Tag Man (2011)

Tag Man

The Plot

Someone is breaking into the homes of the rich, bypassing their high-tech security, their state-of-the-art locks and then making himself at home. The intruder doesn’t seem to steal anything except some food. At each break-in, he leaves the remains of his snack out and a Post-it note stuck next to the bed where the owners are sleeping. One word is written on the note: Tag.

Although the press loves him, problems begin for the elusive Tag Man when he removes some documents from the home of a mobbed-up man. Shortly thereafter, the danger increases when a trip through a beautifully furnished mansion turns up a secret basement room, where the Tag Man discovers a truly horrifying secret—a suitcase filled with evidence of a string of murders soon has him running for his life.

An excerpt from Tag Man

He sat in the center of the loveseat, in the darkened bedroom, settled against the soft pillows behind him. His hands, clad in thin cotton gloves, were folded in his lap; his feet, wrapped in blue surgical booties, stretched out beneath the neatened coffee table before him. High above, dangling from the post-and-beam cathedral ceiling, an ornate Hunter fan barely stirred the air, setting the mood for the sleeping house.

The man was in his realm; the king of his castle.

The standard audible vital signs of any home added to the tranquility—the furnace’s occasional rumbling two floors below, the rhythmic heartbeat of the grandfather clock on the first floor, the deep and regular breathing from the two people in the big bed across the room. In a place this vast and expensive, he half-wondered if he couldn’t hear the very walls chiming in, carrying within them the wiring and fiber optics of Internet connections, TV cable, high tech security, fancy phone systems, dimmer switches for mood lighting, a camera hookup to all the building’s entrances—a veritable nervous system.

The house was a palace, certainly by Vermont standards. Standards that were escalating with the steady influx of wealthy outsiders—dreaded flatlanders to the locals—especially following 9/11. But he wasn’t among the complainers. The newcomers offered him that much more to explore.

He rose without a sound and drifted across the carpeted floor to the bedside, and gazed down upon its occupants. A man and woman, he in his sixties, she younger, beginning their struggle with the aging process, he less successfully than she. Her outline under the sheet at least showed an athletic body, with enough of her bare back revealed to confirm it—along with the added detail that she either slept in the nude or at least wore no top. Her husband was the more traditional lump—too much alcohol and snack food. An earlier tour of the workout room had displayed her presence to the exclusion of his.

They slept far apart on the king sized mattress, their respective night tables cluttered with telltale belongings—glasses to replace contacts; nasal strips to control snoring; ointment for sun spots; under-eye cream to stem bags and blotching. On her side, there was a small bottle of K-Y lubricant, to ease her through those rare amorous moments when her husband journeyed across the bed’s extended acreage.

The lump was named Lloyd, which their uninvited guest found amusing. Her name was Lisbeth, shortened to Liz only in the notes from husband to wife that he’d perused earlier in her office nook off the kitchen. Everyone one else appeared to call her by her full name. Lloyd, of course, had an office to himself—large and pretentious. That had been worth exploring, from the easily defeated computer password to the contents of a small cardboard box attached to the back of a foreshortened desk drawer. The man wondered if Lisbeth knew anything about that—separate bank accounts and financial records, all in Lloyd’s name only, not to mention a few letters from, as the quainter novels used to put it, “a woman not his wife,” named Susan Rainier. He’d been unable to resist doing a little tampering there, to guarantee that Lloyd would know without doubt that he’d had a visitor. Pure ego, of course. He knew that. A little male-to-male competition. Childish, in fact, and thus all the more irresistible. He’d stolen one of the letters, a whole packet of incomprehensible financial papers—at least to him—and generally rearranged the rest of it, just to drive Lloyd crazy.

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In Category: Joe Gunther Series
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