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Authors: Terry Odell

Tags: #Mystery: Thriller - Police Chief - Colorado

Terry Odell - Mapleton 03 - Deadly Puzzles

BOOK: Terry Odell - Mapleton 03 - Deadly Puzzles
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Terry Odell - Mapleton 03 - Deadly Puzzles
Mapleton Mysteries [3]
Terry Odell
Terry Odell (2014)
Tags:
Mystery: Thriller - Police Chief - Colorado
When Police Chief Gordon Hepler’s doctor orders him to cut down on the stress in his life or risk losing his vision, Gordon books a winter retreat at a remote Bed and Breakfast. Hours away from Mapleton, where nobody knows he’s a cop, he plans to relax and try to forget about his eyes.
However, traveling “incognito” doesn’t mean he’s left his cop instincts behind. His curiosity is piqued when one of the other guests at the B&B doesn’t appear to be who she claims. Before he can explore the puzzle she presents, a man shows up, pleading for help. His car’s gone off the road, and his wife is inside.
Although a blizzard is approaching, Gordon can’t refuse the frantic man’s request and agrees to help him search. Fighting the storm, Gordon and the man struggle down a ravine to the car. What they find turns out to be one more puzzle, and it’s not the last Gordon faces.
Are they unrelated coincidences? Or part of one bigger mystery? Or is he seeing a crime where none exists? Well outside his jurisdiction, with his health at stake, Gordon wonders whether he should follow his cop impulses, or remember he’s on vacation and let the locals handle it. When it becomes personal, Gordon has no choice.

DEADLY PUZZLES

Terry Odell

Copyright © 2014 by Terry Odell

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

DEADLY PUZZLES

For Matt Kennedy. I hope you found your peace.

Chapter 1

 

Gordon Hepler gripped the armrests of the chair until his knuckles went white.
“What’s the verdict? Am I going blind?”


Let’s have a look at the new pictures.” Dr. Demming rolled his chair aside, allowing Gordon a clear view of the computer screen. Side-by-side grainy but brightly colored images displayed the inner workings of Gordon’s eyeballs. Gordon leaned closer, blinking to sharpen his vision. The series of green, blue, and yellow smokestack-shapes with their black centers glared at him.


They look the same to me.” Gordon rubbed the Band-Aid on the back of his hand where the doctor had injected the dye.

Dr. Demming
’s expression didn’t change. It never did, not in the three months Gordon had been coming to Denver to see the eye specialist. The doctor consulted the manila file folder that held printouts of more pictures like the one on the screen, flipping pages, making notes.

His silence confirmed Gordon
’s fear.


Your night vision?” Dr. Demming asked. “Any change?”

Gordon shook his head.
“Not that I can tell.” But not worse didn’t mean it was good.

Dr. Demming made more notes. He closed the folder and dovetailed his fingers on top of it. His gray eyes under bushy eyebrows captured Gordon
’s gaze. “You taking your blood-pressure meds? Your readings were high this afternoon.”

Gordon nodded.
“Yours would be too if you were in my shoes. Waiting to find out if you might lose your vision.”


White coat syndrome,” Dr. Demming muttered. “I’ll chalk it up to that, but I want you to start monitoring your pressure twice a day. You can pick up an inexpensive machine at any drug store. Call me if your readings don’t stay level and I’ll tweak your prescription. What about your caffeine intake?”


I’m watching it.”

Dr. Demming didn
’t seem to notice Gordon’s stretching of the truth. And bottom line, it was Gordon’s vision at stake, not the doctor’s, if Gordon didn’t follow the suggestions. He’d gone to half-caff, but another glance at the lack of improvement between today’s images and the ones taken on his first visit was enough to convince him he’d have to switch to straight decaf.

Dr. Demming went on.
“I think we can wait another few months before taking further steps. There’s a laser treatment, but given the location of your leaks, I’d rather give things a chance to clear up on their own.”


Is that the only option?” Gordon asked.

