Deep in Death: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel
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Ghosts were never something Shelby thought were real, but now, she's not so sure.
Shelby Nichols has a new client.
But finding a missing woman might lead to something more sinister and deadly than she ever imagined.
Add to that a mob boss with a dangerous business arrangement, and Shelby finds death at every turn.
Can she escape the danger in time? Or will she be the next to die?
Find out in Deep in Death.
USA TODAY and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Colleen Helme offers a clever mix of mystery, laugh-out-loud humor, and page-turning adventure in the highly acclaimed Shelby Nichols Adventure Series.
This one was full of action, adventure, mystery and so much emotion it was literally a roller coaster ride!~Community Bookstop
Deep in Death is full of creative plot twists, fascinating characters and enough action that it will keep you on the edge of your seat. ~Books-n-Kisses
WOW! Deep in Death is a whirlwind of a mystery, and Shelby truly has her work cut out for her in this Shelby Nichols Adventure. ~(un)Conventional Bookviews
Perfect for fans of Jana DeLeon, Eve Langlais, Elizabeth Hunter, Shannon Mayer, and Darynda Jones.
Release date: July 19, 2014
Publisher: Manetto Books
Print pages: 291
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Deep in Death: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel
A twinge of pain burned through my arm, and I gently rubbed the spot where I’d been shot nearly three weeks ago. Getting a shot in the arm may sound like a simple thing for most people, but when it’s done by a bullet, it’s a whole different story. At least it was healing nicely, and the scar wasn’t too big, but every once in a while my arm ached like it had happened yesterday, probably because I was overdoing it again. After a few seconds the pain subsided, and I finished pulling on my shirt and got dressed.
Today was my first day back at work since the shooting, and I was ready to take on a new project. This time the job was a client from my consulting agency, which suited me just fine. My last job for Uncle Joey, the local mob-boss, had gotten me both arrested for murder and shot by a bullet in the arm, so I was a little nervous about doing anything for him again.
A few months ago I had to tell Uncle Joey my secret that I could read minds so he wouldn’t kill me. We’d worked out a compromise, and over the course of our association, we’d even become close. Crazy as it sounded, I’d started to think of him as my real uncle, even though he wasn’t. Since most of his errands seemed to get me into trouble, he’d also saved my life a few times. Well, to be honest, it was his hit-man, Ramos, doing most of the saving. But it was Uncle Joey who’d told him to watch out for me.
I sighed every time I thought of Ramos. He had a troubled past which only I knew about, and I’d helped him come to terms with it. Besides saving my life several times, there was also a physical attraction that I only dared admit out loud to my best friend, Holly. Of course after seeing him, she had a crush on him too, and since we were both happily married, I had to think it was all right. But with all of that going on, I had to wonder about myself. I mean, Uncle Joey was a big, bad mob-boss who had threatened to do me bodily harm, and Ramos was his hit-man. They were the bad guys and I had a soft spot in my heart for them. Was something wrong with me?
My husband, Chris, had no qualms about severing all ties with Uncle Joey, and it put me in a hard spot trying to please them both. But since the last job, things had changed. After I got shot, Chris had a long talk with Uncle Joey, and I hadn’t heard from him in three weeks. In some ways it was a relief, but in others, I kind of missed him…and Ramos…well…mostly Ramos. Still, I wasn’t about to call and offer my services. Not considering what had happened last time. Nope. I wasn’t ready to get shot again. In fact, I would be pretty happy if I never saw another gun in my life.
I took a deep cleansing breath and checked the time. I had an appointment with my client at ten this morning, and it was time to go. Her name was Tiffany and this was her senior year of college. Since I didn’t have a real office, I’d told her we could meet at the campus library in-between her classes, and with her busy schedule, meeting on campus worked out great for both of us.
I drove through town with my windows down and breathed in the crisp fall air. It was the first part of October and the sky was the perfect color of blue. The trees were just beginning to change into brilliant autumn colors, and framed against the blue sky, the pure beauty and serenity lifted my spirits. With everything I’d gone through lately, I knew I was lucky to be alive.
