Crescent Fall’s most famous amateur sleuth, Adelaide McBride, is shocked to spot wanted criminal Ed Lucas. Adelaide and her beaux Vernon are in Columbus on a pleasure trip when she spies Lucas, in disguise and working as a security guard. Naturally, she informs her son, Chief of Police Daniel McBride, and Daniel is not happy at this development.
Drama seems to abound within the Crescent Falls police department. Officer Sharon Baker has apparently set her cap for Second-in-Command, Luke Fagan, to the consternation of Luke’s wife, Betty, who is also Adelaide’s best friend. It’s bad enough Betty is suffering from MS without this added stress. The idea that Ed Lucas might be back in town is unsettling to many people, many of whom he has wronged. Local reporter Gary Bowman’s continual nosing around has people on edge, considering many think him to be nothing more than a tabloid journalist trying to profit from their misery.
Everyone is jumpy, especially as accidents begin to happen to some of the citizens of Crescent Falls. Fingers are pointing everywhere, and no one knows who to trust. Daniel has his hands full. He needs more police officers, but that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Can he take care of the current situation before the whole town explodes?
Lieutenant Luke Fagan came into Daniel’s office and made himself at home in one of the well-worn chairs opposite his chief’s desk. “So, did your mother and Vernon leave this morning for their honeymoon preview?”
Daniel smiled. He could see that his mother was settling into a comfortable routine now that she’d declared her feelings for the man. “I keep thinking I’ll hear an engagement announcement soon.”
“Your mother’s being cautious, that’s all. I have to respect her for that.”
Daniel studied his second-in-command across the desk. Of African-American descent, Luke was tall and muscular with close-cropped black hair and deep brown eyes. He’d been with the department for over five years and was, so far, their only crime scene technician. Of all his officers, Daniel trusted Luke the most. “To answer your question, they left around seven this morning. Frankly, I’m glad they’re taking this trip. Mother needed to get away and just enjoy herself after all that’s happened since Christmas.” He was, of course, referring to the awful murder at the church right before the holiday, followed by another murder around Valentine’s Day, and more recently the murder of Lloyd Fletcher, one of the town’s most prominent and infamous residents. All those investigations had involved his mother in one way or another. “Change of subject. Have you had any further thoughts about training Aaron to assist you in crime scene investigation?” Seeing the look of concern on Luke’s face, he added, “I know he’s only been with the department a year, but he’s shown a real aptitude for forensics.”
Luke met Daniel’s gaze. “He’s interested, that’s obvious, but he’s still pretty inexperienced. I think he needs to pay his dues. We’ve all had to walk a beat, so to speak, before we could move up in the ranks.”
In his mind, Daniel pictured Aaron Ace Shelby, a tall, blond young man with a good eye for detail who’d won several science awards in high school. “Maybe ease him into it a little over the coming year. How does that sound?”
Luke nodded his agreement.
Daniel sat back in his squeaky desk chair. “Now that we’ve settled that, guess what I got this morning?”
Luke raised an eyebrow. “Lord only knows.”
“The DNA results we sent to the crime lab during our investigation into Lloyd Fletcher’s murder.”
Luke chuckled. “I guess when they claimed to be behind on processing evidence, they weren’t kidding.”
“Good thing for us we were able to solve the case without those results.”
“I heard Reed got his mess with the IRS straightened out,” Luke said.
Daniel sighed. The aftermath of the criminal acts Reed Fletcher’s father, Lloyd, had committed had nearly ruined the young man, who was not only a partner in the family real estate business but a much-respected paramedic in town. “He had to sell that land north of town that his father owned to pay off the IRS fines. He also had to pay, from the estate, penalties stemming from the bribes Lloyd made to county officials. But at least now he has a clean slate.”
“Wonder if he’s gotten any nibbles on Lloyd’s place?”
Daniel wondered if the house on Buckeye Street, where Lloyd had lived and was murdered, would ever sell. “Not that I’ve heard. I can’t say I blame him for not wanting to move in there, though. Sounds to me like he plans to stay at Creekside Village.”
“Why not? He now owns the place, as well as Mulberry Manor.”
Daniel nodded. “He told me yesterday that repairs are getting underway at Mulberry Manor. Those are long overdue. By the way, I got some unwelcome news today.”
Luke frowned. “I’m almost afraid to ask.”
“It’s about Brenda.” Visions of his murderous former lover’s deeds flashed before his mind’s eye like a fast-forward film loop.
Luke’s frown deepened. “She’s still locked up, right?”
“She’s still in the mental hospital. They’re saying she isn’t competent to stand trial. In fact, now the psychiatrist says she may never see the inside of a courtroom.”
“So she just stays in that hospital forever?”
“Who knows? I want that bitch in prison, where she belongs. Life without parole. She’s a cold-blooded killer who almost cost my mother her life.” Daniel felt his muscles tighten, and discovered that both of his hands were fisted on top of his desk.
“Couldn’t agree more.”
“Speaking of someone being where they belong, I hear Frank’s now working full time at the auto shop.”
Luke smiled. “My son the auto mechanic. I don’t know how I’ll ever thank Tim for giving him a chance.”
Daniel recalled a recent conversation with Tim Hunter, owner of Tim’s Auto Repair. “According to Tim, he’s trying to think of a way to thank you for raising such a smart, capable, hardworking kid.”
Luke’s eyes shone with pride. “He’s going to be working five days a week, now that school’s out. And he sure likes those paychecks.”
There was a knock at Daniel’s office door, followed by the entrance of a short, stocky man wearing an ill-fitted gray suit. “Chief of Police Daniel McBride?” The man stepped forward, advancing toward Daniel a little too fast. Luke got quickly to his feet and grabbed the intruder’s arm.
“Relax, Rambo,” the man said to Luke as he thrust a business-size envelope toward Daniel.
Daniel, now standing, leaned over the desk and took the envelope. “What’s this?” He glanced out into the squad room through the large window that served as one wall of his office, wondering why the dispatcher, Mindy Cooper, hadn’t stopped the intruder.
“You’ve been served,” the man said with triumph. He shook Luke’s hand loose from his arm and hurried from the office.
“What the hell?” Luke said. He started to follow the man.
“Let him go.” Daniel opened the envelope and stared at the contents. “Is she joking?”
Luke turned around. “What?”
Daniel shook his head in disbelief. “We’re being sued.”