A mother and daughter inherit a PI Agency with a reputation that takes them by surprise.
Meet Emma McCarthy, a thirty-year-old failed actress that just moved home to Plymouth, MA.
And her mother, Cindy, a yoga instructor in the Pinehills, an exclusive golf community in Plymouth.
They've just inherited Court Street Investigations, a private detective agency.
And its one part-time employee, eighty-year-old Mickey, a retired police detective.
They expect typical cases like cheating spouses or workman's comp, but quickly learn that the agency also has a reputation for solving murders when they are hired to find a local missing woman.
Release date: May 24, 2021
Publisher: Piping Plover Press
Print pages: 240
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Behind the book
This book is set in my hometown of Plymouth, MA and even in my beach neighborhood of White Horse Beach. The character of Mickey was inspired by my grandfather who drove the same convertible, a Chrysler Crossfire, until he was 94.
“You’re really going to give up on acting? To be a private investigator? I think you might be having a mid-life crisis,” Emma’s soon-to-be-former roommate, said.
They’d been friends since meeting freshman year in the film program at UCLA. Emma’s dream had been acting, and she’d moved to L.A. right after high school and spent a year waitressing and establishing residency so she could get the in-state rate for tuition.
Lexy’s focus was on film production, specifically directing, and she was well on her way. She’d been working as a production assistant for various shows and just landed a new role with ShondaLand, a woman-owned company with several hot series at Netflix, and Emma was thrilled for her.
“I just turned thirty a month ago. It’s been almost ten years since I graduated from college and it hasn’t happened for me. It would have by now.” Emma had come to terms with her decision. She was at peace with it after losing her father two months ago. When she’d headed back east for the funeral, to her hometown of Plymouth, MA, she’d felt a surprising pull to return.
When she’d moved to L.A. after high school, she couldn’t wait for her life to begin and to get as far away from Plymouth as possible. It wasn’t that she didn’t like her hometown. Even though it was the state’s biggest town geographically, it still felt like a small town, as she couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone she knew. But all she’d ever wanted to do was to be an actress, and that wasn’t going to happen in Plymouth.
So, she went to UCLA, which had one of the best film programs. And she’d been so hopeful for so long. She’d gotten the occasional bit part and finally what she thought was her big break, as part of an ensemble cast for a sitcom. But it never got picked up, and the feedback from those who saw it was that she really wasn’t very funny, so maybe she should stick to dramas. Which she happily would have done, if they’d given her a chance. But no one ever did. The competition for acting roles was more fierce than Emma had ever imagined.
She’d always felt reasonably attractive. She was short at barely five two, but she ran and did yoga to stay a size four—that was important as the camera added a good ten to fifteen pounds. Her hair was a deep chestnut brown—long and naturally wavy, it was her best feature.
Her nose was maybe a little bigger than average, which probably immediately took her off many lists, as everyone in Hollywood seemed to have perfect noses—small, sculpted and rarely original. But Emma never considered surgery. Well, she did once, and then came to her senses. She had her dad’s nose and it fit her face.
She also knew that many surgeries had complications, with collapsed valves and breathing issues, and she didn’t need that. But still, the reality was that she was up against other prettier, thinner, more talented or more connected actresses and she was tired of losing out to them. She was tired of all of it.
She looked around the tiny apartment in the Hollywood Hills that she’d shared with Lexy. For what Emma paid for her share of the rent, she could rent a cottage on White Horse Beach all to herself. And she did—before she flew back to L.A., she signed a lease on an adorable place.
Her mother called it a beach shack, and Emma supposed she was right. It was one of many small cottages that literally sat on the sand at White Horse Beach. Most of them were only used in the summer. But a few, like Emma’s, were year-round.
It was tiny, just a little over six hundred square feet, but it was ocean front, with a deck almost as big as the cottage. It had a small kitchen, one bedroom and bathroom, and a cozy living room with big windows looking out at the ocean.
