Deliver Us From Evil...and the 6 O'Clock News
Book 1 in the Brentwood Women Mystery Series
Hildegard "Hildy" Brentwood, a 50-year old University PR executive at Gulf State University, is faced with her toughest assignment--discover who killed her faculty friend Adrienne and student assistant, Bobby, before the university and the police shut down the investigation labeling Adrienne guilty of murder/suicide.
She enlists the help of her CEO mother Victoria and her investigative journalist daughter Grace to comb through the possible suspects--Adrienne's misogynistic department chairman, her violent ex-husband, a smarmy journalist, or perhaps someone from her past involved in her 20-year-old rape. They uncover myriad secrets in both Adrienne's and Bobby's past, any of which could have been motive for murder.
Taking on the university leadership and the campus and Houston Police departments, Hildy is attacked and threatened before they uncover the truth behind the violent deaths.
Hildy and her family look into the highest and lowest realms of Houston to find answers, with a little help from their fur-buddies: Victoria's greyhound, Minuit; Hildy's white schnauzer, Shasta; and Adrienne's Russian blue feline, Catrina, who is adopted by Grace.
Read the First Chapter Now!
Check out this great video
“Bringggg.” Juggling my phone, the TV remote, and pizza, I plopped down on the leather sofa, kicking off my work heels. My left knee was still acting up weeks after the Costa Rica trip. I’d called Adrienne from the car and got voice mail. No better luck now. She was supposed to meet me to celebrate our great coup.
As head of PR for Gulf State University (Gulf U to insiders) I’d visited many places—Chicago, New York, London, even Lagos, Nigeria—working with alumni, raising funds, recruiting students. But digging in the dirt in Central America with a dozen students was more fun than anything. I recently turned fifty, but no one could say Hildegard Brentwood couldn’t keep up with the kids. We were two miles above my normal sea level life, and my arthritic knee acted up, but thank God I remembered to bring the three-inch air mattress.
“An on the President’s...” Click. I pushed the remote to find KRVU. I tried again to reach Adrienne and got her “not here” message.
“The Rockets today...” Click.
“...jungles of Central America, a group of Houston students uncovered mysteries centuries old. The Gulf State University students were led by their personal Indiana Jones, Dr. Adrienne Harrington. And Jack Tremayne was with them. Jack tell us what you found.”
I shivered at the mention of Tremayne, a sleazy one. Adrienne seemed leery of him at the dig. When I asked, she swore she only met him once for dinner. He also seemed familiar with Bobby Jake, Gulf U’s golden boy quarterback and Adrienne’s student assistant.
The screen filled with the helicopter shot of Tremayne arriving. They shot it twice to get his best side. He was decked out in a green turtleneck under a hiking jacket with multiple pockets, khaki pants, and hiking boots—straight from Indiana Jones. Of course he carried the fedora…so it wouldn’t mess his hair, I suspected.
The clip moved to the girl who discovered a silver spoon. Bobby smarted off that it was probably a bribe from the master to a woman he was “banging.” Adrienne reined him in. Thankfully Tremayne didn’t hear.
Shasta wiggled closer on the couch to get her tummy rubbed. The white schnauzer, whose name was shortened from “She Has To” (i.e. she has to be walked, she has to sleep in my bed,) stared at the pizza box without blinking.
“Well, Shasta, it’s finally out.”
We held releasing our story to coincide with the KRVU piece. It was the beginning of sweeps, three weeks after we returned from Costa Rica. This story had everything…smart female scientist, eager diverse students, and historical significance. The PR trifecta. It was about time they ran it. We posted the university’s piece online that afternoon.
“Worth the week in the kennel, right?”
The doleful look should have made me grab a treat. “No, I couldn’t have left you with Minuit. You know Mother wouldn’t deal with your craziness for a week. You aren’t as refined as Minuit, but I adore you anyway. You had the luxury Paris suite at the Pet Hotel.”
I ruffled her ears, and gave her another belly rub. “I had a blast. OK, we worked in the dirt all day with tiny brushes, but it was fun…and where’s Adrienne? She should be here celebrating with us.”
I checked my phne for messages. Maybe she left a text. Nothing.
The story unfolded as I tried Adrienne's number again, listening to the end so I could holler at her.
“Hi, I can't come to the phone, leave a message at the beep...”
Why wasn’t she glued to her set at home if she wasn’t coming over?
