Home > The Perfect Secret (Jessie Hunt #11)(4)

The Perfect Secret (Jessie Hunt #11)(4)
Author: Blake Pierce

“How do you know all this?” Jessie asked.

Karen smiled sheepishly.

“I read it on Wikipedia while you came over to meet me.”

“Did you do a deep dive on Otis too?” Jessie asked.

“Yes, but I didn’t really need to. That guy’s more ubiquitous than most actual celebrities. Fifty-one years old. Self-made billionaire, media mogul who started one news network, was forced out, and started a new one out of spite. Has a mini-studio that makes half a dozen movies a year. Owns eleven newspapers and multiple high-profile websites, including the major source of gossip on the web. Has an amusement park and resort in Georgia and another one under construction in Oklahoma. Has two planes, a yacht, and the entire floor of an Upper West Side apartment building. And maybe most relevant for our purposes, is a twice divorced bachelor who likes models and actresses and regularly throws parties at his place for hundreds of people. He had one last night.”

“Sounds like the kind of fella who will be more than happy to open his home to some nosy investigators,” Jessie said sarcastically.

“We’re about to find out,” Karen replied. “We’re here.”

They had pulled up to an iron gate. The driveway behind it twisted back a good seventy-five yards before disappearing behind a grove of trees. The actual house was too far back to be seen.

“Should I try the buzzer?” Karen asked.

“May as well,” Jessie said. “They can’t be surprised we’re here. I assume cops have been coming and going for hours.”

Karen had to get out of the car and walk over to the intercom system, which was about five and half feet high, almost as tall as she was. She pushed the button.

“Estate. How may I assist?” asked an officious male voice.

She held up her badge and ID for the cameras next to the speaker.

“Detective Karen Bray, LAPD, along with criminal profiler Jessie Hunt. We’re part of the investigative team.”

There was a brief silence before the voice returned.

“Proceed up the drive to the roundabout. Please park in the staff lot to the left of the main house. Someone will meet you.”

“I guess we’re considered staff now,” Jessie said when Karen got back in the car.

“Get used to it,” Karen replied as the huge gates slowly opened. “Folks in this neighborhood have treated the police as their personal errand boys for years. It’s one of the reasons I left. I got tired of having to kowtow to people just because of their bank accounts.”

Jessie said nothing but silently decided that this gave her more reason to like Karen Bray. Anyone who chafed at the arrogance of the powerful got a point in her book. They drove up the driveway, passing the grove, until the house came into view.

It was more of a compound, to be accurate. From what Jessie could tell, it had three distinct sections with connecting passages that together formed a sharp-edged “U,” with the most impressive section in front. Designed in the style of a French country palace, it was three stories tall while the side sections were only two. As they pulled up, Jessie could see that off to the right were tennis courts and a greenhouse. To the left, she saw a pool and an adjoining pool house. She could see the edges of other structures that she guessed were cabanas or small guest houses.

They parked in the assigned lot, between a black-and-white and a coroner’s van. They had just gotten out when a cute, petite young woman approached them with a clipboard. She wore a white tennis skirt and a short-sleeved royal blue collared shirt monogrammed with the cursive letters “JO.” She gave a perfunctory smile before launching in.

“Hello, I’m Matilda, part of Jasper’s Estate Team. I’m here as your guide. I’ll be taking you to join your colleagues. But before we enter the house, I need you both to sign these NDAs, please.”

Jessie and Karen exchanged surprised, mildly amused looks.

“We’re law enforcement professionals,” Karen said slowly. “We don’t sign non-disclosure agreements with private citizens.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Matilda said as if this was just a misunderstanding. “It’s not for anything related to the unfortunate tragedy. It’s merely to confirm that you won’t reveal or discuss anything or anyone you might see on the premises that would infringe on Jasper’s privacy or possessions or the privacy of his guests.”

“Is that all?” Jessie asked acidly.

“Yes,” Matilda replied, not picking up on the sarcasm.

“In that case,” Jessie announced, “we’re law enforcement professionals. We don’t sign non-disclosure agreements with private citizens.”

“But your colleagues all signed without a problem,” Matilda protested, holding out the clipboard beseechingly.

“That’s actually a big problem…for them,” Karen said. “Now, please stop shoving those papers in our face and take us to the crime scene.”

Matilda, crestfallen, lowered the clipboard.

“Hey,” Jessie said in her best buck-up voice. “If your boss gives you a hard time about this, tell him we threatened to arrest you. But for now, we need to see that body, so let’s get moving.”

Matilda nodded and turned, motioning for them to follow. She led them through the grand foyer of the central section, or as Matilda called it, the South House. They passed an imposing spiral staircase that coiled up all three stories. Behind it was glassed-in elevator.

“The incident occurred in West House, in Jasper’s personal wing,” Matilda said as she scurried along.

“Personal wing?” Karen repeated.

“Yes. The estate has three sections—East House, South House, and West House. East House is mostly for business. South House is for entertaining. And West House is the residential section. There are several wings within West House, including Jasper’s personal wing. It includes his sitting room, his game room, his entertainment room, his private dining room, his bedroom, and his bathroom. That’s where the victim was found.”

She led them through a hallway that connected the South and West “Houses” and then along a winding corridor, until they reached a wide stairwell. The corridor continued further along the first floor, leading to some floor-to-ceiling plastic sheeting outside another door at the end. But Matilda stopped here and jogged up the stairs with a vigor that made Karen roll her eyes at Jessie.

Their guide may have been young and full of boundless energy, but not everyone else was. Karen’s seen-it-all reaction reminded Jessie of their first meeting at Sovereign Studios, when the detective’s blouse was smudged with paint from her second grader’s science project. Her top was unsullied today but she still had that harried mom vibe. In her late thirties, with thin, brittle-looking dirty blonde hair and exhausted gray eyes, she was in solid shape but clearly didn’t have any interest in ascending the stairs at anything more than a steady pace.

Jessie might have been almost a decade younger and more athletic, but she was on the same wavelength. She brought up the rear as they made their way to the second floor. She was almost to the top when she felt her phone buzz.

She took it out to find a message from Hannah, who must have just woken up. There was no “hello” or “good morning.” Instead it simply said, “You better be back before Ryan gets here. I can’t do that on my own.”

Hot Books
» Buy Me Sir
» Daddy's Pretty Baby
» The Greek's Forgotten Wife (The Boarding Sc
» Ruckus (Sinners of Saint #2)
» Kept (The Enforcers #3)
» The Dom's Virgin: A Dark Billionaire Romanc
» Filthy Marcellos: The Complete
» Wet
» The Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15)
» White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2)
» Wake A Sleeping Tiger (Breeds #31)
» The Hot Shot (Game On #4)
» If You Were Mine
» Pregnant with the Sheik's Baby (The Samara
» Fallen Crest Home (Fallen Crest High #6)
» Latest books
» Hot Author