Authors: Nikki Haverstock
To John Haverstock, my supportive husband
I want to thank Deanna Chase and Violet Vaughn who showed me that Rockstar authors were people like me (kinda like me, they’re cooler.)
Without Chatzy and RomanceDivas I still would not have a clue.
Special thanks to Zara Keane and Zoe York who helped me put all the information into action. I owe you both hugs and endless drinks.
To my supportive family, thank you for only being slightly shocked when I said I was to write a book.
Thank you to the Archery community, without you I wouldn’t have a setting or any villains. Especially, Teresa Johnson who is my archery partner-in-crime.
Thank you to my amazing cover artist and editing team, you are the ones that made the book shine.
When opportunity “nocks”…
When a competitive archer is murdered at the training facility where Di has just started working, she's thrust into the middle of an unofficial investigation before she can even settle into her new life. With her roommate Mary and a Great Dane named Moo, she begins to unravel the mystery around the death of the victim, but can they solve the case before they find themselves in the killer's sights?
A wholesome cozy murder for every sleuth in the family
"Funny, charming, and occasionally deadly." ~ NYT bestselling author Zoe York
“A humorous first-in-series cozy mystery featuring a darling dog, a sassy heroine, and an amusing cast of characters.” — USA Today bestselling author Zara Keane
This is the first book in a brand-new series set at the fictional Westmound Center for Competitive Shooting Sports in rural Wyoming.
Target Practice Mysteries 1
The Wyoming wind tore through my sassy lady pantsuit as I pounded on the glassed-in entrance to the Westmound Center for Competitive Shooting Sports. Apparently, what was acceptable for a Southern California autumn didn’t cut it here. It had been a rushed two weeks to arrive, and I was inappropriately dressed.
Finally, a girl turned a corner at the end of the hallway, and I frantically rapped on the glass until her head swung in my direction. With her large, innocent eyes and smooth porcelain skin, she looked thirteen years old.
She called out as she approached the door, “Are you Diana?”
I wrapped my arms around my middle to stave off the cold seeping into my bones and nodded back. “Yeah, but you can call me Di.”
She bounced on the balls of her feet as she unlocked the door then startled me by wrapping me in a hug and squealing with an enthusiasm normally reserved for lovers reuniting after war.
Before I could even pat her back she disengaged. “I’m so excited you are here. I’ve been here for a month and I’m bored out of my mind. We’re roommates—I mean, not roommates, because we aren’t sharing a room, but, like apartment mates. It’s not really an apartment, but the closest thing we have here. It’s my first time living away from home, and it will be, like,
nice to not be alone in there. The rooms are identical, but I can trade if you want. Everyone else is in meetings, so I’m just supposed to show you to your office then leave. But I can show you the apartment later, and do you want to have lunch?”
“Uh, can I come in?” I asked. I wasn’t sure where to start. I had only said a few words so far, and my brain was even farther behind.
I followed her down the wide hallways of the center. She was much shorter than me and radiated energy. Her shiny black, straight hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail. It was so short that it stuck straight out behind her, giving the appearance of great speed. Fitting since she spoke in a fast, clipped tone with large, round vowels that gave me the impression of a faint Minnesota accent.
My brain snapped into place. “I’m really sorry, but what did you say your name was?”
She slowed her pace and turned to me with a giggle. “I didn’t. I totally forgot. Mary Van Dyke, a good Dutch name. And before you ask, yes, I’m adopted from Korea but grew up in Minnesota. Everyone always asks.”
I had no intention of asking, though I had been curious.
She stopped in front of a door. “And here’s your office. I’ve heard that you’re going to be our new computer expert. You’re pretty good with them?”
I ran a large tech company in Southern California; you could say I was pretty good. A few years ago, I would have explained my credentials in depth, but in recent months I’ve discovered that too much information led to questions I didn’t want to answer. “Yeah, I’m pretty good. So what do you do around here?”
Her eyes lit up. “A bunch of stuff! I run the front desk mostly right now, but once we start in with the center’s programs, I will do a little of everything: coaching, coordinating, writing press releases, whatever they need. But thank goodness you are here so I can skip the computer stuff. Plus, I take a few courses at the state university. I assume you’re an archer? Why haven’t I seen you at any competitions?”
I had been expecting this question and had worked on a nonchalant answer. “Oh, I competed in college, then life got in the way. You know how it is. I’m so excited to be getting back into the industry. This is where I need to be.” It was true. This job was a literal answer to my prayers. A new state, new job, new life. It was a bonus that it revolved around archery. I loved archery.
“I heard that you just got divorced. That sucks.”
A bark of laughter escaped my lips; it felt good. It had been a long time since I laughed. “Ya, it does suck.” Mary seemed nice. Who was I to turn down an overture of friendship? “Thanks for the tour.”
“Sorry that I can’t show you the rest of the horseshoe—that’s what we call the building. I have to get back to the front desk. We open soon. Make yourself at home, and if you need me just holler.” Mary hopped out the door, turned to the left, and trotted down the hallway to the front desk.
The office had a lot of windows. Next to the door was a large window that looked over the wide hallway then to a bank of windows on the indoor archery range. It was the largest indoor archery range I had ever seen. Mary said it was about ninety meters by forty meters, almost the size of a football field, which meant archers could train for outdoor distances of seventy meters in winter. Thank goodness for archery. It was the only reason I knew metric distances.
