Graded in Red| Chapter 9

Chapter 9 

Someone grabbed my shoulders and spun me about. I expected it to be the Captain, however it was Jake. 

“Umm, Maggie, if you need anything else just holler.” Tom said as he turned away from me and Jake and headed towards the office. 

“Jake?! What are you doing here?” I gasped between breaths, my heart was in my throat and I couldn’t seem to calm it down. 

“I unexpectedly got a call from the Captain to come here and interview a suspect. What are you doing here?” He frowned down at me. “You aren’t putting your nose where it doesn’t belong are you? You know it wouldn’t have looked very well to my superiors had they come instead of me.”

“I was here for my mom. She is working on some new project and wanted me to look into the metals that Mr. Bishop has here in the scrap yard.” I couldn’t believe how smoothly the practiced lie slid from my tongue to Jake. 

“Really? You know what your mom’s current project is, eh? If you did, you’d know that she is actually looking for recycling materials like cans, paper, and plastic. She wants to show the world that the things we consider as trash are still useful. That they can still be considered beautiful pieces.” Jake’s face was starting to get red, and I could see that he was shaking this close. 

I hadn’t spent enough time with my mom to know what she was currently working on. Apparently, Jake did. Why was he spending so much time with my family?

“Oh really? How do you know that?” I looked up at him my eyes accusing him to call me the liar I was being. 

“Because, I am at your parent’s house every week, Maggie. Whether it is doing the lawn, tiding the garage, cleaning the gutters, or helping your dad on the cars, I am there every week.” His voice rose as he started telling me everything that he was doing for my parents. 

“Why are you doing all of that for them? They aren’t invalids!” I didn’t understand. There weren’t any logical reasons that I could think of for him to be at their house every week. 

Jake ran his hand through his hair as if trying to grasp for answers, but instead started pulling on the ends of his hair. 

“It started when you left for college. I came over to apologize about prom. Your mom answered the door and she wasn’t happy to see me. She told me so in about as many words.” He cleared his voice. 

Knowing my mom, she cussed him up one way and the other. She wasn’t happy about what happened or the fact that everyone in town was still talking about it. 

“Okay and?” I was fascinated, I couldn’t believe my parents never told me this. 

“Well, your mom slammed the door in my face and when I turned around your dad had the garage door open and was working on the truck. I started walking by and he called me in. I started to apologize, but he handed me a tool and we started working. After working for a few hours, your dad brought me a glass of water and told me to be back the next morning.” Jake started rubbing his temples as though I was causing him a headache, I probably was. 

“And I’m guessing you did?” I felt hurt, that my parents would do this to me. Why would they do this?

“I did. For a few weeks we worked in silence or with only small suggestions on my work. Your mom started talking to me, bringing in snacks and drinks to your dad and I. Once I started the police academy, your parents saw that I was strapped for cash in paying for school. I don’t know how they knew but they did. They started paying me to do little things around the house, things they could do, but it helped. After I graduated the academy I would still come by to help.” 

“But how did I not ever see you at the house? How could they have kept this from me for ten years? Especially, after they knew what you meant to me and then what you did to me?” My voice was rising and my eyes were filling with tears. I couldn’t believe they did this. I felt so betrayed. 

“I wouldn’t come around when you came for holidays. I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable. I really was and am sorry for everything that happened that night. I don’t know why your parents didn’t tell you. That’s something that you are going to have to talk to them about. But right now, I have a job to do. I can’t stay and prove my point to you. But next time you impede my investigation and lie to me, I’m going to have to take you down to the station. Now excuse me, I have a job to do.” 

He pushed passed me and headed for the office. He stopped and turned to me before going inside, “Mags, don’t go and investigate this by yourself, okay? It’s not safe. Someone was murdered and it seems like they are trying to place blame on you. Just go home.” He didn’t wait for me to respond to him, he sounded exhausted, but he turned back to the door and went inside. 

I knew I wasn’t finished with my own investigation but I had something else that had become a priority. I needed to talk to my parents. Why had they covered this up and lied to me? 

***

After stopping by the scrap yard, I went home. I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t keep my mind on the present. I just kept thinking about what Jake told me at the scrap yard. He had been working at my parents, helping them, talking to them, getting to know them, for the past ten years. Never once did they mention this to me. Not once. I could feel my blood pressure rising. 

The only question now was: should I drive 100 mph to Tulsa to confront my mother or should I scream at her over the phone. Impatience won out and I hit mom’s speed dial number on my phone.

While the phone was ringing, I turned the air down lower. My mom would swear to anyone that could hear her that speakers in a car were the worst. She always complained that she could hear my AC and that my turn signal was louder than Notre Dame bell tower. 

“Hey Maggie-Poo! What’s up?” My mom answered in an extremely cheery voice. She either made the deal or was still with the people that she was meeting at the Philbrook. She wasn’t normally this cheery before noon. 

I was just going to cut to the chase. “Time in.” I breathed out a huge sigh. 

“Time out. Can’t this wait. I’m walking to my car and I am going with the director to brunch on Brookside and then I will be heading back home. Whatever it is that you are upset about we can talk about then.” 

I knew I should have let her go and have a nice brunch, but something in me couldn’t let it go. 

“No, mom. Time in. Jake has been doing things around the house every week for the past ten years and you never told me.” 

The silence on the other end of the phone was deafening. It felt like eternity before my mom spoke. 

“Honey, you are wrong about him. That night you weren’t the only one hurt and embarrassed.” 

“I assume you are talking about senior prom. What do you mean I wasn’t the only one hurt. Do you remember what he did to me? He humiliated me. Then he ran off with Bridgett, just to show me that he could do better.” The anger was welling inside of me. 

