Savannah Reid may have a few extra curves on her full-figured body, but that hasn't stopped her from becoming one of California's most successful private investigators. Her latest case puts her hot on the trail of a shady weight loss therapist who's made a killing treating--and cheating--his overweight patients. The question is, did he kill his wife, too?
Dr. Robert Wellman claims his breakthrough hypnosis techniques can help anyone shed unwanted fat in record time. But while countless weight-challenged folks have flocked to his popular clinic, most have only lighter wallets to show for it. Still, Dr. Wellman seems to have it all, until his wife Maria is found dead at the bottom of a cliff outside the Wellmans' seaside estate--and it's clear she didn't go down without a fight.
Savannah is more than happy to help her good friend, Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter, investigate Maria's untimely death. The clues all seem to point to murder, from the broken statuary to the trampled flowerbeds surrounding the deadly precipice. And since Dr. Wellman appears to be the only viable suspect, Savannah is sure it's an open and shut case. But she's about to learn that appearances can be oh-so deceiving. Pound for pound, this is shaping up to be one of Savannah's toughest cases ever. But she'd better find the killer soon...or else the bodies will just keep piling up...
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January 26, 2010
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Excerpt from Wicked Craving by G. A. McKevett
Savannah Reid rolled down the window of the rented pickup, breathed in the fresh sea-scented air, and decided it was a perfect day in sunny California. But then, barring earthquakes, mudslides, and brush fires, most Southern California days were pert nigh perfect.
She vacillated between being deeply grateful she had moved from rural Georgia to the picturesque seaside town of San Carmelita, and being bored to death with "perfect." She missed the drama of an old-fashioned, southern thunderstorm, complete with all-hell'sdone- broke-loose lightning crashing around you and the scream of tornado sirens going off, warning you to shake some tail feathers and get your tail--feathers and all--into the nearest storm cellar.
Ah, yes, she thought, watching the palm trees glisten in the tropical noonday sun. There is nothing quite like huddling with your granny and eight siblings in a spider-infested tornado shelter at two in the morning, storm raging above you, to bring a family together.
"And we are close," she whispered, thinking of her loved ones in Georgia, so far away. "So close it's a wonder we haven't murdered one another yet."
"Murdered who?" Dirk asked as he guided the pickup truck away from the downtown area and headed toward the poor side of town. The part of San Carmelita that didn't have perfectly matched palm trees lining the streets. The part where windows had bars, not flower boxes, and the only fresh paint on the building walls was gang graffiti. The part where you were more likely to see a pit bull chained to somebody's front porch than a Chihuahua poking its head out of somebody's purse.
"What?" she said to the guy sitting in the driver's seat next to her. Detective Sergeant Dirk Coulter was still with the San Carmelita Police Department.
She wasn't. And on most days, she was grateful for that. Occasionally, she waxed a bit bitter about the fact that she had been dismissed. But those days only came along about once a month . . . like most of her truly dark moods. And a bar of chocolate or a dish of ice cream usually put her world right again.
"You were talking to yourself," he told her.
"Well, do you have to bring it up and make me feel like a nitwit who's losing my marbles?"
"Don't snap at me. You told me to tell you . . . said you wanted to break the habit."
"Oh, right. Sorry." She sighed and wondered if she could blame her forgetfulness on perimenopause. After all, now that she was solidly in her mid-forties--and if she didn't admit that she'd been forgetful her whole life--it could float, excuse-wise. And it would carry her through to menopause and past to senility.
"I'm forgetting stuff lately," she said, "because I'm approaching the 'change o' life.' You wouldn't know anything about it. It's a woman thing."
"I know it's not why you're talking to yourself. You've been doing that for twenty years." He slowed the truck down to drive over a particularly deep drainage dip in the road and checked his cargo in the mirror. "But that might be why you've been extra irritable lately."
She shot him a look. "Ever consider it might be because you've been exceptionally irritating?"
"No, you haven't been irritating?"
"No, I haven't considered it might be me. I'd rather blame it on you and your hormones."
"A dangerous thing to do, blaming anything on a woman's hormones."
"You brought it up."
She didn't like this--him winning two arguments in a row. She decided to just keep quiet and say nothing for a while.
That never lasted long.
"It's just that I've been bored lately," she said, fifteen seconds later, as they headed deeper into a valley that stretched from the sea into the dry, brown, scrub brush-covered hills.
