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Wes Darling Books 1-3

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Set in and around the Florida Keys, The Wes Darling Collection is the perfect go to for fans of fast paced mysteries and thrillers. With a splash of humor, these audiobooks will keep you begging for more.

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READ A SAMPLE OF KEY LIME BLUES.

When I worked for my mother, Prozac was my drug of choice. Since moving to Key West, I’ve discovered a slice of key lime pie works just as well. The night I found out Nick Hastings had been murdered less than two miles from where I was tending bar, I ate a whole damn pie.

Dirty Alvin’s is a bar where you can get a burger at a reasonable price, along with a frosty mug of beer and a slice of the best key lime pie on the island. They cater to a diverse crowd, and the dozen tables stay full about half of the time. The bar has eight stools squeezed into enough space for six, but it’s where most of the customers gather two or three deep to tell their stories and bemoan their days.

Customers were scarce that Thursday night, and we were closing a little early. There were three of us working and I was cleaning up behind the bar. Tanya, the owner, was in the back room counting the till. When Tanya’s father, the original Dirty Alvin, died, she took over. I knew something about working for a family business, and I suspected she had mixed feelings about running the place.

I took a moment to watch while Marissa, the waitress, struggled to slip into her leathers. She was a small blonde with a tiny waist and large store-bought breasts, and male and female customers alike often took the time to stare at her. Outside, her girlfriend Christy was showing her impatience by revving up her Harley, which is why I didn’t hear the front door open.

When I looked up, a tall, thin woman was standing in front of me. I jumped, and a frown broke the deadpan look fixed upon on her pitted face. “What’s the problem?” she asked, as if she was used to having people jump at the sight of her.

Maybe she was, I thought. I shook my head. “Nothing. I didn’t know you were standing there.” I threw the towel I’d been using into the sink and met her gaze without flinching. “We’re closed.”

“That’s good for both of us.” She set one of the biggest purses I’d ever seen onto the counter and slid onto the bar stool across from me.

Now it was my turn to frown. “I thought I said we were closed.”

Apparently the lady was deaf because she ignored me, opened her purse, and began rummaging around. At one point I swear her entire arm appeared lost in the void. When she finished digging into the abyss, she pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a Bic lighter. She set them down and when I protested, she interrupted me. “Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re closed.” She reached back into the bag and this time she drew out a badge and tossed it onto the bar. “You Wes Darling?” she asked.

I paid little attention to the badge. I’d seen them before. Instead I asked, “Did I serve a minor or something, officer…?”

She took the time to light a cigarette and drop the pack back into her purse before answering. “It’s not officer—it’s Detective Davies. I’m afraid this is a little more serious, Wes.”

I retrieved an ashtray and set it in front of her, then reached over into the cooler and took out a Miller Light for myself. I took a swig before asking, “You want one, Detective?”

Davies shook her head. “I’m working. I wouldn’t mind a diet Coke though.”

I grabbed a glass, turned my back to the cop, and filled it from the fountain. “So what did I do to warrant a visit from the Key West gendarmes?” I asked, pushing the Coke across the bar.

Davies wore a gray skirt with a matching jacket that needed a good ironing, and when she accepted the glass, I noticed she didn’t wear a wedding ring. She took a slow, deliberate sip of her drink, and then took a business card from her jacket pocket. She placed the card on the counter and pushed it toward me, careful to avoid the water ring from her glass. “Recognize this?” Davies asked.

It was creased and had a stain in the middle resembling a four-leaf clover. I picked it up and was surprised to see my name on it. “It used to be one of mine,” I said.

“Used to be?” She reached out a thin, tapered finger and flicked the edge of the card with her nail. “It says you’re Vice-President of DDA Security and that you specialize in discreet investigations.” She tapped the card one more time, snatched it from my fingers, and held it in front of her eyes as if she were studying it.

She squinted at the fine print on the bottom of the card and added, “It also says here you’re a security expert. Pretty pretentious of you, don’t you think? How does anybody become an expert at anything at your age? You’re what, thirty years old? And what’s this shit about being founded in 1876?”

“It’s true.” A flicker of pride rushed through me, as it always did when I spoke about the history of the agency. “My great-great-great-grandfather was a Pinkerton detective, a Wells Fargo shotgun driver, and he even knew Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. When he was forty-five, he moved to Detroit and started the firm. Back then it was called The Darling Detective Agency.”

“Thanks for the history lesson.” Davies stubbed out her cigarette and set the card face down on the counter. Written in my mother’s precise handwriting was the name Dirty Alvin’s, and the address to the bar.

