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The Texas Medicine Murders: Denny McConnell PI, #3

The Texas Medicine Murders: Denny McConnell PI, #3

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The Texas Medicine Murders: Denny McConnell PI, #3

Length:
453 pages
6 hours
Released:
Oct 15, 2020
ISBN:
9781622538447
Format:
Book

Description

A cure for cancer is stolen in Dallas, Texas, and now people are being killed. Denny McConnell, PI, is on the case.

When the young woman who, with four others, stole the promising cancer medicine is knifed in the gut, Denny is hired by her mother to find the killer. Soon after, Denny is kidnapped and mistaken for a man who stole a plutonium purification process, and he becomes enmeshed in an increasingly deadly affair. A week later, the young woman's best friend is shot along a freeway.

Intrigue builds and bodies continue to drop in a seemingly endless string of crimes. Finally, an assassin working for the woman who instigated the medicine theft comes for Denny, and more bizarre twists follow.

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS another entertaining, intriguing romp by one private investigator through some deadly wheeling and dealing in the Great State of Texas. [DRM-Free]

BOOKS BY KENT SWARTS:

  • Denny McConnell PI – Book 1: A Family Feud Texas Style
  • Denny McConnell PI – Book 2: A Savvy Way to Kill
  • Denny McConnell PI – Book 3: The Texas Medicine Murders
  • ...and Books 4-5 are works in progress, so stay tuned.

MORE GREAT CRIME/MYSTERY FICTION FROM EVOLVED PUBLISHING:

  • The "PI Kowalski" Series by Chris Krupa
  • "10-30" and "Dormir" by Michael Golvach
  • "The Oz Files" Series by Barry Metcalf
  • The "Duncan Cochrane" Series by David Hagerty
  • "The Syndicate-Born Trilogy" Series by K.M. Hodge

 

Released:
Oct 15, 2020
ISBN:
9781622538447
Format:
Book

About the author

Kent Swarts was an aerospace engineer for 46 years, and is now an astronomer. He has edited the Central Texas Astronomical Society’s newsletter for 15 years. He’s published in six sci-fi and dystopian anthologies. Now retired, he finds retirement more demanding than any job he’s had. He lives in Waco, Texas with his wife and dog, and when not writing, he reads or goes golfing. Engineering has influenced his writing, particularly pertaining to characters and to penning sci-fi.

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The Texas Medicine Murders - Kent Swarts

Copyright

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THE TEXAS MEDICINE MURDERS

Denny McConnell PI – Book 3

Copyright © 2020 Kent Swarts

~~~

ISBN (EPUB Version): 1622538447

ISBN-13 (EPUB Version): 978-1-62253-844-7

~~~

Editor: Katherine McIntyre

Cover Artist: Kabir Shah

Interior Designer: Lane Diamond

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PUBLISHER’S NOTE:

At the end of this novel of approximately 100,856 words, you will find two Special Sneak Previews: 1) BROOMETIME SERENADE by Barry Metcalf, the first book in The Oz Files series of crime thrillers from Down Under, and; 2) RED ON THE RUN by K.M. Hodge, the first book in the Syndicate-Born Trilogy series of futuristic crime thrillers. We think you’ll enjoy these books, too, and provide these previews as a FREE extra service, which you should in no way consider a part of the price you paid for this book. We hope you will both appreciate and enjoy the opportunity. Thank you.

~~~

eBook License Notes:

You may not use, reproduce or transmit in any manner, any part of this book without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews, or in accordance with federal Fair Use laws. All rights are reserved.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only; it may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return to your eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

~~~

Disclaimer:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.

Books by Kent Swarts

DENNY McCONNELL PI

Book 1: A Family Feud Texas Style

Book 2: A Savvy Way to Kill

Book 3: The Texas Medicine Murders

~~~

www.EvolvedPub.com/KSwarts

BONUS CONTENT

We’re pleased to offer you not one, but two Special Sneak Previews at the end of this book.

~~~

In the first preview, you’ll enjoy the First 4 Chapters of Barry Metcalf‘s award-winning BROOMETIME SERENADE, the first book in the fantastic The Oz Files series of crime thrillers from Down Under.

~~~

~~~

OR GRAB THE FULL EBOOK TODAY!

