Here’s a sneak peek of our book Till Beth Do Us Part. It will be released June 1st. Enjoy!
Jamie Bravo is new to the Private Detective business. Armed with ten thousand business cards, a fedora and trenchcoat, the world’s ugliest dog, a parrot who sings show tunes, and a Gay roommate, Jamie is ready for anything. What she doesn’t count on is getting a call in the middle of the night from her ex-girlfriend, Veronica, announcing that she woke up to a dead body in her bed.
Now Jamie is faced with some big questions: Did Veronica murder the woman she found in her bed? Or was Veronica framed for the grisly murder?
Follow Jamie Bravo as she digs up clues, helps the Mafia with their woman troubles, and introduces sexy police detective London Wells to her loud-mouthed Italian family.
It’s not every day you get a call at three a.m. that begins with “Help! I have a dead body in my bed!”
I hold my phone at arm’s length and stare at it. I don’t utter a single word. I don’t even breathe. I can hear the clock on my nightstand tick tick tick. I close my eyes and pray that this is all a dream. A very bad dream.
“Jamie?” Veronica screeches through the phone, “Did you hear me?”
I hear her all right. But right now I’m busy trying to digest the words dead, body, and bed that were screamed into my ear at such an ungodly hour.
To make matters worse the call is from Veronica, my ex-girlfriend. I also have a cat named Veronica but as far as I know she’s asleep and not making phone calls. And if Veronica-the-Cat did have a dead body in her bed, it would be a mouse.
“Who is this?” I mumble into the phone. I’m just trying to buy time for my brain to wake up. It was a long night last night. I went to my twenty year high school reunion as my arch nemesis’ date. And the woman I’m in love with went to the reunion with my ex, Veronica, who by the way doesn’t know she’s my ex. I have officially broken up with her seventy-two times, but so far it hasn’t stuck. Veronica is a lawyer and she says in order to break up both parties have to be willing. So far, she isn’t willing.
If all of this sounds confusing that’s because it is.
“There’s a dead body in my bed. There’s blood. Lots of it. And I don’t know what to do,” Veronica whispers.
“You must have the wrong number,” I say. Okay, that wasn’t the nicest thing to say to somebody who is obviously in the midst of a crisis, but I really didn’t want to deal with this right now. Or ever.
I click on the lamp beside my bed. Ivan raises his head off the pillow next to me and looks at me. Before you get the wrong idea, Ivan is my dog. He’s a Chinese Crested. No fur, spotted skin, Mohawk, overbite, lolling tongue, lots of slobber. He’s so ugly he’s cute.
“Are you even listening to me?!” Veronica screams into my ear.
“I suggest you take a melatonin and go back to sleep,” I say. “You’re probably just having a bad dream.”
“Jamie, listen closely. There. Is. A. Dead. Body. In my bed,” she says.
Okay, she’s not giving up so I decide to play along. “Do you recognize the body?”
“Yes! It’s Beth Ellen.”
Oh, crap. That’s not good news. Veronica was stalking Beth Ellen at our high school reunion last night. And by stalking I mean she was actively planning on how to seduce Beth Ellen and get her into her bed. About a million people saw her doing it.
“I have one question, Veronica.”
“Did you kill Beth Ellen?”
“No, of course not!”
“I have another question.”
“Was the sex any good?”
“Just get your ass over here right now!” she shouts.
I hang up my cell phone and give Ivan a quick scratch behind the ears. “Well, little buddy, we have to go check this out. Don’t worry, Beth Ellen’s probably not really dead. She’s probably just really really drunk.” But what I don’t voice out loud is the question: If Beth Ellen is just sleeping, how do you explain all the blood Veronica saw? Maybe a spilled bottle of red wine during some energetic lovemaking?
I pick my pants up from the floor and wiggle them on. I’m too tired to find clean clothes. The ones I wore last night and threw on the floor before collapsing into bed will have to suffice.
There are days I wish I had never become a private investigator. This is definitely one of those days.
I climb into my car, Silver. She’s a Volvo 1800e. Very sporty, very cute, and most importantly, the ladies love it. My dead Uncle Cheech left her to me along with a building. Yep, that’s right—he left me an entire building. I live on the top floor and the bottom floor is filled with junk and machinery left over from when it was a necktie factory.
I put Ivan in his little basket on the passenger seat. The basket is strapped down like a kiddie car seat. Ivan turns around three times and snuggles into the fleece blanket I put in the basket for warmth. When you’re hairless even the middle of June can be too cool for comfort.
