The back story of Prestige, Privilege & Murder

Thirty-something Stacie Maroni Noth should have been on top of the world. She married Ted Noth, a prominent lawyer and son of an even more prominent lawyer. Despite the high society and country club opportunities, Stacie went against the Noth family culture and maintained her independence - she had a good job as HR specialist at a large insurance company.

Her life changes drastically when Stacie catches Ted in the "act" and files for divorce. The final papers are in the works with the custody battle over Jasper, their maltese, finally resolved and Ted is murdered. Stacie is the obvious suspect, at least from the perspective of the Noth family. Not by design, Stacie ends up helping with the investigation as it begins to look like she may be the next victim.

Prestige, Privilege & Murder is available through AMAZON and FREE with Kindle Unlimited 

Here is an excerpt:

It had been a while since I’d gone to a bar by myself and I was nervous. It was a Friday night and the DJ joked about song titles and singles. Not too crowded, a few couples danced to the tune he played. Other couples and groups sat in booths or tables. The bar was long and I’d grabbed the last seat at the bar, a great vantage point for checking out the crowd.
Perched on a stool by the bar, I was on my second glass of wine when I spotted him. A dark-haired Adonis in snug jeans and a tapered polo shirt, he scanned the room. The wine did its job and I felt good. I caught his eye. My soon-to-be ex wasn’t the only one who could fool around. I winked and he smiled – his smile about knocked me over. My heart raced as he sauntered in my direction.
“Hi. Care to dance?” He extended his hand and I nodded. The DJ played a slow song and he was a strong lead. I couldn’t help but notice the woodsy scent of his aftershave as he held me in his arms and we danced. When the song was over, he walked me back to my spot at the bar.  
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“Uh, sure. Viognier, please.”
I almost admitted that two was my limit but decided I could sip this one. Viognier isn’t the most popular of wines. That he didn’t question my choice surprised me. Ted certainly did. Often.
He signaled the bartender and ordered the wine along with a scotch and water for himself. “I’m Rick. Rick Murdock.”
I hesitated and answered with a smile, “You can call me Barbie.” If this was my once in my lifetime one-night-stand, I didn’t want to use my real name.
His eyes narrowed for a split-second before he nodded. The bartender delivered our drinks and distracted him from the name issue.
“Thanks!” I lifted my glass and he tapped it with his.
“Cheers! So, Barbie… what do you think of the music the DJ is serving us?”
I had to give him credit. It was better than the “Come here often?” I expected. Then again, Creekview Lounge catered to a different crowd than Rockies. We exchanged opinions on music and danced to a few more songs.
Along the way, I finished the third glass of wine, gained a better appreciation of the muscles in his shoulders and noticed his hazel eyes. As I tried not to stumble, he caught me.
“You all right?”
I licked my lip, flicked my hair over my shoulder, and tried for a flirty look. “I think some fresh air would help.”
His multi-watt smile came back at me and we walked outside. In the parking lot, we commented on how good the crisp cool air felt. He leaned toward me and I toward him. The wine had diminished my inhibitions and I responded when he kissed me. Then his hand was on my back and I burst into tears.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I just… I can’t do this. I’m not as slimy as Ted. I’m so sorry.”
He dropped his hands and put them up in front of his body as he stepped back. The smile was long gone. “No problem. No problem.”
I turned and ran to my car, still crying. After a few minutes and a little calmer, I drove to my empty townhouse. Thankfully, I didn’t get stopped by a police car or have an accident.
It wasn’t that late – a little after midnight. That’s what I told myself as I called my best friend Jillian. I didn’t get any farther than “I hope it’s not too late” and I burst into tears.
“Stacie, what’s wrong?”
I was crying too hard to talk. I squeaked out, “I went to the Creekview Lounge. I thought I could be like Ted. That’s not me. I tried and I can’t do this this dating thing again.”
“Stacie, you are only 34 years old. You have a great job at Foster’s Insurance Group. You’re educated and smart. Maybe you could go back to school and get that graduate degree in counseling you wanted before Ted.”
“I don’t know about graduate school. What about all the weight I’ve gained? I’m not a size 6 anymore. Each day I find another gray hair. The thoughts of going out and trying to meet somebody is scary and tonight proved it.”
“You have beautiful dark brown hair and blue eyes, and so what if you’re a size 10 now. There’s a man out there – a better man than Ted. Did you see any prospects at Creekview?”
“Yeah, there was one guy. His name was Rick. He was a great dancer and when he smiled – wow!”
“So what happened?”
“Well, I said I needed a breath of air and then he kissed me. I just lost it. I mean I’m not even divorced yet. I burst into tears and sat in my car until I could drive. Then I came home and called you because you’re my friend.” I burst into tears again.
“Stacie, you know if this guy was even halfway good-looking and interested, there’s hope. Was he attractive?”
“Oh, he was easy on the eyes for sure. Tall, dark, and handsome. Muscular. And that’s not the alcohol talking. I only had a couple glasses of wine.”
“Was he drunk?”
“No, he didn’t seem drunk at all. He seemed like a nice guy and a good dancer. He wasn’t pushy at all and didn’t get mad when I freaked. Maybe because I met Ted there … that was 12 years ago. We were supposed to have a happily ever after.”
“Listen, Ted’s scum. You have a lot of years left for happiness. Look at me. I didn’t meet Wade until I was 30. My thirtieth birthday bash with you and Trina. Remember what fun we had that night?”
We talked more about the fun times. Jillian and I shared some laughs and by the time I hung up I felt much better. I surveyed my townhouse. It had been six months since I bought it and moved in, but it didn’t quite feel like home. The only pictures were of my parents and brother, and then a couple of friends. Ted insisted on keeping our dog, Jasper, and I missed him. Maybe I’d get a dog or a cat to keep me company.

