Knocking around Dona's palatial estate gives Savannah plenty of opportunity to hobnob with A-list celebrities and compile a list of suspects that proves some people can never be too rich, too thin, or too vindictive. But just when Savannah's sure she's had her fill of the macabre, the shooter strikes again, and this time Savannah is nearly caught in the crossfire. Now, Savannah's determined to find the truth. After all, it's pretty hard to enjoy fifteen minutes of fame—or a double chocolate brownie—from six feet under...
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Fat Free and Fatal
A Savannah Reid Mystery
By G. A. McKevett
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2007 G.A. McKevett and Kensington Publishing Corporation
All rights reserved.
The tiny, southern California town of San Carmelita had its picturesque areas where Hollywood celebrities browsed for antiques, shopped quaint boutiques, and sunned themselves on pristine beaches. But Saul's pawnshop wasn't in any of those areas. Saulie's was on the other side of town, the part of town that the city council frequently discussed at meetings, trying to figure out new, cheap ways to spruce up the neighborhood. Or at least keep tourists out of it, so they wouldn't get themselves mugged or perforated by a stray bullet.
Nestled snugly between a tattoo parlor and a porn store, Saul's shabby little hockshop had been trading valuables of questionable ownership for instant cash for over fifty years. But Saul himself was neither shabby nor questionable. He was a character, and he also had character ... which made him one of Savannah Reid's favorite people.
As she and her friend, Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter, left Dirk's old Buick and walked up the sidewalk toward Saul's shop, she stepped off the walk to allow a teenage boy and his pit bull to pass, giving the dog and his master plenty of room.
Wearing full gang attire and a surly, wanna-piece-of-me? scowl on his face, the gangbanger looked threatening enough without his wide-jawed, excessively toothsome companion. And while the streetwise Savannah had kids like him for lunch on a bologna sandwich spread with plenty of mustard and a dab of mayo, she made it a point to avoid pit bulls whenever possible.
Dirk nudged her with his elbow. "Afraid of a little puppy dog?" he said.
"Puppy dog, my hind end," she replied, her Southern drawl thick, despite all her years on the West Coast. "Remember when we saw a 'pup' like that one take a chunk out of a patrolman's thigh a few blocks from here? All because the cop jumped over a fence and into the wrong yard, chasing a perp?"
Dirk shuddered. "Gross. Like I'm gonna forget that one. We saw some pretty nasty stuff when we worked graveyard back then."
Savannah felt her own little chill. During the years she and Dirk had served together on the San Carmelita police force, they had seen some pretty nasty stuff in the noonday sun, too. Heart-wrenching, soul-scarring images that kept you awake at night. Unless you read a lot of trashy novels right before bedtime and ate a lot of chocolate — Savannah's remedies for just about any of life's unpleasantries.
Dirk was still a cop — still collecting nightmare material.
Savannah had moved on to greener pastures and become a private detective. Well, sometimes the grass was greener ... when she actually had a paying client or two. Then there were the other times, like this one, when she had absolutely nothing to do except tag along with Dirk.
As they passed one seedy establishment after another, she wondered if there wasn't a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than hanging out on the bad side of the tracks with a guy who had been gruff in his twenties and grumpy in his thirties. And now that he and she were solidly in their forties, he had worked his way up to a five-star curmudgeon.
Dirk let go with a deep, chest-rattling cough, which he tried his best to suppress. She knew why. And it wasn't going to work.
"That's the third chest cold you've had this spring," she said. "Not to mention the four sinus infections and all the sore throats."
He growled under his breath.
"So, don't mention it. Don't you start nagging me, woman. I won't stand for it."
"Since when? I've nagged you to quit smoking since the day we met. Pointing out all of your faults keeps me from having to focus on my own. So, why stop now?"
"Because I'm gonna fly into a blind rage if you don't. I've had enough of your —" More gagging and coughing took his breath away, along with the rest of his argument.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You and your blind rages," she said. "I live in fear."
When they reached Saul's front door, Dirk opened it and stood aside for her to enter. Savannah liked that. Right after a cigarette, he might smell like a Las Vegas casino, but Dirk was still an old-fashioned gentleman.
Dark and dank, the tiny pawnshop needed a good airing. The only bright spots in the glum establishment were the glass-front counters that held treasures ranging from estate jewelry and fake estate jewelry to dented French horns and antique typewriters.
