Today, get a taste of The Catalyst by DelSheree Gladden
“The Catalyst” takes place between “Death in the Dark” and “Insatiable” in the Sydney Rye Series, and after “Trouble Magnet” in the Eliza Carlisle Mystery Series.
“Looking after Eliza Carlisle is about as easy as bathing a cat.”
“Before I let you get back to sleep,” Lauren said, “have you been keeping up with local news while you were in LA?”
It seemed like a random question. “No. Why?”
“Uh, no reason,” she said cryptically. “One of my students, could you keep an eye on her while I’m gone? She’s got a lot of talent, but she’s been struggling the last few weeks. She might need a little extra encouragement.”
My head ached from lack of sleep and jetlag, but I smiled. Lauren’s soft heart was a contrast to many of her coworkers at the culinary institute. Some might call it weakness, but I never would. “Who is this student?” I asked.
“Her name’s Eliza Carlisle. She’s a bit of a misfit at times, but like I said, she’s really talented and I would hate to see her get overwhelmed and give up.” Lauren sighed, like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “Thank you, Hugh. For covering for me, and for keeping an eye on Eliza. You’re a good friend.”
“Yeah, well, you’ve been there for me often enough the last year and a half, I figure I owe you,” I said with a smile. “I hope everything goes okay with your dad.”
“Thanks,” she said, emotion making her voice squeak. She’d played off her fears when trying to talk me into covering her classes, but I knew how much not being there was eating at her even then. She drew in a deep breath to calm herself. “I’ll bring the key by this afternoon. My flight is a five, so I’ll swing by on my way to the airport. Get some sleep.”
We said our goodbyes and I ended the call. Rolling back toward my pillow, I pressed my face into the fabric. James’ scent had long faded, but the memory of it hadn’t. I both loved and hated the reminders of him that still lingered even after packing up his things. I wondered if the wounds losing him created would ever heal.
Friends didn’t understand. It had been a year and a half since his murder. The killer was dead at Joy’s hand. Didn’t that mean closure? Shouldn’t I have been able to move on after so long? Sometimes I wondered that as well. Moving on sounded good, in the same way made-from-scratch mac and cheese sounded good on a rainy day. Comfort food didn’t make the rain stop. Wishing I could move on didn’t make me miss him any less. It didn’t make me feel any less responsible for not being there when he needed me.
My body begged me to go back to sleep, but my mind was too awake. Lauren’s question about whether I had been following local news poked at me. What had happened while I was gone? An uncomfortable dread settled in the pit of my stomach. The last time something had blown up in the news, it had surrounded Joy, James, the mayor, and murder. Picking my phone back up, I brought up the latest news stories, found nothing overly interesting, then wondered about the girl Lauren had asked me to look out for. It took me a few seconds to remember the name.
Typing “Eliza Carlisle” into the news app, I hit the search button and sighed when the results loaded.“Local culinary student plays key part in solving 50-year-old murder.” That wouldn’t have sounded so ominous if not for the pictures and videos accompanying the headline. Anything involving SWAT couldn’t be good. My mind decided it had had enough and was ready to shut off. Ditching my phone, I crawled back under my blankets and closed my eyes. Lauren’s favor just got a whole lot more complicated.
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