All About the Money (A Jesse Watson Mystery Series Book 7)

BOOK: All About the Money (A Jesse Watson Mystery Series Book 7)
13.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

All About the Money

by
Ann Mullen

 

http://www.aftonridge.com

Copyright © 2011 by Ann Mullen

ISBN
13:  978-0-9828776-
7-8

This book is a work of fiction. Any characters
portrayed, living or dead are imaginary. Any resemblance to actual persons is
completely coincidental. Any places, business establishments, locales, events,
or incidents in this book are the product of the author’s imagination, or used
fictitiously.

ALL
RIGHTS RESERVED

This
book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Chapter 1

Summer is a good time of the year. The weather’s nice and
warm, and it’s always much more fun than trying to survive the cold of
winter... until August comes around. Like most places, when August hits here in
the mountains it can get rather hot and humid. Only at night can one get some
relief from the heat. I thought about that as I sat on the front porch soaking
in the cool breeze of the mountain air, while sipping a glass of iced tea. I
reflected on the past six years since I’d moved here with my folks. It’s ironic
how one’s life can go from being nothing to being something really special.

Hello. My name is Jesse Watson Blackhawk. I moved to a little
piece of Heaven when I left my hometown of
Newport News
,
Virginia
, and settled in the small town of
Stanardsville
—which turned out to be laden with
beautiful scenery. I love
Virginia
. I wouldn’t want to live in any
other state. Whoever said that
Virginia
is for lovers was so right!

Stanardsville is where I was living when I discovered the
charm of country life… and I met Billy Blackhawk. Life turned completely around
for me on that day. It was the start of a whole new adventure. Adventure being
the operative word. You see, Billy Blackhawk is a private detective, and anyone
who shares his life is sure to go on the ride of their life. Being shot at,
beaten up, and chased by bad guys is just part of that ride. That’s what
happened when I took the job as Billy’s secretary. One thing led to another and
the next thing I knew, I was his gun-toting, fully licensed snoop of a wife…
and I loved it!

I had to smile at that thought. I can remember a time when I
would never had the nerve to stick a gun in someone’s face, let alone pull the
trigger. But not anymore. Now, my gun is my friend and I wouldn’t hesitate to
use it if I had to. It’s a matter of survival in this business.

Mom walked out on the porch and sat down next to me on the
steps. She had a smile on her face as she said, “The kids are down for the
count. Helene and I put them to bed, and then she turned in. She said to say
goodnight. She was beat.”

Helene Sullivan is Billy’s cousin. Her husband passed away
awhile back, and all of her children were grown and out of the house. She was
living alone and needed someone in her life… so she got us. She’s been the
children’s nanny for many moons now. She fits in perfectly with our extended
family.

“Where’re the dogs and the cat? I haven’t heard a peep from
either one of them.”

“Athena and Thor are lying by the kids’ bedroom door as
usual, and the cat is asleep on your bed. At least he was the last time I
checked.”

I laughed and said, “Our family is a real trip, aren’t we?”

“I’d say we’re pretty lucky to have such a close family.
Everyone cares about each other. Ah… and that Maisy and Ethan are adorable. You
really do have it all.”

“Yes, I do. I have two wonderful children, a close family,
and a terrific husband. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

“And you have a nice home here in
Charlottesville
that you share with your wonderful
husband… even though you don’t live with me in
Dogwood
Valley
anymore.”

“Well, I couldn’t very well marry Billy and still live in
Stanardsville with you, now could I?”

“When’s Billy supposed to get home? He missed his dinner, so
I wrapped up a plate for him and put it in the refrigerator. I hope he’s okay.”

“Oh, don’t worry about him, Mama,” I replied, looking out
into the night. “He can take care of himself. He knows what he’s doing.”

“I know he can, but I won’t be happy until he comes home all
in one piece,” she replied, hesitating just long enough to take in a deep
breath. “It’s so beautiful out here. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I’m
just sorry your father can’t be here to share it with us.”

My father passed away shortly after we moved to the
mountains.

“Me, too, Mama,” I said, touching her hand. “Me, too.”

