Morrie’s been arrested on suspicion of murder. Mina knows the Napoleon of Crime is innocent, but how can she prove her favorite con-artist is being stitched-up? Being the spider in the center of a vast criminal web has left Morrie in hot water. His list of enemies is long… too long for Mina and her men to unravel. Mina doesn’t have a clue to stand on when a shadow from Morrie’s past shows up and threatens to destroy everything she’s fought for. If Morrie’s ex solves the murder before them it could mean the end of Nevermore Bookshop. But is Mina ready to pit her sleuthing skills against literature’s foremost consulting detective? Add a rambunctious puppy, a meddling mother, a cockroach cookery lesson, and their ultimate enemy closing in, and Mina’s on her toughest case yet. There’s only one way to get the answers they need, but are Heathcliff and Quoth prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to save their friend? The Nevermore Bookshop Mysteries are what you get when all your book boyfriends come to life. Join a brooding antihero, a master criminal, a cheeky raven, and a heroine with a big heart (and an even bigger book collection) in book 5 of this steamy reverse harem paranormal mystery series by USA Today bestselling author Steffanie Holmes. Read all the books in the Nevermore Bookshop Mysteries: 1. A Dead and Stormy Night 2. Of Mice and Murder 3. Pride and Premeditation 3.5. How Heathcliff Stole Christmas (novella) 4. Memoirs of a Garroter 5. Prose and Cons. 6. A Novel Way to Die.
Release date: May 8, 2020
Publisher: Bacchanalia House
Print pages: 273
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Prose and Cons
“I’m afraid I’m not here for a book, Mina.” Hayes nodded to Wilson, who held up a pair of handcuffs and slapped them gleefully over Morrie’s wrists. “We’re here to arrest James Moriarty on suspicion of murder.”
“What?” That’s… not possible. “Murder?”
Morrie glanced between the two officers. The corner of his mouth tugged into a smirk that didn’t reach his eyes. “I’ve got handcuffs in my room lined with velvet. They’re so much more sensual than those old things. I’ll wait here while you grab them, and then we—”
Sergeant Wilson shoved him toward the door. “James Moriarty, you do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court—”
“Oooh, is the judge going to bang her gavel and tell me I’ve been a naughty boy?” Morrie purred. “Kinky.”
“Don’t say anything,” I hissed at Morrie. Heathcliff, Quoth, and I barreled down the stairs and crowded into the hall. Heathcliff blocked the door while I threw my arms around Morrie and glared at Hayes (or the large, broad-shouldered blob I thought was Hayes. We hadn’t turned on any lamps downstairs, so now that Heathcliff blocked the only light, all I could make out were shadows). “You have to tell us what’s going on. We caught the garroter, so why—”
“This isn’t about the garrotings.” Hayes’ voice was grave. “Mr. Moriarty is our lead suspect in the death of Kate Danvers.”
“Who in the blazes is that?” Heathcliff’s voice bellowed across the room. Tension rolled off his body – a palpable rage simmering in the room. I knew if we didn’t get answers soon he’d go Full Metal Heathcliff and all that would be left of the inspectors would be bits of organs stuck to the ceiling.
“We don’t have to explain ourselves to you.” Wilson shoved Morrie toward the door. She tried to step around Heathcliff’s bulk but ended up pressing Morrie into a shelf. Stacks of books cascaded down on us. “As much as you love to meddle in murders, we’re the detectives here, and we say Mr. Moriarty’s coming with us.”
Heathcliff’s shoulders tensed, and for a moment I seriously feared for all our lives. With a roar, he flung himself aside, giving Wilson a clear path. “He’s innocent, and we’ll fight this.”
Heathcliff’s words dripped with menace, and through my fear, I felt a jolt of hope. Ever since their fraught kiss, Heathcliff had distanced himself from Morrie. I knew Heathcliff felt something for Morrie, but his Heathcliff-ness meant he wouldn’t acknowledge or give into it. Instead, he raged and sulked and became a complete shit until he drove Morrie away so then he wouldn’t have to deal with it.
But right now, he was ready to fight for Morrie. He might not be able to articulate his feelings, but he was a slave to them. Heathcliff didn’t know a thing about control, about hiding things that were ugly or scary or uncomfortable. He just was. And right now he was ready for a homicidal rampage on Morrie’s behalf, and that said more than all the sweet nothings he might’ve whispered in Morrie’s ear.
