Laina Turner, Author
L.C. Turner, Author

Necklaces and Nooses, a Presley Thurman Mystery Cozy Mystery: First Chapter Friday

Download the cozy mystery now

Chapter 1

I can’t believe I am so forgetful. All I wanted to do was go home because I was tired and my feet hurt. But my main concern was that Bella had been left in her crate much longer than I liked, which I didn’t feel was good for a six-month-old puppy. I’d left my wallet at work, and of course didn’t notice until I got all the way to the pay booth of the parking garage. No amount of batting my eyes and trying to look cute and pathetic helped. Although, the fact that the attendant was a twenty-something, gum-cracking girl, who I’m sure just wanted me to leave so she could get back to her magazine, probably didn’t help. It was no skin off her back if I had to take the time to go back to Silk and get my money. I was hoping she would do it out of the kindness of her heart, but no such luck.

Grumbling, I walked back down the dark alley to the boutique I had worked at the last several months since coming back to Chicago from Hunter’s Hollow, where I had spent a month running my mother’s flower shop while she and my dad took a much-needed vacation. I patted my head, certain my shoulder-length auburn hair was exploding in the humidity. It was naturally curly, but the appearance of said curls was very weather-dependent. Since it was a muggy August night they were at peak frizz, and I was sticky and disgusting after a long day at work. My black capris and sleeveless white blouse were wrinkled and limp. My sweaty feet slid around in my red high heels. I just wanted to get home and take Bella for a walk, shower and then get some good puppy snuggles in. This time of year the hot weather always made me feel dirty; the heat and humidity enveloped me the minute I stepped outside. At least I’d get a blast of air conditioning when I got back to the store—excuse me, the boutique. The owner just about had a nervous breakdown anytime someone called it a store. “Stores are for groceries,” she would shrill. “Silk is a boutique that caters to women who have taste and class.” And money—which she didn’t say but it was implied. And many of the regular clients certainly didn’t let you forget they had money.

My boss was one of the most high-strung women I’d ever met, but she was a smart businesswoman and knew her stuff when it came to fashion. I had a lot of respect for her even though I didn’t always like her. Considering the majority of the clientele at Silk were high-strung and high-maintenance, I figured one of the reasons she was so successful was that it took one to know one. The people who shopped there—mostly women, of course, with a few husbands and boyfriends who knew what kind of gifts their ladies liked—loved how everyone at Silk catered to their every whim. Silk provided the best customer service of any boutique I had ever shopped in, and as a bit of a shopaholic, I had frequented my fair share. My boss had incredibly high standards that at times drove her employees crazy, but they worked. We had a large amount of repeat business from women who claimed to wear only clothes that came from Silk. And ours was a small world; we would have heard if they were going somewhere else.

cozy mystery book

I continued through the alley and then turned left once I got to Park Street, which was one block off the great shopping mecca in Chicago, the Magnificent Mile. A magnificent mile of shopping, that is. It was the bane of my existence, or at least my credit cards’. Okay, I was a lot of a shopaholic. I couldn’t help it. I loved clothes, shoes, and accessories.

I reached for the door with my key to unlock it, and with the pressure of my hand it swung open.  That’s weird, I thought. I knew I’d locked it and set the alarm when I left thirty minutes ago, since I had been the last person out the door. I figured that meant Solange was here. The owner, whose real name was Sally, made everyone call her Solange because she felt it was more representative of who she was: high-end, high-maintenance, and unique. We employees went along with it but balked when she wanted to change our names too. She tried for a long time to convince us but none of us were receptive to the idea. I especially didn’t see myself as Persephone, and she finally gave up. Solange often spent time at the boutique when it wasn’t open, changing displays and whatnot. She kept strange hours so I wasn’t surprised to find her here.

“Solange? Yoo-hoo, Solange, are you in here?”

No answer, but if she was in the back office she might not have heard me. I walked through the store to the break room and grabbed my wallet from where I had left it, on top of the Coke machine. Still annoyed with myself that I had forgotten it in the first place, I stuck it in my vintage, pearl-colored Coco Chanel purse that I had found at Goodwill. It was my best find to date. Someone must have been cleaning out a relative’s closet and had no idea it was worth a lot of money, because who would take a Coco Chanel bag to Goodwill? Their ignorance was my gain, and it was one of my most prized possessions.

