Tucker can’t be a killer, she kept saying to herself. I loved him. That cowboy wanted to marry me.

     “Where are you going?” Her current boyfriend Vic Donovan was right behind her at the closet door. “Is there a secret passage in there I don’t know about?”

     Lacey crawled farther into her closet on her hands and knees, into that dark limbo where old clothes went in disgrace, until they might be useful—or fashionable—again. Vic watched her, fidgeting. It wasn’t like him to wait behind, but there wasn’t room in that dark recess for him. There was barely enough space for Lacey. She stretched full length on the floor and finally felt her fingertips brush one of those half-forgotten boots, tucked into the farthest corner. I must have been mad when I bought these, she thought. However, the boots were surprisingly comfortable, with their stitched, pointed toes and two-inch stacked leather heels. Lacey loved the lift they gave her. And maybe they would also give her courage to—

     “Darn it! Where’s the other one?” She looked at the single boot in the light and tossed it furiously over her shoulder. “I hate this closet!”

     Vic Donovan dodged the boot. “Really, sweetheart, I don’t think you ought to be going back to Sagebrush anyway—”

     She ignored him. Somewhere in that cramped cave was her other boot: handmade, calf-high, Western-style, pale green and golden brown leather, with elaborate green and gold stitching that resembled filigree. Showy and cowgirly, they were just worn enough to pass out West for serious boots. Lacey hadn’t tried them on since she’d left that shabby Western boomtown for a better reporting job in Washington, D.C.

     The boots had nothing to do with Cole Tucker’s arrest, and yet somehow they were a tangible link to her life back then. They were solid, stylish, American-made reassurance in tough times. Like Cole. He was a rancher who knew his way around horses, and boots. But not murder.

     Lacey threw more shoes over her shoulder in Vic’s general direction, high heels, sandals, pumps. Vic caught one red high-heeled shoe by its slender leather strap and stared at its worn-down heel.

     “Lacey, you are death on heels, you know that?”

     “Hilarious. I’ll show you death on heels if I don’t find my other cowboy boot. I’m wearing them on the plane tomorrow. Both of them.” She blindly chucked another red shoe. Vic ducked.

     “About that plane flight,” Vic said. “It doesn’t make any sense for you to go.” He surveyed the mess of shoes and boots on her bedroom floor and ran one hand through his dark curly hair. He dangled her one cowboy boot in the other hand and fiddled with its loose bootheel like a nervous little boy.

     “I’m going. I have to be there for the arraignment on Monday.” She stood up and faced him, wiping her hands. “Besides, you’re going.”

     “That’s different. I was Sagebrush chief of police when Rae Fowler disappeared. I have to talk to the prosecutor. He wants all his ducks in a row and he might call me to testify. When Tucker goes on trial.”

     “For murder.” Lacey gazed mournfully around her bedroom. It was a mess, but there was a bigger one waiting for her in Sagebrush.

     A copy of the Associated Press report on Tucker’s arrest lay on the bed. Lacey picked it up. Pictures of the dead women. A picture of Tucker, taken at some rodeo, looking very dashing on his horse. The headlines about the murders had popped up on the Internet when Lacey was at work at The Eye Street Observer that morning. The photos jarred her memory back to Sagebrush. She’d called Vic at his office. He’d just heard the news himself.


Death on Heels
Chapter 1

“Dying with your boots on is a point of pride in the West, Vic. But these women died barefoot,” Lacey said. “And that grieves me.”        
     Digging around the bottom of her small closet, she hunted for her cowboy boots. Lacey wasn’t going to be caught unaware and unshod. Not like those three women.
     Colorado rancher Cole Tucker had been arrested for murder, so fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian was heading back to the last place on earth she swore she’d ever return: Sagebrush. That meant she would need, among other things, her best, dandified, make-a-statement cowboy boots. And more than a little guts. Lacey was afraid she was really going to stick her foot in it this time. She needed the most fearsome footwear she owned to wade through all the mud. And the mudslinging.

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