printed copy

Stay At Home Dead

Jeffrey Allen

ISBN 9780758266897
Publish Date 1/3/2012
Format Paperback
Categories Kensington, Cozy
List Price: $7.99

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It’s a day like any other for Deuce Winters, a stay-at-home dad in sleepy Rose Petal, Texas, where he and his three-year-old daughter Carly are making their weekly trip to the grocery store. But the discovery of a dead body in his mini-van quickly throws his quiet life into disarray. In a town where gossip spreads faster than a brush fire in July, it doesn’t help that the victim ruined Deuce’s high school football career and married his ex-girlfriend…

As the number one suspect in the court of public opinion, Deuce is determined to clear his name, with a little help from his wife Julianne, a high-powered attorney who lovingly refers to him as her “househusband.” His search for the killer leads him to a business plan gone awry and a gaggle of jilted lovers. All the while, he’ll have to contend with a diminutive but feisty detective, the ruthless preschool PTA, and more than his fair share of Texas-sized hairdos—not to mention the laundry…

First in a New Series!

Chapter One

The dead man in the backseat of my minivan wore a T-shirt that read IT’S NOT A BEER BELLY. IT’S A FUEL TANK FOR A SEX MACHINE.

A bright red arrow pointed down below those words to the purported energy source of his purported sex machine. If I’d seen him alive before he ended up in my Honda Odyssey, next to Carly’s car seat, I would’ve called him on it. Because the gut that protruded from the bottom of the shirt did, in fact, look like a belly made round and hard from years of imbibing.

But, at that moment, I was more concerned with the blood encircling the knife in his chest, why he was in my car in the parking lot of Cooper’s Market, and keeping my three-year-old daughter from seeing his corpse. I regularly found flyers and business cards on the car windows, but finding a body inside was a completely new and disconcerting experience.

“Daddy, who’s the man in my car?” Carly asked, leaning over in the shopping cart to get a better look through the window.

I wheeled the cart to the back of the minivan.

“Uh, I’m not sure.”

“What’s he doing in there?”

“Sleeping, I think.”

She looked at me with her mother’s big brown eyes and narrowed them just like her mother did when she knew I was full of crap. “I don’t think so.” I scanned the parking lot. The usual array of minivans, SUVs, and expensive German vehicles that traversed the streets of our little suburb north of Dallas. A sign as you enter town proclaims THERE ARE NO THORNS IN ROSE PETAL!

Would the dead guy be considered a thorn?

I looked at Carly while I fished for my cell phone in the pocket of my jeans. “Why don’t you think so?”

She cocked one eyebrow at me. Jeez. When had her mother taught her that one?

“Because I don’t hear him snoring, Daddy,” she said confidently. “Like you.You snore.That’s what Mama says.”

Her mama, my wife, Julianne, did claim that I snored. I, never having heard myself make any sort of noise while asleep, denied the claim vehemently.

“Well, maybe he’s just being quiet,” I said, punch­ing in 9­1­1 on the cell.

Carly thought about that and tried to duck her head again to get a look in the back of the van. I swung the cart away from the van and moved into the middle of the lot. The kid was apparently devel­oping a taste for morbidity.

“Deuce?” a voice called behind us. “Deuce Winters? What are you doing?” The voice, as it always did, caused me to wince.

I reluctantly turned around to see Darlene Andrews and her hair headed our way.

Darlene didn’t just have big hair. She had mon­strosity hair. Hair that could be skied upon. Hair that could be ascended. Hair that looked like waves off the North Shore. The giant blond configuration gave her head the look of a bobblehead doll as she sashayed in our direction. “What are you doing, honey?” she asked, slink­ing up next to us, settling her hand on my arm and winking.

Darlene’s greetings were always barbed with some sort of sexual innuendo. Maybe it was the way she swung her hips in the too­tight red pedal push­ers. Or the way she thrust out her “not as large as she wanted them to be” breasts, seemingly ziplocked into a matching pink halter top. Or maybe it was the fact that ever since we’d gone to high school together, she’d been offering to take me to bed once a week.

I wasn’t sure.

She reeked of Avon products and cigarette smoke. Her make­up appeared to have been layered on with a paint roller. Bright red lips. Thick purple arcs over her eyes. Brilliant pink circles over her cheeks.

I was wondering how much paint thinner she used every night to clean herself up when the 9­1­1 operator answered.

“Ah, I need to report a dead body,” I said, trying to turn away from Darlene. Her two­inch­long nails dug into my flesh, though, and prevented me from getting too far.

“Excuse me, sir?” the operator asked.

“What’s a dead buddy?” Carly asked.

