Big Bucks, book 3 in the Big Murder Mystery series, launches July 31st. If you pre-order it, you can save a buck (ha ha) on the ebook. And you can read the first chapter right now...
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Some people enjoy a challenge. Me? I’m thrilled with easy when I can get it—which isn’t often. So invading a wooded estate with no guards or cameras seemed like a day at the spa. Just without the massages, cucumber water, and saunas. I really missed those.
And because the big house was so secluded, the odds of a neighbor reporting me were low. It was unlikely anyone would spot me on the thick hillside. But I’d taken care to wear white to blend in with the patches of December snow between the pines. I was happy with easy, but I also liked to play it smart.
The effortlessness of the surveillance gig should have been a clue that things were fated to go sideways. But if the universe has been sending me warning messages, they’d been going to spam.
A breeze rustled the pines, dropping clods of snow to the earth. Kneeling, I peered through my camera on its tripod. Cold seeped through the knees of my white jeans.
The mansion had massive arched windows at the back. They gave me a clear view of a wide, marble stairway leading to the ground floor living area as well as of most of the second floor. It was a nice place if you liked oversized mausoleums.
A woman slumped in a wheelchair at the top of the steps. Her white hair hung lank and unbrushed down her back.
“Dammit.” Mrs. Stanton had been sitting there over thirty minutes. I worked to tamp down my anger. This was a job. I needed to stay cool because hot emotions rarely led to good decisions. And this neglect would be going in my report. But it was hard to watch.
I’d been watching her for days now, and she was starting to feel like a friend. Not that I’m in the habit of stalking my actual friends. And I still didn’t have any video to prove elder abuse, aside from this stretch of neglect.
I double-checked the camera was recording then shifted to look through my second camera, also on a tripod. I scanned the rooms in the upper stories.
A thirty-something brunette, Mrs. Stanton’s niece, Irene, sat at Mrs. Stanton’s dressing table. Irene tried on a pair of jewel-studded earrings. She turned her head this way and that, admiring, and fluffed her long hair.
I snapped photos, my heart solidifying to something cold and hard. But the niece didn’t put the jewelry in her pockets. She carefully returned them to their box, rose, and strolled from her aunt’s bedroom.
“Take your sweet time, why don’t you?” I muttered.
I shivered and glanced up. The sun was already low over the Sierras. Soon it would be gone, and the temperature would drop. I tightened my ivory jacket and flipped up the faux-fur collar. My breath steamed the air.
The niece reappeared at the top of the stairs, and I grunted. “Finally.” Give the old lady a break and some conversation.
She grasped the wheelchair’s handles, bent, and said something to Mrs. Stanton. I stilled, unease spiraling in my gut. Mrs. Stanton turned to her. The older woman’s eyes widened, her face contorting. Irene shoved her wheelchair down the stairs.
The wheelchair jounced, tilted. Mrs. Stanton tumbled from the chair.
Swearing, I jolted to my feet, knocking over the nearest camera, and bulleted across the lawn, clear of patches of snow. I was reacting, not thinking. This was never a good state for a personal protection specialist. And it’s not like this was the first time I’d witnessed violence. But it had still startled the hell out of me.
I raced up the flagstone steps and across a broad patio toward the French windows. They’d be locked. They always were. But I didn’t slow.