Authors: Katie Graykowski
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Cozy, #Crafts & Hobbies, #Romance, #Romantic Comedy, #Romantic Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense, #Mystery, #Contemporary, #kindergarten, #children, #elementary school, #PTO, #PTA
Mustang Ridges isn’t a town, a stripper, or some old western movie. She’s a feisty, single mom living in the small town of Lakeside, Texas where money does buy happiness and keeping up appearances is much more important than the truth. Six months ago on her thirtieth birthday, her husband decided that married life, fatherhood, and his job as the Lakeside Chief of Police weren’t as exciting as a permanent vacation to Grand Cayman with his mistress and a million dollars in diamonds he stole from the police evidence lockup.
Mustang is a pariah in a Lakeside full of piranha. But she refuses to leave—this is her home, and she figures that if she can’t join them, then she’ll beat them at their own game. With a little luck, some intimidation, and the help of her good friends Monica and Haley, Mustang presides over her own little slice of Lakeside, the Bee Creek Elementary Parent Teacher Organization.
All is quiet in Lakeside until Molly Miars, the kindergarten teacher, is found dead. According to the new police chief, she overdosed on heroin. That doesn’t explain why her head was the only body part to make it to her funeral. Mustang and her fellow PTOers don’t buy the heroin overdose for a second.
Vowing to do right by Molly, the PTO decides to investigate.
Quickly they find that Lakeside isn’t the quiet, sleepy town it appears to be. There is a dark side—money laundering and drug trafficking. When Mustang’s name turns up on a contract killer’s hit list, things go from bad to worse. Can she and the PTO stay alive long enough to find out who killed Molly Miars?
Rest in Pieces
Copyright 2015 by Katie Graykowski
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photo—copying, recording, or otherwise) without written permission of the copyright owner of this book.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
For Paul…because you make me laugh.
This book didn’t write itself and no, I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to write a mystery. This book has been in me for years, and thanks to some wonderful people, I was able to write it. Thank you to my Ruby Slippered Sisters who told me that it was okay to write a mystery. The biggest thank you in the world to Jane Myers Perrine my good friend, mentor, cheerleader, and ledge–talker–downer. Thanks to Austin RWA for giving me the confidence and skills to write. Thank you to Tracy Wolff and Emily McKay for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Thanks to Salon Bellezza—Lindsay Kelly, you rock! To my stylist, Andrea Garcia, thanks for lending me your name—you are a talented, patient, and kind person. For Rachel Lane—I love your hair! For my mother and two brothers, family is the most important thing…sorry that I forget that sometimes. For my husband and daughter, thanks for making me laugh.
Thank you to my proofreaders, Rhonda, Sandra, Ella, Liz, Becky, Sherry, and Allison.
And thank you to my fans. Your emails keep me going.
If the world was really going to end on Christmas Day, by God I was gonna meet Jesus with a full head of hair. My new hairstylist, Andrea, was gluing extensions to my existing hair that didn’t add length so much as cure my hair anemia. Thin hair is a curse just like bad breath, or a funky second toe that’s longer than the big toe—fortunately, I only suffer from hair anemia.
I flipped to the next page of the
story on the rapture and decided that the least the editor could have done was to plan the end of days for Black Friday. That way I wouldn’t have to freeze my butt off camping outside Target, risking death by stampede to get a half–priced X–Box for Max’s big Christmas present. Then again, these days it seemed Black Friday was as much a part of Thanksgiving as the turkey and cranberry sauce which I always thought was more symbolic than tasty.
If I’d learned anything in the last forty–eight hours—besides that the world was going to end—it was that life is short. I still couldn’t believe that Molly Miars, my son’s kindergarten teacher—and my close friend—was dead. According to the Lakeside PD, she’d overdosed on heroin. The absurdity of this made me want to shake my head, but I’d been warned with an inch of my life not to move.
