One night in Rome. One car. One dead scientist. Italian police investigate, but in the end, all they have are kind words for the new widow. Months later, a video emerges challenging the facts. Had he stepped into traffic, or was he pushed? The widow returns to the police, but they have little interest and no answers. Exit the widow.
Enter Diamond. One name for a woman with one purpose. Resurrecting her CIA cover, she follows the shaky video down the rabbit hole. Her widow’s run unearths a plethora of suspects: the small-time crook, the mule-loving rancher, the lady in waiting, the Russian bookseller, the soon-to-be priest. Following the stink greed leaves in its wake reveals big lies and ugly truths.
Murder is filthy business. Good thing Diamond plays dirty.
Praise for WIDOW’S RUN:
“Tina Wolff’s novel is for crime-fiction fans who like it action-packed and hard-edged. Written with feisty panache, it introduces Diamond, one of the most aggressive, ill-tempered, and wholly irresistible heroines to ever swagger across the page.” —David Housewright, Edgar Award-winning author of Dead Man’s Mistress
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What a Lovely Corpse You Have
They buried me today and I had the balls to show up. Here I was, on a sunny day in May, shaking my head along with a hundred other people, wondering how someone so young and vibrant could — poof — be gone. I hid in plain sight, loitering on the edge of the crowd. A shit-brown wig in place of my usual chemical blond, matching contacts to camouflage my signature green eyes, and sunglasses plucked from the seventies ensured my face wouldn't catch the attention of the masses. A theater-quality padded suit added forty pounds to my athletic frame and clothes I wouldn't be caught dead in completed the illusion. The people who claimed to be closest to me would see what I wanted them to see, another mourner, lamenting the waste of a good life.
Sunny day in May — yeah, I've always had trouble with funerals being on sunny days. I firmly believe in mourning and expect nature to get on board with it. A funeral wasn't a funeral if the day wasn't gray with clouds so heavy water leaked like tears. Any temperature that didn't chill through skin and muscle down to the bone was an affront to the guest of honor. Stark silence needed to be center stage, the absence of natural sound, the absence of life, then fill it with the guttural cry of a bagpipe.
That's what I call a funeral.
Yeah ... that's not what I got. I got the Disney version.
An expansive, pure blue sky stretched from horizon to horizon. Wisps of cotton ball clouds, a decorator's tasteful accent, floated listlessly above. Hardwood trees stood sentry over the church and cemetery, swaying to the rhythm of the breeze. Robins played tag, racing tree to tree, gliding between the branches.
Robins! WTF? There should be ravens or at least crows. Big, black, noisy crows, crying over my dead body.
Well, not my body, but let's not split bananas.
So why am I at my funeral? I'm not narcissistic. I'm here for a man. Where is the little turd? Faces floated above the sea of black created as shoulder pressed against shoulder. Everyone I knew. Names ticked off as I searched for the one who went by Black.
The bells on the church rang out. Lemmings marched up the steps, trading the warm sunshine for darkness, ten degrees cooler. Voices faded, leaving only the sound of shoes on the tiled floor. I took a seat in the back on the far aisle, no sign of my man.
The bells called out one final time. The pipe organ picked up and voices joined in. Enter my casket, a cherry box with ornate detailing on the edges and silver hardware. A nice choice. Pallbearing for me were six men from different sides of life as I knew it. Representing family was my sister's husband and my father. Regardless of what my mother said, her first husband was my father. I've never seen that expression on his face before.
My life as an owner of a four-bedroom, three-bath suburban home was represented by the barbecuer-in-chief of our subdivision who day-timed as a vice cop. He dealt with more shit than a fertilizer salesmen — nothing shocked him — but here he was looking sad for me. Behind him was a social worker who was the carrot to my stick at the youth intervention facility where I worked for the last few years. The man was a marshmallow who loved those kids more than some of their families did.
Pre-suburbia, I put the boom in ka-boom as a CIA agent, specializing in chemical weapons, working with Enrique Torres. He held his head high as he walked with my casket. When a man covered your back for a fistful of years, he tended to want to see it through to the end. Personally.
