Murder in the Bahamas: An Anna Winters Cozy Mystery (Murder in Parasise Book 2) (2 page)

BOOK: Murder in the Bahamas: An Anna Winters Cozy Mystery (Murder in Parasise Book 2)
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Chapter 2

 

 

“So, what is the game plan?” Pauline asked. “I can’t believe Mr. Puccio is having you handle a murder investigation again. Aren’t there police in the Bahamas who can handle all of this?”

Anna looked out the window. Detective Mateo Newhold was already starting his investigation and was hovering over the body. A tall man with jet-black hair, and piercing blue eyes, he had an eternal scowl on his face.

Behind him, the beautiful moonlight reflecting off the white sandy beaches seemed to be in stark contrast to what was going on.

“Detective Newhold is out there working.” Anna replied. “I am sure he’ll do a great job, too. Detective Maese did a good job. The detectives know what they are doing but Mr. Puccio seems to worry that they will uncover something about the hotels in the process. Plus, they are overwhelmed with their own caseload. So, when I step in—”

“You are meddling.” Pauline laughed.

“Fine, when I meddle, I am helping to speed up the investigation process.” Anna smiled and winked. “You can’t fault me for trying to make things happen, can you?”

“I guess not.” Pauline sighed. “Just promise me that no one is going to pull a gun on you this time.”

“I didn’t expect that from Nancy Henderson.” Anna replied. “But, I’ll do my best to make sure I don’t have a gun pulled on me this time. Now, I want to talk to Wendy Lukic.”

“Good luck.” Pauline smiled.

With that, Anna turned to head down the halls of the hotel. As she stepped into the lobby, she marveled at its beauty. The floor was white marble that gave the building regal feel while long red carpets gave clear paths for the guests to walk on. The front desk was an oak counter with a golden brown marble top.

This place was pure elegance and she loved having the chance to work here. Walking to the elevator, she pressed the tiny white call button. It turned crimson beneath her finger. As the doors opened, she was greeted by Jackson Wellington.

“A gracious good day, Anna.” Jackson replied. A smile crossed his face.

Anna smiled and nodded at the man. He looked sharp in a well-pressed red suit with copper buttons and a hat on his white streaked black hair, which stuck out a bit from beneath the hat, an oversight on his usually pristine appearance she opted not to bring to his attention.

“Good day, Jackson.” Anna replied, giving the man a hug. “How are things with your family?”

“Wonderful!” My daughter I haven’t seen in 3 years is coming into town this weekend. She’s bringing my grandson and her husband. I will be meeting my son-in-law and grandson for the first time. We are repairing our relationship, I am just so happy. My wife is making all of her favorite foods!” His words were warm and excited.

“I hope you have a great time with them.” Anna replied and hugged the man again. “You are so kind. She is lucky to have a father like you.”

“I am just glad we can move on from the past.” he replied with a twinkle in his eye. “I would have never forbid her to go to that college had I known how good it was for her. But she is a bright, beautiful woman. It was the best thing for her.”

“It’s wonderful you are able to recognize that now.” Anna smiled.

“Now, where are you headed off to?” Jackson asked.

“I need to go to the honeymoon suite.” Anna replied. “I have a young woman I need to visit there.”

“Ah, yes.” Jackson shook his head and frowned. “That poor young woman who lost her father today. Wendy. She was very shy when I tried to speak with her.”

“I’m hoping she will be more open with me.” Anna nodded.

“Why would you want to talk to her about the death of her father, child?” Jackson shook his head. “You should leave her alone and allow her to grieve. That’s why the police are here.”

“Mr. Puccio has made it my job to solve the murder.” Anna replied.

“Well, you are a very intelligent girl. He is putting his faith in the right person.” Jackson sighed.

With that, the man closed the doors and took Anna up to the 10th floor of the building. Anna patiently stood next to the man, engaging in small talk as the elevator went up, then as she exited, she smiled and nodded again as she went into the hallway.

The hallways on each floor of the hotel were relatively the same. The carpeting was a light golden brown, the walls a radiant white. On the walls were fine pieces of artwork that added to the sophisticated nature of the hotel. A few windows were strategically placed that allowed visitors to see spectacular views of the surrounding ocean waters. Carefully set golden curtains at the windows added to the ambience.