I parked at the visitor parking meters near the library and headed toward the front of the building. It had been several years since I’d been there last, and a wave of nostalgia washed over me. I’d only been to one year of college before I’d talked Chris into marrying me. It was love at first sight for me, but it had taken some gentle persuading on my part to help Chris see how perfect we were together. Right after our marriage, we’d gone off to law school in another state. Josh had been born exactly nine months later followed by Savannah two years after that. There were times when I regretted not finishing college back then, but I wouldn’t trade the life I had now for anything.
I loved my family and, as it turned out, I had a pretty good career without a degree, and I was proud of what I’d accomplished. Of course, if I hadn’t gotten shot in the head during a bank robbery, which left me with the ability to read minds, it might be a different story.
It was still hard for me to believe how my life had turned upside down simply because I’d stopped at the grocery store for some carrots. Who would have thought? Now I had my own consulting agency where I could get paid for helping people, and most of the time, all I had to do was read their minds. Not that it was always that easy, but after getting shot, I’d take some simple cases for a while.
A young woman sat on a bench near the fountain where we’d planned to meet. Her gaze caught mine and her eyes widened slightly before she recognized me. As I approached, she smiled and gave me a quick wave. She had long blond hair and a sweet face, but her somber eyes seemed out of place for someone her age, like she’d gone through some hard times.
Since she was a college student, I was a little nervous that she couldn’t afford my one-hundred-and-fifty-dollar-an-hour fee. But we’d talked about that before I had agreed to meet her, and she’d seemed fine with it then. She stood to greet me.
“Shelby Nichols? Hi. I’m Tiffany Shaw. Thanks for meeting me.”
“Hi Tiffany, nice to meet you in person,” I answered.
“I know this is kind of informal, but it’s such a beautiful day. Do you mind staying out here in the sunshine?”
“I think that’s a great idea.”
“Good.” She resumed her seat on the bench and I sat beside her. She was thinking that she wasn’t sure how to start. What she needed might not even be possible, but she’d read about me in the paper and figured if anyone could help her, it was me. She’d been saving up for years to hire a private investigator and wanted the best. After a little digging, she’d heard rumors that I had premonitions. It didn’t faze her in the least. In fact, after all this time, she thought it might be the only thing that would solve the case. She just had to make sure her dad didn’t find out, since he was the over-protective sort. He’d tell her she was throwing away her money, and probably accuse me of taking advantage of her.
That certainly put a lot of pressure on me, and my stomach tightened with dread that her father would disapprove. But since she was thinking about not telling him, maybe he’d never need to find out. Considering her age and circumstances, I had hoped she’d hired me for something easy, like finding out if her roommate was after her boyfriend. But no, she was thinking about her mother, and that she was probably dead, and I knew nothing was ever as easy as I wished.
“I’d like to hire you to find my mother.” Her lips tightened and pain flashed through her eyes. “You see…I’m getting married in a few weeks and I really want her to be there.” She didn’t add ‘if she’s still alive’ like she was thinking.
She’d always imagined her mother would be at her wedding, and now that it was actually happening, she couldn’t stop wondering where her mom was and what had happened to her. The day her mother had gone missing was the worst day of her life, and thinking about it brought all the horror back, but she knew she would never move on unless she had some answers.
“Tell me what happened,” I said gently.
She took a deep breath. “It’s been nearly six years, and I know that’s a long time, but just hear me out before you decide if you can take the job or not.”
“Okay.” I encouraged her with a smile. “Go on.”
“Like I said…it will be six years on the twenty-eighth of October since she went missing. That night, she drove to the office where she worked to drop something off and never came back. They found her car parked in the parking structure with the keys in the ignition. Her purse was on the passenger seat. Nothing was taken, and there was no sign of a struggle. It was like she just disappeared off the face of the earth.”
