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Shades of Murder

A Mac Faraday Mystery

By

Lauren Carr

Shades of Murder: Book Information

All Rights Reserved © 2012 by Lauren Carr

Published by Acorn Book Services

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted  in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or  mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author.

For information, call: 304-995-1295

or e-mail: writerlaurencarr@gmail.com.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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Published in the United States of America



Table of Contents

Shades of Murder: Book Information

Dedication

Cast of Characters

Epigraph

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Epilogue

About the Author

Check Out  Lauren Carr’s Mysteries!

Crimes Past

Table of Contents

Shades of Murder: Book Information

Dedication

Cast of Characters

Epigraph

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Epilogue

About the Author

Check Out  Lauren Carr’s Mysteries!

Twofer Murder

Dedication

To My Beloved Family

Cast of Characters

(in order of appearance)

David O’Callaghan: Spencer police officer, promoted to chief of police after death of his father, Police Chief Patrick O’Callaghan. Mac Faraday’s half-brother.

Police Chief Patrick O’Callaghan: Spencer’s legendary police chief. The love of Robin Spencer’s life.

Archie Monday: Personal assistant to world-famous mystery author Robin Spencer. Lives in the guest cottage at Spencer Manor.

Robin Spencer: Queen of Mystery. World famous mystery author. Upon her death, it is revealed that as a teenager she had a son out of wedlock, to whom she has left her vast fortune. She is the love of Police Chief Patrick O’Callaghan’s life.

Arthur Bogart: Spencer’s Deputy Police Chief. Best friend of Patrick O’Callaghan. David’s godfather.

Neal Hathaway: Multi-millionaire and CEO of Hathaway Industries, which builds and launches satellites.

Greta: Neal Hathaway’s housekeeper.

Susan Dulin: Neal Hathaway’s executive assistant.

Rachel Hathaway: Neal Hathaway’s daughter-in-law. Married to Scott Hathaway.

Ilysa Ramsay: Artist. Neal Hathaway’s wife.

Reggie: Package Delivery Service Trainee.

Kevin: Package Delivery Service Driver.

Gnarly: Mac Faraday’s German Shepherd. Only dog to be dishonorably discharged from the United States Army. Don’t ask them why. They refuse to talk about it.

Mac Faraday: Underpaid homicide detective. His wife leaves him and takes everything. On the day his divorce became final, he inherited $270 million and an estate on Deep Creek Lake from his birth mother, Robin Spencer.

Archibald Poole: Millionaire Art Collector.

Peyton Kaplan: Vice-President in charge of security at Hathaway Industries.

Nancy Kaplan: Peyton Kaplan’s wife.

Victor Gruskonov: Ilysa’s business manager.

George Scales: Neal Hathaway’s lawyer.

Joshua Thornton: Hancock County, West Virginia, prosecuting attorney, former JAG lawyer. Retired after the sudden death of his wife Valerie left him to raise five children on his own. He is looking forward to a relaxing two-week vacation as an empty-nester—until he agrees to do a favor for the last person he expected to do a favor for.

Reverend Brody: Prison pastor. Friend of Joshua Thornton.

Oliver Cartwright: Serial Rapist and Murderer. Serving life in prison.

Lieutenant Sherry Bixby: Head of Homicide Division with Pennsylvania State Police stationed in Pittsburgh barracks.

Detective Cameron Gates: Pennsylvania State Police’s top homicide detective. She had investigated the Oliver Cartwright murders.

Irving: Cameron Gates’s cat. You’d have issues too if you looked like a skunk.

Priscilla Garrett: Senior Forensics Technician.

Admiral: Joshua Thornton’s dog. The Irish Wolfhound-Great Dane mix has the heart of a chicken.

Special Investigator Harry Bush: FBI agent. He has one more case he wants to close before he retires.

Investigator Kenny Hill: FBI agent, training to replace Harry Bush, if he can survive this last case.

Jeff Ingles: Spencer Inn’s nervous manager.

Epigraph

The one charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.—Oscar Wilde

Prologue

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland - September 6, 2004

“—and in other news … On Friday, prosecutors wrapped up their side in the murder trial for Oliver Cartwright in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.—”

While the radio announcer read off the morning report, David O’Callaghan poured his first cup of coffee. He dumped one spoonful of sugar into his oversized United States Marine Corps mug, a graduation gift from an old girlfriend, bestowed to him upon completing officers training.

The mug lasted longer than the girlfriend.

Taking his first sip of coffee, he gazed out the kitchen window of his parent’s cozy lakeshore house to admire the leaves flapping on the birch trees lining the shore. When he squinted his eyes, he could see a hint of gold on the tips of the leaves.

Tomorrow would be his day off to celebrate Labor Day. While everyone else was celebrating it today proper, he would be trying to keep them from killing themselves, or each other, around Deep Creek Lake.

The radio continued with the news at the top of the seven o’clock hour.

“—Lawyers for Cartwright will begin presenting their defense on Tuesday. Oliver Cartwright has confessed to raping and killing six women in and around the Pittsburgh area during the summer of 2003.”

Six? David brought the mug to his lips for another sip. I could have sworn Cartwright killed seven women. Where did I hear it was seven?

The ring of the phone broke through the chirping of the birds in the birch trees. David didn’t realize he was still half asleep until the hot drink splashed onto the breast of his white shirt. Cursing, he slammed down the mug to send more coffee spilling across the kitchen counter.

“Damn it!” He grabbed the dish towel to mop up the coffee from his shirt. The phone was still calling out to him while he wiped off his silver police shield.

“Coming!” He grabbed the phone and braced it against his ear with his shoulder while wetting the dish towel to continue the cleanup.

“Did I wake you?”

Hearing the lilt of Archie Monday’s voice coming through the phone line transformed his morning into a good day. Forgetting about the coffee, David stood up straight. “No. You’re up early.”

“I wanted to catch you before you went to work. Robin wants to know if you’re coming over for steaks on the grill after you get off.”

That’s a no-brainer.

