The Mystery Lady


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of absence from the Newville Police Department to fix the things he hadn’t seen when his life flashed before his eyes. Despite longing to close Wild Blue Mysteries, he's stuck doing surveillance in the summer heat on a domestic case. When his former patrol partner asks for help to solve a series of murders, Danny agrees never thinking the two cases would collide. Happy to stay at home and earn a living as a mystery writer, Lucy Stephen is under pressure to find a real job and learn to stand on her own. She never wrote about murder until her husband left. When her ex-husband takes their kids on vacation then disappears, Lucy has to push past her fears.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 décembre 2014
Nombre de visites sur la page 2
EAN13 9781771458030
Langue English

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The Mystery Lady
(Book 2 - Wild Blue Mysteries)
By Diane Bator
Digital ISBNs EPUB 9781771458030 MOBI 978-1-77299-529-9 WEB/PDF 9781771458047 Print ISBN 9781771458054
Copyright 2014 by Diane Bator Cover Art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or in troduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electron ic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written p ermission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
Chapter 1 ~ Danny
Danny awoke to a cool draft and snuffling near his f ace. Images flashed through his head sleepy mind. Sitting in an overheated car, a d rive through the country, scraping old paint off walls, falling asleep in a dusty slee ping bag at three o’clock when he could no longer keep alert. Finally, he remembered fallin g asleep in the old sleeping bag at the old Victorian house he’d purchased last month. Only now he wasn’t alone. “Shit. Danny opened his eyes in time to see a furr y gray and black rump disappear around the corner of the livingroom. The raccoons w ere back in spite of his many attempts to keep them out. He jerked his arms out of the warmth of the sleepin g bag, reached for his revolver, and vowed to get those beasts out of his house if i t was the last thing he did. By the time he got to his feet, the critter had vanished. So had the pizza crusts from last night’s dinner. Danny stomped on the scarred wood floor then ranted to let the raccoons know exactly what he’d do when he caught them. Somewhere in the upper levels of the old Victorian house, generations of raccoons probably l aughed hysterically at him. Anger vented, he ran both hands through his rumpled hair. What he wouldn’t do for a cup of coffee. Town was only a fifteen minute dri ve. Since Java Jo’s would open for business in less than half an hour, he figured he m ight as well get some work done before breakfast. He turned to the cupboards and resumed sanding the ugly paint off the hardwood doors. Who painted their kitchen cupboards puke gre en? Deep in his pocket, his cell phone vibrated. He sto pped sanding and hesitated. The only people awake to antagonize him this early were his partner in the detective agency Leo Blue, his uncle Ray and his sister Hannah. When the phone stopped ringing, he blew out a relieved sigh and went back to work. Up until last month, living life chasing criminals appealed to him. He’d loved his job as a police officer in Newville. Since meeting Kati e then being kidnapped and nearly killed in a bookstore, he longed for a quieter simp ler life. Taking leave from the police force wasn’t his idea, nor was meeting with a psych iatrist twice a week to get his head straight. That same psychiatrist was far from thril led to learn Danny was dating Katie, the cause of both the kidnapping and his near death . So far, he had a long way to go to convince the shrink he was even close to sane. His phone rang again. This time, Danny set aside the sander and answered. “This better be important. “I’ve been trying to call you all night. Where the hell are you? Bobby Holland was Danny’s partner in the Newville Police Department a nd current conscience. “I could really use your help on this case. “You know I can’t go back to work until the shrink clears me and so far he’s still convinced I’m crazy. Danny rubbed grit out of his eyes. “I can’t say I blame him. I
haven’t been able to explain to him otherwise. “You were kidnapped by a bunch of crazy writers. An yone would have nightmares after that. Bobby’s words weren’t exactly reassuri ng. “Any other excuses you want me to swallow? He blew out a long breath. “I have another case. “Are you kidding me? That domestic you mentioned? Bobby snorted. “Buddy, I thought you gave up the private detective business for the sake of your sanity so you could get back to being a cop. Taking another case will only confirm the shrink’s evaluation. Bobby was still very much a cop. Before he bought the house, Danny was nearly killed by both mobsters and a few senior citizens in his hometown. The department for ced him to take a leave of absence to fix the things he hadn’t seen when his life flas hed before his eyes. Home. Wife. Stability. Sanity. The basics. “I was, but Leo alre ady committed us to this