Voice Mail Murder, page 1
Voice Mail Murder
A Pamela Barnes Acoustic Mystery
by Patricia Rockwell
Copyright 2011 by Patricia Rockwell
Published by Cozy Cat Press
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“Touchdown!” he growled, a half-smile warming his face and visible to her from the corner of her eye. She felt his breath on her neck and his large hands pressing down on her palms above her head as his nose burrowed into her hair. To her, he was like a big bear and she liked them that way.
With a small effort, she twisted her elbows around, freeing her hands, and suddenly rolled over on top of him, pinning his large muscular body in a similar position that she had just experienced. Now her breath came faster as she straddled him like a cowboy, her long bare legs pressing against the firm skin above his boxers. Sheets twisted around her ankles, and her short silk slip rode up, revealing her upper thighs. As her thick curls bounced, she flung her head back and forth, reveling in her superior position like a rodeo rider on a magnificent stallion, twisting her torso in gyrating rhythms, mocking the man beneath her. The mattress squeaked in response to each movement as the couple bucked up and down, back and forth.
Finally, the woman halted. “Don’t think so, Coach,” she exclaimed suddenly,” with a triumphant laugh. She gave his shoulder muscles a few quick kneads then sat bolt upright, slowly lifting her arms above her head while fluffing her curls in one upward flip as she might toss lettuce in a salad bowl. He watched her and observed her like a trainer watching a glorious lion.
“Come back down here,” he whispered and grabbed her buttocks, letting his fingertips sink into her soft flesh. She bent her face slowly to his as if to kiss him then quickly returned to her upright position.
“Just as long as you realize who’s in charge here,” she smiled down at him as she ran the fingers of one hand across the top of his salt and pepper crew cut.
“You are, doll,” he responded. “I like it when you’re in charge. You know that.” He reached again for her bottom, but the woman had glanced at her wristwatch, oblivious to his touch, and was now rolling effortlessly off the man’s body and over to the side of the bed. She tip-toed to the window and peeked between the blinds at the walkway outside the room.
“Hey, come back here,” he whined, leaning back against his arm, his massive biceps bulging.
“It’s late,” she whispered pointedly, as she sat on the bed beside him. “Look.” She turned to him and pointed at her watch face, arching her eyebrows. “I’ve stayed too long already—and so have you.” She stood up, abruptly changing the level of the old sagging mattress so that the man’s body immediately dropped several inches. He kicked the covers back and pulled his legs around to the side of the bed, sitting beside her.
“But it was worth it, wasn’t it?” He reached around her waist with one arm and fondled a breast beneath the flimsy silk gown. Her skin warmed to his touch.
“Always,” she purred. “Always. I thoroughly enjoy our ‘encounters.’ You know that.”
“Encounters?” he smirked, pulling back and eyeing her suspiciously. “Like of the third kind?”
“Yes,” the woman answered, putting on a matching silk wrap from a chair by the window. “Sex with you is like from some other dimension!” She grabbed his face between her hands, her forehead to his as she breathed the words at him, finishing the titillation with a lick of her tongue.
“So, don’t leave,” he countered, pulling her towards him and leaning backward on the bed.
“Gotta’ go,” she said, cheerily, pulling from his grip, and heading to the bathroom. He rose reluctantly and paddled behind her, his bare feet slapping on the tile floor of the small bathroom area. “Got a busy day,” she continued. “Lots of appointments. You know that.” She stood in front of the mirror and pulled a tube of lipstick and a hairbrush from a designer bag on the countertop. She quickly dabbed on a layer of a bright red color, ran her fingertips deftly over her eyebrows, and flicked a small brush quickly through her mass of lush curls. Then, plopping the items back into the purse, she turned, pressed past him, and headed back into the room.
“Okay, okay,” he replied, following behind her. Then he sat on the edge of the bed, his shoulders slumping. “You are quite a dish, you know. You drain me.” He watched her quickly slide into a grey skirt and a lavender silk blouse.
“All the more reason to call it a day,” she chirped. She was gorgeous—almost as tasty dressed as undressed. A beautiful, lush, shapely figure. Smooth, glowing skin. A remarkable face with huge eyes that absolutely sparkled with every word she said. And all that hair. Hair a man could get lost in. Hair he could dig his fingers in and grab hold of. She was buttoning her blouse now, fixing the collar just so.
The man stretched back on the bed, his arms crossed behind his head, leaning against the headboard. His tanned, toned body with every muscle on display, contradicted his face now contorted by a mock hang-dog scowl. It was hard to look desirable in boxer shorts, he realized.
