Authors: Allison Brennan
Lucy reached the road as Steve opened the passenger door, because the driver’s side was pressed firmly against the mountainside. He grabbed Grace and pulled her from the seat. Patrick stopped behind the truck and shouted, “Let her go! Steve, the police are coming. Let her go.”
“You killed my dad!” Steve screamed and slammed Grace against the hood of the truck. “Why?”
Grace didn’t answer. Instead, she kicked Steve in the knee. He lost his footing on the icy ground and let go of her. She took two steps away and pulled a gun from her pocket. She pointed it at Steve and shouted at Patrick, “Step away from the snowmobile. I’m taking it.”
Patrick slowly moved away. “The police are on their way. You’re not getting off the mountain.”
“Move faster!” she ordered.
“We know your aliases.”
“I doubt you know all of them,” Grace snapped back.
“Why did you stay so long?” Lucy asked. “Why didn’t you just take the money and run? Why’d you have to kill Leo?”
She laughed. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” She jumped onto the snowmobile.
Grace started down the road. Lucy couldn’t let her get away.
As soon as Grace passed her, Lucy retrieved Patrick’s gun from the holster and, just like Jack had trained her, took aim and fired. Three bullets right in the back of the snowmobile. She didn’t know where it was most vulnerable, and she didn’t want to shoot Grace, but she hit the engine. It began to smoke, and the snowmobile wobbled. Grace’s pant leg caught fire and she swerved and jumped off, rolling in the snow.
Patrick was fast and jumped on Grace before she had a chance to retrieve her gun. Lucy held the gun on her while Patrick disarmed her and turned her facedown into the snow. Grace cried out in pain, but Patrick didn’t take her bait.
Lucy told Steve, “Patrick has handcuffs in his glove box.”
He didn’t move. “Give me the gun, Lucy.”
He moved toward her and Lucy turned the gun on him. “Steve, I don’t want to shoot you.”
“Just give me the gun. I need to do this.”
He was wild-eyed with grief.
Steve stepped forward and Patrick shouted, “Stop!” He had Grace’s gun aimed at Steve. “We have her, Steve. She’s going to prison for the rest of her life.”
Tears spilled from his red eyes. Steve sunk to his knees, releasing a cry of anguish.
Lucy retrieved the handcuffs and handed them to Patrick. He cuffed Grace and sat her up. “It’s over for you, too, Grace.”
“It’s all conjecture. There’s no proof of anything.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Lucy said. “The orange juice you drugged. It’s still in the refrigerator. Steve himself is evidence—the next stop is a hospital for a blood sample.”
“But there’s no proof I did anything. What you might have seen in my house? Well, I doubt anyone will ever find it again.”
“There’s no evidence.”
“There’s Vanessa Russell-Marsh’s body.”
“Nothing connects me to her.”
“A lot of people live in Phoenix.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Grace said, though her confidence faltered. “You can’t prove I did anything to anyone.”
Lucy suspected she was correct. She said, “You’re a con artist. You conned Nelson Russell and he sent his sister to collect what you stole. She sent a postcard to her brother that said, ‘You were right. We win.’ Did Vanessa demand repayment or she’d tell Beth and Steve what you did to her brother? Perhaps that would make them suspicious about Leo’s missing money. Did she threaten to turn you over to the police?”
“Vanessa was a fucking bitch!” Grace exclaimed. “They hired a private investigator to find me, and she thought she was so smart coming up here and surprising me. But the joke’s on her.”
“You killed her and planned to leave, but you got greedy,” Lucy said. “You wanted Steve to sell, so you pushed him harder. Told him his father had squandered all his money. Increased the blood pressure meds you were giving him so that he’d get sicker. Maybe get himself killed, because he was working double time to keep the lodge running. You had Beth on your side because you made her feel sorry for you. Poor Grace, you were barely holding on, you were suffering because you were trying to save Leo’s dream for his son—while all along you had been sabotaging it.”
A four-wheel-drive sheriff’s truck came into sight. Grace squirmed.
“You’re going to jail,” Patrick said. “Once we talk to Beth and Vanessa’s brother, you’ll be begging for a plea agreement.”
The sheriff put on the lights and over the speaker came, “Put down your weapons.”
Lucy put her gun on the hood of Patrick’s truck, and Patrick walked over and did the same thing. The deputy got out of the car. “Who’s Kincaid?”
Patrick introduced himself and handed the deputy his private investigator’s license and business card. “I had the lodge call you about Mrs. Marsh’s murder, and we have reason to believe that Grace Delarosa killed her. We also have reason to believe that she killed her husband and attempted to kill her stepson.”
“Frankly, you’re going to have to get in line.” The deputy walked over to where Grace knelt in the snow, head low. “Grace Marie Holbrook, you’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent.”
As the deputy read Grace her rights, he walked her to the back of the truck and locked her inside. Then he returned to the three.
“What did you mean, deputy?” Patrick asked.
“Well, we ran the names you sent us, and one of the aliases, Grace Ann Summers from Virginia, popped up with an active warrant for murder.”
“How long ago?” Patrick asked.
“Nearly six years.”
Steve said, “She came here looking for a job six years ago this June. My dad hired her and they married a year later.”
“She was probably hiding out,” Patrick said. “Taking another name, living in another state, she could have stayed here forever.”
“Probably,” the deputy concurred. “I’m going to take her in, but two deputies are on their way to the lodge to take down statements. Do you need help with your truck?” he asked.