The next week, my breakfast on the table, the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, the sight confused me.
“Ma’am. Mrs. Noth?”
“How did you find me?” I asked Rick Murdock as he stood on my front step. Even two weeks later, I hadn’t forgotten how good he looked or how humiliated I felt about that night.
“Ma’am. Your address was on the divorce papers. Can we come in please?”
My brain kicked in and I realized Rick wasn’t talking – it was the other man on the step. The balding stocky one in uniform with a scowl on his face, a smoker from the odor wafting off of him. And then I realized Rick was in uniform, too. He still looked good and gave off the woodsy scent.
“What’s going on?” My gaze went from one man to the other.
“Mrs. Noth, if you don’t want us to come in, we can go down to the station. We have some questions we need to ask you.”
I stepped aside so they could come inside. “I don’t understand. What kind of questions?”
My thoughts were running in circles. Could I have broken a law at the Creekview Lounge that night and not have remembered? Did Rick think I was soliciting? Did they catch me on camera drinking and driving?
“May we sit down? I’m Officer Flatt and this is Officer Murdock.”
“Sure… What’s going on?”
“Mrs. Noth when was the last time you talked to or saw your husband?”
“As I’m sure he told you, it was yesterday at a meeting with our lawyers. Is he still complaining I refused the ‘irreconcilable differences’ lies?” My anger at Ted surfaced once again.
“What time was that ma’am?”
“The meeting was at 3:30. I had to leave work early to make it there on time. He finally grabbed the papers and left, must have been after 4. I was home before the 5 o’clock news. I don’t understand. Is he accusing me of something? Are you here to serve me a gag order?” I huffed, my anger rising.
I glanced from one officer to the other. Rick avoided my gaze and shuffled his feet.
“No ma’am. Mr. Noth isn’t accusing you of anything. He’s dead and…”
I didn’t hear the rest of his sentence. “What? No!” And then I passed out.
I groaned and opened my eyes. Rick stood there with a glass of water. “Here, drink this.”
I sat up and looked to Officer Flatt. “I’m sorry. I don’t usually faint. Did you say Ted was dead? That can’t be. I just talked to him yesterday.”
“That is what I said. He was murdered sometime last night.”
“Ma’am. After you left your husband yesterday, what did you do?”
“I came home.”
“Can anyone vouch for that? Anyone here with you?”
“Huh? What? No one was here with me. It was just me and a half gallon of Rocky Road ice cream.” Then it dawned on me. This man suspected I’d killed Ted!
“Oh, my gosh. You think I killed him? I can’t even kill spiders.”
Officer Flatt shook his head a bit before he answered. “Calm down. We have to ask these questions.”
“I’ll get you more water.” Rick picked up my glass and disappeared into my kitchen. He came back with the water and nodded to Officer Flatt. “One empty Rocky Road carton in the trash.”
I glared at him. How dare he check my trash? “Just so you know, I didn’t eat it all at once.”
His mouth twitched, but he didn’t say a word.
“Just a few more questions. About your divorce…”
“Excuse me, but do I need to call my lawyer? I don’t think I should talk to you until I call my lawyer. Of course, he’s a divorce attorney, but he must know something about other kinds of law, right?”
Rick was back to staring at the ceiling and Officer Flatt studied the floor. Standing up, Officer Flatt put his little book and pen in his pocket. “We’ll be in touch or Detective O’Hare will be if there are any other questions. Here’s my card.”
He started to leave, Rick following his lead.
“Wait. Has anyone else been notified? Do I need to call his family? What should I tell them? Where is he? Who will take care of the funeral?”
Officer Flatt blinked before he answered. “You’ll have to talk with Detective O’Hare at the Beckman Springs Police Department.” He shook his head as he turned and left. Rick hesitated and then was gone.

