By Lorana Hoopes
Murder Mystery, Cozy Mystery
Meet David Wagers, a cool, collected and incredibly handsome Private Investigator in the New York City area. David is hired to investigate the unsolved murder case of Courtney Tabbin, a popular, young woman with a promising future. Along the way, David encounters some interesting and suspicious characters and a complex office drama. Was Courtney’s murder just a random act of violence, or something more personal?
While digging deeper for answers, David also manages to juggle an understaffed office and even forms an alluring, new friendship with Victoria under the unlikeliest of circumstances. With impeccable skills of observation, deduction and razor-sharp instincts, David moves steadily towards solving the case but not without a few twists and turns, and managing to turn a few heads along the way.
Work & Wagers (David Wagers Case #1), a cozy murder mystery, is the first book in the new and exciting David Wagers detective series.
David could already hear the phone ringing as he unlocked his office door. “I guess I really need to get someone in here,” he acknowledged to himself, knowing that he should have hired an assistant a good month ago. Business was beginning to pick up and no longer consisted of just background checks and unfaithful spouses.
His office suite was in a mid-rise building and consisted of two rooms; a small waiting room and his even smaller private office. It really wasn’t a bad trade off considering he had a view – or a snippet of a view – of the New York City skyline.
Sitting at his desk, David snapped his laptop into its docking station and turned it on. He would need to weed through his voicemail messages but that would have to wait for the time being.
One call that he had received the evening before was from Walter Huffs, a respected local attorney. Walter’s niece had been murdered and the crime remained unsolved. Concerned for his sister’s mental health and not wanting the case to go cold, Walter had hired him to investigate further. It was a case that David really wanted to handle, for a number of reasons.
“Courtney Tabbin,” he typed into the search engine on his sluggish computer. Page after page of search results came up. David began to comb through each and every one of them.
He remembered the incident very well. No more than a year ago, Courtney Tabbin’s body had been found in a secluded wooded area in Northern New Jersey, savagely beaten and left in a nearby stream. There had been no sign of sexual assault. Stolen items including a necklace and a wallet containing cash suggested a robbery, but the nature of the wounds suggested something more.
“I will have to speak to your sister, Joanne, about your niece,” David had said to Walter at the time, “and in doing so she will have to relive the crime and the loss of her daughter all over again. Will she be up for it?”
“Yes,” Walter had replied. “I discussed this with my sister before contacting you. It will be hard for her but not as hard as not having closure.”
According to past news articles, the night that Courtney disappeared she was supposed to meet with some co-workers for dinner. At first, when it appeared that Courtney was running late, a couple of the girls had tried to reach her on her cell phone. When she completely failed to show up, one of her co-workers had called Courtney’s house and had spoken to her mother. Her car had eventually been discovered on a desolate road, not far from where her remains had been found.
David’s concentration was broken into to when the phone rang. “David Wagers,” he quickly answered.
“Hi, David, did you get any of my messages?” It was Penny Irvines, a spousal surveillance client. Penny was in her mid-forties and well preserved, but was not the teeny bopper that she thought herself to be.
“Hello, Penny. Yes, I did,” David replied. Penny had left a message yesterday evening. “I just got into the office a few minutes ago.”
“Did you find anything out last night?” she asked sweetly. He could almost hear her batting her eyelashes.
“No,” David admitted. “I didn’t. It seems as if Troy was just working late.”
“Ohhh, how could that be?!” Penny exclaimed. “Are you sure about that?’
“There hasn’t been any evidence of infidelity so far,” he stated.
“You know he still has that business meeting outside of the office at the end of the week,” Penny continued.
“Yes, I’m prepared for his meeting on Friday,” David answered.
“David, dear, I didn’t mean to suggest that you weren’t prepared,” Penny said innocently. “It’s just so hard for me to be home alone all the time when I know he’s out gallivanting.”
“We’ll see what his meeting on Friday turns up. I’ll give you a call at the end of the week,” David said, eager to get her off the phone.
“Thank you, David,” Penny purred. “I’ll be waiting.”
David was getting the distinct impression that Penny just wanted an excuse to get out of her marriage, but he didn’t want to jump to any conclusions.
Picking up the phone, he dialed in his voicemail passcode. Now was as good a time as any to go through the rest of his calls.
After picking up records on the Tabbin case graciously supplied by Detective Woods at the local police department, David was on his way to meet with Joanne Tabbin.
Joanne resided in a prestigious area in Northern New Jersey with her husband, a senior accountant and owner of his own CPA firm. Courtney had been their only child, which had made their loss that much harder to bear.
