Title: QUICK WALK TO MURDER
Author: J.D. Daniels
Publisher: Savvy Books
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Quick Walk to Murderopens with the murder of the son of a local crab fisher folk family. Young Jessie Murphy, an artist from Cambridge, MA who solved a homicide the previous season on the island, joins forces with two quirky, but savvy locals in hopes of bringing the murderer to justice. In her search for the reasons behind the murder, Jessie uncovers hidden—and frighteningly disturbing—relationships between the victim and many of his acquaintances. Among them? A local crab fisherman who secretly hired the young man, the victim’s girlfriend and her over-protective brother, the victim’s college roommate, an adviser at college, a psychic, the victim’s mother and two strangers who show up on the island with badges. With no shortage of suspects, Jessie launches a pulse-quickening investigation that leads her to death’s door. But through her own power of reasoning and feisty Irish refusal to not finish a job once begun, Jessie uncovers a startling, surprising ending.
The shadowy form of a four-foot snook shot through the waters like a torpedo and disappeared under the dark depths of the dock. Vehicles roared across the drawbridge. A kayaker in the mist lifted her black paddle and making a flapping wing motion, waved. I raised my free hand in greeting, gripping my packed bag. A great blue heron strolled toward two cormorants preening on a decayed piling. The splintered railing felt rough, raw, capable of giving pain. It was late April and past time to leave Matlacha (say Mat-la`-shay) and return once again…alone…to Cambridge.
When I first ventured to the islands with Will in my innocent, love-struck early twenties, Matlacha seemed the most magical, perfect place in the world. That everything was goodness and light. That nothing dark, and certainly not evil, happened. Last year, when I returned and found out Will had been murdered, I was forced to face that I’d been wrong.
My plan as I drove back north was to take a good calculated look at myself. Something had to change. Here was what I knew: Name? Jessie Murphy. Twenty-eight. Single. Paid my bills by managing a few apartments in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Saved enough in six months to travel to a funky, artsy fishing village where I painted and showed my work in the local galleries. Life was good. More than good. But the biological clock was ticking. I wanted a family. Yet, and this was a big yet…I couldn’t make the move to do anything about it.
Chicken. Pure spicy freckled chicken. That was me.
Footsteps pounded. I turned and smiled at my always-good-for-a-laugh friend, Zen. Her thick, now shoulder-length black hair looked like she’d not taken time to comb it. With the extra thirty pounds she carried, it wasn’t surprising that she was out of breath. Seeing her red and swollen eyes, I loosened my grip on the handle of the bag. “What’s wrong?” I asked, looking down at her.
I was five-eight. She was five-two. We were within a couple of years of being the same age. My face was freckled. Hers was flawless and baby doll round.
Zen burst into tears. “Oh, Jessie! Tomas is dead! Gator said he was murdered.”
Blood rushed from my face. “Tomas? Tomas is dead?”
I dropped the bag, hurried to her side, took her elbow and led her to an Adirondack chair.
“Oh, Jessie!” The howl that came from Zen sent the cormorants skyward. I reached for her interlocked fingers.
Zen’s body shuddered. She blinked and then spoke in a husky voice. “Gator found him last night. He hadn’t come to Bert’s in a couple of days and we’d begun to wonder what happened to him. It wasn’t like Tomas not to stop by for a chat after his tours. Gator found him lying in his own, oh…on the floor…in the bathroom.” Her phrases sounded like they were buzzed in two by a saw blade.
I worked hard at not letting the picture focus vividly in my head. If the images got too clear, I knew I’d have nightmares. I’d have to spend the next weeks and months painting them away and I really, really wanted to paint positive images: Like Canada geese heading south in synchronized flight and pelicans swimming a perfect V-formation in calm waters, or tourists sunning under umbrellas while little urchins played with their yellow and red buckets as fishermen pulled in grouper. Images that would assure me I was okay. Because I was okay. I was.
Zen’s clutch could snap one of my brushes in two.
I would stay for the funeral, of course.
Since my efficiency was already rented and all other rooms were booked at the island motels and inns, Zen offered to have me stay with her and her current boyfriend, Zebra. Zen said he got his handle at the Naples Zoo where he had befriended one. I wondered if it had more to do with the bleached stripes in his dyed black hair. But they only had a one-bedroom trailer and I had seen the couch. Well, I thought what I’d seen was a couch. So I opted to call around for a motel room for three nights. That, I assumed, would be all that I would need to attend the service, comfort Zen and Gator, then be on my way.
Jake, the baby boomer who filled in for me as manager of two apartment complexes in Cambridge, was heading for Costa Rica in a couple of days. It turned out Jake’s twenty-one-year-old companion was not a flexible person. She wanted him on the flight beside her. If Jake missed the flight, so be it, I’d assured him. The foxy college freshman could go on without him. Since he was almost sixty and had spent painstakingly precious minutes of his time picking out and purchasing her string bikini and yellow bamboo nightie and thong, he wasn’t keen on someone else having the first peek at her in them. So he insisted I needed to get back. Of course I did.
The only place with a room was a cheap motel in North Fort Myers. I preferred island life on Matlacha, but had no choice. I put Gar, my plaster of Paris yard art gargoyle and companion, on the counter, ignoring the sideway looks of the guy who checked me in. He was unshaven and his yellow-toothed smile was more sneer than anything. His eyes never left my girls. It took all of the discipline I had not to escape the room, run to my car and return to the fishing village where one-story cottages and duplexes stood next to three-story million-dollar homes. Where yachts harbored in the same bay as one-person flat-bottom skiffs that looked like they’d sink at the next crab-trap check. With great effort I managed to overpower my urge to leave. Be brave, I told myself.
Minutes later Zen arrived. “Come on, let’s get out of here. I found a tent. You can sleep in the backyard.”
I looked at the clouds and mouthed “Thank you.”