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Elsi James

Elsi James

Maiden, North Carolina

Elsi James' dream finally came true in 2020, when she self-published her first novel, Rush to Love. Within six months she published her second novel, Love and Payne.

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About the author

Writing was always a hobby and writing a novel had always been a dream. Elsi currently has three books in the works with ideas for many more. Wine and Crime is a planned series, with Skeletons in the Closet being the first.
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If Wine and Crime hits 500 pre-orders by Wednesday 18 October 2023 5 A.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 7 traditional publishers when the campaign ends. If Wine and Crime hits 250 pre-orders by Wednesday 18 October 2023 5 A.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 15 hybrid publishers when the campaign ends. If Wine and Crime hits 500 pre-orders by Wednesday 18 October 2023 5 A.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 30 publishers when the campaign ends.
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$20 Wine and Crime: Skeletons in the Closet Paperback (signed)

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The ladies of WIne and Crime have a weekly gathering of drinking wine and talking-they like to call it the weekly “bitchfest”. They laugh, they tell stories of the happenings in their life from the week before. They enjoy each other’s company and have each other’s backs.

A normal weekly get together turns into a true crime discussion when the murder of a woman they know, Sherri, is brought up. It had been two months since Sherri’s lifeless body was found in her driveway. The murder occurred in the early morning hours and her body had over thirty stab wounds. The local Sheriff’s Department had no leads, basically gave up the investigation, and the case went cold.

After overhearing some local busybodies discussing Sherri’s
demise at the grocery store, Lindsey defends the deceased woman and is so bothered by the occurrence, she brings it up during the weekly girl’s night. This sparks a flow of accusations and questions from all in attendance. She has made up her mind that she can solve the crime. Melinda puts her two cents in where the Sheriff is concerned. Maria is ready to get into the mix of solving a crime. Sabrina is ready to get to the bottom of it and Diana is ready to make some heads roll, in particular Sherriff Dumbass.

The weekly wine sessions quickly turn into a wine-induced crime investigation, as the women dive deeper into the hole of
Sherri’s murder. Realizing that a portion of the married
population in Rentin had a score to settle with Sherri,
Lindsey’s dining room becomes the murder investigation
headquarters. The ladies need room to work, after all. The
meetings become more frequent as they come up with outlandish theories of what they believed happened. Is this really their minds in motion, or is the wine taking over?

Meanwhile, the Sheriff has heard through the grapevine that the women are conducting an amateur investigation. Already knowing he is the laughingstock of the small town, he tells the women they are obstructing the investigation. They in turn, laugh in his face and continue the journey. You can’t obstruct an investigation that is not in motion, can you?

During e course of their investigation the women find
themselves in difficult situations on more than one occasion,
not making it easy to hide what they are doing from their
husbands, or the town. The Deputy seems to be around every
corner and they end up in jail for accosting him, not once but
twice. They fumble, they fall, they get injured. But the ladies
keep coming back for more.

Now that this case is closed, bring on the next. The ladies of
Wine and Crime are ready to go

1 copy + ebook included

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Wine and Crime

Skeletons in the Closet

A weekly girl’s night of wine and laughter quickly turns into an amateur murder investigation.

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Women's Fiction
70,000 words
75% complete
2 publishers interested


WIne and Crime: Skeletons in the Closet is a women's fiction novel to be 70k words, complete. 

The ladies of WIne and Crime have a weekly gathering of drinking wine and talking-they like to call it the weekly “bitchfest”. They laugh, they tell stories of the happenings in their life from the week
before. They enjoy each other’s company and have each other’s backs.

A normal weekly get together turns into a true crime discussion when the murder of a woman they know, Sherri, is brought up. It had been two months since Sherri’s lifeless body was found in her driveway. The murder occurred in the early morning hours and her body had over thirty stab wounds. The local Sheriff’s Department had no leads, basically gave up the investigation, and the case went cold.

After overhearing some local busybodies discussing Sherri’s
demise at the grocery store, Lindsey defends the deceased woman and is so bothered by the occurrence, she brings it up during the weekly girl’s night. This sparks a flow of accusations and questions from all in attendance. She has made up her mind that she can solve the crime. Melinda puts her two cents in where the Sheriff is concerned. Maria is ready to get into the mix of solving a crime. Sabrina is ready to get to the bottom of it and Diana is ready to make some heads roll, in particular Sherriff Dumbass.

The weekly wine sessions quickly turn into a wine-induced crime investigation, as the women dive deeper into the hole of
Sherri’s murder. Realizing that a portion of the married
population in Rentin had a score to settle with Sherri,
Lindsey’s dining room becomes the murder investigation
headquarters. The ladies need room to work, after all. The
meetings become more frequent as they come up with outlandish theories of what they believed happened. Is this really their minds in motion, or is the wine taking over?

Meanwhile, the Sheriff has heard through the grapevine that the women are conducting an amateur investigation. Already knowing he is the laughingstock of the small town, he tells the women they are obstructing the investigation. They in turn, laugh in his face and continue the journey. You can’t obstruct an investigation that is not in motion, can you?

During the course of their investigation the women find
themselves in difficult situations on more than one occasion,
not making it easy to hide what they are doing from their
husbands, or the town. The Deputy seems to be around every
corner and they end up in jail for accosting him, not once but
twice. They fumble, they fall, they get injured. But the ladies
keep coming back for more. 

Now that this case is closed, bring on the next. The ladies of
Wine and Crime are ready to go! 

Wine and Crime: Skeletons in the Closet is book one in a planned series.

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Women between the ages of 25 and 70

Advance praise

Reviews from Love and Payne & Rush to Love

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
Reviewed in the United States on July 3, 2021
Books have to catch my attention pretty quickly for me to want to finish. This book definitely did that. A little romance and mystery all in one. It left me wanting a follow on. Once I started I didn’t want to stop until I was finished. Excellent!!