A small gnome of a man appeared at the tinkling of the silver bells that hung above the door. He was wiping his hands on a dirty cloth as he came out of the back room, a hopeful look on his wizened face. But at the sight of Dirk, his bright, entrepreneurial grin disappeared. "Oh, it is only you," he said with a slight Slavic accent. "I must say this to you, I'm not a happy man. Not at all. Saul does not like to lie to his customers, to deceive them, to deliver them into the hands of the law. If word gets around that I do this ..."
"The guys who are trying to unload their stolen crap will take it elsewhere," Dirk told him. "That's a good thing, right?"
Saul grimaced. "I suppose so." He turned to Savannah and his eyes lit up ever so slightly. "I am happy to see you, though, Savannah, my dear. It is not every day a pretty woman comes into Saul's store."
"Forget about the pretty girls for a minute, Saulie," Savannah said, giving him the benefit of a brief smile before turning all-business, "and tell us about the ugly mug you're expecting to come in here this afternoon."
"Ah, that one." Saul shook his head. "He's a bad fellow, I tell you. About a month ago, he comes in here and tries to sell me a gun that he has no papers for. And when I refuse to buy it, he gets so very angry, I swear I think he is going to shoot me with it."
"And you were probably right," Savannah told him. "Always trust your instincts, Saul. In your business you can't afford not to."
Dirk glanced down into one of the glass cases, then bent over, taking a better look at a bowie knife with a rosewood handle. "Tell me exactly what he said when he called you this morning."
Saul cast a quick look at Savannah. "I will not repeat exactly what he said in front of a lady, but he told me he had a woman's Raymond Weil watch and a gentleman's Tutima. Said he wanted to be rid of them this afternoon. Well, that Tutima rang a bell in my brain. Saul may be old, but he's not so stupid as some think. I grabbed the ... what you police call ... the hot sheet and looked at it really quick while I still had him on the phone. And there it was, third item on the page: a Tutima with 'Merry Christmas, Uncle Carl' engraved on the back of it. So, I asked him if it was clean, mint condition, and he said, 'All except for a short message on the back.' Claims he'd had it engraved for his beloved uncle, but dear Uncle Carl — may he rest in peace — passed away before he could give it to him on Christmas."
"Heartbreaking story," Savannah muttered.
"Ain't it though?" Dirk added. "Let's get this bastard."
"And return Uncle Carl's watch to him ... whoever he may be," she said.
Saul's eyes brightened at the prospect. "I have suffered too many losses from these no-goods who come in here and sell me stolen items. And then you police come along behind them, take the merchandise and leave me with nothing but empty hands. It will be a good feeling to catch one of them in the act and let him take the loss for a change — let him be the one who is disappointed and upset."
"A good feeling?" Savannah laughed. "Oh, Saul, you have no idea how good you're going to feel if we nail this guy. Revenge is better than a hot fudge sundae ... with two cherries on top!"
Half an hour later, they were ready for the vendor of fine, recently pilfered goods to walk through the door. Savannah stood behind the counter, trying to look like a proper pawnshop clerk — which meant trying not to stare at the pretty sparklies in the jewelry cases that were constantly snagging her attention.
And Dirk sat on a folding chair, just inside the door that led to the back room, within earshot, but out of view of anyone coming into the shop.
As Saul chattered nervously away in Savannah's ear, she wondered briefly if it might be a mistake, asking this frail, elderly man to cooperate with a sting like this. What if he had a heart attack right in the middle of the takedown? She was current on her CPR, but she couldn't imagine bouncing up and down on that skinny little rib cage. Savannah would never be accused of being a lightweight; she was a "real" woman, gifted with a sturdy, hearty frame and plenty of feminine embellishments to flesh it out.
She knew she had the capacity to mash old Saul flat as a flitter — as her Granny Reid would say. Savannah had never been sure exactly what a flitter was, but she was certain you could easily slip it under a tight door. And sure as shootin', nobody wanted to be one.
"So, tell me, pretty Savannah ... when are you going to come in here and shop for an engagement ring?" Saul wanted to know as he rubbed some jewelers' rouge on a cloth and began to buff a candlestick.
"Uh ... maybe when I find somebody I want to be engaged to."
Saul nodded his head toward the back door. "A nice girl like you with those beautiful blue eyes and all that shiny dark hair? You must have suitors lined up outside your doorway with flowers and candies. No?"
"Mmm, not so's you'd notice, Saulie." She gave him a flirty grin that deepened her dimples. "There's plenty of room on my porch if you want to show up with roses and a box of Godiva's chocolates."
"Ah, I'm too old to do anything but look. But how about that one in there?" He nodded toward the back room where Dirk sat. "Any chance of him wanting to put a ring on your finger someday?"
