Authors: Laina Turner
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Boutique - Chicago
|Laina Turner - Presley Thurman 02 - Necklaces & Nooses|
|Presley Thurman |
|Five Seas Ink (2011)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Boutique - Chicago|
Copyright 2011 Laina Turner
Five Seas Ink Publishing
olange always turned and gazed lovingly at her boutique before walking out the door each night. It was a ritual of sorts to walk to the front of the boutique and pivot to take in all that was hers, to breathe in the smell of success from all her hard work and determination. She’d be damned if she was going to let that asshole take it from her; she’d built this and would die before she’d let anyone have it. He hadn’t done a thing except complain the entire time about how stupid she was, telling her everyone knew retail was a losing proposition, and saying the sheer fact she would take money out of her trust fund and throw it away on something as frivolous as a clothing store proved how stupid she was. She needed to find another “hobby,” he had the audacity to say. As if this was a hobby. He had sorely underestimated her then and certainly was underestimating her now. She began to wonder if he had ever really understood her, because if he had, he would have realized that Silk was the accumulation of years of dreams. She turned back around to walk out the door and go home for the night but slammed right into a strange man.
“Who the hell are you?” she exclaimed, thinking she must have been lost in thought to not hear this guy sneaking up on her. She berated herself for not locking the door at closing time. She always forgot, and as the ladies she worked with kept reminding her, this was Chicago. Even though the boutique was located in a good part of town, at night you could never be too careful.
“That’s not important,” the man said. “What is important is that you give me what belongs to me.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t even know who you are. You better just leave, buddy, before I call the cops.” Solange tried to sound menacing, not revealing how scared she was. She had grown up in the city but had never been in this situation.
“I told you, I’m not leaving until I get my merchandise. Now I know you have it, so turn it over.”
“Have what?” She had no idea what he was talking about and her confusion almost overrode her fear.
“My jewelry. I know you got it in your last shipment. If you think I’m going to let you and your people cash in on my hard work, you’re wrong. Now hand it over or you’ll be sorry.”
“For the last time, I have no idea what you are talking about. This has gone far enough. I’m calling the cops, so you’d better leave.” Solange reached into her purse and grabbed her cell. She pulled it out and started to dial 911 when the intruder knocked it out of her hand. “Now wait just a minute.”
“No, I’m done waiting.” The intruder stepped closer to Solange and grabbed her around the throat.
Oh my God
, she thought, and everything went black.
can’t believe I am so forgetful
. All I wanted to do was go home because I was tired and my feet hurt. I left my wallet at work, and of course didn’t notice until I got all the way to the pay booth to get out of the parking garage. No amount of batting my eyes and trying to look cute and pathetic helped. Although, the fact that the attendant was a twentysomething, gum-cracking girl, who I’m sure just wanted me to leave so she could get back to her magazine, probably didn’t help. It was no skin off her back if I had to take the time to go get my money. I was hoping she would do it out of the kindness of her heart, but to no avail.
I walked back down the dark alley to the boutique where I worked, wishing I had a ponytail holder to tie up my thick red hair. I had taken the time to straighten it that morning, and it looked great until I walked out in the humidity. Now it was turning into a fuzzy mess. It was a muggy August night, and I was sticky and disgusting after a long day at work. My black capris and sleeveless white blouse were wrinkled and limp. My sweaty feet slid around in my red high heels. I just wanted to get home and shower. This time of year the hot weather always made me feel dirty. At least I’d get a blast of air conditioning when I got to the store—excuse me, the boutique. The owner just about had a nervous breakdown anytime someone called it a store. “Stores are for groceries,” she would shrill. “Silk is a boutique that caters to women who have taste and class,” she would say. And money—which she didn’t say.
My boss was one of the most high-strung women I’d met, but she was a smart businesswoman and knew her stuff when it came to fashion. I had a lot of respect for her. Considering the majority of the clientele at Silk were high-strung and high maintenance too, I figured one of the reasons she was so successful was that it took one to know one. The people who shopped there, mostly women of course, with a few husbands and boyfriends who knew what kind of gifts their ladies liked, loved how everyone at Silk catered to their every whim. Silk provided the best customer service of any boutique I knew, and it was evident by the clientele. My boss had incredibly high standards and at times it drove her employees crazy, but it worked. We had a large amount of repeat business from women who claimed to wear only clothes that came from Silk. And ours was a small world; we would have heard if they were going somewhere else.
I continued through the alley and then turned left once I got to Park Street, which was one block off the great shopping mecca in Chicago, the Magnificent Mile. A magnificent mile of shopping, that is. It was the bane of my existence, or at least of my credit cards. I was a bit of a shopaholic. Okay,
of a shopaholic. I couldn’t help it, I was a slave to fashion. I loved clothes, shoes, and accessories. My favorite time of the month was when my
magazine came through the mail.
