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A Murder to Forget: A Holly Devine Novel

A Murder to Forget: A Holly Devine Novel

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A Murder to Forget: A Holly Devine Novel

Length:
335 pages
5 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 1, 2004
ISBN:
9780991874835
Format:
Book

Description

After her guardian embezzles from her family business and almost loses her home, Holly Devine stays on as an assistant P.I. with The Capelleti Detective Agency. Her latest case is a woman who has disappeared. The sister is sure the husband has murdered the woman. The husband says she ran off with the gold pro. Holy searches for the truth and by the time she finds it, she’s in over her head with the ATF, an evil arms dealer and his sinister right hand.
Eric, her Interpol boyfriend is off solving an art theft ring in Europe. When he finds out what Holly is involved with, he races home to protect her.
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 1, 2004
ISBN:
9780991874835
Format:
Book

About the author


Book Preview

A Murder to Forget - Beverley Bateman

Nineteen

Red sky at night

Sinners delight

PROLOGUE

Brilliant oranges and reds danced against the backdrop of an inky black sky. Two red taillights drove away from the display and disappeared into the darkness.

Flames shot toward the heavens and illuminated the darkness of the night. A few scraggly palm trees stood guard in the background.

For a second, the flames almost disappeared. They withdrew to ground level and crawled on a belly of orange and white along the dirt. They flared up even higher and brighter; fingers of yellow and green reached for the sky. Soft yellows and mauves slipped in and out amongst the brilliant reds and oranges and created a beautiful choreography of color. They moved in tune to a silent orchestra.

The show continued throughout most of the night. It could have been a beautiful Las Vegas revue with the vivid colors dancing against the night sky, but unlike a Las Vegas Revue, no one was there to see it. No one enjoyed the choreography of the beautiful dance or the splendid colors that pranced around the night.

There was no applause - only a deadly silence.

CHAPTER ONE

Maybe today she’d figure out how to make some sense out of her life.

Holly Devine stared across the street at the small, gray stucco building crushed in between the new, larger, office structure and the Cuban luncheteria. The front window covered almost the whole wall, except for the entrance. The stenciling on the glass was chipped and needed to be redone. You could barely read Private Investigator. She should mention it to Gino.

You stay. I’ll be right back. Holly patted Bruce, her black Scotty dog, on the head and dropped a few treats on the seat.

The dog licked her hand and whined.

She probably shouldn’t have brought him with her, but he’d been sad when she got ready to leave. He hadn’t recovered from his long stay in that kennel. Damn Uncle Peter anyway.

Holly cracked the car window so he’d have fresh air while she was gone. She opened the door and slid to the pavement.

I won’t be long, promise. She blew him another kiss before she headed toward the office. She paused and caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window.

She shoved her shoulder length, blonde hair back and regarded the face that stared back at her. It was the same face that had stared back at her for the last ten years. She needed a change, maybe a haircut, something totally different. Some new clothes--something more in tune with the times might help.

She wasn’t the same person she was five years ago--not even five weeks ago. Holly wasn’t sure who she was, but she was gradually starting to find out and put the pieces back together.

Maybe she’d go shopping after she checked in with Gino. She couldn’t buy much - money was tight right now. That alone was a new experience for her. If she got the finder’s fee from Gino today and maybe found a bargain or two, she might be able to manage to buy a couple of things.

Holly shoved open the door. Morning Lu, is he in?

Holly inclined her head toward the back room.

Louise Buckerfield pushed a stack of papers to one side, spilling a few onto the floor so she could put her Flashbacks coffee mug down on her desk. She attempted to run her fingers through the shoulder length frizz of red and blonde hair, but the fingers stuck in the tangles.

Yeah, he’s there. Go on in. You don’t look too bad considering what you’ve been through.

Thanks, I guess. A good night’s sleep helped. I’m not sure I’ve digested everything yet, but I can’t sit around thinking about it. I need the work and the money.

Yeah, I heard. It must be hard to find out you’re broke. Lu popped her bubble gum. But I’m glad you’re back. It’s nice to have another woman around here occasionally. Those other bozos don’t have no idea how to treat a lady.

Thanks Lu. I’m glad to be back. Yeah, finding out that someone has spent all your money is a bit of a shocker. I have the house though. I’m better off than a lot of people. And I do have this great job. She grinned at Lu.

