Take the Body and Run
Fleeing her past, Macey hurtles into danger.
Macey’s first day in the college employee relations department ends with a knife at her throat. Macey is certain things can’t get any worse. She’s wrong. An angry employee vows to put her on an online hit list. When he turns up dead, she’s a suspect—and on the hit list. To keep her secrets and her life, Macey partners with Vince, a driven lawman, and fun-loving pathologist Brett, who drives everyone crazy with his quirky humor and his fart machine. Her cat Wikket grumpily leaps into the fray.
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Here is the beginning of the book.
Welcome to Macey Malloy’s World
My name is Macey Malloy. My world is chaotic. In the midst of mysterious deaths and scary happenings, you’ll be meeting a very diverse group of people. You’ll also be right here with me as I start my new job as the university Employee Relations Director. You would think with that job title, I’d be better with people. But no.
The Work Gang:
Leila Frey is the Recruitment Director. She’s cute, funny… and her accountability to me chafes her butt like a leather thong.
Whitney Smith is a recruiter, both for the university and for her team. She loves to stir the animosity between Leila, who is her boss, and Angela. Her pink-haired friend Luci plays guitar in a band and possesses hidden talents.
Angela Langford is the Employee Relations Manager. She needs emergency mentoring with her relations with employees, especially me, her new boss. I snatched her coveted promotion out from under her, to hear her whining about it. She hates me almost as much as she does Leila.
Joris Cobb, supervisor of the Employee Records Department, is rotund, white-haired, and sweet as a molasses cookie… one baked with a tart lemon filling and rolled in green persimmons.
Katie Brewer, one of Joris’ Employee Records Clerks, hides behind her fall of long brown hair. She only ventures out to suck up to her boss or to make my life miserable. Considering Joris’ attitude toward me, she can hit two goals at one time.
Greta is the receptionist. Rather than greeting visitors and answers the phone, she watches slasher movies in bloody streams on her work time. She’s also determined to take me down, with the help of a bulky friend.
Tanna Woods is the Chief Human Resources Officer. She’s also my boss. My predecessor, Jennifer Hughes, asked Tanna a lot of questions. So do I. Let’s hope I don’t end up like Jennifer. She was deleted from the payroll… permanently.
People I Pissed Off My First Week at Work
I have limited space, so I’ll stick with the Top PO’ed at Macey List.
Dr. Eric Monroe functions as both the county coroner and the medical examiner. They got a BOGO, buy one, get one, with him. His talent is great eye contact… with my breasts. I’d like to take him back for a refund.
Dr. Andrew Paine runs the university’s Body Bequeathal Program. When he’s not drooling over body donations to promote science, he teaches classes in the School of Medicine. His students call him Dr. Pain in the Ass.
Cynthia Myers is the Chief Nurse Executive and chief pain in my ass. She’s waging a one-woman war on cooties. She also runs the nursing area with an iron fist in a titanium glove.
Lareton Smith, Nursing Director, growls like a guard dog when Cynthia invades his territory.
Charity Settle, Nurse Manager, is caught between Lareton and Cynthia. She may have to get creative to keep them both happy.
More garage mechanic than professional nurse, Craig Roberts is incensed when he gets caught threatening a patient. As the Employee Relations Director, I suspend him. An unknown stalker has a chilling, longer-term plan for the nurse.
Minerva is a beautiful Latina firecracker, intent on opening a can of Whoop on my Ass.
Other People Not Likely to Join the Macey Malloy Fan Club
Feel free to mix and match people from my Gang at Work, My Boss, and non-fan club members. They won’t mind.
Legal expert Trusty Cole is ambitious. He wants to climb the campus ladder… and his statuesque administrative assistant, with rungs in all the right places.
Candi, a cute, jiggly blonde college student, uses her Cam to record her entire life on video. She streams it to middle-aged men to stock her war chest… and to pay for its enhancements.
Bethany Spencer is another blonde, neither jiggly nor flighty. She’s the assistant to Dr. Paine, helping him with the administrative side of the Body Bequeathal Program. Dr. Paine would love for her to donate her body, but not to the Bequeathal Program.
Sergio is Minerva’s handsome brother. He exudes a certain earthy charisma. His pet name for Minerva is Minnie Mouse, but I like Nervy Minvery much better.
Rowen Sands cannibalized his family farm to develop a luxurious community. Austin Cramer has a vested interest in the real estate beyond the role of caretaker.
Hunky Guys Who Don’t Like Secrets, Surprises, or Secret Surprises
Detective Vince Knox is dedicated to law enforcement. He’s muscular, handsome, and disconcertingly intuitive. If opportunity Knox, I may or may not answer the door.