David stepped into the half-bath off the kitchen to check his reflection in the mirror. He ran his hand over his blond hair. She’s on the phone, you dummy. He went back to dabbing at the coffee on his shirt.

“Are you still there?” she asked him.

“Yeah.”

This isn’t going to work. After tossing the dish towel into the sink, he proceeded to unbutton his shirt.

“Let me think.” David slammed open the bedroom door in his search of a clean shirt. “Thick juicy steaks hot off the grill at Spencer Manor with two of the loveliest ladies on Deep Creek Lake, or hot dogs zapped in the microwave and a can of beer? What do you think?”

The sound of her laughter almost made him forget about his disgust over the dirty shirt. “What time should we expect you?”

“I get off at six.”

“Wonderful. Bring your swim trunks. We’ll go jet skiing,” she said.

Which means I’ll see you in your swimsuit.

David paused in his search for a clean shirt to imagine Robin Spencer’s stunning assistant in a bathing suit. It was something he had been yearning for since meeting Archie Monday.

A stern tone in her voice brought him back down to earth. “I should warn you. Robin’s working on a plotline that involves Marine Special Forces. Be prepared for an interrogation.”

Pushing the vision of Archie in a bikini from his mind, David shifted the phone from one ear to the other while shrugging out of his shirt. “Ah, so she’s using me.”

“What can I say?” Her tone was cool. “She’s a woman. We all use men.”

“Won’t be the first time I’ve been used by a woman.” It sounded like she was about to hang up when David stopped her. “What can I bring tonight?”

“Just your handsome self.”

He stopped her again. “Dad tells me that you’re a wine expert.”

He could hear the laughter in her voice when she replied, “I wouldn’t say I was an expert. Robin knows more about it than I do. But I’m learning. We’re working on expanding the Spencer Inn’s wine list. So we’ve been doing a lot of wine tasting lately. This week, we received a case from Burma. We’ll test it out tonight.”

“Now, I’m intimidated. I was going to offer to bring the wine tonight.”

“You can never miss with a good cabernet sauvignon.”

Making a mental note to stop by the wine shop in town to pick up a good bottle of red wine—not the cheap stuff—You don’t serve the cheap stuff to one of the world’s most famous mystery writers and her beautiful assistant—David finished dressing for the second time that day. He strapped on his utility belt with his gun, radio, baton, and cell phone.

Before slipping on his mirrored sun glasses to block out the bright morning rays reflecting off the water, David O’Callaghan paused to admire the platinum blond streaks that the sun and lake water had added to his already light hair. With his face and body bronzed after a summer of working and playing on the water, he looked even blonder than usual.

After taking a quick glance around the house to make sure everything was secured and put away, he stepped outside onto the front porch and locked the door.

Leaving an empty house was not part of his usual routine. His mother was always home during the day, but today was
different. His parents had left two days before for a vacation at the Grand Canyon.

That was something else that was out of the ordinary. In all of his twenty-four years, David didn’t recall his parents ever going away together, anywhere, for anything. Police Chief
Patrick O’Callaghan would travel to conferences or training, or his mother would check in to the hospital when she’d get sick.

Vacation? Together? What brought that on? Maybe Robin knows.

“Hey, kid!”

Startled, David dropped his keys in the driveway. Out on the road, Police Officer Art Bogart laughed from the front seat of his cruiser. On his way to the station, where he was acting as Spencer’s chief, he had pulled off the road to give David a good-natured hassling.

Bogie was the oldest, and most respected, member of
Spencer’s small police force. With the size and condition of a body builder, he had been challenged more than once by a cocky rookie, only to put the youngster in his place by pinning him to a mat in less than thirty seconds. In contrast to his size and strength, a heart of gold beat behind his silver shield.

“You going to work or not? Your daddy’s away, so you decided to play around and be late?”

David knelt down to pick up the keys. “I’m coming. I had to make sure everything was locked up.”

“Well, get your butt in gear, son!” Bogie called out to him from across the driver’s compartment of his cruiser. “There was an accident last night. We have a car that hit a deer on Spencer Lane, rolled, and landed in the lake.”

“Any fatalities?”

“So far we have a six-point buck. Miracle if the driver made it. No witnesses. A couple of runners found the car this morning.” He waved his arm at him. “Get a move on! Two-point-three miles down Spencer Lane toward Pelican Court. The divers should be there already.”

Bogie hit the gas pedal so hard that the tires spit gravel when he pulled out to speed down the road like he was trying to merge into rush hour traffic. On the shores of Deep Creek Lake, among the Shenandoah Mountains, he was only dealing with the rush minute.

David climbed into his police cruiser to head in the opposite direction, along the tree-lined shore road, to take him to the scene of the accident.

On Labor Day, the seasonal residents along the lake were waking up to enjoy the last breath of summer before closing up their vacation homes for winter. Meanwhile, up at the top of the mountain overlooking the lake, behind the scenes, the Spencer Inn was gearing up for snow season to start in eight weeks.

Thoughts of Spencer Inn made David’s mind wonder to that of its owner, Robin Spencer, a good family friend, which brought his mind back to that of Archie Monday.

The green-eyed blonde had come to work for Robin Spencer while he was serving in Afghanistan. They had only met briefly after he had returned from overseas, before going off to the police academy. Now that he was back home, he considered the possibilities.

I wonder if Archie Monday likes men in uniform. Robin’ll certainly put in a good word for me. David made a mental note to call the restaurant manager at the Spencer Inn. He’ll know what wine would impress Archie.

Bogie’s voice burst from his radio to jar David back to reality. “Change of plans, kid! Go to the Hathaway Estate on Pelican Court instead. I’ll send Fletcher to take care of the car accident.”

David snatched the mike from the radio. “What’s at Hathaway’s estate?”

“They got a DB, kid. Dead body.”

David flipped the switch for the lights and sirens and pressed his foot on the gas pedal.

Neal Hathaway’s summer home was the only residence on Pelican Court, a secluded lane that crossed a mountain stream to cut through some thick woods. A rarely used entrance to the state park marked the other end of Pelican Court. Anyone not curious enough to travel the lane would never notice the mansion hidden behind the thick grove of trees.