“I have Eddie now. I’m sure your father would be happy for
me. He was such a good man. I know he wouldn’t want me to be alone.”

“You’ll never be alone, Mama. You’ll always have us.”

“I know, honey. I love my kids and my grandchildren, but a
woman needs a man in her life, if you know what I mean.”

“I sure do. I know exactly what you mean. I don’t know what
I’d do without Billy. I never really had a life until I met him. He’s the kind
of man women spend their whole life looking for. He makes me so happy.”

“There’s nothing like having the companionship of a man…
sharing life… sex…”

“Stop!” I quickly shot back as I shook my head and held up my
hand in the dark. “Too much information! I don’t think I want to hear about my
mother and her sex life. That’s one thing I can live without.”

Mom chuckled. “I’m just messing with you, Jesse. I was trying
to put your mind at ease. I know you’re worried about Billy, but I’m sure he’s
going to be just fine. He’s a tough man. Not much can get in his way, or stop
him, that’s for certain.”

“Except a bullet.”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth a chill shot down
my spine. I didn’t want to think about what Billy could be facing. This case
was another one of those simple cases that had turned out not to be so simple
after all—as usual.

Billy had made the decision that it didn’t take both of us to
sit out in a hot car all day long in the dead heat of summer, staking out the
bad guy. I had agreed. This case was about insurance fraud, one like Billy had
been on many times before. He was to watch a man who was supposed to be
disabled due to an injury on the job, get photos and then report his findings.
But we all know that sometimes things that seem so simple usually aren’t. Sometimes
they turn out to be the worst kind.

While Billy worked the case, I spent my time taking care of
the children and helping out on the planning of the big wedding. I didn’t
really help that much, but my input was appreciated.

Ah, yes… the big wedding. Now this was going to be one
celebration no one would want to miss. There was no telling what would happen
on that glorious day. Anything is possible, especially in this family. Come
September, Billy’s folks, Sarah and Chief Sam, were going to host what was sure
to be the celebration event of the year in the Watson/Blackhawk family. A
triple wedding was on the agenda. Mom and Eddie, my sister, Claire, and her new
flame, Randy Morgan, and Billy’s brother, Jonathan, and his longtime love, Lu
Ann Knots, were going to be united in holy matrimony by none other than Chief
Sam himself. Chief Sam had performed almost all of the weddings in the family
anyway, so there was no doubt about who would have the honor.

Mom had initially asked Sheriff Wake Hudson to preside over
her marriage to Eddie, but once the plans started, it was discovered that all
three couples wanted to get married about the same time. So, arrangements were
to be made. The marriage ceremonies would take place in September on the
Blackhawk Compound at Chief Sam and Sarah’s home. Sheriff Hudson offered to be
backup just in case Chief Sam had to go out on a last minute Indian raid or
something.

You see, Billy Blackhawk and his family are Cherokee
Indians—and we’re not. We’ve learned much from them, and the one thing we could
always count on was they had their own way of doing things. They would come
together and get the job done no matter what, and they were always right.
However, I’d have to draw the line at scalping anybody.

Yes, it would be a fine shindig, not one easily forgotten. We
would be talking about it for a long time to come.

That little voice in the back of my head kept telling me this
wasn’t going to be just any ordinary event. Our family couldn’t get together
without something going down, however big or small. The small ones didn’t
bother me. It was the big ones that creeped me out. I wondered what would
really transpire. Then I thought about Flo. Her case had turned out to be
nothing. Her imagination had just gotten the best of her, or so I thought.

It all started when we returned from our cruise on the
Bella
Constance
—a cruise to Bermuda that turned out to be a working vacation
involving dangerous and deadly events where people got shot, stabbed, or maimed
in the most awful way. Mom had immediately approached us and asked us to help
her friend, Flo Garner, the bookkeeper. By accident, Flo had discovered
something incriminating about one of her clients, and she was sure he was aware
of it. Her life was in danger. This man was a killer. He had murdered his
business partner and she had evidence to prove it, or so she said. Her place of
business, Garner Bookkeeping on
Coyote Road
,
had been vandalized, and she was positive she was being followed. She was
afraid he was out to silence her even if he had to kill her. Mom demanded we
take the case and help save the life of her friend. So… we did.