And since Andrea was currently wielding a burning–hot iron, I was prepared to do whatever she asked. She used the pick end of a long comb to separate a small chunk of my hair from its thin brown fellows. Then she wrapped the hair extension around the chunk of my hair, picked up the crimping iron and clamped down, gluing new length to my hair.
Not that I could normally afford hair extensions, but Bee Creek Elementary had given me a pretty hefty gift certificate in recognition of all of my hard work as the Parent Teacher Organization president. My good friend and PTO secretary, Haley Hansen, sat in the chair next to me. For all of her hard work, she’d gotten a twenty–five dollar gift card for Chili’s.
Being president had its advantages.
Today we have an impromptu meeting—well, once our VP, Monica Garza shows up. All she’d gotten was a coupon for a free Brazilian bikini wax.
Next year, I’m thinking of running on a platform of equality for all.
Usually the PTO meets in the school cafeteria, but today we’re having a special session at Salon Bellezza. Our highly un–esteemed treasurer, Lyle Grinchwalt—one of the Grinchwalts in Lee, Grinchwalt, and Grinchwalt, C.P.A.— is missing. Because he’s a dick and probably gets his hair done at Super Cuts, this meeting is minus the Grinch. I have it on good authority that he got a coupon for a bikini wax also, and I’m dying to know if he’s used it.
I sipped on a glass of champagne. It was so dry that it sucked the spit out of my mouth, but it was free and it made me feel very fancy. Careful to move only my eyeballs, I glanced around. Somehow Salon Bellezza managed to be both opulent and cozy. Rich purple velvet settees were sprinkled between the beautician’s chairs and huge gilt–edged mirrors adorned the walls. It was part brothel, part boutique and actually kind of homey, if you were Heidi Fleiss.
It was three–forty–five on a Thursday, and I’d skipped out of work early.
“Don’t move your head.” Andrea picked up another clump of hair. Hitler couldn’t have been this focused when he’d invaded France. I wanted to shoot my arm out in a Nazi salute, but I’d have to move my head.
I knew that Molly had been behind the hair salon gift certificate. Over enchiladas at Don Julio’s, we’d often talked about my secret desire for an appointment at Salon Bellezza. And it’s not that the place is all that expensive, it’s that I’m all that broke.
Molly and I were both have–nots living in a town chuck full of haves. Not long ago, our lovely little town of Lakeside, Texas campaigned furiously to keep a Walmart out of our zip code, because the wealthy residents were convinced the large chain store would bring the wrong element into our community. I couldn’t figure out why anyone believed that criminals would drive an hour out of Austin just to shop at our Walmart, but explaining that would have been futile and exhausting. In the end, the corporate giant chose a less hostile environment, and Molly and I were stuck paying top dollar for tampons and toilet paper. Well, I am. Hopefully Molly wouldn’t need tampons and toilet paper in heaven.
“I’m here.” Monica, my PTO VP and fellow have–not, breezed in tossing her black leather jacket on an end table, and plopped down in the chair on the other side of Haley. With the toe of her black motorcycle boot, she rocked the beautician’s chair back and forth. “Sorry, I’m late, but traffic was a bitch. Highway seventy–one from South Austin was a parking lot.”
“I now call this meeting of the Bee Creek Elementary Parent Teacher Organization to order.”
My name is Mustang Ridges and no, I’m not a stripper. I’m the billing manager at Lakeside Regional Hospital, and if I could afford to change my name to something less stripper–like, I would. But sadly, until that time, I remain Mustang Ridges.
“Just a minute.” Haley pulled her iPhone out of her Hermes. “Let me hit record so I can transcribe it later.”
Meeting notes are part of the by–laws, but Haley took it to a new level. Usually, our meeting notes were verbatim. Which was both good and bad.
If Monica and I didn’t love Haley, we’d have killed her years ago. As the wife of a prominent plastic surgeon, her dinner parties were gourmet catered, her clothes were haute couture, and her house was a mansion on Lake Travis. She was queen of the haves. But if I needed a kidney, she’d give me one of hers in a heartbeat, and then nurse me back to health by force–feeding me champagne and caviar.