I pat Silver’s dashboard three times. I always pat her on the dash before I start her up. It’s like how a cowboy pats his horse on the neck before climbing into the saddle. I’m not saying Silver is a horse, but she is named after a horse.
I turn the key and the engine purrs. I love that sound.
I pull out of the garage and drive down the dark streets. I turn on the air conditioner and adjust the vents to hit me square in the face. It’s only June and already the heat and humidity is unbearable. Why anyone chose to put a city right here on the edge of a lake is beyond me. Must’ve been founded by masochistic pioneers. Or a snake oil peddler who stole a lot of land from the Indians and sold it to unsuspecting Easterners who wanted a better life. Lakeland was a developer’s dream scam. I have the misfortune to live here courtesy of a long line of Bravos who pride themselves on their fortitude in surviving this hell hole. Every once in a while during a particularly bad weather system I threaten to move to Florida. Empty threats, though, because I could never leave my family. Us Italians are tight like that.
The drive through downtown Lakeland at night is actually soothing. It’s quiet. The block of upscale bars and restaurants are closed. The office buildings are dark. The only creatures out and about are a pack of feral cats who roam the streets at night. The city council is dealing with the problem in a rash of emergency meetings which means they’re getting nothing done—meanwhile the Feral Feline Gang, as the Lakeland Times calls them, has grown exponentially.
I aim Silver’s grill toward uptown—which is actually the ritzy part of Lakeland, not the part where people poop on the sidewalk. Veronica makes a crap-ton of money getting rich people out of jams. She’s the go-to lawyer for the upper crust. That’s why she can afford to live uptown.
My friends think I’m crazy for continuing to have a relationship with Veronica. It’s true that I’ve broken up with her seventy-two times but there’s something deeper that keeps us tethered to each other. I guess I feel like I owe her. See, Veronica came along when I wasn’t doing too well. I was drinking more than was good for me. I don’t know if I was a full-fledged alcoholic. I was more like a functional alcoholic. My life was in a spiral and I was headed toward certain doom. Veronica grabbed me by the back of my shirt and hauled my butt out of that particular spiral. Now my idea of drinking is a chocolate Yoo-Hoo. I traded one addiction for another. But it turns out that Yoo-Hoos aren’t as bad for you as Harvey Wallbangers.
Yeah, tell that to my growing pants size.
Like I said, I owe Veronica big time, but I still don’t want her as my girlfriend. She’s way too high-maintenance. If Veronica were to have a theme song it would be Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me.” Besides, I’ve recently given my heart to a cute little brunette named Gloria. She just doesn’t know it yet.
I pull to the curb in front of Veronica’s twelve-story building—The 509. It’s referred to as The 509, with a capital T, so its residents can go around and say “I live in The 509.” If someone asks, “509 what?” that’s the cue for the resident to roll their eyes. This is followed by a disdainful huff. It’s the locational version of if you have to ask how much something costs then you can’t afford it. The 509 is so Veronica—pretentious and over-priced.
I pat my pockets and breathe a sigh of relief that I remembered to bring my gun. The killer could still be lurking about. Of course, it’s not really a gun I have in my pocket. It’s a banana. I’m scared of guns. So I carry a banana-gun instead, hoping it looks like a real gun.
I un-strap Ivan from his basket and tuck him under my arm. I stride with purpose toward the front entrance. I try to look like I know where I’m going so the doorman won’t give me any crap.
No such luck. I’m only two feet inside the lobby when Bruce, the snooty doorman, steps in front of me blocking the path to the elevators. “May I help you?” he intones through his nasal passages.
He sounds like he’s watched too many Downton Abbeys.
“Don’t you ever sleep or go home or do something other than stand here being the doorman?” I say “doorman” with as much disdain as I can muster.
“No, I do not. Some of us have a calling and we live up to its standards,” Bruce replies, managing to look down his nose at me. This is quite a feat because he’s about a foot shorter than I am.
“Let me ask you something,” I say. “Is it hard to look down at me while you’re looking up at me?”
“What is your business here?”
“I’m here to play pinochle with Veronica if it’s any of your business. Which it is not.” I don’t even know what pinochle is, and judging by the look on Bruce’s face he doesn’t know either. Of course he’s not going to admit that.
