Fatal Family Ties by S. C. Perkins: New Excerpt

S. C. Perkins's Fatal Family Ties is the captivating third mystery in the Ancestry Detective series, in which Texas genealogist Lucy Lancaster deals with murders in both the past and present. Start reading an excerpt here!

ONE

I was angling my taco toward my mouth with the speed of the ravenous when a voice made me nearly fall off my barstool.

“Lucy, you have to help me!”

My taco hit my cheek instead, and juicy pork carnitas began dribbling down the left side of my face. At the same time, several thinly sliced radishes spilled out of the corn tortilla and back into the woven-plastic basket where my second taco lay waiting.

A paper napkin appeared, and then another. I snatched them and tried to mop myself up before anything dripped onto my white silk blouse.

“You have cilantro on your chin.” Another napkin fluttered in front of my face.

Removing the offending herb, I finally turned with narrowed eyes and then felt them pop open in surprise. There, sitting next to me at the counter at Big Flaco’s Tacos, was Camilla Braithwaite, one of my three least-favorite former coworkers.

“Camilla?” I sputtered. “What are you doing here? How did you even find me?”

In answer, she pulled a magazine from her purse and dropped it down on the counter. It landed on the edge of my bowl of queso, sending precarious ripples through the warm, spicy cheese dip. Hastily, I moved the dish away as she jabbed her index finger at the magazine. The cover and several pages had been turned back so it was open to an article near the middle. Camilla’s striking light brown eyes were intense, almost as much as the scent of her perfume.

“I took a chance and went to your office, even though it’s Saturday. Josephine—she’s British, right? She was speaking Italian on the phone when she let me in, but when we talked she sounded like the Duchess of Cambridge. Anyway, she said you were here. I’ve come to see you, about this.”

With one more jab of her finger for emphasis, I looked down.

THE BATTLE OF JUST PLAIN BULL

THE INFLATED LIFE AND CONTINUED LIES 

OF AMERICA’S LAST CIVIL WAR SOLDIER

Picking up the magazine, I said, “Hey, I saw this headline a few days ago.” I flipped to the cover to be sure. Yep, it was Chronology, a national publication put out by one of the biggest and best museums in the country, known for making articles about history so interesting, they inspired many a social media discussion, and even a few movies. “I get the digital version now, but it’s on my list of articles to read.” Glancing at some of the photos, the history-loving side of me was thrilled. Despite myself, I smiled. Dang my naturally sunny disposition! It came out at the worst times.

Camilla didn’t return my smile. “So you haven’t read it yet.” “Nope,” I said, handing back the magazine with my left hand while picking up my fork with my right to spear some of the fallen carnitas and radishes. Adding a squirt of lime to my forkful, I savored it, wishing Camilla and her flowery perfume would go away so I could enjoy my lunch in peace. I was finishing up a client’s genealogy project today, and if I didn’t lollygag at Flaco’s like I normally did, I could complete it by early afternoon, leaving my Saturday evening open for much better things. Glancing out the taqueria’s glass doors, where March had brought sunshine and springtime weather, I felt my spirits lifting at the thought of the romantic plans I had in store for tonight with— 

“Read it now,” Camilla said, interrupting my daydream and turning the article back around. My eyebrow arched. “Please,” she added.

With a stiff toss of her head, her thick, russet-colored hair obediently swished from her collarbone to behind her shoulders. It’d been nearly four years since I’d last seen Camilla. Yet during the sixteen months I’d worked at the Howland University library in Houston, where I’d been a staff genealogist and she one of three research librarians, I’d come to recognize she did that particular move with her hair only when she was stressed. When she was relaxed, she brushed it back with her hand.

In truth, Camilla Braithwaite was normally fairly even-keeled and, of the three research librarians, I’d liked Camilla the most. She’d been easygoing and had a good sense of humor . . . when she and I were alone, that was. When the other two research librarians—Roxie Iverson and Patrice Alvarez—were around, however, and push came to shove in the library’s social pecking order, Camilla had been a lemming. She’d followed the mean-spirited direction of the other two, treating me as if my niceness and generally happy personality were irritating traits rather than worthy of appreciation. In appeasing the small-mindedness of our coworkers, Camilla had helped me feel like a permanent outsider. So, she’d become my third least favorite.

“Why is it so important I read this?” I asked, holding up the magazine with one hand. With the other, I scooped up a hefty bite of my fallen carnitas, just succeeding in delivering them to my mouth without incident as she replied.

“Because I need you to prove it’s not true.”

