Authors: Heather Haven
Death Runs in the Family
The Wives of Bath Press
Death Runs in the Family © 2012 by Heather Haven
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Wives of Bath Press
223 Vincent Drive
Mountain View, CA 94041
Cover Art © 2013 by Jeff Monaghan
Edited by Baird Nuckolls
Layout and book production by
Heather Haven and Baird Nuckolls
978-0988408609 (The Wives of Bath Press)
eBook ISBN 978-1-77127-069-4 (MuseItUp Publishing)
First eBook edition May 31, 2012
I had no doubt Death Runs in the Family would be just as good as its predecessors, nor did my cats, Acey and Tinkerbelle (who are fans of Rum Tum Tugger, Lee Alvarez’s cat). Ms. Haven (and Tugger) did not disappoint any of us. In fact you (and your cats) should see Tugger in this one! Not sayin’ anymore, other than to tell you this is an absolute MUST READ!
~Rochelle Weber, Author of
I've read all three of the Alvarez family mysteries. This is the best yet. Very well done. I highly recommend this book to mystery fans.
~ Marva Dasaf
– YA fantasy author
This third book in the series is the first I've read and entering late was not a problem at all. I want to go to a gallery opening and have tea with Mrs. Alvarez...and go thrift store shopping with Lee. The group of family and friends are such very real people, it all seems possible. Quite an adventure with plot twists that ended up being believable - very well-handled. Can't wait to read the other two books. And hurry up with #4, Ms. Haven, because I want to find out Gurn's "real job!"
~ El Cyd
Heather Haven has kept me on the edge of my seat with Death Runs in the Family. A fun read with great characters and a convincing mystery. It has a hint of Spanish that lends itself to the charm of the story. I recommend this to mystery lovers everywhere.
~ Judy M. Winn – Author of
The Silver Seahorse
The Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series:
Murder is a Family Business – Book One
A Wedding to Die For – Book Two
I would like to thank Baird Lloyd for her help with the dos and don’ts of footraces and
Charly) Taylor for her Spanish language expertise. Both these women not only make me look better, but write a more accurate book for the reader. I am grateful.
This book is dedicated to my mother, Mary Lee; husband, Norman Meister; and families everywhere, every type. To love and be loved is to be part of a family in the best sense of the word. This book is also dedicated to my writing buddies, in particular, Baird Nuckolls, whose expertise in all things hold me in good stead. Further, it is dedicated to non-writing friends, such as Kathleen Drotar, who help me write to the best of my ability, be truthful, and entertaining.
I love you all.
Death Runs in the Family
The Alvarez Family
Murder Mystery Series
Another Mrs. Papadopoulos?
I threw back the covers and staggered to my front door, commanded by the insistent ringing of the doorbell. Ordinarily, after the night I’d had, and it being eight o’clock in the morning, on a Sunday no less, I would have just let it ring; hoping whoever it was would go away or fall into a sinkhole. But this ringer wouldn’t stop, and the bell sounded more and more like an air raid siren to my hung-over eardrums.
My name is Liana Alvarez. Everyone calls me Lee except my mother and the less said about that the better. My email reads [email protected], but I don’t always respond in a timely fashion, especially when I’m in the middle of a case. D.I. stands for Discretionary Inquiries, the family-owned investigative service, and everybody knows what a PI is. I’m thirty-four-years-old, five-foot eight, 135 pounds on a good day, with thick, brown/black hair. The love of my life, the gorgeous Gurn Hanson, says my eyes are the color of twilight. At the moment, however, they mostly resembled a beady-eyed hippo’s.
The previous night, Lila Hamilton Alvarez, mother and CEO, fobbed off a last-minute job on me, one not so good for my California lifestyle. Due to our close relationship, my designer-clad mom knows she can do this. So, instead of being at home playing with my cat and sucking down a mango-orange-guava yogurt shake, I was imbibing huge amounts of Tequila Slammers. This slamming was in an effort to get the tipsy girlfriend of a software thief to reveal where he’d gotten to. Said girlfriend dished, but my liver will never be the same.
Me being about as hardboiled as a two-minute egg, the following morning found me sleep deprived, alcohol poisoned, and feeling enormously sorry for myself. But I still remembered to look out the peephole instead of throwing open the door because L.H. Alvarez did not raise a stupid child. Not seeing anyone, I leaned against the framework in a hangover-induced quandary. Was someone there or not?
But the ringing continued, so shrill and loud that it had to be an affirmative unless my front door’s electrical system had gone wiggy. I squinted into the little round circle of glass again, strained my eyeball downward, and spied what looked like the back of a curly, platinum blonde, female head. I left the chain on when I opened the door, because my mother did not raise…never mind.