5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
Reviewed in the United States on July 3, 2021
This was an amazing book. Lots mystery. The romance is fantastic and so down to earth. Once i strared i had to finish the entire book. Wonderful read.

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book!
Reviewed in the United States on May 5, 2021Verified Purchase
I just loved this book. It was a story of love and happiness. It is a quick read as you just don't want to stop reading about the journey of Rush and Elle. I can't believe this is Elsi's first book. It is terrific.

5.0 out of 5 stars Feel good book
Reviewed in the United States on April 7, 2021
With all that's going on, it's nice to read a book that makes you feel good. Well-written and suspenseful. If you are looking for a book to chill outside and read on a sunny day, give this one a shot.

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It's a quiet, star-filled night in the small town of Rentin, North Carolina. Streetlights are the only lights to be seen. The cul-de-sac is silent, as it typically is on a weeknight.

Car lights appear from around a corner and a newer model dark sedan pulls up in front of a well-kept house. The driver's door opens, and someone steps out. Although you can't see a face, it is evident by the height and stature that it is a man.

The man quietly closes the car door, before looking around. His sketchy behavior is a telltale sign he is up to no good. Once he is sure the coast is clear he walks to the back of the vehicle and opens the trunk. He looks around once more.

The man leans into the trunk and when he stands, he is holding a body in his arms. Long, wavy blond hair has fallen across one arm of the man, as he carries the lifeless body up the inclined driveway. He stops briefly as if he hears something, then proceeds to lay the body on the driveway.

After he pushes the hair from the woman's face, he turns back to the car. He quietly closes the trunk, pauses at the driver’s door, takes one more look around, then gets in the car and drives away. In less than two minutes, the deed is done.


Lindsey Webber stood in line to purchase her coffee creamer early on a Saturday morning in her sweats with her chestnut hair in a messy bun. There were several people in front of her and the irritation grew deep within her. She wondered why there were so many people shopping that early.

As she made faces at the little boy in front of her, she heard the town gossip talking to her crony. They were discussing the murder of Sherri Toland, a local woman who had been murdered and left in her driveway to be found a couple of months prior, and the local police were no closer to finding the killer than they had been at the beginning of the investigation. The fact that Beth and Ruth were discussing the particulars in the grocery line was distasteful.

Lindsey turned to face the pair. "Ladies, can we be a bit more tactful?" Lindsey pointed to the child in front of her. "This a grocery store." She rolled her eyes and turned back around.

Beth and Ruth were the busybodies of Rentin, North Carolina. Women in their forties that had nothing better to do than gossip. Since childhood, Beth Thompson always believed that she was above the common folk and treated everyone as such. She always had her hair perfectly coiffed, too much makeup, and her clothes were always on point. It seemed that she believed that being the town manager's wife made her the First Lady of Rentin. Ruth Tuttle was a Beth wannabe, so she dressed like Beth, but hardly ever spoke for herself.

"Well, hello Lindsey. We haven't seen you around much." Beth smiles. Lindsey knew the smile was as fake as her caring about not seeing her.

Lindsey turned and smiled a smile as fake as Beth's. "I've been quite busy, Beth." She turned back to the line in front of her. She saw a woman writing a check and dropped her head, wondering why anyone still wrote checks.

"I'm sure, I'm sure. I was just talking to Ruth about Sherri."

"I know. I heard. That's why I told you to be a bit more tactful." The line moved up a bit.

"If you ask me, she probably deserved it. Dating married men. It was scandalous."

Lindsey whipped her head around. "Seriously, Beth? You're something." She remembered the little boy in front of her in line, shook her head, and lowered her voice. "The woman is dead and you're talking shit. What she did in her personal life is none of your business. Nobody deserves to die that way."

The ladies' jaws dropped, and nothing was said in response. Lindsey turned back to the line to find it was her turn at the checkout. Still seething, she turned to look at the women before leaving the store and neither one was looking in her direction.

Later that afternoon, Lindsey was tidying her living room as she talked with her husband, Jeff. She was still irritated about the grocery store incident and had to talk to someone about it.

"I couldn't believe that Beth was talking about Sherri's murder in the checkout line." She fluffed a couch pillow.

"What's the big deal?" Jeff continued looking at his phone until Lindsey popped him with the pillow. He looked up. "What?"

Lindsey picked up the pillow from beside Jeff and places it where it belongs before flopping on the couch. "It's called tact. I mean, this was a real person that most of the town knew." She rolled her eyes. "Or at least, knew of."

Jeff pulled Lindsey over to him. "Why do you seem so torn up about it?" He was trying to be understanding, although it wasn't his forte. As a local fireman, he had seen his share of death and was desensitized at this point. On the other hand, he knew how his wife felt about murders in general. He couldn't count how many times he had been drug into a discussion about a murder she read about.

The Webber's were as different as night and day. Jeff was laid back and overly friendly, Lindsey was opinionated, outspoken, and doesn't like people - as a general rule. If she didn't speak her mind, her thoughts were apparent on her face. Jeff rolled with the punches; Lindsey was passionate about what she believed in. Although different, they worked well together. It also didn't hurt that Jeff let Lindsey rant when she needed to.

"I don't know. I guess it's because the police haven't found the killer and it doesn't appear that they are really concerned about it. It just makes me wonder who did it and if it's someone we know." Jeff gave her a look. "What?" she asked as she looked at her watch. She jumped off the couch and walked to the kitchen to grab five wine glasses from the cabinet. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

Jeff stood up while shaking his head. "Nothing." He walked into the kitchen with a smile on his face. "I'm going to the garage. Let me know when the bitchfest is over." Lindsey smiled at him as he walked out.

