BY: SHERRY FOWLER CHANCELLOR

Channing Booker, a compulsive gambler, drug abuser, and philanderer whose marriage is failing, finally gets lucky and wins the Mega Millions lottery. Expecting an imminent divorce, and hoping to hide his new fortune from his wife Susan, Channing devises a scheme to have a friend claim the $241-million jackpot and secretly return the money to Channing after the divorce is final. But Susan flees with all of her possessions, including the rare book in which Channing hid the winning lottery ticket. With time running out before the lottery ticket expires, Channing launches a desperate search to find Susan, but she’s covered her tracks well, fearing his retribution. In need of money to fund her furtive new lifestyle, Susan begins selling off her worldly goods, including her rare books, unleashing a chain of events that puts not only her life in danger, but that of her new love as well…

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Till Murder Do Us Part by Sherry Fowler Chancellor, Margot Jenkins is convinced that her sister was murdered by her husband. Margot’s brother-in-law’s second wife also died in the same manner. Now he’s married again, and Margot is determined to keep the third wife alive and make her brother-in-law pay for the death of her sister. The only problem? She’s not a cop and Pensacola, Florida, homicide detective, Richard Higgins, isn’t buying her theory. He tells her to leave the detective work to the cops, but Margot isn’t about to listen. She takes off on her own to get the evidence she needs to prove her brother-in-law guilty. The thing about murderers is that they often fight back and Margot is soon in over her head. Is she going to be the next victim?

Told in the author’s charming and unique voice, with a sweet little romance woven in among the subplots, this story is both a fun and suspenseful read that should appeal to mystery and romance fans alike.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Till Murder Do Us Part by Sherry Fowler Chancellor is the story of one woman’s quest to bring the murderer of her sister to justice. Our heroine, Margo Jenkins, is a former medical examiner who left medicine behind in order to focus on avenging her sister, who she suspects was murdered. When her brother-in-law remarries, and his second wife dies from an “accidental” fall, just like Margot’s sister, Margot is consumed with guilt and determined to stop the man before he can kill wife number three. Margot hires a private detective to locate her brother-in-law, who tracks him to Pensacola, Florida. But when she appeals to the Pensacola Police Department, the hot-shot homicide detective, sexy Richard Higgins scoffs at her theory—at first. But Margot is persuasive, and the detective reluctantly agrees to “look into it.” Not satisfied with Richard’s lukewarm response, Margot does some “looking into it” herself and is quickly in over her head and in hot water with the cops, the private detective she hired, and with the murder suspect himself. To complicate matters even further, there’s the attraction between Richard and Margot—something that neither of them expected or wants.

Till Murder Do Us Part is both a sweet romance and an intriguing mystery/thriller, a “who done it” with a twist. It will warm your heart while keeping you on the edge of your seat.

CHAPTER 1

“Death is a debt we must all pay.” ~ Euripides, Greek Tragedian, (c.480-406 BC)

“My sister was the first to die,” the lady said as she leaned across the beat up conference room table. Hands clasped together, she slid her arms forward, elbows scraping the metal edge of the surface.

“Are you here to confess to her murder?” Richard Higgins, a homicide detective with the Pensacola Police Department, asked. He had his leather portfolio open and pen poised to make notes. His captain sent for him when the blonde woman showed up at the precinct asking to speak to an officer who investigated murder cases. The type of person who came to the station unannounced with such a request was usually a nut job who wanted to confess to killing someone for some purpose–usually publicity or a misguided quest for fame.

This woman didn’t look the part. She was nicely dressed as if she were a professional of some sort. The navy blue suit and obviously expensive shoes weren’t the standard attire for a person who wanted to be known to the public as a criminal. Her haircut was also clearly not from the discount cutting place by the mall. The color of her eyes, a cornflower blue, distracted him, but only momentarily. Still leery, as it was never safe to assume anything in his line of work, Richard decided to play along and see where this was going.

“Let’s start with your name, please,” he said as he scribbled a bit on the page to be sure the pen worked.

“Margot Jenkins.”

“All right then, Ms. Jenkins–”

“Miss.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s Miss Jenkins. I’ve never been married.”

Okay, so maybe she was a nut job. Wasn’t that what he said? Richard leaned forward. “I thought that was what I said, ma’am.”

“Well, no, you didn’t. You said Ms. I don’t like Ms.”

“All righty then. miss it is. Now, can we get on with whatever brought you down here? Something about your sister, right?” Richard sat back, pulled the portfolio closer to his chest and prepared to make some notes.