I reached for the door with my key to unlock it, and with the pressure of my hand it swung open.
, I thought. I knew I’d locked it and set the alarm when I left thirty minutes ago, since I was the last person out the door. So I figured that meant Solange was here. The owner, whose real name was Sally, made everyone call her Solange because she felt it was more representative of who she was: high-end, high maintenance, and unique. We employees went along with it but balked when she wanted to change our names too. She tried for a long time to convince us, but none of us were receptive to the idea, and she finally gave up. Solange often spent time at the boutique when it wasn’t open, so I wasn’t surprised she would be here. She sometimes kept strange hours.
“Solange? Yoo-hoo, Solange, are you in here?” No answer, but if she was in the back office she might not have heard me. I walked through the store to the break room and grabbed my wallet where I had left it on top of the Coke machine. Still annoyed with myself that I had forgotten it in the first place, I stuck it in my vintage pearl-colored Coco Chanel purse that I had found at Goodwill. It was my best find to date. Someone must have been cleaning out a relative’s closet and had no idea it was worth a lot of money, because who would take a Coco Chanel bag to Goodwill? Their ignorance was my gain, and it was one of my most prized possessions.
“Solange,” I called again. I didn’t want to scare the heck out of her by sneaking up on her. I walked toward the office, and the light wasn’t on. Surely she wasn’t sitting in the dark. That would be strange even for her. I pushed the office door open.
“Solange?” She wasn’t there. Hmmmm. I started to get a little nervous. Maybe I was being naïve, but since the door was open, I didn’t think anyone had broke in. Solange often forgot to lock the door at night when she was here. I was always chastising her about it, though it was like the pot calling the kettle black, as I forgot all the time too. I guess someone could have followed her in, which was why we really needed to remember to lock the door. This wasn’t a bad area, but you could never be too careful. The only other person who had a key besides us, was a part-time employee Edie Thomas, who was on vacation in Costa Rica for a month. So it had to be Solange who was here.
I called out one more time, but no answer. I flipped the rest of the lights on in the stockroom and walked up and down the racks of clothing to see if she was hiding back here, but no Solange. The only other place she could have been were the fitting rooms, and why she would be sitting in a dark fitting room after hours ignoring me was beyond me. But then again, sometimes I didn’t understand a lot she did.
We had three fitting rooms, two in the back right corner of the store and one large one up front for the important clients. All of our fitting rooms were nice, but the extra roominess of the front room made all the ladies ask for that one first. Since I was at the back of the store, I thought I would start with those. Nothing! This was strange. Maybe I did leave the door unlocked. If that was the case, thank goodness I came back.
As I walked up to the front, I noticed I forgot to straighten the jewelry and would have to get that in the morning before Solange flipped out, if she hadn’t already noticed. That woman had an eagle eye even in the dark, I had to give her that. She always wanted everything to be perfect. Rightfully so, she knew how to run a business.
I opened the door to the premiere fitting room, and my jaw dropped. My hand slipped from the door, and I stood rooted to my spot. “Oh shit,” I whispered.Didn’t look like I would be getting in trouble for not straightening the accessories, because I was looking at my boss hanging from the light fixture in the special fitting room!
Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod. I was freaking out, no, I couldn’t freak out. Call 911, you idiot and then freak out. I dialed 911, and at the same time dragged the fitting room chair over to Solange, and climbed up on it to see if she had a pulse and if I could get her down. Trying to hold the phone to my shoulder at the same time wasn’t an easy task.
“911 what’s your emergency?” the operator droned. I would not want to have her job.
“I need an ambulance at 5649 Park Street. I just found my boss, and she’s hung herself.” My words came out all jittery and stammering. “I mean, she’s hanging, I…”
“Do you know how long she has been there?” the voice continued calmly.
“Well, I got here about five minutes ago. You see, I forgot my wallet and I couldn’t get out of the parking garage and—”
The operator cut me off. “Ma’am, I understand. Can you tell if she’s still breathing?”
I tentatively reached over to her neck to feel for a pulse. I didn’t feel anything, but I also failed CPR in the eighth grade, so what did I know? However, she didn’t have the rosy color of someone still alive, and she was very cold and clammy to the touch. “I don’t think so. I can’t find a pulse.”
“Okay, ma’am, help is on its way. Please stay on the line until the medics get there.”
