The sequel to my debut novel, The Last White Truffle is finally complete and will be in the marketplace in about two weeks. SEVEN IS HER NUMBER, follows private detectives extraordinaire Jennifer Pope and Abigail Trent as they track down the killer of Carlotta Chan, famed San Francisco plastic surgeon and wife to Yukon Chan, celebrity TV chef.
Jennifer and Abigail are on a deadline to solve the mystery of who committed this heinous crime before their client’ s status goes from ‘Husband of the Victim’ to ‘Person of Interest’.
The pair tirelessly follow lead after lead, only to find themselves in a never-ending chase to discover the killer and determine why Carlotta was targeted in the first place. With twists and turns at every corner, you’ll find yourself breathless as you go along Pope and Trent’s journey. Secrets that never end, a mysterious map from hundreds of years ago, and a special number that keeps popping up at every turn. A real mystery with a little romance thrown in for good measure.
Get lost in this mystery-filled world and be hooked on every page turn.
Following is the prologue to Seven Is Her Number…
It was the “first day of spring,” the very words literally equaling sixteen in numerology. If you added the one and the six together, you got seven, Carlotta Chan’s lucky number. She was born July 7, 1977, and was a sucker for anything that embraced the number seven, with unparalleled exuberance. Carlotta was to have good luck all day long today, according to her numerologist, who’d read her forecast for the coming days at last night’s mahjong game.
She thrust wide the bedroom window and inhaled the clean smell of fresh air and wet earth from raindrops on the lawn and cement sidewalk from the previous night’s thunderstorm. What a glorious day, she thought.
Carlotta was a prominent plastic surgeon with a vast caseload of clients that included everyone from the local celebrities of her hometown, San Francisco, to the famous, illustrious Hollywood jet set.
Winston, her bulldog, was curled up and snuggled in his comfy dog bed beneath the window, snoring vigorously. As the last one left in the house that morning, Carlotta jumped when she heard a thud echo somewhere downstairs. Naomi was likely making breakfast. Then she remembered, Naomi had traded her day off. Perhaps her husband had returned.
“Yukon, did you forget something?” she hollered down from the second-story landing. Silence. Another loud noise resounded throughout the house as if someone were rummaging through her pots and pans. She came back into the bedroom in time to see her chandelier sway ever so slightly, then flicker once or twice, and finally, the lights totally cut out. Carlotta looked out the window—no wind, not even a slight breeze, and both neighbors’ homes appeared to be fully lit. Something clattered again in her kitchen, and Carlotta became skittish just as Winston abruptly woke up and started growling at what sounded like a frying pan reverberating and bouncing across the stone tile floor.
“It’s okay, Winston, I’ll find out what’s happening.”
Carlotta tucked her cell phone in her skirt pocket so it would be close at hand. She was somewhat concerned but knew things were fine as the silent alarm had not been triggered—otherwise, the security company would have called within one minute. But no such call came. Carlotta had insisted to Yukon they keep their landline in case the hospital couldn’t reach her on her cell phone and felt comfort in having it as a backup. She reached for the bedside phone and lifted the receiver. No dial tone. She looked down, squatted, and struggled, pushing the cord firmly into the phone socket before picking it up again, merely to find dead air. Carlotta grabbed her cell and dialed 911, only to see the spiraling circle spinning around and around right after dialing the final numeral as the screen went black. Her battery was dead. Then she remembered she had not charged it overnight, even though she had seen the low-battery message right before getting into bed.
Her heart pounded, and her breathing quickened. The rough bile on her tongue started to accumulate while the tangy acidic taste came forward as small pools of saliva swelled in her mouth, to the point of choking.
The stairs halfway up the staircase squeaked as someone ascended. Carlotta rushed toward the French doors to shut and lock them. She gasped as she saw two intruders slowly and methodically taking each step as they came up the stairs. They were dressed in black, head to toe. The frightening part was the ski masks, which sent a chill down her spine and triggered the knowledge that she was in serious trouble. Together, the prowlers glided swiftly and lithely, and she glimpsed the silver gleam of the blade on what looked like a butcher knife gripped tightly in one hand.
“Oh my God,” she screamed, trying unsuccessfully to close the two doors. A foot wedged in the doorway and effortlessly pushed it open halfway. Carlotta kicked a shin, gaining her a few seconds to shut the doors. She reached up to turn the lock, but the intruders kept slamming hard against her before she could get the bolt to click into position. Carlotta turned her back to the French doors, pushing them closed with all her strength. The doorknob dug into her back every time they bumped it. Then, suddenly, the pressure ceased.
Carlotta took a heavy breath and regained her composure. She pulled aside the shirred curtain on the door and peeked to see what was happening on the other side. No one was standing outside the door any longer, not even on the staircase. She turned and rested her body against the bolted doors. Who were these people? And why wasn’t the alarm screaming throughout the house, instead of the eerie silence that permeated the bedroom?