“Margaret, the world does not always revolve around you. I know that you were an only child, but I thought that your dad and I raised you better than to see only yourself.”

“What are you talking about? Just spit it out.” hurt sounding in my voice. 

“Jake was hurt that night, too. Yes, what he did to you was horrible. But what that woman Bridgett did to him was just as bad or worse. I was furious with him as well, for hurting you. But, once your father calmed me down and told me what Jake had in confidence told him. I forgave him. And that is just what you are going to do Margaret. Forgive. That’s the end of the story.” My mom spit out the end the sentence through what I am sure was clenched teeth. She was not happy with me at the moment. 

“Mom…what happened to him?” I suddenly felt my heart pound in my ears. 

“Well, Margaret Turee, you are going to have to ask Jake himself. That is not my story to tell. Now, if you are finished throwing a temper tantrum, I am walking into Breakfast by Day. I’ll text you when I’m on my way home. Love you.” 

She didn’t even wait for my ‘I love you’ response back. She must have been really upset with me. Looking back at my behavior over the past few days I was embarrassed for myself. I couldn’t believe how I acted. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. It was like being back home in Broken Bow had brought out teenage Maggie. I needed to be through with that. 

I went over everything that had happened today, meeting with Tom. This morning, I knew in my gut that he was the killer. The way that he grabbed Bridgett. Their argument. All of that pointed to him being the killer. 

But after my talk with him this morning, I really didn’t believe that it was him. I can normally tell when someone is lying or trying to squirm out of something. Mostly because of my job in Corporate America, lying was second hand nature to people in Oklahoma City. But I believed that Tom really was innocent. 

However, I did learn something new that I didn’t know before. If prom didn’t turn out the way I thought Jake had planned it, then he probably had a grudge against Bridgett. I needed to find out what that grunge was. I knew that he was near the scene of the crime because he was checking bags at the gate. Could he have killed her earlier in the day and put the tape up blocking that hall? 

Why would he kill her now? Ten years later? He has been living in Broken Bow his whole life, he had to have seen her around town and apparently he didn’t blow then. 

I needed to get in touch with him. I needed to know what happened at prom after I was chased out. What did Bridgett do to him? Was it enough to kill for? I needed to know.

Graded in Red| Chapter 8

Chapter Eight 

I opened the front door and there Jake stood. He looked apprehensive about being here. I felt apprehensive with him being here too, so at least we had that in common. 

 Jake cleared his throat, “Hey Mags. How are you feeling?” 

“I’m okay, a little bit of a headache. Want to come in?” I stepped aside to let him in. 

“I just needed to ask you some more questions. I didn’t want you to have to come down to the station. You know how everyone talks here, I don’t want word getting around.” Jake sat down on my loveseat, while I sat on one of the bar stools. 

“Jake, people are already talking. My mother was even down here asking me what happened at Cindy and Scott’s place. Marvin Gaye sure had it right about the grape vine.” I took another swig of my coffee, it had reached room temperature and was acidic in flavor. I needed another cup if I was going to have to go through this again. 

“Want some coffee? I need some more to get through this day.” I nodded over to my tea kettle and the freshly cleaned French Press. 

“I’d love some. Thanks Maggie. Mind if I get started?” He asked. 

“Sure, Shoot.” I grabbed the coffee grinder and pulsed some of the beans until they were perfect and waited for the water to boil. 

“I want to start out by saying that I don’t think that you did it. Killed Bridgett, I mean. I know that it is what everyone’s thinking and maybe I even implied it last night, but I wanted to be transparent and let you know that you’re not high on MY list of suspects.” 

The way that Jake put the emphasis on the word ‘my’ made me think that although I wasn’t on his list of suspects I was high on someone’s. I told him as much while the tea kettle started whistling, signaling that the water was ready to pour. 

“Well, my Captain believes that I need to exhaust all avenues of suspects. I can’t  exempt you just because I know you didn’t do it. So I have to prove that you didn’t. I need to ask you some questions to do this. I know that I am the last person that you want to talk to, but I need to do this, Mags.” He was out of breath by the time he was done and I could tell that he was nervous because he was wiping his hands on his pants.

“Don’t call me Mags, you don’t get to fein friendship now!” I stated angrily. Jake had the awareness to look embarrassed that I softened my tone, “You really believe me? That I didn’t do this?” I was stunned. I didn’t see this coming. 

“What?! No, Maggie. Remember when we were kids and were riding our bikes down the street and a blue bird fell out of its nest and died? You cried for a week. I just don’t see you killing someone, even a person like Bridgett. I know you had a past with her, with me, everything. I know you didn’t do this.” When his eyes met mine, I felt a spark that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Actually, it was ten years ago, when I last felt this I pushed it aside, reminding myself of what had happened, not what 18 year old me had wanted to happen.  

“Allllright, what do you want to know? I’ve only been in town for a few days. I’m not going to know to much. I told you everything that happened at Murphy’s and that was the only contact I had with her since prom. I didn’t even know she was in town.” The coffee had steeped long enough and the smell was intoxicating, just what I needed. I poured both Jake and I a cup and I sat at the counter mixing in the creamer. 

“That night at Murphy’s, did you see anyone with Bridgett? Someone that looked out of place?” He got his notepad out, the one that he had from last night. It looked nearly full with his chicken scratch handwriting, I wondered if anyone else had to read his writing, or if he transferred the notes he made into the computer for a report. 

“Umm, I remember a guy at the bar when I first saw her. They looked to be having a heated discussion, he grabbed her arm, and she argued with him. One moment they looked like they were going to be at each other’s throats and the next they were sticking each other’s tongues down their throats. It wasn’t the most pleasant sight.” My stomach flip flopped just thinking about it. 

“What did this man look like? I need you to really concentrate.” He asked while not taking his eyes off of the notepad on his lap. 

