Authors: Beth Yarnall
Tags: #Romance, #Romantic Comedy, #Romantic Suspense, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
Super Agent, my husband, Mr. Y. for buying in to and supporting every single one of my crazy Lucy and Ethel schemes…including the one where I thought I could write a book.
And to my parents, Don and Charlotte Pirch, for being so strongly convicted politically that they’ve not only marched on our state’s capitol but on Washington, D.C., as well. I’d bail you out—anytime, anywhere.
Standing over Chuck Puckett’s prone, naked body, sirens wailing in the background, I had done what I’d been dying to do for days—I kicked him square in the nuts. The pointy toe of my leopard-print, kitten-heeled pump had made a satisfying triangular dent. So satisfying that I kicked him twice more for good measure. The only thing I regretted about this later was the fact that the bastard was dead and didn’t feel my sharp retribution.
Even hearing the words “Maggie Mae Castro, you’re under arrest for murder”, the taping of my perp walk—which had garnered over a hundred thousand hits on YourVid—being forced to wear a hideous orange jumpsuit after my clothes were confiscated as evidence, and being ditched by not one, but
public defenders, didn’t ping on my shame-o-meter. Sitting across the cold metal table from my new attorney, explaining why I’d tried to rearrange Chuck Puckett’s genitals while my lawyer defensively cupped his own, it suddenly dawned on me that I’d heard nothing about the skank ho bitch Chuck Puckett had been banging behind my back.
“What about Crouching Slut, Hidden Man Stealer?” I asked.
Regis Dilton, AKA the attorney, who was dumb enough…or smart enough—time would tell—to take my case, glanced up from his notes to stare at me over the rim of his glasses. “What?”
“The slut Chuck Puckett was cheating on me with.”
“The senator was cheating on you?”
Oh yes, Chuck Puckett was an Arizona state senator. But not just any senator—he was the conservative, Christian-family-values senator who’d tried and almost succeeded in passing legislation to have creationism taught in schools. The irony of him being found naked and dead, wearing lipstick and a long, blond wig, might have been funny but for the fact that I was now the accused murderess who, according to the morning paper, had desecrated their golden-boy senator in some sick sexual death ritual.
I filled in old Regis on finding Chuck Puckett in bed with his Asian sensation riding him like a prize bull and how she’d invited me to join them. I had declined the invitation of course, doing so with a lot of cursing and smashing…and maybe a little car keying. But when I got to the part where Chuck Puckett had lured me back to his mansion the following day with lots of pitiful pleading and how I’d shown up only to find the Jade Jezebel fleeing the scene of Chuck Puckett’s murder, I faltered. I was pathetic. I had also been set up. Of this, I was sure.
Regis…not so much. “And you think this woman is the one who killed the senator, leaving you to take the fall. Do you have proof?”
“Well, it’s not like I stopped to jot down her confession.” If I had gotten a hold of her, I would’ve earned the murder rap honestly and could truly bask in the joy of getting to know old Regis here.
“Miss Castro, I suggest we stick to what we and the police can prove.”
He stacked his hands on the table. “They caught you in the act of desecrating the body of an Arizona state senator. So there’s that.”
“That’s all I did. And it wasn’t desecrating, it was…anger management. I’ve been told I might have an issue in that regard.”
“No kidding. You were also in possession of a firearm.”
“Um, hello. We’re in Arizona. Besides, it’s registered.”
“I didn’t shoot him.”
“Miss Castro—” he exhaled as though he was having a little anger-management problem himself, “—you were found at the scene of a murder, in possession of a firearm, kicking the body of a beloved senator who’d been shot to death.”
“Well, when you put it like that…”
There was a knock on the door. Detective Barry opened it. “We’re releasing her. For now.” He threw that last part in to scare me. It worked.
“I’m free to go?” I asked.
Regis was already stuffing his notebook in his briefcase like he had better places to be. I could hardly blame him. “Looks that way.”
“And you were so pessimistic.” I popped out of my seat. “Where are my things?”