Walking up to the honeymoon suite, Anna knocked on the large wooden doors. “Go away, please.” Wendy’s soft voice squeaked.

“Wendy, I am here on behalf of the hotel.” Anna called back. “I would like to talk with you, if that is okay?”

There was a moment of silence and then Wendy poked her head through the door. Her eyes were surprisingly clear and a look of annoyance was on her face.

“I have nothing to say.” the young woman coldly replied. “Please, just let me spend some time alone.”

Ignoring the woman, Anna made her way into the room. It was full of expensive furniture and a Chandelier hung above their heads. The crystals captured the moonlight coming in from the large double windows to the side, allowing the crystal to sparkle enchantingly.

Anna met Wendy’s eyes and the two of them stood for a moment, sizing each other up.

“We need to talk about your father.” Anna began. “It’s important to determine who killed him. I know you want to know who killed your father. You seem like a passionate young woman who has her focus on doing the right thing. At least, I think you do. I could be wrong?”

“No, I would like to know who killed my father.” Wendy replied. “Then, I want to buy them a big drink and thank them for their help.”

Anna took a step back in shock. “What are you talking about?” she finally managed.

“My father used his blood money to pay for my wedding.” Wendy began. “He assumed that throwing his money around was enough to make up for years of sins.”

“What kind of sins?” Anna pressed.

Wendy stood there for a moment and just looked at Anna, her face grimacing as she relived the painful memories of her past. Finally, the young woman shook her head.

“You need to leave.” Wendy sighed.

“I am trying to figure out what’s going on.” Anna replied. “If you have any information, we can find the killer faster.”

“I don’t care if the killer is caught.” Wendy replied. “I know you think I am a terrible monster, but you don’t know the hell I’ve been through. Now, if anyone is going to catch a killer, it will be the police. That’s their job. Yours is to make food and cater events. Don’t inflate your own self-importance to me.”

Anna took a step back. “I’m here because the hotel asked me to step in. I solved a murder not long ago. I can help you.”

“Solving a single murder was likely a chance situation.” Wendy replied coldly. “I don’t see you as the super sleuth type. You came into my room, not knowing if I had the low moral standards it takes to kill another person. You could have just stepped into your own death.”

“Did you kill your father?” Anna asked. “Is that what you are hinting at?”

Wendy shook her head. “No, I don’t want to talk about it.”

The sound of the honeymoon suite doors opening startled both women and they turned their heads. Branko looked at the women, surprised to see them there. Sticking an envelope he had in his hands into his jacket pocket, he looked at them.

“Why is the help bothering you?” Branko demanded. “Aren’t you responsible for catering? Our event is over, leave my wife alone.”

“Wife.” Wendy smiled. “I love how that sounds coming from your lips.”

Walking up to Branko, she kissed her husband softly. Anna looked on with a smile on her own face. The love was real and certainly not just for show.

“I am here to talk to her about her father.” Anna offered. “Right now, I am investigating his murder.”

“Yes.” Branko nodded. “You have a reputation. I heard about the other murder you solved. It had me regretting working with you. I didn’t know if death followed you, which it clearly does.”

“This is purely a coincidence.” Anna replied.

Wendy shot her a disapproving glance. Branko turned to his wife. “Just answer her questions. The longer we drag this out, the longer it will take to start our honeymoon.”

“The police aren’t letting anyone come or go.” Wendy sighed. “We are stuck here until their investigation is done. We could be here for days.”

“We have a flight to Paris leaving tomorrow.” Branko snarled. “This is just great. That man just keeps ruining things, even in death.”

“If you talk to me, I can speed along this process. The killer is among us.” Anna replied. “I just need to paint a picture of the victim and gain a better understanding of him.”

“Everyone hated him.” Branko shook his head. “He had no friends and he was horrible to his own daughter. Wendy, tell her what he did to you.”

“There is no need to speak ill of the dead, Branko.” Anna whispered.

