Bye Bye Bones (A CASSIDY CLARK NOVEL Book 1) (20 page)

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Daunted, but undefeated, Tracy took the chair nearest the ocean and began spraying her ebony skin with the sun lotion until her peripheral vision caught the movement.

Boars. Wild bores on the beach!

Distanced too far from the building, she didn’t dare move, but instead tucked her legs up near her torso, while holding her shaking knees together with her arms.

A front-end loader cranked up its engine and snaked its way on the shoreline toward her. She was oddly grateful for it because the noise dissuaded the boars from lingering. She knew Michael would never believe her tale of the boars, but the yellow monstrosity on the beach, spewing thick black smoke from its engine, could not be missed, and it looked like it wasn’t going anywhere.

A haze of clouds filtered the tropical sun, and Tracy, not needing a tan on her dark skin, welcomed them. She closed her eyes but soon her the whistling of winds. The skies had grown dark and the tide picked up with the trade winds that had cranked up with a wicked fury, sabotaging any views. It wasn’t until she was caked in blowing sand that Tracy remembered they were on the windward side of the island. Unaware of how long she’d been at the beach, she was certain it was closer to two hours rather than Michael’s thirty minutes.

Tracy found their room empty with no indication that Michael had returned.

She grabbed shorts and a top out of her luggage and headed toward the shower to rinse off what felt like slicked-down sandpaper skin.

No water.

“Just great,” she mumbled. “Boars, construction, wind. No date and now no friggin’ water? Screw this!”

She pulled a virgin white towel off the bar and brushed off as much sand as possible without scrubbing her skin raw.

No sign or word from Michael.

Tracy took their bags and rolled them down to the lobby. She demanded that there be no charge for their fiasco of an almost-stay, and that they help her find a room in Punta Cana.

Management acquiesced with her rising shrill voice, and she had a cab called to the resort no cabbie knew how to find. She headed out, with strict instructions that the front desk would hail Michael, at the sight of him, and tell him where she had relocated.

Tracy didn’t want to use her cell phone, but she acquired international calling. Michael, she thought, surely already had that in place.

No answer.

It made no sense. Why did he leave her almost before they had even arrived? Where was he?

At ten that night she ordered room service. An appetizer, bread, and salad, from her new hotel room in Punta Cana. While it proved to be a spectacular resort, she didn’t see the view outside of their terrace. Tracy’s heart and soul changed gears between fear and fury.

The meal went largely untouched. The lettuce had wilted and the bread, hard, as she drifted off to sleep, only after calling the other resort to make sure Michael knew where to find her. She had no doubt the management at the unfinished hotel would take care of her after her verbal rampage in the lobby, where still a few more naïve guests checked in.

No Michael.


SANDRA VICKERY, FOR THE first time, grew concerned regarding her practices. Her little private team was, after all, expendable. She couldn’t afford any more mistakes. Her main handyman proved to be easy enough. A bad-boy drifter. He helped in the beginning, but he knew too much and that was before she learned how to perfect her art.

Her other helper? Now dispensable and gone. Done.

In the beginning she needed help getting rid of all the pretties. She would disable the person with a stun gun, usually after engaging in conversation with them. Then she’d slide the rag of chloroform under their noses. The victims would fall limp and her helper
du jour
would pack the goods into her work van. Originally her helpers had no idea what she did when she drove away.

One thing at a time. That’s what all of the success coaches preach. That one thing. Focus on the one thing you need to accomplish in order to achieve your goal.

She knew what that one thing was. But she had to be careful. Extra careful. She could feel the tides turning, and they weren’t in her favor.

That equaled the emotion that suited her best. Rage.

She worked out daily. Sometimes she visited the gym twice a day. And she renovated a large guest room on her mansion’s main level to accommodate the best in weight machines, treadmills, and elliptical trainers. She needed to be Amazon strong.

“The day is coming, dear Jaxon, when you will realize what you really want and who you really need. I am your destiny,” she said in to the mirror.

“I’ve perfected my craft. Now, there is only one person standing between us.”

Sandra sat at her Louis XIV desk in juxtaposition to her ultra modern furniture. A statement of power and wealth, she thought and coveted.

