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Announcement: Icarus Ascending, by Lee James

Icarus AscendingDSP Publications’ Lee James has a new mystery & suspense book out:

Kirk MacGregor loves to win—whether through his critically-acclaimed oil paintings or on the job as the resident detective of his father’s prestigious law firm.

In the most perplexing investigation of his career, MacGregor searches for the truth behind the death of rock star Brent Hunter. But a phone call convinces Austin Hunter that his brother is alive and safe in a wilderness hideout. Or is it all an elaborate, deadly confidence game?

MacGregor’s investigation takes him down a twisting trail of dead-end leads, lethal lies, and a string of homicides. Sparks crackle as Kirk and Austin take a wild ride into the underbelly of the City of Angels, where nothing ever seems too strange or horrendous. As the death count rises, MacGregor is running out of time in finding a cunning contract killer and the person who hired him.

Kirk MacGregor seldom loses. But there are dangers—and costs—in flying too close to the sun.

1st edition published as “Errors and Omissions” by Dreamspinner Press, 2012.


Chapter ONE

MacGregor Law, Monday, June 1, 9:02 a.m.

KIRK MACGREGOR folded the Los Angeles Times and leaned back in his office chair. The weekend showing of his paintings in oils had every canvas “red-dotted” and had brought him a rave review from the Times’ most rabid art critic. Winning meant everything. All was well in his world.

He swiveled toward the office windows and watched the pedestrians along Sunset Boulevard—just another sunny, blue-sky LA morning. His musings came to an abrupt halt with his desk phone’s warble. Tony Denero wanted him.

As inflexible as an IRS agent and gayer than a French polka, legal administrator Tony Denero kept everything running on time for MacGregor Law’s seventy-eight partners and 350 associates. Nobody in the firm knew how to get on Tony’s good side. Everybody knew not to get on his shit list.

Tony cut to the chase. “Your father wants to know if it’s at all possible for you to squeeze him into your packed social calendar for dinner at six this evening.”

My father should become a travel agent for guilt trips, Kirk thought. “Please tell him I’ll be there.”

“Will do.” Tony lowered his voice. “Avery also asked if you’d speak with the Hunters. Should I tell them to make an appointment?”

“No, but give me a minute to prepare.”

“Sure thing, handsome.” Tony lowered his voice again. “Madam Hunter is waiting in the reception suite. That gorgeous Austin and his to-die-for hubby are admiring your paintings. They are two men I could just steal. Capiche?”

“Capisco. Now rein it in,” Kirk said.

“Don’t you rush getting ready. I wanna drool over this pair of Ken dolls a teensy bit longer… with the utmost discretion, of course.” Tony paused, sighed, then returned, “Oh, and congratulations on that fabulous art review.” Click.

Kirk MacGregor moved with the liquidity of a professional athlete. He shrugged on his suit coat, shot his cuffs, buttoned his collar, and cinched the Windsor knot just so on his silk tie. Clearing this morning’s newspaper off his desk, he muttered, “Showtime.”

Tony knocked once, then ushered corporate mogul Claire Hunter, her son, guitar deity Austin, and Austin’s husband, bestselling author Jase Ruether, into the office. Tony silently closed the door.

Following the handshakes, Claire, Austin, and Jase settled into the black leather client chairs angled in front of Kirk’s ebony desk. Kirk uncapped a fine-point pen and pulled an unlined notepad closer. He never wrote anything down during an interview. He never forgot anything either. No, he liked to thumbnail sketch his clients.

He opened with an icebreaker. “Mr. Ruether, I’ve enjoyed all of your novels.”

“It’s Jase, and thank you so much,” Ruether said in a sincere tone.

His guileless dark-brown eyes, pleasant smile, and sandy hair, worn short and neatly combed, made him look like the poster boy for Mormon missionaries, Kirk thought as he sketched Jase.

He smiled at Austin Hunter. “It’s always a pleasure to hear you play.”

Austin shrugged, putting a good deal into it, and said in his slight Texas twang, “Thanks, honey, but music’s nothing but a flowchart of numbers.” His voice did not turn boastful as he concluded, “And I can work numbers in my head right quick.”

“Is that right?” Kirk asked.

“Yup,” Austin said.

Kirk pulled a number out of the air. “What’s the square root of 9263?”

“It’s 96.2444804,” Austin answered without pause.

Damned impressive, Kirk thought after checking his desk calculator’s result. He began sketching the guitar deity.

