Convicted

Convicted

4.0 1
by Jan Burke
     
 
From New York Times bestselling suspense author Jan Burke comes the fourth of six e-short story collections.

Convicted is a mini-anthology containing a brand-new short story, “The Anchorwoman” featuring a young Irene Kelly, plus three stories from the highly acclaimed Eighteen print anthology: “Revised Endings,

Overview

From New York Times bestselling suspense author Jan Burke comes the fourth of six e-short story collections.

Convicted is a mini-anthology containing a brand-new short story, “The Anchorwoman” featuring a young Irene Kelly, plus three stories from the highly acclaimed Eighteen print anthology: “Revised Endings, “Devotion,” and “The Muse.” Jeffery Deaver, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Kill Room, praised Eighteen as “Astonishing…wry…these stories are sure to delight.” And New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman says, “A delightful collection of page-turners. At turns chilling, funny, poignant—and always insightful. With these stories, Jan Burke’s at the top of her game.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781476749167
Publisher:
Pocket Star
Publication date:
07/14/2014
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
264,210
File size:
2 MB

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Convicted


“She’s so weird!”

This is what I heard as I walked into the small apartment I shared with Lydia Pastorini.

I suspected it was said about me. The words were spoken by Cokie Delini, whom I considered to be one of the weirdest people I had ever met; I found it a little unsettling to have the evaluation thrown back at me.

Sitting with Lydia at the table that took up about half the living room, Cokie noticed my entrance and blushed furiously.

“Oh—oh—hi, Irene!” she said, a little too brightly.

I frowned. She had been named Coco by her mother, after Mlle. Chanel, although if this was some maternal gesture of hope that her daughter would be into high fashion, that ship went down with all hands a long time ago. And maybe if her mother had studied up on Coco Chanel, I would have been looking at someone named Jane.

“Hi, Cokie,” I said, and glanced at Lydia, who has known me long enough to have damned near telepathic abilities to communicate with me.

“Cokie was just telling me about a strange thing that happened a couple of days ago,” Lydia said. I could see the amusement in her eyes.

“Oh?”

“You’re just the person to help her out,” Lydia added, now clearly suppressing laughter. “Cokie, tell Irene about it. She’s good with puzzles and mysteries.”

Cokie eyed me uncertainly. “Really?”

“I don’t know—” I said warily.

“She is,” Lydia said. “She reads a lot of mysteries.”

To Cokie, this probably sounded as if I had received a compliment, but I knew that Lydia was teasing me. I had missed a morning class because I had gone to bed the previous night with my first book of Sherlock Holmes stories. Jack Corrigan, one of our journalism profs, had recommended them. I picked up the book expecting the stories would give me a lovely brain break from the deadly political science text I’d been trying to absorb. I planned to read one of the stories and then go back to poli sci with renewed energy. Instead, I stayed up reading about Holmes and Watson until I fell asleep around the time birds started singing. Then overslept.

“You probably don’t want to help me,” Cokie said, making me wonder how it is that otherwise unperceptive people have an unerring ability to say the one thing that will make you respond to them out of guilt.

“Tell me about it,” I said, setting my armload of books down on the table and my backpack on the floor next to me. I sat and tried to stretch the kinks out of my shoulders. This semester seemed destined to turn me into an orthopedic case.

Lydia, always a perfect hostess, had already brought out a big pitcher of iced tea and a plate of her homemade chocolate chip cookies, and she went into the kitchen to get a glass for me. She also reloaded the plate. I had been thinking about those cookies all day. The scent of them baking was what finally woke me up, but at that point I had been too rushed to eat any.

Cokie passed on second helpings, but wisely waited until I was fortified with chocolate and sugar before beginning her tale.

“It happened two days ago—”

“Wednesday?”

“Yes, Wednesday, at about ten o’clock. I just happened to be looking out our back window.”

Lydia made a choking sound.

