I'm happy to welcome Dorothy Watts to the blog today. You can find Dorothy on the pages of the Barrow Bay Mystery series by Annabelle Hunter. Number's Up is the first book in the series and was released last month.
I was done.
I was done with people. I was done with sycophants. I was done with only being a checkbook.
I. Was. Done.
I left my mansion in the Hollywood hills, the one nestled next to two movie stars I couldn’t care less about, in the sporty little Italian car that my husband had so loved. The last of his precious cars. The ones he had cared for and bragged about. Like me, they had been his trophies of all the business successes that he’d had. Each of the cars had a story associated to it, a ‘win,’ most times at someone else’s expense. This one was the one he bought after he married me.
But that was business.
I hated those words. ‘That was business.’ They circled around my brain, echoing in the back of my mind, where the guilt still had a hold. It had taken a few years for the guilt to come. At first, I thought I was Cinderella and he was my Prince Charming. I’d been raised to be a society girl. To throw parties and maneuver social politics. I fit his needs, and he had been romantic and handsome. He had twirled me off my Gucci encased feet and into the world of real money.
And I had flourished. He’d chosen his partner well, way better than I had. I was a shark in a dress, able to manipulate his business associates with ease. To get them to do what he wanted. I was the female version of him.
Except, I wasn’t.
I hadn’t known at first what he was doing. How, instead of building up the companies we bought, he was tearing them apart. How he was ruining lives for the profit.
I had just helped him. Like a good little wife.
“I hadn’t known.” I whispered the words at the stop light. The red light didn’t answer, it just stared down at me like it was judging me. The light was right. I had known some of it. Enough of it. David Wilson had tried to tell me, but I’d refused to listen. Until my husband died, and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Until it screamed at me in black and white, all documented in clear, organized lines and numbers.
I had helped a monster. I was a monster.
The light turned green, and I drove on, not caring where I was going. After a while I reached the ocean. For a second, I hesitated. There were only two choices, turn north, up the Pacific Coast Highway or turn south. I turned north. I had no reasons. Just a choice. Like I had been trained to do by him. Always make a choice, even if it was the wrong one. Make a choice and let someone else deal with the consequences.
So, I did. I turned north and kept driving. I drove as the day gave way to night. I drove as the sun broke over the ocean. I drove until the little car screamed in a puff of smoke that it could go no further. I should’ve been grateful that the ancient classic hadn’t done it sooner in a more desolate place. Instead, the loyal car had delivered me to a run-down main street in a town of what might have been former fisherman from the old boats in a marina that I’d passed.
It had a few open shops and a lone bakery, but no auto-mechanic that I could see. And there wasn’t much beyond this street to give me hope of finding one off the road. A crowd of people gathered to look at the smoking car, and I got out, hoping to find someone that might help me.
“Hello. I seem to be having some car problems. Can you direct me to a repair shop?”
A lady in her sixties, right about my age, stepped forward, giving me a long look. “You’re Dorothy Watts.”
Well, this could be unfortunate. “You know of me?”
“My son-in-law knew your husband.”
“I’m very sorry for that.” No one should’ve been forced to have known him. But it was interesting that someone in this run-down town knew anyone in my circle. “He’s dead.”
“I know.” She shot me a narrow look. “I’m not sorry.”
“Neither am I.” I put a hand to my mouth, shocked at the words. They had just popped out, but it didn’t stop more from falling out from behind my hand as if it wasn’t there. “I’m glad he’s dead. He was evil. He made our sons…” No, I couldn’t face the truth of that yet. Not yet. “I’m glad he’s gone.” I whispered the end, the confidence that I had always worn as a second skin, left behind in LA.
The lady looked at me for a long time before trading a glance with a man in his fifties. He stepped forward, two younger cops behind him and smiled at me. I stared for a second. I was a social queen. I knew when I was being played and when to play people. This man, with his country bumpkin slouch, and his disarming smile, was trying to play me.
“I’m thinking I might be able to help you, if you don’t mind.”
I’m sure. “What will it cost me?”
He smiled wider on one side. “Lunch. On us.”
“Why?” I was evil. I was a monster. I also had enough money to buy this entire town. Why would they waste what little money they had on me?
“Because sometimes you meet people, and you just know.” The woman came up, wrapping her arm around mine and pulling me to a little Mexican joint that looked like it was about to fall down on them. “Flynn! Get her bags. She can stay with us tonight.”
