Grumpy Fries & Crazy Lies: Part 12

Persephone didn’t seem too thrilled about the trip to the station, even if it had cleared her of the murder. She stalked out of the building in a huff, her heels click clacking down the concrete stairs. At the car, she finally said, “I can’t believe you didn’t trust me.”

The woman was delusional. It’s like she thought an ongoing flirtation granted her diplomatic immunity.

In an even tone of voice, Sterling explained, “I had to clear you. Plus, it was nice. I didn’t cuff you or anything. I, for one, sort of had fun.”

Hell, he’d been on worse dates.

She narrowed her eyes. “Let me tell you, Sterling Spreadbury, there are no more handcuffs in our future. Ever.”

That actually depended on whether she violated the law in his presence, but he kept his mouth shut. Like a gentleman, he opened the Masserati’s passenger door for her to step in. At least there had been a possibility of furry handcuffs–at least that’s he imagined she was talking about. Maybe he could work his way back into her good graces.

“I’m sorry about this afternoon, Persephone. I’d like a chance to make it up to you. Maybe a drink before the ball tonight?”

After all, her former date was still busy processing glitter.

She laughed. “Nice try. If you really want to make it up to me, find who’s sending me threatening letters. Based on the glitter, it’s probably the same person who killed Fries.”

She had a point, especially now that he’d eliminated her as a suspect. Also, it would be a new angle to approach the case from.

“I’m all ears if you have any ideas. Why would anyone threaten you?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know, but I do know someone who’s obsessed with glitter.” She checked to make sure he was listening. “Have you checked Claudia Fries’ Pinterest boards?”

Like he checked anyone’s Pinterest boards.

“Why don’t you look those up while I get ready.”

With that, pretty Persephone gave him a final wave and headed up the walk to her house to bedazzle herself for the party.

“See you tonight,” he called.

“Pinterest,” he grumbled to himself. He couldn’t wait to bring that up to the judge. I need a subpoena for Claudia Fries’ home because of … Pinterest.

#

Luckily, Claudia Fries was only too happy to let him into her house without a subpoena. She was even happier to show off her craft room. He should have know that someone with zebra striped hair would love glitter.

Claudia settled her toddler on her hip and showed him to a small bedroom she’d outfitted for craftpocolypse. Besides a crafting desk and ribbon everywhere, the only decoration was a sign that spelled out the word “FAMILY” in ominously sparkly letters. The only obvious weapon was the paper cutter.

“I don’t see why you’re interested in glitter,” she said. With a shrug, she added, “Anything that helps you figure out my father’s murder, though.”

I didn’t explain. I’d directed all officer to hold the glitter and applesauce information back from the press.

“Mind if I look through your supplies?” I pulled on a pair of gloves picked through a Rubbermaid tub of supplies. And there it was. Bingo. The woman owned fabric glitter, for a shoe decoration project, she claimed. The project involved decorating plain canvas shoes to sell at craft fairs.

I had to admit, everything I saw was incriminating, but I still couldn’t buy Claudia as the killer. I’d never come across a murderer who made Pinterest boards for their crime. Or maybe I was just having trouble shifting my vision of a murderer to include Martha Stewart?

Like I was talking about a handgun, I asked, “Does anyone else have access to your glitter?”

She laughed, “Well, yeah. My husband, the babysitter. Anyone who comes over for my famous applesauce cookies. Merry Gooseberry and my brother are my only regular visitors, though.”

Merry Gosseberry—there was a familiar name. She had been at the crime scene nosing around. What would her motive be, though? He’d have to talk her up at the charity ball later.

 

“Before I leave, one more question, Ms. Fries. What’s your shoe size?”

“Seven.”

Either Claudia Fries glitter-bombed her father at his exact time of death, or someone was trying to set her up to take the fall.

On his way home, he texted Persephone: Following up on your glitter tip. How do you get along with Merry Gooseberry? Any reason for her to send you a letter? 

Fifteen minutes later, she still hadn’t responded. Was she mad about trip to the station or had something happened?

 

Grumpy Fries & Crazy Lies – Part 11

“You’ll see Boschman,” I told Persephone as I escorted her to the Maserati. “But not romantically. Not tonight, at least.” I opened the passenger-side door and gestured for her to get in. She glowered at me, but then climbed inside the car. We sped off for her place.

She sunk low into the leather interior and crossed her arms over her chest. “I can never read you, Detective. One minute, you seem hot for me. The next, ice cold.”

