Bailey Ferrol is a private investigator in a small Virginia town in the middle of "horse country". She normally spends her time on routine jobs helping out the police department, but becomes involved in a murder case quite by accident. A storm moves through town and the banks of the river wash out, exposing bones of a man long-ago gone missing....he was "involved" with some of the local estate owners' wives and there are plenty of suspects for Bailey to pursue - still, the case winds up resolving in a most surprising way!
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Pamela June Kimmell/Author-Artist
As the severe storm moved rapidly through the town of David’s Bridge, the water steadily began to rise along the banks of the river just outside town. Golf ball-sized hail pelted the mossy riverbanks sending torrents of mud rolling down the incline into the swiftly moving water. The ground was eroding quickly, and tree roots were being exposed, along with other things…..things that when buried many years earlier, were never intended to again see the light of day. When at last the storm abated, the water began to recede along the banks, revealing a thin, yellowed object protruding from the mud. The storm was the worst one to come through David’s Bridge in many years, and it left behind flooded basements, twisted siding on homes, roofs in need of new shingles, and a human bone exposed to the light of day after many, many years.
Bailey had just drifted off to sleep - finally - when lightning struck somewhere very close by. Close enough that the vibrations rattled the windows severely and caused her heart to skip a few beats. She pulled the quilts up over her head and, still hearing the rain and wind outside, drifted back into sleep.
At precisely 5:30AM her alarm awoke her; a full thirty minutes before her bedside clock would have. Her alarm was as reliable as the clock and came in a furry, cuddly package of feline adoration she called Eddy. No matter how much she tried, it was impossible to be irritated at being robbed of that final thirty minutes of sleep every morning by Eddy’s gentle cheek nudge or tickly whiskers. Bailey had suspected for some time that even if she changed the alarm clock time back a half hour, Eddy would just move his personal wake-up call back another half hour anyway. It probably didn’t matter what time she set it for, Eddy would know.
She yawned, gave Ed a stroke or two and pulled on her ratty but comfortable chenille robe and her slippers. Her bedroom was tucked up into the attic space of her cottage. It was a very small room, but she preferred sleeping there rather than the “real” bedroom. The attic was cozier.
She shuffled down the stairs, adjusting the thermostat when she arrived at the bottom to take the edge off the damp chill. As coffee began dripping and infusing the kitchen with its’ rich aroma, she fed Eddy and put the dishes away from the dish rack by the sink. As she reached under the sink to put away the dishpan she noticed Eddy’s latest modification to her left furry bunny slipper. About a half-inch of the poor bunny’s ear was missing. She and Eddy had a long running disagreement about whose slippers they actually were. Eddy had already totally amputated the right ear and eyes of that particular slipper and the nose was missing from the right one. Bailey giggled and went over to Eddy’s corner of the kitchen to pick him up and give him a big hug. She was sure that without him in her life she would have gone nuts ages ago. Life tended to do that to you she was convinced, if you didn’t have someone or something to keep you smiling.
As a private investigator there was little enough to keep her smiling - so she grabbed for every opportunity that presented itself.As she put him down by his food dish the telephone rang. She glanced at the wall clock noticing it was already 7:00 and picked up the phone. Her voice broke as she said “Hello.” Those first words out in the morning were a little tough.“Bailey,” Carol blurted out before Bailey finished squeezing out the saying hello. “Yeah. Who else would it be? Why on earth are you calling so early?”
Carol Griffin was one of Bailey’s closest friends. Four years earlier at the ripe age of twenty-two, Bailey Ferrol had “inherited” her father’s private detective agency. He’d suffered a massive and unexpected heart attack. Carol was one of the first people Bailey had met when she’d moved to David’s Bridge to go through her father’s stuff and see what, if anything, could be salvaged before she closed down the business.At least that had been her plan. Plans change though. Bailey decided to keep the business after all, and with her brother Michael’s encouragement, had worked hard to get her investigator’s license. Her friend Carol had helped her reorganize the disorganized office and was her closest friend and confidante.
“I was calling to remind you that you have an appointment this morning out at Triple Oak Farm with that adorable Estate Manager.” “Don’t you worry - I’m looking forward to it. Kyle Dean seemed like a really nice guy. Sounds like he’s got a fairly routine job for me though - just a few background investigations on some job applicants, but you never know. Sometimes those routine ones have some interesting bits,” Bailey said as she poured herself another cup of coffee.“Just promise me you will call and let me know how you two get on. Doris thought the two of you would hit it off nicely - that’s why she invited him to the dinner the other night, so you two could meet.”“OK Carol. I’ll call you later with the scoop. All I care about really is getting the work. Things have been a little quiet at Ferrol Investigations lately.
Carol and Bailey said their good-byes and Bailey grabbed Eddy and headed upstairs for the attic.As she stepped out of the shower, she nudged Eddy off her towel, which he had curled up on while waiting for his mistress to finish her morning routine. As she examined what she felt were her many flaws in the bathroom mirror, she began going over in her mind her first meeting with Kyle, the Estate Manager she would be visiting at Triple Oak Farm.