The shortest and last role in my life was the most unexpected. In high school, I was voted "least likely to marry." I created the category and spent fifty dollars campaigning for the win. I looked at the Vegas odds on "wife" and bet the under. How did I know I would be outmaneuvered by a PhD and a crooked smile? Now, here was my husband's brother, a man I only met a handful of times, walking me down the aisle. The family re-semblance was so strong, I forgot to breathe.
"Why! Why did this happen?"
Excuse the whale birthing in the front row. She's just my mother. Her tummy-tucked, three-day-a-week-trainer, skinny latte-ed ass was wrapped in black silk so tight, you could tell her religion. She would need a crowbar to remove the cock-eyed black hat shellacked on her teased nest of blond hair. Nothing about her was natural or real. Even her crying was fake. Her nose wasn't red. Her makeup still fresh and in place.
The hypocritical bitch didn't have one nice thing to say to me in my thirty-one years on this earth. Not one. But the minute I was dead — boom — she squealed like a cat under foot.
"I can't believe she's gone. I can't believe my Annalisa is gone."
Annalisa. My given name. This is the last time you are going to see it. The only one you need to know is Diamond. A name as hard earned as my reputation. Did you know the word diamond comes the Greek word adamas, which means indestructible, unbreakable, unconquerable, and prone to blowing things up?
"In the name of the Father...."
The Catholic funeral service — my mother's current religion of choice. She went through churches the way some women went through shoes, always looking for a better fit.
I leaned back to inventory the other side of the church. There he was ... my man. The guy with the answers and a sick sense of humor. Picture a small-framed man with absolutely nothing striking about him. A man you would walk past in a hall and swear under oath the hall had been empty. A man ten-out-of-ten dentists wouldn't recognize as their patient. That was Ian Black. One row up, other side of the church. The dipshit looked like he was enjoying himself.
The rear doors slammed against their stops. Instantly a hundred pairs of eyes snapped to the man stalking up the aisle. Leather boots with soles thick enough to walk across hot coals echoed with every step. Black pants and shirt, undoubtedly some ridiculously priced silk-cotton-titanium blend, tucked in and covered with an ass-kicker leather coat trailing behind like a cape. His only color came from his dark mane of auburn hair.
Sam Irish and, if I read the clenched jaw correctly, he was pissed.
"I want to see her." The polish of London blistered under his seething mood, letting the Dublin alleys surface through the festering wounds.
"Sir, you are disturbing a funeral service." Color blossomed from the priest's collar, tinting first his throat, then slowly flushing his cheeks. His voice squeaked when he spoke next. "I must ask you to leave."
"And I must ask you to open the God damn lid."
Enrique and the boys and girls from my boom-boom days moved their hands to their sidearms. Slow. Calm. Practiced.
My father stepped into the aisle.
"Step back. Step back," I whispered. I've seen Sam Irish in this mood. You do not mess with him. My father must have seen it because he stepped back, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
"Open the lid," Irish ordered in a voice honed on cigarettes and whiskey.
The priest stood his ground. "I will not."
Ungood. Very ungood. What the hell was Irish thinking? What was he even doing here? We went back — way back — pre-husband days. More than once, we ended up at the same place at the same time and, well, let's just say we scratched each other's itches.
Being dead created a feeling of impotence I hadn't bargained for. There wasn't one damn thing I could do about the scene unfolding. I just had to stand here, like every other dumb ass rubbernecker, unable to look away from the walking disaster.
"How do you open this fucker?" Irish felt around my coffin for the lid.
"Sir, stop immediately! And watch your language, this is a place of God." The priest lectured but smartly did not interfere. There were more than muscles bulging under Irish's coat.
Then the lid was open.
A collective gasp rose. The church was small and there were no bad seats. Everyone saw everything.
It wasn't pretty.