 

TWO

My curiosity grappled with my perhaps saner instinct to get up and walk out the door.

“Why me?” I asked. “You’re a researcher, and a very good one. Why can’t you do it?”

“Because it involves the type of research genealogists normally do, and that’s not my forte. Nor Roxie’s or Patrice’s, you know that.”

Darn right I did.

“Then why haven’t you asked Ginger?” I said. “She’s an incredible genealogist, and right there, in-house, working with you.”

When I’d worked at Howland University, Ginger Liening had been my direct manager, a senior genealogist, and taught the university’s genealogy studies courses. I’d adored working alongside her—when I got the chance to, at least. As an entry-level staff genealogist, I’d often been tasked with helping the research librarians as much as helping Ginger. Roxie had claimed they needed my assistance, but what they really wanted was someone to do their grunt work. Since I’d needed the job, both for the experience and the money, I hadn’t been in a position to do anything but say yes to every project.

“Ginger retired and moved to Arizona with her husband six months ago,” Camilla said.

“Dang it, that’s right. I sent her flowers and everything. I don’t know where my mind was.” Scooping up another bite of carnitas, I said, “Though surely y’all have hired a replacement since then. Why not ask her or him?”

“Him, actually,” she said. “Trent—that’s his name. He does a decent job, yes, but I want someone who does what you do.”

Camilla’s cheeks turned a bit pink, which I’d never seen happen to her before.

“Which is?” I asked, though I suspected I knew what she meant.

She cleared her throat. “Look . . . back when we worked together, you . . . cared.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” I grumbled, but Camilla went on regardless.

“I saw it when people came in, wanting help with their ancestry,” she said. “You understood how the past could affect a person or their family. That’s what I need, someone who cares when things are sensitive.”

I blinked. That wasn’t what I expected.

“Not because I . . . you know . . . helped solve a couple of mysteries late last year?”

“A couple?” she said, the furrows in her brow deepening. “I only heard about the one with the senator.”

I wanted to kick myself. At my request, the FBI and the Austin Police Department had worked to withhold from the press my name and assistance in uncovering a murderous hotel front-desk manager’s attempts to take out the descendants of eight World War II spies, one of whom was me. Instead, all the kudos had gone to Detective Maurice Dupart and his team at the APD, and I’d been relieved to remain out of the spotlight.

“Never mind,” I said hastily. Taking the magazine from her, I flipped through the article’s pages. “You’d better order something,” I said. “This puppy is six pages long and I don’t speed-read.”

Ana, Flaco’s best waitress, seemed to have heard me, and offered Camilla a menu before placing a small bowl of freshly made guacamole in front of me with a grin.

Flaco me dijo que necesitas esto,” she said.

I grinned back at her. Yeah, Flaco was likely right. I probably did look like I needed some guacamole.

As usual, I could see Flaco multitasking at his grill, wielding tongs in one hand and a ladle in the other, all while glancing over his beefy shoulders from time to time, keeping an eye on his customers, and especially on me. Julio “Big Flaco” Medrano already treated me like his fourth child, but after my genealogical projects and general nosiness had gotten me into some hot water last year, he’d become extra protective, watching over me like a huge guard dog with a handlebar mustache.

Camilla ordered a Dr Pepper and eyed my guacamole as I used a tortilla chip to scoop up the gently mashed avocado spiked with fresh lime juice and mixed with chopped red onions, cilantro, jalapeños, and tomatoes. She then asked for an order with tortilla chips for herself as I began reading.

His name was Charles Edward Braithwaite, and he was a coward, a deserter, and a charlatan.

I blinked up at Camilla. She had a smattering of freckles across her nose and full lips, which were pressed together in dismay. I turned back to the article.

After that explosive first sentence, the article about the life of Corporal Charles Braithwaite of Houston, Texas, who had the distinction of being the longest-lived soldier who’d fought in the Civil War, was interesting enough that I was able to block out the crunching noises Camilla was making as she plowed through her guacamole.

I read that Charles Braithwaite was born in Houston in 1842 to a family so poor, he and his siblings rarely had shoes. As a youth, he often stole food to feed his brothers and sisters, but was known for being able to slip away before anyone noticed, and thus never got caught. He intermittently worked for farmers in the area, picking raspberries, pears, and cotton, but never held steady employment.