Dr. Brett Reed teaches medical students. He also sees a special sort of patient in the academic medical center. He’s funny, brave, and not afraid to drive a conga line to the rescue. If he wrote a joke book, I might be tempted to Reed it.
Wikket is strong, courageous, and ready to rumble. He’s grumpy, sensitive, and hard to live with. He’s a nosy busybody, loves to meddle in my business, and thinks he knows everything. He’s not my mother. He’s a cat. Note I didn’t say “my cat.” He’s his own feline.
“It’s your fault my husband is dead. Now, I’m getting even.” Her black, curly hair wild around her contorted face, the woman slapped my desk with one hand. Her body, the generous curves stuffed in a tight black dress with the hem barely south of the law, shook. She held the butcher knife in front of her like a short sword, the blade gleaming in fluorescent light.
The first day at work is the hardest. I’ve had difficult first days, such as the day I began my job at the trauma hospital. I’d parked in a board of director’s plum, downtown space. Her contorted face at odds with her pretty pink suit and white silk blouse, she’d screamed at me, attracting the attention of everyone walking from the parking garage. An onlooker had called the police. I’d ended up in the irate chief executive’s office, trying to look contrite as he’d droned on and on about how much money she’d contributed to the hospital. Good thing he was old school when it came to technology. He didn’t find out until later about the viral video.
I’d thought that was my most horrible first day. Now, this was shaping up as the new winner of the Worst First Day at Work award.
The strange woman’s eyes burned with rage as she leaned over the desk. She pointed the knife at my chest. “Virgil killed himself because you fired him on trumped-up sexual harassment charges.”
My primitive hindbrain screamed run. The more intellectual thought processes clamored that running equaled a knife in my thorax. I quelled the flight instinct with a promise to listen if I couldn’t think of another option.
As my heart hammered and my body shook, I forced myself to concentrate. Since it was the first day of the fall semester as well as my first day at the university, the lobby upstairs was jammed with students, signing up for their work study assignments. My staff was helping out with the melee, excuse me, the high volumes, leaving me alone in the deserted basement work area. My office was tucked away in the far corner with the other offices. The cube farm, employee records dungeon, and the front counter were between me and help.
The front counter! Fear jabbed my racing heart. “What did you do to Angela?”
Surprise replaced the fury on her face. “Who?”
“The woman at the counter! Did you kill her?”
The woman rolled her eyes, pulling down the edges of her mouth in disgust. “I wouldn’t hurt an innocent person. There was no one at the counter. I simply hoisted myself over the barrier. I wandered around until I found you.”
I was relieved Angela was safe, in spite of her thinly-veiled animosity toward me. She’d wanted this director job. Tanna Woods, the Chief Human Resources Officer and my new boss, had warned me about the venomous Employee Relations Manager. Angela had thought my job would be the next logical stepping stone in her career. When she told me about it, Tanna had snorted. She said Angela did well enough in the role, but lacked the skills to move up the ladder. Tanna said the other woman didn’t have the needed diplomacy skills, poise, and tact for the director role. Angela had a tendency to say what she thought, especially when senior leaders said and did stupid things. I didn’t think it was the best time to inform my new boss that I shared my new subordinate’s weakness.
I jerked my thoughts back to the present. I couldn’t dial 911 on the office phone before she stabbed me. My cell phone was in my huge black-and-red purse. I’d tossed it in the corner when I’d come in. The bag might as well have been across campus. Some human resources offices have panic buttons. If this office had one, then I didn’t know where it was. I felt gingerly under my desk top. Nope, nothing but a wad of old gum. Ew.
Out of ideas, I decided on honesty. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t fire your husband. This is my first day at work.”
“Nice try. You fired my husband, Miss Hughes. You deliberately kept him from getting unemployment. You leaked the story to the local newspaper. With the false accusations dogging his steps, he couldn’t get another job. Out of options, he killed himself.” Tears flowed down her round cheeks, along with mascara.
“You’ve made a mistake, ma’am.” I did my best to look open and honest. “My name is Macey Malloy. I took Ms. Hughes’ position as the Employee Relations Director.”
She glared. She was mad, upset, and grieving. She was not convinced of my innocence.
Very slowly, I stood. Over the years as a manager, I’d been in meetings that dragged on and on. I’d thought death would be a sweet release. I winced now at the irony of those irreverent thoughts. Over time, I’d learned that standing up would generally end a meeting. I didn’t have much hope that the body language would work on a grief-stricken widow bent on bloody revenge.
I was right.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” Twisting toward the doorway, she used the knife as a pointer. “The name on the office door is Jennifer Hughes.” She pivoted back to me. With her free hand, she grabbed a sheaf of loose papers from the desk. She glanced down at them. “Memos to Ms. Hughes.” She threw the papers to the side. She picked up the nameplate engraved Jenn Hughes from the messy desk. She used it to shove my office phone off the desk, baring her teeth when it clattered to the floor. She waved the nameplate in my face, and then she threw it.