“Like I said, my sister died first–”

“What was her name?”

“Geneva Murdock.”

“I guess she was married? Since she has a different last name?” Richard wrote the name with a question mark behind it.

The woman tapped the tabletop with her right index finger. Expensive manicure. Richard knew these things as he had a high maintenance ex-wife. “Yes. She was married to Paul, my former brother-in-law who I think is involved with her death.”

“What makes you say that?” Richard wrote down Paul Murdock. The name sounded familiar for some reason but he couldn’t place it at the moment.

“My sister died ten years ago in Reno, Nevada–”

“That’s out of my jurisdiction, Miss Jenkins.”

“Do you ever let anyone finish a sentence? You’ve interrupted me at least four times in the less than five minutes I’ve been here. That’s almost once a minute.”

She pushed the metal chair back on the tiled floor, scraping the legs across the area. Richard’s teeth clenched at the sound. He repressed the shudder but only barely.

Miss Jenkins stood.

“Sit down. My captain sent me in here to listen to what you have to say and–”

“And now you think you better take my statement? If I walk out of here and complain that you wouldn’t let me tell you what I want to say, you’ll be in trouble, right?”

Miss Jenkins still stood, her hand resting on the back of the chair.

Richard nodded at the chair. “Something like that, yes.”

“Protecting your Internal Affairs file?”

She smiled. What Richard would call an evil, smug grin. She had him there, and she knew it. He’d have to follow orders or be prepared to explain why not.

“You could say that as well. Go on.” He indicated the seat again with a tilt of the head. “Sit. Tell me how you think the PPD can assist you.”

Miss Jenkins returned to her seat. “Ten years ago, my sister was found dead at her home, lying at the bottom of the inside staircase. She lived in Reno with her husband and was supposedly happy in her marriage.”

“What was the official cause of death?” Richard was making notes, in case the woman followed through on her veiled threat to report that he wasn’t paying her proper attention.

“The coroner said it was an accident.”

“And you don’t believe it?” Richard glanced up at her. She had an intense look on her face and seemed on the verge of tears. Great. He couldn’t stand it when they cried. He shook his head. That wasn’t completely true. After all, he did enjoy it when his questioning got so intense that he made a suspect confess or get teary but this was different. The lady seemed too fragile all of a sudden. He noticed her formerly steady hands were shaking.

“I wasn’t entirely sold on the theory when it happened but since I wasn’t there, I didn’t get a chance to question it.”

“Why would you have been in a position to do that?”

“I’m a trained medical examiner. I actually don’t work in that field any longer, but I did for a year or two after I got out of medical school.”

“So, how does this Reno ruling of accidental death get you to Pensacola and who was the next to die?” Richard scrawled a note about her past as an ME.

“I’m getting to that. Would you please allow me to tell this in my own way?”

“Sure, lady, I have all day. Take your time. I mean, after all, there’s no other place I’d rather be than right here listening to you drag out this story for dramatic effect.”

Richard knew by the look on her face that he’d probably gone too far with the sarcasm but couldn’t she get to the heart of the matter sooner rather than later? He tilted his chair onto its two back legs and tossed his pen to the table.

“You must be one of the rudest men I’ve ever met.” She stood again. “I’m going to get someone else who will take me seriously.”

The front legs of Richard’s chair hit the floor with a clunk. “I’m sorry. I’m testy. Come, sit. Tell me the rest.”

She was really the testy one. Up and down out of her seat every time she got mad. It was as if he were in a room with a jack in the box.

“All right.” The woman let out a deep sigh as she took her seat again. “This is your last chance, though. One more smart remark, and I’ll be leaving as well as reporting your conduct.”

It was Richard’s turn to lean forward. “I hope you’ll understand when I tell you that I’ll give it my best effort not to wisecrack but since it’s an integral part of my personality, I might slip up.”

“Isn’t integral a big word for you to be using? Above your pay grade, so to speak?”

The look on her face told him that she was trying to bait him into pushing her buttons again so she could leave the room. He didn’t bite. Nope. Wasn’t going there. “What happened next?” Richard picked up the pen.

“After my sister died, which like I said, was kind of mysterious to me, her husband kept their house for a year and a half or so but then started dating this woman named Jill Sikes. He had kept in touch with me during that period when he was supposedly mourning my sister. He called me when he put the home on the market. He told me that he was going to marry this Jill woman and she didn’t want to live in the house where my sister had died.”