The detective picked up the card and slipped it back into her pocket and then leaned toward me. “What I want to know, Wes, is are you in Key West working a case? Is the bar tending gig some kind of a cover? I don’t understand how someone goes from being VP of a big firm to tending bar in Key West.”

“Oh, come on, Detective. People have been coming down here to escape for as long as my family has been in the detective business. Let’s just say I left the business six months ago for personal reasons. I don’t have a clue where that card came from—or why you’re standing here keeping me from closing up.” I finished my beer in two gulps and set the bottle onto the counter hard enough to emphasize my irritation.

“All right,” she said. “Then explain to me how your business card ended up in the pocket of a body we discovered out at Smathers Beach early this morning. Murder’s bad for the tourist trade and makes the city fathers nervous.”

Me too, I thought. I reached beneath the counter for the bottle of antacid tablets I kept there and popped four of them into my mouth. I’d left the agency for a reason. Because my family had been in the detective business for well over a hundred years, my mother expected me to take over some day. The trouble was I never felt comfortable dealing with the deceit, the dead bodies, and the cops. It only took one screw-up on my part to convince me to quit. Still, the business was in my blood, and Davies had sparked my curiosity.

“This body got a name?” I asked.

Davies turned her head, watching me like a wild animal getting ready to pounce. “The guy had your card on him,” she said. “I was hoping you could tell me his name.”

“Look, Davies,” I said. “I’m not a psychic. Why don’t you tell me what you’ve got, and I’ll help if I can. I’ve got nothing to hide.”

Davies sat there for a few seconds, then took a small notebook from her purse and laid it in front of me. “There was a driver’s license on the body, along with your card, and this.”

I recognized the notebook and my hand trembled when I picked it up and flipped it open. On the front page he’d written: stop and see Wes. Now I knew why Davies wanted to talk to me.

My mouth went dry, and I had to work up a little spit before I could get the words out. “Nick Hastings?”

Davies nodded. “You know him?”

“He worked for our agency.”

“So you are a P.I.?”

I barely heard the question. Not only had Nick been my mentor when I started in the business, but for over twenty years he carried on an on-again, off-again relationship with my mother. I wasn’t looking forward to being the one to break the news to her.

“You all right?” I thought I detected a touch of sympathy in her voice, but when I looked up her eyes were cold and unwavering.

No, I wasn’t all right. My eyes watered and I fought to blink back the tears. I’d been raised to believe crying was a sign of weakness. The last thing I was going to do was shed tears in front of a cop, especially a woman cop. I took a deep breath, gnawed at the inside of my cheek until it felt raw, and then said, “Sorry, but I didn’t hear the question.”

“You said he worked for your agency.”

“It’s my mother’s agency. I used to work for her, but like I told you, I quit six months ago. How’d Nick die?”

“Shot. Twice at close range.”

“Any witnesses?”

“No. At least nobody’s come forward. You have any idea what he was working on?”

I shook my head. “I didn’t even know he was in town.”

“Are you telling me he was working for a business your family owns and you don’t know why he’s in Key West? That’s hard to believe.”

“How many times do I have to tell you? I quit the business—all right? Wasn’t cut out for it.” I reached for another beer, but thought better of it. “As far as I knew, he was still in Detroit. I wish he had stopped in last night. Maybe we would have had a drink instead of him going off and getting himself killed.”

Davies looked down at the counter and used the thumbnail of her right hand to pick at something only she could see.

“Maybe you knew he was in town, maybe you didn’t.” She raised her eyes and they were hard and unyielding. “If I find out you’re holding something back from me that will affect the outcome of my investigation, I’ll toss you in jail myself.”

“Do you mind if I call and break the news to my mother?”

Davies reached back into her purse and pulled out a daily planner, accompanied by a business card which she handed to me. “If you think of anything, call me and let me know. I’ll need your mother’s name and phone number so I can call her and find out if Hastings was working on a case down here.”

After writing the information down, she tossed the planner back into her purse, grabbed the bag and slid off the stool in one easy move. “Do you know who Hastings’ next of kin was? Someone will have to make arrangements for the body.”

I shook my head. “I know his mother and father are dead. He never spoke to me of anyone else. My mother might know.”

“If you could stop by tomorrow and identify the body, it would help. You can’t tell shit from the driver’s license picture.”

“Where do I go?”

“His body’s still at the hospital if you want to see it. Otherwise, you can stop by the station and I’ll show you some pictures.”

“I’d rather see the pictures,” I said, not sure I could handle viewing Nick’s body.

Davies turned to leave. She proceeded to the door and pausing with it half open, glanced over her shoulder. “I’m sorry for your loss,” she said. “I’ll be expecting you tomorrow.”

































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