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.