Arriving right on time, David pulled into the driveway of the attached, oversized two-car garage, as Joanne had advised. As he made his way up the front walk, the sun shined down brightly in the quiet, serene neighborhood, attempting to conceal the anguish that he could feel lingering underneath.
David rang the bell and waited for just a couple of minutes, hearing soft footsteps on the other side of the door.
Joanne answered the door looking haggard. In her early fifties she appeared older, with her salt and pepper hair and deep, dark circles beneath her eyes. She quickly extended her hand.
“So nice to meet you, Mr. Wagers,” she said, her gaze meeting his with unexpected determination. “Please, come in.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Tabbin,” David responded. “Your home is lovely.” The center hall colonial opened to a two story entry foyer which delivered a dramatic first impression.
“Thank you so much,” Joanne said. “Come, make yourself comfortable.” She led David to a formal living room where he took a seat on a small sofa. A framed picture of Courtney, a pretty brunette, sat on a nearby end table.
“Would you like anything?” she asked.
“No, thank you,” David said.
Joanne sat down in an armchair across from him. “So, where do we begin?”
“Well,” David said, taking a pad and pen from out of his briefcase, “We could start with that night.”
“Yes, a night I will never forget,” she stated.
Joanne then proceeded to rehash the events of that fateful evening. How Courtney had come home right after work and changed to go out to dinner for a girls’ night out with her co-workers. They were set to meet at the restaurant at seven thirty that evening, and Courtney had left at approximately five forty-five.
“Why did she leave so early?” David asked as he jotted down notes.
“She was probably taking into consideration the rush hour traffic,” Joanne speculated. “I know she was planning to stop for gas and the bank before it closed.”
“Could she have been planning to meet up with someone else before going to dinner?” David questioned.
“Courtney never mentioned that, but I supposed it’s not out of the question,” Joanne said.
“What about boyfriends? Was she seeing anyone at the time?” he continued.
“She did have one boyfriend but he was away in Connecticut for his last year of college,” Joanne answered.
“I’m sure you’ve been asked all of this before, but I need to ask again,” David commented.
“I understand that,” she nodded.
David hesitated for a moment. “Did Courtney have any enemies that you know of, any jealousies or dramas occurring in her life at that time?”
“Not that I know of,” Joanne stated. “Courtney was a popular girl and always had a lot of friends. She was beautiful and outgoing so, yes, there were some jealousies from time to time but nothing drastic.”
“I understand that Courtney was working at a major corporation in the area,” David said, “What was her role in the company?”
“Courtney was working for Well Metro, a health insurance company,” Joanne said, “She worked as a paralegal in their legal department. She was considering going further and becoming an attorney.”
“How long was she working at Well Metro?” David asked.
“She had just started. Maybe six months,” she recalled.
Tapping the pad with his pen, David asked, “Was Courtney having any problems at work?”
“No, not at all,” Joanne answered. “She loved the work she was doing. Her co-workers seemed like a nice group of girls. They were very concerned for her the night she went missing. I actually still talk to one of the girls. She’s very upset about Courtney’s murder and has been very supportive.”
“Could I have her name?” David asked.
“Pam Jobley,” she said. “She’s a very nice girl. In fact, I know she’s looking to move and I was actually considering offering her our lower level suite. It’s been so quiet in the house since Courtney has been gone. Pam is very cooperative and I’m sure she would answer any questions you might have about Courtney should you want to speak with her.”
“Maybe I will,” David said, looking up from his notes.
After speaking with Joanne for a little while longer, David left with a list of names of friends, classmates and co-workers of Courtney’s. Although none of the information he obtained was anything new from what was already on record, he was hoping that a different approach would bring forward different results.
It was obvious that Joanne leaned toward the idea that the murder was the result of a robbery gone wrong, some random person that, hopefully, someone would remember seeing Courtney cross paths with that night. David wasn’t so sure, however, and planned to leave no stone unturned.
About the Author
Sherrie Sushko is the author of three books, Remain, Lost Love, and Work & Wagers. When not writing or reading, Sherrie enjoys spending time outdoors with her dog. Sherrie currently resides in the United States.
Lorana Hoopes is an author of children’s books and clean inspirational romance novels. The Power of Prayer, Where It All Began, When Hearts Collide, A Father’s Love, When Love Returns, The Wishing Stone: Dangerous Dinosaur, The Wishing Stone: Dragon Dilemma, and coming soon The Wishing Stone: Mesmerizing Mermaids
Sign up for her newsletter to receive a free sample of When Love Returns and a chance to win a monthly gift card.