Authors: Jennifer L. Jennings
24 hours later
eeing my brother walk out of the prison gates as a free man, well, the feeling is hard to describe in words. It was probably one of the happiest days of my life. By the look on his face, probably the happiest day of his life, too.
We embraced for what seemed like an eternity.
“Sarah,” he said, his voice heavy with emotion. “I don’t understand. How did you get me released? Nobody would tell me anything in there.”
“Because,” I said, trying to keep myself from crying. “Rachel is still alive.”
His face became pale and he looked like he might pass out. “What?”
“Rachel faked her own death because she believed her life was in danger. It’s a long story and one that I should let her tell you. It’s not my place.”
Eyes wide with disbelief, he opened his mouth but nothing came out. Finally he managed to say, “Is she okay?”
“Yes. Andrew, I know this is a lot to process right now. The most important thing is that your nightmare is over. You’re a free man.”
He wrapped his arms around me again, buried his face in the crook of his neck and started sobbing. My own tears flowed freely at this point, and I didn’t try to stop them.
“How can I ever thank you for believing in me?”
“I’ve got a list,” I teased. “You can read it later.”
He laughed and cried at the same time while Carter stood back and watched. Finally, Andrew let go of me and went to Carter, extending his hand. “It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Peterson. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”
“Please, call me Carter,” he said and, pulling his hand in, Carter gave Andrew a bear hug, the first time I’d ever seen him hug another man.
Andrew looked around and spied Rachel, who was sitting in her car at the end of the parking lot. She had opted to wait in her car until Andrew and I had had a few minutes together. Personally, I think she was stalling. Afraid of what she would say to Andrew after all that had happened. It would be her responsibility to explain it to him.
“Why is she still in her car?” Andrew seemed confused and hurt. “She doesn’t seem very excited to see me.”
“I’m sure she is,” I said. “But there is a lot for you two to talk about.”
He seemed hesitant as he let go of my hand. “Are you guys going to stick around? I mean, you’re not heading back to New Hampshire right away, are you?”
“We’ll be in town for another few days, at least,” I said. “You can call us later, after you’ve had some time to settle back in your home.”
“I’d love to take you guys out to dinner tonight,” he said. “We need to celebrate.”
“I appreciate that, but let’s play it by ear. If you’re not up for it, we can do that some other time.”
“Why wouldn’t I be up for it?” He brought my hand up to his lips and kissed it. “You’re my hero.”
Then, he turned away from me and headed toward Rachel’s car.
When Carter and I got back into the Buick, he said, “Let’s get some breakfast. You haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday afternoon, have you?”
I could see Andrew and Rachel talking inside her car. Actually, Rachel seemed to be doing all the talking, while Andrew just stared at her. “Do you think Andrew will forgive her for the choices she’s made?”
Carter gave me a sideways glance. “I don’t know him very well but, if he’s anything like you, he’ll probably give her the benefit of the doubt.”
“He handled the news well, don’t you think? Although, after what he’s been through, I imagine he could handle just about anything, now.”
“I wouldn’t worry about him, Sarah. He’ll probably write a book about his experience and it’ll become a bestseller.”
“I hope you’re right. He deserves a break.”
“Besides,” he said. “If things don’t work out between them, I bet he’ll move to Bridgeport to be closer to you and Sammy.”
Just the thought of it made me smile. Sammy would be thrilled beyond belief. I could see his face now, beaming with pride.
* * *
A few hours later, I got the call from Andrew. “When are you and Carter heading back to Bridgeport?”
“Not sure,” I said. “Probably tomorrow morning, why?”
“Rachel and I had a long talk. I won’t lie, I’m still in shock over everything she said. She … told me about Logan Taylor and how they... how they got together.”
“It’s not fair,” I said. “I know this sucks for you, and I wish there was something I could do to make it better.”
“You already have, Sarah. It’s because of you that I don’t want to slit my wrists.”
I detected some sarcasm there, so I didn’t take his comment literally. “I have an idea. I know you probably need time to work things out in your personal life, but why don’t you come to New Hampshire? Sammy is dying to meet you in the flesh. You can stay with Carter and me for as long as you want. We have a lot to catch up on. Forty years’ worth, to be exact.”
He laughed. “You’re not just saying that? You want me to come?”
“Whenever you’re ready.”
“Um, is tomorrow too soon?”
One week later
ammy wanted to have a party. He couldn’t wait to introduce Andrew to all his lady friends at Fairview Estates. I couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so happy.
He had spent days getting his spare bedroom just right for Andrew’s visit. And ever since he’d arrived from Connecticut three days prior, he’s spent a lot of time in that room, sleeping. After two months in jail, he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in all that time. Apparently, prison cells don’t have the most comfortable beds, not to mention the incessant noise.
“I’m having the event catered,” he told me, over coffee in his kitchen. “Will you help me plan it?”
“Why do you want it catered?” I asked. “Why don’t you just let me make a bunch of casseroles and call it done?”
“Um,” Sammy placed his hand on my shoulder and gave me a regretful look. “I’ve had your casseroles before, my dear. That’s why I’m catering the party. Please don’t be upset.”
