Holiday in Crimson

by New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author Patricia Rosemoor

Murder and mistletoe…

Someone killed Santa. When she wakes an office after the company Christmas party, Shelby Corbin accidentally trips over the Christmas corpse… who also turns out to be the co-owner of Westbrook Department Store and Shelby’s boss. Covered in blood and terrified of a life behind bars, Shelby panics and flees the scene of the crime in her crimson party dress.

CEO Rand McNabb doesn’t know who murdered his business partner. What he does know is that he saw a dark-haired woman in a crimson dress running from the scene. With his own sister one of the primes suspects, Rand begins his own investigation. And he’s starting with a suspect of his own…

Shelby is pretty sure Rand knows something. On the other hand, it’s really hard to say no to a sexy, successful, and gorgeous man… even he if he does suspect she’s a murderer. One thing is certain –she’d better watch her step, or this Christmas could be the death of her!

 

Information:

Title: Holiday in Crimson
Author: Patricia Rosemoor
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: 228 pages
Release Date: November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-62266-999-8
Imprint: Dead Sexy
 

 
 
 

Praise for Holiday in Crimson:

“As full of surprises as a well-filled stocking.”
- Bestselling Author Ann Voss Peterson

 

Excerpt:

© 2012 Patricia Rosemoor

Chapter One

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Colors danced through darkness—glowing, haloed beacons cutting through the night.

“Twinkle, twinkle. Little star…how I wonder…”

Shelby Corbin ordered her sleep-drugged mind to focus so she could see the stars more clearly. No, not stars. The seductive twinkle of Christmas lights shone on the wood of the open door, their syncopated shimmer reflecting off its polished surface. Red. Green. Blue. She concentrated on the splashes of color that hypnotized her back to the warm, safe, waiting void. She closed her eyes and let herself float. Colors lingered, smudging her thoughts. Something had disturbed her, but it required too great an effort to figure out what.

Quick footsteps and the sound of a closing door nearby made Shelby open her eyes. This time she realized her nocturnal surroundings were foreign. She struggled to sit up, then grabbed for support when her head threatened to explode. A cold, smooth surface rather than the soft texture of her down coverlet met her hand.

A leather couch rather than her bed.

Where was she?

Shelby waited until her inner world righted itself with a dull thud that started at the roots of her hair and bounced its way down to her toes. Trying not to taunt the gremlins who would wreak havoc inside her at any provocation, she moved…oh, so carefully. The rustling of her taffeta dress pounded through her head.

Crimson taffeta. The company Christmas party. She remembered now. She was still at Westbrook, in the store’s executive offices. During the evening, she’d come in here to lie down for a minute—

As she set her sandaled feet on the floor, Shelby knew she was in for one doozy of a hangover. Her head felt so odd, and the taste in her mouth that reminded her of the punch she’d tried was sickening. Santa Claus had given the drink to her, she thought wryly. How could anyone refuse Santa anything?

Well, she should have. She’d already had a couple of glasses of wine, and the punch had been strong enough to make her woozy. Hence she’d been asleep on the couch when everyone had cleared out.

Work would be pure hell unless she found some aspirin. Her assistant Zeke had a bottle in his desk downstairs; she’d look for the aspirin before she left for home. Getting to the window display office in the dark would be a challenge. While she might be able to find the light switch once she got there, she expected the hallway would be in total darkness.

Shelby rose with caution, telling herself that as long as she didn’t make any sudden movements, she’d be okay.

Odd that no one had noticed she’d passed out in this office. She’d heard someone leave, so the party must have ended a short while before. She followed the glow of twinkling colored lights into the main reception area. That they’d been left on at all was curious. The tree was still lit in all its glory. A giant balsamic fur, it was traditionally decorated with the same glass ornaments and icicles, and a gorgeous tree topper that had been used for decades.

The hallway beyond was dark. Her purse was still in her office or she would have her Smartphone, which had a built-in flashlight. Maybe she should call Edgar Siefert. The older security guard would have a good laugh at her predicament, but she preferred being teased to having her neck broken by a fall down the stairs. The phone—where was it? Shelby could see the bulky outline of the reception desk. Relieved, she was heading straight for it when her foot tangled with something on the floor. She reached out to catch herself, but her other foot got caught as well and she flew forward, landing with a jolt on her hands and knees. The room tilted crazily. She shook her head to clear it, then squeezed her eyes shut when pain exploded through her temple. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It took a moment for her equilibrium to adjust.

Crawling around to see what had tripped her, Shelby froze, the breath caught in her throat.

