Click here to read Chapter 1 of Claire O’Sullivan’s Nobody Girl. Visit next week for the third and final excerpt of the WIP.
Things take a turn when Olvegaart suffers its first ever murder.
Detective Jake Littrell comes from big city Dallas, a year after the recruitment ad. Confident in all matters crime, he is a wreck around women, and for good reason.
Alex must overcome her lack of confidence and the secrets she holds to solve the murder of a much-hated victim.
Jake must overcome his angst, his history, and his growing respect for the small town detective with her own pain … as her supervisor.
Nobody Girl-Chapter 2
Detective Jake Littrell pulled his ringing cellphone from his pocket and checked the ID. Not the PD calling him to come back, instead it was Rick Cantrelli, one of the business partners in the Holy Oilers. “Morning, Rick. Anything wrong?”
“Now, why are you assuming something’s wrong?”
Jake laughed. “Because it’s just after seven in the morning.”
“I do not know why you won’t let that one go.”
“Because, Rick, last time you called me at seven a.m., you were in a pile of mud, still drunk from the night before, trying to figure out where your wife was located.”
“You would bring up my wedding.”
“So what news?” Jake rested a finger over his top lip.
“You’ve had a crew keeping their ears open for news of your various projects.”
“Yup. Hang on.” He poised pen over a paper pad.
“Good news on the Idaho lawsuit. No more growing genetically modified organisms.”
“That is good news.” Jake scribbled. “Wish we could remove all GMOs.”
“Ain’t that the truth. Here’s news: a dead body showed up in Olvegaart, Minnesota. Chief Makela is heading there now.”
“You already heard about a DB?”
“Well, yeah, those were kinda your instructions. ‘Drop everything and call if something crops up.’ And, A dead body cropped up. Scanned calls illegally, as you asked.”
“Not funny. Part of an ongoing investigation.” Jake fumed. “If they had a police scanner, it would be easier.” Disappointment quieted Jake’s voice after a moment. “I had hoped for a bit more time. A few months.” He shifted the phone between his shoulder and ear, walked to his room, and crammed clothe s into A duffle bag. “Bring the car around. Meet you in ten. I want to see the crime scene before it’s closed off. Tell Dave to call the dealership in Two Harbors to bring the truck outside of Olvegaart and meet me there. I’m authorizing one-thousand dollars from my personal account for their time and trouble.”
“Done. What about—?”
“I resigned two weeks ago from the Dallas PD, if that’s what you were asking.”
“Mind-reader. See you in a few.”
Jake stepped onto the porch, and closed the door behind him. A limo pulled into the driveway and stopped. Jake waved, Rick popped the trunk, and Jake tossed in his duffle bag and hat. “Perfect timing. Airport, Rick.”
“Airport it is, Boss. Dallas?”
“Still not enough coffee to joke.” He grasped thermos Rick handed him. “Thanks for the Java.” Jake yawned.
“You’ve been up all night?”
Jake rubbed his eyes. “Tossed and turned. Wondering how the place is coming along. What it will be like living in Minnesota.”
“Hot, humid, tornadoes, floods. Same as here. Don’t know why you’d leave home.”
Jake laughed. “Winters will be different. Cold. Nice change. ETA on the airstrip?”
“Five minutes, give or take.”
Jake glanced one last time at the dirt road as it billowed dust and gravel in a swirl behind the limo. Goodbye, home. Summered, yellowing grass stood knee-high and sunflowers waggled in the breeze; by nightfall, they would bow their heads. The flowers soon would droop, the last to drop their heads, ready for harvest. Grass would wilt and fade, never-ending heat of summer beating them to stubble. Glad to leave, yet bittersweet. He knew the ranch of Glen Rose would be his sisters and his father, his rigging business would call him back for meetings … but this was the first time he planned to make his home elsewhere.
On arrival, the limo slowed to a crawl toward the Boeing parked on the tarmac and stopped. Both men stepped from the vehicle, Rick opened the trunk and standing in the heat, Rick gave Jake a fist bump.
“God bless this trip.”
Jake glanced at the horizon. “I will need an extra portion of blessings, I believe. God will direct. Pray I listen.”
Rick grasped Jake’s shoulder. “Double portion. I’ll tell the Holy Oilers.”
Jake chuckled as he put his hat on, grabbed his duffle bag, and gave Rick thumbs-up.