Facing away from me, the blonde female continued to lean into my doorbell for all she was worth, oblivious to my presence. A serious shrimp, she wore a pair of fire engine red spike heels and still didn’t clear much over five foot two. Looking pretty harmless unless she came at me with one of those six-inch spikes, I undid the chain and opened the door.
“All right, all right. I’m here. Get off the bell.”
Startled, red stilettos wheeled around and faced me. “Hi,” she said in a voice with no bottom to it, reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, but not nearly as sexy. “I was beginning to think you weren’t here.”
As self-confident as her body language had been earlier, she seemed to become unsure of herself, shy almost. Although how anyone could pull off shyness in that getup I’ll never know. The killer heels were a perfect complement to the red satin miniskirt, scanter than a Dallas cheerleader’s costume, and the plunging neckline of the yellow and green floral blouse emphasized cleavage aplenty. A thin, black polyester sweater, way too small, was buttoned haphazardly below her breasts. Clanking gewgaws hung from her ears, neck, wrists, and fingers. She looked like a walking display case of gaudy jewelry. Before me stood a young lady who could send any self-respecting fashionista screaming into the night.
“You’re Lee, right?” she said in a barely audible voice.
“That’s me,” I croaked, and I tried to clear my throat, which didn’t do much good. “And you are?”
“Why, I’m Kelli, with an ‘i.’” The name was pronounced as if it should mean something to me.
She waited a beat, expectantly.
I was clueless.
“Kelli with an ‘i’?” Although in my condition, it came out more like ‘Kawawaya?’
“Yes, Kelli. With an ‘i.’”
There was the damn pause again.
She stared at me, as if me not knowing whom she was made me too stupid to live. I stared back in complete agreement. I think I hiccupped.
“Nick’s wife,” she said, in a manner reserved for the slow of mind.
“Nick’s wife?” I stuttered.
I only knew one Nick, and that was a Nick I’d divorced four years prior with joy in my heart and a gun in my hand. “When you say, ‘Nick’s wife,’ you don’t mean, Nick Papadopoulos, as in my Nick or rather my ex-Nick, by way of being my ex-husband, Nick? You’re talking about someone else, right? Another Nick I can’t quite place…”
My voice trailed off because she was nodding in the affirmative every time I said his name.
“You’re Nick’s wife?”
She nodded again just as Tugger, my adolescent orange and white cat, came out of the bedroom and trotted down the hallway followed by my boyfriend’s gray and white Persian mix, Baba Ganoush, named for the eggplant dish. My boyfriend, Gurn, was in Washington D.C., and I was catsitting this darling, little green-eyed girl until his return.
Baba entered quietly, but Tugger caterwauled the entire time, obviously complaining about being awoken at such an ungodly hour of the morning. He sauntered over, sat down in front of me, stared up at this Kewpie doll of an intruder, and gave a long, wide mouthed yawn. My sentiments exactly.
Kelli looked down. “What a beautiful cat,” she exclaimed, not seeing Baba who was hiding discretely behind my legs. Then the girl/woman extended both arms out to Tugger.
Without further ado, my traitorous feline leapt into her open arms, snuggled in, and began to purr almost as loudly as he yowls. There was nothing left for me to do. I opened the door wider and stood aside.
“All rightie. You’d better come in, Kelli, and bring the cat with you. He’s not allowed outside.” I bent down and picked up Baba, who rewarded me with her own yawn.
“What’s his name?”
“Rum Tum Tugger, but we call him Tugger. This one is Baba. She’s a friend’s cat.”
“What a darling cat,” she cooed, walking over the threshold and into my home. “And I just love your name, Tugger,” she said, rubbing noses with my little guy.
“Go straight down the hallway and turn to the right. That’s the kitchen.”
“What an awesome place. Who would have thought such a hot apartment would be over a garage?” Kelli tottered down the hall chatting away, while I bent over to pick up the morning paper. Barely able to straighten up, I set Baba down, afraid I’d drop her. I needed coffee bad.
“And whose house is in front? Or should I say, mansion?”
“My mother and uncle live there. Back in the ‘30s, this apartment was for the chauffeur. I’ve done it over.”
“Yup, lucky me.”
With a throbbing head, I traipsed behind Kelli, my eyes riveted on her foot action in those heels. It was nothing short of remarkable. Even Baba seemed impressed.
“I like your kitchen.” Continuing the review of my two-bedroom, one bath digs, she scrutinized the backsplash. “Those tiles French? I know they use a lot of yellow and blue in France. I read it once in a book.”
I wasn’t going to touch that statement with a ten-foot pole. “No, Talavera from Mexico. I hauled them back on one of my trips to Dolores Hidalgo.”
“Neat,” she murmured, now looking up at my ceiling. “What’s that?” Kelli slowly spun in place studying the large inverse teacup-shaped dome set in the center of the terracotta ceiling.
“It’s called a cupola.”
“What’s it for?”
