Author Susanna Shore
Paranormal and contemporary romances, light mysteries


Tracy Hayes, Unstoppable P.I.

Chapter One          Chapter Two


Chapter One

I don’t have a bucket list. I didn’t believe that my life would be complete if I climbed Mount Everest or saw a sunset in Antarctica. That’s what internet was for.

I did, however, had a list of things I didn’t want to experience.

At the top was contracting a horrible disease. One of those rare ones they did heart-wrenching documentaries of. Close second was anything that causes physical pain. I didn’t want to break my bones, and the fear of dentist kept me flossing regularly.

Then again … I’d hurt myself often since starting as an apprentice P.I. for Jackson Dean Investigations. I’d been shot even. Perhaps I was tougher than I believed.

Or more foolish.

The list evolved constantly. Divorce was on it once, but I’d gone through one and survived. And since I wasn’t married to my boyfriend, Jackson Dean—all around hot guy and my boss—there was no reason to put it back on the list.

One annoying but survivable item on my do-not-do list was jury duty. Imagine my dismay, then, when I was summoned to appear at the Kings County Criminal Court on the second week of April.

“I’m not going,” I said to Jackson.

He glanced at the contents of the letter and gave me a pointed look. “It’s your civic duty, you know.”

Trust him to take that approach.

“It’s boring, that’s what it is.”

A small smile lifted the corner of his mouth. He had a sexy mouth, and I temporarily forgot what we were talking about.

He had that effect on me no matter what his expression was. He was thirty-five, close to six feet tall, with long legs, a trim body, chocolate eyes, dark, neatly cut hair (for a change), and a clean-lined face that could look unmemorable when he wanted to—handy for a private investigator.

I was immune to the do-not-notice effect and always found him handsome and sexy, especially when his eyes crinkled at the corners with a smile, like now.

“It doesn’t have to be boring. Maybe you’ll get a high-profile case.”

That sounded only marginally better. “But then I’ll be stuck with it for weeks. I can’t do that. What about my work? We’re swamped.”

We’d had a high-profile diamond theft case a couple of months ago, which had brought us more clients than we were able to handle. But Jackson shrugged.

“I’m sure I could manage.”

“Thanks,” I said dryly. “It’s nice to know I’m invaluable.”

He laughed and pulled me into a one-handed hug. “Just go. It’ll be educational to see that side of the justice process.”

“I guess…”

Thus, early Monday morning next week, I found myself stepping through the tall iron gates into the portico of the Central Court Building in Downtown Brooklyn. Reluctantly, I might add.

Jackson’s smile when he kissed me goodbye had been amused. “Do me proud,” he’d said in parting. I’d barely refrained from flipping him the bird.

I’d been to the criminal court a couple of times since starting at Jackson Dean Investigations. As a witness, not as a defendant. I found this occasion less intimidating. Only a mild anticipation fluttered in my stomach as I reached for the heavy door and pulled it open.

A din of voices hit me, followed by the heat and smells of a couple of hundred people. I halted at the doorway, only to be pushed in by the person entering behind me with an angry glare.

The large entrance hall was filled with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, standing shoulder to shoulder. I eyed them in dismay. It would take the whole week for the court to process us all.

Then again … it would improve my odds for not being selected. My step was considerably lighter as I walked deeper into the hall.

Deeper was relative though. If I didn’t want to use my elbows—which, as a New Yorker, I was perfectly capable of doing—I would have to stay at the edges.

I preferred it there. The more people they processed before me, the better the chances were that I wouldn’t have to enter the courtroom.

I weaved through the crowd to the side wall farthest from the courtroom doors. Others had had the same idea, but I wedged myself between a grandmotherly Chinese woman with gray hair in a tight perm, and a freckled man about my age in baggy jeans and a Star Trek T-shirt.

I was dressed in jeans too, but mine were more form-hugging. I had a nice form for them to hug, if a tad too much of it. My blouse was black and professional looking, but I’d left the top buttons open for a peek into my cleavage.

