Since the third novel in the Paula, PI, series, Secrets Exposed, will be out soon, I decided to do a spotlight in case you missed the second book, A Broken Life, and might enjoy knowing more about it.
While in the middle of investigating a domestic case, Rhode Islander PI Paula Mitchell finds an old friend, ragged and homeless. Paula learns that Martha Hendricks is the victim of identity theft. Three years earlier a woman, with ID confirming her as Martha, was busted on a drug charge. After Martha’s boss found out about it, he fired her.
Soon Paula begins to receive threatening phone calls. The doctor Martha worked for is murdered. And Martha disappears–until Paula finds her, beaten and left for dead, in her own backyard.
For two days, Martha is unconscious. As Paula investigates further, she learns more about the doctor’s employees, meets Martha’s old boyfriend, and one of her former roommates. Paula’s suspect list grows. When she’s almost run down in a parking lot, her lover pleads with her to stop her investigation.
Paula refuses. Not only is Martha in danger, but if Paula doesn’t push harder for answers, she knows she’ll be the next person on the killer’s hit list.
And here’s an excerpt to showcase Paula at work:
Straight-arming the door, I strode into the [convenience] store. Looked around. The only customer was male, about five feet eight, with short brown hair, brown eyes and a pointy little nose. My accident-prone tail [from the other day]. Surprised, I stopped in the doorway, staring a moment before I could think what to do. My gun felt heavy at my side, and I longed to pull it out, point it at him and call the police. But it was too risky, no one’s life was in danger, and I hated to point a gun at someone without a damned good reason.
Deciding to play it cool, I walked farther into the store, picked up a candy bar, a box of doughnuts, and watched the guy out of the corner of my eye. He said something to the cashier, then sauntered toward the door, head down. Maybe he felt me staring, because suddenly he looked up, saw me, and took off. I dashed out after him, the clerk yelling behind me. When I reached for the door handle of the Taurus, I realized I still had the candy and doughnuts in my hand. I heard the other car start up and back away. Throwing the goodies on the ground, I jumped into my car and took off after him, squashing the candy and doughnuts under my wheels.]
He drove to Chartersford Avenue, with me right on his bumper. He tried to time the lights so he could get through and I’d be stuck, but I managed to stay with him all the way up to Springton, and then through several other small towns until we were out in the country. I had memorized his license number by that time, as well as the back of his head.The sound of a train whistle wailed in the distance. The car ahead slowed down as we approached a crossing. Behind me, I heard another sound—a siren. Lights flashed in my mirror. Thank goodness, I thought, the police. I looked ahead again and saw what the guy was trying to do. He wanted to get through the crossing and have the train block me. Don’t do it, I thought. Remember your luck with the bus. This would be much worse. I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn’t.
The whistle hooted again, the train almost upon us. The guy made his move, getting through, and I had to stop. I turned around and motioned frantically toward the police car.
But the police officer took his time climbing out, his notebook in hand. He sauntered over to me so slowly that I became impatient and jumped out of the car.
“Hold it right there!” he yelled at me, drawing his weapon.
“Officer,” I shouted, standing still, putting my hands up. “You have to catch that guy.”
As I raised my arms, my jacket pulled away to reveal my gun. Now the officer stopped walking, too. “Use two fingers to take out your weapon,” he said, his voice hoarse, “and place it on the ground.”
“Officer,” I pleaded. “I’m a private detective on a case. We need to catch the man I was following.”
“Yeah, and I’m the Easter Bunny. I’ve heard them all now. Do as I said. Get that weapon on the ground, then turn around and spread-eagle against your vehicle.”
Shaking my head, I used my thumb and forefinger to gingerly lift my gun out of its holster, and bent down a little so I wouldn’t have to drop it far and damage it. After I straightened up, I hugged my Taurus and uncomfortably let the officer search me for more weapons. Did his hands linger a little longer than necessary? It was hard to tell under these circumstances.
“Okay,” he said when satisfied, still shouting over the noise of the train. “Now show me some identification.”
“In my purse,” I said through wooden lips, as I reached inside the car for my bag.
When he saw my PI license his only comment was, “Huh. Well, anyway, you’re under arrest.
“What for?” I demanded.
“Shoplifting,” he shouted.
