Honor Kills

Honor Kills

by Nanci Rathbun



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780998755748
Publisher: Dark Chocolate Press LLC
Publication date: 03/14/2018
Pages: 286
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.64(d)

About the Author

Nanci Rathbun is a lifelong reader of mysteries - historical, contemporary, futuristic, paranormal, hard-boiled, cozy ... you can find them all on her bookshelves. She brings logic and planning to her writing from a background as an IT project manager, and attention to characters and dialog from her second career as a Congregationalist minister.

Her first novel, Truth Kills: An Angelina Bonaparte Mystery, was published in 2013. Cash Kills is the second book in the series and was published in November of 2014. Both novels are available in paperback and ebook formats. Readers can enjoy the first chapters of each on her web site or on Goodreads. The third Angie novel has a working title of Honor Kills, with plans to publish in spring of 2018.

Nanci is a longtime Wisconsin resident who now makes her home in Colorado. No matter where she lives, she will always be a Packers fan.

Visit her web page: https://nancirathbun.com

She loves to hear from readers. Contact her at:
Facebook: Author Nanci Rathbun Twitter: @nancirathbun Email: contact@nancirathbun.com

Read an Excerpt


Which death is preferable to every other? The unexpected.

— Julius Caesar

I parked on the street and sat for a few moments in the dark of a cold Milwaukee January night. How do you tell a woman whose husband abandoned her and their children fifty-eight months earlier that you found his obituary online? Would Marcy Wagner be relieved? I didn't think so.

When she hired me to locate him, after the Greenfield Police Department found no evidence of foul play and closed the missing persons case, I did all that any private investigator would do to find him — interviews at the middle school where he taught and with the neighbors and the police investigators, as well as repetitive online searches for credit reports, DMV and court records, and even fishing and hunting license applications. No one had anything but praise for Hank Wagner. They described him as solid, reliable, good with the kids, and particularly strong in helping those with math deficits. He was a late and only child whose parents were deceased, with no other blood relatives, so that avenue was a dead end.

Last year, I considered luring Trekkie Hank into the open with an ad for the rare Mego Star Trek Phaser Battle Game. I consulted Larry Phillips, owner of AAAA Auctioneers, for guidance on how to market the item, although I didn't actually possess one, but I didn't follow through with it. The logistical nightmares, and the possibility of being sued by a fanatic Trekkie, made me rethink that strategy. But at our initial meeting, Larry mentioned that he needed help at the store, which was, frankly, a disorganized mess. His wife, who was also his assistant, had walked out on him. Marcy needed work, so it seemed a natural fit. She'd been there ever since.

Although Marcy told me Hank was a good husband and loving father and his colleagues described him as reliable and well-liked by both staff and students, I considered him a weasel. How else can a man who cleaned out the family's bank accounts and left his wife with few resources to raise their three young children be viewed? But after monthly contact with Marcy — I ran searches for Hank every month and usually only charged her for one out of three — I had a fairly good reading on her. The news would hit her hard.

The cold seeped into the car. I gathered my briefcase and purse and stepped out. Greenfield was a lower- to middle-class suburb of under forty thousand on the southwest edges of Milwaukee, heavily populated by people who wanted to escape the urban school system. The bungalow-style house fit the neighborhood.

Marcy came to the door, looking cheerful. "Come in, Angie." She took my coat and we settled on a plump-cushioned sofa in the small living room. Kids' toys and books were scattered around. An older CRT-style TV sat on a small corner table. "Excuse the mess," Marcy said. "Henry had a science project to finish for school tomorrow and it was getting late, so I didn't make him pick up. And Marjorie, well, she's good at getting out of stuff. She was only a year old when Hank left. I suppose I'm too easy on her. As for poor Susie, she gets the typical middle child leftovers. I try to give her individual attention, but time gets away from me." She pushed overly-long bangs back from her forehead. "Before you tell me why you're here, would you like some decaf?" She gestured to a carafe and cups on the coffee table.

When the pouring was done, I set my cup down and removed Hank's death certificate and obituary from my briefcase. "I'm afraid I wasn't entirely honest with you earlier. I didn't want to tell you this over the phone." I took her hand in mine. "My new intern, Bobbie Russell, ran the usual searches for Hank today. I'm sorry, Marcy. Hank died a couple of weeks ago, on December 29th, in a Stevens Point nursing home."