“Solange,” I called again. I didn’t want to scare the heck out of her by sneaking up on her. I walked toward the office, and noticed the light wasn’t on. Surely she wasn’t sitting in the dark. That would be strange, even for her. I pushed the office door open.


She wasn’t there.

Hmmm. I started to get a little nervous. Maybe I was being naïve, but since the door was open, I didn’t think anyone had broken in. Solange often forgot to lock the door at night when she was here. Maybe she had run back to her car for something and didn’t lock it. This wasn’t a bad area, but you could never be too careful. The only other person who had a key besides the two of us was a part-time employee, Edie Thomas, who was on vacation in Costa Rica for a month. So it had to be Solange who had opened the door.

I called out one more time, with the same result. Solange would have answered if she was here. I flipped the rest of the lights on in the stockroom and walked up and down the racks of clothing to see if she was hiding—why would she?—but no Solange. The only other place she could have been was the fitting rooms, but why she would be sitting in a dark fitting room after hours ignoring me was beyond me. But then again, sometimes I didn’t understand a lot of what she did. I started to get annoyed. If she wasn’t here, I couldn’t just leave and lock the door behind me. What if she didn’t have her keys? And I certainly didn’t want to leave it open. Dang it, Solange.

We had three fitting rooms, two in the back right corner of the store and a larger one up front for the VIP clients. All of our fitting rooms were large, had a cushioned chair and plush velvet curtains in a rich purple, but the extra roominess of the front one made all the ladies ask for that one first.

Since I was at the back of the store, I thought I would start with the ones back there. Nothing.

I started to doubt myself. Maybe I had left the door unlocked. If that was the case, thank goodness I’d come back. But how could I know for sure? Calling Solange would mean looking irresponsible if I had indeed left the door unlocked.

As I walked up to the front, I noticed I’d forgotten to straighten the jewelry. I made a note to get that done in the morning before Solange saw it. She wanted the displays pristine for optimal customer viewing—and buying.

I opened the door to the premiere fitting room, fully prepared to check off this last area of the store and call it a night.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t.

Instead, my jaw dropped. My hand slipped from the door and I stood rooted to my spot, gaping at the sight in front of me.

“Oh no,” I whispered.

It suddenly didn’t look like I would be getting in trouble for not straightening the accessories, because I was looking at my boss hanging from the light fixture in the special fitting room!

I was freaking out. My hands were shaking so much I could barely get my cell phone out of my pocket. I fumbled so much I almost dropped it on the floor.

No, I couldn’t freak out.

Call 911, you idiot, and then freak out.

I dialed 911 while dragging the fitting room chair over to Solange, and climbed up on it to see if she had a pulse and if I could get her down. Trying to hold the phone to my shoulder at the same time wasn’t an easy task.

“911. What’s your emergency?” the operator droned.

“I need an ambulance at 5649 Park Street. I’ve just found my boss, and she’s hung herself.” My words came out all jittery and stammering. “I mean, she’s hanging. I…”

“Do you know how long she has been there?” the voice continued calmly.

“Well, I got here about five minutes ago. You see, I forgot my wallet and I couldn’t get out of the parking garage and—”

The operator cut me off. “Ma’am, I understand. Can you tell if she’s still breathing?”

I tentatively reached over to her neck to feel for a pulse. I didn’t feel anything, but what did I know? However, she didn’t have the rosy color of someone still alive, and she was very cold and clammy to the touch. “I don’t think so. I can’t find a pulse.”

“Okay, ma’am. Help is on its way. Please stay on the line until the medics get there.”

Gosh, I hoped that was soon. I waited for what seemed like forever but in reality was probably about five minutes or so, hearing sirens twice, which were false alarms—this was Chicago, after all—before the medics charged through the door. I was grateful when they pushed me away and took over. I stood just outside the fitting room in shock. I tried to calm my racing heartbeat while they worked on her.

“What’s your name?” the shorter of the two medics asked.

“Presley. Presley Thurman.”

“Okay, Presley. Don’t leave. The police will be here soon to take a statement from you.”

“Okay.” I watched in morbid fascination as they effortlessly cut Solange down and put her on a stretcher.

“No sense in rushing this one to the hospital,” the other medic said in a low voice. “No pulse, and it’s obvious her throat is crushed. Who would have thought a necklace was so strong?”