She pulled out her checkbook, and with her crafted calligraphy she wrote seven checks. She contributed large funds to the Democratic governor’s race, the senate, and the congress. Then she made three out to the Republican candidates. Her final check was for the purchase of three tables at the Policeman’s Ball, to which she would gift all thirty seats to the force.


WITH THE ENVELOPES STAMPED and in her mailbox, Sandra walked to the far back of the perimeter of her yard and punched in the code to the security gate that enclosed her private warehouse.

She needed to check on her new guest. The process enthralled her, while moving her ever closer to her goal.


FROM PUNTA CANA, Tracy called me, her voice layered with the wispiness of despair and the tremors that come when on the precipice of fear.

“Slow down. What do you mean he disappeared?”

“We barely checked in and he told me he had something to do. Thirty minutes. He never came back. And I had to change our hotels, but I know they haven’t seen him return there.

“You know that for certain?”

“Long story. Not that many guests and they owe me. He is gone. I stayed up all night long. I never heard from him.”

“Where are you?”

“In my room.”

“Did Michael bring a briefcase?”

“Ummm, no. It’s our vacation. He just brought this gazillion dollar Louis Vuitton.”

“Where are your airplane tickets?”

“I kept mine. He kept his.”

“Open up his luggage and search it. Search every pocket of it. Find his ticket.”

Tracy must have set the phone by the luggage. I could hear the zippers open, the frantic swish of clothes with a few clunks. I heard her labored breathing, and then her anger.

“It’s not here! You don’t think that sonuvabitch brought me all the way down her just to go back and leave me here?”

“I don’t know. Tracy, I need you to get your ticket and give me all the flight information, both departures and arrivals. Flight numbers. Everything.”

Through sobs she managed to tell me what I needed to know.”

“I’ll call you right back. I promise. Sit still.”

Through the airlines and a confirmation from his passport, Michael Scores had returned to Tucson.

Chapter Forty-Two
CARSON CALLED SCHLEP. “I think I might have something.”


“Do you mind coming by here? I have the kids.”

“I’ll bring lunch,” Schlep said.


SCHLEP SHOWED UP with Eegee sandwiches and pizza. He didn’t know what they would like. He brought so much food he wasn’t rattled when he saw an unfamiliar car in Carson’s driveway.

Carson said, “Schlep, have you met Mandy Palmer? She works for our missing interior designer, Lori Shields.”

Schlep, handed all the food to Carson and then tugged at his already too neatly fitting clothes. “A pleasure to meet you,” he said.

“Can I start talking now?” Mandy asked.

“Why don’t we settle down my kids and get some lunch. Sit down. I have iced tea, if that’s okay,” Carson said.

“Herbal?” Mandy asked.

“I’m sorry. No.”

“Water’s good.”

Schlep was helpless with plating any food for anyone. Aware of his shortcomings in etiquette and children, he carved off a piece of a turkey sub and sat down. Water was fine for him, too.

With everyone only beginning to sate their stomachs, Mandy blurted out to Schlep what she had told Carson, “I played detective. Well, sort of.”

Schlep rolled his eyes over to Carson, who simply shrugged.

After picking off all of the bread, Mandy dove into her turkey non-sandwich.

Schlep waited for her to swallow, hoping he didn’t see the food in her mouth when she started talking.

“I’m young. I’m small, and even though I dress kinda crazy I am no ditz. And I pay attention to all the talk around here with missing women, especially since we’re struggling to keep the design company afloat.”

“And you played detective?” Schlep asked.

“Well, I just paid attention. The thing is we have repeat customers. We have a showroom but most of our purchases are custom. People see a sofa they like and they choose the fabric and we order it.”

Carson again shrugged toward Schlep. He understood this would, eventually, be going somewhere.

“This one woman came in. I’ve seen her before because she pulls up and parks out front in some fancy car, and she’s always dressed to the nines. She picks out a few pieces. Custom orders. We really aren’t even set up for deliveries off of our showroom, you know. They’re samples.”

“Go on,” Schlep said as he put down his sandwich.

