Lying, Cheating, and Occasionally… Murder

When it comes to murder, even brilliant scientists aren’t immune.

The night Harold Munson is shot dead in his car, the primary suspect is the man’s brainiac wife. But Charlotte, who has a passion for science and sex with strangers, swears all she wants is a Nobel Prize for curing brain cancer, even if that requires fudging her research and a few dead patients along the way.

When the next body drops, all signs point to Charlotte, but Detective Sam Lagarde doggedly follows the clues until he has his own Eureka moment.

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Chapter 1

March 30, 2016, 6 a.m.:

At two in the morning on a perfectly clear night, the full moon casting a beacon across western fields, and along two satin rivers unfurling between dark mountains, Harold Munson ended his perfect day by crashing right through the clapboard siding of the Weigle Insurance Company office building.

Munson’s front bumper nudged the insurance agent’s desk into the printer, which interpreted the jolt as an instruction to print and began beeping its out-of-paper alarm. Dave Weigle, broker and owner of the company—awakened by a newly downloaded intruder alert app on his cell phone—threw on sweat pants and a jacket, padded out to his car in slippers, and arrived first on the scene.

He peeked through the window of the car in his parking lot and saw a man slumped over the driver’s side air bag, but Weigle was too preoccupied with the damage to his building to look closely. Unlocking his unscathed office door, he first examined the gaping hole caused by the front of a car ripping through the side of his building, turned off the annoying printer beeping, looked around at the mess, and called the police, just in case the new automated security system hadn’t notified them.

Then he took photographs on his cell phone. He had insurance. He might as well use it. If nothing else, he could prove to his wife he really had gone to the office in the middle of the night.

Munson had been going northwest toward Martinsburg, based on swerve marks made by his tires on the two-lane Charles Town Road, when his car rammed into the insurance building opposite the Kearneysville Post Office five miles west of Shepherdstown.

When Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies arrived ten minutes after Weigle, they bolted out of their vehicles thinking Harold was dead drunk, slumped over the airbag like that, not moving and unresponsive to their increasingly loud, shouted commands: “Hands where I can see ’em. Step out of the car. Get out of the car now.”

Sheriff Harbaugh was sure he saw Munson blink as officers approached the closed window of the driver’s side door, guns drawn, yelling at him to surrender. They attempted to wrench open the door to pull him out of the car and discovered it was locked. Then, in quick succession, they noticed a smear of blood and brains on the passenger seat and dashboard and two small holes in the driver’s side window surrounded by rings of spider-webbed glass.

Drunk or not, Harold had been shot through the head. That might have been the cause of his leaving the road and plowing into the building. Whether he hit the building first or the bullet smashing through his brain had caused him to veer off the road would be determined by further investigation. At that point, the deputies called in the West Virginia State Police with its forensics apparatus and crime lab personnel.

After his initial reconnoiter of the Munson crime scene, a conversation with Weigle, whose cell phone alert app had recorded the moment of impact and whose photos of the scene might prove useful, Detective Sam Lagarde, assigned to the State Police Troop 2 Command, based outside Charles Town, reminded himself he was only a short trip on winding, narrow roads up and down a few hills from his eighteenth-century farmhouse. He decided to go home and let his horses out of the barn before he went back to the office to file his initial paperwork. When he got to his house, coffee was already brewing.

Lagarde stopped describing his new case and looked down into the mug of coffee Beverly Wilson put on the kitchen table in front of him. It was the right color. He took a sip. It had the right amount of sugar. He took two gulps. It was the right temperature. He felt like Goldilocks. He still wasn’t accustomed to having someone take care of him, or even give two hoots about how he liked his coffee. He marveled at his good luck. It was six in the morning, and Beverly was a tea drinker. He took a moment to savor this extraordinary gift. In a month or two, he knew, he would take it for granted.

He looked up at Beverly, then out beyond the kitchen door, which he’d left open to let in the bracing spring air, and glanced toward the barn. It was too much to ask.

“Yes, Sam.” Beverly made a face at him and then smiled and put a hand on Lagarde’s shoulder. “I let the horses out and made sure they have water and a few leaves of hay. They’re set for a while, unless you want to ride, in which case you’re the one who’ll have to catch Jake.”

That was all it took, the mild pressure of her warm palm on his shoulder for him to feel completely calm and that the world was in order. The whole thing—Beverly Wilson, in his house, sleeping in his bed, making slight snoring noises that forced him to acknowledge her presence was real—was a marvel to him.

Here she was talking to him as if it was the most normal thing in the world for them to be living together. How had this happened? He didn’t feel entitled to such a miracle. After love, women were the second most indecipherable mystery he had never solved. But then, neither had anyone else.