Posted in Cozy Mysteries, Fiction, Novels, The Rhinestone Murder, Uncategorized, Writing

‘THE RHINESTONE MURDER’ — a sample

My newest novella, THE RHINESTONE MURDER, has just been released from St. Ellen Press, and I thought I’d post a sample here to stir up a little interest. I’ll post the first three chapters — one chapter a day — and, after that, of course, readers will have to purchase the book to find out “who done it.”

The book is available through Amazon in both digital and paperback. Readers can learn a little more about it or purchase a copy HERE.

Now, without further ado, here’s CHAPTER ONE.

THE RHINESTONE MURDER

© 2021 Isaac Wallace

CHAPTER ONE

“Don’t move.” The female voice startled him just before he felt the nose of the hand gun against his back. “Raise both hands high and hold them there while I check you for a weapon.”

Carson Knight slowly lifted his hands above his head and immediately felt his captor’s left hand patting along the left side of his body until she came into contact with his shoulder holster. She deftly pushed his jacket aside and lifted out the Glock.

“Now,” she said, pressing her own gun a little harder into his back, “walk over to that chair against the wall and sit down.”

Carson walked toward the chair, but as he turned and sat, he looked the woman in the eye. “Who are you?”

“I’m detective Andrea Pierce, but the more important question is who are you and what are you doing going through this crime scene?” She reached to her left and laid his Glock on the desk that monopolized the room – a small office at the back of an expensive apartment.

Carson started lowering his hands as he began to introduce himself, but she immediately motioned for him to push his hands back into the air. “Look,” he said. “I’m Carson Knight, and I’m a legitimate private investigator, hired by the man who owns this apartment. If you’ll let me lower my hands and remove these latex gloves, I’ll show you identification.”

Andrea gave him a condescending look as she answered. “Wrong answer, Mister. The owner of this apartment is dead.”

“Yes, I know. But he paid me good money to do a job for him, and I’m not going to back out of doing it just because someone killed him.”

He looked daggers at her, but she didn’t flinch. So he tried a different approach. “Look, we can sit here all night with you holding a gun on me — or you can haul me down to headquarters and try to arrest me — which you won’t manage to do, by the way — or you can let me show you my ID, and maybe we can actually cooperate with each other to figure out exactly what’s going on here.”

Andrea looked above his head, thinking. She knew he had a point. Her gut told her he was telling the truth, and she decided to take a chance on that hunch.

“All right, Mr. Knight, let’s see you identification.”

Carson stripped off the latex gloves, pulled his ID from his jacket pocket slowly, and handed it over. After studying it for several seconds, Andrea, handed it back and holstered her own gun. She motioned toward his on the desk to her left. “You can pick this up again when you leave.”

“Fair enough,” Carson said, nodding his agreement. “My client, Burt Scofield, came to my office last week and asked me to look into some threatening letters he’d been receiving for the past couple months. I traced them to a former employee who evidently blamed Scofield for his daughter’s death.”

“We didn’t find any letters in his office or his home. That’s why I’m back again today, going over everything a second time. I was in the bedroom when I heard you messing around here in the study.”

“I know you didn’t find any letters. You couldn’t have. Scofield gave all of them to me. I’ve made copies of them, so if you want copies, they’re yours.”

“You’re damn right, they’re mine. If you have other property belonging to the murder victim, you’d better turn that over as well.”

“The letters are all I have, Detective. And I don’t appreciate your attitude or your treatment. I’m a legally functioning officer of the law as well — licensed by this state to help find lawbreakers and see that they get put out of business. I’m also licensed to protect innocent people. So get off your high horse and let’s talk about this like two professionals who want the same results, or I’ll just take off and continue to do my own job and let you do yours.”

Carson rose from his chair and, before Andrea could anticipate his actions, he had grabbed his Glock, returned it to his shoulder holster, not even slowing his stride, and moved toward the door. She knew she could pull her gun on him again, but she also knew she didn’t have a clue where to look for the killer yet, and she could use any information Carson Knight had uncovered.

“Wait!” she said, “you’re right.” She slumped a little and leaned against the desk, finally resting one hip against it and folding her arms. Carson stopped and turned to look at her. He chuckled. “What a shame I didn’t have my recorder on when you said that. I doubt that you’d admit telling me I was right in a court of law.” he added, a twinkle in his eyes.

Andrea smirked. “You’re damn right about that too,” she answered, her own mouth fighting a smile.

Carson exhaled a deep breath and walked back to the chair and sat down again. “Okay, so here’s what I know. The employee, a guy named Ronald Crawford, worked for Scofield in his accounting department. His daughter Leslie was twelve years old and was hit by a car while crossing the street just a few blocks from Scofield’s office. The driver took off after hitting the girl, but two people claimed they saw Scofield behind the wheel of the car. That was four years ago. Were you on the force then? Are you familiar with the case?”

“No, I came to this department just under three years ago, so I don’t have any info on that hit and run. Are you saying no one was ever charged?”

“Right. The local police contended that they had followed every clue, but could never prove that Scofield — or anyone else — was definitely the driver. Scofield claimed he was at a restaurant with prospective clients at the time, and both of those clients did come forward to testify on his behalf.”

“And what about the eye witnesses?”

