Authors: Jennifer L. Hart
“We could take on Aaron’s job. Go there tonight and see what’s what. He owns near half the damn county and if he likes our work, he’ll recommend us.” Luke was like a little kid in a toy store, his enthusiasm contagious, at least for me.
I hadn’t heard him so hopeful for the future in a long time. Turning toward Logan, I made up my mind then and there that I would do everything in my power to help him make this dream a reality.
Logan and I would just have to deal with each other. Be professionally courteous. We were adults, we could handle it and we would if I had anything to say about it.
If not he could take a long walk off a short pier.
“I’m in.” I said. Luke squeezed me and Logan looked like he’d chewed on a fresh turd.
For better or worse, I had a new job.
Aaron Tanner was a marine who’d gone through boot camp with Luke. After serving out one tour, he’d inherited his father’s condo complex in South Beach and left the military to be a full time landlord. According to the file Luke had given me, Aaron’s tenant, a Mr. Fester Gomez was three months behind in his rent.
The eviction process is complex in any state, but Florida had its own special quirks. The laws were written to protect tenant rights before those of the property owner. Knowing what I do about the eviction process, I’d rather stick a hot poker in my eye or spend ten minutes locked in a closet with Logan, than ever choose to be a landlord.
As Luke drove over the MacArthur Causeway, I read the file out loud. “Fester Gomez, Caucasian, age sixty three, widower. Lived here for ten years, never had a late payment before. Aaron wants us to talk with him, inspect the property for damages if he’ll let us and find out why he’s not paying his rent.”
“And if he doesn’t let us?” Luke asked.
“I’ll post a twenty four hour inspection notice and we’ll go in tomorrow.”
“You’ll stay in the car.” Logan didn’t phrase it as a request and I didn’t appreciate his tone.
“I’m going in. Mr. Gomez has no criminal record, he’s not a threat. Besides if you two scary guys knock on his door and give him a heart attack, Aaron might get sued. Then we’re SOL.”
“Jackie’s right, Logan. We’re just going to talk this out. Aaron doesn’t want to go through the trouble of eviction if there are any other options.”
From my position in the back I saw Logan shift, so I was prepared when he pivoted to glare at me. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Broke that habit years ago.” The passive-aggression was so dense you could eat it with a spork. I saw the instant the barb struck home. His eyes narrowed to blue slits. I raised an eyebrow, daring him to take it further.
“Knock it off you two. We’re almost there.” That from Luke, the peacemaker of our little trio, who multitasked brilliantly as he turned his truck onto Ocean Drive.
He stopped the vehicle near a pristine white stucco apartment complex. I whistled low as I stepped out of the car. “Hot damn, you think Aaron would rent to us? I always wanted to live near the beach.”
“We couldn’t afford it.” Luke said, sending me a rueful smile. “Maybe in a few years, if this business works out.”
Logan remained quiet, assessing our surroundings.
We trooped across the street and into the breezeway, stopping at the door to 1C. I held my clipboard with the 3- Day notice all filled out, should Mr. Gomez not provide an adequate reason why he’d been skipping his rent. Luke and I exchanged a glance, he nodded, and I knocked on the door, going over the spiel I had in mind.
A spiel, I didn’t need because the unlatched door creaked open ominously. “Uh oh.”
“Get back,” Logan snarled, shoving me behind him and several steps to the side. I didn’t protest the rough treatment because my nose had picked up the same stench that had put him on high alert. Something that reeked like death.
“I’m going in,” Logan said.
“Don’t be an idiot.” Luke grabbed for his brother’s shoulder but Logan shrugged him off.
“If whatever’s in there is still alive, it needs help. Get her back to the car.” Logan barreled forward like a freight train.
“Idiot.” Luke growled. “Jackie, go back to the car. Call 911. Tell them what’s going on.”
Luke shoved his cell phone at me and I fumbled it. “You don’t know what’s in there.”
“Logan’s in there,” he said simply and disappeared into the place.
