Murder in the River City

By: Allison Brennan

Dear Reader:



Six years ago, I wrote Murder in the River City as a serial for a magazine. Unfortunately, before they published the three-part story, the magazine closed down.

When cleaning my office last year, I found a printout of this story. I’d almost forgot I wrote it. I still loved my heroine, Shauna Murphy, and the hero, Detective Sam Garcia. I decided the story deserved an overhaul and have been rewriting it as I’ve had time over the last few months.

I’ve lived in and around Sacramento for twenty years and greatly enjoyed setting a story in an area I know and love. Well, I love it except for the heat!

You may recognize some characters from my novels. Detective John Black, Sam’s supervisor, starred in a short story of mine “A Capitol Obsession,” which was originally published in an anthology edited by Elizabeth George and currently available digitally in the anthology Killing Justice. John was also a secondary character in Sudden Death and Fatal Secrets, both set in Sacramento. Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dean Hooper, the hero of Fatal Secrets, also makes an appearance.

I hope you enjoy reading this novella as much as I enjoyed writing it.



All the best,

Allison Brennan





Chapter One



Sunday night



Callie Wood regretted every major decision she’d ever made.

Running off with her boyfriend when she was eighteen wasn’t the first of her bad choices, but it had set her on her present course. Six months later, he left her a thousand miles from home with forty bucks in her pocket, a change of clothes, and an ounce of weed. That, and the decent blowjobs she gave, got her halfway back home. Now she was stuck in Sacramento doing a little of this and a little of that until she landed a real job.

The problem? She really didn’t like working that hard.

That was all changing now. For the first time, she felt like she was making the right choices, that she’d found a kindred spirit.

Right guy, right plan, right time.

She waited in the idling car outside the bar while Joey and his friend Pete went inside to talk to Mack, the bartender. She didn’t like Pete—he was too slick, too good-looking. Too much like her ex-boyfriend who’d dumped her in Portland. But she didn’t have to like the guy; after this week, she and Joey would never have to see him again. They’d be flush, living wherever they wanted, never having to worry about paying the rent or eating. They could just have fun.

The back door opened and Joey walked out first. She didn’t like the look on his face. Fear? Maybe. Pete came out next, all attitude. Cocky jerk. She put the car in drive and rolled, lights off, toward them. They jumped in and Joey said, “Go, go, go. Now.” When he tossed a bag into the back, she glanced over. His hands were shaking. Sweat had dampened his collar.

“What happened?” she asked. “Did Mack get what we need?”

“Shut up,” Joey said.

She frowned. He’d never talked to her like that when they first started going out. It was his asshole friend, Pete. Ever since Joey got the call three days ago that his ‘boss’ was in town, Joey had been jumpy.

Pete got on the phone. “Plan B.” Callie heard a man on the other end talking really fast.

She whispered to Joey, “I thought you said Mack had—”

“I said shut up.”

She turned under the freeway and drove up J Street. She’d had no problem robbing Pat Dooligan; he’d fired her. But something didn’t feel right. Joey was too … scared. He was never scared.

Pete said to whoever was on the other end of the cell phone, “He got cold feet. … No, he didn’t know you were back. Just said he wanted out. … Yes, we took care of it.”

Callie didn’t like Pete’s end of the conversation. Her instincts, which had never served her well, began to itch, like maybe she had gotten with the wrong program. Maybe Joey wasn’t the nice guy she’d thought. Just because the sex was hot and he had a nice apartment and plenty of spending money, maybe things weren’t so good. Maybe they were kind of bad, in fact.

Pete said, “We’re heading there now.” He hung up. “Get on the freeway. North.”

Callie had to go down to 7th Street before she could turn right, then right again on L Street to get back to I-5. She’d made a big damn circle, irritated they hadn’t clued her in earlier to their plans. “Where are we going?” she asked.

“Shit, Gleason, does she ever shut up?” Pete said.

Joey hit her with the back of his hand. “Last warning.”

Tears burned behind her eyes, but she didn’t say anything. Joey had never hit her before. Never. She drove until Pete told her to get off the freeway, in South Natomas, about five miles away. The area looked familiar, but she didn’t recognize where they were until she saw Mack’s apartment building. She’d been here a couple times when she still worked for Mack, but that was before he found out she was skimming from the drawer. She didn’t understand what his problem was—Mack was no saint, yet he had a problem stealing from Pat Dooligan? A big fucking double standard, she’d always thought.

“Wasn’t Mack at the bar?” she asked. “Why are we at his apartment?”

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