The Death Card: A Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery

BOOK: The Death Card: A Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery
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THE DEATH CARD

By

Dianne Harman

(A Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery
Series - Book 3)

Copyright © 2015 Dianne
Harman

www.dianneharman.com

All rights reserved,
including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form
without written permission except for the use of brief quotations embodied in
critical articles and reviews.

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

Website, Interior & Cover design
by
Vivek Rajan Vivek

Paperback ISBN: 978-1514851425

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I thank you, my loyal
readers, for making both the Cedar Bay and the Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series so
successful. Because of you I have been designated as an “All-Star” author by Amazon
based on book sales. I have also been named one of their most popular authors
for the last six months. Woo hoo! None of this would have happened without you!

Many of you have emailed
me to say how much you enjoy my books, as well as asking when the next book in
a series is going to be published. Trust me, it makes my day! Through your
suggestions I’ve become a much better author. I always appreciate reviews, and
I’d love to hear from you about this book or any of my other books. Feel free
to email me at:
[email protected]
.

I can’t thank Vivek Rajan
enough for his amazing covers and ability to effortlessly do the formatting
that’s required in publishing a book. Kudos for awesome work, Vivek! As busy as
he is, to do a turn-around in twenty-four hours for something that would
probably take me weeks, is really appreciated.

Among the blessings I
count is the support I get from my family and friends. I am very lucky! And as
always, many thanks to my best friend, my husband Tom, the fearless critic of
my books, who always stops what he’s doing to read the latest chapter I put on
his desk. He suggests changes, better methods, and spots errors I’ve missed. He
makes me look good!

And I would be remiss if I
didn’t mention, Kelly, my new six month old puppy. I’ve been thinking about
writing a book from a puppy’s perspective – kind of like, well, what would
happen if I pulled on that thread on the bottom of the couch? Honest, Dianne, I
didn’t mean to eat the bottom part of the couch. If you didn’t want me to eat
it, you should have told me! Uh huh! There are still areas in Kelly’s training
that have room for improvement!

Enjoy the book!   

Newsletter

If you would like to be
notified of my latest releases please go to
www.dianneharman.com
and sign up for my
newsletter.

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Liz Lucas, the owner of the Red Cedar
Lodge and Spa, was sitting next to one of the large floor to ceiling windows in
the great room of the lodge. Where she was sitting provided her with a
spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged Northern California
coastline. Sunset was just beginning as the sun started its slow descent over
the ocean, making the colors of the sky gradually turn from a soft pink to a
deep blue. It was her favorite time of the day, a time when she could take a
moment to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the lodge.

The guests staying in the
nearby cottages would be arriving shortly to enjoy the sunset along with the
wine and cheese that she and Emily had set out for them in the great room. Liz
and Emily had almost finished the preparations for tonight’s family style
dinner of grilled salmon served over a bed of spinach with béarnaise sauce,
accompanied by a rice pilaf. She smiled thinking how the salmon dinner with its
beautiful eye appealing presentation would soon generate numerous compliments
from the hungry guests. Her grilled salmon dinner was the signature dish of the
lodge and had even been written up by a reporter for the San Francisco
Chronicle who had spent time at the spa.

The reporter had given the
spa a five star rating and written in glowing terms about the lodge’s camp dog,
Brandy Boy. The ringing of her cell phone interrupted her reverie, and she
glanced at the screen to see if she knew who was calling.

Oh swell, just what I
need. A call from Seth Williams, the police chief of Red Cedar, and one of the
most obnoxious lecherous men it’s ever been my poor misfortune to know. So much
for the peace and calmness of the moment. He’ll probably want to tell me about
the Victoria’s Secret catalogue he got in the mail, and how he’s partial to
black lace or ask me if I’ve decided to accept his standing invitation to have
dinner with him. Yuck.

She sighed and answered
the phone. “Good evening, Seth.”

The man on the other end
of the phone didn’t sound like the Seth she’d always known. The obnoxious
lecherous man she knew was gone, and in his place was a man who sounded
absolutely terrified.

“Liz, I need to talk to
ya’. Would it be all right if I come out to yer’ place right now?”

“What’s wrong, Seth? You
sound different. Is everything all right?”

“No it’s not. Can’t talk
over the phone. I’ll tell ya’ when I get there. I need yer’ help.”

“Fine. I’ll see you in a
few minutes.”

Ten minutes later there
was a knock on the front door of the lodge. Winston, Liz’s ninety pound boxer,
looked up from his oversized dog bed when he heard the knock. Liz motioned that
everything was okay and for him to lie back down. She walked over to the door
and opened it. Standing in the doorway was the obese chief of police, his
uniform shirt stained as usual after his regular morning breakfast at Gertie’s
Diner. He was twisting the rim of his hat in his hands and clasping it so
tightly she could see the whites of his knuckles.

