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        New Release

Justice-For-Jessica-new-cover-webJustice for Jessica
New Indie Novel

Synopsis

Too Rich. Too Thin. Too Dead.


Mousey, overweight Stacey Sullivan would love to trade places with her glamorous socialite BFF, Jessica James—that’s until she discovers Jessica murdered in her own home. Whip-smart detective Rachel Storme is ready to exchange her gun and badge for a gardener’s hat and hoe. But she reluctantly puts her plans on hold when she’s asked to help solve Jessica’s murder. These two strangers from different generations—Stacey a millennial and Rachel a baby boomer—become unlikely friends in their pursuit of JUSTICE FOR JESSICA. But their friendship is put to the test when Stacey insists that her husband, Matt, is innocent in spite of evidence that speaks to the contrary. Rachel, baffled by Stacey’s blind loyalty to Matt, doggedly fights to take Matt down, but with Stacey’s help, he eludes her at every turn. Is Matt the killer or could Grant, Jessica’s husband, be the culprit? Perhaps it was her jealous sister, Georgette or the maid, Rosa? No matter who the killer is, Rachel, by any means necessary, is determined to find her man or woman.

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Excerpt:

Chapter 1
Stacey

            “Thank goodness it’s finally Friday. Halle-freakin’-lujah!”
            Running my hands across the soft sheets, I think about the stack of documents in my inbox at work and pull the covers over my head. I dread going into work today. The thought of the Powerball ticket I bought yesterday puts a smile on my face. What if I get all six numbers? I come up for air, laughing out loud imagining myself telling my boss what I really think about him. The laughter subsides when reality sets in. I’d have a better chance at becoming the first woman president of the United States than winning the lottery.
            I sit up and move from side-to-side, thinking about what a sweetheart Jessica is for letting me crash in her master suite. She’s more than a best friend—she’s the sister I’ve always wanted and has the life I’ve always dreamed of—blond, rich, and thin—talk about winning the lottery. She was right. Sleeping in her king-size bed was like swimming in melted butter. The soreness is gone. Actually, I slept like a rock last night. Hopefully, my back spasms won’t return. They’ve been flaring up all week, and I’m tired of popping pain pills. Matt would have a fit if he knew how many I’ve downed this week. He thinks I’m having back problems because of the extra ten pounds I’ve put on, but I know that has nothing to do with it. It’s because I sit all day at work.
I get out of bed and my eyes shift to the clock on the cherry wood dresser. I wonder why Jessica didn’t wake me at 6:00 like I had asked. Staring at the seven and two zeros, I’m glad I woke up when I did. I turn toward the window and squint against the sun’s rays spilling through the partially open custom shutters. It’s going to be another hot July in the City of Angels. I snatch the squishy out of my hair and it falls just past my shoulders. If I skip washing it, I might make it to work on time.
I walk to the double doors and press them open. “Jess, are you up?” I yell, meandering through the endless hallway toward the guest bedroom. The silence gives me pause. I stop at the nursery. An early riser, maybe she decided to decorate this morning and lost track of time. “Jess, you in here?” I ask, opening the door to the pink pastel room that’s outfitted with an enormous pink crib and matching dresser. A shelf on the wall is lined with stuffed animals. Rolls of wallpaper and a can of paint sit on the hardwood floor, but there’s no sign of Jessica. Then I remember her telling me she was going to wait up for Grant’s call. London’s eight hours ahead of us, and he was going to touch base with her when he landed. That would have been 2:00 in the morning our time. Poor thing’s probably knocked out.
 I make a beeline for the guest bedroom and notice the door’s ajar. Peeking in, I get a glimpse of her long blond locks strewn over the pillow and decide to let her sleep. Just as I’m about to close the door, my eyes lock onto my favorite casual Friday outfit draped over the small chair next to the window. Dang. I creep in, hoping not to wake her. Reaching for my jeans and sweatshirt, I notice specs of red on the white wall she’s facing. A tingling feeling shoots through my body and I feel weak in the knees. A twinge of sadness washes over me. The sunlit room is suffocating.  
“Jess?” I say, walking around the full-size bed. My stomach lurches and bile spills from my mouth onto the Berber carpet. My eyes burn and I feel tears on my cheeks before I realize I’m crying. I back away from her, trembling, imagining the horror she must have experienced. Her eyes stare vacantly, unseeing. Her throat’s ripped open, and a large pool of congealed blood lies beneath her. There’s blood on the side of the bed and floor. Shrill ear-bursting screams send me tumbling head first over the chair onto my butt. It takes me a moment to recognize those sounds as my own. I bolt out of the room, tripping over my feet, choking, barely able to breathe.
“Help! Somebody help,” I holler, clutching my nightgown, stumbling down the spiral staircase. What if the killer is still inside the house? Loud banging on the front door snaps me out of my thoughts.
 “Senora James, let me in. I can’t find my key. Let me in, por favor.”
“Jesus, oh my God,” I say, running to the foyer, flinging the front door open.
“Stacey, what’s wrong? I thought you were Jessica.”
“Jessica…Jessica...she…we have to call the police, Rosa.”
“The policia?”
“Yes, the police— 911,” I say sobbing, snatching the phone out of her hand.
 
