Every day dawns ripe with possibilities for intrigue when you’re a private investigator. That’s one of the things I love best about the job—that and dressing up in costumes for surveillance and pretexting. Last spring, I suspected my friend Olivia and my second cousin Sarabeth were being blackmailed. They clammed up and wouldn’t talk to me, so I followed them around for a few days to see if I could figure out the whys and wherefores. Some folks might call that sticking my nose into other people’s business. But when you think about it, that’s my job. And I had my reasons for prying into their affairs. They were tangled up in a case I was working at the time—my grandmother’s murder.
One afternoon during surveillance, I was trés incognito in a landscaper’s jumpsuit with my hair tucked under a safari-style hat, old work boots, and my biggest sunglasses. I shamelessly eavesdropped on Olivia and Sarabeth while in line for coffee at the Book and Grind. They had no clue who I was, and I stood right behind them. Anyway, I overheard them whispering about meeting someone in the park at five. I slipped out of line. The best way to keep someone from discovering you’re following them is to be where they’re going first.
When I walked through the wrought-iron gate into the park that occupies Stella Maris’s town square, my long-dead best friend, Colleen, waited for me. She sat on a bench, tucked into the shade of a magnolia tree, like any live person might sit, enjoying the azaleas and the annuals the garden club had just put out. She smiled and waved like she was expecting me.
I sat down beside her.
Colleen looked me up and down. She smirked. “Nice outfit.”
Spirits shouldn’t smirk. I mean, really, what do they have to be smug about?
Something caught Colleen’s attention and she sobered.
I followed her gaze and watched as Olivia and Sarabeth strolled into the park. They looked straight at me, then away. They proceeded into the park, talking to each other in muted tones.
I stood. “Let’s go.”
A winding path led to the fountain in the middle of the park. A brick walkway encircled the fountain. We followed Olivia and Sarabeth towards the fountain, but when they turned right on the circle walkway, we turned left. I went to the far side of the fountain, ducked behind a tree, and slipped behind a hedge of large azaleas. Colleen followed. Stooping slightly, I traced the hedge back around to the other side of the fountain until I heard voices. I crouched down, straining to hear above the sound of splashing water. Colleen didn’t bother to crouch. No one could see or hear her but me.
“Good afternoon, ladies.” A man’s voice carried through the bushes, but I couldn’t place it. “Wonderful day for a walk in the park, isn’t it?”
I parted the limbs of the hedge just enough to get a peek. It was Adam Devlin. Colleen’s brother-in-law—her sister, Deanna’s, husband. Colleen’s eye narrowed.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a wonderful day for anything.” Olivia’s voice was dry ice.
For her part, Sarabeth glanced nervously around, as if to see if they were being observed.
“Well now, that wasn’t very nice,” Adam said. “There’s not a drop of Southern friendly in your voice. You ladies stay calm, now. Anybody who sees us will just think we stopped to chat while taking an afternoon stroll.”
“Just get to the point,” Olivia said. “What do you want from us?”
“It’s very simple. All I want is your good will and cooperation.”
“Cooperation with what?” Olivia asked.
A weed-eater fired into action not thirty feet away, drowning out Adam’s answer. My eyes nearly popped out of my head in frustration. I wondered if Colleen could somehow hear—with some sort of super-sensitive spirit hearing—but from the squinched-up look on her face, I guessed not.
Whatever he wanted, it must have been right up there with their first-born sons, because I could read Olivia’s lips. “You want to do what?” Her face was the perfect image of genteel, righteous indignation.
Adam stood at an angle. His head rose and his shoulders shook with a chuckle.
“You have lost your ever-loving mind.” Olivia had impeccable enunciation.
Adam said something else and then sauntered off towards the East Main Street gate.
With dumbfounded expressions, Olivia and Sarabeth watched him walk away and then collapsed on a bench just on the other side of the hedge. I could have reached out and touched them.
The groundskeeper with the weed-eater moved farther away from us.
“This makes no sense,” Olivia said.
“Well, he’s obviously crazy,” Sarabeth said.
“What are we going to do?” Olivia asked. “We can’t let him get away with this.”
Sarabeth said, “If we don’t we’ll go to jail. Our children will grow up motherless. I say we do exactly what he wants.”
They say quietly for a few moments and then went home to make dinner.
Eventually I discovered exactly what Adam Devlin was after. But I had bigger fish to fry at the time, and to this day I haven’t figured out what he held over Olivia and Sarabeth. But I will. You can bet your mamma’s pearls on that.
You can read more about Liz in Lowcountry Bombshell, the second book in the “Liz Talbot” mystery series, published by Henery Press. The first book in the series is Lowcountry Boil.
dru’s book musing is giving away one (1) kindle copy of “LOWCOUNTRY BOMBSHELL.” Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends September 18.
Meet the author
Susan M. Boyer lives with her husband and houseplants in Greenville, SC. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil is a USA Today Bestseller, an Agatha Award winner for Best First Novel, a Macavity nominee for Best First Novel, a 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense recipient, and a 2012 RWA Golden Heart® finalist. Lowcountry Bombshell, the second Liz Talbot Mystery was released September 3, 2013. Visit Susan on the web at susanmboyerbooks.com
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.