Detective Barry tossed me a large manila envelope. I tore it open and peered inside. All it contained was the contents of my purse minus the gun. The purse itself was missing. It was my favorite one too. Chuck Puckett had given it to me for my birthday, not that I was sentimental or anything. But it was Prada, for jeepers’ sake.
“Where’s my purse? And jewelry?”
“The handbag is evidence. The jewelry is in a baggy at the bottom. Have a nice day.” With that, the detective left like he’d done me some kind of favor. The bastard.
“I have an appointment across town,” Regis said. “I’ll call you.” He dropped his business card on the table, making a quick exit as though he was the one who’d spent the night with Big Bertha and her prison pals and couldn’t wait to get the jail stench off him.
I pulled out my cell phone and tried to turn it on. Dead. Great. How was I supposed to get home?
“Need a ride?”
I looked up into the dark eyes of a very large man in an ill-fitting suit who seemed to know not only who I was but the predicament I was in. Too bad I could smell the cop on him. I was already mentally undressing him and redressing him in something that would be worth stripping back off him.
“Yeah, no. That’s okay. Is there a pay phone around here?”
“Down the hall, but you wouldn’t want to use it without a hazmat suit.” His voice rumbled through me like a commuter train making all the stops—Hot Guy City, Interested Town and Turned-Onville. “Here.” He held out a spiffy-looking phone that looked like it could control the space station. “Use mine.”
“Would you mind switching it on? And setting it to ‘phone’…you know, with the number-pad thingy?”
His lips kicked up at the corner, revealing a rather charming dimple. Damn it! I loved dimples on a guy.
“Sure. Here you go.”
The tips of my fingers slid across his palm. There was a snap and I got a little jolt. Yeah, not sparks. Just plain old static electricity.
“It’s…ah, dry in here I guess.” I laughed, but it wasn’t an aren’t-I-witty chuckle, it was a crazy-psycho-bitch kind of cackle. My flirting skills had been seriously ground to nubs by Chuck Puckett. I’d better shut up before someone decided I should be put on a psych hold.
He watched me with his dark eyes, assessing. Probably thought I’d pocket his phone. Who was this LL Cool J lookalike? And why was he being so generous with his cell phone minutes?
I kept my eye on him—like that was a hardship—and dialed my friend Tabitha, thinking she might be home, but then I remembered it was Tuesday and she had rhombus…no zima…no, that wasn’t right…she had some kind of dance-fitness thing so that was a no-go.
I handed tall, dark and disturbing his phone back. “How do I go back to the number part?”
“How about you tell me the number and I’ll dial it for you?”
“Yeah, sure.” I rattled off Xavier’s number. Hot Cop punched it in and then handed me back his phone.
Hot Cop and I eyeballed each other while I waited for Xav to pick up. I got the feeling I’d seen him before, but couldn’t place him. Maybe I’d seen him at the department store where I worked. He didn’t look like someone who’d step foot in the cosmetics department unless he’d been dragged there by a girlfriend. And why I found the thought of him with a girlfriend so depressing was beyond me. I really needed to get out of this room before Hot Cop’s pheromones caused my ovaries to explode like confetti cannons.
“Finally,” I said when Xav answered.
“Maggs?” He squealed like he was the one who’d been given a cavity search. “I’ve always wanted to be someone’s one phone call. Holy shit, Chiquita, you’re famous. It’s all over the Internet and TV. You’re YourVid famous. A hundred and fourteen…no, a hundred and twenty-one thousand hits on your Walk of Shame. Great mug shot, by the way.” That Xavier. He was nothing if not a big fat boost to my insecurities.
“Gee, thanks. Can you manage to pull yourself away from my humiliation long enough to give me a ride?” I told him where to pick me up, promising to fill him in on the stuff that wasn’t already on the Internet.
I gave old Chocolate Eyes his phone back. “Thanks Mr.… Detective…”
Yeah, I could see the “special”. “What? Was Super Agent already taken?”
