Book Title: One Fine Mess
Book Author: Mark Petersen
Genre: Crime Comedy
Publishing Date: June 21st, 2018
Publisher: Dunmore Books
Synopsis: All Jules Nichols wants is respect—and babies. A quiet life with a happy family. So with the help of her lover, she comes up with a plan to get rid of her abusive criminal hubby. Once Eddie’s dead she and Wesley can live on the insurance money. Quietly. Happily.
They’ve thought everything through: alibis, misleading clues, disposing of the murder weapon, even how often Jules should check in with the cops to make sure something is being done to find Eddie’s killer.
But somehow the baddies start lining up against her. First it’s the Mob, then drug-dealing bikers, then her crazy sister. At the same time, the Vermont State Police won’t go away, and Wesley’s not exactly manning up to deal. She loves the guy, but he can be such a bonehead.
When Wesley and their new baby are abducted by a cheesed-off mobster, Jules is the only one man enough to rescue them and make sure the past stays in the past so they can enjoy their new future.
It’s time to show some ovaries.
Bloggers, if this sounds interesting to you, leave a comment below. Shannon with Ryder Author Resources is currently looking for those interested in reviewing the book.
“I finally got Eddie where I want him,” Jules Nichols said.
An itty-bitty brunette, she felt the happiness all the way up her throat as she stood at the front door of the ranch house Wesley rented in Burlington. He squinted against the brightness and jerked his head around. He looked as if he expected an entire SWAT team to jump out of one of the sculpted shrubs.
“We screwed up. I know it.”
“Oh, come on, we nailed it. Good times ahead.”
He gave his shoulders a squirrelly hike. She could hear an edge of anxiety in his voice.
“Aren’t you scared at all?”
“Let’s go for a spin! Your car.”
“I don’t know. Jeez, all I see is the blood, all the—”
“I’ll drive, for once.”
She broke into a sprint. They raced down his flagstone walk and across the lawn. His white classic ’69 Mustang was backed into the driveway, the convertible top down. As she plopped into the driver’s seat, the big round dashboard gauges reminded her of a cockpit.
When his hand touched hers, offering the keys, she felt a familiar tingle in her chest. She then roared onto the street and knocked off three blocks of well-kept houses and maples in seconds flat. A shapeless man hugging a grocery bag gaped at them from the sidewalk. She noticed Wesley slap his foot down, trying to brake.
Grocery store. Gas station. Whoops tumbled toward them from a basketball court, and she nearly whooped herself. Feeling her own gears rev up, a sense of release rushing through her, she spun the steering wheel. As they squealed around the corner, Wesley clutched the dashboard.
“Slow down,” he said. “You really—”
Tugging at a strap that had inched out from under her tank top, she let out a laugh. Sometimes it was hard to believe he’d risked his own neck for her. Or that he’d once been such a local hero.
She raced willy-nilly through the traffic on Shelburne Road. The wind playing through her collar-length puff of hair, she cut southeast. A blue pond and sun-bleached
barn zipped by. Cornfields. Neat rectangles of plowed Vermont earth. A stretch of woods and a bright ribbon of water.
As they rocketed by a speed-limit sign, he craned his neck toward the speedometer. Just picturing the way he drove— shoulders bunched up around his ears, rigidly obeying the speed limit— made her smile. But unlike her own little pickup, wasn’t a car like this made to haul ass? His Red Sox T-shirt flapping, he knitted his brow.
“Know we had to do it, I just… You don’t think they suspect us?”
She waved a hand.
“Relax, for once. Okay? Be optimistic. Remember, we’re the good guys.”
She slid a little arm out into the wind. This was the beginning of their brand-new life. Even after the big chunk she’d donate to Burlington’s Steps to End Domestic Violence program, and paying for rehab for her troubled baby sis, it would be a life with 125 grand of insurance money. Jules would never have to shake her boobs for sweaty dollars again, or put up with drunks yelling at her to flash some pink. Or tiptoe around at home. After all the black eyes and bruises from her worthless hubby, Eddie, she could finally breathe.
The road dipped and curved. The tires sang.
She saw a flash of movement off to the right. When a squirrel scampered into the road ahead of them, she braked. The chubby critter hesitated, so she swerved to avoid it.
“Go easy, little guy.”
A voice from somewhere said, Be careful.
Quite what she was afraid of she didn’t know. Feeling an uneasiness which surprised her, she checked the mirrors. Maybe Wesley was right? Maybe she should be more cautious? As they hit Keeser Road, she decided to slow down a bit.