“Oh, Lord!” she croaked hoarsely, unwilling to believe her eyes. For before her, the Christmas lights danced across a ludicrous scene: Santa Claus lay sprawled on his back, eyes open and staring, mouth slack behind the fake beard and mustache. “Hey, Santa, wake up.”

As her pulse rapidly scooted through her, Shelby told herself the actor playing Santa Claus must have been sampling the punch, too. He’d passed out as she had.

“Come on, wake up! The party’s over!”  Her voice echoed hollowly through the spacious reception area as she still tried to deny what she’d found.  She shook the actor gently to wake him, but when he didn’t respond, she pushed harder at his chest with both hands. A piece of mistletoe pinned to his suit tore free and fell to the floor. “It’s time to go back to the North Pole—Mrs. Claus is waiting!”

His Santa suit was sticky-wet and her probing fingers found a hole ripped through the fabric—and through his chest. Her forefinger made a sucking sound as she pulled it free. Her head went woozy and her stomach threatened to revolt. Her hands came away coated. Hazel eyes blinking in disbelief, Shelby stared at her palms as the holiday lights lit them, the changing display camouflaging the color of clotting blood.

“You’re still alive—you’ve got to be!” she choked out, her fingers now fumbling for the pulse in his neck. She ripped the beard from the man’s face only to make another startling discovery. “Dutch!” This wasn’t the hired actor who’d played Santa at the party.

Dutch Vanleer, one of Westbrook’s two controlling stockholders, the president and figurehead of the department store, stared up at her blankly.

And he had no pulse, was already stiffening to the touch.

Dead—she was trying to find the pulse of a dead man, for God’s sake.

“Aah!” Shelby slid away from the body as bile rose to her throat, threatening to choke her. She swallowed with difficulty and stared at her blood-covered hands.

Repulsed, she wiped them on her dress over and over until she’d removed the blood. The horror of finding a dead body muddled her mind. An accident. Dutch had had some kind of accident. But accidents didn’t leave a hole in the chest like the one she’d found, did they? She looked around for some sharp object he could have fallen on. Nothing. No weapon of any kind.

Weapon…murder…Dutch must have been murdered!

And she was the only one around.

What the hell was she going to do now?

Throw up, that’s what. Though the room whirled around her, Shelby somehow managed to get to her feet and head for the bathroom next to the office where she’d passed out. If she didn’t act quickly, she’d retch on the corpse. Stumbling into the bathroom, she spent the next agonizing minutes clutching the toilet bowl. Only when her stomach was empty and she was rising from the floor did she notice dull winter light seeping through the cracks of the closed blinds. It was morning. She’d been passed out for hours.

Light shafted over streaks of blood where she’d held on to the porcelain bowl. Horrified, Shelby found a sponge and frantically scrubbed at the fingerprints, as if she could wipe away not only them, but the murder as well. Then she washed her hands until no trace of red remained. Teetering back into the reception area, she avoided looking at the corpse and headed for the telephone to call the police. She reached for the receiver, but stopped halfway there.

She’d been left alone with a dead man—her married employer, who’d been after her to go out with him since she’d been hired as the Visual Merchandising Manager six weeks earlier. With whom she’d had a recent witnessed hot argument on that very topic.

Her mind still felt fuzzy, and for a moment Shelby wondered if she’d been drugged. If Dutch had purposely given her something so that he could take advantage of her.

What if he had…

And then what if she had…

No, no. Other than having a hangover, she felt fine. She couldn’t have done this.

Still, she shuddered and decided not to make that call. Her dress was now covered with Dutch’s blood. And if the police found out about that other work-related incident in which she’d defended herself from being molested by hitting a man with a beer bottle, she’d be a prime suspect, for sure.

No, she couldn’t call the police.

Shelby pressed a trembling hand to her stomach, which felt as if it had been squeezed in a vise. Someone had been in this room only a few minutes ago. That person—the real murderer?—might have killed Dutch while she was trying to struggle out of sleep. Maybe the murderer was still around, and she was in danger.

Backing toward the door, she looked around wildly, as if the murderer would spring from one of the darkened corners of the room.

Rand McNabb entered Westbrook’s rear entrance feeling like hell. Who wouldn’t after a sleepless night like the one he’d just had? He’d rushed back to his Lincoln Park town house long enough to leave his bag, change his shirt and shave. He had to look decent for the board meeting later that morning. As CEO of Westbrook, he had an image to maintain.

