Body Movers 4 - 4 Bodies and a Funeral

BOOK: Body Movers 4 - 4 Bodies and a Funeral
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STEPHANIE BOND

4 BODIES AND A FUNERAL

1

Carlotta Wren skidded onto the sales floor of the Neiman

Marcus at Lenox Square in Atlanta soaked in a flop sweat.

Late on her first day back—minus ten points.

“Welcome back.”

Carlotta turned and manufactured a smile for Lindy

Russel , her boss, who was standing with arms crossed.

“Thank you. It’s good to be back.”

Lindy pursed her mouth. “Too bad you couldn’t make this

morning’s staff meeting.”

Carlotta’s smile wavered, but she massaged the flexible

cast on her arm. “Sorry. This morning was the first time I’d

driven in a while, and my car battery was dead.” She didn’t

think it would help to mention that the MARTA trains were

being single-tracked for construction. Stil , she decided not

to dwell on transportation chal enges since her recent

medical leave had come on the heels of a two-week

suspension to “get her personal issues worked out.”

Personal issues such as her brother’s gambling debts, her

ruined credit, the fact that her parents were long-lost

fugitives…and oh, she’d been entangled in a couple of

murders as a by-product of her part-time hobby as a body

mover for the morgue.

“Things happen,” Lindy conceded. “Is your arm healing

wel ?”

Carlotta flexed the fingers of the arm that had been

broken when a kil er had pushed her over the balcony of

the Fox Theatre, where she’d dangled with her skirt

around her waist for all the attendees of an Elton John

concert to see. “Almost as good as new.” Though, at the

moment it was throbbing like a toothache.

Sympathy crossed Lindy’s face. “I can’t tel you how sorry I

am about Michael.”

Michael Lane, aka the person who’d pushed her over the

balcony, had been Carlotta’s former coworker and friend.

He’d also turned out to have some very dark secrets.

“Me, too,” Carlotta murmured, wishing her heart could be

splinted like her arm had been.

“I don’t suppose you’ve heard from him?”

She shook her head. “I was told he’s in the psych ward at

Northside Hospital until he’s deemed competent to stand

trial.”

“So terrible.” Lindy sighed, then checked the clipboard she

held. “Wel , life goes on, doesn’t it?”

Carlotta blinked. It was true, but stil …

“I’m glad you could come back in time for the Eva McCoy

appearance.” Lindy swept her arm toward the small dais

that had been erected on the sales floor with several rows

of cordoned-off chairs for seating.

Olympian Eva McCoy’s return to her hometown had been

hyped on all the media outlets for weeks. “That’s today?”

Lindy arched an eyebrow.

Carlotta backpedaled. “I mean…that’s today.”

“Since you missed the staff meeting, here’s the info.” Lindy

handed over a memo. “It’s going to be a mob scene so I’l

need all my best employees on the floor.”

Pleasure suffused Carlotta’s chest—her history of being a

consistent top salesperson stil meant something.

“And here’s one now,” Lindy said, looking past Carlotta’s

shoulder. Carlotta turned and swallowed a curse when she

saw Patricia Alexander, aka Stepford Salesclerk, complete

with rounded-col ar suit, helmet hair and strand of pearls,

walking toward them.

The blonde flashed a waxy smile. “I’d heard you were

coming back, Carlotta, but when I didn’t see you at this

morning’s staff meeting, I assumed that something else

had happened. You’re so…accident prone.”

Carlotta’s mouth tightened.

“I’ll let you two catch up for a couple of minutes before

the crowd arrives,” Lindy said, handing them each a rol of

tickets to be passed out to customers who wanted to meet

the guest of honor. Then she gave Carlotta a pointed look.

“I tend to agree with Patricia. There’s going to be a lot of

security on hand today, so try not to do anything that

might draw extra attention.” Lindy walked off, leaving

Carlotta properly chastised—in front of her nemesis.

“Ouch,” Patricia chirped.

Carlotta was able to hold her tongue because she knew

she deserved far worse from her boss than a reprimand

for all her…mishaps. Determined to get along with Lindy’s

new pet employee, she turned toward Patricia. “I suppose

you took Michael’s place in Shoes?”

“Yes. It’s such a shame, isn’t it, that he turned out to be

totally insane?”

Carlotta bit her tongue.

“So, I’l bet you’re happy to be back to work,” Patricia

offered. “You were probably bored to tears doing nothing

all day.”

“I didn’t exactly do nothing,” Carlotta muttered, although

she couldn’t exactly tel Patricia about the road trip she’d

taken with Coop for a VIP body pickup, the unexpected

appearance of her father, and the capture of a murderer

while she’d been “incapacitated,” on leave with a broken

arm. Instead she pasted on a smile. “But I am happy to be

back in my element.”

Patricia made rueful noises in her throat. “I hope you had

time to rest, you poor thing. The heartbreak you’ve been

through the past decade—you must be close to the brink

of insanity yourself.”

Carlotta’s hands fisted. Patricia moved in the Buckhead

social circles, so she knew the sordid Wren family

history—that ten years ago Carlotta’s father had been

accused of stealing from his investment clients and had

skipped town rather than face a trial, with her mother in

tow, abandoning Carlotta and her younger brother to fend

for themselves.