The bitchfest that Jeff was referring to was Lindsey's weekly wine night with her mother Melinda; her mother-in-law Maria; best friend Sabrina; and Sabrina's mom, Diana. They use the night to laugh, cry, and vent their grievances of the week before. Sometimes the ladies just talk. Sometimes they play cards. It all depends on the mood of the week.

Jeff knew what the topic of the night would be – Sherri’s murder. And he didn’t want to be anywhere around when they got into a deep discussion about it, especially when his wife was a true crime buff. The garage was the best place for him to be.

Sabrina Cornett strolled into her mother's house without knocking. "Mom, I'm here."

"I'll be down in a minute." Diana Carson answered from the second floor.

Sabrina walked to the kitchen in search of a bottle of water and her mother walked in as she closed the door.

"I'm ready." Diana pointed to a wine bottle on the counter. "Grab that. It's a new wine I found at the market yesterday."

Sabrina picked up the bottle to study the label. "Mmm, blackberries. Hopefully, it's better than the last blackberry wine we tried." She made a face and her mother laughed. "Alright, let's go. You know how upset Lindsey gets when we are late." As Lindsey's best friend, Sabrina knew exactly how Lindsey felt about tardiness.

Jeff's mother, Maria, grabbed her purse and keys from her kitchen counter. "I'm leaving, Mike." No answer. She walked into the living room to see her husband watching the television. "Did you hear me?" At this point, she's annoyed.

Mike looked up at her. "I heard you."

Maria was even more annoyed. "Then answer me."

"Have fun and call me if I need to pick you up." His eyes revert back to the television.

"I will," Maria said as she walked out the door.

Melinda, the older version of Lindsey, and her husband Tom were on their back deck smoking cigarettes as they watched their dog play. The German shepherd was running full speed after a ball.

"Are you sure you don't want me to drive you over there?" Tom asked as he threw the ball to Wolf again.

"I'm positive. I won't stay long. You know I don't like to drive in the dark."

"I know. That's why I asked if you wanted me to take you."

"I understand that, dear, but you don't like to drive in the dark either." Melinda smiled at her husband as she put her cigarette out in the ashtray, then kissed his head. "I'll be home shortly." She leaned down to say her goodbyes to the dog before walking into the house to get her purse.

Lindsey was preparing a cheese and cracker tray, but it was apparent that her mind was elsewhere. She couldn't stop thinking about how insensitive Beth was to Sherri's murder. It was understandable if curiosity was at the forefront of the mind, but nobody should be talking about it in the grocery store where small children could hear.

The murder itself had always bothered Lindsey on many levels. From what the papers said, Sherri was stabbed and killed somewhere else, then brought back to her home. It seemed that whoever killed her, knew her. And that meant that Lindsey may know the person who killed Sherri.

There was a knock on the door, then it immediately opened. Lindsey smiled when she saw her mother walk in. Melinda draped her purse on the back of a bar stool, then gave her daughter a hug. "Hey sweetie, need some help?"

"Hi, mom." Lindsey shook her head. "Nope, just finishing up." She moved the tray to the middle of the island, then put everything away. "So, how was your week?" She sat on the stool next to her mom.

"Same shit, different week." Melinda suddenly burst with enthusiasm. "Ooh, ooh, I forgot to tell you. I got three orders on the new dress I posted." At seventy years old, Melinda wasn't extremely tech-savvy, so it was a big deal for her to sell her custom dresses online.

"That's great. I'm happy for you."

The back door opened, and the other ladies walk in and there were hugs all around. Lindsey grabbed the cheese tray and Melinda grabbed the wine glasses, while the other ladies sat down. The wine started flowing immediately.

"Lindsey, what did you say to Beth today?" Lindsey looked at Maria as everyone else turned to look at her.

"I told her to have some tact and that she should be minding her own business instead of talking shit about a dead woman."

"Alright." Maria smiled at the response to her question as the other ladies laugh. She had seen Beth at the hair salon and Beth rambled on about how rude Lindsey was for ten minutes straight. She knew that if Lindsey said something to Beth, it had to be well deserved.

Sabrina, being nosey, had to ask, "What did she say to make you tell her that?" She poured herself a glass of wine, then passed the bottle to her mother.

"She was talking about Sherri Toland's murder in the grocery store line. There were children there." She sat down. "Then to top it off, she said that Sherri probably deserved it." The wine bottle had passed through the women and Lindsey was the last to get the bottle. "I mean, I realize the type of person Sherri was, but nobody deserves to die that way. I don't care who they are." Lindsey filled her glass and put the bottle down.

"I haven't heard much about her case lately. Last month, that was all anyone was talking about." Maria said, not to anyone in particular.

"I heard that they've already closed the case," Diana chimed in.

Sabrina looked at her mother. "Really? It's only been like two months."

"Wouldn't surprise me with Sheriff Dumbass in charge."

Lindsey almost spit her wine out after her mother's comment. "Seriously, mom? His name is Dumaus."

"I know what his name is. Everyone knows what his name is. The entire town calls him Dumbass. It fits him better."

Martin Dumaus had been sheriff for the past five years. He wasn't known around town for being very bright, although he deserved a little leniency on the Toland murder, as that was the first murder in recent town history. The town didn't have any detectives and had even fewer resources, but he should have called for help in the investigation. Instead, he allowed the deputy to run the show, leaving the murder unsolved.

Lindsey nodded her head and made a face, "It actually does fit, but still."

"So, I'm confused as to why Beth would say Sherri deserved it," Diana asked.

"Let's just say that Sherri had an active social life and preferred dating married men." Lindsey looked at Sabrina, then back to Diana. "Sherri didn't want a man of her own, she wanted everyone else's man."

"Was she your friend, Lindsey?" Maria looked so confused.

"Sabrina and I went to school with her, but we weren't exactly friends. We hung around with different people."

