Blood Orchid
An Excerpt From
Blood Orchid

1

Sara Tennant arrived at her office building in downtown Miami promptly at seven forty-five a.m., as was her habit. She needed only to park her car and use the private elevator to the penthouse suite of Jimenez Properties; she would be at her desk in the little office next to that of her boss, Manuel Jimenez, when he arrived, promptly at eight o'clock, as was his habit.

As she parked her new Toyota Avalon in the reserved space, next to that of her boss, she was surprised and not a little annoyed to see that his Mercedes was already in its spot. She was going to have to start coming in earlier, she thought; she couldn't have Manny getting there before she did.

There was something odd about the Mercedes, she realized, through the fog of her recent sleep. Until she had her morning coffee, a double espresso, she would not think quickly. She sat in the Toyota with the motor still running while she tried to figure it out.

The lights, she decided. The interior lights of the Mercedes were on, and unless she turned them off, Manny would soon have a dead battery. She gathered her small briefcase, purse, coffee thermos, and the Miami Herald and struggled out of her car. She set her things down on the driver's seat and smoothed her skirt before continuing. She was looking forward to reading Carl Hiassen's column in the paper before doing any real work. She loved Hiassen, read all his novels, too, and never missed his column.

She gathered her things once again, closed the car door, and pressed the button on the remote control to lock all the doors and the trunk. Some cars had been broken into in this garage, in spite of the security cameras. She wished Manny had sprung for a garage with a manned entrance, instead of the electronic surveillance; a guard on duty made her feel safer. Embracing her belongings, she walked around Manny's car and saw immediately why the interior lights were on: the driver's door was open. She took another step or two, reaching out for the door, then she peered over the things in her arms and saw what they had concealed until now.

Manny Jimenez was lying on the garage floor in an oddly contorted position.

Heart attack! Sara thought immediately. She had taken a CPR course at her church, and she knew exactly what to do. She put her things on the garage floor, reached out to Manny, and turned him over. Manny had not had a heart attack. A heart attack did not put a hole in his head, and particularly, did not spray his blood and brains across the inside of the Mercedes door. Sara did not pause to take Manny's pulse or put her ear to his chest. He was stiff as a board, and she knew what that meant. She picked up her things and ran for the elevator. As soon as she had opened the door with her key, she was digging in her briefcase for her cellphone.

Steven Steinberg stood on the eighteenth tee of the Doral Country Club's famous course, the Blue Monster, and gazed down the fairway, utterly relaxed and confident. He had played this schmuck from New York like a violin, and now he was going to take his money. Even though Steinberg had an official handicap of six, and even though he should have carried a card that said three, he had allowed his guest to play him neck and neck for seventeen holes. They were now tied at eleven over par, and it was time to crank the handle on the cash register.

Steinberg took his stance, his right foot back a couple of extra inches, and without a practice swing, hit the ball. It started to the right, then turned over and dropped into the middle of the fairway, two hundred and seventy yards down the course.

Fleischman stared after the ball with an expression of disbelief on his face.

"Something wrong?" Steinberg asked.

"Nothing at all," Fleischman replied, teeing up. He swung mightily at the ball and sliced it into a fairway bunker, two hundred and twenty yards down the fairway. He picked up his tee. "So how come, all of a sudden, after seventeen holes, you're outdriving me?"

Steinberg shrugged. "Every now and then I really connect. Don't you, sometimes?"

"Sometimes," Fleischman said. "But not usually on the eighteenth, and not for that kind of length."

They got into Steinberg's customized golf cart. "You know what I'd do if I were you?" he said to his guest.

"No, Steven, what would you do?"

"I'd take a seven wood and go for it."

"Out of a bunker?"

"Why not? It's a shallow bunker; there's enough loft on a seven wood to carry the edge, and you'd find yourself a nice little wedge from the flag. You got a seven wood? You want to borrow mine?" At this stage, he could afford to appear to be generous.

"I've got a seven wood," Fleischman said as the cart drew to a halt next to the bunker. He looked down the fairway toward the flag, checked the depth of the bunker, and pulled his seven wood from his bag.

"Come on," Steinberg said, "you can do it."

Fleischman lined up his shot. "Keep it smooth," he muttered to himself. "Nice easy shot." He swung the club and connected beautifully with the ball. It faded a little but dropped in the fairway, maybe eighty yards from the pin.

"Great shot!" Steinberg said.

"Thanks for the tip," Fleischman replied, getting into the cart.

They stopped next to Steinberg's ball. He didn't even glance down the fairway, just went to his bag and came back with a fairway wood.

"What are you doing with that club?" Fleischman asked. "It's only a hundred and sixty yards to the flag; you'll knock it into the next county."

"This is an eleven wood," Steinberg replied, lining up on the ball. He relaxed, took a breath and let it out, and took a slow-looking, liquid swing at the ball. It rose high into the air, sailed down the fairway, past the guarding bunkers, and dropped onto the green with only a single bounce, stopping four feet from the pin.

"I'm getting one of those," Fleischman muttered.

"You should," Steinberg replied, still holding his finish.

Then Steinberg's head exploded.

For a tiny second before he screamed, Fleischman wondered if cheating at golf could make your head explode.

Reprinted from Blood Orchid: A Holly Barker Novel by Stuart Woods by permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2002, Stuart Woods. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Blood Orchid

Blood Orchid