It’s been a running joke in my family, how awful a cook I am. I try not to take it to heart. I’m beginning to accept that I can’t be great at everything. “Then at least let me buy the booze.”
“It’s a deal.” Sammy’s expression turned serious. “By the way, is there any news about Dr. Boyle and his wife?”
“Yes. Just this morning we heard that Barry finally confessed. He told the police that his wife planned and executed the murders of Dr. Spealman and Dr. Lenzer. Because of his testimony, he’s not looking at jail time. Tracy, however, is a different story. Looks like her lawyer and the DA are working on a plea bargain. I’m guessing she’ll take whatever is offered, but you never know. She might try and chance it with a jury, but we know how that can go. If need be, Carter and I might have to testify at the trial. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
At the sound of footsteps on carpeting, Sammy and I looked up from his dining room table to find Andrew standing in his Simpson’s pajamas, a sheepish smile on his face. He looked well rested, the color returning to his cheeks. “That coffee smells wonderful. Who must I bribe to get a cup of that?”
It was so good to see Andrew’s sense of humor come out. Sammy has often commented on the fact that Andrew and I are alike that way.
“Did you sleep well?” Sammy asked him with genuine concern. “I wasn’t sure if you’d prefer cotton sheets or flannel.”
Andrew joined us at the kitchen table. “Are you kidding me? I’ve never slept better. The sheets are perfect.”
Sammy shifted back into party planner. “Tell me, what’s your favorite birthday cake?”
Andrew chuckled. “But it’s not my birthday, Dad.”
“I know that.”
“Okay.” Andrew smiled, playing along. “How about ... chocolate with buttercream frosting?”
“Perfect.” Sammy got to his feet. “I’m going to call Vicki at the bakery to make sure she can do that in time for the weekend.” He excused himself to make a call.
Andrew turned to me and, with a sleepy expression, said, “Is he like this all the time?”
“Get used to it. He’s not going to simmer down any time soon. You are the best thing that’s happened to him in a long time.”
I went to the counter and poured Andrew a cup of coffee. “Do you take cream and sugar?” I asked.
“Black, thank you.”
After he took a sip, he smiled, giving me a thumbs up. “Delicious. The coffee in prison tastes like tar. Not that I’ve ever tasted tar before, but you know what I mean.”
“Have you talked to Rachel since the day you were released?” I didn’t want to push the subject of Rachel, but he seemed to be adjusting to his new life. In fact, he hadn’t mentioned her once since he got to Bridgeport.
“She called me last night and we talked. It went okay, I guess. When I told her I was planning to move to New England, she offered to buy my house.”
“Really? What did you say?”
“I said yes. Makes things much easier for me.”
“Is she still planning to publish her book?” I asked.
“Yep. Roger Shefke is still on board. I guess I’m happy for her, even though I resent what she and Logan did to me. I’m just going to have to work through it and accept it. The silver lining, of course, is my new family. Here in New Hampshire.”
“What about your job? Will your company relocate you?”
“I guess I’m in no hurry to find something. With the equity from my house, I should be comfortable for a while. I’ll figure it out eventually.”
I took his hand and held it firmly. “I’m glad you’re here. And you know, if work picks up for Carter and me, maybe you could help us out once in a while. It might be fun.”
“Are you serious? I don’t have any experience in your line of work.”
“Well, neither did
I until two years ago. Besides, now that you’ve been in the joint, you have some real world experience under your belt.”
He burst out laughing. “Oh yeah. I’m a real bad-ass now.”
Of course, I’d only been half serious. “Life has a way of working out. Just be open to new possibilities, and you never know what may happen.”
He lifted his coffee mug and clinked it with mine. “Amen to that,” he said.
The Killer in Me
Sarah Woods Mystery #18
Jennifer L. Jennings
All Rights Reserved
Query Publishing LLC
don’t like guns. That’s the stock reply I use when people ask me why I don’t carry one.
What’s wrong with pepper spray? It’s lightweight, inexpensive, and you don’t need a license to carry it. Sure, it might be limiting in certain situations, but pepper spray has never killed anyone.
As a private investigator, I’ve found myself staring into the business end of a firearm more times than I’d like to admit. I suppose you could say that I’m lucky to be alive. Truth is, someday my luck is bound to run out.
Which is why I decided to buy a gun.
It wasn’t all my idea, of course. Carter has been voicing his opinions on the subject ever since my official PI license arrived in the mail over two years ago. If I were going to be a professional in the field, I should know how to handle a pistol for protection.
An ex-cop from Boston, Carter had learned a thing or two about weapons during his extensive training. After fifteen years on the force, however, he had only fired his gun once while on duty.
Sure, guns are dangerous. They claim too many lives of innocent people. But with proper training and respect, Carter continues to assure me that owning a gun may end up saving my life.
* * *
It was on a Tuesday morning, during my eighth lesson at the shooting range, when I finally hit the bullseye on the target fifty feet away. You would have thought I’d won the lottery.
“I can’t believe I finally did it,” I said, holding up the sheet, admiring the crisp hole. I poked my finger through it, to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. “I didn’t think this would ever happen.”
“I knew you’d be good at this, Sarah. Let’s celebrate over lunch. My treat.”