“Don’t be sad,” she pouted, tweaking his chin. “We’ll do it again, soon.” She gave him a beaming smile and pulled on a tailored suit jacket that matched her skirt. Altogether, a very professional business look, he mused. Not the outfit of a lady who had just indulged in an afternoon roll in the hay in a low-rent motel room. He could choose them, he thought. A classy broad. Do it again? For sure. He smiled. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Balancing on one foot after another, she slid on a pair of tan leather three-inch heels and pranced away from him. She picked up a small black leather book that lay beside the television set on the long dresser and opened it.
“Same time, next week?” she asked as she ran her finger down a page.
“I’ll arrange something and call you,” he nodded, dutifully, laughing. He leaned back again on the bed and watched her final preparations. There was something totally engaging about watching a woman get dressed—not as engaging as watching her get undressed, he thought, but he liked to watch the ceremony of it all. Like locker room preparation.
“It’s easier for you than me!” she scolded him with a shake of a well-manicured fingertip, tucking the black book into the purse and placing the strap of the purse over her shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah,” he replied. “I have all this free time . . . ” He gestured around the small motel room.
“You at least have more control of your time than I do,” she teased. “I’m at the mercy of . . . others! You know that!” She headed towards the door.
“Be careful when you leave,” he said as she reached the door. She stopped abruptly.
“I always am,” she whispered conspiratorially, leaning towards him. She smiled. “I don’t want to be seen any more than you do.” She opened the door, remaining slightly behind it and peered out carefully into the bright afternoon sunlight. After a second or two, she gave him a silent kiss, donned a pair of sunglasses, and slipped quietly out the door and disappeared from sight.
After she closed the door, the man stood up and stretched. He was exhausted but pleasantly so. He could easily take a nap—maybe a
Was she back? Did she forget something? Must be. Or it could be the maid.
“Who is it?” he called out as he walked to the door. No response. Gingerly, he peered through the small glass peep hole. What the . . .? He pulled back sharply, flattening himself against the wall.
“I know you’re in there,” said a voice he recognized.
Double checking the peep hole, he realized that he was right. What was going on? Maybe it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle. Probably something totally innocuous, he told himself. Carefully, he opened the door.
“Uh, hi.” Play it cool.
“What are you doing here?” asked the visitor at the door.
“What do you mean?” he stammered. “I. . . I. . . was just trying to get away. You know, some privacy.” He could feel his face redden and a thin layer of sweat was beginning to form at his temples. The visitor moved closer to him, looking first directly into his eyes, and then, pointedly, inside the motel room.
“Privacy?” asked the visitor.
“Yes, ah, yes. Sometimes, I really need to just get away for a while—be by myself.”
“You’re by yourself?” asked the visitor, with a slight smile.
“Sure. Alone. You can see,“ the man answered, his arm gesturing towards the interior of the room.
“Why don’t I believe you?” The visitor pushed past the man and entered the room. The dark motel room contrasted sharply to the bright sunny day. As the visitor’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, the contents of the room became clear; the visitor could see the primary object in the small room—the king-sized bed, sheets rumpled.
“Doesn’t look like you were alone,” said the visitor, staring down at the bed—and the stained sheets.
“I was,” responded the man, closing the door. This was embarrassing. And this discussion was much too loud and likely to be heard by someone outside.
“I was alone,” he repeated, more insistent, walking closer to the visitor. “Besides, it’s none of your business.”
“Yes, it is,” the visitor said quietly, and remained staring at the man.
“Why are you here anyway?” the man asked, flustered—no, angry now. He was not going to engage in a verbal battle with this person. It would just be a waste of time. “I was just leaving,” the man announced suddenly. He strode over to the nightstand where his wallet, cell phone, and keys were located. He picked up the wallet and shoved it in his back pocket. He reached down to grab his cell phone and keys. As he did, he felt a sharp pain in the center of his back.
“What the . . .?”
The pain tore into his body. Then again. A horrific, searing pain. He turned, or tried to turn. As he stretched his head to the side, he saw a hand holding a large, sharp instrument, poised in the air, ready to drop. The hand hit his back again, digging the sharp implement into it. And again. He tried to reach out—to speak—to call for help. Surely, someone here would hear him, someone must be around. It was a motel, for God’s sake. Maybe a maid, the desk clerk? But . . . no, it was too late. Another blow fell onto his back. And another. Sharp blows continued to pummel him. That sharp, horrible pain that he couldn’t stop. That was the last thing he remembered as his body slid quietly to the floor of the motel room—the sharp pain. His cell phone and keys dropped from his hands and silently landed onto the mottled green rug. The cell phone bounced when it fell and slid under the bed, out of sight.