Yeah, right, Lu blew another large pink bubble. It almost covered her puffy white face and pale blue eyes.

Holly held her breath for a second and waited for the bubble to burst, but Lu inhaled it without any problem. I’m hopin’ you stick around for a while.

That’s my plan. Holly tripped across to the door, knocked once and entered. She didn’t wait for an answer.

Gino was ensconced behind his huge, scarred oak desk. His oversized body didn’t fit the chair so he perched on the edge and kind of leaned back against it. A battered fedora with a limp, dirty green feather perched on the back of his head and hid his receding hairline.

The desk held a black desk phone. The edge of a dark green blotter peaked out under a pile of grubby file folders, a plate containing three Egg breakfast muffins, one with several bites taken out of it, and an oversized coffee cup, which he sipped between drags on a large, black, foul-smelling cigar.

Hey doll face, whyncha come on in and make yer self at home? He leaned a little farther back; a napkin tucked in the neck of his frayed, gray-white shirt, and scratched the back of his size eighteen neck.

I’ll do that. Thank you. Holly perched herself on the edge of the only available chair in Gino’s office. She shoved a pile of old newspapers toward the back of the chair. It left her a few grubby inches at the front edge.

So what’s the case Gino? You said something yesterday about a missing wife?

Look doll face, it’s a simple case of a wife who ran off with the milkman, or in this case, the golf pro. All you need to do is check out where they went. The P.I. for this case has to be someone who can get into the Golf and Country Club. Right up your alley. A day or two’s work --tops, nothing more. Get in, check out the information and get out. Got that? No taking any risks. Gino pulled out the large stogie he had stuffed in his mouth and blew a cloud of smoke in her direction.

Sure Gino, whatever you say. Holly waved her hand in front of her face to get rid of the smoke. She stared across at the man. He leaned back in his chair. His humungous belly hung several inches over his belt and pushed out below the napkin.

No kid, I mean it. After that last case, I don’t want ya gettin’ no more amnesia and disappearin’ for weeks. It’s not good for my business. How does it look when a P.I. can’t even keep track of his own damn staff? Ya wanna be a P.I.; ya gotta do what yer told. Ya got it?

I got it Gino. I got it. I’ll behave. I promise.

Good. How’s the head? Ya really okay?

I’m fine. The amnesia is totally gone. I have no residual problems. The doctor’s cleared me. I’m fine to come back to work.

"Good. Here’s the address ya need to start with, doll face. Lu has the file. Check in with me every morning--every morning. Got that?"

I got it Gino. I’ll check in every morning. Holly reached over to take the scrap of paper he handed her.

Get yer little fanny to work. I got things to do. Yer not the only one who works for me ya know. He shoved his grubby fedora farther back onto his head before he shuffled the pile of papers in front of him.

Got it, thanks Gino. I’ll catch you later. Oh, what about that check you owe me for the last case. Holly waited expectantly.

Oh yeah, right, the money…

Gino, you promised. I really need it.

Yeah, yeah, talk to Lu. She’ll cut you a check.

Thanks Gino. See you tomorrow. Holly scooted into the outer office.

Close the door behind you, doll face. I need to think. Gino bellowed at her receding back.

Like sure, he’s about to take a nap, Lu interjected. She rolled her eyes at Holly.

Hey, he gave me another chance. He’s the only P.I. that would. I won’t say a thing against the man.

You’re a good kid. You make sure you don’t go and get into nothin’ like you did before. You’re not a real P.I. yet, you know. You’re not supposed to be doin’ all that stupid stuff. You take care. You get into anything serious you call in for back up.

Hey, that works for me. I don’t want another case like the last one.

Good. Nice outfit.

Thanks. Holly looked down at the sleeveless, aqua blue patterned silk dress with the scoop neck and the straight skirt. The pattern was small abstract swirls of a deeper turquoise green that she knew matched the color of her eyes.

I figured I’d better wear something that fit in with the lives of the rich and famous if I wanted to get any information out of them. It’s hard to decide what to wear when the weather hovers between spring and summer.

You look great. That was a good choice.

Thanks, Lu. I probably don’t have to worry about my wardrobe too much. This case sounds pretty easy, talk to the husband and a few people at the country club. It should be over in a couple of days.