Dr. Demming shook his head.
“No, there’s a newer treatment called photodynamic therapy, should it come to that. Meanwhile, I strongly suggest you get away from the stress of your job for a while. Retinal detachment is a complication we don’t need.”


I’m the Chief of Police. Mapleton might be a small town compared to Denver, but it’s hard to pick up and leave just to avoid the pressures.” Granted, most of them were budgetary and staffing headaches—understaffing headaches to be precise—which had him filling holes in shifts. Even without that, it wasn’t a nine-to-five job he could shut the door on when he left the office.


They’re your eyes, Gordon. I’ve already explained the risk factors.”

Right. Stress, hypertension—both of which Gordon had in spades—and caffeine, which he could control. He stood and extended a hand to the doctor.
“Understood. I’ve got some vacation time.”

Dr. Demming stood and returned the handshake.
“Use it. I want to see you in a month. And don’t forget the blood pressure monitor.”

Gordon stiffened his spine and tried to swap the worry on his face for a smile before opening the door to the waiting room. He took his gloves from his jacket pockets and pulled them on, hiding the evidence of his injection.

Angie Mead looked up from her cell phone, turning her clear blue eyes his way. “Such a pain you had to come all the way to Denver for an eye test. How did it go?”


Fine. Get your errands done?” he asked, changing the subject. He hadn’t been able to bring himself to tell her about his CSR—Central Serous Retinopathy.

She nodded.
“Yep. Should we head home?”


You know what?” he said. “Let’s get a room here in Denver for the night. We can have a nice dinner, a glass or two of wine, and not have to deal with the drive to Mapleton.” Which, given when the sun went down this time of year, would save him driving the mountain roads in the dark. Or asking Angie to drive—another evasion she hadn’t seemed to notice when they’d gone out at night. “The two of us. A quiet night together.”

She looped her arm in his and tugged him toward the exit.
“Not
too
quiet, I hope.”

