When two gang members choose Mary Harrington as their target, the quiet widow has a secret to share of her own
Most people in the town of Rivershore, Michigan view Mary Harrington as a quiet widow whose only oddity is that she spends a lot of time at the gym. Her son thinks it’s time for her to move into a retirement home. Two gang members think she’ll be an easy target. No one in Rivershore knows what Mary did in her younger years—really did—but the two gang members discover they’ve underestimated their victim . . . and Mary fears reverting to old habits may have jeopardized her future.
|Publisher:||Hale, Robert Limited|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Maris Soule is an American author of romance and romantic suspense novels, and short stories. Her books include The Crows, Destiny Unknown, Eat Crow and Die, and Shelter from the Storm. She lives in South Haven, Michigan and Venice, Florida.
Read an Excerpt
A Killer Past
By Maris Soule
Robert Hale LimitedCopyright © 2015 Maris Soule
All rights reserved.
Mary Harrington knew she was in trouble the moment the old Chevy gave its last gasp. She'd seen the two boys sitting on the sagging porch steps of an abandoned house. From the distance, she could only guess their ages, but they looked to be in their late teens.
As her car coasted to the curb, the boys kept their gazes on the roach they were sharing; nevertheless, Mary knew they were aware of her presence. Having car trouble was bad enough, but being stuck in this neighborhood late at night was double trouble. It didn't matter that her house was only two blocks away. A woman her age, out on the streets by herself, was way too tempting.
'Damn,' she muttered. She should have left her granddaughter's birthday party earlier. That or she should have let her son drive her home.
But no, she'd told them she wasn't feeble, not yet, and that she could take care of herself.
She hoped like hell she wouldn't have to test that statement.
Although Michigan's economy was recovering, this part of the neighborhood had been hit the hardest by the housing slump and still had a long way to go. Only a few homes had lights on, more 'For Sale' signs displayed than Halloween decorations. People had moved away in search of work, leaving their abandoned houses for the gangs and drug dealers. Those who didn't leave, locked their doors and remained inside once the sun went down.
One of the boys on the porch steps turned slightly and said something to his friend. The second boy glanced her way, then back at his friend.
She couldn't remain in the car forever. They would come over, sooner or later. Better to be prepared.
They wouldn't get much from the car. No GPS, stereo, or CD player. The tape deck had jammed years before, and the AM/FM radio wasn't worth the effort. Even the tires needed to be replaced. Her son had been telling her to buy something newer, but up until now the Chevy had served her well.
Without being obvious, Mary slipped her credit cards, ID, and house keys out of her purse and into the inside pockets of her windbreaker. If the two punks on the steps wanted her purse, they could have it. She never carried more than twenty dollars. If she was lucky, it would be a snatch and run. She'd give the expected yelp of surprise and indignation, and that would be it.
She didn't want trouble.
For a moment she considered simply locking the car doors and calling her son. Maybe the boys on the porch steps would leave her alone until Robby arrived. He could be there in ten or fifteen minutes, depending on how fast he drove. But speeding could get him in trouble. She'd seen him down three martinis as they celebrated his daughter's eighteenth birthday. No telling what his blood-alcohol level might be.
Besides, Robby wasn't a fighter. He took after his father. Dear sweet Harry always said he was a lover, not a fighter. He didn't even fight the cancer. 'I'd rather have quality of life,' he'd told her after the doctor gave them his options. 'Six months of being able to do things with you is better than a year or two of chemo and radiation.'
As it was, they had nine months together, and then he was gone.
'You'll be fine,' he'd said that last night, before the morphine eased him to sleep. 'You're the strong one.'
Maybe so, but she wasn't as strong and agile as she'd been in her teens and twenties. The article that had appeared in last month's Kalamazoo Gazette had made her sound like an Amazon, but Mary knew the truth. Her workouts at the gym kept her arthritis at bay and helped her retain some muscle tone, but she was no spring chicken. A seventy-four-year-old shouldn't have to fight.
'Play it safe,' she muttered to herself as she opened the car door.
She clutched her cellphone in the palm of her right hand, but kept a light hold on her purse. When the boys did grab it, she wouldn't resist.
Sergeant Jack Rossini was on his way home when he heard dispatch call for a cruiser. Although he was off duty, he flipped on his lights and made a U-turn. Lately there'd been an increase in gang violence in that part of town, and the mayor had been pressuring the chief to get the problem under control. In the last ten years, Rivershore's image had plummeted. Once viewed as a model of small-town living, the area now matched Detroit's record for unemployment and robberies. Way too many young people had nothing to do but get into trouble.
Rivershore's police force had shrunk along with the town's population. Jack knew the two officers responding to the call wouldn't object to his presence. Backup, when it came to gang violence, was always welcome.
He passed an old, gray Chevy parked by the side of the street. The cruiser, its red and blue lights flashing, was about a half-block farther on. Residents had come out of the surrounding houses and stood on their lawns, on the sidewalk, and in the middle of the street. Whatever they were looking at was blocked by the cruiser.
