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OTHER NOVELS BY

GREG JOLLEY Danser Dot to Dot The Amazing Kazu Murder in a Very Small Town


WHERE’S KAREN?

Copyright © 2017 Greg Jolley All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher. This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published by Open Window an imprint of BHC Press Library of Congress Control Number: 2016962804 ISBN-13: 978-1-946006-41-7 ISBN-10: 1-946006-41-6 Visit the author at: www.gregjolley.net & www.bhcpress.com Also available in eBook Cover, interior, and eBook design by Blue Harvest Creative www.blueharvestcreative.com


The blues is a chair; not the design for a chair or a better chair ‌ it is the first chair. ~ John Lennon ~ My turn to sit down in the blue chair. ~ Elvis Costello ~


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he concert ended, and the backing curtain was opened wide enough for Karen to step through. Her fingers appeared backstage first, plying the strings of her violin. Three languid notes calling and the bow yawing across the strings forming slow pure tones. She stepped barefoot from the hot lights on the stage and onto the planked boards backstage. Weaving through the equipment crates in the muted lighting, she appeared unaware of the milling stage crew. The rest of her band, Wyde, had left the stage ten minutes earlier, exiting into the wings guided by flashlights. The last song had played, the encore had ended, and Karen continued to play. She stayed within the last melody, those three pensive and long-bowed notes never varying their pace but accenting their temper, color, and volume. The audience—what remained of it—applauded as the main curtain swept across the stage. Her wireless mic was still on. Karen—tall, very pale, and languid in her movements—stepped around the lighting scaffold and past the catering staff and road crew. Karen began to explore the outer edges of the melody adding a new, fourth note to the pensive song. Her father lightly touched her shoulder and began to guide her through the techs and select fans.

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GREG JOLLEY Most of the other members of Wyde left the auditorium with their entourage in town cars with drivers. The piano player, stout, bearded Sej Gulezin, remained, standing with his back to the buffet table. He had a damp towel around his neck and listened to Karen with his eyes closed. Karen found a new melodic pocket on the strings and bowed the notes as she walked through the equipment and people. “House lights are up,” a stagehand called from the control board backstage left. Karen was tracing the earlier melody that the country jazz band had been winding out like a colorful spool of silk with sparks. Her fingers nudged the sides of the melody, taking it away in different tones and colors. Sej was bobbing his head softly and smiling with pursed lips. He opened his eyes and studied Karen’s thin white fingers on the dark wood violin neck. He looked to Karen’s father, Tim Danser, affectionately nicknamed Uncle Tim by the band. Uncle Tim looked to be in his late thirties and wore boots, jeans, and a t-shirt on his tall, lean, and strong shape. His hair was short and black with a wave falling to his brow. His hand rested gently on Karen’s shoulder under the spill of her sun-streaked hair. Uncle Tim was slowly steering her further backstage toward the hallway to the dressing and supply rooms. The volume of the violin fell drastically; someone at the soundboard had dropped her feed. She continued to play as Uncle Tim guided her down the hallway. At the far end of the hall, Emma opened the back door. She was a member of Karen’s management team, second in command. Uncle Tim steered Karen past her and the remaining backstage crew. He smiled before guiding Karen out into the night. Karen found a new thread to the melody and stated it three times, establishing it, before exploring its edges. Her fingers and her bow worked in unison as they carried the song forward. Uncle Tim heard the door close and footsteps behind. He knew it was the ever-present, ever-caring Emma. He guided Karen along the

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WHERE’S KAREN? white paths and lawns to the next building of the resort: the two stories of suites. Knowing he had some doors to unlock and open, Uncle Tim said to Karen, “Careful, please.” He moved around in front of her. Karen kept on playing. Upstairs in their suite, Uncle Tim locked the door after guiding Karen inside. He moved about the room turning on lamps while she crossed the room. The French doors to the patio were open; she stepped out through them into the darkness. A crescent moon lay low on the black sky. Karen walked to the stone balcony, pressing her belly against it. She stood in the warm, humid air amid jungle-ripe scents. The melody continued. Emma was down below on the lawn among a group of fans with their raised and glowing cell phones. She ignored them, but stood just like them looking up at Karen and listening to her play. The crash of distant waves had a tempo. Emma listened to Karen adjust her pace and play with the watery rhythm section. Wind in the palms high above provided an additional baritone harmony. Emma stepped back across the lawn until she found a volume balance between Karen and the sounds of the night. The raised cell phones were annoying, like oversized fireflies. She closed her eyes and focused on the music from every direction. A hand came to rest on Emma’s arm and gave it a shake. Emma opened her eyes. “Em, it’s late. We all have an early start tomorrow.” It was Israel, Karen’s manager and Emma’s boss. As Emma let Israel turn her from the music, Uncle Tim was turning Karen and guiding her back inside the suite. There were groans from those with raised cell phones as the music faded. The French doors closed. The song was over.