Bailey’s friend Doris Madison had introduced them at her dinner party and she had sat next to him at the table, enjoying their brief conversation. Brittany Williams had tried to monopolize Kyle’s attention, and with the help of her considerable cleavage, and of course having kept one hand on his arm through most of the dinner, she had done a credible job of it.In spite of Brittany, Bailey had found out from Kyle that he was the manager of the huge estate belonging to Charles and Jacqueline Ranier. Ranier had made his money as an attorney for the “rich and famous” that maintained homes in the lush Shenandoah Valley area, and had been in a successful law practice with Kyle’s father. Bailey had actually visited their farm a while back with Doris, who was by trade a very accomplished animal portraitist, and had been commissioned to paint Jacqueline Ranier’s prized Yorkshire Terrier, Reginald. Bailey had been very impressed with the estate, and now that she knew Kyle Dean was “in charge” of all the business for the Raniers she was equally impressed with him.
He’d apparently gotten the job primarily due to his father’s association with Ranier, but it seems the man he was replacing as Estate Manager had quit quite suddenly after working on the estate for thirteen years. The timing was good for Kyle who was just graduating from college. This job Kyle had employed her for was to interview applicants for the position Personal Assistant to Jacqueline Ranier. She apparently felt she had led such an interesting life that the world needed to read her memoirs. To that end she wanted an assistant to take notes as she dictated the highlights. Kyle had suggested a professional should check out the applicants for a position so close to the family and that’s where Bailey came into the picture.
As she brushed her hair and put the finishing touches on her make-up she found she was more enthused about this meeting than a mere background investigation job warranted. She just wanted an excuse to see Kyle again. It had been way too long since she had a man in her life. She noticed in the mirror that she had a huge smile plastered on her face. She laughed aloud and put the brush down as she turned toward her closet.Bailey scanned her wardrobe to decide on the right “look” for the meeting with Kyle. She finally chose tan corduroy slacks, a green silk blouse, and a wool tweed blazer, which complimented her auburn hair and green eyes.
She grabbed her purse and the battered briefcase that had belonged to her Dad. She was positive his old briefcase brought her luck. As she was standing by the fireplace in her living room making sure she had everything she needed, she glanced down at Eddy’s basket. In it were his favorite toys and, Bailey noticed, what appeared to be the missing bunny slipper bits and pieces. His hunting trophies.
She double-locked the kitchen door and walked down the driveway where her old Volkswagen “Beetle” was parked. She threw her purse and briefcase onto the passenger seat.As she made her way down the driveway she noticed that magically overnight all the leaves on the oak trees out front seemed to have abandoned the tree limbs and fallen onto the ground. Looked like she would have to break out the rake and do some yard work before the enormity of the project overwhelmed her.
She loved October and November out here in the Virginia countryside. The leaves were more brilliantly colored out here than in the city. Bailey had come to David’s Bridge a few years before when her father died but she often felt she had been here all her life. It had been a difficult time for her and her brother as they adjusted to life without either of their parents. Their mother had died when they were both quite young from complications after surgery.Michael was a very busy Civil Engineer with a wife and two kids who lived an hour away from David’s Bridge in a Washington, D.C. suburb. She rarely saw him since he traveled a lot.
Bailey had always enjoyed helping her Dad with his cases. William Ferrol had been a detective on the police force then and they lived in Fairfax, Virginia. When Bailey had gone off to college, her Dad retired from the force and moved to David’s Bridge, where her Mother Estelle had been born and raised, to start up his own small detective agency. He had known most of the police force in David’s Bridge and his best buddy, Matt Kelly, was the police chief. Bailey was determined to keep the business going, and things were percolating right along with jobs keeping her busy enough to justify having made the decision to move to David’s Bridge.
Lost in her thoughts, Bailey made her way through town and out towards Triple Oak Farm. Just past Route 622 she saw the stone wall that would edge the road for a full half-mile before she would arrive at the entrance to Triple Oak. As she came to the huge iron gate, the sun broke through the clouds. Bailey took it as a good omen.
The gates were closed, but she saw Kyle climbing out of a red pickup truck just inside the gate. He seemed taller than she remembered from the party but she realized they had chatted at the dinner table so she couldn’t have known how tall he was then. He looked to be well over six feet and had on jeans, a flannel shirt, down vest and work boots. Blonde hair fell over his eyebrows. He ran a hand through it to push it out of his way as he simultaneously donned a baseball cap the same shade of red as his truck.“Hi there,” he said as he waved her through the gate. He had a great smile she thought. Wonderful dimples - she was a sucker for dimples.
He asked her to follow him to the main house so she tailed the truck to the huge garage behind the house. He parked at the back where the “hired help” kept their various modes of transportation and she pulled up alongside him. They both got out and together they headed for the path to the servants’ entrance near the kitchen.
