Murder For Neptune's Trident...A Citrus Beach Mystery
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Who killed JJ Travels? What does it have to do with Neptune's Trident?
A simple errand for a client leads Megan Cassidy into more trouble than she could have ever thought possible.
Before she knows what has happened, she's a witness to a murder and a target for bullets and speeding trucks.
Who knew there could be so much going on in this little southern town, where your neighbors watched your back and "Mom & Pop" businesses populated Main Street?
When FBI Consultant, Aiden Tory, arrives to solve the murder, Megan pushes her way into the investigation. Together, they discover JJ hid secrets about their tropical paradise. Secrets that got him killed.
With her dog, Barney, helping to sniff out clues, they follow the leads, discovering the past can come back to haunt you.
Release date: January 1, 2014
Publisher: Victoria LK Williams
Print pages: 213
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Murder For Neptune's Trident...A Citrus Beach Mystery
Victoria LK Williams
"I’m so sorry to have to ask you to do this, Megan. I should just let my niece suffer from her own lack of re-responsibility, but I can’t stand the thought of having to listen to her whine for the whole trip about not having her phone.
I know it’s after work hours on a Friday, but you’re the only one I can ask.”
Megan Cassidy was well practiced in calming down the hysterical woman who had called her in a panic. She had a natural ability and a soothing voice that let people know everything would be handled with little fuss and in a timely matter.
“Carol, it’s okay. I’m only about fifteen minutes away; I’ll just stop on my way to dinner and check and see if she did leave her phone out by the pool. I’ll call you back when you land in St. Louis and let you know what I find.”
“Megan, you’re a lifesaver. Don’t you forget to bill me for this extra trip and your time! It’s such a relief to know that I have you there in Florida to keep my life on track.”
“Relax and enjoy your week off. If I find it, I’ll overnight it first thing in the morning for you.”
Megan grimaced as she hung up the phone. Already running behind, this would put her late for her dinner with her cousin and his wife. Megan hated being late. She prided herself on always being early to any appointment. In her job, promptness was a necessity, not just a courtesy.
Her job. She smiled to herself as a mental billboard flashed in her mind: “Concierge Services of Citrus Beach, let us take care of the daily details.” That’s what she did for her select, well-to-do clients. Take Carol Bloomquest, for instance. Multiple homes across the US with her primary home in South Florida. Megan was the go-to-gal, keeping track of all things that would keep her client's home running smoothly, whether Carol was in residence or not. Setting times for service workers to be at the home, checking on their work to be sure it not only lived up to the contracted job description but also Megan’s high standards—these were just the start of the services she offered. Picking clients up from the airport, coordinating visitor’s stays (either at the house or a hotel), shopping as needed, entertainment organization, and just about anything else completed the list.
She did not live with her clients. With today’s technology, so much could be handled with her smartphone and laptop. This gave everyone the feeling of privacy and Megan the opportunity to have more than one client. Knowing all the details of a client’s life did not feel imposing when she was not there 24/7. Yet all parties knew that she was there to handle just about anything, even forgotten cell phones.
Grabbing her own cell phone, she dialed her cousin’s number and started talking as soon as he answered.
“Paul, it’s me. I’m going to be running behind by about thirty minutes. Client emergency. Is that a major problem for you and Lucy?”
“Actually, that works out really good for us too. Lucy is out talking to our neighbor, and as sweet as Mrs. Potter is, getting away from her can be difficult on the best of days.” Paul’s deep laugh rumbled in Megan’s ear as he answered her. Megan smiled to herself. She had also been caught many times by the talkative neighbor who had pulled the cousins into her family nine years ago when Paul and Lucy settled next door to her after getting married.
“I completely understand,” Megan said to Paul, laughing. “The first one at the restaurant can order drinks and an appetizer.”
