About the book:When Tess Tremaine starts a new life in the colorful town of Goose Pimple Junction, curiosity leads her to look into a seventy-five-year-old murder. Suddenly she’s learning the foreign language of southern speak, resisting her attraction to local celebrity Jackson Wright, and dealing with more mayhem than she can handle.
A bank robbery, murder, and family tragedy from the 1930s are pieces of the mystery that Tess attempts to solve. As she gets close to the truth, she encounters danger, mystery, a lot of southern charm, and a new temptation for which she’s not sure she’s ready.
A Sample of Murder & Mayhem in Goose Pimple JunctionPresent day
Tess froze when she saw two huge dogs bolting toward them. Then she screamed. "JAAAACK!"
"Car, Mary T, CAR!"
Tess turned too fast and her right foot bobbled on her sandal. Only I could fall off a one-inch heel. She wobbled and then righted herself, and the heavy purse fell off her shoulder. Jack came up behind her, grabbing her purse and her arm. "Come on, Grace." He pushed her into the car. She scrambled over the console and into the passenger seat, and he followed, practically sitting on top of her so he could close the door tightly. With both of them safely in the car, the dogs stood barking ferociously just a foot away, as Tess and Jack cowered inside.
The front door opened, and a huge man stepped out onto the porch, pushing mirrored sunglasses over his eyes. He had a confederate flag do-rag on his head, and a cigarette poking out of his lips underneath a pencil-thin mustache. A gray wife beater shirt revealed tattoos on each bulging bicep, and his torn denim jeans were tucked into black biker boots. He stood with his hands on his hips and a menacing look on his face.
"Good gravy, he could be the Mr. July for a biker dude calendar," Tess said, slack-jawed and wide-eyed.
The dogs continued their protective stance and enthusiastic greeting.
The man took the cigarette from his lips and hollered, "Cain't you folks read? Sign says no trespassin'." He paused for a beat, then added, "That means you."
Tess opened the car window two inches, and called out, "Are you Crate Marshall?"
"Folks call me Tank." He took a deep drag of his cigarette. "State your bidness."
"My name's Tess Tremaine, and this is Jackson Wright. We'd like to talk to you for a few minutes about your family history, if that's all right."
"What fer?" he called out guardedly, over the barking dogs.
Jack opened his door and stood with it as a shield. The dogs moved forward slightly, but kept their distance, emitting a low growl. "I'm writing a book on some events in Goose Pimple Junction's history. I'd like to talk to you about your grandfather; hear his side of the story on the bank robbery of '32."
Tank stood on the bottom step of the porch, staring at them for a full minute, smoking his cigarette. He finished it, dropped it to the ground, and stomped it out with his booted foot. Jack turned to get back in the car.
"Foghorn! Leghorn! Freeze!" The dogs stopped growling and sat down, tongues hanging out as they panted.
Tess and Jack weren't sure what to do. Finally, Tank said, "Well come on, if you're comin'. I ain't got all day."
They got out of the car and slowly walked past the dogs, with Tess saying, "Nice doggies." The dogs didn't move an inch. Once Tess and Jack reached the porch, Tank held the door open for them. As they went into the house, he called to the dogs.
"Thaw!" The dogs ran back to the barn.
The inside of Tank's house was not what Tess expected. The furniture and décor suggested a 1950's housewife lived here. The sofa was pea green under a plastic couch cover. A worn out but clean brown recliner with a doily draped at the top sat between the couch and the fireplace. An antique oak rocking chair with a cane seat sat opposite the recliner. A framed rose painting hung over the fireplace, and old family pictures decorated the walls. It looked like Tank had literally moved in and not changed a thing. The only signs of Tank's presence in the house were the smell of cigarettes, the haze of smoke hanging in the air, and the gun magazines sitting on a long pine coffee table in front of the couch.
Tess had second thoughts about going in as she looked through the cloud of smoke, which hung thick in the room. Jack pushed gently on the small of her back, and she reluctantly moved forward. She resisted the urge to wave her hand in front of her face to dispel the cigarette smoke.
Tess and Jack sat on the couch, and Tank took the recliner. Now that they were up close, Tess could see the tattoos more clearly. His right arm featured a Goth chick, with long, flowing hair and voluptuous breasts spilling out of a skin-tight leather vest; she was wielding a large sword. The left side displayed a tattoo of, aptly enough, a tank.
"What's this 'bout a book?" Tank pulled out another cigarette from the pack.
"I write mystery novels, and I'm interested in writing about the bank robbery, for which I believe your grandfather was pardoned."
Tank put the cigarette between his lips, and Jack added, "I'm interested in learning more about the death of John Hobb, too."
Tank lit his cigarette with his Zippo lighter, then snapped the lid shut with the flip of his wrist. "Zat right?" He removed his sunglasses, placed them on the coffee table, and rubbed one eye. "Sounds like you already know a good deal about it."
"We were wondering if your grandfather ever talked about the robbery or Mr. Hobb's murder," Tess explained.
