Authors: Susan Furlong Bolliger
Murder on Consignment
Susan Furlong Bolliger
Martin Sisters Publishing
Martin Sisters Publishing, LLC
www. martinsisterspublishing. com
2013 Susan Furlong Bolliger
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Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or publisher.
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All rights reserved. Published in the United States by
Martin Sisters Publishing, LLC, Kentucky.
Printed in the United States of America
Martin Sisters Publishing, LLC
For my father-in-law, Gary (1935-2012) — who showed me the ultimate example of dignity and grace.
This book could not have been accomplished without the help and support of my husband and our children. I also had help from friend and editor extraordinaire, Sandra Haven, whose feedback and expertise is always greatly valued. A huge thank you also goes to the fine people at Martin Sisters Publishing who dedicate themselves to bringing quality books to readers everywhere.
Also, a special shout-out to my sister, Rebecca.
Your entrepreneurial spirit and skills in crafting, refurbishing and ‘up-cycling’ trash into treasure, inspired Pippi and all her wonderful projects.
Most of all, thank you the readers that have encouraged me to continue this series. It’s turning out to be an amazing adventure.
I was never good at saying “no.” I needed to work on that, because I just uttered two “yeses” in less than an hour. More than likely, one of those “yeses” was going to land me in a heap of trouble.
My current “yes” was to my cousin, Cherry Gallagher. Yup, that’s her real name. My Aunt Maeve, and her husband, Chuck the-sixties-were-good-to-me-Gallagher, wanted their children’s names to reflect their … um … let’s just call it, earthiness. Anyway, I knew
better than to tell Cherry I’d be her maid of honor, even if it was a bridal emergency. After all, it’s not my fault that her sister, Willow, (see what I mean about the name thing) recently landed in trouble with the law and, therefore, couldn’t perform her maidenly duties.
I’m not sure why I told Cherry “yes.” Perhaps I was distracted by the garbage bag I was digging through with one hand as I held my cell with the other. Multi-tasking never was my strong suit. Who knows? Somehow that “yes” just tumbled out and now I was s
tuck listening to her babble about wedding details—most of which I tuned out. That was until she got to the part about the dress I was going to be wearing.
“Orange?” I croaked. I replaced the trash can’s lid and sat down on the curb, giving our phone conversation my full attention.
“No, not just orange; pumpkin orange. What could be better for a fall wedding?” she said, sounding like a color-blind salesclerk.
“I can’t wear orange.”
“You have to,” she whined. “We already have the dress. I don’t have time to order another one.”
I shook my head. Didn’t Ch
erry realize a curvaceous, okay, plump redhead in a pumpkin-colored dress was going to suck the class right out of her wedding? Of course, knowing that side of the family, there wasn’t going to be an overabundance of class anyway.
I squeezed my eyes shut and took a deep breath. At least the wedding wasn’t for a couple of weeks; maybe I could lose a few pounds
by then. “Fine,” I relented. “But, you’ll be sorry when I arrive looking like a giant squash in three inch heels.”
“Great! And, don’t worry about throwing me a bachelorette party.”
“A bachelorette party?”
What had I gotten myself into?
“Yeah, Willow already gave me one. That’s the night she was arrested. It was the wildest party I’ve ever been to! I wish you…”
“Hey, Cherry, I hate to cut you off, but I’m working right now. We’ll have to talk about this later. Bye!” I snapped my phone shut. I was being rude, but at the moment, I had more important things to think about…like the other “yes” which I’d uttered just moments before Cherry called.