Sherri was a late bloomer and when she finally bloomed, she went wild. She dated and slept with anyone that smiled at her. Rumors around school were harsh but Sherri never seemed to care that she was considered the school slut. More than one couple broke up because she slept with someone's boyfriend. That should have been a telltale sign of things to come.

"I'll drink to that." Sabrina took a sip of her wine.

"How do you know she messed with married men?" Diana asked before she popped a piece of cheese in her mouth.

"Let's just say word gets around in our small town and the local law office," Lindsey said. As a legal assistant in one of the law offices in town, she could think of two divorces directly linked to Sherri having an affair with the husband, but she dare not tell the other ladies.

"Honey, didn't your brother date Sherri?" Melinda asked her daughter.

Lindsey thought about it for a second. "Yeah, I think he dated her before he met Ann." It had been so long ago and so uneventful that she had forgotten all about it. She remembered warning Garrett multiple times about Sherri and her reputation. As a teenage boy, Garrett knew what he was doing.

Sabrina looked confused. "I don't remember that." Sabrina was always at Lindsey's house as they were growing up. In fact, she had a huge crush on Garrett in high school.

"You wouldn't have. They only went out a few times. In fact, I think Garrett met Ann while he was on a date with Sherri."

"Honey, you don't think your brother was messing with her, do you?" Melinda asked her daughter.

You could have heard a pin drop in the kitchen. "Really, mom? The man that worships the ground Ann walks on. Garrett? My brother, your son?" Nobody says a word. Lindsey let out a sigh of aggravation. "No, mom. I don't think Garrett was messing around with Sherri."

The remainder of the evening was spent debating the prospective suspects, the reason behind the murder, and the evidence that had been reported in the Rentin Gazette. Lindsey knew in her heart that she could solve this case if given all the materials and evidence, though she never said a word.

Three hours and three bottles of wine later, Maria and Melinda had gone home, leaving the remaining ladies to sit on the porch talking about nothing important. Then came the change in topic.

"Lindsey, you seem to know a lot about murders." Diana looked at her. "That's alarming."

"Mom, you know Lindsey loves true crime. She reads about them, watches documentaries, she's fascinated with the way murderers think and operate."

"Still disturbing." Diana's face showed her thoughts.

"She does have a degree in Psychology, mom."

"I am standing right here, guys." Lindsey directed her attention to Diana. "Yes, it may be disturbing, but I get engrossed in murders and the puzzles surrounding them."

"So, who do you think did it?"

"Not sure. I don't have all the evidence." Since she was a kid, Lindsey had always been good with the whodunits. It didn't matter if it was a book or a movie, she always knew who the killer was before everyone else.

"If anybody can figure it out, it would be Lindsey," Sabrina stated matter of factly.


It was hard for Lindsey to focus on anything the following week. Even though she periodically thought about Sherri's murder over the past couple of months, it hadn't gotten under her skin as severely as it had since the grocery store incident the previous weekend. It seemed that solving the murder wasn't a top priority for the police and that rubbed her the wrong way. It would be crazy if the police already considered it a cold case.

Since Lindsey worked for a law firm, it was easy enough to find out what was going on with the case. The attorney she worked for had a sister that worked at the police department. He relayed to Lindsey that he was told it was a cold case, as they ran out of leads. Rentin Police Department was small and definitely not equipped to handle a murder, but she couldn't understand why they didn't ask for help from another agency. It seemed to her that should have been the first step.

Sleepless nights led to drowsy days and insane decisions, as Lindsey determined she was going to take a crack at solving this murder. She wasn't sure if it was for Sherri or to prove she was capable of solving a crime that the local police department couldn't. There was only one way to find out.

When the ladies showed up for wine night, they could tell that something was off with Lindsey, but Sabrina knew what it was. She felt it every time she spoke with Lindsey on the phone throughout the week. Her friend had been preoccupied with something, but it took seeing her face to understand exactly what it was. Sherri's Murder.

"What are you gonna do?" Sabrina whispered to Lindsey.

"What do you mean?" Lindsey knew exactly what she was asking but chose to play dumb. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Sure, you don't." Sabrina smiled and walked away, not believing her best friend.

The evening started off with the ladies discussing their week. Melinda sold a couple more dresses. Maria was irritated with Mike for not listening. Diana found a new wine for the ladies to try. Sabrina was irritated with co-workers. Lindsey stayed silent.

Leave it to Sabrina to open the can of worms. "Lindsey, how has your week been?"

If looks could kill. "Fine."

"Nothing to vent or talk about?" Sabrina's smile was telling but Lindsey wasn't biting.

"Nothing of any significance." Lindsey tilted her head and raised her eyebrows in an obvious threat toward Sabrina. The look didn't go unnoticed.

The exchange lasted for a couple of seconds before Melinda picked up where Sabrina left off. "Honey, what are you up to?"

"Nothing, mom."

Melinda's eyes grew large. "You're going to investigate that woman's murder, aren't you?" Nothing irritated Lindsey more than her mother and best friend knowing her so well.

The silence was too deafening for Lindsey to keep her mouth shut any longer. The quicker they knew, the quicker they would move on and leave her to her thoughts. "Yes."

Lindsey caved and told the ladies that she decided to try to figure out who killed Sherri and why. She explained that the town didn't have the resources to solve a crime of this magnitude, but she wanted to know why it was just dropped. Watching the number of crime documentaries and shows she had, she knew that cases don't go cold after only a couple of months of investigating.

The ladies agreed the situation is odd. This made her think that someone in the department knew more than what they were telling. Maybe someone in the department knew who did it and it was a little close to home. It just didn't make any sense.

Diana was the first to speak up. "I'd like to play."

"Mom, it's not a game," Sabrina said.

"You know what I mean." Diana rolled her eyes at her child. "I'm retired and bored. I need something to do with my time. There's only so much cooking and cleaning that I can do in a day." She looked at Lindsey. "I'm in."