Carter’s proud smile was all I needed in the way of a celebration. He’d been my mentor for over two years; his encouragement and belief in me unrelenting. Aside from the fact that we were lovers, he was also my best friend and the only person I trusted with my life.
Elated with the feeling of accomplishment, I readily accepted his lunch invitation. Besides, we had nowhere else to go. We’d finished up our last case and had nothing in the works.
Making sure the safety on the gun had been engaged, I slipped it into the hidden pocket inside my purse. I still wasn’t used to carrying it around with me, even though I was legit. “Ready when you are. I’m starving.”
It was almost noon when we left the shooting range. It was a crisp, clear day and almost seventy degrees. Mid-June in Bridgeport, New Hampshire, is my favorite time of year. As we headed to Carter’s Buick, his cell phone erupted with the familiar James Bond theme ring tone.
He removed it from his back pocket and glanced at the screen. “It’s a private number.”
“Maybe it’s a potential client.”
Carter hesitated but eventually held the phone up and depressed the button so I could listen.
“Hello?” It was a man’s voice with a British accent. “Mr. Carter Peterson, please.”
“Speaking. How may I help you?”
“My name is Albert Kinlaw. You came highly recommended by a colleague of mine. I’d like to set up a meeting with you as soon as possible.”
“Sure,” Carter replied. “May I ask the nature of your business, Mr. Kinlaw?”
A long pause as he cleared his throat. “Yes, well, it has to do with my wife.”
“I see.” Carter looked at me, rolling his eyes. “Mr. Kinlaw, you think your wife is cheating on you?”
“It’s not quite that simple, I’m afraid. Perhaps it would be best if we discussed this in person.”
By the look on Carter’s face, he was less than thrilled. “Does 3:00 p.m. today work?”
“Yes, that would be perfect.”
“We have an office downtown, or we can meet you at a different location.”
“If it’s not too much trouble,” he said, “I’d like you to come to my home in Glendale Heights. Are you familiar with the area?”
“I’m number fifty-five, Sherwood Ave. At the top of the hill.”
“Not a problem, Mr. Kinlaw. My partner Sarah and I will be at your house at 3:00 p.m. sharp.”
“Thank you. I appreciate your accommodating me, and I look forward to meeting you both.”
Carter returned his cell phone to his jeans pocket. “Looks like this might be the end of our dry spell.”
“Great,” I said, with no lack of sarcasm. “Another infidelity case.”
“Hey, it pays the bills,” he said with a shrug. “Before we meet him, I’d like to do a background check.”
“If he has a house in Glendale Heights, he’s got to be loaded. I guess these days money can’t even buy you a faithful wife. What’s this world coming to?”
“Must be inflation. You don’t get what you pay for anymore.”
I try not to make a habit out of mocking people’s misery, but I find it hard to feel much sympathy for men like Mr. Kinlaw. Carter and I had worked a number of cases like this one, and they all turn out the same. If you think your spouse is cheating, you are probably right. Still, I had to remind myself to be objective.
Twenty minutes later, Carter and I were at our favorite burger joint, Big Kahuna Burger. The ambiance is a bit cliché with the tacky Hawaiian décor, but the food is tasty. I ordered the cheeseburger with a side salad, hoping the inclusion of green would magically transform the meal into a healthy one.
Carter was not one to worry about calories or nutrition. He ordered a double cheeseburger with fried onions and mushrooms, not to mention the greasy fries. It always amazes me how he maintains his rock hard abs. I run three times a week without fail, and it’s still a challenge to maintain my 125 pounds.
“Time to get down to business,” he said, after clearing the last few crumbs from his plate. “Let’s find out more about this Albert Kinlaw.”
There are dozens of online programs available to private investigators that supply in-depth information on a person, provided you have a full name and current address. It also helps if you have a social security number and birthdate. In this case, we were able to find an Albert James Kinlaw at the address he’d given us, fifty-five, Sherwood Ave, Glendale Heights.
“I found a copy of his driver’s license,” I said, holding up my tablet to show Carter. “Meet Sir Albert.”
Carter nearly choked on his soda when he saw the photo. “Are you sure he’s not related to Elton John?”
With the bowl haircut and dark-rimmed glasses, I could see his point. “He’s 45 years old. Just a year older than me.”
Carter tapped a finger on his tablet. “Well, I know how he made his money. He’s an investment banker. Worked for several large firms since he moved to the US in 2006 from Manchester, England. And according to the marriage certificate from 2015, his current wife’s name is Madeline Banger. She’s 34 years old, born in Georgia. Neither one of them appears to have a criminal record.”
“So they’ve been married less than a year? Can you look her up and find out what she does for work?”
Carter came up empty after a quick search with her name. “Last employment was with a women’s boutique called Serendipity. That was back in 2012. There’s no record of her working anywhere since then.”
“Maybe she’s been honing her skills as a gold-digger,” I said. “Got a picture?”
“Her driver’s license.”
He showed it to me and my eyes widened. “She’s gorgeous and blonde, of course.”
Carter checked his watch then tossed a twenty on the table. “Hey, it’s almost two-thirty. We should head over to the house now.”