Authors: Kathleen Brooks
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense, #Contemporary, #General, #Romantic Comedy
(Book 3 in the Bluegrass Series)
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
eBooks are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
An Original work of Kathleen Brooks.
Cover art by Calista Taylor.
Dead Heat Amazon Kindle Edition copyright 2011 by Kathleen Brooks
Books by Kathleen Brooks
Bluegrass State of Mind
To my husband, daughter, parents, in-laws and friends
who provided me with the encouragement
to follow my passion.
Paige Davies sat behind her sales counter and tapped her fingernails on its white top. Betty Jo Simpson was due to start her shift five minutes ago. She let out another agitated sigh as she looked at the clock. Looking around her shop always calmed her. The walls were painted the palest of yellow. She had sewn the blue, white and yellow curtains and trimmed them in lace. To the right of the open main room, the hat room was painted white to allow the hats to pop. Tables were covered in the same material she had used on the curtains. Decorative ribbon roped off the staircase on the far left of the main room leading to her second story apartment. The windows let in the bright summer sunlight. She had placed crystal, glass, and jewelry displays along the large front windows to draw customers in with their sparkles. The feel should be light and comfortable, which is what she always felt when she was in her store.
Paige stopped drumming her nails and pulled out a new hair tie she was working on. She had used a plain hair band and sewn a perfect bow made out of ribbon onto it. She had then dunked it in a clear paste that hardened the bow. The result was a cute hair bow that did not come untied every five minutes. She was hoping they would become the new must have for the approaching new school year. She also hoped some of the mothers would take a liking to them to dress up their jeans or to wear when they played tennis or went riding.
The one she held in her hands was red and white gingham. She looked down at her cotton and spandex red t-shirt and her jean miniskirt tied off with a red scarf belt she had made and knew this was the perfect bow for it. She reached back with both hands and gathered up her light brown hair into her right hand. She was going to need her hair cut soon. She liked her hair right around shoulder length, but it was slowly creeping down to her shoulder blades. Using her left hand, she deftly tied her hair back into a pony tail.
Paige turned to the mirror behind the counter to check out her handy work. The tails of the ribbon hung just right. Not so long as to detract from someone’s hair and not so short you couldn’t tell it was there. If she got a good response at lunch today, then she would think about putting out a small display for the weekend.
She glanced at the clock again and had to stop herself from groaning. She was supposed to meet Dani and Kenna for lunch and was going to be late if Betty Jo didn’t show up soon. As if the silent cursing in her head conjured up her harried teenage help, Betty Jo, flounced into the store.
“About time. Your shift started ten minutes ago.”
“I am so sorry!” Betty Jo was always so sorry. The
being dragged out into three or four syllables just to show you how sorry she really was. Betty Jo Simpson was the current reigning Keeneston High prom queen. She had long blonde hair down to her bra line that somehow always had the perfect amount of curl to it. She was tall, thin, and graced with breasts that made Paige’s B cup seem inadequate. For what she lacked in promptness, she did make up for in sales and fashion sense. She had started working for Paige two years ago as part of a co-op program with the school. Betty Jo wanted to run her own boutique of high end clothes. Paige had jumped at the chance to mentor a student. Plus, she needed the extra part-time help. Now that Betty Jo had graduated and been accepted into the fashion design program at the University of Kentucky, Paige had given her more hours and more responsibility. The only thing she couldn’t drill into Betty Jo's head was the importance of time management.
“I am late for lunch with the girls. The delivery man from the supplier in Tennessee should be here in thirty minutes. The checklist is under the counter. Make him show you everything before you sign the receipt. I don’t want to get stuck with more of that God-awful flower fabric again. Don’t take anything not on the list.” Paige turned and headed for the door. “Be back in an hour!” she waved over her shoulder.
“Ooh! You’re wearing the new hair ribbons! I love, love, love it!”
Paige stopped and turned back around with a smile on her face. “Really? Great! Go through our ribbon stock and pick out the colors you think would sell the best for the different age groups. I will start working on them tonight. See you in a bit.” Paige waved again as she pulled open the front door. She smiled at the mother-daughter team who walked past her and into the shop, making excited noises as they pointed out items they liked. She felt as if every person who walked into her store was walking into her home, and not just because she lived upstairs. Her store was an extension of her.
Paige took in a deep breath of the humid air. Phew, it was going to be hot. She looked up at the bank sign and saw that not only was she late, but it was also ninety three degrees outside. As if to tell her ‘duh!’, trickles of sweat rolled down her cheek. She looked across the street and saw some shade if she walked close enough to the buildings. Hey, some shade was better than baking in the hot summer sun. She crossed the street halfway to the cafe as soon as the light held up the lunch time traffic.
She looked back across the street to the courthouse and saw the first couple of people push out the side door. She was just in time. If she hurried, she could still snag a table from Miss Daisy and not have to wait. She picked up her speed and hurried along past the store fronts displaying antique chests, dining sets, and old artwork. As she hurried past the American flags waving on the street lights and past the baskets of petunias, marigolds, and ivy lining Main Street, she kept her eye on the side door. If a wave of people were to come out, then she wasn’t above making a dash for the cafe to cut in front of them to secure a table. Sure, they had patio tables with umbrellas outside, but the heat was smothering. No way was she going to sit out there and melt.
