Snippet from The Body in the Apartment (book 4 due out May 4, 2020):
There was so much blood. It spread beneath him and oozed out of the exit wound in his back.
“We need to apply pressure to the wound.” Radley pressed both hands to Donovan’s back, pressing down hard. Relief flooded her when sirens approached the building and EMS techs hurried up the steps. Everyone stood back, out of the way, to let them do their jobs.
Walker’s voice shook when he asked her, “Is Gaff coming?” He’d worked with the detective when his dad, Darby, was killed. He respected him.
“He’ll be here soon.” She hoped it was only to solve a shooting, not a murder. She willed Donovan to hang on, to make it.
Walker leaned against the wall to wait. Ansel grabbed her hand, though, and pulled her after him. When she glanced back at the medics, Ansel tugged harder.
“What is it?”
“Where’s Bain?” His voice cracked with tension.
“Bain? He left.”
“Hurry!” He practically dragged her after him. They got out of the building before cops arrived. He headed straight to the back lot and found his brother searching through his pickup in near panic.
“Did you hear the shot?” Ansel asked.
Bain’s face drained of color. “Someone must have seen me walk back to my truck to put our gun in the glove compartment. It’s gone. Somebody stole it.”
Ansel stared. “I told you it was a stupid idea to buy a gun.”
“Dad bought it when we drove here for your wedding. He said every big city was filled with violence. He insisted I bring it to get Radley.”
Jazzi studied the glove compartment. No marks on it. No marks on the truck’s doors either. “No windows are broken or doors jammed. How did someone get in?”
Bain swallowed hard. “I never lock it. No need to on the farm or in our small town. I just forgot.”
Ansel raked a hand through his white-blond hair. “There’s no way to prove anyone took it.”
Bain pressed his eyes shut, rubbed his forehead. “But why would I shoot anyone here? I don’t know anybody in River Bluffs.”
“It’s Donovan, and you just argued with him. He’s lost a lot of blood. You’d better come with us. Detective Gaff is going to want to question you.” Ansel waited for his brother to follow him, but Bain stood rooted to the spot.
Snippet from The Body in the Gravel. Meet Colin, one of the suspects in Darby’s murder. He drove truck for Darby, but Jazzi’s pretty sure he didn’t kill him:
Colin considered Gaff’s question. “Darby did the same thing with the customers that he was doing to me. He kept blaming us for his mistakes. The old man was losing it. His fights didn’t even make sense. Sometimes he’d stop in the middle of them, scratch his head, and walk away. He knew was being stupid. Something was on his mind that he couldn’t shake.”
“Any idea what?”
Colin shook his head. “I’d be surprised if his brain wasn’t pickled. He drank too much for too long. I asked him once if he wanted to patch things up with Rose and his kid, that maybe he felt bad about how things had ended with them. He went ballistic.”
“Did he threaten to fire you?”
Colin laughed. “He did that every other day.”
“What if he meant it the last time?”
A shrug. “So what? The ski resort keeps wanting me to work year-round. I’ve never stayed in one place before. Spent a year at the most. It’s been nine here. If it’s over, I’ll move on.”
Jazzi frowned. She couldn’t figure Colin out. “Do you have family around here? Wouldn’t you miss them if they weren’t close?”
He barked a laugh. “My old man was fifty when I was born. Mom was forty-eight, didn’t think she could get pregnant. I came as a shock. She kept telling me I almost killed her, moved around a lot inside, and then she had a hard time giving birth.”
“Did they dote on you since you came so late?” He didn’t strike Jazzi as a kid who’d been spoiled.
“No, I just wore them out. I had ADD/ADHD and drove them nuts. When Mom hit fifty-five, she had one health scare after another. It was a relief when I moved out.”
Jazzi put a hand over her heart. She couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for him when he was a kid.
Snippet from The Body in the Gravel (available September 24th–so yes, this is a shameless plug:). And we all know cats rule. Inky doesn’t care about murders, only his food bowl:
A paw batted her cheek. Jazzi opened one eye and blinked. Inky had his face in hers, staring down at her. She glanced at the clock and pushed him away. She had another half hour to sleep.
When the cat jumped off the bed, she rolled over to get more comfortable. Thud! Something heavy hit the floor. She propped herself on her elbows in time to see Inky walk to the next bottle of perfume on her chest of drawers and whack it over the edge. He padded to the next bottle, raised his paw, and looked at her.
The little brat! She swung her legs over the bed, stalked to him, and tossed him into the hallway, shutting the bedroom door. She’d made it halfway back to her warm sheets and blanket when paws tried to turn the doorknob. Could he open the door? She hoped not. Then a body threw itself against the wood. Paws padded down the hall, ran, and leapt at the door again.
What in the world? She yanked the door open and Inky flew at her. He hit her midsection and dropped to the floor. He sat on his haunches and stared at her, unrepentant.
She glanced at the clock. In ten minutes, the alarm would go off. She might as well stay up. On the way down the stairs, she warned the cat, “If you do that again, you’ll be locked in the basement at night. Then you can’t get to our door.”
He glanced over his furry shoulder at her and stalked to the kitchen, unconcerned. He went straight to his food bowl and meowed. She stared. “You got me up to feed you?”
He meowed more loudly.
“You know there are outdoor cats who have to worry about owls and coyotes, don’t you?”
