Death Over the Dam (A Hunter Jones Mystery Book 2)

BOOK: Death Over the Dam (A Hunter Jones Mystery Book 2)
5.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


A Hunter Jones Mystery
Charlotte Moore

Copyright © 2013 by Charlotte Moore. All rights reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission from the author.

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A Hunter Jones Mystery




It was brought on by a hurricane that used up its winds in Florida and stalled over middle and southeast Georgia. In Magnolia County, it built up from a gray drizzle to intermittent cloudbursts. It settled by daybreak Friday into a steady downpour that turned dirt to mud, created rushing streams along curbs, soaked lawns to the saturation point, defeated windshield wipers and made driving a hazard.

Hunter Jones would have driven straight home from the Chamber of Commerce meeting if it hadn’t been payday. She was driving barefoot because her shoes had turned squishy. She got her car parked, tucked her shoes under her left arm and checked her shoulder bag to make sure her camera was under her reporter’s notebook. Then she reached into the back seat for her umbrella and opened the door. She was soaked before she got the umbrella open.

By the time she made it through the front door of the Merchantsville Messenger, her long gauzy skirt was wet halfway up to her knees, and her ruffled pink silk shirt was a soggy, clinging mess. So much for the poetic look.

She hurled her umbrella to the floor, and said, “I have never in my life seen rain like this.”

It struck her as she said it that it was no exaggeration. She really hadn’t ever seen such rain before, but nobody in the office seemed impressed. She peeled her shirt away from her body, and then went looking for a rubber band in her middle desk drawer so that she could pull her blonde curls into a messy ponytail.

Her editor, Tyler Bankston, rolled his wheelchair out of his office, one hand full of white envelopes. He usually seemed to enjoy handing out paychecks, but this time he looked ill tempered.

“I’ve been listening to the radio. Either Will Roy Johnson has lost his mind or those guys at the National Weather Service are all college freshmen. They’re saying that the river is going to crest at 27 feet by tomorrow. I’ll believe that when I see it. “

Novena Baxter, the Messenger’s Lifestyle Editor and Advertising Manager, wasn’t listening to him. She was on the phone, looking bothered. She had gotten a new permanent and then her hair had gotten soaked. It was emitting a chemical smell. She put down the phone and turned to glare at Tyler.

“That was Bobby,” she said, accepting her paycheck with no comment. “He says that Willatchee Creek is about to cover the bridge and I’d better get home while I can still get there. I should’ve gone home after lunch like I told you. And I’m telling you right now, I’m not driving through flood water to cover that ribbon cutting in Cathay tomorrow.”

“It’s not going to be that bad,” Tyler said, handing her one of the envelopes. “And even if the creek bridges get flooded, you can go the long way and take one of the river bridges.”

Novena looked doubtful.

“You’re talking about driving 20 miles both ways, at the very least,” she said. “If Willatchee’s rising, so is Horsehead and so is Kick Back. They’re all rising and the river’s rising with them.”

“So what?” Tyler said, “You’d make a 40 mile round trip to buy a cut-up chicken on sale.”

“Hey, you two!” Hunter said. “If it’s just a ribbon cutting, I’ll go and cover it.”

“You won’t if the river floods,” Novena said.

“We haven’t had a real flood since the levee was built,” Tyler said.

Unlike her boss and her co-worker, Hunter had not grown up in Magnolia County, and she was having a little trouble following the argument.

The creek bridges she drove across regularly were, for her, barely noticeable extensions of the highway. She only knew the creeks were there because of the little highway signs proclaiming their names—like Horsehead, Dogtrot or Timpoochee. They were nothing more than wandering streams with red clay banks. The bridges had metal rails on either side, but with most of them, you’d have to stop your car and get out to see the water down below.

The river bridges were far more imposing, but as for the river that ran right down the center of the county, it certainly seemed tame enough. The one time she had ridden with Sheriff Sam Bailey down to the boat landing beneath the newer of the two river bridges, the water was wide and low. It had looked like something you could wade across—with broad shallow streams dividing and flowing around tree trunks and sandbars.

In fact, she had been more focused on Sam than on the river.

Now she was going to have to go home and change before she met Sam at his house. He was going to pick up pizza, and they were going to watch two movies: one with his nine-year-old daughter, Bethie, who was leaving for 4-H camp the next morning, and the next one after Bethie went to bed.

Hunter and Sam had a romance that was a bit like a wandering creek, finding its way between the night meetings she covered, the unpredictabilities of his job and his efforts to be a good dad.

It got complicated at times.

Outside the newspaper office, the rain was a wall of water. Hunter couldn’t even see the courthouse across the street, but she did see the blinking red and blue lights as a van from the sheriff’s office came right up on the sidewalk. A door slammed and she made out the form of a tall poncho-draped man hurtling toward the door.

She was hoping it was Sam, but it turned out to be Deputy Sheriff Bub Williston.