Walking over to the window, I could barely see the front door to the left where Mary had disappeared. The clock said the center would be open in four minutes. If I craned my head the other way, the hall stretched out of sight. There were flat-screen TVs on various walls, playing video footage of archery tournaments. The wall to the left was solid, but to the right there was another large window that looked out into a short hallway that led to a pavilion. The whole building was a huge, two-story horseshoe.
The interior of the horseshoe had a courtyard with grass and tables. It was probably lovely in summer, but in the October sun, everything was various shades of brown. Pressing my head to the window opposite the door that looked out to the pavilion, I was able to see the mountain to the south. When I had done research on Wyoming, I pored over pictures of Yellowstone National Park to the north, Medicine Bow National Forest a little south, and rural cowboy communities around winding rivers all over the state. Driving on Interstate 80, I had been surrounded by wide expanses of empty land, but once I exited the freeway I had approached tree-covered mountains.
Across the pavilion was the other leg of the horseshoe building. I could see banks of windows and a few people moving about but, it was far enough away that nothing was distinct. Ranges on this side were for archery, but on the opposite side, pointing away from the building, were the gun ranges. The soft thumping barely audible through the window let me know that the ranges were hot.
Tucked in a corner of my office was an easy chair. Looking back toward the L-shaped desk with two metal and plastic chairs, the tour was complete. Nothing left to do but sit down. As I lowered myself into the chair I locked eyes with a brown-eyed, short-haired, fuzzy head with twin shark-finned ears cutting the air above. Then it was gone, only to reappear a second later in my doorway followed by the largest black-and-white dog I had ever seen. With his short coat, it was easy to see he was male. The ragged black patches all over his body reminded me of a dairy cow. His large block head could easily reach my waist if I was standing.
He walked over to my chair and sat in front of me. I was neither familiar with nor frightened of dogs, but I had never met a dog without human introduction. “Hey, big guy, you come here often?” Humor was usually the best way to break an awkward moment.
He heavily dropped his head on my lap then swiveled his eyes up to mine. When I scratched behind his pointy ears, he let out a moan of pleasure.
On his blue collar there was a dog-bone-shaped tag with some phone numbers but no name. Instead, it said, “Westmound Center Dog.”
He was definitely in the right building, but he must have wandered into the wrong room. I shoved his head off my lap to peek out into the hallway for his owner, but it stretched out empty before me.
Before I could explore further, I heard the sound of heavy claws dragging across fabric. The dog had crawled into the easy chair in the corner. Turning one way then the other, he scratched the seat, leaving light marks on the industrial fabric.
“No, no, buddy,” I futilely implored. He stopped to stare at me before circling three times and flopping down. His rump folded over one rounded arm, and his head hung over the other. It hardly looked comfortable.
“Di,” a voice yelled from the door. The vowel was dragged out and ended in a squeal. My college roommate and the person who got me the job was at the door.
“Jess.” I ran to her and threw my arms around her. We hadn’t seen each other in person in years. Her dark curly hair tickled my nose, and my eyes stuck with unshed tears. It was easy to forget the past year when no one knew me, but seeing a friend with years of history made it hard to forget how my entire world had imploded.
As she stepped back, she caught my eye. “No, none of that. Remember, ‘a clean start’ and all the mumbo jumbo you fed me when you accepted the job?”
Laughter bubbled up inside of me, and my vision cleared of tears. In anyone else it would have seemed brusque, but Jess and I had gone through so much that she knew it would cheer me up. Some people dealt with pain by going to therapy, processing their feelings, and moving on. I cracked jokes. Sometimes it upset people when I laughed instead of cried, but I’d rather someone think I was a little daft than pity me.
There was no tissue in the room, so I used the inside of my right sleeve to dab at the corner of my eyes while Jess walked over to the dog. “I must’ve got something in my eyes. Welcome to my office.”
She scratched him under the chin. He twisted in the chair, flipping on his back so that his large chest arched in the air. As she scratched down his neck to his chest, he rolled his head back over the chair’s arm; his jowls flipped open, revealing a huge, toothy grin. The rows of large white teeth would be intimidating if it weren’t for the grunting noises of pleasure he was making in time to Jess’s scratches. Suddenly he sneezed, sending a fine mist of spray into the air. The action was so abrupt, his butt slid off the seat and landed heavily on the floor. He flipped over and leapt to his feet then looked at us innocently.
Jess giggled. “I see you met Moo.”
So that was the dog’s name. “You two know each other? We haven’t been formally introduced; he sort of moved in. Should I take him back to his owner?” I glanced at Jess. Did dogs normally just wander around the building?
Jess grabbed the chair in front of the desk while Moo crawled back into his chair to lick a perfectly clean paw, leaving a growing wet spot on the fabric underneath. I didn’t think I’d be spending much time in that chair.
Jess dismissed my concerns with a wave of her hand. “Nah, he gets free run of the place. He’s a rescue and has special permission from Westmound headquarters to stay onsite. Just keep Moo off the ranges—safety protocol and all. He belongs to Lumberjack on the other side of the horseshoe, but Moo hates gun-fire, so he hangs out over here once the ranges open.”