"Huh. Yeah, he talked about the robbery. Felt real bad about it, matter a fact. He'd get drunk and start moanin' and groanin' 'bout how he'd brought shame to the family, and so on and so forth. And Grandma would always say the same thing ever time. I can hear her now sayin', 'Jest cut your shamer off and feed it to the chickens.'"
"Your shamer off?" Tess echoed.
"You ain't from round here, are ya? Basically, she meant that guilt isn't helpful. What's done is done and ya have to move on."
"What about the money?" Jack asked.
"What about it?"
"What happened to it?"
"He never came out and said as much, but I kinda think he had to use most of it to grease the governor's palms. Whatever else was left, he probably spent over at Humdinger's."
"Any idea how much his cut was?"
"Do you know what happened to the other men who were involved in the bank robbery?" Tess asked.
"Yeah, I think Rod Pierce died about five years later. And Junior ended up gettin' caught for another job he pulled. I think he spent most a his life rottin' in a cell."
"What about a fourth man?"
"What about him?"
"Did your grandfather ever talk about a fourth man being involved? John Hobb or someone else?"
"Negative. I wouldn't know anything about that."
Jack cleared his throat and asked the sixty-four thousand dollar question. "What about John Hobb's murder?"
"Sounds like you know more 'n me."
"Who do you think killed him? Did your grandfather ever talk about that?"
Tank ran his hand over his stubbly cheeks and wide nose. His eyes grew dark. "Can't hep ya."
Cautiously, Jack said, "Is that...because you don't want to...or because you don't know?"
"What difference does it make? I ain't answerin'."
Jack got his wallet from his back pocket, pulled a hundred dollar bill out, and placed it on the coffee table.
Tank stared at it for a few silent moments. Tess couldn't tell what he was thinking. His eyes went coldly from the bill to Jack. Jack reached out to take it back, but Tank gave in.
"Shoot. Hold on a damn minute." He took several drags from his cigarette, then put it out in a bean bag ashtray on a small table to his left. "I heard my granddaddy talk about it once. He was there, but another man did it. I ain't sayin' who the other man was. I ain't no rat. Any other questions?"
"Do you know why he was killed?"
Tess looked at Jack, and he raised his eyebrows, as if to say, 'It's up to you.'
"Would you mind telling us where you were last night around eleven o'clock?" she asked.
"Just humor me. Please." She flashed a sweet smile at him.
"Didja hear the one 'bout the duck who went into a bar?"
"I'm not talking about that kind of humor...Mr...Tank."
"Tell me what you're accusin' me of first."
"I'm not accusing you of anything, I'm just asking."
"I was home," he answered reluctantly.
"Anyone with you?" Jack asked.
"Okay, Tank. We'll be on our way. Thank you for your time. If anything should come to mind, will you give me a call?" Jack handed him his card.
"Will do. But it won't."
They walked to the door, and Tess turned around to look at Tank. "Do you by any chance know Willy Clayton?"
"Dudn't everbody?" he snorted.
"Have you seen him lately?"
"Seen him. Ain't talked to him. He was over to Humdinger's the other night."
"Was he with anybody?"
Tank snorted. "Yeah, he was with Peaches McGee." He chuckled and scratched his head. "She's what you might call a loose woman. She--"
"Okay, thank you again, Tank," Tess said quickly, opening the door. It's definitely time to go.
They headed for the car, with chickens squawking and scurrying out of their way. Just as they reached the car, Tank called out from the porch steps. "Watch out or you'll plow up snakes."
They got in the car, and Tess started the ignition. "Any idea what he meant by that?"
"Yeah, I've heard that expression a time or two. He means to be careful what you do or you'll stir up trouble for yourself."
"Do you think it was a veiled threat?"
"I don't know. He didn't really strike me as an evil person. Tough as nails, rough as a corn cob, and he's got about as much class as a guest on the Jerry Springer Show, but I don't peg him as violent."
"Why do you suppose he didn't want to say where he was last night?"
"Pride. You put him on the defensive, and he didn't want to be there."
"Well, thanks for going with me. It wasn't a complete waste of time, was it?"
"Not at all. We learned Brick Lynch was definitely one of the bank robbers, as well as, at the very least, a participant in the murder, and we learned this state has had some very crooked politicians once or twice. Not that it's any surprise."
"Do you think he was telling the truth about the money? That his grandfather spent it on hush money and booze?"
"Assuming he had to bribe a governor to beat the robbery sentence and a judge to beat the murder charge, yeah, I think it's possible."
"But you don't think he's to blame for the break-ins or for hanging around my house last night?"
"Nope. I think his hesitancy to talk is out of loyalty to his grandfather, plus his natural surly nature."
"Well, if he's not the perp, then who is? Who else would care about some stupid old key that goes to a stupid old trunk that has nothing in it but stupid old keepsakes?"
"Tess, I wish I knew. But whoever it is, he's getting bolder."
She glanced over at him and saw him smiling at her. "What? Why are you smiling?"
"Did you just say 'perp'?"
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