He took steps two at a time, boarded, and tossed his bag into a swivel chair. After boarding the Littrell’s Boeing 757, Jake left a message on Chief Makela’s answering machine.
He sat, snatched Alexandra Makela’s bio and read it again, pronouncing her name once again—Ma-KAY-la. Olvegaart. He slipped a picture of her from the folder. Last year, he sent an employee to the rural town to take pictures, act as his assistant, and scout the town. William. Who couldn’t keep his eyes off the town’s only cop and snapped a picture of her.
After he had chided William for taking her picture, Jake hijacked the photo he tucked the photo and bio into a folder, and paperwork on the town, Bailey hill… and hoped he could talk to her straight.
He pulled a folded newspaper article from the file, which chronicled her concern over the sale of rural property. Now, as he eyed the photo, he grimaced at the frown, a permanent record of her defiance as she hold a real sword across her chest. Menacingly. He pinched the bridge of his nose.
Jake planned to meet the chief over business, his and hers. The death of his mother changed his timeline and lost a lot of it at home—much needed, but progress on the town continued despite him. Not meaning to hit a nerve, it seemed as though background construction did. Her picture stared accusingly from the round table in front of him.
Jake rubbed his forehead. This could be tense, no, he could count on it, for more reasons than the town or the murder. He’d made a near-promise to arrive, and as things transpired emergently at home, his dad needed him at the ranch at Glen Rose. Sending an assistant, then not calling to follow up, well, she had every right to toss his application. A few hours, and he’d try to explain in person. He peeked at her picture again and closed his eyes.
Aw, crap. Lord, gimme a burly Sikh warrior, and I can talk him out his kirpan sword faster than an imp out of her Viking attitude. Olvegaart was dying, drowning in economic collapse.
Lord, you know my record of dealing with women, I totally suck at it.
Jake rubbed his brow. For now, he couldn’t do anything by worrying—at least until he shook her hand—so he determined to think about his other projects until they met.
He snatched his cell and punched in numbers. Moments later, the airplane’s phone call went through. “Tony, how’d the deal in Montana go?”
“You must be in the air,” Tony chuckled. “Better than expected. British Petroleum sold their mineral rights on the land. We’re ready to put it into a trust, never to be touched again.”
“Excellent. I’m on my way to Minnesota to oversee how things are progressing and start a new job.” He glanced at Olvegaart’s local newspaper, The Daily Crier. “Hey, I need you to halt construction for a bit.”
“Will do, but don’t tell me now you’re going to make it into a lodge?”
Jake chortled. “You know me better than that. Plan’s the same. Gotta go, talk later.” He hung up before hearing a reply.
He strode to the fresh brewed coffee, and poured a cup. Leaning against the counter, he wondered if he needed a bigger crew, more managers. He finished his mug and ambled to his seat. The phone rang three times before he could answer. “Morning, Jake, here.”
“Evening, here in Paris.”
Jake sat back, smiling. “Drew. How’s the city, little sister?”
“Crazy. They all talk funny here.”
Jake laughed. “That so. They don’t moo?”
“Funny. You know. All fancy. I did get some buyers for the Longhorns, but they won’t be happy. They’re rich as Midas, but want to get a penny on the dollar.”
“Probably because they wanted to meet in Paris and paid for your trip. Scrap it and don’t sell. I’d rather not have you try to placate them. Walk away.” He heard a huff of irritation, then silence. “Is Don there?”
“You know these buyers prefer doing businessmen, not women. You should’ve sent Don—”
“Not my first go ‘round, not that you’re around enough to know. This is my biz, remember? I can handle them. If they don’t care for it, tough. Anyone wants a fight, I’ll protect Don. Don’t forget he’s a ranch hand, not a businessman.”
“Any news on Idaho?”
Jake swiveled in his chair. “Lawsuit against GMO was successful, farmers are happy.”
“Hey, I’ve got so many irons is the fire—would you be interested in taking over the land proposal in Minnesota?” He wanted to avoid the sword-wielding chief. Running herd on three headstrong sisters was one thing. An angry boss was another thing, especially when proposing a big land deal and a small town job. He heard Drew sigh. She didn’t approve of his drastic interventions.
“This is your thing. Your move. If you wanted your job as detective, why leave Dallas? I don’t do ‘dead town’ revivals. You know that. You’ll need to buck up—oh wait—a woman is involved.”
“Geez, Drew. You’re making assumptions.” Subject change. “How is the old man?”
“Pissed. He gets mad every time he asks about you.”
