We are excited to share the next installment of Glazed Suspicion by Allison Pearl, the first book in the Love and Danger in St. Claire series. Follow along with us each week for new chapters!
If you’re just joining us for this book, we recommend you start with chapter 1.
JOSH TENSED AS THE TRAITOR waved a gun at them. What he wouldn’t give for his ankle-holstered thirty-eight right now. But that didn’t stop him from stepping forward to place his body between Nikki and the barrel of the pistol.
Vaughn lifted his chin in a commanding gesture and adjusted the strap of the black bag slung over his shoulder.
The rest of the pieces clicked together in Josh’s mind. Don’t panic. Just keep him talking. “It was you this whole time. That officer made you as a cop and so you killed him. Then you tried to chase Ryan down for the tape, but he gave you the slip, and when he got picked up by other cops, he kept quiet about the murder, scared you’d retaliate against him or his girlfriend. You must have thought you were safe when he went to jail and the video never surfaced.”
Vaughn frowned. “I was safe. At least, until he escaped. Seems he found out from some of his contacts on the outside that chance had brought her and me to the same town.” He sneered past Josh at Nikki. “I guess he figured I’d find her out eventually and broke out to save her.”
“So.” Josh glanced at the door, estimating the distance. “You broke into her shop, trashed the place and made it look like she was storing drugs so that Gary would order a search warrant, giving you the perfect opportunity to plant the cash from the drug deal and search for the video. And killing her would have just made the story you were creating even easier to believe. All of this—all of the framing—it was all just a distraction. Something to make the sheriff’s department look at anyone but you—” He feigned shock. “You were the one who gave me back my gun. You must have used it to kill Ryan first.”
Vaughn laughed like he was disappointed that it had taken Josh so long to figure it out. “Yeah. The marshals may have lost him the night I burned down the doughnut shop, but I sure didn’t. And once I had your gun, the rest was easy. I kept Ryan locked up a while. But once you left the hospital and had a weaker alibi, I took care of him and tossed a blood covered bullet I fired from your gun next to the body.”
Nikki gasped behind him. “You’re a monster.”
Vaughn rolled his eyes. “Don’t be melodramatic.”
He’s too confident. Maybe if I keep him going, he’ll let down his guard and lower the gun enough for me to lunge. “There’s something I don’t get, though.”
Vaughn quirked an eyebrow. “What’s that?”
“The 911 call. There’s no way you were mistaken for a woman. So… who was the girl?”
Vaughn whistled. “Now that is great story. And one I’d love to tell, but he made me promise I wouldn’t.” He gestured toward Nikki with the barrel of his gun. “If you think I’m a monster… ”
That new revelation was disconcerting but he couldn’t worry about it now. Time was running out.
Suddenly, Koby started laughing. The sound bounced around the room.
“Shut up.” Vaughn snarled. “Just shut up.” He turned toward Koby, his gun going with him. Josh inched forward. If Koby could keep him distracted, Josh might get close enough to make a move.
Koby bit his lip to stop his chortling. “I’m sorry, man. I am. It’s just… you had to do all that diabolical planning just because you couldn’t find a cell phone?”
Swinging the gun back towards Josh and Nikki, Vaughn took an angry step forward. “And too bad for her, I didn’t find it. If I could’ve destroyed it, there would have been no evidence against me. It wouldn’t matter that she’d managed to escape every one of my attempts to kill her. It would be her word against mine, and I’ve already destroyed her reputation. No one would have believed a drug dealer and she wouldn’t have had to die. None of you would have had to die.” His eyes darted around the room. “Now where is that dumb phone?”
Josh shrugged. “Maybe we gave it to the marshals.”
“Stop playing around.”
Josh scoffed, his nails digging into his palms. “Even if you find it, you’ll never get away with this. You’re obviously a good liar, but how do you expect to explain away the murders of four people?”
