Red Champagne (The Fast and The Furies: Suspense Book 4)
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Murder, mystery and magic combine as The Twentieth Century Limited roars on through the night.
In this standalone Fast and Furies thriller...Jimmy Fields, a former safe cracker who'd never been caught, is retired. And so far he's kept his secret from his fiancee, Claire Washington. Their future seems assured this Christmas Eve,1938, on board the Twentieth Century. But on board too is Oscar Reed--a brutal cop still sworn to prove that Fields is Gentleman Jimmy, the thief. His chance arrives when a boy and the conductor are locked in the train's impenetrable safe. If Fields opens the safe, he's as good as confessed. But worse tragedy strikes when he scuffles with Reed, whose gun goes off at midnight. The boy and the conductor die.
December 24, 1998. The doomed thief is in an asylum for the criminally insane: mad from guilt, remorse, and the loss of Claire. Two guards are discussing his downfall--when they hear a train-like roaring and see a white light spilling under the door. The old man is gone when they get there.
Jimmy's back on board the Century that night, young again and in the pink. This is the first of three chances he'll have to save the two inside the safe without losing everything. Each time he comes back, though, he loses an hour...along with any memory except for a brief window. And something else goes wrong each time. After midnight, there'll be no more chances. The key to this game of time and memory lies in his growing awareness that other murderous work is afoot. Jimmy's only hope: to crack the safe while saving lives elsewhere as well. To pull this off, he'll need Claire's help--and a bit of the Real Magic he's ridiculed all his life.
--The first version of this novel, written in 1998, was meant to celebrate the Millennium. But, like the other short Christmas-related books I'd done, it suffered from Too-Too's with agents: too dark...too short...too this...too that. One agency championed the book for years--till the Millennium had passed and they went out of business.
--The Century was remodeled in 1938, as described in the story. But the cover shows the old Hudson engine for two reasons: 1) the shot's energy level seemed perfect; 2) the Help Me sign appearing on the boilerplate seemed to echo the old engine's cry to be saved.
--I tried to place this train in time through attention to other small details: Plexiglas was still newish in 1938...Jimmy's wrong in his assumption that no film could ever be made with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope...Veronica Lake, whose hairstyle I had in mind when I conceived of Claire's, hadn't been discovered yet. I went on to find a playful way to make readers think of that siren.