He peered out the window. Thick clouds lay below him. “Now what?”
“He thinks some woebegone waif will chase after your money. You gonna let it?”
“Dad needs to stay out of my life.” He smiled. “I have no intention of letting this fall apart.” And hopefully Chief Makela would understand the grand plan for her town. “Have fun in Paris, but be good. Love you.”
“Love you, too. Bye.”
“Bye.” He replaced the handset to the cradle. “Jeremiah twenty-nine- eleven.” He laced his fingers and leaned back in his seat cushion. I should’ve called the chief before making this move. Lord, I pray I made the right decision. They need help.
From Dallas to Olvegaart, time: 1025 arrival
Jake climbed from a GMC provided him by the dealer in Two Harbors.
He met the driver, accepted the keys, and thanked him for delivering the vehicle. He didn’t have far to drive when he spied the PD. The police station’s parking lot was empty.
The heavy door to Olvegaart’s police department creaked open, and the screen door banged behind him. To his left, her impressive long sword with Celtic engravings hung over an old rock fireplace. The same one she brandished in the article sporting a ‘come-and-get-it’ expression. Two computers, a few Post-it notes, coffee pot, microwave, refrigerator, and counter—and a border collie in a chair giving him a tipped head.
“Back at ya. Come on.” Jake clapped a hand against his thigh. The dog jumped from his chair, and Jake scratched the dog behind his ear. He moved to the computer, pulled a note taped to it, and checked the directions on his cellphone. The dog nudged him. “Oh, you’re a spoiled one, aren’t you?” He rubbed the dog’s head.
The door to the chief’s office was ajar, and he knocked out of habit. “Chief? Alexandra Makela?” No answer. He pushed it open. The office was empty, and he turned and ambled back toward the entry. He climbed into the truck and headed toward Taggart River trailhead.
Jake on the trail, 1035
Jake turned off the road at the trailhead sign, parked and began a short trek down the path. He climbed over downed pines, long since dead and in varying stages of decay. The mud under his boots squished and sludge held onto his boots, reminiscent of cattle manure, minus the reek.
He slowed and watched the chief work. Good forensic techniques. Impressive work.
She had jet-black hair in a bun, loose wisps catching the wind. Gloved at a crime scene, she couldn’t touch her face, and seemed annoyed as stragglers minded only the breeze. The chief appeared fit, and either not afraid to get mud all over, or a bit of a klutz. He smiled. Impossible not to get mud all over in this mess, or either of his jobs—the old life as detective, and life on the rigs. He leaned against a tree and assessed both the scene and the new boss. Jake couldn’t make out words between her and Tore Svein, the town’s coroner.
Duluth. She ran into trouble at the academy. Engaged. Daughter of a pastor, youngest child. The rest, he’d glossed over on the plane. He wanted to hear Chief Makela’s life’s story if she hired him—and kept him on, as soon as he explained himself.
A smile tugged at the corner of Jake’s lips, remembering the newspaper’s photo. Not plain nor the faces of women he’d run across who layers of makeup plastered on their faces. Ladies who could condescendingly drawl, ‘Well, bless your heart,’ but wouldn’t ride a horse, muddy their nails, or take interest in him—especially as a detective. Once his father slipped the words and said, ‘Glen Rose Ranch.’
Not-really-wannabe-ranch girls were all over Jake. He thanked God his father never mentioned Jake and the Holy Oilers.
This Chief Makela reminded him of his sisters. His mom. The freckled girl who once lived down the road a piece, when he was ten. Down-to-earth.
Alex, you’re a lot more imposing when you’re angry, like the photo. Well, guess I stood around long enough.
She removed her sunglasses. Then she smiled.
Jake’s heart stopped. Oh, no. No, no, no. God, you know how important this is. It’s a job, more than that, it’s the town. If I can’t do my work…
‘Don’t be stupid nervous, don’t joke, no sarcasm, not ‘til she gets your hairy butt sense of humor. Keep your mouth shut. You know how you trip over your own twisted jokes,’ Ellie, the oldest of his sisters, said—more than once.
Ellie, of all of his younger sisters, knew him best. He was stupid around women, except his sisters and his old partner.
He closed his eyes with a prayer. I’m, well, I am what I am, but Lord, help untie my stupid tongue.
The space between them disappeared, he drew his hat low, and his eyes to the ground. Staring not allowed.
Thanks for reading! Check in next week for Chapter 3.