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Roan's Requiem [A Benjamin Roan Thriller]
by Robert L. Hecker

Category: Mystery/Crime
Description: Benjamin Roan is co-owner of a company that provides security for high-tech industry located In the high-society sunbelt of Newport Beach, California. When one of his guards, Ben's fiance, is found dead, everyone says, "accident." But Ben suspects "murder." To find proof, Ben takes over her guard duties at a high-tech Industry where, despite attempts to kill him, he discovers ruthless schemes involving pornography, espionage, and high-tech murder--and a Latina bombshell named Samantha. In an exciting climax, Ben tracks down the mysterious killer with unusual--and deadly--results.
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: July 2004

eBookeBook

7 Reader Ratings:
Great Good OK Poor
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [392 KB]
Words: 91742
Reading time: 262-366 min.


"ROAN'S REQUIEM by Robert L. Hecker is a page-turner that will keep the reader in suspense from page one onward. Not only is this a good mystery, the descriptions of the Newport Beach-Irvine area of Southern California are superb, even a short synopsis of how the area looked back in the 1970s, without taking away from the present day setting, add depth to the background of the story as do the humorous scenes. The opening in the prison sequence is brutal and not for the squeamish but persist, in the next section of the story. All the secondary characters are well- defined, and the story evolves with just enough hints as to who the bad guy really is until a feasible conclusion. Roan's Requiem is a man's action/adventure story but women will enjoy it as well. I know I did. I read the book much faster than I intended, because I had a hard time putting it down. 5 corvettes"--Jaye Dee Tyrack, Gotta Write Network

"ROAN'S REQUIEM is a most excellent page turner that captures the imagination of the reader from the very first page. Robert L. Hecker's high level of writing expertise is apparent in this sizzling story. Hecker's attention to the vagaries of love and the ruthlessness of greed form the cornerstone of this eminently entertaining tale."--Shelley Glodowski, Midwest Book Review

"Roan's Requiem is a solid, no-holds- barred thriller that will have you clinging to the edge of your seat as you attempt to follow the tangled web of clues and hints. The characterizations are intricate from the protagonist, Ben, who is so health-conscious that he comes off as a hypochondriac to the shapely Samantha, who may be the key to unraveling the mystery. This is for anyone who enjoys a good mystery. I dare you to guess the ending! 4 1/2 stars"--Alice Klein, Sime-Gen


Chapter 1

You'd think that when you've been on intimate terms with death, you'd be able to sense its presence like a subliminal specter. But when Herb Stax drove his Cadillac convertible into the parking lot next to our office building, any hint of pending disaster was lost in a tide of joy at being home.

Herb and Jack Blucher got out and started toward the office, but I sat for a moment savoring the sound of traffic on Balboa Boulevard and the dull boom of Pacific surf breaking on the beach behind the beach houses. I drank in the tangy smell of the sea mixed with the aroma of gourmet cooking wafting from the many nearby restaurants.

After being away almost three months, even our small office building looked beautiful. It was little more than a two-story wooden box, but we'd tried to give it a little class by painting the clapboard a pale blue with white trim and by putting colorful blue and white awnings over the entrance and the front windows. The bronze plaque beside the door that stated S&R SECURITY was highly polished but discreet. Maybe you couldn't buy class out of a paint can, but after experiencing the hot breath of hell, I wouldn't have traded the old frame building for the Taj Mahal.

When I followed Herb and Jack through the door into the outer office, I was startled by a chorus of voices shouting "Welcome home, boss!"

The staff had rounded up a bunch of metallic balloons and ribbons, and red-white-and-blue bunting so the office looked as thought somebody had forgotten to clean up after a New Year's party. Kim Fuji, my secretary, ran over and threw her arms around me and lifted her five-foot body high enough to give me a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Oh, I'm so glad you're not dead!" she cried and I was surprised to see tears glistening on her cheeks.

Mrs. Davis, our accountant, came over and gave me a quick peck on the cheek, and Judd Procter, the dispatcher, pumped my hand as though to reassure himself it was real.

I looked around for Helen, but she wasn't there. My sharp disappointment made me realize just how much I wanted to see her. Why wasn't she here? If she had been the one returning from a long trip, I'd have moved heaven and earth to meet her. Perhaps the old adage was wrong and absence did not make the heart grow fonder. Maybe she had already found somebody else.

Herb Stax whacked me on the back. "Hell," he said, "if I thought I'd get a welcome like this, I might try disappearing myself."

Herb was the 'S' in S&R Security. I was the 'R'. If I'd had a father, I wouldn't have minded if he'd been like Herb Stax. He was 54, but he looked younger. He was considerably overweight, most of the weight concentrated in his stomach and in his round, shiny face, which was without the trace of a wrinkle. His hair was light brown, fine, tinged with gray, but it was full and flowing.

Everyone said that if Herb only had a long beard, he would make a perfect Santa Claus. Except for this clothes. Herb dressed for the youthful image, favoring turtle-neck shirts that hid his double chins. His jackets were usually cashmere, and his cowboy boots were lizard or snake skin. He even had a pair made of ostrich skin that I knew had cost him at least three hundred dollars. I think the real reason he favored boots was because they added a little height to his 5'6" frame.