“Seth, come in. What’s
wrong? You don’t look very good.”

“Liz, Leroy’s dead. Been
murdered right smack dab in his office at the police station.”

“Oh no! Seth, that’s
terrible. Please, let’s go downstairs to my living quarters and talk. The
guests will be arriving momentarily for dinner, and I don’t want them to be
upset by this news.”

 She walked into the
kitchen where Emily was putting the final touches on the dinner and said,
“Emily, you’re going to have to take over for a few minutes. I’ll be downstairs
if you need me. You know what to do. Thanks.”

Liz motioned for Winston
to follow her and walked downstairs. Seth was standing inside her living room,
waiting for her. “Seth, sit down. Let me get you a glass of water. Tell me
everything. Do you know how it happened?”

The fat sheriff plopped
down on a chair and began to talk. “It bein’ Sunday, nobody else was at the
station other than Leroy. I’d been out all day ticketin’ speeders. That’s
always a good day to get ‘em. When I finished writin’ the last ticket for the
day, I went back to the station to see if anything had happened during the day
I needed to know about. Leroy works on Sundays, and I expected him to be there.
When I went inside the station it was real quiet. Couldn’t figure out where he
was cuz I’d seen his car in the place where he always parks. City could
probably make a lot of money by sellin’ the drillin’ rights to that parking
space to an oil company given the amount of oil his car drips on the ground.
Anyway, I yelled out for him and didn’t get no answer, so I walked down the
hall to his office.”

“No one else is at the
station on Sundays?” Liz asked.

“Nah. Figure I can save
some money for the city by not havin’ any support staff work on Sundays. Any
calls come in they’re automatically transferred to me. Anyway, I opened the
door to his office, and there he was, jes’ sittin’ in his chair like usual. His
head was tilted back, and his mouth was wide open, like he was asleep and
snorin’, ‘ceptin’ he was dead. Had a great big ‘ol bullet hole right in the
middle of his chest. Don’t know fer sure, but judgin’ from the size of that
hole in him, my guess is he got shot with a .45. I didn’t know what to do, so I
called ya’. I’m afraid people’ll think I did it.”

“Seth, why did you call
me, and why would people think you were the one who killed him?”

“Well, Leroy and me ain’t
been gettin’ along too well lately. Had a coupla arguments that people might’ve
heard. Had one over at Gertie’s the other day, and ya’ know what a rumor mill
that place is. Ya’ know I’m up for election in a few months. Leroy’s been
feelin’ his oats lately and talkin’ trash ‘bout how maybe he should be the
chief of police. Tol’ me he was thinkin’ of runnin’ against me. Can you believe
that? After all I’ve done for him? Anyway, that’s what we was arguin’ ‘bout.” 

“In that case I suppose
you could be considered a suspect. But why did you come out here and tell me?”

“I know you been seein’
that big shot criminal defense lawyer from Frisco. Thought maybe he could help
me. Also, ya’ been pretty good lately at solvin’ a coupla murders happened
‘round here. Ya’ got lucky when the mayor’s wife was murdered in one of the
cottages here at the spa, and ya’ also got lucky when ya’ found out who killed
Mark, that kid who was workin’ fer ya’. Thought maybe ya’ could help me find
out who killed Leroy.”

“You’re right, Seth. I do
have a good friend who’s a criminal defense attorney in San Francisco. His name
is Roger Langley. Let me call him and see what he has to say about this. He’s
the expert in these kinds of situations.”

She picked up her phone
and clicked on Roger’s number while Seth continued to turn his hat around in
his big beefy hands. She could see the perspiration on his face and the big wet
spots under the arms of his uniform shirt.

“Hi Roger. It’s Liz. I
need to pick your brain about something that’s happened here in Red Cedar. Got
a minute?”

“Of course, sweetheart. I
always have time for you and, if I don’t, I’ll make time. What’s up?”

She told him about Seth
and asked if he had any advice. “Yes. Let me talk to him.” She walked over to
Seth and handed the phone to him.

“Roger wants to talk to
you. I’m putting it on speakerphone.”

“It’s Seth, Roger. Liz
told ya’ ‘bout what’s happened. I didn’t know what to do, then I ‘membered ya’
were some hotshot lawyer who handled things like this. I don’t know if I need
to lawyer up, but thought ya’ might be able to tell me what to do.”

“First of all, does anyone
else know about Leroy’s death?”

“Nah. There weren’t nobody
at the station, bein’ Sunday and all. Blood looked pretty fresh so I think it
probably happened jes’ a little while ago.”

“Listen to me. First of
all, you need to call the county sheriff. At some point you’ll probably be
considered a suspect, so you won’t be able to handle the investigation because
of a conflict of interest. He’ll be the one who will have to handle it. Might
as well ask him to do it now, plus it will look good for you down the road. It
will show you’re not trying to cover anything up. Did Leroy have any enemies?
Can you think of anyone who would want to see Leroy dead? Do you have an alibi
for the last few hours? Did you touch anything in his office?”