She momentarily relaxed and moved toward her bedroom window, which had a small terrace attached to a skinny spiral cement staircase; she actually had never descended in the twenty years she had lived there. As she approached the window, out of the corner of her eye, she saw the glass shatter on her French doors as a body came crashing through them, so strong both doors became unhinged from the frame.
They burst into the bedroom and ran toward Carlotta, who dashed for the bathroom. An arm appeared around her waist and picked her up like a sack of flour, then threw her down on the king-size bed. Immediately, she was in fight-or-flight mode as she scrambled across to the opposite side. It took mere seconds before her intruders blocked her escape.
“What do you want?” Carlotta shouted.
They didn’t respond.
She turned to face the window and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Help me, call the police,” only to be drowned out by the roaring buzz of the leaf blower down below in her front yard.
“I have money. We have a safe. If not enough, I can go to the bank. Just tell me what you want.”
Her eyes widened as the glint of the morning sun bounced off the knife blade while the taller intruder stared at her, not moving a muscle, and the other one ransacked her dresser drawers. She kept her eyes locked in position, never wavering from the sight of the knife as it worked its way down toward her chest in exaggerated slow motion, resting mere inches above her heart.
She instinctively thrust her foot up near the intruder’s body and kicked hard. Only, she misjudged the distance and, instead, merely punched at an open arc of cold air, never contacting the muscular body.
The tall one chuckled and shoved her leg up over her head. She tumbled backward on the bed as her body thudded against the intricately carved koa-wood headboard, a wedding gift from her parents more than twenty years ago.
The short one walked purposefully toward the open window and quietly lowered the frame before turning back to her.
“Safe,” the other mumbled and pointed the knife toward her closet.
“Of course. Take anything you want,” she said, scurrying into the closet, trying desperately to calmly turn the safe’s dial.
It opened. They pulled plastic grocery bags from their pockets and watched as Carlotta tossed in the stacked bills, coins, jewelry, and all the papers lying at the bottom of the safe before the intruders turned and started for the French doors.
Her adrenaline spiked to an all-time high as she moved from the closet and ran to the corner on the opposite wall. Carlotta picked up the tiny crystal alarm clock with seven jagged edges off the bedside table and hid it behind her back. The taller intruder grabbed her bulldog, threw him into the closet, and closed the door.
About to leave, the smaller of the two intruders noticed her sudden movement and halted, hesitantly turned back, then came up close, placing gloved hands on her hips. She gasped and closed her eyes tightly as one of the intruders reached up, grabbed the back of her hair, and yanked downward severely, her neck cracking at the harsh motion, before they spun her around again.
“I know you, don’t I?” She momentarily felt defiant, and screamed again, only to have a gloved hand clamp down hard over her mouth, so rough, her upper lip split, crashing against her teeth, pushing her hard down onto the bed.
The intruder loomed over her, minty breath rushing from the hole in the ski mask. She grabbed it and pushed it up. Then gasped.
“Oh my God. Why would you do this?”
The intruder snickered and turned away from her.
The taller one waved a hand at the other and whispered, “C’mon, let’s get outta here.”
Carlotta recognized the voice and screamed, “You too? Why? Just tell me why?”
The two intruders looked at each other, both removing their masks. “Leave now, I’ll be down in a minute,” said one of them.
The larger one walked purposefully toward Carlotta and pushed the standing woman onto the bed.
“Spread ’em for me.”
“Go to hell,” she yelled.
The intruder tried to roughly pull her panties down her legs, and Carlotta used that moment to hit him with the clock, the edges striking directly in the outside corner of his left eye.
The unexpected slap came screaming across her face. “You bitch!” Suddenly, her body was pulled up straight as she was hit across the face a second time before having her arm forced behind her back, where it was wrenched so painfully, she thought it would break off right at the elbow. The alarm clock fell from her hand and rolled under the bed.
The second intruder slammed the drawers closed and shoved the small jewelry box sitting on top into a bag without even opening it. “Let’s go. Now!”
The pair began to leave, then one turned back around and threw the bag with the contents of the safe onto the floor and strode over to the window where Carlotta was now standing. The intruder dragged her across the room and pushed her back down onto the bed. All the while, Carlotta screaming, “No, no, no, no.” The knife appeared once again, this time elevated high into the air for leverage.
“Please don’t,” she begged, putting her hands up to protect herself from the inevitable. Tears were streaming from her eyes and pooling in her ears. She coughed. “Wait, wait,” she pleaded.
The intruder paused his knife in midair, gloved hands arched high overhead, muscular legs set wide apart, feet defiantly placed on the ground.
Carlotta scrambled and moved toward her pillow on the bed, where she grabbed her rosary, praying out loud, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…” as the knife hurtled toward her.