Cokie had gone to high school with us, and we knew other kids who grew up on her street. They had long ago told us that Cokie’s love of spying and gossiping had earned her a nickname among her neighbors: “the Anchorwoman.”

“Are you all right, Lydia?” I asked sweetly. She waved me off.

“Go on,” I said to Cokie.

“My room is on the second floor of our house. My bedroom window looks out onto our backyard and the alley behind our fence. I heard a truck coming down the alley, and looked out to see a moving van pull up behind Mrs. Mikelson’s house. She lives in the house on the other side of the alley. I happen to know that Mrs. Mikelson is on vacation in Hawaii with her son. So I wondered what was going on. The truck blocked my view of her house and part of the house next to it. And then . . . and then . . .”

Her cheeks turned bright red and she looked down at the table. I glanced at Lydia, whose eyes were brimming with laughter. I waited.

Cokie took a deep breath, then blurted, “And then the clowns jumped out.”

“What?”

“You know, like Bozo. A lot of men dressed up like clowns in red wigs and crazy clothes and makeup.”

I will admit this was not where I expected her story to go.

Lydia started laughing.

“It’s not funny!” Cokie said, then added morosely, “Well, I suppose it is.”

If I hadn’t recently lost sleep over a book of detective stories, I would have laughed, too. The second story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was “The Red-Headed League.”

Coincidence, I told myself sternly. Still, Cokie obviously wanted to be taken seriously. Mr. Sherlock Holmes had laughed at Jabez Wilson, but he also took his story seriously. He listened and observed and asked questions.

He would have made a good investigative reporter if he hadn’t left all the writing up to Watson.

“Okay,” I said to Cokie, as if multiple-clowns-in-the-alley events happened every day. “How many?”

“Clowns?” she said, still wary. “Five that I could see.”

I reached into my backpack and pulled out a pen and a reporter’s notebook. I turned to a fresh page and began writing down the details.

“You said they wore makeup—full makeup?”

“Yes.”

“Same makeup pattern on all the clowns, or different?”

“Different.”

“Happy and sad face?”

“Yes.”

I glanced up and saw Lydia staring at me. I could see that she was wondering if I was being especially mean. I turned toward Cokie, who was giving me much the same look. Well, to hell with them. They’d figure it out.

“And the wigs—same or different?”

“Different. Costumes, too, although they were all dressed like bums, not in ruffs and all of that.”

“Young? Old? Middle-aged?”

“They seemed young. One was a little fatter than the others, but most of them were slim. They were all active, running around, dancing.”

I asked her to describe them individually as best she could. One was carrying an inflatable toy that looked like a baseball bat, and bopped the others with it. One carried a huge purse with big flowers on it. When I asked about footwear, she frowned.

“All of them wore normal shoes—not clown shoes. White running shoes.”

She was good at describing things, and by the time she finished talking about clown number five, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what she had seen—but really, “five clowns” summed it up. What other questions could I ask?

“They were all wearing makeup and wigs, but you’re certain they were all male?”

She hesitated, stared off into space for a moment, then said, “I can’t be certain, but they sang like men.”

“What?”

Lydia started laughing again.

I struggled to keep a straight face. Damn Lydia and her infectious laugh.

“Singing clowns,” I managed.

“Yes. They sang ‘Oklahoma!’ ”

Okay, I lost it, and even Cokie laughed a little.

When we settled down, I asked, “The whole musical?”

“No, just that song.”

“Anyone else see this or hear this?”

“The first neighbor I asked about singing clowns in the alley looked at me as if I should be sent off to the banana ranch, so I stopped asking around. Besides, most of the neighbors are at work during the day. The few that aren’t at work or school are old. Most of them are hard-of-hearing.”

“Your folks were at work?”

“Yes.”

“And you had been home all day?”

Her chin raised a notch. “Yes.”

I had asked a stupid question.

In our final year at Las Piernas High School, beneath our senior yearbook photos, our ambitions were listed, and if we were accepted into a college, that was named, too. The space beneath Cokie’s photo was blank.

