Authors: Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa
Tags: #General Fiction
Hide nor Hair
Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa
Cup of Tea Books
An Imprint of
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without permission from the publisher, except for brief quotations for use in a review, article, or blog. For more information, contact PageSpring Publishing at
Cover art copyright © 2015 by PageSpring Publishing
Published in the United States by Cup of Tea Books, an imprint of PageSpring Publishing
Cover design by Sarah Allgire
Interior design by Rebecca Seum
To Stephen Lamon and Maureen Lamon O’Donnell:
You are the greatest brother and sister a girl could ever hope for.
My heartfelt thanks to L.A. Frazier and Rebecca Seum at PageSpring Publishing for their endless patience and expertise in whipping this book into shape.
L.A.’s knowledge of murder mysteries and what can and can’t be done (“No, you can’t use the word skank in a cozy!”), and Rebecca’s remarkable editing skills (“Think
The Chicago Manual of Style
The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual
”) have helped me more than they will ever know. All I can say in my own defense, Rebecca, is, “Once a stringer, always a stringer!”
The open door at Dizzie’s Salon signaled trouble. Although the morning was already sweltering, it was only seven thirty, and the swanky shops along Bay Boulevard in Tranquil Harbor, New Jersey, were locked up tight. The only exception was the coffeehouse directly across from the beauty parlor, which had opened at six o’clock, as it did every weekday morning. The small café tables behind the picture window stood empty. The early morning crowd relied on caffeine-to-go.
“I could really use a jolt,” I told Kate, my sister. “You know I can’t function without a decent cup of coffee.”
“Later, Colleen. I don’t like the look of this,” Kate said, shaking her head. “Dizzie said to ring the bell and she’d open up for us, but it’s already open.”
Kate owned a little boutique two blocks down with the pretentious, ridiculous name of
. She didn’t open her doors until ten. We had come to Dizzie’s early because Kate wanted even blonder streaks than the light ash, death-look strands she already had. I wanted my abundant straw-like locks straightened to sleek loveliness, hopefully before I was due at the local newspaper office where I worked as a stringer.
“I don’t know. It’s early. Who would rob the place before there’s money in the register?” I asked, knowing the patrons of Tranquil Harbor’s favorite salon rarely used cash anyway. They mostly handed over a credit card when it came time to pay up.
Kate pushed the door wide open and the overhead bell clanked.
“The lights are out,” Kate told me, like I hadn’t noticed. “And why, exactly, would the lights be out?”
“Do I look like a psychic?”
“You look like steamed corn on the cob.”
My hair formed tight little ringlets with the early morning humidity. The green shorts and skimpy green tank top I wore, not to mention the height-of-fashion green flip-flops on my feet could, conceivably, resemble a husk. I held my tongue. I had no clever retort to throw Kate’s way. She was younger, hipper, and she looked post-Labor Day, Jersey-shore chic in black linen pants, a sleeveless coral tank top, coral espadrilles, and a coral-and-black striped canvas bag. Her hair held the slight hint of a wave with enviable body. Sometimes I hated her.
We tiptoed past the reception desk and the orderly rows of colorful, overpriced hair-care products displayed on glass shelves to our right. A long line of vacant nail stations stood to our left. Beyond, the chairs at each of the five styling stations were empty. The small lounge area where clients waited impatiently for their favorite stylists was shrouded in darkness. The only people we saw were our own reflections in the mirrors.
“Dizzie?” I called out. “Is everything okay?”
Dizzie didn’t respond, nor did anyone else.
“We have to check in the back where the sinks are,” I told Kate.
“Not me, baby,” my sister said.
, baby.” I tugged her skinny arm and dragged her along. No way was I going alone.
The deeper we ventured into the salon, the hotter we felt. Not only were the lights off, but the air conditioning wasn’t running. The morning sun from the plate glass window in front barely reached the back of the salon, yet in the murky darkness, I could make out a form kneeling on a chair, bent over one of the sinks.
“Dizzie?” Kate asked. “Didn’t you hear us?”
I let go of Kate’s arm and felt the wall for a switch. When the tasteful recessed lights sprang to life, Kate let out a yell that could have shattered glass for miles.
“Oh my God!” I gasped. “My God, my God, my God!”
I ran to Dizzie, stopped short, and slid in a puddle on the floor. I had no idea what to do. Dizzie’s head was facedown in a sink filled with water. There was no way to tell whether or not she was dead.
“Don’t touch anything,” Kate said. “It’s a crime scene.”
“What if she’s still alive? I have to get her out of the water!”
“I know what to do!” Kate, ever resourceful, pulled out her cell phone. I heard low, swishing clicks as my sister snapped away at Dizzie with the phone’s camera app.
I grabbed Dizzie around the midsection and hoisted her out of the sink and onto the floor.
