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Thursday, August 23, 2007

WHO 3~ a game featuring Ransomed Dreams

A crime has been committed—and it’s up to you to figure out WHOdunit! Play the game for a chance to win an autographed copy of Amy Wallace’s romantic suspense, RANSOMED DREAMS.

(If you already have a copy~ THANK YOU!~ you can still play and mabye win a copy for a friend. Books are great gifts. ;-) )

Here’s what you do:

Read the scenes below and collect the KEYWORDS from each scene (note: keywords are not pointers toward the culprit, but rather toward the novel from which we got our setting).

Once you have the keys and have figured out WHOdunit, send an email to with the subject line WHO? Send us the name of the culprit and the six keywords. Don’t forget to come back next week for the WHO? Confession by the culprit!

Entries will be received between 12 noon EST, Thursday August 23 through 3 p.m. EST, Monday 27 August.

By Roseanna M. White

(There is no keyword in this first scene)

Louisa still wasn’t sure how she had ended up in a stranger’s house, at an impromptu party with a bunch of people she’d never met before that day. Sure, she had been enjoying her conversation with Dr. Cramer when they met at the National Institutes of Health earlier that day, and the thought of tagging along with him to meet a friend had, at the time, seemed perfectly logical.

Now she surveyed this group with mixed thoughts. She was one of only three females; one of the other two, LaTisha, was a brightly plumed older woman decked out in a bright purple dress and red scarf. The other, Sierra was nearer Louisa in age and had on a t-shirt with the slogan “Save the animals. Endanger Idiots Instead.” A little off-putting, though the petite Asian girl was smiling and chatting amicably with one of the men.

“Hello, love.”

Louisa looked over with a start at the handsome young man who had materialized at her side, a glass of soda in each hand. He reminded her vaguely of some actor. Sandy brown hair. Nice face. Even the English accent fit. Jude Law, wasn’t it? She took the drink he offered with a small smile. “Thanks. I’m Louisa.” She held out a hand.

He raised it to his lips, which nearly made her roll her eyes. “Jeremy Beckett. I was chatting with our lovely exotic bird there,” he said with a nod toward LaTisha, “about volunteering at my school when Agent Kessler invited us home for a few snacks. Interesting group, isn’t it?”

“Mm.” She took a sip of her soda and looked absently at the massive man still talking to Sierra. He was huge, complete with heavy middle, moon cheeks and a ruddy complexion, but that wasn’t what grabbed her attention. He kept talking about his church and saying things like “the Lamb” and mentioning the power of the blood without ever making it sound—well—right.

Maybe in a minute she’d go over and see if she could wrangle that poor Sierra girl free.

Or maybe she wouldn’t have to. Sierra backed away from him with wide eyes, looking like she was about to haul back and slap him. “You people sacrifice animals? You. . . you barbarians!” She spun away with a disgusted huff.

Their host, FBI Agent Steven Kessler, immediately offered the big man—ironically named Ham—an hors d’oeuvre to diffuse the situation.

“Good man,” Jeremy said beside her, nodding to Steven. “I had his son in class.”

“I didn’t realize he had a son.”

“An angel, more like. He’s six.”

Louisa felt her lips tug up into a smile. “Mine are eight. Twins.”

Jeremy nearly choked on his soda. “You have eight-year-olds? You don’t look a day over twenty-one.”

His judgment probably wouldn’t be much better had he known how old she really was, so Louisa just gave that vague smile she had perfected over the years and said, “Thanks. Hopefully people will still be saying that in another decade.”

Dr. Cramer slid up to her other side. He was tall, and his features said he had ancestors from India. He was still wearing his scrubs from the lab, too, and managed to look as comfortable in them as Louisa was in her cut-offs. He held out a hand to Jeremy. “Hello. Jeremy Cramer.”

The Brit titled his head. “Jeremy Beckett.”

The doctor laughed. “I’ll just go by Dr. Cramer, then. You’re the younger Kessler’s teacher, right? I consulted with Agent Kessler on a case a while back.”

“His specialty is infectious diseases,” Louisa informed the teacher. “You should just hear about the strides his team’s making in studying the—”

“Goodness!” LaTisha huffed over to them with a dramatic hand to her chest. “These little bitty cracker things are barely enough to fill a woman.”

Louisa grinned. The woman was a character, that’s for sure, and she couldn’t seem to keep her hose from sagging down.

“I went into the kitchen and poked around. I could whip up a proper Southern meal in no time. You just ask my Hardy, I can cook to beat the band. Raised seven kids in my kitchen, after all.”
Dr. Cramer smiled and opened his mouth to reply.