“No, I’ll tell you what happened.” Wendy sighed. “I was 12 and my father and I were travelling through Minnesota in the middle of winter. We panhandled during the day and stayed in the car to help warm ourselves. Before a snowstorm hit, we stocked up on supplies and we went out into the woods to an old cabin we had found. We had plenty of firewood to make it through the storm and had food and water. After making the fire, my father got a call on his cell phone. It was from an investor who wanted to meet with him. My father agreed to go back into town. That was the last time I saw him for 8 years. The investor asked him if he could fly to an office in the United Kingdom. He agreed and the desire to make money overcame his desire to care for me. Two days later, the State Police came after having reports of someone being on the property and took me into foster care.”

“I’m so sorry.” Anna replied quietly.

“I’m not done.” Wendy continued. “My foster parents saw me as slave labor. My job was to cook, clean, and make sure their needs were always met. I had one set of nice clothes that I was only allowed to wear when my caseworker checked in on me. The woman was too stupid to realize it was the same clothing each time I saw her. Maybe she didn’t even care. But they cashed the checks they received for my care and lived a good life because of me. My father made millions and could have taken me out of the nightmare I was going through.”

“How did you finally escape?” Anna asked.

“It was on my 18th birthday.” Wendy paused. “Although, I didn’t realize it was my birthday. It had been years since I knew what day it was beyond a few holidays that would come up. I was at the market when Branko saw me. He approached me and tried to talk to me. He was startled by my actions and because of his past, he understood Stockholm Syndrome. Realizing I had the classic signs, he decided to help me break free. I took the $50 for groceries and ran away with him. All I had was the clothes on my back, which was all I really owned. He bought me new clothes, let me have a real haircut, and he showed me that people don’t always leave you and they do care.”

“Won’t you stand to get the money from your father’s estate?” Anna asked.

“I’ll inherit millions, yes.” Wendy sighed. “But it’s all blood money as far as I am concerned. I don’t need it.”

“I think that is all I need for now.” Anna smiled. “If there is anything else, I’ll be in touch.”

“She didn’t do it.” Branko boomed. “Don’t think she did it for the money. She doesn’t care about money. We wanted a simple wedding. It was her father ’s idea to throw this event. We agreed because she wondered what it would be like to visit the ocean. That’s why we are here.”

“That’s fine.” Anna nodded. “I’ll leave you both alone.”

With that, Anna exited the Honeymoon Suite and headed for the stairwell doors. She didn’t feel like taking the elevator and this would allow her the chance to clear her mind. Looking at her watch, she noticed it was already nine in the evening.

Making her way to the bar in the lobby, she scanned the faces of the people there. People seemed disinterested in anything other than nursing their drinks.

“I’ll have a glass of red wine.” Anna replied to the bartender, who nodded.

Handing her the glass, Anna decided to step out onto the beach. She thought about how the situation she found herself in. Another person had died, Pierre and Cassandra were still going at it, and it seemed like Deja vu all over again. Taking a sip of wine, Anna sat down under a palm tree and watched the brilliant glow of the moonlight upon the beach.

Chapter 3

 

 

Anna decided to go for a moonlit walk along the beach. The fresh salt air and ocean water were helping to calm her mind considerably. Looking up, she marveled at how bright and sparkling the stars were in the sky. She thought the night sky looked like diamonds scattered on blue-black velvet. Part of her wished for the peaceful calm of space rather than the frantic pace that the rest of the world seemed to be full of. At least in space, reception guests wouldn’t be murdered by people they knew. At least, she hoped that would be the case.

Deciding it was best to head back, Anna walked directly toward the hotel, past the white tents that had been used for the wedding earlier in the day. As she walked by them, she heard the hushed whispers of a man and what sounded like Wendy.

Stepping carefully and quietly, she walked up to the tents. The quiet Bahama night was unforgiving and each step she took made a muffled but audible sound, but the two people in the tent appeared to be preoccupied with whatever they were up to.

“I’ve missed you terribly.” the man whispered.

“I don’t like having to do this.” “Your brother would never understand.” Wendy whispered back.

“But does it matter? He will eventually find out, won’t he?” the man demanded.