I didn’t feel for a pulse. I wouldn’t have been able to tell if she had one anyway. I opened her mouth and started to breathe into it, hoping her lungs weren’t inflating like a couple of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. I did some chest compressions, though I wasn’t sure I was doing that right, either. A small amount of water spilled out of Dizzie’s mouth, but she still hadn’t taken a breath. I put my ear to her chest and didn’t hear a heartbeat.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Kate asked, then turned away before I could answer. “9–1–1, I have an emergency,” she said into the phone. Apparently, she had finished photographing the crime scene.
A squad car screeched to a stop out front a short time after Kate placed the call. An ambulance pulled into the space behind it. Two EMT workers stormed into the salon. Young Officer James O’Reilly from the Tranquil Harbor PD followed their lead.
“Hi, Mrs. Caruso,” Officer O’Reilly said, like he wasn’t the least bit surprised to see me. I was well-acquainted with O’Reilly. Because of my work at the
, I ran into him all the time. He generally showed up whenever I got myself into trouble and had managed to keep a sense of humor about the arrangement. He was, in my estimation, a good-natured kid who was armed but never dangerous.
The EMTs pushed me aside to work on Dizzie. After a few tense minutes of chest compressions and a manual resuscitator, they felt for a pulse and then stopped their rescue efforts.
“She’s dead,” one of the men told O’Reilly.
“Can’t you try a little longer? They bring people back all the time when they fall into swimming pools, don’t they?” I asked. “Maybe she’s only newly dead.”
“Lady, her lips are blue, her skin is blue, and she’s getting cool to the touch. I’ve only seen one other person deader than she is, and he was in pieces out on the highway.”
O’Reilly looked at me. “What are you two doing here before the place is open for business?”
“Dizzie told us to come around early. She said she’d work on us personally.”
“I have to call in. Stay around. You’ll both have to answer some questions.”
I rolled my eyes. I had been through this before.
Kate and I went outside and sat down on the curb, something the clients of Bay Boulevard’s most popular salon would never do. I dug deep inside my yellow knit bag and felt around for a loose cigarette. I knew the search was in vain, of course, as I had been clean for almost five straight months. Still, I held out hope.
“You’re like the kiss of death, Colleen,” Kate said, nudging me with her elbow.
“Don’t start with me, Kate. It’s been a tough morning,” I warned her.
Kate fiddled with her cell phone while I checked out the activity on the street.
A county car pulled into an empty space in front of the police cruiser and a man stepped out. He was all too familiar to us. County investigator Ron Haver sauntered over to us with a goofy, inappropriate grin that stretched from ear to ear. He had been dating my sister for the last several months, and from the look of things, the relationship was getting serious. The entire Fleming clan, which included me, wholeheartedly approved of the match, despite the nearly ten-year age difference. Ron had gone to college with my brother, Dick, and had begun dating Kate after I became reacquainted with him in the spring during the course of a murder investigation. He had a great personality, and, as a detective, kept out of trouble—something Kate’s past significant others failed to do. Kate and Ron could have been his-and-her bookends—blond hair, blue eyes, and both well-dressed, despite the sweltering heat.
My sister blew him a schoolgirl-like kiss and leaned over to whisper in my ear. “Smile, Sunshine. Your morning’s about to get a lot tougher.”
* * *
Ron went inside the salon, while Kate and I waited on the curb. He came out half an hour later with an expression that was hard to read.
“Okay. So what happened here?” he asked.
The local police had called him in because there was a dead body inside the hair salon. How were we supposed to know what happened?
“Dizzie’s dead,” I said.
“So I saw.”
“She’s very wet,” Kate offered, batting her long lashes.
“I noticed. Look, you two, I need to know all the details. Why are you here? Did you see anything unusual? Et cetera, et cetera.”
“You mean other than poor Dizzie being facedown in a sink filled with water?” I asked. “We’re here for the obvious reason, Ron. We were supposed to get our hair done!”
He sighed. “What time did you get here?”
“About seven thirty,” Kate told him.
“The door was open a crack. We went inside, and the lights were off. We decided to look in the back to see if Dizzie was there. We found her.”
“And of course, you moved the body.”
“Colleen did it!” Kate said, ratting me out. “I told her not to touch anything!”
Ron turned his attention to me. “Why did you do that, Colleen?”
“I thought she might still be alive. Silly me! I pulled her out of the water to get her to breathe. For God’s sake, what was I supposed to do? Let her drown?”
“Was she floating, or did she have something weighing her head down?” he asked.
“Nothing weighed her down. She was kind of floating, I guess. Only it was her upper body. You know, her head, of course, and her shoulders. Maybe the top part of her chest. Her pretty brown hair was all spread out in the water like it was blowing in the wind.”
“What a lovely poetic description. Where, exactly, were her arms before you pulled her out?”
“I don’t know. They weren’t inside the sink.”
“Were they at her sides?”
I shrugged. “I can’t remember. I was busy trying to save her life at the time. I didn’t notice. Kate would know. She took pictures.”
Kate looked up at him. “I took pictures with my cell phone. I thought maybe they’d be important.”