Dressing sexy wouldn’t get me out of this, but it wouldn’t hurt to look my best, right?

My hair was in a pixie cut—it had finally grown long enough after having been burnt at the back—and it was currently honey blond. I found it bland after experimenting with brighter colors, but it was professional looking.

“First time?” the old lady asked me, her black eyes bright with curiosity. “I can always tell. I’ve been here often these past fifty years.”

“I’ve sat in a jury once a year, sometimes more often, since I was old enough,” said Star Trek proudly, as if the question had been directed to him. “I come even if I’m not summoned. There’s always a chance they need me.”

I stifled a shudder. The old lady nodded, impressed.

“I’m Lin.”


“I’m Josh,” the eager young man said.

“What do you think it’ll be this time?” Lin asked. “Last time I got to do a Ponzi scheme guy, but it was boring, all that economic stuff. We convicted him in the end though.”

Josh perked. “I remember that. I wanted in on it. I love numbers.”

I hated numbers, so I was with Lin on this one.

“I want a really juicy murder.” Lin’s eyes shone with unholy gleam. “Maybe it’s a serial killer.”

“I don’t recall there being serial killers around here recently,” I managed to get a word in. Working as a private investigator had made me pay attention to murder cases.

Lin brushed my words aside: “It could be an older case. Sometimes they take years to investigate properly.”

I didn’t want to sit through weeks of gruesome descriptions of murders, but I’d take it over economic crime any day.

“I recently apprehended an accountant stealing from his clients. If it’s him, I won’t have to do this.” I couldn’t very well sit convicting someone I’d brought in myself. It had been a skip-trace, not an investigation, but still.

Josh’s orange brows shot up. “You’re a cop? They don’t usually have to do this anyway.”

“Private investigator.”

Pride made my chest swell, the sensation as heady as when I first started working for Jackson eight months ago. After years of waitressing, I finally felt like I belonged, like I was making a difference in the world.

“Ah.” Josh was clearly disappointed, but Lin’s eyes lit.

“Any murder cases?”

This time I couldn’t stifle the shudder. “Quite a few, actually.” We’d worked on one only a couple of weeks ago to prove that Cheryl Walker, our secretary, was innocent of the crime she’d been accused of.

“I thought you guys only follow cheating spouses and such,” Josh said, disparaging, but I shrugged, not offended.

“There’s a lot of that too.” A lot.

People began to mill at the other end of the hall by the doors to the largest courtroom. A group of people entered. I surmised they were the lawyers, even though I could only see the tops of their heads.

“If you’re so keen on attending, why aren’t you on that side of the room?” I asked curiously.

Lin made a dismissive gesture. “They never choose the first fifty or so people. No point in rushing in.”

Unless you wanted to avoid jury duty…

Some clearly knew that, because they were eagerly forming a line to make sure they would be among the first in. I should have been one of them.

“Just follow my lead and I can guarantee you’ll be selected,” Lin assured me, not realizing my reluctance.

I eyed the crowd, wondering if I could still make it to the door, but the wall of backs was impenetrable. Resigning to my fate, I relaxed against the wall.

“So … what are the chances that it’s a murder case?” I asked, mostly to pass time.

Josh leaned closer. “I’m hoping for the Fry case.”

It said a lot about my life that I didn’t immediately recall the most high-profile murder case in Brooklyn. Murders were becoming a bit too commonplace for me.

“We all know how that would turn out,” I said dryly.

Last November, Ralph Fry, a hedge-fund manager for the ultra-wealthy, had been found next to the blood-covered body of his wife, Allison, who had been brutally stabbed several times. She had filed for divorce only days earlier—a divorce in which he would have lost most of his wealth. They had a prenup stating it would happen if either one cheated on the other. Which he had.

As far as the press, and most of Brooklyn, was concerned, he was guilty as charged. No need for a trial.