An elderly black woman wearing a bathrobe and slippers and holding a drink in her hand stood in the path of his Dodge Durango. Jack rolled down his window and yelled at her to move.
The woman turned and raised her free hand to shield her eyes from the glare of his headlights, then staggered toward his vehicle. 'Serves 'em right,' she slurred, her breath strong enough to tell him the liquid in her glass wasn't water.
'Them?' he repeated.
'Dem two.' She waggled a finger toward the cruiser. 'Dey's been hanging around dat house all night, jest waitin' fer trouble.'
Jack was sure she wasn't referring to the officers who had responded to the call, but he still couldn't see anything. 'Did you witness the shooting?'
'Didn't see nuttin',' she said, then smiled. 'Nuttin' at all, 'til I heard 'em screamin'.'
'How many shots were fired?'
'Shots?' She shook her head. 'None dat I heard.'
'So you didn't see anything ... didn't hear anything?'
'Saw her leave. Dat's what I saw. And she were limpin'.'
'There was a woman, a girl involved?' One way or another, there usually was.
'Yeah, guess so. She shore didn't waste any time gittin' out of here.'
'Which way did she go?'
His question seemed to confuse the woman, and she looked both ways before finally pointing east.
'We'll want a description of this woman,' he said, though the way she was squinting at him, he doubted a description would be much help. 'Where do you live, Mrs ...?'
'Black. Cora Black,' she said and pointed at the house behind her.
'All right, Mrs Black, if you'll step out of the way, someone will talk to you later.'
Jack eased the Durango by her and parked just past the cruiser. As soon as he was on the sidewalk, he could see the victims. The two males were in their late teens or early twenties and were seated on the grass in front of the responding officers. One of the boys held a towel to his face, while the other kept rocking back and forth, clutching his arm and moaning.
With the nearest street light out, and the flashing red-and-blue lights distorting colors, Jack wasn't immediately sure if the two were Caucasians or Latinos, but as he drew nearer, he saw Towel Holder had a blue bandana tied around his wrist. The bandana, along with the baggy jeans, hooded sweatshirts, Air Jordans, and an RB tattoo on the side of Arm Holder's neck – the R touching the B so the B looked like a heart on its side – clearly identified the boys as members of the River Boyz. The gang saw themselves as an offshoot of one of the Mexican cartels, though Jack wasn't exactly sure which one. He wasn't even sure the gang members knew.
Over the last two years, Jack had dealt with several of the gang's members, but these two were new to him. 'What happened here?' he asked the two officers he'd come to assist.
Stewart VanDerwell, who'd been on the force for five years, glanced his way. 'Hi, Jack. Seems, according to these boys, we have a little old lady going around beating up our young citizens.'
Jennifer Mendoza, the only female on Rivershore's police force and a rookie, grinned. 'They insist they were doing nothing wrong, that they offered to help her, and she just started hitting and kicking.'
'The bitch broke my arm,' Arm Holder said, glaring up at Jack before resuming his rocking.
'Broke my nose,' the other one added, lowering the towel from his face.
The twisted bridge of the boy's nose, along with the blood seeping from one nostril, verified his statement.
'Think she broke my knee, too,' he said, groaning as he tried to move his leg.
'We've called for an ambulance,' Officer VanDerwell said, glancing back toward the direction Jack had driven. A siren could be heard in the distance.
'You catch this "old" lady's name?' Jack asked the two on the lawn.
'Naw, she just came at us,' Arm Holder said.
'Like a crazy woman.'
'Crazy,' Arm Holder repeated.
Jack smiled. 'And just how old is old?'
The two boys glanced at each other, and then back at him. Arm Holder answered. 'I dunno. A hundred, maybe.'
'A hundred.' Officer Mendoza laughed. 'Sure, she was.'
'She was,' Towel Holder insisted. 'She had wrinkles. Lots of them.'
'And it's the night before Halloween,' Officer VanDerwell said. 'You punks ever think she might have been dressed up like an old woman? Could have even been a guy in drag.'
Again, the boys looked at each other. Towel Holder shrugged but shook his head. 'It weren't no fuckin' costume.'
Mary limped into her living room and sagged into Harry's La-Z-Boy. Her heart hadn't stopped pounding since she'd left the two boys. Even though pain radiated up her leg, the adrenalin racing through her body overrode the sensation. Excitement clashed with fear. My God, what had she done?
The boys hadn't been content to simply take her purse and run. Oh no, they wouldn't leave it at that. The short one blocked her escape while the tall one looked inside her purse. He said a twenty wasn't enough, wanted to know where she'd put her credit cards, where she lived. They'd threatened her.
When the tall one grabbed her arm and reached for the lapel of her jacket, she didn't even think before she reacted. Forty-four years might have passed, but her body automatically responded with ingrained moves. A shift of position, one step back, and she had her assailant off balance. She used her cellphone as a weapon, jamming the edge hard against the bone of his forearm. As she applied pressure, a sweep of her foot, along with a twist to her side, had him falling forward. The moment he hit the ground, she dropped down and slammed her knees into his back and ribs. Before he could react, she used the edge of the cellphone to cuff his ear, then grabbed his arm and gave a violent twist. He started screaming right after she heard his shoulder pop.
