Marriage and Murder (Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery Book 4) (3 page)

BOOK: Marriage and Murder (Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery Book 4)
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Cash
walked over to Mike. “Julia and I want to welcome you into our family. There’s
no one we’d rather see Mom with. We’re really happy for both of you and if you
don’t mind, from now on I’d like to call you Dad.”

Mike
put his arm around Cash and hugged him. “Thank you and I promise I’ll do my
best to make her happy.”

Cash
grinned at him. “I have no doubt of that, but if you don’t, let’s put it this
way. I carry a gun, too, and I’ve probably had a little more combat training
than you have, plus I’m about twenty-five years younger than you are. I don’t
mean this in a mean way, but the extra twenty-five pounds that you’re carrying
may not be all muscle. I wasn’t exactly sitting at a desk in Iraq, and I sure
haven’t been in Afghanistan.”

Kelly
stepped over and hugged both of them. “Cash, I appreciate your trying to take
care of me, but I’m a big girl now!” she said smiling at both of them. The
moment was broken as the doorbell rang, and within minutes the house was filled
with well-wishers. Three hours later Kelly and Mike had lost track of the
number of people who had come to eat, drink, and celebrate in their house that
overlooked Cedar Bay.

When
Kelly had said good-bye to the last guest, she closed the door, slumped against
it and said, “We’re out of food, we’re out of drinks, and I’m out of smiles. If
I’m exhausted, all of you must be too. I can’t thank you enough for making this
one of the happiest days of my life.”

“Wait
a minute,” Mike said, “only one of the happiest?”

“I’ve
had a few other peak moments in my life, like when I gave birth to these two
wonderful people,” she said, motioning towards Cash and Julia. “Don’t push your
luck, Sheriff Mike. Anyway, again, thank you all for everything.”

Jesse
left a few moments later. The only things he had to take back to The Crush were
the glasses, coolers, and ice chests. Everything else had been consumed by the thirsty
celebrating guests, invited and uninvited. The clean-up in the kitchen was just
as minimal. Everything had been eaten, so the only thing that had to be done
was to wash the serving dishes.

“Mom,
I think all four of us are exhausted,” Cash said. “I’d planned on cooking a
nice wedding dinner for you two on my last night here in the States, but I
think we’re all too tired to enjoy it. Would it be okay with the three of you
if we change clothes, and I’ll just make some sandwiches instead?”

“Sweetheart,
right now that sounds like the best wedding dinner I could possibly have. Okay
with you, Mike?”

“Absolutely.
See how easy I’m going to be?”

“Right,”
Kelly said, rolling her eyes.

CHAPTER 3

 

Early the next morning found all four
of them standing next to Julia’s bright red Nissan. Kelly, with tears shining
in her eyes, said, “Thank you both so much for taking part in our wedding and
spending the week with us. I know I speak for Mike as well as myself when I say
how much both of us loved having you, and you know you’re always welcome. I may
be married to him, but please consider this to be your second home.”

“Mom, Mike,
congratulations again! It was a wonderful wedding, but I’m sure you’re both
glad it’s over, and your lives can get back to normal. Cash, are you ready? I’ve
got to get you to the San Francisco airport for the first leg of your trip back
to Afghanistan, and we’ve got a long drive ahead of us,” Julia said, getting
into the Nissan.

“Cash, I know I sound like
an overanxious mother, but I worry so much about you. Please be safe. How much
longer do you think you’ll be stationed there?” Kelly asked, chewing on her
lower lip, a sign Mike knew meant she was really nervous.

“Don’t worry about me, Mom,
I’m very careful. I only have a few more months to go, so I’ll be even extra
careful.” He looked at Julia who was drumming her fingers on the steering
wheel. “Okay, I recognize that gesture from when we were kids. Time to go. Love
you both!” He got in the car, and they both waved as Julia backed the car out
of the driveway and headed south to San Francisco.

Mike put his arm around
Kelly when they got back in the house and said, “Sweetheart, try not to worry.
I’ve told you before that he’s street smart, and in that war zone it counts a
lot more than a fancy law degree from Harvard.”

“I know, it’s just...just.”
Tears slid down her cheeks. “I’m so worried about him. I still don’t even
understand why we’re over there.”

Mike held her close. “You’re
not the only one. All we can do is pray for his safe return, and I predict it
will be a safe return. To change the subject, Mrs. Reynolds, since it’s Sunday,
and you don’t have to work today, now that your children are gone, I think it
might be nice to take a little time and to properly consummate our marriage.
Would that be acceptable to you?”

“Absolutely, Sheriff Mike.
Thought you’d never ask.” She turned to the dogs. “Rebel, Lady, stay,” she
said, walking arm and arm down the hall with Mike.