He passed the security office, noticing it was empty. The video monitors were on, but the man who was supposed to be watching them was nowhere in sight. Maybe the security guard was in the restroom. “Edgar?” No answer.

Frowning, Rand turned and headed out into the store proper. He checked the State Street side, but there was no sign of the man. Then he spotted Edgar coming from between two banks of escalators in the middle of the store.

“Hey, boss, you’re back!” Edgar said with a broad smile. As he approached Rand, he jerked his trousers, lifting them from where the waistband rested under his middle-aged paunch. “You missed one terrific wingding last night.”

“It couldn’t be helped.” His reason for missing the Christmas party was the last thing Rand felt like talking about. “Edgar, is there something wrong out here?”

“Nah, no problem. Maintenance is late this morning—the party and all—so I decided to turn everything on for the boys. That’s what I was doing when  I heard a noise over by the fire stairs. I checked it out. Nothing. Must have been the rats.”

“Doesn’t maintenance have the rodent problem under control yet?” Rand asked, irritated that Dutch couldn’t even take care of the small problems.

“Listen, boss, when you been in the department store game as long as I have, you’ll realize there’s some problems you never get rid of.” Edgar shook his balding head and adjusted his pants again. “And in a city the size of Chicago, and with this store being over the subway system and only a couple of blocks from the river and all, rats are gonna be a fact of life.”

The facts of life of running a large department store were piling up on him, Rand thought. Maybe his early retirement from football had been premature. Dealing with the real world was taking its toll on him. Of course, if he had a partner who actually did half the work, Rand was sure he’d be in a different frame of mind. But his disgust was only natural, since Dutch had decided he wanted the glory of being Westbrook’s quarterback without having to run with the ball. Well, Dutch wasn’t going to get away with it anymore.

A black and white kind of guy when it came to honesty, Rand was sick of Dutch’s evasions and lies, not only having to do with the business but with Dutch’s marriage to his sister Pippa.

“Hey, I gotta go, boss. My shift is almost up. My reports—”

“Go ahead, Edgar,” Rand said, heading for the elevators. “I need to do some paperwork before the board meeting myself.”

On his way up to the ninth floor’s executive suite, Rand couldn’t help thinking about the mistake he’d made when he’d let Dutch talk him into buying the failing store from Althea Westbrook two years earlier. But Pippa had still been trying to work out her stormy marriage with Dutch, and Rand had figured the partnership was a way to ensure his kid sister’s future. He hadn’t realized the burden of bringing Westbrook back to its former prominence would be almost completely on his shoulders. His brother-in-law had been good for public relations, but not much else.

That was about to change.

The elevator doors opened. He stepped out and was heading for the executive offices when he heard the creak of hinges behind him. Turning toward the sound, he caught sight of shimmery red material swinging through the fire stairs doorway. He craned for a better look, but only managed to get a split-second impression of the back of a slender, dark-haired woman in a red dress before the door closed and cut off his view.

Dutch never had been subtle about his infidelities, Rand thought with disgust, sure the mystery woman was his partner’s latest paramour, one who, rumor had it, worked at Westbrook. It was obvious she’d just come out of the executive suite, a fact that didn’t surprise him.

Rand grabbed hold of the knob before realizing the door was open a crack. He pushed and it swung wide. The Christmas tree was the only thing lit in the room. He stepped inside, his eyes drawn to the body on the floor.

“What the hell!”

A disbelieving Rand raced to the body, stooped down, then felt for a pulse.

He couldn’t believe it. His partner might be a disgusting womanizer, but he didn’t deserve this.

Dutch Vanleer was dead.

 

 

Chapter Two

Though guilt about not calling the police had her stomach in a knot, Shelby quietly tiptoed along the hallway until she reached the Visual Merchandising office. Her hand was on the doorknob when she heard a soft sound that made her catch her breath. A shoe scuffling against the marble floor? A quick look around assured her no one was in sight.

Breathing normally once more, she let herself into the office. A glance at the clock told her it was eight-fifteen, barely a quarter of an hour before the office employees were expected. She headed for her inner office where she’d left her clothes the night before and tried to undo her dress as she went. She had to change before someone else got there and saw her or she’d be held suspect for a murder she didn’t commit.

Her zipper stuck. Shelby grabbed the material with both hands and tugged until it ripped free. No matter. She’d never wear the dress again, anyway. She slipped out of the torn taffeta. The crimson that remained on her torso made her stomach clutch. Frantically she used the dress to scrub the blood off her skin, then threw the garment on her drawing board. She wore only a pair of sparkly holiday panty hose and her strappy shoes, and her exposed skin crawled with goose bumps.

