An almost-too-clever young law student in Philadelphia gets a life-or-death call from her estranged brother who just moved to Florida--she tells him to go to hell. She doesn't need this. She's holding an old grudge and resents having her life in Philadelphia interrupted.
The brother doesn't come looking for trouble, but woman-trouble comes looking for him. He doesn't have a clue about women and gets seduced and framed. The sister is his only hope.
The first book in the fast-paced Sandy Reid Mystery Series.
When Ray Reid phoned his sister in Philadelphia and told her he was in a Florida jail on a murder charge, she told him to go to hell.
She flipped her phone off, shoved the book off her lap and got out of bed. Nervy bastard, she thought. He can't really be doing this. Geez, why didn't he make his one phone call to a friend or a lawyer?
Sleepless now, she clicked on the eleven o'clock news: something about an assassination in Florida, some politician. She heard her brother's name.
She picked up the phone then tossed it back down--she didn't need this. He had ignored her distress call years ago, and they had lived on different planets ever since. She stared at her phone. It rang startling her. "I told you to go to hell."
"You didn't tell me anything. Are you in some kind of trouble, Sandy?"
"Joanna, is that you?"
"Yeah, worked late as usual, just got home. I wanted to warn you some media types phoned for you at the office. You've had calls from Fox, some producer at WCAU-TV and get this...I talked to Gretchen Henson at CNN in person. They wanted your home address and phone. Luckily, I was the only one in the office. They got nothing from me. What'd you do, kill someone?"
"Maybe my brother did. He got himself tossed in a Florida jail. How'd they trace me so fast?"
"You told me your brother was dead."
"To me he was, now he's trying to resurrect himself. He wants me to go down there and help him. He mentioned some problem with a woman."
"And screw up my great job up here? Not likely."
"Well, good luck with the media. You'd better figure on extra mirror-time in the morning. If they're not at your door with the cameras at dawn, they soon will be. Let me know if I can help." And Joanna said goodnight.
Back in bed, Sandy turned off the bedside light and jerked the covers over her. Damn him upsetting her like this, she thought. Should go down there just to watch him suffer. It was no use; she was too irritated to sleep.
She turned on the light, found her phone and clicked his call. He answered on the first ring. She snapped, "You managed to get yourself on the national news and now the media are after me. Thank you very much."
"Sandy! You called back, great to hear your voice."
"You're guessing it's me, you forgot what my voice sounds like. Did you happen to give out any info about me down there?"
"No, well...maybe, the detective asked if I had any family. I said just a sister in Philadelphia."
"Damn it, why did you give them my name?"
"I didn't see any harm. I tried to show I was a straight guy with nothing to hide."
"My employer was already called. Raymond, I work for a classy law firm with a spotless reputation. I could lose my job, if the media disrupts the office." She understood it wasn't his fault if some jerk cop down there leaked her name to the media. She cooled off just a bit. "How come you get to keep a phone in jail, anyway?"
"The police took mine for evidence to examine the directory to see who I've called and who's phoned me. They gave me this disposable loaner."
"It's tapped Raymond, the old loaner-phone trick. Watch what you say."
"They think I'm calling my mob mouthpiece in Philly right now. Anyway I'm innocent."
"Innocence is beside the point. Suspicion is your problem." She tried to sound unconcerned. "Isn't this where you're supposed to ask how I've been the last few years?"
"Oh yes, how are you Sandy?"
"You see, I get this call from some guy who says he's my brother. I heard my brother moved to Florida, but it can't be him because he never calls me. As much as I'd enjoy his being in trouble, there's no way he'd be so ballsy as to phone me. You've got the wrong number, buddy."
"Sorry. I'm not very good at keeping in touch."
"Are you going to pretend you actually do call me now and then?"
"Didn't I phone at Christmas?"
"Yeah, two years ago, you wanted someone's address. The TV says you murdered a senator. So, you work there as a hit man?"
"No, I landed a good job down here with a stockbroker doing what I did in Philadelphia. The dead guy was a state senator running for governor. I had absolutely nothing to do with it. You see I met this woman at a party. We went back to my place. Okay, so maybe I have a tiny bit to do with it. But I wasn't the one who shot him. Can I tell you about her? I didn't know her age then."
