A Mystic Pines Mystery – Book 1
by T.G. Hanson
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CHAPTER ONE – SAMPLE
Emily stood motionless off to the side of the crowd, watching the two people she loved most in this world, her parents, being slowly lowered into the ground. They would remain forever entombed in layers of silk fabric, surrounded by cold steel. In their early fifties, and still full of life, it wasn’t right that their lives had ended this way.
She had managed to avoid her adopted brother, Steve, and his crowd so far, and with any luck, could leave the cemetery unseen. Her guess was that Steve would go off with his friends, to their local haunt, as soon as the service was over. He would then spend the remainder of the day drinking himself into a stupor, not returning home till the wee hours of the morning.
Unable to watch any longer, she turned and walked toward the family limo. Because of her family’s place in society, and the sensational way they had died, the large crowd of reporters at the funeral was not unexpected. For most of her life, Emily had managed to avoid the press, and she was grateful that they seemed content to leave her alone this morning. Her brother and the controversy surrounding him was far more interesting in their eyes.
Watson was waiting with the door open as she arrived at the car. “Home Miss Emily?” he asked as she climbed inside.
Glancing back towards the graveside, she said a silent goodbye and replied in a soft whisper, “Yes please.”
As the car wove in and out of traffic, Emily thought over the past week’s events. She had done everything possible to see the wrong righted but had failed. Knowing Steve had been the last person inside the private hanger the night before her parents had taken off for their vacation, she was certain he had done something to the plane.
Unable to sleep the night before their accident, she had curled up on the large window seat to read for a while. Glancing out the window, she’d seen Steve creeping out of the large door to the private hanger. After seeing him in town the day before, she was a bit curious as to why he was hanging around but had assumed he was back to get more money from her folks. In hindsight, she wished now that she had woken her father and let him know. As it was, she’d returned to bed intending to speak with him in the morning but had overslept and missed their leaving.
The authorities, unable to find any evidence the plane had been tampered with, determined an engine had failed shortly after take-off causing the plane to crash. Despite her accusations, and having found no evidence that Steve had been in the hanger, the cops were unable to connect him to the cause of the engine failure and her parent’s death had been listed as an accident.
Emily shifted in her seat and began tapping her fingernails on the center console in a rhythmic pattern – a habit she’d had since childhood whenever she was in deep thought, daydreaming, or became nervous.
Her thoughts drifted to her adopted sibling. Her parents, unable to have more children, had adopted Steve at the age of five. Emily, then only three years older, had been thrilled at the idea of having a younger brother. She had tried over the years to form a bond with Steve, but from the beginning, he wanted nothing to do with her. Eventually, she had stopped trying and they simply became strangers to each other.
Coming from an unstable home, Steve had shown signs of being troubled early on. With an outgoing personality, and his blond, blue-eyed California looks, Steve could charm even the most cautious person. He made friends easily then betrayed them even easier. By the time he was a teenager, he’d had more than a few scrapes with the law and had angered more than a few girl’s protective fathers.
Her parents having reached the end of their rope on Steve’s twenty-first birthday – when he stole the neighbor’s Mercedes and crashed it – had bailed him out of jail, covered the cost of the repairs on the Mercedes, and basically ordered Steve to pack his bags. He left with his car and a sizeable trust fund, set up to pay him a decent monthly income for quite some time. Her father had told him to go make a man of himself and find something worthwhile to do with his life.
Where Steve went from there and what he did, they never knew. The only time he showed up back at the mansion was when he had spent his monthly allowance and needed more money. The only time they heard anything was when his name would appear in the paper under a headline along the lines of Millionaire’s son misbehaves – embarrassing her mother and father yet again.
Watson cleared his throat and broke into Emily’s thoughts. “Will Steve be staying on at the mansion now that your folks are gone?” He glanced at Emily through the rear-view mirror; “I thought you should know some of the staff have been asking.”
Emily knew Steve had only shown up believing he was going to benefit, financially, from her parent’s death. She also knew that he’d been cut out of her parents will years ago and would inherit nothing. Glancing up into the rear-view mirror and placing a hand on Watson’s shoulder she replied, “I’m not sure what he will do, but if you will, please gather the entire staff in the library at three o’clock. I’ll explain everything at that time.”
“Yes miss, I’ll be sure to do that.” Watson smiled and returned his full attention to driving. He had watched Miss Emily grow from a wee child up to a lovely, smart and strong young woman. He had no doubts she could handle anything that came her way. If not, well, he and his wife would be there to help if needed.