A necklace! My ears perked up at this, and I peered over at Solange’s body trying not to seem like I was rubbernecking at a car accident. He was right. Wrapped around her neck several times was one of our most expensive necklaces. It was our thirty-six-inch triple strand of pearls and crystal. Swarovski, of course. It retailed for twenty-eight thousand, and trust me, there wasn’t a very high markup on that one. It was one of the pieces Solange was most proud of. What seemed odd was that she loved that necklace but would never have worn it with the outfit she had on. Her pale pink linen shirt was too casual for this piece of jewelry.

Just then, I heard the door chime. I turned my head and saw a police officer come through the door.

He stuck out his hand. “I’m Detective Willie Landon. Are you the one who called this in?”

I shook his hand. He was cute, about five ten, green eyes, and really thick brown hair. Slim build, but not skinny, he seemed to be my age, late thirties.

“Hi, yes, I found her. She’s my boss. I work here. You see, I forgot my wallet and came back here to get it and…”

He held up his hand to slow me down. What was wrong with me? I kept babbling nonsense. The 911 operator, and now this cop, probably thought I was a crazy lady.

“Calm down. Let me get my notepad out, and we can start from the beginning.”

I’m not sure why at that moment my emotions decided to get the best of me but I felt the tears start to stream down my face. “I’m sorry,” I said, wiping away the tears and waving at my face with my hands. But they wouldn’t stop, and then my nose started to run. I was a mess. It was embarrassing. I hated getting like this, especially in front of a stranger. Finding a dead body was catching up with me.

“That’s okay, it happens,” he said and handed me a tissue.

I couldn’t help but think how nice he was. Being prepared for a crying person must have been in the cop manual. Detective Landon was patient and gave me time to collect myself, which took longer than I wanted it to. I felt so foolish, though I wasn’t sure why. I had, after all, discovered my boss hanging from the light fixture in our fitting room. I was reacting the way any normal person would if they’d found a person hanging. Once I felt more in control of my emotions, I started walking him through everything that had happened since I got back to the boutique, trying not to babble, when one of the medics interrupted.

“Detective, I think there is something you should see here.” The medic beckoned Willie, as the detective told me to call him, over to the stretcher with Solange’s body.

Willie held up a finger to tell me to stay put for a minute and walked over. The medic pointed something out to him on the body, and I could see him asking more questions. After about ten minutes, a few crime scene techs came in and Willie walked back over to me. He stopped and looked at me for a second, pausing before he spoke, which made me a little nervous even though I had no reason to be. I was just so jittery and out of sorts.  A glass of wine would sure be nice right now, I thought.

“I’m going to need you to come down to the station to finish this.”

I looked at him, confused. “Why? You said a few moments ago I could leave after a few more questions.”

“Your boss didn’t hang herself. She had help. So that makes this a whole different kind of investigation, and my questions need to take place down at the station.”

My eyes grew wide. “What? I don’t understand. How could that be?” If she had help, he must mean assisted suicide or even worse, murder. “Do you mean murder?” my voice broke on the last word.

“That is what we need to find out. Ride with me to the station?” he asked in the form of a question but I had the feeling he wasn’t really asking.

“But my car…” I trailed off. “Am… Am I a suspect?”

“Don’t worry about your car. I’ll make sure you get back to it when we’re finished. You admittedly were the last person to see her alive, and you found the body, so I need to know everything you know. And to answer your question, yes. Technically, you’re a suspect,” he said matter-of-factly, which did not make me feel good.

I couldn’t believe this. This was the third dead body I’d found in less than a year. Ever since I had been fired from my human resources job, my life had not proceeded as planned.

We walked out to where he was parked in front of the store. “I don’t have to sit in the back, do I?” I asked with a slight tremble in my voice.

He chuckled. “No. You can sit up front with me. I don’t think you’re a flight risk or that you’ll harm me.”

I suddenly realized I still hadn’t let Bella out. “Detective, do you mind if I call a friend to let my dog out?”

He gave me permission and I made a quick call to Jared but didn’t give him any details on why I needed his help. When Anna and Jared, my two best friends here in Chicago, heard about this they were going to flip.

Who would have thought a simple job in retail would get me a ride in a police car down to the station?

Read the book.

Happy reading,


Laina Turner Signature