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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Nothing Left to Lose

A novel by

Dick Lilly

Hidden in plain sight, an industrial-scale meth lab in a former biotech building in Seattle’s tech hub quietly pumps out millions of carefully hidden profits for the scion of one of the city’s old-line wealthy families. That is, until agents from an Afghan rebel group show up looking for a cut and bodies start washing up on Puget Sound beaches.

It looks like smuggling – people or drugs – to the murder squad, but the cops can’t believe such a prominent citizen would be involved. It takes former journalist turned true-crime blogger Eric Falconer – narrowly escaping death himself in the heroin-sick alleys of Vancouver, B.C. – to connect the timber-family scion to the murders and a plot to destroy the re-election campaign of a popular governor.

As the police finally close in, the head of the cartel disappears, murdered for revenge. Only Falconer will ever know the killer.

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Dick Lilly is a former journalist whose career began with alternative weeklies and took him on to the Seattle Times where he spent 15 years coverning local government from City Hall to the school board. HIs career continued at Seattle Public Utilities as a public information officer and policy analyst working on waste prevention.

Prologue/Chapter I: Carkeek Park

Each day this month we're serializing Dick Lilly's crime mystery "Nothing Left to Lose." Hidden in plain sight, an industrial-scale meth lab in a former biotech building in Seattle’s tech hub quietly pumps out millions of carefully hidden profits for the scion of one of the city’s old-line wealthy families. That is, until agents from an Afghan rebel group show up looking for a cut and bodies start washing up on Puget Sound beaches."

Chapters 2 & 3: Los Angeles and Vera’s

In one respect Carl Barclay looked forward to the monthly delivery. He loved the blast of heat that welcomed him as he stepped out of Victor Wallingford’s plane in Burbank. In that moment he would think about retiring and getting out of Seattle permanently to somewhere warm. Who cared if the Southern California sky was never really blue?

Chapters 4 & 5: Partridge Point and H Dock, Everett

“Looks like we found where the Carkeek floater was killed and you are going to love it, Eric, just love it. I guarantee. You ever write this one, it’ll be a great story.” The caller was Bobby Harms, way too enthusiastic about his work. “Want to meet me for a look?”

Chapters 6 & 7: Starlight Hotel and Caffé Umbria

Falconer, barefooted but wearing jeans and a light blue button down shirt, Oxford cloth, sleeves rolled up, picked up the local news sections of both Seattle dailies and his coffee cup and walked across the roof deck to the other penthouse that was the office for Falconerblog.com. Perched on the edge of the building overlooking Ballard Avenue, the space had windows almost all the way around. Blonde bamboo floors and varnished fir trim salvaged from an old school before it was demolished gave the office – despite the clutter of computers and newspapers – a warm feel even on cloudy days.

Chapters 8,9 & 10: WAC, Sixth Avenue, and the Nordstrom Grill

Carl Barclay and Victor Wallingford met for lunch in a private dining room on the 15th floor of the Washington Athletic Club where Victor was immediate past president. The room was trimmed in dark wood. Above he wainscoting there were paintings of bird-hunting scenes.

Chapters 11 & 12: 340 West Harrison and Harms’ Deck

Carl’s office in the Tower Building at Seventh and Olive was just two blocks from Nordstrom. In less than five minutes he pushed through the aluminum-framed glass doors and rode the elevator alone to the 17th floor. “I’m here but no calls.” Taking a handful of pink message slips and wanting no questions, Carl conjured a business-like urgency to get past Rosalyn, his receptionist.

Chapters 13,14 & 15: Blogging, Bourbon & Brel, and Old Wood

Falconer had Kim’s Wrangler. His A4 was in the shop. The Jeep had vinyl sides. Enough to keep out the rain earlier, but noisy and none of her CDs appealed. Somehow Pearl Jam and Nirvana had passed him by. Dave Mathews? Not right now. He drove home on the two-level viaduct that walled the city away from the bay, always a love-hate experience: great views of the container docks and mountains, the office buildings reflecting the summer’s late-setting sun, but why from a speeding car? The 50-year-old dirty concrete viaduct between downtown and the city’s historic piers sent waves of noise crashing onto the streets below. Tourists walking among the fish and chips shops had to raise their voices to tell each other how quaint it all was.

Chapters 16 & 17: Frat Boys, and Justice Center

Topping, tall and tanned with a full head of sun-blonde hair, wearing white slacks and a steel gray raw silk blazer looked every inch the Hollywood mogul drug money allowed him to be. Mundy gone, Topping took the chair across from Wallingford, shaking his head in exasperation with Victor. One-time college roommates, they had a long history, reaching from fraternity hijinks through shady property deals hidden in the complexity of Wallingford Evergreen’s operations to, now, after Topping’s business pulled him into deals with a couple of otherwise legitimate looking guys with one foot in the L.A. drug world, expansion into big-time crime. It always worked out the same: Topping with the scheme, Victor with the capital and an insatiable drive for more.

Chapters 18 & 19: Assaggio, and Westin Hotel

Falconer pulled out a chair and sat down opposite Carl Barclay who was eating lunch by himself. “Mind if I join you? I thought we could talk about a few things. You maybe could help me out.”

