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Authors: Bobbie O'Keefe

Family Skeletons

BOOK: Family Skeletons
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Praise for Family Skeletons

 

O’Keefe straddles the fence nicely
between mystery and romance, keeping the relationship in the forefront but
incorporating a genuine puzzle.

--Kirkus Reviews

 

Entertaining thriller is a fun
fast-paced tale...support cast is solid while the lead protagonists are a nice
pairing of starch and spice.

--The Mystery Gazette

 

The plot of
Family Skeletons
is
good but it is truly the characters that make the book shine.

--Leslie Granier,
Reader Views

 

Plenty of action and excitement.

--Gumshoe

 

Nice to have a change from gore and
mayhem...a situation Miss Marple would have enjoyed.

--I Love a Mystery

 

Family Skeletons

 

Bobbie O’Keefe

 

Copyright © 2011 by Bobbie O’Keefe

All rights reserved.

Kindle Edition 2013

 

Dedication

 

For families, immediate and extended.

For all the joys and triumphs, losses
and pain, and the love therein.

 

Chapter One

Headlights appeared without warning on the dirt
road—on her right where they didn’t belong. Sunny Corday jerked the wheel left
and the other vehicle crashed into her right front fender.

“What the—!”

Smashing the brake to the floor had stalled the car,
but out of habit she switched the ignition off anyway. She couldn’t tell what
the headlights belonged to, but it was bigger than her compact and its driver’s
door was opening. She threw open her own door but the seat belt wouldn’t let
her out. Impatiently, she fumbled the buckle open, narrowly missed falling into
a ditch as she exited the car, and then she splashed through puddles on her way
around the back of the vehicle.

The afternoon rain had been heavy, but she’d barely
noticed it then. She’d been distracted by a packet of snapshots she’d found in
a junk drawer in her father’s kitchen that featured her parents and herself as
an infant. Typical of him that he’d put them there. She’d let the discovery
hold her up, and had then gotten a late start out of there.

The driver exited the other vehicle, tall enough to
be male, and he looked all in one piece. She shielded her eyes against the
glare of headlights.

“Are you all right?” Yes, it was a male voice, and
he stopped at his front fender, giving space to them both. Too bad he hadn’t
thought about space before he’d crowded her off the road.

“Yes.” She clipped the word off, still shaky from
the close call. Didn’t he know what side of the roadway he was supposed to
drive on? “Can you kill the lights? You’re blinding me.”

“Is that why you ran into me? My lights startled
you?”

Huh?
“Hey, wait a minute. I ran into
you? In case you didn’t notice, I was on the road, and you’re...you were...well,
where the hell were you?”

“I was just pulling off the shoulder when you came
out of nowhere.”


I
came of nowhere?” She covered her eyes
with both hands. She’d already asked him once, quite nicely, considering the
circumstances, yet the lights still glared at her. “Will you please turn those damned
lights off?”

He walked back to the driver’s door, reached inside
and the lights mercifully blacked out. “You’ve got quite a mouth on you.”
Though he had his head inside the truck, he’d spoken loud enough she’d caught
both the words and disapproving tone, just as she was sure he’d wanted her to.

Well, he had a lot of gall to be so unconcerned
about the fright he’d given her. And even more nerve to blame her for his
mistake. In the wake of the glare, exploding pinpoints of color now attacked
her eyes.

“I hate to break it to you, Mr. Civility, but my
mouth isn’t my only problem.” She massaged her eyes with the fingers of both
hands. “Thanks to you, I’m now also blind.”

She heard his heavy exhale. The man must be feeling
really put upon.

“My apologies,” he said stiffly. “Once you’ve
sufficiently recovered, perhaps we could exchange insurance information and be
done with this unfortunate encounter?”

“That’s what you call it? I thought it was a fender
bender.” Vision was slowly returning. Water was seeping into her shoe, so she
stepped out of that puddle and into another one. The cold water made her think
that if she toned herself down, the situation might cool off as well.

“You scared the hell out of me, mister,” she said
apologetically, hoping to explain away her confrontational attitude. And then,
too late, she realized she’d stuck another bad word in there.