Now that “yes” was completely out of my control. I mean, how could I have said no when Sean Panelli, my ex-boyfriend and a detective on the Naperville Police Department, called and asked if I could come to a murder scene and give my exp
ert opinion? Besides, I would do anything for a second chance with Sean. I always regretted the way things ended between us and was dying for a reason to see him again.
uckily, at the moment, I was close to home, rummaging through garbage cans in the Bridgewater neighborhood of Aurora. Sean said he wouldn’t need me until the technicians had gone over the scene, which was probably a good thing. A quick sniff told me I better wrap up early and allow time for a shower before coming face to face with Sean. Although he was familiar with all the down sides of my career as a used merchandiser, it wouldn’t due to have him smell me like this. Three cans ago, I had to dig past three day old Thai takeout to get to a great little blue and white vase which wasn’t worth much as it was; but, after I wired it and paired it with a cute shade, it would make an awesome customized lamp. I’d be able to sell it for a nice profit at the Third Saturday Flea Market. I loved my job! I never tired of the thrill of turning a profit on someone else’s junk.
On the drive
to my apartment, I thought about Sean. His tone had been completely professional. He needed my “expert” opinion on something and was sending an officer to my house to escort me to a crime scene. That was a switch. During the few on and off years we dated, my interest in crimes was a source of contention between us. In fact, it was part of the reason we’d broken up.
Well, only part of the reason. The biggest reason was
because I’d “sort-of” cheated on him with a steamy hot real estate developer last year, whose sexy body and bad boy reputation kept me in a hormonal tizzy for a couple of weeks. I never actually got physical with the man, which was a good thing as he turned out to be a deranged killer; but nonetheless, Sean couldn’t get past the fact that I fell for the guy. “An emotional betrayal” I think he called it. Anyway, after our previous three years of sporadic dating, he dumped me and rebounded into the arms of Sarah Maloney.
I clenched the steering wheel. Sarah Maloney was every woman’s ni
ghtmare. The type of woman you hoped your “honey” never crossed paths with--sexy, strong, beautiful, intelligent, successful, wealthy… I absolutely hated her. Especially since the word on the street was that they were still seeing each other. I wondered how serious it was. Or, maybe things between Sean and Ms. Maloney were on the rocks and that was the real reason he was calling.
The thought of it lightened my mood, and my step,
as I parked my car and skipped up the rickety stairs saddling the side of my parent’s garage where I lived in a converted one-room apartment. My mood dimmed a bit though, as I opened my door and caught sight of the mess I’d left behind earlier that morning. As usual, my cozy loft sported heaps of dirty clothing, dishes piled in the sink, and a collection of empty soda cans on the counter. I really needed to take time to clean up; but at the moment, I was in too big of a hurry.
Instead, I stripped my way from the door to the bathroom, leaving a fresh trail of dirty clothes, and ducked into the shower. After a few swipes of soap and spritz of my favorite cologne, I smelled better than new. I just needed to find something to wear.
one wear to a crime scene? I wanted to look professional, but attractive. After all, this might be the one and only chance to get Sean’s attention and win back his affection. I picked through my closet trying to find an outfit that best exemplified unquestioned authority paired with smoldering sexiness.
After tearing through the piles on my floor and not quite finding what I needed, I resorted to the large plastic bins stacked around the sofa. Surely, my on-line auction stockpile would have something.
I lifted the lid on a half dozen plastic containers that contained last week’s acquisitions—perfectly good clothing foraged from dumpsters or purchased for pennies on the dollar at garage sales—before spying a woman’s navy blue blazer. Perfect! Lucky for me, I found this one just a couple weeks ago at a yard sale in Woodridge. It was just what I needed today.
I threw on my darkest pair of jeans, a crisp white T-shirt, and shrugged into the blazer. It was a wee bit tight, but as long as I didn’t need to raise my arms above my shoulders, I’d be fine.
I had barely finished taming my red frizzes into a low pony, when I heard a knock on the door. I ran to open it, finding a petite, female, uniformed officer with her hand extended. “Phillipena O’Brien? I’m Officer Cheryl Wagoner. I’m here to drive you.”
I shook her hand and suppressed a giggle. She looked like a twelve-year-old playing dress-up. I half expected her to hold out a trick-or-treat bag and beg for candy. Instead, she motioned for me to follow her down the steps where her car was waiting.
