Read Shampoo and a Stiff Online

Authors: Cindy Bell

Tags: #Cozy Mystery

Shampoo and a Stiff (8 page)

BOOK: Shampoo and a Stiff
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When Bekki arrived at the factory she was surprised not to see any other cars in the employee parking lot. In fact, she didn't even see Steven's car. The factory looked like it was locked up and hadn't been opened for business that morning. She was a little apprehensive, but she didn't want to miss out on talking to Steven. As she walked up to the factory, she noticed some flashing coming from around the corner of the employees’ only entrance. She walked towards it, and just as she suspected, the reporter was snapping pictures of a sign that had been posted on the door.

This company has been sold’

What are you doing here?” Bekki asked, causing the reporter to jump so high that he almost dropped his camera.

Oh, I heard the news about the sale and wanted to get a picture for my article,” he explained quickly.

Do you really think it's been sold?” Bekki asked as she studied the sign. It gave no information at all. She guessed that many of the employees had shown up for work and just turned around and went back home.

Looks that way,” the reporter shrugged.

Did you see Steven go in?” she asked hopefully.

I didn't see him, but I did notice a light on in his office. I knocked on the window but he didn't answer,” he tilted his head towards a motorcycle he had parked not far from the parking lot on the road that led up to the factory. “Can't actually park on the property,” he explained. “But I've got what I need so I'm heading out.”

Okay,” Bekki nodded as she watched him walk off towards his motorcycle. She stood in front of the door for a long moment. She knew that if she did what she planned to do she would be completely on her own with a man she was certain was a killer. But she wasn't willing to let it go. She knocked loudly on the door. As she expected, no one answered.

Steven!” she called out loudly enough that she hoped it would carry through the thick walls of the factory. “It's Bekki! I need to talk to you!”

She waited a few moments,
then the door swung open. She stared into the irritated expression of Steven Zane. He looked as arrogant as ever, and in a hurry.

What is it?” he demanded sharply.

The business has been sold?” she asked with surprise. “Were you going to tell your customers?”

There will be a letter sent out to everyone who currently has a contract with us. We will send out enough supplies for two months instead of one and then the new owners are going to take over deliveries.”

Well, that's all well and good, but what if they stop supplying the exact shampoo,” Bekki asked, pretending to be flustered. “I mean, I don't want to lose my chance at buying this shampoo.”

Sorry Bekki, but that's not really my concern,” Steven shrugged and started to turn back into the building.

Wait,” Bekki pushed the door open slightly. “Since you've already sold the company, why don't you just tell me what ingredient in the restoring shampoo does such a great job of stripping dye from hair?”

Hmm,” Steven smiled a little. His eyes began to shine. It was clear that he loved talking about the product he had created. “It's actually a combination of two. I guess it wouldn't hurt to give you the formula, but you have to promise me you won't tell anyone who gave it to you, okay?” he asked with a gleam in his eyes that convinced Bekki he truly thought he was being generous.

Okay,” Bekki assured him and followed him into the factory. The factory was a little eerie when it was empty with its big hulking machines silent.

What's going to happen to this place?” Bekki asked as she felt a touch of sadness.

I don't really know,” Steven replied as he opened the door to his office and allowed her inside. “The new owner might demolish it, or might use it for storage. They are moving production.”

Why is that?” Bekki asked.

Not enough nearby to warrant a factory,” he shrugged. “Most businessmen want their factories close to large cities so they will pay less in shipping.”

waited until Steven closed the door to the office. Once he had rounded his desk and sat down, she stepped further into the office.

I'm surprised that you found a buyer so fast. Weren't they thrown off by Brad's death? Was it Mr. Blake that finally made the right offer?”

slowly raised his eyes to hers. He held her gaze for a long, painful moment before he slowly shook his head.

No, they're still interested. I signed the paperwork this morning in fact,” he narrowed his eyes as he continued to stare hard at her. “How do you know about any of that?”

Oh, I just heard some rumors around town,” Bekki explained with a slight shrug. “You know some of your employees live near the salon.”

Oh,” he nodded and continued to look at her as if he was waiting for her to explode.

The odd thing,” Bekki continued and tapped her fingertip on the end of his desk. “Is that from what I hear, Brad had no interest in selling the company.”

sat back in his chair and created a steeple with his fingertips. He remained completely silent as she continued to speak. “I've been told Brad wanted to keep the company small and local. He didn't care about the big dollars.”

Well, he wasn't the one paying the bills,” Steven pointed out, his voice a little rough around the edges. “He acted like there would always be enough, cutting extra checks for the employees, throwing lavish holiday parties. I told him enough is enough, you're going to break us,” he sighed and then closed his eyes briefly. “Brad was a dreamer. He just wanted to be loved by everyone. He didn't think about the long term or the consequences of being everybody's buddy.”

Not very business minded,” Bekki nodded as if she understood. A silence fell between them, that was soon filled by Steven.

I'll print out the formula for you, so you'll have it,” he began tapping the keyboard of his computer.

I'm sorry, I don't know if I've said this, but I'm very sorry for your loss,” Bekki murmured as she sat down in front of his desk.

