By H. L. Chandler
Mystery, 260 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans
A real estate deal turns deadly. The land owner, Charlie Taylor, is killed, and Matt Doran, the developer is missing. Now Kramer Construction is pushing for control of the land. Billie Ross, of Ross Investigation Services, is hired by the missing man’s sister. As Billie digs deeper into the mystery her own safety is at stake.
Is the missing real estate developer a murderer, or a victim? The police suspect Charlie’s death is the reason Matt is missing, and they want to question him. Those who know Matt have doubts, he surely isn’t capable of murder. Billie’s job is to find him, not determine his guilt or innocence. Those who want Matt to remain hidden are intent upon stopping Billie’s investigation. Even if it means making Billie disappear!
When she rounded the next bend in the road, she found a small housing development. However, the houses were not small. They stood on what looked to be five-acre lots. Several of the homes were sprawling ranch affairs, others two story modern, and a couple of southern types with columns. No two appeared to be the same design. These were custom-built homes. Even so, they all had mailboxes at the entrance to their driveways. There wasn’t delivery to the door out here.
Billie drove slowly and when she saw a lady walking to her mailbox with a letter in her hand, she drove even slower. She tried to reach the driveway about the time the homeowner reached her mailbox. The woman was on the right hand side of the road and looked up as the Explorer rolled to a stop.
The woman was dressed in tan slacks and a light blue sweater set. She frowned and took a step back, obviously suspicious of strangers. Billie quickly got out of the car and walked around the front bumper. She kept well back from the lady. No one went onto anyone else's land without an invitation, at least not in the Arkansas Billie knew. There were plenty of newcomers to the Ozarks, but Billie mostly observed the old ways.
Billie waved. “I'm sorry to bother you,” she called. “I'm looking for a subdivision built by Matt Doran. Am I in the right place?”
Billie stayed on the graveled road, letting the lady inspect her and her car. She put her letter in the brick-enclosed mailbox and raised the red flag. Then she crossed her arms around her waist and took a few steps toward Billie.
“Yes, this is Sunset Ridge. But there aren't any new houses going up at this time. At least not in Matt's addition.” She squinted at Billie. “Have you talked to Matt Doran lately?”
Billie shook her head. “No, I've not talked to him at all. This is the first time I've been up here. It is a beautiful spot.”
“Where are you from?”
“Pinecrest. It's south and east of here.”
“I know where it is. What brings you over this way? You have plenty of pretty country over there if you’re looking for a place to build.”
“Actually, the reason I'm here is because I'm looking for Matt Doran. Do you know where he is?”
The woman chuckled. “Nothing like being direct, is there?” She walked closer and Billie could see the deep lines around her mouth and eyes. “Pull your car into the drive. Wouldn't want you to get hit.” She turned and walked several yards back toward her house. Then stopped and waited for Billie.