I knew lots of other kids who weren’t planning to go to college. Some didn’t have the money, others didn’t have the grades, still others had plans that didn’t include college. Some planned to work in family businesses. The Vietnam War was on, so some planned to enlist, others to resist, still others would go even if they did so reluctantly. Cokie didn’t fit into any of these categories.

Which was sort of typical of her. She didn’t have a lot of friends, but she wasn’t picked on. I suppose we both lucked out by hitting high school at a time when it was relatively easy to be odd. God bless Las Piernas High School’s version of the tail end of the hippie days. We were chock-full of peace, love, and understanding.

When I’d asked her about her plans at the time, she told me she hadn’t made up her mind yet and was going to take a breather. On the day she told me about the clowns, she was well into her second year of breathing.

Although she’d had good grades in high school, she hadn’t applied to any colleges. Hadn’t looked for a job. Had no plans to travel or to serve in the military. No plans to live on a commune or smoke dope all day in the Haight. Not part of the Jesus movement. Not practicing with a band in her garage, or working out a way to get a seat on the tour bus of the Doors.

Her parents were in good health, she didn’t stay home to care for anyone who was incapacitated, and she had no siblings.

No known ambitions. No direction. A comfortable existence.

I shared a cheap apartment with Lydia and occasionally a third roommate, worked two part-time jobs, carried a full load of classes, and only avoided living on Top Ramen and tomato soup because Lydia was one hell of a cook.

Yet I never felt a moment’s envy for Cokie.

“So at ten o’clock on Wednesday, five clowns—probably males—jumped out of a moving van parked in the alley behind your house and started singing ‘Oklahoma!’—do I have it right so far?”

“Yes.”

“Did they seem to be looking up at you, singing it to you?”

She hesitated, then said, “I’m not sure. They glanced in my direction every now and then, but they didn’t stand still and serenade me. They moved around, danced, and did high kicks and cartwheels.”

“Then what happened?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“They climbed back into the van and drove off.”

“Were they all in the cab, or were some riding in the back?”

“Two in the back.”

Illegal and dangerous.

“Did you see anything in the van itself? Furniture?”

“I didn’t get a good look at the back. The angle was wrong.”

I looked at my notes. What hadn’t I asked?

“What about the van itself—Bekins? Allied? North American?—what moving company?”

She was shaking her head before I finished. “Not a moving company. It was a rented van. Las Piernas Rentals.”

“Well—that’s a lucky break.”

“Why?”

“Local rental company with three locations, all within town. If it had been one of the nationals, the truck could have come from anywhere. License-plate number?”

“No, again, I couldn’t see it from that angle.”

“How big was the van?”

“Big. I don’t know.”

I tried to come up with vehicles to compare it with, which didn’t work with her, but when I got her to say how much of the Mickelsons’ house the van had blocked, I had a reasonable idea. Another idea struck me.

“Did you see a number on it? Most rental companies paint numbers on their trucks, to keep track of which ones they’re renting, I suppose.”

“I looked for one, but it had a big piece of paper taped over it—like butcher paper, maybe?”

I hesitated, telling myself that I needed to separate late-nineteenth-century fiction from the present problem. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

“Cokie, are there any banks or businesses on the other side of the alley?”

“There’s a row of homes, that’s all.”

“Anybody doing any kind of business out of a house that you know of?”

“No.”

“I mean any kind of business. Any pot growers? Drug dealers?”

“No! We did have a problem when Auggie and Andrea Sands lived at the end of the cul-de-sac, but their mom kicked them out. That was about three years ago.”

“She kicked them out for selling drugs?” Lydia asked.

We had known the Sands twins in high school. Always in trouble.

“Kicked Auggie out for selling drugs, and Andrea for banging her boyfriend in the living room. Their mom came home early with a friend from work. Guess that was the last straw.”

“How did their mom find out that Auggie was dealing?”

“One of the neighbors told her.”