Why didn't I have myself cremated? If this had just been about me, I would have. But Gavriil, my husband, wanted to be buried, which I did for him. Nobody (apart from my mother) would have believed I wanted to be cremated instead of laid to rest next to my husband. When you're faking your death, the last thing you want to do is give people a reason to look below the surface. They expected me to be buried, so I was being buried.
Irish leaned over her, ur, me, both hands on the lid. His head turned as his gaze swept up and down. "You sure this is her?"
"Of course, it's her. Who are you?" My sister pitched forward from her first-row pew. Cass, Cassandra, was three years younger. She was as good as I was ... wrong. Her hair, the color of corn silk, was natural. We shared the green eyes. When we cry, our green goes mutant with red, like hers were now. I hated she was paying the price for this mess.
Irish gave her the same scrutiny he'd given my corpse. He let go of the lid. It slammed close, a thunderous bang bounced ceiling to floor and back again. Irish didn't notice; his focus on my sister. "You have her eyes." He raised a hand to cup Cass's cheek.
Her husband gripped the forearm and stopped it several inches from his wife's face.
Irish glared at my brother-in-law but quickly turned his attention back to Cass. "What happened?"
"Fire." Her voice broke. "She fell asleep with candles lit. One ...one must have fallen over."
I wanted an explosion, something truly epic, something Diamond-worthy, but do you know how hard it is to pull off? There would have been a fire investigation and a utility investigation and more questions and more tests. There was just too much risk.
Instead, I had a little pity party on the anniversary of my husband's death. Maybe I had too much to drink and fell asleep on the couch with a bottle in my arms and candles on the table next to me. Were there risks? Sure, but I mitigated them. By the time the neighbors called the fire department, my living room didn't exist anymore. And neither did I.
Irish blinked once, twice, then deafened the saints with a booming laugh. "You're tellin' me Diamond was taken out by a fuckin' candle?"
Shut up, Irish. Shut up.
He was out of his mind calling me by name. A quarter of the people in the church had never heard of Diamond. The half who did knew exactly what kind of man Irish was ... if the leather-clad entrance and f-bombs hadn't given him away.
Irish cut off his outrageous laugh and replaced it with cold dominance. "How stupid do you think I am?"
Enrique stepped to the aisle, angling his body for whatever came next. Three other agents did the same. "You paid your respects." He spat out the word. "Now it's time for you to move on."
Something between a growl and a chuckle rumbled in Irish's chest. "Diamond! Come out, come out wherever you are." He spun in a slow circle, empty hands flared wide. "Olly olly oxen free." He turned again. "Marco."
Polo, you Irish hot head.
My mother shuffled into the aisle, her dress too tight, heels too high. "She's not here, you idiot! She's dead!"
This ought to be good. Nobody called Irish an idiot. Well, almost nobody. Point is, I don't recommend it unless armed with something stronger than Chanel No. 5.
Irish looked like a pit bull and my mother was a juicy steak. He licked his lips. "You're certain this is Diamond?"
My mother rolled her eyes. An expression I lived under all my life. "A mother knows her own daughter. I know her here." She struck her fist to her corseted breasts. "Besides, who else would be wearing her wedding ring? You're in the wrong place. There's no Diamond here. Bah." She dismissed Irish with a royal wave of her hand and returned to her place. "Take a seat or get out. Move it along, Father."
"Married? Diamond married?"
The shock on Irish's face was worth showing up for. He was lucky I was dead, or I would have held it over him for the rest of his life.
Then he was in motion. His long, smooth strides carried him halfway up the aisle when he stagger-stepped. Something surprised Irish, a man who was surprised by nothing. He turned his head and surveyed the gathered, a predator selecting his entrée. I couldn't avert my eyes. Everyone looked at Irish. If I was the only person looking at the casket or the priest or the rafters ... well, I might as well have stood on the bench and screamed "Polo."
He was then on the move again. The brief appearance of the brilliant sunlight the only indication he had left the building.
The service continued. The priest. Blah-blah-blah. My mother, this time baying like a donkey. Heehaw. Hee-haw. Finally, the pipe organ began the final dirge and my coffin hung from strong hands.
