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Authors: Stacy Verdick Case

Tags: #humorous crime, #humorous, #female detective, #catherine obrien, #female slueth, #mystery detective

A Luring Murder

BOOK: A Luring Murder
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A Luring Murder

Stacy Verdick Case

Published by Stacy Verdick Case

Smashwords Edition

Copyright ©2012 by Stacy Verdick Case

Cover Design: Designs by Jeff

Author Photo: Joanna Obraske

ISBN: 978-0-9837137-4-6

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012949019

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

www.BeforetheFallBooks.com

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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents, are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental

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For Mark Case

Thanks for always taking the Catfish off the hook for me.

CHAPTER ONE

When I went to bed last night, I was spooned against my husband on my first vacation in ten years. Never mind that a vacation, fishing at a Minnesota resort, is at the top of my personal list of hells.

By morning I was damp, shivering, and alone under the covers. My husband, and two other men I’d never seen before stood next to the bed and stared at me like I was the prize winning pig at a State Fair.

Gavin, my loving husband, leaned into my ear and whispered, “There’s been a murder, Catherine.”

If there’s one word in the English language that could take you from zero to awake in less than a second the word is murder. I was on my feet and out the door in seconds.

Now I stood sentinel – playing gatekeeper to the crime scene and oracle to the sheriff and deputy of this podunk little town.

Thankfully, my duty would end as soon as the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrived. Then I could get back to my God forsaken vacation.

“Detective O’Brien.”

I turned on my heels to face the middle-aged man puffing his way up the hill toward me.

“You can call me Catherine you know, Sheriff. I’m not here in an official capacity. I’m a tourist in this town. Remember?”

His lips twisted up into a blushing, no-I-don’t-think-I-could-do-that, grin. At least he’d stopped calling me ma’am – the moniker he’d been using since my early morning verbal ice bath.

Sheriff Anderson held his baseball cap, with the local Sheriff’s department logo ironed on the front like a cheap truckers hat, in both hands and twisted the bill in a reflexive gesture. Anderson stared at me as if he’d forgotten why he’d come to see me.

“Have you come to release me from my guard duties?” I said.

“Ah, sorry but no.”

I doubted very much if he were sorry. While I played goalie to the fiendish gawkers who just wanted a peek at the body, he campaigned for his next run at sheriff. Every local who approached with concern, and a smidge of morbid curiosity, left with the assurance that the case was well in hand and a suspect would soon be in custody.

Apparently, (since we hadn’t yet found any evidence that would help us track down a killer) the truth had no place in Sheriff Anderson’s reelection campaign. Anderson seemed to make up the details as he went along. He doled out lies to the locals as easy as a traveling carnival barker who claimed their midway games weren’t fixed.

“I was wondering,” he said. “If you know how much longer before the BCA arrives? The resort owners are upset about us locking up their fish house.”

The fish house was situated near the beach surrounded by trees on all sides, and Mrs. Peterman had haunted the trees since early morning. Not wanting me to see her, Mrs. Peterman wove through the trees like a timber wolf hunting prey.

“Mr. and Mrs. Peterman will just have to get over it,” I said. “Even when the BCA arrives the fish house will be locked up for as long as it takes to gather all the evidence.”

Anderson screwed his hat onto his head then stuffed his hands into the front pockets of his jeans like a pouty child.

“Well, maybe I’ll just have Mrs. Peterman come talk to you about the fish house then.”

A cowardly answer, though not completely unexpected.

“You do that, Sheriff,” I said. “Was there anything else you needed?”

I hadn’t had coffee yet today, because my host for the next two weeks believes that tea is the preferred way to open your eyes in the morning. To me, it was what you drank when you had diarrhea.

My level of patience was directly tied to the amount of coffee coursing through my veins. My tank was dangerously low, and I was in no mood for Mrs. Peterman.

“No, thank
you, Detective.”

He gave me a slight wave then made his way down the gravel path to the sandy edge of the beach to continue his reelection campaign.

