She is a tall, slim brunette who manages to bed Nick Kepler by Chapter 4 of Second Hand Goods. And when Nick gets a call from Lenny Slansky, his car thief informant, about a missing limousine, it might be clear to the reader she’s known about Nick longer than he’s known about her. Clear to the reader, but not to Nick.
So who is she?
In the beginning, nobody knows. Nick thinks she’s just the unfortunate date of a boorish dirty cop, then the unwitting mistress of a suspected Russian mobster. (Suspected hell! They call him Ivan the Terrible.) Nikolai Karpov, the real power behind Russian criminal activity in Cleveland, thinks she’s just a secretary for one of his legitimate companies. And Ivan the Terrible? He thinks she’s his lover and partner in crime.
By the time Val’s identity becomes known, many people end up dead, including some innocent bystanders. All through this she plays the victim, leading Nick, Karpov, and Ivan the Terrible along. But even that raises more questions than it answers.
Will she return?
I don’t know yet. She’s the perfect character for a sequel to Road Rules, something I haven’t decided on yet. But really, her genesis was a scene I wrote when this story started out as a short story called “Lady Double Dealer.” In it, Nick was breaking into an expensive house in Cleveland’s suburb of Shaker Heights. He finds Val there waiting in the bedroom. She then proceeds to ransack the house, taking a few things (like the owner’s BMW) and not telling Nick why she was there. Explaining why both Val and Nick were there in the first place proved to be too complicated for a short story. So “Lady Double Dealer” was dropped, and Second Hand Goods became the sequel to Northcoast Shakedown.