“May I interrupt you for a moment?” Richard asked in what he thought was a respectful tone. Or he hoped so anyway.

“Yes.” The woman smiled slightly. “And thank you for asking.”

“Can you explain more about how your sister actually died? You said she fell going down a staircase, right?” He flipped back a page to glance at his notes.

“That’s the thing. It appeared that way but it also seemed as if she could have fallen backward as she went up the wet staircase. It was hard to tell.”

“Why was it wet?”

“My sister was a competitive swimmer as a teen and young woman. The house she and Paul lived in had a pool that was right outside a set of French doors that led inside to a teak spiral staircase to the upper floor. My sister was found in her swimsuit with her hair still damp. Her swim cap was on the floor at the foot of the stairs. Blood pooled around her head and the way she was lying there was a little off to me.”

“What do you mean?” Richard was making notes again, even though the sister’s case wasn’t in his jurisdiction.

“I only saw the autopsy report and none of the crime scene photos so I can only go by the drawing on the report. It looked to me as if she were running up the stairs, slipped on a wet riser and fell backward. It may even be that she was running from an attacker as the French doors were open and there was no towel or anything to show that she had tried to dry off before entering the house. She was usually meticulous about that since the floor was ceramic tile and the staircase was wooden.”

“Okay. So, I have a better picture now. Go on. You were talking about a woman named Jill who was going to marry your brother-in-law.”

“She did marry him and they were married for a while–I’m not sure how long–they moved away from Reno and I didn’t hear from my brother-in-law again.”

“Ever?”

“Well, not directly. I did recently hear that Jill died and that Paul is now living with another wife here in Pensacola. I’m afraid that he’s going to kill her next.”

“Whoa. Wait a second. What kind of leap is that? You’re suspicious of whether or not your sister’s death was an accident, you hear that this Jill lady died and now all of a sudden, this guy is a multiple murderer? I don’t follow.”

“Jill died by a fall down the stairs as well. How often, really, does someone actually die from a fall like that? Wouldn’t they have contusions and bruising and maybe a subdural hematoma as opposed to dying?”

“I don’t know, lady. I’m not an expert on falling.”

“Come on, you’re a homicide detective, aren’t you? Think about it. How many deaths have you seen as a result of a fall down a staircase?”

Richard stopped to think about it for a moment. He’d been in the homicide division for five years and hadn’t investigated even one such case.

He tapped the end of his pen on the note pad.

“You can’t think of one, can you?” Miss Jenkins asked.

Or should he be thinking of her as doctor? Of course, she hadn’t said doctor when she insisted on the miss.

“I confess, I can’t, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.”

“I also think it unlikely that two young wives of one guy die in the same manner. What are the odds of that?”

“First, how did you learn about this Jill’s death and, second, let’s say the Murdock guy did have something to do with both deaths, why would he think he could get away with the same manner of death more than once?”

“I got an online message from someone who knew my sister and also knew Jill before they moved away from Reno. This message stated that Jill and Paul moved to New Orleans and bought some kind of mansion there in the Garden District. The person said he or she thought he paid for it with the insurance money from Geneva’s death.”

“Who was the message from?” Richard prepared to write down the name.

“It was from a fake account. I tried to follow the trail back to see who contacted me but I ran into a dead end.”

“Did you take it to a computer expert?”

“Not yet. I plan to. I was trying to get here in time to prevent another death. I have the laptop with me so if you know someone, I can use them.”

“I’ll see if one of our guys can look at it.” Richard jotted a note about that. “What did you learn about Jill’s death?”

“I took a day to go to the Times Picayune newspaper building and go through the archives. This girl fell down a flight of stairs in the home they owned–or should I say–he owned. It was titled in his name. There was a lot of blood but the coroner there also found that the death was an accident. I haven’t been able to get a copy of that autopsy report but I did see a picture of the scene that someone at the paper took and it seemed to me that the amount of blood was way more than probable from a fall like that.”

The woman’s face was ashen and even though Richard didn’t think she knew enough about the crime scene to make the leap to homicide, he got a vibe that she truly believed what she was saying.

“Did this same anonymous person tell you he lives in Pensacola now?”

“No. I found that out on my own.” The woman had been making eye contact with Richard as she talked but now refused to look at him. She ran her well-manicured right index fingernail across one of the ruts on the tabletop. She studied it like it was the medical board she had to pass in order to practice medicine.

“How did you learn where he is?”

Still not glancing up at Richard, Miss Jenkins said, “I hired a private investigator.”