“See the series of small glass windows at the top? Not only do you get extra light, but you can open them with this pole for fresh air.” I pointed to an eight-foot pole languishing in a nearby corner, while I wondered which kitchen cabinet held the Aspirin.
“Cool.” Kelli focused again on Tugger, rocking him back and forth in her arms and cooing in a bilious tone of voice.
House and Garden
tour over, I slipped around her, threw the paper on the counter, and reached for the coffee pot with a not-too-steady hand. I poured water into it and counted out scoops, suddenly aware the cooing had changed to sobs.
I turned, scoop in hand, and saw Kelli crying into Tugger’s lustrous fur, something I’ve been known to do myself. Tugger reached out and caressed her face with a soft paw, purring his head off. A true gentleman, my Tugger. Even Baba sat at Kelli’s feet looking up, emerald eyes large with concern.
I clicked the coffee pot on and let it do its thing while I did mine.
“Sit down, Kelli, and tell me what’s wrong.” I put my arm around a shoulder and guided her to one of the cobalt blue chairs gathered around my kitchen table.
Kelli snuffled and wiped at her runny nose with the hand that wasn’t wrapped around a cat. I slapped a paper napkin from the holder into said hand and chucked Tugger under the chin. He was a good boy.
Kelli blew her nose and started talking. I couldn’t hear or understand a word.
“Kelli, you’ll have to speak up and not just a little.”
Whether she was embarrassed, or something else was on her mind, she started playing with Tugger’s tail, something he can’t stand, so I took her hand, shook it, and made her look up at me.
“What is it?”
Kelli snuffled again, and a large tear ran down a painted cheek. “He told me if I was in trouble, and he wasn’t around, I was to come to you.”
“Who told you that?”
“Nick said that?”
She nodded. I was shocked but tried not to show it. This was the ex-marine who started cheating on me soon after the honeymoon and who beat me up when I finally confronted him. He was the main reason I got a black belt in karate, to protect myself from his unwanted attentions before
and after the divorce. When I flattened him one day, he got the message and left me alone. But I still breathed a sigh of relief when I found out he’d moved to Las Vegas and married someone else, someone currently sitting in my kitchen blowing her nose into one of my paper napkins.
“So where is Nick?”
Her voice nearly gave out on this one. “I don’t know.” She cleared her throat and began to speak louder. “He’s been missing for a week. That’s why I’m here.”
“Forgive me, Kelli. I’m not quite getting this.” I smelled the coffee, got up, poured some into a mug, and took a good, scalding gulp before I turned back to her.
“Coffee?” I offered. She shook her head and wiped another tear away. “If he’s missing in Las Vegas, why are you here in Palo Alto?” I started opening cabinet doors, searching for the errant bottle of Aspirin.
“Because last night I found this on the doorstep.” She reached inside her blouse—I didn’t think anything else could fit in there—and pulled out a crumpled envelope. “I got into the car and drove most of the night to get here. I’ve been waiting in your driveway since around five-thirty this morning.” She thrust the packet at me.
I stopped my search for Aspirin, sat down, took the small, square shaped envelope and looked inside. A man’s gold wedding ring looked back at me. My PI mind kicked in, albeit if only on one and a half cylinders.
“Is this Nick’s?”
She nodded, pursing her lips together.
“Was he wearing it the last time you saw him?”
She nodded again.
“Was there anything else inside the envelope?”
This time she shook her head. I could see this was going to be more or less a one-sided conversation.
“Have you been to the police?”
She looked at me as if I’d suggested we eat the cat she cuddled in her arms.
“I can’t go to the cops.” This time her voice was loud and clear.
“Why not? It’s what they’re there for, among other things. We pay them to find missing people. I don’t mean to sound like a poster boy, but I am a big believer in using natural resources.”
“You don’t understand.” Her voice became small and childlike again.
“Then enlighten me.”
“Nick has been…we’ve been…there have been some money problems ever since he had to close the office…” She stopped speaking, sobbed, and buried her head again in Tugger. Looking a little soggy and cramped, my boy had apparently had enough and pushed free of her grasp. He hopped down from her lap and sauntered off toward the bedroom with a careless flip of his long, graceful tail. Baba followed, giving a toss of her luxuriant tail for good measure.
Maybe if I’d had a tail, I’d have done the same thing. But I didn’t, so I stayed put.
In that instant, I reevaluated Kelli’s persona. Once you got past a face looking like it had been drawn upon by the more colorful contents of a crayon box, she was quite pretty, with a gorgeous kind of coloring that takes your breath away. I’d put her hair down to Clairol’s finest but knew then it was a natural pale blonde. Her eyes, huge and round, were the bluest blue I’ve seen outside a Paul Newman movie, even when red-rimmed and surrounded by running black mascara. Barely out of her teens, there was a residual sweetness to her that bad taste had yet to tarnish.