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Just One Piece

Just One Piece-PTO Murder Club Book 3

 

Just One Piece should be out at the end of November.

It’s not up for resale.

Here’s the first chapter. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Chapter 1

 

“I’m sure lots of ex-husbands put hits out on their ex-wives.” Last week I’d found out that my ex David had done just that. Until that moment, I’d thought he was dead. Unfortunately, it turns out he’s very much alive.

“No, I’m pretty sure they don’t.” My best friend Haley who bore a striking resemblance to Cinderella in both looks and naïveté sipped the expensive rosé she’d been good enough to bring to my house.

Haley is super-mega rich, married to a plastic surgeon, and loves me unconditionally. She’s also the secretary of the Bee Creek Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, which means our meeting notes are verbatim, we follow most of the bi-laws, and the rosé is plentiful.

Her nanny, Anise, took our kids to the park.

I can’t afford expensive rosé or even the cheap kind that comes in a box.

My name is Mustang Ridges and no, I’m not a stripper or a dusty Central Texas town. I’m the billing manager for Lakeside Hospital and the president of the Bee Creek Elementary PTO. Oh, and ex-wife to David The Shit who may or may not be the legendary Cerventes who runs the criminal underworld for most of the Continental United States, and wants me dead.

“It certainly had never occurred to me to put a hit out on David.” Mainly because I spend all of my hard-earned money buying frivolous things like food, electricity, and Duncan Donuts K-cups. Now that I think about it, I really should cut back on all that electricity usage. From now on, no more flat ironing my hair. I was going au natural. The good Lord gave my brown frizzy hair and it was time I shared that special gift with the world. “Any idea what the going rate is for killing an ex?”

“No idea.” Haley thought about it for a second. “If it were me, I’d charge no less than six figures.”

Six figures?

If I only ordered off the dollar menu at McDonalds, I just might be able to swing the hit money in about a million years. Then again, how would I explain to my ten-year-old son Max, that we could only order off the dollar menu because Mommy was saving up to have someone kill daddy? And, in a million years David will already be long dead. It really takes the fun out of killing someone if they’re already dead.

“I know a guy who’ll off David for a twenty dollar Starbuck’s gift card.” My other best friend Monica sat across from Haley at my small kitchen table. Monica is our esteemed PTO Vice President.

Also, she’s a badass worker’s compensation claim’s adjuster with lots of attitude and even more black curly hair. I can’t decide if she’s a former CIA agent posing as a worker’s comp adjuster or if she was just in a street gang and learned all sorts of nifty things like how to break into a house and how to steal a car. Either way, I feel like it’s rude to ask.

“Really?” Come to think of it, I’d be willing to do just about anything for a Starbuck’s gift card myself.

“Don’t listen to her.” Haley nodded at Monica. “How good can her hit man be if he’s willing to work for coffee?” Her blue eyes scrunched up in the corners like she was mulling things over. “Is hit man sexist? It feels sexist to me. Should we call them hit persons?”

I hunched my shoulders. “We could just call them killers. That’s gender neutral.”

“I think we’ve gotten off topic.” Monica was excellent at steering us back to the discussion at hand. “We know that David put a hit out on you. Since both of the local contract killers are dead, do you think you’re safe?”

Last month, our beloved kindergarten teacher, Molly Miars, had been murdered. While investigating her murder, we found out that she did some contract killing on the side to supplement her teacher’s salary so that her mother could live in a fancy retirement village. To be fair, if Edna Miars was my mother, I’d have taken up murder-for-hire to keep her out of my house too. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you looked at it, Edna had been murdered last week. Even if I didn’t know who killed her, I wouldn’t care. Some people deserved to be murdered.

“Think Molly and Dr. Turly were the only contract killers in Lakeside?” Haley seemed to think I was in real danger.

It turned out that Molly was killed by her hit man mentor, local pediatrician Dr. Turly, because she refused to complete the hit out on me. Haley had shot Dr. Turley seconds before he was going to kill me so now our little community of Lakeside, Texas was down two hit men—um, hit persons.

“No idea. I guess they could call in someone from the outside.” Call me stupid, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that David wanted me dead. It’s not because we were so in love that I believed he couldn’t live without me, it was more that he’s super cheap. Once, I’d caught him unrolling the two-ply toilet paper, separating the plys, and creating two rolls of crappy one-ply paper. Come to think of it, he loved coupons. Maybe he’d found one for a hit man? It seems to me that two things you always want to pay full price for are contract killing and plastic surgery. You never want the lowest bidder on either.