Shelby ignored her discomfort as she tried to figure out where to hide the dress and how to get it out of the office. She spotted her art portfolio. Grabbing the dress, she panicked when it seemed to catch on her drawing board. She tore the garment free, folded it as flat as possible and stuffed it into her case. She slipped out of her shoes and hid them in the bottom of her big shoulder bag.

Shelby quickly pulled on the forest-green slacks and turtleneck she’d worn to the office the day before, praying no one would wonder why she’d worn the same outfit two days in a row. Remembering the multicolored scarf she’d stuffed into her coat pocket, she pulled it out and draped it around her neck to give the ensemble a different look.

She checked the clock. Eight twenty-one.

Hurriedly slipping into her dark green flats, she grabbed her coat, portfolio and purse and headed for the ladies’ room, where she’d wait until other people arrived. This was one morning when she’d report to work late rather than early. Managers didn’t have to punch in a time clock as did the general office and sales people, so no one would be able to prove she’d been in the building all night. She locked herself in  a stall.

Voices and the sound of the elevator at work told her the store was coming to life. Glancing at her watch, Shelby realized it was eight-thirty-four. She got her things together but hesitated when she heard the ladies’ room door open.

“So what do you think those police cars are doing outside?”

The question issued by a strange voice made Shelby stay where she was.

“I dunno, Loretta. Think we got robbed?”

The flippant words came from Iris Dahl who worked in cosmetics. Running water made Shelby strain to hear.

“Robbed? In the morning? Come on. Iris. Any street jerk would know yesterday’s receipts have already been deposited.”

The water stopped. In her most theatrical whisper, Iris said, “Maybe someone is being held hostage for a huge ransom!”

Shelby shifted and her portfolio banged against the stall’s wall. She flushed the toilet so the women wouldn’t get suspicious, then pressed her ear to the door to listen.

“More than likely, some little punk made a prank call to the cops,” Loretta answered. “Well, I have to get going. I have an early appointment with Dutch.”

A slight pause later, Iris asked, “You do?” She sounded odd.

“I have to talk to him about the latest order. Not nearly enough bathing suits. When the women of Chicago see my new line, they’ll be storming Westbrook’s doors.”

“Oh, yeah. Save me one of everything as usual, huh? Well, I’d better be getting down to the cosmetics counter myself.”

Sales staff didn’t have to report to work until nine, so Iris was early. Curious, Shelby thought, as the women’s heels clicked across the marble floor. Iris had a reputation for being late. Some of the employees had complained about it, wanting to know why the blonde was so privileged. But now was not the time to think about it. The door opened and closed again, and Shelby had to get out of the rest room—hopefully unnoticed—while the going was good.

Grabbing her things, she left the stall and almost ran out of the place. She was entering the Visual Merchandising office, when her assistant, Zeke Newburg, caught up with her.

“How’s the head doing this morning, Chief?”

Surprised by the teasing manner Zeke usually reserved for the staff, Shelby was thrown. “Uh, fine. Why?”

“You were pretty loose last night. I thought you might be suffering the consequences like the rest of us mortals.”

“Maybe a little,” Shelby muttered, walking away as she headed for her inner office. But Zeke followed, then propped his skinny six-foot-three form on her desk. “Someone must have gotten pretty wild, huh?”

“What?” Shelby had to crane her neck to meet his dark brown eyes.

“The cops,” he said, making her tense. “Someone must have gotten pretty rowdy.”

“Right. Listen, did you make a list of those supplies we talked about yesterday?”

Zeke backed off, palms toward her, overlarge mouth set in a crooked smile. “I can take a hint. I’ll leave you alone until you’re feeling a little perkier, Chief.”

Too bad everyone else didn’t choose to leave her alone. Work went on as usual. A supply salesman stopped by to see her. He had a piece of mistletoe pinned to his lapel. She couldn’t take her eyes from it—better than seeing Dutch dead. If the guy realized how tense she was, he didn’t let on.

The well-developed rumor mill was active. The word quickly leaked out that a homicide detective had arrived on the scene.

The call came at ten-thirty-six. It was Kristen, Randall McNabb’s secretary. The regular board meeting originally scheduled for that morning had been canceled. Instead, there’d be a meeting of department managers at eleven o’clock in the boardroom. She was to clear her schedule of any conflicts for the rest of the afternoon.

