Chilled in Chattanooga (A Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery Book 4) (7 page)

BOOK: Chilled in Chattanooga (A Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery Book 4)
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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

F
our hands grabbed for the notebook. Detective Sams won, snatching it faster than a coon dog treeing a squirrel. “Let me see what we have here. Suspect list?”

“Uh, we were just brainstorming, Detective. It doesn’t mean we were going to do anything with it. By the way, I wanted to tell you about Tippi Colston. She was right outside Annie’s door when I went to visit her. And Annie tore up a paper George wrote. He threatened her before the whole class. You can ask them.”

“I fully intend to. I don’t think you’ll need this list, so I’ll just take it with me.” She skimmed the list. “You’ve been busy, haven’t you?” She ripped out the page Dee Dee made her notes on. “I told you before, I’d investigate this case to the fullest. When there is as much evidence as there is against you then you automatically shoot to the top of the list. It doesn’t mean we won’t look at others, but you need to leave it to the professionals.”

Nana spoke up. “She is a professional. She’s solved three cases already. And I helped.”

“Yes ma’am, I’m sure she was an asset to those cases, but she’s a person of interest in this one. That means hands-off. Do you understand?” Detective Sams looked from me to Dee Dee and back to me.

“I definitely understand what you said, Detective.” I understood what she said, but it didn’t mean I was going to keep my hands off this case. It was my bootie that was at risk of being thrown in the caboose, and I didn’t trust the detective to clear my name.

“All right then, I’ll be on my way. I don’t want anyone else calling in with information you’re sleuthing on your own.”

Well my goodness, we were in agreement, I didn’t want anyone calling in either.

“Let me know if you change hotels and I’ll be in touch with you soon.” She touched the bill of her hat with her hand, turned on her heel and sauntered out of the lobby. Sergeant Sargent gave me one last smirk before he hurried to catch up with the detective.

I looked over at Nana to find her sound asleep in the chair. Her mouth stood wide open and a little bit of drool slid down her lip. She snored like a bear.

Dee Dee’s stomach emitted a growl louder than Nana’s snoring. “Yikes, look at the time. No wonder I’m hungry. It’s afternoon already.” She glanced at Nana. “What are we going to do with her?”

“I’d like to get some lunch, but we need to wake her and take her back to the room first.” I’d no sooner got the word “lunch” out of my mouth when her head popped up like a jack-in-the-box.

“Did someone mention food?” She shot us a glance. “I’m so hungry I could eat an elephant.” I’ve seen Nana eat and she wasn’t far off.

“Sounds good to me. Let’s make a new list while we eat.” I didn’t want to waste a minute – even though she seemed sincere, Detective Sams most likely had more than one case on her hands. She needed the help, right?

A commotion in the lobby startled me from my musings, and I followed the sound. A couple of skipping elves led a rowdy group of children. I guess elves were big this time of year in Chattanooga.

“How about the Garden Restaurant for lunch?” Dee Dee offered. “It’s located right off the lobby and Nana won’t have far to walk.”

“Sounds great, let’s go.” Nana jumped up, but sat right back down. “Whoa, not feeling as spry as I thought.” Dee Dee laughed. I didn’t think it was quite so funny. I needed to call Mama and see if she’d help with Nana, but I didn’t want to interrupt her vacation. After lunch I had to make some calls.

I jumped when Alan Jackson’s Chattahoochee rang out from my purse. I forgot I’d changed the ring tone. I looked at the caller I.D. and groaned. “Hello, Harv.”

“Trixie. You said you’d call me back. I waited as long as I could. We’re on a deadline you know.” I nodded in agreement, but Harv kept right on going. “Are you making any progress on the Ghoston murder?”

“Uh, I’ve been working on it Harv.”

I waved for Dee Dee and Nana to go on to the restaurant without me. “I’ll catch up. It’s Harv.” Dee Dee nodded and put her arm around Nana’s waist as she led her forward.

“What’s going on, Trixie?” Harv growled.

“I was just telling the girls to go eat without me, I’d catch up.” Harv’s a taskmaster for sure, but even he wouldn’t object to me taking time to eat. “Harv, there’s been a little hitch in my plans.”

