"Murder in Half Moon Bay" has run over to December for the next two days. Oh, well. Enjoy!
“Well, Teddy? Are you ready to face the world again?”
His long silky ears perked up as if to say, “If you’ll take me for a walk and give me a treat, I think I could face anything, only please keep me with you today.”
“I won’t let you out of my sight, Teddy. Let’s get ready.”
The chief had asked me to meet him at 7:45 a.m. in front of the elevator. I had just enough time to take Teddy for a short walk and to eat a little breakfast in the Club Room before going downstairs.
The chief met me at the elevator and we discussed our strategy before going into the dining room together. Thomas was sitting next to Evelyn with his right leg crossed casually over his left. He looked calm, but Evelyn looked worse than I had ever seen her.
Paul came in with Celeste, followed by Hugh and Marianne.
The chief got everyone’s attention. “Please take a seat. Thank you. I would like to announce the good news that Teddy’s kidnappers are now in custody and fully cooperating with the police. It has been an intense investigation, but with the help of Jillian, we now know the killer’s identity.”
He smiled at me and I watched everyone closely.
Thomas didn’t move. Evelyn fidgeted. Hugh and Marianne remained impassive.
Celeste spoke up. “So, it’s one of us? How interesting.”
The chief gave me a nod, “I think I’ll let Jillian tell you. She’s paid quite a price physically and emotionally, so I’m going to give her the honor. You’ll excuse me while I bring in my deputies.”
All eyes were on me.
“I’m sorry Thomas, but when Evelyn told us that you insisted on staying at the hotel, I suspected you were having an affair with Regina. You and Regina were working together to illegally import toxic plant material for terrorists to use in biological warfare. You only played the brow- beaten husband as a cover for masterminding The Venus Flytrap. I saw your other side when I visited in your home.”
Thomas scowled darkly, “You have no proof. What you’re saying is pure conjecture.”
“Let me tell you what I think happened on the night Regina was killed.”
“By all means.” He sat still, seemingly calm. Evelyn closed her eyes and tears began to flow.
“We have evidence that you purchased plane tickets for that Sunday morning. You purchased the tickets in your name and Regina’s. You planned to take her away with you and leave the country.
“After you thought Evelyn was asleep that night, you slipped out and went to Regina’s room. You couldn’t wait to tell her that everything was ready, but when you told her your plans, she must have laughed at you.
“Regina had been drinking and wasn’t able to hold in her true feelings for you. She was only using you to find out what really happened to her mother. When you realized that nothing you’d worked and planned for was ever going to happen, you lost control.
“You became angry, angry enough to grab the nearby scarf and strangle her. And after you had strangled the life out of that poor young woman, just like you had strangled Katherine Anatolia, you picked up her lifeless body and threw it over the balcony like she was a sack full of garbage.”
I began trembling and paused to regain my composure.
Thomas looked past me and I believe he was remembering what he had done. He finally spoke. “You forget that I was in bed with my wife at the time Regina was killed.”
“I think you’ll find that Evelyn will not corroborate your story, Thomas. You see, we’ve already talked to her. Why do you think she’s crying?”
Thomas looked at Evelyn and knew it was over.
Her face displayed a look of hatred and disgust.
The chief came in with his deputies, and placed Thomas under arrest.
Teddy growled at Thomas as the chief handcuffed the man. “Thomas Westover, you have the right to remain silent….”
“I should have killed your dog.” Thomas spewed.
I drew Teddy close to me and looked Thomas right in the eye. “Sometimes, Thomas, God watches over the helpless.”
Walter, Jr. jogged up to me as the chief escorted Thomas to a waiting patrol car. ”I have a message for you, Mrs. Bradley.”
“Your garden club wants to meet with you at nine o’clock in the Fireside Room.”
“Thanks, Walter. By the way, you said that you had a surprise for me about your father.”
“Yeah, turns out my dad and Mr. Anatolia got together and are going to be partners in a new nursery business. We’re all grateful to you for helping us get through this whole thing. I have to get back to work. Catch you later.”
“Goodbye, Walter. Come on, Teddy. Let’s go, it’s almost nine o’clock.”
My cell phone rang. It was the chief.
“Sorry I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye Jillian, but I just wanted to tell you, we got a full confession from Thomas Westover. Your assumptions last night were right on the money. I must admit, I’m glad you were so insistent to help. It really saved us a lot of time. Thank you.”
“You’re more than welcome. I think I actually enjoyed it, except for Teddy being kidnapped.”
Teddy shook a little to let me know he understood I was talking about him.
“Goodbye, Chief, and don’t forget my invitation to you and Margaret. I expect to see you sometime in the near future once you get everything wrapped up with this case.”
“We’ll come for sure. By the way, there’s just one more thing, Jillian, before you go. Didn’t it seem strange to you that we only found one gold earring in Regina’s belongings?”
“Why, Chief, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
We said in unison, “The Lady in Blue!”
He said, “Forensics combed Regina’s room and didn’t find a matching one, so I suppose it is possible that the ghost took it.”