The color leached from her face and, as she started to tremble, I took her cup and placed it on the table. She stared at me and whispered, "He's dead? Hank is dead? How?"

I handed her the death certificate.

Original Certificate of Death, Henry James Wagner, Male, Pronounced Dead December 29, 2016 3:15 AM, Age 42, DOA-From Nur. Hm., Hospital or Nursing Home-Padua Manor, Marital Status-Never Married Manner of Death-Natural, Immediate Cause-Liver Failure, Cirrhosis Funeral Service Licensee-Figgs Funeral Home

"Liver failure," I said.

Marcy's eyes went wide. "Hank didn't drink or smoke. He was only forty-two. How would he get cirrhosis? And why didn't he call me? I would have helped him, even after what he did. He didn't have to die alone." She began to cry, softly at first, then louder and harder. I put my arms around her and held her until she quieted and then handed her a tissue from my purse.

With a gulp, she sat back, wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Then she took a slow sip from her coffee cup. It had to be lukewarm by now, but it seemed to steady her. "I always thought he'd come back, Angie. That, one day, he'd get in touch and come home and tell me why he left. That he'd ask to be part of the family again. That I'd let him." Her eyes held so much sadness, so much want. "He was a good husband, a good father, a good man. I never understood how he could walk out the way he did, in the middle of the day, before his classes were even over. That wasn't Hank, that wasn't the kind of man he was." She took a ragged breath. "Now I'll never know. Unless ... was there a letter?"

"I don't know." I took a deep breath and pointed to the marital status on the paper she held. "The death certificate lists him as 'Never Married.' I'll call the nursing home and funeral director tomorrow morning."

At that, she straightened and her head snapped up. "Never married?" She gazed back to the death certificate. When she spoke, her words were low and mournful. "So he abandoned us even in death. He didn't want us, even then."

I didn't have a response to that. "Can I call someone to come and stay with you?"

"My mom hates Hank for what he did. She'll do the 'good riddance' routine. I don't want to hear that right now. You can't live with a man, love a man, for twelve years and not feel grief when he dies." She paused and then said, "I'll call my older sister. She'll come over." Marcy stopped twisting the tissue. "And what do I tell the kids? We should probably have a funeral, for their sakes. Where is his ... body?"

"I'll find out." Even though she knew how to contact me, I gave her a card. People get scattered during a time of shock. I assured her that I would be available any time she needed to talk and headed back to my car.

My high-rise condo was empty when I arrived home. Wukowski and I don't live together, but we gave each other keys in November, right after we finally got around to saying the L-word to each other. Although we didn't see each other every night, tonight I missed having him greet me with a kiss.

After my marriage of twenty-five years ended, I dated sporadically, but never settled into a stable relationship until I met homicide detective Wenceslas Tadeusz Wukowski. Ven-chess-louse Ta-doosh. Polish names are quite common in Milwaukee, but not the Christmas carol king! Small wonder he goes by Ted. We started out as adversaries on a prior case. By the time we admitted our attraction for each other, I'd gotten used to calling him by his last name. When I told him I didn't sleep with men unless I knew their real names, he 'fessed up. His mom, the MPD's HR people and I might be the only ones who knew the truth.

In his capacity as a Milwaukee homicide detective, Wukowski deals with violent death on a regular basis and has an almost irrational fear about women in danger. His sister was attacked and killed while in her teens — hence his mother's dread of strangers — and his partner, Liz White, was savagely murdered during a drug investigation some years ago. He and I reached a tenuous balance concerning my PI work. I don't take cases that might involve violence — none of them had, before I met Wukowski — and he respects my right to act according to my principles. Since my work generally centers on employee background checks, spouses wanting to know if their partners are unfaithful, and locating missing people when the police have given up, it isn't much of a problem.

As I headed for the bedroom to shuck my work clothes, I got a text from him: Don't expect me tonight. I texted him back: Be careful out there. It was a standard line we both said to each other. I hadn't seen much of him since Thanksgiving Day, when Wukowski was called away to investigate a body on the lakefront bike path. Since then, two other bodies were found in areas used by joggers and bikers. The Journal Sentinel christened it the Bike Path Murders. I promised him that I'd use the treadmill in the condo gym until the killer was found.