*****

A few hours later, when
they were finished with their honeymoon breakfast, Mike said, “I’d like to go
over to The Crush and thank Jesse again for bringing all of the wine and soft
drinks, not to mention the glasses. Want to come with me?”

“Absolutely. He did a
wonderful job for us. Let’s take the dogs. I kenneled them most of the day yesterday,
and they’re probably chomping at the bit to go somewhere. Why don’t you get
ready, and I’ll do the dishes, but don’t get too used to it!”

“Deal. I’ll do them
tonight.”

“Deal.”

While she was doing the
dishes, she remembered she hadn’t told Mike about Julia and the new man in her
life, Brad. When Mike returned to the kitchen, she filled him on Julia’s
engagement to Brad and his worry regarding his daughters.

“I’ve been thinking about
their situation while I was doing the dishes. Isn’t there something about a DNA
match that would positively determine whether Brad is the father of the girls?
I seem to remember seeing some show on television that said it could absolutely
be determined with a DNA test whether or not someone was the parent of a
particular child. I’ve heard it takes an incredibly long time for most people
to get the test results, but I was thinking, since you’re a sheriff, couldn’t
you get it done faster?”

“Yes, I probably could,
but are you sure you want to get involved? I’m not sure I do.”

“What do you mean?”

“What if I was able to
fast track the test and get the results? What if it turned out Brad wasn’t the father
of the two little girls? What would happen to the relationship between Julia
and Brad on the one hand, and my relationship with both of them, on the other
hand, if I was the one who told her he wasn’t the father?”

“I see where you’re going,
Mike. Maybe we should tell Julia what we’re thinking and ask her if she’d like
your help in getting a DNA test. If she decides she wants to do it, she’ll have
to live with the results, but if it turns out he’s not their father…”

“You mentioned something
about Julia needing to see a psychologist after Roger left her. Do you think
she’s emotionally stable enough to withstand someone else leaving her? I mean,
we don’t know what Brad will do if he finds out he isn’t the father. Don’t
forget, neither one of us has even met him. The only thing you know about him is
what Julia has told you.”

“I really don’t know.
After your kids get to be a certain age, you only know as much about them as
they’re willing to tell you, so in answer to your question, no, I don’t know if
she could emotionally hold up if Brad left her. I’ll think about it, and we can
talk later.”

“Let me know what you
decide, but I have to tell you my initial reaction is to stay out of it. Okay,
time to go see Jesse. The Crush should be open by now. Rebel, Lady, car,” he
said.

The dogs ran out to the car,
waiting patiently for someone to open the door for them. They hopped in the
backseat and sat down, ready for their next adventure.

CHAPTER 4

 

When they drove past the front of The
Crush, Kelly said, “No matter how many times I drive by Jesse’s shop, it always
makes me happy. I mean look at the color of that awning, how perfect is purple
for a place that sells wine? No wonder people love his shop.”

            Mike pulled his patrol
car into the parking lot behind The Crush and said, “Looks like the back door’s
open. Jesse must have just gotten here.” He parked the car, got out, and then
opened the back door to let the dogs out. Kelly opened the car door on her side
and got out as well.

            Suddenly Rebel ran over
to the back door of The Crush and stopped, standing stone still with his hackles
raised and looking through the open door into the interior of the store. Lady
was standing right behind him. He turned his head around as if to say to the
little yellow lab, “Don’t go any farther. Stay where you are.”

            “What’s going on?” Mike
said. “What are you two dogs doing?” Kelly walked up next to Mike and started
to enter the store. Rebel blocked the door. “Rebel, move!” Rebel didn’t budge.

            Mike turned to Kelly and
asked, “How do you get this ninety pound dog that’s made of steel to move?”

            “Been my experience, you
can’t. And if he’s stopping us from going in The Crush, we better see if
there’s a problem. Why don’t you just step over him?”

            As Mike stepped over him,
Rebel began growling, followed by Lady. Both dogs seemed deeply agitated, and
their deep growling quickly increased in intensity. Kelly tried to step over Rebel,
but he was too big. As soon as Mike walked through the door, he stopped and
looked down at the floor.

            “What’s wrong?” she
asked. “Is everything okay?”

            “No. Everything is
definitely not okay. Jesse’s been shot, and I’m sure he’s dead.”

            “Oh no! I’m coming in.” She
firmly put her hand on Rebel, and the two of them walked through the open door,
followed by Lady whose growling had turned to yips. The dogs smelled the blood
that had pooled around Jesse’s still form where he lay on the floor, a large bullet
hole clearly visible in his chest. Kelly’s legs started to buckle under her,
and she felt faint. She knelt on the floor and began to sob uncontrollably,
tears rolling down her cheeks. She vaguely heard Mike’s voice and made out the
words, “Murder, Jesse, The Crush,” as he spoke into his phone. Moments later
she felt his strong hands lift her up and guide her to a nearby chair. “Take it
easy, sweetheart. Put your head between your legs, and breathe deeply. You’ll
feel better in a minute or two. Rich and some of my other deputies will be here
shortly. Rebel, Lady, stay with Kelly. Stay.”