“What did the police tell you?”
“Well…they dusted for prints, checked her office, put out a missing person’s report, questioned her colleagues at work, and brought my father in for questioning.” She hated that they had suspected him. He was innocent. He had nothing to do with it. He loved her mom. It still made her angry. It was part of what had made the day so bad. She not only lost her mother, but her father was never the same after that.
“What happened to your father? Did they charge him with anything?”
Tiffany shook her head. “No. They had no evidence that he was involved, but the police always suspect the husband first. So it was bad enough that my mom disappeared, but the fact that they thought my dad had something to do with it made it ten times worse.”
She sighed, wondering for the thousandth time what kind of person she would be right now if she still had her mom. She’d probably be a lot happier, that was for sure. “My dad’s doing better now. He even got married a couple of months ago.”
“That’s good,” I said.
“Yeah.” She was glad he had finally moved on, and wished it was something she could do. But the ache just wouldn’t go away, especially with her upcoming wedding. This was the most important day of her life, and her mother should be there. So where was she? What had happened? Who had taken her? Why hadn’t she come home?
In her heart, she knew her mother never would have left unless she was forced into it. Speculation from the police and others of affairs, with her mom running off with another man, only deepened the wound, and she wouldn’t believe any of it. That’s why a small part of her had to believe her mom was dead, but what if she wasn’t? What if someone was holding her captive? It could happen, and she just couldn’t give up until she knew for sure.
“What did the police decide about the case?” I asked.
“Officially, she’s missing and presumed dead. At least that’s what they declared so my dad could re-marry. I don’t know what happened to the case files. But I’m hoping you can dig them up and maybe find something that got passed over. I know it’s a long shot, but I’ve never had the resources to hire a private investigator until now. Do you think you could look into it for me?”
I bit my bottom lip. The chances of finding out what happened at this point were pretty slim. My mind-reading ability wouldn’t be of much use, although I could still question her dad. Even though she didn’t think it was him, I’d learned that some people were really good at keeping secrets, and I wasn’t about to rule him out. I could probably get my hands on the police file and talk to the detectives who handled the case, but beyond that, I didn’t have much hope.
She was thinking that I was going to say no and she was starting to feel stupid that she’d even asked. No one in their right mind would think they could solve the case after six years. But even if she was throwing away her hard-earned money, she still had to try.
“It’s okay if you don’t find her,” Tiffany said. “I just want someone to take one more look at the case. Maybe there’s something you’ll see that they missed. Don’t worry about the money. I’ll still pay you, even if you don’t find anything new. Just…please say you’ll take it. I have to do this one last thing before the wedding. Maybe then I’ll know I’ve done everything I could and I can finally let her go.”
“It sounds like you’ve thought this through,” I began. “So you know the chances of finding anything are pretty slim?” She nodded, and I continued, “My rates are negotiable in certain cases, but I still need to be paid for my time.”
“I’ve got five thousand dollars. Is that enough?”
I glanced at her and raised my brows. “How about we take it an hour at a time? I’ll get the police files, talk to a few people, and let you know what I’ve found. That shouldn’t take long. We can decide after that if it’s worth pursuing.”
Her expression cleared. I was really going to do it. “Yeah…okay. That sounds good.” She grabbed her backpack from the bench and unzipped it, pulling out a manila folder crammed with papers. “I saved everything. There’s newspaper clippings, notes, a copy of the police report they gave us, and a picture of my mom. That should help you get started with dates and things.”
“This is great,” I said. I took the folder and slid it into my bag. “I’ll get started right away.”
“Wait, you’ll need this.” She opened her purse and pulled out a wad of cash. “How much do you need up front?”
“Oh…I’ll just take a retainer for now. Say…five hundred dollars? Once it’s gone we’ll talk again.”
“Are you sure?” She had brought eight hundred, and was thinking she didn’t want me to do a crappy job since five hundred would only cover a few hours.