The owner and CEO of Hathaway Industries lived behind a brick wall and iron gates with a brass “H” marking them. The estate’s driveway snaked down a landscaped hill to the stone house that had one of the best views on the lake.

David O’Callaghan had encountered more than his share of exposure to murder investigations. With his father being chief of police, and working with the military police in the Marines, he had been called to more than one crime scene that involved a homicide.

Such scenes had an atmosphere of somberness. Everyone, including the investigating officers, would speak in soft tones with an air of respect for those who had passed on.

This, however, was the first time that David had been called to the scene of a dead body at a multi-millionaire’s estate.

During the short time it took him to drive around the lake to the Hathaway Estate, David tried to recall what he knew about Neal Hathaway.

Self-made millionaire. Always wanted to be an astronaut. Was also a science geek. When he failed to become an astronaut, he used his talent for science and rocketry to build what was now a Forbe’s Top 100 company. Hathaway Industries was one of the government’s biggest contractors for launching and maintaining defense satellites. They were also in the race to become the first to offer private flights into outer space.

Neal Hathaway was indeed a real live rocket scientist.

Other than that, David was unsure about anything else. Guess I’m going to find out now.

David drove through the gates and pulled his cruiser around the circular driveway to a multi-car garage with a black SUV parked in front of it. The lights and the sirens failed to break up the fight taking place next to the vehicle.

Two women were rolling on the ground with their hands in each other’s hair. Judging from the disheveled condition of their clothes and the exhausted grunts they uttered between their high-pitched curses, David surmised the fight had been going on for a while.

With a head full of curly platinum blonde hair that looked like a mop, one of the women appeared to be on the losing end of the fight. The shoulder strap of the blonde’s white dress had been ripped off to expose her voluptuous breast. The rest of her garment wasn’t in a much better condition. The side seam had been ripped wide open to show a white girdle.

Even though she was winning, the blonde’s opponent wasn’t in much better shape. During the course of the battle, her bright purple mini skirt had been pulled all the way up her hips to reveal that her underwear consisted of a black thong.

Several feet away, a woman dressed in a housekeeper’s uniform, was pleading for them to stop. When David brought his car to a stop, she yelled over the siren in a thick European accent. “Help, please! They’re going to kill each other.”

Turning off the lights and siren, David threw open the car door. “Okay, that’s enough. Break it up.”

Not seeming to notice him, they continued wrestling with their fingers entwined in each other’s hair.

“Give it back,” the brunette in the purple skirt grunted in an exhausted voice.

“No!”

“I said to break it up!” David rushed over to where they were fighting.

The brunette rolled over to straddle the blonde and slapped her face repeatedly.

David reached down to grab the brunette around the waist and lifted her off the other woman. Screaming in a high pitch, she twisted in his arms in an attempt to break loose. As soon as she was free, the blonde jumped up to her feet and charged to swing her fist at her assailant’s face. As luck would have it, the brunette dodged the blow.

David wasn’t so lucky. The blonde’s fist made direct contact with his nose. His sunglasses went flying.

The stars that burst before his eyes could only be described as multi-colored brilliance. He swore he could even hear the fireworks explode inside his head. Later, he would recall with pride that even while he was stumbling after the assault that had broken his nose, which caused blood to splatter all over his white shirt, he did not lose sight of the matter at hand. Even as he was staggering around the driveway while trying to shake off the blow, he still kept hold of the brunette, who was struggling to get back into the fight.

The explosion of pain inside his head was amplified by the blast of an air horn behind him.

The brunette stopped struggling.

The women stopped shrieking.

Even the ringing in David’s ears subsided in obedience to the air horn.

“Now that I have everyone’s attention,” David heard Bogie call out from somewhere behind him. “I believe someone called 9-1-1 about a dead body.”

Like a student in a classroom answering a question, the housekeeper raised her hand. “That would be me,” she said with a thick accent. “It’s Ms. Ramsay.” She pointed up over their heads to a second floor above the garage. “Mr. Hathaway found her in her studio. Someone …” She choked. “…killed her.”

“I think you can put her down now.” Bogie stepped over to where David was still holding the brunette up off the ground with his arms around her waist. “Are you going to behave, Miss?”

For her answer, the brunette glared over at the blonde.

While he retrieved his sunglasses from the grass, and a handkerchief from the cruiser to hold on his nose, David noticed that the blonde was older than he had first thought. The thick nest of blonde curls and voluptuous build were misleading. Up close, her face revealed lines under heavy makeup.

“She started it,” the brunette pointed at the other woman. “She was trying to make a run for it.”

“I was not,” the blonde said. “I was getting my car ready to go.” She told the two officers. “I have an important meeting in Pittsburgh tomorrow that I have to get ready for. Mr. Hathaway said I could leave as soon as I give the police my statement.”

David asked, “And you are—”

“Susan Dulin. Neal Hathaway’s executive assistant.” With one hand, she tugged up on what was left to the shoulder of her dress, while adjusting her white high-heeled sandals with the other. With every move, her nest of platinum spirals spilled into her face and over her shoulders.

Seeming to notice David’s handsome form for the first time, the brunette pulled down her skirt and smoothed her hair. “I’m Rachel.” She held out her hand to him. “I hope you don’t think I’m a nut, but Susan was trying to get away; and I know that when it comes to crimes like this, the police need to question everyone.” She flashed him a grin. “I used to be a journalist.”

With a wicked grin, Susan said, “Rachel is married to Scott, Neal’s son.”

Rachel shot her a glare, which Susan returned with equal hostility.

While David made notations in his notepad, Bogie called over the housekeeper who was watching them from the other side of the SUV. “What’s your name?”

“Greta.” She cast her eyes down to the ground.

“What can you tell us?” Bogie asked her.

“Nothing,” she said. “I was cooking breakfast when Mr. Hathaway called on the intercom, and told me that his wife was dead and to call the police. After I called you, I came out here to wait.”