After hanging up with Paul, Megan put her car in gear, turned around to head back in the direction she had just come from, and turned up the radio. Humming along with the music, she realized she could take a few garden photos at Carol’s riverfront home that she had been promising the landscaper at Carol’s St. Louis home. He was new to his job and wanted to duplicate the Florida container gardens he kept hearing about.
Gardening. Twelve years ago, this was how her business got started. Megan’s personalized gardening services had her at her client’s home two times a week to water and do the de- tail work necessary to keep everything at its best. Then, since she had the keys to get in to take care of the inside plants, she also found that she was being asked to do other chores, like letting the a/c man in while she was there, or bringing in the UPS packages left at the front door, or checking on the visual condition of the pool prior to a client’s return. Before long, word got out about how reliable and accommodating Megan was, and more of her clients were asking for extras as well.
After doing some thinking and admitting to herself that, at thirty-three, she needed to start doing work that was a little less hands-on and out of the hot Florida sun for eight hours or more at a time, Megan sat down with three of her favorite (and most demanding) clients and worked out a new business plan. Gone was the gardener and in was the Girl Friday. These three clients left the running of their homes in her hands. It was now up to Megan to hire the service companies and make sure the jobs were done well. Before long she was picking clients and visitors up from a small local airport, and making sure that their weekend visits ran smoothly. Tickets to the local theater were bought ahead of time, and evenings were planned for her clients and their guests to make the most of their stay in Florida. As time went on, so did the responsibilities. Her client list grew, and now Megan had a staff that helped her keep from going crazy. And she still had the same first three clients, who always got her utmost attention, Carol Bloomquest being number one on the list.
Slowing down for the car ahead of her that kept tapping his brakes, Megan rolled down her window to enjoy the late afternoon breeze. The sweet smell of blooming jasmine filled her car, calming her nerves. She smiled to herself as she watched the scenery pass as she drove over one of four cause-way bridges towards the elite island residences. The inter-coastal waterway had only slight waves, and the pelicans were doing their dive into the waters as they fished for their dinner. There were a few kayakers paddling away from the shore as the sun reflected off the water.
As the car started up and over the tallest bridge connecting the mainland to the island, Megan could see through the trees the rooflines of the private homes that hugged the Citrus River – each trying to get the best of the view, and with the use of abundant landscaping, provide the ultimate in exclusion from the curious public. Her destination wasn’t far from the foot of the bridge. Instead of driving into one of the golf communities that welcomed tourists to the island, Megan drove by their entrances for about half a mile and turned into a seeming dirt road. This appearance was de- liberate to disguise the fact that you were entering a private drive. Once she passed the first turn, the road turned from crushed shell to a brick paver road, made in an elaborate basket weave design. The landscape was planted heavy with shrubs allowed to grow tall enough to keep an outsider discouraged from going any further with the Live Oak trees creating a canopy overhead. The overall effect was the feel of old Florida before northerners came to claim the land. One more turn along the road and suddenly you burst out of the shade into the open expanse of the stately homestead.
The house could have been taken from another time anywhere in the Deep South. The antebellum-style was set on the property to have the best view from any direction. It stood like a grand lady, ready to welcome her guest in for a sweet tea on the veranda to escape the heat of the sun and relax in the comfortable arms of the white wicker furniture tucked into spots sure to catch a breeze from the river.
Megan followed the drive to the front of the house and pulled into the parking area at its side next to the guest house. Opening the car door, she reached behind her and grabbed the ever-ready pair of deck shoes that she kept under her seat. Trading them for the wedge sandals she had put on to match her Bermuda shorts and cotton blouse over a colorful tank top, Megan tucked her phone in her pocket. Pictures taken from her smartphone could be sent in a direct email to the St. Louis landscaper, with no reason to use her digital camera for this. Besides, these pictures usually turned out great, anyway.
Noticing that the angle of the sun was glaring into her eyes, Megan dug a baseball cap out of her tote bag and stuffing her auburn, curly hair into it, she pulled it onto her head with the bill of the cap in place to protect her eyes. Tugging her shirt down as she started up the walk to the riverside of the house, she caught her reflection in the window of the side door to the guest house.
