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Authors: Ann Charles

Dead Case in Deadwood

BOOK: Dead Case in Deadwood
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"Ann Charles has penned
another wickedly funny, smart, unforgettable story.
Dead Case in Deadwood
is impossible to put down."

~P. J. Alderman, New York
Times Bestselling Author

DEAD CASE IN DEADWOOD

by Ann Charles

Main Menu

Start Reading

Table of Contents

Dear Reader

Dedication

Maps

Connect With Me Online

Five Fun Facts about Ann's
Deadwood Series

Praise for Dead Case In Deadwood

Copyright Information

Dear Reader,

I had a blast writing this third book in the series,
especially after experiencing one of Deadwood’s haunted hotels first-hand while
participating in the South Dakota Festival of Books. Did I see a ghost while
staying in the hotel? No, but the bathroom door kept swinging open in the night.
That alone was enough to make me sleep with the covers over my head. Unlike
Violet in this series, I’m a big chicken when it comes to ghost-filled rumors.

Instead of telling you more about the background for this
third book in the Deadwood Mystery series, I want to talk about the kind and welcoming
people of the Black Hills—the real characters, not the fictitious ones I’ve
created within the pages of this book.

From the start, a goal of mine with this series was to
promote one of my favorite spots on earth—the Black Hills. I have always loved visiting
the area, and I wanted to give readers a reason to go there, to see the
beautiful vistas, to learn more about the colorful history, and to have fun in
one of America’s marvelous playgrounds.

When we published the first book in the series (
Nearly Departed
in Deadwood
) and started promoting it in the Deadwood-Lead area, I breathed
into paper bags for days while waiting to see what kind of response the book would
receive from the locals. This was the big test. If the book tanked in the Black
Hills, I’d have no local support and I’d have to dress in disguise the next
time I visited my mom (who lives there). Worse, I would have let the locals
down.

Then the positive reviews began to pour in. Support began to
build. Several wonderful area businesses allowed me to place promotional
materials next to their cash registers, on their walls, in their windows. Word
began to spread about a new series set in the hills from an author who had
spent part of her childhood in the area. Best yet, my mom could still go shopping
at the grocery store in Lead without wearing a veil of shame.

We released the second book in the series (
Optical
Delusions in Deadwood
) to the public. Again I waited, breath held and
fingers crossed. More emails and phone calls came from the locals, full of kind
words that made my smile spread from ear to ear. The series was taking flight
with the help of many. It was an author’s dream come true—my dream.

Now, as you hold this third book of the series in your
hands, here I am again, crossing everything I can cross, waiting. Will the
locals like it? Will you like it? Will I faint from holding my breath?

Many of you are back for the third time. I can’t thank you
enough for your continued support.

For those of you who wonder how many more books there are to
come in my Deadwood Mystery series, buckle up, we’re just getting rolling. It’s
going to be a wild ride.

Have fun back in Deadwood!

www.anncharles.com

www.anncharles.com/deadwood

Dedication

This one is for all of the kind and wonderful fans of
Violet, Harvey, Doc, and the rest of the Deadwood cast.

Without your reviews, emails, call-outs, online posts, and
cheers, I’d have no legitimate excuse to continue having these crazy
conversations with invisible characters in the bathroom mirror, the grocery
store checkout line, and the car on the way to work.

You make the late writing nights worth the
foggy-brained, red-eyed mornings.

Thank you for your support!

DEAD
CASE IN DEADWOOD

Chapter One

Deadwood, South Dakota

Friday, August 17th

Nothing good ever happens at the butt-crack of dawn.

No doubt, the headless corpse on the autopsy table in front
of me would agree.

Detective "Coop" Cooper scowled at me from the
other side of the body. A Daniel Craig look-alike right down to his granite
cheekbones, Cooper had called a half-hour earlier and ordered me to meet him in
the basement of the Mudder Brothers Funeral Parlor before I headed in to work
at Calamity Jane Realty.

His lack of patience with my wakeup routine prompted my
current caffeine deficiency, which explained this morning’s forecast: bristly
with a chance of a black eye.

"As I told you the other day, Detective," I enunciated
all three syllables of his title, "when you so kindly dragged me into your
office and forced me to look at pictures of this." I pointed at the body,
not really wanting to think of it once being a whole human. "I have no
idea who this was. Standing here next to the actual body changes nothing."