“Where is he?” David asked.

“He’s up there with her.” She pointed again to the upper-level of garage.

“I guess we need to go see Mr. Hathaway.” Noticing the bloody nose, Bogie asked, “What happened to you?”

David wiped his nose and examined the thick, sticky red substance on his handkerchief. The bleeding was letting up. “I got sucker punched.”

“By a girl.” Bogie laughed. “I can’t wait to tell your pa about that.”

The older officer’s radio crackled. “Hey, Bogie?”

Pressing the handkerchief to his nose, David leaned his head back to stop the bleeding.

“Yeah, Fletcher?” Bogie answered with a laugh in his voice.

“We got a problem with this car in the lake,” the officer reported. “The driver’s dead. It’s a rental car checked out by a Charles Smith at Dulles Airport yesterday. He’s got a Miami, Florida, address. Problem is that Charles Smith is alive.”

They exchanged glances. “What’s that?” asked Bogie into the radio.

Fletcher explained, “I called the phone number that the rental car company has for Charles Smith. A guy answered. He’s Charles Smith. He says that someone stole his identity months ago, and he’s been trying to straighten it out since forever. When I told him this dude was dead, he said ‘Good’.” The officer asked, “What do you want me to do? We have nothing to tell us who this guy really is.”

David cracked, “Maybe the real Charles Smith killed him.”

Hearing him, Fletcher’s voice came over the radio, “It wasn’t a homicide. At least, I don’t think it was. The buck killed him.” He chuckled. “The buck that killed him is dead, too. I guess we could call it a murder-suicide.”

Bogie said, “Get this guy’s fingerprints and run them through AFIS. If he’s an identity thief, maybe he’s in the system.”

When they climbed the stairs to the floor above the garage, David and Bogie could hear wrenching sobs coming from inside the room that appeared to be a studio apartment. The door leading into the studio was ajar.

Unsure exactly what would be waiting for them inside, they both placed their hands on their guns. Bogie eased the door open and stepped inside.

It was hard to believe that the sunny studio with a full view of the lake through the deck doors was now the scene of a bloody homicide. A kitchenette took up the far wall of the great room. A spiral staircase led upstairs to a loft.

The studio had canvases displayed on the walls and works in progress lined up on easels. Most of them were lake scenery or nature. Others were still life. A paint-covered smock lay across a stool resting before an empty easel.

On the floor, a man cradled the bloody body of a woman wrapped in a white terry-cloth bathrobe that matched his. “It’s okay, baby,” he assured her in a raspy voice while stroking the blood-soaked red curls from her face. “It’s going to be okay.”

The officers exchanged somber expressions.

“Mr. Hathaway?” Bogie stepped into the room. He stopped in front of a hammer painted red with human blood.

“Sshh,” Neal Hathaway looked up at them with swollen red-rimmed eyes. “She’s okay. Ilysa’s going to be okay. I’m a rich and powerful man. I can afford the best doctors in the world. We can fix this.”

David cocked his head for a better view of the woman in the blood-soaked bath robe.

The mass of red curls were matted against the side of what used to be his wife’s face. What had once been a human face had been pounded into hamburger made of meat and bone.

“I’m a rich man,” Neal Hathaway sobbed while rocking his wife’s body in his arms. “We can save her.”

“Mr. Hathaway?” Greta startled David when she touched his arm. When she saw the sight her hands flew to her mouth. “Are you okay, Mr. Hathaway?”

Bogie held up his hand in a gesture for her to stop. “I’m sorry, you can’t come in.” He turned back to the grieving
husband. “I’m sorry, Mr. Hathaway, but it’s best if you let your housekeeper take you back to the main house. We’ll take care of your wife.”

“What are you going to do?” Without looking up, he continued to stroke her hair.

“We’ll take good care of her,” Bogie assured him.

Greta held out her hand to him. “Come with me, Mr. Hathaway. I’ll take care of you. You’ll see.”

Bogie helped him to his feet. The housekeeper clutched his elbow. At the door, Neal Hathaway turned around to take one last look at his wife, who was lying like a rag doll tossed aside, in the middle of the art studio.

Tears came to David’s eyes while he watched Neal Hathaway cling to the one thing he was unable to fix with his wealth and power.

There are still some things that all the money in the world can’t buy.

Chapter One

Deep Creek Lake - Present Day

“Okay, Reggie, our next delivery is One Spencer Court. That’s the stone and cedar place at the end of the point. ” Kevin chuckled when he read the address off the clipboard.

First day on the job and he’s got a delivery on Spencer Court. Hey, you gotta learn sometime.

“What’s so funny?” The pimply-faced trainee glanced over at his supervisor sitting across from him in the van’s passenger seat.

With a smile, Kevin pointed up ahead. “Take the next right and cross the toll bridge over the cove. That’ll take you onto Spencer Point”

“Toll bridge?”

“You’ll see.”

Reggie eased the van onto the narrow bridge to cross over the cove. The shoreline in this corner of Deep Creek Lake was the residence of some of the most luxurious homes in the area. The houses along the peninsula increased in grandeur up to the cedar and stone mansion that occupied the tip of Spencer Point. “Wow,” he breathed.

“Stop!” Kevin shouted.

Reggie hit the brakes. The van stopped so fast that the packages in the back spilled off their shelves. The only one that stayed put was the six-by-five foot flat box out for delivery to Spencer Manor.

“Watch where you’re going, kid.”

Motionless, like a sentry on duty, a German Shepherd blocked the center of the road on the bridge. His gaze was directed at them.

“What’s he doing?” Reggie whispered.

Kevin cleared his throat. “Looks like he’s sitting to me.”

The young man looked on either side of the dog to judge if there was enough space to drive around him. There wasn’t.

“What’re you going to do?” the trainer asked.

“Honk my horn? That’ll make him move.” After Kevin shrugged his shoulders, the driver tapped the horn.