FIND LINKS TO YOUR FAVORITE RETAILER HERE:

THE OZ FILES Series at Evolved Publishing

In the second preview, you’ll enjoy the First 2 Chapters of the award-winning RED ON THE RUN, the first book in USA Today Bestselling Author K.M. Hodge’s The Syndicate-Born Trilogy.

~~~

~~~

OR GRAB THE FULL EBOOK TODAY!

YOU’LL FIND LINKS TO YOUR FAVORITE RETAILER HERE:

THE SYNDICATE-BORN TRILOGY at Evolved Publishing

Table of Contents

Copyright

Books by Kent Swarts

BONUS CONTENT

Table of Contents

Dedication

THE TEXAS MEDICINE MURDERS

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

About the Author

More from Kent Swarts

What’s Next?

More from Evolved Publishing

Special Sneak Preview: BROOMETIME SERENADE by Barry Metcalf

Special Sneak Preview: RED ON THE RUN by K.M. Hodge

Dedication

I wish to dedicate this novel to my wife for her unswerving love while I edited, rewrote, and edited. She made no complaints when I declined engagements in order to get the three pages just right. Thank you, my love.

Chapter 1

If I had been on time to pick up Liza, we might have prevented Gwen’s murder.

However, on the way to get her for our first date, I had a flat tire and called her to say I’d be late. Shortly, she rang me to tell me to hurry but gave no details. She called again five minutes later.

Where are you? Liza asked. I told you it was urgent! Gwen, my BFF, told me she needs to talk right away. That means now, not tomorrow.

She sounded stressed. Why was she so impatient?

I said, You drive there. I’ll meet you at Gwen’s, and we can head to the musical from her house.

She gave me the address and mentioned that Gwen lived with her mother. As she spoke, I was tightening the lugs on the spare, so I could possibly arrive within five minutes of her.

I parked on the street expecting the house to be lighted, but it was dark. Light shone from the backyard. The moment I entered, I saw a woman’s body swinging lifelessly on a hammock in the breeze. She lay crossways with her legs dangling over the far side.

Liza sat slumped in the grass next to Gwen with her head down. I ran to her. She grabbed my hand and pointed at Gwen. The woman had a carving knife jammed into her belly to the hilt, and a slit about three inches long ran up her abdomen toward her diaphragm. Her mouth sagged open, but not like a scream—worse. Blood still oozed and dripped into the grass, and Gwen’s face had not yet paled or turned lifeless. Her hair was not matted, her makeup had not run, and there was no evidence of sweat. She had not fought for her life.

Liza sobbed and clutched a lifeless hand. Gwen, Gwen, Why?

Given Gwen’s physical state, her assailants had left shortly before Liza arrived. I walked around the yard, looking for the culprits or evidence in case they were careless. I found nothing, saw nothing suspicious, and heard no one rattle a gate. When I got back to Liza, she said she called 9-1-1. I looked at the house—no broken windows and the back door was closed. Not a break-in.

The cops came, the coroner arrived shortly after, and two detectives last. The investigators separately questioned us for half an hour before they started interviewing neighbors.

I stood by one of the trees the hammock was tied to when Mrs. Henderson, Gwen’s mother, arrived. MICU was wheeling the body to the ambulance. Mrs. Henderson knew from all the police cars and ambulances out front what lay in store. She ran to her daughter and grabbed at the body, asking if she would live, even though Gwen was clearly dead. Two police pulled her away.

She covered her face and said over and over, None of this would have happened if Gwen hadn’t gotten mixed up with that guy.

A detective asked, What do you mean?

Mrs. Henderson said, A man I’d never seen before paid her for something, but I didn’t hear what the money was for.

The more they questioned her, the vaguer she became.

I talked with a detective once again for a few minutes only because he flagged me down.

You see anything?

I already told the other guy no. I theatrically waved.

I mean evidence. He smacked one hand on the other.

I told the other guy no. The dick didn’t listen. There are some interesting unknowns though.

Yeah, like what? He stepped closer.