“Y’all must not be listening to the radio,” he said. “Everybody needs to close down and go on home. Mr. Tyler, the sheriff said for me to get you over to your house in the van. Miss Novena, you need to go home the long way around by the river bridge because we’ve closed Willatchee Bridge.”

“I knew it,” Novena exploded.” I just knew this was going to happen. I got my hair ruined and now I’ve got to drive an hour and a half in this damned pouring-down rain just to get home.” She stopped her tirade and scowled at Hunter. “And you need to go home right now and change out of that shirt.”

Hunter peeled the shirt loose again.

“Thanks for the offer,” Tyler was saying to the young deputy, ignoring Novena’s furious departure, “but Ellie’s coming for me at 5,”

“He didn’t say make you an offer, Sir,” Bub said. “He said do it. He said Miss Ellie don’t need to be out driving in this mess. I already called her and told her to stay put. It ain’t no problem for me to get you in and out.”

A staticky voice came over Bub’s radio and he stopped, listened, and answered.

“Yes Sir, I told him. I’ll take care of it. Yes, Sir, Miss Novena’s already gone. Yes, Sir, she’s here. I’ll tell her.”

He clipped his radio to his belt and turned to Hunter, averting his eyes from her blouse.

“The sheriff says to tell you to put for about two minutes.”

Hunter walked over to her desk and picked up her phone on the first ring.

“You ought to keep your cell phone turned on,” Sam said.

“It needs recharging,” Hunter answered.

“Well, pizza’s off,” Sam said “And my mom’s going to stay with Bethie tonight and get her off to camp in the morning, because we’re probably going to be out in the county all night. You go home and stay there and don’t even think about driving after dark. Please.”

The “please” was an afterthought. Off the job, Sam was never bossy. On the job, he was the Sheriff and gave orders when he was in a hurry, even to Hunter. She resisted telling him that she could take care of herself, and stuck to priorities, like satisfying her reporter’s curiosity.

“Where are you, Sam? What’s going on?”

“Over by the Timpoochee Lake,” he said. “And what’s going on is that we’re about to have the mother of all floods. Go home and stay there. It’s dangerous for driving even where there’s no flood. I’ve got enough to do without wondering whether you’re under water or not.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll call you later,” Sam said.

“You mark my words,” Tyler was saying to Bub when Hunter got off the phone. “The river never has gotten over 20 feet even with the big one in ‘44, and it’s not going to now.

“When you’ve been around as long as I have,” he continued, “you’ll know how it goes. About every ten years, we wind up shutting down half the roads in the county because the hundred-year flood is coming. And you know what? Every time it turns out to be some people out at Mimosa Corners paddling a boat around in knee-high swamp water and taking each other’s pictures.”

Having finished his lecture on flood history, he turned to Hunter, holding out her paycheck.

“First thing in the morning if it’s clear, you might want to drive over to that big trailer court in Mimosa Corners and see if they’ve got river water up to their front doors. I don’t know what those people expect when they’re sitting down in the river valley fifty yards from the swamp, but it does make good pictures.”

He squinted and frowned a little as if he had just noticed something.

“You know that shirt’s soaking wet don’t you?”

“I got to get you home, Mr. Tyler,” Bub interrupted, “and see about some other folks.”


windshield wipers working at top speed, Hunter had trouble seeing the driveway that led to the backyard of Rose Tyndale’s two story Victorian house.

She made it in safely, and decided to take the inside stairs instead of sloshing her way through the pond of standing water. Her apartment was on the second floor. Outside stairs had been built years before for a private entrance, but there were still stairs inside, and her landlady, Miss Rose Tyndale, was a welcoming sort, always ready with a cup of hot tea or even the offer of a hot meal.

The kitchen door opened before Hunter got there. The kitchen was cozy and something delicious was cooking on top of the stove.

“Good heavens, Hunter,” Miss Rose said. “You’re soaked. Run upstairs, get into something warm, and come on back down. I’ve got a whole pot of chicken and dumplings.”

Hunter went up the central stairway to her apartment, where her cats, Katie Calico and Mr. Marmalade were yowling at the door.

They had plenty of food. The yowling was just for attention, and she took a moment to scratch them both behind their ears and give them quick back rubs. Katie was a green-eyed shorthair with patches of orange, black and white. She had been rescued by Hunter after her first owner, the memorable Miss Mae-Lula Hilliard, was murdered.

Mr. Marmalade was Katie’s son, the one kitten from Katie’s first and last litter that Hunter hadn’t given away. He was a handsome fellow, almost full-grown now, with longer hair than his mother, a fluffy tail and white boots and vest setting off his orange stripes. Sam’s daughter Bethie had Mr. Marmalade’s brother and had named him Tuxedo.

BOOK: Death Over the Dam (A Hunter Jones Mystery Book 2)
5.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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