Thanks again, Sheri McGathy, for creating another winner!
Unedited excerpt (warning...no other eyes have seen this, so it might be rough):
“I’m going to kill him with my bare hands!” Virginia Lange bunched her hands into fists as a mixture of anger and sorrow filled her soul. Blinking back the tears, she allowed rage to be the main emotion controlling her right now. As she paced the floor in her stepfather’s den, her mind headed in one direction—in the only direction it could right now.
“When I finally meet my stepfather’s murderer,” she continued, “and just as I’m snatching the last breath from him, the last words he’ll ever hear will be, you messed with the wrong woman. Then, when the man laughs in my face—” She paused and looked at her cousin, Anna, who sat on the sofa, listening to Virginia’s outrage, “—and I know he’ll laugh at me. Evil men like this always think they are in control.” She gave Anna a sharp nod. “But when he laughs, I’ll tighten fingers around his throat and strangle the very life right out of him.”
Her mind envisioned this horrendous crime although she couldn’t see the murderer’s face. The punishment fit the transgression. The pain in her heart over her parents’ death weighed at least one-hundred pounds, and she could scarcely breathe.
Finalizing her thoughts, she crossed her arms over her chest. The need for justice pumped through her veins, and she needed it served now. Waiting for the cops would be a waste of time. Yet, as she repeated the words she’d just spoke in her mind, they didn’t sound realistic. Frowning, she added, “Oh, applesauce! I can’t strangle him. He would be bigger and stronger than me.”
Growling, she ran her fingers through her long hair, lifting the thickness off her neck as she pondered her next move. “Let’s see…how can I kill him?” She paused for a brief second as she dropped her hands from her hair, making her locks fall to the middle of her back. “I’ll stab him.” She glanced at her cousin again who sat quietly on the only stitch of furniture left in the study. The expression on Anna’s face related her disbelief in Virginia’s threat.
Ignoring her cousin, Virginia continued, “I’ll take my stepfather’s favorite knife and stab the killer.” She made the motions through the air with her hand, emphasizing her words. “I’ll keep on stabbing him until he’s dead.”
She stopped again, rehashing it through her mind. Finally, this was doable. She’d certainly be able to accomplish her goal. Satisfaction filled her and she smiled in triumph. “Yes. That’s what I’ll do. Justice will be serviced nicely, don’t you think?”
Her cousin remained on the couch, still as could be. Not even an eyelash flickered, although the look of unbelief still etched on her expression. Virginia knew she’d shocked Anna. Usually Virginia wasn’t this violent or calculating. It was almost humiliating to have the revengeful demon inside her show itself in front of her cousin. All during her childhood, Virginia had been the shy, demure child. There wasn’t a mean bone in her body. Unfortunately, circumstances had changed drastically, and she wasn’t a child any longer. Nor was she going to allow her stepfather’s killer to get away with what he’d done.
Hopefully, Anna understood and would help. Virginia had been losing control of her life since the police told her last week her stepfather had been murdered. Then, three days later she found out his life-long business had been sold right before he died. Nothing made sense anymore.
Anna sat forward on the couch, leaning her elbows on her thin knees. “You’re forgetting one thing, Ginny. If you bump off the man who killed Uncle Norman, you will be no better than a murderer, yourself. Do you want that? Do you want to sink to their level? I can assure you, if Uncle Norman knew what you were planning, he’s turn over in his grave."
For a few minutes, Virginia stood firm as her mind raced to find answers, but she couldn’t. Defeat swept through her, burning her hopes to ashes. She slumped on the couch beside her cousin as tears gathered in her eyes. “You are correct. I don’t want to be considered in the same class as a murderer. I’m sorry for saying that Anna, but I’m all balled up. I don’t know what to do."
“Perhaps there’s nothing you can do. Let it rest. Justice will prevail sooner or later.”
Virginia massaged her forehead with her fingertips, trying to make the throb in her head disappear. “It’s not fair. Someone killed Norman and nobody knows who it is, and the low-down dirty creature is walking the streets free as a bird, while my stepfather is six feet under.” Her voice cracked slightly. “There’s got to be something I can do.”