“You?”

“No. I didn’t want to mess with those people.”

“Do Andrea and Auggie know you weren’t the one?”

She frowned. “They should. They have no reason to think I would tell on them.”

I exchanged a glance with Lydia and moved on.

“Anyone in the neighborhood angry with you?”

“You think singing clowns is a sign of aggression?”

“A possibility, anyway.”

She smiled. “I’m so glad you see it that way. My parents think it was something fun, as if I have a secret admirer. But it doesn’t feel that way to me. It seemed to me that someone wanted . . . well, to ridicule me.”

I bent my head over my notes and hoped my hair hid my blush. I certainly felt ashamed of my meaner thoughts about her.

“It seems crazy to think that,” she went on, “but . . . it didn’t make me happy, it made me feel as if I had been targeted, and someone went to a lot of trouble to do it. I’m a little scared by that. But I can’t think of anyone who would feel that mad at me. I get along with my neighbors. I’m one of the last young people still living on our street, and I try to help my older neighbors. I visit them. I run errands for them.”

A passage in “The Red-Headed League” came to mind:

“As a rule,” said Holmes, “the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify.”

Easy for him to say. But was there some commonplace crime hiding beneath all that clown makeup?

“Cokie, what would you normally be doing on a Wednesday morning at about that time?”

“Normally, I’d be playing canasta with the widows.”

“I hate to admit it, but I don’t understand.”

“You know, the card game.”

“Yes, I even know how to play it. Who are the widows?”

“Oh. Three of my neighbors. One day Mrs. Redmond—she’s across the street and one house down—mentioned to me how much she loved the canasta parties that used to be held on the street. I talked to a couple of people about it, and long story short, we started playing canasta at her house on Wednesday mornings.”

“Who are the other players?”

“Just two, Mrs. Harding and Mrs. Lumfort.”

“Who knows that you do this?”

“Everyone on our street.”

“So because of the clowns, you arrived late?”

“No, we didn’t have a game that day. Mrs. Harding was  . . . out of town. Mrs. Lumfort had a doctor’s appointment. Mrs. Redmond’s beautician had asked her to move her hair appointment to that morning, so because it was just going to be the two of us, she asked me if I’d mind just canceling. I told her it wasn’t a problem.”

“You hesitated about Mrs. Harding. What was going on with her?”

“Nothing. She went to a lawyer’s appointment with one of her granddaughters. Kayla just moved in with her.”

That name was vaguely familiar. Why did I know it?

“Kayla Harding?” Lydia asked. “My brother Gio used to date her.”

Gio was five years older than Lydia, and the list of girls he dated in high school was only slightly shorter than the list of female students in his graduating class. The fact that he hadn’t been burned in effigy years ago spoke to his abundant charm. Lydia claimed he genuinely cared about all of them, which seemed unlikely.

“Kayla ended up in prison, didn’t she?” Lydia went on. “Stole a car.”

“Yes,” Cokie said, “but she’s been out for a couple of weeks now.”

“Friend of yours?” I asked.

“No. I know her sister better than I know her.”

“Mindy,” Lydia said. “She’s our age.”

“Yes. I’m not close friends with Mindy, either. I just see her when she visits her grandmother.”

“Kind of a Goody-Two-Shoes, isn’t she?” I said.

“That can happen when you’re trying to show the world you aren’t like your troublemaking sister, right?” Lydia said.

Cokie and I shrugged.

“Think of your sister, Barbara,” Lydia said to me.

“I’d rather not,” I said.

“Mindy is Kayla’s half sister,” the ever-informative Cokie said. “Their father is on his third marriage. Widowed once, divorced once, and the third seems to be the charm. So Mindy just claims that she’s ‘only’ a half sister when she gets annoyed at Kayla.”

“Told you she was a bitch,” I said.

“Not exactly,” Lydia said.

“Yeah, well . . .” I glanced at my watch. “We’ve got a couple of hours to try to find the Las Piernas Rentals location that rented out the van.”