Without so much as a blink of his eyes, the dog didn’t move in response to the blast. When the driver hit the horn repeatedly, the German Shepherd remained frozen in his spot in the road. Reggie pressed his palm to the horn and kept it there.

“Hey, cut it out!” an old man with a fishing pole yelled from a dock. “You’re scaring the fish.”

Reggie turned back to the canine cocking his head at him. The delivery man could swear he saw the dog’s lips curl in a smirk. “I’m driving through. He’ll jump out of the way.”

“What if he doesn’t?” asked Kevin.

“His fault if he’s too dumb to jump out of the way of a moving vehicle.”

“That’s Gnarly,” the trainer warned him. “He’s a lot of things, but dumb isn’t one of them. He’s Mac Faraday’s dog.”

“Who?”

“Mac Faraday owns Spencer Manor.” Kevin pointed to the end of the Point. “Nice guy, but I guarantee you, you run over his dog, and Faraday complains to the home office; then you’ll be delivering packages to Pakistan.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Make him to move.”

Reggie threw open the door and walked over to the dog blocking the road. “Move it.” He waved his arms. “Get out of here. Go home.”

The shepherd remained rooted in the spot.

The skinny delivery man called back to his trainer. “He didn’t even blink.”

Chuckling at the sight, Kevin climbed out of the van. “He doesn’t.”

Reggie asked, “Does he bite?”

“He’ll kill you if he has to.”

Reggie peered down at the dog that he guessed to be the largest German Shepherd he had ever seen up close. His brown face was trimmed in silver. The thick fur that made up his mane was sable. His tall ears stood erect. If he wasn’t such a nuisance, Reggie would think he was a beautiful animal. “You wouldn’t bite me.” He reached out to grab his collar. With a growl, Gnarly bared his teeth. Reggie jumped back.

“Told you he’d kill you if he had to.” Kevin laughed.

“Then you make him move.”

The trainer slipped a hand into his breast pocket. Stepping up to the dog, he held out his open palm to display a dog biscuit. “There you go, Gnarl.”

After taking the biscuit, the German Shepherd trotted off the bridge and up a path leading into the woods.

With a laugh, Kevin turned to his trainee. “I told you it was a toll bridge.” He climbed back into the van. “Let’s go. We need to get this package to Mac Faraday.”

The late Robin Spencer loved her gardening as much as she loved murder mysteries. The grounds of her homestead, known as Spencer Manor, displayed her green thumb in multi-colored glory.

While Mac Faraday took after his mother in many ways, gardening wasn’t one of them. He didn’t know the difference between a petunia and a dandelion; nor would he notice the rhododendron bushes calling out for food and water after a couple of days without rain.

It wasn’t that Mac was a neglectful homeowner. He was diligent about giving Gnarly his six o’clock biscuit. He wasn’t quite so conscientious when it came to tending to his late mother’s gardens. He would be if the rhododendron bush jumped up and down on his chest at the morning’s first light.

For that reason, Archie Monday had made it her personal mission to keep Robin Spencer’s beloved gardens flourishing.

It had been a busy spring for the editor and research assistant. When she wasn’t cooped up inside her stone cottage working on an upcoming release from a hot new writer, she was up to her armpits in mulch and plant soil.

It seemed as if God sensed that she needed a break. The day after she had sent off the book, the sun had risen to shine on Spencer Manor’s gardens in full bloom. The estate resembled a floral rainbow of blues and reds and yellows.

In the guest cottage, Archie checked her reflection in the mirror and applied one more layer of blush to her cheeks. After combing every hair in her blonde pixie cut in place, she covered it with a new hat.

She had compared notes with her best friend, Catherine Fleming, about the proper attire for the garden club luncheon at the Spencer Inn. This would be Archie’s first meeting as a bona fide member of the same exclusive garden club, founded by Robin’s grandmother. Archie wanted to make a good impression.

Spencer’s own honest to goodness social debutante, Catherine Fleming had suggested a Chanel suit. She also recommended a hat to match. This season, hats were very in. In the sunshine yellow suit with a matching hat, Archie felt like a bumble bee. I’m a cute one at least.

After grabbing her matching yellow clutch bag, she locked the door to the guest cottage where she made her home and trotted up the stone path through the rose garden. She was climbing the steps to the manor’s back deck when she heard the delivery truck roll through the stone entrance. Expecting the arrival of her new smart phone, she clasped the hat down tight on her head with her hand to keep it from flying off, and broke into a run to meet the truck.

There was no need to hurry. The delivery men were taking their time ogling the twenty-three foot spectacle occupying the far side of the circular driveway. Blue and white, the Cobalt speed boat rested on its trailer, while waiting for its new owner to launch her for her maiden voyage.

“Sweet,” Kevin said while circling the boat. “Must be nice.”

“Boys and their toys.” Archie reached out to sign the tablet tucked under his elbow.

Kevin held the tablet out of her reach. “Sorry, Ms. Monday, but today we need the man’s signature himself.” He showed her an envelope that he had tucked underneath the tablet. “There’s a letter for him, too. He’s to sign for both of them.”

Archie’s face screwed up in puzzlement when she saw Reggie pulling the large package from the back of the truck. “I take it that’s not my new phone.” She hurried up the steps and went inside the mansion.

Kevin assisted his trainee in lifting the box from the back of the truck and carrying it up to the porch. “Do you remember Robin Spencer?”

“The writer? I remember us having to read some of her short stories in school. We saw a play that she wrote, too.”

“She’s the one that wrote all those books about the millionaire playboy named Mickey Forsythe—”

“I loved those Mickey Forsythe movies,” Reggie said. “I didn’t know they wrote books about him.”

Kevin explained, “Mickey Forsythe was a cop who inherited millions of dollars. So he leaves the police force and goes around solving murders for kicks.”

While they carried the box across the stone walk, the older man gestured with the toss of his head at the mansion. “After Robin Spencer died last year, they found out that when she was a teenager, she had a baby out of wedlock. She left everything to him. That baby had grown up to be a big time homicide detective. Get it? Mac Faraday is the same guy his birth mother wrote about.”