I couldn’t argue with her there. My feelings for Persephone were complicated on a clear day. She was beautiful and magnetic, but she also attracted trouble. And she had a tendency to evade the truth. I expected criminals to lie, but not my girlfriends.

“What do you need with my sweatshirt anyway?” Persephone said, interrupting my thoughts.

I stopped at the traffic light on a busy intersection. “If I wait for Boschman to follow through on forensics, then I’ll be waiting a long time. I need you to bring your glittery sweatshirt with me to the lab. Let Boschman take a look. Force his hand a bit.”

“You mean, flirt with him so he’ll process your crime scene faster,” she said drily.

“And that.” I parked along the curb in front of her house. Persephone made no motion to get out of the car. Instead, she appeared indignant.

“And what if I don’t want to do that?” she huffed.

I stared ahead and drummed my fingers on the steering wheel. “Well, I can always arrest you for obstructing justice. Or better yet, I can take you in for murder seeing as how the glitter from your clothing was at the crime scene.”

She laughed, low and throaty. “I did not kill Mr. Fries.”

“Prove it.”\

She unbuckled her seatbelt. “Stay right here.” She got out of the car and hurried across her front lawn. She unlocked the door and went inside.

I smiled. I’d been at this job a long time. I might not understand women, but I could suss out a suspect. That I was sure of.

A minute later, Persephone climbed back inside the car and threw the sweatshirt at my head. “There,” she said. “Now, let’s get this over with.”

I turned the key in the ignition, and the sportscar roared to life.

“It’s not like I’m dying to go out with Fred,” she said. “But he, at least, asked me. You just like to screw with my head.”

That mollified me. I didn’t like being the bad cop, but I had trust issues. In my line of work, I saw the worst humanity had to offer. Sometimes, it was hard to find the best even if I went looking for it.

We rode the rest of the way to the forensics lab in silence.

#

Fred Boschman stood hunched over a stainless steel table, picking up tiny bits of glitter with tweezers, and placing them in a petri dish. “I told you Sterling, I’d get your results when I got to them.”

Persephone’s soft lilt cut through the tension. “Maybe, Fred, you could put a rush on it.”

Boschman bolted upright. He glanced at Persephone and adjusted his glasses. “I didn’t think I’d see you so soon, today. We’re still on for tonight?”

“Not unless you process this glitter,” I said as I handed him a plastic evidence bag with Persephone’s sweatshirt inside. “You want to go on your date? Clear your girl of murder.”

That got Boschman’s attention. “You don’t really think Persephone killed Mr. Fries?”

What I thought didn’t matter. It was what the evidence proved. And right now, Boschman was holding up my investigation. He removed the sweatshirt from the bag, and scraped off the glitter with a sharp knife. He put a few specks on a clear, acrylic slide and slipped it under the microscope.

“Hm,” he said, after picking up his head.

“What?” Persephone and I said together.

“The glitter doesn’t match.”

We both stared at him, waiting for him to elaborate.

“The glitter from the sweatshirt and the glitter from your crime scene are not the same. Persephone is not your killer.”

“Well, I could’ve told you that,” she said.

I couldn’t have.

Guest Post: Joanne Guidoccio

Welcome back Joanne Guidoccio, author of the Gilda Greco mystery series. Read on to learn about her latest book – and enter the giveaway!

The Back Story

TooManyWomenintheRoom_w11221_750 2Once I get the initial spark of an idea, I like to play around with a What-If scenario and after much deliberation come up with a title for the novel. Only then can I start writing the first draft.

That MO worked well for Book 1 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series:

Spark:                         Dead blondes turn up in dumpsters throughout the city.

What if…         A woman wins a $19 million lottery and then returns to her hometown, only to find herself the primary suspect in the murders of four blondes. Can she prove her innocence and solve this case before it’s too late?

Title:               A Season for Killing Blondes

Book 2 presented a challenge. I toyed with several storylines about a Greek restaurant, a charismatic chef, two murders, and a group of women who didn’t always get along. Frustrated with these disjoint elements, I turned my attention to shorter pieces and hoped that inspiration would soon arrive.

It came from an unlikely source.

One day, I received a phone call from a former colleague. While reminiscing about the past, I recalled an incident from my early teaching years.

Circa 1982: I had just started a short-term placement in the mathematics department of a large composite high school. My timetable wasn’t a good one, and I gathered the other women in the department hadn’t fared much better.

