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First pages

Chapter 1

It was a warm spring day in late March and after months of snow, ice, freezing rain, and a multitude of storms it appeared warmer weather was finally around the corner. Clutter and debris slowly floated down the Mississippi River as the frozen terrain began to melt after a long, record-breaking winter with subzero temperatures, severe storms, and conditions, unlike any Missouri, had yet to endure.

“Ting a ling a ling! Ting a ling a ling!”

Vast amounts of trash, logs, limbs and many kinds of debris had collected at the river’s edge and were floating, pulling, and tugging as it attempted to continue its progress down the mighty Mississippi toward its destination before purging into the Louisiana Delta.

To the typical onlooker, it was a ghastly sight, yet not one, particularly of importance after the winter siege the people of St. Louis, had suffered from months of the coldest weather ever recorded, not just in Missouri but the entire country.

Today, however, temperatures climbed into the mid-sixties, which felt like a heat wave, and the park around the downtown area of St. Louis, Missouri was booming, at least in comparison to the way it looked just one short week earlier.

People were gradually leaving their home to venture out, kind of like a bear awakening from a long winter’s nap, in hopes spring was near.

There were walkers and runners on the numerous paths and trails. The weather seemed to thrill everyone including, moms and dads that pushed strollers, bicyclists going a steady pace throughout the trails along the riverfront, and a group of teenage boys throwing a football. Senior citizens were at horseshoe pits busy cleaning and raking the sand for a probable game or two. Even a couple of picnickers, with their wicker baskets of goodies, were in the picnic area, although they may have rushed the season. Nonetheless, everyone was ready for a beautiful day.

Sam McCall certainly had had enough of the cold. Enjoying the warmer weather while running through the Riverfront Park area made Sam euphoric. The love of running came at an early age but Sam had never been a fan of wintry weather because running outside was not only dangerous due to falls, but it also made it difficult to breathe in the frigid temperatures.

“Ting a ling a ling! Ting a ling a ling!”

However, Sam, a natural born athlete was taking advantage of today’s warmer weather just like all the people that were venturing outside for several reasons. It has been particularly enjoyable because Sam had not had a day off in three months and nothing felt better than a long brisk run.

The main thoroughfare of the park had smoothly paved trails and well-lit pathways so if one chose to run in the late afternoon, which sometimes was convenient for Sam after a long day of reporting, then it was safe to do so.

Passing the historical Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Sam continued past the Gateway Arch.

Feeling exhilarated by the air quality this morning, Sam was running a little farther than usual. Running the last leg of the manmade running trail, a very faint sound of a bell or whistle distracted Sam while looking toward the river.

“Ting a ling a ling! Ting a ling a ling!”

Continuing down Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, next to the river and heading toward Eads Bridge when a horrible scream resounded through the trees and sent chills up Sam’s spine.

Sam slowed, listened, and tried to pinpoint the sound and its direction as the screaming sound resonated, but this time there was no denying the high-pitched sound of a woman, perhaps one in distress.

A small crowd had gathered near the water’s edge just a few hundred feet ahead. Increasing speed, Sam headed toward the sound and the crowd. A woman continued screaming at the top of her lungs.

Sam was not exactly sure why the woman was losing control, but she was babbling something about her hand. Now Sam thought that the woman must have had an accident.

“Ting a ling a ling! Ting a ling a ling!”

Sam approached the small crowd and noticed a man trying to comfort a woman. She was apparently the person that was either hurt or terribly frightened by something because the sounds that were coming from her mouth was deafening while her hand kept pointing toward the river.

The man gently patted the woman on the back as she tried to calm down. Still clinging to the gentleman, she slowly turned, raised her arm, and pointed toward the river. Her eyes were full and rounded, lips trembling, as words began to spill from her mouth in a whisper, “There is a hand. Oh, Lordy! There’s a hand floating out there in the water.”

Chapter 2

Sam immediately assumed control over the situation. It was Sunday morning, and Sam’s day off, nevertheless, an investigative reporter’s work is not an eight to five job.