He didn’t get the chance. The world seemed to explode into chaos around them, the sound of shattering glass followed directly by the distant boom of a gun, nearly covered by the half-dozen screams of the people in the room. Louisa was pushed none too gently to the ground. She didn’t need any convincing to stay there.

“Everybody stay down!” It was Steven’s voice that barked out the command. She looked up enough to see him belly-crawling over to the window, even as he fished a cell phone out of his pocket. Seconds later, he was speaking into it. “Clint, get an Evidence Response Team to my house pronto. The ‘impromptu party’ proved more than our suspect could resist. Lost a window though, and the wood splitter buzzed my head before lodging in my bookcase somewhere. We should have all the info needed before the night’s over.”

“What in the world?” LaTisha’s voice quavered.

The FBI agent scanned the room. “Everybody okay?”

A chorus of weak assurances sounded.

“No one’s hurt,” he said into the phone again. “See you in a few.” He flipped shut his phone and stood up against the wall beside the shattered window. “Let’s move into the kitchen, low and slow. The shooter’s most likely long gone, but we need to get out of this room so the ERT can do its job.”

Louisa pushed herself onto her knees and crawled along with the others through the door to the kitchen. She would have felt ridiculous had that gunshot not still been echoing through her mind. She stood up once she was in the safe, soft glow of the kitchen light. The exterior door was shrouded by heavy blinds, as was the window.

Steven was the last one in, and the group’s low murmuring came to an abrupt halt at the glare he leveled on each of them in turn. “All right. Which one of you tipped the shooter?”

A cold knot formed in Louisa’s belly. “One of us?”

The agent’s jaw ticked. “As far as everyone knew, I was heading to Georgia for a weekend away. I arrived via taxi. My car is still at Headquarters. A current suspect’s threats have ratcheted up and this party was a way to smoke him out. But one of you had to tip him off to the time and my whereabouts. I want to know who.”

Sierra folded her arms over her chest. “Ask Jabba the Hut, here. He has no problem killing innocent animals, he probably doesn’t much care about FBI agents, either.”

Ham’s countenance reflected injury. He raised a meaty hand to his chest. “Me? I strive for the redemption of humankind. What about you, young lady? You’re the one who prefers beasts to her own species. Maybe you called one of your activist friends while you were in the bathroom. I was standing beside Kessler—you could have been gunning for me, since I offend you so much.”

“Now y’all stop squabbling. You sound like a bunch of kids.” LaTisha tugged on her pantyhose and scowled. “Let’s get to the bottom of this. Who among us actually knew where we were going? I personally just came along with Jeremy, and I think young Louisa here rode with Dr. Cramer. Sierra, you came on your own, and so did Ham. Jeremy and the doctor knew their way. So a few of us, at least, couldn’t have tipped anyone off, since frankly I couldn’t tell you even now where we are.”

Louisa nodded. “Besides, I haven’t been alone since we were invited to come.” She tried a small smile. “For that matter, I don’t even have a cell phone.”

The others blinked at her, shook their collective heads, and then turned back to one another. Steven narrowed his eyes at Jeremy. “You’re arm’s bleeding.”

The teacher looked down at his own forearm in surprise. “Must have been a piece of glass.”

Dr. Cramer let out a gusty sigh and pulled a pair of rubber gloves from the pocket of his scrubs. “Agent Kessler, get me a first aid kit. Everyone else stay back. The last thing we need is disease spreading.”

He started mumbling something about AIDS and a few other scary-sounding terms Louisa had never heard before as he reached with protected fingers for Jeremy’s arm.

The teacher frowned at him. “I don’t have any terrible diseases, doc. I may date a lot, but—”

“Many people have no idea when they’re infected. Better safe than sorry. Agent? A kit?”

Steven handed over a white box with a large red cross on it. His expression didn’t soften.

“While Mr. Beckett here gets cleaned up, the rest of you better be prepared to come clean, too. Someone tipped off that gunman. And no one’s leaving until I know who it was.”


By S. Dionne Moore

The kitchen felt powerful hot all the sudden. Large room though it was, all of us, I dare say, felt the bite of Mr. Muscleman’s command. It didn’t take me long to warm to the occasion. We’re not talking hot flashes, either. I’m long past that.

Well, if he wanted to play detective, then we’d do it my way. And I decided then and there to begin my inquisition with Mr. Muscleman Bossy Guy himself. Afterall, no one liked a bossy person. And no one likes being bossed less than a boss. Takes one to know one, right?

I lasered in on Mr. Muscular. “You’re powerful quick to eyeball us as suspects in this CRIME. Maybe you have something against someone here.”