My eggs were cold, but it didn’t matter. I’d lost my appetite.

Excerpt from Prestige, Privilege & Murder, Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.

Foundations, Funny Business & Murder
Stacie Maroni Mysteries #2

The best of intentions shouldn't include murder. 

An HR specialist and trauma counselor, Stacie is on the board of a fledgling non-profit foundation set up to benefit victims of domestic violence. After a slashed tire, attempted break in, and a murder, Stacie isn’t buying coincidental bad karma. Someone wants her off the board - at any cost. Her fancy surveillance equipment, impressive alarm system, and a ferocious Maltese dog offer only so much protection. Enter Kevin McNair, a smooth talker with piercing blue eyes. Can she trust him with her heart or her life?

Here is an excerpt:

For me, the whole point of yoga was to clear my head. As I exited the Yoga Pod, I looked up at the sky and exhaled another cleansing breath. I was lost in the moment a man barreled into me. The next thing I knew I was on my butt.
What?”  I looked up and saw a tall man, with an athletic build, black hair, and piercing blue eyes.
“I’m sorry. So sorry.” He extended his hands and easily pulled me up, gym bag and all. “Are you alright?”
I nodded.
“I don’t usually tackle beautiful women.” He scanned the street, and with a cryptic “Another time, another place,” he ran off.
As if I would know what he was running from or to, I looked up and down the street. Nothing jumped out at me. My cell phone buzzed and I groaned.
“Good morning, Senator.”
“Good morning, Stacie. We have a situation here, and I’ve called a meeting of the Foundation for this evening, six sharp.”
So much for my fleeting experience of a clear head. “What kind of situation?”
“I don’t want to discuss it on the phone or with each member of the Board individually. Be here at 6 o’clock and you’ll find out with the others.” 
He disconnected. Nothing I could do about it. I tried for another cleansing breath.
The Theodore Noth Foundation was funded by my deceased husband’s life insurance policy. The half-million dollars created the foundation to prevent and address domestic violence, one of Ted’s and my passions. Senator William Langford was designated to head up the foundation. He’d pioneered a bill on domestic violence and worked with the NFL and other groups to address the rising concerns.
I walked to my car, parked a block away from the Yoga Pod, and groaned. All the stretches and cleansing breaths weren’t going to fix the flat tire. Opting for the positive spin, that made for three downers, so I figured I’d be good for a while.
I called the auto club and walked over to the Starbucks for a Skinny Mocha while I waited. A quick glance at my watch and I placed a call to the office to let Rosie know I had car trouble and would likely be late to work.
Drinking my coffee, I thought about the Senator’s call. The board consisted of a myriad of people, including some with deep pockets who, like Ted, were entrepreneurial and could embrace the cause because it cut close to home. Someone I’d yet to meet represented the sports industry and Langford’s connections to the NFL. At the other extreme, the grass roots contingent included the first responders for medical services and police, victims and survivors of domestic violence, and others who worked with the victims, including me.
So far all we’d accomplished was reviewing Ted’s requests and instructions, including the stakeholders he wanted represented on the board. Langford or his staff drafted a constitution and bylaws for the Foundation. Legal counsel had been retained and an administrative assistant was hired to serve as a combined secretary and treasurer. I’d yet to see a final list of the board members. The last communication surrounded a draft announcement for potential grants directed at service and education. How could there be an “emergency” at this point? 
