Springtime brings warm weather and murder to Sunset Ridge, and for Poppy, this particular case strikes close to home.
Antiques dealer Marcus Tyne is found dead in the front seat of his friend’s car outside of McGuire’s after a Cinco de Mayo celebration, but at first glance, there’s no reason why he’s dead.
Until the coroner finds out he’s been poisoned.
When a second man is poisoned, Poppy and Alex are thrust into a mystery that threatens to tear them apart. While they struggle to solve the case as their differences become more apparent, a murderer walks free in Sunset Ridge and may have another victim in their sights.
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The police cruiser pulled up to the scene, causing most of the crowd to scatter, and I smiled as Alex approached me. Dressed in his uniform, he looked sharp and in control of the situation. And very sexy. His fellow officer, Darren Harlson, an older officer who had been on the force since Derek joined years ago, followed him. Portly, he always looked a little sweaty whenever I saw him.
Stopping in front of me, Alex smiled. “How did I know I’d see you first thing? I thought you were staying home tonight.”
“I decided to see how my father’s Cinco de Mayo event went over. Someone found this man. He’s dead,” I said somberly.
As Darren joined the two of us, he asked, “Did anyone see anything?”
I shook my head. “No. I was inside the bar when the woman came running in screaming about some man being dead outside, so I came out to look as my father called you guys.”
He nodded. “I’m going to find out what everyone knows. Which woman found him, Poppy?”
Searching the people who hadn’t moved away, I saw the wavy haired blonde standing alone on the steps to McGuire’s. “That’s her,” I said as I pointed in her direction. “She’s the one near the door. She looks pretty shaken up.”
He walked away to ask her his questions as Alex peered in through the car’s passenger side window. “Do you know this guy? I don’t recognize him.”
Standing next to him, I studied the face of the dead man. Thin and expressionless, he didn’t look familiar. “I don’t think so. He doesn’t look like anyone I’ve ever met.”
Alex turned his head to look at me and grinned. “I think you’re slipping, Poppy. When we first met, you knew everything about everyone in town.”
I rolled my eyes at his teasing. Anytime I didn’t know the complete history of anyone involved in one of our cases, he said the same thing. Usually I reminded him that detecting was part of being a detective, but tonight I thought I’d go a different route.
“You know, I think you’ve lived in Sunset Ridge long enough to know something about your fellow citizens, Alex. We don’t want my vast knowledge of our neighbors to become a crutch for you.”
“No, we don’t,” he said with a chuckle. “Well, since neither of us seem to know who this poor soul is, what do you say we do some investigating?”
He moved around the front of the car to the driver’s side as I followed, each of us slipping on a pair of gloves before we touched anything. Alex opened the door and a sweet smell like from a flowery air freshener hit my nose, making me take a step back. Lifting his flashlight, he shined it along the full length of the man’s body to examine him for a cause of death, but nothing obvious jumped out. No blood, no gunshot wound, not even a bruise on the man’s head indicated what may have killed him.
“What do you think?” I asked after taking a deep breath and leaning back in to look.
Alex shrugged. “I can’t see any evidence of him being shot or stabbed or even hit on the head. There’s no obvious signs of a struggle either, and I see no evidence of strangulation. Something killed him, but I think for this one we’re going to have to leave it to Donny to find out what.”
At that moment, as if on cue, the coroner’s van pulled up next to the car and Donny jumped out. Dressed in his usual black dress pants and white dress shirt that begged for a tie he never wore, he walked over to where we stood.
“I was in the middle of something, so I hope this guy appreciates this,” he joked in that gallows humor way he did sometimes.
Alex raised one eyebrow and leveled his gaze on the coroner. “You don’t have to come on every case, Donny. If I remember correctly, you have assistants in that office of yours.”
Donny’s eyebrows shot up, making the deep furrows in his forehead even deeper. “Kids who don’t know enough who’d call me in anyway halfway through their examination. I might as well be there at the start to make sure the job gets done right.”
The kids he referred to had to be at least my age or even older, but since Donny looked to be close to sixty, I guessed someone in their early thirties might seem like a kid to him. The truth of the matter was he loved his job to the point of being a workaholic, so he didn’t really need his assistants and their supposed inadequacies to make him come out to a crime scene, even if it was in the middle of the night.
Alex searched the dead man’s pockets for identification and then stepped back away from the car as Donny leaned in to begin his examination, mumbling, “So what do we have here?”
Flipping open the brown leather wallet he’d taken from the man’s coat, Alex slipped his driver’s license out from behind the clear plastic slot and read the name. “Marcus Tyne, thirty-one. He would have turned thirty-two right after Thanksgiving.”
I leaned in and saw Marcus Tyne’s license picture of him wearing a big smile. Poor guy. He looked happy. Reading his address, I saw he lived in Millville, an even smaller town than Sunset Ridge a few miles away.
“That’s why I didn’t recognize him. He’s not from here.”
Alex closed the wallet and looked down at me with a skeptical expression. “I still say you’re slipping, Miss McGuire.”
“And I say you’re slacking off on this whole detective thing, Officer Montero.”
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