Authors: Cheryl Bradshaw
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective
He looked at me and said, “She’s going to be fine.”
Vicki was positioned about a foot away from Bridget. Her body was still and her eyes were closed. I reached over and placed two fingers on her neck. Coop took my hand and pulled it back.
“There’s no need for that,” he said, “she’s dead.”
The ambulance arrived and loaded Bridget inside. I called Tommy and gave him the news. Coop talked to some guys from homicide that arrived on the scene, and when he finished he made his way over to me.
“How did you know—”
“Nick called me when he landed. Said you wouldn’t answer your phone and that you were here. And he asked me for a favor.”
“I guess I owe you one,” I said. “How much did you hear?”
“Enough to know she was responsible for the murder. Guess you were on the right track after all.”
His words were sharp, but his face displayed something different, a sense of relief maybe that I was alright. It was a side of him I hadn’t seen before.
“Wow, Coop. Did you really just say I did something right?”
“It doesn’t change anything.”
I placed my hand on his arm.
“Of course not,” I said.
I sat in the cabana in front of the pool with my book in one hand and a cocktail in the other. It was a cool 67 degrees outside, but the rays from the sun penetrated my skin and I soaked up every moment of my hiatus from the snow.
“Life is good,” Maddie said.
“And this martini is great.”
“You said it. Makes you wonder why we waited so long,” Maddie said.
“One of us had a murder to solve.”
“And now that it’s all over, what about you and Nick?” Maddie said.
“The one thing I learned over these past few weeks is that I need to move on with my life.”
“Does that mean you need some help packing?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said.
She gave me a look that indicated her confusion.
“Nick might need some help though,” I said.
“What brought on the change?”
“I discovered something last week that put it all into perspective,” I said. “And now I see things in a different way.”
,” I said.
“Oooh, sounds mysterious. What is this
“I don’t want to give it away; you have to experience it for yourself. I’ll loan you the DVD when we get back home,” I said.
She smacked me on the shoulder and then stood up.
“Well sweetie, it’s about time,” she said. “The pool is calling my name, you up for it?”
I shook my head.
“I might get in the hot tub later.”
She grabbed her towel off the chair.
Maddie took her time and went the long way around. Two guys tanned themselves in one of the adjoining pools, and I could tell by the way her hips swung back in forth in perfect symmetry that she wanted their attention. And she got it.
I dog-eared a page in my book and adjusted my chair. Sleep sounded good right about now. I had just started to drift off when my cell phone rang. The screen didn’t identify the caller. I sent it to voicemail and relaxed back into my chair. A minute later it rang again. I sent it to voicemail once more. When it rang a third time, I picked it up.
“Good afternoon, Ms. Monroe.”
The voice on the other end was a man’s and unfamiliar to me.
“Who is this?” I said.
“Look to your right.”
I glanced over my shoulder and saw a man dressed in a suit sitting at a table about ten yards from me. He was surrounded by an entourage of men who looked like bouncers at a Las Vegas nightclub. He put two of his fingers together and made a gesture and they all got up in unison and went their separate ways. One of them walked in my direction and tipped his head at me when he passed. I recognized him. It was the man in black. For a moment I forgot my phone still rested on my ear.
“I would like a moment of your time,” the caller said.
He waved me over and set the phone down.
I looked for Maddie. She had been joined in the pool by her two admirers who were both eager for her attention, and she hadn’t noticed what was going on with me. I was reluctant but figured we were outside in the middle of the day amongst several groups of people. I wrapped my towel around my waist and walked over. When I got within three feet of him he rose from his chair and pulled one out for me and invited me to sit down. I did.
He leaned in to me and got close to my face, a little too close. I pulled back. He looked me up and down and then back up again and had a smile on his face that reminded me of a person who had a lot to hide. His hair was cut short and his skin was tan, but not by the sun. It looked natural, like he entered the world that way.
“There’s no need to be alarmed,” he said. “My name is Giovanni Luciana.”
He offered me his hand. I took it. He placed his other hand over mine and held it there for a moment before he let go.
“Any relation to Daniela Luciana?” I said.
“She is my sister. I believe you offered her a ride home not too long ago after she allowed herself to be placed in an unfortunate circumstance.”
“And now you’re following me?”
He crossed one leg over the other and sat back.
“I had a vested interest in your case. Congratulations, by the way.”
“Then you know Parker Stanton was not responsible for Charlotte’s death.”
“Parker had no involvement in the real estate scheme at all,” I said. “And yet someone saw to it that he was killed and then covered it up.”
He interlaced his fingers and rested them on the edge of the table.
“That’s quite an accusation, Ms. Monroe.”
“You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that would you?”
“I found his treatment of women unacceptable. Men like Parker Stanton don’t deserve the life they have. They think they can do whatever they like because they have money.”
“So you took care of him?” I said.
I couldn’t believe I had just blurted that out.
Daniela’s brother reached inside his jacket pocket and I felt a sudden urge to run. He pulled out a small card and handed it to me. It had one thing printed on it—a phone number.
“You did my sister a service and for that I am grateful to you. Should you ever need anything from me, call that number.”
