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Authors: Katy Munger

Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Humor, #Thriller, #Crime, #Contemporary

Legwork

BOOK: Legwork
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Legwork

By Katy Munger

A Casey Jones Mystery

 

Copyright © 2011 by Katy Munger

Smashwords Edition Published by Thalia Press

This novel is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or publisher.
 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient.
If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

CHAPTER ONE

 

“This better be good or you’re dead meat,” I warned my midnight caller.
And I meant it.
 I had a 26-year-old bartender parked next to my wrinkled old hide.
I didn’t take kindly to interruptions.

“You’ve stepped in it now,” Bobby D. replied, his voice oozing with satisfaction.
He takes great pride in pointing out my screw-ups.

“What is it?” I mumbled, tugging the sheets away from Jack.
Jesus, he was a human Labrador retriever glossy black hair, big wet tongue, sturdy chest, and a silly grin on his face when he slept.

‘‘Your babysitting job just went sour.” Bobby followed this pronouncement with a cough.
I could practically feel the phlegm bubbling through the phone wires.
I don’t know what goes on inside Bobby’s massive stomach but half the time, whatever it is, it’s trying to crawl out.

“It’s three o’clock in the morning,” I said, fumbling for my black cat eyeglasses.
“What the hell could go wrong with that woman at this time of night?
She get caught breaking into the Junior League membership file or something?”

“She got arrested for murder.”

“What?” I was wide awake.
Mary Lee Masters arrested for murder?
No way in hell.
Not in the middle of the final month before the election.

Unless she had killed her husband.
As a candidate’s husband, Bradley Masters was a perfect specimen.
As a human being’s husband, he sucked.

“Don’t you want to know who was killed?” Bobby asked.
Our offices are only a few blocks from the Raleigh Police Department headquarters and Bobby has some clerk there paid off but good.
He knows when the chief hits the can before the guy can even unzip his fly.

“Okay, I’ll bite.
Who was killed?”

“Don’t know!” His rumbling laugh threatened to turn into a belch and I held the phone away just in case.
Bobby was the kind of person you kept permanently stuffed in a closet.
If you could find one big enough.

“Bobby—tell me everything straight or I’ll confiscate your six-pack.
I mean it.” In searching for my bra, I discovered one pink bunny slipper dangling from a door knob.
I tried my damnedest to remember how it had gotten there but failed. I should never have let Jack talk me into drinking Mind Erasers. And don’t even ask what’s in one.
The recipe alone can give you a hangover.

“The call went out about an hour ago,” Bobby explained.
“Male body, unidentified as yet.
Parked in the back seat of your client’s Jeep Cherokee.
Which was parked about ten feet from her front door.
Stiff was covered with a tarp.
State Bureau’s involved.
Better hurry if you want to get anything.”

“Ten feet from her front door?
Give me a break.
She’s smarter than that.” Where the hell was my yellow dress?
If Jack had ripped the zipper, he was dog food.
I finally found it crumpled in a heap near the toilet with a suspicious brown stain over one boob like a breastplate.
Forget it—I’d wear my black pants instead.
Maybe even throw in my $9.98 pearls.
All for the SBI.

“She’s been under a lot of strain,” Bobby said.
“Maybe she cracked.”

Mary Lee Masters crack?
Not in a zillion years.
Not in my lifetime.
And certainly not in the middle of the night.

The woman couldn’t sneeze without full makeup, nail polish, and a coordinated scarf.
If she murdered, it would be a hell of a lot cleaner than this one was shaping up to be.

“Shit,” I said, thinking out loud.
“They aren’t going to let me get near a murder.
Not the SBI.”

“For chrissakes, Casey.
You’re her bodyguard, remember?
Go guard her.”

For once Bobby had a good idea.
I rang off in the middle of another of his gastronomic rumbles.
I was sure it would still be going on when I saw him next.

No sense leaving Jack a note.
I doubted his eyes could focus enough to read at this hour.
Instead I piled as many prepackaged foods as I could find on the kitchen table for his breakfast.
Who says the art of hostessing is dead?
Not in the South, it isn’t.
Not in my house, anyway.
At least not while preservatives live.

I stopped on the way out the door to make sure Jack was still breathing.
He smelled like the floor beneath a beer keg the morning after a frat party, but he was still alive. His gentle snores purred through the silence of the night like an electric outboard motor in water.
Jack was an incorrigible flirt, an overqualified bartender going nowhere fast and a smart man who preferred to play dumb.
But he was also my friend—and a good friend is hard to find.
I tucked the sheet carefully around his sleeping form before I left.

For once, 1-40 was deserted.
The invading hordes of northern commuters were all tucked in their split-level homes, sleeping quietly beneath a Carolina moon.
And what a moon it was.
Full and white in the October sky, like a big china plate spinning through the night.
The kind of moon that used to set my grandpa howling by the edge of the swamp just to see if he could get an answer.

I felt like howling myself from the throbbing in my head but pushed onward through the pain, inching my 1965 Plymouth Valiant up to eighty miles per hour.
It began to shudder, the doors rattling like they would tear off any minute.
I knew the shimmy would stop when I hit eighty-five.
It did.
I slid down the highway smooth as a shark, wondering how the hell a dead body had ended up in Mary Lee Masters’s driveway.

