Kenora Reinvented – Excerpt

About the Book

Forty-two-year-old Kenora Tedesco is starting over. She’s been dumped, fired, stalked, trapped, almost set on fire and declared dead by a drugstore pharmacist. Her new career as a private investigator wasn’t supposed to be that challenging but on the plus side, she’s good at what she does. Then there’s the unexpected second-chance relationship with her hunky boss, Jake.

Kenora Reinvented is a fast-paced coming of middle-age novel with crime, mystery and steamy second-chance romance. There’s a diverse cast of strong female and male protagonists who each face finding-their-way issues. The supporting characters are villainous, quirky or just plain out-to-lunch.

The universal themes of resilience and triumph over self-doubt are conversation-starters. The plot twists and turns fuel book club discussions. With action and intrigue in every chapter, Kenora Reinvented is a great read.

Read about the author, Hyacinthe Miller in our feature on her!

Chapter One

Cheviot University College, the second-largest educational institution in Toronto, Ontario, was my unlamented former employer. Their coffers had been ripped off to the tune of almost $300,000. Understandably, their insurer wanted to know whodunit and how. I was the newbie private investigator who caught the case because no one else in the office thought it was exciting enough.

My head-held-high arrival at the marble-clad Administration Tower had caused shock, awe then enough grudging cooperation for me to get my job done.

The investigation had been long but simple enough. The magnetic north of guilt pointed to Baljinder Mehran, an IT consultant who went by the name of Mitch. Working part-time on one of those automatically renewing contracts endemic to public sector institutions, he’d hopscotched through the alphabet and populated the clerical roster of the Registrar’s Office with electronic poltergeists like Bonnie Baker and Donna Davis.

Mehran was twenty minutes late for the j’accuse interview. My minder–a junior manager from the insurance company–was a no-show, too. Not an auspicious beginning. After taking another turn around the squeeze-box excuse for an office they’d assigned me, I straightened the sleeves of my navy sincere suit and scrubbed my damp palms across my thighs. My phone binged with a text message.

‘Kenora, you’ve got this.’

The message was from Jake Barclay, my boss. Jake was sophisticated, serenely professional and ruggedly handsome. He was also the first man in decades who made my knees go wobbly. God, if I could close this case successfully—no, when I pulled it off—I’d prove he’d made the right decision to hire me instead of some beefy twenty-something dude with a Criminal Justice certificate. 

The door handle rattled. I straightened my business card on the desk in front of the suspect’s—no, interviewee’s—chair.

Showtime.

I’d prepped for days for this get-tough conversation with Mr. Mehran. I needn’t have bothered. 

Mitch swaggered in on a waft of funky aftershave flaunting a dark half-zipped Lululemon Knock-Out hoodie and Seawall pants. In one hand, he was swinging a clunky blue leather Mad Men briefcase with brassy fittings. His longish black hair was gelled and sculpted, no doubt to conceal his too-high forehead. The oversized timepiece peeking from his jacket cuff was worth more than my car. Apparently, crime paid better than being a salaried employee.

We’d worked in the same building on campus for a while and he hadn’t taken it well when I’d fended off his amorous advances. Sticking out my hand, I launched into my prepared script.

“Kenora Tedesco, Barclay, Benford & Friday Risk Management.”

“Hey there. I’ve missed seeing you around.” He gave me an exaggerated once-over. “You lost weight? You’re looking fine.”

He pronounced it foine, like he was from the west side of somewhere tougher than Brampton.

“Traffic sucked large,” he said, squeezing my hand and giving me a meaningful look. I tugged my fingers from his moist grasp.

“Why don’t you have a seat, Mr. Mehran?”

“Why so formal? You and me go back a ways. Here’s an update for you,” he said, fluffing his wedge of chest hair. “I’m thinking of changing my name to Zed. Mitch sounds too, uh, British Empire, ya know?” He winked. “Zed’s the last letter of the alphabet. Like, last guy in.”

I didn’t want to get his meaning, but the leer made it clear. “I’ll call you Mitch.”