However, in August 1861, at age nineteen, Charles was finally caught trying to make off with several heads of cabbage, but escaped incarceration by enlisting with the Fifth Texas Infantry Regiment as they prepared to fight in the war between the states. The Fifth Texas became part of Hood’s Texas Brigade and fought in many well-known campaigns under General Robert E. Lee in Northern Virginia, from Seven Pines all the way to the Battle of Appomattox Court House, where Lee eventually surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, beginning the end of the Civil War.

Charles Braithwaite, on the other hand, stuck around for only a couple of those battles. According to the article, he deserted his regiment on September 1, 1862, after the bloody campaign at Manassas, Virginia, which came to be known as the Second Battle of Bull Run.

I read on. The article claimed to have evidence that instead of going home to Houston after deserting, Charles made his way south to a small town in Louisiana, where he hid until the war’s end. After finally returning to Houston in 1865, he soon found no one had heard of his desertion, mainly because his regiment had been decimated at Antietam and subsequent battles. It turned out that Charles Braithwaite had few cohorts, if any, to check his past.

For years thereafter, Braithwaite lived quietly. He married, had three children, and worked at a lumber mill, rising up to the post of foreman. He eventually retired, having been known for being a fair boss and for hiring and promoting men based on their merit instead of on their race or color. He’d also provided enough food on the table that his children never had to steal themselves.

There were two short paragraphs that read favorably toward Charles. The reporter wrote that Charles “dabbled as an artist,” occasionally submitting illustrations to local Houston newspapers of the time. He even returned home from his hideout in Louisiana in time to be in the crowd at the famous Texas Emancipation Day announcement on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger of the Union Army stood on the balcony of Ashton Villa in Galveston, Texas, and announced the freeing of all enslaved people under General Orders, No. 3. A photo in the middle of the article showed Charles’s drawing of what he saw that day. He’d beautifully captured the jubilation of the Black residents at hearing the news of their freedom at what would later become known as the first Juneteenth celebration. While the Chronology reporter called most of his other drawings “generally simplistic,” it was admitted that Charles had a talent for drawing people.

The next paragraph then briefly laid out Charles’s well-documented support of the Black population in Houston and throughout Texas, including working with the Freedmen’s Bureau, stumping for political candidates who supported the rights of Black people, and, later, vocally opposing racial segregation laws. His children, Nathaniel, Edward, and Henrietta, and later their children, often accompanied him, and followed in his footsteps as adults. It was also mentioned that Charles gave to the poor, supported women’s suffrage, and was adamant that education and medical services be a high priority for everyone.

Yet that was as close as the reporter went in a positive direction. In 1920, the article stated, when Charles was seventy-eight years old—having already outlived most people born in the mid-1800s—he recognized his golden opportunity. He began to embellish his history, especially his time in the war, for his own profit, giving his rank as corporal instead of what it actually was: private.

Still spry and healthy, Charles began taking speaking engagements, first in Houston, then in other parts of Texas, and began eventually traveling throughout parts of the South. As his fame for being a surviving Civil War soldier grew, parades were given in his honor and he was feted at nearly every turn. In his hometown of Houston, a park was named for him, as was Braithwaite Elementary. Later, as the Second World War drew nearer, two scholarships were set up in his name for underprivileged students looking to go into the armed forces.

Overall, the Chronology reporter had thoroughly denigrated Charles for seeking to make money off his time as a Confederate soldier. Nevertheless, they had still conceded that Charles refused to glorify the war and the aims of the Confederacy in his popular talks, often rebuking anyone who attempted to encourage him to do so. Instead, he spoke of his fellow soldiers’ hardships, the suffering he and his comrades endured, and watching his friends die in battle. Records of his talks proved Charles also exalted the bravery of all soldiers—Confederate and Union alike—during the course of the war. And audiences ate it up.

I paused in my reading. The article was indeed an exposé, but it had been well-written thus far, walking the line between giving the hard facts and being downright accusatory, and tempering it all with a bit of praise here and there. I flipped through the last two pages, which contained several photos and a couple of fairly inflammatory pull quotes, including one that read “Braithwaite went so far as to invent a fellow soldier named Powers in his journal, writing about him as if this young private had been his friend, though no such soldier existed.” I could see why Camilla was upset, sure, but I was beginning to feel like she was being overly dramatic about insisting the article’s allegations be debunked.

After taking in a photo of Corporal Braithwaite as a handsome young man and noting he’d passed his high forehead and cleft chin down to his descendant sitting next to me, I glanced back at the first page to check the reporter’s name.

“Camilla,” I said, “it sounds like this Savannah Lundstrom did her research. I sympathize with you on what she says about your ancestor, I really do, but I have to say, I’m not seeing anything in here that warrants being proven untrue.”

