Emma Hunter’s tyrannical brother deserved to die, even if the manner of his murder was horror-movie gruesome. As a police lieutenant, she’s duty-bound to provide whatever assistance she can in hunting down her brother’s killer, but she doesn’t mourn his loss. Business acquaintances, former friends, and even his relatives agree the world is better off without the despicable bully.
With no clues and too many suspects, it looks like the murderer might be home free — until tenacious Detective Jared Jones’ suspicions turn to Emma’s sweet sister-in-law. Emma knows for a fact that her brother’s mentally and emotionally abused wife is innocent, but conflicting loyalties prevent her from speaking up and turning the investigation in the right direction. What’s best for her brother’s widow could cost Emma everything she values — her career, her reputation, even her freedom.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 4 – R Rated
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The actual murder of a tyrannical husband by his abused wife inspired this story. The characters are based on real people in similar situations.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
An author's best resource is to write what she knows. I know these characters. Everyone has someone in their family they wish would disappear. This is their story.
Blood was everywhere, pooling on the faded Persian rug, splattered against the peeling wallpaper as if an oscillating fan had spread it, coagulated on the pale blue sofa in a spot sunken by years of weight dropped into it.
Emma stared at the sight, her stomach threatening to return her morning coffee even though the asshole deserved this.
For a brief moment, her mind drove her back to happier times in this room. Christmases. Birthday parties. Summer barbecues when the breeze from the trees bordering the property fluttered the curtains. The memories were hazy snippets recalled from some deep recess in her brain she’d almost lost. How long had it been since she stepped foot in this house? Too many years to count.
The place was eerily quiet. Like when the dead are present. Even the birds outside sensed it and stayed silent.
Her brother slouched in front of the TV. His feet were propped on a pile of newspapers, his tea mug leaving yet another ring on the coffee table. Only the TV wasn’t on. And he was dead.
Not much had changed in this room since the days when she was welcome here except the piles of paper, amount of mail, unread magazines and boxes lining both sides of the hallway had tripled. The passage from the living room to the family room was merely a precarious tunnel between the stacks. She shivered.
From his high school picture perched in the right-hand corner of the mantle, her brother stared back at her under a thin film of dust. His eyes were defiant even back then, some twenty-five years ago. Demeaning. Angry.
The sweet odor of blood stung her nostrils and she gulped. Homicide scenes were not her bag. Her eyes watered from the smell. There were twelve years between them, enough of a gap for him to resent a pesky little sister. Nevertheless, she’d worshipped him as her older brother, not comprehending that his disdain for her spread even then, like a slow-growing cancer. Disdain that would mutate into contempt. An attitude she refused to accept once she was older.
She reached for the picture but stopped her hand in mid-air. She wouldn’t touch him if he stood alive in front of her. Why should she touch him now that he was dead?
She whirled around, the intrusion of the officer’s voice startling her, and shoved her hands in her pockets like a guilty child.
“Ma’am, I’m afraid you can’t be here. The sergeant asked me to secure the premises from everyone until forensics arrives. The scene hasn’t been processed yet.”
“That’s all right, Officer…” His name gleamed from the polished nametag. “Petrus. I assure you I haven’t touched anything. I just wanted to see…” she cleared her throat, “you’re right, of course. I’ll leave. Do you know where my sister-in-law is?”
“My sister-in-law. The victim is my brother.”
The young patrolman snapped to attention. “My condolences, Lieutenant.”
“At ease, Officer Petrus. Thank you but it’s not necessary. I’m concerned about his wife. D’you know where she is? Was she here when it happened?”
“I don’t know, ma’am. You should speak to Sergeant Taylor. I believe he’s on the grounds. I’m only assigned to the perimeter.”
With one final glance at the couch, Emma walked to the kitchen door, noting the dirty dishes piled in the sink, the opened cereal box on the table and the puddled butter in the container on the counter. The hinges squealed when she stepped outside and inhaled deeply. The door needed oil. Odd. Her brother usually kept up with the house maintenance. Or at least he used to.
The back door had always served as the main entrance because the driveway that crawled up the hill circled the house to this point before descending again. It seemed natural to stop the car here and go inside.
Sergeant Taylor waved her over. “Lieutenant Hunter? What brings you here? Did the chief send you?”
She’d heard the rumors about Taylor’s missteps on his last few cases and some off-duty shenanigans that the department frowned upon. The boss certainly wouldn’t assign this homicide investigation to him, would he?
“Relax, Sergeant. I’m not here in an official capacity. The victim is my brother. As soon as I heard the radio call, I came over.”
His shoulders visibly relaxed. “My sympathies, Emma. But you know you can’t be involved in this investigation. It’s a blatant conflict of interest.”
“I understand. Are you handling the case?”
“And it means you can’t ask any questions. Not without getting my ass in a sling and I’ve had enough of that recently.” His thumb jabbed the air in the direction of the navy blue four-door making its way up the drive behind the forensics van. “Here comes homicide now.” She shaded her eyes and recognized the unmarked detectives’ vehicle.
“Is my sister-in-law still here?”
“She’s in the squad car.” He pointed to the opposite end of the house. That’s when she noticed the blue tarp on the roof, over the second-floor office if her memory was correct. Did the roof leak? Her brother had always bragged about his ability to fix anything. Too bad he hadn’t climbed up there and fallen off. An accidental death would have been so much easier.
“Has anyone talked to her?”
“She hasn’t said a word since she dialed 9-1-1. I would advise you not to interfere, Emma. You know how territorial homicide gets.”
She smiled as she backed away from him. “I told you, I’m not here officially. I just want to check on her.”
A young officer she didn’t recognize stood sentry beside the rear passenger door of the running vehicle. “Officer, I’d like a minute with her please.” Eyeing her lieutenant’s bars, he stepped aside.
She opened the door and was smacked in the face with a blast of frigid air. Mary sat in the backseat shivering, kneading rosary beads between her fingers. Emma jumped back and barked at the patrolman.
“Turn this AC down immediately! What the hell are you trying to do, freeze a confession out of her? Shut it off now! And open the damn windows.”
She slipped into the seat next to her sister-in-law and reached for her clasped hands. She might as well have dipped them into an ice bucket.
“Are you all right?”
Mary turned vacant eyes on her. No makeup and hair that begged to be brushed. When she was younger, her long blond hair softly fell to her shoulders. Emma supposed the chemo drugs had robbed it of its body and luster. Her face and clothes were clean. Not a drop of blood. Emma leaned forward to see her tennis-shoe clad feet. Not a speck.
“Don’t say anything to anyone. They’ll take you to the police station. I’ll call a lawyer that I know. He’s good. Don’t speak to anyone until you talk to him. I’ll meet you there.”
She squeezed Mary’s hands reassuringly. “It’ll be fine, you’ll see.”
The urge to lean over and place a kiss on Mary’s cheek surprised her. Mary had married her brother twenty-four or twenty-five ago. She didn’t remember the exact year, but she’d already graduated from the Academy and secured a job with the Pittsburgh police. No matter. The two women were never close. How long had it been since they’d spoken?
Her brother was a tyrant and Mary a saint for having endured life with him. She assumed Mary’s faith had a lot to do with that. She epitomized the word ‘sweet.’ She wouldn’t say shit if it gagged her. She certainly wouldn’t violate the sixth commandment. She wasn’t a killer. But how could Emma prove that?
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