It’s night. Why was she in the hammock with the back door locked? Why are the yard lights on but none in the house? Obviously, she didn’t put up a fight, so was she expecting them, or was she with the murderers when they came in the yard? And where did the knife come from? Answer all that, and you find the killers.

Why do you think more than one?

Why would there be less than two? One of them led her to the hammock, and the other stabbed her. It’s the only way it could work, given the scene.

He nodded but oddly. We’ve been talking to your girlfriend, but she’s distraught and not making a lot of sense.

This is our first date, so she’s not a girlfriend. Great date, huh?

He looked at me as if I was one of the many lowlifes he’d met. Yeah, he said dryly. You know anything about the ‘something’ the lady mentioned? That’s where I was going.

Not a thing. Do you think I’m an accomplice? Are you trying to ask a trick question so I’d screw up?

The guy had to have been a beat cop, not an educated investigator. He was short enough to be a circus clown.

I wasn’t usually sarcastic with the police, but tonight had started badly between the flat tire and the murder. The police hadn’t been pleasant with anyone, sounding official and less than concerned about how we felt. They had a duty and that was about all they were doing. I wanted to hold Liza and offer comfort, but they hounded her. One of the young uniformed cops put a blanket around her shoulders, and I had gotten her water to drink. She kept glancing around in desperation, but no one paid attention. My heart cried for her.

One of the paramedics called his name. He walked away without answering. I made one mental note regarding the ‘something,’ and I went to find Liza.

She sat consoling Mrs. Henderson. Liza held several Kleenex and periodically dabbed her eyes. The two women hugged and then sat holding hands. Liza looked at me and nodded in a distressed manner. I looked around but saw nothing. After her third nod, each becoming more exaggerated, I decided she was motioning me to the car. Apparently, she planned to stay.

As I rounded the front of the house toward my car, I noticed two men standing on the sidewalk two houses down. They glanced at me and continued talking. I got in my car, hit my fist on the wheel, and headed to the nearest bar.

The night continued to spiral down. I slumped onto a bar stool and ordered a mug of Amstel Dark Ale. I downed half and set the frosty mug on the counter before I looked around. The place was half full, most folks wearing work clothes, and the two pool tables were occupied. I turned back to the bar and gazed at myself in the mirror that ran along its length. I looked ragged. I needed a haircut, my shirt was buttoned incorrectly, and my jacket had a grease stain on the lapel from changing the tire. I could tell my glasses needed cleaning. Other than that, I looked passable but not great by any means. I couldn’t shake the dead woman. Her lifeless figure hung in my mind as questions about her death and her killers raced around. What did Liza know that she told no one tonight?

I worked as a PI and viewed myself as a modern Philip Marlowe, except I didn’t smoke, and like Mr. Marlowe, I didn’t carry a gun or care for most investigators. And like Chandler’s hard talking detective, I had a rock-solid code of conduct, even if I looked like a schmuck.

I was your average nice guy. I stood at five-eleven, had the body of a swimmer, and the endurance of a camel, maybe a young one. I lived life as if it would end with a bang, and relished fine cuisine more than most. Married and divorced, I enjoyed the time I was hitched, but after the divorce, I became afraid of the fairer sex. My relationships with women often collapsed like a house built from a deck of cards. This aspect of my character haunted me. What I didn’t know was that the condition would shortly almost become paranoia.

As a side note, I had now solved two murder cases. The second investigation, actually involving two connected murders, had gone smoother than the first because I learned quickly from my mistakes during the first one. Both dealt with women, one suing her relatives and the other where two women had been charged with murder neither committed. I found it difficult to talk with the two younger women, although I was quite comfortable speaking with the one older woman. Tonight, my brief conversations with Lisa while I changed the tire fueled my trepidation. Still I solved the crimes and freed the women.

Drowning in my self-pity, I glanced in the mirror at two large men wearing sports jackets as they walked to a booth near the exit and sat. One glanced in my direction and whispered to his buddy. After I finished the beer, I headed to the exit. The two men stood and walked to either side of me.

You’re coming with us, Mr. Pigeon.

