Devil Sent the Rain by Lisa Turner sees the return of hardboiled Detective Billy Able in this dark Southern mystery about the murder of a dazzling Memphis socialite—and the scandals revealed in the wake of her death (Available September 27, 2016).
The heart can be an assassin. Detective Billy Able knows that from experience.
Fresh from solving Memphis’ most sensational murder case, Homicide Detective Billy Able and his ambitious new partner Frankie Malone are called to a bizarre crime scene on the outskirts of town. A high society attorney has been murdered while dressed in a wedding gown. Billy is shocked to discover he has a very personal connection to the victim. When the attorney’s death exposes illegal practices at her family’s prestigious law firm, the scandal is enough to rock the southern city’s social world.
In a tale of the remnants of Old South aristocracy and entitlement, twisted by greed and vengeance, Billy must confront the secrets of his own past to have any chance at solving the murder of the girl he once knew. But as he seeks the truth, he’s drawn closer to an embittered killer bent on revenge—and eliminating the threat Billy poses.
The radio was playing “Blue Skies” when the gun went off.
She’d been the one driving. They talked about the good times ahead, the wedding, the baby. A fresh start. Then the conversation turned sad. She tuned the radio to an oldies station.
Let’s not talk about Finn, she said. Not tonight.
“Blue Skies” came on, her favorite version with Willie Nelson singing the Irving Berlin classic, the perfect song for a cold and rainy November night.
If the baby was a girl, she’d name her Skye.
She was only twenty-nine, but her obstetrician had warned this could be a high-risk pregnancy. She might not carry the baby to term if she didn’t stop taking the drugs. No more alcohol. No more stress, the doctor said. Take a sabbatical from your law practice until the baby comes.
Pregnant. It’s the word that changes everything. Her life had gone from disaster to wedding bells, from hot mess to lollipop dreams in a matter of days. Her mother used to say, “Caroline, you have a talent for picking the wrong men.”
Not this time, Mom.
Rain misted the Camaro’s windshield. She flipped on the wipers and pulled the sweater close about her shoulders, glad to have it, a last-minute offering to keep away the chill. It was blue, a sentimental color, perfect for a wedding. She’d left her coat at home not wanting to crush the delicate lace on the sleeves of her dress. French nuns had made the lace a hundred years ago for her great grandmother’s wedding dress. So beautiful and it might bring a touch of luck.
She turned up the music and glanced over at the passenger side expecting a smile to come to her through the shadows. Instead she was met with the barrel of a gun. The face behind the gun—the one she truly loved—was unrecognizable.
The voice sounded strange, impersonal. Stunned, she did as she was told, the car’s headlights sliding along the white board fence in the darkness.
“Why?” she asked, her own voice thin as a child’s.
“I said pull over.”
Gravel popped beneath the tires as they dropped off the pavement. Something about the sound made her know that if she stopped the car she was dead.
“No!” Her hand came off the wheel and knocked the gun away. The car lit with a flash and a deafening bang. Her ears rang. Her foot jammed down on the accelerator. The Camaro leapt forward and smashed into a farm gate then flew into the field and hit with a jolt. The car’s rear end fishtailed in the mud. Dark figures with scarlet eyes and glistening nostrils lumbered past the headlights. The engine raced. The car nose-dived and slammed to a stop. She pushed back off the steering wheel and made a grab for the gun, fighting and twisting the barrel. The gun flashed again. The bullet struck with the force of a punch to the face. She sank into darkness. Paralyzing silence.
She lost time.
She felt a warm hand on her arm, fingers stroking her lace sleeve. The sweater lifted from her shoulders. Something heavy fell in her lap. She opened her eyes.
But you loved me. Why did you do this?
Her cheek burned. Something warm and wet ran from her nose. The passenger door clicked open. The light was too bright.
Please don’t leave. The baby.
The door shut. The light cut off. She closed her eyes. Rain peppered the roof. Willie Nelson sang as she drifted in the dark.
Blue skies, smiling at me. Nothing but blue skies do I see . . .
The Ford F-150 pickup rocked along in the dark, spinning up loose gravel on the park’s access road. The old truck, loaned to him by his brother-in-law, had busted struts and seats soaked in defoliants and nicotine. The brakes were shot. Through the hole in the floorboard he could see the asphalt flying by, but he had no complaints. He was headed to work early, 4:00 am, fingernails clipped and his hair slicked back. Roscoe Hanson was lean and clean. The ladies love a clean man, especially a man with tattoos. He had his eye on a young thing working the line, the one with the big tits and soft mouth. She made sure to bump his butt when she passed on her way to the sink.