“I bet he has top-notch lawyers who’ll challenge everything, making things interesting,” Lin said enthusiastically. “I wouldn’t mind attending that one.”

“Just remember when they ask, that you know nothing about the case,” Josh instructed me.

I instantly decided to declare that I was the expert on it. I would not spend weeks listening to immoral defense lawyers twisting every word of the prosecution, hoping to get their client out on a technicality.

After about an hour, during which I’d got Lin’s life story without contributing anything to the conversation and almost got into a fight with Josh over Star Trek—it had to do with the new films which I preferred and he loathed—the crowd began to mill again, to make room for the first batch to exit the courtroom. Lin had clearly been waiting for that. She took a firm hold of my wrist and began to pull me through the gap that opened in the middle of the hall.

“Our turn.”

I didn’t dare resist as she dragged me all the way to the open double doors, Josh at my heels. She timed our arrival perfectly, and we were admitted with the next fifty people.

I might get out of here before lunch.

“Please, form a line on the center aisle,” the usher informed us in a loud voice once the doors had closed behind us. Lin pulled me forward and I found myself near the head of the queue, with maybe ten people before me.

One by one, the people in line were called to stand in front of the lawyers of both teams, defense on the left, prosecution on the right. I could see only the backs of their heads, but it revealed that both teams had only men. Maybe they’d sent in B-teams to handle the jury selection.

People were asked fairly personal questions, about domestic violence among other things, but were then discarded by one or both teams rather arbitrarily in my view. I’d never experienced domestic violence, and since I couldn’t convincingly lie that I had, I couldn’t count on that getting me out.

The line advanced in a brisk pace and I reached the desks of the lawyers. I glanced at the prosecutors and my brows shot up. This wasn’t the B-team.

The man closest to me, leaning back on his chair, arms crossed over a large belly as he listened to a candidate’s answers, was Cézar da Ponte, the district attorney for Kings County.

This might be an interesting case after all. Something to do with organized crime perhaps. The man was known for his fight against it.

More curious now, I turned to the defense team—and my knees buckled in surprise. Sitting closest to me was my brother Travis.

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Chapter Two

“What the hell?”

My hissed exclamation, silent though it had been, made Travis turn my way. His deep blue eyes grew large in surprise before a slow grin spread across his handsome face, full of schadenfreude like only a brother’s can be.

Travis was my oldest sibling by eight years, and the most successful of the four of us. Well, he and Theresa, the second eldest, tied for it; she was a doctor. He was thirty-five—thirty-six this week, which reminded me I needed to get him a present—tall and athletic like during his varsity days despite years in a hectic job that didn’t leave much time for exercising. He had the dark Irish coloring of our father as well as his good looks, and charm enough to go to places. In his well-fitting, expensive suit, he looked perfect.

He worked for Brooklyn Defender Services, representing those who couldn’t afford to pay for a lawyer, which made him a good guy in my books. I couldn’t fathom what sort of a case would gain the attention of the DA and merit free defense.

But I had a way out of this ordeal now.

“They got you too?” he said in a low voice as the prosecution questioned the prospective juror, his blue eyes twinkling.

“Get me out of this,” I hissed at him.

He cocked a dark brow. “What’s in it for me?”

“Can’t you do it because you’re a great brother and you love me?”

But his grin only deepened. Before he could answer, the person being questioned was discarded and he had to turn his attention to the next one in line. Lin.

His team asked questions first and she gave the desired answers. Then it was the prosecution’s turn, and Travis turned his attention back to me.

“I need a babysitter for Friday. Melissa and I have a hotel room to celebrate my birthday.”

I grimaced. “I’d rather do jury duty.”

Travis and his wife Melissa had five-year-old twins who would try the patience of a saint.

“This will be a long case…” he singsonged.

I sighed. “Fine. One evening.”

I would survive. Maybe.

Lin was accepted by both teams, much to her delight, and then it was my turn. My stomach tightened with nerves as I walked to the front of the room and faced the teams.