A small athletic bag was usually strapped around Sam’s waist while running, and today was no different. The bag was small, lightweight, and black with a modern logo on the front, a middle-sized compartment for larger items, with several smaller pockets and a belt that fastened in the front, so the bag was at Sam’s waist in the back. Inside the carry bag was a cell phone, ink pen, billfold, small notebook, tape recorder, a headset, and a small bottle of water.

“Ting a ling a ling! Ting a ling a ling!”

Sam’s eyes and ears began searching the river. There were many cans, bottles, branches, and dirty water foaming bubbles between the waves of muck and there at the edge of the river was a large limb sticking up in the air. Sam froze a second because attached to the tree limb appeared to be a partial hand.

As Sam gaped at the hand and walked as close to the water’s edge as possible for a clearer view, it was impossible to figure out if the hand was real or not.

“What is that confounded noise?” mumbled Sam, removed the cell phone from the bag and placed an emergency 9-1-1 call.

“Ting a ling a ling! Ting a ling a ling!”

Next, Sam went to work taking pictures of the small crowd, the surroundings, the mysterious hand, and everything in sight, recognizing that as soon as the police arrived, they would ask questions and probably want any pictures taken. Consequently, Sam emailed the photos to the office, erased them from the phone and took a few more photos to share with the police.

Finally, Sam approached the group of people. There was an elderly black couple still holding each other tightly around the waist, and the woman was shaking from head to toe continually weeping, “It’s a hand. It is a hand, I’m telling you. Oh, Lord have mercy!”

The man consoling the woman was obviously her husband or relative because as he held her, he was continually rubbing and patting her back saying, “It will be okay Louise. It will be all right.”

Sam detected a small girl about five or six years old with a tall, thin, brunette, about the late twenties, perhaps her mother or nanny. Sam was thinking that there was something slightly familiar about the woman but continued to look around.

Two men with dark sunglasses wearing suits were standing off to the side, and another woman that looked terrified was leaning up against a tree.

Lastly, Sam spotted a very attractive woman around twenty something. She had blond shoulder-length hair and wearing very expensive clothes! She was walking away—no wait, she was practically running from the scene as fast as possible.

Sam quickly took a few more pictures to share with the police.

“Ting a ling a ling! Ting a ling a ling!”

After going back to the river, Sam noticed debris and the limb holding the hand had moved closer to the boat landing. Jogging to the nearest place next to the docks for a better view, Sam gasped at the sight because it looked like a human hand.

 

Seemingly, the hand was clinging to the branch for quite some time because the three middle fingers twisted around the upward branch. It looked to be a woman’s hand from its small size, Caucasian or perhaps Asian. It was bluish black in color, probably from the elements, and visibly swollen. The pinkie finger looked to be half gone from turtles, fish, or other water species that had nibbled from the top layer of skin down to the bone. While the index and ring fingers were terribly twisted, they were very noticeable.

However, the middle finger got all the attention. It was standing erect and stiff, and a bright red fingernail still adhered onto the tip of the finger. It gave the impression of making a gesture to someone. Perhaps it was a final “up yours.”

There did not appear to be a thumb.

Around the wrist portion of the hand was a small gold bracelet that superficially had a bell attached to it, for with every push of the water was an unforgettable sound.

“Ting a ling a ling! Ting a ling a ling!”

It was as if the tiny bell was ringing a warning sound or sounding a signal for help. It had certainly gotten Sam’s attention and many others from the looks of the crowd.

The forearm of whomever the hand belonged to seemed to disappear below the trunk of the tree limb. Also, any other remains were either missing or were attached somewhere below the water’s surface.

A fair amount of hair floated among a big mass of twigs, leaves, and mud surrounding the hand as if a cushion or base for a masterpiece if only the sculpture were of any medium other than human flesh.

Chapter 3

Although Windermere was fully refurbished from the grand entrance hall and foyer to the luxurious, great room, to the magnificent fireplaces throughout the estate, to the delicately carved moldings and doorframes, the kitchen was the room that was under siege.