She was lucky to get it. Most of those cottages were strictly summer rentals, as the owners could charge crazy high weekly prices because of the location. The owner, Helen Whitman, was an older woman who had been a client of her father’s. She’d said that she didn’t want to deal with weekly rentals anymore, and was tired of worrying about cleaning it every Saturday before the next arrival.
Emma also suspected she’d had a soft spot for her father, and maybe they’d chatted about Emma moving home if anything happened to him. Because when her father’s attorney read the will to them, there was a note for Emma to call Helen for a possible lead on a rental.
Emma’s mother had suggested her house in the Pinehills, which had plenty of room. But moving home to Plymouth and back in with her mother was a step further than Emma wanted to go. The beach cottage was perfect, and she knew her mother understood.
“Maybe I am having a bit of a mid-life crisis,” Emma admitted. “I just feel like I should be further ahead than I am at age thirty. It’s one of those numbers that makes you stop and evaluate where you are and where you want to be. You know?”
Lexy nodded. “I do. I get it. For what it’s worth, I think you’re enormously talented and maybe if you stayed, someone might figure that out, eventually.”
“Maybe. But maybe not.” Emma smiled. “I can always act in local theater productions.”
“You could. Private investigating, though. Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Reasonably sure. Enough to give it a good shot. When I was in high school, I used to help my father in the office. He always told me I was a natural. I answered his phones and did some basic research for him on the internet.”
Emma smiled at the memory of it. She’d loved working with him. Once she moved out to California, she hadn’t given it another thought though, until recently. It was going to be strange to be in his office without him, but it felt like it was something she needed to try.
“He left it to you and your mother to run together? Why not your brother too? I would think that kind of thing would be more up a guy’s alley?” Lexy asked.
“Matt never had any interest in it. He’s also crazy busy with his car repair business.”
Her older brother and his best friend, Ryan, owned a business together, repairing cars and storing them in the winter. Business was booming and Emma was proud of him. He was doing what he loved.
“How’s your mother doing with it? Didn’t she used to help your dad too?”
“She did some, before they divorced. She mostly ran the office part-time for him while he was out in the field. It’s been a long time though, and I think she’s feeling a little overwhelmed. And it’s a lot for Mickey to handle on his own.”
“My dad’s employee. He’s wonderful—an older retired detective that mostly works part time for something to do. My mom has had him working full time the past few weeks, and she’s worried that she might be burning him out.”
Lexy sighed. “So, it sounds like they need you. Do I have to worry about you? Is this kind of work dangerous?”
Emma laughed. “No. It’s nothing like you see on TV. It’s a lot of driving around, sitting and waiting, or surfing the internet trying to track people down. It’s actually kind of fun. And we’re always careful. We have to be, so we aren’t spotted following someone.”
“That’s not exactly reassuring. Stay safe and call me once you get settled. I’m going to miss you.” Lexy’s voice cracked a little.
Emma felt her eyes water. She was going to miss her life in L.A. and especially Lexy, too.
“I will. You’ll probably get sick of hearing from me.”
* * *
“Why don’t you just sell the business? You haven’t worked in Fred’s office in over twenty years. Is this really what you want to do?” Cindy’s best friend, Rachel, asked.
They were all sitting on their other best friend, Lee’s, back deck. It was Friday night, a little after six thirty, which meant happy hour. They lived a few houses apart on a cul de sac in the Pinehills, a golf community in Plymouth. None of them golfed, though their husbands had.
Lee’s house was in the middle and had the best deck, so that’s usually where they went. Cindy brought the Bread and Butter chardonnay, Rachel brought the pub cheese and crackers, and Lee had some frozen pizzas heating up in the oven and sipped a vodka and soda because she hated wine. The three of them had been friends for close to thirty years, since they’d all been newly married and moved into the neighborhood.
