The Big Shakeup
by Nancy Boyarsky
Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, or so they say.
P.I. Nicole Graves arrives early at work, just as Los Angeles is hit with “the Big One,” a long-predicted, devastating earthquake. When the building stops shaking, Nicole finds Jerry, her boss, in his office dying of a gunshot wound. It appears to be suicide.
Nicole is shocked to learn that the police have decided Jerry’s death was murder and even more shocked that she’s their only suspect when there’s no shortage of people with motives. And there’s the question of why the detectives are pursuing this one case when all city workers, including the police, are in an all-out search and rescue operation for survivors. All she can do is evade capture long enough to prove her innocence and catch the real culprit.
The shaking was gathering force. Nicole crawled further into the desk’s knee space, tried to brace herself and grip its legs. Holding on was next to impossible when the desk jumped with every jolt. Even more frightening was the noise. It had started as a rumble but now sounded like the roar of an oncoming train.
Every instinct told her to run, get out of the building. But with so much movement, she knew she’d never be able to stand up, much less run down eight flights of stairs. As the shaking continued to build, all thought disappeared. The whole thing had lasted a mere three-and-a-half minutes. But if Nicole knew anything at that time, it was that shaking would go on until the building caved in and buried her.
After her arrest, Nicole expected to be taken to the city’s main jail, the dreaded twin towers in downtown Los Angeles. Instead, the bus headed south on city streets through poor neighborhoods in South Los Angeles until it passed a sign welcoming them to the City of Lynnwood. The bus pulled up in front of a brutalist, concrete complex that looked as if it were made of enormous building blocks. What caught her eye was one huge block that had shaken loose and slid—or perhaps rolled—into the street.
By the time Melanie shouted out again, Nicole had made a decision. “I’ll be down in a minute,” she called. “I have to change.” She grabbed her purse, jacket, and iPad and tiptoed down the back stairs. Once outside, she ran through the backyard, scaled the rear fence, and raced down the alley. She ran until she couldn’t run anymore, then stopped in the front yard of a ramshackle house.
It was already late afternoon, the light dimming. She looked in the direction she’d come from. A car turned onto the street a few blocks away. It was a black-and-white patrol car. As she watched, it turned on its siren and headed toward her.
She got up and hurried down the hall to Jerry’s office to see if his computer was still there. The odor she’d noticed before grew stronger as she approached his door. When Nicole opened it, the smell was unmistakable. It was blood—blood that had been left to ripen a while. She turned on her flashlight and swept the room with its beam. There was something lying on the floor near the desk. Hair rose on the back of her neck as she approached it. Just as she feared, it was a body. As soon as she was close enough, she focused the flashlight on its face and rocked back on her heels. It was Diana Chang, the young woman who’d arrived with Nate Goodman when Jerry was bleeding out. From the amount of blood on the floor, it looked as if Diana had bled out hours ago. She’d been shot through the forehead, and she was very dead.
Nicole got out the burner phone, ready to call 911. Only then did she realize that she—of all people—couldn’t report Diana’s death. Even calling anonymously was out of the question. It might allow the police to track her new phone and learn she’d been at the scene of yet another murder. She also had the feeling that, whether or not they tracked her here, they were still going to blame her for Diana’s death.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nancy’s award-winning Nicole Graves Mysteries have been compared to Mary Higgins Clark and are praised for contributing to the “women-driven mystery field with panache” (Foreword Reviews) as well as for their “hold-onto-the-bar roller coaster” plots (RT Book Reviews). Her debut novel The Swap—book one of the Nicole Graves Mysteries—won the prestigious Eric Hoffer award for Best Micro Press Book of the Year.
Nancy has been a writer and editor for her entire working career. She coauthored Backroom Politics, a New York Times notable book, with her husband Bill Boyarsky. She has written several textbooks on the justice system and contributed to anthologies, including In the Running about women’s political campaigns and The Challenge of California. She has also written for the Los Angeles Times, West magazine, Forbes, McCall’s, Playgirl, Westways, and other publications. She was communications director for political affairs for ARCO.
In addition to writing mysteries, Nancy is producer and director of the “Inside Golden State Politics” podcast.
Nancy can be contacted through her website, nancyboyarsky.com.
Visit Nancy Online: lightmessages.com/nancy-boyarsky