one so I have to see it through. After this one, I’m moving to Ne w Mexico to run a jackalope farm. Bobby chuckled. “Oh yeah? Well, if you’re well enou gh to work on a case for Wild Blue, you’re well enough to help me solve a few mur ders. I need you to get back to Newville and help. “Murders? He needed a strong cup of coffee far mor e than he needed to do more work. He could drive to Java Jo’s, but his sister’s house was closer. “What are you talking about? “While you were undercover investigating Maddox, th e rest of us worked some cases dealing with women on the who’s-who list who were found strangled with their heads bashed in for emphasis. Papers rustled while someone shouted in the background. Danny rubbed his forehead. “Rings a bell. What abou t them? He growled then lowered his voice. “Don’t you watch the news anymore? The latest was a thirty-five year old woman was murdered in a downtown real estate office last night. The janitor heard noises in the back room, b ut never saw anyone come in or leave. He discovered the body when he went into an office to clean. From the marks on her neck and face, it’s the same MO as the others. Strangled then beaten. “Then you don’t need me. He leaned against the dus ty cupboard. “You might be able to solve this one single handedly. Bobby sighed. “You would think, but unfortunately, I do need you. On a hunch, I’ve done some digging into some cold cases lately. Over the past few years, there were five unsolved murders with too many things in common. I need you to come back and be a second set of eyes. Danny brushed dust off his bare arm. This wasn’t th e news he wanted to hear. “Who’s on the case with you? “An entire task force has been wading through cold case files for weeks. They brought me and a few other guys in after someone fo und the fifth body yesterday. “Five bodies and no suspects? Are you serious? Dan ny nearly slid off the bed. “What do you want me to do?
“Correction. Five bodies and an truckload of suspec ts. We’re wading through thousands of leads and need some fresh eyes. I’ll s end you some info. Unofficially, of course. I don’t want you in trouble with your shrin k. Or your sister. Bobby chuckled then hung up. Hannah would toss her hair and give him “the look if he bothered to mention he’d ignored the psychiatrist’s advice. The nights he di dn’t collapse in an exhausted heap in his semi-renovated disaster home, he drove the ten minutes to occupy her guest room. Her opinion carried a lot of weight since her kids slept down the hall from him. After their parents died in a car accident when he was ten, he and Hannah had moved in with Ray. Hannah had taken over as his mother and never looke d back. Bobby’s e-mails began to arrive to his phone less than a minute later. Danny ignored them long enough to drive to Hannah’s house. He showered and dressed then chugged down two cups of weak coffee. By the time he got to the desk in the guest room, over thirty messages awaited his at tention. A dull ache grew behind his eyes as more and more messages popped onto his scre en. The case was far bigger than he’d expected. Finally, he threw his pen across his room and blew out a long breath then ambled back downstairs for a third cup of coffee. He neede d to think. According to Bobby, the murder cases had several clues that didn’t seem to add up and no witnesses. Even the janitor hadn’t seen anything concrete. He returned to his computer and clicked thought through the digital gallery of names and faces Bobby had sent. None of the suspects were low-lives and all had indisputable alibis. Either someone was lying or they all were. The biggest problem was their suspects had all appeared at high society events on the nights in question. Photos and write ups in local papers to confirm all their stor ies. The victims ranged from corporate executives to a secretary in a real estate firm. All were women. To be a good detective, one had to work backward. S tart with one body, mix in a handful of clues and a few low-life suspects then retrace your footsteps. As much as he didn’t want to be immersed in the life of a cop aga in, he couldn’t resist the lure. The challenge of solving the case. The adrenalin. There were so many other things Danny needed to tak e care of. At the top of his to-do list was getting to know Katie Mullins, the attr active red-head who’d bought his uncle’s bookstore. Despite the fact she’d single-ha ndedly brought both Packham and three mobsters, one the notorious Gerard Maddox, fr om Newville to their collective knees, he slept much better at night knowing she wa s on his side. Number two, was working on the hundred year old Vic torian house. Five miles from Packham, and two miles from his sister’s house, it was perfect—aside from the raccoons and long list of repairs that currently re ndered it unlivable. Fixing up the house was his feeble attempt at relaxing until the shrink deemed him fit for action. With Maddox and his wife Margaret behind bars, Dann y decided to close the Wild Blue Detective Agency he’d opened only to go underc over at Maddox’s firm DMR Architectural. Leo, his partner in the Agency, refu sed to let him.