“No, really, I can just get a hotel—”
“No hotels here.”
“Yep. No hotels, motels, or Holiday Inns.”
I stood there for a second not sure if she had meant to reference that song lyric as she said that, but her face remained passive. The fake bumpkin followed, the cops staying with my car and another man popping my truck for my stuff that wasn’t there.
“Am I being robbed? Nicely?” Because really, after what my husband had done it was probably fair. They needed my money more than I did, and I had millions.
“Nope.” This came from the man, who spoke slowly, trying again to convince me he was dumb. I glared for a second, so he knew I wasn’t buying it, before I turned back to the woman who seemed to be the ringleader.
“Don’t you worry. Alice will be here in a second. Gossip flies in a town like this.”
“Gossip flies everywhere. People just care more about regular people in a town like this.”
She smiled, slowly, like a cat that had just got the cream. “Miguel! You’ve got customers.”
A younger Hispanic man came out, in a Hawaiian shirt and board shorts. A surfer. Interesting. He glared at us and then pointed at a table.
“Does he want to take our order?”
“Nope. We’re getting hamburgers.”
“But I only eat salads.”
“Do you like salads?”
Not really. “Yes.”
She snorted. “Burgers. Trust me.” She patted my hand even though I was pretty sure I was older and lead me to a table. “Now, let’s talk business.”
Well, I was right on the being robbed, just not that normal way. “I’m not here to—”
“You’re here because you need a new life.”
Huh. I wasn’t the only shark at this table. I looked at both of them. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re driving down PCH without any luggage and you live in LA. You’re running away. Since I know your husband, I’m willing to guess your free and your making a run for it.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Of course, you don’t.” She pulled out her phone. “You want to call anyone and tell them where you are?”
No. “What business do you want to talk about?”
“We don’t want to move. We need tourism to save the town.”
Business. I could handle that. I felt my normal confidence seeping back into my body. “Well, do you have any draw?”
I looked around. “That’s not a draw. That’s an over statement.”
They both winced, but the woman pulled out some papers. “My daughter-in-law, Helen, drew these up. For a resort. We were going to try and get my son-in-law to fund them, but he’s got a big project in San Fran. They’d be perfect for you.”
I looked at them. They were plans for a resort. Application for business loans to revitalize the main street. Turn it into a really cute town. “These are impressive for someone in the middle of nowhere.”
She shrugged. “I kidnapped my daughter-in-law before anyone else realized what a gem she was. My son-in-law, Ken, found her sneaking into one of his classes in college and directed her my way. She acts like she does nothing, but this is what she does for fun.”
Huh. I studied them for a few more second. They really were well done. “You want me to fund your resort.”
“We want you to build yourself a resort. We’ll do the rest.”
Right. I looked down. “Do you often kidnap people?”
“Only when we have to.” She smiled. “I’m Elise, and this is Benny.”
A resort. I’d never opened one, but I’d played around with the idea before. “Ken Johnson is your son-in-law.”
“Natalie’s a wonderful girl.” And sharp as a tack. Both were. They’d stayed well away from my husband, making their own millions. “This is you kidnapping me, as well, isn’t it?”
“Yep. Welcome to Barrow Bay.”
Number's Up (Barrow Bay Mysteries) by Annabelle Hunter
About Number's Up
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Independently Published (August 13, 2019)
Jennifer Ward’s To Do List: 1) Turn in my business partner and his lying, cheating, law-breaking client to the SEC for insider trading. 2)Cooperate with the FBI. Do not kiss - scratch that. Do not yell at Special Agent Nicholas Kelly, the FBI agent leading said investigation. 3) Discover a dead body...
Jennifer Ward, MBA, CPA, and business consultant, likes a nice, orderly lifestyle. Schedules and To Do Lists are what gets her through the day. So when the by-the-numbers fashionista finds her business partner was breaking the law, she turned him in to the SEC. Which brought the FBI to her door, and her ordered world to an end.
But that was three weeks ago. Things couldn’t possibly get worse. Right?
Until Jen discovers her business partner dead in his hotel room. With Nic the handsome FBI agent dogging her every step, Jen must use her skills to discover the truth. Who killed Henry? And will she be next?
About Annabelle HunterAnnabelle Hunter is a stay-at-home mom and an avid fan of classic mystery shows and dressage. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two children, and too many animals.
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