The men outnumbered the women in a ratio of 3:1 and dominated most of the conversation at the monthly meetings. But as the semester drew to a close, three of the older women became more emboldened and started voicing their concerns. Legitimate concerns about timetables and room allotments.

Surprised by these outbursts, most of the men shrugged and said nothing. The department head glanced at his watch and started shuffling papers. But one senior male teacher in his sixties couldn’t contain himself. He stood, and shouted: “There are too many women in this room! And that’s why we’re having problems in this department.” He threw his binders on the table and stormed out of the room.

One woman muttered, “What else can you expect from a man of his generation?”

“Or any man born before 1950,” another woman added.

I don’t recall too many other details about that short teaching placement, but the older gentleman’s outburst has stayed with me. And provided the perfect title for Book 2 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series: Too Many Women in the Room.

Postscript: In 2008, I retired from a mathematics department that was predominantly female. I also had the satisfaction of knowing I had positively influenced many young women to pursue mathematics, business, and science careers.

Giveaway:

Click on the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/628069205/

When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture— Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.

Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?

Book Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CORaCadAnbA

*****

guidoccio-001In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio retired from a 31-year teaching career and launched a second act that tapped into her creative side. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne…

Website: http://joanneguidoccio.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjoanneguidoccio

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanneguidoccio

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio

Amazon: https://is.gd/29GS1e

 

Grumpy Fries & Crazy Lies – Part 10

This case was getting weirder – and more out of hand – by the moment. Persephone and Aloysius had resumed their bickering. Elton Fries was staying clear of them. Wise move.

I had to think and think fast. Old Mr. Fries had been covered in applesauce and glitter. The Brooks Brothers loafer had been, too. No glitter or applesauce at Claudia Fries’s house, but there had been the matching pipe smoke. Claudia had accused her ex, Duncan Meadows, the man Alo had left Persephone for. Why? And who owned that green canvas slip-on?

I debated interrupting Persephone and her ex. On second thought, let them argue. I had two phone calls to make. The first was to Officer Poundacre. “I need to know the size of that green canvas shoe,” I said when she answered.

“Size seven,” she said without missing a beat. “Probably a woman’s seven. I wear an eight and it looked too small for me.”

I thanked her, hung up, and called Fred Boschman. “Freddie.”

“Have you talked to Persephone MacGillivray since you saw her earlier?” he asked. “I’m trying to get in touch with her about tonight and she’s not answering her phone. Damn, man, who’s the shrew in the background?”

Uh-oh. Fred was what one might call “touchy” about women. No need to let him know his date was only feet away from me, shrieking at her ex. “No, I haven’t. Sorry. As for the shrew, one of my witnesses is getting feisty. You run any tests on the applesauce from the Fries homicide earlier?”

“Don’t nag me, Spreadbury. I’m working as fast as I can.”

“I just need to know, in general, what kind of applesauce it is. Like do you know what kind of apples it was made of?”

“No clue. But it has a lot of cinnamon in it. I can smell it.”

I glanced at the empty cans in Everslam’s garbage. Bingo, cinnamon applesauce. I thanked Fred and hung up. Then I put my fingers to my lips and whistled, cutting through the chatter. “Listen up. I’m gonna need some things from each of you and I don’t want any arguing. You.” I pointed at Everslam. “What size shoe do you wear? And don’t even think of lying to me.”

His face turned brick-red, then sulky. “A ten-and-a-half.”

“He’s not lying, Detective,” Persephone said, shooting a scornful glance at her ex. “I picked up after him enough to know.”

I focused on Elton Fries. “What about you?”

“M-me?” his voice squeaked. “Uh…”

“Think hard, Mr. Fries.”

“Eleven,” he said, swallowing hard.

“Do you own a pair of Brooks Brothers loafers?”

“I don’t see…”

I arched an eyebrow, daring the younger Fries to continue his protest.

He didn’t take the dare and his shoulders slumped. “Yes.”

“Do you have them with you?”

“One.” He went to the back bedroom and returned with the mate to the loafer we’d found at the scene.

“What were you doing at your father’s house, Mr. Fries?” I glanced at Everslam, who continued to pout. “I understand you’ve been away for a while.”

“Yes.” Fries flopped into a kitchen chair. “You might as well know, Detective. My father and I argued years ago right before I left town. Alo and I…we met up when he was out in the Gulf for vacation. He’d just broken up with Meadows and was looking to drown his sorrows.”