Chapters 20 &21: Café Campagna, and Viewpoint

“He wasn’t there. Hadn’t shown up and that surprised them all. I sat next to a woman, Rosalyn something or other, from his office, receptionist-administrative assistant, majordomo, sounds like. Going to these fundraisers and rubbing shoulders with political types at the boss’s expense seems to be a perk of the job at Carl Barclay Associates. Rosalyn said she’d talked to him before lunch and he was planning to be there.”

Chapters 22 & 23: Luna Park, and Sally

Both held pints of Manny’s and drank in silence. On Luna Park’s rainbow-lit Wurlitzer Falconer had Janis Joplin’s “Bobby McGee” playing for the second time.

Chapters 24, 25 & 26: Ebey Island, Ivar’s, and Nora Hamilton

Falconer followed Bobby Harms’ directions and took the ramp off U.S. 2 onto Ebey Island. Barely a mile east of I-5 and not twice that from downtown Everett, a left turn under the causeway and he was on a two-lane leading back in time to a place the suburbs passed by. Weedy horse pastures, mostly empty, sometimes home to a few sheep, and abandoned orchards were scattered on either side of the road. Gravel drives led back to small houses cloaked by the trees, thick moss on the roofs. The area hid from prosperity. “No Trespassing” signs on the fences advertised the locals’ views. These were independent people who could of necessity make do with an old farmhouse or moss-stained trailer on an island in the Snohomish River delta. The inevitable floods turned away the reasonable.

Chapters 27 & 28: Snake, and San Diego

“Lotsa people know this guy. Sorta,” said Danny. “They’ve heard of him because he’s some kind of dealer, or they remember talking to him in a bar. They remember the snake tattoo. No one I talked to remembers a name. Some of them called him The Snake or Snake like that was his name. Seems to be what he goes by.”

Chapters 29 & 30: Bird Watching, and Hanran

“That wasn’t cool, Eric, you being at Barclay’s this morning when our people arrived.” Bobby Harms’ bright white smile was hidden behind tight lips. They were on the Starlight deck, the space between Falconer’s penthouse and his office, open beers on the food-stained wooden table between them, the evening sun still warm, but the mood was not genial.

Chapters 31, 32 & 33: Sketch, Lucy Holcomb, and Ronson

“Thanks for meeting me on such short notice.” With a plastic fork Falconer stirred globs of blue cheese dressing into a sizeable pile of greens, tomato wedges, onions, bean sprouts, red beans, garbanzo beans and a few other things scooped from the salad bar. Lunch by the pound.

Chapters 34 & 35: Bingo, and DNA

Falconer had just finished updating the blog for Friday, eating cold pizza at his desk, washing it down with Redhook when the phone rang.

Chapters 36 & 37: Chinatown, and Edmunds Hotel

From where he was parked across Point Gray Road from the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Falconer could see through the gate and across the parking lot to the club’s porte cochere and make out anyone coming or going. He’d been there since six, only a little after he’d spotted Victor Wallingford’s classic 85-foot motor yacht, unmistakable with its deep green hull, from a viewpoint at Jericho Beach a few miles to the west along the route all incoming boats would use. His location gave him a good chance that he could spot Wallingford and his buddies as they came out to catch a ride or a cab and follow them into town. Sitting in his car in the lot for a closer look would only get him rousted by the doorman or some heavier security. Falconer mused: boom in that business everywhere thanks to real and imagined terrorist threats. He nibbled on a cold piroshky, one of several he’d bought – always the tourist – from a stall at the Granville Island Market.

Chapters 38 & 39: Planning, and Café Fiore

“Well, so, what do we know?” It was Monday morning. Sun poured through the penthouse office windows, burnishing the bamboo floors and varnished fir window and door frames. They were drinking coffee, Falconer, elbows on the small conference table, holding a large ceramic Starbucks mug imprinted in green with the Seattle skyline.

Chapters 40, 41 & 42: Fair Warning, Post Alley, and Jason Coffee

Harms said nothing when Falconer finished telling him about Vancouver. After a moment, he got up and very slowly and deliberately collected the empties and went into the kitchen. Falconer heard the bottles clatter into the recycling bin, then silence. After a while he heard a toilet flush in the back of the house. The refrigerator opened and closed, bottle caps rattled into the recycling and Harms reappeared, carefully setting two bottles of Redhook between them on the picnic table.

Chapters 43, 44, 45 & 46: Match, Town Car, Kidnapped, and Pizza

Not the phone this time. This was the real deal. No denials left. Falconer wanted to meet the governor away from her office, which he figured would be buzzing with curious and potentially indiscreet staffers and thoroughly wired to send every pin drop to a hard drive somewhere. He drove a couple hours over the pass to Yakima where she was attending a conference on irrigation and water rights. When she came out of the hotel, Falconer was standing by her car shooting the shit with the trooper behind the wheel. “Walk with me a bit?”

Chapters 47 & 48, Epilogue: Picnic, and Auto-Pilot

Chapter 47 Picnic Friday July 4, 10 a.m.               Falconer, Danny and Theresa drove to the Fauntleroy ferry terminal early to make sure...