I'll be posting a chapter from "Murder in Half Moon Bay" every day until the end of the month. Enjoy!
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!
I liked Margaret Viscuglia immediately. She was about forty years old, tall with majestically auburn hair down to her shoulders. Her hair hinted of what she’d looked like years before, and while after children her figure had grown a little matronly, she was still elegant. She welcomed me as if we had been friends for a lifetime. Quite a contrast to the chief’s personality.
In fact, she was his total opposite. He had fair hair and a very nice tan. Margaret’s skin glowed pale as the moon. In her soft-spoken voice, she welcomed me into their home and went at once into their cozy kitchen to get the pie ready to serve.
The chief asked me to sit down in the sunken living room reminiscent of the “sixties”. I took a seat in a swivel rocker-recliner. The perfectly-formed plushness could have put me to sleep right then and there.
“Mind if I put my feet up, Chief? My ankle is still a little sore from my fall the other night.”
“Make yourself at home.”
Margaret entered the room carrying a tray filled with slices of delicious looking pie and steaming mugs of coffee.
“Frank says you take your coffee black, Jillian.” She handed me a plate with a piece of pie and a fork on it and a mug of coffee.
“This looks delicious, Margaret. I really appreciate you going to all this trouble for me.”
I took a bite of the succulent pumpkin pie topped with real whipped cream.
“This is delicious.” My mouth savored the flavor. “This is real pumpkin isn’t it?”
“Yes, I made it from fresh pumpkin. We have just a few around town in case you haven’t noticed.” She chuckled.
“I’ve always loved Half Moon Bay’s Pumpkin Festival. With California’s four seasons so closely resembling one another, the pumpkins help say fall to me.”
“Jillian.” The chief broke in. “Margaret is my secret weapon for details. She sees things I would never have thought of, so while we’re having our pie, I’ve asked her to peruse the files.
“Honey, I have those hotel records we need to look at as soon as we’ve finished our dessert, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind at all, sweetheart. Would you like some more coffee?” she asked over her shoulder as she headed toward the kitchen.
“I’m fine. Thanks honey.” He took the records from his briefcase and laid them on the dining room table.
“Margaret, when you come back, I want you to take a look at these and see what calls you come up with for room 526.”
“Chief, before we start, I need to tell you that I received another call from Teddy’s abductor.”
“When was this?”
“It was just before I left for dinner tonight. But listen, I checked with the front desk to trace the call and they said that it came from within the hotel. I think that definitely points to someone who works there. It just doesn’t make any sense for a guest under suspicion of murder to kidnap a dog.”
Margaret returned with the coffee pot and refilled my cup. I took a sip of the freshly brewed coffee and sighed, then tried to pull my thoughts together. I was tired and mad and I felt my adrenaline flowing.
The chief stood up and started to pace the floor. “This means we’re getting close. Someone feels the heat. Jillian, do you have any idea who wants you out of the way?”
“The only people who would have any reason at all would be the ones who have the most to lose.” I took a bite of pie while thinking of Celeste.
“Chief, any information on those sandals Cecilia described?”
“Let me make a quick call and see.” The chief dialed, asked his question and then listened carefully. His eyebrows shot up. “Thanks. Thanks a lot.”
He ended the call.
“Those sandals were definitely purchased outside the United States…traced to Africa.”
“That confirms it. He could be someone from Zambia working with Dr. Grant. Can you get a dossier on the ‘good’ doctor and see what links he may have?”
“I’ll put a call in just as soon as I leave.”
Margaret had been searching through the hotel files on the table. Suddenly she exclaimed, “Frank, look at this!”
The chief and I both looked to where she was pointing and noticed the first phone call from Teddy’s abductor had also been from inside the hotel.
This was too much. I took the last sip of my coffee, gathered my purse and jacket and, as politely as possible, made an excuse to leave. I was tired. I couldn’t think clearly. Losing Teddy had just been too much. “Sometime, when this is over, you and the chief should come as my guests for dinner.”
