Exclusive First-Look Excerpt: Promoted to Death by Meg Perry (Jamie Brodie Mysteries Book 14)

Blurb:

Elaine Pareja didn’t have any fans among her colleagues in the psychology department at Santa Monica College. When her promotion application is denied and she is terminated, no one is sorry to see her go. When Elaine is reinstated for no apparent reason, it causes a revolt in the department. When she turns up dead, her colleagues turn into suspects. But Elaine was a keeper of secrets – other people’s, and her own. Jamie Brodie and his friend, business librarian Sheila Meadows, join forces with the police to pick their way through the tangled web of Elaine’s life, searching for the thread that led to her death.

Exclusive First-Look Excerpt:

At 5:15 Pete texted me. Leaving campus now.

A half hour later he pulled up in the drop-off circle and I climbed in. “Hey, how’d it go?”

“I resigned, effective at the end of spring term. June 10.”

“Dr. Canaday wasn’t surprised, was she?”

“Not by that, no. She may resign herself.”

Why?

“Elaine got reinstated.”

What?? How the hell did that happen?”

“I’m not sure. It was over Verlene’s protestations.”

“Let’s just throw the faculty promotion process out the window, shall we? Not to mention sleeping with a student! How the fuck are you all supposed to work with her now?”

Pete set his jaw. “I’m not going to any longer than I have to. Verlene and Elliott may both resign in protest.”

“Holy shit. How to decimate an entire department in one move.”

“Yeah. Everyone else will be job hunting, too.”

“Can Aaron afford to take the time to find a desirable job?”

Aaron’s husband, Paul Thayer, was one of the top home stagers in Los Angeles. “Yes, Paul’s income is far higher than his. Verlene and Elliott can both be choosy, too. Curtis and Audra can’t quit without having somewhere else to go.”

“Was there any reason given?”

“Elaine was terminated because of her involvement with our student, on top of her poor evaluation. None of that has changed. I don’t understand what has.”

“Maybe she knows something damaging about someone influential.”

“It would have to be someone incredibly influential. For the college to potentially expose itself to a lawsuit from the union and the state faculty association… I can’t imagine what could have overridden that.”

“Would the board of trustees have done this?”

Pete frowned. “They’ve never interfered in that way, to my knowledge. They vote on faculty hires but it’s supposed to be a formality. They’ve never stated a position on a faculty firing. Besides – a majority of the board would have to vote to reinstate her. I can’t see that happening.”

“Would your college president do it?”

“No. He wouldn’t.” But he didn’t look as sure as he sounded.

When we got to the Y we found side-by-side treadmills and stepped on. I couldn’t run without uncomfortably jarring my shoulder, but I set a steady uphill walking pace that wouldn’t overtax my lungs. Pete built up his pace until he was running hard, slightly uphill, legs pounding, jaw grimly set. When he was about to drop with exhaustion, I said, “You should start cooling down.”

I could tell that he thought about objecting, but then he tapped the controls and began slowing down. I slowed my own pace until we were both walking comfortably. Finally he sighed deeply and stopped. “Shower at home?”

“Yeah.”

In the parking lot Pete turned his phone back on; his voice message alert chirped immediately. He checked the screen. “Elliott, Aaron and Curtis.”

“All wanting to discuss the events of the day.”

“No doubt.”

Pete began returning calls as soon as we got home. Elliott, only four years from retirement, was still on the fence about his decision. Aaron, after discussions with both Dr. Canaday and Paul, would hand in his resignation tomorrow, effective at the end of spring semester.

Pete called Curtis as he opened a pill bottle for me. “Hey, man, sorry it took a while to get back to you. What’s up?” He listened for a full minute. “No, I’m gonna teach online. Adjunct. Jamie found several positions. No, at real schools. Yeah, he can add me to his insurance. How much? Good God. No, of course not. You have to take care of your family. Yes, and I’m sure Aaron would too. You bet. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He ended the call and sighed.

I said, “Curtis can’t resign.”