At the top step, the door opened. “I’m nothing like Mickey Forsythe.” In contrast to the dark-haired super detective in leather jackets and dark glasses from Reggie’s youth, the true life version of Mickey Forsythe wore jean cut offs, a faded blue shirt, and flip-flops on his feet.

“Yeah, right,” Kevin chuckled. “And Gnarly is nothing like Diablo, Mickey Forsythe’s German Shepherd.”

“Are you talking about the dog that held us up at the bridge?” Reggie asked on their way across the threshold.

“Is Gnarly doing that again?” Archie directed them to carry the package down the three stone steps into the drop-down dining room on the other side of the living room.

Enthralled with being so close to one of his movie heroes, Reggie ignored the question. “I love Diablo.” He handed the letter and tablet to Mac. “In that last movie, the bad guy tried to escape from Mickey by climbing up a ladder to the roof and Diablo actually climbed up the ladder and nailed the sucker.”

“That’s Gnarly all right.” The older delivery man was laughing on his way back to the van. “There’s nothing that dog can’t do.”

“What did you order?” Shaking her head, Archie stood in front of the package propped up against the backs of the dining room chairs. “Maybe it’s a mattress.”

Receiving no answer, she turned around to see that the front door was open. Perturbed that she would have to wait to find out what was in the box, she went outside in time to see Mac tearing out of the garage in his red Dodge Viper to follow the delivery van.

As the brown delivery van turned onto the bridge at the end of Spencer Court, Reggie’s foot hit the brake once more when he found a hundred pounds of fur and teeth blocking the road. “Again?”

Kevin held out a dog biscuit to him. “You can’t cross without paying the toll.”

Reggie took the treat. “Wait until I tell my wife that I got held up by Diablo. She’s never going to believe it.” He heard the squeal of brakes behind the truck. While stepping up to the dog, he turned around to see who was waiting behind them. Whoever it is, he’s got a sweet ride in a red convertible.

“You’re in big trouble, mister!”

Feeling like his insides had jumped out of his skin, Reggie dropped the biscuit to the ground. Whirling around, he threw up his arms and fists to defend himself against whoever it was that had rushed up behind him.

Gnarly scooped up the biscuit.

Mac Faraday was advancing. “Yes, I’m talking to you.” He pointed at the German Shepherd attempting to swallow the spoils of his extortion in one gulp. “What have I told you about playing the troll on the bridge? Bad dog. Get in the car.”

Instead of obeying, the dog barked in protest while standing his ground.

“Don’t give me your lip.” Mac pointed at the Viper. “Get in the car.”

The dog replied with a snarling bark.

“Get in the car.”

Gnarly’s barks rose in volume.

“In the car! Now!”

Hanging his head, Gnarly scampered to the car.

After uttering a heavy sigh, Mac turned to the two delivery men, who had been watching the argument with their mouths hanging open. “I’m sorry, gentlemen. This won’t happen again.” He turned to go back to the sports car. “What are you—Hey! That’s my iPod! Bad dog! Drop it!”

“He’s right,” Reggie said after returning to his seat in the van. “They’re nothing like Mickey Forsythe and Diablo.”

“Bad dog!” Mac chased Gnarly inside the house. “Up to your room and don’t come out. I want you to think about what you did.”

Instead of galloping up the stairs to the master suite, Gnarly jumped up onto the loveseat in the living room. Like a defiant child, the dog returned his master’s glare.

“Do what I say.” Mac pointed up the stairs. “You heard me.”

Still, Gnarly refused to move.

“I’ll teach you who’s boss.”

When Mac grabbed him by the collar, Gnarly pulled away. Keeping hold, he wrestled with the dog until he had him in a headlock. The two of them landed on the floor and rolled across the carpet toward the stone fireplace.

“Will you stop playing with Gnarly and open this box?” Archie called up to them from the dining room. “I’m dying to know what’s in it.”

Declaring himself the victor, Gnarly jumped up onto the loveseat and plopped down with an “Umph” noise.

Archie slipped the sealed envelope that had come with the package into Mac’s hand.

“Who said dogs are man’s best friends?” He frowned when he read the return address on the envelope. It was from a lawyer’s office. He asked the dog on the loveseat, “Are we being sued by another one of your victims?”

Gnarly snorted and shook so hard that the tags on his collar rattled.

“Since when do lawyers send huge packages special delivery to people they’re suing?” Archie waved an arm in the direction of the box. “You read the letter. I’ll open it to see what’s inside.” Without waiting for permission, she kicked off her shoes and went into the kitchen to retrieve scissors for cutting the cord and tape sealing it shut.

Gnarly galloped down the steps to sniff at the box that had invaded his home.

Meanwhile, Mac tore at the envelope, which contained a letter and another envelope. The inside envelope was addressed in blue script to Robin Spencer with the word PERSONAL printed in capital letters underneath her name.

“What does the letter say?” Archie came back in from the kitchen. With the scissors, she broke through the plastic cord wrapped around the box.

Mac was still reading the first letter. “It’s a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo. This guy, Archibald Poole, died. He had left this to Robin Spencer. In the event of her death preceding his, it was to be passed on to her next of kin. Since that’s me, I get it.”

Archie stopped snipping. “Archibald Poole?”

Gnarly stopped sniffing.

“Did you know him?” He was breaking through the seal of the white envelope addressed to Robin.

“Creepy old man. One of those eccentric rich guys. He didn’t make it all on the up and up. I think Robin remained friends with him because he was good material for her books. He lived in a big mansion up on top of a mountain in southern West Virginia.”

Mac was only half paying attention. “He left Robin a painting.”

With one end unsealed, Archie peered inside the box to see that the contents were wrapped in brown paper and padding.

Sitting on the top step leading down into the dining room, Mac read the letter out loud:

Dearest Robin,

If you are reading this, then I’m dead and you are now observing my gift to you. So, what do you leave to the girl who has everything? When that girl is Robin Spencer, it’s a mystery.