Mary Lee Masters was the New Southern Woman. The kind you don’t want to mess with.
The kind who comes from generations of women used to quietly running the family business and propping up weak front men.
But Mary Lee had gone to college in the 70’s, the first female generation to find that she didn’t have to be so quiet anymore.
A hundred years of suppressed thirst for power had exploded into one terrifyingly charming political machine named Mary Lee Masters.
She was wealthy enough to bankroll a career in public service, well-bred enough to crack any tier of southern society, and pretty enough to get a good ole boy vote or two.
She knew how to bat her eyelashes, but the eyes behind them were small and cold and blue.
I admired the hell out of her.
Anyone who can wear pantyhose twenty hours a day while taking on the fat cats—and beating them—at their own slimy game deserved my respect.

Besides, I suspected Mary Lee Masters was the sneakiest creature from here to Tallahassee and I wanted her on my side.
She was from out by Charlotte way, which meant she had started politics with a strike against her since Charlotte wasn’t really a southern city and was considered more of a northern town wannabe.
But she fixed that problem by moving to Raleigh right out of college and starting her climb up the state political ladder from there.
She landed a job at a local television station reporting on consumer protection issues, then got appointed to a state commission and took on the dairy farmers like the cows would never come home.
After marching through price-fixing schemes like a certain nameless northern general had burned his way through
Atlanta, she moved on to arts and culture, sticking museums on every corner of the downtown area and protecting half of Raleigh from the wrecker’s ball.
Then she took the big leap into local politics, gobbling up the other city council candidates like a beach bum mooching off a bar full of divorcees.
It took her almost twenty years, but here she was at age forty-four running for a seat in the U.S.
Senate and hoping to become the first female senator in the history of North Carolina.

She didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. Everyone knew it except her.
The most recent polls had her moving up all right—but it was too little, too late.
I’d eat my underwear if she made it.
It just wasn’t the right time.

She might have had a chance in any other year, but Mary Lee Masters was running against Stoney Maloney, the favored nephew of Senator Boyd Jackson.
And Senator Boyd Jackson was a man who made Strom Thurmond look like a drifter just passing through.

Boyd Jackson had been senator from North Carolina for about as long as my family had been poor.
He was mean. He was pig-eyed.
He was a two-faced, fire-and-brimstone-breathing, handshaking, church-going hypocrite of the highest order.
But he brought home more pork in the barrel for the farmers of North Carolina than could be chopped into barbecue each year.
He was the subsidy king, the tobacco god, the supreme backscratcher of all time.
Which meant he was invincible, unlikeable and unbeatable.

Except that he was also dying.

No one from the outside had been able to touch him for forty years, but he was rotting from the inside out. When the stomach cancer got too hot to hide and rumors started circulating in Washington, he had announced he would not run for re-election and handpicked his nephew Stoney Maloney to succeed him as his party’s candidate in the upcoming election.

That left Mary Lee Masters running against the nephew of an icon at a time when the good people of North Carolina needed icons.
They were being gentrified, northernized, and politicized into some place new—and all the changes were frightening the hell out of half the state.
I knew Mary Lee was homegrown, but not homegrown enough.
Still, I gave her credit for trying.
And for not going down without a fight.

It didn’t take me long to get to her house. I knew the way by heart.
I met her there every morning at seven o’clock to act as her bodyguard.
She lived in Country Club Hills, the first of the expensive subdivisions that sprang up like mushrooms around Raleigh back in the 60’s.
By now, Country Club Hills was no longer on the outskirts of town but pretty damn near the middle of it.
An address there was even better than the older Raleigh neighborhoods near the universities.
Country Club Hills was “inside the Beltline,” meaning you could afford to pay a third more for your house than the rest of the Research Triangle’s newcomers. It also meant that your era was just beginning, not ending like old Raleigh money’s—and that you had made the move down South and the big money first, before the tidal wave of IBMers and white-collar crowds had arrived.

Like most people on her block, Mary Lee was rolling in the bucks.
She had a ton of it from the family coffers and a piece of just about every factory within the city limits of Winston-Salem.
Then she had married into more of it, nabbing some walking, talking, Ken doll of an investment banker who everyone else thought was a dream boat but I was pretty sure was a faithless prick and nothing more.

The faithless prick—and his car—were nowhere to be seen when I arrived at Mary Lee’s house.
I wondered if Bradley Masters was lying dead in the Jeep.
He’d run through his share of family money a few years back and had started in on Mary Lee’s.
Maybe she wasn’t into share and share alike and had decided it was time for death to do them part.

I parked down the block, well back from the swirling lights.
The homes and lots were big in Mary Lee’s neighborhood, with yards at least an acre each.
It seemed odd to be there so late at night.
I usually knocked off at eight in the evening, an hour that Mary Lee had declared was too late for a stalker.
I suspected she was simply too cheap to hire a night bodyguard—and not yet scared enough to open her purse strings.

A light fog leaked out of the nearby greenway, making the scene seem even more like a dream.
But, if it was a dream, it was a bad one.
The place was crawling with cops and agents from the State Bureau of Investigation, a sort of junior league FBI for local law enforcement overachievers.

The dark clothes had been a good idea.
I inched up, unnoticed, to the edge of the driveway where I could eavesdrop on two men arguing at the curb.
They stood near the trunk of a dark blue sedan.
I could see someone sitting in its back seat, head down.

“I don’t give a shit who you are,” a short man with a bulldog face was growling.
He wore a gray suit and snow-white shirt in the middle of the night, which was tantamount to wearing a sign around his neck that said “I’m an asshole.” A small antennae poked out from behind one of his ears beneath a serious crew cut.
He thought he looked important.
I thought he looked like a Martian.
“I wouldn’t even bother to try, buddy,” the guy added.
“By morning it will be all ours.”

BOOK: Legwork
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