But it wasn’t enough. We weren’t at Wuthering Heights. This was the real world. The police were taking Morrie away, and we couldn’t do a thing about it. A shiver ran down my spine. Why are they taking Morrie? Why are they so certain he killed this Kate woman?
I watched Morrie’s face as Wilson shoved him outside. Flaccid British sunlight poked through the converging storm clouds, illuminating his sharp, chiseled features and the haughty tilt of his chin. Morrie’s eyes sought mine, and he flashed me a reassuring grin that was all teeth and bravado.
A grin that I might have believed, if not for the fact it didn’t reach his eyes. Morrie’s ice-blue eyes were wide, darkened with shadows.
“I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding, gorgeous,” Morrie called out as he scuffed the chipped stone steps with his brogues. “Don’t worry your pretty head about me.”
But that look in Morrie’s eyes said otherwise. Whoever this Kate Danvers was, he knew her, and he already knew she was dead.
Why doesn’t he look surprised?
My mind whirred with memories from the past couple of months. Morrie frowning at his phone, having his assets frozen, working on an algorithm to track Dracula’s movements and making certain I knew how to use it. I worried about him, of course, but between figuring out who garroted Danny Sledge, discovering the shop cat Grimalkin was really an ancient Greek nymph named Critheïs and my grandmother, and hunting for a blood-crazed vampire intent on enslaving the world, I hadn’t had time to get to the bottom of his odd behavior, and now…
… now he’s gone and done something stupid.
Wilson pushed Morrie down the steps, tearing his gaze from mine. Heathcliff reached out to hold me back, but I slipped under his fingers and followed the detectives along Butcher Street to the town green, where a squad car waited, door open, ready to whisk Morrie away from me. Hayes placed a hand on Morrie’s neck and directed him into the backseat.
“I’m going with him.” I dashed around to the other door and slid inside before Wilson could stop me.
Hayes sighed. He was used to me by now. “Fine. We’ll see you at the station. If James has his mobile on him, I recommend he contact his lawyer.”
The officer behind the wheel nodded at Hayes and pulled away from the curb. He flicked on the radio, and loud violin music pumped through the speakers, so loud it shook the vehicle.
The seats reeked of sweat and urine, a fact I first noticed when the police arrested me on suspicion of murdering my ex-best friend, Ashley. It was hard to believe it was only a few months ago that I’d been sitting in this exact same position, wringing my hands and panicking about what would happen next. it felt like another time, and I was a different person now.
The new Mina – the one sitting across from her boyfriend, the Napoleon of Crime – this Mina wasn’t afraid. She was pissed as fuck.
“What the bloody hell is going on?” I yelled over the music, leaning over to punch Morrie in the arm. “Who’s Kate Danvers, and why do they think you killed her?”
Morrie rubbed his bicep. “Because I did kill her.”
“Shhhh.” My gaze flicked back to the officer, but he waved his arm about like a conductor, completely oblivious to Morrie’s confession. “Don’t say things like that. Didn’t you listen when they cautioned you?”
“Relax, gorgeous. He can’t hear a word over his Vivaldi. I’m more a fan of the Russian composers myself. No sense of melody whatsoever, but they embraced chaos—”
“Stop talking for a second so I can think.” I sucked in a deep breath. My hand sought the comfort of Morrie’s long fingers. “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. Jo’s our friend. She’ll go over that body fifty times, a hundred times, until she finds the evidence to exonerate you. Is your phone in your pocket? I bet you’ve got some fancy lawyer friend down in London on speed dial. We’ll call him and…”
My words trailed off as I noticed Morrie wasn’t listening to me. His gaze was glued to his window, where houses and rolling fields whizzed past at top speed. The corner of his mouth tugged upward, but I couldn’t tell if it was a smirk or a grimace.
That’s odd. We should have reached the police station by now. It was only a few blocks across the village of Argleton. Instead, the oaks of Kings Copse Wood loomed over us as the squad car snaked out of the village, past quaint farm buildings and towering hedgerows, toward the wild peaks of the Barsetshire Fells.
“Morrie…” I poked him in the ribcage. “Why aren’t we going to the police station?”
“I haven’t the foggiest idea.”
“Hey!” I banged on the cage separating us from the uniformed officer. “Where are you taking us? What’s going on?”