I hesitated. There was a little confusion on my part as I deliberated where to sit. I finally chose the back, figuring the front was for police only. I regretted the decision the instant I settled into the plastic-covered seat. The cage in front of me and the doors without handles made me feel like a trapped criminal. Talk about conspicuous. I wondered what the neighbors would think. I shrank down as low as I could; and then, sunk all the way down where I pretended to pick something off the floor mat as my mother passed by in her Mercedes.
I was too l
ate though. Before I could get all the way upright, my phone started buzzing. I looked at the display and saw it was my mother. No doubt she wanted an immediate explanation for why I was in the back of a police car. I decided to let it go to voicemail. At the moment, I wasn’t in the mood to deal with
issue. Little did I realize, my mother’s intrusiveness would turn out to be the least of my problems.
The short ride to downtown Naperville seemed to last for hours; but finally, the cruiser slowed as we rounded the corner onto Washington Street. Un
iformed officers scurried everywhere. Murder didn’t happen often in this neck of the woods, so when it did, it commanded a lot of attention.
Once I made my way through a crowd of bystanders and saw which building had been cordone
d off, I realized why I was called. Apparently the murder occurred in a place I was familiar with—The Classy Closet. In fact, I had been there the day before with my friend Shep Jones, owner of the best resale shop in town, The Retro Metro. A little tremor of dread pricked at my conscious as I wondered what the real reason was for my presence today.
I followed Officer Wagoner
under the yellow crime scene tape and walked into the store, not knowing what to expect. A dead body, blood splatters, a gruesome scene? As I took a few tentative steps forward, several cops glanced up from their tasks and stared at me curiously. What was left of my self-confidence suddenly drained from my body. I might as well have been walking into an international power summit at the United Nations Building; I was in way over my head.
Then Sean walked into the room.
“Hey, thanks for coming.”
My knees weakened and warm sparks coursed through my body as he approached. “Good to see y
ou, Sean,” I said, reaching for a friendly hug.
He backed up, leaving my arms hanging
mid-air. Embarrassed, I glanced around and quickly covered by pretending to adjust my hair-do. Another bad move. I heard a slight ripping sound as the fabric on my blazer strained with the stretch of my arms. It appeared I’d blown a seam as well as my dignity.
“Follow me,” he said, his tone all
-business, as he weaved through a myriad of displays.
It’s weird what nerves could do to a person. There I was, following my “ex” to a murder scene when I found myself suddenly distracted by a sweet pair of designer sunglasses—black
leopard frames with rhinestones. I had a pair just like them in my previous life. That would have been my six-figure salary days, when I could afford such luxuries. Now, I buy my shades from an out-of-the-way kiosk at Navy Pier. Just last summer I got a great pair of Ray Bans for only eleven ninety-nine. Well, they were actually
, but…who would know?
“Are you coming?” It was Sean,
looking a little peeved that I’d stopped to check out the glasses.
I reluctantly returned the gl
asses to the shelf and continued following him toward the back room. “You know, I was just here yesterday. I came by with Shep.”
He stopped and looked at me.
“I’m aware of that.”
That uneasy feeling came back. O
f course Sean already knew we were there; he’d checked through the receipts. The owner had accepted a wild offer I made to buy her out-of-season inventory. I’d scored a sweet deal and walked out with several bags of designer woman’s wear. Shep found a few things too, but not as much as me. “Was it her, the owner” I asked, feeling a wave of sadness.
“Yes, Jane Reynolds. Did you know her well?”
“Not really. I didn’t even know her name. I’ve been here a few times, but we never socialized or anything.”
I glanced around, hoping not to see the body.
“She’s at the coroner’s,” Sean said, as if reading my thoughts.
bed at the goose bumps that popped up on my arms despite my long sleeves. A horrible image of someone I knew on a cold slab at the coroner’s office was unshakable.
I shrugged and tried to calm my emotions. “Yeah. It’s just that she seemed like such a nice lady. Was it a robbery?” I looked around, wondering what would be so valuable in a second hand store. It wasn’t the type of place one would normally consider a target for robbery. None of the stuff was especially valuable and in this business there wouldn’t be much cash on hand.