I ran my fingers over the photo of Charles Braithwaite in his full-dress uniform, then met Camilla’s eyes. “It’s a shame he deserted his regiment, yes, but we don’t know why he did. It could have been post-traumatic stress disorder, for instance. PTSD is hardly a recent phenomenon, you know. They had different names for the symptoms back then, calling it everything from ‘feeble will’ to ‘mania.’ In fact, the heart palpitations of panic attacks were often called ‘soldier’s heart’ and were chalked up to practically everything other than true psychological conditions. War is hell for everyone involved, and Charles could have been suffering so much mental anguish that he just ran.” I softened my voice. “It’s possible he wanted to go back to his regiment, but feared being shot on sight for desertion. I think judging him solely on that one act when we can never know all the facts is a little harsh, especially when we know he went on to be an upstanding man in most every other respect.”

Pointing to a paragraph on page two, I said, “Case in point, Ms. Lundstrom even acknowledges your ancestor spoke out on behalf of Black people and their welfare long before he became famous. And in his job at the lumber mill, he was known for being one of the few to hire and promote men irrespective of their race or color. She even admits that while he made his fortune off recounting tales of being in the Civil War, he spoke about what it was like being a soldier, not to glorify the Confederacy.”

To this, Camilla nodded, saying with pride, “Yes, my ancestor’s antiracist views are well documented, and my family upholds those views to this day.” Then she fell back into a strained silence, and I picked up the baton again.

“All right, then. Despite his one questionable act of leaving his regiment, I say you should be proud of him, the person he was, and what he accomplished on the whole.” I went to close the magazine. “Camilla, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can help you with this, and I really need to get back to my office. I’ve got a project to finish up and I really don’t want to work late tonight. I have—”

“Keep going until the end,” she cut in, before I could finish with the words a date tonight with my boyfriend. What I wouldn’t have added, but really wanted to shout from the mountaintops, was that my boyfriend was a handsome FBI agent who’d just come home after a long undercover assignment and had a whole week off to spend time with me.

I gave Camilla a look of undiluted exasperation and felt a little proud of myself for that small act. When I’d worked with Camilla, Roxie, and Patrice at the Howland library, I’d reined in any feelings or actions that weren’t friendly or helpful. I had to, for the sake of both keeping my job and maintaining a peaceful work environment.

Now, though? I was my own boss, and I owed Camilla nothing. Or next to nothing. I had no desire to be rude or disrespectful to her, especially for reasons as silly as office-hierarchy pettiness. To me, the better way to do things was to live well and happily, without giving consequence to the unworthy people in one’s past.

That’s not to say it’s always easy when one of those people is staring you in the face and practically demanding your help.

“Please,” Camilla said again, with a pleading note in her voice. “Keep reading until the end.”

I felt myself relenting. Darn it if I weren’t a nice person who was willing to keep giving people chances! I scowled and went back to the article, though it didn’t take much longer for my grumpy expression to change to one of astonishment at what I read.

 

Before they knew it, Charles Braithwaite and his family were earning money hand over fist, and his children and grandchildren were suddenly being welcomed at the best houses and social events in Texas and beyond. The formerly poor Braithwaites had moved on up to houses in the finest area in Houston, and they didn’t let anyone forget it.

At the time of Private Braithwaite’s death in 1945, it is estimated that he and his family had earned around $75,000—the equivalent of over a million dollars today—for his appearances as a Civil War veteran. Braithwaite made no bones about his appearance fees, either, and he didn’t care from whom he took money. In 1925, Zacharias Gaynor spent a month’s wages to have Braithwaite come to his house for dinner, a regular custom throughout history that often served to increase the host’s social standing. It did nothing for the Gaynor family, however, and Zacharias, after spending all his family’s money, was later sentenced to eight weeks in prison for failure to pay his debts, losing his job as a result. We can only guess at the hell his family endured during that time and afterward. But did Braithwaite care, or return the man’s money? Of course not, and he only continued to milk his fame even when he became feeble, deaf, and nearly blind from cataracts.

Such was the delight at having a real-life Civil War “hero” in their midst that some local companies even spent a bundle just to have Braithwaite, who was semi-bedridden by this time, show up for one parade or another to wave listlessly from the back seat of a car, shilling for some company he no doubt couldn’t even name.

