Girls' Night Out Murder (Ryli Sinclair 2)

BOOK: Girls' Night Out Murder (Ryli Sinclair 2)
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girls’ night Out murder

Jenna St. James

 

Copyright
©
2016
by Jenna St. James.

Published by Jenna St. James

Cover Design by Juliana Buhman

 

All Rights
Reserved
.
No part of
this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the author.

This is a
work of fiction. Names and characters are either the product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely
coincidental.

 
Dedication
 

This book is dedicated to my mom, Sue Buhman. She has always
been my biggest supporter. She is my world…my constant encourager. My sister
and I are blessed to have her in our lives.

 

I also want to thank my sister, Juliana Buhman. Her
encouraging words keep me on track when I want to delete everything and start
again. She not only helps me proof and edit my books, but she also designs my
covers!

 

And last but not least…Linda Storey and Susan Ryals. Both of
these great ladies volunteer to proofread my stories for me. Their hawk-like
eyes are invaluable.

Chapter 1
 

“I know,” Aunt Shirley said, waving her margarita glass. “How
about ‘I don’t do windows or dinners or dishes.’” She slapped her knee in glee.
“Sounds pretty damn catchy to me.”

Paige threw down her pen. “Ryli, shut her up, please.”

I hid my smile behind my margarita glass and shot my
great-Aunt Shirley a mock glare. She retaliated by taking a long swallow of her
margarita. Since she was obviously bordering on drunk…my look meant nothing to
her.

I narrowed my eyes at her. “Play nice,” I ordered.

“Why’re you squinting at me like that?” Aunt Shirley
demanded. “You needin’ glasses?”

I rolled my eyes. Subtlety never worked on Aunt Shirley.

My best friend, Paige, was marrying my brother, Matt, in
eight days. To make matters even more stressful, they weren’t doing it in our
hometown. Not that they could’ve gotten married by our childhood pastor in the
church we’d all grown up in anyway…we were still without a pastor.

We were without a pastor because our
last
pastor and his wife, Sharon Williams, turned out to be certifiably
insane. He was addicted to booze and pills, courtesy of his wife’s nightly
medicinal cocktail, and she spent her nights running around town killing
people. Me included.

Obviously
she
didn’t succeed in killing me, but she gave it her best try. Luckily for me, a
couple quick jabs to the neck with a dart took care of her.

So when Paige and Matt announced they’d like to be married
at the lake house, no one made too big a fuss. We’d all grown up visiting my
grandparents there, and now that mom owned the house, we continued going every
chance we got.

“Just say what you feel,” I said. “Don’t worry so much about
putting it down on paper. You two have been in love since elementary school.
Well, you have anyway, he just didn’t know he was.”

Paige laughed. “You’re right.” She took a dainty sip of her
margarita. “I guess I’m just worried I’ll freeze and forget what to say.”

“Did I ever tell you girls Clint Eastwood once asked me to
marry him?” Aunt Shirley announced.

“No, he didn’t, Aunt Shirley.” I’ve heard these ridiculous stories
a thousand times.

“Of course, I had to turn him down. His dog’s farts nearly
took the paint off the walls.” She took another drink. “I couldn’t see myself
tied down to that kind of mess.”

Paige giggled.

I rolled my eyes. You can only hear so much bull in one day
before you start to go insane. With Aunt Shirley, it usually took two minutes
in her presence before you realized she’s the biggest bullshitter there ever
was. It’s what made her so good at her job, I’m sure. But it does get tiring.

Aunt Shirley brushed her short, white hair off her face and belched.
“I jussss wanna know one thing,” Aunt Shirley slurred. “Do we have the party
covered?”

“Oh yeah,” I grinned, enjoying the look of discomfort on
Paige’s face. “The bachelorette party is covered.”

“Tell me you aren’t doing anything cheesy and vulgar,” Paige
demanded.

Aunt Shirley hiccupped then laughed. “Those are the two
ingredients needed for a good party.” She downed the last of her drink and
tipped dangerously in her chair.

I shook my head. “I’ll never tell.”

Groaning, Paige plunked her head down on my dining room
table. Miss Molly, my black and white long-haired cat, stopped cleaning herself
to glare at Paige. I was pretty sure Miss Molly knew I was leaving for a week.
Every time I looked at her she either turned her back to me or started cleaning
herself. That’s cat language for “YOU ARE DEAD TO ME!”

Aunt Shirley and I were supposed to be putting the finishing
touches on our list of things to take with us on Monday, while Paige was to be working
on her vows. None of us were getting very far.

Well, that’s not totally true…we were pretty far down in our
cups. I think this was our third pitcher of margaritas.

My aunt held up her empty glass. “I need another drink.”

I obliged, but was smart enough to only fill it halfway. I
figured she was too drunk to notice.

Seeing as how she was near Methuselah’s age—only a slight
exaggeration—the doctor said she was supposed to drink more red wine, that it would
be better for her health. Of course, my aunt’s response was something along the
lines of the doctor could kiss her lily-white ass before she’d drink wine over
tequila.

This explains why, on a frigid Saturday afternoon, two days
before Christmas, we were three sheets to the wind. I’m totally blaming my aunt
for this.