"You know I'm in sweetie," Melinda said.

Two of the older women look to the third. "I don't know. It sounds like it could be dangerous." Maria said as she looked at her phone, wanting it to ring so she could escape this conversation. Feeling the heat of two sets of eyes, she finally gives in. "Fine." The other ladies smile at each other in their triumph.

As she sat and watched this unfold in front of her, Lindsey wasn't sure if she should shut this whole thing down or let it play out. What started as her journey has somehow become a group effort. She turned to see Sabrina trying to shrink into the couch and become invisible. "So, Bri. What do you say?"

"Yeah, no." Sabrina shook her head. "Nope."

"Oh, yeah. You're in."

Sabrina silently cursed herself for starting this conversation. She should have known how it would play out. Every time she tried to put Lindsey on the spot, she got drug into the madness. "Okay."

Lindsey walked to her office and grabbed her notes. She spent a lot of time going through and printing various newspaper articles about the murder. If this crew was going to help her, they needed to know what she knew.

As Lindsey passed the newspaper articles around, she starts going over the details she knew. Sherri's mother, Sarah, who lived with her, told the reporters that Sherri had gone out with a friend the evening of her death. When she was asked about the identity of the friend, the mother said she didn't know.

Sherri was found the next morning in her driveway by a neighbor walking their dog. When the neighbor saw the woman lying there, they thought she had passed out. As they approached the body, they realized that she had blood all over her body and that's when they called the police. The police taped off the area and started speaking with neighbors. Nobody saw or heard a thing.

When Sheriff Dumaus held the initial press conference, he mentioned that Sherri had been stabbed thirteen times and it didn't appear that the actual murder took place where the body was found. It was mentioned that they had a few persons of interest that the police were going to question, but no names were mentioned.

A week later, a second press conference was held where the Sheriff stated that they were still following leads and the persons of interest that were mentioned previously had been cleared of any wrongdoing. Again, no mention of any names.

That was it. No more press conferences. No more information. No answers. The newspaper didn't run any more front-page stories. The only reporting on the case was middle of the newspaper blurbs about how the police department was still looking for witnesses that saw Sherri that night. Nobody came forward. After a month it was as if it didn't happen.

Lindsey confirmed that she found out Sherri's murder was considered a cold case and the other ladies couldn't believe what they were hearing. Something was definitely fishy about this case, and it was time to figure out the game plan.

"So, what's the first step?" Melinda asked her daughter.

"Since her mother lived with her, I think the first thing we need to do is talk to her. Sarah probably knew a lot about Sherri's life, even if she doesn't know exactly what happened that night."

"What about people she worked with?"

Lindsey and Sabrina looked at each other. "I don't think she worked," Sabrina answered and Lindsey shrugged her shoulders.

"Well, that doesn't make any sense.," Diana chimed in.

"As I said, I think we will learn a lot by talking with her mother. She's going to be a valuable resource."

By the time everyone left Lindsey's house, they had a plan. First stop, Sarah Toland.

The ladies decided that it may be best for the older ladies to speak with Sarah, so they decide on Diana and Melinda going. It wouldn't seem strange for a couple of ladies to check in on her, considering the situation. Especially two women that had daughters of the same age.

The following day Melinda and Diana visit Sarah and both ladies were nervous as they knocked on the door. There was no way of knowing what type of woman she was. For all they knew she could be a pistol-toting hardass. They heard shuffling before the door opened and they look at each other, wondering what they'd agreed to. When the door opened, they saw a woman that appeared to be their age with a lovely smile and sad eyes.

"Can I help you?" Sarah said in a soft voice. She was a petite woman with a blonde pixie haircut. Lipstick and mascara were the only remnants of makeup she had on.

"Good afternoon, I'm Melinda and this is Diana" Melinda pointed at her partner. "We just wanted to stop by and check on you to see if there was anything you needed."

Sarah is taken aback by the strangers, but she knew she needed to say something. "Well, that is very kind of you." These ladies didn't appear to be crazy, and she hadn't had company in a while. "Would you like to come in?" She moved to the side and waved the ladies in. It seems strange to her that two strangers would come calling, but they seemed to be friendly enough.

Melinda and Diana look at each other. "Of course, thank you."

Sarah led them into the kitchen area and offered them coffee which they both accepted. They found the house to be immaculate, almost to the point of being sterile. It appeared that nothing was out of place, which is how Sarah appeared. It was a Sunday afternoon, and she was impeccably dressed. Of course, that could be dismissed since she could have gone to church that morning and not had time to change.

The three ladies talked for quite a while about the weather, the town, and life in general. As almost an afterthought, Sarah mentioned something about Sherri that got the other women's attention. "I told her to stay away from that man."

"What man?" Diana capitalized on the comment.

"The man that she met that night."

"Do you know who it was? If so, you need to tell the police." Melinda responded.

Sarah readjusted her sweater. "I don't know his name. I just knew he was bad news."

"What do you mean?" It was getting harder for Diana to keep her cool. Melinda gave her a look.

"I would hear her on the phone sometimes and he just didn't sound like a nice person. Always bossing her around. I told her as much, but she ignored me and told me to mind my business." She looked down at her coffee cup as if she was remembering something. "I didn't think it was right that she was dating more than one man. In my day women didn't do that and I tried to stress to Sherri that it didn't look good."

Melinda thought about what Lindsey and Sabrina said about Sherri and the married men. "Did you ever meet the men she was dating?"

Sarah swatted the air. "Oh no. She would never bring anyone around. She was probably worried I would say something out of line." Sarah giggled softly. "I probably would have because I knew more about her personal life than she thought I did."

Diana wondered what that meant and struggled with whether she should ask. It turned out she didn't need to.

