Authors: Abigail Keam
Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Humorous, #Fiction, #Romance, #Women Sleuths, #Erotica, #General
Death By Lotto
Copyright © Abigail Keam 2013
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission of the author.
ISBN 978 0 615 76555 6
All characters are fictional and similarity to any living person is just coincidence unless stated otherwise.
It’s not you. So don’t go around town and brag about it.
The historical facts about Kentucky are true.
The geography is true. The beekeeping is true.
The artists are real, but the art may not be.
For more information on the historical stories presented in this book – read
A Concise History of Kentucky
by James C. Klotter and Freda Klotter
Wicked Lexington, Kentucky
by Fiona Young-Brown
Worker Bee Press
P.O. Box 485
Nicholasville, KY 40340
eBooks created by
The author wishes to thank Al’s Bar, which consented to be used as a drinking hole for my poetry-writing cop, Kelly, and Morris Book Shop.
Thanks to my editor, Patti De Young.
Thanks to the Lexington Farmers’ Market, which has given me a home for many years.
Artwork by Cricket Press
Author’s photograph by Peter Keam
Also By Abigail Keam
Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Award 2010
Finalist of USA Book News Best Books of 2011
Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Award 2011
Finalist of USA Book News Best Books of 2011
Finalist of USA Book News Best Books of 2012
To my parents, Arthur and Louise,
who sacrificed for me
and taught me to love reading.
Ethel Bradley had fallen asleep in front of a flickering TV.
It was too bad.
If she had been awake, she might have discovered that she had won the lotto jackpot. The numbers that she played every week for over seventeen years – the birthdays of her deceased husband and son – had finally come in.
The lotto ticket was safely tucked inside her chubby little fist, which rested upon her heaving lap.
A younger hand gently reached over and pulled the ticket from her hand while the announcer re-read the numbers.
Stunned at winning, the owner of the hand returned the ticket to Ethel’s lap.
This would have to be handled with care. With a little finesse, this could play into a really big score, but would have to be thought through very carefully.
But one thing was for sure. There was no way Ethel Bradley was going to enjoy one dollar from that winning lotto ticket.
No damned way in hell!
Since no one knew I was coming home from New York, I hailed a cab at the Bluegrass Airport, a little jewel among airports. It was clean and efficient. One could park her car and be at her gate within ten minutes. How many airports could boast that? But this story is not about an airport or even an airline ticket.
It’s about a lottery ticket.
My name is Josiah Reynolds. I was named after a Hebrew king because he was a righteous man before the Lord. My grandmother was a religious woman who thought that the meaning of that moniker might stick to me. It did not.
I’m a sinner.
Oh, I’m not an ax murderer. I don’t kick puppies or push old ladies in front of buses. But I lie . . . frequently. It’s becoming a bad habit and I’ve done things of which I’m not necessarily proud. I guess I’ll have to have a long talk with God one of these days, but not right now.
All I could think about was that I would be home in twenty minutes and . . . within a half-hour I would feel better. I just had to get to my closet – into my secret stash.
Home is the Butterfly – a home built in the ’80’s that was to be a “cradle to the grave” house and at the cutting edge of design. The entire property was to be completely self-sufficient. It was made of local materials such as Kentucky limestone, timber and what locals call river marble. The entire back of the house is glass, which overlooks the Kentucky River.
It is called the Butterfly due to its second roof, which looks like wings from a distance. The roof’s function was and still is to catch rainwater for underground cisterns that feed the pool and household needs. It also creates a dramatic waterfall in front of the house.
The Butterfly was one of the first “green” houses designed. My late husband built it for me and took credit for its design. It made him a star, except now he is dead. Died from a heart attack.
I was cutting it very close. The color had drained from my face and I was sweating. It felt hot in the cab, but I knew the cab’s heat wasn’t the problem. Patting my face with an embroidered linen handkerchief, I tried to keep calm. Still I didn’t want to believe the entire fault was mine that I was in such a quandary.
“Can you go faster?” I asked the cab driver. My left hand began to twitch.
“Like to keep it around forty,” mouthed the cabbie. “Road is awful curvy.”
“What? What did you say?” The battery was going out on my hearing aid. Taking it from my ear, I shook it before putting it back. That helped a little.
Feeling the sweat break out on my forehead, I knew there was nothing I could do but endure my frustration. Looking out the window, I bit my lip, trying to control anticipated shakes.
Still – it was nice to see remnants of fall color along Tates Creek Road as we sped along the twisting black ribbon of country road. Trying to enjoy the sight of the Thoroughbreds in the fields, I sat uneasily in the back seat until we came to my driveway.
“Stop!” I commanded as soon as we pulled onto the gravel road.
I had the cab driver back up to the entrance where stood a huge sign with silver streamers stating “The Morgan Wedding.”
“Something wrong, dearie?” asked the elderly driver.