Austin’s ruggedly handsome face revealed a great deal of character. Every strand of his dark brown locks remained in place, thanks to a haircut that probably cost several hundred dollars. His large hands bore the square-cut nails and rock-hard calluses of a professional guitarist. He wore soft, washed-out jeans, a CK sports shirt, and hand-cobbled loafers. A sexy, rough-and-tumble genius, Kirk thought. Tony Denero had called it right: Austin and Jase were a strikingly good-looking couple.

Kirk rolled closer to his desk, smiled at Claire Hunter, and said, “What can I do for you?” He began sketching her.

Her silver hair softly styled and her makeup discreet, Claire Hunter wore a business ensemble that bore the precise fit and understated elegance of a Savile Row tailor. She spoke in a soft Southern inflection that fell pleasantly on the ears. “I could not find Brent last year from December fifteenth through the twenty-first.” She blinked back the tears in her pale-blue eyes. “I need to know where Brent went and what he did during his final week alive. You see, I believe my son, along with his eleven passengers and crew, was murdered.”

En route to London’s Gatwick Airport last December twenty-first, rock star Brent Hunter’s private jet disappeared over the Arctic. Based on the flight plan, Search and Rescue could estimate where the jet went down, but couldn’t pinpoint the crash site. Neither random noise nor a legitimate signal was detected from the aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter. After three days of combing the rugged terrain, all reasonable expectations of finding survivors vanished. The search became a recovery mission, but S&R found neither wreckage, nor debris, nor human evidence. Following an investigation, the Federal Aviation Disaster Agency listed the Odyssey 10 executive jet and the twelve souls onboard as missing.

Kirk leaned back in his chair. Dozens of conspiracy theories had erupted after Brent Hunter’s violent death. But nothing had been recovered to prove a crime had been committed. It was widely held the air disaster resulted from pilot error. End of story.

He spoke in a gentle voice. “Mrs. Hunter, do you know something no one else knows about the crash?”

She shook her head once. “Dig deeply into Brent’s final week of life, and I believe you’ll find the evidence that proves my murder theory.”

Turning to Austin and Jase, he stated rather than asked, “You two have no idea where Brent went that week.”

Jase shook his head. “Sorry, no.”

Austin shot Kirk a withering look. “That hound don’t hunt. I would’ve said something right quick if I had a clue, wouldn’t you assume?”

“I never assume anything.” He paused to let his statement register and then asked, “When did you last see or speak with your brother?”

“End of last November. Next thing I heard, his sixty-five million-dollar jet dropped out of the sky on its maiden international flight.” Austin’s voice reflected incuriousness slouching toward boredom.

But Kirk had been trained to interpret the nonverbal cues of eye contact and body language. He knew Austin was holding something back. He set his pen on the notepad. “I’ll need a list of Brent’s friends and music industry colleagues.”

Claire reached into her shoulder bag, approximately the size of a microwave oven, and passed a file across the desk.

“Do you happen to have keys to your son’s house and automobiles in there?”

She reached into the bag and plucked a gold ring with three keys: one to the gate, one to the front door, and one to a Mercedes-Benz. She’d attached a tag with the code to the mansion’s security system.

Of course, he considered, Claire Hunter would have it all together. Knowing the needs of her own clients in advance had helped make her one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country.

Claire asked Kirk about fees.

He quoted his billable-hour fees and concluded, “Which will be charged to your retainer.”

Claire nodded her understanding. “Please contact my Manhattan office should you need anything else, or you can reach Austin and Jase at their country estate.”

Kirk, Claire, and Jase stood. Austin rose from his slouch. Following the handshakes, Claire walked out the door with Austin and Jase in tow.

Kirk listened as their footsteps faded down the hallway. Every investigation began by learning as much as possible about the client and his family. Most lawyers kept personal notes on their clients.

He’d begin by pulling his father’s personal file on the Hunters.

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Author Bio

Lee James was born and reared on his family’s Indiana farm. At the age of twelve, he rode his bicycle past an outdoor convention of the KKK—all in full white-sheet drag. When one of the participant’s eyes directly met Lee’s, he began to understand bigotry and hatred. After graduating from a Jesuit high school, he attended a Western university, where he majored in the humanities, and then studied law.

He’s worked for and in civil rights bills and law for thirty years, in both the public and private sectors—his brush with the Klan left a lifelong impression. He moonlights as a writer.

Lee enjoys listening to classic rock, blues, and jazz, reading, gardening, attempting to outsmart his orchids, and working on his next crime noir mystery-thriller. Unless pushed, he avoids discussing politics with anyone driven batshit crazy by ultraconservative network news.

Lee and his spouse reside in a Twin Cities’ suburb, where they are owned by their three cats. He enjoys hearing from his readers.


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