I closed my eyes, not only trying to ease my headache but also to focus in on what I saw. “He has greasy blonde hair, about shoulder length. He was caucasian and about average build. I couldn’t see too much because I was on the other side of the bar, but I think he might have worked with his hands. I remember there being a mark left on Bridgett’s arm, like oil or grease.” I sighed, “That’s all I can remember. I’m sorry. I hope that it was useful.” 

“Extremely useful. I’m going to stop by Murphy’s to see if she remembers anyone with this description. You sit tight, I’ll let you know what I find. I’m not letting this get pinned on you Mags. I promise.” With that Jake squeezed my shoulder with his hand and I walked him to the door. 

Of course, I didn’t tell him one crucial fact. I do remember the name of the company on the back of the greasy man’s jacked. It was a phoenix the saying around it stated, “From ashes come great cars.” I remember my dad talking about a scrap yard that opened up about 5 miles outside of Broken Bow’s city limits. 

I knew where I was going after I showered and got ready. I was going shopping, scrap yard shopping. Maybe I would find a killer deal, the killer. 

***

It was a pretty gorgeous day outside for Oklahoma in the middle of July. Normally my sweat was sweating, but it was a brisk 85 degrees outside. I didn’t even need to blast my car’s air conditioning. I rolled down my windows and my moon roof and blasted 90s music. There wasn’t anything better than blaring Hanson’s MMMbop in the middle of summer. It reminded me of when I was 9 years old and my mom drove us up to Tulsa to see Hanson. It was one of the best days of my childhood. 

Those were the days. The time where the worst thing that happened to me was that my ice cream fell on the ground after the ice cream truck drove away. As I was reminiscing about my childhood I could see the scrap yard coming up on my right. I couldn’t miss it. Whoever owned the business had taken care to collect all of the yellow, orange, and red car parts and create a replica Phoenix. It was actually quite impressive. I needed to take Victoria out here, she would love this. That is, if I am allowed back after this. 

As I pulled into the parking lot my car started shaking. They hadn’t actually paved the lot, it had been laid down with gravel. I could hear the rocks hitting the underside of my car. Flinching I hoped it didn’t bust anything in the engine. I was on a teacher’s salary now, and I couldn’t afford repairs like that. This car needed to last me another 5 or 10 years. 

There was one spot open at the front of what I assumed was the office for the scrap yard. It was a trailer home converted into a store front. I could tell that the front door had been widened and that the double doors that replaced it had been jammed into the roughly cut out trim. There was no way that the door didn’t leak in the spring or block cold air in the winter. In Oklahoma we had a saying, ‘If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute, it will change.’ I’m pretty sure that was said by the famous cowboy Will Rogers. I knew for a fact that this establishment wouldn’t pass Broken Bow’s City ordinances, hence why it was built 5 miles out of the city limits. 

As I turned my car off I started mentally preparing myself to get out of the car, by myself, and talk to complete strangers. I took in a great big breath, grabbed my bag, and opened the door. I just needed to bite the bullet and get this done. I wasn’t going to go to prison for something that I didn’t do. 

I walked up to the of kilter double doors and knocked. Looking closely these were actually beautiful French doors, ones that would normally go out to a patio or a terrace. The etching on the glass had to have been time consuming, though whoever owned this place didn’t care to take care of it. There was so much crud and dirt on the door that I couldn’t even look through. 

“Hello!?” I called out, straining my ears to hear anything. I peered through the doors as best I could but didn’t see anyone inside. I realized then that they might be in the scrap yard working. It was a cool enough morning that it would be the perfect time to get anything done outside that needed to be done. 

I decided to walk around the back side of the trailer home. I was checking my watch as I turned the corner. Victoria had called right before I left, she wanted to meet up at Coffee Grind on Main Street to talk about everything that happened. I told her I was running errands but that I would meet her around 11:00 am. It was 9:30 am now. I needed to get this done and head that way. 

Right as I rounded the corner I looked up and ran right into the person I wanted to see. He looked older up close than he did that night at the pub. 

“Woah, little lady! It’s not safe for you to wander the scrap yard by yourself. There are piles of scrap metal and dangerous chemicals laying around everywhere. You could have gotten hurt.” The man squinted his eyes as he looked me up and down. It looked like he might need some prescription glasses. 

“I’m sorry! I tried knocking on the front door, but no one answered. I decided to come around back and see if I could find anyone. I’m Maggie Turee, by the way.” I stated while putting my hand out to shake his. 

“Tom  Bishop. It’s a pleasure to meet you. What brought you all the way here to the Phoenix Scrap Yard? Anything in particular you lookin’ for?” He asked genially. 

Crap, I hadn’t thought of a lie to tell anyone once I got here. I couldn’t very well tell him I thought he was the killer. I mean, I could, but then my parents might not find my body for years. There were a lot of places that he could hide bodies and the police wouldn’t know where to start. Darn it Maggie, why did you think that? I kicked myself for my lack of preparedness. 

“My mom is a local artist and asked me to come out here and check out the different types of metals you have. She wants to do a show all surrounding metals found here in Broken Bow. My dad mentioned this place to me and I thought I would check it out for her while she was at a consult today in Tulsa.” 

That had to be the smoothest lie I have ever told. It just slipped out like butter, it did however leave a greasy feeling in my mouth afterwards. I really hated lying even if it was for a good reason. 

“Ah! Well you have come to the right place little lady. I had all different types of metals, hard metals, soft metals, metals in between. Do you happen to know if your mom is looking for bigger statement pieces or is she looking for something smaller?” He got out a crumpled up piece of paper and pulled a pencil from his greasy hair and started writing things down. 

