by Gerri Hill
Finley Knight, ex-cop turned private investigator, lives a lonely, solitary life. She uses her downtime to reflect on the past and wonders what could have been.
Detective Dee Woodard transferred to Corpus Christi nine years ago to put distance between herself and her ex…an ex she was still in love with. A murder investigation leads her to Moonlight Avenue and Finley Knight.
Rylee Moore left the windy plains of Amarillo in her rearview mirror, hoping to start over in this city by the bay, only to find employment hard to come by. Finley Knight wasn’t hiring either, but Rylee’s begging and pleading—and not taking “no” for an answer—finally lands her a job. Not as an apprentice, as she wanted, but as the lone employee at Moonlight Avenue Investigations—receptionist.
When another murder hits close to home, Finn ignores the police directive to stay out of it and goes on a search for the killer…reluctantly taking Rylee along for the ride.
After a gruesome third murder, Dee is booted from the case. She joins Finn’s team…the chase bringing them closer and closer to a vicious drug dealer.
Amongst the chaos, crime, and cover-up…love pokes its head above the water. But can they stay alive long enough to explore it?
FROM THE AUTHOR
"If you’ve read a lot of my books, you know that I love the Texas Gulf Coast…especially the area around Corpus Christi (Rockport, Port Aransas, Mustang Island). However, most, if not all those books take place in the summer. I spent a dreary week in Port A in late December a year or two ago…socked in by fog—day and night—so thick you couldn’t see the waves hitting the beach even when they brushed your feet. When the story for Moonlight Avenue began to take shape, it wasn’t under clear, blue skies and an unforgiving sun. The weather, the fog, the soupy nights all play a part in this book…all because I spent a dreary week on the beach!"
The Lesbian Review
Moonlight Avenue by Gerri Hill is a riveting, literary tapestry of mystery, suspense, thriller and romance. It is also a story about forgiveness, moving on with your life and opening your heart to love despite how daunting it may seem at first. Gerri Hill’s stories will always make me feel as though I’m in a book lover’s paradise because her beautiful descriptions of nature and the landscape in Corpus Christi made me feel as though I was seeing everything firsthand. In addition, she creates the most down-to-earth and adorable characters ever. This author really went above and beyond to give me an enthralling mystery that I gleefully devoured for hours on end and I am keeping my fingers crossed with the hope that Gerri Hill would write a sequel to this outstanding story.
Dru’s Book Musings
This is a departure from what I normally read, but I like the premise of three strong women living in their own world going about their own business. It’s when the twain shall meet that this drama kicks it up a notch when first Finn’s client is murdered and then while trying to solve this, her one and only friend is caught in the crosshairs and is killed. And it is these two murders and a third that occupied this intense mystery that had me wrapped up in all that was happening.
The author did a great job in providing a visually descriptive narrative with dialogue to match that set the tone throughout this fast-paced and action-filled drama. The suspense factor was evident in this engaging mystery that had me devouring every scene as each one led to the next in its intensity as the characters were fraught with determination in solving this puzzling case as well as their own personal stake. The portrayal of the characters was well-defined and I liked how they played off of one another.
Lex Kent’s Reviews - This is a real murder mystery book. It is in the same vein as a Sue Grafton or JM Redmann type of mystery. There is a lot of surveillance and following the clues. Besides the mystery this is a slow-burn romance. It is very slow-burn but I loved every second of it. I’m not sure what it was but I thought the chemistry was great. It kept building and building and eventually they started to put out sparks together. If you are a mystery fan don’t hesitate to grab this. This was a treat to read and I hope we will be seeing a book 2 soon.
Bethany’s Reviews - Moonlight Avenue is another perfect example of why Hill is a master at her craft! This book appears to be the start of a series, at least, I'm really hoping it is because I'd love to see more from this team in the future! The crime takes the main stage in this book, but the romance isn't exactly a back burner. I like to think of it as a pleasant side story. It's hard for authors to lace romance into true crime novels, but Hill handled it very well and set these two up with enough chemistry to make it interesting. Just read the book. It's another classic Gerri Hill crime novel, and you won't be sorry for picking it up!
