Authors: Michele Lynn Seigfried
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Cozy, #Women Sleuths, #Teen & Young Adult
By Michele Lynn Seigfried
Major Crimes is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 Michele Lynn Seigfried. All rights reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Cover Design by LLPix Photography,
Edited by Proof Positive
Visit the author’s website at www.michelelynnseigfried.com
A Special Thank You to:
The real Drew Pavlica for letting me use his name in this book and for being a great supporter!
My beta readers, especially Caroline Wisniewski.
The real Freddy and Florence who have been supporting me on my writing career and throughout my life. I’m lucky to say they are part of my big, crazy, Italian family.
This book is dedicated to:
1947 - 2015
Table of Contents
The front door was unlocked.
I never left my front door unlocked. Even though I had the ugliest house on the block, I never left without locking it. Even though the only thing of value in it was a hideous engagement ring from a pathetic ex who never became my husband, I never left without locking it.
With all the hoopla in my life as of late, I shouldn’t have been surprised that I had forgotten to do something simple, like lock my door before I left. I pushed open the wooden door and peeked inside. A sinking feeling churned in my stomach. The TV was on and the crate that housed my German Shepherd, Snickers, was empty. I froze. Was someone in my house?
I shook off the fear. My parents had to be there. They kept a key to my place. I stepped inside. Snickers didn’t charge or bark at me like normal.
Wait! Their car isn’t outside!
Fear prevented my legs from working. It was as if I was the leading lady in one of those cliché horror movies—you know, the kind where the dumb girl enters a house with a killer inside and searches it instead of running for her life. Here I was, the dumb girl, in the house with Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, or Bill Cosby.
Where is Snickers?
Once my imaginary cement shoes disintegrated, I crept over to the couch. There was a baseball bat underneath. Once again, I thought about how stupid I was.
Why did I go for the bat instead of running for my life?
With my bat in hand and a dose of false bravado, I searched the house. Yup, that was me—the dumb girl. It was a little after one in the afternoon.
What stupid criminal breaks in during the day when neighbors could see him?
Or her for that matter!
Tiptoeing toward the kitchen, I heard a footstep. I plastered my back along the wall beside the kitchen entry and raised the bat, pretending to be Babe Ruth anticipating another home run.
A man stepped out of the kitchen. I swung the bat, aiming for his gonads. He caught it in his left hand. In his right hand was a glass of merlot. “Don’t you have anything better to drink around here?”
How he caught that bat and didn’t spill a drop of wine was beyond me. “What the hell are you doing in my house?”
Snickers sat in the corner of the kitchen watching us. He was calm and quiet. A rawhide chew toy rested between his paws.
No wonder he was too occupied to greet me at the door. Stupid dog.
My entire body trembled from the passing fear and rush of adrenaline.
“I came to see you. What’s with the bat, Chelsey? Are you itching for a game of softball?”
“You’re such a horse’s patoot.”
The man who had reduced me to a pile of nerves was Bryson Kelly. Bryce for short. A cop, former co-worker, and someone who once kissed me—though not someone you’d call a former significant other. At least my dog liked him.
“Why are you here? And how did you get in?” My hands shook worse than a pair of maracas on Cinco de Mayo. I put the bat back under the couch.
“Well, that’s a fine how-do-you-do. Who talks like that? Patoot?”
“Not for nothing, but you
in my house, and you don’t have a key.”
Bryce looked sexier than ever. Day-old scruff, toned pecs that I could see through his snug T-shirt. Messy brown hair. Dreamy brown eyes. Staring at him didn’t help my maraca hands.
Snap out of it, Chelsey
. I had to remind myself that this man just broke into my house. Friend or not, I hadn’t heard from him in months. The unannounced visit was bizarre. Something was off. “Are you going to answer me?”
“What? Was there a question in there? I thought you were just stating facts.” Bryce tried to look innocent, but I could sense something was up.
“Don’t play coy with me. Why did you break into my house? Police officer or not, it’s illegal…unless you have a warrant.”