My reverie was cut short when the tow truck from the auto club arrived. I joined the mechanic as he examined the tire and shook his head.
“You the owner?”
I nodded and handed him my auto club card.
“You call the police yet?”
“Excuse me. Why would I call the police for a flat tire? I probably drove over a nail or something.”
“No, ma’am. This tire has been slashed. You need to make that call. And pop the trunk so I can get out your spare. You have one, right?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He glanced at the phone in my hand and must have noticed I was in “contacts” as he offered, “Police is 9-1-1. Then you can call whoever else.”
I’d actually considered calling a specific policeman. I decided the mechanic’s idea was better though and placed the call. With my luck, Rick Murdock would be the responding officer. We’d dated a few times and I liked Rick. Under different circumstances, it might have worked out. I just wasn’t ready for serious and he was. I hadn’t heard from him since I said the dreaded “Let’s be friends.”
The mechanic, “Gordon” from the name on his shirt, pointed to the trunk. I opened it for him and groaned. Upon seeing the contents, he rolled his eyes. He was nice enough to help me move everything to the back seat. We’d found the jack and spare when the cruiser pulled up. I released the breath I was holding when Officer Marina Napoli got out, Officer Tim Reardon behind her.
“Hi, Stacie. What’s the problem?”
“I came back to my car and had a flat. Gordon here says the tire’s been slashed.”
“Okay. Reardon, can you check and see if that’s been a problem around here lately?” She turned back to me as Reardon walked to the front of my car. Pointing to my coffee cup, Marina asked, “Did you happen to see anyone from the Starbucks?”
I shook my head. “Starbucks came after I called the auto club. I was at the Yoga Pod around the corner.”
Reardon joined us and cleared his throat. “No other reports. The sergeant said it was still early. He’ll keep us posted if any more reports come in.”
With Gordon’s help, Reardon took a picture of the slash for the report, while Marina took down the information. Both Gordon and I signed the report, then Gordon got the tire changed.
“Hold on to that tire if you can, just in case something comes up. We’ll probably never find out who did this. No cameras and no one called it in if they witnessed it.”
Marina shrugged and turned to leave.  She turned around and added, “Remember Officer Flatt? He’s retiring the end of the month. The Brick on Friday if you and your friends are interested.”
“Thanks, Marina. Maybe I’ll see you there.”
Gordon stared for a minute, his mouth open. Recovering, he handed me his clipboard to sign. I hoped that was the last of my excitement for the day. If only.

Excerpt from Foundations, Funny Business & Murder. Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.

Deception, Denial & Murder
Stacie Maroni Mysteries #3
Release Date August 5, 2019

A domineering co-worker, a new flirtatious neighbor, and a dead body with way too many questions. 

As HR Specialist and trauma counselor, Stacie Maroni is used to dealing with difficult situations. When her night out is derailed by the discovery of a body, she’s glad she’s not involved. That is, until the murder affects her close friends and makes for awkward situations with the men in her life, her father included. With her friends potential suspects, Stacie works with the police, only the suspect list is slim and she’s grabbing at straws.

Here is an excerpt:

My morning run was invigorating. The sun was shining and the temperature crisp, but not frigid. A great day to get started on those New Year’s resolutions for sure. A quick shower, Jasper, my Maltese, taken care of, and I parked my car in my usual spot at Foster’s Insurance Group.
As the one stable feature of my life for the past year, it was a good thing I liked my job. HR specialist and crisis counselor for the company, my day was predictable enough with the occasional crisis to keep me charged.
Opening the doors leading to my office area, I greeted my assistant in reception. “Hi, Rosie.”
She jumped. “Good morning, Stacie. It doesn’t look like a busy day today. Did you have a good weekend?”
I nodded and didn’t elaborate. Rosie was in her fifties and had a penchant for gossip. Still, she did her job to perfection and kept me organized.
Not stopping to chat, I went down the hall to my office and settled in to work. I smiled at the email from Kevin McNair, the man in my life. A fellow supporter of victims of domestic violence, Kevin earned my trust as we faced down a murderer who was targeting members of the board of the newly established Theodore Noth Foundation.
He made the career change from professional athlete to policeman at about the same time. This week, he was in Quantico at a training seminar and sent me GIFs of flowers and sunshine daily. I could get used to this, though having him in town would be preferable.
A knock on my door broke my concentration. True to form, Jillian didn’t wait for the “Come in.” She burst in and slammed the door so hard I wasn’t sure the hinges would hold. From the set of her mouth to her wide eyes, her mood matched her jet black hair. Jillian was my best friend and I’d never seen her this riled.
“What’s wrong? Sit down, chill.”
“It’s … it’s that woman they transferred from Georgia – Gertrude Butts. Have you interacted with her at all?”
I shook my head. “Only to collect the paperwork. I haven’t seen her since she started. She’s in Special Projects with you, right?”
Jillian slumped over, her head in her hands.
“She is. The woman is a witch. A bully. She wants to add more structure, picks on the women – but is oh so nice to Tony and Jim. Everything I’ve done? She hates. She’s obsessed with being on time and apologetic when she’s late, which she is often. She gets upset if anyone is even a minute late or takes too long in the restroom.”
“Calm down. You have a cohesive unit. You have worked together for a long time. You’re a good lead.”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. She acts like she knows everything and doesn’t see why the staff should be able to talk to each other or socialize. The tension is building. I’m afraid it will not be pretty. Besides, she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing and keeps missing the details on the projects.”
“The holidays are always stressful and she’s only just gotten here. Give it a few more weeks. Try talking to her. Make her feel like her opinion matters.”
“I know, I know. I’m just afraid she’ll run off my best staff. She keeps pushing my buttons and everyone else’s. She sent me an email demanding I comply with her requests within 24 hours. She’s not my boss. I don’t understand why Reinhardt thought I needed help. We each have a job and I’m afraid she’s wreaking havoc on me and my unit.”
She exhaled and stood up. “I just needed to vent. We’ll work it out. See you at lunch.”
I stared at the closed door after Jillian left. I was confident she could handle the woman. Only I didn’t enjoy seeing her so upset. I sat back and thought about my job.
Most of the time, Foster’s Insurance Group was a well-oiled machine. As the lead HR specialist, I had first-hand knowledge of the turnover and complaints. I’d already had a complaint from one of the people in Jillian’s unit about Gertrude.
A high rate of turnover didn’t happen often. If it did or one unit suddenly wasn’t as productive or had high turnover, I’d have to report to Reinhardt. Lynisha Cook, the other HR specialist, and I “jokingly” referred to her as the “Wicked Witch of the West.”
I shuddered and turned my attention back to my email and the reports I needed to get done. I could only hope this would pass. Engrossed in number crunching, I jumped when my cell rang, the ring tone alerting me it was my dad. I smiled and answered.
“Hi, Dad. How’s it going?”
“Hi, Stacie. Everything’s good here. Working on the final touches for the wedding. How are things with you?”
“Good here, too.” I cringed, anticipating what he would say.
“Deanna and I were wondering when you will arrive and if you’d gotten around to inviting Kevin yet? Deanna is looking forward to meeting him.”
“I have vacation time and requested the week off, hoping to get some skiing and relaxation in. My plan was to arrive midweek. When will Vince arrive?”
I hadn’t seen my brother in at least two years. He made the army his career and deployments kept him away. At least so he said.
“Stacie, you didn’t answer my question. Why haven’t you invited Kevin to the wedding yet?”
I took a deep breath. “You realize we haven’t spent a lot of time together, what with him at the police academy and now the special training at Quantico. He’s starting a new job and I’m not sure he can take time off.”
“You’ll invite him, won’t you?”
“Yes. I think so. I don’t know.”
“Stacie, you’re running – no, you’ve run out of time here. He may be insulted you waited so long and say no.” He groaned and I imagined he was shaking his head and scowling.
“As for your brother, Vince will be on leave for two weeks. He plans to stay at my place in New Jersey for a while to decompress. He’ll come up to Bricksville by Tuesday or Wednesday. Nate is driving up on Thursday. Talk to Kevin today and let me know so we can plan accordingly.”
“Okay. I will.”
      We disconnected and I shuddered at what “plan accordingly” meant. It would be awful if they “found” me a date for the wedding. That would be so uncomfortable. I’d hash it out with my friends at lunch.

Excerpt from Deception, Denial & Murder Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.