Hickory Hills #2
A trip to America to visit her best friend, Quincy, is just what Tomi Kanai needs to break away from her parents’ rigid rules. Stumbling across a dead body on her first day in Hickory Hills turns her dream trip into a nightmare. As Tomi navigates the choppy waters of life in America, the killer is watching and has zeroed in on his next target—Tomi.
P.R. Montgomery has his life mapped out—a law degree, prestigious job, plenty of money, and marriage, someday. But when he finds his mentor murdered, P.R. is torn between his charted path and a risky detour with Tomi. Making the wrong decision will put Tomi’s life in peril.
As the killer closes in, Tomi has to draw on her new-found freedom and inner strength, but will that be enough to save her?
Friends Together, a romantic suspense, is book two in the Hickory Hills series. Friends Forever, book one, was selected as a finalist for the 2017 Nancy Pearl fiction award by the Pacific Northwest Literary Association in Seattle, Washington.
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Some people were born lucky. Others had to make their own luck. Today Lady Luck needed some help, thought Bucky as he sneaked down the graveled alley, rocks crunching beneath his tennis shoes. He tugged on the brim of his black baseball cap, pulling it down not to keep out the sun, but to make sure no one would recognize him.
Crisp September air nipped at his face. Jacket weather. Perfect to conceal the gun tucked into the waistband of his black jeans. The SIG Sauer was just a precaution. He didn’t plan to use it.
He stopped at the rear entrance to the yellow-brick building. His eyes shifted left and right, checking the alley to be sure no one was in sight. Satisfied, he slipped on his gloves and twisted the knob. The door didn’t budge. He extracted a credit card from the pocket of his black nylon windbreaker and slid it between the jam and the door. Click. The lock released.
A block away, the clock on the courthouse steeple bonged nine times. Most of the residents of Hickory Hills would soon be gathered at the white clapboard church overlooking the town to pay their last respects to Miss Lucille May, the town librarian. He would be in and out of the law office before the funeral began.
Slithering inside, he blinked and waited for his eyes to adjust to the windowless darkness. On his right were shelves stacked with office supplies. He turned to his left. Bingo. Large metal file cabinets lined the other three walls.
The job would be easy. Find the file he wanted and take it. First, he needed to make sure no Unlucky Lou had come in to work on Saturday morning.
He tiptoed through the hall and into the next room. A massive mahogany desk sat in the center of the office with floor-to-ceiling shelves of leather-bound law books behind it. The plush gray carpet was a stark contrast to the wooden floors in the hallway and file room. It muffled his steps as he crossed to the opposite door and peered into the reception area.
The black leather chair behind the computer on the counter was empty. Cha-ching. A rush charged through him the way it did when all those beautiful red cherries lined up on a slot machine.
He retraced his steps to the windowless room, closed the door, and flicked on the switch. Fluorescent lighting flooded the area. Circling from cabinet to cabinet, he spotted the drawer he needed and tugged it open. He rifled through the folders, lifted one out, and placed it on top of the file cabinet. He flipped through the papers, perusing the contents. His eyes widened as he focused on the document and slipped it out.
The opening door behind him creaked. He whirled around, dropping the papers.
Filling the doorway stood the lawyer, Jackson Wenzel. His signature fedora covered his gray hair. “What do you think you’re doing in my files?” Jackson didn’t wait for an answer. He reached into the pocket of his navy blazer and pulled out his phone.
Instinct took over. Bucky grabbed the gun from beneath his jacket, aimed at Jackson, and pulled the trigger.
The bullet drilled Jackson’s neck. Blood squirted from the wound. Jackson’s mouth flapped open, garbling his words as the phone slipped from his fingers and clattered onto the floor.
His hands reached up, flailing, as he tried to staunch the blood pumping from his carotid artery and squirting onto the wall. He teetered backward and, like a felled tree, thudded into the hallway, his fedora toppling off behind him.
Bucky jerked away from the spray of blood. He waited until it no longer spurted from the wound before he inched toward the body. Jackson’s legs jerked. His eyes appeared milky and flat. Something gurgled in his throat.
Bucky jumped and laughed nervously. The strange sound was a death gag. Jackson’s chest labored up and down. The blood continued to pump out of the hole, soaking into his shirt and blazer. He wasn’t dead, but his body would bleed out in minutes.
Maybe the saying was true. After the first murder, the others were easy. Bucky had spent months planning his first kill, agonized over every detail. With Jackson he’d merely reacted. If he was caught, he wouldn’t fry. Illinois no longer had a death penalty but living in a cage might be worse.
Think. Think. Think. The stakes were too high to fold. Maybe he could still fix this unfortunate complication.
Bucky slipped the gun into the pocket of his windbreaker and bent over. He gripped the lawyer’s ankles and tugged. The body slid a few inches. He heaved harder and dragged Jackson across the wooden floor, leaving behind a trail of blood. When the body no longer blocked the threshold, Bucky picked up the fedora and pulled the door closed.
He gathered the bloodied papers he’d dropped and stuffed them into his jacket. Then he opened the nearest file cabinet and randomly tossed out folders, scattering them around the room.
His eyes wandered to the supplies shelved on the opposite wall. No paint brush. He spotted a box of magic markers. Magic was just what he needed, a little sleight of hand to help the cops in this podunk town piece together the clues.
One tiny detail worried him—the kid who had ridden his bike over to see Miss May last week. What was the boy’s name? Jason. Yes, that was it. Bucky didn’t want anything bad to happen to Jason. But if Jason had an accident, maybe it would be a blessing. The kid wouldn’t have to experience the ugliness of life.
Bucky steadied his hand and pulled a red magic marker from the box. He marched over to Jackson’s body, leaned down, and lowered the tip into the pool of blood, letting it soak up the sticky red liquid. Then he placed the marker in the center of Jackson’s forehead.
With one swift swoosh, the red streak zigzagged across his forehead above his bushy gray eyebrows leaving a big bloody red Z.