I’d met Haley in college when she’d dated my cousin, Erik. When he’d been killed by a drunk driver just two days after his twenty–first birthday, Haley had mourned right along with my family. We’d been sisters ever since. Monica had come into our lives when her son Landon and my Max had become best friends in kindergarten.
We were an unlikely trio—two divorcee’s and a mega–rich socialite, but we complimented each other. At least that’s what I told myself…really we weren’t bringing Haley down so much as giving her life a more well rounded experience. If it weren’t for us, she never would have darkened the doors of Big Lots and found that she could buy Cheetos for a dollar a bag. She’d been so excited that I hadn’t had the heart to tell her they were expired. I lived in fear that she’d figure that out one day and realize that Monica and I didn’t have much to bring to the relationship.
“Are y’all going to the viewing?” Lindsey, Haley’s stylist, brushed on a bluish color that would keep Haley’s platinum blonde locks from turning back to whatever shade they were naturally. Since Haley never had roots, there was no telling.
I planned on being there early to say my goodbyes in private. My little Max hadn’t wanted to go to the service and I didn’t have the heart to make my eight–year–old endure such a thing. It had been hard enough to sit him down and tell him that his good friend and most favorite former teacher was dead; I certainly didn’t want his last memory of her to be in a casket. Seeing me cry had always upset him, so I’d arranged for him to stay at school in extended care until six.
Lindsey nodded. “I’m going to the viewing. My son, Tanner, had Miss Miars two years ago. I can’t imagine why a kindergarten teacher would overdose. She was always so cheerful. The kids loved her, and she was teacher of the year the last three years.” She continued to brush bluish cream onto Haley’s hair.
“She didn’t overdose.” Andrea picked up the crimping iron and attached another extension. “I did her hair. You can tell a lot about a person based on their hair.”
I glanced in the mirror at my ever–growing mass of brown locks. What did my hair say about me?
Andrea put down the crimping iron, separated another chunk of hair, and grabbed an extension. “She didn’t do drugs. My stepfather was her doctor, and he said she fainted at the sight of needles. Shooting herself full of heroin doesn’t make sense. If she used heroin like the police chief said she did, her hair color wouldn’t have taken. She always insisted on burnt orange number seventeen. God bless her, but it was a bad color for her. She wouldn’t listen to me when I told her blonde was her color. If she was a heroin addict, then I’m Marilyn Monroe.”
I completely agreed. Molly’s alleged heroin use just didn’t make sense. She didn’t drink alcohol or even the occasional beer, so it was hard for me to accept the idea of her overdosing on heroin. Molly and I went out to dinner almost every week and talked on the phone all the time. Surely I would have noticed if she was high, even just once. Maybe she was trying it for the first time and accidentally overdosed? That’s the direction my mind had taken when I first heard the news.
“If she didn’t OD, then what? She was murdered?” Monica picked up a
magazine and relaxed back in her seat. She loved tee shirts with funny sayings. Today’s read, “Buffy Staked Edward—End of Story.”
“That’s a little out there. Don’t you think?” I would have shaken my head, but it was under lockdown. “Murder, really?”
Besides, no one was ever murdered here. Lakeside is a retirement community, where business moguls and their trophy wives move to play golf and tennis and throw lavish charity balls just to prove to the world that money does buy happiness.
“The Lakeside Police Department ruled it as an overdose.” I was still sticking with the tried–it–once–and–accidentally–overdosed theory, even though it didn’t make sense. This was a woman who took pride in making Christmas ornaments out of kindergarteners’ handprints. I didn’t want to believe that she was the type to do drugs, but heroin in her bloodstream was hard to ignore.
Still, murder? We didn’t have murder in Lakeside, and I should know. My ex–husband David had been the Chief of Police until six months ago, when he decided that a permanent vacation on Grand Cayman with his bimbo girlfriend was ever so much more fun than being a husband, a father and a cop. All I’d gotten in the divorce was an empty bank account and my sweet son, Max.