“No, it isn't a good idea to ever let him know. We can go on with it without him knowing anything about it. He can never find out, understand?” Wendy replied.

Peeking through a small hole she found in the tent wall, Anna saw Goran Lukic kissing Wendy on the lips. Anna quietly gasped and quickly covered her mouth.

“Did you hear something?” Wendy asked cautiously.

“It’s probably just the wind coming in off the ocean.” Goran replied.

Anna peeked through the hole again. A little older than Branko, Goran was the spitting image of his brother. They had the same jet-black hair and chocolate brown eyes, and both seemed to think the bushy unkempt moustache was a good look for them.

But perhaps most shocking was that Wendy was already cheating on her husband and it was their wedding night. The low morals the woman seemed to have suggested she might actually have been more than willing to kill her own father. After all, she did blame him for the misery she endured for six long years in foster care. Who is to say she didn’t plan to take the money and give herself a long vacation away from her husband with his brother?

“I love you.” Goran leaned in to kiss her again.

“Thank you.” Wendy smiled.

Anna was taken aback. An affair on the wedding night with the brother of the groom, but she couldn’t return a simple I love you. There was more to this affair than meets the eye. Perhaps the brother was a pawn in some other scheme she had up her sleeve.

It was at that moment she stopped and caught herself. Anna remembered the last time she saw a couple kissing and jumped to conclusions. It almost ended her career and she knew she needed to avoid confronting anyone before she was absolutely certain. If there was an affair going on between them, it was for them to deal with, not her. She needed to focus on the things that actually mattered right now, like finding out who killed Charles.

Walking carefully, she made her way back toward the hotel. She wanted to become lost in the stars again as she walked, but curiosity weighed heavily on her mind. She wanted to talk to Wendy again and see if she could get her to open up more. Maybe she could get some honest answers out of her later on.

As she approached the outdoor pool, she noticed a couple of men sitting by the water. Their voices were low and their arms were darting around frantically. Even though she knew she shouldn’t, Anna approached the fence and crouched behind a bush to see if she could get a better idea of what was going on. After all, it could point her in the right direction to find out who the killer was.

“Are you sure you managed to cover everything up?” the first man asked.

“I’ve taken care of everything.” the second man replied. “You need to understand that I’ve dealt with these things for years. You don’t have anything to worry about.”

“What about long term security?” pressed the first man. “What do you have planned for that? I need to know what all of my options are. No one can ever find out about this. You don’t know the trouble it would cause.”

“I’ve been doing this for years, you just need to calm down.” the second man responded. “The more you let this eat at you, the worse it is going to get. You need to be careful is all.”

The first man turned his head. He looked past where Anna was crouched and kept searching that area. She recognized his face. It was Branko. The second man turned his head to see what Branko was looking at. His head was bald and his eyes were tiny. A scar ran across the right side of his face and he looked dangerous.

“What are you looking for?” demanded the bald man.

“I thought I heard someone.” Branko replied. “I don’t need my wife finding out about this either.”

“No one will find out about it.” the bald man snapped. “If they do, we’ll take care of it. I’m not worried about it at all so don't you worry either.”

Anna decided she had heard enough and crept along the hedges on her way back to the hotel.

Carelessly, she stepped on a stick and it snapped beneath her foot. “Who’s there?” She heard the bald man shout.

As they knocked over their chairs and ran for the gate, Anna ran along the bushes. Hearing their shouts as they pushed the gate open, Anna knew if she was caught, she’d be dead. Inhaling deeply, she continued to push as fast as she could for another few yards as the towering hotel drew closer. Knowing that if she hit the main backdoor, they’d see her, she darted into the shadows and ran along the perimeter to the kitchen’s entrance and slipped in through the door. The room was empty except for a few pots on the stove that were keeping the food warm until the kitchen closed down at midnight.

Leaving the kitchen, she took the stairs to the second floor and went to her room, looking over her shoulder in fear the men would come down the hall and see her. Keeping her head low, she didn’t finally breathe until she was in the door and collapsing on her bed.

“Thank God.” she whispered.