He crossed his arms, and I thought he’d go toe to toe with me, but his slow smile oozed charm. Too cute for his own good. But I’m immune. Hardy’s my little rooster. Sick though he might be. Right now his cocka-doodle-do is more like the croak of a toad, but I love him.

Mr. Muscles’s smile slid away. He opened the double doors a bit and peeked through. I tapped my toe, letting him know I wouldn’t be put off forever. He eased the door closed again and pursed his lips. “I assure you, Mrs. Barnhart, that is not the case.”

Come to think of it, he was one of the only people I remembered seeing the entire time. Still . . . why did he invite us all over? Complete strangers? It didn’t make a bit of sense.

I eyeballed the rest of the motley crowd, my mind replaying the movements of those present since I’d arrived at this party. Jeremy Beckett seemed unlikely to flick a flea, and the doctor, well, I didn’t know his name, but he hadn’t been out of my sight at all, save for the time I went to the kitchen. The Asian girl kept eyeballing a large man in a bright orange shirt . . .

Orange shirt? Something snagged in my mind, and I looked closer at the fellow. Large. Blond hair. Eyes the color of seaweed.


In the middle of my poking around the kitchen earlier, when I’d harbored hope of finding more than a cracker, I clearly remembered a flash of orange as someone exited from the kitchen and into the dining room. I hadn’t given it much thought then, but now that I think on it, it was funny that I had seen someone exiting the kitchen but not in the kitchen.

I waved a hand at the double doors I thought I’d seen him pass through. “Didn’t I see you slipping through those doors into the dining room earlier?”

He smoothed his shirt. “I, too, was looking for a bit more substantial snack.” He stabbed a look at the little Asian girl and pointed to the rack of very sharp, gleaming utensils. “I must say our host has quite an impressive collection of knives, wouldn’t you agree, Sierra?”

“You’re sick,” she muttered and turned her back.

But I wasn’t to be sidetracked. He must have known I wasn’t done with him because he raised an eyebrow at me. Kind of a silent challenge. Well, honey, after raising seven kids, I was more than up to anything he dished. “I believe you had your back to me, Mrs. Barnhart. I’m sure you will agree, this is a very large kitchen.”

“And you’re a very big man. I would have at least seen you, if not heard you.”

There, let him soak that in brine for a while.

I turned to Sierra. “Where’d you get off to before the blast?”

She shrugged. “I have nothing to hide. I left to find the bathroom, but ended up in the library.” Her eyes shifted to the doctor. “You remember, Doctor, you helped me find it.”

Doc patted Mr. Beckett’s arm and straightened. “Indeed I did, young lady. What of it?”

“Weren’t you fumbling with something?” her eyes narrowed. “Like maybe your cell phone?”

The doctor busied himself with pulling at the fingers of his gloves. “I received a page.”

I filed away that tidbit. Something else drifted on the fringes of my brain. It came to me as my eyes scanned along the hall off the kitchen.

The door to the bedroom. It had been closed earlier, and now it stood open, though Muscles hadn’t left the party.

I locked onto Mr. Orange again. His lips drew down into a frown as he returned my stare. That’s when it clicked. “You had come from the bedroom, hadn’t you? And you didn’t want me seeing you. Now I wonder, why would that be?”


By Amy Wallace

Rather than glaring himself into having six more enemies, Steven slipped into the living room and surveyed the scene. Good thing James and Gracie were safely tucked away at his parent’s home for the weekend. After the ERT did their work, the first order of business would be finding a crime scene cleaner and getting a new window installed.

Then he’d call Gracie so she wouldn’t stay up all night wondering. Maybe they could salvage a few hours of his “vacation” weekend, even if they did have to stay in VIRGINIA to do it.

After checking his watch, he slipped on a latex glove and ran a hand over his splintered bookshelf. It’d take him and Clint a good weekend of work making another section for the piece of furniture that would hopefully house all of Gracie’s books in the near future.

Not wanting to disturb any clue the ERT would need to sink a conviction, he moved to the phone. Surely no one was stupid enough to use his phone to make the call. But then again, if criminals were playing with a full stack they’d have cold case files enough to make a twenty-year veteran cry.

He hit redial and listened to the number a computer voice rattled back to him. Not a call he’d placed. Punching it into his cell, he waited for six long and boring rings.

“We’re sorry, but the cellular customer you’re trying to reach is unavailable. If you’d like to leave a message—”

He didn’t, so he slapped the phone shut and took to pacing.

