This is an UNEDITED ADVANCE of Chapter One of Permanently Deleted, Book Three in the Phee Jefferson Series.
I was seated at the circulation desk in the library checking in the large cart of books next to me. I wanted to get everything done and shelved before I went home in a few minutes. The last patron was packing up to leave when Juliet burst through the front doors.
“Phee, you’ve got to come,” Juliet panted.
“I’m busy, Juliet,” I said, stifling my exasperation at the interruption. “I want to get this done.”
Juliet slammed her hand down in front of me. Startled at her sudden burst of anger, I looked up and saw Juliet was crying. “What in the world is the matter, Juls.”
“It’s Nellie Jo. They found Mike dead at the pickle factory,” Juliet sobbed, “and Clint’s arrested Nellie Jo. Phee, they’re saying she killed him. Nellie Jo killed her husband!”
I sat back and tried to process what Juliet’s news. Nellie Jo arrested for murder? There had to be a mistake. Ever since Juliet helped me solve Elody Campbell’s murder, she saw crime everywhere she looked. Poor Mr. Crum resorted to walking his dog in the predawn hours to avoid Juliet’s watchful gaze. She swore he didn’t use a pooper scooper when he walked his Schnauzer.
“You must have gotten bad information. There’s no way Nellie would kill Mike. Start at the beginning and tell me what’s going on.”
“Nobody has time for all of that!” Juliet shouted. “Nellie is in jail. Mike is dead. Grab your purse and let’s go.”
“Alright. Give me five minutes to shut everything down and lock up. We’ll head over to the sheriff’s office and talk to Lu. I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding.” I shut the computer down and grabbed my sweater and purse. Juliet paced in front of the exit as I flipped off all of the lights and locked the doors.
“Nellie won’t do well in prison. She’s too sweet and trusting,” Juliet blurted. “I’ve got about two hundred dollars in savings to help with bail money. Do you think Mom and Dad will chip in?” Juliet jogged down the sidewalk towards the sheriff’s.
“Wait until we talk to Jaime before you break open your piggy bank,” I said, huffing as my short legs struggled to catch up with Juliet’s long stride.
Juliet ignored me and burst through the glass door of the sheriff’s office. Tina looked up from where she sat flipping through a gossip magazine. “Where’s Nellie? Why was she arrested? Lu?” Juliet’s eyes darted around the small front office until they lighted on Lu who had come out of her office in the back.
“Settle down,” Lu said, holding up her hands defensively.
“Settle down? Settle down? Clint slapped cuffs on Nellie like she was a common criminal and you want me to settle down?” Juliet shouted.
The door to the sheriff’s flew open behind us. Valerie, Corinne and Charlie marched in and demanded to know where Nellie was and why she was under arrest. I couldn’t figure out who was saying what as voices rose in volume.
Lu leaped up on the Tina’s desk and pulled out her gun. “Everybody sit down and be quiet or I’m gonna start shooting!”
“No need to shoot anyone,” Clint drawled as he walked into the reception area. “Nellie is not under arrest. I didn’t cuff her. She’s here voluntarily to answer some questions about Mike. You all need to go home and let the police do their job.” He looked pointedly at Juliet and then turned his gaze towards me.
I avoided his eyes and stepped up next to Juliet and put my arm around her shoulders. “Come on, Juls. Let the professionals,” I paused on the word, “do their job. I’m sure Nellie will straighten everything out and we’ll have a big laugh with her tomorrow over coffee.”
“I don’t think Nellie will be opening up for business tomorrow. Mike Cochran was found this afternoon floating in one of the vats down at the pickle factory. He was murdered.”