Authors: Katie Graykowski
Tags: #mystery, #small town, #Romance, #cozy
After restauranteur, Big Tommy Prather, is blown to pieces in his front yard, Mustang Ridges and her two best friends are on the case. While the local police have ruled the death an accident, Mustang and the girls suspect murder. They can prove it…sort of.
As the small community of Lakeside, Texas mourns the loss of one of its most beloved citizens, Mustang, Haley, and Monica do their level best to find someone who might want Big Tommy dead. Only…every single person they interview, loves Big Tommy. He volunteered at the food pantry, coached little league, sang in the church choir, and sponsored funding raising events for every cause under the sun. In short, he was Jesus with a beer gut.
When Haley is kidnapped by the killer, all hell breaks loose and Mustang must solve Big Tommy’s murder before her best friend is blown to pieces.
The Marilyns Series
The Lone Stars Series
PTO Murder Club Series
Texas Rose Ranch Series
Copyright © 2016 by Katie Graykowski
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced in any fashion without the express, written consent of the copyright holder.
Blown to Pieces
is a work of fiction. All characters portrayed herein are fictitious and are not based on any real persons living or dead
Table of Contents
For my daughter—keep those great one-liners coming.
Writing is often a solitary job that includes lots of staring off into space, mumbling to myself, and giggling at the conversations the characters are having in my head. As you can imagine, doing this in public makes some people uncomfortable. A big thank you to Marlena Faulkner, Catherine Avril Morris, Jane Myers Perrine, Tracy Wolff, and Emily McKay, all very talented writers who not only understand the oddities of the creative process, but are willing to debate the best way to get rid of a body...loudly, in a restaurant over dinner. An extra-large thank you to Sloan/Tracie for coming up with the whole cooking-in-the-front-yard idea. It’s so much better than what I’d planned to do.
Thank you to my husband and daughter; I am blessed to have both of you in my life. Thanks to my mother, who, bless her heart, reads EVERYTHING I write and thinks it’s all wonderful.
And last but not least, thank you to my fans. You have been most patient and kind. I hope this ending is more to your liking.
It’s taken me years to hone my be-in-the-wrong-place-at-the-right-time skills. Not everyone can boast buying the million-dollar scratch-off right after the winning one...twice.
Last week, armed with my razor-sharp skills, I got shot in the shoulder while taking down the man who killed my son’s kindergarten teacher.
Okay, I didn’t actually take down my friend’s killer. More like I tracked him down and my best friend, Haley, pulled the trigger. Now, she’s an honest-to-God badass in Burberry and Blahniks. I’m more of a Marshalls tag-blacked-out kind of girl.
Okay, tracking him down isn’t entirely accurate either—more like we stumbled upon him and then took him down.
That pretty much sums up my life. I’m a stumble-uponer and not a tracker-downer.
My name is Mustang Ridges, and I’m the reluctant president of the Bee Creek Parent Teacher Organization. I live in the retirement community of Lakeside, Texas, where spicy food has been outlawed and the main forms of exercise are golf and trophy-wife swapping.
In Lakeside you’re either rich or poor. The middle class gave up years ago and moved to Round Rock, where they wouldn’t be bullied or mocked for their less than seven-figure bank accounts.
I, however, don’t have the funds to move out of Lakeside and weigh in on the poor side. Right now I have seventeen dollars and eighty-two cents in my checking account, a full tank of gas, and a freezer full of frozen pizza. By Lakeside standards, I’m one step away from homelessness. By my standards, I’m living large.
Most of the Lakeside residents either ignore me or pretend not to gossip about the fact that six months ago, my husband, the now ex–police chief, disappeared with a million dollars of city money and possibly his mistress. To be fair, the mistress part can’t be confirmed, but the missing money is fact.
I rubbed my shoulder, and white-hot pain shot down my arm. I stared at the TV. Although I had free cable and all of the movie channels, I had a crappy old tube TV—casualty of divorce—that was doing its best to die. Today, the TV had chosen to squish the entire forty-inch picture into two inches...and everything was greener than normal. That was fine for Kermit the Frog, but Thor’s hotness level was significantly diminished by his being overly green and the size of a Happy Meal action figure.
My house was another casualty of divorce. I’d had to sell it and anything of value to pay off the credit card debt that my ex left me. Since I couldn’t afford a house payment on my measly salary as the Lakeside Regional Hospital billing manager, I was left renting. The only place I could afford was the guesthouse of Lakeside’s weirdest resident, Astrid Petrie. Per my rental agreement, I had to attend her weekly Monday night séance. She’s convinced that she’d been Cleopatra in another life, but unfortunately in this life she was a crazy old lady with more money than sense. The things I do for cheap rent.
I switched off the TV and picked up the current issue of
magazine from my coffee table. I’d already read it like eight times. I couldn’t work up the energy for a ninth, so I tossed it back on the coffee table. Staying home and recuperating was a lot tougher than it looked. I’d already taken a nap, checked my hair for split ends, vacuumed the entire guesthouse that I share with my ten-year-old son, Max, and done two loads of laundry. I checked the clock on the microwave. It was all of one thirty. Max wouldn’t be home for another two hours.
Thank God today was one of my last days in recovery prison.