“Is he the one who told you that your former brother in law is remarried yet again?”

She nodded.

“Where is this Murdock guy living?”

“In a house in Aragon. He paid cash for it. I think it was more insurance money.”

“You think?”

She finally looked him in the eye. “I’m pretty sure. Yes.”

“I find it odd that you suddenly seem less forthcoming. You were all gung-ho when you came in here, but now that I want to know why you’re really here and how the PPD can help, you’ve gone coy on me.”

“I can’t imagine what you mean.” The woman had the nerve to bat her eyelashes at him? Really? Did she think he was that easy to fool?

“I think you should tell me how you know these things like the life insurance being used to buy the home here and how you learned Murdock was remarried. I’m not sure what you hoped to accomplish by coming here today but, right now, I’m thinking you’re trying to get the PPD on your side so you can exact your revenge on this poor slob you think may have harmed your sister. If you get us to believe he’s some kind of wife-killing machine, you’ll have free rein to kill him yourself and then claim self-defense.”

Miss Jenkins leapt out of her chair so fast that the squeal of the legs on the tile that had previously caused Richard’s teeth to gnash gave way instead to a thud as the whole thing landed on its back. She pointed at him and screeched, “You jerk. You’ll pay for that.”

With those words, she spun on the heel of what he presumed were five hundred dollar shoes and surged through the door, allowing it to slam closed. The sound reverberated through the room.

Richard sat back with a smile on his face. He’d told her. Sure, he was probably going to regret it when his captain got through with him, but her smug attitude needed shutting down. It was worth the write up on his personnel jacket.

***

Margot stalked out of the police station without stopping to talk to the arrogant detective’s supervisor. She wanted to with all her soul but after the last moments of the meeting with Richard Higgins, she realized that she could very well be in legal trouble herself with the methods she’d used to track Paul Murdock to Pensacola. It was hard for her not to report the officer’s insubordination and rudeness, but she needed to protect herself from any charges.

At a loss what to do next, she got in her car and drove away from the police station on Hayne Street and made her way to Cervantes Street and the Coffee Cup. She’d grab a lunch special at the counter there and see if she could reach the investigator/hacker she’d hired to get his thoughts on her next move. She’d only been in town a few days but when a local recommended the diner to her, she ate there and loved it. Today she knew she would find the comfort foods of meat and potatoes it offered to be the perfect thing to ease her wounded pride. Wheeling in to the parking lot behind the place, she was surprised to find several local police cars there.

She got out of the car, hoping it was a favorite lunch place for the cops and there was not a crime in progress. Since the place was so close to the station, she presumed it was the first option. Shrugging and taking a chance they were open for business, she went in and found a place at the counter to sit. There was a table near the door with four police officers seated there. She nodded at them as she sat. Yep, had to be a cop hangout.

Pulling out her phone, Margot inhaled the smell of the delicious food cooking. It was fried chicken day, for sure, since that was the aroma permeating the air. She ordered the special with lima beans and collard greens. While she waited, she sent a text message to her investigator to meet her after lunch at Plaza Ferdinand. She closed her eyes and relived the meeting with the detective. In retrospect, she’d played it all wrong. She should have been friendly and calm, instead of letting him push her buttons. Her temper had gotten her in trouble more than once.

When she arrived at the grassy park on Palafox Street, Margot immediately noticed the investigator, Mike “Mitch” Mitchell seated on one of the benches facing the obelisk in the middle of the park. He was hard to miss since he wore a fedora as if he were a PI from the 1930s or something. It was an odd affectation, but he was so good at his job, Margot didn’t let it bother her. She’d found him online and even though he was based in New Orleans, he was familiar with the Florida gulf coast area as well.

Walking toward him, she watched as he fed a few pigeons that gathered around his feet. Why would he be feeding those rodents with wings? They carried all kinds of disease and she planned to set him straight on why he needed to stop encouraging them to be around people.

Before she arrived at the bench, Mitch turned his head toward her. “Good afternoon. What’s up?”

“How’d you hear me on the grass? I thought I was being quiet.”

He laughed. “Can’t sneak up on me. I have eyes in the back of my head.”

Margot took a seat beside the man and handed him a container. “Bull. I don’t know how you did it but my mother always said the same thing.”

“Mammas always say that.”

“And, apparently, so do private eyes.”

“We do, indeedy. How did the meeting at the PPD go, and what did you bring me?”

“It’s a piece of lemon pie. I thought you might enjoy it. The meeting was not so great.”