Kitty Kat’s Book Review Blog
…is an excellent mystery novel, sheer class. Gerri Hill’s writing is flawless, her story compelling and much more than a notch above others writing in this genre. I really enjoyed the interpersonal relationships in this story. They were well observed and natural. The case they were working was full of twists and turns and had me desperate to find out more. I loved it and would be interested to find out what happens next for these characters if Ms Hill decides to make this a series. Highly recommended.
The office was dark and shadowy. She shifted in her chair, only now noticing the blackness that surrounded her. Without much thought, she reached over and flicked on the lamp that sat on the corner of the desk. She looked away from the light for a moment, blinking several times before reaching for the whiskey glass. It had been her father’s. There really wasn’t anything unique about it, other than it was his. The single malt scotch inside, however, made it special.
She heard shuffling upstairs and she looked overhead, knowing that Sammy would be down in a few minutes. She let out a heavy breath, then finished off the scotch. She should have left hours ago, but the splatter of rain against the windows had lulled her into a sense of peacefulness that was rare. She hadn’t wanted to disturb it.
A few moments later, the door to her office opened, and Sammy stared at her. His wrinkled black face was hidden by the shadows, but his snow-white hair seemed to glow around him.
“Why, Finn…you still here?” he asked in his gravelly voice.
She pushed the chair back from her desk and stood. “Just about to leave.”
“That means you missed dinner again,” he said disapprovingly. “I had me some fried flounder. You should have come on up.”
“Fried food’s gonna kill you, Sammy.”
He laughed. “Oh, hell…I’m eighty-two. Been eatin’ fried fish my whole damn life. And most of it, I caught right out there in the bay.”
She went over to him and touched his shoulder. “I’ve been out most of the day. I don’t think there’s any need for you to clean up tonight.”
“Oh, I’ll check the trash and run a vacuum, like always. Mr. Simon gets a little irritated if I don’t tidy up over there on his side,” he said, referring to the accountant who rented the other office. He tilted his head, eyeing her. “You got anything interesting going on? I was sitting by my window before the rain came. You had some man in here for quite a while.”
“The usual. The guy thinks his wife is having an affair.”
“You hate those,” he said with a nod of his head. “Bad memories.”
“Yeah. But they pay the bills.” He followed her out into the reception area, and he helped her slip on her coat. She smiled at him. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Sammy.”
“The good Lord willing,” he murmured quietly on cue.
The rain wasn’t much more than a light mist now and she stood beside her car, looking up into the sky. There was a half-moon peeking out from behind a cloud, then it disappeared again. It was a cool, chilly night by Corpus Christi standards, especially for November. She unlocked her car with the push of a button. When the interior light came on, out of habit, she glanced in the back. She wasn’t sure why, but she wouldn’t be surprised to find someone hiding back there one day. She’d pissed off enough people in her line of work.
She drove down the dark street, aptly named Moonlight Avenue. There were no streetlights near her office. It was a dead-end road, and yes, moonlight was the only thing illuminating it. It was only four blocks from the bay and from the small cottage she called home. The cottage her father had left her. The cottage her mother never even knew existed.
Maybe it was the new client she’d taken on, but memories of that time in her life had come flooding back with distinct clarity. Eighteen years ago—it could have been only yesterday instead.
She had just graduated from college and was about to start law school. To this day, she still didn’t know if her father’s murder was what caused her to change her mind or not. They had it all planned. Law school, then she’d join her father’s firm. They’d work side-by-side. Knight and Knight. Her father had been so proud of her. But after…well, after his death, she decided law school wasn’t for her.
She shook her head as she pulled into her driveway, stopping as she waited for the gate to open. No, not law school. Would her father have been proud that she’d become a cop?
Mrs. Frazier disappeared into Kathy’s Hair Salon and Finn noted the time, scribbling notes on the legal pad she used. She’d tried working on her laptop in the car but found her attention wavered too much. She preferred to make notes and records this way and transcribe everything later.
She put her camera down and picked up the small binoculars instead. Posters in the windows—pretty smiling women with chic haircuts—blocked her view, however, and she tossed them down as well.