Persephone started to speak, but I cut her off. “Let me guess. You helped him.”

Fries nodded. “We’ve been writing ever since. I came back so we could go to this big disco charity dance tonight. That’s why I have the shoes. I figured I’d stop and see Dad, see if we could bury the hatchet.”

“Another guess. The answer was no.”

That got him to look up. “You’re right, Detective. But not for the reason you’re probably thinking. Dad was dead when I got to the house. I swear it. I dropped my shoes when I saw him and I decided it was better to leave the one covered in glitter and applesauce behind.”

“That applesauce.” I turned to Everslam. “It’s the same kind you have in your garbage. Care to explain that?”

His ears turned red to match his face. “I’m not the only one in town who likes cinnamon applesauce.”

“No I mean it’s the exact same kind. I called my lab guy.” Okay, Fred couldn’t tell me it was a match, but I was playing a long shot.

Everslam stared at me for a long second, then gazed at the floor.

“Maybe your boyfriend here,” I jerked my thumb at Elton Fries, “came home and said he argued with his dad? Maybe you went over there to teach him a lesson? Forced a little applesauce on him, knowing he was allergic?”

Everslam sputtered.

“I want to see your shoes. Now.”

“You’d better do it Al,” Persephone said, her voice sugar-sweet. “Detective Spreadbury doesn’t like to be told no.”

Everslam muttered, but he led me to his bedroom and opened his closet. Pairs of shoes were lined up on the floor. No green canvas slip-ons. Damn. But Poundacre said they were probably a woman’s shoe.

“Thank you, Mr. Everslam. We’ll be going now,” I said.

“We are? But Ster…Detective Spreadbury,” Persephone said. “Don’t you have more questions?”

“Yes, but not for these two.” I took her arm and half-dragged her back to the Maserati. Then I made her face me. “That glitter was from clothing, Persephone. I need to see your sweatshirt.” I eyed her. “By the way. That date with Boschman? I think it’s definitely off.”

Grumpy Fries and Lazy Lies—Part 9

Short of throwing Persephone MacGillivray out of the apartment, I wasn’t going to be able to control her—or her mouth. She pushed out from behind my back and marched up to her ex.

“I asked you a question, Alo, and I expect an answer. What’s going on here?” She shoved into the man’s space.

“I don’t answer to you.” Spittle flew, but to Persephone’s credit she didn’t flinch. “And why the hell are you here anyway?” Alo demanded. “You and Doctor McDreamy?”

I’m watching the interraction between these two and am pretty sure I can learn more by staying quiet, at least for the moment.

“For your information ‘Doctor McDreamy’ is Detective McDrea… I mean Detective Sterling Spreadbury, and you do have to answer to him.”

“No, I don’t.”

Aloysius Everslam knows his rights. Interesting. I wonder where he obtained his education.

Without skipping a beat, Persephone leaned in even closer. Considering the guy’s proclivity to add moisture to the environment through his mouth I was pretty impressed. “What were you doing in my place this afternoon?” She jabbed his chest with her finger.

Another score for her. She didn’t give him a chance to weasel because she didn’t ask if he’d been there, just asked what he’d been doing when he was there.

Alo’s eyes shifted to the back of his apartment then to me, finally settling in a very unsettled way on his old girlfriend. “I uh, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t try and feed me your usual load, Al.”

“I swear, I wasn’t there. I gave you back your key.”

“Doesn’t mean you didn’t make a copy.”

“Screw you.”

Persephone laughed. Kind of a “gotcha” laugh with a snicker behind it. Even though I understood it was bad news for Alo, I found it strangely attractive. In an evil sort of way. I guess maybe because it wasn’t directed toward me.

“Speaking of screwing, you want to explain your relationship with Duncan? And why you never had the guts to tell me you were leaving me for a man? Who just happens to be a murder-victim’s ex son-in-law?”

Everslam’s confusion was apparent. Before the interaction I’d been observing gave way to accusation and blame, I intervened. “I have a question for you, and you need to think carefully before answering.”

Confusion gave way to wariness. “Yeah?”

“Are you an applesauce lover?”

“Huh? Wha… I don’t understand.”

“From what I can see, you’ve got at least three empty cans of applesauce sitting in the trash bag by your door. That’s a lot of applesauce for one guy.”

More noise came from the back of the apartment, like someone trying to force open a window.

