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Gina Cresse - Devonie Lace 05 - A Deadly Change of Luck

BOOK: Gina Cresse - Devonie Lace 05 - A Deadly Change of Luck
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Gina Cresse - Devonie Lace 05 - A Deadly Change of Luck
Devonie Lace [5]
Gina Cresse
Avalon Books (2003)
Tags:
Mystery: Cozy - Treasure Hunter - California
Mystery: Cozy - Treasure Hunter - Californiattt
Devonie Lace got more than she bargained for when she bought a small, dilapidated cottage as an investment property. While cleaning up the mess caused by vandals, Devonie and her husband, Craig, find a winning lottery ticket worth $58 million taped to the top of the ceiling fan.
Before she can cash it in, the ticket is stolen, and Devonie suspects the original owner of the house did not die a natural death. Not only has he passed away, his son had committed suicide shortly after.
Much to the chagrin of Detective Sam Wright, Devonie launches her own investigation into the "murder" and theft of the ticket. Things become even more complicated when a local, well-respected entrepreneur turns up with the winning ticket hoping to claim the prize. After the truth comes out, the original owners' family starts clamoring for the prize. Working together, Sam and Devonie's search leads them from the coast of California to the depths of Mexico in search of the killer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Deadly Change of Luck

 

By Gina Cresse

 

www.GinaCresse.com

Original edition published in 2003 by

Avalon Books

Thomas
Bouregy
and Company, Inc.

 

Revised edition published by

Gina Cresse

Copyright © 2012
by
Gina Cresse

 

All rights reserved.
  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes in reviews.

 

Cover
graphics and
design

b
y

Terese Knapp

and

Pam Drake

All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

 

Other titles by Gina Cresse

 

Colton P.I. – Second Unit

 

Sinfandel

 

—Titles in the
Devonie
Lace Series—

A Deadly Change of Course—Plan B

 

A Deadly Bargain—Plan C

 

A Deadly Change of Heart

 

A Deadly Change of Power

 

A Deadly Change of Luck

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

 

 

Lou Winnomore slapped the lottery ticket down on the counter, grinning from ear to ear.  “You’re
lookin
’ at a winning ticket, right there,” he bragged to Casey, the young grocery clerk standing behind the counter.

Casey eyed him suspiciously. 
“Yeah, right.
  Like last time when you won five bucks?”

“Better than that.
  Go ahead.  Run it through your machine right there.  You’ll see,” Lou insisted.

Casey wiped her hands on the green apron hung around her neck and shuffled over to the lottery machine.  She accidentally bumped a display of key chains and knocked them on the floor.  She set the ticket down on the counter and began picking up the key chains.  

Lou wagged his head from side to side.  “Get that later, Casey!  Check the numbers first.”

“Hey, Lou!” a man called as he appeared from the storeroom carrying a case of cat food.  The man was as big as a house and carried himself like a professional wrestler, strutting down the aisle with his arms bulging under his shirt.  He had a slight under bite and his eyes bulged a little, making him look like a bulldog.  His bald head was freshly shaved and buffed to
a sheen
.  He wore a green apron just like the one Casey had on.

“Morning, Otis,” Lou said. 

Otis noticed Casey huddled over the pile of key chains.  He set the heavy box down.  “Here, I’ll get that, Casey.  Go ahead and take care of Lou.”

Casey straightened up, rolled her eyes and yawned as
she
slipped the ticket into the slot of the big green machine.  She inspected the polish on her fingernails while she waited for the results to display.  A number finally flashed on the screen.  She glared at Lou.

“You won twenty-five bucks. 
Big deal.
  I could have finished picking up this mess,” Casey complained.  She opened the cash drawer and pulled out his prize money.

Otis hung the last key chain on the rack and frowned at Casey.  “You better work on your customer relation skills, young lady.”

Casey slammed the cash drawer closed and handed Lou his money.  “Congratulations, Lou.  Here’s your twenty-five bucks.  Don’t spend it all in one place.”

“Cheer up, Casey.  You don’t know how lucky you are, having a dad like Otis.”

“You mean
the Dictator
?”

Otis gently yanked a tuft of Casey’s hair.  “That’s enough.  Now, ring him up.”

Lou set his grocery basket on the counter.  “How’s business?”

“Oh, I can’t complain,” Otis answered.

Casey rolled her eyes.  She always reminded Lou of a little pixie with great big green eyes and red hair cut short like a boy.  The top of her head barely came to her father’s elbow, and Lou would have been surprised if she weighed more than ninety pounds.  Her fingernails were chewed down to tiny pink stubs.  She picked a can of beans out of Lou’s basket, searched for the UPC code and ran it across the scanner.  Otis ignored her apparent irritation with him.

