Authors: Nikki Haverstock
To John Haverstock, who wakes me up when I have nightmares about teaching archery
Special thanks to Zara Keane and Zoe York, who have helped me in everything from plotting to publication.
Thank you to the archery community, which has been supportive and interested. Thank you, Steve Yee and Steve Anderson, who gave me additional information on youth sponsorship.
I can never thank Teresa Johnson enough. You have been the best accountability partner ever.
Thank you Lori, A.J., and Holly for being the best.
To my supportive family, thank you for only being slightly shocked when I said I was going to write even more books.
Thank you to my amazing cover artist and editing team. You are the ones that made the book shine.
When opportunity “nocks”…
When Di grabs a last-minute invite to a trade show, she discovers a surprise: a dead body at the host hotel. The Outdoor Industry Trade Show has vendors from archery and firearms companies, a thirty-foot-tall foam yeti named Karma, and at least one killer. Di, roommate Mary, and Great Dane Moo will have to discover who killed hunting personality Cash and why. But digging into the cutthroat world of outdoor TV shows means the hunter can become the hunted.
A wholesome, cozy mystery for every sleuth in the family.
This is the third book in a brand-new series set at the fictional Westmound Center for Competitive Shooting Sports in rural Wyoming.
"Funny, charming, and occasionally deadly." ~
bestselling author Zoe York
Target Practice Mystery #3
I’d never felt so glamorous in my entire life as I did standing at the doorway of the Westmound’s private Learjet we had taken to the Outdoor Industry Trade Show. The tarmac of the airport was free of snow, unlike the Wyoming airport we had left. The moment was like something out of a fashion-magazine shoot as Liam offered me a steadying hand. I started down the stairs, but the vision of myself as the height of sophistication quickly evaporated when a hard shove from behind combined with the smooth leather sole of my boot slipping on the stair sent me flying into Liam’s chest.
He managed to catch me under my arms as Moo, my faithful Great Dane companion, pushed past me and clambered down the stairs. I felt Liam’s chuckle more than heard it on the loud tarmac. He held me while I got my feet back on the asphalt and straightened my clothing, which had slid up to my ribcage. I was in my dark-fuchsia form-fitting leather jacket, dark pants with zippers and fashionable stitching, and the most beautiful boots with real laces that came up to my knees.
He leaned in close to whisper in my ear, his breath on my neck. “I told you that you needed better traction.”
I laughed. He had warned me way back at the Westmound Center for Competitive Shooting Sports that the boots didn’t look like they were the best choice for winter walking. I had insisted they were boots, and boots were winter clothes. He hadn’t said anything when I slipped in the parking lot as I maneuvered my huge suitcase or when I slipped as we got out of the van at the tiny regional airport near the center. Having his warm arms around me seemed like more than adequate compensation for him saying that he told me so.
He offered me his arm in the dark as the airport staff unloaded our luggage onto a cart. Moo yanked on his leash, eager to get away from the loud runway. I checked over my shoulder to see that Orion, Liam’s best friend and Westmound marketing director, was offering Mary assistance out of the plane. Flying private was the way to go. I might be spoiled for a lifetime.
An older gentleman emerged from the charter company’s doors and offered Elizabeth Andersson, owner of Westmound Industries and Liam’s mother, his arm before escorting her inside. With all five of us off the jet, six including Moo, we headed inside.
Stepping inside, the distinguished gentleman turned from Elizabeth and called out to Liam. “Liam, good to see you. You look more like your dad every year.” They hugged with lots of masculine back smacking. He moved over to hug Orion as well then turned to Mary and me.
He smiled at us and approached while asking Liam for clarification. “I thought Robbie and Jess were going to come to represent the Westmound Center?”
Liam shook his head. “They got the stomach flu, and we made a switch.”
Jess and her husband had been excited to go to the OIT Show, but last night they had gotten sick. And by “gotten sick” I meant they were stranded in the bathroom. Jess told me, over the phone, that she had slept on the cool bathroom floor with a bucket by her side. This morning had been a lobbying session by all the employees at the Westmound Center to see which two would take their place.
Half of the people were removed from the running by existing commitments at the center during the OIT Show’s four-day run. But what really cinched it for Mary and me was the fact that the hotel was booked solid, so whoever went would need to share the king-size bed set aside for them. We hadn’t hesitated for a second. A king-size bed for two small females would be practically like sleeping in separate rooms. Liam had made some calls to get the credentials changed to our names and returned with an additional surprise. He had also made arrangements for Moo to join us as a special guest.
The gentleman was older but in no way elderly. He was handsome, with salt-and-pepper hair and a mustache. He extended his hand to me. “I’m John.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Di.”
Mary extended her hand, too. “I’m Mary. Are you John Beckman?” Mary had written articles for the archery industry for several years, and if she was asking, then she already knew the answer.
He smiled back at her. “Why yes, I am.”
She started gushing. “I’m a big fan of Beckmans. It’s my favorite outdoor industry store. After church, Liam, Di, and I stop in to see what’s new at our local store. It’s a weekly ritual.”
“I’m always glad to meet a Beckmans customer. I would love to chat with you both at some point about what products you find most interesting.” He probably said that a million times in his life, but he seemed genuinely pleased to hear Mary was a fan.