You’ve got the wrong person. I looked him up and down and turned.

The boss will determine that. He’s had us following Gwen and Liza. You coming gracefully, or does Louie need to help?

Louie looked huge, gorilla-like.

Did they witness the murder? Besides being pulled along by them, I had a motive to go with them.

Louie’s grip tightened to the point it grew painful, and he threw me into the backseat of a black Cadillac. Louie told Dave to drive. I memorized the license plate number. Louie and I sat in the back seat while Dave sped east on I-30, exited onto the George Bush Turnpike, and then got onto the Dallas North Tollway. Leaving the Tollway at Trinity Mills Road while heading west, he turned right at a sign that said Glen Eagles Country Club.

While he drove, I kept looking between the two men, wondering what they would do with or to me. Both were large and spoke gruffly. Afraid of being roughed up at the location they drove toward, I tried, unsuccessfully, to think of ways to bail out. I sat, sweating and gazing between them.

We pulled into a circle drive in front of a two-story dark red brick and Texas limestone mansion. The double front entrance was arched and at least ten feet tall. A woman stood next to the two open doors, as we walked to the house. Why didn’t they blindfold me? Why don’t they care if I know where I am? Stuck in my plight, I didn’t notice the woman until she spoke.

Good evening, Harry. We hope your ride was pleasant.

It was not.

The grease-painted, longhaired, tallish blonde stuck a cigarette in her mouth, lit it, and motioned us into the large hexagon-shaped foyer finished in wood paneling. She left us, taking an elegant staircase to the second floor. My captors shoved me through a study to the left of the foyer and into a large sitting area with two sofas facing each other and a fireplace between them at the end of the room.

Sit. Mr. Davenport will see you in a moment.

I don’t suppose one last plea or looking at my driver’s license would change my situation?

Sit, or I’ll seat you, said Dave.

Five minutes passed before Davenport walked in and sat across from me. While I waited, I tried to take in the room and the two men who stood silently with arms crossed. My heart didn’t stop racing, and sweat continued to run down my neck. Inside I felt like a back vibrator.

A medium height, slim man walked in. I apologize for the way my men treated you, but it was necessary. I do hope you understand. He paused, and I offered nothing. All I want are the plans for the process. I don’t need details, only the sketch. Lou, get us a paper and pencil.

What process would that be? The one I know nothing about, or the one I don’t know shit about? I’m not Mr. Harry Pigeon. I’m Denny McConnell. I started to reach for my wallet, but two guns whipped up faster than a rabbit could change direction.

Davenport stood and motioned to the bar. Louie poured two drinks and gave them to Davenport who handed me one. Don’t try my patience, Pigeon, or you’ll be dead. Start enumerating.

I took a small sip and set the glass on the coffee table between us. Bourbon. I didn’t drink bourbon. I glanced at Louie who still kept his gun pointed at me. I picked up the yellow #2 pencil and drew a bucket on the sheet of printer paper. The process starts with dirt, clay, or topsoil, doesn’t matter, and it requires concrete again—whatever the hell kind you want. I’m still not the person you think I am.

Davenport stood and motioned for Louie. Show Harry some hospitality.

Louie jerked me to my feet and slugged me on the jaw. I hurtled over the back of the sofa and landed on the wooden floor with a resounding thud that added to the pain. A lamp that stood on the sofa-back followed me over and shattered.

Davenport stood above me and kicked me twice in the stomach, not hard, but I knew who was boss. He motioned me to my feet. I stood and held onto the back of the sofa to stabilize myself. You can have him do this all night, but I can’t answer because I don’t know! I told you, I’m Denny—

Gents, take Pigeon and waste him. We’re getting nowhere. Davenport quickly left the room.

A slender brunette stood by the door, and as he left, he reached for her hand. They walked away, and she closed the door. I wondered if that was his wife.

Come on, bud. You’re going for a drive.

They guided me through two rooms and out a door on the side of the house to an old, beat-up Pontiac. Louie shoved me in the driver’s seat and got in the back. Drive north on the Tollway. I’ll tell you when to get off. He stuck a revolver in the back of my head.