“They claimed they recognized Scofield from a picture of him they’d seen in the paper, but since it was dusk, and the witnesses were standing across the street and at an awkward angle, their ability to know beyond a doubt that it really was Burt Scofield behind the wheel was just too questionable. So he never faced any kind of trial.”

“And I suppose he told you that he was innocent?”

“Yes, and I believed him. I looked into the facts of the case thoroughly, and I don’t see anything in the testimony of his two clients to question, nor do I trust the witnesses to be sure of what or who they saw.”

“And did this Ronald Crawford admit to sending the threatening letters.”

“He did, but he said that after sending six of them — over a period of three months — he had pretty well vented his frustration and pain and that he didn’t plan on going through with his threats to get even.”

“Well, that puts us right back to where I was when you broke in here,” Andrea said.

“If you recall, Detective Pierce, I did not break in. I simply walked into the apartment through an already unlocked door. A door you had unlocked yourself.”

Andrea huffed a sigh but averted her eyes. Lifting herself away from the desk. She walked to the window just to the right of where Carson sat. Both of them were silent for several minutes, and then they heard the outer door to the apartment open and close.

Each of them looked at the other, alert and listening. Carson motioned silently for them to move to a place behind the partially open study door. They had just managed to get into position there when the door was pushed open farther, and a hand holding a revolver slowly appeared past the edge of the door as Ronald Crawford eased into the room.

Instantly, Carson brought his right arm down over Crawford’s wrist, causing him to drop the gun. Crawford looked at them with eyes wide with fear and shock, then he turned and tried to run. Carson was too fast for him, and as soon as he hauled the man back into the study, Andrea slapped her handcuffs on him. Carson dragged him to the chair he had previously occupied and then introduced him to Detective Pierce. Then he proceeded to look daggers at the seated man.

“What happened to the change of heart you told me you’d had, Crawford? You’ve obviously come here with the intention of using that gun.”

Crawford looked from one detective to the other, his voice quivering as he answered. “No! No, no I wasn’t really going to shoot him. I just wanted to scare him — to make him suffer a little more,” he said, his voice breaking as tears filled his eyes. He looked down at the floor, shaking his head from side to side. “I just wanted him to suffer …” His voice trailed off and Andrea spoke then.

“You intended to find Burt Scofield here at his apartment and frighten him?”

Crawford looked at her, his face crumpled with his emotions. “Yes … I know it’s childish and hateful of me. I just —” His voice trailed off again, and he lifted his hands as if to emphasize the helplessness of his feelings.

“So you believed you’d find Scofield here at home today?” Carson asked.

“Yes. I did call the office, but they told me he wasn’t in, so I took a chance he’d be here.” He looked around then, seeming to take in for the first time that the two people in the room were detectives, and that Scofield was nowhere in sight. “Where is he?” he asked.

“He’s dead,” Andrea answered, and Crawford’s eyes grew huge at the shock of her words.

“Dead?” he finally asked. “H … How?”

“Shot,” Andrea said. “So we’re going to need to ask you a lot of questions concerning your whereabouts today.”

“But I couldn’t have done it. I was home all day. And besides, why would I have come here to scare him if I had already shot him?”

“Mmhmm. Pretty convenient way of making yourself look innocent,” Andrea said. She looked at Carson then. “I need to get him down to the station and start proceedings for arrest – at least for entering these premises with a gun with an apparent intent to do bodily harm. I’ll come back later to go over everything again.” She stopped and studied Carson, appraising him. “I’ll trust you to lock up when you’re done and turn anything new that you find over to me immediately.”

Carson nodded. “You have my word, Detective.”

She nodded, pulled Crawford to his feet, pressed him toward the door, and started reciting his rights as they left the apartment.

Carson followed them to the apartment door and locked it behind them. Then he turned and looked at the living room area, trying to see it through fresh eyes. He slipped on the latex gloves again, even though he knew the room had already been checked for fingerprints. He still didn’t want to take a chance on compromising any other possible evidence. He methodically looked through drawers of end tables and then moved to the bedroom to search drawers and the closet there.

Nothing. He went back through the study, checking every drawer and pulling books from the bookcase to make sure there was nothing hidden behind them. In fact, he took time to flip through every book just in case any notes or clues were hidden between pages.

He was thoroughly disgusted by the time he finished that job, and walked slowing back into the living room, moving around the perimeter, his eyes on the floor. Just as he was retracing his steps past the main door to the apartment, he noticed something shiny on the carpet. Two twinkles caught his eye, just a couple inches apart, and he bent down for a closer look.

Two rhinestones sparkled up at him. He took a plastic bag from his pocket and placed the stones inside. That really was odd. There was no indication of any rhinestone jewelry in the bedroom, and to the best of his knowledge, Scofield lived here alone. Any rhinestones would have had to come from some item worn by a visitor – most likely a woman. He continued his close scanning of the floor and came up with a third matching stone.

The loose stones were unusual enough that he moved back into the office and got down on his hands and knees to scour the carpet there again. Slowly, he inched his way along the floor and did finally discover three more stones, all matching. Those three lay under the desk, so close to the leg where it met the carpet that they were easily missed in the earlier search. They must have been kicked there accidentally.

The stones he found in the living room had a slightly beige tent to them, and the three in the office were the same. Putting them into the same plastic bag, Carson placed the bag in his coat pocket and continued his thorough search of the rest of the apartment.

⊕⊕⊕

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