At the thought of her brother, Wesley, Carlotta stole a

glance at her watch. He should be arriving at the Fulton

County D.A.’s office right about now, hopeful y working

out a plea agreement, testifying against one of his loan

sharks in return for reduced charges for his part in the

attempted theft of a body. His attorney, Liz, was hopeful

that Wesley would get off with having his community

service sentence from a prior computer hacking charge

extended. But Carlotta was worried that even Liz Fuck-Me

Fischer wouldn’t be able to parlay enough sexual favors to

make it happen. Carlotta had wanted to go with Wesley

today, but he’d refused, saying it was something he

needed to take care of himself. It might have been the

moment she’d been most proud of him.

Except for the fact that he could be sitting in a jail cel

before her shift ended.

What would she do for bail money? And what if Wesley

didn’t get out this time?

Patricia waved her hand in front of Carlotta’s face. “Did I

lose you?”

“No,” she said, squaring her shoulders. “And I’m coping

with everything just fine.”

Patricia leaned in. “If you need something to take the edge

off, I can spot you some antianxiety meds.”

“No, thank you,” Carlotta said through gritted teeth,

although beneath the cast her arm was hot with pain.

Knowing it would real y hurt, though, if she slugged the

woman, Carlotta changed the subject. “Looks like we’re

going to have a big crowd today for Eva McCoy.”

“Yeah, speaking of crazy…. The woman wins a marathon

after a bout of food poisoning, gives all the credit to a

lucky charm bracelet and suddenly charm bracelets are

sel ing like mad.” Patricia shook her head, apparently

bemused with the trend.

Carlotta smirked. Her coworker was only frustrated

because she wasn’t working in Jewelry, earning

commissions on the trinkets that Eva would be promoting.

Customers were already gathering in the area of the dais

where posters featured the smiling, fit Olympian with a

gold medal around her neck and a “Lucky Charm Bracelet”

on her slender wrist.

Carlotta and Patricia positioned themselves in front of the

GET YOUR TICKETS TO MEET EVA MCCOY HERE sign and

began handing out tickets, and directing early comers

where to sit or stand.

“So,” Patricia asked without making eye contact. “How are

you and Peter Ashford?”

Choosing her words careful y, Carlotta said, “Peter and I

are old friends.”

“So I’ve heard. Tracey Tul y Lowenstein belongs to my

club. She said that you and Peter used to be quite the item

before…your family issues.”

“That was a long time ago,” Carlotta murmured.

“Tracey intimated that you two have picked up where you

left off.”

“Tracey talks too much,” Carlotta said pointedly.

“I think it’s nice that you and Peter have each other,”

Patricia said. “You can support each other. You know, with

his wife having been murdered, and then all that you’ve

gone through.” The blonde winced. “Wait a minute.

Weren’t you a suspect in her murder? Gee, that has to be

a little awkward.”

“Not at all,” Carlotta said pleasantly.

Patricia sniffed and turned her back.

Carlotta shot daggers into the woman’s bony shoulder

blades. In truth, Carlotta was stil wrestling with her recent

decision to cozy up to her former fiancé. When her father

had walked up to her, unannounced and in disguise, at a

rest area a few weeks ago in Florida, he’d told her to stay

close to Peter—that since Peter worked for Mashburn &

Tul y Investments where her father had once been a

partner, he was in the best position to help prove

Randolph Wren’s innocence. Until that moment, Carlotta

would have sworn that if her long-lost father had ever

approached her, she would slap him, kick his shins, spit in

his face and call the police. Instead she’d been gelatinous

and cooperative and…hopeful.

The fact that he made her want to believe that he’d been

framed for his white col ar crime made her feel used all

over again.

Her father was using her—and she was using Peter. Since

his wife’s untimely death, Peter had made no secret that

he wanted to get back with Carlotta. He’d even recovered

the Cartier engagement ring that she’d pawned, and he’d

had a diamond added on either side of the original

solitaire. He was holding it for her, hoping she’d agree to

pick up where they’d left off years ago. Just as if he hadn’t

ripped out her heart by turning his back on her when she

needed him most.

But he was trying to make amends, she conceded. He’d

helped Wesley out of a couple of scrapes and continued to

be attentive to her. A couple of weeks ago, though, after

she’d returned from Florida, his patience had worn thin.

He’d been offered a position in New York and had been

going to take it, unless she could make room for him in her

life. She couldn’t risk him leaving, on the chance that her

father might call or put in another appearance soon, in

need of Peter’s inside access. So she’d told Peter to stay

and had committed herself to making their relationship a

priority.

Normally, being on the receiving end of a handsome, rich

man’s attentions wouldn’t pose a problem, but there

were…extenuating circumstances. Namely, two other men

bouncing around in her head and in her heart.

“I wondered if I’d see you here.”

At the sound of a familiar rumbling voice, her pulse spiked.

She turned around to see one of those two men, Detective

Jack Terry, standing there with a sardonic smile on his

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