Monday, September 16, 2013

Sam's Last Stand (The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series) by Judy Nickles Excerpt

Sam's Last Stand (The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series) by Judy Nickles

Sam has promised Penelope he’ll be back to stay, but when he comes back and gets in the middle of a kidnap investigation, she realizes she doesn’t really know him after all. He blurts out the truth about his tortured past, but he can’t let it go, and Penelope can’t live with it, no matter how much she loves him. Events spiral out of control, and Penelope finds herself face to face with Sam in a moment of decision for them both. Each must take a stand. Can they find common ground? Or, like Custer, will they both go down fighting?


Food, music, conversation, and beer flowed freely until just before ten o’clock when Brad and Rosabel had to go on duty. “We’re still working short-handed without Parnell,” he said glancing at Ivana.
“I thought you hired another officer,” Mike said.
“We did, but he’s young and hasn’t learned how to take things a step farther based on his own judgment.”
“Yeah, we all miss Parnell,” Jake said.
“Anybody here who needs a designated driver?” Rosabel joked as Brad held her jacket.
“I’ve got two,” Jake said.
Hal Green indicated his cola. “Not me.”
“I’ve got Harry’s back,” Mary Lynn said.
“How many times have you called to check on the girls, Aunt Mary Lynn?” Brad asked.
“None of your business,” she snapped. “We wouldn’t even be here if anyone but Prissy had them.”
“I’ll put on a roast before Mass tomorrow,” Penelope said to her son and daughter-in-law “If you’re up, come on over.”
“We went to Mass tonight,” Rosabel said. “I’m glad Fr. Kris is doing that now.”
“Fr. Loeffler never saw the need, God bless him,” Harry said. “But when he started out, two Masses on Sunday was all anybody’s schedule needed.”
Rosabel kissed Jake and then Penelope. “Thanks, Dancers,” she said. “It was fun.”
Mike walked the couple to the door. “Stay out of trouble now,” he said. He hadn’t even made it back to the table when the familiar keening floated from the fireplace on the waves of flashing blue lights.
Mike Dancer let out an oath Penelope had heard once in her life—and not for years. Sam almost up-ended the table getting to the door where he disappeared outside. When he came back a few minutes later, everyone—even Mike—still sat in stunned silence.
“Brad’s on his way back as soon as he drops Rosabel at the station,” he said.
“Did you see anything?” Jake asked, then drained his second bottle of beer like it held the answer to his question.
“Not a damned thing.”
“Because there’s nothing to see,” Mary Lynn said. “You can’t see a ghost.”
“Now, peach pie,” Harry began, mopping his face with a paper napkin.
“We’re going home,” Mary Lynn said. “Thanks for the evening, Mike and Millie—I think.”
“Me, too,” Ivana said. “It’s late anyway.”
Hal Green got up and moved in his usual slow, deliberate way toward the fireplace and began to inspect it. Then, sifting through his thin, gingery hair, he came back to the table. “Beats hell out of me.”
Georgia tapped his arm. “Language.”
He lifted his eyebrows. “Sorry.”
“Maybe we should leave, too,” Penelope said.
“I think we should wait for Brad,” Jake replied.
On cue, Detective Sgt. Bradley Pembroke walked in. “I don’t think I want to hear this.”
Sam grimaced. “Everybody here saw and heard it.”
“I’m going to take that fireplace apart brick by brick,” Mike muttered.
“And not put it back together,” Millie added. She reached for her glass of tea with a trembling hand.
“Maybe it’s not that desperate,” Brad said, addressing his remarks more to Sam than anyone else.
“I don’t believe in ghosts,” Sam said flatly. “Or spirits or whatever you want to call them.”
“Then who or what is in my fireplace?” Mike demanded.
“That I can’t tell you, but it’s not a ghost,” Sam declared. He jerked his head toward the door. “Let’s go take a look,” he said to Brad.
Penelope helped Millie clear away the remains of the food. “Everyone had a good time tonight, Millie. Honestly.”
“Until that…that…whatever it was. I swear, Penelope, I didn’t believe in ghosts any more than Sam until we bought this place and uncovered that fireplace. Which we wouldn’t have done, by the way, if there hadn’t been water damage behind the wall.”
“Oh, well, it adds a certain charm to the place.”
“It may be the charming end of our business if it doesn’t stop.”
“I doubt it. There’re always the bikers.”
Millie snorted. “The bikers! I wouldn’t care if they never came back. Most times they don’t cause any trouble, but I’m always on edge until they leave. You just never know.”
Hal and Georgia Green appeared at the kitchen door. “We’re saying goodnight, Millie. Thanks for the evening.”
“I’m sorry about all this.”
“Don’t be,” Georgia said. “At least your resident ghouls had the good manners to wait until we’d finished eating.” She winked.
“I hope you’ll come back.”
“Of course, we will,” Hal said. “Don’t worry about it.”
Jake was nowhere in sight when Penelope and Millie came back to the main room. “Now where did Daddy get to?”
“He’s probably out with Mike and the others.”
“Why not?”
“Millie…” The return of the four men interrupted Penelope’s train of thought. “Find anybody?” she asked.
“If you mean Vincent Ives, no.” Jake cackled and looked at the empty table. “Where’s my beer?”
“Gone,” Penelope said. “And we’re going, too.”
“There’s nothing out there,” Bradley said. “Not even a footprint.”

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