Thank you for being here, Leeann. Let’s talk about your new book, Petty Cash.
How would you describe your main character(s)? Carly is feisty but compassionate, nosy but also private about her own life by nature. Her husband Mike says the only exercise she gets is jumping to conclusions, but Carly also likes digging for answers, jumping the gun, and sometimes even passing the buck.
What is the problem your character(s) face in your book?
Carly’s main problem is find out who killed the good doctor. And she only as a long weekend to do it in.
What would you like your readers to know about your character(s)?
My characters tend to be people I’ve met somewhere else. I tell folks to be nice to me, or they may find themselves in my next book.
Thank you, Leeann. Now, let’s give everyone a sneak peek at your new book!
Leeann has graciously offered to give away a free copy! Your choice of print (US only) or e-book Click here: a Rafflecopter giveaway
“Ooh, some days I could kill that man!”
Carly Turnquist, forensic accountant by day and wife, step-mother, and grandmother all the time, sighed and closed the computer file she’d been reviewing when her daughter Denise’s call came in. “Calm down, and tell me what’s going on.”
A long quiet filled the line. Well, not exactly quiet, given the voices intruding in the background from Denise’s end of the call. Don, Denise’s husband, asked about a clean shirt. Daughter Margie, eight going on twenty-eight, nattered on at younger brother Toby about not drawing on the walls.
Several gulping breaths, reminding Carly of a drowning goldfish, filtered through before Denise continued, her voice a notch lower than before. “Don’s partner. Maurice, but everybody calls him Mo.”
“Don is nearby, right?”
“Right. And I don’t want him to know I’ve talked to you about Mo.”
“Why ever not?” Carly closed the cover on her laptop. If she didn’t, she’d think about all the work that needed doing instead of concentrating on Denise’s call. “Is it a secret?”
“No, not exactly, but Don doesn’t want gossip to start. You know how it is in a small town.”
Carly resisted the urge to snort. Although married to a native for eleven years, the residents of Bear Cove, Maine, a tiny hamlet of less than four hundred souls at the height of lobster season, still didn’t think of her as “one of them”. “Understood. But it’s unlikely I’ll ever sit around and chat with folks from Riverdale.”
“True. But they do go outside the town limits occasionally, and since they don’t wear signs indicating where they live, you might bump into one of them.”
Carly chuckled. Denise ran into much the same attitude about the fact she’d swooped in and stolen one of Riverdale’s most eligible bachelors, although the residents did at least treat her better than out-of-towners, as they called anybody not from there.
Unlike Bear Cove, whose town motto—if they had one—would be: unless you live here, go away.
“So what can you tell me? Other than you have homicidal thoughts about the man.”
“He has been so unreasonable lately.”
“Maybe he’s under a lot of stress.”
Now Denise did snort. “Stress? Why do you think people become dentists instead of medical doctors? No emergency calls. No late night outings. Closed on weekends. Four weeks of vacation every year.”
“Point taken. So if not stress, what?”
“I think he’s always been this way, and we’re only now beginning to notice.”
“Unlikely but possible.” Carly chewed on the end of a pencil, wishing she’d brought in a granola bar and soda on her last trip to the kitchen. “What are you going to do about him?”
“Can’t do much, can I? He’s Don’s partner, not mine.”
“How has this Mo been acting?”
“Coming in late. Leaving early.”
“Maybe he has a girlfriend.”
“The last time he asked a woman out on a date, he talked about it for a week before and two weeks after. But he never got up the nerve to ask her out again, so that was the end of that.”
Carly pulled open a desk drawer. Maybe she’d left a candy bar or a package of crackers. Nothing. She sat back in her chair. “Okay, so not a woman. What else?”
“He got angry at a patient last week for being three minutes late to her appointment. Her car wouldn’t start and she had to call a tow truck. She called the office, and the receptionist assured her she was fine. But he tore a strip up one side of her and down the other when she came in. Threatened not to treat her and to charge her for a missed appointment.”
“That does seem overboard.”
“And after he spent fifteen minutes haranguing her in the waiting room, in front of other patients, he finally agreed to see her.”
“Okay, so he had one bad day. What else?”
