Encountering the health-crazed Californians threw him into culture shock and made him crave tobacco even more. Besides, he thought as he lit up, it kills the dead-body stench.
Deputy Coroner Ann Pulido wore a disposable mask covering her nose and mouth as she bent over the body. At Kerwin’s approach, she stood and pulled the mask down under her chin. She had a glob of Vick’s under her nostrils to help cover the smell. Kerwin nodded to the two deputies on the scene, disposed of the cigarette in a snuff tin. He fished a pair of plastic gloves out of his coat pocket before crossing the yellow crime scene tape.
“Whatcha got, Ann?” Kerwin fished around in his other pocket for a notepad and pen.
“It was radioed in as a PC 187, possible murder, but bottom line? Looks like a common heart attack.”
“Picked a pretty uncommon place to have it.” Kerwin glanced up the alley where it intersected Hurtado’s main street. On the other side of the flimsy plastic tape a small crowd had gathered. Amazing how many people were strolling around at 5 a.m.
“How cold is it?” Kerwin asked.
“About three hours, give or take.”
The detective lowered his six-foot-four frame next to the body and assessed the clothes on the corpse. Mohair sweater. Imported shoes, probably Italian. He fingered the wool on the finely tailored trousers, sensing it was a quality he couldn’t afford. His finger picked up a splinter of wood. He slipped it into an evidence bag.
“Dressed a little fancy for this area. Maybe he was out slumming and picked up some bar girl who was more than his ticker could handle. We’ll ask around–see if anybody remembers him.”
Ann shook her head. “Hookers have the shortest memories in the world. Besides, he didn’t die here. This was just a drop off point.”
“Does John Doe have a name?”
“Yeah, he still had his wallet on him. Somebody wanted him found and IDd. Robert Meehan, 2253 Willow Heights. I guess you get the honors of notifying next of kin.” Ann stood back and let the Identification Bureau tech snap some photos. “I found this in his pocket.”
Kerwin took the evidence bag. Inside was a red matchbook with the words “Knights of Sensani” on the cover.
The same brand of matches was discovered on two other bodies within the last six months.
“I never got any leads on the name,” Kerwin said.
“Maybe it’s like Knights of Columbus or Shriners.” Ann shrugged. “I never heard of it either.”
The detective slipped it into his pocket. “Anything else?”
“I found marks on his wrists. Bruises. Could be from handcuffs.”
They shot each other a look. There’d been a recent rash of excessive force allegations against deputies patrolling the western sector of Central County. Internal Affairs was handling the rumors.
“Have the coroner check him for internals. I’ll snag a patrol roster, see which deputies were in the area.” Kerwin headed back to his car. He pulled out a cigarette before he remembered the new rules. Reluctantly, he dropped it back into the pack.
The early morning homicide left an acrid taste in his mouth.
The slate sky and the last of the autumn leaves drifting into the gutters gave Christy Bristol a chill that had nothing to do with November. Being unfamiliar with the city of Kearny, she drove slowly through the section known as the Tower District, looking for Harvard Avenue. All the streets she passed had Ivy League names, so she knew she was in the general vicinity.
“Why did I ever agree to make a house call?” she chided herself.
All she needed was the date of birth to do a horoscope, and maybe the time if the customer knew it. In fact, meeting face-to-face only muddied the astrological waters. Without meaning to, she often picked up impressions which slanted her interpretations. No, voice-only contact was definitely safer.
Geneva Anders was a hard woman to refuse. “I need to meet you,” she’d insisted. She offered to pay travel expenses from Coronita to Kearny, a distance of twenty-eight miles. She offered to pay the full fee, even if she decided against the horoscope.
The money was tempting–charting horoscopes on the side barely supplemented Christy’s salary from her office job at the Central County Sheriff’s Department. But she felt guilty doing astrology for cash. The people who needed her services the most were often the ones who could afford it the least.
The homes she passed were tidy, with neatly groomed gardens and wide verandas. Vassar, Princeton, Yale–and Harvard.
“I want to be sure you’re the right one,” Mrs. Anders had insisted over the phone. “I can’t waste my time on a fake.”
Not very diplomatic. Christy wasn’t sure she wanted to be the “right one” but she was confident enough as an astrologer to bristle at the suggestion she might be a fraud.
Coming out of the closet, astrologically speaking, had been difficult for Christy. Working in law enforcement and doing horoscopes on the side wasn’t a good mix. But astrology simply acted as a conduit for something even stranger–an inherited psychic ability.
Other families passed down the fine china or good silver. In Christy’s clan, maternal members handed down the DNA for ESP. And they’d been doing it for centuries.
Blessing or curse, the trait passed from grandmother to granddaughter, always skipping a generation. Grandma Dolly Good had been a formidable psychic in her time, but now her visions were blurred. Christy’s sister, Celeste, had exceptional talent, but she hid it behind a habit of the Dominican Order of nuns. She believed that visions and the ability to transmit her thoughts were gifts from God to do His work.
And Christy did horoscopes. The chart was a tool which opened her up to a universe of premonitions. The past, the future, swirled like a galaxy through her subconscious when a chart was strong. Astrology acted as a guide for this knowledge, good and evil, as it found its way to her. And it brought all sorts of people into the orbit of her life. Like Geneva Anders.
She turned on Harvard. The branches of the Chinese elms on either side of the avenue grew toward each other high above the street, forming an arbor tunnel. It must be beautiful in the spring, she thought, like a lacy mantilla shading the lush avenue. But on this November afternoon, it looked like skeletal fingers intertwined over her head. A scattering of leaves clung to the limbs, fighting the inevitable.