The truck’s headlights streamed across the white board fence. Cold night air rolled through the cab window intoxicating his thoughts. The white line dropped off at the farm gate and picked up again. Ten seconds down the road his brain clicked in. He pumped the brakes and backed onto the shoulder to shine his high beams. The aluminum gate was bent in the middle and hanging open, the kind of damage done by a swerving car. The herd of bison in that field was the park’s biggest attraction. He didn’t understand why people lined their cars on the road to watch a bunch of fancy damned buffalo at feeding time, but they did. Securing those bison might mean a reward. He leaned across the seat and opened the glove box for the flashlight.
As he climbed out of the truck, the night around him was black as carbon from the rainstorm that had just passed. He sensed the dark forms ranging through the pasture, disturbed and restless, their padded hooves heavy on the wet grass. No way to know if any of them had escaped to the road. Hit one of them monsters and you’d be road jelly. When he got to the restaurant, he’d call the Shelby Farms office and leave a message saying how he’d kept their animals from crashing into cars on Walnut Grove.
He used the flashlight to scrounge baling wire from the truck bed. He was wiring the gate shut when a bison somewhere deep in the field must have moved because a slice of red taillight was suddenly visible in the dark. Sumbitch. The car that had smashed the gate was out there. Either the driver walked out and left the gate open, or he was passed out drunk behind the wheel. Give the guy a hand and he might come across with a couple of twenties.
He unwired the gate, searching the dark for the bison. No matter. Ain’t nothing out there but a herd of cows called by a different name.
The muck in the field slimed his boots as he made his way to the back of a red 1968 Chevy Camaro Z/28. A gotdamned hot car. The engine was running, exhaust puffing from the tailpipe. He shone the beam over the vanity plate. SPARROW. The flashlight dimmed. He shook it and fanned the light across the car’s interior. A woman was in the driver’s seat. She was alone.
“Hey, you. In the car. You all right?” He rapped on the trunk with his knuckles and walked around to the driver’s side. The woman had her head turned away from the window, her blond hair covering the side of her face. He tapped the glass with the rim of the flashlight and shone the light inside.
She didn’t respond.
He trailed the light over her white dress and down the long skirt she’d piled onto the center console. The beam caught the sparkle of a small handbag in her lap. He got it. This was a bride, a runaway bride. Before the guy could get her out of the dress she’d stolen his car and run the damned thing into the field. Hot damn this was rich. He opened the door. The interior light came on.
“Wake up, lady.”
Passed out. Drunk like he’d figured. Weddings will do that. In-laws start fistfights in the parking lot. The groom goes out back of the hall with his buddies and gets ripped then makes a fool of himself on the dance floor. Can’t blame a gal for running off. He touched her hand and snatched back from it. She was cold as lard. Then he saw the blood on the front of her dress.
Jesus God, she was dead. Been dead awhile. He took a step back, unwilling to be caught with a dead woman when he was four months out on parole and getting his act up and running again. His gaze went to the handbag with little crystals sparkling in the dome light. Hell, she didn’t need it so why not? He grabbed it, opened it. Inside was the usual crap and—Wow!—a silver money clip, its jaws wide around a stack of bills. He stuffed the money in his pocket, wiped his prints off the frame of the bag and flipped it across the woman to the passenger side. Smart move coming here. Time to get out.
He was backing away when a pounding sound made him swing around and raise the flashlight. The beam struck the eye of a bull charging at him like a battering ram. Shit! He scrambled to put the car between him and the bull and made it as far as the front tire when he knew the bull had him. The massive head hooked upward and sent him flying, his body slamming onto the Camaro’s hood. The bull backed off and bellowed, swung his head, and charged again, ramming the fender so hard the car shuddered. He climbed to his hands and knees. Pain jolted through his shoulder as he flung himself onto the roof. He grabbed his arm. His hand came away bloody.
The bull stood six feet from the Camaro, shaking his horns and shifting side to side. No phone. No traffic. But there would be. There would be cops.
He was fucked.
From DEVIL SENT THE RAIN by Lisa Turner. Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Turner. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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Lisa Turner, born in Memphis, travels between her ancestral home in the Deep South and her writing getaway on the wildly beautiful coast of Nova Scotia.