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srael was up early standing in the clearing between the suite building and the resort proper. Emma walked over to him, looking bedraggled. “Where is she?” Emma asked in sleepy voice. She had pinched the blanket off the bed in her suite and wrapped it tight over her work clothes from the night before. “Where else?” Israel smiled to her, rubbing his freshly shaved face. “With Brian. Down on the beach.” They looked each other over. Israel was the first to grin, adding a theatrical arched eyebrow. “Where’d you sleep? In a kennel?” she kidded her boss, the president of Karen’s management company. “I’m not answering that,” he said, taking in her short, blasted blonde-white hair, the blanket over her strong able figure. He looked down his own stout figure; his “Karen?” logo’d dress shirt was untucked inside his expensive, badly wrinkled black sports coat. His gaze roamed from his blue jeans to their feet. She wore black work boots. His feet were bare.

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WHERE’S KAREN? “Were there any of our troubles with the show last night?” Emma asked. “I haven’t had any calls.” “I had two calls and a 3 a.m. sit down with security and a local cop. A lengthy sit down. There’s a frantic mom and dad, and a girl who never made it to her boyfriend’s car.” “Dammit, Israel. And she resembled you know who, right?” “Yes and no. She was, is, blonde, pale skinned and dressed like Karen, but also a wild child who has disappeared often. Not well anchored which is common for her age.” “So was this girl taken?” “Unfortunately, this is a time-will-tell situation. Like the others.” “So they’ll wait to see if she shows up on a bus stop bench, dazed and confused?” “Unfortunately, yes. Or she’s found hanging out in some guy’s love van.” “We hope.” “Yes, we do.” “Okay. I’m gonna go have Karen’s packing started.” Beyond the cliff at the edge of the resort, there was a series of switchback stairs down to the beach. The waves at the south end of the bay were three to four feet high and lazy. Karen and her cousin, Brian, were paddling out on surfboards. Karen was in front, paddling strong and watching the surf line. She got the first wave, dropping and making a smooth bottom turn. She glided back up the curve of the wave, turned her board again and aimed forward, light and sure-footed. Brian was paddling out back a ways from the line-up. He watched Karen turn and glide, turn and glide, in his direction. She had a striking physical appearance, her tall body in a one-piece white swimsuit moving sure and well, her skin the color of bleached bone.

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eonardo watched Karen and Brian catch a dozen waves each. He knelt in the sea grass on top of the cliff, looking through field glasses. The fat guy, Brian, was a thirty-year-old clumsy and unsure surfer, and he left the water first. Leonardo was pleased to have Karen isolated in the binoculars. White surfboard, white swimsuit, and white Karen centered in a composition of royal blue. She belly-surfed a small wave to the beach and walked up the dust-colored sand, carrying her board, moving with a fawn’s grace. Keeping his eyes on Karen, he leaned over, opened his satchel, and removed his sketchpad from his bag. He also took out his worn copy of The Pillow Book and placed it to his left in the grass. Sitting back on his haunches, he watched Karen until the cliff face blocked his view of her. He opened the novel, took a deep and calming breath from his half bar of surf wax, and read what he called the word painting: 149, ‘Occasions when something inconsequential has its day’. He breathed along the length of each word, exhaling when he came to the period.

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WHERE’S KAREN? He wrote the vignette title on a new sheet of the sketchpad. It would take Karen a few minutes to ascend the stairs to the resort grounds. “There will be two images,” he spoke to the warm wind swaying the grass. He sketched quickly, his manner sure. The first drawing was of himself, void of comment or opinion. He worked from feet upward: his nicked black boots, the scruffy and worn earth-tone pants, and heavy coat. He had chosen the baggy apparel for his strong, fit frame because it was similar to what he had seen on surfers in the coastal town. He drew his gorgeous handsome face and then covered it with a beach-faded hat. He wanted to include his long, sun-streaked hair adopted for this trip, but left it out. The written vignette was crisp in his mind. He didn’t need to re-read it. There was no need or desire in his sketching. He was confident in his ability to capture effectively. He raised his pen and turned his eyes to the landing of the stairs from the beach. When Karen climbed into view, he kept the pen still as he took her in. She laid her surfboard on the lawn and stepped into the outdoor shower to rinse off. He began the second panel, cursed, and stopped. That guy, Israel, her manager, had rudely entered the composition and brought noise and meaninglessness to what Leonardo was trying to capture. He raised and looked through the field glasses, which provided a close-up view, sans the intruder. After inhaling from the image of Karen under the shower, he continued to draw. Silver water rinsed her white skin. Her face turned away, and he appreciated that. The sketch of her was good, and the image joined the one of him accurately; there was an emotional distance between the two of them that was aesthetically pleasing and also upsetting. There they were, so close and yet a panel apart. “Captured her and me,” Leonardo said. He closed his eyes, knowing that doing so would obscure the space between what was on paper and what was in his plans.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Greg Jolley earned a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco. He is the author of fourteen novels and a collection of short stories about the fictional Danser family. He lives in the very small town of Whitmore Lake, Michigan.


Where's Karen? by Greg Jolley  

Publisher: BHC Press/Open Window Genre: Suspense Release Date: 2/8/2017 Description: Secretive and ghostly beautiful Karen Danser is on t...

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