Two blocks from the crosswalk at Elm and Main, she saw the side door to the courthouse open. Dani and Kenna pushed their way through. By the huge smile on their faces, it looked like it would be a fun lunch. She saw Kenna point in her direction and waved as Dani made eye contact. Paige pointed to the cafe in an ‘I’ll meet you there’ move and saw Kenna nod her head in agreement.
Paige looked back to the cafe to judge whether she needed to break into her version of speed walking to reach the door before the court workers. She picked up her speed and was contemplating a dead run to beat out the County Clerk when a bright light caught her eye. It was just a quick flash, but it had come from the roof. Paige squinted and looked up the three story building to see what could possibly be on the roof reflecting light. She looked again, but it was gone. She was about to give up when she saw a long black barrel come into view. The roof was flat, but had a three foot stone wall encasing the roof to hide the sight of ugly air conditioning units and other electrical features. The barrel slowly extended on the rail and stopped. Looking back she saw a figure rising up from behind the rail.
She followed the angle of the barrel to the courthouse, and in that split second it made sense. This wasn’t maintenance, this wasn’t a surveyor, or even a camera man. That was a rifle and he was aiming at someone coming out of the courthouse. She opened her mouth and screamed as loud as she could. Her screams of warning where cut off by two loud gunshots. She tried to see who was shot, but the courthouse parking lot was filled with people hiding behind cars, laying on the pavement, and screaming as they ducked for cover. Shouts were coming from people trying to push their way back into the building for safety. Shoppers were pouring out of the tiny shops up and down Main Street trying to see what was going on.
She looked back up at the roof, but the man was gone. The people at the courthouse were looking all around, but it was obvious they couldn’t tell where the shots had come from. Her feet kicked in before her brain did and she took off at a dead run for the cafe.
“What are you doing, Paige?” she asked herself as she ran past the chaos erupting at the courthouse. She was not heroic, that was her brothers’ job. But their military instincts rubbed off on her as she raced towards the danger instead of away from it. Her brothers had always said the more dangerous the situation, the more calm they became. She understood what they meant and couldn’t tell if that was good or not. The screaming, crying, and shouting faded away. Her vision focused on the cafe as she scanned the roof for traces of the gun man. The only sounds she heard were the pounding of her new white tennis shoes on the sidewalk and the beating of her heart. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Dinky rushing through the large wood front doors of the courthouse.
“Dinky!” she screamed and waved an arm in the air until he saw her. “I saw him. Cafe roof!” she yelled over the noise of mass confusion and pointed to the near side of the cafe. She had to take a gulp air as she swam through the humidity weighing her down. She saw Dinky point to the far side of the building and acknowledged his signal with her own. Dinky would take the far side, she’d take the one closest to her. She tried one more time to see if anyone was hit, but it was still too chaotic. The Sheriff’s Department was out in full force trying to get some order by setting up as much a perimeter as three men and two women who worked the phones could do.
Paige cut to her left and headed down Elm Street. The cafe sat on the corner of Main and Elm and ran down Elm for almost a block. Like most buildings from the late seventeen hundreds and early eighteen hundreds, it was tall, narrow, and deep. There was a small alley that ran behind the building leading to a parking lot that sat behind the Main Street stores and businesses. If he was coming off the roof, he’d probably try to escape from the back of the building and hopefully run into either her or Dinky. Pushing hard, she burst through the dark alley and into the parking lot. Her breath came in deep pants as awareness seeped into her body. Awareness that the person she was looking for was an armed, dangerous killer. She started to scan the parking lot for people as she wiped the sweat stinging her eyes from her brow. Her head snapped instantly to her right at the sound of a door being opened.
There he was. The man walked calmly out the kitchen door of the cafe carrying a duffle bag that she presumed held the rife. He was about five ten, brown hair trimmed short, athletic, mid-forties, black suit, white shirt, and no tie. He approached a tan sedan and opened the front door to get in.
“Stop!” Paige didn’t know what she would do if he did stop, and she definitely did not know what she would do if he did not stop, but the word tumbled out anyway. At least she didn’t follow it up with ‘or else I’ll shoot’. The man looked up and her hazel eyes met his brown ones. It felt as if they stared at each other for minutes. The world stopped turning, the sweat stopped running down her face, and noises faded. A split second later the man broke eye contact and slid into his car. Paige jumped forward as soon as the man got into this car and started it. A blur in brown caught her attention as she quickly glanced toward the far side of the parking lot, past the cafe. With gun drawn, Dinky raced around the side of the building and sprinted towards her, glancing all around the parking lot as he did.
“Tan sedan!” she managed to scream as she willed her feet to move faster. The man floored the gas pedal. The tires screeched as the sedan shot forward. Their eyes locked one more time as he hit the accelerator and drove the car right at her. The look in his eyes left her with no doubt that he would bounce her off the car faster than a flea could wink. Paige hurled her body to the left row of parked cars and landed beside a Chevy pick up truck just as the tan sedan flew by.
“Paige! Paige! You okay?”
“Yeah, did you get anything Dink?
“Got a plate, but my guess is it will be stolen. But, at least it’s something.” Dinky came to a stop beside the truck and leaned down to help her up.