“You know, I’m not quite sure. She didn’t let me in on the small details. She just wanted me to look around and see what you had.” I smiled, hoping that this facade would keep up. 

“Hmmmm, I can take you around for a little bit, but the Captain is coming down in about half an hour and I’ll be tied up all afternoon. If you see anything that strikes your fancy that you think your mom would like, just holler and I can give you a quote on the price.” He smiled and started to walk away. 

“Oh! I think I have seen you somewhere before. You look so familiar!” I scratched my head, “Were you at Murphy’s earlier this week?”

Mr. Bishop’s face turned red and he stammered, “As…as a matter of fact I was. I go there once or twice a week to get a drink after a long days work. Why?” I could see the openness that he had with me before start to close. 

“I just remembered you from the bar, I think you were having an argument with someone.” I tried to sound as if I was really trying to focus on the memory. 

“Yes, I did. Bridgett Star. Did you know her?” He questioned.

“Me? No, but the name sounds familiar. Wasn’t she the woman that was found killed at the high school? Someone stabbed her, I believe.” I shook with real fright that time, I didn’t need to act then. 

“Yeah, I heard.” Tom cleared the thickness that has sprung up in his throat, as though he was trying not to cry, “I was out of town yesterday at my sister’s celebrating my nephew’s 5th birthday. When I got home this morning, I was called by the Captain, he said that he needed to question me about my whereabouts. I have a solid alibi though, picture proof, and family members swearing I was in Sapulpa.” He wiped the sweat from his face with the bottom of his shirt. 

My heart sank when I heard that he had an alibi. He seemed like a sweet enough guy and I didn’t want anyone innocent to go to prison, but I was really hoping that he would be the killer and that I could go home and sleep restfully tonight. However, that wasn’t going to happen. 

“At least you have an alibi, that is great news! May I ask why you and the young woman were arguing? I saw you two fighting, you grabbed her arm, and then well…” I started to get uncomfortable talking about the make out scene that I had witnessed. 

“We started at each other like hungry animals? That’s just how Bridgett and I were. She was mad at me because I wouldn’t give her anymore money for drugs. She claimed that she needed to buy school supplies for her kid, but I could tell that she was itching for her next fix. I wasn’t going to be the person that gave her the money to kill herself with that white powder.” He shook his head in disbelief. 

This made sense, the anger that I saw in Tom’s face was actually a look of desperate concern. He had been angry that she wanted drug money from him and Bridgett was desperate enough to lie to him about it. I hadn’t realized that I had gotten lost in my own thoughts until I heard Tom say, “And that was the last time I saw her. She yelled at some girl who spilled her drink and she stormed out of the pub. I wish I could have helped her more.” He frowned in what looked like confusion and then looked up like something had dawned on him. 

“You know you look pretty familiar too. Why do I know your face?” He looked like he was going to grab my arm but I stumbled back. 

Looking at my watch I stammered, “Oh! Look at the time. Didn’t you say that the Captain was coming out here at 10am? It’s about that time. Thank you so much for your help! I will let my mom know about the variety of different metals you have. I am sure that she will come and take a look around for herself sometime soon.” I was walking backwards waving my hand when I felt my body slam into someone else’s.  

Graded in Red| Chapter 7

Chapter Seven 

“Mags?” a distant voice echoed, “Maggie?” I heard the voice becomes a little more clear, “Margaret?!” I was finally able to get out of my trance and look up. My father was kneeling right in front of me. 

“Hey dad.” I whispered meekly. 

I had stopped shivering as much but I was still cold. The big crowds had evidently dispersed while I had been zoning out. Jake told me that he wasn’t finished asking me questions, but that he needed to make sure that the scene was secure and do some crowd control. He mentioned that he would stop by my apartment in the morning to follow up. 

He was probably just waiting to interview more people from the pub last night. Getting the last nails to drill into my coffin before he arrested me for the murder of Bridgett Star. I still couldn’t believe that she was dead. 

“Honey! Are you ready for me to take you home?” Dad said a little louder than was necessary. Apparently I had zoned out again. I couldn’t shake this fog that was drifting into my mind. Seriously, Mags, get your shit together, you have a murder to solve. I told myself. 

“Yeah, I’m ready to go home.” I started to get up from the sidewalk. “My car is here, I would really rather not leave it here overnight. Is there any way we could get it back home?” I didn’t like the idea that my car would be left here where a murder had occurred. 

“I already talked to Victoria. She said that she would follow us home, and I would drive her home after that.” My dad lifted me up the rest of the way and held my hand like he used to when I was a child. 

“I totally forgot about Vic. Is she okay?” I wondered why she hadn’t come to talk to me before this. 

“She is fine, honey. She was held up by some police officers asking her questions and then calming parents down. Collateral damage. She was extremely worried about you so she called me to come and get you.” 

We were almost to the car and I could see my mom waiting in the front seat. I saw that there were tears in her eyes as I got closer to the passenger door. 

“Hey, Momma.” I muttered as I got into the back seat. 

“Hey baby. You want to talk about it?” She turned around in her seat to look at me. That was my mother. She was more interested in making sure that I was okay that she totally ignored the fact that her makeup was running. 

“Can it wait until morning? I just want to go home, take a hot shower, and curl in bed.” My eyes were starting to get heavy. I knew it couldn’t be later than 9:00 or 9:30, but it may have well been 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. 

“Sure baby.” I heard before my eyes finally closed. 

I don’t remember how I got to be in my own bed last night. I woke up in the morning with another splitting migraine, but this one was not due to drinking like yesterday’s had been. As I focused my eyes on the clock that was blaring in my ear as the seconds ticked by, I could hear someone moving around in my kitchen. 