A few hard thumps on her door sent chills through her body. They had figured out who it was and they were on the other side of the door. Trembling, Anna walked over to the door and placed her hands on the wood. Closing her eyes, she took hold of the knob, opened the door, and took a step back, bracing herself to be hit in the head.

“You are so weird sometimes.” a friendly voice laughed.

“Pauline.” Anna opened her eyes and smiled. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

“I’m going to guess you are already hard at work sticking your nose into things and making enemies.” Pauline laughed. “So, how many guests want you dead already?”

“Hopefully, none.” Anna replied. “But you never know. Some of these guests have a shady past. I saw Wendy making out with Goran.”

“She was making out with Branko’s brother?” Pauline shook her head. “That woman is a mess.”

“Well, her husband isn’t much better.” Anna replied. “He was talking with a shady looking bald man with a scar on his face.”

“Wasn’t Branko in the Serbian mafia?” Pauline asked.

Anna nodded. “He was, according to Charles. Let’s do a web search for him and see just how involved he was.”

Reaching into her dresser drawer, Anna pulled out her laptop and fired it up. She opened her browser and pulled up a search engine.

“Are you sure you want to know the details?” Pauline pressed. “Sometimes it is better not learn someone's past. It often makes things seem worse than they really are.”

“People don’t change.” Anna replied.

“That’s not true.” Pauline shook her head. “I’ve known some very wicked people who turned their lives around. When the good in people is nurtured, they will do amazing things.”

Anna looked at her friend and began the search.

“There are millions of hits. I don’t know where to begin.” Anna replied.

“Maybe start with the first one.” Pauline laughed.

Anna clicked on the link. A picture of a younger Branko appeared without the moustache on his face. His face had a look of pure evil. Anna could feel her heart pound.

“Well?” Pauline asked.

Anna scanned the text of the document. She began to paraphrase out loud.

“Branko Lukic was thought to be a top hit man for the Serbian mafia.” she began. “During his time as their lead, he was estimated to have killed an estimated 25 people. However, all of his crimes were neatly tied up so that no one would ever pin the crimes on him. He would eventually leave Serbia after testifying against several other mafia members and found refuge in the United States. Although some have attempted to put hits on him, no one is brave enough to come face to face with the man, knowing how deadly he is. His favorite method of murder was poisoned alcoholic drinks.”

“Poisoned drinks?” Pauline whispered. “Just like the poisoned black rum?”

“It would seem that way.” Anna nodded.

Anna scrolled down further and gasped in horror. There was a man in another picture next to Branko. The man was Darko Pancev.

“Who is that?” Demanded Pauline.

“That is the man Branko was with at the pool.” Anna replied. “They were talking about something illegal. I don’t know what yet, but I am going to find out. They almost caught me spying on them. From the looks of things, if they had caught me, I’d be a dead woman.”

“Which explains your odd way of opening the door.” Pauline laughed. “Do you think they knew it was you?”

“I don’t think so. Although, my red hair always makes me stand out.” Anna whispered. “What if they put two and two together and realize it was me?”

“There are other guests wandering around who have red hair, Anna.” Pauline sighed. “You shouldn’t spend your time worrying about this. I don’t think you are in any kind of danger.”

“But what if I am?” Anna replied. “Branko said he knew who I was when I was talking to Wendy. Is it possible that he researched me in advance and knew I was someone who needed to be taken out?”

“I doubt he sees you as a threat.” Pauline said. “Look at all the murders he got away with. If he wanted you dead, you’d be a goner by now.”

“No, if he wanted me dead, he’d take his time to take me out.” Anna responded. “I have no doubt in my mind that he’d toy with me for as long as he could until he found the perfect time to kill me.”

“So, what do we do until you get everything figured out?” Pauline asked. “Just sit around and wait for one of us to become his next victim? Imagine the damage he could do if he poisoned one of the sauces in the kitchen!”

“There is only one reasonable thing to do.” Anna sighed. “We need to put it in his mind we have no idea who he is and he is the last person I’d suspect. Otherwise, we’ll have another funeral on our hands. Mine.”

BOOK: Murder in the Bahamas: An Anna Winters Cozy Mystery (Murder in Parasise Book 2)
11.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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