You will find that I have left you an Ilysa Ramsay painting. That alone makes it worth a fortune. But, ah, my dear Robin, this is not just any Ilysa Ramsay painting. It is her lost painting.

You will recall that Ilysa Ramsay was brutally murdered on your own Deep Creek Lake in the early hours of Labor Day in 2004. At the same time, her last painting was stolen from her studio where her dead body was discovered. She had unveiled what she had declared to be her masterpiece to her family and friends the same evening that she was murdered.

Grasping the frame wrapped in packaging, Archie tugged at the painting to pull it out of the box while Mac continued reading:

Everyone in the art world has been searching for Ilysa Ramsay’s last work of art. With only a handful of people having seen it; and no photographs taken of it before its theft; its value is priceless.

As my good luck would have it, a month after her murder, my guy called me. He had been contacted by a fence representing someone claiming to have the painting and wanting to unload it. Being familiar with Ilysa Ramsay’s work, I was able to authenticate it. Also, I had seen reports from witnesses who had described it as a self-portrait of Ilysa.

As I write this letter, Ilysa’s murder has yet to be solved. Nor do I know who had stolen the painting. It was sold to me by a third party.

And so, my dear lovely Robin, I leave this task to you. Here is the painting that the art world has been searching for, for years, and a mystery of who stole it, along with who killed its lovely artist. Enjoy, as I know you will!

My Love,
Archibald Poole

Her yellow suit droopy, Archie slapped her hat down on the dining room table, and ripped through the padding to reveal the painting of a red-haired woman lying across a lounge with a red and green clover pattern. She was dressed in an emerald gown with a ruby red choker stretched across her throat. Ruby red jewels spilled down her throat toward the bodice.

Gnarly sat on the floor at Mac’s feet to gaze at the painting.

They studied the image together.

“Just what I always wanted,” Mac said. “A stolen priceless painting with a dead body attached to it.”

Chapter Two

“Where is it?” Deputy Police Chief Art Bogart almost shoved Mac out of the way in his rush through the front door to see the painting. Spying it in the dining room, he sprinted across the granite floors.

It took less than ten minutes for Spencer’s deputy chief of police to arrive after Mac had called the station to ask about the cold case of Ilysa Ramsay on Deep Creek Lake.

Police Chief David O’Callaghan stopped on his way through the door to greet Gnarly in their usual manner. The German Shepherd planted his front paws on David’s shoulders to lick his face.

David was the main reason Mac had moved to Deep Creek Lake after coming into his inheritance. Along with the millions of dollars and the estate, Mac had also inherited his mother’s journal, which revealed that he had a half-brother by his birth father, Police Chief Patrick O’Callaghan. It was too late for Mac to have a relationship with his father, who had died from terminal cancer five years earlier; but it was not too late for Mac to form a warm friendship with his sibling.

“You have to excuse Bogie,” David said after easing the dog’s paws to the floor. “He was the lead investigator in Ramsay’s murder. Dad and Mom were on vacation when she was killed.” Casting an eye at where his deputy chief was examining the painting in the other room, he lowered his voice. “Bogie took it personally that he couldn’t solve this murder.”

“I’m surprised with it being such a big case, and here in Spencer, that Robin didn’t get involved in the investigation,” Mac asked.

He noticed David, Bogie, and even Archie, exchange quiet looks.

David cleared his throat. “Dad was diagnosed with cancer right before it happened. He broke the news after coming back from the Grand Canyon.” He added in a soft voice, “Needless to say, Robin had other things on her mind at that time…We all did…maybe that’s why the case went cold the way it did.”

Bogie’s voice boomed from the dining room. “Did that letter say anything about who he got the painting from?”

Archie answered by handing him the letters from both the lawyer and Archibald Poole. Bogie read them while Mac and David moved in to examine the painting.

“How much do you think this painting’s worth?” Mac asked the question he had been wondering since reading the letter written to his mother.

“Plenty,” David said, “Even if it turns out not to be Ramsay’s last painting. If it is, it’s worth a whole lot more than that.”

“How was it stolen?” Mac asked.

David knelt to take a closer look at the woman in the emerald gown. “Do you even know who Ilysa Ramsay was?”

“Painter,” Mac answered, “and she was a redhead.”

“I’ve seen a lot of Ilysa Ramsay paintings,” David said. “This is the only one that’s a self-portrait. That also adds to its value.”

“Who are those other people?” Archie asked.

While the red-haired woman was the center piece, there were other people placed at the outer edges or behind her. In the upper back corner of the canvas, a silver-haired woman in black plucked a harp with red-tipped fingers. Her expression was made more somber by a gaunt appearance that made her face resemble a skeleton.

“That’s the maid playing the harp. I recognize her by the gray hair.” David pointed at a man in a suit behind Ilysa standing over a voluptuous blonde seated at the grand piano. He peered down at her abundant cleavage while supposedly admiring a gold necklace from which hung a ruby heart. “That’s Neal Hathaway’s assistant, Susan Dulin, with his vice president in charge of security, Peyton Kaplan. With all the government contracts they do for defense satellites, security is a big thing at Hathaway Industries.”

On the other side of the canvas, a young couple drank champagne. David recognized the woman as Rachel Hathaway, and the man as her husband, Scott. Rachel fingered her diamond necklace while casting a glare at Susan and Peyton Kaplan.

Bogie was nodding his head. “Rachel’s a gold digger if I ever a saw one.”

Archie said, “Everyone in this painting is a suspect.”

“Nah!” Bogie argued, “She painted it before she was murdered.”

“Archie’s right. All of our suspects are in this painting.”
David pointed to a slender man with a goatee sipping from a china cup. His long hair was tied back at the base of his neck. “Based on the pictures we have of him, that’s Victor Gruskonov.”

Mac asked, “Who’s Victor Gruskonov?”

“Ilysa’s business manager,” Bogie grumbled. “A person of interest.”