“Please state your name,” said the guy in Travis’s team who handled the process.

“Tracy Hayes.” My voice was calm and audible to my satisfaction.

His brows shot up and he glanced at Travis. “Any relation to Mr. Hayes here?”

I smiled. “Yes, he’s my brother.”

Travis nodded at his colleague. “I have nothing against her. She’ll make a great, impartial juror.”

What the hell?

Before I could voice my dismay aloud, he looked at the prosecution’s table. “I’m sure you’ll find her suitable too.”

The man next to the DA who handled their questions frowned. “In a case this important? I think not. We reject her.”

Travis bit his cheek not to smile, a gesture no one else likely noticed, unless they knew him as well as I did.

The usher nodded for me to leave, and I headed to the back of the room where those who had been through the ordeal already were waiting. As I walked past my brother, he said in a low tone:

“Wait for me outside.”

Lin grimaced when I reached her. “I’m so sorry. Of all the cases, your brother had to be in this one.”

I shrugged, not showing her my relief. “These things happen.”

We quieted to watch Josh have his turn before the lawyers. To his triumph he was accepted too. His smile was bright when he came to us. “This has to be an important case, with the DA here. I’m so excited.”

He could barely stand still as we waited for the rest of our batch being processed. In the end, only two more persons were chosen, a young businesswoman who did not look happy about it (surely she could’ve found a way out of this) and a middle-aged Black man who had a college professor vibe about him in his corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches. If the lawyers were going for a diverse jury, they were doing a good job so far.

Finally, we were let out, and the court adjourned for lunch. Lin and Josh followed the woman in charge of the jurors up the stairs, giving me commiserating waves as they went. Travis followed the last people out and looked around for me. I went to him and punched him in the arm.

“You’d be ‘happy to have me?’”

He grinned. “I would. You’d be great.”

I refused to be mollified. “You were supposed to get me out.”

“And I did, didn’t I?”

That was true. “So, what did you want to talk about?”

He glanced around and then pulled me back into the empty courtroom. “I need your help investigating this case.”

My mouth dropped open. “Isn’t that done before you go to trial?”

He grimaced. “Usually, yes. I joined this in a late stage as a favor. I’m not entirely happy with the investigation they’ve conducted.”

I could understand that. He had a reputation of investigating his cases meticulously. Jackson and I had helped him a few times too.

“What do you need?”

He leaned in and spoke close to my ear so that no one would overhear, even though we were alone. He wasn’t supposed to talk about the case with outsiders.

“I need you to prove that Ralph Fry is innocent.”

I pulled back in dismay. “No can do.”

“You can do anything,” he said with a confident smile. That warmed me, but I shook my head.

“But I don’t believe he’s innocent.”

“He is.” He sounded earnest and convincing, and his eyes were serious. “I know him and he’s not capable of murder.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “That’s what they all say.”

“I went to Harvard with him.”

“And God knows a Harvard graduate isn’t capable of a horrible crime,” I drawled, making him press his lips together tightly.

“If you do this, you don’t have to babysit the little demons.”

“I love my nephews,” I stated, meaning it too. They were a handful, but I’d spend a week with them rather than prove a murderer innocent. “I don’t mind looking after them.”

Provided it was only for one night.

“Then you can name your price.”

He clearly wanted me to do this. I gave it some thought. “You’d owe me a favor. A huge favor.”

“Deal.” He offered me a hand. I made to shake it, then hesitated.

“Why is he using free defense anyway? The man is loaded.”

He grinned. “Oh, he’s paying handsomely for this. I’m on loan for this case.”

I gave him a searching look. Money didn’t exactly motivate him, as evidenced by his low-paying government job—though he did have a rich wife and didn’t have to make do with his salary.

“Why are you doing this?”

I couldn’t comprehend it. He defended murderers and other criminals as par for course for his work, but this was different.

“I told you, he’s my friend.” But I shook my head, not buying it, so he sighed and confessed.

“I’m thinking of running for the DA in Queens.”