I brewed a cup of herbal tea and settled on the sofa, watching the lights twinkle on Lake Drive, seeing the occasional steady beam from the breakwater's edge. My ex was a cheater. Wukowski's wife left him because she couldn't handle the stress of his job and his mother's agoraphobic reliance on him. Marcy's husband simply disappeared. My intern Bobbie recently confessed that he was worried about his partner's fidelity. Examples of good marriages — even good relationships — were few and far between, in my experience. As for Wukowski and me, it was early days. Was this a strong and steady kind of love, or one that twinkled in and out of existence like the lights along the lake shore? Time would tell. I headed for my bed and a chapter or two of the latest Louise Penny mystery.


No one can be happy who has been thrust outside the pale of truth. And there are two ways that one can be removed from this realm: by lying, or by being lied to. — Seneca

The next morning, after exercising, I enjoyed the benefits of my multiple-head steam shower, followed by routine moisturizing — creams for my face, body, décolletage, hands and feet — before wrapping myself in a soft terry robe and padding into the walk-in closet. With no scheduled face-to-face client meetings, I decided on a casual business look: an angora boat-neck sweater in teal, with tobacco brown wool slacks and a deep brown leather blazer. Underneath, however, was another story. I'm a bit of a lingerie fanatic, which Wukowski loves. I chose a soft-cup ivory demi bra with dark blue lace and matching thong, hoping that my guy would be with me tonight to discover the sexy present underneath the somewhat staid wrappings.

As I dressed, gelled my hair and did my makeup, my mind wandered to the Wagner case. What compelled a family man and dependable teacher to simply bolt? Marcy needed answers. Someday, her kids would, too. I wasn't ready to close the file yet.

My east side office on Prospect is in an older building close to my condo. The sign on the door reads AB Investigations, with Neh Accountants underneath. AB stands for Angelina Bonaparte. Neh Accountants is a one-woman firm run by my friend, Susan Neh. We met when we both worked for Jake Waterman, she as a forensic accountant and me as an apprentice investigator. When we each decided to go out on our own, it made sense to share office space and reduce expenses. Expenses weren't an issue now, with both of us well-established. Still, with my intern, Bobbie Russell, joining the business, I might have to search for new quarters. It's pretty cramped in our one-office, one-conference room space.

Juggling briefcase, purse and Starbucks coffee, I unlocked the office door and disarmed the security system. After divesting myself of coat, hat and gloves, I fussed at the mirror a bit with my hair. I stand five foot three, so the wall mirror on the back of the coat closet door was set fairly low. A white-haired woman, fit and stylish, looked back at me. I ran my fingers through my hair to work out the hat-flattened areas and settled at my desk. My first call was to the funeral home listed in Hank Wagner's obituary.

"Figgs Funeral Home. Julie Ann speaking."

The voice was perky, with a girlish lilt, definitely not the sonorous tones I expected to hear. "Good morning. I'm calling about Henry James Wagner. The obituary listed Figgs. I was shocked to learn of his death. I wonder if you could give me some further information."

"If you'll wait one moment ... ah, um ... I'm afraid I can't provide information over the phone on that matter. Mr. William Figgs handled those arrangements. Can I have him return your call?"

Why the obvious reluctance to talk about Hank Wagner? I left my number and turned to a pending report for a local insurance company, who hired me to determine if their employee's claim of job-related carpal tunnel syndrome was valid. The woman apparently filed for some type of disability every year in December and returned to her family home in Door County to recuperate. This year, there would be no payout for Ms. I'll-be-home-for-Christmas. It took three weeks, since I wanted to enjoy my own holidays with my family and Wukowski, but I nailed her. I had video of four hours of non-stop needles clacking on Christmas Eve day as she and three other women settled in for a marathon "finish your gifts" knitting session at a little yarn shop in Fish Creek. If she could manage that, she could manage data entry for her employer.

I printed the report, proofread it, ran the invoice program that Susan developed for me, and stuffed the papers and a flash drive containing the video into the envelope. Cases like these were the bread-and-butter of my solo practice.

Bobbie strolled in around nine. He had a loose-limbed walk that exuded self-confidence and sexuality and, combined with his twenty-something Rock Hudson good looks, he turned heads wherever he went. Too bad for us women that he batted for the other team.