Oh, but his children and subsequent generations were smart with the money Braithwaite gained. The three clans stemming from Charles and his wife, Violet, spread out over Texas and the United States, no longer the descendants of a man who stole as a youth and deserted his regiment as a soldier. No, the families continue to live off the image their ancestor so carefully cultivated from his lies. They still speak of Charles Braithwaite’s valor, hard work, open-mindedness, and honesty whenever they can, holding him up as a paragon of the greatest kind of American, not caring that the legacy upon which their livelihoods were founded was hardly that of a great man, but instead the most selfish of cowards.

It seems that even today, escaping the truth is a well-honed Braithwaite skill.

 

THREE

Slowly, I closed the magazine. While I’d known Chronology to publish articles that contained harsh truths about historical figures, I’d never seen one take such a pointed and vitriolic aim at its subject’s descendants.

“Do you see what I mean now?” Camilla asked.

“I sure do,” I said. “Wow. And I have to say, I’d heard of the Braithwaite family in Houston, of course, but I didn’t know you were related to them. I don’t think we ever talked about it when you and I worked together.”

That was actually an understatement. I’d been open about my life and background to my coworkers, but Roxie, Camilla, and Patrice had given me very few details about themselves in return. The most I knew about Camilla was that she had two teenage sons and that she’d gone back to her maiden name after getting divorced. There were times I’d wondered about her background, but my few attempts at engaging her in talking about anything personal during the sixteen months we’d worked together had always been met with a return to her standoffish demeanor and a segue in conversation.

“I don’t care to talk about it with most people,” Camilla told me. “Roxie and Patrice come from more humble beginnings, and when I started at the library six years ago, I had to work hard to convince them I wasn’t some rich snob. My branch of the Braithwaite family has done well, but my parents were both college professors. We were comfortable, yes, but we certainly lived a lot less extravagantly than my cousins. Still, I’ve never felt like I need to explain myself to others.”

And there we were again. I had been an “other” instead of a friendly coworker.

“How did you even see this article?” I asked, determined not to feel slighted. “I mean, I know we had a subscription to Chronology at the library, but I don’t recall ever seeing you read it.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I felt terrible for how rude I must have sounded. Camilla, however, didn’t seem to notice.

“I don’t normally,” she said on a sigh, staring through the pass-through at Flaco, watching him flip sizzling slabs of meat while instructing his sous-chef, Juan, to chop some more vegetables. “One of the college students was reading it while I was looking up some information for her. She noticed the name Braithwaite and asked if I was related to Charles. When I said yes, she handed me the article and told me I’d better read it.”

I decided it would be best to circle back to why Camilla had so unceremoniously interrupted my pleasant lunch in the first place.

“So, what is it exactly that you want me to prove? That your ancestor was telling the truth about staying in the war and receiving his corporal’s stripes?” When she focused on me again, I asked, “Do you believe your ancestor was telling the truth?”

Her nod was vehement. “I do. We’ve always known he fought in the war and earned his promotion to corporal. There was never any hint that he was a deserter.”

With most of my clients, I was careful in my replies to their long-held family notions. I understood all too well how important it was to believe your family—believe in your family—even the people you had never met and those who had passed away decades or more before you were even born. It wasn’t rational by any means, but it didn’t stop any of us from feeling it and wanting the positive stories we’d known about our ancestors to be true.

However, Camilla wasn’t a client, not yet. I also didn’t want to take on a fruitless endeavor that would put me at the beck and call of someone who had already proven herself unworthy of my trust.

“What proof do you have?” I asked. It was a bit blunt, but Camilla gave me only the merest of side glances before answering.

“Beyond all the family stories, we have a few other things, including Charles’s journal and a photo with him in his corporal’s uniform. We also have a letter from Charles to his father detailing the Battle of Seven Pines, after which he earned his promotion to corporal. He wrote about the horrors of war and the bravery of his fellow soldiers even then.” Camilla’s eyes registered earnest belief. “It’s a very moving letter. I can show it to you, if you like.”

All I could think was, And every bit of that could have been forged or re-created after the war to suit his purposes. Still, I said, “Yes, I’d love to see it. Did you bring the materials with you from Houston?”

Camilla shook her head. “No, everything is already here in Austin. My family gave all of it to the Harry Alden Texas History Museum when it opened in 2003. They have it on display in their Civil War section.” Then she frowned. “Well, they do for now. A friend of mine who works for another museum told me the curator will most likely be obliged to take the exhibit of my ancestor down until they can confirm the truth.”

