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Read book online «Finding Tessa by Jaime Hendricks (good story books to read TXT) 📕».   Author   -   Jaime Hendricks

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A Novel of Suspense




For my parents, Hank and Geri



Flashing blue and red lights late into the night always spelled trouble. Jace’s neighbors may have had their fill in the past, but that wasn’t his fault. Tessa was the one with a flair for dramatics—a fallen branch meant calling a landscaper before the tree collapsed onto the roof. Grab a bat when the dog barked, in case someone was breaking in. Rush the plumber over for a leaky faucet before the flood destroyed their new home.

This time, it was Jace who had made the emergency call—to the cops. Because Tessa was nowhere to be found.

Three taps. A nightstick on the front door. Candy, their cattle dog, shot up and barked.

“No, girl!” Jace pointed, disciplining her. She took two steps backward before she turned and went obediently to her bed in the corner of the kitchen and slumped down with a sigh. Jace rose from the silver paisley-patterned chair that Tessa always called “fancy” and answered the door.

“Officer Cannon, sir. You the one that called?”

Officer Cannon stood at least six-foot-five, and even Jace had to crane his head north to look him in the eye. The man was mammoth. “Yes, I’m Jace Montgomery. Come in.”

The screen door squeaked as Jace opened it for the cop, who revealed a typical officer crew cut under the hat he removed before stepping into the foyer.

“Great entryway,” Cannon said.

As an interior designer, Tessa had taken advantage of the lofted ceiling. The walls were painted a faint silver, almost white, and so anyone could detect the slight metallic tint, especially now with the moonlight bouncing in from the front bay window. All the fixtures that held candles and pictures were chrome, and large crystals hung from the overhead chandelier. Tessa always said first impressions mattered.

“Thanks. My wife designed it,” Jace said, wincing at her mention, and wanting to get on with it. The reason for the officer’s presence wasn’t to discuss home furnishings. “I think something happened to her. She’s missing. Look over here.”

Jace walked the officer to the back of the house and pointed to the window next to the kitchen table. It was his favorite part of the house. Five big windows in a semicircle surrounded their breakfast nook and had an unfettered view to the lake in the yard. It was a decent sized body of water for suburban New Jersey, and they were lucky enough to be at the end of the cul-de-sac. Private. Water on one side, woods on the other.

Now, one of the windows was broken. Shattered glass on the ceramic tile floor. A sideways chair. Strands of Tessa’s dark hair, more than usual, in a clump on the ground. There were a few drops of blood. More than a few, actually. Splatters.

Just like the splatters on his shirt, which he’d already changed out of.

“Did you touch anything over here?” Cannon asked.

“No. Well, the back doorknob, which was unlocked, and I thought that was weird. We always lock it after we come in or let the dog in. I opened it when I couldn’t find Tessa inside. I thought maybe she was having a glass of wine in the yard.”

Cannon’s eyebrow rose. “At nine at night? On a Thursday?”

Jace hesitated. “It wouldn’t be the first time. But she wasn’t feeling well. She said she didn’t work today. I mean, she works from home, but said she was going to have soup and lie in bed. She texted me this morning. It was the last time I heard from her.”

Cannon wrote in a pad. “Anything else?”

“It was late when I got home from work. Candy greeted me at the door and—”


“The dog.” He pointed to the now curled-up ball of fur breathing steadily on her bed. “She’s usually upstairs in bed with Tessa when I get home late. Anyway, the house was dark, so I went right upstairs, thinking Tessa was sleeping. Her side of the bed was pulled back, but didn’t look slept in. I checked the bathrooms, and she wasn’t there. God forbid she had to go to a walk-in clinic or the emergency room if she was really sick, but I didn’t get any Uber receipts to my email.”

Officer Cannon looked at him with doubt.

“Tessa doesn’t drive. She either walks or Ubers everywhere. So, I came into the kitchen.”

Cannon took dictation like a pro, never asking for clarification, jotting down quick notes. “And that’s when you found the broken window and the blood?”

“Yes. And her purse is over there on the counter.” He pointed to the beige Michael Kors bag that he bought her. “Her phone is plugged into the charger. That’s when I knew she couldn’t have left on her own. Women don’t leave the house without their purse and phone.” His hand went to his head. “The blood, officer. Do you think it’s hers?”

Cannon pressed a button on the radio on his shoulder. “Can you get a forensics team and Detective Solomon down to 32 Lovett Road in Valley Lake?”

“Forensics?” Jace leaned his arm against the wall to steady himself.

Cannon’s eyebrows rose and he pressed his lips together. “It doesn’t look good.” He stared pointedly at Jace, his eyes accusatory. “You always get home past nine?”

“No, not always. I—I had a meeting that ran late.”

“And where do you work, Mr. Montgomery?”

“I’m the branch manager at Valley Lake Bank. We’re trying—we, as in me, my boss, and my coworker—we’re trying to secure the financing for the new shopping center that’s going up off Main Street.”

Officer Cannon shook his head and curled his lip. “All of those big stores are going to put our mom-and-pops out of business. We like our two-block Main Street. We don’t need a Big Lots or a TGI Fridays in Valley Lake.”

Neither of those were contracted with the builder as far as Jace knew, but it wasn’t the first time he’d heard

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