Yeah, piece of cake--poor wife. Lu made a clucking sound with her tongue.

What do you mean?

I don’t know. It’s just, you know, if she’s run off with the golf pro it’s probably ‘cause her husband’s a jerk. And then along comes you and yer goin’ to squeal on her. Me--I’m on her side. Lu blew a huge pink bubble.

It’s a case. It’s what Gino pays me for. If I don’t do it, someone else will.

Yeah, whatever, but it’s a lousy deal.

You may be right. I hope not.

You wanna do lunch today?

Sorry Lu. I’m starting this case. I’m not sure where I’ll be. I’ll take a rain check.

Sure. You take care.

I need the file and Gino said to cut me a check for the last case.

No prob. Louise shuffled through piles of folders on her desk, finally came up with one.

She waved it successfully over her head and then handed it to Holly. Here it is. It’ll take me a minute to get you your check.

Thanks Lu. Holly leaned against the wall and flipped open the file.

Lu moved her ample frame over to the filing cabinet. Can you make that Lulu?

What? Holly frowned.

I’ve decided that Louise isn’t the real me. I feel more like a Lulu, so I’ve changed my name.

I see. Sure. I’ll try to remember--Lulu. Holly glanced up from the file. With her hair, black lipstick and inch long eyelashes she was right. Lulu did suit her better than Louise.

I like it. It suits you.

Really? Yer not puttin’ me on?

No--really. Holly scanned the file.

Oh, it’s a sister that reported the woman missing. How come the husband didn’t?

Lulu shrugged and wrote. She only stopped only to chew the end of the pen.

Interesting, I wonder why a husband wouldn’t notice his wife was missing. I guess I talk to the sister first. Victor Santiago? Where do I know that name from?

He’s some hotsy totsy millionaire, lives out in Bal Harbor. Lulu handed a check to Holly.

Thanks Lu…Lulu. What does he do?

How would I know? Do I look like I keep up with the damn society pages? Lulu blew another bubble and popped it, without getting any in her large hairdo.

You’re good. Holly closed the file. We’ll see you later, probably tomorrow morning. You know, I think I’d like to get a haircut.

Yer not going to cut off that divine, gorgeous blonde hair are you? It’s so pretty. Migawd, I bet men drool over hair like that.

It’s not me. It’s the way everybody always wants me to wear my hair. It’s my mother. She chose my hair and my clothes. She wanted me to be the perfect southern belle.

It looks pretty damn good if you ask me.

Maybe, but I don’t want men to drool over me because of my hair. Yuck! Besides, I want to find out what I like, how I want to feel.

Hey, if I can change my name from Louise to Lulu then you can get yer hair cut. We have to do what we have to do.

Good point. Hey everyone shortens your name to Lu already. I don’t think you’ll have a problem switching to Lulu. If you don’t like it, you can always switch it back to Louise.

Good point. Thanks, girlfriend. I can’t wait to see your new hairdo.

You’re welcome. I’m out of here. I may be a new woman by tomorrow morning. Holly pulled open the door and stepped out of P.I. Capelleti’s office

She let the door slam behind her and tripped across the street to the six-year old yellow Volkswagen Bug parked in the no parking zone.

She stumbled on a crack in the road. Damn these heels. Four inch heels definitely weren’t meant to be worn by a P.I., even one in training.

Her first stop was to meet the client. She expected it would be someone from the wealthy Miami area. She’d dressed to fit in with that crowd.

Why couldn’t she get a case where she could wear jeans and runners?

Because Gino didn’t need her for those kind of cases, that’s why. That’s the only reason she had the job.

She glanced at the windshield to make sure there were no tickets, then opened the scrap of paper balled up in her fist. The crumpled piece of paper Gino had given her was for an address in the hospital area. When she opened the door Bruce started to bark. He jumped up and put his paws on her shoulders so he could lick her face.

Down boy, down. Holly patted Bruce’s head and pushed him into the passenger’s seat. Good boy. I’m back. Lie down. We’re going for a drive.

She kicked off her shoes and tossed them on the floor of passenger side. She slid behind the wheel. Bruce jumped down to the floor to he could sniff her shoes.