“Don says one minute he’s smiling and jovial, the next he’s sullen and moody. He said it’s like walking on eggshells around the office. And he’s taken to wearing these old red rubber boots everywhere. I saw him in the grocery store last week and commented on them. He looked down at his feet as though he didn’t know what I was talking about. And now Don said he wore them in the office and refused to change into his regular shoes, claiming he left them home. But Don saw them under his desk.”
“I expect your hubby is bringing this stress home, and so now you’re unofficially involved. Well, has Don asked Mo what’s going on?”
“Sure. And Mo says everything is fine. Not to worry. Or he turns it back on Don and accuses him of meddling in his private life.”
“Could he be on drugs?”
“Don isn’t sure. But get this. This is the strangest thing of all.”
Carly leaned in as though Denise were in the room with her. “What?”
“Yesterday, Mo asked Don to meet him for coffee. Don went. In fact, he was fifteen minutes early. But Mo was walking out of the coffee shop, red in the face, angry. The veins in his forehead were bulging, Don said.”
“Maybe Don got the time wrong.”
“He thought so too, but as he walked in, he checked the text Mo sent him. He was early.”
“Maybe Mo’s fingers were faster than his brain that day. Happens to me all the time.”
Denise sighed. “Mo admitted Don was early. But he said he was done sitting around and waiting for Don to grow up and take responsibility. Implied he’d been carrying the practice all these years, that Don did nothing to bring in patients.”
“Well, we all know that’s not true.”
“Don tried to get him to sit down and talk like adults, but Mo took offense to that. He shoved him aside and said he never wanted to see him again.”
Carly exhaled. That was one thing she liked about working alone—no partners or employees to deal with. “Sounds like Mo wants out of the partnership.”
“Sorry to hear about your troubles.”
“You’d think that was the end of it, but it isn’t. Today Mo texted Don and said he was sorry and wanted to see if they could patch things up between them. Invited us and the kids and however many guests to spend time on the Cape at his summer home. The office is closed this week anyway to give the staff summer vacation. He said he has a six-bedroom house, and we can fill up five of them.”
“I’d take that as an apology and jump at the chance.”
“So we asked Tom and Sarah to join us, and to bring Bradley so he could spend time with our two. And we wanted you and Dad to come, too. I’d feel better if we had several calm males there in case Mo gets weird again.”
Carly opened the online calendar she and computer programmer husband Mike shared and scanned the days ahead. “When do you leave?”
“Wow, that’s not much notice.” She ran a finger along the week. “But our schedule looks pretty open for the next few days. I have to testify in a big court case on the day after Labor Day, though.”
“Yeah, the kids start school that day, and Don is due back at work. Tom and Sarah will also leave on Monday. I’m hoping we can at least have a party or picnic to celebrate the end of summer before we all scatter to the four winds.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Great. Tom and Sarah are driving down today. They’ll stay here overnight, and we can connect with you at that restaurant on the highway in Augusta around ten. The kids will be ready for a bathroom break by then, and I’ll be glad for a coffee.”
“We’ll be there. Looking forward to seeing everybody. It’s been a while since we did anything together.”
Carly hung up and opened the cover of her computer. Mike would be home soon, and hopefully he’d be excited to hear about their impromptu vacation. Surely he couldn’t blame her for looking for a mystery where none existed.
After all, this wasn’t her idea.
If they found a mystery, it wouldn’t be her fault.
$ $ $
Thaddeus Monahan hitched at the waist of his pants, pulling them up another quarter inch before stepping to the door of the abandoned lighthouse. He glanced around before inserting the key into the lock.
Good, nobody around.
He called to the Irish Setter sniffing around a bush. “Come on, O’Brien. Time to go in.”
The dog lifted its leg one more time before racing across the rock-strewn yard and waiting for him at the door. Thaddeus unlocked the door, allowing O’Brien to push past him, then locked the world outside. The dank and dusty air inside the stone building tickled his nose, and he stifled a sneeze. Shadows danced in the corners, and the dirty windows filtered the sunlight, muting the brilliance into a muddy, textured hue. O’Brien waited at the base of the stairs, its tongue lolling like it had raced across a meadow on a summer’s day.