“A little hitch, Trixie? I don’t like the sound of that.” I heard Harv’s squeaky desk chair. He needed to oil that old thing. I imagined him removing his feet from his desk and leaning over in a serious pose. “Spit it out, girl. I don’t have all day.”

I held back the tears, I didn’t want to leave an impression I couldn’t handle my job. “I found a dead body in the deep freeze,” I sniffed.

“I thought I heard you say you found a body in the freezer. I know you didn’t say that. Did you, Trixie?” It was time to put on my big girl panties and come clean with the truth.

“That’s what I said.” I gulped back a sob. “Now I’m a person of interest in the case.”

“Who was it and how did you wind up in the middle of a murder investigation?”

“It was, Annie Henderson, my teacher, from the intensive workshop. I was the last person to be alone with her. When the police found poisoned tea in my room my fate was sealed. I’m their prime suspect. I was framed, Harv.”

A crunch resonated through the phone. I supposed he’d bit down on his Tootsie Pop upon hearing the news. There was a prolonged silence before anyone spoke.

“Harv? Are you there?”

“Yes I’m here. I’m trying to think. I know this is a terrible situation, but you’re strong and you can take this and turn it around to your advantage. I know you didn’t kill that woman. Take this opportunity to write about being wrongly accused.”

I pulled a tissue from my purse and blew my nose. “Uh, I guess I could do that.” Maybe writing about the experience would keep my mind focused.

“Great, that settles it. I know you’ll pull through this, Trixie. I have faith in you. Well, gotta go. Check in with me later.” I heard a click indicating the conversation was over. I replaced the phone in my bag.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

I
hurried to catch Dee Dee and Nana as fast as my knee allowed. They were studying their menus. “Did you order a sweet tea for me?”

“Does a dog like bones?” Dee Dee offered me a big grin.

“I’m taking that for a yes.” I needed all the sugar I could get.

Nana reached over and patted my hand. “What’s the matter sweetie, you look like you’ve lost your last friend.”

“I just got through talking to Harv. It was all I could do to hold back the tears. He wants me to write an article about sleuthing out the real killer. He thinks my being a person of interest would help me write about being wrongly accused.”

“Don’t you worry that pretty little head of yours. Dee Dee and I will help (she drew out help into two syllables). Hay-ulp made me feel a tad better, and I grabbed the menu and quickly looked at the offerings as the waitress appeared. “I’ll take the soup and sandwich combo.” Dee Dee and Nana opted for the chicken salad on lettuce. We sat back to wait on our food.

I glanced at Nana and noticed her half-closed eyelids. A huge smile indicated her pain level had dropped. I’d have to keep a closer watch on her so she didn’t overdose on her pain medicine. I’d ask Dee Dee later what she thought about asking Mama to come and help.

I nudged her and pointed toward Nana. “Looks like she’s about to flake out on us.”

“I heard that,” Nana said. “I might be half asleep, but I’m not deaf. Anyway, I’m just looking at the back of my eyelids.” Laughter floated around the table.

The waitress, laden down with food, approached our table. “Here ya’ go.” She served our delicious looking meal. “My name is Lisa. I hope you enjoy your food and let me know if you need anything.” She sashayed across the room. Oh to be so young.

When our appetites were satisfied, Dee Dee sat back and wiped her mouth. She voiced my thoughts. “Trix, what are we going to do now that Detective Sams took our list?”

“Make another one. It shouldn’t take long.” Dee Dee retrieved her tablet and pen. In a matter of minutes we had a new list.

At times, a groggy Nana would revive and make a comment. We debated who we should visit first and decided on Lori Wilson. I remembered she lived in Chattanooga or close by.

“When we get back to the room I’ll look up her name on my laptop.” We finished our meal by ordering strawberry shortcake. We helped Nana back to our room and settled her in bed before heading out to interview Lori. I discovered she lived in Hixon right outside of Chattanooga.

It took us about twenty minutes to find her home. Thank goodness for a GPS. As Nana would say, “one of the greatest inventions since sliced bread.” It was a pretty little area. Her house was a modest ranch style home reminiscent of the 60’s and 70’s architecture and located on lakefront property.

The same pretty face I remembered opened the door. “Hello, Trixie, come on in.” She led us into a living room filled with antique furniture. Dee Dee’s eyes bugged out.