            The two dogs obediently
went over and stood next to Kelly, trying to protect her from whatever it was
that was threatening her, although there was nothing they could do about the
sadness she felt engulfing her.

            The sound of sirens
filled the parking lot within minutes as several sheriffs’ cars skidded to a
stop behind The Crush. Car doors slammed shut, and heavy footsteps kicked gravel
up from the parking lot as a number of uniformed deputies rushed from their
cars and came through the open door. The room was soon filled with the men and
women whose job it is to do the police work that always needs to be done at the
scene of a crime, especially if the crime is murder.

            “Rich, secure the entire
building and parking lot as an active crime scene. No one goes in or out
without approval from either you or me. Jeff, Nita, you two know what to do. Get
every bit of DNA evidence you can. Dust every surface for prints. This one’s
personal.” He turned to Kelly, “We may have just had one of the shortest honeymoons
on record. One of my men will drive you and the dogs back to the house. I don’t
know when I’ll be home.”

            A short time later, the
country coroner pulled up behind The Crush. He had to physically move his large
belly away from the steering wheel in order to get out of his car. “Mike, I was
right in the middle of Sunday brunch with the family. Some really good fried
chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy,” he said, licking his lips, his heavy
jowls wagging. “Just had my first bite when I got your call. Dang, I wish
killers would for once at least wait until I was through eating before they
decide to kill somebody.”

            “I rather doubt whoever
did this was worrying much about the coroner having to be called away from his
special Sunday brunch,” Mike retorted sarcastically. “Would have saved you the
trouble of coming, but as you know, it’s state policy. The county coroner has to
examine the body to confirm that the victim is dead. Seems kind of stupid in
this case. It’s pretty obvious. One quick look at poor old Jesse is enough to
know he’s dead.”

            Mike stood beside the
coroner as he quickly examined Jesse. “Well, what do you think?”

            “I think he was killed
within the hour. His body is still warm, and if he’d been dead for more than
two hours rigor mortis would have started to set in, and it hasn’t. Looks like
he died from a gunshot to the chest. There’s no exit wound, so when I do the
autopsy, I’ll be able to recover the bullet. I’ll send it to the state police lab,
and they’ll have their ballistics expert determine the caliber. I’ll tell them
to give you a call when they know something. It will probably take a couple of
days.”

            “Thanks, Leo. Sorry for
interrupting your Sunday brunch. Since you’re probably through here, you can
have your assistant take the body to the morgue, and if you hurry you might
even make it back home before dessert is served,” Mike said. His words were met
by a scowl from the overweight coroner who told his assistant he was through examining
the body, and it should be taken to the morgue after Mike’s men finished
getting whatever evidence they could from it. He turned on his heel and waddled
out to his car.

            Mike spoke to one of his
deputies who then walked over to where Kelly was seated and said, “Mrs.
Reynolds, I can take you home now.” Kelly stood up and gestured for Rebel and
Lady to follow her. Rebel refused to move. “Rebel, come,” she said. He stood rock
solid still and looked in Mike’s direction.

            “Mike, Rebel wants to
stay with you, and just like in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme ‘All the king’s
horses and all the king’s men’ aren’t going to get him to move. As strong as he
is, it would take all of your men to get him in the car. I think you and your
deputies all have more important things to do at the moment, so just let him
stay here with you. He probably feels he needs to be here to protect you.”

            “Okay. I’ll take him with
me when I leave.” He walked over to her. “I know how much you liked Jesse and
his family. I’m so sorry. When we finish here, I’ll drive over and tell them
the sad news.”

            “No. If you don’t mind,
I’d like to have your deputy take me to his mother’s house, and I’ll tell her
now. It may be hours before your work here’s finished, and I got to know the
family pretty well when I took some food out to Jesse’s father when he was
terminally ill. Jesse was divorced and lived above The Crush. His mother and
sister live only about a block away from here. I don’t want them to hear about
this from someone else, and you know how fast word travels in this little town
of ours.”

            Kelly stepped through the
rear door of The Crush, her heart heavy with grief. She’d only taken a few
steps when she saw something glittering on the ground. She knelt down and
picked it up, noticing that it was a small decorative pin with the Arabic
numbers “07” on it.

           
When
this is
over
, she thought
, I’ll do a little research and see if I can return it
to its owner.
As she and Lady followed the young deputy to his patrol car, she
slid the pin into a side pocket of her purse, intending to examine it later.