I gripped the wheel tighter and tighter, hoping he wouldn’t pull the trigger. I didn’t think I could drive with how badly I shook. Somehow I managed to start the car, put it in gear, and steer.

Take the next exit and pull left into the construction area. Follow the tracks toward the overpass.

I turned left between sawhorses that said ‘Construction: Stay Out.’ I drove slowly, bumping over dirt mounds and ruts until I came to a ramp that headed up and over the highway. It simply stopped on the far side. I glanced left and right, trying to figure a way out. The sweat poured from my head and ran down my neck. I wanted to wipe the perspiration away but was afraid to take my hands off the steering wheel.

That’s where we’re headed. He waved the gun in front of my face.

A fella could die if he drove off the edge. I felt like the coyote in the Roadrunner cartoon the moment he realized his next move was perilous.

You got the idea, said Louie.

I crept ahead, trying to figure out how they could kill me while keeping Louie safe. I supposed he’d jump at the last moment and the car would fly through the night until it crashed forty feet below, killing me.

As I got to the edge, he said, Stop. You’re committing suicide. Keep your hands on the wheel.

I stopped and inadvertently took my hands off.

Louie hit my skull with the pistol. Get them on the wheel, now!

I grabbed the wheel as hard as I could to keep from crying out in pain.

Dave’s car hit the back of mine and stopped.

I watched Louie exit in the rearview mirror on the door. He got out, still pointing the gun at my head. Don’t move, Ace.

I remained stoic with my hands on the wheel.

Yeah, Dave. Do it.

He had turned ever so slightly toward Dave. I heard Dave race his engine, and my car moved toward the edge. Suddenly, I slammed the pedal to the floor, turned a hard right, and kept my foot on the accelerator. Once the car spun, I pointed it down the ramp and into the dirt tracks at 70 mph. Gunshots echoed, but nothing hit the vehicle. The dirt section bounced the car and me with it. Once on Legacy Drive heading west, I ran three stoplights. My forehead dripped perspiration into my eyes, and my hands were so wet they slipped on the wheel no matter how hard I grabbed it. Shortly after crossing under Sam Rayburn Tollway, I ran another red light, then slowed, checking the rearview mirror before I turned onto a familiar street. Shaking, sweating, and heart pounding, I headed to the Dallas North Tollway. After exiting the Tollway, I stopped the car in a strip center on Mockingbird Lane near my home, wiped it down with a dirty towel I found lying on the back floorboard, and walked the rest of the way. Wiping the car down was a panacea for the terror that had kept my heart in my throat and thoughts of revenge raging.

That night, I didn’t even try to sleep. I sat on the kitchen counter, gazing at the pool in the backyard. I assumed Mr. Davenport ordered Gwen killed. It made sense, but on the other hand, I doubted she had any connection to a process. She was the most junior lawyer employed by an undistinguished law firm that dealt mostly with bankruptcy and divorce. This was my total knowledge of Gwen at this point.

The people who had her killed also tried to kill me. That much I knew. Although wanting to pursue the two connected crimes, I had to think about the cost. I had no money. PIs did society a great service, at least this PI tried, but most didn’t make enough money to live above the poverty level. If I could solve the two crimes on one tank of gas and sixty dollars, I would. That realization took me back to the days after Vought laid me off.

Once I left Vought Aerospace, I started looking for a job in my field, but each time I interviewed for a position, I was unenthusiastic. The person interviewing me picked up on that and didn’t call back. Realizing I had invested my life, marriage, and soul in engineering without accomplishing some unknown goal, I quit looking. I needed a different career. As time went on, my meager savings dwindled, and I could no longer afford my apartment. I needed an inexpensive place to stay too.

Through the law firm that hired me for my engineering skills, I found a dirt-cheap place. The owners paid me to live there. It was a three-story, executive home worth well over two million dollars in University Park in North Dallas. I, Denny McConnell, PI, house-sat the Dallas residence while the owners cavorted across Europe as they’d been doing now for the last seven months. The house made me feel like I didn’t live in poverty.

Still sitting on the counter, I turned my contemplations to Liza. Was she okay? Was our meeting by chance?