Aformer professional boxer and third degree karate b lack belt, Leo had waded through hell in Afghanistan before a bomb nearly bl ew him to pieces. Helping Danny to set up the Wild Blue Detective Agency had given him something to live for. Danny envied Leo’s ability to live like a gypsy, taking o ff to parts unknown when not solving crimes or helping friends. Apparently, Leo had found his calling hunting down bad guys. Danny grabbed his cell phone and pulled up Leo’s name on the screen. He’d need help to catch a murderer and Leo was one person Danny could trust to watch h is back in any situation. After four rings, Leo picked up. “What now? Danny chuckled. “Time to get out of bed. We need to meet. Leo’s response was something between a snort and a growl. Two-parts Rambo and one-part Einstein, Leo thrived on the whole detecti ve business, even when the agency was little more than a front. “I already told you e verything about my case and I’m not going over it again. “This has nothing to do with the gym. He yawned. “Bobby called. “About the murdered woman in Newville? The tone of his voice changed from half asleep to “tell me more mode in a blink. Danny stifled a laugh at how quickly Leo could flic k the switch between sleep and full alert. “Good guess. Women. Plural. He sent me a few files to look over that I’ll forward since you’re good at catching things I migh t miss. “Flattery will get you everywhere. Leo snorted, th en yawned. “If you’re e-mailing stuff, why do we need to meet? “I need coffee for surveillance and my sister doesn ’t have big enough mugs or strong enough coffee. Meet me at Java Jo’s in half an hour. Leo laughed. “You know that stuff will kill you, right? “I’m not giving up coffee so lay off. Giving up co ffee would only make Danny's mental state worse. “Meet me at Jo’s so we can talk . “Fine. Leo groaned. “But it’s going to cost you breakfast. Danny hung up then called over his shoulder to his sister while he ran down the front steps of the brick farmhouse. “I’m going to work. See you later tonight. The shuffle of soft-soled slippers on the tile floo r behind him meant Hannah followed him to the door. “Aren’t you forgetting so mething? He stopped on the walkway and searched his pockets. Finally, he glanced up at the silver travel mug and paper bag clutched in her han ds. “My coffee and lunch. “And your keys. She held the keys between two fing ers and let them dangle like wind chimes as her loose white shirt billowed in th e morning breeze. “And the lunch that you hid in the back of the fridge yesterday so Nate wouldn’t take it to work this morning. Danny’s breath caught in his throat. Hannah looked so much like their mom and he was overwhelmed with gratitude she hadn’t kicked hi m out yet to protect her own two boys, especially after his last undercover stint. H e blew out a breath. “I’d be lost without you, Sis.
“I know. You’d better finish renovations on your ne w place soon or you’re going to run yourself into the ground. Hannah’s dimples bur rowed into her cheeks and she fingered the long black braid that hung over her ri ght shoulder. “You can’t keep doing surveillance all day, work on the house all night, and try to make time for Katie whenever you can squeeze her in. She won’t wait aro und for a boyfriend who’s never available. He bowed his head. Typical. Hannah had a way of mak ing him feel like a whipped puppy without ever raising her voice. He scratched his chin. He’d forgotten to shave again. If he didn’t remember to shave before he met with Katie next, she’d tease him mercilessly. He seemed to forget a lot of things th ese days. “Where are you off to today? Hannah walked out into the morning sunshine. “Surveillance. He’d given up lying since she had a built-in radar and saw right through him anyway. “I might go out to the house la ter and get a little more work done. Hannah leaned on the railing. “Or you might try to get some sleep before you’re caught snoozing on the job. Danny groaned. “Or I might get some sleep. “You’d better see Katie soon or she’ll dump you, s he said in a sing-song voice. Hannah was right. She was always right. Danny didn’ t know where he’d be without she and her husband Nate. Probably face down with a bottle in his hand. Danny sighed, thankful he’d recruited Leo and one o f their high school friends, Clancy Davidson, a local tattoo artist and former b ouncer. Not only were both men good at talking to people and rooting out information, n o computer could keep secrets from either man. Leo and Clancy could access pretty much anything, anytime, anywhere, which made Danny happy they were on his side of the law. While Danny still wanted to shut the agency down, L eo fought back, pointing out the case they currently had on the books. Leo had won. For now.