She’d been thirty when she quit the force…only two years after making detective. At the time, becoming a private investigator hadn’t crossed her mind. At least not consciously. But six months after working as a security guard, she’d quit that job too.
She leaned her head back, letting in old memories. They were memories she’d just as soon stay buried, but at times like this, when she sat idly in her car—waiting for the cheating wife or husband to show their hand—they crept in anyway.
She remembered the call, her mother’s voice sounding almost calm, businesslike. “Finley, your father’s been shot. They found him in his car. It apparently happened last night.”
It all came out into the open then. Suspecting an affair all along, her father had hired a private investigator. Finn had been shocked. An affair? Her mother?
“It was your fault! You left home. Your father worked all the time. I was alone…all the time!”
“So maybe you should have gotten a job instead of a lover!” she’d shot back at her.
She shook her head. A job? Her mother? No. A lover? Yes. A man stupid enough to fall in love with her…a man stupid enough to kill when she wouldn’t file for divorce.
Her mother still lived in Corpus. Still lived in the same house Finn had grown up in. A new man shared it with her now. Finn couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen her. Fifteen years or more, she supposed.
The door to the hair salon opened and Mrs. Frazier came out. The woman paused to run a hand over her slightly shorter hair and Finn snapped two photos, then quickly lowered the camera when Mrs. Frazier’s gaze drifted out over the parking lot. She shielded her eyes from the sun, as if looking for someone. Instead of getting into her metallic gray SUV, Mrs. Frazier walked down the sidewalk of the strip center. Once again she paused to glance around the parking lot. Finn knew the woman hadn’t seen her. She was parked far enough away and her tinted windows provided the necessary cover that she needed. No…Mrs. Frazier was looking for someone.
When she ducked into the Tropical Tan and Massage, Finn looked around the parking lot too. A man emerged from a red sports car. Mid-forties, perhaps. A handsome man with dark hair, cut neat and short. Professional. Suit and tie. Shiny black shoes. She was about to dismiss him. She’d worked enough of these that she knew he didn’t fit the profile. Mrs. Frazier, while not totally unattractive, was over fifty and a little on the plump side. This man moved with an athletic grace. Tall, shoulders squared, fashionable sunglasses hiding his eyes. He walked confidently into the Tropical Tan and Massage.
She shrugged. It hardly implicated him, but she snapped five or six shots of him before he disappeared inside. She jotted down the time—3:12—and location on her notepad, then shifted in her seat, trying to stretch her legs.
She wondered if her mother had ever hooked up at a place like this. She couldn’t picture it, but you never know. Her mother had never offered an explanation for anything, never delved into the gory details of the affair with her. Of course she hadn’t exactly been on speaking terms with her mother after the murder.
Her mother’s lover, Richard “Dick” Falwell, had slipped into the backseat of her father’s car, hiding on the floor behind the passenger’s seat. What her mother had said was true: her father worked insane hours and was rarely home. That particular night was no exception. Dick Falwell popped up from his hiding place and held a gun to her father’s head, making him drive to a secluded spot…a spot where Dick had stashed his car. He shot her father right there and that’s where he was found, slumped over the steering wheel, a bullet hole in his head.
Even if the private investigator her father had hired hadn’t come forward—her father had instructed him to go to the police if anything happened to him—Dick Falwell would have still been caught. He’d been stupid enough to leave prints on the outside of the car as well as the door handle on the inside. He’d apparently tossed the gun into one of the channels leading to the bay. It had never been recovered, but no need. The stupid son of a bitch didn’t know there were security cameras at her father’s firm. He had practically posed for the camera when he’d broken into the car.
Still, the trial was ugly and the defense had tried to implicate her mother, saying she’d suggested the murder. Finn would be lying if she said the thought hadn’t crossed her mind as well, but her mother’s reaction convinced her that Dick Falwell had done it all on his own. The jury believed that too.
She reached for her bottle of water and took a sip, then leaned her head back against the seat. Sleep had eluded her last night and she was feeling the effects of it now. Her stomach rumbled, letting her know that the lone piece of toast she’d had with her coffee that morning was long gone. From the backseat, she pulled the goody bag she kept with her at all times. When she unzipped it, however, she remembered she hadn’t restocked it. There were two protein bars, a bag of salted peanuts, three warm water bottles, and an orange that had moldy spots on it. She pushed the orange aside—as she’d been doing for the last two weeks—and took one of the protein bars.