“How’s retired life treating you?” Otis asked, pulling a feather duster out of his back pocket to knock down a cobweb that caught his attention.

“Oh, I don’t know. 
Gets a little lonely, ever since Maggie passed away.
  Always thought we’d get to spend a few years together after I retired, you know, maybe travel a little.”

Otis nodded as if he understood, but of course, he didn’t.  He understood balance sheets and profit margins, but not feelings of loss and sadness. 

Casey glanced at her father as she pulled a bottle of vitamins from Lou’s basket.  She was curious to see if he’d have any kind words for Lou.  As she expected, he remained mute.

Lou felt Otis’s discomfort and changed the subject.  He’d spent so many months moping about Maggie’s death and bringing people down that he felt like a boat anchor.  He sensed that people wanted to run the other way when they saw him coming, afraid he’d start going on about how much he missed her.  He forced a big smile from somewhere within.  “Joey’s taking me fishing tomorrow. 
Gonna
be gone the whole weekend. 
Going up to Big Bear.
  One of
those father-son
bonding trips.  Hear there’s some pretty good fishing at the lake.”

Otis
smiled,
relieved he didn’t have to deal with any touchy-feely talk.  “I pulled a ten-pound trout out of Big Bear Lake last summer,” he boasted.

Casey placed the last of Lou’s groceries in a paper bag.  She grimaced at her father.  “You did not.  There’s no such thing as a ten-pound trout.  What a big liar you are.”

“Hey!” Otis boomed, pointing his finger in Casey’s face.  “I’ve had about enough of your smart mouth.  Don’t you talk to me like
that.
  You may be in college, but you still live under my roof, and you’ll treat me with respect,” Otis demanded.

Casey shot him a curt smile as she removed the plastic shopping basket from the counter and stacked it with the others on the floor.  She turned her attention to Lou.  “That’ll be twenty-six eighty-seven,” she announced, giving him the same plastic smile she’d just given her father.

Otis hoisted the heavy case off the counter and headed toward the pet-food isle.  “Good seeing you, Lou.  Have fun fishing,” he called over his shoulder as he disappeared behind a display of toilet paper that was stacked like a pyramid. 

Lou handed Casey his lottery winnings and dug into his pocket for the additional dollar eighty-seven.  She held her hand out, waiting for the rest of the money.  As he counted out the change, he placed an extra dollar bill on the counter.

“I almost forgot.  I need to buy another ticket for tomorrow night’s game.”

Casey handed Lou his receipt and softened her expression.  “You want to try a quick-pick this time?” she asked.

Lou shook his head.  “You know I never leave chance to chance.  I got my numbers right here,” he said as he quickly selected six numbers from a lottery slip and pushed it across the counter toward her.

Casey slid the paper into a slot on the lottery machine and retrieved a ticket.  “Good Luck,” she said, handing it to Lou.

 

Joey Winnomore pulled his pickup into his father’s driveway at three o’clock on Saturday morning.  He almost honked the horn to announce his arrival, but then remembered the hour and the sleeping neighbors.  It didn’t matter.  Lou had been up and waiting for his son for nearly an hour.  He peered out the window and spied the headlights in the yard.  He rushed to the door, as excited as the first time his own father took him fishing so many decades ago.  He hoisted a bag over his shoulder, grabbed his fishing pole and tackle box, locked the door and rushed down the steps, taking them two-at-a-time.

 

Lou and Joey barely said two words to each other during the long drive to Big Bear.  Lou sensed something was bothering Joey, but he didn’t want to push.  If Joey had a problem, he’d find a way to bring it up.

Lou directed from the dock as Joey backed the small fishing-boat trailer down the ramp into the lake.  They loaded the aluminum boat with fishing gear and an ice-chest full of sandwiches and beer.  After Joey parked the truck and trailer, the pair motored away from the boat dock, in search of the perfect fishing spot.

The little boat glided into a small cove on the opposite side of the lake.  Joey cut the engine and dropped a small anchor over the side.  “This looks like a pretty good spot,” Lou said with approval.

Joey studied the landscape and nodded.  “As good as any, I guess.”

Worry lines appeared in Lou’s forehead.  Joey had lost a lot of weight lately, and he didn’t have much weight to spare.  His pants hung loose, and without the belt, would have slid right down his narrow hips.  His shirt hadn’t been laundered for weeks and was missing half the buttons.  His face was gaunt and his brown hair was dull and unkempt.  His dark eyes were usually alert and focused, but now they were bloodshot and heavy.  Lou watched as his son reached into the ice-chest and retrieved a beer.

