I just poured beer all over my hoodie, tore a hole in my T-shirt, and scuffed my running shoes beyond repair. Yet, as I look in the mirror I see a man who is still too clean-cut. Maybe a little mud will help? I don’t have time to grow a three-day beard. My best friend, Layla Freemont, is in trouble—that is, if she isn’t already dead. She was kidnapped out of the law library at Florida State University last night.
The police are on the job, but I can’t wait for them. Besides, they think I kidnapped my own best friend.
I dab some mud on my face. Yes, that’s better.
Over my shoulder, an elegant black cat named Trouble watches with interest as I smudge more dirt over my chin. He leaps down and rips my khaki pants with his claws, although he doesn’t hurt me. I can’t decide if he’s trying to help my disguise, or if he’s expressing discontent at being held inside my house. I shred the cuffs in the pants for good measure, and pat Trouble’s sleek head. In return, the cat gives me a baleful stare, followed by a loud meow.
Trouble should be thanking me, not complaining. After all, earlier today I rescued him from a police vehicle where the detectives had locked him. Trouble had unlocked the car for me, and turned on the siren, but he couldn’t push open the heavy doors. Even a smart cat like Trouble needs a person now and then. Lucky for both of us we escaped before the detectives returned. I’m already in a mess with the law, and what I’m about to do tonight might only dig that hole deeper.
Pardon me, let me introduce myself. My name is Victor Rutledge, and I’m a third-year law student at Florida State University College of Law. I hate law school. But for reason I don’t like to discuss, I was forced to resign from my commission in the Navy, and landed in law school as an early mid-life correction. But all that’s rather beside the immediate point.
As I already said, my best friend Layla is trouble. Layla is brilliant, feisty, beautiful, but she’s also a thunderstorm. Like me she is a third-year law student, and she clerks after school at a Tallahassee law firm. She’s also fighting mad with me because I tried to caution her on a personal matter. When she wasn’t speaking to me, her apartment was damaged by a fire.
After the fire, a young lawyer, Abby Coleridge, invited Layla to stay with her temporarily while the apartment was repaired.
Now, let me tell you about Abby. First time I saw her, I knew she is one special lady. Okay, okay, maybe it was her red hair and her big hazel eyes that first attracted me. Abby is seriously cute. But once I began to know her, I also saw what a fine human being she is. After all, Abby invited Layla to stay with her in her own home for an indefinite period of time out of the sheer compassion in her heart. Talk about your random act of kindness. And Abby and Layla weren’t even friends, just two women who worked at the same place.
Of course, Abby began to question the wisdom of her rash invitation. First of all, Abby is a quiet, neat freak and Layla is a thunderstorm. Abby is cautious and deliberate and thinks before acting. But Layla is…well, she’s a thunderstorm. Yet the two odd-couple roomies were soon brought together when Trouble the black cat landed in Tallahassee and adopted them both.
When Layla was mugged in the back of the law firm by a homeless man, Trouble sprang to an unorthodox rescue. Abby thinks Trouble is some kind of detective, and I admit he appears to understand things at a deeper level than I’d expect from a stray cat. And, yes, he did find that hidden pearl earring in Layla’s padded bra. But I found Layla’s pink flash-drive taped to the back of the toilet tank, and Abby found another pink flash-drive in a cereal bar box. So we are all more or less even on finding clues.
But it’s the bloody ransom note that has us all really freaked out. No one has yet come forth to clarify the ransom demands, and time is running out on Layla. In addition to all the blood in the bathroom where she was kidnapped suggesting she’s injured, she’s an insulin-dependent diabetic. Abby, Trouble, and I have to find her and quickly.
Aside from the flash-drives, with their cryptic information, and the pearl earring Trouble keeps pushing at us, our only other clue is the homeless man who mugged her and tried to steal her backpack.
That’s why I’m dressing up as a homeless man. I’m going out to the streets and the shelter, looking for her mugger.
He shouldn’t be too hard to find. He’s the one with the cat scratches on his face.
You can read more about Victor in Trouble in Tallahassee, the third book in the “Familiar Legacy” mystery series.
An earnest young woman attorney’s random act of kindness leads to fiery consequences.
THE LAW CAN’T PROTECT HER – –
Young attorney Abby Coleridge opens her home to a troubled law student after a fire destroys the woman’s apartment. When the student disappears, leaving behind a blood-splattered note and a stash of cryptic flash-drives, Abby sets out to find her. Soon, a murderous arsonist threatens them both.
Law student Victor Rutledge, a former Navy officer, knows more than he’s telling. So much so that his offers to help Abby seem suspicious. When police reveal his scandalous past, Abby doesn’t know who to trust.
Trouble, the black cat detective, lands in Tallahassee, Florida in the nick of time! Can he sniff out the salient clues and push Abby and Victor in the right direction and into each other’s arms? Can he save them—and—himself from a fiery end?
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Meet the author
Claire Hamner Matturro used to be a dog person. But then she rescued a black kitten from a dumpster, and there was no going back. She’s been a journalist in Alabama, a lawyer in Florida, an organic blueberry farmer in Georgia, and taught at Florida State University College of Law. She spent one snowy winter out west where she was a visiting professor of legal writing at the University of Oregon. She now lives with her husband and two rescued cats in Florida, where it doesn’t snow. Her books are: Skinny-Dipping (a BookSense pick, Romantic Times’ Best First Mystery, and nominated for a Barry Award); Wildcat Wine (nominated for a Georgia Writer of the Year Award); Bone Valley and Sweetheart Deal (winner of Romantic Times’ Award for Most Humorous Mystery), all published by William Morrow. She remains active in writers’ groups and contributes regularly to the Southern Literary Review. Visit her at www.clairematturro.com, on Twitter, Bookbub, Goodreads, Amazon book page, and on Facebook
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