“Duncan Meadows!” Persephone screamed. “Get your ass up here now!”

Everslam didn’t move. Resignation poured off him in waves.

I’d noticed the windows in the building when we drove up. While they were big enough to crawl out of in an emergency, we were five stories up and there wasn’t a fire ladder in sight.

Even though I couldn’t legally search the apartment, I could get all Authoritative Cop. “Don’t make me haul you up here, Meadows! I’m sure I could lay my hands on the paperwork from last month when you ruined my Saturday night by tossing the Blue Parrot.”

Silence.

“Now would be good.”

Shuffling steps came from the hallway. A minute later a pony-tailed man moved into the room.

“Who the hell are you?” I asked.

“That’s Elton Fries,” Persephone answered. “Grumpy’s son.”

 

Grumpy Fries and Lazy Lies — Part 8

Goodness knows I’ve dreamed of taking a spin in Sterling’s Maserati, but not like this.

I sit shotgun, holding my head in my hands. If only I weren’t so sleep deprived from finishing my damn article, perhaps I could piece this nightmare together.

I can’t make sense of it. Sure, Grumpy was a bit of a grump, hence his namesake, but he was a part of the community. You could count on him rocking in the chair on his porch, growling at passersby. Despite his bark, I always got the impression he was lonely. We had that in common.

“Oh, Fred!” I exclaim.

“There aren’t any children present, you can say the actual f-word.”

“No, Fred, my date.” I twist in my seat and look behind me, the palm trees flying by so fast I get dizzy. “I forgot to call and cancel.”

“We have other things to worry about right now,” Sterling says, the corner of his lips twitching into a smirk.

“You’re right,” I admit with a sigh. “So where are we going?” When Sterling said he needed my help, I seized the excuse to get out of my apartment, no questions asked.

“To pay Aloysius a visit.” He cuts a look at me sideways.

My face flushes and all the coffee I’ve consumed in the last twelve hours roils in my stomach. No wonder the detective didn’t mention specifics.

“Forget it.” I’d rather face Grumpy’s murderer than my ex. “Turn this heap of metal around pronto.”

Sterling grimaces, gently patting the steering wheel. “Ignore her, baby.”

I’m about to snap at him not to call me baby when I realize he’s not talking to me. I roll my eyes.

“Come on, Persephone. I need to know if he’s been in contact with Duncan.” His clenched jaw accentuates at least one week’s worth of stubble. “Please,” he adds, the word sounding foreign on his tongue.

I face forward, crossing my arms over my chest.

Here’s the thing: Grumpy didn’t deserve to die the way he did. Will it be painful digging up my past? Of course. Am I looking for a way to procrastinate on my work? Probably. Will I let some jackass get away with breaking and entering into my apartment? Hell no.

“On one condition,” I finally say, one eyebrow raised.

“What’s that?”

I smile sweetly at him, running one finger along the leather seat.“You’re not going to like it.” He really does make an impressive figure in his Maserati.

#

Humidity clings to me like the glitter I’ll never be able to scrub from my apartment, ominous and unyielding.

Alo lives in a quintessential bachelor pad on the other side of the railroad tracks. Locusts hum in mulberry trees bordering the complex and the air smells smoky and sour, like milk long expired.

I squeeze Sterling’s forearm, his muscles taut beneath his shirt, as I knock on Alo’s door. There’s no way I’d visit my ex without proof that my life is better off without him.

Seconds pass as I shift from one flip flop-clad foot to the other. There’s a scuffling behind the door and then the unmistakable sound of two voices whispering.

Sterling pounds on the door, the vein in his forehead throbbing.

“Coming,” a shaky voice says before the door opens, revealing my ex in all his glory. With skinny jeans, a tight t-shirt, and a silvering goatee, he’s every inch the aging hipster.

“Hello, Al,” I say, leaning into Sterling.

“I hate it when you call me that,” he grumbles.

“I know,” I say, clicking my tongue.

“Are you two together now?” Alo nods between Sterling and me.

I peck Sterling on the cheek, my pounding heart giving credibility to our act. “And we owe it all to you.”

“Enough,” Sterling whispers as he nuzzles my hair, his breath warm on my neck.

“Don’t pretend you’re not enjoying this,” I whisper back with a wink. He just grunts.

“So what are you doing here?” Alo asks, fiddling with the bracelet around his wrist. He was always great at accessorizing.