She’d only taken two bites when Mrs. Frazier came out. She had a definite smile on her face and Finn captured the dreamy look not once but three times before the woman headed toward her car. She kept the camera trained on the front door to the tanning salon, taking another photo when the guy came out only seconds later. He was adjusting his tie as he hurried toward the red sports car.
Finn looked between the two cars, but the guy never once glanced toward Mrs. Frazier and she didn’t look his way. As the sports car pulled away, Finn zoomed in on his license plate, snapping a clear picture. She then started up her car, waiting until Mrs. Frazier got ahead of her before following. Connie Frazier retraced the same route she’d taken that morning, back to her house. Finn drove past the street, slowing enough to verify that Mrs. Frazier had indeed pulled into the driveway. It was 3:51.
“That was a quickie,” she murmured as she drove past.
Instead of heading back to her office, she turned toward the bay and home. She was tired and hungry. Her little cottage was at the end of Ocean Drive where Corpus Christi Bay swallowed it up. It wasn’t really all that little—twenty-two hundred square feet—but compared to her neighbors’ homes, it was tiny and dated. But it suited her fine.
She pushed the remote for the automatic gate—something she’d added about six years ago when she’d installed her security system—then drove up the short driveway to the garage, waiting patiently as the door opened. She disappeared inside and closed the door…hoping to shut out the world for the rest of the day…and night.
“Mr. Frazier, like I said, when I have something, you’ll have something. I’m not going to update you on every little thing she does.”
“But I want to know if—”
“I’ll hand over my report at the end of the week like we agreed.” She paused. “And I hope you complimented her on her haircut.”
“Never mind. I’ll be in touch.”
Was that how her mother had felt? Had she changed hairstyles, only to have her husband not notice? Had he come home after working fifteen or more hours to find dinner long cold and her mother already in bed? Had he gotten up early the next day to do it all over again while her mother slept in?
According to Mr. Frazier—owner of four pizza parlors in the city—his wife rarely got out of bed until after nine. It was a quarter of nine now and she’d have to hurry. She only hoped that it wasn’t a repeat of yesterday. Finn was in no mood to stake out their house for half the day before there was any activity.
She pocketed her keys and was headed out when Simon opened the door that joined their two offices.
“You got a minute?”
She shook her head. “Not really. What’s up?”
He looked around as if making sure they were alone, then came closer. “It’s about Sammy.”
“What about him? Is he okay?”
“No, no. He’s fine. It’s about his cleaning. Or lack thereof.”
“Simon, come on, he’s eighty-two years old. Cut him some slack.”
“Yes, I know. But my wife came over yesterday and said the place was filthy. I meet clients here, Finn. I can’t have them—”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Hire a real cleaning crew.”
She shook her head. “Sammy does the cleaning.”
“Look, you own the building. You’re responsible for cleaning. Our agreement—”
“Simon, you’ve been here what? Five, six years? Sammy does the cleaning.”
“I gotta run.” She paused at the front door. “Unless you want me to up your rent enough to cover a cleaning crew. That can be arranged.”
She closed the door without waiting for an answer. They had this same discussion a couple of times a year. And it usually started with “my wife came over.”
Simon was fifty-one or -two and looked the part of a stereotypical accountant—thinning hair, pale skin, thick, black-framed glasses, and a wardrobe that was decades out of style. And Karen, his nagging wife, ruled the house with an iron fist. Now that the kids were grown and had moved away, all her attention was directed at Simon. And poor Simon didn’t have the balls to buck her.
“Not my problem,” she muttered.
As she sat in her car—a charcoal gray luxury sedan that blended in—two blocks down from the Fraziers’ house, she wondered if she needed to talk to Sammy. Maybe remind him to clean a little more thoroughly in Simon’s office.
