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When Kate Mercier's parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life-and memories-behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent. Add to favorites. Add In favorites. Die For Me (The Philadelphia/Atlanta Series Book 1) by Karen Rose, 225, download free ebooks, Download free PDF EPUB ebook. Listfreebooks.com provides thousands of ebooks for free without registration. Download PDF and EPUB ebooks.
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“A lot of actors have second jobs. Did Warren?”
“He waited tables at a bar in Center City. Sometimes he modeled. I can get you his portfolio, if that would help.”
“It might.” He gently caught her arm when she started to rise. “I have a few more questions. Where did Warren live?”
“Here. He and Sherry . . .” Vito sat quietly as she dropped her face into her hands and wept. “Who would do this?” she demanded brokenly, her words muffled by her hands. “Who would kill my son?”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out, ma’am,” Vito said, still gently. Nick came in from the kitchen, a box of tissues in one hand, a framed photo in the other.
“Mr. Keyes is on his way,” he murmured.
Vito pressed a tissue in the woman’s hand. “Mrs. Keyes? He and Sherry what?”
She wiped her eyes. “They were saving up to get married. She’s a nice girl.”
“Did you get the idea that Warren was worried or afraid of anyone?” Nick asked.
“He was worried about money. He hadn’t had any acting jobs in a long time.” Her lips bent into a painful smile. “His agent told him if he moved to New York, he could find lots of work, but Sherry’s family is here. She wouldn’t leave and he wouldn’t leave her.”
Nick turned the photo so that it faced Mrs. Keyes. “This is Warren with Sherry?”
New tears flooded her eyes. “Yes,” she whispered. “At their engagement party.”
Vito put his notebook back in his pocket. “We need to go through his room,” Vito said. “And we’ll bring in a fingerprinting unit.”
She nodded dully. “Of course. Anything you need to do.”
He stood, aware that he had no words that would bring her comfort. Before Andrea, he’d have asked if she was all right. But this grieving mother was not all right. She was in pain and would be for some time. When he got to the end of the hall, he looked back. Bowed forward, she clutched the photo of her son to her breast, rocking as she wept.
“Chick,” Nick said softly. “Come on.”
Vito exhaled. “I know.” He opened the door to Warren’s room. “Let’s get to work.”
They began going through Warren’s things. “Sports equipment,” Nick said from the closet. “Hockey, baseball.” There was a clunk of metal. “Lifted some serious weights.”
Vito found Warren’s portfolio. “Handsome guy.” He flipped through the pages of photographs and magazine clippings. “Looks like he mostly did magazine ads. I’ve seen this one. It’s for a local gym. Keyes was a big, strong guy. I can’t imagine he would have been easily overpowered.”
“Chick, look.” Nick had powered up Warren’s computer. “Come and look at this.”
Vito stood behind him, staring at the blank screen. “What? I don’t see anything.”
“That’s the point. There’s nothing here. When I open his ‘My Documents,’ nothing. Nothing in his e-mail. Nothing in the recycle bin.” Nick looked up over his shoulder, his brows lifted. “This computer has been wiped clean.”
Monday, January 15, 12:25 P.M.
“You sure Sophie works here?” Nick asked, frowning. He stood next to the front desk of the museum, looking around impatiently. “I don’t think anybody works here.”
Vito nodded, his attention on the photographs of the museum’s founder on the wall of the lobby. “Yes, she works here. Her bike was parked at the end of the parking lot.”
“That was Sophie’s?”
Vito was a little annoyed at the sudden interest on Nick’s face. “Yeah. So?”
“Just that it’s just a nice bike, Chick.” Nick’s lips twitched. “Easy, boy.”
Vito rolled his eyes, but the ringing of his cell saved him from having to reply.
Nick sobered. “Is that Sherry?” They’d been unsuccessful in contacting Warren Keyes’s fiancée after leaving his parents’ apartment. She wasn’t at her own apartment nor was she due to show up at the factory where she worked until seven.
Vito checked the caller ID and his pulse kicked up a notch. “No, it’s my dad.” He flipped open his phone, praying for good news. “Dad. How’s Molly?”