“Who’d you get? Who was on duty?”

“Some jackass named–“

“Let me guess, Richard Higgins?”

“How’d you know?”

“As soon as you said jackass, it was all over.” Mitch laughed so hard he almost choked. When he recovered, he said, “Been up against that ole boy before. He wouldn’t know me by sight as I stayed in the background in that situation but he was pretty tough to my associates in that case.”

“He didn’t look that old to me.”

“He’s in his thirties but I meant it as ole boy as in long time resident of the area with a family connections going back to the founding of the town.”

“Oh.” Margot nodded. “Got it. The old boy network. Great. That’s just great.”

“It’ll be okay. He’s bright. He might have given you a hard time today but he’s like that proverbial dog with a bone. If you planted the seed the right way, Rick will dig and dig until he gets to the truth. You’ll see.”

“I bolted when he started asking how we traced Paul here. I got scared.”

“Leave him to me. If he gets a burr up his rear over it, I’ll talk to him. Just don’t tell him I hacked into Murdock’s computer by tracing his email address.”

“I didn’t tell him anything. He doesn’t know who I hired.”

Mitch tossed out some more pieces of bread from his bag to the pigeons. “Higgins will figure it out. If he cares about the matter, that is. If you whet his appetite, he’ll be all about the meal. He loves a mystery and I hope you gave him one that made him curious.”

“I hope I did, too.” Margot touched Mitch’s hand. “Please stop feeding those nasty things.”

“They’re not nasty. They need love too.”

Margot stood. “Lord save me from a lover of plague-carrying vermin.”

“Even vermin have mammas, Margot Jenkins.”

“And fathers, it seems, Mitch.” She grinned. “It seems I can’t change your mind about feeding them, but if you get bubonic plague, don’t call me.”

“I won’t. Where did you decide to stay? In case I need you?”

“I’m at the Hampton on the beach.”

“Nice choice.”

“Thanks. I’ll call you later.” Margot returned to her car while Mitch continued to feed the birds. She watched him for a few moments, then drove away headed toward Aragon Court to do a drive-by of Paul Murdock’s house on her way out to the beach. Luckily, it was right on the way.

***

After the annoying woman left, Richard spoke to his captain about her allegations. He tried his best to blow off all she said as nonsense, but since there were no active homicides pending at the moment, the captain insisted they at least look into the situation to see if there was any truth to what she said. Thinking it was a colossal waste of time, Richard pulled up some internet sites on his computer and searched for articles related to the death of the woman in Reno as well as the woman in New Orleans.

The more he read, the more intrigued Richard became. Maybe the lady wasn’t loony tunes after all. There was a lot to consider by reading between the lines on the news stories as reported. Richard had experience with newspapers and how the journalists who covered the crime beat tried to say as much as they could get away with but dancing around other things–things that maybe the investigator or the prosecutor alluded to but couldn’t actually have on the record. The articles he read were leading him to believe there was more here that wasn’t disclosed than was.

Richard printed a few of the most intriguing articles, packed them into a file folder, and left the precinct. He headed down Gregory Street to the local library. He wanted to check out some books on psychology. He’d been to a class at the FBI headquarters in Quantico on criminal profiling, and he wanted to grab a few volumes to refresh his memory on the things he’d learned there.

Parking on the street, he entered the newly remodeled building. Glancing around, he was taken anew by the beauty of the sunlight shining through the large, rounded windows with the mullions. He appreciated the way the prisms of glass seemed to twinkle with the heat of the rays beating down through the clear surface. Since they’d redone the library with the mahogany shelves and the old railway clock, it seemed to Richard that the city was moving into a brand new architectural era. The downtown historical district had always had a strict policy on how the buildings could be renovated and presented. This seemed to be stretching outward into other areas of town, which was more than okay with him.

He spent fifteen or twenty minutes perusing the stacks for the books he wanted. Once he had them amassed, Richard stood in line to check them out. As he handed his selections to the librarian, someone called his name.

The blonde woman grinned at Richard as she stepped up to stand beside him at the checkout desk. “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be saving the world from crime?”

“Even superheroes need a break, Janette.”

“Please don’t disillusion me, my friend.” She tilted her head to read the spines of the books as the librarian handed them across the counter. She read them out loud. “When lovers Kill, Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer, Husbands Who Murdered Their Wives, and Till Murder Do Us Part.” Janette glanced up at Richard and back at the titles.

A half-smile played on her lips. “Is this light weekend reading or is there something going on in this town that I need be educated about?”