I scratched my chin like a perplexed chimp. “I’m not sure. It seems that someone is having a wedding at my place.”
“Aw, ain’t that nice,” commented the cabdriver, not realizing my increasing anxiety. “Let’s go see?”
I felt an awful sensation in my gut. The last wedding I had been to ended up in a murder/suicide during the “I do’s.” I was not ready to repeat the experience. But at least it had not been at my house. Who were the Morgans and what were they doing on my farm?
“Go easy now. The road has dips,” I cautioned. Holding tight to the door handle, I scanned for changes. My rescue racehorses were in the front field like always. Various peacocks, sheep and geese had to be coaxed from the road with the cab’s horn onto the grassy shoulder . . . like always.
Matt’s little bungalow looked the same as we passed. I noted that his car was in the driveway. That was good. He was home. I relaxed a little bit.
But as we drove closer to the Butterfly, I could see festivities of some kind were indeed taking place.
A young man ran towards the cab and opened my door.
“Who are you?” I blurted out, peering around his coltish frame.
“Huh?” he asked in a dull tone. No bright spark behind those blinkless brown eyes.
“Who are you?” I repeated.
Looking confused he poked his head in the cab, “I’m the parking valet. Are you getting out or what?”
“What’s going on here?” I demanded, my fingers nervously tapping my bad leg.
The young man looked at the cabdriver for help.
Glancing in the front mirror, she returned a disgruntled shrug. “Picked her up at the airport.”
Suddenly the front cab door opened and in popped Mrs. Eunice Leticia Todd, my part-time housekeeper and mother to Shaneika Mary Todd, my criminal lawyer.
Wondering why I need a criminal lawyer? You must be from out-of-town or don’t read the paper. Let’s just say that I seem to be a beacon for all the crazies in the Bluegrass.
The first story started over a year ago, when Richard Pidgeon was found dead in one of my beehives. The primary detective on the case – a Fred O’nan – had been one of my students when I taught art history at the University of Kentucky. I turned him in when he was caught cheating on an exam, causing him to lose his baseball scholarship as a result. Seeing this as an opportunity to get back at me, he made my life a living hell until I had him thrown off the case, giving him a bad mark on his record. That’s when he flipped his lid and tried to kill me by pulling us both off a cliff.
Since then there have been other people trying to do me harm, but I’ve beaten both the police and the grim reaper. That is . . . so far.
“My goodness,” Mrs. Todd exhaled, obviously annoyed. “What are you doing home? Honey, drive around and go back to that little green house that you passed on the way in. Thank you.” She waved the parking valet away and settled in the front seat, turning around to face me.
“What’s going on, Eunice?” I asked.
“You said that you were going to stay in New York for awhile,” she hedged.
I disliked the accusing tone in her voice. “I got bored and decided to come home for the holidays. Now, what’s going on?”
Eunice flashed a big smile. “I wanted to try it out before I talked to you about it, but you’ve caught me red-handed. I did get permission from Matt for a trial run.”
“Try what out?” I squeaked.
“A way that the Butterfly could be utilized and we both could make some money.” She held up her hand before I could speak. “Now, hear me out before cussing up a blue streak.”
I noticed that the cabdriver was driving very slowly. Even with my cane, I could have walked faster. Obviously she wanted to hear what Mrs. Todd had to say.
I gave them both a look of extreme displeasure. I was tired. My bad leg was throbbing and I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten since yesterday. I just kept thinking that I needed to get into my house.
“We’re both just wasting away with nothing to do. Your girl is living in London. My girl doesn’t need me right now. But we both are bright and in reasonably good health. We can still contribute with the skills we have.
“Now what do we have? You’ve got a huge important house that everyone wants to see. I’ve got skills that are rusting away. I used to run a boutique hotel in Bermuda. I’m a good cook and know how to cater big functions. Now if I can please stuffy British aristocrats with money up the whazoo, excuse my vulgarity . . . and your fussy ways, I know I can serve the Bluegrass clientele. Why not put the two together and open up the Butterfly for special occasions like weddings?”
“Jumping Jehosaphat! Have strangers paw through my things? I should think not.”
“Now all of that has been taken care of. The wing with your office and bedroom/bathroom has been sectioned off. No one can get into it.”
“Oh my goodness, this is just terrible. What have you done to my house. . . my privacy. I feel like punching something, someone . . . like you, yeah you, in the face. I’m so mad. Let me out of the damn cab before I really hit someone.”
The cab rolled to a stop right before Matt’s little bungalow, which used to be the caretaker’s shed.
Eunice’s almond-shaped eyes widened. This was not going as planned and she needed to get back to the Butterfly.
Scrambling for money in my purse, I threw some bills at the cabdriver. In a hurry to leave the cab, I couldn’t get my door to stay open. I’d release it, pushing it open in my anger only to have it slam shut on me again. “Hells bells!” I screeched.