The train chugged along until finally the caboose came into view. I gaped at the police officer a moment before collecting what wits I had left. With one final, mournful toot of its horn, the train disappeared around a bend. I looked at the road ahead, and of course, the guy in the car had disappeared. My only real lead in the case.
“Officer, you don’t understand.” I almost whimpered with frustration. “What town are you from, anyway?” The lights in the strobe bar on his cruiser still rotated maddeningly.
“Taylor,” he said. He had his gun back in his fist, pointed at me. Overkill for a shoplifter, but not one with a gun, I guess.
I gaped some more. “You came all the way from Taylor to arrest me out here for shoplifting?”
“The clerk at the convenience store thought you might be impersonating a police officer. That’s a serious crime. I see now that you are a private investigator, but there’s still the charge of shoplifting.”
“I can explain that.”
“Of course you can,” he said in a soothing voice, as if I were a young child or mentally deranged.
“Really. Listen, it’s a long story.” I realized that I’d like to sit down. My legs felt a bit weak, my usual delayed reaction to stress. And having a gun pointed at me twice in two days definitely counted as stress. Plus, I’d lost the guy. He’d probably ditch the car now. And what was his relationship to the woman with the two kids? So many questions, so little time. I’d have to make the long story short.
“Look,” I pleaded. “The guy I was following followed me the other day. He crashed into a bus, and when I confronted him, he pulled a gun on me. There’s a report about it in Springton, if you don’t believe me. So, when I saw him in the convenience store, I had to try to talk to him, find out what it was all about. I’ll pay for the merchandise I took. It was completely unconscious—I didn’t realize I had the stuff in my hands until I got out to the car, and then I had to go after him. You see?” My legs felt even weaker now, but I forced myself to stand straight and tall.
“Yeah, sure,” he said.
“You can check it out. Call Detective Brudder in Springton.”
“You know him?”
“Of course,” I said impatiently. I’d come to the conclusion that this guy wasn’t the brightest light in the police station.
“You a friend of his?” he asked, his gun lowering slightly at the thought.
“Yes,” I lied, silently asking my mother’s forgiveness. One of her favorite stories had been about George Washington and the cherry tree.
“Okay. I’m going to call in. You come with me to the car.”
“And leave my gun on the ground here? My car in the road?”
He stood considering these matters seriously for a minute. “I’ll get your weapon,” he said finally. “People can get around the car. I’ll leave my lights on.”
Good thinking. At least something about you will be bright. After he retrieved my gun, I trod to the police car, its lights making me crazy. He put me inside the cage. No door handles and metal netting between him and me. I felt like a hamster with a broken wheel, getting nowhere.
The officer called in, and the dispatcher patched him through to the Springton police station. I could hear Lil for a moment, then Brudder’s deep growl came over the speaker. Thank goodness he was there. Or maybe not. It would be just like him to deny that he even knew me. I held my breath.
After explaining what had happened, the officer waited a moment during the silence over the line. “You still there, sir?” he finally asked.
“Yeah,” Brudder replied. “Thinking. Look, I know Mitchell. She’s all right. Wouldn’t do anything totally stupid.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I realized he didn’t know I could hear him. I almost blushed.
“She did have a guy point a gun at her the other day,” he continued. “If she thought she saw him again, she’d do almost anything to catch him. So, her story’s probably solid. Plus, she has this lawyer friend who can cause you a boatload of trouble. Son, I’d let her go with a warning. And tell her to get back to that store and pay for the merchandise. Any questions?”
The officer glanced back at me with a resigned expression. “No, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“Right. Now, get the license number and a description of the car from her so I can put out an updated APB on the guy.”
“Yes, sir.” He turned to me, and I told him what I knew about the car while he wrote it down slowly in his notebook.
After they signed off, I heaved a sigh of relief. The officer let me out of the car, gave me back my gun. He didn’t apologize, but I didn’t think he needed to. He had been doing his job. And he’d done it by the book. Glad that no one had come along the lonely road while all this was happening, I climbed back into the Taurus debating driving down a ways to see if I could spot the Chevy Nova.
Deciding it was probably futile, I made a U-turn and headed back to Springton, passing the officer sitting in his patrol car, writing in his notebook, his colored lights still flashing.
A Broken Life is available in both Kindle edition from Amazon and in paperback from most other on-line bookstores. You should also be able to order it through your local bookstore.