“Aren’t you worried I will go to the police?” I said.
“You could, but I don’t think you will. You see Ms. Monroe, you and I share some commonalities. We both seek justice and do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.”
“I understand what you must have felt for Parker after what he did to Daniela, but it wasn’t your decision to make,” I said.
He rose from his chair and snapped his fingers and the other men reappeared.
“You’ll have to excuse me; I have other business to attend to. Perhaps our paths will cross again in the future and we can resume our conversation.”
“What about my questions?”
He started to walk away and then paused and turned toward me.
“I enjoy your passion,” he said. “Don’t ever change.”
Here’s a sneak peek of the first chapter of book two in the Sloane Monroe series scheduled for release October 2011.
Sam Reids reclined back in his black 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and examined the women that shuffled in and out of the supermarket. It had been three long years since he felt the steady churn of butterflies in his stomach, but the anticipation of the nights soon to be events made it all worthwhile. The wait hadn’t been easy, and whenever he felt he couldn’t control his urges he walked down to the basement and gazed at the trinkets he’d collected. They were spaced two inches apart in single-file formation on a shelf. In all, there were fifteen glass bottles. Each container had a white label about the size of a post-it note affixed to the front with the date and a name written in black marker. Over the past few years Sam visited them often and took special care to dust and polish their exteriors, but he never opened them once they had been sealed. He didn’t want to take a chance that one of his precious mementos could get spoiled. Sometimes he took one to his room and deposited it on his nightstand while he slept. It wasn’t the same thrill that he’d experienced when he secured the object in the bottle, but it helped him pass the time.
Through his binoculars, Sam observed two women walk out of the store together; one carried a sack in her hand and the other, a gallon of milk. The brunette with the sack showed promise. Her long hair flickered in the wind. It reminded him of flames from a fire. He waited for her to say goodbye to her friend and then placed his binoculars on the seat next to him. It was time.
Sam grabbed an unused diaper from the passenger seat and opened his car door. The woman opened her passenger side door and bent down and placed the sack of groceries on the seat of her car. She was too preoccupied to hear him approach.
“Excuse me,” he said.
The woman retracted out of the car and faced him.
“Do I know you?”
“I’m sorry to bother you, but do you know how to change a diaper?” he said.
She looked at the diaper in his hand and then back at him.
“Who do you ask?”
“My sister asked me to watch my nephew for a few hours, and I can’t seem to get the darn thing on right.”
He angled the diaper in the directions of his car.
“My car’s right over there,” he said. “Do you think you could help me?”
The woman hesitated and studied the man’s car for a moment and then shrugged her shoulders.
“I really need to get home.”
The man smiled, but not just any smile. It was one he’d practiced in the mirror over and over again until it conveyed what he needed it to—
“It will only take a minute,” he said.
As they walked over to Sam’s car he remained a few paces behind her. He glanced over his left shoulder and then his right. All was still, and since the store closed in five minutes, he was certain it would stay that way. He watched the woman peek through the window of his car and relished the startled look on her face when she didn’t see a baby. With a look of perplexity, she turned to face him.
The man reached into the front pocket of his hoodie and pulled out a needle and quickly inserted it into her shoulder. In an instant her body went limp and she sagged into him.
, he thought to himself.
When he arrived home, Sam pulled the woman out of the trunk of his car and tossed her over his right shoulder. Her exposed thigh pressed against the flesh of his face and he could feel her body quiver. It made him feel alive again. The way she looked at him when he opened the trunk and looked down on her reminded him of a fawn, but she didn’t move or make a sound. He was a little disappointed by this and expected more of a challenge.
Sam took the woman downstairs and opened the door to the basement and walked past his bottle collection. And for the first time she tried to scream, but it was muffled by the tape he used to secure her mouth. He stopped for a moment and turned towards the shelves and patted the side of her leg.
“They’re beautiful, aren’t they?” he said. “Do you see that row there at the bottom? There’s nothing on it now, but in a week or two, it will be all filled up.”
The woman twisted her body and thrashed from side to side and tried to release herself from the tight grip he had on her.
“That’s more like it,” he said.
He entered a side room that was adorned with a single motif in mind—plastic, and he laid her body across a padded board in the center of the room. He secured her into the wrist and ankle restraints and then removed the duct tape from her lips.
“There now,” he said, “that’s better.”
A tear trickled down the side of her face and he took his finger and brushed it away.
“There’s no need for that,” he said.
“Are you going to kill me?”
He smiled and ran his hand through her hair.
“You have beautiful hair,” he said. “It’s so soft. So well taken care of; I admire that in a woman.”
“Please don’t hurt me,” she said. “I’ll do whatever you want. If you want money, it’s yours, and I won’t say anything to anyone, I promise.”
He lifted his pointer finger and placed it in the center of her lips.
“Shhh,” he said. “I need you to hold still for me. Nod if you understand.”
She didn’t move.
“I asked you to nod if you understand,” he said.
She bobbed her head up and down.
“This next part is going to hurt for a moment,” he said, “but I find it’s best to get it over with.”
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