“It’s seven in the morning,” Lou reminded him.

Joey twisted the cap off the bottle and tossed it into the bottom of the boat.  He took a large swig and wiped his sleeve across his unshaven face.  “So it is.  What difference does it make?”

Lou sat forward on the bench seat and looked his son square in the eye.  “What’s going on, Joey?  You look like death warmed over.  Is everything okay at work?”

Joey let out a cynical laugh and took another drink.  “Everything’s fine at work.  Officer Winnomore never reports for duty under the influence, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I’m worried about
you
, Joey.  Tell me what’s on your mind.”

Joey reached into a paper sack next to his tackle box and pulled out a container of worms.  “Fishing’s on my mind.  Want me to bait your hook?”

Lou studied his son’s behavior.  He knew better than to push.  He grabbed his pole and picked the hook out of the cork handle.  “No, I can manage,” he said, picking a wriggly worm out of the container.

Over an hour passed before another word was spoken.  Finally, Lou broke the silence.  “You know, I won a little money in the lottery yesterday.”

Joey barely reac
ted.  “No kidding.  Am I a rich
man’s son?”

“Na.
  Twenty-five bucks.  I always play the same numbers.  I use the days from my kids’ birthdays, your mother’s birthday, and our anniversary.”

Joey thought for a moment.  “That’s only five numbers.  Where do you get the sixth?”

Lou smiled. 
“Scotty’s birthday.
  He’s my only grandson.  Wish he could’ve come with us on this trip.  Too bad he came down with the flu.”

Joey stared at the red-and-white plastic float bobbing on the surface of the water.  He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment,
then
took the last swallow from his third beer of the morning.  “Scott’s not sick.  I just told you that so you wouldn’t ask why I didn’t bring him along.”

Lou shifted in his seat.  He sensed more to come, so he remained quiet and let his son build up courage to speak the words he’d found so difficult to say.  Both men stared out at the glassy surface of the lake.  Finally, Joey opened his mouth.

“I’m in trouble, Dad.  I don’t know what to do.”

“I’m listening,” Lou encouraged.

“Me and Bridgett, we haven’t been getting along too good lately,” Joey started.

Lou felt a twinge of relief.  He and Maggie had worked through plenty of problems, but they always came through hard times with a stronger marriage and even more commitment for each other.  This was something he could relate to, and maybe even provide some help.  He’d felt so useless since Maggie died, but now he had something to offer. 
“Trouble with your marriage?
  You can work it out, Son.  I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but


“You don’t understand.  We haven’t been getting along for a long time.  I’m afraid it may be too late to fix.”

Lou put a hand on his son’s shoulder.  “It’s never too late.”

Joey reached for the ice-chest again, but Lou put his hand on top of it, preventing him from starting on another problem-numbing drink.  Joey didn’t fight him.  He had no strength left to fight.  He turned his eyes back toward the lake.  “You were wrong, you know.”

“About what?”
Lou asked.

“About only having one grandchild.
  You’re going to have another one in a couple months.”

Surprised, Lou gave his son a confused look.  “But I thought you just said


Joey’s eyes met Lou’s.  In an instant, he understood.  “Not Bridgett?”

Joey shook his head.  “No. 
Someone else.”

“Does Bridgett know?”

Tears began rolling down Joey’s face.  He couldn’t speak.  He just nodded.

Lou removed his fishing cap and began massaging the spot on his forehead where a pounding headache threatened to make the morning even worse.  He had to fight the urge to grab his son by the collar and shake him violently.  He wanted to know how he could do such a thing, but he also knew that being judgmental wouldn’t solve any problems.  He ran a few questions over in his mind: How could you be so stupid?  What kind of an idiot are you?  Didn’t you think about the consequences?  Then, he finally settled on a safe one.  “What are you going to do?”

Joey wiped the tears from his face.  “I don’t know.  Bridgett wants a divorce.  She won’t let me see Scott.  She won’t let me in the house.  I’m
gonna
lose everything.”

Lou nodded. 
“Probably.
  What about this other woman?  Do you love her?”

“Love her?  I barely even know her.  She’s a regular at that bar I told you about, where some of the guys from work hang out.  She’s giving me even more grief than Bridgett

making all kinds of threats if I don’t do what she wants.”

BOOK: Gina Cresse - Devonie Lace 05 - A Deadly Change of Luck
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