She and her sis, Paige, used to sled not far from here. They’d fly down Dyer Hill and then scamper right back up again. They used to ride their dirt bikes all around here too. God. Who could’ve known then how screwed up things between them would—
Her shoulders tensed as she glanced in the rearview again.
Near a blocky old brick house, blue lights flashed behind them. The cruiser swelled in the mirror, and Wesley gripped her arm.
“Maybe we can grab his gun, tie him up,” he said. “Conk him on the head— pretty hard, but not too— so he forgets everything, and then—”
“Oh, come on, chill out.” She checked again. The cruiser was right on their bumper now. Well, great. “I was still speeding. He probably only stopped us for that.”
She had this.
She feathered the brakes and pulled over, gravel rattling the underside of the car. As she switched the engine off, the patrolman strutted over, stone-faced. He was tall and buff, but had oversized ears. His handgun bobbed at his side. When he stopped, he gave Jules the once-over, eyes lingering for an extra beat. He sized up Wesley.
“Your license, registration, ma’am. You aware you were going at least eighty back there?”
Her hand draped on the steering wheel, she studied the nametag on the pocket flap of his khaki uniform, and a nick on his chin from shaving. She shrugged.
“Was I, Officer Gorman?”
“Hard to believe.”
Trooper Gorman shifted on his feet.
A long moment dragged by.
When Wesley groaned, she turned. He was white as the car’s exterior and rubbed his palms along his thighs. He looked about ready to scream, spring outside, and bolt on his spindly legs into the woods. Clumsy as he was, he would probably run straight into a tree. He’d never desert her, though.
Well, all she had to do was play it cool. A part of her brain, though, said something else was off. Humming to herself, she fished her license out of her purse.
“Here you go. Not the best picture. Look at that hair!”
Wesley popped open the glove compartment to grab the registration. She heard him make a sharp intake of breath.
When she glanced over, her heart gave a little jump.
She barely believed her own eyes. Between some paperwork inside the glove box gleamed the stainless steel cylinder of her Taurus Judge .45.
Holy shit! How the hell could the gun be there? Making a panicky little noise, Wesley slapped the lid of the glove box shut.
“Sir,” Trooper Gorman said.
Wesley tried speaking— but nothing but a croak came out.
“Hmm? Oh, yeah!”
Wesley sat still, looking nauseated. He cleared his throat.
“Um, coming right up. Coming right to you. One …”
His hand trembled as he reached toward the glove box again.
She couldn’t take her eyes off it. Would he grab the .45 and try something? This could all backfire horribly. After taking a big swallow, Mr. Cool eased the compartment open. Just barely.
She eyed the trooper. She could smell the leather of his belt. Or holster. Had he inched his hand near his gun? He seemed to be studying their hands now as well.
“Hang on, I think I—” With the glove box still barely open, Wesley rummaged away. His voice was too loud. “Sure is way hot today, huh?”
The trooper said, “You seem a little—”
“Jeez. My head is kind of spinning here. Not good, not good.”
She feared Wesley was reaching the breaking point as he added, “Um, you see… Hot!”
Her sense of alarm grew as Wesley started to pull out what looked like a food wrapper. He made a little sound and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He then fished around inside the compartment some more. For a second she was tempted to conk him on the head. That probably wouldn’t look good.
Discreetly, she held out a hand to him, palm down, urging him to calm down. Her own blood felt fuzzy and fast.
While the trooper stared on, a crazy idea floated through her head: snatch the .45 and leave him handcuffed to his car in just his underwear.
She wouldn’t hurt the guy. But should she lunge for the glove box?
“Yes, yes,” Wesley said shakily. He was a sweat factory now. “Shit. You know, I pay my taxes. For real. Yup, everything by the book. Oh boy, I’ll shut up now.”
It took another one or two seconds, but he redeemed himself with a quick little grab and whack of the compartment lid. He had done it! God, he had done it. She let out a breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding as he continued.
“Here it is. Yup, this car’s mine.”
Avoiding the trooper’s eyes, Wesley handed over the registration and his own license. He drummed his fingers wildly on the armrest. Then he jerked out his phone and gaped at it, as if reading a text.
A second later she saw something flare in his eyes. His mouth hung open so wide she could have stuffed a toaster in it.
The trooper asked her a couple of questions and apparently hadn’t noticed the .45.
“Stay put,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”
She urged Wesley to stay calm. After the trooper swaggered back from his checks, she grabbed her ticket and watched him run a hand along the car.
“Sure is a beauty.”
“Oh,” he said. “Had to give you a warning too.”
“Why’s your rear license plate upside down?”