“With this.” Vaughn sloughed the bag off his shoulder and swung it at the table. The bag came down with a thundering boom and unzipped. The top fell open and Josh saw bags of white powder. Like the missing drugs from the night Ryan was arrested. From the night when Vaughn murdered another cop in cold blood.
“I don’t get it.” Koby pursed his lips.
Josh knew that his friend probably did get it and was just trying to keep Vaughn talking long enough for Josh to take another step forward. He needed to make a move. His eyes darted from Vaughn to Koby, to the door, and went the rounds again.
“I’ve been tailing you guys all weekend and when I saw you come into the bank and heard her say something about a safe deposit box, I had my story. And… it is a good one. Knowing that the sheriff’s department was getting close to making an arrest, you guys came to get the drugs that Ryan gave her before being locked up so that you could make a run for it. If you sold them on your way, you could make it all the way to Mexico.”
“No. People around here know Josh.” Nikki pushed around Josh but he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back against him. “They know he would never do the things you’re saying. No one will believe this.”
“They will believe it.” Vaughn shouted, his eyes darting around the room like one of them was about to charge.
Nikki had chipped away some of his confidence. He was spiraling but trying to rally. “Look how quickly they believed the worst about you.” He scowled at her. “It’s simple. I’ll say that I spotted you and Josh forcing the bank manager inside and followed you to make an arrest but—being that I’m off duty and unarmed—you and your hick friend overtook me and then, after killing Tom to get rid of any witnesses, you took me hostage.”
Josh glanced at the bank manager. Sweat beaded on his forehead.
“Hostage?” Koby laughed.
But Vaughn didn’t miss a beat. “Then you took me out into the woods to kill me but, during a struggle, I was able to get the gun and was forced to kill you all in self-defense.”
“And then you’ll be the hero who rid St. Claire of a drug dealer and a dirty cop? You’re grasping at straws here. You just followed us in here without calling for back up? You really think Gary will buy that?” The pistol started to quiver in Vaughn’s hand. Good. Fluster him. “It’s over, man. You started off good, but now your story’s full of holes. Just drop the gun. You lost.”
“No.” Vaughn shook the gun.
“No one is going to believe you.”
Vaughn paced the floor.
Josh tried again. “This won’t work.”
Vaughn stopped cold. “Well, deputy, I guess we’re going to find out.” He pointed the gun, now steady, at the bank manager. “I’m sorry, Tom, but you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
He was going to fire. Their time was up. God, help us.
Josh shoved Nikki out of the way, then lunged to put himself in front of the bullet, but the bang of gunfire never came.
Instead, a flash of fur barreled into Vaughn, who cried out and fell forward to the floor. The gun slipping out of his grasp during the descent, clattering against the tile, and Josh scrambled to retrieve it.
Jumping to his feet, Josh trained the weapon on Vaughn who now whimpered and squirmed beneath the snarling beast on his back. It was Charlie, with Gary Thompson himself standing in the doorway with his own weapon out.
“Gary. It was Vaughn. He was behind it all.”
“I know, son.” Gary nodded. “I heard it all.”
The chief looked down at the incapacitated perpetrator. “Things have been fishy since the break-in. I quickly suspected someone in my department, but—I’m sorry to say—I was leaning towards you, Josh. But then Bill Trumple told me that he’d gotten an anonymous call from someone who told him Nikki reported him to child services. I knew you wouldn’t put her in danger like that, so it was clear I had the wrong man in my sights. It looks like I owe you both an apology.” He glanced at Nikki.
“How about you save it until this jerk is in cuffs?” Nikki pushed her hair out of her face and got to her feet.
“You got it, ma’am.” The old man chuckled as he pulled the hand restraints from his belt.
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About Allison Pearl
Allison Pearl is a small-town girl who’s lived just about everywhere. She loves books,tea, chocolate, and watching old movies with her husband and black lab, Sal. To keep in touch and get updates on new releases follow her Facebook page ‘Books by Pearl’ at http://www.facebook.com/allisonnicolepearl/ or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonPearl5 andInstagram at @allisonnicolepearl