Authors: Kate Sweeney
Dead in the Water
© 2015 by Kate Sweeney
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
ISBN 13: 978-1-935216-70-4
First Ebook Edition: 2015
This Ebook Is Published By
Walker, LA USA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Executive Editor: Tara Young
Cover design by Tiger Graphics
This is for all of you who have waited patiently for Kate Ryan to pop the question to Maggie.
You’ve muddled through all the murder, mayhem, and laughter. It’s an odd combination but seems to work for them, especially if Aunt Hannah has her way.
Thank you sincerely for being wonderful, loyal readers. I promise you won’t have to wait too long for the wedding.
And as always, many thanks to my editor, Tara Young. She’s the best.
“And this will work?”
The young technogeek adjusted his glasses, trying not to look offended. “Of course, it will work. I made it. That was the deal.”
The gentleman across the counter did not look convinced. “That doesn’t make me feel better. No offense, but I don’t trust you whiz kids.”
“And no offense, but do you know anything about this?” The young man motioned to the object on the counter.
“Not a damned thing.”
“Well, I do. And that’s why you asked me to do this. Not many can do what I did in such a short period of time. And with the limited resources I had. So I suppose you’ll have to take that big leap of faith.” He folded his arms across his chest and grinned. “And maybe loosen that tie? I like the hat, though. My grandfather used to wear one just like it. A fedora, right?”
The gentleman apparently didn’t get the joke or didn’t think it was amusing; the young man cleared his throat. “Okay then…You put down a sizable down payment. How would you like to pay the balance?”
“No receipts, correct?”
“That was the deal. Though I’m not very sure I like this. My partner will want to know where we got all this money.”
The man grinned. “Tell him Santa came early. And now that you mention it, this was supposed to be between you and me. Your dum-dum partner isn’t supposed to know anything about this. Personally, I don’t give a shit, but I like the money I’m making on this stupid deal. You’re the only one who designed this contraption, right?”
“Yep,” he said with pride. “I’m the only one. It took me two weeks of working at night. And if I may say, it’s a brilliant piece of technology.”
“Yeah, right. Who cares? Then why do you have to explain to your partner?”
“Well, the money. I should tell him something.”
“Why? It’s a cash sale. I thought I made our arrangement clear. You’re annoying me. And I really don’t want to get annoyed.”
“Okay, okay. I won’t tell him. So…” He looked down and concentrated on his computer. “Cash again for the balance?” When he didn’t get a response, he looked up. He was not expecting the gun pointed directly at his face. He flinched and leaned away. “Hey, what…?”
“What’s on the screen, moron?”
“N-nothing. I was just calculating how much you owe.” He hit a button, and the printer spit out a sheet, which he tore off. “See. It’s not a receipt. It’s just for your records.”
“Are you being funny? My records? What are you—some kind of an asshole?” He sighed deeply. “Moron.”
“Will you put that gun down? You’re fucking scaring me.”
“Good,” the man leaned in and yelled in his face, “because you’re fucking pissing me off!”
“W-why? There’s no need for this.”
“I told you no receipts. Gimme that,” he said, reaching for the receipt; he grabbed it out of his hands. “Now delete whatever is on that frickin’ screen, ya nitwitted egghead.”
“Okay, okay.” He quickly typed a few strokes on the keyboard. “What are you doing? We can negotiate the price—”
“Will you shut the fuck up? Sorry, kid. This has nothing to do with the price. I just can’t have any loose ends. And I have a feeling you’d be the loosest end I’ve ever had and blab to your business partner.” He leaned in and smiled. “The last time I was in this stupid city, I had to deal with a science nerd like you. Thought he was smarter than me. Nobody listened to me then, and I got shipped off…” He shook his head sadly. “You brainiacs are all alike.”
“You’re taking this very personally. But…Hey, wait a minute!” He frantically put his hands up and backed away from him.
As he turned to run, the man fired once, hitting him in the back of the head; the muted thump from the silencer was the only sound until the young man crashed into the metal cabinet that fell on top of him as he hit the ground.
The man picked up the box, surprised at its weight, then took out a handkerchief and wiped off any fingerprints that might have been on the counter.
“Sorry, kid,” he said absently as he looked around the floor. Finding it, he picked it up and slipped it into his pocket, then looked at the lifeless body under the cabinet. “Shouldn’t have made fun of the tie.”
He tucked the box under his arm. “I hate this frickin’ city.” He walked out of the shop, fading away unnoticed into the bustling Chicago street.
“See you tonight,” Maggie said, just before she kissed me.
