Heather’s grandfather founded Gillentine Gardens and Landscape Design. In spite of the usual big box type stores that come with growth, customers are loyal to Gillentine Gardens. Heather, who majored in horticulture and landscape design at Texas A&M University, also holds a B.S. in business. She is a sharp young woman. The death of her parents when she was eight resulted in her being raised by her maternal grandparents and great grandmother. One of her mentors has been Walter Sims, who had been a good friend of her dad’s and worked for her grandfather. Now Grandpa Gillentine has retired and put Heather in charge of the business. Her best friend, Chelsea Bedford, works for Heather in the garden center shop. Heather's overall assistant manager is Miguel Diaz, a man so reliable and loyal that he receives a percentage of the year's profits.
Here’s the blurb for DIGGING FOR DEATH:
Garden center manager Heather Cameron is DIGGING FOR DEATH to prove her old family friend and employee, Walter Sims, is innocent of murdering the meanest man in town. Heather can’t trust the police to find the real killer when all clues point to poor Walter. The dead man was beaten to death with Walter’s shovel several hours after they were overheard arguing, and the two men had a long history of enmity. Walter definitely looks guilty, but Heather is sure—well, almost positive—okay, she certainly hopes her friend and mentor is innocent.
Heather is compelled to scour the fictional North Central Texas town of Gamble Grove to exonerate her old friend. She’s encouraged when the new police detective in town, Kurt Steele, shows interest in helping her look for clues. Or, is Kurt just interested in spending time with Heather?
The deeper Heather digs into the dead man’s life, the more she justifies his ruthless reputation. Walter is indicted, but police begin to suspect the victim’s stepson as murderer. Heather is convinced the stepson couldn’t have murdered anyone either—although it’s clear no love was lost between the two men. The attempted murder of the victim’s real son creates a new twist. A chance observation at dinner after the reading of the murdered man’s will slips the last piece into the crime’s intricate puzzle. Can Heather solve the murder without becoming another victim? (Of course she can...it's her series!)
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Here’s an excerpt of DIGGING FOR DEATH:
Lining the Rockwell’s drive nearest the new garden plot were a fire engine, an ambulance, a van, what was probably an unmarked police car, two black and whites and—dang, wouldn't you know it?—the Gillentine Gardens truck. The muscles in my stomach were like vise grips clenched on my insides as I drove past the other vehicles and parked. Sickly dread overwhelmed me at what I might find.
I wanted to turn my car around and drive home and run up to my bed and pull the covers over my head. No such luxury for me. I climbed out of my car and strode quickly toward the crowd, swallowing down fear’s metallic taste in my mouth.
Container rose bushes destined for Bootsy Rockwell's garden almost filled the garden center’s staked-bed truck. Miguel Diaz sat on the truck’s bed with his feet dangling off the end. Steve Harris sat beside him. Bad vibes shot through me. A uniformed policeman and another man stood talking to Miguel. Miguel looked ashen and ill, but he nodded to me. Steve said nothing, merely hung his head.
"Hello, Heather." Miguel shook his head, despair evident in his sad brown eyes. "It's really bad."
The officer turned to me. "You know the whereabouts of Walter Sims?"
"He's supposed to be at the garden center. What's happened?" I repeated my question.
Steve looked up, but said nothing.
Miguel looked as if he were trying to send me some sort of signal. "Heather, it's—“
The man in plainclothes quieted Miguel with a glance as he stepped forward. Good heavens, what a giant. Must be six-four with shoulders broad as our truck. Even a long, tall Texas gal like myself had to look up to meet his gaze.
Whoa. What a gaze it was. Worried and puzzled as I was, I couldn’t fail to notice his eyes were delphinium blue and his dark hair the color of moist peat moss was cut short. He wasn’t GQ handsome, but definitely attractive.
"I take it you're Miss Cameron? I'm Detective Kurt Steele and this officer is Sergeant Jack Winston. We need to ask you a few questions."
"Not until I know what's happened. Why are you questioning Mr. Diaz and Mr. Harris?" Darn, stress must have fried my mind. I couldn’t believe I refused a detective.