I lifted Carly out of the cart and held her out to Darlene, raising my eyebrows and showing her a “Please help” expression. Darlene reluctantly retracted her claws from me and took Carly.

“A dead body,” I repeated, attempting to step quickly out of earshot. “In my car. I’m in Rose Petal, in the parking lot of Cooper’s Market.”

Gum chewing in my ear. “In your car, sir?”

Darlene let out a shriek, and I turned just in time to see her raise a hand to her lips and step away from the van. Carly was leaning far out of her arms, still trying to get a closer look at who was occupying her backseat. Darlene’s shriek, in addition to stirring the resting souls at every cemetery within a fifteen­mile radius, brought people running from the front of Cooper’s.

“Can you just send the police, please?” I asked, shaking my head, wondering why I hadn’t waited to do the grocery shopping until, say, never.

“On their way, sir,” the operator responded.

I clicked off the phone and walked back to Dar­lene. I pried Carly out of her arms. Carly now shared Darlene’s “I showered in catalog­ordered products and then went bar hopping” scent.

“Deuce!” Darlene said. “I can’t believe this.”

A crowd of about thirty was now standing behind her, gawking and trying to snag a look into the van. My totally uncool, but state­of­the­art minivan. Leather seats, climate­controlled interior, push button everything. Julianne called it a Porsche for stay­at­home dads. Pretty darn close.

“I know, Darlene,” I said. “I know. I just called the police.”

Darlene turned to me, the wide purple arcs above her eyes arched like upside­down Us. “Why did you kill Benny?”

“Benny?” I asked, confused. “What are you talking about? Benny who? I didn’t kill anybody, Darlene.”

The crowd seemed to move their gaze collec­tively from the Honda to me. She placed one hand on her hip and pointed her other hand at the car. “Benny Barnes.” She pointed again for emphasis.

I hadn’t heard Benny’s name in a while. Maybe I hadn’t wanted to hear it, but I couldn’t recall the last time I heard someone say it out loud. I handed Carly back to Darlene and stepped in closer to the van again, peering in through the side window.

He’d put on about sixty pounds since high school, mostly in that supposed fuel tank. His face was puffy and red; his neck ringed with fat. The athletic physique I remembered was gone, replaced by a Pills­bury Doughboy–like look. I hadn’t looked much at his face when Carly and I arrived at the van. The knife in his chest and the blood around it as he sat slumped in one of the captain’s chairs were a little too distracting. But Darlene was right. It was Benny.

And I was screwed.

About Jeffrey Allen:

Jeffrey Allen is a recovering stay at home dad who now teaches high school English and coaches basketball. A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, he currently lives with his daughter in the suburbs of Dallas, TX.

Average Customer Review

Based on 2 reviews

Customer Review

Enjoyable (Thursday, March 15, 2012)
Reviewer: marianne

Making death enjoyable in this cute cozy with a stay at home dad. This is a light read, easy to finish page turner. Starts fast and keeps going. Deuce is a likeable character as are the others. Finding a body in the minivan on page one, it has to be good!

A Mystery Bred in the Lone Star State! (Thursday, January 5, 2012)
Reviewer: Amy

Deuce Winters, a former teacher and football coach living in a small Texas town, has just come out of the grocery store when he finds a dead man in the back of his minivan. Rose Petal, Texas is so small that the locals never forget anything that has happened in there, including any and all scandals that have taken place over time. So considering that the victim is a man who caused Deuce a lot of grief back in his early days, they seem to think that he may just be the prime suspect.

The residents of the town are always a little ‘iffy’ about Deuce, especially the fact that he’s a ‘house husband,’ staying home with his daughter while his wife, Julianne heads off to work every day - definitely NOT the Texas way. But Deuce and his wife had decided that when they had their baby, she would bring in the income and he would be the primary caregiver to their daughter, Carly.

It takes no time for the local sheriff to jump on board with the rest of the townspeople who assume that Deuce killed the man, seeing as that all the gossip surrounds the fact that the dead guy was the reason why Deuce didn’t get the football scholarship that he wanted because Benny had caused him an injury during a high school football game. As more and more people actually believe that Deuce is the ‘bad guy’ he loses his job as helper at the local daycare center, and the police start following him around town to make sure he doesn’t kill anyone else. Deuce is determined to clear himself of these charges, and he and his wife begin to investigate. As the story unfolds, the lies come to the surface, as Deuce tries desperately to clear his name and deal with the prejudice that comes with being a stay-at-home-dad.

This is a good read with very likeable characters that reminds a reader of the old line from Smokey & The Bandit: It all depends on where you’re standing in the United States as to how smart you are. This book is a real keeper.

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