I would always love the taste of her lips. And I loved that she didn’t wear lipstick; maybe on a special occasion, she’d wear that lip glossy stuff, but even then…I sighed like a lovesick jackass and pulled back. Reaching down for her hand, I saw my college class ring on her finger and had to smile. “Still wearing it, huh?”
“Yes. If you want it back, you’ll have to cut my finger off.”
“That was a little dark.”
She laughed and kissed me again. “You can’t have it back.”
“So no more discussion of this ring.”
I laughed, remembering the time I gave it to her.
“You’re thinking of that weekend at your reunion, aren’t you?” she asked quietly.
I cocked my head. “Will you stop getting into my head? Seriously. It’s unnerving.”
Maggie laughed and kissed me…again. “Too late. I keep telling you, but you never listen to me.”
We both jumped when Hannah banged on our office window. I could hear her maniacal laugh as she waved.
I grinned sweetly as Maggie and I waved to her.
“She’s insane,” I said, still waving. “And you’re related.”
Maggie let out that adorable contagious laugh. “You opened that Pandora’s box. I don’t know what you were thinking including Aunt Hannah and me in this PI business. You’re an awful masochist.”
“Hey, we’re partners, aren’t we?” I asked.
“Yes, thank God. But I’m sure you didn’t expect Aunt Hannah in the deal.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. You know that.”
Maggie grinned and caressed my cheek. “I do. And you’re sweet.”
“Are too. I’ll see you tonight. I love you.”
I pulled her into my arms, not caring that we were on Devon Avenue putting on a show for the morning rush hour traffic. “Only me?”
“Always,” she whispered.
“Only you.” I planted a good ole kiss on her lips that left her sighing. I still got it. I pulled back and kissed the tip of her nose. “Okay, Dr. Winfield. Go cure the sick.”
Maggie shook her head, mumbling as she walked to her car. “Kiss me like that, then expect me to drive? How can I treat patients?”
“Just remember to put the thermometer in the right end,” I called to her.
I laughed along with her and watched until she pulled away before I walked into the office.
“Good morning, Hannah.”
“That’s a lovesick sigh if I ever heard one. Good morning, Kate. You two had better watch that public display of affection. There are kids around. You two can even make some adults blush.” Hannah slipped the letter opener in the envelope and gave it a quick flick.
“Be careful with that thing. Is that silver?” I motioned to the letter opener.
“Don’t be silly. It’s only plated. Won’t kill a vampire. Or is that a werewolf?”
“Because we have so many in Chicago.” I poured a cup of coffee. “Coffee?”
“No, thank you, dear,” she said absently as she sorted what little mail we had. Then she grinned. “Bingo. We got paid from the last case.”
“Great. Now we can pay for that desk of yours.” I took a much-needed drink of coffee. “This tastes different. It’s delicious.”
“It’s a different coffeemaker than the old one you had.” Hannah looked up and batted her eyelashes. “More expensive and better coffee.”
“Of course, it is.” I tossed my keys on my desk and sat down. “Where’s Costello?”
“Maureen is having breakfast with Annabel.”
“So they’re talking again?”
Hannah chuckled. “They’re in love and just getting used to each other. You remember how you were with Margaret when you first met?”
“God, yes.” I swiveled around in my squeaky chair to face her.
“Ah-ha!” she announced as she tore at the brown wrapper.
“A letter from a prospective client?”
“Don’t be silly. My subscription to
Hannah sat behind her ginormous mahogany desk, in her plush leather executive chair, which did not squeak, both of which were annoyingly bigger than mine. There had been countless times since I started my PI business again when prospective clients would come into our office of Ryan, Costello, and Winfield Investigations—I know, I should have just called it Kitchen Sink Investigations and been done with it—and just assume Hannah was in charge of this operation, merely because of the size of her desk. I still didn’t know how she got it in this office, and I’d yet to see an invoice.
I smiled as she absently drank her coffee from her china cup, while she flipped through the latest edition of
magazine. Impeccably dressed, as usual, she looked very smart in her pale blue summer dress. And of course, the white trim matched her necklace and earrings. Her silver hair was brushed back away from her face in a casual, yet elegant fashion—Hannah Winfield was a strikingly handsome woman, with an enormously good heart and a wicked sense of humor.
“Anything else interesting?” I asked.
“No, just the fall line that’s coming out soon,” she said, leafing through the magazine. “Hmm. I’m not too fond of that one.”
“I meant in the mail, Miss Marple.”
Hannah looked up over her glasses and laughed. “Oh. No. Just the check. I’ll go to the bank later.”
Hannah went on and on, and God forgive me, I wasn’t listening. I was thinking about the discussion Maggie and I had the night before about our living arrangements. You see, essentially, Maggie had moved in with me long ago—without my knowing it or my consent, I might add.