“Not too bad for my age,” she said to herself, smiling.
At 5’5” she was taller than her sister, but still not as tall as she would have liked. Her body had thickened with age, in the usual spots, but not so much that she felt uncomfortable with herself. Considering her love of tasty food, especially chocolate, she felt she was in decent shape. Her skin had a healthy tan, and after years of moisturizing, did not show the leathery look that often afflicts someone who spends hours working outdoors. The sunglasses she always wore were prescription, but at her last eye exam, she’d had an extra line added to them. Bifocals were now necessary for reading and her hazel eyes were starting to wrinkle at the corners. But, all in all, Megan was content with herself.
Of course, her daughter, now away for her second year at college, always had some fashion advice to give Megan. Emma was the best part of Megan’s life and it was difficult having her so far from home. For years, it had just been the two of them. Megan’s husband died of a sudden heart attack when Emma was just six, and they’d needed each other to get past their loss. With the love and help of family and friends, the two of them had managed to create a new life for themselves. Megan was thrilled with the young woman her daughter had become.
The cry of a seagull brought Megan’s attention towards the river. It was quiet this time of day. The yard workers and other service staff were gone for the weekend, and the whole backyard seemed to breathe a sigh of contentment. Past the dock, the river was calm, the current carrying along an old coconut that had fallen in somewhere upstream. She noticed a small single-engine boat, the kind used by a leisure fisherman, farther up the river and closer to the opposite bank. It was slowly moving downstream towards Carol’s home, its engine off, just coasting along with the current. Not thinking anything about the boat, Megan started moving towards the area of the garden where she wanted to snap a few photos. Moving confidently, having already figured out what shots she wanted, her finger clicked the appropriate button on her phone and she took the pictures she needed.
Finishing her needed shots, Megan walked over to the lounge chairs by the pool, looking for the missing phone. Not seeing it by the chairs arranged to catch the sun, she moved over to the table and chair that was off to the side of the spa, more in the shade of the palms. Moving the pot of mixed annuals, she found the phone. Thankful that it hadn’t rained since Carol left last night, Megan shook her head at the irresponsibility of the young teenager and picked up the phone.
Pushing her glasses back onto her nose where they belonged, Megan glanced over at the river and noticed a pink Spoonbill wading along the bank. The bird’s long lanky legs supported a graceful body with rosy pink feathers. Its bill did not have the usual long point to it. Instead, it ended with the shape of a large cooking spoon, thus the name Spoonbill.
“Now I bet that’s a bird that they don’t see in St. Louis.”
Smiling to herself, Megan decided to get a bit closer and take a shot of the bird to include with her pictures to Carol’s gardener. Moving slowly, staying in the shade of the house, she started to edge closer. When she reached the point where she knew she could get a good shot and not startle the bird, she raised her arm to take a picture. Looking through the lens, she pushed the zoom button and snapped. Crouching down and moving a bit more to the north, she tried a different angle. As she looked through the lens for a second time, Megan saw that the boat she had noticed when she first walked outback was much closer. Close enough that she could see that there were three men in the boat, and it looked like they were having an intense conversation, possibly arguing.
If they don’t calm down and stop rocking that boat, someone is going to end up going for a swim, Megan thought to herself. Experience had taught her that the calmness of the river was deceptive; there was a strong current out there and at the angle the boat was currently at, it would capsize easily.
Deciding that she had enough pictures, she turned to head back towards the house. That’s when a loud crack shattered the peaceful silence, almost like a backfire of a car. Just about jumping out of her skin, Megan looked around, trying to locate the source. She focused on the boat and saw that there were now only two men on board. Before she had a chance to call out to them and see if they were in trouble, she watched in horror as the two remaining men bent over and lifted the third man off the bottom of the boat. With obvious effort, they threw him into the river with a resounding splash.
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