“Nothing for sure. Just something I wanted to research.”

With books in hand, he walked toward the exit but Janette wasn’t going to make it easy for him to leave without satisfying her curiosity.

She followed alongside him. “The fact that you said ‘nothing for sure’ piques my interest, Detective. I haven’t heard any rumors of any kind of serial killer on the loose. In fact, there hasn’t even been a homicide here in a couple of months. The last two were drug related in Brownsville and you caught both of those guys, so I fail to see what this is about.” She slapped her forehead. “Is it one of the cold cases you’re looking into? What made you think it’s a serial killer?”

Exasperated, Richard stopped in the middle of the parking lot. “Can you let it go? For once?”

“You know I can’t do that. What kind of reporter would I be if I let go the fact that Pensacola’s leading homicide dick is reading up on serial killers? Ones that appear to be married? Isn’t that usually not the case? Aren’t they normally loners?”

“Good grief, you’re relentless, aren’t you?”

“You already knew that, Richard.”

“I did but I also know that, eventually, you’ll give up. When the door is slammed in your face enough times, you’ll walk away.”

Tears welled in her eyes. “That’s not fair. That’s a low blow, and you know I didn’t want to walk away. I only did so that everyone’s sanity could be saved. I’d be back in a second if I thought it would work out. You know that, too.”

With his free hand, Richard reached out to Janette. When he touched her, she recoiled as if he’d slapped her. “I’m sorry, J. That was a low blow. I shouldn’t have brought all that up.”

“It’s never far from the surface, anyway. I wasn’t going to ask about it but now that you’ve broached the subject, I have to know. How is he?”

Her face had gone so pale, Richard was afraid she would collapse on the pavement.

“Come over here in the shade. I don’t want you to pass out and hit your head.” Richard led Janette under the closest tree. He set the books on the ground at his feet.

Janette leaned against the tree with her hands behind her back resting on the bark. “Is he adjusting to being home?”

God, he didn’t want to talk about this. His former police partner and roommate had been shot in a home invasion robbery when the two of them had still been on patrol. His best friend was now paralyzed from the waist down and had recently moved back to their house in East Hill from his stint in rehab learning to adjust to life in a wheelchair.

Richard ran his hand over his eyes before answering her. He relived that moment of the shooting in that split second.

“Philip seems to be adjusting all right. He’s able to get around the house. I had the countertops lowered while he was gone and that seems to help. I built a ramp as well. He’s doing fine physically.”

“And emotionally?”

The anguish in her voice wrenched at Richard’s heart. He shook his head ruefully. “Not so hot. Sorry.”

The tears flowed down her cheeks. “I wish I could make him understand–”

“I’m afraid he never will. It’s sad, hon, I know, but he’s adamant that he can’t bring you down with him. I’ve asked and asked him to let you at least come by and see him, but it’s not going to happen. He’s pretty stubborn as you know.”

Janette wiped her tears on the back of her hand. “I love him, Richard. I don’t know how to prove that I want him with or without the ability to walk. I want to be with him. As long as he’s still alive, I want to be part of his life.”

“I know you do but he can’t see past his own anger right now so we have to leave it alone for the moment. I hope someday he will come around, but you need to realize that he may never do so and get on with your life.”

“Easy for you to say. I’d feel like I’m abandoning him if I moved on.”

“Please don’t hold back for him. If you do, you may find you’ve let your life pass you by.” Richard leaned over to pick up the books. “I need to get going but do you want to go to lunch one day next week? We can talk then.”

“Let’s do that and we can compare notes on letting life pass us by because aren’t you doing the same thing? You’re not fooling anyone yourself, mister. It’s well known all over the city that Richard Higgins blames himself for his partner, Philip Segars being in a wheelchair. The detective does nothing but solve crimes and take target practice as if he could atone for his sins by being super-cop.” She shoved herself off the tree and whirled around to stalk away. Over her shoulder, she called out, “I’m going to figure out what you’re doing with those books, too. Look for my story on it in the paper.”

Richard shook his head. Janette was correct. She would find out what he was doing as she was dogged in her pursuit of a story once she scented one, and she was also right about his guilt about Philip. He didn’t think he could live his own life while the man he loved as a brother was so miserable in his.

Richard returned to his car, tossed the books on the passenger seat, and slid behind the wheel. He drove away and to the firing range. His second trip of the day. Yes, Janette was definitely right about the guilt.

© 2016 by Sherry Fowler Chancellor