“You can call me any thing or any time. Number’s right here.”

He whipped out his smartphone and flashed the lock screen in my face. The background photo was of a bare-chested Mitch in a body-hugging shiny grey suit, smirking-cool behind decks of DJ turntables and sound mixers. A garter-snake sized gold chain hung from his neck. He was surrounded by a posse of tousle-haired club rats in dresses not much longer than my workout t-shirt. I suppressed a grimace. He flashed a naughty-little-boy smirk. My hand itched to wipe it off his face. Where the hell was the guy from the insurance company?

“Why don’t you put your device away? This will take a while.”

“Anything for you Kenora. Although, I’d say you’d suit a softer name.” He posed with an index finger under his chin. “Rose. No, Rosie. Sweet, soft and—”

Damn. I noisily rearranged my piles of papers. “Have a seat. Let’s focus on this meeting. I’ll be recording our conversation.”

“Not a problem,” he said, adding, “May I say, for someone your age you’re a bit of a babe?”

“No, you may not.” I suppressed a groan. Our interaction was not going the way I’d planned.

“We should go for coffee sometime. You know, I’ve had my eye on you for some time.”

Lounging with one arm slung over the back of the plastic chair, he adjusted the designer sunglasses tucked in his hair. His smile was all teeth and too much gums. Dampness prickled my armpits.

“Knock it off. Mitch, this is serious.”

“Really?”

There was a tentative rap on the door and a balding young man in a pink polo shirt, chinos and rumpled blazer eased inside. Seriously, this was the hard-nosed insurance adjudicator the client had assigned as my co-interviewer? The man looked beaten up.

He spoke in a rush. “Ms. Tedesco? Sorry I’m late. My wife’s having a baby and….”

“That’s wonderful. I’ll try to move the interview along.” I pointed at the chair to my left. “I’m ready to go when you are.”

He started to sit but before his bum hit the seat he bounced up and thrust his hand at Mitch. “Ferris Galley, Carnet Lesage Commercial Insurers.”

Mitch shot Ferris a pitying look. After a pause, he gripped the other man’s fingers in a quick up and down shake then dropped back in his chair in full man-spread. I silently counted to ten and fixed my gaze on Mitch’s collar.

“Mr. Galley represents the interests of the University’s insurer. We’re here to discuss the twelve ghost staff you created. Remember Mindy Glass?”

Mindy was the only non-ghost. She’d worked for me in the Registrar’s Office, replacing a staffer on maternity leave. During our phone interview four months ago, her comment about having stayed in one of Mitch’s condos had been a fruitful clue.

“Hold up, Rosie. I think you’re on the wrong track. We dated, sure.” He adopted a sorrowful grimace. “Mindy and I are just Facebook friends. A while back, she messaged to say someone had been asking about her techno-genius former boyfriend. That would be moi.” He high-fived himself. “When I got your call I put two and two together.”

Damn! Little Miss Over-share couldn’t keep a secret if it was tattooed on her ass.

“Let me explain something, techno-genius. The day after Mindy resigned suddenly, her email passed through the University’s mail server. Interestingly, her master personnel file was updated with new login credentials that same day. The resignation letter disappeared. Instead, her records showed a transfer to another department, a new financial institution and a rural Ontario home address.”

“So?” He was flicking glances at his watch like he was late for a spin class.

“So, I remember Mindy because she was very conscientious. I’d kept a copy of her email with the detailed header info.” I opened my investigation report to a highlighted page and slid it across the desk. He sighed heavily.  “Here’s what caught my eye when I checked the HR files after the salary irregularities were discovered. For another year, Payroll continued to deposit $889.58 bi-weekly for her work as a mail room assistant. But when I checked with Mindy, she said she’d moved to Timmins with her new hubby to raise emu. Not East Garafraxa. You redirected those deposits. Fraudulently. We’re here to talk about the money.”

He snorted. “Money? I thought you brought me in ’cause someone ratted me out about the porn stash.”