A butler’s pantry, gleaming hardwood floors, among beautiful cherry cabinetry with not one, but two huge islands and a wall filled with ovens inset in rustic brick was just a few of the massive renovation ideas orchestrated by Angelique Rousseau.

There were three French chefs all working as quickly as possible preparing dinner. (Blanquette deVeau,) Veal in a creamy sauce, (Coquilles St-Jacques,) Scallops, winter salad with buttermilk dressing, three various kinds of French bread, and (une mousse au chocolat) chocolate mousse garnished with a couple of cinnamon sticks for dessert. Moreover, yesterday they made Hors d’ oeuvres, which was (Terrine deFois deVolaille) chicken liver pâté, polished the silver, shined the glassware, and ironed the table linens.

The staff also selected an assortment of the finest, imported wines including but not limited (du vin blanc) white, (du vin rouge) red, (du vin sec) dry, and (du vin doux) sweet.

The swishing of a floor length satin nightgown alerted the kitchen staff that the woman of the house was fast approaching and no one knew what mood Angelique Rousseau was in this morning. The staff stood as they anxiously awaited another round of hostility, praise, sarcasm, or any of the moods their mistress readily displayed. Frankly, the last person they wanted in the kitchen this morning was Angelique.

“Is everything going as planned?”

“Yes, yes, of course, Ms. Rousseau,” Maria cheerfully replied.

“I do not want this dinner party ruined by the incompetence of the kitchen staff.”

“Yes, Ms. Rousseau, the staff has been trained by the best, and there is no need for you to be worried about your dinner party.”

“Merci Maria, I will hold you to that.”

“Yes Ms. Rousseau, but I assure you, everything is going as planned. Your dinner party will be an overwhelming success. Now, please be seated in the dining room, and your breakfast served. I made your favorite croissant, and the tea is ready as well.”

“Forget breakfast!” Angelique snapped at Maria. “There is not enough time with my many appointments today. This dinner party is paramount to me Maria, and it is imperative to look my best. Therefore, I will be out most of the day.”

“Don’t you worry about a thing, Ms. Rousseau, we are well prepared, and I understand that you want to look your best. Rest assured, everything will be ready. Enjoy your day.”

Angelique continued her tirade as she swiftly exited the room, “Do not disappoint me.” She was in such a hurry to be on her way that she rounded the corner into the foyer and bumped directly into her husband, Charles.

“Whoa! Where might you be going in such a huff?”

“Charles, must you speak so vulgar?”

“That’s not vulgar honey, that’s just a little bit of Texas seeping through.” replied a smiling Charles.

“Please remember we are in Missouri. Now I must speak with you about Maria.”

“What about Maria?” Charles asked while frowning.

“Do you believe a little Mexican woman like herself can pull off an elaborate dinner party? After all, I am French and so are most of the guests.”

Charles was not pleased with Angelique’s attitude and angrily replied, “Maria is one of the finest women that I have ever known. She ran my household for thirty years, uprooted herself just to move to St. Louis and continue to look out for me. No, I will not discuss her with you.”

“Very well, now I must get dressed and be on my way. There is still so much to finish before tonight.”

As Angelique was rushing to her bedroom to change, you could hear her muttering, “massage, pedicure, manicure, and of course my hair and . . .”

Chapter 4

After Angelique had exited the kitchen, Maria felt relieved. She let her mind wander back to when Charles Hamilton hired her to look after his new bride and household. It seemed so long ago. Charles went by a different last name then, was not married to Ms. Rousseau, and did not live in St. Louis. However, Maria was never to speak of such things. But, she remembered the early years as if they were yesterday.

Sara McAllister was eighteen years old when Charles married her and brought her back to Lakewood as his wife.

Maria and Sara hit it off and became great friends. Although Maria never forgot that she worked for Sara and Charles, Sara never made her feel as though she was the hired help. She was soft spoken, a little naïve, but beautiful both inside and out.

Charles and Sara were happily married many years and had one child. Sara was everything to Charles. They worked together, laughed together, and loved each other.

Charles had struck oil the third year they were married, and from that moment their lives changed. They went from living in a modest ranch home with a few acres to a multi-million-dollar ranchero with over three thousand acres of land.