Thank you,” Steven said quietly. “Brad was a bit of a screw-up, but he certainly didn't deserve to die,” his voice wavered slightly as he spoke those words.

Sounds like you two didn't get along too well,” Bekki pressed. On instinct she pushed the button on her phone that would start a voice recording. If Steven let slip that he was having problems with his brother that might be enough cause to bring him in for questioning.

We used to,” Steven admitted solemnly. “When we were kids we did everything together. We rode bikes, chased girls, hell, we even went to the same college. That's why it seemed so natural for us to just decide to go into business together. I had no idea what a mistake that would be,” he added sadly and gazed distantly at the computer screen.

The business seemed to do well,” Bekki pointed out, hoping to get a little more information out of him.

Because I was always putting out his fires,” Steven ran his fingertips along his forehead as the printer came to life. “He would make promises to the employees that there was no way we could keep, so I would have to go behind him and clear things up. It was a mess. But the company kept growing. So, when I started hearing from some businessmen that were interested in buying out the company, I thought we had really lucked out,” he grimaced. “Unfortunately, Brad didn't feel the same way.”

He refused to sell,” Bekki murmured. “Even after you worked so hard to build up the company. That must have been very hard for you to deal with. I mean, you did all of the work, you cleaned up his messes, and then finally you have the chance to have it pay off and you can get a break from all of the stress you've been under, but instead of being happy about it, Brad got angry.”

met her gaze again, his lips moving silently for a moment as if he was recalling something.

All I wanted was for us to have some success. We could live off the profits from selling the company. He could start his own little business if he wanted to. I could have my freedom again. But he was so damn selfish,” he growled and pounded his fist hard on the desk. Bekki's heart skipped a beat as she sensed that her original suspicions had been one hundred percent correct. “I had always made the right choices,” he explained as he looked up at her. “So, I decided to continue offering the company and just keep the meetings with potential buyers a secret.”

So, Brad had no clue that you were still considering selling?” Bekki asked casually as he handed her the sheet of paper.

No clue at all,” Steven insisted as he remained in the chair.

None of the employees ever let it slip?” Bekki asked without looking up from the paper she was holding.

No, they knew better than to risk it,” Steven sighed and shook his head.

So, that's why you were at the factory on Sunday night, meeting with a buyer?” Bekki pushed without looking up.

Wait, what?” Steven narrowed his eyes sharply. “How do you know about that?”

You told the police you weren't at the factory. You also said Tom wasn't there. You also said Brad wasn't there,” Bekki finally looked up at him and met his gaze coldly. “But all of those were lies, weren't they?” she demanded.

You have no right to come here and accuse me...” Steven began, his voice rising with outrage.

You were here with Mr. Blake, and Tom didn't want to lie to Brad. So he called Brad, and he told Brad what you were doing here,” Bekki stated flatly.

You're going to take the word of the prime suspect in my brother's murder, over mine?” Steven laughed and ran his hand along his tie. “I don't think that's going to hold water.”

Oh, but it might,” Bekki leaned forward slightly. “When I prove that Mr. Blake left and you and Brad were the only ones here. You were alone together when Brad died.”

What a terrible thing to say,” Steven replied quietly.

He confronted you. He demanded that you stop trying to sell the company. You were already angry because Tom refused to do what you asked, and angry that you'd been embarrassed in front of Mr. Blake, and angry that you were having to deal with your idiot of a brother,” Bekki stood up from her chair and laid her hands on the desk between them.

was silent as he glared at her.

So you argued,” Bekki continued in a more casual tone. “Of course you did. You were trying to stand up for yourself. You wanted to make sure that you got what you worked so hard for. But because you had trusted your brother, you had gone into business with him, you couldn't do anything about it without him signing on the dotted line. He just wasn't going to do that.”

He had these ideals, but they weren't ideals, they were just foolish notions that made him feel like a good person,” Steven laughed at that. “He was the good person, but I was the one making the right choices.”

He must have been pretty angry when he showed up at the factory,” Bekki sighed as she walked towards the storage room behind the office. “And you two were all alone? All he had to do was listen to reason.”

That's all,” Steven insisted with a fierce thump of his fist against the desk.

All he had to do was sign the paper!” Steven nearly shouted as he stood up from his chair. “I begged him! I told him I was missing out on my life. I wanted out from under this business!”

Maybe, he could have bought you out?” Bekki suggested as she backed towards the door of the storage room.

No, he didn't have the money for that. He blew every penny he earned on those women he was with, or whatever sob story passed him on the street. He had no idea how to handle his finances, and then when he ran low on cash he would come to me,” he laughed again and shook his head. “But, I was still the bad guy!”

How frustrating,” Bekki pushed and laid her hand on the knob of the door. She felt it wiggle under her grasp, as she expected it would. She kept her hand on it, to keep it still.

You have no idea,” Steven growled and reached up to tug lightly at his hair. “He drove me crazy. I told him, just sell the company, we can start a new business, anything he wanted to do. He kept saying it wasn't about the business, it was about the employees, the town, blah blah,” Steven crossed the distance between the two of them and his expression became decidedly more aggressive. “If he had just listened to me for two seconds, if he had just understood what I was saying to him!”

BOOK: Shampoo and a Stiff
6.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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