As he drove onward, Watson frowned while thinking, that brother is nothing but trouble. The family gave him the same opportunities as they would have one of their own and the boy had all but spat in their face. The sooner he was out of the house, and Miss Emily’s life, the better.
Emily turned to stare out the car window and went back to her own thoughts. Watching Steve move into the Mansion the day after the accident had made her shiver. He had waltzed in, taken over the Master Suite, and begun ordering the servants about like slaves.
Two days later the family attorney, Mr. Humphrey, had come by to read the will. Upon discovering that the entire estate had gone to Emily, Steve ranted about suing her and stormed out of the library. The will had stated that all the money would go to Emily, as well as the estate, but that Steve should be allowed to live in the mansion if he chose to do so. His trust fund was to continue but only for six months after their parent’s death. He’d been on a drunken bender since and had threatened her life twice.
The following day, on her way to the attorney’s office to sign papers, the brakes had failed on her BMW causing her to crash the car into a tree. The police informed her she was very lucky to have walked away alive with only a large bump on her head and a sprained wrist. It was when the mechanic found a hole in the brake line that Emily realized that Steve, determined to get his hands on the money and estate, would stop at nothing to do so. Once again, without proof, the police were unable to do anything.
Emily realized that Steve wasn’t going to leave the house of his own accord and that unless she wanted to wind up like her parents, she had to figure out something and fast.
Emily sat on the edge of the bed counting the chimes from the antique Grandfather clock, in the downstairs hall. One, two, three, four. Four AM. She’d heard Steve come home, stumble up the stairs, and shut his bedroom door around two in the morning. By now, he’d be deep into a drunken sleep, not waking till late in the day. If I’m going to survive, now is the time to leave and disappear, forever.
She had spoken to their small staff giving them a choice of two weeks paid vacation or the option to resign. All but Watson and his wife had chosen to leave once they learned Steve would be staying in the house.
Watson had been with the family for years. He and his wife oversaw the other staff and had been like substitute grandparents to Emily. They both had refused to leave the house if Steve remained.
With the help of her family’s longtime Attorney, Humphrey, they had formed a plan for her to leave town and disappear. Humphrey had helped her obtain new ID and made sure she had enough cash to last at least six months. He was also the one who suggested she travel by bus and would be the only person she would remain in contact with once she left.
Earlier in the day, she had packed one of the larger suitcases that she could carry on her own, hiding it in the small closet under the staircase. Grabbing one of her oversized tote bags, she placed the bulging bank bag inside along with her new driver’s license and other ID, then quickly called for a cab.
Checking the battery on the new cell phone, she pulled the power cord from the wall and placed it inside the bag containing her brand-new laptop. With one last look around the room, she wiped a single tear from her cheek, turned, and crept down the long hallway to the staircase. It’s hard to believe that I may never see this house again, at least not till Steve is in jail, and there’s no telling when or if that will ever happen.
Moving as quietly as she could, she descended the massive winding staircase, pulled out the suitcase and walked out the front door. She turned one last time to look at the home she had grown up in; I can’t stay. If I do, he will find a way to kill me. Without proof of what he did, the cops won’t listen to me and can’t protect me. I must protect myself. Shutting the door, she began walking down the driveway.
She had requested the cab wait at the end of the drive, thinking it would be less likely that anyone would hear it arrive. The driver loaded her luggage into the trunk as she climbed inside. As the cab pulled away, she turned for a final look at her home. Steve was standing on the balcony off the master bedroom, watching the cab pull away.
Emily shuddered and began tapping the laptop case furiously. Had he seen the luggage being put into the trunk? Would he come after me? If so, he’ll go to the airport first. He’d never imagine anyone in our social circle to travel by bus.
A short time later she arrived at the bus station. I’ll be on my way by the time he figures out I’m not at the airport and with my tickets purchased under Meg Stinner, he’ll hit a dead end. I just need to keep moving for the first few days to gain some distance.
Because she had no idea of where she was going, her plans were to purchase a one-way ticket to the furthest point the bus line offered, change buses and do the same again, continuing until she felt like stopping. Breathing deeply, she began to click her nails on the laptop case as she waited for the bus to arrive. Step one completed. From this point forward, I am now Meg Stinner.
Thank for reading and I hope you enjoyed this little preview!