 
 
 
 

Chapter 1

 

She’s not dead.

        I sit bolt upright in bed, my heart pounding, and my mind racing with thoughts about my twin. I pull my knees to my chest, wrap my arms around them, and rock back and forth. The movement calms me. When I turn toward my nightstand, my gaze locks onto the clock. It can’t be one-thirty.

        The doorbell rings, followed by muffled voices filtering through my bedroom door, most likely my parents, and whoever’s visiting. Curious, I get up, open it, and am nearly knocked to the floor by my mastiff. He greets me with hugs and licks.

        “Good afternoon to you, too, Pepper. Mommy loves you. Yes I do, sweetie.” He barks and makes a run for my bed.  I sit next to him and smooth my hand over his soft coat of thick, shiny tan fur. “I had a dream about Melissa, Pepper.” I look into his eyes, wondering if he would have loved my twin as much as he loves me. High heels clicking on the other side of my

Thomas / Missing Melissa / 2

 

bedroom door interrupt my thoughts.

“Happy Birthday, Maddie,” Ruby says, sashaying her way into my room. “Are you just waking up?”

I feel a flush spreading over my face and neck, surprised she’s already here. We hug and so much love oozes out of her I get choked up. There’s nothing like a BFF.

Before I can get a word out, Pepper barks. Ruby and I crack up. “Pepper, what are we going to do with this woman?” Ruby asks. He raises his ears and tilts his colossal head. More giggles.

There’s always laughter when Ruby comes around. The kind that makes you pee your pants and get raccoon eyes. I step back and stare at her regal face.

“What’s wrong with you, Maddie?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” I say, flopping down onto my bed. “I’m surprised you’re here already, and yes, I’m just getting up.”

 Squinting, she gives me that look. It’s the one I get when she thinks I’m keeping something from her. Next she’ll be planting her hands on her slender hips. I knew it. I swear she could be a model. Five-foot eight, a whole three inches taller than me, almond-shaped eyes, legs that go on forever.

“When did you get here?”

“An hour ago,” she says, patting her afro.

“An hour ago? I thought that was you ringing the doorbell just now.”

Thomas / Missing Melissa / 3

 

“No, I’ve been here. That was your grandmother. I was downstairs helping your father with his desktop computer and his new Dumbphone.”

“Wow, I wish I had known, I would have come down and saved you.”

“No worries. Your mother finally got him to give me a break and then she sent me up here to wake you. Maddie, we all know you like to get your beauty rest, but damn, it’s almost two. Your party starts in an hour.”

“I know. I didn’t sleep at all last night. It was almost six by the time I finally got a little shut-eye.”

“I can tell. Your baby blues are red. Have you been crying?” she asks.

“No,” I say.

“Then what’s going on?”            

“I guess I have a lot on my mind. It’s June, but it feels like December. You know with graduating last month, the upcoming move, starting my new job in a week. And I feel so old.”

“Madeline Louise Patterson, you’re twenty-two, not ninety-two! Since when is twenty-two old?”

“I know but—”

“We’re grown now. We asked for this,” she says, towering over me, looking at me with her ‘I got your back’ smile. “It’s all good. Remember when we were in the tenth grade how we used to fantasize about being grown-ass women, being able to stay up all night, screwing good-looking guys, and marrying rich ones?”

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“Yep, I sure do,” I say, rising. “But…”

“But what?” she asks.

“Melissa’s still alive.”

“What do you mean, she’s still alive?”