Even on a street of dwellings that could vie for the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, the Anders’s place stood out. It looked French, or what Christy expected she’d see in France if she ever made it to Europe. Blue tiles shingled the mansard roof, which angled sharply downward until it seemed within reach of the ground. Windows glittered with diamond patterns of multi-colored panes. French doors on the second floor backed a rounded balcony. Despite all its beauty, the house lacked warmth and charm.
She parked her car along the curb and walked up the flagstone pathway. She wrinkled her nose at the perfectly trimmed hedges. It looked too planned out, that’s what was wrong. She’d take her apartment in Coronita over this place any day. The three-story, butter-yellow Victorian where she lived wasn’t classy, but the house had character. And characters. Her seventy-something landlady lived on the ground floor, and prissy Mr. Maciel resided in the attic. The roses were overgrown and the lilac went unfettered in spring. Even on the bleakest days, the house radiated warmth.
Out of the corner of her eye she caught the slight movement of the lace curtain as she approached.
Mrs. Anders took her time answering the knock, although Christy felt sure she’d been the one playing peek-a-boo at the window.
“You must be Ms. Bristol.” The woman was small and in her mid-forties. Like her house, she was coolly turned out. Her blond hair folded into a French twist. Not a wisp dared to escape. Her flawless makeup looked professionally done, and she appeared as comfortable in a silk pantsuit as Christy did at home in her comfy old robe. Until a few minutes ago, Christy felt appropriately dressed in good pants and a chenille sweater. Now she felt downright dowdy and ten pounds overweight next to Mrs. Anders’s svelte frame.
In a living room that went beyond formal, Christy perched on the edge of a sofa that must have belonged to a Louie. The antique furniture had to be the real McCoy. Anders’s money wouldn’t settle for less.
“I don’t normally go in for this sort of thing,” began Mrs. Anders as she poured tea from a silver teapot into wafer-thin teacups. “But you come highly recommended.”
Christy knew her reputation as an astrologer had grown in the ten years she’d lived in Coronita, where it was easy to be a big karmic fish in a small, liberal pond. Coronita, unlike the rest of Central County, was populated by artists and scholars and people who eagerly embraced New Age concepts.
In Coronita, Christy fit in almost too well.
She knew her reputation was by word-of-mouth, but exactly which cultured mouth recommended her to someone of Geneva Anders’s ilk? She flipped through a mental Rolodex of client names, but none were moneyed folks. At least, not on the surface. Unlike Los Angeles in the south and San Francisco up north, wealthy people in the San Joaquin Valley were harder to spot than quail in season. Their dirt-caked boots might cost a thousand dollars, their plain ranch houses worth a half a mil. One family, the Newsomes, owned a spread so large they used the family helicopter to monitor fields of cotton, melon, and alfalfa. They used a beat-up truck to shop at the Canned Food Warehouse.
The tea didn’t taste like Lipton. It had a bitterness that made Christy want to reach for three more sugar cubes. Mrs. Anders drank hers straight. I bet even money she’s a Pisces, thought Christy.
“Do you make your living from astrology?” Mrs. Anders asked, settling back into the damask of the armchair.
Feeling as if she were being interviewed, Christy said, “No, I work at the Sheriff’s Department.”
“Really?” The woman’s source hadn’t filled her in completely. “Are you a deputy?”
“Office assistant. I work at the Coronita substation.”
Mrs. Anders had trouble hiding her disappointment. “I see. My husband and I are avid supporters of Sheriff Nolan. We contribute to his campaigns.”
“I’ve never actually met the man, but I see him on the news a lot. I hear he’s a great guy.”
That was the only name Geneva Anders dropped. She got down to business and grilled Christy on her knowledge of astrology. The woman apparently did some research to prep for their chat. She came off sounding like the Spanish Inquisition. Christy fielded questions about rising signs and planetary conjunctions with ease. She even considered bull-shitting to see if Mrs. Anders understood her material. Finally, tired of the game, Christy put down her cup of tea and edged forward on the couch. “Mrs. Anders, do you want your horoscope done?”
“No, but I would like you to cast my husband’s chart.” A note of cream-colored, monogrammed stationery rested delicately on the coffee table next to the silver tray. Geneva Anders guided it to Christy with a manicured nail. “Here’s his birth date.”
“Is there any particular area of his life he wants me to look at?”
“No.” Mrs. Anders’s face broke out in a mottled blush which clashed with the neutral tones of her outfit and hair.
She wants to know if he’s having an affair. The thought shot true like an arrow to the bulls-eye. Christy knew she was on target.
Normally, she backed off from horoscope requests with ulterior motives. She saw herself in the same role as a lawyer, doctor, or priest. Her clients asked for her services and she kept what she found strictly confidential. Even when she did gift horoscopes, she sealed them before handing them over, often to the disappointment of the person paying for the gift. Her only exception to the rule were horoscopes done on children. Those she gave to the parents. Raising kids was hard enough–more power to them if astrology could help.
She would make an exception for this horoscope. Not because Mrs. Anders was rich–she’d still charge a standard fee of thirty dollars–and not because she was flattered to be noticed by a classy client. Christy knew she would cast Avery Anders’s horoscope because the minute she touched the page of stationery, she felt an urgency emanating from the paper. Her sixth sense picked up something she couldn’t afford to ignore. Christy felt the familiar prickle of danger.
She got up to leave. “I’ll contact you when it’s ready.”
“There’s a bonus if you get it done quickly.”
“If I rush, I might miss something important. But I’ll make it a priority over others I’m doing.”
Later, in the car and heading out of the city, the ominous feeling continued. Whatever trouble Avery Anders was in, it was beyond his wife’s expectations. Christy had no doubts that it would show up in his chart–she just wasn’t sure the horoscope would do any good.
© 2009 by Sunny Frazier