“That’s the thing; we don’t think anything was stolen. We don’t think robbery was the motive.”
“What do you mean? You think it was personal?”
“We’re not absolutely sure
. It seems Reynolds came back to the store after hours to finish some office work and meet someone. Do you know anything about who she would have been meeting?” He was leaning against a display table, arms crossed in a sexy pose. I let my eyes roam for a second. He looked like he had been working out.
“No. Why would I know that?”
Sean didn’t reply.
“Uh … where was she found?” I asked, struggling to stay focused as anoth
er feeling of uneasiness crept over me. Something was up with Sean.
“Right over there.” My eyes followed h
is finger to a spot by the door that separated the office from the rest of the store. “We think she must have come through the front and been heading back to her office. She was shot from the office. It seems the intruder entered through the back door and was standing by the office desk.”
“What would the killer have been doing here in the first place?”
Sean ran his fingers through his hair causing it to stand on end. I took a moment to study him as he paced back and forth. He was wearing his hair longer than his usual standard issue cop-buzz. Something else was different, too. But, I couldn’t place it.
“We don’t know for sure,” he continued
. That’s why we’ve called you.”
“I don’t get it.”
“You and Shep were the last ones in the store yesterday. I thought maybe Jane might have mentioned something about who she was meeting later on.”
I shook my head. “No, not that I can recall. We looked around for maybe a half-hour and I no
ticed she was taking her summer stuff off the racks, getting ready to change over the seasons. I made her an offer on the whole lot. I got a good deal.”
“Did Shep find anything?”
My eyes slid over to corner hutch that he had been looking at the day before. It was set up with ladies’ tea apparel: white gloves, hats, some gaudy jewelry and an antique tea set. The tea set was gone. My heart lurched.
“He was looking at a tea set that was in that hutch?”
“Did he purchase it?”
“No, she was asking too much for it. He passed.”
“But it’s not there now?”
I nodded. My mind racing with my own questions. “Maybe she moved it somewhere.”
The corners of Sean’s mouth tipped slightly upward. “Maybe so. Then what?”
“What do you mean?”
He sighed and shifted. “Then what happened?”
“Oh, she bagged
my purchases and Shep and I left.”
“Did you go straight home?”
I squinted his way. “What are you getting at, Sean?”
“I’m asking you if you went straight home.”
“Yeah, I mean no. Well, we were heading down the street to grab a bite to eat, but Shep suddenly felt ill, so we parted ways. He said he was going to head home to rest. He’s been sick a lot lately; probably some sort of hard-to-shake bug. It’s really got him down.”
didn’t make plans to stop by here later?”
I searched my brain,
trying to remember if Shep mentioned anything about returning. “I don’t think so. Like I said, he wasn’t feeling well.”
He continued. “There’s a tea set in the back wrapped up in a box. I want you to look at it and verify if it was the one in the hutch.”
“Okay.” I followed him into the office thinking this whole thing was seeming stranger by the minute.
“Jane only had one employee, her sister-in-law, Margie
,” he said as we made our way toward a large metal desk that was stacked with paperwork. “We interviewed her earlier and she can’t think of anyone who would want to hurt Jane. I had Margie look over the store’s inventory, but I’m not sure how reliable she was. You know, with being upset and all.”
I nodded. “I’m sure this must be a shock to her.”
“Yeah. Anyway, she said she didn’t notice anything missing. After checking out this tea set, I want you to take a look. See if you see anything else out of place since yesterday.”
“Okay, but Shep actually runs a business like this. He might have taken more notice of Jane’s inventory and how her shop is set up. I’m sure he’d be a big help.” I was testing the waters. Sean’s attitude was making me nervous. I’d known him for a
long time and could tell when he was onto something, or in this case, thought he was onto something. There was absolutely no way Shep was involved in Jane Reynold’s murder. “In fact, maybe I’ll just give him a quick call,” I added, reaching into my bag for my cell.
I didn’t even push
the first number before his hand reached over and snapped my phone shut. “No need, we’ve already tried to contact him.”