“And sent you straight into attack mode?”

Well, yeah, but
...“Me? Somehow
I’m in the wrong here?” So much for toning herself down.

“Actually, you were traveling a little fast for this
road.”

“I know the road and how to drive it. I also know
enough not to pull into traffic without first checking for traffic.”

“If there is any, which—”

“You still check. You do not blithely assume—”

“Blithely? Is there really an educated vocabulary
lurking in there somewhere?”

Well, he sounded a little teed off, too. About time
a crack appeared in his composure.

Then, as if he’d also noticed his control slipping,
he waggled his hand and drew in another heavy breath. “Excuse me. I admit I
erred—”

“Erred?” This guy’s sphincter muscles must be
extremely tight. Though that observation might be considered another example of
an educated vocabulary, she decided not to share it with him.

“And of course I’ll make restitution.” Pausing, he
withdrew his wallet from his back pocket. “Here’s my card, and if you’ll give
me a moment...” He went back and ducked inside the truck, one of those
oversized sport utility vehicles that were so popular, and leaned across the
seat.

She walked forward, hoping to find a dry spot on his
side of the road. Which had been hers until the gas-guzzler had bullied her out
of it. In the overhead dome light, she noted the meticulous look of the man’s
creased slacks and the caked mud on the sides and soles of his shiny black
shoes.

She heard the click when he snapped the glove
compartment closed, then he eased out and stepped down, walked to her and gave
her what appeared to be a business card. “I wrote down the name of my insurance
company and the number of my policy on it. Contact them. I won’t contest
anything.”

Since he was accepting responsibility, she kept her
mouth shut lest another bad word accidentally escape.

He returned to the truck then paused and looked
back. “I’m sorry about this. It really wasn’t your fault, and I don’t want you
getting into trouble over it.” He hesitated with his hand on the vehicle’s
doorframe. “I can follow you home and explain to your parents.”

“You think?” He wasn’t the first person to make that
mistake. She was a quarter inch under five-two and not quite a hundred and five
pounds. In jeans and a sweatshirt and her short blond hair probably messy and
windblown, she doubted that she was a picture of maturity. She turned her back
and splashed through the same puddles on her way around the compact’s trunk,
then addressed him over the top of the car. “Thanks anyway, but I’m closer to
thirty than fifteen. And if you follow me anywhere, I’ll lead you to the
nearest police station.”

She settled in the driver’s seat. The engine caught
on the third try, giving her plenty of time to worry that it might not catch at
all.

He stood watching her. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in
position for her lights to also blind him. When he jerked up his hand in a
stopping motion, she pressed the button to lower the passenger’s window to
half-mast.

“You forgot to give me your insurance information,”
he hollered.

She glanced at her purse on the passenger’s seat.
It’d spilled over when she’d braked so hard and dumped half its contents onto
the floorboard. Much of it was peeking at her from beneath the seat. She tried
to think of where in that mess her proof of insurance might be. And this wasn’t
her car, and she didn’t even know if she had a copy of the owner’s insurance,
or even where the registration was.
Oh, crap
.

“I’ll mail it to you,” she called back. He’d given
her some kind of business card, so some kind of address had to be on it. And
he’d hit her anyway; he was the one who’d erred.

She pressed the window up, reversed, then shifted
into drive and maneuvered the compact around the truck without landing it in
the ditch, and then resumed the long drive home—two hours south to San
Francisco on crowded Highway One-Oh-One. And wasn’t she lucky; rain started to
spatter the windshield.

* * *

The next morning, in the parking basement below the
condo she shared with him, Sunny stood next to Ryan. They’d been friends since
high school and housemates since she’d been released from the hospital four
years ago and had started divorce proceedings against the guy who’d put her
there.

“Whoa, baby!” His hands measured the newest dent in
the compact’s exterior. The car was the most economical model
Reviler
Automakers
produced, and there were some who claimed that it was made out
of plastic and that was why it was so cheap. The ugly implosion was about eight
inches in diameter and looked worse in daylight, especially with its owner
examining it.

Sunny winced. “I really am sorry.”