“Glad to see you Bailey. I’d like to get your opinion on the three resumes Mrs. Ranier has picked out, and the sooner we get going the better. I’ve been told she’s been anxious to get started on her memoirs and I’m sure she has all kinds of other trivial pursuits in mind for her new assistant” he said with a wide grin on his face as he guided her through the door into the house.“Well, assuming everything goes smoothly,” Bailey said, “we should be able to get her new assistant lined up in fairly short order - these things usually turn out to be fairly quick to resolve.”
In one corner of the kitchen was a sitting area that was apparently for the use of the staff. They sat down in front of a coffee table upon which were laid three file folders and a tray of tea and cookies. Bailey picked up the folders to review.
Grace Concannon was an applicant from the immediate area who had been raised on a farm as one of seven children. She was nineteen years old, a graduate of the local high school in David’s Bridge, and known to Bailey by reputation. Her two oldest brothers, Bailey knew, were true troublemakers whose names were in the local paper occasionally or certainly gossiped about in the grocery store aisles and over the deli counter in town. Trouble seemed to follow them around like a faithful puppy. While Grace appeared to have escaped the wilder genes in the Concannon clan, she did have a bit of a reputation for enjoying the company of “older men.” Her latest was Bobby Potter, thirty-four year old construction worker and professional ladies man. While Bailey did not know Grace personally, she felt that she was in no way a valid candidate for this kind of job. She had no job experience and Bailey wondered why she was even being considered for the position in the first place.
The second folder contained the resume of Tammy Groton. She was thirty-two and had recently moved into town. Again Bailey recognized the name. Bailey knew Ms. Groton worked at the dry cleaners Bailey used in town. She was an excellent seamstress, but painfully shy - at least that had been Bailey’s impression when she’d taken things into the cleaners. Interestingly enough, she held a degree in Mathematics from the University of Virginia, and had worked previously as a secretary in Richmond, Virginia including one position at a private detective agency Bailey was familiar with. That would be an easy reference to get. She also noted that under “Interests,” Ms. Groton said she was an avid equestrian. Perhaps that was why she had chosen David’s Bridge in the heart of horse country.
The final resume was from Valerie Bower. Right on top was a letter of recommendation from Mr. and Mrs. Miles Van Nostrom. The name rang a bell with Bailey and she asked Kyle if it was familiar to him. He said the Van Nostroms were owners of a large horse farm near Charlottesville. He had briefly met their only son Barry at a horse show once. The letter said she‘d been with the Van Nostroms for five years in the capacity of Personal Secretary to Mr. Van Nostrom, and lived on the estate. It was the only job she listed although there was a period of seven years since high school graduation which was unaccounted for. Bailey wondered what had kept her busy in that time, but then again, that’s the kind of thing people in her line of work were useful for - to fill in the blanks and confirm the facts.
She laid the folders back on the table and looked up at Kyle who was standing - - coffee cup in hand - - by the fireplace looking at her. Bailey had to force herself to focus on the folders hand and not get lost in those penetrating eyes of his.
“Well, I should have no problem checking on these for you. Were the Raniers going to review any more resumes or was this the best of the lot?”Kyle returned to the sofa and said as he sat next to Bailey, “The Raniers left everything up to me. Mrs. Ranier was pushing pretty hard for Ms. Bower, but I suggested she run an ad to see what else turned up, just so she could have a choice of applicants.”
“It’s a shame you didn’t have much of a response Kyle” Bailey said as she tossed the folders down on the table.
“Well I actually don’t know what kind of response we got. Mrs. Ranier insisted that Roberts, the Houseman, bring all the mail directly to her on its’ arrival. These three were the only ones she passed on to me as candidates she was interested in. Can’t say what her criteria were considering that one from Grace Concannon."
Bailey stood and said “OK. This shouldn’t take long to check on. There aren’t a lot of exotic details to probe, and I have some pertinent contacts. May I keep these?”
“Those are for you” Kyle said as he and Bailey left the sitting area and made their way back through the kitchen. They walked down the path to the garage and Bailey got into her car. Kyle leaned in the window and said he’d lead her back to the gates then thanked her again for coming out to the farm. “I just can’t see blindly hiring someone who will be as close to the family as this without knowing something about them. Can’t be too careful.”
Bailey agreed with him, saying she would be in touch with him in a few days. As he climbed into his truck and she followed him out of the garage area, she thought to herself that this would be an easy investigation. One that could easily be put into the category of “safe”….or so she thought.
EXCERPT TAKEN FROM COMPLETED NOVEL COPYRIGHT Pamela June Kimmell 2002
Just a note about the book:
My book was published by Hilliard and Harris Publishers and is available from their website, Amazon, or through any online book seller's link (Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.) There's a sequel planned for publication in 2009. Stay tuned!
If you take the ISBN # to ANY "walk-in" book store, they can order it for you from their suppliers.