I used the Yellow Pages in the phone book to get the three addresses and phone numbers of the rental places, then opened the Thomas Guide, a book of detailed maps of Los Angeles County that only a fool would try to live without. A lost fool.

Cokie readily agreed to come along with me, but Lydia, thinking of the discomfort associated with being the third person in a Karmann Ghia, opted out.

WE DROVE TO THE ALLEY behind Cokie’s house, where I spent some time looking around as if I thought I’d see something. I’m sure the streets of London and other locations that may have required Holmes’s attention also had a lot of meaningless debris spread over them.

I didn’t go so far as to pull out a magnifying glass. I hadn’t owned one since I was nine, when my father caught me lighting discarded cigarette butts in the backyard by using focused solar power. He seemed to think I was a hairsbreadth away from burning down the house. I’m not saying he was wrong.

It didn’t look as if there was much I could learn there, two days after the singing clowns had come and gone. So I got back into the car, wrote down my odometer reading, and took the shortest route to the closest rental place. The energy crisis had caused the cost of gasoline to skyrocket, so I thought that location would be my best bet.

Although the geezer behind the counter didn’t seem averse to talking to two young women about his customers, we struck out. The only van that had been rented on Wednesday was still out—not due back in until Saturday. Rented by a young couple. The husband’s parents were giving their old house to the couple and moving to San Diego; the van was being used to move the parents out and the couple in. This might have been a complicated cover story, but I doubted it.

Owing to said fuel crisis, I asked the manager if he would call the other locations to see if anyone had handled a same-day rental of a moving van on Wednesday.

Fortunately, midmonth, autumn weekdays were not popular moving days, and we learned that the next-closest location had rented a van that day.

Unfortunately, the manager at that location was an unhappy woman of middle years who was not so forthcoming. She did say a van had been rented on Wednesday for a few hours, but didn’t see how it was any of our business.

“I think someone was trying to play a mean trick on my friend,” I said. “Or maybe worse.”

She was skeptical. There was no alternative, it seemed, to having Cokie tell her story. The woman laughed—before that moment, I wouldn’t have betted on her capacity to do so—and remained skeptical.

“The person who rented from us was very nice,” she said. “We didn’t rent our van to a person who might do something so immature.”

“We know it was a man, so don’t bother with the ‘person’ stuff,” I said, and saw her mouth prim up and a look of self-satisfaction come into her eyes. So—a woman rented the van. “It would have been illegal for the renter to put two people in the back and let them roll around between here and Cokie’s house, right?”

“You’re just trying to worm information out of me, and I won’t tell you a thing,” she said. “Next time you make up a story, try to come up with something better than a tall tale about clowns.”

She was convinced of that. I heard it in her voice, and wondered why she was so sure. When I realized the answer, I wanted to kick myself in the pants. Of course no one had shown up at the rental place with five people dressed as clowns.

I walked outside the office, Cokie trailing me. I walked past rototillers, a forklift, lawn spreaders, and post-hole diggers. I walked until I came to the place where the trailers and vans were parked. I pointed to two moving vans that were positioned next to each other. “Which one is closer to the size you saw?”

Cokie pointed to the larger of the two. I walked toward the back of it.

By now the manager had noticed that we hadn’t returned to the Karmann Ghia, as she had expected, and began marching toward us. “Hey, you!” she called out, attracting the attention of a couple of her workers.

I wasn’t dressed for this kind of action, I thought ruefully, but at least I was wearing flats. I stepped onto the wide, flat back bumper, grabbed on to a handhold, and swung myself up to have a closer look at the big black numbers stenciled on one of the side panels.

“Get down from there this instant!” the manager said.

“Look,” I said, running my fingers along a sticky line. “Tape marks. The identification number was covered up, just like Cokie said it was.”

The helpers who had joined her were nodding as I pointed at the places where you could see adhesive. That, or they were looking up my skirt.