Victor Santiago was a wealthy businessman. Somewhere in the back of her mind she recalled her father commenting on the man. He hadn’t been in business long but had managed to amass the fortune quickly. It had something to do with…? What?

She couldn’t remember. Her father hadn’t been too impressed with the man Holly recalled. Damn she missed him, even after three years. He’d been her role model.

She’d talk to Santiago later. Right now, she needed to talk to the victim’s sister, Millie Gudron, and find out why she reported her sister missing. Millie lived in a house in the city, about twenty minutes from Gino’s office.

Holly glanced in the rear view mirror and ran her fingers through her shoulder length, light blonde hair. She grabbed a hunk from each side and yanked it back from her face. She sat and stared into the mirror.

Hot Damn! I will do it. I wonder if I can find someone to do it right now.

Holly jumped out of the car, raced across the street in her stocking feet. She shoved the office door open.

Lulu, who does your hair?

My hair? Why? Lulu’s hand automatically went to her head. She patted the side of her frizz.

I need a haircut and I can’t afford the hairdresser I used to go to. And I like your style.

Lulu giggled. Really? Thanks.

So?

Like sure, sorry. Ginger does my hair, just a couple of blocks from here.

Do you think she could fit me in?

Hey, I’ll give her a call. She’ll do it for me. You head over there and I’ll tell her it’s urgent. You’re sure about this?

Lulu scribbled the address on the back of an envelope and shoved it across the desk to Holly.

I’m sure. At least, I think I am. I need to do something to get on with my life. Thanks Lu.

Holly headed back out the door as Lulu picked up the phone and started to dial. You head over there. She’ll take you.

I owe you. Thanks. Lunch is on me next time. Holly dashed back to her car, slid inside and turned the key in the ignition.

The Volkswagen engine coughed once then roared loudly in response.

Holly pulled away from the curb. She hummed along, off key, to the music on the radio. If she was going to do it, she had to do it right away or she’d loose her nerve.

Eric flashed through her mind. Maybe she should talk to him. What would he think about it if she got her hair cut? Why should he think anything about it? He loved her, not her hair, right?

Holly nodded to herself. That was one of the reason she’d asked for time--to find out about herself, her likes and dislikes. If Eric loved her, he’d understand

I need to do it, right boy? She glanced at Bruce.

Seconds later, she spotted the salon and pulled into a vacant area next door. She grabbed her shoes from under the seat and pushed Bruce to one side.

You be good. I’ll get you ice cream later. Okay, boy? Holly jammed her feet into the shoes. She closed her eyes and inhaled. Then she pulled her shoulders back and tottered quickly to the door of CUT ABOVE.

Hi, Ginger?

That’s me. The tall, slightly overweight redhead was busy with an older woman in the chair. You must be Holly.

Yeah, can you fit me in?

Sure hon, anything for a friend of Lulu’s. She said you just got back. On a cruise or something weren’t you?

Yeah, Holly eased herself onto the faded rose-patterned seat cover of a wicker chair.

She glanced around the beauty parlor. It was different than the one she was used to where it had been all black and white with chrome and glass.

This was an older building, the rose paint on the walls was fading; dusty plastic plants hung from the ceiling by handmade macramé hangers. The waiting area was wicker. The seat cushions showed the wear and tear of long use and needed to be recovered.

Ginger fluffed and sprayed the hair of the woman in the chair. She appeared to know what she was doing. And Holly couldn’t be too particular at this point. She didn’t even know how much money she had, if any. She did know she couldn’t continue to live in the style she had become accustomed too. That had become crystal clear when Uncle Peter had died.

Ginger picked up the scissor to cut a few wisps of the client’s loose hair. You want a trim?

Actually, I want a cut.

Ginger stopped, scissors suspended in midair. Did I hear you say a cut?

Yeah, a cut, you know--something wild and different.

Ohmigawd, are you sure you want to cut that gorgeous hair? Your mama’d turn over in her grave if she heard that.

I guess mama’s going to have to take a spin, because the new me wants a new look.

Well hon, if you’re sure that’s what you want? You sit right there and I’ll be with you in a few minutes. There’re some hairstyle magazines beside you. Take a look and see if there’s anything in there you like. Are you absolutely sure about this? I mean once it’s gone, sugar, it’s gone.