Anna reached over and placed her hand on Virginia’s arm, and rubbed small circles on her skin in a soothing gesture. “There’s nothing you can do. Nothing at all. Do you understand? If Uncle Norman’s neighbor, Mrs. Beckstead, is right and the mafia killed him, then you’re at a standstill. You cannot mess around with men like that or you’ll end up like your stepfather. We have to believe that sooner or later the man who killed Uncle Norman gets what he deserves.”
Raising her gaze, Virginia looked into Anna’s big green eyes. As always, she wished for the perfect life her cousin had, and especially the perfect looks. She’d always wished she had green eyes and the short, black hair like her cousin. Instead, Virginia was cursed with dull blue eyes and plain blonde wavy locks.
She managed a weak smile for her cousin. “Anna, thank you for caring. I know you’re trying to help, but right now all I can think about is revenge. Someone needs to put Norman’s killer away for what he did.”
“I know you can’t help but feel this way. It’s to be expected.” Anna continued softly rubbing her hands on Virginia’s arm. “Norman was more of a father to you than that biological idiot who stuck around long enough to see you born before leaving you and your mother. But revenging Uncle Norman is not the way to ease your conscious."
Sighing deeply in desperation, Virginia leaned back in the couch. “I suppose I should put my worries aside and finish packing my things. The new owner of my father’s drug store won’t allow me to live above the place any longer. He’ll probably live here, himself.”
“Where will you go? Back to your mother’s in Michigan?”
Virginia cringed, wrinkled her nose and stuck out her tongue. “Not on your life—or mine. I’m staying right here in Chicago until I’m old and gray. I don’t plan on going back to her unless she changes her wild lifestyle.” She shook her head in disgust. “You know, if she keeps picking her boyfriends younger, she’ll soon pick one my age, and then maybe he’ll fall in love with me and want to marry me, instead.”
Anna chuckled, making her emerald eyes twinkle. “Will you continue to live at the University?”
Virginia shook her head. “Unfortunately, Norman paid on a monthly basis for that privilege, and now that he’s dead, there are no funds for me to continue. I’ll have to find a job, maybe get an apartment with three or four other college girls. I might even have to find a job. The money my mom sends me isn’t a lot.”
Anna stood and tugged on Virginia’s arms, helping her up. “I have a nifty idea. You can stay with me until you find a job and another place to live. Let’s get a wiggle on so we can pack your things. We don’t have very much time, do we?”
Sadness encompassed Virginia again. “Unfortunately, time is something that nobody has enough of.”
She struggled through packing the remainder of her belongings, and each step out to her car to load the boxes, her heart sank. How could all this be happening to her? She thought for sure her stepfather would change his will and leave her everything—since she was the daughter he’d never had—but the lawyer told her Norman hadn’t put her in his will. Even if he had, there was nothing to get. According to the lawyer, her stepfather sold every item he possessed—including the store, leaving her with nothing. She wondered where the money from the sell went, but according to the lawyer, Norman had nothing in his bank account.
Why didn’t the police see this as suspicious? Apparently, the mafia had them in their clutches, too.
Angrily, she realized it was up to her. No matter what Anna said, Virginia needed to do something. She had to find out who killed and stole her stepfather’s money. Mafia or not. Evidence was what she needed to put the killer away.
After she placed the last box in the car, she stepped back and gazed upon the two-story red-bricked building. It had been her home until she started going to the University. Now she was homeless, yet it was the loss of Norman that made everything seem bleak.
“Hey, Ginny, I’ll meet you over at my apartment. I have to swing by and pick up Paul first.”
Virginia glanced at her cousin. “Who’s Paul?”
“A new man I met.”
Virginia flipped her hand in the air in a dismissal wave. When wasn’t Anna meeting men? “No need to worry about me. I’ll see you later.”
She climbed in her brown interior, two-door Sedan and drove across the street to the ice-cream shop. Memories crashed through her, leaving shards of her heart to keep her company. Norman had taken her here for hot-fudge sundaes once a month since she was six years old. She’d definitely miss those monthly chats with the man she’d wished was her true father.
On weary legs, she moved to her favorite booth and sat. Norman’s drugstore was right in view. The sun descended behind the building as pink light gleamed through the sky. Tears filled her eyes, and she realized she hadn’t grieved for Norman like she should have. True, the shock of hearing he’d been murdered devastated her, but when the police acted as if they weren’t going to do anything about it, that was when the need for revenge kicked in and consumed her every waking thought.