“I didn’t exactly break in. And that’s
, not officer.”
“Whatever. Explain ‘exactly’.”
“The kitchen window was unlocked.”
“Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You came to my house. Saw my car wasn’t here. Went through the gate, into my backyard, and tried the window. Seeing it was unlocked, you climbed through it, over my sink and then…went to the front door and unlocked it?”
Stupid, stupid, stupid dog.
So much for getting a German Shepherd to guard the house.
“Umm, you make it sound
…bad. You look beautiful, by the way. Is that your natural blonde color or did you get new highlights? It really complements your eyes.”
“Don’t try to change the subject! Your story has holes in it. Where is your car? Are you going to tell me what’s going on, or am I going to kick you out?”
“Since when did you become the master interrogator?”
“Get out! Get out of my house!” Snickers’ head popped up with the rise in my voice.
“Okay, okay. Geez. It’s an extremely long story. I need a place to crash for the night. Here, have a drink.” He offered me his glass of wine.
“You have about thirty seconds to stop beating around the bush.” I put my hands on my hips.
“Well…uh…I’m in a little trouble, but I don’t want to involve you. I had no place to go. I’m desperate. I’ll explain everything to you, and as I’ve told you, it’s a long story. Please let me stay the night, and I’ll be on my way in the morning.”
I raised one eyebrow. I didn’t know Bryce extremely well, but from what I did know about him, I thought he was one of the good guys. Honest, caring, a strong work ethic, and an upstanding citizen. He had my curiosity. My generous nature was about to benefit him.
“You can stay, but I want an explanation.”
“Yes, of course. Are you hungry? I can whip up some lunch. I saw some burgers in your freezer.”
“So you snooped around my house while I wasn’t here too?”
“Only in the fridge. I was hungry.”
“Helped yourself to the wine, I see.”
“After the day I had, I needed a drink.”
His good looks may have tainted my judgment. I grabbed a wine glass from the cabinet. I needed a drink too. Whatever kind of explanation Bryce was about to give probably called for a liquid tension reliever.
Bryce removed two burgers from the freezer. He discarded the packaging and placed them into a frying pan. “Where’s Mandy?”
Mandy, my three year old, was with that pathetic ex-fiancé of mine. “With her father.”
“Really? When did he come back into the picture?”
My history with Mandy’s father, Randy, was complicated and not a subject I wanted to discuss with Bryce. To make long story short, it took three years for Randy to man up and act like a father. Randy’s sudden interest in Mandy annoyed me. I hadn’t forgiven him for abandoning us after Mandy’s birth. I wasn’t comfortable with his involvement in our lives after raising her alone for three years.
“He’s been around for a few months.”
“What’s his name again?”
“Is that why you named your daughter Mandy? Mandy and Randy.”
The rhyme of their names hadn’t crossed my mind when I named her. “No. When I was pregnant, I had told a cousin of mine that I liked the name Madi if it was a girl. So, every time I saw him, he would pat my belly and say, ‘How’s little Mandy doing?’ I guess he couldn’t remember the name Madi. It just kind of stuck.”
“So, Dr. Seuss, tell me more about Randy.”
“You’re doing a great job of changing the subject. I especially like the sarcasm. I want an explanation. Why are you in trouble?” I stood up and went to turn on the television. It was too quiet in my house without my toddler’s giggles and shrieks. I wasn’t accustomed to being without my little girl and I hated sharing her.
Bryce bolted from the kitchen and almost tripped over the coffee table, knocking the remote out of my hand.
“What the heck did you do that for?”
“Uh, no reason. I just thought we were having a conversation here, and now you’re leaving to watch TV.”
The look of perplexity on my face couldn’t be helped. “Now you want to talk? I thought you were cooking.”
“I told you I’d give you an explanation. Have a seat.”
I sat at the breakfast bar and watched Bryce fry the burgers.
If all fry cooks looked like him…
I waited patiently, but he wasn’t talking. I debated whether I should remain silent to let Bryce gather his thoughts or pressure him to talk to me. Since I wasn’t good at keeping my big trap shut, I opted for the latter.