“So this woman wants to buy our rugs. All of them. We aren’t rug dealers. We buy them to showcase our vignettes of furniture and accessories. And this is the second time she’s come through to buy rugs off of our floor.

“You must have great deals and quality rugs,” Schlep offered.

“No. No deals. Quality, yes. But they’re all so different. One will be Oriental and the next a Navaho. She doesn’t even really look at them and here she comes in, and wants them loaded up in her van.”

Schlep perked up and caught the knowing glance from Carson.

“Color of the van?” Schlep asked.

“It was white. And she practically loaded up the van all by herself.”

“Was there any lettering on the van?” Carson asked.

Mandy shook her head.

“Look, Ms. Palmer, this is good information and we’ll consider it.”

“Aren’t you even going to ask me for the license plate?”

“Of course,” Carson said.

“I don’t have it. But it was my lunch time and the woman paid me in cash so I wanted to put it in the bank right away. This woman was just leaving and I was behind her. I couldn’t rope in my curiosity when she drove into a vacant lot right in front of me. That’s my detective part. She pulled in next to an identical white van, and totally by herself, she loaded the rugs into the other van.”

“Curious, indeed,” Schlep said. “I think you might just be our ace detective. What’s the customer’s name?”

“We call them clients,” Mandy said.

“I stand corrected.”

The long pause was intolerable for Schlep as he started tapping his feet. “Your client’s name?”

“Oh. That’s the thing. I don’t know. I’ve seen her in here but she always dealt with my boss, and I know she always paid in cash. I guess that’s why I wasn’t too surprised to get forty-two hundred dollars in cash from her. It freaked me out, which is why I took it to the bank right away.”

“You must have a name. A delivery address for her previous orders,” Carson said.

“I guess that’s where you come in. Shields Design is so far behind the times it drives me bonkers. She doesn’t like computers. But, she’s a stickler for paperwork. We have all of our client files and invoices.”

“Mandy, you’ve stated that you’ve seen this client before. How long have you worked there?”

“A record for me. Three full years next month.”

Mandy ate her turkey on lettuce as the team spoke.

“We need to look for all rug purchases. All cash transactions. No delivery charges. For three years,” Schlep suggested to Carson.

“Can I follow you back to work, Mandy?” Carson asked.

“Sure. I just need to make a quick stop for tofu.”


YET ANOTHER PRE-DAWN call. Five o’clock.

“What now? I thought I was off of your payroll.”

“And good morning to you, too, Princess,” Manning said, with the most pleasant of growls I’ve ever heard.

“What gives? I need my beauty sleep.”

“That you do, but haven’t you been tailing on a domestic case? Giles vs. Vickery?”

I shot up in the bed, desperate to switch on my table lamp that I promptly knocked over.

“Ms. Vickery called 911 last night. An apparent burglary at her place of residence. I thought you would want to know.”

“Impossible. She lives in a fortress, and why didn’t you call me right away?”

“She returned home shortly after midnight. Told our officers she’d forgotten to set her alarm system.”

“That doesn’t sound like her. She’s a lunatic but a meticulous one. And this doesn’t sound like you, either,” I said.

“Maybe because I have had
beauty sleep. I haven’t seen my bedroom in two days.”

“What did they take?”

“The usual. Electronics, jewelry, a couple of guns, some art and some cash. In and out. Clean and neat.”

“You’re thinking EDIS?”

“They sound good for it. Our own local Robin Hood gang. You should know.”

I did know. I probably knew more about EDIS than anyone on the force.

The Expanded Distribution Society. A self-proclaimed Tucson gang of modern Robin Hoods. They steal from the rich and presumably give to the poor. I’d not exactly seen any proof of any broad distribution of wealth to the needy.

For all of her security, Vickery would seem an unlikely target, except that she would make for a good challenge. Prancing around town in her Prada’s, Vickery wasn’t shy about flaunting her wealth. Her widely known charitable contributions to multiple jurisdictions from senators to cops? Might make her an even more desirable target.

Chapter Forty-Three
TRACY STAYED ON IN Punta Cana until I finally convinced her that Michael Scores had indeed left her and returned to Arizona. Shocked, she made the seventeen hour flight alone, then caught a few hours of sleep before coming to my house.
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