I’ve been working on my Magpie Romantic Suspense Mysteries Series. The first three books in the series are going to be published at the same time. I hoped they would be released by now, but the process is taking longer than expected. Who knew publishing three books would be so much work. 😉
One For Sorrow and Two For Joy are complete, and Three For a Girl will be off to the proofreader in a few days. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the first chapter from Two For Joy.
The cat burglar scrambled up the rain-soaked drainpipe and then reached for the open window on the second floor. It was nine at night, half an hour before dusk, which meant he was more exposed than usual. But he’d agreed to follow his contact’s instructions to the letter. Luckily, the rear of the house on Sycamore Street faced the Bow River and was hidden by trees, which meant he couldn’t be seen by passersby. He’d caught a break with the weather, too. The low-hanging clouds and light drizzle also helped obscure him.
He paused with one hand on the windowsill when the guests attending the dinner party downstairs fell silent. When they burst into laughter, he smiled. Everything was going according to plan.
He eased himself into a sitting position on the ledge and then pulled his legs up to his chest. He spun so he faced the interior of a large bedroom. It contained a king-sized bed, two nightstands, and a dresser. Unfortunately, the walls were white, and the floors were a light-colored hardwood. He was dressed in black from head to toe, even down to his latex gloves. This normally allowed him to blend into the dusky shadows. Not this time.
The mansion was situated in the heart of Banff, a tourist town in the Canadian Rockies. The multimillion-dollar residence was rare in this town since the expansion of the town limits was strictly prohibited due to the fact that it was smack dab in the middle of Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
He crept across the floor, ignoring the diamond ring that sat on the nightstand beside the bed. He didn’t want to be obvious. There was a good chance the owner would notice immediately if the piece was missing. It was better if they didn’t realize they’d been robbed until tomorrow.
He opened the door to the linen cupboard, cringing when the hinges creaked, and then rummaged through the folded satin sheets. Finally, at the bottom of the pile, he touched something hard. He carefully untangled a small plain wooden box. Hidden inside was an emerald and diamond necklace with matching earrings. He stuffed the jewels into his backpack and returned the box and the sheet to their hiding place.
He glanced down the hallway to the left. The door to the master bedroom was shut. That room held a safe behind a Monet reproduction, but that could wait until later. First, he had to keep his appointment. Justin Cross had contacted him using one of his message boards, and had provided him with a layout of the house along with important details that were necessary for his work.
He edged along the darkened hallway, moving silently until he reached the third door on the right. Holding his breath, he listened as the people downstairs continued their conversation. Once he was convinced they were occupied, he turned the handle and stepped inside, inching the door closed behind him. An earthy, fetid stench stung his nostrils. He covered his nose and breathed through his mouth in an attempt to block out the foul odor. He dismissed the smell, concentrating on the job instead. Even mansions must have plumbing problems.
Despite the opulence of the house, the office was small. An oversize wooden desk with a matching chair was positioned at the far end in front of a tiny high-set window. Two weird pink armchairs sat in front of the desk, and a long side table was against the wall on his left. A small lamp illuminated the desk, casting long shadows on the pale walls. He’d expected his contact, Justin Cross, assistant to the CFO of Starling Stores, to be here. Perhaps he’d been delayed.
He took another step forward, then stopped cold and listened. He heard a low wheezing above the electrical buzz of the lamp. Huge splashes of blood stained the large rug that covered the floor. His stomach heaved at the sight. Every fiber in his body told him to run, but his macabre curiosity made him stay. He followed the grizzly trail that led behind the desk.
Justin lay in a heap on the floor. A wet, gooey mass dribbled down his neck from a gash to the back of his head.
“No.” The sound had been a reflex. He clamped a hand over his mouth to stop making more noise as his mind scrambled to cope with what he was seeing.
He kneeled at Justin’s side and felt his neck for a pulse. There was a faint rhythm.
Justin’s eyes fluttered as he groaned.
“What happened?” He heard the tremble in his own voice.
“Take it,” Justin rasped.
“Take what?” He looked into Justin’s gaze but wished he hadn’t. The dying man’s dark eyes conveyed fear, desperation, and sadness.
Justin took two more labored breaths and whispered, “Hand.”
“Never mind that. We need to get you help.”
“Hand.” Justin wheezed again and then fell silent. His eyes went blank, and every bone, every muscle in his body, seemed to slump.
He checked Justin’s neck, feeling for a pulse again, but there was nothing. If only he’d arrived a few minutes earlier, he might have been able to save him.
He wasn’t a religious man, but he said a small prayer, hoping that if heaven existed, Justin would end up there. Then he pried Justin’s fingers open and retrieved a red and gold memory stick from the dead man’s hand.
He stood and rubbed his beard as he glanced around the room.
The desktop was empty. There were no papers, nothing. He shone his flashlight over the edge of the desk. It was clear. Then he examined the small side table. Bingo. Somehow Justin’s head had hit the corner, which now shone red with blood. Once hurt, instead of calling for help, he had crawled behind the desk, probably to retrieve the USB drive.
The people downstairs laughed again. The sound forced him to think about the reality of the situation. No one would believe he hadn’t killed Justin. He needed to leave.
He checked the room, making sure he hadn’t left any evidence behind. Then he opened the door with the same care he’d used when he entered and backtracked through the house.
As he reached for the ledge in the spare room, he noticed his hands were shaking. Hold it together.
He shimmied down the drainpipe and disappeared into the trees.