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Shoulder Bags and Shootings (Haley Randolph Mysteries) Excerpt from Shoulder Bags and Shootings (Haley Randolph Mysteries)

by Dorothy Howell



Excerpt From Shoulder Bags and Shootings: A Haley Randolph Mystery
by Dorothy Howell

Detective Madison had taken the power position in the chair behind Jeanette's desk and Shuman stood off to the side. Jeanette retreated to the corner. In that dress she looked like a tropical sunset during a nuclear winter.

"So," Madison said, rearing back in the chair, "you want to tell us what happened?"

That was a trick question. I knew because I'd been questioned by the police before. I'd already explained myself to Shuman and he'd, of course, passed it all on to Madison. He just wanted me to tell my story again.

Under other circumstances, I might have hesitated. But not this time. There was absolutely no way Madison could stick me with this murder. I'd simply had the misfortune of driving a car that had a dead body stuffed into the trunk at the airport. I wasn't worried.

"Haley, you don't have to say anything," Jeanette said.

Madison looked excited, as if invoking my rights meant I was guilty of something.

"I'm happy to cooperate," I said.

"You're entitled to have an attorney present," Jeanette said.

Jeanette knew I was involved with Ty, the owner of the department store chain of which she hoped to remain employed, though she'd never come right out and said anything. I'm sure she figured it out, though, the night I was leaving for Europe with Ty and he called her at home and explained I wouldn't be at work for a few weeks.

Now she was just covering her bases. Jeanette wanted to make sure that during my next pillow-talk session with Ty, I told him that she'd been concerned about me during the police interview. Little did she realize that the only thing I was likely to mention was the hideous dress she had on.

Not that Ty would listen anyway.

"I don't need a lawyer," I said, smiling pleasantly, as any innocent person would. "The car belongs to Ada Cameron. We picked it up at the airport last night after we landed. It had been there for a couple of weeks."

Detective Madison just stared. "Go on."

I didn't really see what else there was to explain, except maybe to give them the reason Ada and I hadn't found the body in the trunk last night at the airport. If we'd had luggage instead of just a small carry-on, we'd have made the discovery there.

I guess I didn't speak fast enough for Madison because he said, "And how did you end up here at the store with the car this morning?"

"I dropped Ada off at home last night after we left the airport so she wouldn't have to be out so late. I used the car to pick up some clothing Holt's was donating to charity."

"First thing this morning? What was the hurry?" Madison asked.

"Because I was going shopping."

Okay, that sounded kind of lame. So what could I do but give more details?

"I saw the new Sinful handbag in Elle last night," I said.

"Elle?" Madison asked.

"The fashion magazine," I told him.

"What does that have to do with anything?"

Jeez, what's wrong with him? Wasn't it obvious?

"I wanted to get to the mall and find the handbag before they were all sold out," I told him.

"Let me be sure I have this straight," Madison said, shifting in his chair. "You got up early after a grueling flight from London. First thing you wanted to do was go to the mall. You could have waited for Mrs. Cameron to show up, but you didn't. You could have taken your own car to pick up the charity donation, but you didn't. And all of this was because of some handbag?"

When he said it like that, it did sound kind of weird, but it was the truth.

"Yes, that's right," I told him.

Everybody was staring at me now. Shuman, Madison, even Jeanette. I started to get a yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach.

"Did you get a look at the victim in the trunk?" Madison asked.

I was kind of relieved he'd changed direction in his questioning. Guess he understood, after all.

"I saw her," I said.

"Recognize her?"

I shook my head. "No."

"You've never seen her before," Madison said, making it a statement, rather than a question.

I got the yucky feeling again.

"I have no idea who she is," I said.

"None at all?"

Maybe I should stop talking now.

"Look," I said, "I don't know anything more -- "

"Well, as it turns out, we know lots more to talk about," Detective Madison said, and suddenly I knew exactly what the canary must have felt like the second the cat opened its mouth.

Madison leaned closer. "We talked to Ada Cameron. She's telling a different story. She says that she never gave her permission for you to take her car anywhere, except to your apartment. She didn't ask you to pick up the clothing for the shelter. In fact, she told you to stay home, she'd get the car from you at eleven this morning."

"Well, yeah, but I told you I wanted to go to the mall and get that -- "

"Handbag. Yeah, right," Madison said and grunted. "And when you got to the store you didn't park out front where you usually park, did you? You circled around to the back. You parked as far from the building as you could, without making it look obvious. And when you got out of the car, you looked around to see if anyone had seen you, didn't you."

"But that was -- "

"We have witnesses," Madison said. "Don't lie."

"I'm not lying!"

"The assistant store manager said he saw you in the stock room, but you ran off, like you didn't want him to see you and know that you were in the store," Madison said.

"I didn't want him to -- "

"And that kid back in men's wear. What's his name?" Madison asked, glancing over his shoulder.

"Troy," Shuman said, checking his notes.

"Yeah, Troy. He told us you practically ran over him trying to get out of the store."

I was not getting into the whole porn star thing with Madison. Not with Jeanette standing there.

"And about the victim." Detective Madison gestured to Shuman.

"Tiffany Markham," he replied.

"Are you still claiming you don't know her?" Madison asked.

"I don't know anybody named Tif -- "

Oh God.

The little yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach doubled in size.

"Tiffany Markham," Madison said. "She's the co-owner of a purse party business, along with that woman Rita who works right here in the store. Your arch rival in the purse party business. The person who's booking bigger parties than you. The person who's selling more bags than you. The person who's trying to ruin you. That's who Tiffany Markham is. Isn't she? Isn't she?"

Oh, crap.

The above is an excerpt from the book Shoulder Bags and Shootings: A Haley Randolph Mystery by Dorothy Howell. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 Dorothy Howell, author of Shoulder Bags and Shootings: A Haley Randolph Mystery