 

~~~

 

Monday morning, after his stint as crossing guard at Mapleton Elementary, Gordon crunched across the frost-covered parking lot to the private entrance of his office. The smell of freshly-brewed coffee from the break room enticed him, but he shrugged out of his parka and settled himself in front of his computer.

Rubbing his temples against the caffeine-withdrawal headache, trying not to inhale the coffee aroma, he dealt with the paperwork that had accumulated over the weekend. He wasn
’t sure taking weekends off made much difference to his stress level, since all it meant was there was more to deal with on Mondays. Last Friday night had been relaxing, though. As had Saturday morning. At least the doctor hadn’t said anything about cutting back on sex.

Ed Solomon, one of his best officers, burst into the room.
“Hey, Chief.” He pulled out the visitor chair and sat. “I think you ought to see this.” He set a folded copy of the
Denver Post
onto the desk, pivoting it so it faced Gordon, and tapped an article. “What do you think? Should I alert the bank?”

Gordon stared at the tiny print. He slipped on his new reading glasses. The lines of words danced around the page, refusing to stay in focus. He blinked. Blinked again. Nothing. Heart pounding, sweat filming his palms, Gordon took off his glasses and set them beside the paper. Striving to keep the panic at bay, he stared into Solomon
’s blurry face. “Sorry, Ed. I’ll have to get back to you on this one.”

Chapter 2

 

Gordon hefted his duffle out of the back of his SUV, head hunched against the rising wind as he hurried to the porch of the Tranquility Valley Bed and Breakfast. Cowbells clanged as he opened the door. The aroma of Italian food, mixed with a scent of wood smoke filled his nostrils.

“Welcome.” A female voice floated from the other side of the room.

Gordon peered into the grandmotherly face of a lean, gray-haired woman in an easy chair,
knitting by a crackling fire. She rose, holding out a bony hand. “I’m Tamara Yardumian. Looks like you beat the storm.”


Guess so. I’m Gordon Hepler. I have a reservation.”

She smiled.
“I figured it was you. Not a lot of business this time of year. You said you wanted peace and quiet, and you should have plenty.”


Looking forward to it,” he said, although his tone lacked conviction.

A rustic getaway made more sense to him than meditation or yoga, the two other suggestions Dr. Demming had offered. Gordon had tried a few yoga classes. All that mind clearing just made more room for the things he was worried about.
Which was why Gordon had chosen the Tranquility Valley B and B, a good six-hour drive from Mapleton, and totally out of his jurisdiction. He knew Ed Solomon would ride herd on the force while Gordon followed doctor’s orders and hid out in the middle of nowhere. Too bad Angie couldn’t have come, too, but between her job at Daily Bread and her new partnership with Megan’s event catering, she barely had a minute for him when they were both in town.


As soon as we take care of the formalities, I’ll show you to your room,” Mrs. Yardumian said. Gordon went through the check-in procedure, then followed Mrs. Yardumian up two flights of stairs to a large suite on the top floor.


No extra charge for the upgrade,” she said, giving him a conspiratorial wink. “It’s one bed, one set of towels, no matter how big the room is.”

Gordon made a quick survey of the suite. Large sitting room with a blue, red, and green plaid sofa, two blue easy chairs, as well as a writing desk. Gas fireplace. The bedroom held rustic oak furnishings, including a four-poster bed, and a quilted navy-blue coverlet with a striped blanket folded at the foot. Very L.L. Bean.
“This looks perfect.”


Room key and one for the front door if you’re out late.” She handed him the keys and left, and Gordon dropped his duffle on the chest at the foot of the bed. He’d checked out the facilities and begun unpacking when someone rapped gently on the door. “Gordon?”

He opened the door to Mrs. Yardumian.
“Yes?”


I’m sorry to bother you, but the storm’s rolling in, and well—the roads can be tricky. Hate for you to get stuck driving to town for dinner. It’s not part of the package, but since there’s only you and two others staying here tonight, you can join us—assuming you like spaghetti.”

Gordon faced the window. A swirling mass of fluffy white flakes obscured the view. He had a frisson of fear that his world could soon look like that all the time. Without turning around, he said,
“Spaghetti sounds wonderful.”


Six o’clock, then,” she said. “Casual.”

When she
’d departed, Gordon finished unpacking, putting his Beretta .380 backup weapon into the small lockbox he carried in his luggage. He’d debated bringing it at all, but even on vacation, he was a cop. Of course, he had no intention of telling anyone here that’s what he did.

Sitting on the bed, he pulled his cell phone from its holder on his belt. One bar. Not unexpected considering the location. He sent a quick text letting Angie know he
’d arrived safely, and flopped onto his back.

Staring at the ceiling, he turned the seams of the wooden planks into another eye test. The lines seemed straight enough. He tried to convince himself he was simply outside the normal timeframe for his CSR to reverse itself. Not so far out that he
’d lose much of his vision while he waited.

He
’d studied all the possible complications, all the potential treatments with
their