A quick roll to the side put her on her back. The short one stared down at her, his mouth open and his eyes glazed with confusion. She knew she didn't have much time, but springing to her feet was not an option. Her joints might remember the moves, but age had robbed her body of its elasticity. What once had taken a single maneuver now required three stages, but she was on her feet before Shorty truly understood what was happening.
She used the cellphone in her hand to deliver the blow to his face, a sidekick took out his knee, and a chop to his neck put him down on the ground. In the past, she would have finished him off then, finished both of them off. She knew the killing points. Two strategically placed jabs, and both of the boys would be eliminated, no more threatening old ladies.
But that was in the past.
'You stay where you are,' she demanded over their whimpering.
She retrieved her purse from where the tall one had dropped it, gave the pair one last glance, and turned away. Breathing hard, she hoped she wouldn't have a heart attack before she reached her house.CHAPTER 2
The town of Rivershore had been built along the banks of the Ash River back in the late 1800s, and for a time was a way-stop for travelers going from Kalamazoo to Lake Michigan. Its population decreased after a better road was developed farther south, then grew again when a national brand company built a factory to process and package the blueberries, grapes, and apples that local farmers grew. By the early 1990s, the town had attracted several small companies, along with residents who preferred living in a small town and were willing to drive to Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids for their jobs. Then came the economic downturn in 2008.
The town still hadn't recovered, not completely, but early Friday morning, as Jack drove west along Main Street, heading for the police station, he noticed a sign in the window of what had been an empty storefront. One of those fancy coffee shops was coming soon.
Just what we need, he thought, wondering how many restaurants and coffee shops a town of 5,000 could support.
So far, along the six blocks of Main Street that paralleled the river, there were three restaurants, two bars, and three ice cream shops. In the summer, two more huts opened up next to the city park, both selling soft drinks and snacks to the tourists who came to kayak and canoe down the river.
Of course, in addition to the eating places, Rivershore had the usual businesses that sustained a population, ranging from grocery and hardware stores to banks and credit unions. Most of the clothing stores, however, had gone bankrupt when the economy turned down, only two having managed to stay open.
There were gas stations and repair shops at both ends of town, and the town's new fire station had been built on the west end, next to the hospital and what was, before an electrical fire, the police department. After the fire, the city council decided to hold off building a new police station until the economy improved. Jack had a feeling he'd be retired before that happened. For way too many years now a warehouse one block south of the fire station had been Rivershore's 'temporary' police station.
Jack parked in back of the warehouse but walked around to the front of the building and unlocked the door. This early, only the night shift officers were on duty, 911 calls going to county dispatch. The regular receptionist and day officers weren't due in for another hour.
The building had an empty, cold feel, and Jack noticed a musty odor that probably meant there was mold in hidden areas. He immediately went over and turned up the heat. If the city council wanted to complain about the high gas bill, let them spend eight or more hours a day in this building.
A large window that looked out on First Street helped give the front area a light, cheery feel. Once beyond the ceiling-high dividing wall behind the receptionist's area, only the harsh glow of halide lights illuminated the officers' cubicles, two temporary holding cells, and a booking area. There was one enclosed office in the far back corner, probably originally built for the warehouse manager. The chief now used that room. It had the only other window in the rectangular building.
Jack, with twenty-four years' seniority in the Rivershore Police Department, had been given the largest cubicle. His desk and file cabinets were back by the chief's office. This was the coldest part of the building, as far as Jack was concerned. He turned on his space heater as soon as he reached his area.
From his desk, he could see the cubicles of Rivershore's other sergeant, six full-time patrol officers, and two part-time officers. He knew the moment officers Stewart VanDerwell and Jennifer Mendoza came into the building.
'You're here early,' Jennifer said as she headed for her desk.
'I wanted to catch you two before you headed home, see what the status was with those teens from last night.'
'You mean the ones in the shoot-out at the trailer park?' she asked, slipping off her leather jacket.
'No.' That gang fight had been on the eleven o'clock news. 'County boys got that, didn't they?'
'We offered our services,' Stewart said. 'They said they had it under control.'
'Glad to hear that. No, I'm talking about the mugging on Archer Street.'
'They're not pressing charges.' Stewart walked back to Jack's cubicle and dropped into the chair next to Jack's desk. 'Neither one of them. They're now saying they simply tripped and fell.'
'You tell them you didn't believe them?'
'We told them,' Jennifer answered, her voice easily carrying in the near-empty building. 'I asked the one with the dislocated shoulder if he was always that accident prone. He just glared at me.'
Excerpted from A Killer Past by Maris Soule. Copyright © 2015 Maris Soule. Excerpted by permission of Robert Hale Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Killer Past is a well-written, fast-paced novel. May Harrington is one tough cookie, then and now. Maris Soule did a marvelous job. Must read all her works.