We went to work right away on Flo’s case. It didn’t take us
long to find out that it had been some kids who had broken into her office, and
the only person following her was us. It had yet to be determined whether or
not her claim that she had seen a receipt that could place her client at the
scene of the crime was true. She no longer had the evidence in hand.

It seems that during tax season, Wynona Rhodes, the wife of
Downer Rhodes, had dropped off their paperwork so that Flo could do their tax
returns. Two hours later, Mr. Rhodes burst into her office and demanded his
paperwork back, claiming that it wasn’t ready. He wanted to know if she had
started on the return.

She told him that she was very busy this time of year and
apologized for not being able to get to his returns just yet. What she didn’t
tell him was that she had other clients ahead of him, and she’d get to it when
she could. She also didn’t tell him that she had taken the thick folder and was
going to place it on the pile to do later when the folder fell from her hands.
Papers and receipts lay scattered about on the floor and when she went to pick
them up, a hotel receipt caught her eye. Flo played dumb.

Downer
Rhodes
’ business partner, Hank Sharp, had
been murdered, stabbed to death in a hotel room, and Downer was the first
person the police hounded. The cops had nothing, but Flo was sure she knew the
truth. That receipt could place him in
Suffolk
,
Virginia
, at the time of the murder.

When Downer Rhodes returned to Flo’s two days later, he
apologized for his behavior. He claimed that his wife was going to a fashion
show in
New York
and wanted to drop off the tax
returns and clear up other business before she left. She didn’t realize that he
hadn’t finished.

A likely story. 

However, without the receipt as evidence, which was
conveniently missing when the paperwork was brought back, we, too, had nothing
to go on. We could chase down the receipt, but we knew that would probably be
fruitless. Hotels, or the like, don’t give out that information… without some
sneaky work from a couple of private eyes who were good at their job. The time
would be lengthy and the cost would be plenty for our client. We conveyed this
message to Flo, but she didn’t bat an eyelash. All she said was, “Just fix this
for me.”

So, we set out to do the job. Two weeks later, we were dead
in the water. Billy and I had even taken a quick jaunt to
Suffolk
,
Virginia
, a four-hour drive from home. We spent the night at the
Suffolk South Inn, which wasn’t a sleazy, low-class hotel/motel as I had
imagined (I can never figure out the difference between hotel and motel), nor
was it a fabulous little Entry Run Bed and Breakfast on the South River in
Stanardsville. Instead, it was a very classy establishment with all the fine
amenities of a five-star place. Business men would’ve been in hog heaven. I
know I was.

How ironic it was to discover that all trace of the credit
card receipt that Flo claimed to exist for the hotel was non-existent. Billy
and I, being the best snooping couple in the world or at least the best in
Charlottesville and all surrounding areas for several hundred miles… and then
some, I’d like to think, could not find anything that placed Downer Rhodes in
Suffolk at the time of the murder. I say ironic because for the last couple of
days, after our initial one-night adventure at the inn and the time we had
spent dissecting every aspect of the case, I had that gut feeling there might
be something to Flo’s claim. I mean, this woman is one of those people who’ve
made it a point of seeing everything. Mom swears she doesn’t miss a thing. So,
if she says she saw incriminating evidence, there just could be something to
it. At first, I didn’t give much credit to her accusations, but then that
little voice started ranting at me again.

I might need to see a doctor about that voice in my head. I
might be losing my mind. The older I get, the worse it gets… and sometimes it’s
right scary.

I sat on the steps and thought about Mom’s friend, Flo. The
case was at a stand-still, but her face kept popping up in front of me. And
then I thought about Downer Rhodes. I looked over at Mom and asked, “What kind
of name is Downer? Where do parents come up with such horrible names to saddle
their kids with?”

BOOK: All About the Money (A Jesse Watson Mystery Series Book 7)
13.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Fook by Brian Drinkwater
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
Joan Wolf by The Scottish Lord
Coming of Age by Timothy Zahn
Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks
Brotherhood in Death by J. D. Robb