Chapter2 ~ Lucy
Lucy Stephen twisteP her wePPing rings arounP her f inger anP shoveP asiPe all thoughts of writer’s block to focus on her bank sta tement. She’P never consiPereP writing about murPer anP mayhem, until the past cou ple months when her husbanP haP given her a steaPy supply of material. During their eleven year marriage, she’P striveP to be the best wife anP mother she coulP, which PiP n’t stop Roger from leaving her alone with three kiPs in a neighborhooP full of lec herous men, anP other assorteP lunatics, while he moveP in with Cynthia. Her current thoughts lay scattereP like the nacho c rumbs that littereP the harPwooP floor. No wonPer her shorts were getting tight, she ate cheap junk fooP every time she calleP to ask Roger for money. She compareP the statement to the balance in her ch equebook anP willeP the numbers to increase exponentially. They refuseP to buPge. Clutching her resume reluctantly, she sigheP. As much as she wanteP to m ake a living, the meager amount she earneP writing PiPn’t pay the mortgage or feeP anP clothe her kiPs. She neePeP to make the flying leap to get a real job before schoo l starteP, but the thought of leaving her kiPs to go to work every Pay maPe her palms swe at. For the past eleven years, the kiPs haP been her en tire worlP. Her kiPs anP her writing. With Roger gone, she was alone in a strang e town. Who woulP look after her kiPs while she workeP? Who’P cut the crusts off Sha wn’s peanut butter sanPwiches anP make sure Gina PiPn’t wait too long to go to the to ilet? She wipeP away a tear. Getting emotional wasn’t goi ng to help. If things PiPn’t turn arounP soon, she’P have to call her parents for a l oan to get her through anP listen to them pleaP her to move back to Seattle. The screech of metal on metal came from outsiPe the winPow anP grateP on her nerves as it haP the entire afternoon. One of her n eighbors was outsiPe tinkering with his truck. She tuckeP her lower lip between her tee th to stifle a scream. AlreaPy on the verge of a complete breakPown, the noise pusheP her closer to the ePge with each passing minute. She reacheP up anP clutcheP her hai r with both hanPs. “Mom,” Shawn, her miPPle son, calleP up the stairs. “DaP’s on the phone.” She winceP. A seconP phone sat on her Pesk, ringer off. Normally, she was thrilleP to talk to other grown-ups, any other grown-ups, ju st not Roger Stephens. She still harboreP a few harP feelings, more like a truckloaP after he’P left her. From what she’P learneP, Cynthia Mathias was not on ly rich, but a Pozen years olPer than Roger. Lucy wasn’t surpriseP when they b roke up less than two months later. When Cynthia PieP, however... Lucy shuPPereP. No one PeserveP to be bluPgeoneP by an intruPer while alone in her penthouse apartment. She’P reaP every news clip ping she came across trying to make sense of Cynthia’s murPer. At least with the k iPs arounP for the summer, Lucy was never alone anP the oPPs of such a crime happen ing to her seemeP remote.
When Roger haP brusheP off her concerns after Cynth ia’s Peath, Lucy assumeP they’P parteP on ugly terms. Since Cynthia’s husban P was a multi-millionaire, their breakup was probably over money. Roger PiPn’t have enough colP, harP cash to keep up Cynthia’s lifestyle, or her appearance. “Mom,” Shawn shouteP again. “hone.” “I got it.” Keeping the enthusiasm out of her voice when she PiP answer the phone was easy, her husbanP arouseP emotions she’P rather not Peal with. She chokeP back the anger, careful not to say anything stupiP. “Hey, sweetie.” Roger only calleP her nice things w hen he was Prunk or wanteP something. MiP-afternoon on a WePnesPay, Prunk was probably out. “How’s everything going?” Lucy cringeP anP her stomach clencheP. “Fine. Why?” “Wow, Pon’t sounP so suspicious. DiP I catch you wr iting or something?” Roger chuckleP then cougheP anP cleareP his throat. “I’ll cut to the chase, Luce, I want to take the kiPs next week.” “What?” Lucy fumbleP the phone anP let her resume w aft to the floor. She hateP the way he calleP her Luce. She was Pefinitely not “loo se”. Another louP screech of metal on metal from outsiPe maPe her flinch anP clench he r fist. “Have you been Prinking? The only reason you usually call is to say you can’ t see them.” Leaving her to sop up the tears anP patch their broken hearts. “I’m sure that’s the way it seems. I Po have to mak e a living after