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Authors: Patricia Gussin

And Then There Was One

BOOK: And Then There Was One
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And Then There Was One



Shadow of Death

Twisted Justice

The Test


What’s Next … For You?

(With Robert Gussin)

And Then There Was One

A Novel

Patricia Gussin

Copyright © 2010 by Patricia Gussin


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

ISBN: 978-1-933515-81-6

Published in the United States of America by Oceanview Publishing,
Longboat Key, Florida

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


To my wonderful grandchildren



















Thank you, Oceanview Team, for all you do: Susan Greger, Susan Hayes, Maryglenn McCombs, Mary Adele Bogden, John Cheesman, George Foster, Kylie Fritz, Joanne Savage, Sandy Greger, Joe Hall, and Cheryl Melnick.

A special thanks to my editor, Caroline Upcher.

And, the ultimate thanks to my husband, Bob, always my first reader and my twenty-four-hour inspiration.

And Then There Was One


Detroit Pays Tribute to Monica Monroe in Concert at Fox Theatre.
— Detroit News
, Sunday, June 14, 2009

“Scott, listen to me. We can’t find Sammie and Alex!”

“Can’t find what?” Scott Monroe shouted over the roar of Yankee fans as Derek Jeter approached the plate. The Yankees were pummeling the Mets, battering Santana. “Lucy, I’m in the dugout. I’ll have to call you back.”

“No. Don’t hang up!”

Cell phone jammed against his ear, Scott left the game and headed to the players’ lockers. “Hold on,” he yelled, letting the door slam behind him, feeling his heart start to hammer, all the little hairs rising on his neck. His mother-in-law, level-headed and always composed, calling him during a game? Something had to be wrong. “Okay, it’s quieter in here.”

“Scott, it’s about the girls —”

“What about them?” He squeezed the phone even tighter to his ear.

“Danielle took them to the movies today. At the mall in Auburn Hills. Sammie and Alex never came out. Danielle called me. I’m at the mall now and there’s no sign of them.”

Scott crouched against the concrete wall and forced a deep breath.
Didn’t come out?
“Okay, Lucy, slow down. You said Alex and Sammie. Where’s Jackie? Aren’t they together?”

“No, they split up. Two different movies. Jackie went to
Star Wars
with Danielle. And Sammie and Alex went to
Night at the Museum
right next door. Both movies ended about the same time, but Sammie and Alex never came out.”

How could two kids
not come out
of a theater?

“Just a minute, Lucy, I’m still having trouble hearing you.” Scott moved deeper inside the hall. Lucy was telling him that two of his daughters were missing. Certainly they’d show up soon. They were nine years old, the age that girls like to hang around malls.

“Before I got here, Danielle asked everyone around,” Lucy continued, breathless, “but nobody saw Sammie and Alex leave. Scott, we don’t know where they are. I called mall security.”

Scott felt his body go limp and he slumped lower against the wall. Where could they have gone? The New York City air was chilly for mid-June, but Scott felt the prickle of ice filling his veins.

“There’re calling in the police,” Lucy said. “Scott, can you come to Detroit? Now.”

“Katie?” Scott hardly dared ask. His wife was a street-smart doctor, but when it came to their girls she had a sixth sense of paranoia — an obsession with their safety. Strange that Katie had let them go to the movies with their cousin, Danielle, even though Danielle was a responsible nineteen year old.

“Where’s Katie?”

Lucy’s voice faltered. “She and Sharon went into Detroit, that charity affair, guests of the bishop.”

Scott remembered. Katie’s sister was the chairperson of the posh luncheon event.

“Their phones are still turned off, but they’ll be at my place soon. You know how Katie is about those girls.”

Scott did know. Katie had grown up in Detroit, her early years in the inner city. Even though Lucy had moved her four daughters to the troubled city’s outer borders and had sent them to a private girls’ academy, Katie, the youngest, had never been able to shake the terror of those early years.

“The police?” Scott heard the echo of his voice in the empty hallway. Trying to think of logical solutions, he slammed into a wall of terror. “Did you check for a lost and found for kids?” he managed. “What about other exits? Don’t they have emergency exits?”

“Yes,” Lucy said. “But nothing.”

Struggling for a sense of perspective, Scott squeezed his eyes shut, trying to focus on the diverse personalities of his identical triplet
daughters. “If they are in the mall and lost, Sammie would never admit it. She’d hold out to the end before asking for help.” Scott paused, “Lucy, you did say that Jackie is okay?”

“Yes, she and Danielle are in my sight. Jackie’s scared, that’s all. And of course, Danielle is devastated.”

“I’m on my way.” Scott opened his eyes and stood. “I’ll charter a plane. I’m on my way.”

“Let’s just hope they’re wandering the mall,” Lucy said, but Scott had already disconnected.

Lucy Jones jerked to attention when the heavyset man in a rumpled brown suit barged into the cramped mall security office. She still gripped the phone on the desk with one hand while holding onto her granddaughter, Jackie, trembling at her side. Her other granddaughter, Danielle, stood back, her slim shoulders slumped, her head bent into tented hands.