“Just to be safe, I think you should come to live with me.” Haley poured more rosé into my glass.

“No, really, I’m good.” While living with Haley would be like living in an exclusive spa what with her personal chef, personal massage therapist, and nanny for her twin girls, I still couldn’t bring myself to say yes. It was an imposition, plus, I liked having my own space.

“You could come live with me, but it would be crowded.” Monica has a son the same age as my Max and they live in a tiny duplex. Believe it or not, her house was even smaller than mine.

I live in a guesthouse of Astrid Petrie—Lakeside’s craziest resident. Considering that Lakeside is the Mecca for crazy rich people, that’s saying a lot. My rent is cheap, but I pay the high price of putting up with Astrid.

Both Monica and I are have-nots in a city full of have-everythings. In Lakeside, you’re either mega rich or poor. The middle class pulled up stakes and moved to less greener pastures long ago. Since I aspire to be lower middle class, I should probably move away. Then again, I’m no quitter. And if I moved away who would laugh at all of the bat-shit crazy rich people? It’s really the only public service I provide.

“No, I’m fine right where I am.” My guesthouse wasn’t fancy, but it was all mine—well, it was all mine as long as I paid the rent. It had two tiny bedrooms, one itty-bitty bathroom, a microscopic living room, and a huge kitchen that is completely wasted on me because I’m allergic to cooking. The day I gave up cooking the global number of food poisoning cases decreased by half.

You’re welcome world.

“What about a body guard?” Haley was all concerned Cinderella. “I’m happy to hire one.”

“You mean have someone live with me? I’m pretty sure that Bautista is still following me.” I’d just talked Daman Rodriguez our resident undercover DEA agent who happened to be a trust-fund kid into letting me live alone. He takes over-protection to a new level and that’s why he has his butler/MI6 agent, Bautista watching every move I make.

And then there was Ben Jamison … another trust fund baby who’d grown up to be a Lakeside Police officer who also wanted to keep me safe. With all of these people looking out for me, it was a wonder they let me go to the bathroom by myself.

“No, I’m good. Apart from the occasional listening device installed in my kitchen, I’m safe here.” Well, mostly safe. I’d learned the hard way that you should always write the date on the takeout containers before you stow them in the fridge. After a while, all of those white boxes look alike. Some bad beef and broccoli had ruined Chinese food for me. To this day, I can’t stomach the smell of egg rolls or broccoli or any vegetables cooking.

“Your life’s in danger. David isn’t someone who’s going to give up. That’s why he made such a good police chief.” Haley thought about it for a second. “I guess he wasn’t the best police chief considering that he was behind most of the crime.”

“You think?” Monica sipped her rose´.

Haley stuck her tongue out.

Monica put her hand over her heart. “Sticking out your tongue isn’t cussing, but I believe you’re making progress. I hold out hope that one day you’re going to be able to throw out a ‘fuck you’ in casual conversation.”

Did I mention that Haley is a lot like Cinderella? She doesn’t cuss and rarely eats carbs and exercises daily while Monica and I are more like Trailer Trash Barbie. We cuss, eat tons of carbs, and believe that exercise is a form of mind control that we must resist.

My doorbell bing-bonged.

I glanced at the door and then the clock on the microwave. It was 8:03pm. I wasn’t expecting anyone. I walked to the door and looked out the peephole. There was nothing but night. I opened the door a crack and looked around. There was a small Amazon box sitting neatly in the middle of my Welcome Mat.

I picked it up and shook it. I hadn’t ordered anything from Amazon in over a week. It looked like the box had been opened and resealed with clear packing tape.

I closed the door and brought it to the kitchen table.

“Did Amazon send you something in a resealed box?” Monica leaned over and touched the clear packing tape.

I grabbed my scissors from the butcher block that would have held knives if I actually cooked, and slit the box open.

There was lots of red tissue paper so I moved it aside and gasped. There was a yellow sticky note stuck to what looked like a … it couldn’t be. The note read: He’s mine, bitch. You can’t have him.

“Is that a … ” Haley lowered her voice. “Penis?”