“Tried? What do you mean? Can’t you reach him?”
He shrugged off my questions, pulling a box from under Jane’s desk. The top of the box was marked with Shep’s name. “Is this it?” Sean asked, opening it.
I set my purse down and gently lifted one of the green jadeite
tea cups, the same design Shep admired the day before. I nodded slowly, the uneasy feeling in my stomach growing. “I know what you’re getting at, but there’s no way Shep had anything to do with murder. How could you even think that, Sean? We use to hang out together.”
He turned his gaze away, his jaw muscles tight with tension. “Like I was saying, we need you to look around the scene and see if you notice anything else missing from her inventory.” He started fidgeting with the hem of his suit, which I noticed was a designer label, definitely a step up from his usual sales rack pick. “Spend some time checking out the store and see what you come up with. Don’t worry about disturbing anything;
the crime techs are finished. Everything’s been photographed and dusted.”
I rolled my eyes around the room and nodded.
“By the way,” he continued. “Do you know if Shep owns a gun?
“What! No, Shep doesn’t own a gun!” At least I didn’t think he did. I’d never thought to ask him.
Sean held up his hand. “Take an easy. I just thought maybe he kept one in his shop for security reasons.” He turned and started walking away. “Let me know if you find anything. I’ll have Officer Wagoner drive you back when you’re done,” he added over his shoulder.
I stared after him in disbelief. In all the years I’d known him, Sean had always put a high value on friendship. It wasn’t like him to so easily doubt a friend, let alone suspect a friend of something as
brutal as murder. One thing was for sure, more than just Sean’s haircut and wardrobe had changed since I’d last seen him and I knew exactly who to blame … Sarah Maloney.
As soon as he was out of sight, I dialed Shep’s
cell number. No matter what Sean said, I knew there was a perfectly logical explanation for all this. Getting Shep’s voice mail, I hung up and dialed his business number at the Retro Metro. A diligent employee politely refused to divulge his whereabouts but promised to give him my message. For good measure, I redialed his private home number and left a message there, too.
A few moments later, I was still standing there, trying to decide what to do, when one of the officers approached and reiterated Sean’s permission to move about freely. I obeyed, feeling a little
conspicuous as I tiptoed through the store trying to look like I knew what I was doing. For the next half hour or so, I meandered around the racks and past displays of accessories and purses. The only thing that caught my eye was a couple of gorgeous designer handbags that were in perfect shape and priced ridiculously low. I must have missed them the day before. If only circumstances were different, I’d snatch these up and turn them around for a neat profit.
“Have you found something?” Officer Wagoner asked.
I replaced one of the purses I had in hand. “No, not really. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell if something was missing. I’m not really familiar with her inventory.”
“I understand. Just take your time. No hurry. I’ll be ready when you are,” she replied with a nod
, her perky pony tail bouncing with her head. That, along with her tiny frame and petite voice, made me wonder how efficient she’d be as a street cop. Of course, I’d learned the hard way that looks could be deceiving. It was only last year that I had fallen for a sizzling hot guy who seemed quite normal until the day he held a gun to my head. Funny how easy it is to misjudge a person.
I sighed and roamed around for another twenty minutes before conceding defeat. “I’m ready to go now,” I told Officer Wagoner. “I’m sorry
but I didn’t find anything. Just let me grab my bag. I left it in the office.”
e my way to the office and was about to shoulder my purse when I decided to take a quick look through some of the shopping bags lying around the desk. More than likely, these were full of recently received items for consignment.
The first couple I untied revealed a tangled mess of ladies clothing. A tag on the outside was
marked Sokolov. Well, whoever Ms. Sokolov was, she’d not taken good care of packing her clothes. Usually, consigners get the best deal if they take the time to properly launder and prepare their clothing before trying to sell it. I pulled out and checked over a few items; they were wrinkled, but in good shape with expensive labels. Too bad she hadn’t bothered to iron them. Fair or not, the wrinkles would probably depreciate their resale value.