“Wow, this is a treasure trove, Lori.” I thought I saw Dee Dee lick her lips. Being the owner of an antiques store, the wheels of her collector’s brain were hard at work. “Sarah, my assistant at the store, would have a heyday in here.” She explained to Lori about her shop, Antiques Galore.

It was time to get down to business. “Lori, how well did you know Annie?” I noticed a fleeting expression of fear and then it was gone.

“Uh, why do you want to know?”

There was no reason to beat around the bush so I opted for the direct approach. “I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m a person of interest in her murder. That really means I’m a suspect and according to Detective Sams, I’m the main suspect.” Her eyes popped open and her mouth formed an O. There was no mistaking a moment of fear.

“What are you doing here?”

“We need your help if we’re going to clear Trixie’s name,” Dee Dee said.

Lori fumbled around, found a remote control and turned off the television. “I don’t know how I can help. I really didn’t know Annie that well.” She averted her eyes when she said she didn’t know her. I didn’t believe her.

“I remember her saying you looked familiar. I thought you might have met her and just didn’t remember.”

Faster than a chameleon changing colors, she transformed from a composed young lady to a ranting female.

“Look, you want the truth?”

Even though I wasn’t so sure anymore, I nodded my head.

“I’ll give you the truth. I don’t care if that old bat is dead. She was my brother’s teacher in college. Leonard was about to graduate when she failed him in English. He didn’t have enough credits to walk with his class. He’d already invited his family and friends to the celebration. She was some wannabe writer who just couldn’t cut it in the real world. So she took it out on her students.”

Tears rolled down her bronze cheeks. “He was devastated. Not graduating with his class was the last straw and he started drinking again. He had a problem when he was a teenager, but he’d gotten back on track and was trying to get his degree. He had to study harder than most just to keep his head above water. Annie Hamilton,” she spewed her name like venom, “wouldn’t give him a break. Is that enough truth for you?” Her voice faded as if she was out of breath.

I looked over at wide-eyed Dee Dee. “Why couldn’t he just walk, and then take the class in summer school, they do that all…”

“Because she accused him of cheating and they have a zero tolerance for that.”

I couldn’t have been more surprised to discover Lori harbored so much animosity toward Annie. I had wondered if there was some connection between them, but never imagined it went so deep.

“Uh, I’m so sorry to hear about this Lori.” This was huge, but so many years later, why would she murder anyone?

“How is your brother, dear?” Dee Dee wiggled around in her chair like a bear trying to scratch an itch.

“He finally pulled himself together, took some classes at the community college and appealed for the university to award him his degree. They gave him an F in her class, but he eventually got his diploma.”

Drat. I didn’t like to think my freedom depended on pinning the murder on someone else, but it was my neck that would be in the noose so to speak.

She seemed spent after her rant. “Look, I shouldn’t have told you all of this. I’ve tried to let it go, but it took my brother years to get over what she did to him.” She shook her head. “When I found out she was going to teach this class I figured it would be the perfect time to confront her.”

“Did you ever tell her about Leonard?”

“I know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t kill her. I didn’t even get the chance to talk with her. I’m not sorry she’s dead, but I didn’t do it.” Her eyes widened and she turned a shade paler. “You’re not going to tell the detective about this are you?”

Boy was she delusional. “Lori, how about I give you the chance to tell her first. Then I won’t have to.” I wondered if I was giving a killer reason to go after me.

Dee Dee looked at her watch. “I think we need to go, Trix.” She was giving me an out and I wasn’t going to waste it.

I looked at my watch, too. “I believe you’re right. We need to get back and check on Nana.” I turned toward Lori, “my great-aunt Nana fell and broke her arm. We left her at the hotel by herself and we don’t want to leave her alone too long. Thanks for talking with us.”

“I hope you’ll consider my suggestion not to tell Detective Sams what I’ve disclosed to you. I wish I hadn’t spilled my guts but I needed to talk to somebody.” Wow, had I put Dee Dee and myself in harm’s way now? The soup and salad I’d eaten for lunch now felt like a lead ball.

“Okay, well thank you for your time Lori and we’ll be on our way.” Dee Dee grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the door. She didn’t have to pull hard, because I harbored no desire to linger.

BOOK: Chilled in Chattanooga (A Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mystery Book 4)
12.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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