*****

Kelly rang the doorbell of Jesse’s
mother’s well-kept modest two-story Queen Anne style home with white columns and
a wrap-around porch. Seconds later a small white-haired older woman wearing a
flowered apron opened the door. “Why, Kelly, how nice to see you. It’s been a
long time, dear. Please, come in,” she said, giving Kelly a hug as she entered
the hallway.

            “Thank you, Mrs. Allen.
I’m afraid I have some bad news. Why don’t you sit down?”

            “What’s wrong? She asked,
pushing her glasses up the ridge of her nose.

            “Please, sit down. It’s
Jesse…”

            Mrs. Allen interrupted
her, “Has something happened to him? He was just here for lunch. I’m cleaning
up the dishes right now.”

            Kelly put her hand on Mrs.
Allen’s arm and gently guided her into a chair that was next to where she was
standing. “Yes, something has happened to him.” She paused and took a deep breath.
“Mrs. Allen, Jesse was murdered a little while ago. Sheriff Mike and I found
his body at The Crush.”

            A large, plain-looking middle-aged
woman suddenly ran shrieking into the room. Celia Parsons wore her grey hair
cut in a short bob and wasn’t wearing any make-up. “I just walked in through
the back door and heard that. What are you talking about? My brother was here
earlier. Momma called me over at the Historical Society and asked me to join
them, but I couldn’t get away because we were having an important meeting. Why
are you doing this to her?”

            “Celia,” Kelly said to
the sour-faced stern-looking woman who had sat down in a chair next to her
mother, “you know I wouldn’t lie to you or your mother about something like
this. Believe me, I would rather be just about anywhere else on earth right
now, but I didn’t want you to hear this terrible news from someone else.”

            “Tell me everything,”
Celia said, crossing her arms over her ample bosom and sinking back into her chair
as if her gesture would negate whatever she was going to hear from Kelly in the
next few minutes.

            “All I know is that Mike
and I drove to The Crush a little while after noon to personally thank Jesse
for everything he did for us at the wedding reception yesterday. The back door
was open, and we found Jesse lying on the floor. He’d been shot once in the
chest and was dead.”

            At the word “dead,” Mrs.
Allen began rocking furiously back and forth and sobbing at the same time.
Kelly could hear her mumble something that sounded like “It’s not fair. First
Herbert and now Jesse. The only two men in my life I ever loved. Who could do
something like this?”

            Celia got up from her
chair, walked over to her mother, and put her arms around her. “Momma, we’re
going to be okay. I promise. I’m here with you. At least he didn’t have to
suffer from some disease like Daddy did. We’ll be okay.”

            She turned and faced Kelly.
“Does the sheriff have any idea who did it?”

            “Not to my knowledge. No
one was there when we arrived, and I didn’t see anything that looked like a
clue as to who might have killed him or why, but Mike and his staff may have
found something by now. I just don’t know.”

            “Well, for starters you
might tell them to find out where Sophie Marchant was about lunchtime. Might be
the first and probably the last person the sheriff would have to interview
about Jesse’s death. Wouldn’t put anything past that French foreigner. I hate her.”

            “I’m sorry, but I don’t
know who you’re talking about,” Kelly said.

            “Sure you do. She’s that fancy-schmancy
French woman who owns the big ugly house on the south side of Cedar Bay up on
the cliff overlooking the bay, the one who wears expensive scarves and French
perfume and has that soft voice and that stupid little French accent. She lives
in Portland and uses the house on the weekends,” she harrumphed.

            “She was always going in
The Crush asking my brother about this wine or that wine and could he recommend
a good Oregon Pinot Noir, something that was comparable to a French Rhone. Makes
me sick just thinking about her and her high falutin ‘I’m better than you’
attitude. That’s one of the reasons why I’m president of the Historical
Society. We’re trying to preserve Cedar Bay and keep people like her and that
monstrous modern looking glass house of hers out of our wonderful city. She
never would have gotten permission to build that ugly house if I’d been president
of the Historical Society at the time it was approved by the Planning
Commission. Anyway, she was always mooning all over Jesse when she was in the
store. It was disgusting.”

            Mrs. Allen had been listening
in and following the conversation. “Celia, you know Jesse had strong feelings for
her. Several times when you weren’t around, he told me he was in love with her.
He even said he was thinking of marrying her. She’s not that bad. He brought
her over to dinner once, and she was real nice to me.”

            “You’re just saying that
to protect Jesse. If you ask me, she’s a classic example of a woman who has
real loose morals, if you know what I mean,” she said, raising her eyebrows. “All
you have to do is look at her, and you know what I’m saying is the truth. Poor
Jesse, he went for her line of garbage, hook, line and sinker. You know what
those French women are like. I tell you she doesn’t belong here in Cedar Bay.”

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