After tending to the cats and closing up the back of the house, I bustled Quentin out the door and directly into the path of a young woman walking up my sidewalk. “Hi,” she said with a friendly grin. Red, frizzy hair, dimples, and a soft figure. Maybe she was one of my students from last semester? Or, one of Quentin’s? “Hello,” Quentin said in a tentative voice, probably trying to place her as well. “How may we assist you?”She faced me. “Jenna?” “Yes, and you are?” “Oh, sorry. I’m Debbie DeLeo, Joey’s wife.” “Oh my gosh, Debbie! This is my friend, Quentin Pearson. He met Joey when they were here Saturday. What made you decide—” “Sorry to barge in,” she said, not acknowledging Quentin. By now, I’d turned back to my house and was about to open the door. “I can see y’all were going out,” she added, following me. “Don’t let me stop you. I should’ve called. Everything’s been so sudden and messed up.” Her eyes welled up. “But, you see, it’s Stephen. I thought you might know where he is.” Facing her now, I touched her shoulder. “Stephen who? I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.” But, of course, I did know where Stephen likely was, and she had good reason to cry. What I couldn’t quite work out was why Joey’s wife was so interested in Stephen’s whereabouts and not in Joey’s. And, what she was doing on my doorstep on Monday morning and not in Columbus with her baby. Quentin headed to his car. “I can see you two need to chat. I’m gonna shove off. Cheerio! See you later, Jen.” “Come on inside. We can talk quietly in here,” I said to Debbie while sending Starr a quick text. “I’m not gonna make it today. I’ll come in tomorrow, and we’ll go over those invoices. Long story.” Debbie came up the stairs and walked into my house. Stalin greeted us as if we’d been gone a week instead of five minutes. Starr shot back a quick response. Jenna, you’d better not be getting yourself in trouble again. I smiled and put my phone aside. “Oh, what a beautiful cat,” Debbie said, reaching out to stroke him. “We’ve got a Tuxedo my parents had since I was a little girl. His name is Oreo.” Stalin moved closer to her hand and gave it a sniff, before he consented to let her pet him. Once she got started, though, he was all hers. “Can I get you anything?” I’d put a box of Kleenex on the table, just in case she teared up again. She shook her head. “Sorry about getting upset. It’s just—well, first Joey disappeared, and now Stephen disappeared and all the excitement over the painting. I suppose I’m a little fragile right now.” Sniff, sniff. “Haven’t you heard anything about Stephen?” She plucked a Kleenex from the box. “I’m a bit confused. How is Stephen connected to the painting?” I stood off to the side so she wouldn’t have an eye-view of the said painting, which—thank God—I’d covered with the blanket and tucked in the opposite corner of the room. But, I sure wished we’d put it back in the attic instead of within spitting distance of her. She turned toward Stalin who kept easing toward the painting. Something new for him to sniff. Darn cat! “It’s a long story.” “I just cancelled my morning plans. So, I’ve got time.” She sank down onto my couch. Stalin jumped on her lap and raised his back as she stroked him. His purring reached me across the room. “Joey’s mom gave us that painting about a year ago. At first, I really liked it even though my knowledge of art leaves a lot to be desired.” Her eyes darted and a nervous laugh escaped from her lips. My truth radar shot up“ Joey told me your dad painted it, but you already know that, of course.” Another nervous laugh. “To make a long story short, I found something behind it one day when I was cleaning.” I know that, too. “How did you clean it?” I asked. She must’ve taken off the entire back to clean it if she found that hidden scroll. “Oh, you know, with a dust brush. Nothing elaborate. I’m not that good a housewife—especially now with the baby.” She shot me a half-grin full of false vibes. Another lie? “So you were cleaning it with a dust brush and out popped something?” “Not exactly. Okay, I’ll tell you the truth. I dropped it and the back tore open. I didn’t want to tell Joey ‘cause he was so paranoid that something would happen to the damn thing, and well, I did chip the frame. Lordy, I’d just as soon as give it back to his mom, the way we had to pamper it. Anyway, the hidden canvas was all rolled up when the paper tore open. At first, I thought it was part of the original—sketches or something like that—but when I took it out and unrolled it, I could see it was something different. It looked old, but that’s about all I could tell. I taped the back on and then showed Joey what I’d found. I had no idea what the old canvas was.” “This Stephen person, he apparently got wind of the painting and its hidden treasure and then stole it?” Her head shot up. “How would I know?” Defensive. Her gaze darted, and she wouldn’t look me in the eye. Instead, she focused on the cat, who by now had lost interest in her and was off licking himself. She was hiding something, and she was lying, no question about it. My first impression of Joey’s wife left a lot to be desired.
A Painting to Die For
Book 3 Jenna Scali Mystery Series
Jenna’s quiet weekend turns upside down when her house is ransacked and a body is found with her name and number in its possession. Meanwhile, her long-lost cousins show up with stories about international art theft dating back to World War II.
While Jenna questions the motives of her dead father in his connection to stolen art, the police find a second body with Jenna’s name in its possession and she becomes the primary link in two murder inquiries. Sidestepping the police and dodging the mob, she and her best friend, Quentin, embark on their own investigation to save themselves and Jenna’s cousins from untimely deaths.
Offset by the quiet university town where faculty and students mill about, minding their own business, Jenna is kidnapped and held at gunpoint while her double-crossing, lying cousins chase after the missing painting worth millions.
A Painting to Die For forms a web of deceit that leaves Jenna doubting everything she believes about her father and his Italian heritage.
Dr. Joan Curtis is an award-winning writer who has published 8 books and numerous stories.
The e-Murderer: Book 1 Jenna Scali mystery series won the GOLD in the Global eBook Awards for 2016 for Mystery.
The Clock Strikes Midnight has won three major awards. FINALIST in the prestigious Eric Hoffer Book Awards 2016, FIRST PLACE Royal Palm Literary Award for mainstream/literary 2015 and the Silver in the Global eBook Awards for 2015 for Fiction/Suspense
Murder on Moonshine Hill won the SILVER in the Global eBook Awards for 2017 Mystery and the BRONZE 2017 for Southern fiction Reader’s Favorite.