I screamed and ducked as the metal whistled past my ear to crash into the corner behind me. I stumbled, my knees weak. I fell backward into my office chair. “Ms. Hughes left the university very abruptly, without cleaning out her office.” My voice shook with fear. I didn’t sound convincing, even to myself.
“You’re exactly as Virgil described you. He said you have thick, black hair, shoulder length with the ends curled under. You’re not pretty, but you’re attractive, despite your long nose and wide mouth. He also said you’re exactly eight inches taller than me, which makes you five feet, ten inches tall.”
A new frisson of fear slid down my spine. Did Tanna hire me because I resembled the previous Employee Relations Director? I remembered the president of the small Kentucky college where I’d worked until a month ago. He hired petite blonde women, collecting them as if they were dolls for his curio cabinet. Tall, dark, and not even close to petite, I didn’t fit the profile. His predecessor had hired me. He inherited me, so to speak, but he wasn’t happy about it. His chagrin went deeper than just my non-Barbie-doll looks.
“Virgil was right, you’re a little pudgy, but hey—” she broke off to stare down at her short, thick body “—even a dog likes some meat on his bone.”
I preferred healthy, not pudgy, but I wasn’t correcting an enraged woman with a knife. “I can’t help it if I share a physical description with Ms. Hughes—”
“Shut up. I’m talking. The university owed my husband. Virgil Greene played football for this university. He was—”
“—the Lean, Greene, Fighting Machine,” I finished. In spite of my watery insides, I was impressed. “He carried the university to prestigious bowl games every year he played. He went on to the NFL.” I frowned, poking through my memory. “He got hurt his second year as a pro. He packed on weight. The last I heard, he was bankrupt, diabetic, and working a dead-end job as a custodian for a university—”
Mrs. Greene bellowed like a wounded moose. “The university made millions off him, without paying him a dime.”
Too late, I realized I’d been less than diplomatic. Good thing Tanna’s not here to see it, I thought.
“The pros used him up, and didn’t care when he shattered his leg on the field. Virgil never planned; he thought he’d always have the money rolling in. He spent millions of dollars partying with his entourage. When the money was gone, so were his friends. Broke, he came back to the university, begging for work. People still remembered his name. He got a job as a janitor. He was working for ten freaking bucks an hour, coming in when he was too sick to work, and cleaning up after self-centered students who couldn’t be bothered to pick up after themselves. After all, their mommies and daddies made them the centers of their universes, giving them everything they wanted—”
As Mrs. Greene continued down what sounded like a well-worn rant road, I tried to think. In the outer area next to the cube farm, high windows were on a level with the parking lot. There were no windows in my new office, and only the one door. In the basement, like outer space, no one could hear me scream.
“And then, you investigated Virgil for sexual harassment. You claimed he was following the cheerleaders around campus. Actually, he just loved the football field.” Mrs. Greene’s face softened, the dark eyes melting like milk chocolate.
If I ignored the knife, Mrs. Greene was a pretty young widow, her face reflecting her grief and love for her dead husband.
“He spent the happiest years of his life on the field,” she continued, her voice low. Without the rage, her tones were musical. “In some unconscious way, he was trying to recapture those glory days. He wanted the kids cheering for him, asking him for his autograph, and reporters interviewing him.”
I pictured a sick man wishing for his glory days. In the here and now, I saw a woman who loved her husband. My heart melted. I tried to reason with myself. This woman was holding me at knife point, ready to plunge her weapon into my chest or swipe it across my throat.
I sternly ordered the sympathy to get the hell out of my heart. It refused. I sighed. This was exactly why I had taken in a cantankerous old cat, against my better judgment. Of course, the cat couldn’t hold me hostage. At least, not yet. Wikket was a pretty smart feline.
“Those hoity-toity sorority girls decided he was a creepy old man following them to cheerleading practice. And you agreed, you heartless bitch!”
Spit flew in my face. I was afraid to reach for the hand sanitizer.
Mrs. Greene growled. Her fury chased away the remaining wisps of humanity. “He was just crossing the campus behind them, not stalking them!”
My sympathy dried up more quickly than the globules of saliva on my face. I was sick of being at the wild woman’s mercy. I couldn’t keep waiting for the staff to return to the basement. They were scheduled to help in the lobby all day.
I decided I’d had enough. Mrs. Greene was focused on her husband and the great injustice. If I rushed her, I might overpower her. I might even live through it. I braced my hands against the arms of my chair.
Movement at the door caught my attention.