Second to Nun: New Excerpt

Second to Nun by Alice Loweecey is the 2nd cozy Giulia Driscoll mystery about a nun-turned-private investigator (available September 22, 2015).

The Other Side has hired Driscoll Investigations. The owner of Stone’s Throw Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast insists that a tarot reading told her to hire Giulia to evict the family ghost. Since the ghost is cutting gas lines and flooding cellars, Giulia and her husband Frank head to the B&B to discover the real perpetrator.

The client also has a family legend: A highwayman who stole a pile of gold. Giulia has a pile of suspects, including a psychic the client hired to conduct weekly séances. So much for romance with Frank at this getaway.

Instead, Giulia’s juggling arson, creepy clown dolls, and the psychic going all Exorcist on her. Then the ghost tries to push the client off the lighthouse and throw Giulia down three flights of stairs. It should’ve known better than to mess with an ex-nun. Giulia has connections and she’s about to use them.

One

Hot, tired, and triumphant, Giulia Driscoll pushed open Driscoll Investigations’ frosted glass door.

“Nobody talk to me until I rip these nylon torture devices off my legs.”

She hung her purse on the coat rack and headed straight for the narrow bathroom. Seconds later, she stuffed her pantyhose into the pocket of her navy blue suit jacket and wiggled blissfully free toes. She opened the door again, carrying her low-heeled shoes in her left hand.

“A few years back, I thought pretending to be a nun again was the worst undercover job I’d ever have. Wrong. If that company calls me for a follow-up interview, I’m wearing pants.”

Zane, her all-but-genius admin, looked at her with that expression men get when women are the most inscrutable creatures on the planet. Sidney, her perky, all-natural assistant, fist-bumped Giulia as she went past.

“If I ever try to institute a formal dress code here,” Giulia said, “you have permission to pour cold water over my head until I come to my senses.”

“Did they fall for it?” Zane said.

“Did you catch the cheating scumbag harassing the receptionist?” Sidney said.

“To answer Zane’s question: Possibly. I gave the HR person ideal canned answers as much as I could. That’s one reason I used my maiden name. You never know if someone’s heard of Driscoll Investigations.”

She pulled out a chair at the worktable under the single window and stretched her spine, dangling her head over the back of the chair and dropping the shoes in the same motion.

The position gave her an upside-down view of the stores across the street: The pizza place that filled the air with the aroma of frying sausage every morning, the celebrity tanning studio, the combination New Age/Tarot Reading shop, and the cell phone store on the corner. The pre-lunch rush had started. Several people headed into the cell phone store. The pizza delivery Honda pulled into traffic after a taxi and a city bus zoomed past. The tanning salon looked deserted, as always. A tall, white-haired woman in flowered capris and a blue camp shirt came out of the Tarot shop.

Zane said, “How soon did they ask you about your greatest weakness?”

Giulia sat up again and laughed. “It’s one of the questions on the intake form.”

Zane leaned forward, his white-blond hair falling over his eyes. “Do they think anyone answers that question honestly?”

“Maybe it’s their inside joke. Sidney, the cheating scumbag did indeed harass the receptionist. He’s so good at it—you know what I mean—that if I hadn’t been looking for inappropriate touching I wouldn’t have noticed anything out of the ordinary.”

Zane mirrored Sidney’s frown so well they looked like the positive and negative prints of a photograph. “Seriously, why is that receptionist putting up with his crap? This isn’t the 1950s. The company’s employee handbook has to have a section on sexual harassment.”

“It’s not that straightforward. The CEO and the scumbag are golf and drinking buddies. He’s done this before and gotten away with it. He targets a low-level employee who can’t afford to make trouble at the job. The receptionist’s disabled father lives with her and her income pays the rent. She needs the job for that and the health insurance.”

Sidney made a noise that sounded like an angry bear. “We’ve got giant hogweed in the fields behind our alpaca pasture. Let’s toss him into it naked.”

Giulia said, “Is it similar to poison ivy?”

“Not even close. Hogweed gets like ten feet tall and causes blisters and burns that can hang on for years.”

“That’s much better than my idea of dumping him into the koi fountain in the company’s lobby.” Giulia stood, still barefoot. “Did I miss anything around here?”

The door burst open. The white-haired woman from the Tarot shop strode in and looked at all three of them in turn.

“I need the owner, right now.”

Giulia stepped forward. “I’m Giulia Driscoll. How may I help you?”

The woman grabbed Giulia’s hand and dragged her toward the door. “I have to take you to Lady Rowan.”

Giulia dug her heels into the just-buffed wood floor. “Release my hand, please.”

The woman tugged harder. Giulia braced against her and kept herself in the same spot.

“Please release my hand.”

“All right.” The woman complied. “I’m sorry, but this is urgent. Lady Rowan told me that I must seek the Veiled Woman immediately.”

Giulia glanced at Sidney and Zane, who both shrugged.

“She’s the Tarot reader, of course.” The woman pointed out the window with her left hand and reached into her straw purse with her right. “Here.” She slapped a checkbook with a lighthouse cover on Zane’s desk. “Private detectives get a retainer, right? They always do in the movies. You hold my checkbook while I take your boss to consult with Rowan. When we return I’ll pay for this appointment.”

Giulia slipped bare feet into her shoes. This promised to be much better than spying on a cheating husband. “Let’s go.”

Copyright © 2015 Alice Loweecey.

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Baker of brownies and tormenter of characters, Alice Loweecey recently celebrated her thirtieth year outside the convent. She grew up watching Hammer horror films and Scooby-Doo mysteries, which explains a whole lot. When she’s not creating trouble for Giulia Driscoll, she can be found growing her own vegetables (in summer) and cooking with them (the rest of the year).

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