“Ade. Hi, me again. Wanted to gloat about our piece. It’s great. You and the kids look very scientific! Thought you were coming here. Hope you’re out celebrating. Give me a call.”
Turning my attention to the screen, the anchor moved on to the important happenings of the day…traffic wrecks, drug busts.
I was basking in my glory, even if I had to do it alone. Perhaps I should have invited Mother to my impromptu premier. Not sure she’d appreciate it. Oh well. Don’t really need an audience. I’ll get my accolades at work. I was about to attack the cold pizza when my cell rang with the Gulf U fight song. As I reached for it, a “Breaking News Bulletin” flashed on the screen. The cameras were on campus.
I automatically answered “Hello” into the cell. It took a few moments to sort out the stereo sounds—the reporter on the television screen and the person on the phone.
“Ms. Brentwood, is that you?” A familiar voice asked.
Still trying to catch what was being said on TV, I mumbled something.
The television was saying, “Just in from Houston Police, this late breaking story of tragedy on the Gulf State University campus...”
Great, a drive-by shooting on Fraternity Row. It will totally erase all the good vibes from Adrienne’s story.
“Ms. Brentwood, Hildy, this is Charles West. We've got a situation, and we're going to need you to handle the press.”
My shoulders dropped back down from around my ears. Good, the chief of Gulf U police. He’ll know what's going on.
But it was the visual message that got through first. As Chief West continued speaking, my eyes were glued to KRVU's ubiquitous reporter Jack Tremayne. He stood in front of the social sciences building, police car lights flashing in the background.
“Well, Sherry, this tragedy sure provides an eerie coincidence for us at KRVU. We just aired our exclusive report on Dr. Adrienne Harrington's archeological work in Costa Rica, and we are now at Gulf State University reporting on what appears to be a double tragedy.”
“Oh, my God,” I gasped into the phone, while staring in disbelief at the screen.
“According to our exclusive police sources, Dr. Harrington, and we believe one of the students we just saw on our exclusive video, were found dead in this building. Gulf U and Houston police authorities won't elaborate at this time, but we'll stay with this one. Back to you, Sherry.”
“Ms. Brentwood!” Chief West's voice was getting edgy, even for a former LAPD detective.
“Oh, sorry, yes, Chief, I'm here. Is it true, what I just heard that slimeball Jack Tremayne say? Is Adrienne Harrington dead?”
I still couldn’t pull my eyes from the TV.
“That's what I just said, Hildy.” The Gulf U Police Chief answered, more patiently than I expected.
“We need you over here, now. Channel 7's already on site, and I know the rest of the vultures will follow fast.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Moving as a trained public relations automaton, I avoided stepping on Shasta. Luckily I hadn’t shed my work attire. My heels ended up under the couch, so I slipped into more comfortable shoes. Whistling the dog to the back door. She’ll be fine in the yard for a few hours, I thought, dropping a chew toy on the deck.
I locked the door, headed for the car. The damn phone jangled in my pocket. The theme from Maleficent. I hit the red button. If I stopped to talk to Mother now, I’d never get to campus. I texted her. “Busy. All OK. Call in am.”
I clutched the steering wheel and headed to campus. If I’m very lucky, I’ll make it through the night before it becomes real. f I’m very lucky, I’ll make it through the night before it becomes real.
Deadly as a Walk in the Park
Book 2 in the Brentwood Women Mystery Series
Victoria Brentwood has finally recovered from the murder investigation a few months before that her daughter Hildegard dragged her into, along with her pregnant grand-daughter, Grace. It is good to be back to her routine. Today's announcement that she, as board chair of Houston Charities Foundation, has recruited her friend Cam's daughter Carolee to come back to Houston as Executive Director has her beaming over her coffee.
Cam has become her rescue greyhound Minuit's BFD, best dog friend. He collects her every morning for a brisk walk around Memorial Park.
They are late returning this morning and Victoria is horrified to hear that Cam has become a victim of a hit and run in the park. She worries about Minuit and what might have happened to her.
Cam was retired and now vice chair of the Gulf U Board of Regents. He names Victoria as executor of the will he updated in the past two months outlining nearly $500 million in bequests. Gulf U receives $100 million for an Opera House and scholarships, the Charities Foundation also receives $100 million. His children receive all his properties and personal belongings and other investments worth $100+ million each. However, there is a new bequest of $50 million to be awarded to the Everlasting Journey Ministry, headed by Reverend Thaddeus Light.
Victoria begins to question Cameron’s death and wonder if there is any connection to the hit and run that killed her husband Robert 20 years before.
