The Race is on to find a Killer in the heart of Kentucky horse country
Detective Augustus Grant is faced with his most baffling case to date. Well-respected race horse breeder, John Jorgenson, is murdered in his den days before the Kentucky Derby and the list of suspects is growing.
Complicating matters, Gus’ ex-girlfriend is the last person to have seen the victim alive.
Rebecca Hayes owes the Jorgenson family her loyalty. They gave her a new life after a disastrous affair leaves her alone and pregnant.
With all the evidence pointing in Becky’s direction, will Gus do his duty?
Or follow his heart?
Gus pulled up behind the sheriff’s car and nodded to the officer guarding the front door. Sheriff Tromley wasn’t going to be happy to see him. He tended to be territorial over his cases, but the chief had insisted, so here he was.
He took his time, gathering the leather briefcase that had been a gift from his ex-wife, his keys, a spare pen, and his trench coat in case the weather turned, rolled up the window and opened the door. Except now his hands were full and he couldn’t get out of the car. It took a few moments, some cringing when he inadvertently hit the horn with his elbow, but Gus finally managed to exit his Buick.
“Need any help, sir?” The young officer glanced doubtfully at the steep staircase leading up to the double entrance doors, then at him as though he were an old man in need of a walker.
Gus straightened his tie, darn near giving himself a shiner with the corner of the briefcase, and shook his head. “I can manage, thank you. Can you tell me where the sheriff is?”
“Out back, sir. Talking to the widow.”
That made sense. It was an established fact that in eighty-eight percent of murder cases, the killer was someone who knew the victim. He waited until the officer pointed which direction he should go, then Gus trudged down the walk, reviewing the case in his head.
Dead male, approximately forty-five years of age, found on the floor in his den with a pair of shears sticking out of his chest. The McMillon family were fourth generation horse breeders, and even had a colt who won two of three legs in the Triple Crown. Gus heard the horse was making the McMillon family more money now as a stud than he had racing. Nice way to retire.
He rounded the corner of the house, avoided the giant rose bush reaching out to grab his clothes, and sought out the elusive sheriff. There he was, on the other side of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, complete with waterfall. A gazebo provided both shelter and privacy from the house, but Gus could see just fine. And what he saw pulled him up short.
The sheriff had his arms wrapped around a woman who barely cleared his chest. Raven locks spilled down the back of her crimson red robe as she tilted her head to gaze into his eyes.
Augustus cleared his throat and the woman jumped, freeing herself from the sheriff’s embrace. Tromley glared across the distance, hands fisted at his sides, while the woman, Gus was sure it was the widow McMillon from the description he’d been given, spun away, tightening the belt on her bathrobe. As Gus neared she picked up a pack of cigarettes with trembling fingers and lit a smoke, took a long drag and exhaled, a blue cloud forming a nimbus around her head.
“What are you doing here, detective?” The sheriff crossed his arms over a barrel chest and scowled.
“Well, sir,” Gus started, then tripped over a step and almost went sprawling. He straightened and cleared his throat. “The, ah, chief asked me to come out and offer a hand. He’s worried what the press is going to do with this one. Mr. McMillon is… I mean was, sorry ma’am,” he said as the woman let out a soft cry. “Mr. McMillon was a prominent member of the Lexington community.”
“We’re aware of John’s standing in the community, Detective Grant,” the sheriff said. “There’s no need for you to be here. I just finished my interview with Mrs. McMillon and will have a report filed by this afternoon. It was clearly an accidental death. These things happen.” He glanced at the widow and his expression softened. “Trudy has been through enough. She found her husband in the den.” His gaze hardened as it returned to Gus. “I’m sure you’ll understand if she needs some space right now to gather herself.”
Gus hesitated, then nodded to the missus. “Sorry for your loss, ma’am. Take all the time you need. Mind if I step inside, maybe have a look at the crime scene? Question your staff?” He ignored the sheriff’s soft curse. “It’s just that it’s the chief’s orders and all. I won’t be long…” He waited while she made eye contact with the sheriff, and when she began to shake her head, he added, “Or I could start with you, ma’am, if you would prefer?”
“Grant,” the sheriff warned.
Mrs. McMillon sighed and stubbed out her cigarette on an elegant cut-crystal ashtray in the center of the table. “It seems you are determined. Go ahead then, question my staff. But don’t get in their way. They have jobs to do, same as you.” She sank into a deeply piled armchair and crossed slender legs, making no effort to stop the robe from sliding open dangerously high on her thigh. And of course she caught him looking. A feline smile temporarily chased the shadows from her eyes. “Anything else, Detective?”
A cold shower maybe?
Gus cleared his throat and fumbled with his briefcase. “Uh, no, thank you, ma’am. Appreciated.”
He turned and stumbled down the same dang step he’d tripped on earlier. He couldn’t imagine any man voluntarily giving her up, but you never knew what happened behind closed doors. He’d have a quick look-see, talk to a couple staff members, and be on his way. Case closed.
Except—it kind of bothered him. Shouldn’t she be a little more heartbroken at the loss of her husband? Shock triggered different reactions depending on the person, of course, but she’d seemed more worried about the staff getting their jobs done than getting to the truth. And what was going on between her and the sheriff?
He glanced surreptitiously over his shoulder and caught what seemed to be a heated exchange between the widow and the lawman. Obviously, they weren’t strangers. In fact, if he wasn’t mistaken, he’d have to say they had a history.
Question was; how recent?