In response, the officer turned the music up louder. I yelled and shook the cage. Morrie joined in, but neither of us could elicit even a nod of acknowledgment from the officer.
Fear clutched at my stomach. This doesn’t make any sense. Hayes would have told us if we were being taken somewhere else. What’s going on?
“What should we do?” I asked Morrie.
“I don’t have my phone on me,” Morrie patted his pockets. “I left it beside the bed. I do have a Montblanc pen I might be able to fashion into some sort of weapon—”
“It may come to that.” I pulled my own phone from my pocket and dialed Quoth. When I raised it to my head, a weird hissing noise assaulted my eardrum, followed by a series of beeps. “What’s that? Quoth? Can you hear me?”
Morrie took the phone from me and tried another call. “It’s not connecting. The cop’s got some sort of jamming device in front. We’re not getting through to anyone.”
I stared at the picture of a litter of guide dog puppies on my phone’s lock screen. My vision blurred until the puppies became a blob. “Okay, I’m officially scared now.”
Morrie reached over and tried the door and window. Both were locked. He glanced back to me, but didn’t say a thing, which only made my chest constrict more. Morrie always had a smartarse comment for every situation.
He laced his fingers in mine and squeezed. That squeeze told me more than words ever could – the indomitable James Moriarty was just as scared as I was.
We drove for what seemed like hours through increasingly barren dales. Limestone outcrops jutted through tufts of heather bent double in the wind. We wound through narrow roads up into what passed for mountains in the UK (an ‘arduous hill’ in any country with actual wilderness). We passed a small village named Barset Reach – just a collection of stone cottages, a pub, and a petrol station – and turned off the road onto a forest track.
Trees bent over the road, swiping at the sides and roof of the car – the fingers of a forest witch threatening to drag us away to a gingerbread house. Darkness swept my vision as the trees obscured the light, and my temples flared with a migraine as my eyes strained to make out shapes and shadows.
We came to a fork in the road. As the car swung right, Morrie leaned over and read out the sign. “It says, WILD OATS WILDERNESS SURVIVAL SCHOOL,’ but it’s pointing left.” He frowned. “I recognize that name.”
“Why are you frowning like that? Did you go there on a company team-building day and they make you eat cockroaches?”
“That’s where Kate Danvers’ body was found.”
Shite. So why has the cop brought us back to the crime scene without telling Hayes? I squeezed Morrie’s hand as the sharp stab of my migraine pierced my skull. Fluorescent green and orange lights danced in front of my eyes. Nothing like sheer terror to make vision loss worse.
We drove away from Wild Oats, away from the last sign of civilization, and bumped our way along a deteriorating path until we came to a clearing in the trees. The officer shut off the car and picked up his gun from the seat. The doors made a clicking noise as he released the lock.
“Get out of the car,” he growled, tugging his peaked cap low over his face to hide his eyes in shadow.
My fingers trembled so hard it took me three tries to push the handle to open the door. Morrie was already around the side of the car, tugging me into his arms. He steadied me with his possessive grip, and I noticed he angled himself so he was between me and the constable, who I was now certain was not a real officer of the law. “I am a rich man. Whoever is paying you to do this, I’ll double it. If you let Mina go, we can talk terms.”
“Typical.” The officer’s voice dripped with derision. “You assume I am as corruptible as you. Girl, hand me your phone.”
I thought about pretending I didn’t have my phone with me, but I couldn’t stop staring at the barrel of that gun. I drew my phone out of my pocket and held it out. The officer leaned forward to grab it from me. His fingers brushed mine and, for a moment, a sickly heat crackled on my skin. I itched to slap him, to scratch his eyes out, anything other than standing here like a useless fool.
The officer tossed my phone into a puddle, where it fizzed and sparked. The screen went blank as the puppies disappeared under the brackish water.
We’re alone out here with this madman.
Morrie gripped me tighter, and I drew comfort from his presence. It would take a fellow madman to get us out of this mess, but that was exactly what Morrie was. Morrie didn’t rage like Heathcliff – instead, he used his considerable intellect to think his way out of every jam. I could already see the cogs moving in his mind, his eyes flicking into the trees and then back at the gun as he considered our options. He tried again. “I can help you. I can give you the money and the means to disappear forever, and no one need know what happened here today.”
The officer jabbed his gun in the direction of a narrow path winding up the side of the peak. “Walk. Don’t make me ask twice.”
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