“Stable. She’s got some strength back in her legs and her tremors are less frequent. The doctor’s trying to figure out what triggered this attack.”
Vito frowned. “I thought he said she had a mini-stroke.”
“He’s changed his mind. They found high levels of mercury in her system.”
“Mercury?” Vito was sure he’d heard wrong. “How did she get exposed to mercury?”
“They don’t know. They’re thinking she was exposed to something in the house.”
His heart skipped a beat. “What about the kids?”
“They didn’t have any symptoms. But he wanted them all to come in for testing, so your mother and Tino brought them in. They were pretty scared, especially Pierce.”
Vito’s heart squeezed. “Poor little guy. How long before we know if they’re okay?”
“By tomorrow morning. But the doctor doesn’t want any of the boys to go home until they know for sure where Molly got exposed. Dino wanted me to ask you if—”
“For God’s sake, Dad,” Vito interrupted. “You know the kids can stay with me as long as they need to.”
“Well, I told him that, but Molly was worried they were causing you trouble.”
“Tell her they’re fine. Last night they made cake and played war in my living room.“
“Tess is coming to help you and Tino take care of them,” his father said and Vito felt a spurt of joy, despite his worry. He hadn’t seen his sister in months. “That way your mother and I can be here for Dino. Tess’s flight gets in at seven. She’s renting a car so she can get around while she’s here, so you don’t need to get her at the airport.”
“Is there anything else we can do?”
“No.” Michael Ciccotelli drew a deep breath. “Except pray, son.”
It had been a long time since he’d done so, but it would hurt his dad to know it. So Vito lied. “You know I will.” He slipped his phone back in his pocket.
“Will Molly be okay?” Nick asked quietly.
“Don’t know. My dad says to pray. In my experience that’s never good.”
“Well, if you need to go . . . just go, okay?”
“I will. Look.” Grateful for the diversion of work, Vito pointed to the back wall, where a tall door was opening. A woman appeared and walked toward them. She was petite, in her mid-thirties, and wore a sensible blue suit with a skirt that stopped at her knees. Her dark hair was pulled back in a neat twist, making her look professional and . . . boring, Vito realized. She could use some big hoop earrings and a red bandana. She moved behind the desk, obviously sizing them up.
“Can I help you two gentlemen?” she asked, her accent crisp and British.
Vito showed his badge. “I’m Detective Ciccotelli and this is my partner, Detective Lawrence. We’re here to see Dr. Johannsen.”
The woman’s eyes took on a speculative light. “Has she done something wrong?”
Nick shook his head. “No. May we see her?”
Vito bit his tongue. “Now would be good.” He looked at her nametag. “Miss Albright.” Up close Vito realized she was much younger than he’d thought, probably in her early twenties. Apparently his age-guesser needed a tune-up.
The woman pursed her lips. “She’s giving a tour right now. If you’ll come this way.”
She led them through the tall door into a large room where a small crowd of five or six families had gathered. The walls themselves were dark wood, one covered with a faded tapestry. From the other wall hung large banners. The far wall was the most impressive, however, covered with crisscrossing swords. Below the swords stood three suits of armor, completing a grand effect.
“Sweet,” Vito murmured. “My nephews would love this.” It would certainly keep their minds off Molly. He decided to bring them here as soon as he could.
ok.” Nick surreptitiously pointed to a fourth suit of armor, standing toward the right side of the hall. A sour-faced boy about Dante’s age stood a foot from the armor, loudly complaining about the wait. He stomped his foot and sneered.
“This is so boring. Crummy suit of armor. I’ve seen better in a junkyard.” He started to kick at the armor when it abruptly bent at the waist in a clatter of metal. Visibly frightened, the boy scrambled back, his eyes wide and his face pale. The crowd went silent and Nick chuckled softly. “I saw it move a second ago. Served the brat right.”
Vito was about to agree when a booming voice thundered from inside the armor. It took him a second to realize the knight was speaking French, but it didn’t take a linguist to understand the meaning. The knight was royally pissed.