“I will have to call up.” He turns his back to me and waddles over to the phone behind the big semi-circular desk. I use that opportunity to put Ivan down on the floor. His little toenails click click click across the marble as he approaches the desk.
Bruce picks up the phone and punches in three numbers. “Miss Smythe, forgive me for calling so early but I have a woman here who insists she be let up to your door. She said something about playing pig knuckles,” Bruce says into the phone.
Unseen by Bruce, Ivan sniffs his pant leg.
Bruce hangs up the phone and turns to me. “Miss Smythe said you may come right up.”
Ivan lifts a leg and pees on Bruce’s shiny black shoes. Bruce feels the wetness and looks down.
“Run, Ivan!” I yell.
I run for the elevator with Ivan clicking after me. I punch the button and Ivan and I jump through the doors at the same time.
Bruce, red-faced and screaming profanities, runs after us as fast as his little fat legs can move. The last thing I see as the doors slide closed is Bruce slipping in Ivan’s pee dribble and sitting down hard on the marble floor.
As the elevator dings past the third floor I look down at Ivan and wink. “Good boy.”
Ivan smiles and winks back.
This is the slowest elevator I’ve ever been in. I guess it’s to give people time to admire the posh beauty of this coffin box.
Sidebar: I hate small spaces. Especially small spaces that move.
It takes its sweet time and finally reaches the twelfth floor with a loud ding! I pick up Ivan and tuck him under one arm like a football. I’m afraid his toenails will get caught on the hallway’s expensive plush carpeting. Veronica’s condo is at the very end of the hallway. She is on the top floor and her condo wraps around the entire corner of the building. She can look down on the city from any room. While lying in bed, while eating at the table in the dining room, while sitting on the toilet or taking a bath. She’s like the queen looking out over her queendom.
I raise my fist to knock, but the door flies open and I almost rap Veronica in the nose. She grabs my fist and pulls me inside. I fumble Ivan and he drops to the carpet in the hallway, his nose barely missing being slammed in the door as Veronica kicks it shut.
“Where have you been?” Veronica whispers harshly. “I needed you yesterday!”
My eyes widen and I whisper back, “Yesterday? This happened yesterday?”
“You know what I mean!” she whisper-shouts. She looks me up and down. “Why are you wearing a white tux?”
“I was in a hurry. It was on the floor. Why are you wearing a raincoat? And galoshes? Are those Playtex gloves?”
“I was protecting myself,” she answers. “And you really shouldn’t wear white to a crime scene. Do you know how hard blood is to get out? Did you rent that tux? Because you’ll never get your deposit back.”
I hear scratching on the door. Veronica jumps. “They’re back! The murderer is back!”
“That’s just Ivan,” I say. I open the door and Ivan struts inside. He looks at Veronica like he’d like to pee on her foot.
“You brought your ugly dog to a murder scene?” she asks.
“Ivan resents that remark.”
Ivan lifts his leg.
“No, Ivan,” I say. “Save it.”
He lowers his leg.
“Was he just going to pee on me?” Veronica asks, hand on hips.
“What do you care? You’re wearing galoshes.”
Let me pause here for a second and tell you about Veronica. Even dressed up like the Morton’s salt girl she’s sexy. Long blond hair. Dangerous curves. Kissable lips. Smells like fruit.
Sidebar: I like fruit.
Sometimes I wonder why I ever broke up with her.
Now is not one of those times.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” she asks.
“Why are we whispering? Is Beth Ellen asleep?”
“If by asleep you mean dead, then yes, she’s asleep.”
For the first time I look around. There’s a trail of blood down the hallway. There’s a dead body in the middle of the foyer. Blood is everywhere. A tangy copper smell invades my nostrils. My stomach does a back-flip and I start to feel woozy.
“What the heck is going on here?” I mumble. My vision begins to telescope. Like I’m looking down a tunnel.
“I was trying to clean up the crime scene,” I hear Veronica say. Her voice sounds like it’s a million miles away.
“Clean? Even Helter Skelter did a better job of cleaning than this,” I say.
“Who knew one body could hold so much blood, right?”
I see Ivan sniff Beth Ellen’s pale body. He lifts a leg over her face.
“No!” I think I yell. And that’s the last thing I remember before the floor jumps up and slaps me in the face.
Thank you for reading the first chapter of Till Beth Do Us Part, A Jamie Bravo Mystery. Mark your calendars—It will be published June 1st. It is the second book in the series. If you haven’t read the first book, Worst in Show, don’t worry—there’s still time!