Hi, everyone. I hope you're enjoying the Stiletto Excerpts! Today I'm sharing a sneak peek at the first few pages of Dead Lift, coming on December 1st.
Claire Gaston’s amber hair rode flat against her head, giving the impression she’d just climbed out of bed. Any make-up had worn away too, yet she still looked closer to forty than her real age—which I knew from her file was fifty-three. In any case, Claire was twenty years my senior, had spent a day and a night in the clink, and still looked better than I did after a comfortable night of sleep and a shower.
We picked up telephone handsets on either side of an opaque window in the jail’s visitation room, and I tried to ascertain whether she regarded me with hope or just curiosity.
“I’m Emily Locke,” I said, “part of your defense team.” I smiled, trying to give the impression I withheld judgment, even though I wasn’t sure that was true. “Sorry about the circumstances.”
She leaned forward and rested her elbows on a countertop that extended away from the dividing window. Richard Cole, the private investigator I worked for, often said that it was a good practice to mirror a subject’s body language during interviews, so I did. My forearms ended up in something sticky.
“Are you the investigator my lawyer hired?”
“I’m that investigator’s lackey.”
She tipped her chin up but didn’t speak.
“Hope you don’t mind.” I pulled a folded paper from my purse. “I brought a list of things to clarify. My boss is painfully deficient with specifics.”
“What every woman looks for in an investigator.”
“Actually, he’s very good. We just work differently.”
Claire surveyed the tiny countertop on her side of the glass and brushed invisible debris onto the floor. “Ask away.”
“Let’s start with your kids.”
She inhaled and seemed to hold the breath. “They’re all I think about.”
“Who’s keeping them?”
“My parents.” Her gaze fell. “Even though they’re too old to be caring for kids.” She traced imaginary shapes on the countertop with neatly manicured fingers that reminded me of my best friend Jeannie’s hands. “You probably know I’m in the middle of a divorce.”
She glanced up long enough to see me nod.
“Daniel’s not their father. My second husband, Ruben, moved back to Argentina last year. Our custody fight was . . . I’m ashamed of it. And now with me here—” she looked around our tiny, divided cubicle— “he’ll come back and take them away, I know it. I didn’t kill Wendell Platt. You have to help me prove it before Ruben swoops in and disappears with the boys.”
“It would help me to understand what’s going on with Daniel.”
Claire leaned back and crossed her arms. Richard would have said I’d put her on the defensive.
“What does he have to do with this?”
I cupped my chin in my hands and watched her for a moment, trying to figure out if she was angry. “Police are reconstructing your day on Thursday, trying to figure out where you went and what you did before Dr. Platt’s murder. I hear you and Daniel had quite a fight.”
She straightened and opened her mouth to argue, but I raised a hand and continued. “We’ve all said things we didn’t mean, don’t worry. The trouble’s that the police want to interview Daniel but can’t find him. You were the last person to see him and witnesses say you were enraged. It doesn’t help to have extra suspicion directed at you.”
“No one can find Daniel?”
I shook my head. “Know where he might be?”
She shook her head in return.
“Why the divorce?”
Her shoulders relaxed, like she was resigned to surrender her privacy as well as her marriage.
“Neither of us could be faithful.”
My stomach flip-flopped, but I stayed quiet. Richard said sometimes people will volunteer extra information if you give them a chance.
This didn’t turn out to be true for Claire. After a few moments, I asked her to continue.
“It’s complicated,” she said. “For years we’ve talked about parting ways. Last month I finally filed.”
“What was your relationship with Platt?”
Claire shook her head, more to herself than to me, and screwed her face into a queer sort of smile that could only be described as sarcastic. I was considering how to re-phrase when she surged toward the glass and banged it with her fist, sending me back in my chair so violently its legs scraped the linoleum.
“I’ve never met Wendell Platt!”
All I could do was try to control my breathing.
“Never met him,” she said. “No one believes me.”
She settled back into her chair and I tried to convince myself the person in front of me was the same woman from thirty seconds ago.
“He was murdered in his home,” I said. “Your fingerprints were at the scene.”
“Worse, honey. They were on the weapon.”
Rachel Brady is the author of Final Approach and the upcoming mystery, Dead Lift. Rachel lives near Houston, Texas, where she's an engineer in a research lab at NASA's Johnson Space Center.