For those of you who regularly follow my tweets or Facebook, you'll know that I have a new novel I'm working on. While it is not finished, I am including the prologue to the book here to keep you all updated. Enjoy!
**Please note that any and all words here are my own. Copyright infringement will not be tolerated**
Prologue after the jump.
Marie-Louise Pilon -- pronounced with the accent on the second syllable as she often tutored people who tried to say it for the first time -- had always liked things that challenged her. Puzzles mostly. Questions that required all of her knowledge and any she could glean from those around her to find answers. It had been so since she was a child, a personality trait that delighted her parents and frightened them at the same time. From her first steps they had learned that she was afraid of nothing and curious about everything.
Pilon was attractive, but not beautiful in classic terms. Five feet nine and a half inches tall, dark hair cut short, slender, narrow hips, adequate breasts and exceptional legs that gave her the appearance of being even taller that she was. She possessed a European-type eye-appeal, exhibiting a subtle sensuality rather than overworked perfection. When she was younger, she thought that maybe her nose could be improved, but then asked herself why. Marie-Louise could appear sophisticated, moneyed, cosmopolitan or earthy, depending on the occasion. She much preferred the latter. Little if any makeup, which she could get away with even at forty, jeans, usually worn, sometimes with a rent or two, a sweatshirt and sandals or sneakers. She never felt the need to impress anyone without purpose.
Her father, Richard Pilon had been a spectacular with an actuarial background, a genius with figures. As a young man he made a decision to "farm" the real estate opportunities that were available in France at the time. He studied American entrepreneurs and found their French counterparts naïve in comparison. Using their techniques, it didn't take him long to accumulate a sizable net worth; however, with a wife and two children and a volatile economy in Europe, he decided to take his business to America, the land of his financial role models.
Marie-Louise was only two-years-old when her parents brought her and her brother from France to America. Though her mother, Jeanine, and brother, Vincent, experienced some difficulty in adjusting to the new world, Marie-Louise thrived. By the time she started school she was totally fluent in English and had erase most vestiges of her French accent. She did in later years find the accent could be an asset, especially when seeking approval from associates, colleagues and from men in particular, which she did at her own choosing.
Upon graduating from Brown University with a degree in biology -- a choice of study that had no particular reason -- and a year spent in France getting to know the country her parents had left, she was still undecided where to go with her education. A bachelor's degree in biology by itself would never suit her purpose. Despite her father's urgings, mathematics held no interest for her. She found the logic of numbers simplistic. The one thing she did gain from her undergraduate studies was a fascination with the human body. It held innumerable mysteries, many of which were unexplainable. Spontaneous illnesses and unprompted cures. Puzzles. And there was the brain, the biggest mystery of all, the center of all the body's functions, actions and those indefinable properties of humanity: emotion and thought.
Although she liked the study of general medicine, it was psychiatry that captured her interest and curiosity. She flourished. The mind posed predicaments that appeared, at the outset, to have no resolutions. These were questions that required not only textbook knowledge, but also an understanding of the human spirit, the effects of the environment, individual will and, perhaps most stimulating of all, aberrations in the mental and emotional processes. Short circuits with no explanation.
After practicing in New York for seven years where she took advantage of the city, it's cultural opportunities, the nightlife and its plethora of men, she tired of the cosmopolitan attitudes, the obsession with success of those within her professional fraternity as well as those without and moved to Charleston, South Carolina. There she set up a limited practice, accepted a few private patients whose problems piqued her interest and worked as a consultant for industry, education, hospitals and law enforcement entities. She found working with law enforcement the most stimulating.
The "Holy City", as it is known, accommodated a less hectic lifestyle though one could find anything "The Big Apple" had to offer and, in some areas, more. The residents were no less driven nor more sane than New Yorkers; they just concealed it better under the camouflage of southern gentility. She found herself in her element in Charleston and was able to make the city whatever she wanted.
She didn't insinuate herself into any segment of the city's social structure, though, by profession, she was accepted into any branch in which she chose to move: the established, the moneyed, the up and coming, the creative, the single, the family-oriented, the liberal, the conservative and the fast-movers. She had created an ideal life for herself. She could be solitary when she wanted to be and in the center of activity when that appealed to her. The choice was always hers to make.
The house she purchased when she arrived in Charleston was on South Adgers Wharf Street, just off East Bay Street. Built in 1835, it was located "South of Broad", the most desirable area of the city. An historic, stucco and brick dwelling, it consisted of three bedrooms, three baths, living room, dining room, modern kitchen, a den and the office where she did her work.
The den and the office were paneled in deep cherry and designated for comfort with print-covered easy-chairs and couches. The primary difference was a tall, hand-decorated armoire in the den that housed a large, high-definition television set and the other accouterments of the modern entertainment center, though she used it as much in her work as she did for entertainment. The walls in both rooms were hung with an eclectic collection of artwork. Custom lighting allowed her to create any atmosphere she chose.
On this night she sat in her office, leaning back in the swivel desk chair, trying to put reason into the disappearance of a prominent businessman and his wife from Palmetto Island, a resort community two hours south of Charleston. There was also a suicide that appeared to be related. Both the local and the national news media had carried featured stories about the incident, and there were countless rumors reported. Many of the locals swore they knew the "true" story, but, of course, non of them could be verified.
Though she was not aligned to the case in any official capacity, the discussions and gossip she had heard and the newspaper articles she had read tweaked her curiosity. Law enforcement had run into a dead end in several fundamental areas of their investigation. It wasn't the first time she had, strictly for her own amusement, tried to develop a rational and logical solution to a riddle that appeared to have none.
There were lots of questions. Everyone had a theory: drugs, organized crime, the Russian mafia, witness protection, questionable business dealings, and some even thought marital discord might have been the motive. The death by suicide of the CFO of the couple's company, the primary suspect in their disappearance, only days after they were last seen, led many to believe it was not a suicide. Investigators had announced their solution to the case -- a theory since only the body of the suicide had been found -- but Pilon had the notion that their conclusions were born out of pressure from the public and frustration rather than immutable facts. As a medical professional, the logistics of the suicide didn't stand up.
The disappearance of resort and real estate mogul, Tom Jordan and his wife, Theresa, and the death of Brian Clark was an extraordinary puzzle. Officials had come up with no specific details of what had happened to the couple. People had seen them just hours prior to their vanishing. They had supposedly attended meetings on the island. Cars were discovered, but none of these facts, if they were that, provided any real evidence of what actually occurred.
Authorities had not declared the Jordans dead because any homicide without a body is difficult to prove. If it was a homicide. No proof. According to the local media, it was still classified, as a "missing persons" case, which would make getting information difficult. The "suicide" of Brian Clark, the alleged perpetrator of the disappearance, as a result of multiple stab wounds was, a particularly savage way to take one's own life. Less than two percent of suicides are done by knife. One percent of those are by cutting the wrists. That made this case a one percenter.
She had closed her eyes and leaned her head back. She had cleared her schedule for a hiatus beginning in two weeks. Several other doctor friends had allowed her to give her patients referral numbers in case of an emergency. From that time on, she would have all the time in the world to satisfy her inquisitiveness about what happened to Tom and Theresa Jordan and why the lame explanation of an aberrational suicide was considered a rational conclusion to the whole matter. There were answers. She wasn't on retainer, so there were no obligations, time limits or requirements, and she wasn't bound by the legal limits of her hard work with law enforcement. It was the most pleasant way to work...