I glanced at the refrigerator. I’d already eaten lunch. I guessed I could throw something in the Crock-Pot for dinner. I laugh-snorted. I didn’t own a Crock-Pot, and my sweet son was too smart to eat anything I’d attempted to make. God put two kinds of people on this world—those that cook and those that order takeout. I’m a takeout girl. If God had wanted me to learn how to cook, he wouldn’t have filled my smartphone with so many restaurant telephone numbers.
Maybe I should vacuum under the couch cushions for a third time today.
My cell rang and I didn’t even take the time to look at who was calling, because it didn’t matter. Yesterday, I’d had a lovely conversation with a telemarketer named Patrick who wanted me to change to a different cell carrier. After thirty minutes, he’d done his level best to get off of the phone with me. I can outtalk a telemarketer.
Was there a Girl Scout badge for that?
I swiped my finger across the screen. “Hello.”
I half expected it to be Patrick. We’d only begun to discuss Beyoncé’s influence on global politics and the overuse of the word “etiquette” on
The Real Housewives of Potomac
when he’d claimed that his boss was going to fire him if he didn’t get off the phone.
“I got off of work early. Meet me and Haley at TFBH,” Monica, my other best friend and fellow Parent Teacher Organization board member, said and then hung up.
The reason for the quick call was that my house was bugged—not with insects, but with listening devices. They were supposed to have been removed by Ben Jamison, the Lakeside police officer who’d put them there when he’d pretended to romance me a couple of weeks ago, but I was still wired for sound. He’d taken a rather sudden vacation four days ago, but before he left, he’d stuck a note on my door telling me to leave the bugs. Sure, I could remove them, but then the people who’d put Ben up to it and were listening in would know that I knew they’d bugged my house. Plus, I was terrorizing them with an audiobook I’d gotten from the library,
Prussian War Poetry
. I wasn’t exactly sure what language it was in, but it was boring as hell.
The other semi–love interest in my life, Daman Rodriguez, our local fake drug lord but real DEA agent, was out of town on some mysterious business of which he couldn’t talk. We’re on the ask-don’t-tell plan. I keep asking and he keeps not telling me.
I grabbed my purse and keys and headed out the door. Outside, I clicked the key fob of my brand-new Porsche Cayenne. Don’t get the idea that I can afford it, because I can’t. Portia de Glossy took the place of my old brown Ford van, Bessie, which had been crushed by a huge metal beam a few days ago. Daman was responsible for Bessie’s demise. It was hard to hold a grudge after he delivered Portia to me. It was an expensive gift that I only planned on keeping until I could afford another car. I’m fairly sure that Daman understands this, but talking to the man is sometimes like talking to a wooden fence post that only understands Mandarin or marten.
I clicked the key fob twice again. The SUV came with a special bomb-detecting device. Apparently, someone named Cervantes who ran the criminal element in Lakeside wanted me dead. Well, he had last week, but since all two of the contract killers in Lakeside were now dead, I was pretty sure that Cervantes was out of people to murder me. Daman wasn’t so sure, so now I had a car that detected bombs and a purple handgun that I refused to load with bullets...mainly because I couldn’t figure out how, but that’s beside the point.
Some people think I have an anger management problem, but I disagree. I feel like anyone who cuts me off or steals my parking place deserves what’s coming to them. See why my carrying around a loaded gun is a problem? Besides, if I want to kill someone, it’s so much easier to run them over with my car.
The TFBH, or Trust Fund Baby’s house, to which Monica was referring was sort of our secret clubhouse. The owner, Trust Fund Baby, was out of town for the winter staying at his other house on some Caribbean island. I can’t remember his name or the island where he and his wife were currently lounging ocean side, but I’m sure it’s nice. Here’s the thing about Trust Fund Baby’s house. We used it for more than just a meeting place. A couple of weeks ago while investigating Molly, the kindergarten teacher’s murder, we stumbled across a lot of money and even more gold coins. We’d been storing them at TFB’s house until we could figure out what to do with them.
I turned onto TFB’s street and waved to Big Tommy Prather, who lived four doors down and was cooking in his front yard. I loved Big Tommy. He was also a fellow have-not, but he didn’t take Lakeside’s snootiness lying down. Since his house had been built sometime after the Civil War but before Lakeside was incorporated, it was grandfathered in, and so were all of the pink-plastic flamingos, hubcaps welded together for fencing, wind chimes made out of old car parts, and toilets used as planters. But my favorite things junking up Big Tommy’s yard—apart from the sidewalk made entirely of bottle caps and the life-sized statue of Willie Nelson made out of used chewing gum—were the huge pot and gas burner he used to make his world-famous chili. Yep, Big Tommy cooked everything in his front yard, and there was nothing the city of Lakeside or his neighbors could do about it.
He waved me over. “I’ve got a pot of Texas Red going. It’s almost ready. Want a bowl?”
For you non–native Texans, Texas Red is code for chili. No idea why.
Here’s the thing about chili. I don’t actually like it. In Texas, chili haters are even less popular than vegans, so I hide my shame from my fellow Texans. If my secret ever got out, I’d probably be deported to Arkansas or possibly even Canada. “Sure. Wait, isn’t today your day off?”