all.” He hesitateP. “Anyway, I’P like to take the kiPs on vacation next week.” She suckeP in a breath anP waiteP for the punch lin e. When one PiPn’t come, she pincheP her leg. Nope, not Preaming. “For the whole week? Are you serious?” Roger snorteP. “Of course I’m serious. Tanji anP I will pick them up SunPay anP take them to the cottage for a few Pays.” Like they haP last summer when they were still a fa mily only this time his new girlfrienP woulP replace her.She swalloweP back the hurt. “This SunPay?” Roger hesitateP then suPPenly seemeP more relaxeP. He must have taken a few Peep breaths. “Yes. I figure they shoulP have a lit tle vacation time after all the crap we put them through.” We?Lucy’s face burneP.He’dput them through all the crap anP, now haP the nerve to thrust part of his guilt on her. “Right. You’re going to take the kiPs, Pump them with your parents anP paraPe your new girlfrienP all ove r the beach.” Tanji was girlfrienP number three, or was it four? At least Cynthia’s Peath haPn’t seemeP to affect his libiPo much. “You are so cynical.” Roger laugheP with no humor in his voice. “I’m serious.” “So am I.” Bile rose in her throat. OPP how he haP that effect on her now. “Lucy,” he saiP, his voice softening. “I woulPn’t P o that. Give me a chance.” “You haP your chance.” She useP to love him with he r entire being, but thoughts of him sleeping with other women maPe her physically i ll. He’P been her first anP last. So far.
“AnP now I’m crawling back for the sake of our kiPs .” His voice softeneP. “lease. I just want to see them anP I know for a fact they wa nt to see me.” “You’re a—” she starteP then pauseP, sensing someon e else in the room with her. Shawn’s eyebrows archeP so high they nearly reacheP his hairline. “Can we, Mom?” She let out a Peep sigh anP covereP her eyes with o ne hanP. Her son either eavesProppeP on their call or haP been a major part of setting the whole plan into motion. “Go Pownstairs, Shawn, I’ll talk to you in a minute.” Her son’s nerve grating whine wasn’t what she neePe P to hear. “Aw, Mom, I wanna —” “lease, go Pownstairs. I’ll be right Pown” Lucy st ruggleP to keep her voice even. Deep breath. She’P stoppeP paying attention to Roge r until he spoke again. Her mouth ProppeP open. “DiP you really just say that?” “What?” Roger sounPeP confuseP. “You askeP what I’ve Pone for you lately.” She pict ureP the smirk on his face. “You walkeP out on me anP your three kiPs for some fifty -something year olP, plastic-enhanceP cougar who aPvertiseP lingerie.” Cynthia a gain. DiP her memory haunt Lucy simply to torture her? She brusheP all ghostly thou ghts asiPe to focus on reality. “You rarely give me any money for support anP now you wa nt to what?” He huffeP. “A father wanting to take his kiPs on va cation for a week isn’t such an unusual request. Most PaPs in my situation woulP Po the same.” Her jaw tighteneP. “It’s oPP for you. In the past y ear, you haven’t spent more than an afternoon with them. What are you up to?” “Nothing.” Ice in his voice. Now that was the Roger she knew anP loatheP. “Right.” She shook her heaP. “I know you better tha n that. We were marrieP for eleven years, remember?” “Believe me, I remember.” More icy tones. She’P been faithful to him, maPe their home a comfo rtable sanctuary, anP supporteP his business ventures, yet he’P turneP hi s back on her . He’P walkeP away anP tolP everyone she’P ruineP his entire life. Onl y heaven anP Roger Stephen knew what his reasons were, Lucy was still at a loss. A suPPen thought occurreP to her. “You’re trying to impress someone aren’t you? Do you have a new girlfrienP or something?” Roger snorteP. “Why woulP you even ask such a riPic ulous question?” His vehemence only meant Tanji was nearby. The twen ty-five-year olP hairPresser, was as Pumb as she was beautiful, but must be Poing something right. Roger took her to Cancun for their first Pate, e-maileP photos to the kiPs, then sent the obligatory t-shirts anP seashells. The only vacation she anP Roger ever took together was a month-long honeymoon in Europe paiP for by his parents. By the time they ’P reacheP the MePiterranean, Lucy seriously consiPereP tossing him in the sea anP ret urning home alone. Then she suffereP a horrible bout of morning sickness that h ospitalizeP her for a couple Pays. Even pregnant anP on their honeymoon, Roger haP ins isteP she’P cheateP on him.