“Not yet. His wife works too, but for a small dental practice. He has the kids on his insurance. If she adds the three kids and Curtis to hers, it’ll cost $2250 a month.”

“Holy crap. He’s going to search for another job, right?”

“Yeah. He was afraid that we’d think he wasn’t supporting us if he didn’t resign right now.”

“And you’ll write him letters of recommendation.”

“Sure. We all will. Audra, too, if she decides to move.”

“It’s gotta bite, leaving a tenured position.”

Pete shook his head. “I can afford to be an adjunct. Curtis and Audra can’t.”

 

******

 

The next evening

It was nearly 7:30 and starting to get dark when we neared home. We were laughing about something as we turned the corner onto 17th Street – and our laughter died immediately as we saw Elaine Pareja pacing in front of our gate.

Pete muttered, “Oh, for God’s sake.”

I hissed, “What does she want?

We stopped in front of the gate. Pete said, “Elaine. What the hell are you doing here?”

“First, I want to apologize to Jamie. For what I said the other day.” She seemed to be supremely uncomfortable. “That was uncalled for and I’m sorry.”

In my experience, people said what they really thought in times of stress, but I didn’t argue with her. “Thank you.”

“Second -” She stopped and waved her hands in the air. “You can’t all quit.”

Pete said, “Sure we can.”

“But -”

Pete held up his hand. “Elaine. Did you seriously believe that any of us would sit meekly by and be bullied by you and whoever engineered your reinstatement? You said you wanted to drag the department through the mud. You’ve gotten your wish; you’ve wrecked the department. The only person to blame for your predicament is yourself.”

“But I have to teach five classes in both summer terms.”

“Tough shit. You should have considered the consequences of your actions.”

“You’re all tenured. You’ll have to start all over again.”

Pete said, “I’m going to teach online as an adjunct. The others are willing to start over. None of us want to work for an organization that can be blackmailed into subverting the promotion process and retaining a sub-competent and unethical faculty member.”

Elaine was getting mad again. “Are you accusing me of blackmail?

“I’m saying that there’s no logical reason for the college to reinstate you. The only conclusion I can draw is that you’re holding something over someone in a high position. If that’s how the college wants to operate, that’s on them, but the rest of us have professional reputations to consider. We won’t change our minds.” Pete’s gaze dropped to Elaine’s waist. “Elaine. Are you wearing a gun?

What the fuck? I froze, fearing that any movement on my part might produce a disastrous result. Elaine scowled. “So what? I have a permit.”

Pete’s tone was far more casual than mine would have been. “I’m feeling threatened by that, Elaine.”

You’re feeling threatened?” She barked a laugh. “Too damn bad, pal. I’ve been put through hell because of the rest of you. I intend to be threatening. All of you are going to be very, very sorry.”

Pete raised an eyebrow. “It is not in your best interests to threaten us.”

“Pah!” She whirled away and stomped down the sidewalk.

We watched until she turned the corner onto 17th Street. I let out the breath I’d been holding. “Holy shit. Should we call the police?”

“Yes.” Pete reached into his pocket for his phone. “I’ll call that sergeant I talked to on Saturday.”

I unlocked the gate as Pete made the call, then locked it behind us and hurried into the house. Pete spoke with the police for a few minutes. When he hung up I said, “How did you spot the gun?”

“She kept waving her hands, which lifted the edge of her jacket. As cops we were trained to scan people we encountered for guns. I guess my training kicked in.”

“You were so calm.”

He grinned at me. “So were you.”

“Ha! Only outwardly. I was afraid that any movement would provoke her.”

“Same here. When someone’s aggressively disturbed, it’s best to handle them calmly.”

“Could you tell what kind of gun it was?”

“Looked like a .38 Special.”

I inhaled deeply and blew out another breath. “You’re calling those gate people tomorrow, right?”

“First thing in the morning.”

 

Check out the details and look for the upcoming release date: at: https://megperrybooks.wordpress.com/

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