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She’s just a country girl who loves her dog. But her life is about to get less countrified and more…erm…homicide.
Deer Hollow is a small community built in a verdant, rolling countryside. The nearest big city is over an hour away and big city ways are rejected at the Hollow. Unfortunately, the big city isn’t the only place where bad things can happen.
Things like murder…which has a funny way of messin’ up a debutante’s day and turning a sunny Sunday in June right over onto its bucolic head.
The whole communication revolution thing is a mixed bag of wonderful and tedious. Things like cell phones are a revelation, allowing twenty-something women like me, who have trouble sitting still, to stay in touch with the important people in their lives while we go about our business.
But even the best innovations have their downside.
For example, a wise woman once told me never to answer a phone call whose number you don’t recognize. Answer at your own risk, my cousin Felicity proclaimed one rainy day in the arboretum.
And I’ve since witnessed the intelligence of her advice. Several times over.
Unfortunately, I’m apparently a slow learner.
“Is this Miss Joey Fulle?”
I frowned, not liking the “I want to sell you a bridge” tone of the caller’s voice. “Nope, sorry. I think you have the wrong number.”
“Actually, I believe I have the right number, Miss Fulle.”
“You’re not right,” I said quickly and disconnected before the man on the other end of the phone had a chance to give me bad news. I had no idea what kind of bad news I was expecting. But I knew it was there, lurking like a vulture in a tree, ugly and ravenous.
I tugged the soft twisty off my shoulder length red-blonde hair and reached up to smooth the hair back into my favorite style, which was a high ponytail. Sweat dripped down between my shoulder blades and I was glad I’d dressed for the heat of an early June morning. Though my plain white tank top and cut off jean short shorts were already damp.
My dog, Cacophony, Caphy for short, bounded up and stopped in front of me, a clump of fur between her jaws. I grimaced. “Caphy, what did you do? Have you killed something again?”
A blonde Pitbull with gorgeous green eyes, Caphy bounced several times, her muscular haunches springing her several inches off the ground each time, and then barked happily and ran off again, tail whipping the air. I sighed, knowing I should follow her and see if I could save whatever she’d decided to “play” with.
My phone rang again. I hit Ignore and trudged after my dog. “Caphy girl, where’d you go?”
The distant sound of barking drew me to a copse of old trees, their gnarled branches bigger around than I was and tangled together high overhead. It was behind one of these, an elegant old Elm tree whose knobby arms spread wider than the rest, that my dog was mostly hidden. I could see her butt wagging happily as she moved around behind the tree.
My sweet Pitty bounced out from behind the distant tree and grinned at me, her entire body vibrating with excitement. “What have you found, girl?” I murmured to myself. “Come on, Caphy.”
But she turned back to whatever she was exploring. That was when I realized she must have cornered something. I picked up the pace and hurried in her direction.
By the time I was fifteen feet away I smelled something rotting and knew that, whatever she’d found, I wouldn’t be saving it.
Real panic set in. “Caphy, you come here right now!”
My dog disappeared behind the tree and I growled with frustration. But a moment later she reappeared, heading in my direction with something hanging out of her mouth. “Ugh!” I fought an impulse to turn and run. Being corpse-woman was not tops on my list of favorite things.
In fact, I was pretty sure it wasn’t on the list at all. “Drop it, Cacophony.”
Of course she ignored me, her steps becoming bouncier and more excited the closer she came. Clearly she wanted to share her treasure with me. I didn’t know how to impress upon her that having a mangled, half dried corpse of a bunny or squirrel dropped on my shoes didn’t take me to my happy place. My usual response of shrieking and running screaming away from her treasure just didn’t seem to be doing much to teach her.
She was a very bull-headed pitty. I grinned at my pun.
Caphy ran up and dropped to her haunches a few feet away. She kept hold of the object, which I was trying hard not to look at, as if she was afraid I was going to take it away from her. She would be right about that. But it wasn’t going to happen until I had a bag or something to use so I didn’t have to touch it. I tried one more time to get her to let loose of whatever she was clutching between her jaws. “Drop it, girl.” If I was really lucky I could convince her to let go of it and I could drag her home.
To my shock she lowered her head and released the contents of her mouth.
I glanced down. My stomach did a painful little dance and my gag reflex kicked in. Caphy was watching me very carefully, letting the object lie there as if checking to see how I would react. I was glad it was out of her mouth.
In fact, I would have been elated about it.
But I was too busy shrieking and running away. It might not work for her…but it worked just fine for me.