“Get her off that truck!” the woman ordered them, and since they seemed way too eager to obey her, I hopped down.

“You know no one hides the numbers on a truck unless they are up to no good,” I said.

“Get out of here. Leave this property before I call the police.”

I considered calling her bluff, and then asking her to explain to the police why she was covering up for someone engaged in criminal activity, but that presented two problems. One was I had no proof that there had been any criminal activity or idea of what the crime was. The other was I’d have to tell the police the clown story.

So we left.

I BEGAN TO SEE THAT this case was and was not like “The Red-Headed League.” Like Jabez Wilson, Cokie was being pulled away from some action on the street. Not a bank robbery, but something.

Back at the apartment, I took out a piece of paper and sketched a diagram of Cokie’s street. I had her tell me who lived in each house and what they were usually doing on Wednesdays at ten o’clock. She was able to provide an almost scary number of details, and while the Sandses were likely baddies, no one in the family seemed to have his or her act together, let alone the wherewithal to plan and sponsor “alley theater.”

Someone had a goal, a goal that required Cokie’s attention at a certain time. I kept coming back to the members of the canasta group, the only ones with a fixed schedule.

“Let’s say someone knows of your interest in the activities of your neighbors.”

“My snoopiness?”

“Your keen powers of observation. Someone wanted to make sure you wouldn’t look out a front window, or see something at that time of day. The day was different from most Wednesdays because there would be no canasta game. And . . .”

“And what?”

“Process of elimination. Do you know the name of Mrs. Redmond’s beautician?”

“Yes. She gets her hair done at Lola’s Snip and Curl. She’s been getting it cut there since 1953.”

“And hasn’t changed her hairstyle in two decades, right?”

“Just about.”

“Kayla’s father is still living, right?”

She kept up with the apparent change in subject. “Yes. Mindy lives with him and her mom.”

“Why isn’t Kayla living with them, instead of her grandmother?”

“Kayla doesn’t get along with her father’s third wife. Mrs. Harding—my neighbor, I mean—Mrs. Gertrude Harding—doesn’t like Mrs. Lina Harding. Gertrude was on a long cruise when the trouble came up about the stolen car. She believes her son would have paid for an attorney, but Lina talked him into ‘letting Kayla learn her lesson,’ as Lina put it.”

“Is Mrs. Harding well-to-do?”

“She’s not super-rich, but she does have some money. She likes nice things.”

“Mindy is Lina’s only child?”

“Yes.”

“And Mr. Harding—is he well-off?”

“They do fine, as far as I know. Lina works, so there is extra income.”

“Where does she work?”

“In a doctor’s office. She’s an office manager or something like that. No medical degree.”

“Hmm. Do you have your neighbors’ phone numbers?”

“Of course.”

Of course. “Would you please call Mrs. Lumfort and ask her if Lina works in the office of the doctor she went to see on Wednesday?”

A few minutes later, we had the answer. Yes. Same office. I was beginning to see that the “mature” person who rented the truck was described to me by her age—Lina was probably in her forties—and not her behavior.

“Next, Mrs. Redmond. Ask her to call Lola and try to discover if her hair appointment was changed from its usual time at the request of Lina or Mindy Harding.”

Mrs. Redmond was a little hard-of-hearing, so everyone in our building and the buildings on either side of ours heard Cokie’s side of the conversation. Lydia came in to find out what was going on. Eventually we learned that Mindy had influenced the time of the appointment change.

Cokie stared at me wide-eyed after she hung up. “Oh my God.”

“What?”

“Lola’s. I wonder what Mindy’s hair looks like.”

We started laughing. Lydia probably thought we were losing it.

“How is Gertrude Harding’s hearing?” I asked.

“Excellent,” Cokie answered.

“Call her, tell her about the singing clowns, and then ask her if she’ll talk to me for a minute.”

She did so, and after the understandable time it took to get past the story of the musical number in the alley, she handed the phone to me.