By the time she stepped into an empty elevator car at five minutes to eleven, everyone knew who’d been murdered in spite of McNabb’s attempt to keep the matter low key. Shelby thought she’d go crazy listening to the piped-in Christmas music as the elevator rose to the executive suite, but she drew herself together and had even curved her lips into a half smile by the time the doors opened.

The smile froze when she stepped out only to realize the paramedics were waiting to use her elevator car. She couldn’t take her eyes off the cart they pushed—or the king-sized body bag that rested on it. A quick picture of Santa Claus, his eyes staring, his mouth slack behind the beard and mustache, flashed through her mind and she suppressed a shudder. She didn’t know how long she stood there staring at elevator doors that had already closed before an angry voice filtered through the haze of her fear.

“Damn it, Jackson! Leave Pippa out of this!”

She turned to see Rand McNabb standing tensed in the open double doors of the executive suite. The faint scar that trailed from McNabb’s chiseled cheek to his auburn mustache stood out white against his flushed face. Glowering, he towered over a man who might be small in size compared to the ex-linebacker, but who seemed equally large in dignity.

“I can’t leave your sister out of this,” the other man she assumed was Jackson said smoothly, pocketing a small notebook.

A detective. Shelby stopped to look. The executive offices were marked off limits with crime scene tape, and a man who probably was an evidence technician scoured the floor in the area surrounding the Christmas tree. He had several plastic bags in his hand. One contained a fancy, narrow-bladed letter opener, another what looked like an ice pick.Was one of those the weapon used to kill Dutch?

And a woman was packing up camera equipment. Shelby imagined photos of Dutch as she’d found him. While the store was equipped with motion detectors and digital video cameras in every area, the executives had kept their offices free of surveillance so that no one could steal the ideas and business discussed here. Dutch’s idea.

“It’s public knowledge your sister was desperate for a divorce,” Jackson said, as Shelby passed the men. “Their dirty laundry has been spread across every rag in the area. Maybe this was her way of getting out of the marriage.”

“Pippa couldn’t hurt a fly. What about the woman in red?” McNabb demanded.

His startling question almost made Shelby trip. She kept going, eyes focused on the boardroom, pretending she wasn’t listening.

“I’ve made a note of your mysterious dark-haired woman,” the detective assured him. “I hope this isn’t your way of protecting your sister.”

The idea of almost having been caught by Rand McNabb made Shelby’s head grow so light that she missed his reply. She steadied herself at the doorway of the boardroom.

Jackson said, “I’m thinking like a cop. It’s my job.”

Shelby pushed herself into the half-filled room of silent people who must have heard the argument that had ended abruptly. All were department managers, as was she, aside from Althea Westbrook, who sat near the head of the room-long table next to Tucker Powers.

Shelby headed for a seat at the opposite end of the table from the former owner of Westbrook and the vice president of the legal department. The farther she’d be from McNabb the better, she thought, trying not to panic again. She took comfort in the fact that while she knew who he was, he probably couldn’t say the same about her. She’d never met him officially, and since he’d been in and out of town half a dozen times in as many weeks—the six that she’d been working at Westbrook—they’d never had any reason to speak to each other.

She sat next to Frank Hatcher, manager of data processing. He was a slim man, about her height, with thinning light brown hair. He was checking his watch and clucking to himself. “They tell us eleven, but it’s already five after.”

“You know why we’re here, don’t, you?” she asked quietly, as one person sat on her other side and another across from her.

“Of course  I do. Everybody knows. But if you ask me, giving up this whole afternoon is a waste of time. I have a lot of work to do before leaving for vacation at the end of the week. This is going to put me behind schedule.”

Shelby stared, shocked at the man’s cavalier attitude. She hadn’t liked Dutch herself, but to be worried about vacation at a time like this…

Rand McNabb chose that moment to sweep into the room, the perfect chief executive officer, no trace of his emotional outburst in his bearing. His square jaw was controlled, his full, sensuous mouth relaxed beneath the thick mustache that was a shade darker than his crisply styled auburn hair. The expensive suit he wore fit him perfectly in spite of his muscular shoulders and taut thighs, remnants of his football career, Shelby thought, remembering seeing him play a dozen times. She’d admired him on the field and off, and had been looking forward to getting to know him better. But not in a situation like this one.

“I’m sure you all know why you’re here,” McNabb said, taking his place at the helm. He remained standing, looking at each of them individually. Shelby wanted to shrink down in her chair as his amber eyes met hers, but that, of course, would have brought his attention to her directly. “I have the sad duty of telling you that Bertram ‘Dutch’ Vanleer is dead.” Thankfully, he was already looking at the person next to her when he said, “Murdered.”