The tattoo parlors, pawn shops, porn stores, and junkyards had given way to tiny, dilapidated stucco houses and yards covered with dead, brown grass, surrounded by sagging fences.
Many of the inhabitants sat on sagging sofas on sagging porches, wearing saggy clothes and saggy facial expressions--much like many of the inhabitants of the poor, rural town where she had been raised.
Savannah understood despair. She knew, all too well, the toll it exacted on the human spirit.
"Do you miss being on the job?" he asked. "Is that why you're bored?"
She considered his question honestly before answering. Did she miss being a police officer? The constant adrenaline rushes?
The camaraderie with the other cops? The fascinating view of ever-changing human drama? Having drunks throw up on her shoes?
"I do sometimes," she admitted. "Mostly when I don't have any clients. Private investigation can get pretty mundane when you don't have a single case to investigate. It's been a bit lonely at the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency lately."
"And that's why you hang with me," he said, giving her a grin and a poke with his elbow.
"That and all this philosophical, mind-expanding conversation." She looked him over, taking in the Harley-Davidson T-shirt that had, in a former life, been black, but had gone through a navy blue stage and was now a muddy chocolate brown. "And your sense of style."
She glanced at herself in the truck's side mirror and saw a woman who wasn't exactly a fashion plate herself. Her thick, dark hair had a mind of its own, so she pretty much let it do its wayward-curls thing. Clean skin with a bit of lip gloss and mascara, hastily applied, were the extent of her daily beauty rituals. And her wardrobe was only a notch above Dirk's on any given day--a lightweight blazer over a simple cotton shirt with jeans or linen slacks. The blazer hid the Beretta strapped to her side. And the cotton and linen kept her cool under the California sun.
Years ago, when they had first met, both Savannah and Dirk had turned heads, especially when they were in uniform, before their detective days. And even though Dirk's T-shirt might be faded, and they both had gained some extra poundage here and there, in Savannah's mind, Dirk was still a stud, she was a babe, and as a pair, they were both pretty darned hot stuff.
On the seat between them lay the empty sack that had recently held two apple fritters and two cups of coffee, all compliments of the Patty Cake Bakery.
Patty, the blonde bimbo baker, liked the way Dirk filled out his worn jeans and, apparently, didn't mind the old T-shirt, because she was always generous, dolling out the sugar and caffeine. She was also a major cop groupie, which irked Savannah and pleased Dirk to no end.
Since Dirk was also in his mid-forties--a tad past his "glory days"--he was constantly starving for attention from the opposite sex, wherever he could get it. He wallowed in every bit that came his way, even from a moderately desperate, blatantly oversexed donut clerk.
Long ago, Savannah had gotten sick of the goo-goo eyes and the silly tittering and the deliberately deep bending over the counter while Patty was waiting on them. But Savannah kept her mouth shut. Patty was as well known for her generously frosted maple bars as she was for her appetite for the boys in blue, and Savannah was a woman with her priorities in order... having a healthy appetite of her own.
She glanced down at her ample figure and wondered briefly how many of Patty's maple bars and apple fritters she was toting around with her on any given day. Several pounds' worth, to be sure. But Savannah liked to think that most of her "extra poundage" was well placed. And the admiring glances she got from quite a few guys told her that Patty's pastries were being put to good use.
The guy sitting beside her was one of those. Frequently, she caught him giving her a sideways look that wasn't very different from the ones Patty gave him when she was sacking up the goods. And, considering how long Savannah and Dirk had worked to- gether--first as partners on the San Carmelita Police Department and then as investigators of numerous homicide cases--she found it most complimentary that he still noticed and enjoyed her curves.
But then he sped up a bit too much and hit a pothole, jarring every bone in her body.
"Dangnation, Dirk," she snapped. "If I had dentures, they'd be in my lap. Would you take it easy?"
He loved it when she criticized his driving. "Hey, I didn't do nothin' wrong! You know they never fix the roads out here. Besides, I can't drive like an old lady if you wanna nail this guy."
He had her there.
Savannah was just as eager as he was to slap a fresh pair of handcuffs on Norbert "Stumpy" Weyerhauser. And just because Stumpy's mom, Myrtle, had told them he was home an hour ago, didn't mean he would hang around. If he smelled a rat--or a cop sting operation--he'd be making tracks out of town.
"Do you think she bought it?" Dirk asked for the fourth time.