Patrick surveyed the damage. “It looks like we can dig it out.”
“Don’t wait too long. The storm will pass tomorrow, but it’ll only get worse tonight.”
He tipped his hat and left.
The sheriff’s deputies arrived Saturday evening and took everyone’s statement. They stayed the night because they couldn’t get off the mountain, but by dawn the snow had stopped and pockets of blue could be seen above.
The drama of the weekend had taken its toll on the guests, and Alan and Heather left Sunday morning, followed by Kyle and Angie. Trevor, after making arrangements with the coroner to send Vanessa’s body to Phoenix, also left. Patrick and Lucy decided to stay one more night to help Beth and Steve make plans.
“The good news is Grace isn’t as clever as she thought,” Patrick said. “I spoke to Vanessa’s brother this morning, and he told me everything. Grace and Nelson Russell had been engaged. Vanessa suspected Grace had stolen an expensive painting, even though Grace had come up with an excuse as to why she had it in her car. Russell forgave her, but agreed to test her honesty. He set up a sting of sorts, but Grace figured it out and stole 150,000 dollars in cash and jewelry that had been in the Russells’ safe. According to Russell, he didn’t care about the money, but the jewelry had been in his family for generations. They’ve been looking for the jewelry and Grace ever since.”
“How did they find her?” Steve asked.
“Through your website. When Trevor and Vanessa decided to find a mountain lodge to honeymoon at, they researched dozens, including the Delarosa. On the page was a picture of Grace and Leo. Though not a close-up, Vanessa thought she’d recognized her and hired a private investigator, who confirmed it. She told her brother she’d investigate, and if it was Grace, she’d demand the return of their jewelry. According to Russell, who hasn’t received the postcard yet, the message meant that he was right, she still had the jewelry, and they won, because Grace promised to return it in exchange for them not turning her over to the police.”
“So why did Grace kill her?” Lucy asked.
Beth said, “Because she doesn’t have the jewelry.” Everyone turned to look at her. “It’s my fault! I sold it for her.” She rubbed her temple.
“She told me Leo left it to her in the will, and I had no reason to doubt her. She said she needed the money so she wouldn’t have to tell Steve that Leo had spent their savings. I believed her. Dammit, she was my sister!”
“You didn’t know any of this?” Steve asked.
Beth shook her head. “Grace is ten years older than me. We weren’t close growing up, Grace always resented our mother for divorcing her dad, and then remarrying. Grace left home when she was eighteen. I’d see her every couple of years, and she was always nice to me. Generous, talking about her travels.”
“How did she make money? What did she tell you?”
“She was a nurse for years. Then she met her first husband, in Orlando. When he died, she came into some money. I didn’t really ask her much about that.”
“She was a nurse?” Lucy asked. Beth nodded. “That makes sense. She’d know how meds work and interact.”
“I’m so sorry, Steve. I really didn’t know.”
Steve took Beth’s hand. “I believe you. But we still have no money left.”
“Don’t be so sure about that,” Patrick said. “The police will go through all her finances and bank accounts. You’ll have dibs on it as soon as they get it straightened out.”
Beth nodded. “I’ll go through the books and find out how much she took. And I’ll stay. It’s the least I can do.”
“You don’t have to.” Steve looked around the dining room. “Maybe I should close down.”
“No,” Beth said. “Please—I love this place. My boyfriend is in Afghanistan. I sent him pictures, and he wants to live here when his tour is up. Andy is going to need a place like this. You’d like him.”
“You’d stay? Even though I can’t pay you or anything?”
“I have a roof over my head and food to eat, and we’ll find a way to make it work. I’m not giving up on you, or the lodge.”
Lucy rose and faked a yawn. “I’m beat. Patrick?”
He picked up on her cue and followed her upstairs. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just want to give them time alone. This is a lot to digest.”
“Tell me about it. You want to ski tomorrow?”
Lucy looked at Patrick as if he’d grown a second head. “No. I’ve had enough snow for a lifetime. I’m still freezing from yesterday.”
She opened her door. “You think they’ll be okay?”
“I think they have a lot to deal with, but yeah, I think they’ll make it. Steve works hard, and he loves this place. Getting over what happened to his dad will take time, but Beth is solid. I think she’ll be good for him.”
“And when her boyfriend gets back from Afghanistan, maybe the three of them can make a life together.” She paused. “Do you think there’s someone for everyone?”
“What brought this on?”
Lucy felt uncomfortable talking to her brother about relationships, but she pushed forward anyway. “I didn’t love Cody.”
“Maybe I didn’t give him a chance.”
“You dated him for nearly two years.”
“What if I won’t know what love is when I see it?”
Patrick sighed. “You don’t see love, you feel it. You’ll know. I liked Cody, he was good to you, but if you don’t feel the same way, getting married would have been a huge mistake.” He gave her a hug. “You’ll find the right guy, someone who will love you and protect you, someone who makes you happy and makes you laugh. Someone will walk into your life when you least expect it and sweep you off your feet. You won’t be able to imagine your life without him.”
Lucy smiled. “That’s really sweet.”
“And he’ll know if he breaks your heart, he’ll have to answer to your brothers.”
She laughed. “What are you trying to do, scare this fictitious Mr. Perfect away?”
“If he really loves you, he won’t be scared off so easy.”
Lucy kissed her brother on the cheek and went into her room. She changed into her sweats and T-shirt and crawled under the thick down comforter.
She hoped Patrick was right. She hoped someday she would find someone to love.