Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
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lie or die

A SHELBY NICHOLS ADVENTURE

Colleen Helme

 

Copyright © 2012 by Colleen Helme.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

 

 

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

 

Book Cover Art by Damonza.com Copyright © 2013 by Colleen Helme

Book Layout ©2013 BookDesignTemplates.com

 

 

Lie or Die/ Colleen Helme. -- 1st ed.

ISBN 1478277467

ISNB-13: 978-1478277460

 

 

Dedication

 

To my Grandpa

William LaVon Chappell

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

I want to thank my fantastic family for your support and enthusiasm. I couldn’t do it without you. Thanks to Tom, Erin, and Melissa for being my first readers and for your great input. Thanks to Melissa for being an amazing sounding board for plot direction, and for your skillful help with my website design. Thanks to my great editor, Kristin Monson, for your proof-reading and editing skills. Thanks to Damon for the fantastic cover art. Last but not least, thanks to all of my fans who love reading about Shelby Nichols and her crazy adventures
.

 

 

Chapter 1

Hunting for lost treasure runs in my family.

As a youngster, I went prospecting with my Grandpa up into the mountains to look for gold. He had plenty of ideas about where the gold was, and we always found lots of pretty rocks, but never any gold. Just the same, I’ve always thought it would be cool to find some buried treasure.

Now I was actually looking for a lost treasure, although technically speaking, it was stolen money, and it wasn’t really lost. The bank robber who stole it knew where it was, and he had been willing to kill his partner to keep it all to himself. Lucky for me, I had a clue as to where it might be. Even better, the bank from which it was stolen was willing to pay me to find it.

The bank manager, Blaine Smith, had discovered that I worked for the police as a paid consultant and hired me on the spot. He didn’t even blink too hard to learn that I had ‘premonitions,’ and that’s how I helped the police.

Since I didn’t want anyone to know I could read minds, saying I had ‘premonitions’ seemed like a safer way to go. Especially after what had happened with Uncle Joey, the local crime boss. His ‘niece’ Kate had been after my husband, and with my talent, I found out about Uncle Joey. I threatened to expose her if she didn’t leave my husband alone. Uncle Joey’s hit-man, Ramos, had orders to take me to the big boss, and I had to tell Uncle Joey I could read minds to keep him from killing me.

After that, he used my special ability for his own purposes, until I had enough leverage to bargain my way out. We now had a precarious alliance. I still had to work for Uncle Joey, but now it was on my terms. So far, so good, but it put a terrible strain on me, knowing how easy it would be for him to change his mind.

Besides Uncle Joey, my husband Chris, was the only other person who knew the truth about me. Unless I counted Ramos. Even though he thought he knew the truth, I had never confirmed his suspicion, and I intended to keep it that way. The less people that knew I could read their minds, the better.

It was hard enough to work things out with Chris. Knowing I could hear his thoughts was rough on him. He was mostly resigned to his fate, but there were times it really got on his nerves. Like now…he was thinking that I was crazy to take on the job of finding the stolen money, especially based on the only clue I had.

“But when you pair the word ‘underwear’ with a box or crate, that could mean something.” I said defensively.

“Yeah, like the money is hidden inside a box of underwear,” he shot back. “What kind of a clue is that? What underwear box? Where is it? In a store? In a closet? It could mean anything! See…you really don’t have much to go on.”

I sighed. He was probably right, but with my new consulting agency on the line, I had to give it a shot. Maybe I just needed more information. “I still have to try. I already told the bank manager I would. I just wish I had a better clue.”

Chris shook his head. He was thinking that me getting in over my head was nothing new. He just wished I would learn when to stop. There was a point where most people knew to back off, but not me. What would it take? Even nearly getting killed wouldn’t stop me. Why was I so different? What was it in my make-up that made me so darn stubborn?

He glanced at me, realizing I had probably heard everything he was thinking. Again. Which made having this conversation that much more difficult for both of us, but mostly him.

“I don’t think it’s more difficult,” I said, needing to squelch his frustration with me. “I mean, it might be okay if you actually said what you were thinking, but since you don’t, I think it’s helpful for me to know. Now that I know you think I’m stubborn, I can try to be more open to what you say.”

“Right,” he huffed. “So, are you going to back off? Because really, I don’t think you have much to go on.”