“Clarence Plummer,” the man announced. “Director of security. You reported a couple of missing kids?” Plummer swung his massive frame into the chair behind the desk, motioning for Lucy to take the lone client chair. She complied, pulling Jackie onto her lap, leaving Danielle standing. “Start at the beginning, ma’am. We’re about to call in the local police, but —”

“Sir, my two granddaughters are missing. They’re only nine years old.” Lucy’s words came out in a gush as she tilted Jackie forward on her lap. “They look just like this little girl here, only one has a ponytail. They’re triplets. They were at the movie and didn’t come out. They —”

“Slow down, ma’am.” Plummer leaned forward, rubbing his shiny bald head, the color of mahogany. “What do you mean? They didn’t come out of the show? That must mean they’re in there. Why didn’t you just go in and get them out?”

A familiar feeling started to settle in the pit of Lucy’s stomach. How could she make him understand that she was not an ignorant black woman, unworthy of his time? When she was representing her clients as a social worker, Lucy felt empowered, but here, as an aging, overweight black woman, she suffered a surge of helplessness. The fact that Clarence Plummer, too, was black gave her little comfort.

“Sir, I’m afraid that they have been taken.” Lucy struggled to enunciate, her voice was shaking so.

Gulping another deep breath, she prayed that she was overreacting, merely oversensationalizing the situation. Certainly the girls would show up any minute and she’d have to apologize for her hysteria. To her surprise, Plummer leaned forward, elbows on this desk, and fixed his eyes on hers. “Ma’am, please, start at the beginning.”

“My other granddaughter, their cousin, Danielle,” Lucy nodded to the older girl, “took all three girls to the movies in the mall. Danielle and Jackie went to
Star Wars
and Sammie and Alex to
Night in the Museum
right next door. When the movie was over, Sammie and Alex never came out.”

“We were supposed to meet on the bench by the fountain.” Danielle spoke for the first time in a voice strained and low. Her brown eyes were smudged with mascara, and when she spoke, one hand kept twisting the charm bracelet on her other arm.

Lucy’s heart went out to her sensitive granddaughter. Danielle was spending her summer break from Vanderbilt with Lucy to help make sure her grandmother was okay after her hip replacement. Tears glistened against Danielle’s caramel-colored skin, and Lucy wished she had a packet of Kleenex to give her.

“Could I have your names, please?” Plummer pulled out a pad and selected a pen from the cluster on his desk.

“Jacqueline Monroe.” Lucy encircled Jackie with both arms. “Her sisters are Samantha and Alexandra. I’m Lucy Jones and this is my granddaughter, Danielle Evans.” Lucy explained how she lived in Auburn Hills, that Danielle lived in Nashville during the school year, and the Monroe triplets in Tampa. She told him that the children were in town with their mother to attend their aunt’s concert in Detroit last night. Their father, Scott Monroe, was on his way here from New York City.

Plummer, writing it all down, paused mid stroke. “Not
Scott Monroe, the Yankee catcher? His sister, Monica Monroe, my wife’s favorite singer?”

“Yes.” Jackie looked up at him, eyes brimming with tears. “Mister, can you find my sisters?”

There was now no doubt that Lucy had Plummer’s full attention.
Scott Monroe was still a revered figure in baseball circles even though an injury at the plate had ended his catching career eighteen years ago. “Dang. Yankees beat the Mets fifteen to zip today. He was at

Lucy nodded.

“He’s your dad?” Plummer scrutinized Jackie again. “Okay, let’s start from the beginning.”

“Danielle,” Lucy said, “I want you to tell Mr. Plummer exactly what happened.

Through tears, voice shaking, Danielle repeated the same information, telling Plummer how the foursome had split up just before going inside the theatre. Since the movies were shown side-by-side, Danielle did not think that there was any risk. They planned to meet outside the entrance to the movie theater where there was a prominent fountain surrounded by benches.

Star Wars
let out, she and Jackie had waited for a while, and then she’d taken Jackie and they’d gone into the
Night of the Museum
theatre to search for Sammie and Alex. The theatre had been dark and empty, and she’d persuaded the ticket collector to turn on the lights. The space was completely empty. Then they’d gone around asking everybody, but nobody had seen the girls leave. The ticket taker volunteered that the emergency exit had not been breached. Then Danielle called her grandmother. As soon as she hung up, she and Jackie kept asking people in the vicinity of the fountain and movie entrance whether they’d seen the two girls. Nobody had.

“I got here fifteen minutes after Danielle called,” Lucy said, “even though with my new hip I’m not supposed to drive.”

“Jackie and I looked everywhere,” Danielle said.

“Bathrooms?” Plummer asked.

“We checked. Every stall. They were not there. Not in the lobby. Not by the concessions. I figured they must be somewhere out in the mall.”

“Oh, where could they be?” Lucy interrupted.

Plummer creased his brow and gestured for Danielle to continue.

“So I asked Jackie. ‘Where would they have wandered off to?’ Jackie said, ‘Alex wouldn’t wander off, but maybe Sammie. Sammie’s always getting in trouble.’”

Jackie shifted in Lucy’s arms, and Lucy pulled her closer.

BOOK: And Then There Was One
10.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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