Well the Parker brothers might be big, tough heroes but I sure as hell didn’t want to see what was making that smell. Week-old garbage rotting in a Dumpster was more appetizing. I couldn’t just go lock myself in the car though. What if they needed help?
I dialed the phone and gave the 911 operator the address. “Probable DOA. My husband and his brother have gone in to check on the resident.”
“Do you require an ambulance?”
Considering Mr. Gomez’s rent was three month’s late, I seriously doubted it. Still, I called out, “Luke? Is there anyone alive in there?”
It was Logan who appeared, his T-shirt pulled up to cover his mouth and nose. “Whoever did this is long gone.”
I was craning past him, looking for Luke. “Did what?”
Sirens blared in the distance, announcing help was on the way.
“Luke, get out here!” Logan called, shoving me back into the breezeway. “Put your hands up so the cops can see them.”
“Ma’am? Are you there?” The 911 operator’s voice crackled over my line.
Luke slipped through the door, face ghostly pale as his eyes met mine. He’d seen his share of dead bodies and I doubt discovering Mr. Gomez had passed peacefully in his sleep would have brought on that kind of reaction.
Logan and Luke exchanged a look and I knew Logan didn’t want to tell me, the jerk, while Luke couldn’t see any way to avoid it.
“It’s not Gomez.”
Want more Maggie and Neil? Join them in the zany mystery series The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag Now available on Amazon.com
Maggie Phillips hasn’t had it easy. As the wife of retired Navy SEAL, and the adoptive mother of two little hellions, Maggie is constantly looking for ways to improve her family’s financial situation. She accepts a cleaning position for her new neighbors (who redefine the term ‘eccentric’), never imagining she will end up as the sole alibi for a man with a fascination for medieval torture devices when he is brought up on murder charges.
While Maggie struggles to prove the man’s innocence, her deadbeat brother arrives, determined to sell Maggie and Neil on his next great scheme and to mooch with a vengeance. If that isn’t bad enough, her in-laws, (the cut-throat corporate attorneys) descend on the house, armed with disapproval and condemnation, for the family’s annual Thanksgiving celebration.
As the police investigation intensifies, Maggie searches for the killer among the upper echelon of Hudson, Massachusetts in the only way she can— by scrubbing their thrones.
Of the porcelain variety, that is…
A really enjoyable read—laugh out loud funny—one that I’m glad to have had the privilege to review. I look forward to more of Ms. Hart’s work. Excellent!
~ Cocktail Reviews
A wonderfully fun whodunit
A Night Owl Romance Top Pick!
Crime and grime are everywhere, at least in Maggie Phillips’ opinion. Deep in the throes of a New England winter, Maggie’s still adjusting to her new role as confidential informant for the Hudson Police Department. When a suspicious fax is sent to one of her new clients, Maggie is sure she’s unearthed a conspiracy. With no crime to investigate, however, the Hudson P.D. can do nothing—that is until a wealthy trophy wife disappears and the FBI is called in to the hunt.
On the home front, her twelve-year-old son is growing up way too fast, while her brother is back with a few surprises destined to wreak havoc on the household. To frost the whole crappy cake, her best friend’s marriage is falling apart, which leaves Maggie worrying over her own. All of the family drama is put into perspective, however, when Maggie is arrested for kidnapping and blackmail.
Between economic woes and a now tarnished reputation, Maggie is in way over her head. Yet out of the ashes of frustration and failure, something great might emerge. If she survives the birthing process that is….
"Maggie and crew are so easy to relate to that you get caught up in the story and it’s over all too soon."
"Ms. Hart wrote with so much passion and developed the story in a fashion that draws you in and keeps you engrossed until the last word in the book."
~Mary Gramlich The Reading Reviewer
About the Author
Former navy wife turned author Jennifer L. Hart loves a good mystery as well as a good laugh and a happily ever after is a must. Her works to date include
The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag
. Jenn lives in North Carolina with her former Navy man and two energetic children.