Seventeen-year-old Sam, the daughter of a New England heiress, has tried hard to fulfill her father’s dying wish: “Take care of your mother for me.” Not an easy job. When her impulsive, romance-writing mom announces her engagement to a man whose last heiress wife died under suspicious circumstances, Sam tries to dissuade her mother. But her mom is convinced she’ll finally have the “Happily Ever After” she writes about.
And then Sam’s life implodes. Her mom’s fiancé turns up dead, and a mountain of circumstantial evidence points to Sam as the killer. On trial for murder, she fights to prove her innocence with the help of her boyfriend’s dad, an ex-homicide cop.
Just when things are looking especially bleak, Sam uncovers evidence she never expected to find. She faces a tough decision: At what point does the price of loyalty become too high?
“What kind of an incident?”
The officer didn’t answer. My stomach churned, and I prayed I wouldn’t throw up all that Mexican food I’d inhaled with Paul.
“Look, my mother’s fiancé and I had an argument. He slapped and punched me, threatened me. I fired a warning shot to get him to back off. Then I left. End of story.”
He shook his head but didn’t say anything.
“Did one of our neighbors hear the shot? Call it in?”
Again, no response.
“Why won’t you talk to me?” I wanted to shake him, make him tell me what was happening.
But all he did was return to his vehicle and motion for me to follow in my Jeep.
Twenty minutes later, I sat in a windowless interrogation room at the station. The air reeked of stale coffee and sweat. Fluorescent lights flickered overhead. An older man with a shaved head and stooped shoulders entered, followed by a young guy with a pock-marked face and a military style crew cut. “Good evening,” Shaved Head said, his mouth drooping downward.
“I’m Detective Flanagan, and this is my partner, Detective Stein.”
I nodded. “What’s going on? Why am I here?”
“I’m sorry to tell you that a man we’ve identified as Adam Holloway was found shot to death at your home this evening.”
I gasped. “He’s dead? But…but I just saw him. Trust me—he was totally alive when I left.” The room was spinning. I closed my eyes to try to make it stop.
“Your mother and her attorney are on their way. As soon as they get here, we’ll need to get your statement. Can I get you some water?”
They slipped out the door, and my leg jiggled uncontrollably as my thoughts tripped over each other. Oh God, my mother. I’d wanted Holloway out of our lives, but not like this—never like this. She must be devastated.
The door flew open, and Mom rushed in, Mr. Avery and the detectives right behind her. Streaks of mascara ran down her face, and her red-rimmed eyes zeroed in on me. “What have you done?”
My mouth dropped open. “I didn’t do anything! I overheard Mr. Holloway talking to his business partner. He’d stolen money, Mom. We had a fight, but I didn’t kill him.”
“So you say,” she said.
I stared at her, not believing what I was hearing. My own mother thought I was capable of shooting someone.
“Meryl, that’s enough,” Mr. Avery said.
“Everyone calm down,” Flanagan said, setting a bottle of water in front of me. “And you are?” He looked directly at Mr. Avery.
“Bertram Avery, attorney representing Samantha for the purposes of this interview.”
“All right then, let’s have Samantha tell us what happened.” He turned to me and went through the full Miranda warning, starting with my “right to remain silent” and pausing after each point to ask me if I understood.
Mr. Avery grabbed my arm. “Don’t say a word, Sam. We need to get you a criminal defense attorney.”
“But I have nothing to hide. I swear it!”
“Your cheek is bruised,” Stein said. “By your own voluntary admission to the officer who brought you in, you had a physical altercation with the victim in which he also punched you and then you fired a warning shot. You won’t mind if we photograph the bruise on your face, the area where you say he punched you, and test your hands for gun powder, will you?”
“Be my guest. And I want to make a statement. I’m innocent!”
“Sam, you absolutely must wait until I can get you a defense attorney. This is premature,” Mr. Avery said.
Pointedly ignoring Mr. Avery, Flanagan continued, “What was the decedent doing at your house anyway?”
The decedent? This was a nightmare. “My mother gave him a key after they got engaged. He came over all the time. I was surprised, though, that I found him there when Mom wasn’t. I thought maybe he was taking advantage of her being gone to snoop in her financial files. I caught him doing that before.”
“I told you before, Samantha. That’s not what he was doing!” Mom screeched.
Mr. Avery stood up. “Enough! Unless you’re arresting Samantha, we’re leaving. She can return tomorrow with her attorney to talk with you.”
Flanagan gave him a long look and then shifted his gaze to me. “Where did he punch you?”
“Do you need medical attention?” he asked.
“No. I’m okay.”
“All right then. After we test your hands for gun powder and get photographs of the areas where he hit and punched you, you’re free to go. I suggest you come in tomorrow morning.”
I nodded, struck mute by shock, exhaustion. And fear.
Excerpt from Deadly Setup by Lynn Slaughter.
Copyright © 2022 by Lynn Slaughter.
All rights reserved.
Published by Fire and Ice/Melange Books.
Lynn Slaughter is addicted to chocolate, the arts, and her husband’s cooking. Like Sam, her family tree is peppered with musicians, and she’s a huge fan of the American Songbook. Music has always made her want to move, and she ended up becoming a professional dancer and dance educator. When injury meant it was time to find a new dream, she earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her previous young adult novels include: Leisha’s Song, also published by Fire and Ice, which received a bronze medal from the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and was nominated for an Agatha for best MG/YA mystery novel; It Should Have Been You, a Silver Falchion finalist; and While I Danced, an Epic finalist. The ridiculously proud mother of two sons and grandmother of five, she lives in Louisville, Kentucky where she is at work on her next novel and serves as president of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, her local Sisters in Crime chapter. She loves hearing from readers and hopes you’ll visit her website, https://lynnslaughter.com.