Hudson Valley Series Book 1
by Bonnie Traymore
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
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Victoria’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems. But with two homicide detectives on her doorstep, it's about to get a lot worse.
Still reeling from the shocking discovery that her husband is having an affair, Victoria struggles to process the mind-blowing news that Nick’s lover is dead—murdered in cold blood on the very same evening she uncovered the truth.
And now two detectives are on her doorstep, waiting to question both of them. Is she a suspect?
With little hard evidence and no shortage of suspects with ‘killer motives,’ Detectives Jack Stark and Lexi Sanchez are under intense pressure to solve the high-profile murder case that rocks the picturesque village of Tarrytown just as the town is gearing up for the area’s annual Halloween festivities and an influx of tourists.
As Victoria sets out to clear herself and find out the truth, she’s faced with two terrifying possibilities—either her husband is a murderer or someone is out to get them.
Conflicted and emotionally raw, she sets out to find the truth about what happened that night.
But does she really want to know?
Nick was driving to his office in Tarrytown when his cell buzzed, an unknown caller. He was still reeling from the night before. He hesitated for a moment and almost didn’t answer it, but that was considered bad practice in his business. It might be a potential client. All he wanted was for things to go back to normal. He picked up. “Hi, this is Nick.” A click and a pause.
“Yes, Nick Mancusio.” Another longer pause. What the hell. Say something. “Hello? Hello?” He was about to hang up. Probably a scam call. Then he heard the phone cutting in and out and someone talking. For such a swanky neighborhood, they sure had crappy cell phone reception. The caller spoke up again, louder this time.
“This is Detective Jack Stark with the Tarrytown Police Department. Are you there?”
“What? Yes, I’m here. What is it?” He felt his heart race as his hands gripped the steering wheel a little tighter.
“Do you know an Angela Hansen? I think she was your client in a recent real estate transaction?” The detective’s tone was neutral, not threatening, but there was something about the way he disclosed the fact that he already knew something about him and their relationship that made Nick more nervous.
“Yes, yes I know her. We just closed on a property, up on Shady Hill Lane. Why?” What could he say? He couldn’t lie about that.
“She was found dead in her home this morning. I’m a homicide detective. We’d like to talk to you as soon as possible. See if you can shed some light on this." He slammed on the brakes to avoid running a stop sign, although his was the only vehicle at the intersection. Coffee spilled on the console and his folders on the passenger seat went flying. His mind was blank. It’s not like he couldn’t think of anything to say. It was more that he couldn’t find his words. This was a detective trained to pick up on cues. He didn’t have time to mull over how to play it. He was taking way too long. Finally, he spoke.
“Dead? What? Oh my God. What happened?” The car behind him honked. He turned right and pulled over.
“I can’t get into that right now. I can explain more when I see you. We could come to you or you could come down to the station.” Down to the station? That sounded ominous.
“Can you give me half an hour? I have to rearrange my schedule. I can call you in thirty minutes with a time and place.”
“I'll call you. Be sure to pick up.” The detective hung up.
Nick dialed another number. It went to voicemail. “Jeff, it’s Nick. Call me. It’s an emergency.”
Victoria was home working off some nervous energy as she put the dishes away and wiped yesterday’s smudges off the white Shaker cabinet doors. Out the kitchen window, the sun sparkled magically on the Hudson River reflecting the scarlet and gold of the fall foliage clinging to its steep banks. Her melancholy mood from the evening before had turned to excitement, bolstered by a bit too much caffeine on an empty stomach and her Alanis jams playing in the background. She had already called her attorney and had an appointment for next week. She would put all that out of mind until then. Today, she had a meeting scheduled at her office at eleven this morning, an important one, and her benefit dinner tonight. It was now half past nine and she needed to get going. She was almost finished emptying the dishwasher in her methodical manner—only a few cups were left—when her cell phone vibrated against the granite island countertop, its dark surface blending in with the stone. She reached over to grab it. There was a text from her husband: It’s an emergency. Call me.
There were also three missed calls from him and a voicemail. Nick was not given to hyperbole. Quite the opposite. He was actually a bit too laid back, never worrying much about anything. He had never sent a text like that before. She called immediately, not bothering to check her voicemail, putting it on speaker as she finished her chores.
“Vic?” His voice was soft, almost apologetic. He didn’t seem hurt or in danger.
“Nick. What is it?” She felt mildly annoyed, already.
“I have something to tell you, and I’m warning you it’s pretty shocking.” Was he actually going to confess about the affair now? Over a cell call? That was totally unlike him.
“I have to get to work, Nick. What’s so urgent?” She was starting to wish she’d ignored his text.
“My client. From the Shady Hill property. The one I went to see last night? The police called me. She was found dead. At her house. This morning.”
Victoria placed the last clean mug on the counter. Dead? A heart attack or something? No. The police wouldn’t call Nick for something like that. There had to be more to it. She picked up the phone and took it off speaker.
“What happened?” She wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer.
“I don’t know, but a homicide detective is meeting me at the house any minute now. They called and wanted to meet with me in person. ‘See if I could shed some light on it,’ was how he put it. Jeff told me to meet them at our house, not at the station.”
“Homicide? She was murdered?” Victoria had to hand it to Nick. This certainly reached the bar of “emergency.”
“They didn’t say that, exactly. He said he’d tell me more in person. I don’t know much more than you do at this point. What if I was the last person to see her alive, Vic?” Nick’s voice was shakier now, almost panicky.