"I've barely moved in down here and don't know anyone."
"A lot of folks would look forward to spending the last few days of their life in Florida. Where are you located?"
"Park Beach, a small town on Florida's east coast. Someone killed their favorite son. And I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The town wants my blood. There's a big commotion outside right now from all the TV people. The police are crowded around the windows here gawking out. They're heroes for getting a dangerous character like me off the street so quickly. The state attorney doesn't bother to say alleged, just refers to me as the perpetrator. They'll probably skip the formality of a trial. I need someone to find out what's going on, someone to rescue me."
"That's what attorneys are for."
"In this little town my attorney will turn out to be the prosecutor's brother. A jury here will enjoy hanging me."
"I promise they won't hang you, Raymond, they use lethal injection in Florida. Now if I lose my job because of your mess, I'll come down and strangle you myself. They're probably outside my apartment right now setting up a satellite TV truck. I can't wait for my boss to see me on the morning news."
"You ever get your law degree?"
"See what I mean. You've no idea of my situation. They could have your little sister kidnapped in Baghdad for all you know. I still work for Walde & Walde, the criminal defense law firm. Ran out of money for my law degree. Paying off student loans. Work outside the office. I'm the field investigative girl, all criminal cases including murder. I do the legwork. I run around the tri-state area, search through public records, find witnesses and take their statements. I find out the things the prosecution doesn't want found out. Love it."
"That's precisely what I need."
"The firm's going to reimburse me for tuition, so I can get back into law school. When I pass the bar, a lawyer position is waiting for me. Is that dreamy or what?"
"Yes it is. Now, that first night with the woman from the party was no problem. Then she wanted to meet me again at a motel. Somehow, I just ignored the age thing. When she showed up in that tiny thong, I should have known something was going on. But I was too eager."
"Excuse me, you were asking about me. You didn't hear a word I said."
"I heard you, sounds great." He took a quick breath. "The second time we were at a motel. But it's not what you think. I don't mean it was the second time at the motel. I mean, the second time we got together was the first time at the motel. Then I talked to the murdered guy. Before he was murdered, of course. The police didn't understand at all."
"I've got a big problem Sandy."
"If you've no friends to call when you're in trouble, you have an even bigger problem. Everyone needs someone they can phone at 4 a.m."
"You're right. This call isn't going too well is it?"
"Raymond, where were you when I was in trouble?"
"Are you talking about juvie hall? Good grief, that was ten years ago, more. Can't you get past that?"
"Yes, I should get over it but I haven't. I'll work on it. You sit there in jail and I'll work on it."
Was she gone? "Sandy, you still there?"
"Are you convicted yet?"
"I was afraid you'd hung up."
"The longest conversation with my brother in my entire life, and I should hang up?" Her voice had softened somewhat. "Do I wear glasses?"
"Do I wear glasses, yes or no?"
"Glasses? Yes, ah no, I don't think so."
"I rest my case. You'd walk right past me on the street. Somehow, I have it in my mind that there are things you should just know about your sister. That's a stretch for you isn't it?"
"I'm sorry Sandy, but there are years between us. It's not like we were joined at the hip."
"But I thought we were at least friends. Don't you get it? We were born friends. You just don't want to connect with me."
"When I get this behind me, I'm going to make it up to you. Can you forgive me?"
"Forgive you? How about I just forget you?"
He said nothing.
"I know you're in a deep hole down there, and I don't mean to minimize it." The irony of him being the one now in trouble didn't escape her. Maybe she was being too harsh. Nevertheless, it was unfair of him to ask. "I can't leave, Raymond. I've worked hard for this job. I'm not going to screw it up."
"You're right, don't screw up your job. Somehow I thought--."
Then sounding upbeat, she said quickly, "Hey Raymond, hope things turn out all right for you down there. Bye now, I'm gone."
"Wait! I know I've been a lousy brother and don't deserve your help, but there's no one else."
"I'll phone you at Christmas," she said.
The line went dead.