inherent complications. What would he do if he couldn’t see? Get a dog? He couldn’t continue as a cop, nor could he envision himself tapping a white cane down Main Street.

After the brief panic attack when he hadn
’t been able to read the newspaper Solomon had shown him, Gordon had made another visit to Dr. Demming, and then spent the rest of the week clearing his calendar for this
vacation
.

His gut churned. This was
not
relaxing.

He checked the new clock app on his phone—the one with the oversize numerals. Ten minutes until dinner. After taking five cleansing breaths the way Dr. Demming had shown him, Gordon went into the bathroom, splashed water on his face, changed into a clean shirt, and headed downstairs.

Mrs. Yardumian welcomed him. “Would you like a glass of wine?” When he hesitated, she went on. “It’s a tradition here.” She pointed him toward a platter of cheese and crackers. “Happy hour. On the house.”


Thanks.”

She poured red wine from a carafe and offered the glass to him. He thanked her again and went to the sideboard for some cheese and crackers. He
’d stopped along the drive to take pictures, but not to eat. The aroma of spaghetti sauce had his mouth watering and his stomach grumbling.

The cowbells clanged, and a moment later another man—mid-fifties, Gordon guessed—strolled into the room. He was bottom-heavy, large-nosed, and bald except for a thick ruff of gray hair stretching from ear to ear, reminding Gordon of the punching bag clowns he
’d had as a kid.

The man set a fancy-looking Nikon next to a place setting, then went for the buffet. Holding a small plate piled with an assortment of cheeses, he crossed toward Gordon.
“Just get in?” the man said. He stuffed a cracker topped with cheese into his mouth.


Yes, I did. I’m Gordon.” Since the man was busy eating and both of Gordon’s hands were occupied, he skipped the handshake ritual.

The man swallowed.
“Sorry. The breakfasts here are huge, so I’m never hungry for lunch. I barely beat the storm.”

Gordon nodded toward the Nikon.
“Nice camera. You a photographer? I’m more of a cell phone snapshot person myself.”


Landscape artist. Taking pictures and doing preliminary sketches for my next show.” He swallowed another morsel, then swiped a napkin across his mouth. “Sorry again. I’m Samuel Tyner. Sam.” He looked at Gordon as if he expected him to recognize the name.

Uh, what was the proper etiquette in a situation like this?
“Sorry, I don’t do much art?” “Sorry, I’ve never heard of you?” Or, “Oh, you’re
that
Samuel Tyner
.”

Gordon
decided on a generic “Nice to meet you,” but before he had a chance to utter the words, another man entered the room. Short, square, with a swarthy complexion and a hawk-bill nose. He approached Gordon and Tyner.

The man displayed shiny white teeth in a wide grin.
“You must be Gordon. I’m Raffi Yardumian. Welcome. I wish we had nicer weather for your stay.”


I’ve lived in Colorado most of my life,” Gordon said. “I’m used to it.”


Again, welcome. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must attend my sauce. It’s an old family recipe.” He lowered his voice. “My great-grandmother on my father’s side was Italian.” He glanced toward the stairs. “Our other guest should be down shortly. She’s a travel writer.”

And he
’s hoping she does a nice write-up of the B and B, Gordon thought. Didn’t take twenty-twenty vision to see that one. He wondered if she got discounted rates—or if she paid at all.

The woman
arrived a moment later, late thirties, he guessed, on the skinny side of slim. Sneakered feet, khakis, and a purple long-sleeved turtleneck. Ignoring him and Tyner, who was at the sideboard again, she sat in one of the two chairs near the fireplace and picked up a magazine from an end table.

A few minutes later, Mrs. Yardumian came in and called them to dinner. Gordon carried his unfinished wine to the large oak dining table and took the seat she pointed him to, which put him next to the travel writer.

“Sam, Paula, this is Gordon,” Mrs. Yardumian said. Sam lifted his glass in a silent salute. Paula the travel writer merely nodded.

Call it idle curiosity or his cop mentality, Gordon
couldn’t resist a little digging. He turned to his neighbor. “I understand you’re a travel writer. I’m looking into seeing more of the world. Do you have any recommendations?”


Depends,” Paula said, busily buttering a roll. “Too many factors to answer your question. Climate, budget, your comfort level, all kinds of things play a part.”


Okay, so let’s say I like the outdoors and peace and quiet,” he said.


Then I’d say you’re in the perfect place right here.” She twirled a fat spiral of spaghetti onto her fork.


I guess I am. But I’m interested. Where might I find some of the articles you’ve written? What’s your byline?”


Freelance mostly,” she said. “Too many to mention, but I blog at
Paula’s Places
.”


Have you ever been to the Waterford Hotel outside of Denver? Now there’s a place to relax,” he said. “Especially since they renovated it two years ago. Their new botanical garden is amazing.”

She set her fork on her plate and wiped her mouth.
“Yes, I agree. Excellent accommodations, and reasonable prices given the quality of the service.”

Gordon nodded in agreement and went back to his spaghetti, which lived up to Yardumian
’s claims. He’d have to do a little more digging into this Paula person, however. The Waterford, which had never included a botanical garden, had burned to the ground three years ago and never reopened.

BOOK: Terry Odell - Mapleton 03 - Deadly Puzzles
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