Thaddeus drew a deep breath before gripping the chipped metal railing leading to the upper level. Once an active lighthouse, a previous owner—perhaps tired of trekking through the snow each winter—installed a second floor of sorts to hold a single bed, a dresser, a couple of chairs and a table, and a hot plate on a shelf, all ringing the inside of the structure like a baffle in a chimney.
He was glad not to have to climb the sixty or so feet to the top of the house where the lamps and reflectors were lodged, but even so, the twenty steps to the next landing were a difficult enough journey.
Especially today. A low pressure from the Atlantic Provinces blew in last night bringing heavy, damp air with it, along with fog as thick as pea soup. Had the Brassy Cove lighthouse still been in operation, the tones of the fog horn echoing across the bay would raise the dead and the beams of the lamps would turn night into day. But the lighthouse was both silent and dark.
Both of which were good for him.
He had work to do, and he didn’t want anybody to see him.
Lift. Step. Pull up the other leg. Repeat. Twenty steps. Twenty repetitions.
Maybe he should think about getting out of this line of business.
But then the face of his only child, Tina, flashed before his face. At twenty-six, still trusting and innocent. Because of the head injury from the accident, she’d always remain naïve to the financial strain she placed on him every day for her care and keep.
Not that it was her fault.
He snorted as he strained upward. Living in a small town like Brassy Cove should be safe for children. Isn’t that why the mainlanders vacationed here? Not to mention the fact that their money could buy bigger homes and fancier boats here on the Cape than in Boston or the like.
But the Cove wasn’t as safe as most thought.
Surely not safe from the likes of the drunk driver who ran his daughter down like a dog in the street three years ago.
And murdered his wife as surely as if he—or she—drew a gun and fired.
He reached the top step and paused, bending over to catch his breath. Someday he’d find the dirty rotten scoundrel and make ‘em pay.
But not today. And probably not tomorrow.
O’Brien darted ahead to a blanket pad in the corner and flopped down, chin on paws, watching him with those great brown eyes the color of coffee.
Thaddeus nodded toward the dog. “Good boy.”
Not that the dog was ever particularly bad, not since it was a pup at least. The critter seemed to read his mind most days, know what Thaddeus was thinking before he even knew it himself. But it was good company.
He shuffled to the window and looked out over the slate-grey ocean. Seagulls hovered on the unseen breeze, and near the horizon, a large tanker headed north, maybe to Boston or Portland, maybe further on to Halifax or even the St. Lawrence Seaway.
A longing rose in his chest as alive as though something grew inside him, swelling beyond the confines of bone and muscle. A desire to go. Somewhere. Anywhere.
He shook his head at his foolishness. A sailor at heart, a father by love.
He’d not go anywhere soon, unless the Good Lord chose to take him off this mortal coil.
And then who’d look after Tina?
He raised his eyes heavenward. “Not soon, Lord, I hope. Not until I make enough to support her.”
Thaddeus didn’t get a response—not that he really expected to. He and God hadn’t exactly been on speaking terms lately.
Not since he’d taken up this most recent business endeavor.
Enough time wasted in wishin’ and wantin’. To work.
If there was one thing he knew how to do, it was work. From the time he could count higher than ten, he’d been in the boats with his father. Later, in his own boat. Fishing the waters around the Cape. Tour guiding in the summer, milking the mainlanders for everything they would pay.
The fools seemed happy to pay simply for the experience of saying they’d been out in a boat. He chuckled. Something he took for granted, they counted a blessing.
He selected a canvas apron from a nail beside the worktable and surveyed yesterday’s efforts, thumbing through the pieces of neatly stacked paper. All looked in order. Good work. At this rate, he’d have enough to solve all his problems in a week or so.
He simply needed to stay under everybody’s radar.
He picked up a couple of sheets and wrinkled them by rolling them between his palms, then twisting and turning, enjoying the feel between his fingers. Drop some on the floor. Scuff it around a bit. Shove it in his pockets.
Then pull the pieces out and flatten them on the table.
He dampened a rag and ran it over each sheet, smearing the dirt. Making it look used and worn.