The screen door to the house opened and out stepped Matt with Baby, my 225-pound English mastiff. Upon seeing me, Baby bounded down the steps and reared up on the back cab door, barking. With his good eye, he peered through the window, now smudged with his drool.
Now I really couldn’t get out.
One thing about Baby: I always tried to be the decent human he expected me to be, so I calmed down. I didn’t want Baby to witness me being a jerk to someone.
Matt pushed Baby off the vehicle and pulled open the back cab door while Baby began deliriously chasing his tail in happiness.
Eunice Todd stepped out as well, standing a little behind Matt.
The cabdriver also got out and took my bags from the rear. She wasn’t upset at all as she now had a delicious story to tell her coworkers about how Josiah Reynolds flipped out. I was well known in town.
So now everyone was out of the cab but me.
Matt extended his hand, which I grabbed. He basically wrenched me from the back seat.
“What’s going on at my house, Matt?” I accused. “You were supposed to watch things for me.”
“I have,” replied Matt with a crooked smile.
I just wanted to slap that sneer off his gorgeous face. Did I mention he looked like the matinee idol, Victor Mature, a big movie star from the ’40s and ’50s, who was a homeboy from Louisville? Mature was known for his wit and was quoted as saying, “Hollywood is a place where the stars twinkle until they wrinkle.”
Okay, that quote was not on the Oscar Wilde or Noel Coward level of wit, but it still brought a smile to my face.
Here’s a little known movie fact:
The Maltese Falcon,
directed by John Houston, is considered the first American film noir movie. However, it was
I Wake Up Screaming
with Victor Mature and Betty Grable – you know Betty, the girl with the million-dollar gams during WWII and favorite pinup girl of “the greatest generation” red-blooded males. However,
I Wake Up Screaming
was not released until after
The Maltese Falcon
– so it loses its place in film history.
Film noir is French for black film, which characterizes stylized black and white movies dealing with urban crime from the ’40s and ’50s. This type of cinematography was named by the French critic, Nino Frank; however, the look of these films comes from German expressionist directors who fled Hitler’s Germany. Just thought you should know. These things are important if you want to know me. I’m crazy about film noir, but I digress.
“How do you explain strangers in my house then?”
“Miss Eunice, do you need to get back?” asked Matt.
She glanced hesitantly at me and then at Matt. “I think the bride and groom are about to cut the cake.”
Matt grabbed my arm before I could gesture something rude. “I’ll take care of this. You go on back and take care of the guests. Don’t worry about Josiah. After a mint julep and some food, she’ll be fine. I expect that her blood sugar is low. Go on now.”
I tried to jerk my arm from Matt’s iron grip but couldn’t. I hated it when he treated me like a naughty child.
“If you say so. I’ll take the cab back to the house,” she replied, before giving one last awkward glance at the both of us.
I know all too well what she saw.
A slightly crumpled, bewildered-looking woman with a huge dog with his snout now stuck up her crotch while held captive by a much taller GQ poster boy in immaculate khakis and a Ralph Lauren Egyptian white cotton shirt.
Looking relieved she jumped back in the cab and rolled up her window so she wouldn’t have any final communication with me. To my total embarrassment, Eunice was laughing. I know she was. Her shoulders were shaking.
As the cab pulled away, I jerked away from Matt and pushed Baby away from my “personal life.” “Do you mind?” I scolded Baby.
In response, Baby licked my hand, depositing a nice layer of slime.
Sighing, I muttered, “Some things never change.” Still, I was relieved that my dog was happy to see me. I rubbed his floppy ears and kissed the scar running down from his massive forehead to his bad eye. He received these injuries as a puppy while trying to protect me from that crazy cop, Fred O’nan. How could I not love him?
“This is not the dignified return home of a conquering heroine,” I complained.
Matt acted as though he didn’t hear as he picked up my luggage and strode into his little cottage. The screen door slammed. The sound made me flinch. It had sounded like a gunshot.
I limped up the five steps to his porch and stepped inside his tasteful abode of bachelor comforts complete with a big screen TV and large pieces of lounging furniture – all in various colors of browns and tans, of course.
If Matt wanted to really be wild, he purchased something in navy.
Strolling back from the guest bedroom where he had placed my luggage, Matt beckoned to his couch.
“Like a bitch.”
Matt arched a black eyebrow. “I see that we have developed a potty mouth while in New York. You’ve cussed more in five minutes than I usually hear in a year.”
I slumped down on the couch; Matt joined me and brought my legs up to his lap. Carefully, he took off my shoes and began rubbing my feet. I cooed as I nestled into big comfy pillows.
“Your left foot is hot. No wonder you’re in a bad mood. How much pain are you in?” He kept rubbing while looking expectantly at me. Matt knew something was not right.
I was acting weird, even for me.