Savannah snorted. "More like, any chance of me holding still for it? Saulie, go wash your mouth out with soap, saying a thing like that. It'll never happen. That one in there wants to marry me about as much as I want to marry him."
"And how much is that?" Saul said, his eyes twinkling with a light that hinted at a younger, more virile fellow still lurking inside his timeworn body.
A cough rumbled on the other side of the door, followed by some throat clearing. "You two hens wanna stop cackling in there," Dirk said, "and stay sharp? In case you haven't looked at a clock lately, this afternoon is just about up. It's a quarter to five. This guy better show soon. I'm getting hungry."
"Oh, stop your griping," Savannah snapped. "I told you I've got a chicken stewing on the back burner at home. You're getting a free chicken and dumplin' dinner tonight. Biscuits, too. That should enough to — oh — heads up. We got company coming." She turned to Saul. "Is that your buddy?"
Saul craned his neck to look out the window. He jumped to attention. "That's him! That's the one who calls himself R.L. Can you imagine a person wanting to be called by a couple of letters like that, instead of a proper name? That alone shows what a hoodlum he must be. I would wager he's already spent time in prison."
Instantly, Savannah thought of a dozen good ol' boys from her home state of Georgia who went by assorted initials in lieu of full names. She knew a J.D., a J.P., a J.R., and a J.B., just for starters. All fine, upstanding, proud sons of the South — they hadn't served more than thirty years of hard prison time between them. And most of that was for "thumpin'" on other, less upstanding, good ol' boys who'd been asking for it.
Nope. Saulie's theory just didn't hold water.
But R.L. looked like he might be an exception. He did look like a hoodlum, from the metal-studded leather vest that he wore with no shirt underneath, to the spiked dog collar around his neck, from the five-inch-high black Mohawk, to the swastika tattoo proudly displayed on his bare chest. Savannah took particular notice of the enormous skull-and-crossbones ring on his right forefinger that would be nasty in a fistfight, should one ensue in the process of taking him into custody.
No, R.L. didn't look like your average accountant or Sunday school teacher. He looked like exactly the kind of guy Savannah enjoyed busting — somebody who continually did nasty, ornery things to nice people, but was cocksure that they would forever get away with it.
She loved proving them wrong.
As he sauntered through the front door, she rearranged her face from a self-satisfied smirk to the look of a moderately bored clerk who was looking forward to going home at five sharp. "May I help you?" she asked R.L. as her eyes casually scanned the rest of his person, looking for any telltale bulge that might signify a weapon — other than the oversized skull ring. But the ring was all she saw.
He walked past her and over to where Saul stood. "Nope. Saul here is my man," he said. "I called earlier."
"Ah ... you're the good fellow with the Weil and the Tutima?" Saul laid his polishing cloth down on the counter. Savannah noticed that his hand was trembling. Again, she felt a pang of concern for her old friend. This sort of thing was nerve-wracking on anyone, let alone an octogenarian who had lost his wife only a year ago and had survived a triple bypass just last winter.
"That's me." R.L. glanced over at Savannah, then toward the front door and the back of the store. "Let's do some business. And don't take all day about it either, old man. I got places to go, things to do."
Saul bristled at the "old man" comment, pulled himself a couple of inches taller, and stuck out his chin. "Not so fast, young man. Saul takes his time and conducts his business in proper fashion. Let me see what you have to sell and, if you wish to do business with me, remember to address me in a respectful tone of voice."
R.L. gave a little snort, then dug into the front pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a couple of fine watches and dumped them onto the glass countertop as though they were nothing but a couple of carnival trinkets. "There," he said. "I told you they were expensive stuff. New. Never even worn. So don't go trying to cheat me. I want full price for these."
Saul pulled a pair of glasses from his shirt pocket, then took his time unfolding them and slipping them on. As he studied the pieces carefully, turning each one over and over in his expert hands, he said, "I'm sure you came by these fine pieces in a perfectly legal way. Eh, my impudent fellow?" R.L. started to answer, then paused, mentally snagged on the word impudent. Then, unable to decide if he'd been insulted or not, he said, "Sure. Like I told you, legal all the way. Christmas presents I just never got around to returning."
Saul cleared his throat, looked up from the watches, and gave Savannah a big, toothsome smile. Suddenly, he looked years younger and decades stronger. "These watches," he announced in a loud, clear voice, "are exactly as we thought. We can conclude our business now if you like."