It was a local cell number and not one they had on file for their kidnapping suspect. Once the ERT Agent in Charge cleared him, Steven would run the number by Michael and let the computer genus do his stuff to track it down.

But that wasn’t a solid enough lead for cuffing one of his “guests” and giving them a short trip to a long night in jail.

One more glance at his watch. The ERT should arrive shortly. Until then, he had an interrogation times six to keep him busy.


By Sandra Glahn

Dr. Cramer wanted to avoid alarming Jeremy, but the red circle of blood on the teacher’s white shirt continued to expand. The doctor pulled up Jeremy’s sleeve for a look.

“Are you on any medications?” he asked.

Jeremy shook his head. “Just an occasional aspirin and some over-the-counter allergy stuff.”

“When’s the last time you had aspirin?” Dr. Cramer asked.

“Yesterday, actually.”

The doctor breathed easier. Perhaps some of the blood-thinning properties were still in effect, which would account for the heavy bleeding, even though the injury appeared to be only on the skin's surface. He pressed against the wound to slow the flow. “Take off your belt," he said.
Jeremy’s eyebrows shot up. “Why?” His look was defiant, but he didn’t wait for an answer to reach for the buckle.

“I need a tourniquet.”

“Surely it’s not all that bad, doc,” Jeremy insisted.

“Maybe not. But just in case.”

Jeremy dutifully undid his belt and handed it to the physician. Dr. Cramer wrapped it around the injured arm above the wound and gave it a yank. Then he looked over at Stephen. “Got any alcohol?”

Stephen nodded and trotted off toward the bathroom.

“Am I gonna live, doc?” Jeremy asked, seeming to laugh it off, though the quiver in his voice betrayed him.

“We’re all terminal cases,” Dr. Cramer said. “But I don’t think your time’s up yet. Does it hurt?”

“Not much, but it’s starting to throb now that you’re pressing on it.” Jeremy’s tone was accusatory.

Dr. Cramer shrugged it off. He looked around at the guests, and his eyes landed on Louisa. “Get me some gauze and tape out of there, will you?” He pointed to the first-aid kit and Louisa jumped into action. Stephen returned with the alcohol about the time Louisa handed Dr. Cramer what he’d asked for. Less than minute later, the wound was dressed.

Dr. Cramer handed back the supplies to their deliverers and felt around in the pockets of his scrubs.

“What do you need?” Stephen asked.

“My phone. Must’ve left it in the car.”

Stephen pointed toward the hall. “Use the one in the bedroom.”

“Thanks.” Dr. Cramer looked over at Jeremy. “I’ll drive you to the ER or we can call an ambulance, if you prefer. It would be better if you didn’t drive yourself. Let me just tell the hospital we’re on our way.”

“ER? It’s not that bad, is it?”

“Your CASE involves a gunshot wound. Trust me—for both our sakes we need to take you in.”

“Okay. Whatever.” Jeremy shrugged.

Dr. Cramer proceeded down the hall and found Stephen’s immaculately clean bedroom. The décor was art deco in primary colors and symmetrical lines that brought Mondrian to mind. Next to the bed on a black lacquer table sat a red telephone.

As he made his way across the room, Dr. Cramer noticed a slip of paper on the hardwood floor. It was lying in a pool of water about the size an ice cube might leave. He stooped to pick up the paper and recognized it as a business card for Rev. Archer Romlin. It was just like the one each guest had received earlier in the evening except that this one was torn in half, and on the back someone had scribbled what was now the residue of a phone number with the word "cell."

Dr. Cramer picked up the phone and scrolled back through “calls made.” The area code and prefix on the card matched the most recent one, but the last four letters on the card were smeared beyond recognition so there was not way of knowing for sure if the numbers matched.


By Christy Barritt

“Rev. Romlin? The cult leader?” Sierra’s fiery gaze turned to Ham, who’d just grabbed a bacon-wrapped scallop from the kitchen counter. “This pig was just talking about the Reverend. It looks like we have our killer.”

Ham glowered down at her and, with a mouthful of food, exclaimed, “Listen here, girlie, you’re a suspect too. Don’t try to put the attention on me just to take it off yourself.”

“I don’t believe in murder, unlike the rest of you people who kill innocent animals simply to indulge your own desires. I’ve got a heart!” She jabbed her finger into her chest to emphasize her words. Her gaze swung around the room, looking at each of the meat eaters with obvious contempt. Everyone stopped eating their meaty treats and wiped their mouths.