Charles was also an excellent father. He wanted nothing but the best for his son, and that meant to go to the best schools, learn all the innovative ways of drilling for oil, obtain property, and more than anything else make more money. Charles was a driven man and could not understand why his only child did not feel the same way.

Charles and Sara’s son had his ideas. He was not interested in oil, nor did he intend to spend his life in Texas. He wanted to travel, and he loved to write. His dream was to author a major book or perhaps do some investigative reporting. He also loved the city and knew that he would enjoy the city life.

So naturally, the difference between father and son caused many arguments. Sara knew that both were truly alike and that was the whole reason they butted heads on mostly everything. She desperately loved both her husband and son and they adored her.

Sara, Charles, and their son seemed to have it all until the day Sara’s diagnosis with breast cancer. Then, their world as they knew it came tumbling down. Sara put up a good fight for several years and went to doctors all over the country, tried new medicines, and went through radical surgeries. She survived for a fleeting time and then became very sick just before their son’s graduation from Yale.

Sara begged Charles not to tell their child about the reoccurrence of cancer because she knew he would drop everything and return home. Charles agreed and waited until graduation day to inform his son that his mother was fragile and cancer had returned throughout her body.

Their son returned home after his graduation with his father only to have a couple of hours before his mother died. A terrible fight ensued after Sara’s death between father and son. Both were brokenhearted after Sara’s death and said ugly hurtful things to one another. Immediately after the funeral, Sara’s son packed his bags and left. He walked right past his father and neither said a word.

A sound from one of the cooks surprised Maria from her thoughts, but not before a tear fell from her eye as she remembered Sara, Charles, and their son on that terrible day. She took a deep breath and whispered, “Nearly ten years!” Maria strolled back to the kitchen to prepare for the party and reminded herself that Mr. Hamilton was now married to Ms. Rousseau. Later in the afternoon, her mind drifted again as she thought about how much Charles had changed over the years.

Charles had once been an active, vibrant man, but circumstances that took place after his wife’s death nearly destroyed him. It was a year before he sought professional help. Then, it took another year of therapy sessions before his therapist suggested he start over in another town or state. After a lot of soul-searching, Charles admitted to himself that it was the only way to rebuild his life.

He told Maria, he was leaving Lakewood, changing his name, and moving to St. Louis, Missouri to start a new life. Charles wanted her to continue running his household. However, she was never to speak of the past which included Sara, his son, or anything about his life, as she knew it. He hoped she would decide to come with him. Either way, he could not live as he had any longer. Charles sold his business and intended to start fresh in St. Louis. He planned to reinvest his money in a computer company.

Of course, Maria agreed to move with Charles, if for no other reason than she knew that it was what Sara would have wanted.

The first year in Missouri was trying, but then Charles went on a business trip to Paris, France. While in Paris, a friend introduced him to Angelique Catarina Rousseau. She was quite beautiful and somewhat younger than Charles was, but they had hit it off right away. She made Charles laugh which he had not done for several years.

The happy couple spent every day together for the next two weeks. Nevertheless, they both had secrets. Charles never mentioned his life before St. Louis and Angelique only told him that she was divorced and had two children.

Angelique learned that Charles was quite wealthy and a widower, so she set her sights on him. In fact, she convinced him that she and her children could make his life meaningful again. Taken by her beauty, Charles asked Angelique to marry him. She happily accepted, and they married after only three weeks of courtship. Charles returned home with Angelique and her two teenaged children, Fabien, and Catherine.

Maria readily accepted Angelique and her children into Mr. Hamilton’s home. She was optimistic for a new beginning for him and his newfound family. However, in the coming weeks, Maria discovered many flaws in the new marriage. Maria learned that Angelique had many secrets. First, Angelique was very moody, and she did not have a good relationship with her children, especially Fabien. Nevertheless, Maria’s job was to take care of Mr. Hamilton and the household, and that was what she did.

Chapter 5

Fabien was furious when his mother married Charles Hamilton, in fact, he hated her, and still does. Angelique was unaware of the hatred Fabien felt for her, and so she lavished him with anything he wanted.