One morning, I woke up and realized she had never gone home. There were some of her clothes in the closet. And lingerie in the dresser, which I did not mind at all. But I couldn’t remember when that happened, and I hated when that happened. It was so natural and so seamless—it was annoying. I might add that, as well.
But what could I do? I was in love, and I hated to see her leave. Everything just seemed so wrong and out of place without her there. Like I said, I couldn’t pinpoint when that happened. It seemed like it was always that way. Like I was in some love coma or something. Wait? What in the hell is a love coma?
“Are you listening to me?”
I looked up and laughed. “Sorry, Hannah. My mind was elsewhere.”
“On my niece, no doubt. You need a hobby.”
“I have a hobby. Trying to keep said niece happy.”
Hannah smiled. “And you’re doing a wonderful job. So what’s going on in that cavernous mass of yours?”
“Nothing,” I said with a shrug.
“Kate, this is me you’re talking to. There’s something on your mind. Now it was a valiant try. Spill it.”
We both looked up when Costello walked into the office, setting the little bell above the door jingling.
“Good morning, fellow PIs,” Costello said happily.
She had a big ridiculous smile on her Irish freckled face as she ran her fingers through her short curly red hair—she was disheveled.
“What are you smiling at? You look like a jack-o’-lantern,” I said, watching her.
“I just had a wonderful breakfast with Annie. We had a nice talk,” she said, still smiling as she sat behind her desk.
“And did you say you were sorry for being an enormous bore the other night?” Hannah asked.
Costello laughed. “I did, Hannah darlin’. I did. I even paid for breakfast.”
“Ah, young people in love. Good. I’m glad to see that Annabel is not swayed by your Irish charm or the brogue,” Hannah said, once again leafing through
. “Though your brogue is quite charming.”
“Ah, Hannah, you’re good for my ego. So what are we talking about?”
“Kate and Margaret.”
“Again?” Costello looked at me. “Don’t tell me, Maggie wised up and left ya for a younger woman?”
“Hey,” I said sternly while Hannah laughed.
“Ya know, I’m teasin’, Ryan. Go on. What’s happenin’ in paradise?”
I had to smile then because it was true; I was in paradise. The song of the same name by Nat King Cole started playing in my head.
She brings me to paradise.
Oh, brother, I’m whipped. “Nothing’s happening. Maggie and I just continued our discussion about our living arrangements.”
Costello and Hannah exchanged looks.
“What?” I asked, getting a little nervous.
“Is that going to change?” Hannah asked.
“What’s to discuss?” Costello said. “You’re living together.”
“No, we’re not.”
Hannah raised an eyebrow, then concentrated on her damned magazine. “Whatever you say, dear.”
“I’m serious. We’re not living together, like, living together. It’s more like we’re kinda—”
“Living together, living together?” Hannah suggested with a wide grin. “That does make a difference. I can see that now. You cleared that up wonderfully.”
I glared at both my companions. “Why do I bother?”
“I don’t know,” Hannah said thoughtfully, then resumed leafing through the magazine.
I was aware of Costello watching me curiously. “There’s something else.”
“No, there isn’t,” I said bravely. I withered under her scrutiny. Suddenly, I couldn’t swallow, and the room felt as though it was getting smaller. I looked for an open window.
“Yes, there is,” Costello said. “You’ve got that sick look on your face.”
This comment caused Hannah to snap to attention and put down the magazine. “You do have that sick look, like you’re going to faint. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong,” I insisted. Now my palms were all sweaty, and my heart was racing. Uh-oh…Maybe I was going to pass out.
“Yes, there is.” Hannah scooted from behind her desk and ran to mine. “You’re perspiring. You haven’t done that in ages. Are you having an anxiety attack?”
“No,” I said through clenched teeth. “I’m fine.”
“You are not,” Hannah said severely. “Maureen, come here. Look. She has tiny beads of sweat on her forehead.” She eerily pointed at me. “See?”
Costello rolled her chair over and peered at me. “She’s right, Ryan. Are ya sick? What’s up?”
I ran my hand across my brow—they were right.
“I’ve been thinking—”
“Aww.” Hannah nodded sadly. “That’ll do it.”
“I was thinking about…I don’t know.” I got up and started my ritual. I paced back and forth in front of the desks; my heart was still pounding. I absently rubbed my sternum. This had to be what an impending heart attack felt like. “You know I gave Maggie my class ring when we were at my reunion, right?”
“Yes,” they both answered slowly.
“And well, she hasn’t taken it off.” I stopped pacing and looked at them while they stared at me, which made me instantly self-conscious. “She…she hasn’t taken it off.”