The boy shook his head in fear and took two steps back. The knight drew his sword with dramatic flair and matched the kid step for step. He repeated the question more loudly and Vito realized it was the voice of a woman, not a man. A smile tugged at his mouth. “That’s Sophie in there. She said they made her dress up.”
Nick was grinning. “My high school French is rusty, but I think she basically said ‘What is your name, you bad little boy?’”
The boy opened his mouth but no sound emerged.
From a side door a man appeared. The size of a linebacker, he wore a dark blue suit and tie. He was shaking his head. “Whoa, whoa. What seems to be the problem?”
The figure in the armor regally pointed to the boy and uttered something scathing.
The man looked down at the kid. “She says you’re rude and you’re trespassing.”
The kid’s face heated in embarrassment as the other children laughed.
The man shook his head. “Joan, Joan. How many times have I asked you not to scare the children? She’s sorry,” he said to the kid.
The knight shook her head emphatically. “Non.”
The children’s laughter grew louder and all the adults were smiling. The man sighed dramatically. “Yes, you are. Let’s just get on with the tour. S’il vous plaît.”
The knight handed the man her sword and lifted the helm from her head, revealing Sophie with her long hair braided in a golden crown around her head. She stuck the helm under one arm and lifted the other to gesture to the walls.
“Bienvenue au musée d’Albright de l’histoire. Je m’appelle Jeanne d’Arc.”
“Joan,” the man interrupted. “They don’t speak French.”
She blinked and stared down at the children who now stared up, mesmerized. Even the rude boy was listening. “Non?” she asked, disbelieving.
“No,” the man said and she rattled off another question.
“She wants to know what language you speak,” he told them. “Who can tell her?”
A little girl of about five with golden curls raised her hand and Vito saw Sophie’s jaw tighten, so very slightly that he might have missed it had he not been watching. But she quickly smoothed her expression as the child spoke. “English. We speak English.”
Sophie grew comically horrified. This was part of her act, but he was certain her expression a moment ago was not and found his curiosity aroused once again. Along with the rest of him. He hadn’t realized a woman with a sword would be such a turn on.
“Anglais?” Sophie demanded and grabbed her sword in a pretend rage. The little girl’s eyes went even wider and the man sighed again.
“Joan, we’ve been over this before. Don’t frighten the guests. When American children come in, you speak English. And no insults this time, please. Just behave.”
Sophie sighed. “The things I must do,” she said, her words heavily accented. “But . . . it is a living. Even I, Joan of Arc, must pay my bills.” She looked at the parents. “You understand bills, do you not? There is the rent and the food.” She shrugged. “And the cable TV. Essentials of life, non?”
The parents were nodding and smiling, and once again Vito found himself intrigued.
She looked down at the children. “It’s just that, well, you see, we are at war with the English. You understand this word war, do you not, petits enfants?”
The children nodded. “Why are you at war, Miss Of Arc?” one of the fathers asked.
She shot the father a charming smile. “S’il vous plaît, call me Joan,” she said. “Well, it is like this—” It was at that moment she saw Vito and Nick standing off to the side. The smile stayed pasted to her mouth but disappeared from her eyes and Vito felt the frost from half a room away. She looked to the man in the suit and tie. “Monsieur Albright, we have visitors. Can you help them?”
“What the hell did you do to her, Chick?” Nick muttered.
“I have no idea.” He followed her with his eyes as she rounded the children up and led them to the wall with the banners, starting her tour. “But I plan to find out.”
The man in the suit approached, smiling. “I’m Ted Albright. How can I help you?”
“I’m Detective Lawrence and this is Detective Ciccotelli. We’d like to talk to Dr. Johannsen as soon as it’s possible. When will her tour be completed?”
Albright looked worried. “Is there some kind of trouble?”
“No,” Nick assured him. “Nothing like that at all. We’re working a case and have some questions for her. History-type questions,” he added.
“Oh.” Albright perked up. “I can answer them.”
Vito remembered Sophie saying that Albright just played at historian. “We appreciate it,” he said, “but we’d really prefer to speak with Dr. Johannsen. If the tour will be more than fifteen minutes, we can go have our lunch and come back.”