Through the years, Fabien’s involvement with dishonest people placed him in a couple of skirmishes with the law. However, Angelique had always believed anything her son told her, so she paid the fines and bailed him out of trouble. Even now, that he is a grown man; she believed him to be a good and loyal son. The truth of the matter was Fabien continued to hate his mother because of an episode that happened when his father was still alive.

It was a rainy night in late fall when Fabien was a teenager. His father, Dimitri Rousseau, was working late and a strange man came to the house. Fabien’s mother introduced him as Pierre Montclair, an uncle she had not seen for many years. He stayed for dinner, and when it became late, Fabien and his sister Catherine went to bed.

Dimitri’s screams awakened Fabien a few hours later after he discovered Angelique and Uncle Pierre in his bed. Fabien was not a kid anymore, and he knew a lot more about men and women than his mother could even imagine.

Dimitri Rousseau was a driven man and worked long hours, but at the time, Fabien did not know what his father did for a living. He only knew that other people were afraid of him and that they had plenty of money.

Therefore, when Dimitri found Angelique and Uncle Pierre in a compromising and embarrassing situation, he had nearly beaten Pierre to death. Then he called some men that came and took Pierre away. Fabien lay huddled in his bed pretending to be asleep. Nonetheless, he never forgot.

Fabien also remembered the fight that ensued and his parents’ screaming at each other. He remembered how he had cried under the covers when his father told his mother she was worthless and she was to get out and take her two children with her. He remembered the pain in his chest as he whispered, “I am your son too, father.” Mostly, he remembered how much he hated his mother for making his father so unhappy that he did not want to be around his children.

The divorce was discreet, and no one talked about it. Fabien did not understand his father’s actions toward him. He loved him and felt as if he had unfairly deserted him when he gave custody of his sister and himself to their mother. Angelique and the children moved out of the big mansion on the hill that Fabien loved so much and moved into a small loft and their lives changed dramatically.

Fabien repeatedly called his father asking to live with him or to visit but to no avail. Day after day, Fabien became angrier until he fell into a group of other troubled teens. For several months, Fabien was in and out of juvenile hall. He just did not care what happened to himself, and he certainly did not want to be near his mother.

Then the call came from his father declaring that he missed Fabien and Catherine. He wanted them to spend the summer with him. For a brief time in their life, they were happy. They spent Christmas and the next three summers with their father and about the time it looked like Fabien was on the right track and much happier, his father died suddenly of a heart attack. The worst part was they were celebrating Fabien’s birthday.

After his father’s death, Fabien became hardened on life. He refused to call his mother anything but Angelique. A terrible fight arose when Fabien asked for his inheritance so he could move out. Of course, Angelique refused and said she had control of the money until he turned twenty-five.

Angelique promised she would not marry again. But, then she married Charles Hamilton and wanted to move to the United States. Fabien saw it as a final slap in the face.

At first, Fabien refused to move to America, but his sister Catherine wanted to attend college in the states. Therefore, he agreed to go with Angelique, Charles, and Catherine. Fabien, however, began forming a plan of his own and his newfound family was not part of it.

 

After Angelique had married Charles, she decided to keep her first husband’s last name. (Rousseau) She told Charles that it would be easier for the family if they had the same last name and it would help them enter society in St. Louis because of the lineage connection to King Charles of France. It did not seem to matter to Charles—he was not interested in society levels. In fact, his last name was not Hamilton either, but he had not told Angelique anything about his past or his sweet Sara.

Angelique rapidly became a distinguished member of the community. She joined clubs and chaired many committees, and always mentioned her connection and heritage to the former King of France. She wanted to rub elbows with the descendants of French aristocrats, and she thrived on seeing her name in the society pages of the newspapers.

Angelique wanted a new home, or grand estate, as it turned out. She said it was important to her to host elite groups—which she was now a member. Therefore, when she insisted they buy the old John Morgan estate, the only thing Charles noticed was the little garden, about an acre, that sat just behind the pool area. It was quite a mess with weeds and a few pitiful looking flowers. Hence, while Angelique was dreaming of wealth, society levels, and business opportunities, Charles was thinking how he could refurbish the rose garden.