Everything from last night quickly flashed back into my mind. It was as though my brain was trying to protect me from what I had seen. Images of Bridgett that night at the pub stumbling around intoxicated, to her lying prone on the floor of the empty classroom with blood surrounding her body.  

I got up from the bed, shook my head to clear it of the images and walked into the huge room that combined my living room and my kitchen. In my kitchen was my mom in her ratted blue bathing robe making me coffee and I believed I smelled bacon. 

“Hey Momma, what are you doing down here so early? Shouldn’t you be asleep?” I was rubbing the sleep out of my eyes as she brought me my coffee and sat me down at the counter bar on the stool. I glanced at the alarm clock next to my bed and it read 3:15 am. 

“Well, I couldn’t sleep. It’s another one of my insomnia nights. I decided that it was about time that you woke up and I wanted to talk about what happened last night. I know that you are pretty damn grumpy without your coffee, so I made some. Then I realized that you probably didn’t eat last night, and you get hangry, so I made some bacon and I’m about to make some eggs.” My mom was rambling. She did this when she was nervous and wanted to talk about something that she knew I was going to be uncomfortable with. 

I can remember the last time she did this, it was prom night senior year, when I was humiliated by Bridgett and Jake. I came home, cried until I fell asleep, and I woke up to basically this exact same breakfast. My mom sure knew the way to my heart. 

“Mom, I don’t want to talk about it, I want it to go away. I don’t want to picture it and relive it all over again.” I took a healthy gulp of my coffee, it needed some creamer. I moved around my mom to the fridge to get some of my favorite peppermint mocha creamer. It made my coffee smell and taste like Christmas all year round. My favorite holiday and season, but that is far away. Maybe too far away, I thought as I pictured myself behind bars and having to draw my Christmas tree on my cell wall with a rock. 

“Honey, maybe it will make you feel better. You know, talking it out with someone who isn’t too close to the event or the person. Come on, Maggie, talk to me.” Mom looked into my eyes reading something that I wasn’t sure I wanted her to read. She always said that she could read my aura and knew how I was feeling. 

“Alright, what do you want to know?” I caved knowing that she wouldn’t stop pressing until I gave in. 

“What happened? Why are the police asking people about a fight that you had with Bridgett at Murphy’s?” Apparently the rumor mill was working overtime with everything that was going on. 

“Remember when I went to meet with Vic to talk about lesson plans and the expectations of this new job?”

My mom nodded her head I told her everything that I had told Jake the previous night, “Though I remember one last detail, when Bridgett walked out of the pub doors she said that she would get me back. That this wasn’t over. Though I didn’t know what she meant. That was the last time I saw her mom. I promise.” I exhaled and put my head on the counter, the cool granite easing my headache. 

“I know baby.” She patted my head and put some medicine and a glass of water nearby breakfast plate. 

“They think I killed her mom. I don’t have a solid alibi. You were in Tulsa and Dad was at work. I was here working on things for school and getting ready for the big reveal at the school when she was killed. I didn’t do it, but I am sure they don’t believe me.” My eyes started welling up with tears, I was so scared. 

“Margaret Ann Turee. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard you utter. Jake will not let that happen. He knows you better than that. He will find the evidence to prove your innocence.” My mom was at her most livid, her face was turning red, and her left eye was twitching. 

“Mom, you have too much faith in Jake. He doesn’t even like me, why would he go out of his way to prove me innocent? I am the easy target.” My mind was going crazy, how could I prove I didn’t do this?

“Jake has always asked about you when he has stopped by to do the lawn or fix things around the house that your father couldn’t fix. He was also very curious about how you were doing in Oklahoma City. He never out right asked, but I think he was digging about your relationship status, too.” My mom winked at me as she cleaned up the kitchen and washed the dishes. 

“I’m only going to tell you this once mom. Jake doesn’t care about me. He proved that a long time ago. I didn’t know that he kept cutting your lawn after high school. Why did he continue to do that? It’s not like he needed the money or anything.” I was confused, this didn’t sound like the Jake I knew or had known. Maybe time really does change people. 

“I am only telling you what I know and what I see. I know that he has some feelings for you, and I know that he would never let any harm come to you, either. Have you even tried to get to know him for who he is now? Did you know that he runs the Anti-Bullying campaign at the school every year? Or that he volunteers at the local Y for underprivileged kiddos?” 

She had dug her feet into the ground. When a Turee made up their mind there was no going back. I knew and she knew this. We were both at a stand still and we both believed that we were right. 

“Time out?” We both asked at the same time and laughed holding each other in a hug. One of our favorite shows to watch together was How I Met Your Mother. I knew that Lily and Marshall used this to keep their relationship together, and so my mom and I did the same. Anytime we didn’t agree on something, we would just put it in a time out. We would get back to the problem when we both had time to cool down and rethink our positions. 

“Alright sweetie, I’ll leave you alone now. I just needed to check up on you. I have to drive to Tulsa again, the curator at the Philbrook Museum wants me to be a judge for a First Friday’s festival next month and we have to go over the contract. If you need anything, call me. I love you.” She kissed me on the cheek and walked back up the basement stairs. 

“Love you too”. I whispered back. That’s when I heard someone knocking on my  door.

Grade in Red| Chapter 6

Chapter Six

I was asked to wait outside in front of the school while the paramedics and police were inside securing the crime scene. I couldn’t believe it, Bridgett Nickel was dead, actually dead. I knew there were many times as a teenager that I wished she would disappear, but I never wished her any physical harm. 

What had happened? There was no way that was an accident, someone actually meant her harm. I remembered from Biology class that there was an artery in the neck. That had to have been where the pen entered, there was too much blood otherwise. I just couldn’t get the image of her lying there, blood congealing on the floor. She had to have been there for quite some time. hat is what they say on the show, Crime Scene Investigation, right?

