About the book
If it wasn’t for art thieves, spies and killers, Alex Vlodnachek’s life would be bliss.
Character guest post
Hi, I’m Alex Vlodnachek. I live in a little bungalow in Fordham, Virginia – just outside DC. I used to be an investigative reporter, now I’m a freelance writer. When my neighbor, Ian Sterling, asked for assistance getting a lead on his missing father, Harkins, I agreed to help. Ian runs a B&B out of the huge Victorian mansion across the street, and he’s a nice guy. Realistically, too, I kind of owe him. (Long story.) So in the service of a good cause, I reasoned a little solo snooping might be forgivable:
My first goal was to get into Harkins’s room and look around.
I knew Ian had said he’d looked for clues. But it was possible he didn’t know what he was looking for. It was also possible he was glossing over a few inconvenient facts.
I headed up the stairs. While the staircase into the lobby was stately and wide, it narrowed as it gained altitude. By the time I hit the third-floor landing, the air was getting thin.
I honestly had no idea how I was going to get through Harkins’s locked door. I’d noticed that even the guest doors had more than your typical bedroom door push-lock.
Too bad. With two older siblings, I could beat those things by the time I was five. My younger brother Nick could do it by three-and-a-half. Although Mom left that milestone out of our family Christmas letter.
The phone vibrated in my pocket. I pulled it out. My best friend (and former editor), Trip.
I’d meant to call him before I left. Rule No. 1 in the newsroom: always let someone know where you are and when you expect to return. It won’t necessarily keep you safe, but it will give the cadaver dogs a place to start.
“Hey,” I whispered as I ascended the summit, “any idea how to beat a locked door?”
“Where are you?”
“The B&B. Heading for Harkins’s room.”
“One dead body this week not enough for you?”
“Apparently, if it falls into a freezer in a basement and nobody hears it, it doesn’t make a sound. So it doesn’t count.”
“Seriously, what are you doing there? Besides the obvious.”
“Nick’s bound and determined to keep coming over here. So I need to find out what the heck is going on. And if I get a lead on Harkins in the interim . . . What’s that noise? Are you watching a movie?”
“I’m YouTubing a video on how to pick a lock. But if you get caught, you tell them we were sharing fashion tips. I do know a place where you can get some silver earrings that will look great with your new handcuffs.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence. Well, this is my floor. Two doors.”
“The lady or the tiger?” Trip quipped.
“Hey, as long as it isn’t the murderer or the dead body, I almost don’t care.”
“So how many bodies is it that you’ve found now?”
“How many have I found, or how many do the police know I’ve found?”
“Should it bother me that there’s a difference?” he asked.
“Talk about sharing your number. OK, here goes nothing.” I turned the knob.
Didn’t budge. Definitely locked. I reached for the other door. The knob turned in my hand.
“I’m in—I’ll call you back.”
“You’ve got fifteen minutes,” Trip said. “Then I’m calling the cops myself.”
I didn’t know it from the hallway, but this room occupied one of the turrets on the back of the house. The outer wall was rounded and comprised of a half dozen long windows. It smelled of oil paint and turpentine. There were six easels spread across the space. Different paintings. Different styles. Different artists.
The room was like an art museum. I walked softly from one canvas to the next, studying them. They were amazing. I’m no art connoisseur. But growing up, my parents dragged all four of us kids to every art museum, gallery opening, and exhibition in town. To me, these looked like the real thing.
One was a Van Gogh. Another was a Monet. Waterlilies. And a sturdy Degas dancer warmed up on a third easel. There were also a couple more modern ones in styles I didn’t recognize. But the star of the show was in the center of the room. Renoir. And it looked familiar.
Mom and I had seen it a couple of years ago when some big-business muckety-muck lent it—and a few other prized works—to a local museum for the summer. I remember standing in front of it, just staring. Entranced. Kind of like I was now.
I heard a soft “thump.” And it definitely didn’t sound like the house settling. It sounded like someone hiding in the closet.
Want to read more? Pick up a copy of “Seeing Red” out now from Kensington Books!
And others are saying
Visit the tour
Visit the tour to read reviews, more guest posts and author and character interviews.