“Ya’ asked if Leroy had
any enemies. Most people seemed to like Leroy, but he’s had a coupla people who
didn’t like him.”

“I’m sure we all have a
couple of people who don’t like us. Who didn’t like Leroy?”

“His ex-wife for one. She
sure couldn’t stand him. Had a little problem with his alimony from time to
time ‘cuz he liked to play the ponies, if you know what I mean. An alibi? Yeah,
I got one, but jes’ as soon not have to go into it,” he said abashedly.

Liz was watching the
police chief and noticed how he squirmed when Roger had asked about an alibi.
I
honestly don’t think Seth would murder anyone. He’s far more interested in writing
speeding tickets for tourists than he is in killing someone, but this sure
isn’t going to look good for him.

“Listen to me Seth, if
you’ve got an alibi, you better give it to me no matter what it is. It just
might save your bacon.”

Seth paused for a long
time and then turned away from Liz and whispered into the phone, “I was havin’
a tarot card readin’ at Madame Dika’s place near the edge of town.”

“You mean to tell me you
were there earlier today? Seth, you seem like the last person in the world to
do something like that. Will she vouch for you?”

“Don’t like to talk ‘bout
it much. Don’t know if she’d vouch fer me. She likes to keep her readins’ real
low key. Fer some reason she’s ‘fraid of the law. Took her a long time to let
me get a readin’. Don’t think she’d like gettin’ a lot of publicity ‘bout ‘em.”

“Well,” Roger said, “we’ll
cross that bridge if and when we need to. Back to my other questions. Did you
touch anything?”

“Nah. I jes’ called Liz
from my cell phone and high-tailed it outta there. Don’t much like the sight of
blood.”

“What about your own
personal gun? What kind of a pistol do you carry in your duties as chief of
police?”

“I usually carry a .45.
It’s a big gun, and I like it cuz’ it’ll stop a bull elephant if need be, but I
got’s me a little problem with that dang gun.”

“What do you mean you’ve
got a little problem?”

“Well, you see I was out
at Madame Dika’s last week to get me a special tarot card readin’ ‘bout the
election. She don’t allow no firearms inside her place, so I left my .45 in my
patrol car. When I came out after gettin’ my readin’ some jerk had stolen my
gun.”

“I still can’t believe you
got some tarot readings. Like I said, you’re the last person I’d expect to do
that. I guess you never know about people. Anyway, I assume you reported the
theft of your gun as soon as you discovered it, right?” Roger asked. 

“Well, that’s the second
part of the little problem I gots. Ya’ see it’s sort of embarrassin’ when the
chief of police goes and gets his gun stolen. Even more so when it’s stolen
while he’s getting’ a readin’ from a tarot card reader while he’s s’posed to be
on duty. Makes for bad press, and what with me bein’ up for election and all, I
decided not to report it. Thought maybe if I waited a little while the gun
might jes’ somehow show up, but now with Leroy apparently gettin’ killed with a
.45, it’s probably goin’ to make even worse press for me. That’s one of the
reasons I decided to go see Liz and see if she can do anything to make
something good out of what’s startin’ to look like a real bad situation for me.
That make any sense to you?”

“I understand the quandary
you must have been in when you discovered your gun had been stolen, but to be
candid with you, it would have been much better for you if you had immediately
reported the gun as stolen. Now let me talk to Liz,” Roger said. Seth handed
the phone to her.

“What do you think we
should do now?” she asked.

“I think you should follow
Seth back to the police station. Go into Leroy’s office and see if anything
seems unusual. Obviously, look for a murder weapon, pieces of paper, anything
the murderer might have left behind. When you’re finished, have Seth call the
sheriff and the coroner, and tell them what happened to Leroy. Ask Seth if
Leroy was married or had any children.” She turned and looked at Seth.

“Nah, after Leroy and
Donna got divorced he swore he’d never marry again. Had a girlfriend here and
there, but nothin’ lately and never had no children I knew ‘bout. If he did, he
probably woulda bragged ‘bout it. Matter of fact, he never mentioned havin’ any
relatives.”

“Liz, I don’t think any
more time should go by before Seth calls the sheriff. You two need to go down
to the station and call the sheriff as soon as you get there. Seth can tell the
sheriff you were going to meet him at the police station to see if he could
give you some advice about providing special protection for some VIP clients
who asked if they could get private protection if they stayed at the spa. Tell
Seth if he didn’t do it, and I believe he didn’t, the truth will come out, and
the murderer will be found. And Liz, take Winston with you and keep him with
you from now on. Whoever wanted to make it look like Seth did it may also be
looking to see who he talks to and who’s he’s with from now on.”

BOOK: The Death Card: A Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery
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