Albright glanced over to where Sophie was now telling the children about the swords mounted on the wall. “A tour runs an hour. She should be free after that.”
Nick slipped his shield back in his pocket. “Then we’ll be back. Thank you.”
Dutton, Georgia, Monday, January 15, 1:15 P.M.
Daniel sat on his parents’ bed. For an hour he’d stared at the floor, telling himself to pull back the floorboard he knew concealed his father’s safe. He hadn’t checked it yesterday. He didn’t want Frank to know about the safe, much less its contents.
He wasn’t sure what he’d find inside today. He knew he didn’t want to know. But he’d put it off long enough. This was the safe his father thought no one else in the family knew about. Not his wife, and certainly not any of his children.
But Daniel knew. In a family like his, it had paid to be the one to know where the secrets were hidden. And where the guns were kept. His father had many gun cabinets and many safes, but this was his only gun safe. This is where he kept the weapons Daniel suspected had their serial numbers filed off. Certainly they were unregistered.
Arthur’s unregistered guns had nothing to do with why they might have gone to Philadelphia or where they went when they got there, but Daniel hadn’t been able to find any clues anywhere else he’d looked. So here he sat. Just do it.
He pulled away the wood and looked at the safe. He’d found the combination oh-so-cleverly concealed in his father’s Rolodex as a birthday of a long-dead aunt. Daniel remembered the aunt and her actual birthday, as it had been close to his own.
He dialed the combination and was rewarded with a click. He was in.
But the guns weren’t. The only contents of the safe were a check register and a memory stick for a computer. The check register wasn’t from the bank the Vartanians had used for generations. Even before he opened it, Daniel knew what he’d find.
There were a steady progression of withdrawals, all written in his father’s hand. Every transaction was written “to cash” in the amount of five thousand dollars.
It was most certainly blackmail. But Daniel was un-surprised.
He wondered which part of Arthur’s past had come back to haunt them all. He wondered what was on the memory stick that his father hadn’t wanted anyone else to see. He wondered when the next flight left for Philadelphia.
Monday, January 15, 1:40 P.M.
Sophie ripped at the Velcro that held the armor together. “Ted, for the third time, I don’t know why they want to talk with me,” she snapped. Ted Albright’s grandfather was an archeological legend, but somehow not one of those brilliant genes had been passed down to Ted. “This is a history museum. Perhaps they have a history question. Can you stop with the third degree and get this off me? It weighs a freaking ton.”
Ted lifted the heavy breastplate over her head. “They could have asked me.”
Like you’d know Napoleon from Lincoln. Outwardly she gathered her composure and calmly replied. “Ted, I’ll talk to them and see what they want, okay?”
“Okay.” He helped her remove the greaves from her shins and she sat down to yank off the boots that covered her own shoes. Vito “The Rat” Ciccotelli was waiting outside. That she wanted to see him less than Ted Albright said it all. That they’d seen her in period garb made it even worse. It was humiliating.
“Next time you schedule a knight tour, make sure Theo is here. That armor really does weigh a ton.” She stood up and stretched. “And it’s hot under there.”
“For someone who claims to love authenticity, you complain a helluva lot,” Ted grumbled. “Some historian you are.”
Sophie bit back what would have been a nasty retort. “I’ll be back after lunch, Ted.”
“Don’t take too long,” he called after her. “You’re a Viking at three.”
“You can take your Viking and . . .” she muttered, then rolled her eyes when she saw Patty Ann leaning across the front desk, flirting shamelessly with the two detectives.
She had to admit they were two fine-looking men. Both tall and broad shouldered, handsome by anyone’s standards. With his sandy red hair and earnest face, Nick Lawrence had a country-boy kind of appeal, but Vito Ciccotelli was . . . Admit it, Sophie. You know you’re thinking it. She let out a weary sigh. Fine. He’s hot, okay? He’s hot and he’s a rat, just like all the others.
She stopped next to the desk. “Gentlemen. How can I help you today?”