She realizes the Houston police will never connect Cam’s death to a long cold case, so once again she partners with her daughter, Hildy, and granddaughter, Grace, to determine if Cameron was murdered and how it is connected to Robert’s death. Their investigation looks at the beneficiaries as well as an alleged fraud in a Gulf U contract to build the Opera House, possible money laundering through one of Cam’s subsidieries, his son’s gambling debts, and a long ago loan shark.
They work their way through the suspects with the help of their furry friends, Victoria’s Minuit, along with Hildy’s yappy white schnauzer, Shasta, and Grace’s adopted serene Blue Russian feline, Catrina. Along the way Victoria manages to persuade a shady Louisiana gambler to join their hunt, which could become a long term partnership.
Read First Chapter Below
Minuit stared at the door. Her brown eyes never blinking.
“Stop fretting. You know what they say about a watched pot. He will be here soon. Come sit by me.” I looked at my companion and patted my knee.
Minuit continued her vigil. I knew she was not very good with upset routines, and Cam always rang the bell promptly at 7 a.m., not a minute later. It was already 7:15. Not acceptable.
I was about to pull her away from the door, when the bell sounded. “Well, about time,” I laughed, walking to the door, leash in hand. Minuit was already suited up in her special vest—the one with the reflective tape and her name embroidered on the side in violet silk: Minuit Brentwood. A click on the harness and the jet-black greyhound was ready for her morning speed walk with our neighbor Cameron Mitchell.
The Brentwoods and the Mitchells had been neighbors in the Heights for nearly forty years. My husband died twenty years ago, and until recently, except for a series of rescue greyhounds, I was the sole resident in my Queen Anne manse. I was still adjusting to my grand-daughter Grace now living in the loft over the garage, though I had to admit it was nice to have another human with whom to converse. Not that I was going to stop having conversations with my beloved Minuit.
Cameron lost his wife about two years earlier. My friends and acquaintances no doubt thought that we had moved into the friends with benefits group. I twisted my wedding ring at the thought. No I would never see Cameron in that way. Besides, he was still in he pain of losing his Sara. There was however a benefit…Cam had become Minuit’s defacto dog walker. He swore it motivated him to have a walking partner, and who was I to argue with that. We were doing him a great service.
Win/win. I was never one to work up a sweat in the great outdoors, despite being retired as CEO of an oil field services company. All of my business took place in the air-conditioned offices of my clients, with an occasional trip into the field in an air-conditioned four-wheel drive. And since I retired during the pandemic, my business now was chairing Houston’s major foundation. These days I spent more time on Zoom than in my Lincoln. I had another one set for 10 a.m.
I held tight to Minuit as she opened the door. “Victoria, I am so sorry. I had to take a call from Matthew Sinclair, and the time escaped me.” Cam apologized as he stepped into the foyer and reached for the leash. I smiled and waived him in. “I am not the one needing an apology. Your best dog friend has been anxious for the last fifteen minutes. She no doubt imagined the worst had happened and you had found another BDF—best dog friend.”
As he took hold of the leash, I stopped him for a second. “I know you are as excited as I am that Carolee is coming back to Houston to head up the foundation. We finalize all that this morning.” Cam smiled back at me as he moved toward the door.
My hand still rested on his arm. “Are you sure everything is alright? I do not want to impose, but Matthew is my attorney as well. I cannot imagine that you called him just to chat. You mentioned earlier of your concerns about the audit. Have you solved that problem?”
Cam shook his head. “It looks like we may have a problem in one of the international subsidiaries. We’re still checking it out. Turning the business over to Edwin triggered the outside audit, so hopefully we caught whatever is going on before it becomes a significant problem. Edwin has it under control, I’m sure.”
He gathered Minuit to his side and headed out the door. “Don’t worry. It will all work out. Minuit and I will get a good walk today, despite the heat. We’ll miss the triple digits by finishing this morning,” he said, looking down at the dog. “I’ll have her back in an hour or so.”
I patted his arm as they left. “Wonderful. That will give you time to join us for my special quiche Lorraine. I have it in the oven, and it will be just cooled enough and set when you return.” I nodded again. “Thanks as usual for keeping her in sporting shape. Without you she no doubt would be a couch potato watching an endless stream of reality TV housewives. You have saved us both. Breakfast is the least I can do.” I watched another moment as Cam put the dog into the back seat and strapped the seatbelt into her harness.