K. S. DAVID
Quinn McGuire is settling into her new life just fine. She's moving beyond the trauma of her past. She's fallen in love with her best friend, Jack Lassiter, and slowly rebuilding the career she'd once abandoned. Then her old nemesis is arrested for murdering her husband. To the surprise of everyone, Glenda Penderherst wants Quinn to represent her as legal counsel. Quinn doesn't do criminal defense anymore. Nope, she's focusing on areas a little more refined - less drama.
Naomi Banker, the resident vibrational therapist, asks Quinn to look into an intellectual property rights claim. The request seems innocent enough - but boring. Things soon spice up when Quinn discovers that Naomi was romantically linked to Glenda's murdered husband. Soon, more body's start to surface and like it or not, Quinn finds herself caught in a whirlwind of broken hearts and private alliances, all while trying to manage a few special secrets of her own. She’s convinced of Naomi's innocence and starts to dig for answers. But if she's not careful, she'll end up being added to the body count.
Today I was starting over. I’d pursued other career options, but law was in my blood and where I belonged. So, there I was, about to meet with my first client when I got a call from the Hayden County Police Department. I was needed at the station. It was urgent, though I got no explanation why. I just needed to get there quick.
Sheriff Jack Lassiter hovered in the rear hall waiting for me, knowing I’d park in the back lot and use that door to enter the station.
“Quinn,” he called, waving me toward his office, where he and his deputy, Cy, stood in conversation. Jack’s face was hard. All business. No trace of the practical joker I knew.
“I got here as quick as I could,” I said, stepping between the men. Jack looked at his wristwatch then at me, his frown deepening. My drive from Naomi Banker’s house should have taken forty-five minutes, but I’d gotten to the station in just under thirty. “You said it was important.” I threw him an equally offended look.
He huffed, then headed to his desk. Jack was a handsome man – tall and broad with green eyes that seemed to twinkle no matter his mood.
His office held a scratched-up oak slab that served as a desk and swallowed up most of the floor space. A filing cabinet was crammed behind the desk, making it necessary for him to turn to the side in order to get to his seat. He’d managed to add two mustard-colored armchairs along with a thin plywood wardrobe for extra uniforms and toiletries. Stuffed in the corner was a small cot that he’d occasionally crash on when police business got too crazy to go home.
The office was sweltering. I pointed to the fan on top of the file cabinet. “Can you turn that thing on?” I asked as I shrugged out of my suit jacket, suddenly flush with heat.
“Feels fine to me,” Cy said. But he complied, turned around, switched on the fan then leaned against the cabinet and crossed his arms.
“Thanks,” I said, waving a hand in front of my face trying to cool myself. “So, what’s so important that you made me cancel my meeting with Ms. Banker? Today is the opening of my law firm. Ditching a client isn’t a good look.”
“I wouldn’t have called you if it wasn’t important,” Jack said. He dragged a hand through his hair.
“So, what is it?”
Though subtle, I noticed the look that passed between Jack and Cy. Something was brewing between these two and for some reason I was starting to feel like I was in their pot.
“Two people were found murdered in The Hills this morning.”
He paused and let that bit of news settle over me. The Hills was the exclusive end of the county where generations of Hayden’s wealthy lived. Palatial Kentucky estates were passed down from father, to son, to daughter, and on. Moving into The Hills without the benefit of marriage was nearly impossible. Covenants restricted the land to residential use. There were no gas stations on the corner, no 7-11 convenience stores. They were an exclusive enclave and they paid to stay that way.
Jack had grown up in The Hills. His great-grandfather had helped to establish the town of Hayden. That was his legacy.
I had grown up in the mountains. My family was considered poor trash; a clan that committed more crime than any other family in the last one-hundred years. My father was the most notorious of them all. That was my legacy.
“Murder?” I repeated. “Who?” Crime wasn’t common in The Hills.
Jack finally sat, the springs of his leather back chair squeaked in protest. “George Penderherst.”
“Not…the George Penderherst?” I gasped.
“Him,” Jack said. “And his maid, Maria.”
There was little that shocked me after fifteen years in criminal law, but those two names made me pause. Penderherst had started the tongues wagging three years earlier when he married Glenda, a former pageant queen who was thirty years his junior. She was a daughter of The Hills as well, but her crown had withered after her parents divorced and her mother ripped through both the settlement and a good part of Glenda’s trust fund.
“So…” I looked from Jack to Cy, “where is Glenda?”
“She was picked up several hours ago, covered in blood,” Jack said.
His blunt style was one of the things I admired about him, but it sure packed a wallop sometimes.
“Wait. Wait. Wait,” I said, trying to wrap my mind around Jack’s words. “Are you saying Glenda killed them?”
“Let’s go for yes.”
My connection to the Penderhersts was somewhat ominous. My brother had been charged with murder the morning after my mother’s funeral. He’d been accused of killing a man named Isam Fall, who we discovered had been blackmailing my brother and half the residents of The Hills, including Glenda Penderherst – Fall’s neighbor. And for an added dose of grief, Maria, their maid, had been secreting information to Fall for months. She kept the juicy stuff for herself and used that to pinch a few extras out of Glenda.
But my connection to Glenda was more personal.
“How were they killed?”
“The old man was shot. Point blank. One bullet to the head.” Jack pointed to a spot between his eyes. “Found him in his office. Maria was bludgeoned to death in the kitchen. Something was used to crack her skull near in half. Glenda was stopped doing ninety miles an hour on Route 80.”
“Did she say anything? Did she confess?” I wanted to know.
