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Finders Keepers
by Sean Costello

Category: Suspense/Thriller
Description: Ever dreamed of winning the lottery? One of those massive, life-altering purses? Join Keith Whipple and his daughter Kate as they do just that, netting ten million dollars in a single-winner draw. Share in their excitement, the dreams that leap into their lives fully formed, suddenly within easy reach. But that kind of money, the heady sense of power it brings ... do we control it? Or does it control us? Follow the Whipples and their ill-fated ticket on a path of greed and murder, in a game where there can be only one winner...
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, 2002
eBookwise Release Date: May 2003

eBookeBook

6 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [359 KB]
Words: 80646
Reading time: 230-322 min.


"Costello is in fine form with his newest novel Finders Keepers. I read the book in one night and found myself laughing ... all the way to the bank!"--Richard Dub�, author of The Haven

"Excellent! Costello has returned with a vengeance in this thrilling, constantly twisting roller coaster ride of greed, corruption and mayhem. If you aren't a fan of his writing before picking up this novel, you will be by the time you get to the end."--Mark Leslie, contributing author of Tales From The Wonder Zone: Stardust


ONE

There was a feeling Keith Whipple got every time he walked through the door of Rudy's Quik-Mart. It was the product of an array of sensations: the fragrance of strong, fresh-brewed coffee; the aroma of expensive cigars; the unmistakably pleased sparkle in Rudy's eyes when they met Keith's; the vaguely startling realization induced by this atmosphere that he was retired, without obligation. It made him feel fine, and since he was clear-headed and without serious ailment, it made him feel young again, too.

Rudy turned to the cheerful sound of the bells strung over the opening door. As usual Keith was his first customer.

"Herr Whipple," he said....

"Stamp your feet," Keith said, dutifully complying. "I swear, Rudy, you need a new rap."

Hiding a grin, Rudy limped over to his percolators. His left leg was a monstrosity, cratered by shrapnel from his days in Hitler's Panzer Division, the skin from the knee down like that of an iguana: scaly, a cadaverous looking gray-brown. Keith had actually felt ill the first time Rudy showed it to him.

"Coffee?" Rudy said, already pouring.

"Black and nasty," Keith said, completing the ritual exchange. He joined Rudy at the soda shop-style counter, the only anomaly in the otherwise standard convenience store. Behind the counter exotic brews perked on a half-dozen hot plates and a selection of cigars stored securely under glass waited for the discerning patron. A small magazine rack featured only Smoke and Cigar Aficionado . It was a personal touch, a nod to bygone days, and Keith felt right at home here. A creature of habit, he'd been coming into Rudy's every weekday morning since his daughter Kate was nine--fifteen years of coffee, conversation and good-natured gossip, Rudy a connoisseur of all three. The only tough part was keeping his mitts off those cigars. Kate had finally browbeaten him into quitting two years ago, after a suspicious opacity on a routine chest X-ray gave them both a scare. It turned out to be scar tissue, the remains of some benign infection he'd picked up as a kid swamping out the hen house on his parents' farm, but Kate had effectively stamped out his pack-a-day habit, including the cigar jones he'd picked up hanging around with Rudy. On the job he'd looked forward to those cigars, comfortable in his chair in the projection booth at the Grande Theater, Sudbury's oldest movie house, alone up there in a haze of flickering light and swirling smoke. When she was younger Kate had often joined him, complaining mildly about the smoke.

He shed his parka and draped it over one of the chrome and red leather stools. Rudy slid over a steaming cup of coffee. "Try this," he said, wiping his hands on his apron "but be careful. It's a man's brew." He glanced over his shoulder at the tail end of a news item on the wall-mounted TV, an old black and white Zenith that was always turned on; a length of plastic garland was scotch-taped to the consul, Rudy's nod to the Yuletide.

Keith took a cautious sip. "Hot. Delicious."

"So what do you know that I don't," Rudy said, facing Keith now, leaning his big hands on the counter to get the weight off his leg.

"Did I tell you Katie got accepted in the film school at UCLA?"

Rudy said "You mean not counting the last twenty times?" and Keith grinned. "Gonna miss her, huh."

"Sure am. But it's long overdue. She's a gifted writer. The script she just finished? I loved it. It's a blend of crime, science fiction and black comedy that's really got legs. But she needs maturing. Not to mention the exposure; her work needs to be seen. No way she's gonna get all that up here in Sudbury. Besides, the last thing I want is to see her hanging around town just to keep her old man company." Brave words, Keith thought, picturing life without her and not liking it much. Cancer had taken his wife when Kate was six, a protracted, painful death, and he and Kate had been pretty much inseparable ever since. They shared a duplex on Howey Drive, living modestly but in comfort, the last mortgage payment made three years ago. "She needs to be where the action is," Keith said. "It's the nature of that business."

"I hear you. But look at the bright side. Come September you can party every night 'til she makes it big, then move down to California and sponge off her the rest of your life. Fraternize with the hired help."

Keith said "There's that," and put his cup down, a storm warning on the TV catching his attention. Rudy followed his gaze, saying "More snow. Can you believe it?"

Keith glanced out the storefront window. "I don't buy it," he said. He'd walked to Rudy's as he always did, the winter sun warm on his face, no hint from his joints about lousy weather. But in the Canadian north, you never knew. He took another sip of his coffee, then got his reading glasses on and fished his wallet out of his parka, the weather forgotten. "Gotta check my numbers," he said.

Rudy spoke to his back as he made his way to the lottery display. 'You hear about Howie Gottler's kid?"

Keith said "The mental defective?" He dug a sheath of tickets out of his wallet and began checking them against the posted winning numbers.

"That's the one. The coppers caught him up at Bell Junior High yesterday, poking his wares through the cyclone fence for the amusement of the teenyboppers. When the dopey bastard tried to run his johnny froze to the fence like a wet tongue. Son of a bitch got a free circumcision--"

Rudy's voice faded to a drone in Keith's brain, every neuron suddenly focused on the apparent enigma that now appeared before his eyes. There were three sets of two-digit numbers on the ticket in his hand, six numbers in each set. The series in the first two sets were nowhere close to the winning numbers, no confusion there. But what utterly fouled Keith's normal lines of perception was the fact that the third set matched the winners exactly.

The right numbers. The right order. The right lottery. The right date.

Keith realized he wasn't breathing. He commanded his lungs to inflate, but in the same instant his gaze ticked to the dollar value attached to this draw and his throat sealed off completely.

God in heaven, he thought. I'm gonna die before I can spend a dime. Then Rudy's voice came through, "Keith, you okay?"--and his lungs admitted a thin slip of air.

Rudy came around the counter in a hurry, certain his old friend was having a coronary; Keith's usually placid face was beet red, the veins in his neck standing out like cables. But before Rudy had closed half the distance, Keith darted past him in the opposite direction, almost bowling him over.

"Jesus, Rudy, move your ass. I gotta call Katie!"

He grabbed the phone behind the counter and punched in the numbers, staring wide-eyed at Rudy over the tops of his glasses as it rang, holding the ticket up for Rudy to see.

"Ten million bucks, old buddy!" Keith said. "Ten million bucks!"


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