At his words, Savannah reached under her jacket and pulled her Beretta from its holster. She pointed the barrel at a spot a couple of inches below R.L.'s Mohawk. "Freeze," she told him. "Don't you even twitch, son, or you'll have a whole new hairdo with a permanent part."
Half a second later, Dirk came around the corner, his revolver drawn. When he saw the suspect, he smiled as brightly as Saul. "Well, hello again," he said. "I remember you, you worthless pile of dog crap. I busted you about two years ago for robbing a church's poor box. Remember me?"
As Dirk and R.L. reminisced about days of yore, Savannah was moving around the counter, intending to position herself between their suspect and the doorway. But she was watching him, his every movement ... most importantly, his eyes. And she knew the instant he made the decision.
"No!" she shouted as he spun on his heel and headed for the doorway. "Don't you run, you little —"
She banged her hip hard on the corner of the glass cabinet as she rounded it, but she hardly felt the pain because of the jolt of adrenaline that had hit her bloodstream. She headed for the door, about six steps behind their now-on-the-run thief.
R.L. and his ugly leather vest shot out the door with Savannah on his heels and Dirk behind her. He took off down the sidewalk, running with the grace of a recently decapitated chicken, knocking his fellow pedestrians aside and a kid off his bicycle.
But what he lacked in beauty, he made up in determination.
The guy was pretty fast.
Too fast for Savannah's liking.
After only a couple of blocks, she could hear Dirk huffing and puffing behind her. An excellent runner with longer legs than hers, he normally overtook and passed her when they were in a footrace. But this time it was she who was in the lead when their quarry changed routes and headed down a side street toward the old mission.
Excerpted from Fat Free and Fatal by G. A. McKevett. Copyright © 2007 G.A. McKevett and Kensington Publishing Corporation. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
After Hollywood star, Dona P.'s personal assistant is murder in the driveway, Savannah is hired to serve as body guard to the famous actress. This series just gets better and better. Once again, I didn't know who the criminal was, but when I did find out, I was able to ALMOST feel sorry for him/her. I love all the characters from the Moonlight Magnolia Dective Agency and I hope Savannah and Dirk get together soon.
Lighthearted mystery which highlights the bravery, southern roots and problem solving skills. Although the story did not always hold my interest, it is a fun profile of a female Private investigator.
Cant get enough of Savanah and the gang. I love it. You dont have to read the books in order to understand the charaters. You wont reget it one bit. Buy it. :-)
A light mystery and enjoyable read.
Up in the hills of Hollywood is a sharp shooter with a bullet for a special starlet. Which starlet is the target? And which sharp shooter is the criminal? There are plenty of suspects and many motives for the twists and turns the readers will encounter in this fatally fab-u-lous novel. The prime suspect and the reasons for this "fat free" fable will surprise you and keep you in suspense. Truly a "delicious" crime to be enjoyed. You'll "eat-it-up." Fat Free and Fatal by G.A. McKevett was a delight with just "desserts."
A tidy story with some old and some new characters. The dialog is realistic and sassy. The plot is complicated enough to keep you wondering until the end. Of course the only disappointment is the unfulfilled relationship between Savannah and Dirk. I would love to see a little more romance and less buddy time for these two. Maybe next time..........
San Carmelita private detective Savannah Reid is going to work as a bodyguard for famous actress Dona Papalardo who is on the comeback trail. She disappeared after gaining weight, had gastric bypass surgery, and had all the details of her ordeal exposed to people who read tabloids. She feels alone except for her assistant and friend Kimberly Dylan. One night Kimberly was going out wearing Dona¿s clothes and getting into her limousine when a shot rings out and kills her in Dona¿s arms. --- Detective Sargent Dirk Coulter talks Dona into hiring a bodyguard because he thinks the killer was trying to kill her. Savannah comes to live in Dona¿s mansion and when she isn¿t on duty as a bodyguard, she is helping Dirk look for the killer. What they find out is that Kim and Jack the gardener were using aliases that are in another state for fraud and larceny. Although they are not the killer but the murderer¿s victims, she knows they had an ulterior motive for working for Dona. They must find the killer but it is a piece of clothing that breaks the case open. --- FAT FREE AND FATAL is an exciting crime caper that shows off G.A. McKevett¿s incredible storytelling ability. The heroine is a swell female who doesn¿t care that she is not society¿s ideal definition of a woman. Instead she is a strong independent woman who doesn¿t let herself be pushed around and thinks enough of her abilities that she does an investigation her way. There is plenty of action but the heart of this tale lies with Savannah and the support cast, who make her look like an amazon warrior doing battle. --- Harriet Klausner