“So? You’re certainly not responsible for her death?”
“That’s what Jeff said.”
“What does Jeff have to do with this? You called Jeff before you called me?” She thought that sounded like the actions of a guilty person, reaching out to your attorney friend. But guilty of what?
“He’s an attorney! And he knows her! I told you, remember? They had that law suit going. Let’s not do this now. Please!” His tone was harsher now, devoid of sentimentality. “I just wanted to give you a heads-up. The detective might get there before I do. They’ll probably want to question you too. Tell them I’m on my way. I’d appreciate some support. I’m your husband, Victoria, please try to remember that.” He hung up.
She picked up the mug she’d left on the counter, looking out to the sun’s rays sparkling on the Hudson, her thoughts suspended in the timeless currents of the flowing river. It was all starting to hit her now, just what a disaster this was. The photos that were supposed to liberate her from the marriage were now a liability, potentially placing her at a crime scene. What do detectives look for? Means, motive, and opportunity? She had two out of three for now. Should she be worried? And what about Nick? He was acting strangely last night, and she’d attributed it to a guilty conscience. The affair, she assumed. But could it have been more? She knew Nick wasn’t overtly violent, but anyone could commit murder given the right circumstances. What if the woman had gotten pushy? Demanding? Threatening? How far would Nick go to protect what was his? She needed time to think, consult with an attorney. But she didn’t have the luxury of time.
The gate buzzer sounded, jolting her out of her stupor, and the mug slipped from her hand, shattering into pieces on the travertine tile floor. She quickly picked up the big chunks, but the shards of porcelain would have to wait.
Little Loose Ends
Hudson Valley Series Book 2
stand-alone sequel to the hit page-turner Killer
Motives: A Hudson Valley Mystery.
"Kept me on the edge of my seat." "Strap in and hold on!" "Wow!"
After a year that turned her world upside down, Victoria Mancusio’s seemingly perfect life is back intact—except for one looming loose end. And Victoria doesn’t like loose ends.
After a series of events that would have put anyone over the edge, all Victoria wants is for her life to go back to normal. In the aftermath of her husband’s infidelity, his lover’s murder, and the harrowing moments when her life flashed before her eyes, she just wants to focus on her perfect baby daughter, Lila, and live a simple, peaceful life.
But given her family’s wealth and notoriety, a simple life has never really been possible for Victoria. And with a sensational murder case and their names splashed all over the media last year, a threat from her past has resurfaced. Are the taunting text messages he’s sending a genuine threat, or is it just his way of playing with her head?
She takes it upon herself to find out, determined to protect herself and her daughter. But the more she uncovers, the more the fabric of her life begins to unravel, and Victoria soon realizes he’ll stop at nothing to get back at her.
But not if she can get him first.
She hadn’t laid eyes on Sutton since that night over ten years ago when he was curled up in a ball on his apartment floor as she raced to get out before he could recover from the kick to his groin. She could still hear his threat in that low rumble of his. If you tell anyone about this, you’re dead!
Then his front door started to open, and she froze. A moment of self-doubt hit her like a ton of bricks. Her heart started to race. Could he see her over in the shadows? This was dangerous. Crazy dangerous. Foolish. A big mistake. What if he had a weapon too? Many people did in this state. It wasn’t New York. What was I thinking?
He came into view as he stepped down from his stoop and into the wash of the streetlights. He’d lost the hipster look and the ponytail. His hair was cropped, and he looked neat. Clean-shaven. A bit thinner, but he had the same gait. She’d know it anywhere, like on their security tape. He paused for a moment, taking in the fresh air, and it suddenly dawned on her that she had a clean shot.
She felt for her gun, tucked safely in its holster. It would be so easy. This wasn’t the plan, to kill him now. But what if this was the only chance she would get? She’d left all the important numbers with the note she’d left the nanny: I should be back in an hour or so. If she didn’t come back, they’d figure it all out. Sutton would be dead. And Lila would be safe. It wasn’t such a big sacrifice, was it? Prison? Maybe she’d even get away with it. It was tempting. So very tempting.
She’d imagined this moment many times. Wondered if she could actually pull the trigger. Now she was pretty sure she could. But she wouldn’t. Not yet. She’d give the wheels of justice a chance first. But she kept her hand resting on her weapon for a few moments, just in case.
Then he cocked his head in her direction, and she felt a rush of panic. Had he sensed her? Smelled her? She stayed still. Very still. Her heart was beating so hard that she wondered if he could hear it pounding in her chest. Sweat beads formed at her temples. She pulled out her Glock 43 and kept it by her side.
Her nose got itchy, and she felt like she was going to sneeze. She forced herself to stifle it, wiggling her nose ever so slightly. Sutton stood there, his head tilted toward her but not looking in her direction. She didn’t dare to move a muscle.
Then, just like that, he turned and walked away from her and out of sight. She breathed a small sigh of relief. Then she holstered her gun, scratched her itchy nose, and made a mental note to take some allergy meds if she ever decided to stalk someone in the desert again.
Bonnie Traymore is an author, educator, and consultant. A world traveler, she loves to include vivid settings in her novels. She is also an accomplished non-fiction writer, historian, and educator with a doctorate in United States History. She has taught at top independent schools in Honolulu, Silicon Valley, and New York City for over 20 years, and she has taught history courses at Columbia University and the University of Hawaii. Originally from the New York City area, she resides in Honolulu with her husband but frequents the Hudson Valley and New York City areas.
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