Mac asked about another couple on the opposite side of grand piano from the assistant and vice president. Their drinks rested on top of the piano. They were looking over their shoulders at Ilysa. The woman’s black hair, styled in a bob, was mixed with silver strands cascading over her head like a
spider web. The lips of her wide mouth were painted red to match the color on her long fingernails. Between the spider web covering her hair and her blood red lips and nails, she reminded Mac of a creature from a horror film

“The woman is Nancy Kaplan,” Bogie said. “Peyton’s wife. The man is Neal Hathaway’s lawyer George Scales.”

Mac wondered, “Why isn’t she with her husband? Ilysa has her on the other side of the piano with another man.”

“Unfortunately,” David said, “the artist isn’t here to ask.”

“Do you notice who’s missing?” Archie asked them.

Bogie nodded his head. “Her husband. Neal Hathaway isn’t in this painting.”

David said, “Interesting. She painted everyone in her life, but not her husband.”

“Could it be a forgery?” Archie asked.

Mac’s heart sank at the vision of an unexpected windfall flying out the window.

“I doubt that,” Bogie said, “Archibald Poole knew art. As a matter of fact, I questioned him after the murder. The little bastard was known to collect stolen pieces of art for his own private collection. I had a good idea that whoever stole it would have sold it to him.” He waved the letters in his hands. “Damn it. I was right all along. He did have it.”

Mac asked, “Could he have been connected to Ramsay’s murder?”

“Poole wasn’t into murder.” David stood up and stepped back from the painting. “Ilysa Ramsay was married to Neal Hathaway. They lived lakeside on Pelican Court.”

Mac asked, “The rocket scientist?”

“They had only been married a couple years at the time of the murder,” David said. “She was making a name for herself in Europe when they met. Hathaway married her and brought her to the states and financed her career. He’s a big patron of the arts. He introduced her to all the right people. She was on her way to becoming famous here in the States. She had a huge showing at the Louvre in Paris for October, but she was killed four weeks before her showing.”

“What about the painting?” Mac asked.

David said, “Ilysa finished it the day before her murder.”

Bogie explained, “She was superstitious. She was from Scotland and believed in all that superstitious stuff. She wouldn’t show her work to anyone until it was done. She refused to even talk about a work in progress. She had finished the painting on Saturday, and unveiled it to her friends
and family after dinner on Sunday night.”

David said, “She had a houseful of guests because of the Labor Day holiday.”

“This painting was supposed to be her center piece at the showing,” Bogie said, “but when her husband found her body Monday morning, it was gone.”

“Sounds like she was killed to double the value of the painting,” Archie said.

Bogie’s mustache twitched. “Which is why the first one I wanted to question was Victor Gruskonov, Ramsay’s manager. Ilysa told Hathaway that she was quitting Gruskonov. She was heard arguing with him over the phone. He supposedly said he was coming out to talk to her. Then, she ends up dead.” His eyes narrowed to slits. He uttered a growl deep in his throat that caused Gnarly to lift his head from where he had been resting it on top of Archie’s feet. “Gruskonov was at the top of my list before and he still is.”

“Problem is,” David told Mac, “Victor Gruskonov hasn’t been seen since before the murder.”

Archie said, “That makes him look guilty to me.”

“Me, too.” Bogie was nodding his head so fast that it resembled a bobble.

Mac was studying the canvas that took up the length of his dining room table. “If he represented such a great artist, then his bread and butter were his connections in the art world. He couldn’t just drop off the face of the earth and still survive.”

“That’s what you’d think,” Bogie said. “As big as Ilysa was in Europe before marrying Hathaway, Gruskonov didn’t need anyone else. Everyone knows he’s wanted for this murder, and everyone has been on the lookout for him.”

David told them, “According to his passport, he was in Germany at the time of the murder, but no one saw him since days before Ilysa was killed.”

“We’ve had a BOLO out for him, but no hits,” Bogie said, “which is why this case went cold.”

“Now it’s hot again,” Mac said.

Chapter Three

SCI Greene, Maximum Security Prison, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania

Joshua Thornton hated pat downs.

While he was aware that some of the most violent men in the state were locked up on the other side of the security gate through which he was passing, Joshua felt violated when the guard ran his thick palms up and down his body in search of anything that could be used as a weapon.

“Joshua…” The slightly built, blond-haired man waiting on the other side of the entrance greeted him with a hug and a slap on the back. “Thank you so much for coming. I knew I could count on you.”

“Only because you asked, Reverend Brody.” Joshua clasped his hand into both of his. “If it was anybody else …” He slipped his watch back on his wrist, and put his wallet and cell phone in the inside breast pocket of his sports coat. “Like I told you, my contract with Hancock County forbids me from taking on private clients—”

“This isn’t about handling Oliver Cartwright’s appeal. He’s not looking for his conviction and sentence to be overturned. He’d confessed to killing those women and he’s made his peace with God.” Reverend Brody gestured at the cold block walls. “You’d be surprised how many people turn to God when they end up here. For many, it’s only by the grace of God that some of them are able to survive.”

“I’m a small town prosecutor. What can I possibly do for a monster like Oliver Cartwright?” Out of respect for the church reverend, Joshua refrained from spitting out the name of the man who had confessed to abducting, raping, and killing six women during a murder spree the decade before.

“He was a monster.” Reverend Brody escorted him down the corridor to where they were to meet with the prisoner. “He’s also a man and still is.”

“Tell that to the families of his victims,” Joshua told him. “I’m sorry. Have you forgotten that I’m the father of two girls who are now around the age of his victims?”

“I totally understand,” the pastor replied. “Cartwright truly appreciates you coming to see him. We don’t have much time. They’re only allowing us fifteen minutes.” He led Joshua down a barren concrete hallway and past a series of metal doors until they reached one with two guards standing outside.

“This is Joshua Thornton,” Reverend Brody said to one of the guards. “He’s on the visitor list.”

One of the guards checked his clipboard before nodding to his partner to unlock the door and Reverend Brody led him into the visitor’s room.

Joshua regretted his grandmother teaching him to have the utmost respect for those people of authority, especially the clergy. To deny a request made by a reverend or priest was like saying no to God—something you never want to do.


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