"Sherri was not the modest type, you know?" Sarah looked over at the ladies across the table from her. "I knew that she dated married men and that her indiscretions led to more than one divorce. I also knew that somebody else was paying the bills around here because I know it wasn't her." Sarah was a spunky thing and Melinda and Diana knew they were going to like her.

Without prodding from her guests, Sarah continued, "I knew that her lifestyle would catch up to her, but I didn't realize the punishment would be this harsh."

"Sarah, did you tell the police any of this? It may help them solve Sherri's case."

"No, I played dumb. I figured if they knew about her love life they wouldn't care or want to try to help." Sarah knew that Sherri's murder would have been treated as if she were a prostitute. Not that it mattered, since they didn't care one way or another. She stood. "Excuse me."  

Sarah disappeared down the hall and when the ladies heard a door close, Diana whispered. "She knows a lot more than she shared with the police."

"I agree. Do you think we should tell her what we are doing? She may open up a bit more."

They had only known her for a couple of hours, and it was difficult to read her. Although, she did share a lot of information. It was a toss-up. What was the harm in telling her that they were trying to bring closure to Sherri's case? They decided to go for it and Melinda would be the one to start the conversation.

Sarah smiled as she sat back down at the table. "This is lovely. I haven't had visitors in months."

"I agree. We are definitely glad we popped in." Melinda looked at Diana before continuing, "Sarah, it has been wonderful meeting you." She read the happiness in Sarah's eyes and wondered if she should continue. "But we have a confession."

Sarah's smile faded and a look of confusion took over. "What do you mean?"

"We..." Melinda pointed at Diana. "And a few others are trying to figure out what happened to your daughter." She tried to read Sarah's face before continuing, "My daughter thinks that something is not right about the investigation."

"Is she a police officer?"

"No, she's just a major crime fanatic."

"Well, how is she going to figure out what they couldn't?" Sarah was so confused. If the police couldn't solve her daughter's murder, how were a group of women going to do it?

"Lindsey, my daughter, believes there is more to the story that may be covered up."

"But, why? How?" Sarah's confusion deepens. "The Sheriff told me they were doing everything they could."

"Sarah, they have labeled it a cold case," Diana said.

"What does that mean?" Sarah said as she looked back and forth between the two women in front of her.

"It means that they have determined they have used up all resources and have come up with nothing."

"How is that possible? It's only been a few months." Sarah was on the verge of tears. She lost her daughter and they have already given up? How could they do that?

Melinda grabbed Sarah's hand. "Exactly."

The ladies explained everything to Sarah that Lindsey explained to them. They did leave out the part where Lindsey thought that someone knew what happened and instead told her that the local police were not experienced in such heinous crimes. They weren't sure what to do, so they decided to classify it as a cold case.

Sarah had many questions and the ladies tried to answer the best they could. They ultimately told her that she would need to speak to Lindsey for the specifics and she agreed to talk with the amateur sleuth. By the end of the visit, Sarah had agreed to help the ladies with whatever she could.

Lindsey was cooking dinner when her mother and Diana burst through the side door. It surprised her and spaghetti sauce was flung from the spoon to the wall.

"Lindsey!" her mother squealed.

"My God. Why are y'all busting in here like that? You scared the shit out of me." Lindsey grabs the dishrag from the sink and starts wiping the wall.

Melinda grabbed her daughter's hand and turned her around to look at her. "We talked with Sarah, and she knows quite a bit of info that she didn't share with the authorities."

"Like what?" Her enthusiasm was evident. The spaghetti sauce was forgotten for the time being.

The ladies tell her all about their day with the elder Toland woman. They went into detail about the information she had given them about the man Sherri was meeting the night of her death. They also told her that Sarah knew the type of woman her daughter was.

"Good work." Lindsey turned back to the sink and rinsed the rag. "You should go back again next weekend. She may open up a little more." She finished wiping the wall.

"Actually, all of us are going back next Sunday for coffee," Diana said enthusiastically.

Lindsey turned around, spoon in hand. "What do you mean, all of us?"

It was Melinda's turn to answer. "We told her what we were doing."

"What? Why would you do that, mom?"

"She was upset about nothing being done about Sherri. We wanted her to know that everything was going to be okay."

Lindsey sat down on a stool and thought for a second. "What was her demeanor when you told her? Was she upset?"

"I think she was relieved." Melinda looked at Diana to jump in. "What do you think?"

"I agree. We just had to tell her that you were a massive crime junkie and knew your stuff." Diana smiled at the younger woman and grabbed her into a hug.

Lindsey stood and walked back to the stove. "I guess this is it. No backing out now." She turned and smiled.

After a few more minutes of small talk, the older ladies left Lindsey to her thoughts. She leaned back against the counter and smiled to herself. "And it begins."


The wine and crime squad were ready to get down to business. A week had passed since the first meeting with Sarah and the ladies needed to figure out how to handle the next meeting. They brought their notes and were ready to dig in.

Sabrina looked a bit concerned. "Look ladies, I don't want Steve to know what we're doing. He will have a conniption." The ladies all agreed that it was a hush-hush operation. No husbands were to find out. It was wine night, as usual.

"Don't we need one of those boards?" Maria asked. She had seen it on one of the crime shows she watched.

"A what?" Diana had no clue what she was talking about.

Lindsey knew exactly what she was talking about. "An evidence board." Maria nodded and she continued when she saw Diana appear confused. "It's a board that detectives put the evidence on for easy viewing - pictures of suspects, maps, crime scene photos..." She continued naming items until she saw Diana had an aha moment. "We'll worry about that when we have evidence to put on it."

Once they ran through what they were going to discuss with Sarah, the ladies took off in Lindsey's Jeep to go speak with her. There was very little talking, and Lindsey felt uneasy, knowing that this was serious. They were on their way to speak with the dead woman's mother. She wasn't a cop - none of them were. What in hell were they doing?