Lee was the only one of the three that was still married. Her husband, Bob, was a great guy who was semi-retired and was happiest down in his basement, doing his woodworking projects or golfing with his buddies. Rachel was widowed about five years ago and Cindy had been divorced for almost twenty years now. Though with Fred’s recent passing, she felt a bit like a widow too, especially as he’d left his private investigating agency equally to her and her daughter, Emma.
It hadn’t surprised Cindy that he’d left the business to Emma as she’d always been good at it, and she guessed it was Fred’s way of tempting Emma to move home, to be closer to her family. Cindy was surprised that he’d included her too, though.
Cindy had worked at the agency with Fred when they were married, but it was just to help out. She’d never shared the passion for the business that Fred and Emma had. But maybe he’d also thought it would be good for both of them.
She really didn’t know what had gone through Fred’s mind. He hadn’t shared any of it with her. He hadn’t even told them he was sick until he only had a month left. He’d had a rare brain cancer that had been discovered at a late stage, and there wasn’t really anything they could do. The only blessing was that he said he’d felt good until he didn’t and then passed a few weeks later. It was still a shock she was trying to get used to.
She hadn’t seen Fred much in recent years, but when they did bump into each other, it was always civil, much like seeing an old friend. Their divorce had been amicable too, as far as a divorce could be. There was, of course, plenty of sadness and disappointment on both sides, but there was no anger. The relationship just hadn’t worked out.
Fred had gone on to have several long-term relationships and Cindy had dated here and there, but it never turned into anything serious. And after a while, she just stopped trying. It was easier to put off trying to find someone else than to ‘get out there’ as Rachel often said. Rachel had ventured into online dating a few years ago and kept them entertained with her various dating disasters. She still kept at it, though, while Cindy held off.
Though Fred’s passing was a wake-up call. In the blink of an eye, twenty years had passed and Cindy was still alone. She told herself she liked it that way, but truth be told, she envied what Lee and Bob had, their companionship. Maybe she should make more of an effort. The thought of online dating, like what Rachel was doing, was intimidating though. It was easier to put it off and hope that maybe she’d just bump into someone somewhere, the way it used to happen when she was younger.
She turned her attention back to Rachel’s question. “We can’t sell it. Fred was the business. Without him, there’s nothing to buy.”
“Oh. Hmm. Well, maybe once Emma gets here it might be fun for you?” Rachel said.
“It’s not too much for you?” Lee asked.
Cindy shook her head. “I thought it might be, but it’s really not. Most of my yoga classes are early evening and a few mornings. The other girls handle the mid-day and weekend classes. And I hired a new girl last week to take over a few of my classes to free up more time.”
Cindy started the yoga studio years ago, while she was still married and the business had grown over the years. She’d always loved yoga, how it quieted her mind, helped ease any stiffness or achy muscles and kept her in shape. And she had a great group of regular customers that had become friends over the years.
“Thank goodness for Mickey though. I don’t know what I’d do without him. I’ve never done any of the actual investigative work, like surveillance. He’s been busy these past few weeks,” Cindy said.
“How old is he?” Lee asked.
“I think he’s almost eighty. But he’s sharp as a tack and in good shape. Except for the donut eating. He needs to cut back on that, but he says it goes along with surveillance work.”
Rachel laughed. “Sounds like an excuse to eat donuts to me.”
Cindy nodded. “He said his wife, Betty, read him the riot act recently. She watches his diet pretty closely.” Mickey was a character. She knew he missed police work and enjoyed keeping busy.
“Speaking of age, what are we going to do for Rachel’s birthday? It’s a big one,” Lee said.
“Double-nickels!” Cindy said and then laughed. Mickey had teased her a few weeks ago when she’d turned fifty-five and had said her double-nickels birthday was good luck. “How about 42 for stuffed lobsters?” The nearby restaurant, 42 Degrees North, had the best stuffed lobsters in the area. Occasionally they went there and splurged.
Rachel nodded. “That sounds perfect to me. I think I deserve a baked stuffed lobster.” She glanced at Lee and Cindy. “I think we all do.”
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...