He straightened and pulled her to his side with one
arm. “Sunny, sweetheart, lose the frown. If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll go
out today and get a matching one on the other side.” He stretched his neck to
look around her. “If there isn’t one there already.”

“Wish I could say the other one looks worse, but it
was too dark to tell. His card’s in the glove compartment. When you get the
estimates, take the most expensive one. Please.”

“Nah, not worth it.”

“What do you mean? It—”

He removed his arm from around her to point at the
car. “Look at it, Sunny. It’s a clunker. Before they finally took Gran’s
license away, she’d aimed it at everything and anything that caught her eye.”

“But...”

“You want to get even with the guy and his tank,
you’ll have to find another way to do it.” He gave her a curious look. “Who was
he, anyway? He live around there?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t look at his card.” With a
shrug, she changed the subject. “Will you give me a ride to the dealership so I
can pick up my car? It should be ready.”

“Nope. Call came in when you were in the shower. A
different part was delivered than what was ordered so it’ll be another week.”

“Week?”

At her tone he took a quick step back and put his
hands up in a defensive posture. “Hey, don’t kill the messenger.”

“But the only reason I came home was to pick up the
car.”

“I know. Call ’em up and give ’em hell.”

She waited a beat. “No. Not worth it.”

He gave her a slow smile. “Is that a touch of
maturity I hear?”

“Whatever you want to call it.” She headed for the
stairs leading out of the condo’s parking area, and he fell in step. A gray and
white cat was waiting on the other side of the door when she opened it. Sunny
blocked its exit with her foot, then scooped it up.

“Where do you think you’re going?” She ruffled its
fur as she carried it to the door marked
Manager
. A young girl about ten
answered her knock. Sunny smiled and handed the cat over.

“Hi, Anna. Jojo got out again.” She was careful to
keep censure out of her voice. “He almost got into the garage.”

Anna thanked her and was scolding Jojo as she closed
the door. Her voice held no censure either.

Sunny turned and caught Ryan’s grin. Giving in, she
returned it. “I know, I know. Rough and tough exterior, marshmallow interior.”

His grin grew. “A true sign of maturity is knowing
oneself.”

“Oh, shut up.”

They arrived at their apartment, and he unlocked the
door.

“Guess I still need the clunker then,” she said
without enthusiasm.

“Sure, no problem.”

She led the way inside the standard San Francisco
condo, nothing special and not cheap either, but she only had to pay half the
rent. Ryan was gay and the best friend she’d ever had. She was straight, but
romantically gun-shy, and their housing arrangement had worked well for the
last four years.

He pocketed his keys and sent her a sidelong look.
“How’s it going up there, cleaning out that old house? Difficult dealing with
the memories?”

She lifted her shoulders. “What memories come up, I
just ignore.” At his silence, she  frowned and shook her head. “And don’t look
at me like that. I don’t wish to be psychoanalyzed right now, thank you.”

“Phone hooked up yet?” he asked, proving that a
shrewd psychologist knew when not to push.

“They promised it for today. I wrote down the number
for you. Hopefully I’ll find a dial tone when I get back up there.”

“When do I get to see this place?”

“When you get the time. You tell me.” She started to
enter her room, paused and turned back with a defiant air. “You know what? I’m
not rushing back up there. The place can do without me for one day. I’m gonna
sack out, just read, maybe cook something special for dinner. What would you
like?”

At his quick grin, she leaned against the doorjamb
and laughed. Both the menu and cooking would be on her, of course. Ryan knew
how to boil hot dogs and make boloney sandwiches. When she wasn’t around, his
diet was quite limited.

* * *

In order to beat the heaviest traffic, Sunny was
headed north on the Golden Gate at 5:30 a.m. the following day. Her windows
were rolled up against the cool morning air that signaled fall was on its way.
At 7:15, she steered the Reviler onto the dirt road leading out to Corday Cove.

When she spied the narrow space on the opposite
shoulder, where the guy had been before he’d pulled out and surprised her, she
eased over and parked. Then she got out and looked at the tire tracks, hers and
his, and crossed the road to peer into the ditch next to where her car had
stalled.

BOOK: Family Skeletons
5.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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