“She’s been close-mouthed. Won’t say a word. Except to request a lawyer,” Jack said.
“Tell her about the money,” Cy insisted.
Looking over my shoulder, I asked, “Money?”
Cy wiggled his brows. “Glenda was found with thirty thousand, cash, stuffed in her purse. The safe in the house was left wide open.”
“I assume you took physical evidence.”
Glenda would have been rushed to the hospital for the collection of blood, hair and skin. Photos and fingerprints, along with a detailed summary of Glenda’s appearance would be developed – anything of significance.
Cy glared at me. “Of course, you did,” I said.
“Techs are at the house right now,” Jack said.
“What about the weapon?” I asked.
Jack shrugged. “Nothing yet. Looks like a 22-caliber hit George. Haven’t figured out what was used to bash in Maria’s head.”
“Good thing she’s keeping her mouth shut. Glenda’s not as dumb as I thought.”
The murder of George Penderherst and the arrest of his wife was going to set the town on fire. I could just see the silver-haired old ladies spitting in their tea at the news. The parking lot at the country club was going to be impossible to navigate. Members who hadn’t stepped foot inside in years would crowd the place just to get in on the gossip.
George Penderherst found dead beside maid while murderous wife tries to flee.
It had all the markings of a sordid love triangle. A tasty bit of news to nibble on, for certain, but I didn’t understand what it had to do with me.
Naomi Banker had been gracious when I cancelled our meeting. I’d seen her perplexed stare from an upstairs window, phone in hand, as I made a donut in her driveway.
“You’re going to have your hands full with this one, Jack.” I shrugged. “I don’t know how I can help, but I’ll do what I can.”
He dropped his eyes. Something he only did when he wasn’t quite sure how I’d react. “I told you she lawyered up on us.”
“You had to expect…”
“Ha ha, not very funny, Jack.” Though something about his flat tone worried me.
“I’m not joking, Quinn,” he said crisply. “Glenda was allowed two calls. She spoke with her mother for five minutes then asked for your number.”
The pressure in the room dropped. My lungs felt tight. I could feel the blood in my veins speed up while I watched Jack watch me. I turned in my seat to stare at Cy. He was the most severe men I’d ever met, with dark brown eyes and frown lines carved deep into his tawny colored skin. He gave me a curt nod, wordlessly confirming Jack’s statement.
Jack repeated himself. “She asked for you, Quinn.”
I shot up, snatching on my jacket, despite the heat. “I left Naomi Banker for this?”
I grabbed my satchel and started for the door. The heel of my very low, very sensible shoe caught in the strap. My hip plowed into the arm of the seat, effectively knocking me back on my ass. I tried holding the growl growing in my throat, but I couldn’t.
“Whoa!” Jack reached across the table as if he could settle me. But I was up again in a nanosecond, trying to squeeze pass Cy and the chair. Smartly, Cy pressed himself against the cabinet, as if doing so could diminish his size. My hand was already on the doorknob by the time Jack caught me by the waist, “Hold on, Quinn.”
Cy ambled around both of us. “This is where I take my leave.”
I searched Jack’s face for any sign of humor. There was none. “Hear me out,” he begged.
“Jeez, could you be a bigger asshole? I’d rather pull my lashes out one-by-one before I help her. Of all the people…” I pushed out of his grasp, ready to rip him apart. “You know what she put me through.” Glenda had made my life a complete hell the moment I moved to town when we were kids. She had teased me mercilessly. And, when she tired of calling me “trash”, “bitch” served nicely. Shaking with rage. “This is such a betrayal.”
His hand was suspended mid-air between us like a flag of surrender. “I’m not trying to hurt you.”
“You have a funny way of showing it.” A crushing thought came to mind. “Are you still into her?”
His shoulders sagged. “Dumb question, Quinn.”
“Then why do you think I’ll help?” I snapped my fingers, clutching on to the only rational explanation. “You want me to be your spy. Don’t you know that once I step foot in that door, everything she says is confidential?”
“I know the law, Quinn. Your conversation is privileged.”
“Then why, Jack? One good reason.”
“Listen, you have every right to hate Glenda. She’s a spoiled, pretentious, brat. She’s mean. She’s a bully.” He stopped for a moment. “None of that changes the fact that she has certain rights. She says you are her counsel. I have an obligation to give her an audience with her attorney of choice.”
“And I have a right to decline her as a client.”
“Once Glenda’s mother gets here this police station is going to become a nightmare. So, just go in there, tell Glenda that you won’t represent her and advise her from doing something stupid because her Mama will have her looking like a clown while she’s being walked off to death row.”
I stepped away from him, still shaking with anger. “I’m not even a criminal lawyer anymore. I’m only doing general practice. Minor stuff.”
“You were one of the most recognized defense attorneys in this country. You haven’t forgotten what to do. You can decline, but …”
“Five minutes. That’s all she gets and then I’m out of there.” I’d give her the basics of law. Tell her to find a good attorney. Tell her to keep her mouth shut. “Where is she?”
I snatched the door open and stormed down the hallway. No need to take a pencil and pad, I wasn’t planning on staying long. Whoever Glenda Penderherst suckered into representing her could worry about notes.
“Quinn!” Jack called from behind me.
I didn’t turn around. I was on a mission. Get in, see Glenda and get out.
Jack called again. “Quinn, wait. There’s something else.”
Cy stood in front of one of the interview rooms. “Is she in there?” I demanded.
“She is.” He turned the knob on the door and stepped back as Jack called out to me again.
I slipped past Cy, stepped into the interview room and slammed the door behind me.