A warm breeze gusted through the trees sending the early spring leaves to whispering. I closed my eyes and filled my lungs with the sweet, warm spring air.

I rolled my head from side to side and heard my vertebrae pop in rapid succession. Sleepy tension stiffened my neck and shoulders sending dull pain shooting down my back. As soon as the BCA arrived I could curl up for a nap. After all, I am on vacation.

Okay, so technically, I was on administrative leave for an officer involved shooting, but any reason to sleep late, take afternoon naps, and round the clock sweatpants attire was good enough for me.

A small white dog that had been nosing around the fish house all morning bound past me. He buried his nose in the fish house door, pawed the sill, and whined.

“Hey, shoo! Get away from there you little mutt!”

The dog glanced at me, then turned back and continued to scratch at the door.

I clapped my hands together.

“Get!”

This time he ignored my protests like he’d suddenly gone deaf.

I looked around to see if anyone saw the little, white flop of fur humiliate me. As far as I could tell no one was watching and since it didn’t look there was a PETA member within fifty yards, I toed the little mutt away from the threshold – not hard enough to hurt him, but firm enough to skid him a safe distance from defiling my crime scene.

He growled and bared his teeth. I growled back and lunged at him for good measure. He jerked away then disappeared into a lilac grove at the edge of the tree line.

Isn’t there a leash law around here?

“Catherine!”

Up the dirt road toward the main house of the resort, Gavin in shorts, white socks, and sandals jogged toward me kicking puffs of dust up behind him as he went.

Good lord the fashion police should arrest him.

He waved.

I waved back.

Gavin’s dark hair matted to his head with sweat, and a tiny tire around his midsection waved up and down with each pounding stride. Maybe it was time to think about eating healthier. Gavin wasn’t the only one whose middle was getting thicker.

He skidded to a halt on the gravel next to me and panted to catch his breath.

“Hi honey.” I pecked his cheek. “What’s up?”

“They’re here.” He nodded toward the top of the road where a white cube van ambled slowly toward the fish house. “The BCA.”

Finally, a reprieve.

After a grilling about what I knew, which wasn’t much, I could get back to my vacation. My heart flopped wildly in my chest with anxiety. Vacations for me are notoriously bad. I had been suckered into this vacation by Gavin. When he’d heard I’d been involved in an officer involved shooting, his first thought wasn’t my safety, it had been to pack and get me out of town while he had the chance.

He knows me better than I’d like to admit. I would have found a reason not to go on vacation. Again.

“There’s a surprise for you.” A lopsided grin twisted his mouth.

“What?”

He shook his head.

“Come on, Gav.”

“No, you’ll find out soon enough.”

He slid his arm around my shoulder and faced the van which crawled toward us like a top-heavy beetle.

“You know how much I hate surprises.” I tickled his tire. “Please.”

He slapped my hand away. “No.”

“I can’t stand not knowing what’s going to happen next. That’s why I read the last chapter of a mystery first so I know who done it. Come on, Gavin.”

“Wait.”

“I hate to wait.”

The grind of the van’s tires coming to a stop on the gravel drew our attention.

“Lucky for you, you won’t have to wait long.” His eyes didn’t leave the big white bug.

The BCA was no surprise. I’d called for the BCA myself this morning after I’d been shown the body in the fish house.

I looked at Gavin. His lopsided grin grew to a face full of teeth. I squinted through the glare off the van’s windshield, to see what he was seeing that I didn’t. The glare obscured the face of the driver.

The driver moved into a sliver of shade, and I made out a pair of wire-rimmed glasses that I knew so well. Digs, the forensic pathologist who worked nearly all of my cases, sat behind the wheel of the van.

“What the hell is he doing here?” I asked. “He doesn’t usually leave his nice temperature controlled office.”

Gavin put his arm around my waist. “I have a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with his passenger.”