Not waiting to check on the man’s condition, the visitor quietly placed a “Do Not Disturb” placard on the outside room door, and disappeared down the back stairs.
The first day of the semester always felt like a new beginning to Pamela; it was appropriate that the new school year started in the fall when the seasons were changing, although in Reardon, a sleepy college community in the deep South, fall typically remained far into the winter months. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen any snow—probably when she and Rocky had taken one of their few vacations north to New York City to shop and go to Broadway musicals and dine in elegant restaurants.
The sense of new beginning came, she realized, because each fall meant new students, a new crop of possibilities. Of course, she was jaded at times because of her many years of teaching, but she was ever the optimist, a personality trait that was ingrained and so much a part of her nature that no amount of natural or unnatural catastrophe could alter her innate qualities.
There always seemed to be excitement in the air on the first day of class. Of course, she saw her colleagues almost every day (although some had been away for the summer—on lengthy vacations or sabbaticals), but all members of Grace University’s small Psychology Department were now officially back at work and she savored that sense of group commitment, of a team preparing for a game, or a battalion readying for battle.
The hub of the action was the Department’s main office, on the first floor of old Blake Hall, centrally located at the intersection of two hallways that connected it from two separate wings and a grand stairway winding down from the second story. As Pamela entered the open door into the main office, she found herself in a massive group of students congregated around the lone desk in the small outer office. The students were jockeying for position as they waved schedule cards in the air at the young woman seated at the desk.
“Dr. Barnes,” called out the seated secretary, brunette curls gently bobbing, her hand in the air, gesturing towards Pamela among the throng of students.
“Good morning, Jane Marie,” responded Pamela, “Glad it’s you dealing with the onslaught and not me!” She laughed heartily and Jane Marie chuckled, grabbing a schedule card from the student standing nearest to her. She quickly scanned the request form, deemed it acceptable, and picked up a signature stamp which she then slapped perfunctorily on the bottom of the waiting student’s card.
“There you go,” she announced to the young man, “You’re registered!”
“Thanks,” he replied. “That was easy.” He wound his way through the crowd of waiting students and was out the office door before the next student could slam her registration card in front of Jane Marie’s nose.
“No,” said the secretary to the young woman. “You don’t have your advisor’s signature!” She handed the card back to the girl who was scowling dejectedly. Pamela turned to the row of faculty mailboxes on the far wall of the small office and reached into her cubby hole. Flicking through her mail, she tossed what appeared to be ads from several textbook companies into a nearby waste basket and tucked a letter from a journal editor onto the large clipboard that she carried. Hmm, she thought, it’s fairly thick—a good sign. A rejected manuscript would be whisper thin. Waving good-bye to Jane Marie, always amazingly in charge no matter how frantic the circumstances, Pamela headed out of the office and down the hallway, taking time to wave at some of her colleagues, busy at work in their offices.
Laura Delmondo was talking intently to a student seated beside her desk. The young professor was glowing as she spoke with animation to the young advisee. Pamela knew that Laura’s beaming expression was only partially due to the first day of school excitement. She and her husband Vito had recently had their first child—a long-awaited baby that had been very difficult to conceive. Pamela had suffered with the popular young teacher as she experienced various set-backs in her pregnancies, and she was now happy to see Laura so joyous and fulfilled. Giving Laura a discrete wave, she headed on her way.
Towards the end of the
She headed into the side stairwell and up the stairs, their echo rich with the sounds of people bustling through the old building. Each rung of the stairs creaked with each step—like an ancient lighthouse. The only thing that reminded people inside this stairwell that they were still in a college were the flyers that plastered the walls announcing meetings of various clubs, touting the merits of different students running for campus offices, and here and there, ads for local businesses. She could get half off a large pepperoni at Red’s Pizza Parlor all this week.
On the second floor, it was a bit quieter than the main floor, but only a bit. As she rounded the corner into the left upper hallway, she passed the offices of her closest campus neighbors. Willard Swinton was seated at his desk in the office next to hers, engrossed in his computer screen, headphones on. She smiled and withheld a greeting. She and Willard shared similar research interests and she was hoping he was investigating something related to one of their joint research projects. They both focused on linguistics, but Willard was an authority on the cultural aspects of language and her concentration was more on psychological aspects. Even so, they often worked together on papers—and had used their combined skills to aid the police in solving not only Charlotte Clark’s murder, but the murder of a local disc jockey only last year.
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