“Of course.” Margaret escorted me to the door.
The chief wore a concerned look on his face.
Lights from a car flashed through the front window, “Wait! Stay back.”
He motioned for Margaret and me to move away from the door. He looked through the peephole to see who it was.
He grabbed the knob slowly, so not to startle whoever was on the step, then threw open the door in a quick movement.
I gasped. There, standing in the doorway was none other than Paul Youngblood and he held Teddy in his arms!
Poor Teddy was disheveled and shaking, but as soon as he saw me, he jumped out of Paul’s arms and into mine. His tail wagged, and he licked my face all over. He seemed to say, “Am I ever glad to see you!”
“Thank the Lord in heaven you’re safe, Teddy. I missed you so much. I was so worried that something terrible had happened to you.”
I felt his small warm body cuddle against mine. I struggled to hold the tears back in front of all these people. “Paul, how on earth did you find him?”
Margaret invited us all back inside and got Paul a cup of coffee. We sat down while he told us what had happened.
“First of all, I need to explain that I’m Agent Youngblood with the FBI, and I’ve been working on this case for the last six months. We’ve been keeping an eagle eye on you, Jillian, since you got involved with the chief, here.”
“I’m stunned! The FBI was watching me?”
“Well, after your dog was kidnapped we knew you were in real danger, so we immediately put a tail on you in addition to the chief’s. Sorry, Chief, but I couldn’t bring you in any sooner without the risk of blowing my cover.
“I must tell you though, you were doing just fine on your own, probably getting information we might not be privy to with the help of Jillian, here.”
I was curious. “Paul, why did you switch rooms with Regina?”
He shook his head. “We thought she’d be safer on the club floor. Unfortunately, we were wrong.”
Teddy looked at Margaret as if to say, “Would you get me a drink of water and maybe a slice of cheese, please? I’m awfully hungry.”
Margaret replied, “Coming right up. Looks like Teddy could use some cheese too.”
Teddy licked his chops, and I nodded. “He’s back to his old self already. Oh, thank heavens!”
Paul continued. “We had a pretty close tail on you, so when a man ran out of the restaurant fitting the description you gave the chief on the phone….”
I couldn’t help myself. “You were monitoring my phone?”
“We had to under the circumstances. He led us to Teddy’s hiding place–an old fishing shed on an isolated pier in the bay.
“Our men were able to get Teddy out safely and apprehend the suspect. After a little arbitration, we gathered enough information to confirm what we had suspected for some time about a bio-terrorism plot.”
“Just one more thing, Paul.” I had to interject. “I think we need to talk to Dr. Nagera and find out if he has any other information that would be important.”
“Dr. Nagera, did you say?”
“Yes, he’s a friend of Dominique’s in Zambia.”
“I’m sorry Jillian, he was a friend.”
“Oh, no. What happened?”
“We suspected Dr. Grant was working with the terrorists and went to make an arrest. He was gone by the time we got there. We found Dr. Nagera shot through the head in the lab.”
“That’s horrible. Paul, I need to know something. Did you find anything on his body?”
“Nothing, but we did look at the last entry in his lab book and all it said was ‘I y’.”
“‘I’” was for Ibarra, Chief. He was the inside contact.”
The chief made a call on his cell.
“Deputy Cortez, I want you to arrest Lewis Ibarra on suspicion of espionage and kidnapping, and then set up a meeting at the hotel for tomorrow morning at eight o’clock sharp.
“Get Walter to help you with the room. I want every suspect we’ve questioned to be there.”
The chief stood up, helping me to my feet. “It’s after midnight. I think this can all wait until morning. We got Teddy back, and I have a feeling we need to get Jillian some rest before tomorrow. We’re going to need her to be sharp with all that’s coming down.”
“Thank you, Chief.” I was truly grateful.
“Paul, would you drive Jillian and Teddy back to the hotel?”
“My pleasure, Chief.”
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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