Ginger, this hairstyle is my mother’s idea. I think it’s about time for me to find out who I want to be and how I want to look. No, I’m not sure about this, but I know I want to find out who’s hiding inside me. Who’s the real me? After all this time, I’m not even sure what I want anymore. I’m a real mess.

There you go, Lucy. Ginger picked up the hand mirror and turned the client so she could see the back of her hair."

Thanks Ginger. It looks real fine. Lucy opened her purse and laid the money on the counter.

I’ll see you next week. Good luck with your new haircut. Lucy smiled at Holly when she headed for the door.

Okay sugar, you hop up into this chair and let’s see who we can find under there.

Holly kicked her shoes off, left them under the wicker seat and sat down in the hairdressing chair.

You’re really sure about this? Ginger asked again, while she ran her fingers through Holly shoulder length hair.

Holly nodded and crossed her fingers.

Okey dokey, let’s do it. Did you see anything you liked?

Not really. I know I want it short and easy to care for, sort of wash and wear. And I want something totally different. I know this style is feminine and pretty and men like long hair, particularly long blonde hair, but I don’t think I like it. I may hate short hair. I don’t know. I’ve never had it short. If I hate it, it will grow back.

Hmmm, Ginger stood back, cocked her head to one side and then walked slowly around Holly. Maybe…

Hurry up and do it before I lose my nerve.

Ginger grabbed the scissor and chopped a section of hair off the back. It dropped to the floor and fanned out around the chair. There you go sugar. It’s too late to change your mind.

Holly stared blankly at the floor for a second then closed her eyes and leaned back. Tell me when you’re finished. You know, I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s scary, but it also feels good, kind of exhilarating. What will it look like? Will I like it?

Holly squinted through one eye then snapped the lid shut tight.

It’s just hair, hon. So, you want to find yourself, huh? I read a book on that stuff once. Thought about it myself--never did though. Ginger hummed while she snipped away. She clicked in time with the tune of the song that played on the small radio on the back counter.

Did you know Roy over at the service station is sleeping with Marge from the coffee shop?

No. I don’t think I know either of them. Lu might have mentioned them. Holly tensed each time the scissors clicked.

Probably not, I didn’t know about them, the last time she was in. Relax girl. I know what I’m doing. Marge is married, but her old man is tied to the boob tube so he hasn’t even noticed she’s out at nights. I guess maybe she’s finding herself, too. Ginger chuckled.

Ginger’s cologne wafted thickly around Holly, but she couldn’t identify the scent. What is that perfume?

What? Oh, that’s Wild Animal. Like it? I got a deal on it at the local drugstore around the corner.

It’s very--different.

I don’t think they got it on sale any more. I got this last year some time. They might have it at regular price though.

I’ll have to check it out. Holly murmured. She continued to be tense at the click of the scissors. Are you almost done?

You don’t want to rush a masterpiece, sug, be patient. Ginger moved back and forth around Holly. She ran her fingers through Holly’s hair and snipped confidently.

So who do you spend your nights with these days, sugar?

Bruce.

Ginger frowned. I don’t think I know him, do I?

No, probably not. Holly laughed. He’s my scotch terrier.

Ginger guffawed loudly, one of those old fashioned belly laughs. So you spend your nights with your little dog. Girl, let’s hope this hairdo does a little more to spice up your love life.

Actually I’m fine with it, my love life that is. Thank you very much.

Hon, you don’t want to be alone. It’s not good for you. Nature meant for man and woman to be together. Trust Ginger on this. There. Ohmigawd, you know you look like Meg Ryan with that hairdo.

Holly sneaked her left eye open a crack and then her right. Then they popped wide open and she stared at the attractive person who looked back at her.

She had short, feathered, blonde hair. It was a pixie cut. It accented her face and showed off her high cheekbones. It also illuminated her eyes and made them look larger and somehow brighter, more alert maybe.

Whatdya think? Ginger held the mirror in front of Holly and swirled the chair around.

I love it, I think. I mean it feels so strange not to have my hair hanging down. It feels so light. I do feel like a new person. Holly put her hand to the base of her neck. She tried to flip her hair, but it was all gone.

She ran her fingers through the short cut and wondered how Eric would like it. Lordy, how she missed him. She didn’t think the loneliness would be this bad, but

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