I laced my fingers together. “Camilla, I don’t know the curator of the Alden museum, but I do know the assistant curator. He’s a good guy, and if he has to investigate, he’ll do so thoroughly and with respect. In fact, he also has researchers for things like this who are just as good, if not better, than me. I can give you his phone number and email right now.” I opened up my phone to go to my contacts. “Why don’t you call him, explain the situation up front, and let him and his team do the work for you? Not only will you get high-quality research but you’ll also get it for free. With me, you’d not only have to hire me, you’d unfortunately have to pay me a premium to fit you in between the three upcoming projects I have on tap. I’d have to push one or more of them back to work on this, and they may go to another genealogist once they’ve been notified I can’t start their project on time.”

I wasn’t bluffing. On my website was a clear notice that anyone who wanted a rush job would be charged extra. If one of my other clients opted to go to a competitor because I had to push their job back a little, I wanted to make sure I could still pay my bills.

Camilla was shaking her head. “No, I want you to handle this. I want it done with discretion and . . . and by somebody who cares, like I said. I’ll pay you your rate plus the premium.”

To my surprise, she reached into her purse and pulled out a checkbook, then looked at me with solemn determination. “What do I owe you as a retainer for now? Or would you rather me transfer the money electronically? Either is fine.”

“Hold on,” I said, gently putting my hand over the check before she could start writing. Even if she could afford it, I didn’t think it was fair to take her money without fleshing out a good reason for it first. “You’re rushing into this, Camilla, and I have to know. Why is this so important to you?”

“Does it really matter why?” she said, sitting back when I’d taken my hand away.

“It does,” I said. “I mean, I get that you wouldn’t want your relative’s legacy to be tarnished, but, if you’ll forgive me, who is really going to care that much, outside of your family and maybe a handful of others, like the museum curator?”

“I’ve no doubt there will be an article in the Houston Chronicle and pieces on all the local news stations, too,” she said darkly.

“Probably, yes,” I said. “I agree that it wouldn’t be fun to have such an article written about an ancestor of mine. Still, with the way the media and people’s memories move on in the blink of an eye, whatever scandal that comes from this would be forgotten in a couple of days, at most.”

She was quiet, like she was really hearing me, so I continued to press my point.

“Also, while Charles Braithwaite did take money for appearances, he hardly stole it. Nor did he present himself as some sort of hero. He merely pushed himself up one rank, to corporal, which sounds more prestigious than ‘private,’ yes, though not by much. I really don’t think that now, over seventy-five years after his death and over a hundred and fifty-five years after the Civil War, anyone is really going to care that Charles Braithwaite deserted his regiment and then sought a little bit of fame from outliving his fellow soldiers.”

“He wasn’t a deserter,” Camilla snapped, her voice growing louder and a flash of anger bringing out more bright spots in her cheeks. A few patrons sitting by us at the bar turned to stare. “Look, Charles fought for the Confederacy, yes, though his speeches thankfully confirm that he had no interest in glorifying its aims for the war. Nevertheless, when it came to his rank, he fought, and fought bravely, and he was promoted for it. He earned his corporal’s stripes, Lucy.”

I opened my mouth to give a hopefully soothing reply, but Camilla wasn’t done.

“But you’re right, preserving that part of his legacy isn’t the only thing that’s bothering me. There’s also someone who’s claiming Charles ruined their family,” she said. “And another person is starting a petition to have the park and elementary school renamed.” She held up the magazine and shook it. “People are starting to use these claims to disparage my family.”

 

Copyright © 2021 by S. C. Perkins.


About Fatal Family Ties by S.C. Perkins:

Lucy is just about to tuck into a plate of tacos at her favorite Austin joint, Big Flaco’s, when she gets an unexpected visit from her former—and least-favorite—co-worker. Camilla Braithwaite hasn’t gotten much friendlier since the last time Lucy saw her, but that doesn’t stop her from asking a favor. In her hand is a newspaper feature on an ancestor, a civil war corporal—and a liar, according to the article. Charles Braithwaite is depicted as a phony and a deserter, and Camilla wants Lucy’s help clearing his name.

Lucy would prefer to spend her free time with her new beau, special agent Ben Turner, but takes the case, making no promises that Camilla will like the outcome of her investigation. Camilla leads Lucy to the Texas History Museum, where their first clue is a triptych painting, passed down in the Braithwaite family for generations, one panel of which has disappeared. But before Lucy can get much further, a member of the Braithwaite family is murdered in his own bed, and another panel of the painting found missing.

There are no shortage of suspects among the Braithwaite clan—including Camilla herself. This case will take Lucy to Houston and back again as she works to find the truth, and catch an elusive killer.

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