My gaze slid to the passenger seat. Even through the sunglint, I knew the silhouette of the person sitting next to Digs. There was no mistaking the rod straight posture and the tendrils of braids that looked like a veil in the shadows.

“What the hell is she doing here?”

Gavin put his hands on my shoulder and gave a small shove toward the passenger side.

“There’s one way to find out.”

I knocked on the passenger window. The window slid down, and there sat my partner, Louise Montgomery.

On the other side of the bench seat, Digs pushed his thick glasses up on his nose then waved. He leaned across the passenger seat and shouted, “Hey, O’Brien,” as if I couldn’t hear him from across the great divide of the van’s cab.

Louise splayed her fingers, covered Digs’ face, and gave a light shove to push him back.

“Good morning, Catherine,” she said.

I folded my arms and leaned on the window frame. “Why aren’t you still in the hospital?”

“I was released early for good behavior.”

“I doubt that very much.” I opened the door. “So what are you doing here?”

Louise slid down from the cab. The gunshot wound at the top of her thigh hurt more than she let on, but I could tell by the way she twisted her body toward the back of the van, and her left leg hit the ground first. Of course, the crutches were a dead giveaway that the wound still hurt.

“Well, I heard you were on vacation.” She propped the crutches under her arms and leaned heavily on them. “I didn’t believe you would ever be dragged outside of the city. I had to see for myself, and here you are.”

The old woman stoop, which accompanied most people who needed the aide of crutches, didn’t afflict Louise. Her back was pin straight. The only indication of her injury were the crutches themselves.

“I’m serious, Louise. Shouldn’t you still be in the hospital?”

“The Doctor signed my release early this morning,” she said. “The bullet didn’t hit anything vital, and the hole has been repaired, so there isn’t any reason for me to be in bed.”

Digs marched around the front of the van and positioned himself between the two of us. It didn’t escape my notice that he stood closer to Louise than to me.

“I dropped by the office just in time to catch Digs talking to the Chief.” She inclined her head toward Digs. “Since I’ve been needing a vacation, and I can’t officially work anyway, I convinced Digs to let me hitch a ride.” Louise reached into her pocket and took out her cell phone.

“We hopped into the mobile forensic unit and here we are.” He spread his hands then bounced up and down on the balls of his feet.

I’m sure Digs didn’t hesitate a moment at the opportunity to spend two hours alone in an enclosed space with Louise. Every time Louise entered a room Digs trailed every move she made with his eyes. Digs traded assignments with others in his department to make sure he worked our cases. I’m sure that the only reason Louise and I had such a high success rate in closing our cases was Digs’ need to please and impress Louise.

If Louise smiled and asked, he would have told her anything she wanted to know, including government secrets.

Louise held her cellphone in the air. “Digs can you get a signal? I don’t have any bars.”

Digs looked at his phone and shook his head.

“You may as well put them away for the duration,” I said. “There’s no cell phone service that I’ve been able find.”

The look of horror on Louise’s face was comical. Back home she never went more than a few minutes without twitching her fingers over her phone.

“Are you kidding?”

I shook my head. Louise gave her phone a few more slaps before resigning to her phoneless fate.

“I still don’t understand,” I said. “Why wasn’t the BCA sent to investigate? No offense Digs, but you’re not exactly a field mouse.”

He bristled but recovered quickly. He made no protest. Any attempt to deny his lab rat status would have been a lie. During the winter months, Digs never saw sunlight, and in the summer, the only sun he saw was early morning pink or evening orange.

“The BCA is too busy with a new case that broke last week,” Digs said. “There’s a brand new serial rapist and murderer wreaking havoc in six different counties. On the order of the Governor, the BCA has committed full resources to finding him.”

“No shit?” I hated being out of the loop. At least, if I’d been in the office, I would have known what was happening. I would have to remember to pick up a copy of a Twin Cities paper and catch up on the real world. That was assuming that the local Gas-N-Grub carried them. With my luck, they would only have the local paper touting agricultural news.

BOOK: A Luring Murder
8.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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