“Mrs. Harding, I know I’m a complete stranger to you, and you probably think I’m too young to know anything, but it’s really important that you take my advice.”

“Yes?” she said doubtfully.

“It’s my belief that while a show was being put on to distract Cokie, something was taken from you. Some cash, perhaps, or more likely some jewelry, or something else that’s valuable and portable. If you haven’t discovered this for yourself, I’d bet you anything that either your daughter-in-law or Mindy—perhaps even your son—will ask you about some valuable object, you’ll go to look for it, and it will be missing. My theory is that it is still in the house, and has been placed somewhere that will ensure that Kayla will be blamed. It may already be planted somewhere in her bedroom or in her purse or in her clothing.”

There was a long silence. About the time I decided she’d hung up on me and the dial tone just hadn’t kicked in yet, she said, “As it happens, this morning I noticed that a diamond tennis bracelet is missing. And your advice?”

“Have you said anything to anyone other than me?”

“No.”

“Great. First, look for it now. It will be in Kayla’s room, but she didn’t steal it.”

“I’m sure she didn’t. Why are you sure?”

“She wouldn’t need clowns.”

“No, of course not.”

“You could set a trap for those who planned this, or at least amuse yourself when they try to reveal its hiding place. I don’t have advice about that part. It’s your family.”

“Sad but true.”

“I’m a little worried about you, Mrs. Harding. I think someone may covet your belongings, if you know what I mean, and greed can inspire worse things than false accusations or a clown show. Perhaps you might know an attorney or someone who could let the planners know that this didn’t work, and that if anything happens to you—”

“Thank you for your concern, Miss Kelly. I’ll think over my options. Tell Cokie I’ll see her at the canasta game next week.”

I NEVER GOT THE DETAILS about what Mrs. Gertrude Harding did from there, but I do know that within a few weeks, her son filed for a divorce from Lina, who did not contest it. She took Mindy with her when she moved to Florida. Cokie later told me that Kayla and her father were spending more time together.

I also learned that there had been a change in management at one of the rental company locations.

I eventually tracked down the clowns. In my freshman year of college I had dated a stage manager, and while that didn’t last long, the friendships I’d made with other theater-arts majors had fared better. I asked a few of those friends to let me know if anyone had bragged about a strange gig that involved clown costumes, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and a rental van.

In about three days I had a list of names, and a couple of my actor friends arranged a meeting with them.

A few minutes’ conversation made it clear that the clowns had no idea that they might have been accessories to a burglary, or potentially, even a murder. When I pointed this out, I could tell that for the near future, the alleys of Las Piernas were safe from other spontaneous musical productions. I also pointed out that they had frightened Cokie, and made her feel ridiculed.

“So what are you going to do about it?” the beefier of my actor friends asked them.

They shrugged and looked helplessly at me.

“She does a lot of stuff for the old people on her street. Maybe you could apologize, and then offer to help her do errands for them for a week or something.” I smiled. “If that happened, I might not give any names to the police or the rental company.”

That was 99.9 percent bluff on my part, but it worked. Apparently no one loves theater as much as a drama major.

NONE OF THIS EVER MADE the papers. And as far as I know, the police didn’t hear about it.

Cokie started a business to provide assistance and home care to seniors. She invited Lydia and me to her wedding. Aside from the bride and groom, Kayla Harding, and us, Cokie’s parents were the youngest people there—she’d invited all her elderly friends. It was one of the coolest (and rowdiest) weddings ever.

Oh yes. She ended up marrying some clown.

Meet the Author

Jan Burke is the author of a dozen novels and a collection of short stories. She is the founder of the Crime Lab Project and is a member of the board of the California Forensic Science Institute. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two dogs. Learn more about her at JanBurke.com.

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Convicted 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
UndercoverBookReviews More than 1 year ago
You can't go wrong with picking this book up from Jan Burke! She gives you 4 awesome short stories to settle in for! Each has their own plot that are well written! *Received for an honest review*