"Vance Rockwell was murdered early this morning. We want to speak with Walter Sims. No one here seems to know where Mr. Sims is.” He paused. “Do you?"
Rockwell dead and Walter missing? Panic rose with the bile in my throat.
No, please don’t let Walter be the killer.
At that moment, paramedics wheeled a gurney bearing a black body bag past the truck and loaded it into the ambulance. Oh Lord, Rockwell dead from Walter’s shovel? And Walter hated him.
Carole King was in my head, and the earth really did move. Dropping away from my feet, leaving me drifting. The sky tumbled down. Swirling, everything was swirling. Spiraling around me. I thought I might throw up or pass out—or both.
The detective stepped forward and grabbed my arm, anchoring me in the mixed up universe. "Miss Cameron? Maybe you should sit on the truck by Diaz and Harris."
But the sky still tumbled, the earth spiraled around me. I was a kid spinning until I was drunk with dizziness. Sky flipped places with earth. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down.
"Yes...Yes, I’d better." With Detective Steele's help, I staggered to the truck. I shrugged off his hand intent on levering myself onto the bed. But I stood there as if in a trance.
The detective hoisted me up onto the truck s if I were a kid. I sat there wondering if I were going to pass out.
I felt Miguel’s hand at my neck. “Your head, put it between your knees.”
I did as he instructed, closing my eyes and taking a couple of deep breaths. When I straightened, my head was throbbing but the earth and sky had resumed their correct positions. Sky above, earth below.
Willing my eyes to focus on the detective, I insisted, "Walter wouldn't bash in anyone's head." I prayed I spoke the truth.
Detective Steele referred to his notes. "It appears he and Mr. Rockwell had a heated argument yesterday about a quarter of five. Mr. Sims stalked to the truck—“ he pointed at Steve ”—where Harris waited, and peeled off."
Drat Walter, coming here when I’d ordered him to stay at the garden center. "If you consider anyone who argued with Rockwell a suspect, you'll be interviewing half the state." I almost included myself but thought better of it. "Besides, you said Walter left."
Sergeant Winston said, "Maybe he returned."
"Phffft." I peered at Detective Steele. "Sounds like you’re grasping at straws. What kind of detective work is that?"
Steele's clenched jaw displayed a small tic.
Oops, I shouldn’t have said that.
He stood directly in front of me and glared. "We just started the investigation. If we had some cooperation, maybe we could wrap this up in time to buy donuts before we take our lunch break."
Way to go, Heather. Not a good idea to annoy the police.
I took another deep breath. At this rate, I’d soon hyperventilate. “There’s no need for sarcasm. I don't know where Walter is, but I know he wouldn't kill anyone, not even Vance Rockwell."
He raised his eyebrows, making his nice blue eyes more noticeable, darn him. "Not even? What does that mean?"
"Rockwell was not a popular man. I imagine you'll find a long, long list of people with motives, detective. Leave Walter alone." I glanced at Miguel slumped beside me and patted his shoulder. "Leave all my employees alone. None of them would have done such a thing."
Detective Steele poised his pen over his notebook. "Where were you just after midnight, Miss Cameron?"
I thought again about his nice blue eyes, but pushed those thoughts aside because of his nasty question. "In my apartment. Asleep."
He raised one eyebrow.
I shot him a glare. "Alone."
"So, you have no alibi?"
"People who live alone never have an alibi. That doesn't mean they're guilty of anything more serious than drinking juice from the carton."
He pulled out a business card and handed it over. "We'll be in touch. Call me if you hear from Mr. Sims."
"Can Mr. Diaz and Mr. Harris go?"
Detective Steele nodded.
Miguel and Steve slid off the truck bed to the ground, and Miguel helped me down.
While they walked to the truck's cab, the detective speared me with another no-nonsense glare.
"If you hear from Walter Sims, you'll be doing him a favor if you convince him to call us. We need to talk to him, and the sooner the better."
I turned and walked back to my Jetta. My heartbeat fluttered and my throat threatened to close so I couldn’t breathe. I was afraid I wouldn’t make it to the car, but I climbed in and turned the ignition.
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