Here’s another excerpt from the third book in the Seasons Mystery Series, Desperate Season. It follows closely from what I posted in March.
I hope you enjoy reading these excerpts, and I’d love any feedback you are willing to give. If you’d like to get the first two books in the series, Open Season and Stalking Season, they’re available for many reading devices from Draft2Digital. And at Amazon: Open Season Stalking Season
Angel consulted the address that McGregor had given them for the dead girl, Felicity Santos, and told Sarah to stop in front of a white clapboard house. The patrol officers had apparently already been there to break the news to the family, and it hadn’t taken long for grieving relatives and friends to gather. There were several cars in the driveway, and one on what pretended to be a lawn. People clustered in groups of two and three, leaning on older cars, holding each other, some crying in great heaving sobs. The first time Angel had seen the way Hispanic people react to death she had been surprised to see how closely it resembled her own cultural experience. They mourned with great drama and in great numbers. No family suffered loss in solitude or very quietly.
“Too many people. Maybe we should wait until the parents are alone,” Sarah said as she eased the car to the curb.
“That won’t happen for a long time.” Angel opened the passenger door. “Let’s just do it.”
Angel nodded to the people on the grass and the couple on the porch as she led the way to the front door. None of them spoke. They all had red, swollen eyes, ravaged by weeping, and she sent them silent messages of understanding. She rang the doorbell and a few moments later, a young woman opened the door. She was slim with long ebony hair down to her waist and large brown eyes that were carrying their own load of sadness. “Yes?”
“Mrs. Santos?” Sarah asked.
The woman shook her head. “She is my sister. I am Juanita Rios.”
“We need to talk to her,” Angel said. “And Mr. Santos.”
“He is not here. He went with the officers to… you know… say for sure it is Felicity.”
“I see. We are so sorry for your loss.” Angel showed the young woman her badge and introduced herself and Sarah. “May we come in?”
“Certainly.” Juanita stepped aside so the detectives could enter.
There were more people inside, and despite the open windows that created a cross-current of the cool spring breeze, the front room was stuffy. Too many bodies in such a small space, adding heat and the sweet-sour smell of nervous perspiration. A woman that Angel took to be Mrs. Santos sat on a sagging orange sofa with a man on one side and a woman on the other.
While the younger sister was all lines and angles and wore tailored black slacks and a pale blue silk blouse, the elder was as round and plump as a beach ball encased in a dress emblazoned with large bright flowers of red and orange and purple. Her dark hair was pulled back in a bun. Juanita hurried over and spoke to the trio, then the man and woman got up, motioning to the others in the room to follow them out.
Juanita beckoned the detectives to come closer, and introduced them to her sister, Camille. Then she, too, started to leave.
“No,” Camille said. “Stay.”
Juanita looked at Angel as if to ask permission, and Angel nodded. Then she turned to the distraught woman on the sofa. “We are so sorry for your loss, Mrs. Santos.”
“When can I bury my baby?”
Angel faltered for a response, glancing at Sarah.
“It could be several days,” Sarah said. “We need to make sure we get every scrap of evidence from the—”
“What evidence?” Juanita asked, as if sensing it was a question her sister wouldn’t ask, but would want to know.
“Anything that will help us find whoever did this.” Sarah said, using that no nonsense tone that Angel was quite familiar with. Juanita gave a slight head bob, as if bowing to authority, and Angel nodded to Sarah to continue.
Sarah took a step closer to the women, maintaining eye contact with Camille. “Do you know how your daughter died?”
“Yes. The other police. He tell me. But I no understand. Quién mataría a mi bebé?”
“My sister asked who would kill her baby. We’re all having a hard time with that,” Juanita said, her English much better than her sister’s. “My niece was an honor student. Active in the church youth group. We are at a loss to know how this could happen.”
“Did you know Felicity was going to the park?” Sarah asked.
“Si. She go practice soccer,” Camille said. “She practice every day. With her friend, Maria.”
“My niece is on a club soccer team,” Juanita said. “She works…worked… hard. She wanted to make the Olympic Development team.”
“Did you notice any changes in her behavior of late?” Angel asked. “Any signs that maybe she had gotten involved with drugs?”
“No!” Both women spoke at once, then Juanita patted her sister’s hand. “Felicity was dedicated to sports,” Juanita said. “She would not do drugs.”
“Often the family doesn’t know,” Angel said. “Especially in the beginning. And that park is noted as a hang-out for dealers.”
Juanita acknowledged the veracity in that with a slight head bow but then straightened her spine. “Still, I wouldn’t believe it of my niece. She went to play soccer. Nothing else.”
“People are not killed for no reason,” Sarah said. “There has to be something.”
“Could it have been a drive-by?” Juanita asked.
“How do you know?”
Angel sucked in a breath. How could she tell a grieving mother that her child was basically executed? That was one of the reasons they were pursuing the drug angle. Despite the protests from family, it was possible that Felicity had gotten into some trouble with a dealer.
“There was nothing at the crime scene that indicated a drive-by,” Sarah said.
Angel shot her partner a glance that said, “thank you,” then turned to the mother. “Did Felicity have any new friends? Anyone who might have pressured her into trying drugs?”
“I not know of such amigos.” Camille paused to dab at a tear that had escaped and crawled slowly down a smooth amber cheek. “My girl busy always. No time for bad things. Maria no do bad things.”
“Mrs. Santos…Camille.” Angel reached out to touch the woman lightly on the knee. “We are doing everything we can to find out what happened, but we have very little to go on. So, we have to consider that maybe she was involved in something she shouldn’t have been.”
“I no understand.” Mrs. Santos looked from the detectives to her sister, then back to Angel, her eyes wide with alarm.
“Very young teens are doing drugs now. That’s a fact. There’s a new drug that is inexpensive and easily available.”
Juanita leaned forward. “Are you talking about Cheese?”
“You know about it?” Angel asked.
“I wish I didn’t, but I teach at the local middle school. Kids there are taking it. We had two students OD on the drug in the past six months.”
Next time I post an excerpt, I’ll pick up from here. I hope you enjoy your weekend as best as you can. Stay safe. Stay well. Be happy.