She didn’t flinch. Willed her face to turn to stone. But she didn’t understand. Upside… ? His words didn’t click. What did he—?
She bit her lip. They had temporarily taken off the rear plate at the Gorge.
It had been upside down? For three days?
Maybe they should have written WE DID IT in blood across the car’s hood.
Well, she needed to answer like five minutes ago. The air had gone dead and heavy. But it was the story of her life. Something good happens. And then trouble.
Nah. Not anymore.
Still, what the hell was she supposed to say? She felt two pairs of eyes on her. The midday heat pressed down. There was the whoosh of a passing car.
Answer in your own sweet time.
“So, uh… anyhoo,” she said. “Kids fooling around?”
She half winced as soon as she said it. Even so, she concentrated on keeping her cool. The trooper stared at her. Was there something combative in his look now? She could feel that her hand holding the steering wheel was damp.
A bird cawed from the evergreens, and Wesley gazed longingly in that direction.
Eddie would have killed her, if she ever tried to leave him. He’d said she’d end up in a garbage bag. But would the cops ever believe that? Especially after she’d already fed them a bunch of lies when they questioned her at the New Haven barracks? Maybe she should’ve opened up to them when she had the chance.
What felt like an hour later, the trooper patted the door.
“Well, fix it. Have a nice day now. Take it easy, okay?”
As soon as he left, she let a “Jesus Christ” hiss out between her lips. She smacked her hand against the dash. She then caught herself. What mattered was that they were in the clear now. Hopefully.
Wesley sat up, letting out a whoosh of air. She restarted the engine, and he eyed her as they roared off.
“Man!” he said. His tongue sounded sticky. “How weird was that?”
For a moment she met his worried green eyes. He wasn’t exactly a badass. But from the start, she couldn’t resist his goofball charm.
“God,” he said. “I think I, uh, just threw up in my mouth a little. I thought you were going to bury that gun.”
“That talk about burying it or throwing it in a pond? Ring any bells?”
“Say what, now?”
“You forget about that? You said you would.”
When she shot him a reproachful look, he lowered his gaze a moment. He thought about it with his mouth knotted.
“Did I?” A realization came into his eyes. “Damn.”
“Sweetie,” she said, “what were you thinking?” He sat still, not saying anything, so she continued. “Look, we’re going to handle this. We will. Just pull yourself together.”
He put his hand on her thigh. His grip tightened before he let go.
“It’s okay. I’ll take care of the gun.”
Well, maybe he wasn’t the best murder partner. But she really did love the bonehead. He was yummy in bed. And she wanted to have his babies. Still, maybe they really hadn’t thought things out so well after all.
“Seeing that pistol right there— shit,” he said. “That was… My heart was going ninety miles an hour. At least.”
As she hurtled by a tractor chugging along on big-ribbed tires, she felt her mind pulling into an ugly place she didn’t want to be.
“Poor baby. The truth, though? That rattled me too.”
“Yeah, well, you know. Guess I did mess up with that rear plate.”
She raised her eyebrows.
“You think? I wonder sometimes, how’d you ever manage? Pushing insurance, I mean. You’re such a nut.”
They sat quiet a moment. She kept her foot on the gas, and they swung out around a red Ford pickup. Power poles flew by as she tried to ignore her own uneasy feeling. For some reason Wesley had pulled into himself. He looked as if something else was still on his mind. She played a hand through his beautiful chestnut curls.
“Sweetie, don’t wig out. For the record? Maybe you were right about not speeding. But nobody knows it was— It’s going to be okay.”
“Nope,” he said.
“We only killed one bad guy.”
He seemed to mull this over. He then gave a short, shocked laugh.
“Well… I’m not even sure about that.”
She felt the air go out of her. As she eyed him, he made some kind of desperate sound. There was something he wasn’t telling her. She saw it in his face.
“O-kay,” she said. “What do you mean?”
His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard.
She sifted through what’d just happened. Was it something about Gorman? The .45?
She stared at him—waiting.
“That text I got?” he said in a faint voice, as if not wanting to hear himself say it.
The sight of him gave her a slight chill. When she stroked the back of his neck, trying to soothe him, he closed his eyes and shimmied his head.
“I about shit myself,” he said. “Heck, maybe I did.”
“You didn’t really—”
“It was from Eddie.”
About The Author:
Mark Petersen has been employed as an archaeologist, truck driver, logger, and bike-tour guide in Paris. He also attended law school for one day, which was enough. Presently he is an addictions counselor by day, crime fiction addict and author by night. Any resemblance to the quirky criminals in his book is mostly coincidental.
Blogger/ Punk Rocker / Quirky