He didn’t look scared. She was filling his bowl when Marmalade came to wind around her ankles. What a nice cat. Affectionate, with good manners. She filled her bowl, too. When Ansel carried George down to join them, she poured two mugs of coffee while Ansel fed the dog.
“Little did I know pets would rule our lives.” She plopped four pieces of pumpernickel bread in the toaster.
Snippet from The Body in the Apartment:
Jazzi pointed at Donovan stumbling out of his apartment, his hand pressed to his chest. Blood covered it and dripped down his arm. As he tried to walk toward them, his knees buckled and he fell.
They ran to him. Jerod and Radley knelt beside him, and Jazzi reached for her cell phone to call 911. Then she called Detective Gaff. She’d worked with him on previous murders. More of them than she should ever have had to deal with.
“A man’s been shot at the apartments on Berry Street, apartment 2D,” she told him. “He’s in bad shape. I called 911. Are you on duty today?”
“I’m working a homicide not far away. Give me fifteen minutes.”
Jazzi wasn’t sure Donovan had that long.
Snippet from The Body in the Gravel:
Thane clenched and unclenched his hands. “If Walker left.”
Gaff’s pen poised over his notepad again. “You don’t think he did?”
Thane leaned forward, his expression intent. “When I started the internship with my company, I got paid while I trained and worked. I got an apartment and asked Walker if he’d like to be my roommate. That way, he wouldn’t have to spend any more time with Darby than he chose to. Walker turned me down, told me he loved the cement business and his mom, that he’d never leave her alone to deal with the old man. He meant to take Darby in his stride. But things got worse and worse between them. Then two years ago, he came to my place and we played cards for most of an evening. He left and I got a call from him late that night. He said his mom and him had to leave, that he couldn’t be around Darby anymore, that he needed a fresh start. I never saw him or Rose again. I called him over and over again, but he never answered. He and Rose just vanished.”
Jazzi stared. “That’s why you accused Darby of burying them somewhere on his property.”
“What would you think?” Thane curled his hands into fists. “If Darby thought Rose was walking out on him, he’d go berserk, especially if she was leaving with Walker. I drove to Darby’s place and demanded to know what happened, but he cussed me out and told me to get lost. I finally called the cops, told them my story, and they let me walk every inch of the grounds with them. They brought a dog trained to find corpses.”
“And?” Jerod demanded.
Thane shook his head. “We didn’t find anything, and somehow Darby convinced them that Rose got tired of him, ran off and took Walker with her.”
Earl rubbed his forehead, a worried scowl on his face. “Darby poured a cement slab a month after Walker left. Odd, because it’s stuck in a strange spot, doesn’t serve any purpose.”
Thane flinched and pinched his lips together in a tight line. “When I accused Darby of killing them yesterday, that’s when he punched me.”
Snippet from The Body in the Gravel (due out Sept. 24):
Gaff ate a handful of chips and took a few sips of pop before turning his attention back to the interview. “Okay, Earl, let’s start at the beginning. How many years did you work for Darby?”
“Earl Lahr. Me and two other guys drove for him. He paid us good wages. We had steady work except for the down season. Every cement driver has that. The business did better when Walker ran it. Since Darby’s been in charge the last two years, things have been slipping.”
Gaff frowned. “Why’s that? He ran it until Walker got old enough, didn’t he?”
Earl rubbed his chin. He glanced over at Thane. “Darby hasn’t been the same since Rose left. I don’t think he’d ever harm her, so I don’t think he killed her. He might not have been nice to live with, but she was his rock, his foundation. He’s been off kilter without her. He drank more, forgot to write down deliveries if he was in one of his moods, and just didn’t seem to care as much as he once did. We were beginning to wonder how much longer we’d have jobs.”
“How did you and the other two drivers get along with him?”
Earl rubbed his palms on his jeans. “No one got along with Darby. He could get under anyone’s skin. He could flip from laughing and joking with you to saying the meanest thing you’ve ever heard from one breath to the next. We used to joke that he was bi-polar, but then we decided he was just mean. Once he found your soft spot, he wouldn’t leave it alone.”
“Did he find yours?”
“The best he could do was call me a momma’s boy. He’d say I’d rather hang onto Mom’s apron strings than find a woman of my own.”
“Did that bother you?”
“Not much. I was married once. Met my wife when we were both studying to be dental hygienists.”
Jerod stared. “You worked in a dentist’s office?”
Jazzi rolled her eyes at him. Her cousin had no tact. Whatever thought flew through his mind had a chance of popping out of his mouth.
Earl glanced down at his flannel shirt and work jeans. “Hard to believe, isn’t it? I cleaned and X-rayed teeth for three years. Hated it. My wife loved it, but I didn’t like being stuck indoors. I wouldn’t have been happy doing any office work. When I quit to drive a truck, she filed for divorce. I made more money, but she thought it was a low-class job. I steered away from women for a long time after that.”
Gaff finished scribbling notes and asked, “Did Darby pick on his other two employees?”
“Anyone was fair game,” Earl said, “but he especially heckled Andy. He’s the youngest of us, and I got the idea that made Darby think he was more vulnerable. That, and Andy has a kid with autism.”
Jazzi couldn’t believe anyone would use autism to badger a parent. What kind of sadistic person would make fun of a father trying to cope with a child who had handicaps?
Gaff’s expression hardened, too. The detective was close to his two grown boys, Jazzi knew, and crazy about his three grandkids. He wouldn’t appreciate jokes about kids with problems.