Mystery Michael Allen Dymmoch M.I.A.

ISBN 13: 9780312373719

M.I.A.

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9780312373719: M.I.A.

The accidental death of Rhiann Fahey’s second husband leaves her paralyzed by grief and her son Jimmy cutting school and drinking. The widow’s problems are compounded by the unwanted advances of her dead husband’s friend.

Rhiann does her best to cope, returning to work, dealing patiently with Jimmy’s misbehavior, telling Rory Sinter she’s not interested.

Then a mysterious stranger moves in next door. John Devlin offers Rhiann beer and sympathy. He gives Jimmy a job.

Jimmy complicates things further by looking up his birth father’s family, from whom Rhiann has been estranged for many years. And by falling in love with a mysterious girl.

When Sinter tries to discredit John, then beat him to death, Rhiann comes to John’s rescue. But she discovers her perfect neighbor isn’t what he’d seemed---which leads her to investigate and to see John in a different light altogether.

A tale of violent men and violent passions, of missing friends, of loss and discovery, this beautifully written story, whose characters come to life from the first page, shows one more side of Michael Allen Dymmoch’s powerful storytelling ability. 

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About the Author:

Michael Allen Dymmoch is a former president of the Midwest chapter of Mystery Writers of America and currently a newsletter editor for the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime. She lives and writes in Chicago.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1
“Mrs. Fahey?”
“Yes.”
“This is Assistant Principal Lodge at the high school. Your son didn’t come to school today.”
I felt my world disintegrate. Again. I said, “I know. I’m sorry. I was supposed to call. He’s ill.” That last word sounded so alien. But honest. Not a lie, like “He’s sick”; Jimmy wasn’t sick except at heart. Heartsick. Not physically disabled. Psychically.
I said, “We’ve all been a little off since his dad died.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. It sounded mechanical. “Have you considered having him see our psychologist?”
“Not your fault,” I said. I let her question go unanswered.
There was a long pause. Like when someone says something so out of line no one knows what to say.
She finally managed, “Well, thanks for calling.” I didn’t bother to remind her that I hadn’t.
I called home as soon as I hung up. There was no answer. I left a message: “Jimmy, we have to talk. If you’re not there when I get home, I’ll have to report you missing.”
He knew I would. Mickey had hit on that method when Jimmy was fourteen and inclined to disappear. Mickey would call all the numbers we’d collected from Jimmy’s friends and ask if they’d seen Jimmy. None had, of course. But Mickey would ask them to pass along a message: If we didn’t find him soon, we’d have to report his absence to the police.
Usually, Jimmy would call home before Mickey got to the bottom of the list. After a while, Jimmy stopped disappearing.
He was in the family room when I got home from work, lying on the couch upside down, with his knees hooked over the couch back. “Hi ya, Ma,” he said.
There was a half-empty Jack Daniel’s bottle on the floor. Yesterday, it had been nearly full.
He waited upside down. I just stood and stared. Finally, he said, “Aren’t you gonna bitch me out?”
“You’ll have a doozy of a hangover. That ought to be enough.”
He groaned and shifted to a horizontal position, dangling his left arm on the floor.
“Why do you have to be so . . . ? So . . . ?”
“Reasonable?”
“Yeah.”
I shook my head and went across to the kitchen to dump the whiskey down the drain. The family room is sort of an extension of the kitchen, separated from it by a large counter we sometimes use as a table. I went to the liquor cabinet, gathered up all the bottles, and emptied them as well.
Jimmy rolled on his side and put his head on his arm. “I could get more.”
“Will that help?”
I could see the tears come. He buried his face.
“Jimmy, what is it you want?”
“I want Dad.” He started sobbing. He jumped up and ran for the bathroom, slamming the door.
I sat on the couch and fought my own tears. I wanted Mickey, too. 
“Ma, tell me about my first dad.” He was over the heaves and had cleaned himself up. He was lying on the couch again with his head on my lap.
I stroked his hair. “He was a good man. Brave. Loyal.”
“You always say that. I need details.”
“I didn’t know him well.”
Jimmy put his arm over his eyes. “I thought you grew up together.”
“We weren’t grown-up. I was younger than you when we married. I didn’t know myself, much less Billy. And he was only eighteen.”
“So why did you?” He raised his arm just enough to look at me for an answer.
“He was going to war. We were more idealistic than smart. We were going to live forever. Together. But we never talked about what that meant.” I shrugged. “I think we also knew he might not come back. We never talked about that, either.” 