I was shivering and shaking. The lights from the ambulance and police cars were playfully dancing in the grass in front of me. I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder and I jumped. “What?!” I yelped. 

“Hey! Mags, I know that you’re in shock, but I need to ask you a couple of questions. We can do that here or we can go down to the station, whichever one works for you.” Jake was talking to me in a low and soft voice. 

I could tell that he was trying not to make me go further into shock or freak out anymore then I was at the moment. The way he was acting now, so kind and considerate reminded me of how was when we used to hang out. 

“Sure, what do you need to ask me? Anything I can do to help catch this killer.” I was starting to get angry over this whole event. Someone came into our town and decided to kill one of our own. Just because I didn’t like her didn’t mean that I didn’t value life. 

“Now Mags, we do not know that there was a killer. We cannot assume anything. However, I need to know when was the last time that you saw the victim alive?” Jake asked as he flipped out his notepad and started jotting down notes. 

“What do you mean we can’t assume there was a killer? There was a pen sticking out of her neck!” I started breathing heavily and my hands clenched in frustration. 

“Maggie, we can’t assume anything. We have to weigh out all other possibilities. The medical examiner needs to officially determine the cause of death. We need to question the victim’s last day. There is a lot to think about and consider. Now, when was the last time that you saw the victim alive?” Jake’s eyes were piercing into mine with an intensity I wasn’t comfortable with. 

“Umm, last night at Murphy’s. She was wasted and stumbling everywhere.” I started shivering. It had to be at least 90 degrees outside and I was cold. 

“Did you two have an altercation last night at the pub?” Jake continued looking at his notepad. I felt like this was a rhetorical question because by the tone of his voice he already knew the answer, but I told him what happened anyway. I didn’t need the grapevine to be the one telling the police about the argument Bridgett and I had. 

“She ran into the back of my chair and spilled her drink down my back. I was shocked, turned around and saw that she was intoxicated. She claimed that I had ruined her drink and demanded that I buy her a new one. If you don’t believe me, you can ask anyone in the bar. Vic was there and so was Cindy.” I knew that I was getting defensive, but it had turned into a long night and all I wanted to do was go home and wash off the night. 

“Listen Maggie, I don’t need you to get a tone with me. I have to ask these questions. I need to corroborate your last moves and Bridgett’s. Now do you have an alibi for approximately 3:00 pm today?” Jake’s eye were boring into mine. I could feel them penetrating my own looking for the truth. 

“I was at home, unpacking, listening to music, getting my lesson plans ready for the school year.” I said in a deadpan voice. 

“You have no one to backup your alibi? You were at home by yourself?” He asked, completely serious. There wasn’t a hint of the  playful glint in his eyes that I had seen not only two hours before. 

“No, my dad was at work and my mom was called to do a consult in Tulsa for the day. I was home alone.”  I felt dread entering my body. I knew at that moment that I was a suspect. There wasn’t anything I could do about it. 

Or was there?

Cozy Releases| August 2019

Watch the Video!

A Bias for Murder

A Bias for Murder
Book 3
Sally Goldenbaum
August 6th
https://amzn.to/2F2hWVZ

Oliver Harrington II was one of the most beloved members of Crestwood’s community. Despite being the picture of health at age 52, he died from a sudden heart attack, leaving behind the family mansion on a sprawling piece of property. His twin sister Adele returned to the town she despises to claim her brother’s home, intent on turning it into a B&B. And she’s hired Po Paltrow and the Crestwood Quilters to craft quilts for the guest rooms. 

 But Adele is not the only one interested in the future of the Harrington estate. A developer wants to put multiple houses on the land. The townsfolk just want their neighborhood to retain its small-town charm and not become a tourist trap. But when an autopsy reveals that Oliver was actually poisoned, suspicion falls on his sister. Po doesn’t believe Adele is guilty, leaving her determined to discover who else harbored deadly designs on the Harrington home . . .


The Time for Murder is MeowThe Time for Murder is Meow
Book 1
T.C. Lotempio
https://amzn.to/2WAqsXj

Crishell “Shell” McMillan sees the cancellation of her TV series as a blessing in disguise. The former actress can now take over her late aunt’s pet shop, the Purr N’ Bark, and do something she loves.

While getting the shop ready for re-opening, Shell is asked to loan her aunt’s Cary Grant posters to the local museum for an exhibit. She finds the prospect exciting—until a museum board member, who had a long-standing feud with Shell’s aunt, votes against it. When she discovers the board member dead in the museum, Shell becomes suspect number one. Can she, her Siamese cat Kahlua, and her new sidekick—her aunt’s Persian Purrday—find the real culprit, or will her latest career go up in kitty litter?


Jealousy Filled DonitsJealousy Filled Donuts
Book 3
Ginger Bolton
https://amzn.to/2IvLMTP

It is a truth universally acknowledged—cops and donuts go together. Exhibit A: Deputy Donut Café, owned and operated by detective’s widow Emily Westhill and her father-in-law, the retired police chief of Fallingbrook, Wisconsin. Named after Emily’s adored and adorable tabby, the donut shop is a favorite among cops, firemen, and EMTs, as well as tourists and townspeople. So when Fallingbrook needs donuts for their Fourth of July picnic, Emily’s shop gets deputized.

 But a twisted killer has found another use for Emily’s treats. At the picnic, a firecracker is hidden in a stack of raspberry-filled donuts and aimed at the unwitting queen of the festivities. When it explodes, she is killed. Having her jelly donuts involved puts Emily in a sticky situation, and when a shady shutterbug tries to frame her with incriminating photos, she finds herself in quite a jam. To preserve her freedom and her shop’s reputation, Emily needs to solve this case—before the fuse-lighting felon goes off again …


Wonton TerrorWonton Terror
Book 4
Vivien Chien
https://amzn.to/2K4KToo

Lana Lee is all smiles when the first evening of Cleveland’s Asian Night Market kicks off the summer. The weekly festival is always good for business, packed with locals and tourists, and this year, some stiff new food-truck competition. Wonton on Wheels, run by old friends of Lana’s parents, promises to have customers lining up for their delicately wrapped delights—until the truck blew up at evening’s end.