When they pulled up to Sarah's house a few minutes later, the vehicle was silent. None of the ladies spoke, but each one knew what the others were thinking. Sarah was at the front door waving, prompting the women to step out.

Once they were inside and the introductions were complete, the ladies sat down in the living room. Sarah left the room and quickly returned with a tray of coffee and cookies. The atmosphere was inviting and comfortable.

"So, you must be Melinda's daughter," Sarah said as she looked at Lindsey. There was no denying that they looked alike. They were both dark-haired with dark eyes, whereas Diana and Sabrina were light-haired, and both had light eyes.

Lindsey smiled after she swallowed her coffee. "Guilty as charged."

"I've been told that you like solving mysteries and that you want to take a crack at my daughter's murder."

"Yes, ma'am. With your permission, of course."

"You most certainly have it. About time somebody cared enough."

Lindsey felt guilty about that statement. She still wasn't sure she was doing it for anyone other than herself. Although, when she looked at the woman seated across from her, she felt the need to help Sarah begin to heal. "We are going to do our absolute best."

After a bit of chatting and Sarah going through the timeline of the day Sherri was killed, they were given permission to go through Sherri's room to see if they could find anything of significance. The older ladies stayed with Sarah as the younger two walked down the hall.

When they reached the end of the hall, they opened the door. Sarah told them that she hadn't gone into the room and couldn't remember if the police ever went in there. Just as they suspected, nothing was out of place.

"I'll look through the desk," Lindsey told Sabrina.

"Okay, I'll go through the nightstands."

Lindsey found two different cards from two different men, expressing their admiration for the deceased woman. She couldn't help but wonder what type of spell Sherri had over men. Whatever it was, it was enough for a man to forget he was married. Was it a lonely existence or was it a way to get what she wanted without any strings?

Neither of the cards had a last name, so Lindsey knew it was going to be difficult to locate who they were. After checking the four drawers of the desk, she stepped back. That's when she realized that there was a middle drawer. It wasn't a secret drawer, but it definitely wasn't noticeable as you are seated at the desk. When she opened the drawer, her eyes lit up. She picked up a book and flipped through a couple of pages. Sherri's diary.


Sabrina turned to her friend and saw Lindsey holding up a book. "What's that?" She walked over to get a closer look. "No way."

"Yep." Lindsey sat it on top of the desk.

"Well, what does it say?"

"I haven't read it. We'll take it with us. Let's finish looking around."

After they were sure they checked every nook and cranny of Sherri's room, they were finished. They didn't find many items, but the items they found were very promising - a hotel receipt, an iPad, a datebook, and the diary. All in all, a good score. There were bound to be answers to some questions within these items. It made Lindsey wonder why the police hadn't taken any of these items.

Sabrina noticed Lindsey standing in the middle of the room, staring at the wall. "You okay?" She walked up and put her hand on Lindsey's shoulder.

"Why are these items still here?" Lindsey said, not looking away from the wall.

What do you mean?" Sabrina was confused, as Lindsey should have been happy that they found the clues.

Lindsey turned to face Sabrina. "The police should have this stuff. It shouldn't still be here." She knew that they could have possibly missed the drawer with the diary, but not the other items. They were not hidden. The hotel receipt was in a jacket pocket and the datebook and tablet were in a dresser drawer. "Either the police didn't look very hard, or they never came in this room."

The two grabbed their loot and walked back to the others. They showed Sarah what they found, and she told them they were welcome to take it with them, but she did ask that they return everything once they were done with the items. They agreed and the women took their leave, but not before they promised to return the following weekend.

As they were walking to the SUV, Deputy Burnett was turning the corner. What? What were the odds? Lindsey quickly put the items they found in her tote. "Mom, go ask Sarah to keep what we discussed on the down low."

Melinda nodded and walked back up to Sarah. "Sarah, please make sure you don't tell anyone about this."

"Of course not, dear." Sarah looked out at the deputy parking in her driveway. She smiled. "Good afternoon, deputy."

Deputy Tom Burnett was closing his car door, looking at Lindsey's vehicle. "Good afternoon, Ms. Toland. I see you have some visitors." He turned back to Sarah.

"Indeed, I do. How can I help you?"

"I just came by to make sure everything was good." He seemed to be sizing the women up.

"Of course, everything is wonderful. Why wouldn't it be?" The bite in Sarah's tone was obvious and she wanted it that way. Nobody from the police had ever come to check on her, but now he shows up. Something struck her as odd. She would play the game and pretend to be the dumb old lady for just a bit longer.

Melinda took the opportunity to excuse herself. "We will see you next week, Sarah. Make sure to give us a call if you need anything." Sarah looked at her and smiled.

"Yes, dear. We will definitely be talking soon." Sarah said in response before turning her gaze back to the deputy.

Melinda walked down the sidewalk and jumped in the Jeep. "That was intense." All the women nodded in agreement.

Once they returned to Lindsey's house, she began to take the items they found out of her bag when Jeff walked in the side door, stopping her in her tracks.

"Hey, babe. Where ya been?" Jeff walked to the fridge for a drink.

Lindsey looked at the women, before answering, "We walked around town for a bit."

Jeff walks over and kisses Lindsey's forehead. "That's nice."

"I thought you were over at Steve's." Lindsey and Sabrina looked at each other.

"We finished early, so I came home." He started walking away. "Hi, ladies, bye ladies." And he was back out the door.

"Now what?" Maria asked.

"Hold that thought." Lindsey walked out the door and toward the garage.

Lindsey walked in but didn't see Jeff. "Honey?"

"Yeah?" He stepped back from being under the hood of his Wrangler.

"Can you run to the store for me? I forgot to stop to get milk and I need it for the mashed potatoes."

"Sure. Let me wash my hands first." He stepped over to the sink.