Chapter 2

Several weeks ago, Liza and I met at a party while I investigated a jewelry theft. Two months preceding this night’s dinner, Ms. Susana Dickinson hosted a party to benefit a charity. During that party, someone stole diamond jewelry. She told me she invited a few people to dinner who had attended her previous party and considered several of these guests possible thieves. I was invited to ferret out the thief. It was not the way to go about an investigation, but she paid for my services, which made her the decision maker.

About twenty people were seated at the elegant table, and formally dressed waitstaff served us. She placed me between two couples she believed to be the culprits. Neither person beside me seemed the least bit obnoxious or unusual. The lady who sat across from me and next to a good-looking young woman and her date appeared old and tired. Susana told me most were long-time friends but said nothing else.

None of the attendees fit the bill. However, I met the young woman’s gaze several times, and she winked. She introduced herself as Liza.

Several days before the party, Charles Tilden, Dickerson’s lawyer and my good friend, told me over the phone Susana had called the police upon discovering pieces of jewelry missing, and after three weeks, they told her they found no one but would keep looking. The insurance company was no better and said it could take a year before they would declare the theft a loss. With two disappointments, she called Charles Tilden to ask what he might offer. He recommended me, and Susana told him she would have a dinner party and invite people she considered suspects.

Charles said, Hey, I tried to talk her out of it, but it’s her nickel. Enjoy a great meal and an evening hobnobbing with Dallas society.

During the party, Liza’s boyfriend drank too much and became overly loud. After dinner, the guests roamed around drinking and laughing. Susana used the party to raise money for asthmatic research related to children. With people writing sizable checks, I headed upstairs to snoop. I slipped out of a room I had searched, and Liza and I bumped into each other in a hallway. We stood face to face in the dim light, studying each other.

If you’re snooping, you probably shouldn’t be.

She said, But, of course, you should.

Let’s snoop together. I had a purpose.

She asked, What is it you’re looking for?

Thieves.

She gave me a curious wink and nod.

I told her I was searching the upstairs to find out if Susana hid some jewelry and accused others of stealing it. I had a case where the guy told me somebody stole his Super Bowl ring. I found out he pawned it. I concluded, telling her I didn’t want some similar occurrence with Ms. Dickinson.

I offered to run downstairs and get us drinks. A circular stairway led from the master bedroom to the library below us. She asked me to shove her date into the pool if I passed him. When I went to the bar, I noticed him hitting on a girl in a red dress half his age. I took our drinks back to the sitting room. Liza stood by the French doors to a balcony with her hand on the knob when I entered. She whirled and stifled a yelp with one hand. She sighed when she realized it was me.

Your drink, I said.

Thanks. Did you take care of my request? she asked.

No. He’s much bigger than I am. Besides, he was romancing a young chick. I didn’t want him to neglect her.

I’m not going home with him.

Then, my dear, let me ply you with drink, and we’ll head to my place. It’s more pretentious than this castle.

I’m supposed to be impressed that you’re rich?

Au contraire, I have no money and live in a fabulous house I don’t own. You don’t meet that combination of person every day.

She laughed and asked what I did. I countered by asking her whether she understood what I was doing here. She said Oh.

We touched glasses and drank bottoms up. I hurried to the bar for refills and returned before the moment we shared could pass. When I came back and handed her the drink, we continued our conversation for a bit. I offered to get her a third drink, and she looked at me like roadkill.

I don’t want to be accused of neglect over your empty glass.

I’m fine, thank you. She chuckled and wiped some chocolate off my cheek with a hanky.

She stood taller than me, and fortunately, her long blonde hair was in a ponytail, or she would have towered over me. She wore bright red-framed glasses over brilliant blue eyes and had a button nose that seemed a bit small for her face. Both thin and narrow hipped, she had a boyish build, but her delightfully soft voice made her decidedly feminine. She wore a pullover and pants with a wide brown belt and matching tennis shoes. She stood out from the crowd in a nice way.

So, what do you do, I asked.

I’m a freelance writer. I write articles for companies and products for a living. She smiled and leaned back, throwing an arm over the back of the sofa. I, too, earn an insignificant living. I’ve never thought about house sitting, but I suppose I could save money doing that.