Lana’s boyfriend, Detective Adam Trudeau, had been planning a birthday getaway for the two of them but, lo and behold, Lana must assume the role of amateur sleuth yet again. With one proprietor of Wonton on Wheels dead, it’s beginning to look more like murder and less like an unfortunate accident. And as they begin to unwrap layers of disturbing secrets, Lana’s own family erupts into new drama. Will Lana be able to solve this crime—or has she jumped from the wok right into the fire?


Silent Night, Deadly NightSilent Night, Deadly Night
Book 4
Vicki Delany
https://amzn.to/2I5ZEoM 

It’s the week before Thanksgiving, and Merry Wilkinson, owner of Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, is preparing for a weekend reunion of her mother’s college friends. But when the group of women comes into Merry’s shop, Merry is met with frosty attitudes and cold hearts. 

The women argue amongst themselves constantly, and the bickering only intensifies after one of the friends is poisoned. With her father’s role as Santa in danger due to his proximity to the crime, Merry will need to use all of her investigative gifts to wrap this mystery up and save Santa and her favorite holiday.


Until next time, Happy Reading!

XOXO,
Courtny

Graded in Red|Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Victoria called after I got out of the shower and dressed, she needed me to stop and pick her up from her apartment on my way to the high school. Apparently she was having car troubles and the engine wouldn’t turn over. She was waiting until pay day to go take it to Doc’s Auto Repair to see what was wrong with it. 

“Hey you! How are YOU feeling after last night?” Victoria asked as she opened the back door of my Jeep Compass and threw her huge bag into the back seat. 

“I am feeling fine. A little dehydrated and I had a small headache when I woke up this morning but not too bad. How about yourself?” I asked

It wasn’t fair Vic looked like she got a full 8 hours of beauty sleep. There were no bags under her eyes and she looked simply radiant in her red flowing hippy skirt with a black tank top and boho sandals. Where I on the other hand wore green capris from the Gap, a white v-neck, and chucks. I don’t care what anyone says black Converse shoes will go with any outfit. 

“I’m doing fine! I got home, took some Advil, and drank some green tea before heading to be. I woke up early this morning and did some yoga as well. Which by the way you still need to go to the park on Main Street with me and do some early morning yoga! I swear, it will change your world!” 

Victoria was an avid yoga enthusiast. She told me that it keeps her mellow and in line with her inner peace. I have tried yoga many times over the years, but my inner person won’t shut up long enough for me to find inner peace. I have told Vic this multiple times, but she believes she can help me find it now that I live back home and am away from the noise of the city. We shall see. 

“Good god, that is so much to do in the morning. I’d rather drink some coffee and read, which is exactly what I did. So tell me, what should I expect from this celebration at the school? What kind of small talk will I be required to be apart of? Am I going to get anytime to tour the school and look at my room?” 

I knew that school wasn’t going to start for another few weeks but I needed to have a time frame, some sort of expectation and schedule to follow. I wasn’t the best at flying at the seat of my pants and I really wasn’t good at small talk. I tended to word vomit around people I didn’t know. 

“Basically parents will be here from all over the district, not just high school parents but through all grade levels. The Board of Education will be here and the Superintendent. You need to make sure to talk to them with your best possible manners. Stay by my side and I will introduce them to you as best as I can. There will be questions from parents asking about how you plan on teaching this year. Tell them Project Based Learning, they love hearing that. In fact you can tell the BOE that too.” 

Victoria went on the for the rest of the ten minute drive telling me all about the board members, the drama with the other teachers, and which helicopter parents to look out for. 

“You might have time to quickly look around the school, but you won’t be able to go into your room yet. They will let us in about a week before school starts.” She finished as I pulled into the parking lot to the school. The parking lot was getting pretty full and we were thirty minutes early. 

As we got out of the car you could hear the celebration getting started. The town was going all out. There were carnival rides for the smaller kids, games for the bigger ones, a dance floor with today’s hits playing with a few couples dancing, and a big stage getting the final touches before the big reveal of the new parts of the high school. 

While we were walking up I noticed Jake standing at the entrance looking through people’s bags and checking for guns. Here in Oklahoma everyone and their mother packed a gun. They were real supportive of the 2nd amendment here. Jake spotted me coming up to the entrance and stopped me. 

“Hey Maggie! I’m going to need you to open your bag and let me look inside. You’re not packing any heat are you?” Jake winked as he looked in my bag. 

“Nope, the only thing that could be considered a weapon in my bag is a book. But you’re not a firefighter and this isn’t a Ray Bradbury book now is it?” I retorted. 

Jake rolled his eyes at me as he checked Victoria’s bag, “You know Maggie, it’s getting kind of old, this grudge you have against me. It was 10 years ago, can’t you just forgive and forget?” 

“Forgive you and Bridgett for pulling a Stephen King “Carrie” on me, and making me think that I was worth your time, only to leave me stag at the dance. While I had to watch you and her make out in the corner under the bleachers? While others in her posse threw trash at me until I left the prom crying? I wish I could forget that. The only thing missing was you pouring paint all over me” I snatched my bag off of the table where others were checking their bags. 


I knew I was being a brat and over dramatic, but I didn’t know what else to do. It still stung, ten years later. I knew it was too good to be true, but a little part of me had hoped that Jake had been serious. 