Jimmy was dozing, still on the couch, and I was halfway through making dinner, chopping parsley for tabbouleh salad, when the back doorbell rang. I looked out the kitchen window at the drive that runs from the street to the garage behind our house. There was a sheriff’s police cruiser parked there.
Rory Sinter was at the back door, hat in hand. “Afternoon, Rhiann,” he said. He was Mickey’s buddy. Had been. I hadn’t seen him since the funeral.
I nodded at him. “Rory.”
He was almost as tall as Mickey, six feet at least. One of those blond men who’s always unnaturally red because he’s too macho to wear sunscreen. He stepped close enough to the screen to brush it with his duty belt. He tried the doorknob even before asking, “Can I come in?” The door was locked.
“What brings you up this way?” I asked.
“Mickey was my best friend.” He tried the knob again. “I’d be a hell of a pal if I didn’t look in on his widow now’n then.”
I remembered asking Mickey what he saw in Rory. Mickey had said, “He doesn’t have any other friends.” He did have a wife.
He pushed the door handle again. Reluctantly, I unlatched the door, then retreated behind the counter to resume chopping. I was using the big French chef’s knife I gave Mickey last Christmas.
Rory walked over to the counter and watched me for a while. As I brushed the parsley into a bowl and reached for a tomato, he said, “If there’s anything you need . . .”
“I need Mickey.” As soon as I said it, I was sorry.
“I know I’m not Mickey—”
“No, you’re not.”
He didn’t get it. “But if you need someone to talk to . . .” The way he said it let me know he was offering more than conversation.
“I’m not lonely. I’ve got Jimmy.” I looked pointedly at the couch where my son slept fitfully.
Rory must have realized for the first time that I wasn’t alone. He seemed embarrassed. He edged toward the door. “Well, you got my number if you need anything.”
“I do. Thanks.” I stood there, holding the knife on the cutting board until he closed the door behind him. 
A week later, I was weeding around my rosebushes when the real estate company’s handyman came by to mow the lawn next door. The house and the rehabbed barn that served as a garage, to the west of ours, were all that remained of a farm subdivided years earlier. More recent owners had changed the siding, replaced the windows, added a dormer and veranda, and relandscaped around the house and the five-hundred-year-old oaks surrounding it. But it was still a fairly ugly structure that stood out among the surrounding homes like a cow at a dog show. Whitewashing the barn hadn’t changed that, either.
The property had been for sale since March, the owners long since moved away. They’d made a deal with the realtor to maintain the place until it sold. The handyman and I had established a nodding acquaintance. When he was finished cutting the grass, he hung a contract pending notice under the company’s for sale sign.
“Who’d they sell it to?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Some guy got more money than sense. I heard he paid the asking price. Coulda got it for a whole lot less if he’d just held out a while.” 
The new neighbor moved in May first. He arrived in a twenty-four-foot U-Haul truck, towing a beat-up Jeep. I was sitting on the front porch, skimming the paper, when he curbed the U-Haul next door and jumped out to unhitch the Jeep. He was tall and tan and very thin. His beard and hair were nearly white—prematurely, I’d say, because he moved like a much younger man. He was dressed to work—navy T-shirt, ratty Levi’s, and scuffed work boots. He left the Jeep at the curb and backed the truck into and down the drive on the first try.
The driver jumped out, and a twenty-something kid joined him from the other side. They opened the barn doors, and the man backed the truck far enough inside so that I couldn’t see what they unloaded—lots of stuff, apparently. It was half an hour before the man pulled the truck up to the veranda steps of the house, and the kid closed the barn.
It took longer for them to get the furniture inside. Everything looked like the good stuff, mostly wood and heavy. Expensive. There wasn’t a whole lot—dressers, disassembled beds, tables, chairs, a broad modern desk—but they had to maneuver it up the porch steps. Presumably, some of it had to go up the narrow stairs and around corners to be distributed among the upper rooms.
Then there were boxes, grocery-store giveaways by the labels—the kind you packed the contents of your drawers and shelves in, and your kitchen equipment. Some of the boxes seemed heavy—books perhaps. There was the large black-spotted white carton of a Gateway computer. The printer and stereo equipment were easy to identify—no packaging at all.
All in all it seemed like hot work for just two men. I went inside and put together a tray—plastic tumblers, ice bucket, assorted pops, and a pitcher of iced tea.
I got to the foot of the veranda steps just as the movers were coming out for more boxes, the elder in the lead. He stopped when he noti...

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