Sammy had been with her since she’d moved into the old building and converted it into two office suites. The apartment upstairs had already been there and she’d intended to rent it out. She figured a renter upstairs and a renter for the adjacent office would more than cover any expenses she had on the remodeling. But then Sammy had showed up on her doorstep one day, begging for a handout. Not exactly a handout. He’d offered to do light labor for either a meal or money.
His hair had been as snow white then as it was today. His face was wrinkled from hours and hours spent in the bay…fishing. But he’d fallen on hard times since his wife had died. He had three kids, he said, but she’d known him now nearly ten years and she’d never met a one of them. She wondered if they even knew where he was. He’d been homeless for two years when she’d met him. She’d taken an instant liking to the old man.
A week later she’d moved him into the apartment upstairs. As Simon had said, his cleaning skills could use some honing, but he kept the place tidy enough. And they shared meals from time to time. But mostly, they shared memories. She knew as much about his life as he knew about hers.
So, no, she wouldn’t talk to him. He was a proud man, and she knew he would feel like he’d let her down if she said anything to him. No, she wouldn’t worry him with something as trivial as that.
In fact, she might invite him over to her house for fishing soon. He still walked to the bay most days, but she knew he loved it when she asked him over. They had her long fishing pier all to themselves—providing her neighbor, Larry, didn’t come over to join them—and they’d spend the afternoon drinking beer and telling fish tales. They hadn’t done that in many months, she knew.
Without much thought, she picked up her camera when Mrs. Frazier’s car backed out of her driveway. She snapped a couple of shots, then glanced at the clock. It was 10:12.
“What have we here?”
After following Mrs. Frazier across the causeway and onto Mustang Island, she was actually surprised when she pulled into the parking lot of a Best Western. Mrs. Frazier drove past the office—as if she’d done this before—and parked opposite the swimming pool. Still, she wasn’t hidden from the traffic on Park Road 22. Apparently she didn’t fear her husband catching her here, despite one of his pizza joints—the original one—being just down the street.
Finn slowed, letting Mrs. Frazier get out before pulling into a spot only three cars from her own. The woman didn’t bother to look around as she hurried to a door directly across from where she was parked. A quick knock and the door opened.
“Gotcha now,” Finn murmured as her camera captured the smiling face of the man she’d seen yesterday. The door closed and she snapped a shot of the room number: 113.
Finn was smiling as she lowered the camera. She loved it when cases like this wrapped up in a couple of days. At two hundred dollars an hour, she figured she could bill him for two thousand, depending on how big Mrs. Frazier’s smile was when she came out of the room.
She backed the car up, then parked across from the room, next to the pool. She still had a clear view of room 113 and she settled down to wait. She lowered both windows in front and stretched her legs out as far as they would go.
Her mother hadn’t used a hotel. There had been no need to. Her father was never home. Dick came right to the house. According to the private investigator, he popped over four, sometimes five days a week.
Back then, her mother had been an attractive woman. Still was, she supposed. Long, flowing blond hair, she looked years younger than she was. When Finn was a teen, she’d often wished she looked more like her mother. She’d gotten her father’s dark hair and on more occasions than she could recall, her mother often commented that she’d gotten his handsome face as well.
She looked in the mirror now, seeing the beginnings of laugh lines around her eyes. That was funny, wasn’t it? She rarely laughed.
“Let’s call them what they are, Finn,” she murmured. Wrinkles. Yes, she was forty years old and sporting wrinkles now. And there were a few rogue gray hairs popping up too.
She fingered her hair. It was longer than she usually kept it. Long and a bit on the shaggy side now. Not intentional—her new hairstyle. She simply hadn’t had the time—or inclination—to get it cut. Perhaps she should have joined Mrs. Frazier at Kathy’s yesterday, she thought wryly.
She glanced at herself in the mirror again. No, she rarely laughed. What was there to laugh about? Her father was long gone. Her only friends consisted of Sammy, an eighty-two-year-old black man, and Larry, the nosy neighbor who she’d learned to tolerate over the years. Larry was older, too. In his seventies. His wife died the very year Finn had moved next door. Larry liked to fish and when Finn wasn’t working, she’d either join him on his pier or he’d join her. Larry liked to drink rum and usually by three he was holding a cocktail in his hand. They’d sit out on the pier, him with his rum, she with her scotch, and fish until dark. She imagined he was as lonely as she was.