I tried not to be insulted, but couldn’t help raising a brow. “You’d be surprised at how much I can get done in an hour or two.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh…well…good.” She quickly counted out five hundred dollars and handed it over.
I tucked it into my purse and stood. “I always keep a detailed summary of my time which I’ll give you when we meet next, along with a receipt for the money.”
She shrugged. “Okay.” Her hopes soared, bringing a smile to her lips. “Thanks so much. You don’t know how much better I feel about all this.”
“You’re welcome,” I replied. “I hope we find something…but to be honest…it’ll be a longshot.”
“That’s okay. At least we’re doing something.”
“I’ll be in touch.” I smiled and turned to leave, knowing she was watching my every step. She was thinking I was cool, and the fact that I was a real private investigator filled her with awe. I also hadn’t told her I felt sorry for her, or treated her like a kid, and that went a long way. It was just the sort of thing she needed, and if I could find out what had really happened to her mom, she’d gladly fork over every penny of that money.
Dang. That put a lot of pressure on me. I held my head high until I was out of sight. Rounding the corner, I heaved a sigh and my shoulders sagged. I had little hope that I’d find her mom, and guilt that I was taking her hard-earned money churned my stomach. At least I could fudge on the hours. There was no way I could take one hundred fifty bucks an hour from a kid who’d not only lost her mother, but was getting married.
Maybe taking her on as a client wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but I could hardly turn her down when it was something she needed in order to move on with her life. The fact that she was getting married made it even more important. I just hoped she could handle the disappointment in case it was bad news.
I drove straight to the police station. I hadn’t been there since I’d been arrested, but I was finally ready to return and face them. My favorite detective, Harris, a.k.a. Dimples, was sure to be surprised, but I hoped in a good way. Besides, he still had my honorary ID badge and I wanted it back.
I parked and opened the file Tiffany had given me. I didn’t recognize the name of the detective assigned to her mother’s case, but I hoped Dimples would know who he was. I slid the file back into my bag and got out of the car.
Holding my head high, I swallowed my trepidation and marched to the door. As I pulled it open, a few people glanced my way, but most ignored me. It wasn’t until I walked into the detectives’ offices that I heard any thoughts directed my way. I nodded and smiled at everyone who looked at me, and most were genuinely happy to see me back.
Dimples glanced up and did a double-take, then jumped up from his seat to greet me. “Shelby! What a pleasant surprise. How are you? How’s your arm?”
“Pretty good. How about you? Keeping busy?”
“Yes. There’s always something going on around here. Come on over and sit down.” He ushered me to the chair beside his desk where I usually sat. “So what brings you here?” He was hoping I was coming to offer my services. He could sure use my help… right now in fact. “Looking for something to do?”
“Depends,” I answered. “Are you asking?”
“You bet.” He smiled and his dimples spun around in his cheeks. I chuckled just to see them, and suddenly, I was happy I’d come. “I was hoping you’d stop by,” he admitted. “But after your arrest and all, I wasn’t sure you’d ever want to step foot in this building again.”
“Hey, I couldn’t have made it through that mess without your help. We’re friends. That’s what friends do. I’d be happy to help, as long as you give me back my ID badge to make it official.”
“Oh…yeah…that. I’ve got it here somewhere.” He made a big show of looking through his desk drawers to find my badge, although he knew right where it was. He didn’t want it to look like it meant so much to him. But deep down, he was excited to give it back. “Here you go.” He hesitated, thinking he could put it over my head like a medal or something, but since that might seem like over-kill, he just handed it to me.
“Thanks.” I smiled to let him know I appreciated the sentiment and slipped it on. I was about to tell Dimples my reason for being there when someone’s scornful thoughts crashed into my mind. He was wondering what the hell I was doing there, and thought I had a lot of nerve to show my face in the police station again. I knew immediately who it was and turned to give Detective Bates the evil eye. His gaze caught mine and he flushed before sauntering over.
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