Now it was my turn to squirm. “Probably not,” I said. Chris’ eyes gleamed in triumph, so I rushed on to explain. “I want to look into it, and if I don’t find anything, then I’ll admit defeat.”

“Okay, fine.” He was thinking ‘whatever’ but I’m glad he didn’t say that. It would have hurt my feelings. “So what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to talk to the bank manager tomorrow and go from there.” I had a few ideas up my sleeve, but decided not to let Chris in on it. Since he thought I was crazy to take this job, I didn’t feel like explaining myself. I’d wait until I got some more leads before I did that.

Since I already had an appointment with the bank manager for the next morning, I spent most of the evening on the Internet reading up on bank heists and money laundering. I found the best information on howstuffworks.com. Their podcasts are great. I went to bed feeling hopeful that I had some good questions to ask, plus I wouldn’t make a fool of myself.

Chris came to bed feeling a bit sheepish for being so hard on me, so I cut him some slack. “Hey, remember how Uncle Joey wants to send us to Seattle? Maybe we should start thinking about when would be a good time to go.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Although I don’t know how fun it will be if we’re looking for Kate and Hodges.”

“True,” I agreed. I had special feelings for Kate. Feelings of revenge and intense dislike, that is. She had been after my husband, even though he was a happily married man, so she wasn’t on my list of people I wanted to run into. She was also the person responsible for all my troubles with Uncle Joey.

He was actually Kate’s Uncle Joey, even though he wasn’t really her uncle. It was because he didn’t like being called Uncle Joey that I called him that. Now it was a habit I couldn’t break. Especially since I knew it bothered him.

Kate had found out that Uncle Joey was the man responsible for her father’s death, and was trying to put him away for good when her accomplice, Walter, got in the way. To avoid Uncle Joey’s wrath, Kate escaped with Hodges, taking a few million dollars’ worth of jewels and money Hodges had stolen from Uncle Joey. Now Uncle Joey wanted it back and was willing to send my husband and me to find them, paid for by him, of course.

I was hoping for more of a second honeymoon than a working trip. If Uncle Joey knew where Kate and Hodges were, it wouldn’t be too hard to get close enough to hear their thoughts and let Uncle Joey know what they’d done with the money.

But did I really want to get involved with Kate again? Not so much. Maybe Chris was right, and I was in over my head and not thinking things through. But I wasn’t a ‘normal’ person anymore, and I was trying to embrace that. I really wanted to do some good with my mind-reading skills. If only it didn’t have to involve Uncle Joey. But I didn’t have a choice. I had to make some concessions with Uncle Joey, or he’d take away what little control I had.

“You’re awfully quiet,” Chris said. “What’s going on?”

“You’re right about me,” I admitted. “I am in over my head. Especially with Uncle Joey. What am I going to do?”

Chris gathered me in his arms. “We’re going to take care of this together,” he said. “Don’t worry about everything at once. Just worry about the bank for now. We’ll figure it out as we go.”

“What would I do without you?” I asked, snuggling against him. He was thinking that I’d probably be in worse trouble, and hoping I had learned my lesson about trying to take care of everything on my own. Plus, I should listen to him more. But he couldn’t ask for a miracle.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to ‘hear’ any of this, so I had to act like it didn’t bother me. I tightened my hold on him and sighed, wishing it was easier to shield my mind from his thoughts. He was probably right about everything he’d thought, including the fact that I didn’t like to use my shields around him. I had to face it. I wanted to know what he was thinking more than I wanted to block his thoughts, even if it wasn’t always what I wanted to hear. How crazy was that?

I leaned up and kissed Chris smack on the lips. Right now all I wanted to think about was how much I loved him. It surprised him, and he was thinking how glad he was that I hadn’t heard his thoughts just now. Especially about the miracle part. I chuckled, and soon all thoughts of our disagreements went out the window. Which was just what I had hoped for. After that, sleep came easily.

***

The next morning I was on my way to the bank to visit with the bank manager. I pulled into the parking lot and noticed the car behind me pulling in as well. As I got out, a familiar figure did the same, and my heart sank. What was Rob Felt doing at the bank, and why was he following me?

He was the private eye the bank hired to find the money in the first place, but when he couldn’t come up with anything, they hired me to replace him. I wasn’t sure he knew he was fired, and I didn’t want to be the one to tell him.