I kept to my place, leaving with my row, staying in the thick of the line. I kept one eye on Black and the other on lookout for Irish. Impossible? Not when you've had advanced training. Chatter in the ranks picked up as the parade behind my coffin crossed the country road to the cemetery.
Chatter. See what you get with funerals on sunny days?
Do you think there would have been chatter if it were forty degrees? If buckets of water were pounding the crowd? If a flock of ink black crows circled above?
Freaking Disney funeral.
With no sign of Irish, I closed on Black. Quickening my pace, I matched his stride. He cut me a glance, then dismissed. Fat chicks were not his type.
"So ... uh, are you a friend of the family?"
Black cut another narrow glance. "Old friends." He walked faster.
So did I. "Old friends? Like college?" When he didn't answer, I kept going. "Older? High school? Was she the prom queen? She always seemed like the prom queen type."
"A prom queen? Sister, you have no idea."
"Yeah, Ian, I do."
He tripped over a crack in the sidewalk.
"Smooth as ever." I lengthened my stride, making him give chase.
"Diamond?" His bland face reappeared at my side with amusement in a crooked grin. "Loved the corpse. It gave the event a certain ... generic say pa." A linguist Black was not. "Nice funeral. You plan it?"
I shot mental daggers at the little birds who played follow-the-leader overhead. "No. What do you have for me?"
Weeks before I killed myself, I contacted Ian Black for information. He was a broker, trading in facts, figures, names, and dates. I hadn't talked to him since my husband's funeral, but he pushed all in when I called. It began when a woman emailed me with a shaky video and a story. The hit-and-run accident in Rome that killed my husband wasn't an accident. She was there, a few feet away. When the polizia dismissed her account, she sent the video to me. I played it straight, making the calls, tugging on old relationships. Reality was a cold slap in the face. The authorities didn't want to hear from a grieving widow with a conspiracy theory.
I didn't want Mrs. Gavriil Rubchinskaya to die. They killed her when they took the last scrap of her sanity and squashed it like a bug. Fortunately, I had Diamond. Using the information Black had, I was going Spanish Inquisition on anyone who spoke to, looked at, or thought of Gavriil those last days.
Hell hath no fury, etc., etc., etc.
Black's gaze raked over me like a TSA scan. His face contorted as if he'd gotten a whiff of month-old gym socks. "You really let yourself go."
"You got my information? You don't want to cross a dead woman." I pulled up short and let him feel my point ... in his soft underbelly. So, I went to my funeral armed? A woman needs to be prepared for all circumstances.
"First time I see you in a year and you insult me." He eased away from me, amusement wiped off his face. "Yeah, I got it."
"Jesus, Diamond, it's not on me. You think I'm going to walk into a funeral with it in my pocket? Keep walkin'." He paced next to me as we stayed with the crowd. "I have it. But there's a catch."
My hand was on his arm, ready to break it if the situation demanded. "A catch?"
"I need you to flush out game for me. One hour. Two at most." Black reached into his pocket and retrieved a blue Post-It. His gaze took my measurements again. "If you're not up for it ..."
I slapped him upside his medium brown hair. "It's a padded suit, you pig. I couldn't have people recognize me. What were you thinking picking my funeral for the drop?"
He didn't answer, instead smoothing his hair back in place, his relief visible. "Lose the fat chick suit, Diamond. I need a slut. A sophisticated slut."
The crowd reassembled under a white tent, forming a loose circle around my coffin. Black stood next to me, his hands folded and chin to his chest as the priest began to read again. The words droned on as in some other world. It reminded me of the old Peanuts cartoons, the way the adults sounded. Wah wah wahwah wah wah.
I didn't want to stand here, listening to whitewashed words of a man who didn't get my life. Who would never get my life. I wanted the file Black put together. I wanted to get out of here and do what I hadn't been able to do for a year — learn what really happened to my husband.
The blue square in my hand held an address. No name. No phone number. "When?" I said quietly when everyone else said "Amen."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Widow's Run"
Copyright © 2019 TG Wolff.
Excerpted by permission of Down & Out Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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