Table of Contents
Praise for the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries by Sheila Lowe
“Lowe’s list of credible suspects and well-placed red herrings keep us guessing about the villain’s identity till the end, and then, with only a few pages remaining, she delivers one more shocking ‘Kapow!’ . . . Lowe’s expertise as a handwriting expert gives her books authenticity. From tics, t-bars, and twisted loops, to dot grinding and word crowding, readers get a fascinating insider look at the tools and techniques used in graphology.”
—Los Angeles Chronicle
“Lowe manages to keep the reader in suspense and wondering not only who did it, but how and why, up to nearly the last page. There’re some interesting surprises and some near misses to keep you glued to your favorite reading spot until the last page.”—Gumshoe
“[A] solid mystery featuring an engaging amateur sleuth, fascinating tidbits about handwriting analysis, and top-notch writing.”—Cozy Library
Written in Blood
“A fascinating and complex murder mystery that keeps readers involved and guessing till the exciting climax.”
“Readers will relish Sheila Lowe’s fine tale.”
—Genre Go Round Reviews
“Sheila Lowe’s mysteries just keep getting better. Her writing is crisp, and she deftly incorporates interesting information about handwriting analysis along the way. Her characters are rich and fully developed, and her plots sizzle.”—Armchair Interviews
“If you enjoy forensics, then give these Forensic Handwriting Mysteries a try. It’s a different slant on the field wrapped in some pretty believable story lines.”
“Suicide or murder? Only the graphologist knows for sure in this dynamite debut, the first in a new series, from forensic handwriting expert Lowe. The author’s large nonfiction fan base augurs well for the series.”
“[A] fast-paced, crisp, and gritty novel that penetrates the world of celebrity and the dark appetites of those who live in that world.”—Armchair Interviews
“Debut novelist Lowe wins readers over with her well-developed heroine and the wealth of fascinating detail on handwriting analysis.”—
“The well-paced plot develops from uneasy suspicions to tightly wound action.”—Front Street Reviews
“A perfectly paced mystery with an easy fluidity that propels the reader through the story at breakneck speed.”
Also by Sheila Lowe
Forensic Handwriting Mysteries
Written in Blood
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis
Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous
Published by New American Library, a division of
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, July 2010
Copyright © Sheila Lowe, 2010
All rights reserved
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eISBN : 978-1-101-45764-1
Heartfelt thanks to all the usual suspects: Bob Bealmear, Bruce Cook, Gwen Freeman, Bob Joseph, Raul Melendez, Barbara Petty, and Ellen Larson for their unflinching critiques. Thanks for making me a better writer. And on the technical side, thanks to Doug Lyle for answering my interminable medical questions. For law enforcement help: Bob Brounsten, Robin Burcell, George Fong, and Ernesto Pittino, I deeply appreciate your willingness to be there for me as needed.
Rita Frayer and Lynn Ryder were the winning bidders for character names on behalf of the Ventura County Professional Women’s Network. Thanks for supporting a great organization.
The angelic face gazed past the camera with serious eyes the color of spring violets and a rosebud mouth turned down. The child in the picture was hardly more than a toddler—around two, two and a half, Claudia Rose guessed—but there was a grown-up wistfulness in the way her chin rested on her dimpled hand.
Studying the photograph, Claudia fancied she could see life experience in those eyes, experience that extended far beyond the scant few months the little girl had been on earth.
An old soul
, she thought as she returned the photograph to the child’s mother.
Erin Powers replaced the photo in an envelope and stuffed it into an inside pocket of the battered leather bag at her feet. More saddlebag than purse, its faded sides bulged with unseen items. “We’ve always known Kylie was special. As soon as we saw those eyes, we said God has a plan for her. I’ve
to get her back.” Erin’s head was bowed, her slender shoulders shaking as she choked back a sob. “Please, please tell me you’ll help me find them.”
Claudia’s friend Kelly Brennan leaned over and put an arm around the half sister she hadn’t seen in almost twenty years. It had been only a couple of hours since Erin had showed up without warning at her door, and Kelly wore a bemused expression, as if she were still getting used to the idea. But the surprise of her sister’s arrival was supplanted by an even greater one: Kelly learned that she had a young niece, Kylie. A niece who was missing.
Claudia’s eyes returned to the sheet of notebook paper in her hand. “The handwriting is a little disturbing,” she said. “I’m glad you asked me to come and look at it.” She searched for diplomatic words that wouldn’t add to Erin’s distress, but they weren’t easy to find. Red flags sprouted from the brief note.
Hand-printed in black ink, the note read: DON’T BOTHER LOOKING. THERE MIGHT BE SUFFERING BUT NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK. GOD’S WILL BE DONE.
Below the words, the signature was just a scribble, which Erin identified as that of her husband, Rodney Powers.
The three women were gathered around a small wrought iron table on the plant-filled patio of Kelly’s condo. But no one was paying attention to the lush colors of morning glory or the scent of star jasmine filling the sun-warmed air.
“I thought he’d just taken her for a walk.” Tears welled up in Erin’s eyes and spilled onto her pale cheeks. “I had a bad night and I woke up this morning with a headache. So I slept late because I thought they’d be right back, but they didn’t come back, and when I got up and went into the kitchen—” Her voice broke again and she buried her face in the tissue Kelly pressed into her hand.
“It’s okay, honey.” Kelly gave her sister’s arm an awkward pat and threw Claudia a helpless glance. “The only family news I ever get is from my brothers, and you know how rarely I hear from them.” She turned back to Erin with a regretful sigh. “I can’t believe how completely I lost track of you. It’s been ages since I heard anything.”
The sisters shared a genetic history, but there the relationship ended. Claudia had been present when Kelly said goodbye to Erin, to her family. It was a memory that she found could still produce a sharp pang: Erin, four years old. A shy little girl sucking her thumb. Their three brothers madly waving goodbye from the back of an old pickup truck piled high with boxes and furniture. Their mother driving away without a backward glance, leaving her eldest child behind to live with Claudia’s family.
Kelly added, “The last I heard, you’d joined a cult—”
Erin pulled away from her. “It’s not a cult!”
Behind Erin’s head, Kelly rolled her eyes. “Okay, sorry. New religion.”
“Why don’t you tell us what happened with your husband?” Claudia interjected before an argument could break out. Kelly’s emotions could flare unexpectedly, and Claudia would rather not find out whether Erin had inherited the same trait.
Erin began to explain how she’d found the note from her husband on the kitchen table. “Rod left it propped against my coffee mug,” she said, sniffling miserably into the tissue. “We’ve been staying at a cabin near Big Bear for the last few weeks. I—I didn’t know what to do; we don’t know anyone around there. I called Sean.”