“And the good name of Westbrook is soiled forever,” Althea Westbrook stated shakily, her pale blue eyes threatening tears. Her coiffed silver-streaked blond head was held high, but her pain was evident. The tip of her straight nose was pink, the line of her thin lips pulled tight. She clutched a lace-edged handkerchief as if it could provide support. “The store will never recover from this scandal.”

“Shall I get you a glass of water, my dear?” Tucker Powers solicitously asked, his alert gray eyes pinned to her every movement.

The distinguished-looking man with a dusting of silver at his temples was already rising, his thick brows drawn in concern. Though he was in his mid-fifties, a restrained power evident in his stance complemented Althea’s seeming fragility. Shelby thought the two close friends. They’d been together for most of the Christmas party.

“Sit down, Tucker,” Althea insisted, placing a staying hand on his arm. “You worry too much. I’ll be fine, but thank you.”

To Shelby, the woman who looked to be a few years older than Tucker seemed a tragic figure somehow, braving this whole thing out when she didn’t have to be there. And yet she had her own strength. Westbrook had been her family’s business since her father founded it in 1909. As the surviving youngest daughter, Althea had run the department store for several years until she’d had to sell the controlling interest. Even then she’d held on to enough stock to keep herself on the board.

“I’m hoping you’re mistaken about Dutch’s death hurting Westbrook, Althea,” McNabb said kindly. “I think it’ll take more than a scandal—even murder—to destroy us.”

“I can only pray you are correct, Randall.”

Tucker patted her on the shoulder and she smiled sweetly at the lawyer.

Then McNabb continued. “We’ll have to wait to see how this affects us, but in the meantime, there’s a killer to be caught.” His eyes were roaming again, skimming from one person to the next. “This afternoon, Detective Isaac Jackson and some of his men will begin questioning everyone who was at the party last night. He expects it’ll take a few days to get around to everyone since more than two hundred people attended.” He was looking directly at Shelby when he said, “I expect you and your staffs to cooperate with them fully.”

Passing on to the next person, his eyes wavered, then returned to her. Shelby’s mouth went dry. Rand McNabb was staring at her oddly, his expression almost calculating, his eyes narrowing.

And she swallowed hard when she imagined she saw a glint of recognition reflected in their amber depths.

As the CEO of Westbrook, Rand was the first to be formally questioned by Detective Jackson. They were in his office, Rand stiff behind his chrome-trimmed black desk, the detective at ease in a chair opposite. Jackson had questioned him about his and Dutch’s business relationship, and Rand had admitted that it had deteriorated in the past several months. No use hiding it. Jackson would learn the same from any employee who’d been around them.

After scribbling something in his notebook, Jackson said, “So you weren’t at the party last night. Where were you, Mr. McNabb?”

“Trying to get here. I’d finished with my business in Boston mid-afternoon, but unfortunately my plane couldn’t get out in time. Fog.”

“How late did your plane get out?”

“Not until almost two. I dropped off my luggage at home and got here before the store opened and saw the woman in red on the stairwell.”

“I will check out your story.”

“Please.”

The detective scribbled again, and then asked, “Who else disliked Mr. Vanleer other than you and your sister?”

Rand shrugged. “I was too busy with the business to keep track of him.”

“Then you don’t have an alternative suspect to your sister.”

“I wouldn’t feel confident pointing a finger at anyone,” Rand said. “That’s your job, Detective, not mine. But I can tell you that Pippa didn’t do it. She wanted Dutch out of her life, but legally.”

“But if he died, that would both get rid of him and leave your sister very, very rich.”

“I don’t think Dutch had such great investments.”

“He had his shares in Westbrook.” Jackson paused a moment, then asked, “Do you have an air-tight alibi?”

“I do. Are we through here?”

“For the moment.”

“How much are you going to disrupt my staff?” Rand knew that a couple of detectives and the forensic team were checking out the entire executive office area. Jackson hadn’t said anything about searching other areas. The store itself was seven floors, the offices another two. “Are you planning on making the entire building a crime scene?”

“No worries, Mr. McNabb. Once this area is checked out, we’ll be out of your hair. Except for interviewing your staff, of course.”

“You’ll have our full cooperation.”

As Jackson left, Rand only hoped he would find the real murderer and not try to railroad Pippa. He couldn’t let that happen. His sister was so fragile right now, that an arrest might break her.

To protect her, he would have to do some investigating of his own.