All summer long we’re featuring great e-books at great prices as part of our “Pocket Star-E Nights” program! With the help of some amazing blog partners (our “Shooting Stars“), we’re sharing some deliciously decadent excerpts of these terrific novels. If you like what you’re reading, you can purchase the book via the buy links just below this post.
The following excerpt is from bestselling mystery author Jan Burke; “Convicted” is one of six story collections from this master of suspense–don’t miss excerpts from “Apprehended” and “Tried” this week as well. And the best part? Each of them is available for only $1.99! Some of the stories in each collection are from her most recent book, EIGHTEEN, but these excerpts are all from the brand-new, never-before-published stories she wrote for this digital-first release.
We drove to the alley behind Cokie’s house, where I spent some time looking around as if I thought I’d see something. I’m sure the streets of London and other locations that may have required Holmes’s attention also had a lot of meaningless debris spread over them.
I didn’t go so far as to pull out a magnifying glass. I hadn’t owned one since I was nine, when my father caught me lighting discarded cigarette butts in the backyard by using focused solar power. He seemed to think I was a hairsbreadth away from burning down the house. I’m not saying he was wrong.
It didn’t look as if there was much I could learn there, two days after the singing clowns had come and gone. So I got back into the car, wrote down my odometer reading, and took the shortest route to the closest rental place. The energy crisis had caused the cost of gasoline to skyrocket, so I thought that location would be my best bet.
Although the geezer behind the counter didn’t seem averse to talking to two young women about his customers, we struck out. The only van that had been rented on Wednesday was still out—not due back in until Saturday. Rented by a young couple. The husband’s parents were giving their old house to the couple and moving to San Diego; the van was being used to move the parents out and the couple in. This might have been a complicated cover story, but I doubted it.
Owing to said fuel crisis, I asked the manager if he would call the other locations to see if anyone had handled a same day rental of a moving van on Wednesday.
Fortunately, midmonth, autumn weekdays were not popular moving days, and we learned that the next-closest location had rented a van that day.
Unfortunately, the manager at that location was an unhappy woman of middle years who was not so forthcoming. She did say a van had been rented on Wednesday for a few hours, but didn’t see how it was any of our business.
“I think someone was trying to play a mean trick on my friend,” I said. “Or maybe worse.”
She was skeptical. There was no alternative, it seemed, to having Cokie tell her story. The woman laughed—before that moment, I wouldn’t have betted on her capacity to do so—and remained skeptical.
“The person who rented from us was very nice,” she said. “We didn’t rent our van to a person who might do something so immature.”
“We know it was a man, so don’t bother with the ‘person’ stuff,” I said, and saw her mouth prim up and a look of self-satisfaction come into her eyes. So—a woman rented the van.
“It would have been illegal for the renter to put two people in the back and let them roll around between here and Cokie’s house, right?”
“You’re just trying to worm information out of me, and I won’t tell you a thing,” she said. “Next time you make up a story, try to come up with something better than a tall tale about clowns.”
She was convinced of that. I heard it in her voice, and wondered why she was so sure. When I realized the answer, I wanted to kick myself in the pants. Of course no one had shown up at the rental place with five people dressed as clowns.
I walked outside the office, Cokie trailing me. I walked past rototillers, a forklift, lawn spreaders, and post-hole diggers. I walked until I came to the place where the trailers and vans were parked. I pointed to two moving vans that were positioned next to each other. “Which one is closer to the size you saw?”
Cokie pointed to the larger of the two. I walked toward the back of it.
By now the manager had noticed that we hadn’t returned to the Karmann Ghia, as she had expected, and began marching toward us. “Hey, you!” she called out, attracting the attention of a couple of her workers.
I wasn’t dressed for this kind of action, I thought ruefully, but at least I was wearing flats. I stepped onto the wide, flat back bumper, grabbed on to a handhold, and swung myself upto have a closer look at the big black numbers stenciled on one of the side panels.
“Get down from there this instant!” the manager said.
“Look,” I said, running my fingers along a sticky line.
“Tape marks. The identification number was covered up, just like Cokie said it was.”
The helpers who had joined her were nodding as I pointed at the places where you could see adhesive. That, or they were looking up my skirt.
“Get her off that truck!” the woman ordered them, and since they seemed way too eager to obey her, I hopped down.
“You know no one hides the numbers on a truck unless they are up to no good,” I said.
“Get out of here. Leave this property before I call the police.”
I considered calling her bluff, and then asking her to explain to the police why she was covering up for someone engaged in criminal activity, but that presented two problems. One was I had no proof that there had been any criminal activity or idea of what the crime was. The other was I’d have to tell the police the clown story.
So we left.