I got the full-tilt, crinkly-eyed smile. “Special Agent Clive Poole…FBI.”
My time with Chuck Puckett hadn’t been all bad. We’d had some good times, like the time he took me to that carnival and won a stuffed animal for me. It might have been a photo op set up by his people, but at the time, I didn’t care. As he’d handed me the oversized elephant that now rested in peace at the dump after being drilled with a few hundred rounds from my semiautomatic, he’d done so with the crooked grin that had reeled me in from the start. Chuck Puckett had oozed charm, secreting good-natured humor and gentlemanly goodness through every pore.
That was how I’d describe him. Genuinely nice. The voters had thought so too, reelecting him to a second term by a landslide. He’d been handsome, blond with the ruddy-cheeked ruggedness from a
catalog. Some girls liked bad boys, some suits. Me? I had a weakness for flannel and guys who could make a snowman and a cup of hot cocoa.
No, he hadn’t been all bad. It was these sentimental musings that had led me to be sitting in my car in front of the church where Chuck Puckett would be eulogized. The same church where generations of Pucketts had been baptized, married and mourned. Chuck Puckett had talked about us being married here as though it were a certainty and not the consolation it apparently had been for banging his southeast slut on the side.
The mourners filed up the steps in twos and threes. I recognized a few political cronies, family members and friends. This was the crowd I’d run with during the year Chuck Puckett and I had been together. I hadn’t thought I’d fit in, but he’d paved the way so that even the snootiest political wife air-kissed me with the same enthusiasm as she would the first lady. It was nice that so many had shown up to honor him.
I flipped down the visor and opened the mirror to dab at unexpected tears. I didn’t know why I was crying over Chuck Puckett. I was supposed to be mad at him, furious at the cheating rat bastard. But a new, surprising emotion had replaced my anger—regret.
I climbed out of my car and picked my way around the puddles left over from last night’s rain. I knew better than to wear suede pumps, but they’d gone so perfectly with my outfit. Head down, I didn’t see the mob until I was in the midst of it and then it was too late. Shouts of “Why’d you do it, Maggie?” and “Murdering Maggie!” drowned out the somber strains coming from inside the church. Reporters jostled me from all sides, and I would’ve fallen if a strong hand hadn’t gripped my elbow, steadying me.
“I got you.” Super Agent Poole put his arm around me and hustled me up the church steps and into an unoccupied antechamber off the main vestibule. He didn’t release me. Instead he gripped both my shoulders and gave me a little shake. “Are you crazy? What in the hell are you doing here?”
Not the reunion I’d pictured. In my imaginings there’d been flattering words and smoldering looks. What I got was two hundred and fifty pounds of pissed-off G-man.
“You shouldn’t be here.”
“Why not?” I asked. Who was this guy to tell me what to do?
“The cops are already looking for a reason to charge you with murder. Showing up at the victim’s funeral only helps their case.”
“Oh.” I hadn’t thought of that. No wonder the sharks out front had circled and bumped me like it was feeding time.
“I can take you out the back way.” He started to steer me to a door on the other side of the room.
Holding up a hand, I dug in my heels. “Wait.”
“Why are you here?”
“A senator was murdered.”
That was as good an answer as any, I supposed. “What about you?”
He huffed out a breath. “What about me?”
think I killed him?”
His one-word exoneration left me a bit lightheaded. He was the first law-enforcement type I’d come across during this whole mess who hadn’t mentally convicted me on sight, including my own attorney.
“Does that matter? We have to get you out of here.”
“I just wanted to pay my respects. I kinda loved him. You know…before.”
His mouth compressed into a grim line. “I’m sure you did. Can we go now?”
We started for the door but stopped at the sound of voices. Super Agent and I exchanged looks. He put his finger to his lips, drawing my attention to their kissable perfection. The doorknob turned. Gripping my arm, he pulled me through another door, this one a tiny closet. Two men came into the room where we’d just been, arguing.