Cozy Mystery, 392 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans
Months after gunfire erupted in her classroom, leaving one student dead and another wounded, Jennet Ferguson begins to hear mysterious gunshots inaudible to anyone else.
While Jennet fears she may be losing her grip of reality, she encounters a threatening stranger near her home. Soon after, she finds a collie tethered to a tree in the woods and left to die. When another collie meets the same fate, she resolves to find the abuser and put an end to his demented activities
“There’s something unsettling in the air today.”
Lucy Hazen gazed at the woods across from Jonquil Lane, her eyes searching for the mysterious something that had taken her attention away from my blueberry pie.
“Sure there is,” Brent said. “It’s electricity. There’s a thunderstorm on the way.”
Lucy shook her head. “Besides that.”
“It won’t be here for a while, I hope.” I glanced at the sky, which was still overcast. Thunder rumbled in the distance, but we should be safe for a while. From the rain, that is.
Whenever Lucy talked like a character in one of her horror stories, I’d learned to pay attention. At times she knew an event was imminent long before it occurred.
I surveyed the woods, trying to see what she saw. They were dark and shadowy, as always, but far from sinister, at least by day.
These days, it seemed, I was always poised for the unexpected. For trouble. Always waiting for a rude disruption to the status quo. Like a gunshot coming out of nowhere.
“The flowers can use the rain,” Camille said.
Lucy went back to her pie. As did I, a bit warily.
Any gunfire in the woods would have a natural explanation. In spite of the numerous ‘No Trespassing” and ‘No Hunting’ signs posted at the perimeters, someone always ignored them. The graceful deer that roamed freely in the area were too tempting to escape the notice of illegal hunters. Then there were game birds.
I pulled my mind back to practical matters. We were at the dessert stage of our barbecue. I glanced at the glasses and plates, some of them empty, some almost so. “Does everyone have enough to drink?” I asked. “How about a second helping of Camille’s flag cake?”
“I’ll try a piece of pie,” Brent said, scraping his plate. His cake had been generously sprinkled with halved strawberries, a portion from the edge of the flag.
“Blueberry or cherry?” I asked.
The thunder was closer now, and a gust of wind sprang to life, taking a swipe at the stack of paper napkins on the table. As I anchored them with a salt shaker, I felt a brush of velvet against my ankles. Sky, so easily frightened by storms and loud noises, sought reassurance that all would be well. I stroked her head and whispered, “It’s okay, girl.”
With a whimper, she lay down.
“Let’s clear the tables,” Camille said. “We can finish dessert inside.”
“Did anyone hear that?” Lucy asked.
“The wind?” Brent rose, holding the cake platter. Crane grabbed the pies. Everyone except Lucy had something in hand.
“No, it sounded like a cry,” she said.
Faintly alarmed, I listened. “I didn’t hear anything. Only the wind.”
“It sounded like a cry for help,” Lucy murmured. “Someone out there is in trouble.”
“You probably heard a creature in the woods,” Brent said. “A bird could make a crying sound.”
He put his arm around Lucy. “You’re really concerned?”
She smiled up at him. “Could it be one of the dogs, Jennet?” she asked. “Are they all accounted for?”