The Last Straw (The Jigsaw Files #4) - Sharon Sala


After ten days of nonstop work at Addison-Tunnell Ad Agency, twenty-nine-year-old executive Rachel Dean was finally on her way home. The presentation was finished and ready to present tomorrow.

It was just after 7 p.m., and thanks to traffic on the Dallas Beltway, it took almost forty-five minutes to reach the historic district where she lived. The apartment she rented was in an old mansion called the Detter House. It had been renovated into apartments by the present owner about twenty years ago, and rare openings in the residence were a hot leasing commodity.

The two-story wings on either side of the midsection were now all apartments. The midsection had been turned into a communal lobby on the first floor with big-screen televisions, and the second floor was the central elevator system that led to both north and south wings.

There was a full basement beneath the central part, and the grounds surrounding it provided covered parking for the residents, a pool and an area for outdoor entertaining.

Rachel loved living here, and breathed a sigh of relief when the grand edifice appeared in her view. She took the turn up the drive and then drove around back to her covered parking space. Living alone for as long as she had, Rachel had a tendency to talk to herself, which was evident when she grabbed her purse and briefcase to exit the car.

“Oh, my feet are killing me. I have never been so glad to get home.”

She waved to some of the residents who were outside grilling by the heated pool as she passed.

“Come join us!” one man called.

“Another time,” Rachel said. “I’m bushed!”

He gave her a thumbs-up, then turned back to the grill.

The grilling meat smelled good, but all she wanted was a shower, a bowl of soup and to kick back and put up her feet.

She took the elevator to the second floor, then down the hall to her apartment in the north wing. It was habit to lock the door behind her as she went in, and habit that she left her purse on the hall table and her briefcase on the floor beside it, before heading to the bedroom to change.

The floors were shining, and the woodwork dusted. Today had been the day the cleaning service came, and the scent of lemon oil and lilac followed her from room to room. Lilac was her latest choice of air freshener, and a subtle hint that they were also her favorite flower.

She stripped off her clothes, changing into old blue jeans and a long-sleeved Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt. She traded her high heels for socks and tennis shoes, then picked up the clothes she’d just removed, along with what was in her hamper, and took them to the laundry and started the load to wash.

The washer was filling with water as she went to the pantry to get a can of chicken noodle soup. She thought about making herself a sandwich, as she poured the soup into a bowl to heat, but opted for cheese and crackers to go with it instead.

She was waiting for the microwave to stop when she began hearing faint strains of music. It sounded like the cookout at the pool was turning into a party. She knew she’d be welcome if she joined them, but the thought of getting back into party clothes was too much, and despite the heated pool, the evenings were getting too cool now for her to enjoy a swim.

The microwave dinged as she was taking her plate of cheese and crackers to the table. She turned on the iPad she’d left there this morning, and then made herself something to drink. As she stepped back to the microwave to get her soup, she caught a glimpse of her own reflection.

Her features were a bit muddled, but the basic outline of her short dark curls and pug nose was obvious. She wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous, but she liked who she was, and that was enough. When she lifted the hot soup from the microwave, the scent made her stomach growl as she carried it to the table.

She reached for the iPad, pulled up the book she’d been reading, then tested the heat of the soup before she took her first bite. The warmth of the soup, and the homey taste of the noodles, were reminders of her childhood. She ate with relish, wishing her older sister, Millie, who still lived in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, were with her, and then got lost in the