She’d quit the force at thirty because of the envelope. Well, that was what she’d told herself anyway. She’d made detective and thought she was happy. Happier than being in uniform, that’s for sure. But…well, she had a hard time following rules…orders…protocol. She glanced in the mirror again, giving herself a smirk. Yeah. Undisciplined, her captain had called her on more than one occasion.
He came to the squad room one hot and humid day in August—the PI who her father had hired. He held a large manila envelope in his hands. Eight years after her father had been murdered…two days after her thirtieth birthday. She resigned from the Corpus Christi Police Department the very next day.
She blew out her breath. Ten years ago now. Funny how life takes you places, she thought. Places she never dreamed she’d go. Like sitting here now outside the Best Western, waiting on Mrs. Frazier to have sex so she could snap a picture of her coming out of the room with a smile on her face.
The envelope had her name scrawled across the front—her father’s handwriting—and a date…the day that Mr. Granger showed up out of the blue. She hadn’t seen him—or given him much thought—since the trial. She’d taken the envelope home with her, to her apartment. She remembered placing it on the table, almost afraid to open it. She’d drunk two beers before she felt calm enough to touch it.
The envelope was thick and heavy, taped shut, and it took her several seconds to tear into it. She dumped the contents out onto the table. A wad of cash—twenty thousand dollars—caught her attention first. Then the keys. Three of them, taped neatly to a piece of paper. She picked up a folded note, on stationery that she remembered from her father’s office. Again, it was his handwriting and she simply stared at it for the longest time before reading what he had to say.
He’d suspected an affair for years. Richard Falwell probably wasn’t the first one, he’d said. He wrote the note the day before he was killed. The next day, he’d planned to confront them. However, the next day—that fateful day—he never got the chance to do that. Dick Falwell confronted him first.
One of the keys was to the cottage on Ocean Drive. The cottage was in her name—had been all along—and a management company was taking care of it. She’d driven out there the next morning and had returned to give her apartment complex notice that she’d be moving out. She’d moved into the fully furnished house three days later. And a day after that, she’d gotten drunk on her ass, sitting down at the end of the pier. She shook her head now. It’s a wonder she hadn’t fallen into the bay and drowned. That would have been a fitting end, wouldn’t it?
A slamming door brought her attention around and she reached for the camera even before she looked up. But it wasn’t Mrs. Frazier and she relaxed again. It was now after eleven—11:06. At least this wasn’t a quickie like yesterday’s had been. Of course, the only evidence of sex yesterday was the dreamy smile Mrs. Frazier had sported as she’d left the tanning place.
The plates on the red sports car were registered to Michael R. Drake. Best she could tell, Michael R. Drake didn’t have a job. In fact, she could find very little on him. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Michael R. Drake was using a fake identity. She’d run the VIN number on his car. It had been purchased two months prior, paid for in cash. No trail to follow there. She guessed the car—while not brand new—still set him back a good twenty or twenty-five grand.
She hadn’t spent much time on him. Mr. Frazier was paying her to find out if his wife was having an affair and with whom. If he wanted detailed info on Drake, it would cost him more. She didn’t care one way or the other. She wasn’t getting paid to care.
She reached into the backseat and grabbed her goody bag. She’d remembered to add a few things to it that she’d had at the house. She forgot to take out the orange, though, and she moved the nearly spoiled fruit aside again as her fingers closed around a package of peanut butter crackers. She really needed to start eating better. Actually, she needed to just start eating. She was getting too old to exist on junk food and scotch…with the occasional fish dinner tossed in, either with Larry or Sammy.
Maybe she should find a friend to have dinner with. A friend. Nothing more. She didn’t have the time or energy—or desire—to devote to anything else. It had been too many years since she’d actually dated anyone. Too many years for her to even remember how the process worked. When the image of a young blonde popped into her mind, she wasn’t really surprised, though. How long ago was that? Summer? June? No, she was no longer surprised to find herself thinking of the woman. She’d drifted in and out of her mind often in the last six months…drifting by, sometimes just under the surface, sometimes out front. And sometimes the memory hung around for a day or two before sneaking away again.