As long as you don’t inadvertently trash the house. A client and I were sitting in the family room when someone tried to assassinate her with a large caliber rifle. I paid to get the house fixed out of my commission. At least they let me stay.

I wouldn’t have. If I owned the house, you’d be out within an hour.

I winced. You aren’t very understanding.

I think selfishly. I wouldn’t want to be sitting in my family room and be assassinated, as you eloquently put it.

If you’re in Europe, why would you care as long as it was justifiable roomicide?

She twitched a finger and gave me a disgusted look. I’m selfish.

She stood and walked to the French doors looking out on gardens. It’s a beautiful night.

It is, but you’re more gorgeous. If you aren’t going home with your boyfriend, how about going with me?

How about this—no. Call me a cab. I’m out of here.

I made the call and walked with her downstairs. If I humbly apologize, may I have your number? I like you.

As we walked to the street, she said nothing. The cab pulled up, and she got in. She rolled down the window a crack and stated her name and phone number.

That was how we met, but I hadn’t called her for two weeks. And then, I phoned and asked her to a Dallas Musical. She said yes, and our one date began and ended in murder.

Chapter 3

This morning, I awoke freezing and reached for a blanket that wasn’t there. Old Sol hid behind ominous clouds that rolled across Dallas from the north. A cold wind blew across the patio and had nearly buried me in sleet on the lawn recliner where I slept. I looked at the ice on the floor of the kitchen as I dashed in.

I started coffee, poured a small glass of tomato juice, and plopped a bagel in my new digital toaster, which was as impressive as the space shuttle. After I ate, I showered and put on a sports jacket over a button-down dress shirt because I had a meeting with Charles and our mutual client, Ms. Susana Dickinson. As I flew out the door, late, I chided myself for being so forward with Liza. I supposed better late than never.

Ashcroft, Smith, Tilden & Tocqueville was an established Dallas law firm specializing in land and oil disputes. On occasion, they provided legal service if the person was already a client. My contact, Charles Tilden III, was the son of the Charles Tilden II, a partner in the law firm.

Charles’s office was large, ordinary, and painted beige. I once told him bland was only for nursing homes. He shrugged. Family was his thing. The meeting with Dickinson started late. We talked about her party for thieves and the lack of suspects. She said the guests she distrusted, while nice and sincere, were too slow-witted to pull off any theft. I agreed, and none I talked with had an apparent motive. We chatted about other possible suspects but got nowhere. In passing, she mentioned a Ms. Henderson. That led me to tell them about the murder and my abduction. Charles looked at me horrified as I talked about Gwen’s death and my kidnapping and escape. Susana paled and wrung her hands.

Susana did not know about Henderson’s daughter’s death. Denny, Ms. Henderson is a dearie, she said nervously. We’re not close. She paused. I must get a note off to Virginia and find out what charity she wants to support. Gwen was so vivacious.

I skeptically asked, Ms. Dickinson, why would you call Gwen vivacious? She’s a lawyer.

Charles looked at me as though I jabbed him with a knife.

Lively. Maybe that’s a.... For one thing, she tends to trust people she doesn’t know well, and she lives her life on social media. While I’m surprised she’s dead, I wouldn’t be astounded to hear that she found herself in trouble.

She apparently knew the girl well. If need be, I might talk to her privately. Due to my lack of funds, I hadn’t decided one way or the other about pursuing either crime.

From the two previous meetings I had with Charles and Susana, I found she called men dear and women dearie. Dogs were pooches or bitches, and cats were ‘those nasty things.’ She had life figured out better than most.

Charles stroked his chin while Susana talked about the dearies. Within a minute, he got us back on our current matter. Since the dinner was a fiasco, Charles suggested she cull her list using the criteria I gave. I asked her to think about people who had a downward change in wealth or who drove a car more than three years old. She asked why cars mattered.

According to statistics, I said, the average length of car ownership by the rich was about two years and eight months. Thus, if anyone has a car older than three years, they are suspect.

She rattled off three names. "Grace Owens’s husband divorced

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