Angelique was an expert at reading people, and she quickly realized Charles had fallen in love with the gardens. She easily convinced him to buy the large estate by using his love of flowers and the outdoors. Angelique declared the property must be fully refurbished to support the social level she so desired.

The Morgan house and the grounds received a new facelift as Angelique was making herself known around St. Louis. While the estate’s interior was undergoing, it's French, though modern, fresh look, the outside, and the grounds, including the gardens became the focal point of the area. Finally, after two years, the dysfunctional family moved into the estate that Angelique christened, Windermere.

Angelique had spent money as if it were paper, and spared no expense in the remodeling and decorating of Windermere. She continued with her showy demeanor and gradually became one of the most elite societal members of St. Louis.

 

Charles chose a simpler, quieter life. Although he enjoyed the pleasantries and benefits of having money, he felt it was not necessary to flaunt his wealth to the entire town by having extravagant parties.

Charles allowed other people to control his company, which included Angelique and Fabien, and he was perfectly happy to spend his time in the garden right alongside the servants. He especially loved his rose garden. He nurtured the grounds until he turned his garden into an immaculate full acre of blooming roses of white, red, pink, and yellow. Some were low vining, some full and scattering while others curled around decorative trellises. And various combinations of roses strewn among the many beautiful ivy vines that climbed along fence rows. Charles’ daily routine was to feed, water, and care for the roses.

Although fully staffed to care for the grounds, Charles was the only person to care for the roses. The aroma of the flowers along with the quietness was therapeutic for him. His heart and mind slowly began to heal.

Chapter 6

Sam reached out over the water’s edge, clutched hold of a large branch, and used it as a rake, grabbing some of the massive amounts of trash, mud, and river muck.

Although it was extremely difficult to hold onto the branch without falling into the river, Sam began to make progress. The mysterious hand, still attached to the larger limb, was now moving closer to the dock with each pull Sam made using the branch.

Curiosity set in as three or four people came closer to view what Sam was trying to fish from the river. You could hear “oohs” and “oh no’s!” For the moment, the hand had moved to within eyesight of the riverbank.

Suddenly, three police cars, all with sirens blazing pulled up Sullivan Avenue and circled the crowd that was now pointing and talking about the mysterious hand in the water. Several people began to turn or run from the scene.

“McCall, What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Damn,” murmured Sam. “I almost had it.”

Sam dropped the branch, stood, and bantered, “Well, well, don’t tell me that the St. Louis Police Department couldn’t find anyone else but you, Detective Perez, to answer a 9-1-1 call?”

Detective Perez sarcastically replied, “McCall, just respond to the question. How is it that you, of all people, happen to be on the riverfront at the exact time a possible drowning was called in?”

“Okay, okay, don’t get your panties in an uproar.”

“McCall!”

“Sorry, I should have said shorts,” said Sam with a lopsided grin.

“McCall, I am warning you!”

Sam militarily saluted Detective Perez and stiffly answered, “Sorry, Detective Perez, ah sir, I was jogging and heard a lady screaming, so I stopped to see if I could be of assistance.”

“And were you?”

“Yes, Detective Perez, I was the one that placed the call to the police. But what, if I might ask again, made them send a detective to a basic 9-1-1 call?”

“That is none of your business McCall, and I will be the one to ask the questions. Now get over there with all the other people,” replied Detective Perez as he pointed toward the small crowd of about fifteen people.

Sam joined the group and waited for the police to begin their investigation, but in the meantime, looking around also drawing conclusions.

“This is a police investigation,” shouted Detective Perez using his megaphone. “No one is to leave this area until you have left your name and information with my officers.”

Meanwhile, the police were herding everyone in the small group to a separate area. A couple of officers started setting a boundary to prevent anyone else from entering or leaving the scene. Detective Perez quickly called the station and asked for a Criminal Investigation Team. Other teams and people also contacted were divers, the coroner, the police photographer, and specialty team or the so-called clean-up crew.

