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The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson
The Missing Ink
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BOOK DETAILS

Karen gives an overview of the book:

Brett Kavanaugh is a tattoo artist and owner of The Painted Lady, catering to high-profile clients in Las Vegas. But in her free time, she does a little investigating too - because murder really gets under her skin. . . . When a girl makes an appointment to get devotion ink with the name of her fiancé embedded in a heart, Brett takes the job, but the girl never shows. The next thing Brett knows, the police are looking for her mysterious client and the name she wanted on the tattoo isn't the name of her fiancé. An alliance with an unlikely partner leads Brett to a dead body, a suave Englishman, and an Elvis karaoke bar. And who is the tattooed stranger stalking her? Brett draws lines between the clues, unwittingly putting herself in danger. But she intends to see justice done, since death...
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Brett Kavanaugh is a tattoo artist and owner of The Painted Lady, catering to high-profile clients in Las Vegas. But in her free time, she does a little investigating too - because murder really gets under her skin. . . .

When a girl makes an appointment to get devotion ink with the name of her fiancé embedded in a heart, Brett takes the job, but the girl never shows. The next thing Brett knows, the police are looking for her mysterious client and the name she wanted on the tattoo isn't the name of her fiancé.

An alliance with an unlikely partner leads Brett to a dead body, a suave Englishman, and an Elvis karaoke bar. And who is the tattooed stranger stalking her? Brett draws lines between the clues, unwittingly putting herself in danger. But she intends to see justice done, since death, like a tattoo, is permanent. . . .

Read an excerpt »

Chapter 1

I've made grown men cry.

It's not a crime.

I wasn't sure exactly what the cop was doing, hovering outside the shop. Was he expecting a robbery? Was he just giving us a little free security?

I pulled the door open and stepped outside.

"Can I help you, Officer?" I politely asked his profile. I knew how to talk to cops: Keep it cordial, no sudden moves.

He was studying the frosted letters on the window, his hands on his hips. He didn't look ready to grab the gun or the nightstick that flanked his stocky frame. He turned his head slowly, his mouth set in a grim line, eyes narrowed as they settled on my face.

It unsettled me. Usually people stared at the ink on my left arm - a detailed replica of Monet's water lily garden, complete with a weeping willow and footbridge - or the dragon that creeps up over my right breast under my tank top.

"You work here?" he finally asked, his voice as deep as I'd expected.

"I'm the owner. Brett Kavanaugh."

A twitch in his left cheek told me he didn't expect that, even though the name of the shop is The Painted Lady and he'd obviously known that, since he'd been staring at the letters long enough. Or maybe he recognized my last name.

"What can I do for you?" I asked again, when he didn't say anything.

"I'm looking for a girl."

I chuckled. "This is Vegas; a lot of guys are looking for girls. But this is a tattoo shop, not a brothel."

He didn't even crack a smile.

Okay, so the name of the shop might not have been a great idea, and occasionally we did get calls asking for girls. But this was the first time a cop had come around.

I folded my arms across my chest. "You can't stay outside my shop. We've got clients. It's not exactly good for business." I had another thought. "Unless, of course, you want to come in?"

He ignored my question, reached over, and pulled a photograph out of his breast pocket. He held it up so I could see it.

"Recognize her?"

I stepped closer to see it better.

"Why are you looking for her?" I asked.

The cop, whose nameplate dubbed him Willis, shook his head. "Do you recognize her?"

"Is she dead?"

"No."

That narrowed it down.

"What's up with her, then?"

Willis took a deep breath, obviously irritated. I didn't much care. I was curious; I had a half an hour until my next client, so I had some time to kill.

"You haven't seen her?" It was a new tack for him, and he made the transition smoothly.

"Are you checking at every shop?"

"Yes."

At least we weren't being discriminated against. I wondered how long it took him to go into Shooz. Those stiletto heels could be even more intimidating than my tats.

The Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes are what da Vinci would've designed if he were a capitalist. Besides Shooz - my favorite store - there was Ann Taylor, Ca'd'Oro, Kenneth Cole, Gandini, and Davidoff, among others.

Then there's The Painted Lady.

At first, I figured some palms got greased for the shop to get this location. It's sandwiched between Barneys New York and Jack Gallery. But I found out that Flip Armstrong, the guy I bought the business from, apparently had tattooed a prominent city politician's name in a very private place on a local hooker. It's amazing what a little blackmail will do for you.

The only prerequisite was that we had to look respectable. No street-shop flash in the windows. No sign advertising tattoos. Anyone walking by would think we were an art gallery; through the glass windows, passersby could see the long mahogany table that served as our front desk, a spray of orchids perched on its edge. Paintings hung on the cream-colored walls on either side that hid the four private rooms behind them. The blond laminate flooring was sleek, sophisticated. What the public couldn't see was the staff room behind the second room on the right, and the small waiting area with a long black leather sofa and glass coffee table covered with tat magazines behind the room on the left. A large, vertical, comic-book version of one of Degas's ballerinas adorned the back wall.

"Got a big job ahead of you. You working alone?" I wasn't answering Willis's questions, and his irritation was growing.

"Just yes or no, did you see her or not?"

I shrugged. I may know how to talk to cops, but I also knew not to say anything that might incriminate me - or anyone else.

He shoved the picture back in his pocket and brushed past me in long strides, his face flushed red. Another uniformed cop was coming out of Godiva across the way - maybe he needed a chocolate-covered strawberry to get him through the rest of his canvass - but I turned my attention back to Willis when I heard a shout. He'd collided with a family of four as he crossed the footbridge over the canal that ran past St. Mark's Square. A gondola sailed under the bridge, the gondolier never missing a stroke.

I could never be fooled into thinking this was really Venice, but the tourists liked to believe the illusion.

Las Vegas is one big illusion.

I went back into the shop, thinking about that picture. It hadn't fooled me, either.

There was no mistaking it: That girl had been in the shop two days ago. She had wanted a devotion tatto

karen-olson's picture

Note from the author coming soon...

About Karen

I’ve lived in Connecticut all my life, except for four years in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Roanoke College in Virginia, where I was an English major and read a lot of dead white male British writers, and almost two years in Miami, where I first...

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Published Reviews

Jan.11.2008

Dead of the Day is a fun mystery, with just enough edge to make it sparkle.

Jan.11.2008

Olson, a graduate of Roanoke College and a reporter and editor for Connecticut newspapers for 20 years, brings a journalist's eye for detail and immediacy to this series. You'll want to give yourself an...