"They must not have had anybody to sign their checks," I told him and Kim punched my arm.

"That's not the reason," she said. "I can forge your name better than you can."

Jack Blucher was hanging back near the door. I raised my hand until I got a little quiet and said, "Everybody, I want you to meet the guy who saved my life—Jack Blucher."

They turned to stare at Jack who was leaning against the door jamb with his arms folded, his pale eyes taking in everything. They probably thought I was putting them on because Jack didn't look as though he could save the life of a kitten. He was now wearing a white shirt with a button-down collar, a maroon necktie, and a dark blue suit so new the pants still had knifelike creases. But he still retained an air of bemused sangfroid that made one believe he didn't give a damn whether anyone said hello or not.

Kim Fuji grabbed my hand and led me to her desk just outside my office door where there was a big square cake with 'Welcome home' scripted on the icing. I winced at the thought of all those empty calories, but I didn't want to disappoint the staff so I cut the cake while Herb Stax opened a magnum of champagne that had been chilling in the office refrigerator. I quickly came to the conclusion there are few things that taste worse than champagne with sickeningly sweet marzipan.

Looking at our small but very special staff, feeling their genuine happiness, I had to blink back tears. It was so easy to work with people year after year and never know for sure what they thought of you. It took something as traumatic as coming back practically from the dead to discover true feelings.

In a way, we were all strangers. Herb and I had only started the company four years ago. When we got our first really big contract, providing security for Colton Labs, we'd been able to hire an accountant. That was Mrs. Davis. Helen Cotrell had come on board as our first secretary. Later, for reasons I'd never been able to understand, Helen decided she wanted to be a uniformed guard. And she wanted to work the night shift at Colton Labs.

The remainder of our small office staff and our force of guards had been accumulated as we got more contracts, most of them during the past year. It was gratifying to think they were glad I wasn't fertilizer for elephant food in some remote corner of Africa

Herb said he wanted to bring me up to date on company projects and we went into his office. But I had something more urgent to talk about. Trying to sound unconcerned, I asked, "Where's Helen? I hope she's not sick."

"She's fine," Herb said. "She really went to pieces when we got word you'd been shot. I called her first thing when I got the message you were on your way back."

The warm glow returned. She did care! "Thanks, Herb," I said. "I, uh, kind of thought she'd be here."

"I asked her. She said she'd rather see you alone." He indicated his telephone. "She's waiting for your call."

I let the wonder of it wash over me. Could we—could she—rekindle the feeling she once had for me? Maybe—just maybe all my dreams, all my fantasies could come true.

My hands were trembling as I punched her number. When I heard her soft "hello" my throat closed like a fist.

"Hello," she said again, and at the sound of my strangled gasp, she asked. "Ben? Is that you, Ben?"

"Helen," I choked. "Yes. It's me."

"Oh, my God, Ben. What happened? Where have you been? We thought you were dead."

Her voice flowed through me like strong wine. I managed a strangled laugh. "Not so fast. Why don't we get together for dinner and I'll tell you all about it."

"Are you all right? They said you were shot."

I reveled at the anxiety in her voice. "No, no. I'm okay. What about dinner?"

"Can't I see you before that? What about right now?"

I drew a deep breath. It was coming true—my craziest fantasy. I would rush to her, take her in my arms, kiss her soft, willing lips. Damn!

With an effort, I closed off the memories. Underlying my euphoria like a mattress of nails was the fear she might only be feeling sorry for me.

"I'd like that," I said. "But…I've got to stop by my place first."

"You stopped by the office first," she said with what sounded like a pout. "I'd hoped I was more important than that."

"You are. You know that. They only get the tip of the iceberg. You get the whole thing."

"Just what I need—an iceberg."

"I'll let you thaw me out."

"When?"

I glanced at my watch, making a fast estimate. "What about seven?"

"Can't you make it sooner? I have to be at work by eight."

"Tonight?" Disappointment clouded my elation. How could she even consider going to work tonight? "Take the night off."

"I can't," she said, and I could hear the pain in her voice. "I haven't been able to line up a substitute. We're kind of short-handed."

I felt a stab of annoyance, not sure I believed her. We had several guards on our staff who were bonded and had the experience to work as substitutes. Guards' salaries were far from large and most were usually happy to make extra money. But maybe the company really was short-handed. A lot of changes could take place in a few weeks.

"Okay," I said. "I'll come by as soon as I can get away. Probably about five."

"All right," she breathed as she hung up. "I'll be waiting." The way she said it in a low register with a little catch in her voice made a chill of anticipation shoot through me.

I slowly placed the phone back in its cradle, unwilling to break the spell. Somehow, the time away from Helen, the distance, had brought us back together. I felt a powerful inner joy I hadn't experienced for a long time. I wondered if Helen felt the same incredible sensation about me. Or was she simply being kind to an old friend who had come back from a long and dangerous journey? I would soon find out.

Copyright © 2004 Robert L. Hecker


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