“Are you going to talk or what?”
“Sure. What did you want to talk about?”
The smirk on his face told me he was being facetious. My smile couldn’t be helped. That boyish look he possessed…he was too cute to be angry with. Defeated, I threw my hands up. I retrieved the potato rolls from the pantry and the ketchup from the fridge. I handed two paper plates to Bryce.
“Getting all fancy for me, huh?”
“Um, you bust into my house, I don’t bust out the fine china.”
“Good evening, and welcome to Chelsey’s restaurant. Here at Chelsey’s we serve three meals…cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly. Once you’ve made your selection, we will serve you on the finest disposable tableware. Because here at Chelsey’s, we don’t do dishes. We just throw them away.”
I wished I had a good comeback, but I was at a loss for words. I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t want to give Bryce the satisfaction of knowing I found him humorous at the moment. Something serious was going on and I was curious. Why hadn’t I heard from Bryce in months? Why did he suddenly show up at my house? Where was his car? Why hadn’t he called me before breaking and entering?
“When you’re thirty-something and single with kids, then you let me know what food you keep stocked in your house and whether or not you feel like washing extra dishes. How old are you now, anyway?”
“You’re still just a baby.”
“Because you’re so much older.”
“Nearly two years.”
“Never fear, Chelsey. However old you are, just remember…I’ll always be younger than you.”
“You’re in rare form. Are you ever going to tell me what’s going on?”
With a flick of the wrist, Bryce slid a plate with a burger on it to me. He sat down next to me and took a bite of his. The phone rang.
He’s lucky, he’s saved by the bell.
“What, Mom? Calm down.”
My mother was crying and I couldn’t decipher her words through the sobs.
“Mom, I can’t understand what you’re saying. Are you okay? Do you want me to come over?”
“No, Chelsey. I don’t need you to come over. It’s…Archie…he…he…”
Archie, aka Archibald Wallace, was a friend of my parents and the police chief of Coral Beach, New Jersey—a town where I once worked as a municipal clerk. We didn’t both work there at the same time, though.
“Mom? What about him? What?” Rising from my chair, I stepped away from Bryce. I didn’t mean to be rude. I hated when people answered phone calls during a meal, but this sounded like a real emergency.
“Turn on the TV!”
I rushed over to the remote and pressed the power button. Bryce made a beeline for my right hand in an attempt to extract the remote from its grip. His jaguar velocity confounded me. I mouthed the words, “What are you doing?” I was certain my baffled expression spoke volumes.
With hunched shoulders, Bryce retreated to his stool at the breakfast bar. The television powered on and I turned my attention to the glow of the fifty-inch LED screen. My chin dropped. I raised my hand to my mouth. I glanced at Bryce. His head hung low.
“Mom, I…I…I am so sorry. I’ll call you back.”
On the screen…Archibald Wallace was dead. Murdered…
! Only fifty-two years old. And Bryce…the main suspect.
I turned abruptly to Bryce. “What the…what the…what did you do?”
“I told you it’s a long story.”
“You’re wanted for murder and you decided to come here? To my house? You know I have a child! How could you put me in this position?”
“I…I…” Bryce put his head in his hands and shook it. His jovial nature—gone. When his head surfaced again, I saw numerous emotions on his face. Stress. Anxiety. Fear. Uncertainty.
“I think you should leave.”
“Please. Let me explain.” His voice was barely a whisper.
“I’m done. I don’t know what you’re involved in, but I don’t want any part of it.” I, too, was feeling a range of emotions. Anger. Sorrow. Confusion. Curiosity.
“Give me ten minutes and I’ll explain everything. Ten minutes.”
I crossed my arms in front of my chest. “How do I know I can trust you?”
His brown eyes were soft. Unlike the eyes of a hardened criminal who killed someone in cold blood. No. Not Bryce. He had morals. He was a law enforcer. He wouldn’t kill unless he had no choice. So what did he do to Archie? And why? There must’ve been a good reason he was a prime suspect in a murder investigation. Right?