"Thank you." She walked over and kissed his lips. "I just don't want to be rude."

Lindsey had a huge smile on her face when she walked back into the house. "Taken care of." Once she heard the truck start, she looked out the window to see Jeff pulling out of the driveway. "Okay, ladies. We have about twenty minutes."

Sabrina and Lindsey showed what they found, leaving the other ladies with their mouths open in surprise. They agreed that Lindsey would look over everything and make notes to fill them in later.

Jeff would be working the following day, so Lindsey knew she would have the house to herself. Sabrina agreed to come over and go through everything with her. With the plan laid out, the stash was hidden, and the ladies were gone before Jeff returned home.

The following evening Sabrina showed up at Lindsey's ready to get to work. When she walked in the kitchen, she saw Lindsey reading the diary. "Hey, I thought you were going to wait for me?" She threw her purse on the counter and sat down opposite Lindsey at the table.

"I'm only on the first page." Lindsey laughed.

"Read it out loud."

As Lindsey read the first half of the diary, they were disappointed that there really wasn't anything juicy. The entries were sporadic and bland until the spring before her death. That was when Sherri was writing in her diary daily, sometimes more than once. As summer was heating up, her love life was blazing like an inferno.

5/31 - TZ called today and wants to get together. He said his wife was going out of town for the weekend. Asked if I wanted to stay the night. Not sure I should. BT won't be happy. Do I really care?

"TZ? Those initials shouldn't be too hard to figure out. Last names starting with a Z are not too common." Lindsey said as she wrote down the initials.

"Tom Zorn?" Sabrina asked.


"Tom Zorn. He owns the Ford dealership right outside of town."

Lindsey gave Sabrina a questioning look. "And how do you know that?"

"I own a Ford Fusion, duh." Sabrina and Steve met him when they were looking for a new car. They were on the fence about the Fusion, so the salesman asked Tom to speak to them in hopes of getting the sale. It worked. "Steve and I met him when we bought the car."

"What was he like?"

Sabrina shrugged. "Typical salesman, I guess. Smooth talker."

"Makes sense." Lindsey looked at the page again. "BT? That one is going to be difficult." Sabrina nods in confirmation.

Lindsey continues reading and they determined Sherri was definitely shameless. Apparently, she cared less about breaking up happy homes than the men did.

6/12 - BT said his wife confronted him about an affair. He's not sure if she knows it's me. If she knows it won't take long for the word to get out. On second thought, do I really care? If he was happy with her, he wouldn't be sleeping with me!

"So, that makes three people that may have had motive to kill her." Both women nodded and Lindsey continued.

6/16 - The weekend with TZ was amazing. He said he wants to do it again when his wife goes out of town for work again next month.

"I guess we need to see if Zorn's wife goes out of town for work every month," Sabrina says as Lindsey writes it in her notebook.

6/16 - BT says he's going to ask his wife for a divorce, so we can be together. I told him that I wasn't sure that was a good idea. He has his job that he needs to think about. It would ruin him if word got out. He agreed to hold off a bit. Honestly, I'm not sure I could be with him all the time. Imagine having to be with one man. Dreadful!!!

The diary mentioned the same initials over and over, until the final two entries. One was written a couple of days before she died, and the last entry was presumably the day of her death. Another initial made an appearance and this one was going to be harder to crack than BT.

9/2 - I saw something today that I wasn't supposed to see. I'm not sure if T knew I was there. If he does, I'm in trouble.

9/4 - I saw T today and he acted normal. He must not know. Good. I'm supposed to meet up with him on Friday.

"T must be the man that Sarah says is bad news," Lindsey said.

"Yeah, but she doesn't know who he is. That was the night she left and came back dead, so it has to be him."

"We still don't know he's the killer. We won't know until we figure out who all of these initials belong to."

"I still say Tom Zorn is TZ."

"Okay, do a little digging and make sure he is the only man with the initials TZ. Once you figure it out, let me know. I'm going to do some property searches and find all the men in town with the initials BT."

"What if the initials are from a nickname?"

"I already thought about that, so I figured I would keep my eyes out for Robert and William, too."

Sabrina stood and grabbed her purse. "I'll call you tomorrow with what I find out."

"Sounds good." Lindsey was too engrossed in the datebook to look up.

Later that evening, after she was in bed, Lindsey fired up Sherri's iPad. She clicked on the email icon and Sherri's email popped up. After scrolling back to the beginning of spring, Lindsey started opening them. There was one that popped out at her. As she was clicking it open her phone rang and she hit the speaker button.

"Hi, Bri."

"Lindsey, it's him." She could hear the excitement in Sabrina's voice.

"Who? Zorn?"

"Yep. I just did a property search in three different counties. The only man with the initials TZ is Tom Zorn. The only other name that begins with Z is Audrina Zeltin."

"Okay, sounds like we need to talk with Mr. Zorn."

"What if he won't talk to us?" Sabrina asked.

"We'll have to do some snooping."

There was silence on the other end of the phone. "What does that mean, Lindsey?" There was no doubt that she was afraid of what Lindsey was going to say.

Lindsey smiled. "Exactly what I said. If he doesn't want to answer questions, we will find answers in other places."

"I was afraid you were going to say that. Please tell me that you don't mean what I think you mean."

"I can't say that because it wouldn't be true. Good night, Sabrina. I'll call you tomorrow." Lindsey hit the end button on her phone. She was tired and the emails were going to have to wait until the morning. There was nothing like a little light reading with her morning coffee.

Lindsey put the iPad on the nightstand and turned her light off. She chuckled to herself when she thought about Sabrina's reaction to finding answers in other places. If Zorn didn't answer her questions, they would simply sneak into his house to see if they could find anything. No harm, no foul. If nobody knew, nobody would care. Now, it was up to her to convince Sabrina. It was going to be an eventful week.

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