Y’all ever have one of those days that feels like you’re walking around in a nightmare?
It didn’t start that way. I woke up this morning with a beautiful woman sleeping next to me (the same one who has been for several months now, which is new and different, but great). Sun shining, birds chirping. Like a Hallmark card with partial nudity.
Then the phone rang.
My buddy Tony. At seven in the morning? Weird.
“I thought you were retired, man,” I said, stepping away from the bed so I didn’t wake Melanie. She had a late city council meeting last night. “Don’t you know that means you sleep in? Maybe do some TV commentary during the season?”
“Grant, I—” Tony’s voice broke, and my heart jumped into my throat. Fifteen years as one of my best friends, and I’d never heard him sound like that. Worst-case scenarios sprang to mind. Someone was hurt. Sick. His folks weren’t getting any younger. Damn.
I flipped the coffee maker on. “It’s okay,” I said, because I couldn’t think of anything else to offer. “Whatever it is, it’ll be okay. What can I do?”
I got a choked sob in response.
What the hell was going on out there? “Tony? What is it?”
I dropped my coffee mug. It splintered into a thousand pieces on the tile floor. I might have stepped on it, but I couldn’t be sure. I leaned heavily on the edge of the granite countertop, because his voice told me everything I didn’t want to know.
TJ. Tony’s son was like the nephew I didn’t have. I taught him to throw a baseball. Cheered at his games. He’d just gotten his driver’s license, and there were so many twisty country roads in the little mapdot they’d moved to when Tony retired from pro football last year.
“Was it an accident?” I asked.
He pulled in a shaky breath. It sounded like he tried to answer, but the word stuck in his throat.
“Take a breath,” I said around the lump in my throat. “I’m listening.”
“Suicide.” He managed the one word before he lost it.
“No.” Me, too.
I felt the door pull on the cabinet scrape my back as I slid to the floor, ceramic shards all around me. I kept my iPhone to my ear, burying my face in the other hand and sobbing.
He couldn’t give me an answer. Maybe because of the tears. Maybe because he didn’t have one. I wasn’t about to push.
“You need me to come out there?” I tried to stand. Tony and I have been friends since my first day at the University of Virginia—he was the star quarterback on the football team, I was a class-A pitching recruit. The athletics department asked him to show me around campus.
He went on to win three rings with the Skins, two of them as MVP. I blew my rotator cuff in the minors and ended up as the headline sports columnist at the Richmond Telegraph.
When Tony retired, he moved his family to their beach house, on a teeny island in the Chesapeake Bay. It’d take me an hour and half to get there, but I’d blow off work for the day and head out if he needed me.
“I can’t—I don’t—the people from the sheriff’s office are still here,” he said. “Tomorrow? Can you come tomorrow?”
“Whatever you need, man.”
“The press, Grant.”
Aw, hell. It would be a big story. One that would bring out the inner asshole in some commentators, to be sure. I didn’t know what was going on, but I’d been around sports—and sports reporters—enough to know someone would spin the story to make it look like Tony was too hard on Teej. Which was absolutely untrue. My friend loved his family with a passion I admired, and hoped I could find myself, someday.
Mel shuffled into the kitchen right then, rubbing sleep from her brown eyes. Her brow crumpled when I looked up at her. I waved her away and gestured to the broken cup and her bare feet. She waved back and knelt beside me, laying a cool hand on my arm. I squeezed her fingers.
“Our cops and courts reporter is a good friend of mine,” I said into the phone. “I’ll talk to my editor and get him to move the story from sports over to her, and I’ll ask her if she can help with the spin. But y’all are going to have to talk to her. Are you up for that today? I’ll see if she can come out this evening.”
“I don’t think we’re going anywhere.”
“I’m so sorry, man. Call me if you need me. I’m serious. And I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I clicked off the call and pulled Melanie close, bawling like a baby. She held me without saying a word. There were definitely some bonuses to the monogamy thing.
Clarke would help, I was sure of it. And she has this way of digging up the truth that could come in handy. I wasn’t sure what was going on in Mathews County, but I was positive that TJ was a happy kid. Something didn’t feel right.
You can read more about Parker in Small Town Spin, the third book in the “Headlines in High Heels” mystery series, published by Henery Press. The first book in the series is Front Page Fatality. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.
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Meet the author
LynDee Walker’s award-winning journalistic work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the nation. After nearly a decade covering crime, courts, and local politics, she left full-time reporting for motherhood with a side of freelancing and fiction writing. LynDee’s debut novel, Front Page Fatality, is an Amazon and Barnes & Noble #1 bestseller, and a 2013 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel.
LynDee adores her family, her readers, and enchiladas. She works out tricky plot points while walking off the enchiladas. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is either playing with her children or working on her next novel—but probably not cleaning her house. You can find her online at www.lyndeewalker.com.
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