Holidays Can Be Murder: A Charlie Parker Christmas Mystery

Free Holidays Can Be Murder: A Charlie Parker Christmas Mystery by Connie Shelton

Book: Holidays Can Be Murder: A Charlie Parker Christmas Mystery by Connie Shelton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Connie Shelton
but she said she wasn’t taking any sh--, well, any bad stuff from him. She left anyway.”
    “Wilbur! Don’t you see that this could be the whole story right there? Maybe Ray decided to make good on his threat. Maybe he couldn’t stand her being gone, holidays and all, and he came after her.” I felt myself getting excited that another suspect was turning up so quickly.
    He looked skeptical. “Ray? Um, I don’t know.”
    Was Wilbur just one of those gentle types who didn’t truly believe that a man would harm a woman? I decided I might have to set him straight on that someday.
    He was pointing to another of the photos. “That was my dad,” he said. “Too bad he died before he got to see our baby.” His voice cracked slightly on the last word and he looked at me with sorrow in his gray eyes. “What will happen if Judy—”
    “Let’s deal with one thing at a time,” I told him. “I’m sure we’re going to find out who really did this long before it’s time for the baby to come.”
    I sure hoped we would anyway. We spent a few more minutes going through the address book, a cheap thing in a vinyl cover. Paula had even filled out the few lines inside the front cover with “This book belongs to:” information. At least I had her previous address and phone number in California now.
    Wilbur didn’t recognize most of the names in the book. He’d pointed out a couple of cousins from the Midwest, but didn’t know any of her friends from her years in California. He let me take the picture of Ray Candelaria from the wallet and said I could keep the address book as long as I needed it. He was beginning to look faded again by the time he went back home.

11

    I spent a restless night pondering my next moves. I wanted to question Ray Candelaria and didn’t think I’d learn what I needed to know over the phone. A trip to Los Angeles might be in order, but I wasn’t sure I should just do it. Wilbur hadn’t actually hired us to investigate his mother’s death. As the accountant for our firm, I knew we were flush enough for the year that a plane ticket to L.A. and a night or two in a hotel wouldn’t break us. We could consider it pro bono, but I wasn’t sure how Ron would feel about that. The only conclusion I’d reached by two-thirty a.m. was that I would run it past him at a more decent hour.
    Catherine was already up when I went into the kitchen. The smell of coffee pulled at me. I let the dogs out into the back yard and poured myself a cup, then sat at the table with her. Once again, I felt so thankful that my mother-in-law and I had a good relationship.
“So, what do you think?” she asked, fingering the address book.
“Not much idea yet. But I need to talk to Ray Candelaria. I think he’ll know something.”
“There’s another name in this book I’d check if I were you,” she suggested. “I think he might have sold Paula drugs.”
“You know which one it is?”
    “Gus,” Catherine said. “Paula just dropped this on me that day we went shopping. It was so casual I almost didn’t notice. She said something like, ‘Guess I’ll have to find me a Gus here.’ I was driving and I guess something pulled my attention away and I never did ask anything about this Gus. But later, when we stopped for lunch, she excused herself to go to the ladies room and when she came back she seemed much more energetic. And her nose was kind of red. I thought, coke. She’s doing coke. But what was I going to do? I couldn’t ditch her at the mall. I just tried to get her home as quickly as possible.”
    “You never mentioned any of this! Was she, like, out of control or anything?”
    “Oh, no. It startled me at first, realizing it, but later I thought no, that’s just what Paula’s like. Not somebody I’d want as a friend, obviously, but I didn’t think it was up to me to preach to her either.”
    We’d both finished our coffee and I got up to refill the mugs. “I think I’ll go into the office today, check

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