Cooper squinted at me with his stainless-steel-colored eyes,
not missing a single one of my blinks. I wondered if he practiced his
gunslinger stare-down in the mirror every night while he brushed his teeth.

I glared back. While facing off with Cooper often spurred
stomach cramps, I’d be damned if I’d let him intimidate me over a dead guy, who
just happened to be palming my business card post mortem.

"Ms. Parker," Cooper spoke through a clenched jaw,
something I often did when dealing with my nearly ten-year-old fraternal twins.
"You have to at least look at the body before stating for the record that
you don’t recognize the victim."

"
What’s
there to look at? His head is gone."

Cooper’s nostrils flared. Surly bulls had nothing on him. "Do
you recognize any other parts of him?"

"Like what parts in particular?"

"The remaining ones."

"Nope."

Cooper growled loudly enough for me to hear. "Look
before you answer."

"Fine." I took a deep breath, thankful for the
overwhelming scent of bleach-based cleaner in the air, and willed the troop of
monkeys bouncing around in my gut to sit still. I could do this. No problem. It
was just a dummy. A mannequin. One of those CPR dolls.

I had to do it, for my own safety’s sake, as well as my
kids’. As much as I hoped it was just a coincidence that the dead guy had been
holding my business card, I had to make sure this wasn’t a sadistic warning
message of some sort.

I knew that kind of thinking was paranoid, but after the
wacky crap that had happened to me over the last couple of months, these days
I’d be suspicious of a jolly white-bearded man in a red suit carrying a bag
over his shoulder.

Focusing on the dead guy’s furry chest, I tried to keep my
eyes from glancing up at the void where the head should be … and failed. It was
such a clean slice through the neck. What—and who—could have done such a
seamless job?

I remembered what I was inspecting and turned away.

"You know, if you can’t handle this …" Cooper
started to say, the rigid tone in his voice softening.

"I can handle it," I interrupted and swallowed the
acidic taste of nausea that climbed up my esophagus and onto the back of my
tongue.

For some stupid reason, I had this irrational need to prove
to Cooper that I could inspect dead bodies over black coffee and maple bars
just like him and the other guys on the police force.

I looked over my shoulder at Eddie Mudder, who leaned
against a group of floor-to-ceiling cupboards with his arms crossed over his
black vinyl apron while we admired his handiwork. Looking and sounding like
Lurch from the
Adams Family
, Eddie was the younger of the two brothers
who owned and operated Mudder Brothers Funeral Parlor. His oddities went beyond
his physical appearance to his love of eccentric organ music, such as the
pipe-organ version of the Bee Gees’ "Stayin’ Alive" that was currently
playing through the overhead speakers. Did psychiatrists have a label for
someone who danced with dead bodies?

"Eddie, will you please cover this"—I hovered my
hand over the missing head area—"with something?"

He lumbered over in two long strides and draped one square
of paper towel over the space where the head should be. "Better?"

I’d have preferred two. Was there a paper towel shortage in
the Black Hills? "Sure. Thanks."

I glanced in Cooper’s direction and noticed his lips
twitching. Oh, how I longed to jam a paper towel up his nose.

Another deep breath. Okay, back to the dead guy.

His milky ash-colored flesh had a marbled look to it. A
thick coat of black chest hair covered his ribs and pectorals. I leaned closer,
sniffing, picking up the smell of stale, raw hamburger meat—or maybe that was
just my imagination.

I searched for a tattoo, a scar, a pierced nipple, something
unique, but I couldn’t see anything through the hair, not without a weed
whacker, anyway.

Shrugging, I stepped back. "Nope, I don’t know him."

Cooper crossed his arms over his chest. "Keep looking.
Unless it’s too much for you."

I curled my lip at him, and then returned to scan the
corpse’s less-furry stomach. "He has some lint in his belly button,"
I observed aloud.

"That’s not lint," Eddie said from his spot back by
the cupboards. "It’s a black wart."

Eww!
I grimaced across at Cooper.

A flicker of a grin rippled across his granite features. I
had an inkling that torturing me rated high on his fun-things-to-do list, right
after cleaning his handgun. He schooled his features and pointed down at the
body, indicating that I wasn’t finished.

Cursing him six ways from Sunday under my breath, I scooted
down the table, past where the paper sheet covered the corpse’s private bits
and pieces, and looked at the toes. Small tufts of hair popped out from the
knuckle of each toe.

BOOK: Dead Case in Deadwood
2.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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