“I really don’t know what to say. I ended the call when I heard my name called out.
“Jillian,” Celeste came up to me carrying a large shopping bag.
“What is it, Celeste?”
She reached out and gently stroked Teddy. “Hello, darling, and welcome home. I saw this in one of the shops the other day and had to buy it for him. I’m just glad I’m able to give it to you. I hope you like it, Teddy.”
“How nice of you, Celeste,” I took the package from her as Teddy jumped into her arms.
“I think he’s getting over the trauma.” I smiled.
“Go on, open it.”
Teddy panted as if to say, “Yeah, open it.”
Inside was a beautiful pooch carrier, just perfect for carrying Teddy around with me.
“Celeste, it’s lovely! Thank you so much for thinking of us. It’s very sweet of you.” I placed Teddy inside and he settled down on the soft bottom, with his little head and ears resting on the edge.
He muffled a bark. “I like the masculine cheetah design.”
Paul Youngblood appeared. It looked like he was ready to check out with Celeste.
“Good morning, ladies. This was a good conference all in all. In spite of the chaos, I still managed to get two new clients.” I realized he was telling me he was still undercover.
“I know Nicole is one of them.” I played along to let him know I understood. It looked to me as if Celeste displayed a change of heart after what happened to Regina. She seemed more humble, and well, human. I sincerely wished them the best.
I joined my friends in the Fireside Room. Fortunately, we had the room all to ourselves. We chose to sit near the back corner in case someone else came in.
“Jillian.” Ann jumped right in. “We’re dying to know what happened last night. We heard they’ve arrested Thomas for Regina’s murder. How could a man like that harm anyone?”
“Well, I’ll tell you how he not only killed Regina, but several other people as well.”
Nicole looked shocked. “Thomas? I can’t believe it!”
“Regina wrote articles about plant spores and Spencer Hausman had plagiarized them.”
Nicole interjected, “How does Hausman fit in?”
“I’m coming to that.
“A foreign interest had gotten hold of information that linked them to the Anatolia’s Bay Data Research Corporation which did research on plant spores and other plant properties.”
“So,” Ann nodded, “that explains the foreigner who kidnapped Teddy.”
“Right. The foreign interest posed as U.S. officials and recruited the Anatolia’s to do research for their bio-terrorism project.
“Thomas created the undercover scheme and named it ‘The Venus Flytrap’ through which he orchestrated the entire operation. He was the one who leaked the Anatolia’s information to the conspirators and no one ever suspected him.
“Meanwhile, Spencer Hausman had done time for embezzlement when he worked for the Desert Nursery and Landscaping Company outside of Henderson, Nevada. That tied in with the gambling debts in Las Vegas.
“Hausman stumbled upon The Venus Flytrap account and decided it must be Thomas’ secret little business, so he siphoned off $8,000 to pay off part of the gambling debt he owed. Spencer never figured out what the business was, but being a small-time criminal, figured he would save the information for a more auspicious time.”
Ann shifted in her seat. “So why did Thomas kill Regina?”
“Thomas was in love with Regina and wanted desperately to leave Evelyn. The police found plane tickets, dated for last Sunday morning, in Thomas and Regina’s names. He was the one who bought her expensive clothes and jewelry and gave her money whenever she asked.
“Regina had gone along with Thomas because she suspected him of having something to do with her mother’s death. She figured she would learn enough to prove her theory if she could just play him long enough.”
Nicole shrugged. “What happened?”
“It all came to a head when an agent of the FBI confronted her and warned her that her father was about to be arrested for espionage. Regina still hoped to get Thomas to reveal how her mother had died, so she never told the agent the truth.
“She was able to buy time for her father by promising to give inside information on Sunday, if the agent would give her one more day. The agent had agreed, but because Regina died early that morning, she never had the chance to talk.”
Teddy squirmed after my long tale of tales.
“I hear you, boy.
“Well ladies, it looks like we’ll have to finish this back home. Teddy and I really need to go to the room.”
“All right, Jillian.” Ann stood. “But let’s meet next week so we can hear the rest of it. Goodbye, Teddy. Stay away from trouble, okay?”
Teddy made a tiny “yelp,” agreeing that he would indeed.
If you like to read about lovely places and fabulous cuisine, enjoy the Jillian Bradley mystery series. Book 1 MURDER IN HALF MOON BAY for your e-reader is free!
All books are G-rated and contain no profanity.
See you in my books!
Mystery novelist Nancy Jill Thames has published Christian fiction since 2010. The author of seven books in the Jillian Bradley series, she is an award winning blogger and listed numerous times on the Author Watch Bestseller’s List. In addition, she won first place in her church's 4th of July celebration for her chocolate cream pie.
When she isn’t plotting her next book, she spends time with her six grandchildren, tags along with her husband on business trips, and plays classical piano for her personal enjoyment. She is an active member of the Leander Writers' Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), CenTex Chapter-ACFW, and supports the Central Texas SPCA with a portion of her book sales. She resides with her husband in Leander, Texas.
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