Then the detective pulled Sam to the side and demanded, “Tell me everything you know, and do not leave anything out.”

Sam obviously did not intend to tell Detective Perez (whom Sam considered a pompous ass) anything, that was unless he directly asked for accurate information. After all, Sam did not need trouble with the law.

“McCall, you just going to stand there daydreaming or give me the information I need?”

Sam glanced at Detective Perez who stood well over six feet with eyes so dark it was impossible to tell where the pupil divided from the iris. Healthy built too, with broad shoulders and slim waist. He had wavy, jet-black hair that had a few curls at the nape of his neck. Most noticeable, however, was the deep dimples. Nevertheless, Sam was still thinking what a jerk, while answering all of Detective Perez’s questions, which he read from his little detective book.

“There isn’t very much that I can tell you, Detective Perez. Today was my day off, and since it was such a beautiful day, I decided to go for a run through the park. It wasn’t until I heard a woman screaming that I stopped to investigate the problem.”

“What woman would that be?”

Sam nodded in the direction of the couple and answered, “See the African American couple huddled together?” Perez gave a quick glance toward the elderly couple as Sam continued, “Actually, the screams came from the woman. You’ll need to discuss with her the specifics of discovery. I arrived after her screams.”

Detective Perez called over Officer Johnson and ordered him to take statements from the couple. Then, he asked Sam a few more questions and said, “Don’t leave town McCall and I expect to have all pictures and notes that you took sent to the precinct. Do I make myself clear?”

“Absolutely!”

Then Sam turned and began scrutinizing everyone within close range as Detective Perez went about his investigation.

Yellow cautionary tape sealed the entire city block as the crowd began to disperse. The coroner had arrived, as well as what appeared to be a (Crime Scene Investigation) CSI team of some sort, along with more detectives. Evidently, the police would retrieve the body after all. Sam realized there was nothing else to be done and decided to leave.

“Sam? Sam McCall?”

Sam turned and noticed a woman waving and shouting. She was the one previously seen with the young girl. As the woman approached, Sam got a closer look, and recognition began to set in as Sam walked toward her.

The woman embraced Sam and said, “It’s been years since I’ve seen you, but I would know that body anywhere. Still running, I suppose.”

“Yes, still running,” answered Sam. “How are you Cat?”

“I am doing well. It has been so long. You have not aged a bit. And don’t call me Cat I go by Catherine now.”

“Okay Catherine, I might say the same thing about you. You look terrific.”

“I’ll take that compliment, Sam.”

Then, Sam turned and smiled at the young girl standing beside Catherine, and although not a good judge of age, guessed her to be somewhere between four or five years old.

“And, who is this lovely young lady?”

Catherine paused as though she had forgotten about the young girl that was by her side. Finally, her voice returned, she peered at the girl that was now hiding behind her. “I would like you to meet Sam McCall.”

Then, she turned to Sam and continued, “This is Samantha,” paused, looked a little flushed but added, “My daughter.”

Sam looked Catherine full in the eyes for several seconds, then slowly turned to the little girl, “I’m pleased to meet you, Samantha.” Then, Sam walked away saying, “It was good to see you again, Cat!”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

MaryAnn Pride was born and raised in southern Indiana. She holds a Master's degree from Indiana State University in Elementary Education and has been a teacher, coach, and mentor. MaryAnn's love of writing came at an early age by drawing pictures and telling stories to anyone that would listen. Her lifelong desire is to write a novel.

Q. Why do you write?
A.
"I write because it challenges me each day. I have always had a big imagination and been a creative person. I am also a very active person. However, taking my thoughts and making sense of them so I can pass them along to readers, now that's a different story!"
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
"I always wanted to write. It wasn't until I taught school that I got the courage to put my words in print. I began by writing plays for my class to perform for parents. Later, I wrote programs and fellow teachers and myself would perform to large audiences. Donated money was given to charity."
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
"The hardest part about writing Red Fingernails was not giving too much information too soon. I wanted to confuse the reader, give small bits of evidence, then guide the reader to discover the guilty party."

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