My great-aunt Shirley is a seventy-five-year-old retired
private investigator—a virtually unheard of profession for females during her
time. She worked mostly in Los Angeles from the early sixties until she retired
a few years back. Which is why we constantly have to listen to her
I-used-to-date-a-movie-star-way-back-when stories she enjoys fabricating.

I love her crass, no-nonsense sort of way. That
and
the fact she’s given me her most
prized possession—a 1965 turquoise Falcon that has a glass-like finish and dark
purple ghost flames that dance across the hood and side panels—doesn’t hurt,
either.

It wasn’t until recently that I felt I deserved to drive a
car like this. It’s one sweet, badass car. But since single-handedly taking
down the town killer, I felt pretty badass.

“Mom and I are running to Kansas City tomorrow to get a few
last-minute items we need before we head down to the lake. Did you want to go?”
Paige asked.

I shook my head. “I can’t. I have to finish an article for
Hank, and then we’re going to work on the layout for next week’s paper. He’s
still a little grumpy that Mindy and I are taking off the whole week.”

I work for the
Granville
Gazette
as an investigative journalist, photographer, copy editor, and whatever
else Hank needs. Hank is the owner of the
Gazette
.
I always describe him the same way to everyone. He’s a “Kill ‘em all, let God sort
‘em out” guy. A retired Marine who still walks the walk and talks the talk.
Once a Marine, always a Marine. Oorah!

His wife, Mindy, is the complete opposite of him. Where he
is mean and vulgar, she’s sweet and kindhearted. She dresses like Naomi Harper
from
Mama’s Family
. She loves bright
colors, Capri pants, and off-the-shoulder shirts and sweaters. But that’s where
the comparisons stop. Mindy is actually the smartest, most levelheaded woman I
know outside of my own momma. Any woman that can put up with Hank has to be.

Lately Hank’s been giving me more responsibilities around
the office. I guess he figured since his star reporter single-handedly took
down the town killer, perhaps I could do more than write fluff pieces for his
paper. Of course, I’m sure it doesn’t hurt I’m currently dating the Chief of
Police in Granville, either. Hank is hoping I’ll scoop something for him. He
can keep hoping…it’ll never happen.

Garrett Kimble and I started seeing each other when we were
working the last case together. Okay, that may be a stretch. He was working it,
and I was getting in the way. But in the end it brought us together. We’ve been
“a little more than casual” for two months now.

“It’s going to be awful shopping on Christmas Eve,” I said.

“I know. I’m beginning to think a New Year’s Eve wedding
wasn’t such a good idea.”

“Nonthens!” I looked over at Aunt Shirley. Her near-empty margarita
glass was tilting dangerously to the side, and she was rocking ever so slightly
back and forth. It’s official…she was smashed. “Besss idea. Gonna be specular…spectlar.”
Her brow furrowed. “Gonna be great!”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re cut off!”

Aunt Shirley smiled wickedly at me. “Sean Connery once said
those exact words to me after a night of passion. Guess I was too much a woman
for him!”

I shuttered.
Great,
now I’ll never be able to lust after Sean Connery again!

“So once you get these last-minute items, you’re all set?” I
asked, ignoring Aunt Shirley.

“I think so.” Tears welled in Paige’s eyes. “I just can’t
believe in a few days I’m going to be Mrs. Paige Sinclair.”

“Me, either,” I said, wiping tears from my own eyes. “I’ve
been dreaming of this moment just as long as you have.”

“Oh, Christ. I feel like I’m at a damn funeral,” Aunt
Shirley mumbled.

Paige laughed. “Who’s taking her home?”

Plop! Plop!

I looked down at the notification on my phone. It was a text
from Garrett.
Heard
u r going over wedding plans & drinking margaritas. Be there shortly to
take Paige & Aunt Shirley home safely
.

“Looks like Garrett’s coming to our rescue. He’s the
designated driver today.”

“Oh joy,” Aunt Shirley grumbled.

I glared at her. “I’m tired of having to tell you to play
nice.”

Aunt Shirley grinned. “You wanna know who played nice? Clint
Eastwood. He played real nice with my—”

“Enough!” I cried.

Aunt Shirley slapped the table and cackled like a drunken hyena.

Paige and I spent the next few minutes jotting down words to
incorporate into her vows. Aunt Shirley drank and vetoed all our suggestions.

The doorbell was music to my ears. I got up to answer it,
excited to see Garrett. Most nights he stops by for a while so we can spend
time together. I’m really weird about him leaving his police-issued suburban in
my driveway overnight. So on nights we want to be
together
, I usually go out to his place. He has a beautiful home in
the country…outside the city limits…away from prying eyes.

“You look relatively sober,” Garrett chuckled as he leaned
down to kiss me.

“Wait until you see Aunt Shirley,” I said. “I tried to give
her some coffee to help sober her up, but she wouldn’t drink it.”

Garrett rolled his eyes. “No surprise there.”

“I don’t need no taxi.” Aunt Shirley pushed herself up from
the table, took two steps and stumbled. Grabbing onto the back of my recliner
she declared, “I’m fine.”