I had helped him study for his finals that year, we would laugh and joke around. When he passed me that note in history class, I thought I had even seen his ears turn red in a blush. However this wasn’t the case, he was laughing at me. Bridgett had told him that she would go to the prom with him all he had to do was trick me. Well, he did that alright. The town talked about it for weeks afterwards. 

I was stopped in the streets by older people telling me that it was okay, I would find someone. Other’s would point at laugh at me in the halls and the coffee shop where I worked. College at UCO, University of Central Oklahoma, was my saving grace. Moving out of Broken Bow into a place where no one knew me was what I needed to do to cleanse myself of that time. 

“MAGS! Wait up!” Victoria was running as best as she could to catch up with me. 

Out of breath and wheezing she said, “Come on! I know that you’re still upset over what happened, hell I’m still pissed for you, but you are better than that. Better than stomping off and acting like a teenager.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me into a strong hug, “Ignore him. Give him the silent treatment. But don’t let him know that he is even a thought in your mind, okay? Now come on, I’m going to show you around the school before everything starts.” 

We turned around and headed to the front of the school building. The crowd was growing even more around the stage area to the right of us. I saw parents with soft drinks, kids with cotton candy, and more than a few people with turkey legs. This was getting a little ridiculous if you asked me, but this was the life of a small town. There wasn’t a lot to go out and get excited about. 

Entering the front entryway, I saw a whole wall of glass doors, “Normally you can’t enter these doors during the school day. They are locked for safety, you’ll have a key as a teacher, but if anyone visits they need a visitor’s badge. They can go through the front office through the doors to the right.” Victoria pointed to a glass door that showed the front desks where the attendance clerks and the secretaries sat. 

As we walked through the doors I noticed how much everything had changed from when I last went to school here in 2008. There was only one door to the main office and I had to go through that one to get to the rest of the school. There was a corded off hallway that Victoria explain was where the new library was, some bathrooms, and a couple of classrooms. 

“Ms. Star, is there anyway I could talk to you right now?” A female voice from behind us asked. We turned around and saw Mrs. Steinfield, the high school principal, “There is a parent wondering when auditions for the Fall play were going to start. They say that their student needs to get the lead roll. Do you even have the play picked out yet?” Mrs. Steinfield rolled her eyes and laughed. 

“Ah! That must be Taylor’s mom.” Victoria exhaled. She turned to me, ”Remember, me explaining helicopter parents? This is one of them, you can wait here and I’ll be right back.” Victoria gave me a wink and followed Mrs. Steinfield out of the front doors into the mass of people milling about. 

Now that I was alone I realized that I needed to go to the restroom pretty badly. I remembered that Vic had said that there were restrooms down the gated off hallway. I didn’t want to go wondering around the school getting lost trying to find a bathroom, so I lifted the caution tape and stepped through the entrance to the hall. I didn’t think I could get into too much trouble since I worked at the school now. 

While walking down the hall I noticed that the doors weren’t marked for the bathrooms. This could be potentially hairy. I mean I didn’t think anyone was in the men’s bathroom but it would be extremely embarrassing to open the wrong door and have a man standing there trying to do his business only to be interrupted by me. 

As I pushed open the first door to my right I closed my eyes and said, “Hello! Anyone in here? Is this the women’s bathroom? I don’t mean to intrude, but I really have to go!” After hearing silence in return I opened my eyes to see a dark classroom. I wondered if this was the standard for what classrooms would look like throughout the school. 

Ignoring the persisting pound of my very full bladder, I decided that it wouldn’t be a big deal to turn on the lights and look around the room, noting anything that I could add to my own classroom, and seeing what the desk looked like. I had this certain desk organizer in mind from Target that I wanted to get but I wanted to make sure that it would fit before I spent the money.

I turned on the over head lights blinding myself as I walked into the center of the room. The desks were stacked and push up against the walls leaving ample space in the center of the room to walk around and get a good feel for the size. 

My eyes were still adjusting as I tripped over something on the floor by the desk. I assumed it was a rolled up rug because it was pretty stiff, but didn’t feeling like plastic or metal. I looked down to see a leg with a red stiletto on the foot. 

My breathing started to come rapidly and my eyes started to darken. I was afraid that I was about to pass out. I needed to slow my breathing down, I didn’t know who it was 100% and I needed to see if I could help. 

As I rounded the desk I could see that I was too late. The red stiletto belonged to the person I thought it did. Bridgett Nickel was laying face down in what looked like blood. A red grading pen was sticking out from the side of her neck. I knew that she was dead, but I needed to check her pulse just to be sure. 

I grabbed her wrist, it was stiff and cold. There was no pulse to do found. I turned around and ran to the door, stopping to throw up in the hallway. 

I ran down the hall and into the school entryway. Running right into the last person that I wanted to see, Jake. 

He grabbed onto my shoulders to keep me from tripping over my own feet. “Hey there! What’s the rush? I promise they still have another 5 or 10 minutes until everything starts.” He put me right on my feet and then he noticed how white my face was. “Mags, everything okay? You’re not looking so well. Do you need me to drive you home?” 

“No, Jake. I don’t need you to drive me home. But I found something. I mean I found someone. You need to call for an ambulance. I don’t think she is okay. Really, I don’t think she is.” I started stumbling over my words. My mind was fogging and I couldn’t get the words out right. 

“Woah there! Slow down honey. Who isn’t okay? Who is SHE? Where is she? Talk to me. Breath. “ His voice was floating away from me as I leaned against the wall and slid down. Everything was dimming. I knew that I needed to shake out of it though. Something happened to Bridgett and I needed to explain what happened. 

“Bridgett Nickel. I think she is dead.” I said as I finally sank all the way down to the floor. I could hear Jake talking into his radio for backup as he was running down the hall where I came from.