God, I hoped that was soon. I waited for what seemed like forever, but in reality was probably about five minutes or so, hearing sirens twice, which were false alarms—this was Chicago after all—before the medics charged through the door. I was grateful when they pushed me away and took over. I stood just outside the fitting room in shock. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
“What’s your name?” one of them asked.
“Presley. Presley Thurman.”
“Okay, Presley. Don’t leave. The police will be here soon to take a statement from you.”
I must have looked nervous at this.
“Don’t worry, it is standard procedure,” he said over his shoulder as he walked back over to where his partner was working on Solange.
“Okay.” I watched in morbid fascination as they effortlessly cut her down and put her on a stretcher.
“No sense in rushing this one to the hospital,” one of the medics said in a low voice to the other. “No pulse, and it’s obvious her throat is crushed. Who would have thought a necklace was so strong?”
A necklace! My ears perked up at this, and I peered over at Solange’s body without trying to seem like I was rubbernecking at a car accident. Holy crap, he was right. Wrapped around her neck several times was one of our most expensive necklaces. It was our thirty-six-inch triple strand of pearls and crystal. Swarovski, of course. It retailed for twenty eight thousand, and trust me, there wasn’t a very high markup on that piece. It was one of the pieces Solange was most proud of. What seemed odd was that she loved that necklace but would never have worn it with the outfit she had on. Her pale pink linen shirt was too casual for the necklace.
Just then, I heard the door chime. I turned my head and saw a police officer come through the door.
He stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m Detective Willie Landon. Are you the one who called this in?”
I shook his hand. He was cute, about five ten, green eyes, and really good brown hair. For a cop, at least the cops I had seen, he had amazing hair, short on the sides and spiky on top. He definitely used hair product. Slim build, but not skinny, he seemed to be my age, early thirties. I looked at his left hand, and he wasn’t wearing a ring, though that didn’t mean much these days. “Hi, yes, I found her. She’s my boss. I work here. You see, I forgot my wallet and came back here to get it and…”
He held up his hand to slow me down. What was wrong with me? I kept babbling nonsense. The medics and now this cop probably thought I was a crazy lady.
“Calm down. Let me get my notepad out, and we can start from the beginning.”
I’m not sure why at that moment my emotions decided to get the best of me, but I felt the tears start to stream down my face. “I’m sorry,” I said, wiping away the tears. But they wouldn’t stop, and then my nose started to run. I was a mess. It was embarrassing. I hated getting like this, especially in front of a stranger. But I was overcome with the shock of finding a dead body. Especially someone I knew, although a stranger wouldn’t have been much better.
“That’s okay,” he said and handed me a tissue. I couldn’t help but think how nice he was, being prepared for a crying person. Must have been in the cop manual! He was patient and gave me time to collect myself, which took longer than I wanted it to. I felt so foolish, though I wasn’t sure why. I had, after all, discovered my boss hanging from the light fixture in our fitting room. I was reacting the way any normal person would if they’d found a person hanging. Once I felt more in control of my emotions, I started walking him through everything that had happened since I got back to the boutique, trying not to babble, when one of the medics came out and interrupted.
“Detective, I think there is something you should see here,” the medic said and beckoned Willie, as the cop told me to call him, over to the stretcher with Solange’s body.
Willie held up a finger to tell me to stay put for a minute and walked to where the medics had been getting ready to load Solange into the ambulance. They pointed something out to him on the body, and I could see him asking more questions. After about ten minutes, they finished loading her up and left, without sirens, and Willie walked back over to me. He stopped and looked at me for a second, pausing before he spoke, which made me a little nervous even though I had no reason to be. I was just so jittery and out of sorts.
A glass of wine would sure be nice right now
, I thought.
“I’m going to need you to come down to the station to finish this.”
I looked at him, confused. “May I ask why? You just said a few moments ago I could leave after a few more questions.”
“Your boss didn’t hang herself. She had help. So that makes this a whole different level of investigation, and my few more questions need to take place down at the station.”
My eyes grew wide. “What? I don’t understand. How could that be?” If she had help, he must mean assisted suicide or murder. “Why would anyone want to murder a boutique owner?”
“That is what we need to find out. Ride with me to the station.”
“But my car…” I trailed off, thinking if only I had not forgotten my wallet I wouldn’t have discovered Solange and be on my way to the police station. What a nightmare. “Am I a suspect?”
“Don’t worry about your car. I’ll make sure you get back to it when we are finished. You admittedly were the last person to see her alive and found the body, so I need to know everything you know. Yes. Technically, you’re a suspect.”
OMG, I couldn’t believe this. Why did I have the bad luck to be one of the last, if not the last, people to be around others who were murdered? This was like the senator situation all over again, and I knew the police investigating that. This was much scarier. What if he thought I was involved?