Sierra’s scowl landed on Ham again. She stepped closer and jabbed his chest this time. She was a small thing, but she had spirit. “I’ve heard all about your Reverend Romlin. He always talks about RANSOMING people from their sins in that television show of his. And how do you get delivered from your sins? By sending him money. He’s a brainwasher. Did he brainwash you into killing someone, Pig Boy?”

Ham stepped forward, towering over petite Sierra. “I will not tolerate your accusations. For all we know, that bullet could have been aimed at me.”


Hamilton Gordon from RELUNCTANT RUNAWAY
By Jill Elizabeth Nelson

“I don’t like being shot at.” Ham crossed his arms, and sweat trickled into the folds of flesh down his side. “But God hates false accusers.”

That FBI agent, Kessler, poked a finger at him. “No one’s accusing you, Mr. Gordon, but if you’d been the target, it would have been hard to miss.”

Ham’s cheeks flamed. “You’re no pipsqueak yourself. How do you know the shot wasn’t intended as a warning? A scare tactic. I have enemies—”

“Scare tactic!” The mature woman in bright purple hitched up her hose. “Pretty effective then, I’d say. But who’d want to shoot a meat-packing tycoon?”

A soft shriek came from Sierra. “You not only sacrifice animals for sick religious rituals, but you slaughter them for a living? That’s it. This guy’s guilty. He has no respect for life.”

“Young lady,” Ham lifted himself to his full height, “I never said we of The Inner Witness sacrifice lambs. I said we partake of lamb and wine in our sacrament of FORGIVENESS and healing. Maybe you’re a confirmed vegetarian, but I’ll wager everyone else in this room enjoys a good steak, including our host who seems to think someone’s out to kill him.”

Kessler smiled grimly. “With the help of an accomplice in this room.”

“Which brings us back to you, Ham.” LaTisha piped up. “You were alone for part of the evening. Long enough to place that mystery call from Steven’s home phone. Next to the phone, Dr. Cramer found a business card for Reverend Archer Romlin with a smudged phone number written on the back.” She ticked the points off on her fingers. “And you are one of Romlin’s followers. Pretty interesting two plus two here.”

Cramer and Jeremy muttered agreement. Louisa stared, wide-eyed. Sierra shuddered and pressed her lips together.

Ham lifted his chin. “Circumstantial evidence. I have been accused of worse by professionals, not amateur sleuths, and acquitted.” The FBI agent snorted, but didn’t say anything as Ham went on. “What about the good doctor? He wandered off by himself for a while, and there’s no reason he couldn’t have written that number on the back of Rev. Romlin’s business card. I handed one out to everyone when we arrived. And Ms. Humane Society?” He jerked a nod at Sierra. “She left the room, too, also in possession of one of my dear pastor’s business cards. What do any of you have to say about that?”

“Motive.” Kessler’s voice sliced the air. “I’m still trying to figure out your motive, Gordon. But don’t worry, I will, and then we’ll have an arrest, a trial, and a conviction.”

Ham locked glares with the FBI agent. Would law enforcement ever tire of persecuting him? Probably not as long as he placed loyalty to his faith above every other consideration.


By Trish Perry

Right. Here I’ve landed in the soup again, haven’t I? My friends are constantly encouraging me to involve myself in events outside my typical social scenes. “Stay away from the nightclubs and bars, Jeremy!” they say. “There are so many other ways to meet interesting people.” They mean women, of course. They know my romantic circumstances haven’t panned out quite as favorably as I would have liked.

So I take up this bloke Kessler on his invitation to a small do at his home, complete with doctors, animal-rights activists, tycoons, and that utterly striking young mum. I had hoped to chat her up, but that doesn’t look likely now. This could be a blasted long night, and not for pleasant reasons.

They turned out to be an interesting lot, I’ll give them that! I was quite chuffed about getting to know Kessler a bit more. I’ve never met an FBI agent before. What cracking good stories he must have, eh? From the looks of it, though, this shooting was no ACCIDENT. Kessler appears suspicious of all of us. Might one of these guests have sinister reasons for attending?

Kessler thinks someone made a phone call to touch off the shooting. I can’t say I saw anyone on the phone; not even a cell phone. I did see that paranoid doctor chap in the kitchen, checking his pager. But as far as I could see, he stayed clear of the phone. And I must admit I noticed that little animal-rights bird leave the room—she’s rather smashing with that nose ring, isn’t she? She seems sharp, as well. I think she just left to use the facilities, though.

Overall, I’d say LaTisha’s husband, Hardy, had the right idea tonight. He stayed home!


Have you figured out WHOdunit? Then send the name and the culprit and the six KEYWORDS to with the subject line WHO?

Entries will be received until 3 p.m. EST on Friday 17 August.

Have fun!

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