I gave him another look over. Beckmans was a nationwide outdoor sporting goods store with hundreds of locations. They were built to look like giant log cabins from the outside, and inside they carried everything you would ever need to survive in the wild. This included camping supplies, firearms, bows, barbeques, boats, and everything you could possibly imagine in camo. If I ever needed a camo couch, I would go to Beckmans.
We stopped in after church every week to wander around. Liam looked to see what Westmound products were in stock, asked what products salespeople were recommending, and eyed the previously owned guns. I usually hit the clothes and shoe sections to help rebuild my southern California wardrobe to Wyoming wear. I also took a quick spin through the high-end gun room. There I would look at the intricately carved shotguns nestled in specialty cases lined in velvet, with a nook for each piece of equipment. They were works of art, with exquisite attention to detail and price tags to match. The room also carried high-end competition rifles that looked like something out of a video game.
Liam had mentioned that Beckmans was owned by a family friend, but I hadn’t realized we would meet him here, though really I had barely spoken to Liam since he told Mary and me that we would be attending the OIT Show. The jet from Salt Lake with Elizabeth and Orion was set to arrive a few hours after we were informed, and even with the most frantic packing of our lives, we ran late. Luckily, flying private meant the plane would wait for us. Once in the jet, Liam, Elizabeth, and Orion started to work while Mary, Moo, and I entertained ourselves. Mary thought the highlight was the tiny drawer under the seat that popped out and was full of candy. I considered the fact that we didn’t have to go through security and I didn’t have to remove my shoes and belt to be the best part.
The carts with our luggage rolled past and out the front door. John offered Elizabeth his arm and said, “Let me show you our car for the week.”
We went to the parking lot, where a car was waiting. It was black and sleek, much longer than typical. In the lights of the entrance, you could see the paint was smooth and clean, without a smudge, even in this winter slush. The driver got out and greeted us with a smile. “I’m Jack. I am thrilled to be driving you this week. If you need anything, day or night, I am at your service.”
Moo pulled on his leash to inspect the man.
Jack chuckled. “I see you brought a horse with you.” He scratched Moo on the neck, and Moo’s eyes rolled back in his head. His back foot lifted in the air and scratched the air in time with Jack’s scratches.
I laughed. “His name is Moo, and you might be his new best friend.”
“Any dog is a friend of mine.” Jack opened up a door and offered me his hand. “Please get in the car; it’s cold out here.”
Moo leapt into the door ahead of me while Mary and I followed. We scooted as far in as possible to leave room for the rest of the group.
Mary pulled out her phone and flipped through the messages. “I can’t believe we got to come. This is going to be awesome. Everyone is so jealous.”
“Really?” I leaned closer to see the screen while Moo wedged in on my other side. He stuck his nose into the window and whined. It was far too cold to have the windows down, plus these didn’t appear the type to open at all, but how do you explain that to a dog? Long nose smears were left on the glass when he finally gave up and flopped his large, square head onto my lap.
Mary tilted her screen in my direction and scrolled down the list of messages. “See, everyone wants me to take pictures or ask questions or something. They’re dying that they can’t be here.”
“How did they find out that you were coming already?” It had only been a handful of hours since we knew ourselves.
“Um, I might have posted online in a few places.” Mary avoided my glance.
I let out a hearty laugh. “So while I was racing around like crazy, you posted online?”
“Hey now, that only took a few seconds while you spent fifteen minutes trying on the right outfit.”
I peeked out the window at Liam and Orion rolling out a cart of luggage. Liam looked at the car and I looked away, hoping that he hadn’t caught me staring. “Okay, so we both had important stuff to do. Let’s not mention this again. If people want to come to the OIT Show, then why don’t they?”
“Not just anyone can come, Di. You have to be associated with an exhibitor, buying for a retail location, or media, that kind of thing. Joe Schmoe won’t be there. Except for the people wanting sponsorship for their hunting shows—they’ll be everywhere, even though you’re not really supposed to be soliciting sponsorships there.”
Mary might be almost a decade younger than me, but in our friendship, she was the expert on the industry, while I was just learning. “Have you ever been before?”
“Once, a few years ago, I worked with the staff to write industry articles on new products and features, but I didn’t get nearly enough time to look around other than walking to and from interviews. I am hoping that this time we can all look around more.”
“Is there anything in this industry that you don’t know?”
Mary laughed and bumped off my shoulder.
The door to the car opened again. Liam and Orion came in, each holding two long rectangular boxes. Liam crouched over as he moved in our direction. “Mary, let me trade seats with you.”
Elizabeth and John entered last, sitting at the opposite end of the car and talking quietly. The car slowly pulled away from the airport.
When we all settled down, Liam was next to me while Mary was on his other side, between him and Orion. Both men were smiling.
“Orion brought something from Salt Lake for both of you.” Liam handed me the two boxes, while Orion handed Mary the two boxes he had brought in. The jet had brought Orion and Elizabeth from Westmound headquarters to Wyoming, where it had picked up Liam, Mary, myself, and Moo. “Go ahead. Open the top box.” Moo sat up on the seat and rested his head on my shoulder, staring intently at the box.