The dead are not generally fretful of mortal affairs. My friend Colleen passed from this world to the next seventeen years ago last June. She can’t be bothered with global warming, the national debt, or those Duck Dynasty folks from Louisiana. She’s careful to stay focused on her mission, namely, protecting Stella Maris, our South Carolina island home, from the evils of high-rise resorts, timeshares, and all such as that. But occasionally, she fixates on what appear to be random concerns, mostly cases I’m working. Colleen minds my business, is what I’m saying.
To be fair, I make my living minding other people’s business. I’m a private investigator, licensed by the state. Roughly half of my casework is pre-trial investigation for criminal defense attorneys. Another quarter involves domestic misunderstandings. The remainder is a mixed bag of human comedy and suffering—everything from conspiracy to kidnap a prize hound for stud services to conspiracy to commit murder. Sometimes it’s difficult to know which I’m dealing with at first, but I pray for the wildly farcical.
That Tuesday in mid-October, I was sitting in an Adirondack chair on my deck savoring my second cup of coffee and the music of waves breaking and racing to shore. The sun was warm on my skin. I’d just finished a read-through of my final report on a case when a ringtone named pinball announced a caller not in my contacts list. I glanced at my iPhone. It was precisely nine o’clock. The number was local. I set my coffee down and picked up the phone.
“Talbot and Andrews Investigations.”
“Miss Talbot?” The man’s tone brought to mind a professor who’d caught me daydreaming in class.
I pulled the phone away from my face and scrutinized the number again. What the hell? “This is Liz Talbot. How can I help you?”
“Colton Heyward here. I’d like to arrange a meeting at your earliest convenience.”
Something heavy and dark settled in my chest. The Heyward family and their missing early-twenties daughter had been all over the news. Kent Heyward had vanished from the streets of Charleston one late summer evening. I closed my eyes and forced air into my lungs. “Of course. I’ll come whenever you like.”
He gave me his home address on lower Legare Street in Charleston and asked me to be there at ten o’clock the next morning. Had I not been familiar with the family, the address—which was south of Broad Street near where the Ashley River converges with the Cooper to sculpt the end of the Charleston peninsula—would’ve told me I was likely dealing with old money and a family tree including names from history books.
Wednesday morning Colleen woke me at 4:45. She pestered the fire out of me to get an early start, proceeding to inform me of the time every five minutes during my run, shower, and the berry-yogurt-granola parfait which failed to summon my appetite. Kent Heyward’s disappearance weighed heavy on my heart. It haunted the entire lowcountry. I was both eager to help and apprehensive. What could I do that hadn’t been done?
If I had known then everything that would follow, I would’ve still gone to Charleston that morning. But the Heyward case changed me in ways I’m still coming to terms with. Let’s grab a chair, and I’ll tell you what happened. . .
You can read more about Liz in Lowcountry Boneyard, the third book in the “Liz Talbot” mystery series, published by Henery Press. The first two books in the series are Lowcountry Boil and Lowcountry Bombshell.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on April 28 for the chance to win either a print or an e-book copy of Lowcountry Boneyard–winner’s choice. The print giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. The e-book giveaway is open to everyone. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder.
About the author
Susan M. Boyer is the author of the Liz Talbot mystery series. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, is a USA Today Bestseller, an Agatha Award winner for Best First Novel, and a Macavity nominee, among others. Susan loves beaches, Southern food, and small towns where everyone knows everyone, and everyone has crazy relatives. You’ll find all of the above in her novels.
Susan lives with her husband and an inordinate number of houseplants in Greenville, SC. Visit Susan at her website.