She rarely went to bars. She certainly never picked up women at bars. She was far too careful for that. For some reason, that particular night, she hadn’t been in the mood for only her own company. She’d gone to the bar intending to have a couple of drinks and be around people for a change. She’d been sitting on a barstool, sipping her drink, her foot tapping unconsciously to the music, when she looked up, locking eyes with a woman. It was as if—with just that one look—the woman had stolen her breath away. She remembered thinking how crazy that was for a woman her age…a woman about to turn forty. It wasn’t even a conscious thought that had her up and moving, going to the younger woman. She asked her to dance, her voice nearly stuttering with nervousness. They didn’t talk much at all; they didn’t even exchange names. One dance led to two. She still wasn’t sure who initiated the first kiss between them. She shook her head now. It had been a stupid thing to do. The woman was probably barely twenty-five and Finn knew she was too damn old to be acting like a hormone-crazed teen. Yet she found herself pressed against the wall, blatantly making out with the woman. Fevered kisses and bold touches finally caused someone to yell at them to “get a room.” She had been shocked to realize that she wanted to do just that. But she came to her senses. She certainly wasn’t going to take a stranger to her home.
The woman had looked at her, her blue eyes still dark and aroused. She looked almost embarrassed by their earlier actions, but her gaze never wavered.
“Yes…let’s go somewhere. If you want.”
Yes, Finn wanted. So they got a room. And what a night it had been. She didn’t remember talking…at all. She glanced up to meet her eyes in the car mirror. One-night stands being what they were, the woman was gone the next morning when she woke up. She called a friend to pick her up, Finn supposed. Or maybe she called Uber. Regardless, Finn had been shocked by the whole encounter. It was something she never did. It took her a while to get over it and she’d been surprised at how often—especially at first—the young woman crossed her mind. She never went back to the bar, but that’s not to say she didn’t consider going back, perhaps hoping she’d spot the blonde again. But that wasn’t her style. She gave a quick, humorless laugh now. Did she have a style?
She rolled her shoulders around, staring at the door to Room 113. Was Connie Frazier having a good time with the so-called Michael Drake? Was she screaming his name? Did she feel guilty? Or was she reveling in the thrill of it all? Did she have any idea that her husband was suspicious?
She took a bite of the cracker. She hoped Connie was enjoying herself. Finn suspected that by the weekend, the affair would be all over with. Or else Mr. Frazier would have started divorce proceedings.
She rested her head back against the seat, letting her mind drift away from the Fraziers. The second key in the envelope had been to a safe deposit box…a box secured in her name, not her father’s. Inside were records of investments that he’d made—also in her name. Some more recent, others made when Finn had been a child. There was a sizeable life insurance policy, payable to Finn when she turned thirty. In there as well was yet another key, unmarked and untagged. She had no idea what it went to. She still didn’t. She took it and everything else that was in the box. It was all hers, after all. There was no mention of her mother on any of the records.
Her father’s note had been very businesslike and to the point, not emotional in the least. She assumed that at the time he had been writing it, he had no inkling that he would die the next day. Still, she wondered if he had some premonition. Something must have made him write the note and leave the envelope with Mr. Granger. Something must have made him transfer a lot of his assets into her name, unbeknownst to her mother.
She never mentioned the envelope—or the money or the investments—to her mother. Not that she had an opportunity to. It wasn’t like they saw each other. Her mother called on occasion, she’d give her that. Despite Finn’s cold reception to her calls, her mother ignored her tone and chatted away, filling Finn in on what was happening in her life.
Most of which Finn already knew. In spite of them being estranged, Finn still kept tabs on her. When she’d found out her mother was engaged to be married, Finn had done a thorough investigation of the guy. She couldn’t find any dirt on him. She wondered if she had, would she have warned her mother?
Her camera was at her eye and she was snapping shots even before it registered that Mrs. Frazier had opened the door to Room 113. Smiling? Oh, yeah. Connie Frazier was practically floating to her car. She zoomed in to the open door, seeing Michael R. Drake with a smile on his face too. She frowned as that smile completely disappeared seconds before he closed the door.
She put the camera down. It was 11:46.