Satisfied with the effect, he flipped on a light and began another stage of the process, but not before setting a timer. Twenty minutes should be enough for today. He’d come back later, when the lamp could be seen further away, and continue the legend of the lighthouse for those foolish enough to believe it.
He chuckled again. Easiest thousand bucks he’d ever make.
The paper spewed from the business end of the machine, and he tallied the numbers in his head. A poor man like himself couldn’t be too hasty. Folks would talk. Already a few rumors floated around town that maybe he found gold. Or that he used his frequent boating trips to rob banks up and down the coast, like a modern-day pirate.
Once he had enough, he’d stop.
For now, he needed enough to pay the property tax bill which, thanks to Mo Hubbell, was almost twice what it was last year.
He gritted his teeth until his jaw ached. If he ever saw that dirty, rotten scoundrel again, it would be too soon.
There ought’a be a law that the folks what vote for tax increases should be the one to pay the tax. Prob’ly be a lot less votin’ for that foolishness. And Mo Hubbell nothin’ but a summer visitor, really. Sure, he owned one of the biggest houses, but why should he be allowed on the town council? Not to mention he campaigned for lower taxes. Which is why he and the other residents voted for the scoundrel.
‘Cept then he turned on them and said the increase was needed.
Needed his foot.
Tina needed her care. And Thaddeus needed to set aside money.
All the while, Mo lordin’ it over the town in his fancy house and car. Like he was the king of Brassy Cove, or somethin’.
Mo Hubbell had tons of money.
But not as much as he had, right?
Nobody had more money than Thaddeus Monahan.
Surely not more than Thaddeus Monahan could have.
In the meantime, he’d buckle down and get this batch done and get home to Tina. She always worried if he was gone too long. He made up a story, of course, to explain his absences. When she asked. Which was every time.
Tina. Named for her mother, Christina. A treasure in every way. Gone too soon.
He sighed then straightened, pressing his hands into the small of his back. He was getting too old for this. Too old for the sneaking around. Too old for climbing the stairs. Too old for carrying heavy boxes of paper. Much too old for squinting under an inadequate lamp to ensure every detail was correct.
He glanced at the time. Fifteen more minutes and he could head home. Put his feet up in front of the fire. Read a chapter in Tina’s storybook, the one about a toy rabbit. The same story he’d read a hundred times if he’d finished it once. The book she never tired of.
So different from the Tina who headed off to college. The girl who came home on weekends, her heart broken by another boy. Or smitten with yet another. But that didn’t matter. She wasn’t ready to settle down yet. She had years ahead of her before she needed to make that important decision.
Except her days were cut short, effectively ended, leaving not much more than an empty shell needing lifting and carrying and bathing and feeding and changing.
No way to live, was it? He straightened a sheet askew in the rack. No point in messing up the ones coming behind. No way to live, to be sure.
O’Brien sighed and flopped onto his side, his legs twitching and jerking in that funny dog-dream way of his. Thaddeus wished he could sleep that deeply. But he couldn’t. Always afraid Tina would call out or need him and he wouldn’t be there for her. Like he hadn’t been there for her the last time she walked to the store. God, how life could change in a heartbeat.
Even these short trips means arranging for Mrs. Wilkes, his next-door neighbor, to come over and sit with her. He didn’t have to pay her—no, Mrs. Wilkes was much too content to play the martyr, her great, heaving sighs indication enough of the sacrifice she made to help him. No doubt she was earning another jewel in her crown or however they described it down there at the First Church of Brassy Cove on Main Street.
Sainthood, she deserved, if a body listened to her.
Martyrdom, if he had anything to say about it.
Leeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. She has released seven titles in her cozy mystery series, By the Numbers. In addition, Leeann has written a devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk, Counting the Days, and with her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, has published two books on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold and More Nuggets of Writing Gold, a compilation of essays, articles, and exercises on the craft. She publishes a free quarterly newsletter that includes a book review and articles on writing and books of interest to readers and writers. You can subscribe at www.LeeannBetts.com or follow Leeann at www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com All books are available on Amazon.com in digital and print, and at Smashwords.com in digital format.
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