“The hell you are,” Garrett said.

Aunt Shirley narrowed her eyes at Garrett. “The day I can’t
hold my liquor is the day you need to take me out back and shoot me!”

Music to my ears!

Garrett grabbed Aunt Shirley’s arm and gently eased her toward
the door. “From your mouth to God’s ears, Aunt Shirley,” he murmured.

Paige and I started giggling.

Damn margaritas
.

“When I was younger, cops would come to
me
for suggestions on how to capture criminals,” Aunt Shirley told
Garrett as she bundled up in her winter coat.

“I’m sure they did,” he said patiently.

“I knew most of the cops on the LAPD. Good guys.” She fumbled
with her coat buttons. “I miss those times.”

I wrapped Aunt Shirley’s scarf around her wrinkled neck. “I
know you do.” And I’m sure she did. I’ve been worried about her constant
reminiscing of the past lately. She always sounds so sad.

Garrett leaned down and kissed me on the cheek. “I’ll stop
by after I get off work,” Garrett said.

“Thanks. And I’ll make it up to you. I promise.”

Garrett gave me a wolfish grin. “You bet you will, Sin.”

I shivered. I loved when he called me that.

Chapter 2
 

“Ryli Sinclair, what do you think you’re doing?”

I shoved my overnight bag into the trunk of the Falcon then
turned around. “Nothing,” I said as innocently as I could.

“I swear to God, between you and your aunt, there better not
be anything naughty at my bachelorette party!”

I rolled my eyes. It’s a bachelorette party, not a convent
reunion for nuns!

I looped my arm through hers and we walked back toward Mom’s
house. Light snow flurries were swirling in the air, but the accumulation was still
less than an inch. I figured roads to the lake house would be pretty clear.

“There you two are,” Matt said as we walked in the house. “We
were wondering where you’d run off to.”

“Just loading the last of the suitcases I brought over to
Mom’s yesterday. I figured she’d have more room in the Tahoe than I do in the
Falcon.”

Paige looked up. “Look where we are,” she whispered to Matt.

Matt glanced up and grinned. He pulled Paige to him and
kissed her long and hard.

Great…nothing like
watching your brother and best friend going at it.

I sighed loudly. Nothing.

I tapped my toes. Nothing.

I coughed. Nothing.

Giving up, I turned to go find Garrett and Mom. Garrett had
taken Aunt Shirley home about an hour ago so she could finish packing. I was
picking her up as soon as I left Mom’s. I’m not sure how I got stuck driving
with Aunt Shirley the four hours to the lake house—okay, not exactly true. It was
her car, so she should probably ride in it. But still…it’s like I drew the
short straw.

Garrett walked into the living room carrying a piece of
pumpkin pie smothered in whip cream. I sidled up to him, hoping for a bite.

“No way,” he said, moving the plate out of my reach. When I
growled at him, he leaned in and kissed me quickly on the lips.

He tasted good…like pumpkin pie and coffee.

I laid my head on his chest. “Thank you for watching Miss
Molly while I’m away this week.” I was still nervous about leaving her, even
though she’d be with Garrett. She’d recently undergone an extensive hospital
stay when Sharon poisoned her. Even though it’d been a couple months, Molls
still gets skittish and cries if I leave her alone.

But since Garrett wasn’t going to be able to drive down to
the lake house until the day of the wedding, we both agreed this was the best
solution. His job as the Chief of Police kept him pretty busy—especially around
the holidays.

“Are the cars packed and ready to go?” Mom asked as she
breezed into the room carrying a suitcase in each hand.

“The Falcon is,” I said. “I’m picking up Aunt Shirley and
Mindy in an hour, then driving straight there.”

“Mom and I are leaving around five,” Paige confirmed.

“Oh, look who came up for air,” I said sarcastically.

Matt gave me a smug look. “You’re just jealous.”

“You two stop,” Mom scolded. “Now, I’ve got the Tahoe loaded
down with our wedding dresses, snacks, and these two suitcases will get me through
the week. So I’m packed and ready to go myself.”

I patted Garrett on the chest. “I wish you could come down
on Saturday with Matt.”

He gave me a hard look. “You know I can’t. This is a big
case I’m working on. But at least Nick can ride down with Matt. Hank and I will
follow Sunday morning. It’s the best I could do.”

“I know,” I pouted.

“Believe me, I want this case solved just as fast as you do.
If I have to listen to Hank give me one more from-one-military-guy-to-another
speech about how I should be giving him more information to put into his paper,
I’m going to lose it. He definitely takes the Marine mascot to heart.”

I laughed. “Hank is exactly like a bulldog,” I agreed. “From
looks to personality.”

Garrett chuckled and patted me on my butt with his free
hand. “Finish my pie. I’ve got to get back to the office. Officer Ryan needs
relieved. He was nice enough to cover my shift while I had Christmas dinner
with you and your family.”

Grabbing the plate from him, I wolfed down the last two
bites while he stood there shaking his head. What can I say…I never let pie go
to waste.

 
BOOK: Girls' Night Out Murder (Ryli Sinclair 2)
9.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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