Sterling steps over the threshold, gently tugging me along with him. Alo’s apartment appears to be empty, but there are two plates of half-eaten etouffee on the kitchen table.

“We need to talk,” I say. “About Grumpy.”

“What about him?” Alo asks, sweat beading on his upper lip.

“He passed away this morning,” Sterling says, his eyes scanning every inch of Aloysius’ apartment. “Know anything about that?”

“I haven’t been back to that neighborhood since Persephone filed the restraining order after the letter incident.”

My ex may have lied about many things—the success of his band, how much he can bench, his sexuality—but I actually believe him now.

There’s a thump in the back of the apartment. Sterling drops his arm from my shoulder and nudges me behind him. “I’ll need to see in your shoe closet.”

I shake my head. “Alo, what sort of trouble have you gotten yourself into?”

Grumpy Fries and Crazy Lies, Part 7

Not wanting to be that foolish fiction female, the one that doesn’t call the cops when they should, I’d called Sinful Sterling as soon as the shock had worn off, which was after I’d dashed into the house, slammed and locked the door behind me, and dropped the note on my kitchen counter as though it carried the plague. Sinful didn’t answer, so a detailed voicemail it was. Okay, maybe not detailed, exactly, as much as it was frantic. Whatever.

Careful not to touch the note again, I pinned it down on the counter with an empty glass, and then paced around the kitchen for a while. Finally, I ran upstairs to grab a quick shower. For some reason, I just felt dirty after the morning’s bizarre events, and I figured the hot water would be soothing. Slipping into a pair of well-worn jeans and a loose-fitting tank top, I was trying to decide whether I should start working on my date-night makeup or call Fred to cancel, when the doorbell rang.

“You changed,” stated Sterling after I opened the door. Suspicion dripped from every word. I stared at him in confusion. He looked rumpled, hot, and smelled vaguely of pipe smoke. Odd, I was pretty sure he didn’t smoke. Wait, what did he say?

“Um, yeah. I’ve got a date tonight, although I’ll probably cancel, and I didn’t really want to go in the first place, but, warm water is soothing, so there’s that, and besides, I just felt…gross after everything that’s happened today.” I was rambling. His expression softened slightly, and he looked sympathetic. Then he closed up, and his eyes got hard. “May I come in?” That was odd. What did I say?

“Yes. Please. I’m a little freaked out.” After he stepped in, I closed the door, locked it, and checked the porch through the peephole. Turning back to Sinful, I caught a glimpse of confusion on his face. “The note is in here.” I gestured toward the kitchen, and he nodded for me to lead the way.

“What the hell, Persephone?” he exclaimed, after running into me. I’d stopped when I realized we had a problem. A big problem. I turned to face him.

“Sterling, it’s gone. It’s gone! He’s been in my house!” Sinful’s grip on my arms was hard, and he shook me slightly.

“Persephone, slow down. Take a breath. Look at me. Look at me, now.” Slowly, I met his gaze, as a tear slid down my cheek. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know. I swear, I don’t know. But Sterling, the note was right there.” I pointed to the counter. “The glass was holding it down. You can see the glitter on the counter. It was there when I went upstairs.” Eyes squeezed shut, I whispered, “Someone was in my house. While I showered. He was here.” Freaked out did not even begin to describe my mental state right now. Sterling’s arms came around me, and suddenly I was sobbing into his shoulder. After a few minutes, he managed to ease me onto a kitchen stool, and handed me a paper napkin from the counter. I snuffled into it for a minute. He laid his palm on my cheek, his thumb wiping the wetness from under my eye. Sterling took a deep breath, and I knew I wasn’t going to like what he had to say next.

“Persephone, I have to ask. Is there any proof that the note existed? All I see is glitter, and that’s a problem.” Closing my eyes, I counted to ten, and then twenty. “Look at me, please.” One deep, shuddering breath later, I met his gaze.

“I know you have to ask Sterling. I also know I don’t have to like it. Yes, there is proof.” I pulled my phone out of my back pocket, and opened the gallery application. “You can scroll through them yourself,” I said, and handed him the device. He kept my hand in his for an extra second as he took the phone, and then he began swiping through the last few photos.

After I’d put the glass on the note, I’d taken a few photos—one of the whole note, and a couple close-ups of the letters. The note would become evidence, and I wanted time to study it. My phone was with me in the bathroom while I showered, because I used it to play music. Who knew those photos would become the only proof of the note’s existence? More important, who was determined to make it disappear?