After giving her order to the waitress, Virginia stared out the window until the girl delivered her ice cream. As she ate, loneliness crept over her. Anna was the only family left here in Chicago. Although her favorite cousin, Anna rarely had time to spend with Virginia. Anna was a woman of the 20’s—a real flapper. Men (many of them, in fact), alcohol and dancing was all her cousin wanted in her life. There was no room for boring, puritan Virginia. She’d always been a wet-blanket.
As she ate the last spoonful, a tear slipped down her cheek. Time to start a new life. No more going to her stepfather to ask advice. No more surprise birthday parties, and no more eating ice-cream once a month…even on very cold days.
Gathering her purse, she fished for her keys amongst everything that filled her bag. From out the window in front of the drugstore, a car pull up in front and stopped in front of the building. Zeroing her attention to the vehicle, she sighed in awe. Never before had she seen such a beauty, especially in a vehicle.
Since Norman had been a fan of the stylish motorcars, she knew all about this one. The 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost was furnished in the style of the French King, Louis XIV. Silver plating fittings highlighted the vehicle. Although in convertible style, the back seat was separated from the driver’s front. A low built unique and beautifully shaped radiator shell sat between the front wheels, long multicolored hood lined with rivets accented its crisp hard edge shape. With its built in stone guard, the car mounted on a pair of black rubber handballs, which neatly embedded in the casting attached to the radiator and chassis. Norman would have loved to see it.
The driver opened his door and climbed out. Dressed in a chauffeur blackish-gray suit, he moved with the ease of a jungle cat when he walked to the back and opened the door. Never had Virginia gazed upon a man who made opening doors for others look like an art form.
An elaborate dressed man in a black and white pinstriped suit ascended from the vehicle. On closer inspection, she noticed the Italian ancestry through his olive skin. A mobster?
She peered closer, but bumped her nose against the shop’s window. Grumbling, she pulled back and rubbed the sore spot, continuing to watch the activities across the street. The fancy dressed mobster stood in front of the store and pulled out a ring of keys. Her heart picked up rhythm when the man entered.
Once again, the inner demon of revenge ate away at her soul, moving her out of the booth and out the front door. Determination led her across the street, and with every step, hatred burned a permanent mark in her heart.
Sneaking around to the back of the building, she tiptoed in between the hedges bordering the property, as she made her way to a window. Hesitantly, she peeked inside, taking caution not to be seen. The Italian stood in the center of the store, assessing every little detail of the layout. Most of the shelves were empty, and she figured the person who killed her stepfather had something to do with it.
The man scratched the small patch of hair on his chin, then turned back toward the front door. She, too, hurried to watch his departure, moving around the building. Staying as close to the building as she could, she practically scooted around the corner—and ran into a solid form.
The surprised movement had her falling back and landing on her bottom. Locks of her hair bounced into her eyes, blocking the full view of the person she’d ran into. Using her hand, she swiped away her hair and looked up. The chauffeur. How could she have forgotten about him?
“Oh, I’m sorry, Miss.” He knelt beside her and touched her arm. “I didn’t think anyone was on this property. I didn’t expect to run into somebody back here.”
Neither did I. “Forgive me, because I’m the one to blame.”
He grabbed her by the wrists, assisting her to her feet before stepping back. The setting sun highlighted behind him, spilling right into her eyes. She squinted and tried to block the glare with her hand, but she still had a hard time seeing him. All she could see was an amazing sculptured face, and a wonderful smile. He even looked as if he might be Italian, too.
“I’m…I…um, I was just looking for my dog.” She fibbed, not wanting him to guess her true purpose. “I thought he’d run over here.”
The man looked around him and shrugged. “I haven’t seen a dog, Miss.”
“Oh, well, then I’ll keep looking. Thanks anyway.”
Before he could say any more, she swung around and hurried to the alleyway. When the man didn’t try to stop her, she breathed a deep sigh of relief. Once her heartbeat started a normal rhythm, anger for the interruption shook through her body. If that chauffeur hadn’t stopped her, she may have been able to study the man inside the drugstore a little better. With that information, she could have turned it into the police, too.
She rolled her eyes. They wouldn’t have done anything. But…
A grin tugged on her lips. Perhaps that would have given her something to do while she mourned for Norman. If the law wouldn’t help her, she’d certainly seek justice herself.