I quickly shut my car door and hurried into the bank before he could stop me. It would have worked if I could have gone right in to see Mr. Smith, but of course I had to wait, and Rob Felt caught up with me in the lobby.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, turning the tables on me, since that was my question for him. He didn’t trust me, and worse, thought I had killed a man. That made me mad.

“If I thought it was any of your business, I’d tell you,” I shot back.

He pursed his lips and squinted at me, thinking I would regret that remark when he got through telling Blaine Smith that he saw me with the assassin Mercer, the day Mercer was killed. If his suspicions were right, it was me who killed him. He was not about to let me take over his investigation without a fight.

I couldn’t let him get that far. He was the only person who could place me with Mercer that day, and although Ramos killed Mercer to keep him from killing me, it was something I had to keep a secret. I realized antagonizing Felt was not the way to handle this, and changed tactics. “If you must know, Mr. Smith hired me to find the stolen money. Didn’t he tell you?”

“Yes, but…”

“So why are you here?” I asked, pointedly. “I don’t think he’ll be happy to see you unless you found the money.”

“I might know something he’d be interested in,” he said, thinking of Mercer and me.

“Well, you’re wrong,” I countered. “Smith knows all about my brush with Mercer, and why he was after me. I don’t know who killed Mercer that day, but they did us all a favor. So if Mercer was your only lead to the bank robber, Mr. Smith already knows that.”

Rob fidgeted. How did I know he was going to tell Smith about that? “He wasn’t my only lead,” he lied. “And why would he hire you? What do you know about any of this?”

“I’ve got a clue,” I said.

Not wanting him to know anything about my ‘premonitions,’ or who killed Mercer, I thought maybe offering him a portion of the money would keep him quiet. “Since you have other leads, why don’t we share information, and I’ll give you a cut of the finder’s fee.” That was a pretty dumb thing for me to say, since I knew he was lying about having a lead, but I was desperate. My stomach tightened, and I realized I was starting to sound like Uncle Joey.

His brows rose in surprise. This was looking more promising. Too bad he didn’t have any other leads. But he could always make something up, and I’d never figure it out. He didn’t think I was that smart…more like the women in the ditzy blond jokes. He smiled, and my stomach settled. Maybe sounding like Uncle Joey wasn’t so bad.

“Mrs. Nichols?”

“Yes?” I turned toward the receptionist.

“Mr. Smith will see you now.” I quickly followed behind her, leaving Felt mumbling under his breath. A few seconds passed before he caught up with me.

“You can’t get rid of me that fast,” he said. “We have a deal, don’t we?”

“As long as your information proves valuable.” I slowed my step. “Give me your card and I’ll call you.”

“I think it would be better to sit in on your meeting, just to make sure you don’t forget me.”

He was a real pain in the butt. Is that how you had to act if you were a private investigator? Still, I didn’t want him blabbing anything about Mercer and me. “Fine,” I agreed.

The secretary opened the office door, and Mr. Smith stood to greet me. “Hello Shelby. Thanks for coming. I’m eager to get…Mr. Felt? What are you doing here?”

“He followed me here today,” I said quickly. “He wants to help, and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to find out what he knows before I proceed with the investigation.”

Smith looked from me to Felt and back. He was thinking he’d missed something, and wondered what was going on. Most likely, it was Felt making a pain of himself. He was sorry for me though, and wished he’d never hired the man. “All right,” he said. “Take a seat.” He motioned to the chairs in front of his desk.

Felt was a bit flustered under Smith’s scrutiny. He’d told him everything he knew last week, and had nothing to add. Unless he told him about seeing Mercer and me sitting together on the bench the day Mercer was killed.

Not wanting to go there, I quickly took control of the conversation. “Before I take the case, I have a few questions.”

This surprised them both.

“Um…sure,” Smith said, settling back in his chair. “What would you like to know?”

I sighed with relief, and continued. “How long ago was the money stolen?”

“A little over a year,” Smith answered.

“How do you know it’s still hidden? I mean, if it’s been that long, why hasn’t the robber laundered it yet? Do you have a way to track the bills, and they haven’t shown up, or what?”

BOOK: Lie or Die: A Shelby Nichols Adventure
6.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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