“She’s alive. I had a dre—”

“Don’t do this, Maddie. Not today. Let it go.”

“I knew you were going to react like that,” I say.

Before she has a chance to go off on me, I run into the bathroom, lock the door, and slip out of my tattered sweat pants and favorite UCLA jersey. Entering the shower, I turn the faucet on full blast. I ignore Ruby who’s now on the other side of the door, probably with her hands on her hips, calling out to me.

“We need to talk, Maddie. Right now. Get out of the shower right now, please.”

“I can’t hear you,” I say, reaching for my favorite shampoo.

“Madeline Louise Patterson, open this door right now.”

The water rains down on my head, soaking my hair, and I sing Pharrell’s “Happy” because I am happy. Melissa’s alive. She’s not dead. I know I’m not supposed to believe that. I’m supposed to believe the investigators, the reporters, the naysayers, the nosey neighbors, the psychics, the pundits, all those people nineteen years ago and several years after, that gave up on the little three-year-old girl who was driven away by the bad guys, never to be seen again. I’m supposed to believe my parents and my best friend that Melissa’s dead.

Thomas / Missing Melissa / 5

 

I shut my eyes and concentrate. Why can’t I remember the day she was taken? It’s always bits and pieces. Like a puzzle. I see my mother’s face, her smile, her eyes. She’s wearing a coat and so are we. Our matching red and blue jackets with the hoods trimmed in fake fur. I see Melissa’s mouth. It’s open wide and she’s crying. Everything is meshed. Our SUV, our car seats. I press on my head trying to remember, but I can’t.

The dream I had last night or I should say this afternoon, wasn’t the first dream I’ve had about my sister, but it’s the first time I’ve dreamed about her being an adult. All the other times she was still three. I used to have other dreams, too—dreams about people coming in and out of our house. Strange men in suits and ties, wearing big guns and badges. Men and women with cameras and microphones, gawking at me, pointing at me. Sometimes my dreams were nightmares starring my parents. My father falling over drunk, slurring his words, hitting the wall until his fist bled. My mother, comatose, out of it, a bag of bones, hopeless, helpless, barely alive. Everything is jumbled and mixed up, dreams, real life. I can’t put it together.

While getting out of the shower and drying off, the silence gives me pause. “Ruby? Pepper?” Wow, I was on one. I totally forgot about Ruby. That’s what happens when I start focusing on Melissa. I’m not supposed to focus on Melissa. I’m supposed to take care of myself, my life. That’s what I’ve been told, and believe you me; I have worked hard to do just that. But it hasn’t been easy. How can you forget about a part of yourself? It’s like asking a leg amputee to forget about his or her legs.

I unlock the bathroom door and step into my empty bedroom. Ruby and Pepper are gone. I hope Ruby’s not pissed with me, but I didn’t want to get into it with her. I can’t stand it when

Thomas / Missing Melissa / 6

she tells me to not go there. To let it go. To be grateful I’m still here and that God has His reasons.

My eyes lock onto the wall near my bedroom door that’s covered in family photos that make me all misty-eyed, especially the baby pictures. The crazy photos I have with Ruby lift my spirits. We took some kick-ass graduation pictures. I laugh out loud at the one where Ruby’s pointing to her head and rolling her eyes. COMPUTER GEEK is scrawled across the front of her black cap.

I enter my walk-in closet that’s filled to the brim with clothes and shoes. I check out the red dress section. Yep, I’m anal like that when it comes to my wardrobe. I rifle through my favs. I had thought about wearing pants, but Ruby’s got a thing about dresses, and I want to get on her good side. I’m going to need an advocate when I tell my parents I want to reopen Melissa’s case.

I set the dress to the side, brush my teeth so well, my dad would be proud, blow dry and style my hair, and put on my makeup. By the time I choose the perfect red shoes, and am dressed, it’s almost three. Sizing myself up in my standalone mirror, I smooth my hand over my dress and toss my hair over my shoulder. Sighing, I take in my room. I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss this house.

“Maddie! Where are you? Your guests are arriving.”

My face breaks into a huge smile when I hear my mother’s voice. I’ve always loved her voice. It’s so melodic. I go to my door, open it, and say, “I’ll be down in a minute, Mom. In a minute.”

“Okay, hurry. There’s someone here who’s dying to see you. You’re going to be so

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surprised.”