My mouth dropped open, though I’m not sure why I was surprised. He’d always had aspirations. “Your dad-in-law’s job? He’s finally retiring?”

He shrugged. “Looks like it. But I’m not well-known in Queens. I need a high-profile case to lift my profile.”

I gave him a pointed look. “Wouldn’t it make a better impression if you could actually win the case?”

“That’s where you and Jackson come in. Come on,” he pleaded. “We can pay really well.”

That wasn’t as tempting as it would’ve been a few months ago. We’d had a couple of lucrative cases and could choose our jobs for years to come. He leaned closer and placed a hand on my shoulder, pleading.

“Do it for me if not for Fry.”

I sighed. “I’ll have to talk with Jackson.”

He patted my shoulder with a confident grin. “He’ll say yes.”

Since he and Jackson had been good friends growing up, I knew he was right.

I was still of two minds when I returned to the office. Cheryl and her border terrier-Yorkie mix, Misty Morning, were having lunch at her desk—she was at her desk, Misty was eating from a bowl at her feet. Both were wearing their customary pink, Cheryl a pink leopard print blouse and skirt suit, Misty a large pink bow around her neck. They perked when I walked in, and Misty abandoned her chow to greet me.

I picked her up, then averted my face when the stench of her food hit me. “Ugh. No kisses.” I put her back down.

“Well?” Cheryl asked eagerly. She was in her fifties, plump and plucky, with blond hair in a large coif, and heavy makeup. “Did they choose you?”

“Jackson hasn’t briefed you?” I’d messaged him the moment I’d learned. I glanced in through the open door to our shared office and found it empty.

She shook her head. “He’s been at the county archives the whole morning, checking something for that realtor scam case you’re investigating.”

A client suspected that he’d been sold a house that didn’t belong to the seller. So far, we hadn’t been able to track the ownership of the house, which in itself was suspicious.

“Travis was on the defense team, so the prosecution didn’t want me,” I told her and her carefully painted brows shot up.

“What are the odds?”

“I certainly didn’t expect it.” My stomach growled. “How long until Jackson returns?”

“He’s been there all morning, so either he’ll see this through or gives up pretty soon.”

She’d no sooner spoken when Jackson walked in. A wide grin spread on his face. “Well done!”

“I didn’t do anything,” I said grumpily as he hugged me. “And you won’t be so happy when you hear what Travis wants us to do in return.”


“He wants us to prove Ralph Fry is innocent of the murder of his wife.”

“The fuck?” he exclaimed. “That’s nuts. And possibly impossible. How long do we have?”

I glanced at Cheryl, but I didn’t hesitate to answer. She knew everything that went on in this office. “Not long. It’s his trial I was in the jury for.”

That got the impressed reaction it deserved.

“What did you say to him?” Jackson asked.

“That he’ll owe us a huge favor but it’s up to you to decide.”

He grimaced. “I guess we’ll take the case, then.”

That was my man.

We were already preparing to leave home at the end of the day when Travis walked in with a large box. I’d sent him a message that we’d take the case, and since time was of the essence, he wanted us to dig right in.

“Here’s everything we have of the case,” he said, placing the box on Jackson’s desk. But he wouldn’t let go of it. “I won’t give this to you until you’ve signed an NDA though.”

Jackson and I glanced at each other. “Makes our investigation a bit difficult,” Jackson said, but Travis was unmoved.

“It’s only to prevent you from talking to anyone about what’s in here. How you conduct your investigation is your business.”

Jackson rubbed his face. “I don’t like this case. But we’ll do it for you.”

Travis’s smile was warm. “Thank you.”

“But we’ll want something in return,” I reminded him, before Jackson could speak. My brother gave me a questioning look.

“You already came up with a suitable favor?”

“Not yet, but whatever it is, it’ll be epic.”

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Tracy Hayes, Unstoppable P.I. comes out on November 14. Preorder it on Amazon, Smashwords, B&N or iBooks .