In the two months since I took him on at AB Investigations, he proved his determination and ability many times over. Bobbie and I were friends before he joined the firm. I worried that, if he didn't work out, it would impact our relationship. But he took a lot of the routine work off my shoulders, and brought in new clients from his partner Steve's fashion world and from his own contacts in the gay community. I was glad I could depend on him, although supervising an intern had its share of headaches. Bobbie was a dynamo with a real love for the work. He sometimes needed to be reined in.

"Morning, Angie," he said, as he hung up his outerwear. "How'd it go with Marcy?"

"Tough one. She still loves the jerk."

"Ange," he protested, "that's harsh. Not to mention speaking ill of the dead."

He had me there. Yes, I have issues, but who in my position wouldn't? Mr. Bozo, my ex (no, I don't call him that in front of our grown children or their kids), cheated on me twice, before I wised up and tossed him out. My business, as much as I loved it, exposed me to unfaithful spouses, lying employees, and grown children trying to rob their own parents, among other assorted assaults on decency. It wasn't a recipe to promote trust.

"I suppose you're right," I said, "but it really gripes me that he walked out on Marcy and the kids, and took all their funds, to boot."

Bobbie settled in the guest chair at the side of my desk. "So what's on the agenda today?"

"I called the funeral home to get some details about Hank Wagner's remains." The office phone rang. "Excuse me, Bobbie. This might be them. AB Investigations," I said into the phone. "Angelina Bonaparte speaking." Boe-nah-par-tay. Being Sicilian-American, I give it the true pronunciation, not the Gallicized version that the Little Corsican used to gain acceptance into French society.

A deep male voice said, "Ms. Bonaparte? This is William Figgs of Figgs Funeral Home and Crematory. Julie Ann told me that you called concerning Mr. Henry Wagner. May I ask how you are related to the deceased?"

I put the call on speaker for Bobbie and handed him a steno book and pen. "I'm a private investigator. Mrs. Wagner hired me to find her husband after he disappeared. That was almost six years ago. I didn't expect to find him dead."

At that, he gave a little huff. "No, indeed."

"Mrs. Wagner is very distraught. They lost contact when Hank left Milwaukee. I thought if she knew about his last days, it might console her. And their children."


Excerpted from "Honor Kills"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Nancianne Rathbun.
Excerpted by permission of Dark Chocolate Press LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Honor Kills 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Editing_Pen More than 1 year ago
In most mysteries, the pleasure of reading is not only found in the search for the murderer or unraveling a plot puzzle, it is also rooted in the determination of the main character and the complexities of her relationships. In Honor Kills there is plenty of both, with an extra element of humor to boot. Angelina Bonaparte, the protagonist, is a quick-witted, maverick detective whose work as a private investigator is just as important as her relationship with special agent Wukowski. When Angie is called to help find a man who supposedly deserted his family, she must uncover years of history that leads to an entanglement of false identities, which ultimately forces her to confront some of her own family secrets. Despite her skills as an investigator, Angelina tries to establish herself as a normal sixty-something woman. She insists that people call her “Angie” and has a penchant for fancy undergarments and cheetah-print tops, which she often wears while on business. What I liked the most about Angie, however, was not just her unique qualities but that even during the midst of a harrowing investigation, she still took time for her family. In fact, there is a very touching scene where Angie invites her family over her dinner and remarks on the distinctive personalities of her grandchildren, including “little Angie,” who wants to be a detective just like her grandmother. It is these moments that make up the heart of the story and transform Honor Kills from an exciting mystery to a moving account of maintaining humanity and love in the face of chaos and uncertainty. Angie makes it clear that while she is extremely dedicated to her career, her most important duty in life is her role as a mother and grandmother. I spent this entire novel cheering for Angie, from when she first interacted with Hank’s (the missing agent) family to the moment she was forced to choose between her relationship and her career. While I may not have always agreed with Angie, I respected her decisions, and I found myself cheering for her anyway. And that is the marker of a truly good writer- to create a protagonist that is flawed but still worthy of respect. As much as I love reading about sinister plots and psychological suspense, Ms. Rathbun perfectly captures the heart of a mystery, which is all about humans and the complexities of their relationships.