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Murder Off Shadow Lane

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Murder investigators Dunning and Briggs uncover a high-level plot to cripple Pettrolius, Texas, for voting in a petroleum workers’ union.
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Author: C.E. Chessher
Description

A South Texas Mystery Series

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Tags: Mystery, murder, social discord, racial discord, labor disputes, political intrigue

Release: November 2, 2012

Editor: Ellee Braun

Line Editor: Valerie Haley

Cover Designer: Marion Sipe

Words:  62706

Pages:  196

ISBN:  978-1-77127-187-5

Price: $5.95


 

Back Cover:

Labor strife continues in Coastal Bend oil town Pettrolius, Texas, when union-busting sympathizer Elias Bryden is murdered, and a power-hungry district attorney indicts a mentally challenged school janitor for the murder.

In the ensuing investigation, newspaper reporter Glennis Dunning and Deputy Sheriff Jake Briggs uncover a plot launched out of the governor’s office to break the petroleum-workers’ union. Masterminded by local oil tycoon J.D. Strickland, the nefarious plan would, among other things, divert oil production tax revenues to county-seat Mayvale.


Excerpt:

Glennis got back to the crime scene shortly after seven p.m., the scheduled meeting time with Jake. She didn’t see his car, so she turned onto the Finley property road, crossed the cattle guard, and followed the road to the back of the property where the Union Producing well was located.

Past a curve in the road, Glennis spotted Jake’s patrol car parked behind the Union Producing oil well. The well had a black pumper jack that clanged each time it descended, and was surrounded by an iron fence.

Glennis parked off the road in case Jake needed to leave or one of the Union Producing gaugers arrived to service the well.

Jake was on his haunches inspecting something on the ground, but when he heard Glennis slam her car door, he glanced in her direction. “Over here,” he called out. “I want to show you something.”

Glennis trotted over and stopped to look over his shoulder, afraid she would destroy evidence if she got too close.

“What did you find?”

“I’m not sure,” he said, looking back at her, “but I think maybe somebody dumped Elias’s body here.”

“Oh?”

“Look here.” He motioned her closer. “They found Elias’s body there,” he continued, pointing toward the ravine. “There are tire marks here, and footprints.”

Glennis peered closer. “And look—skid marks. Like someone was dragging something.”

“What do you make of it?” he asked over his shoulder.

She thought a moment. “It starts behind the tire marks and curves out toward where you said the body was found.”

“Very good. Anything else?”

She studied the ground for a few more moments. “The footprints.”

“What about them?”

“It may not mean anything,” she said. “But the footprint on the left looks heavier than the right print.”

“Go on.” He stood and faced her, his hands on his hips. “What do you think it means?”

“I’m not sure.” She shrugged. “But I think it could mean the person’s left leg was shorter than his right leg or he had a limp.”

He studied the ground for a few moments, nodding his head.

“It’s just a wild guess, okay,” she blurted, suddenly feeling defensive.

He looked her in the eyes and smiled. “Glennis Dunning, you never cease to amaze me.”

“I don’t have any special training like you do, okay? You asked, and I gave an opinion.”

He looked like he was trying not to laugh in her face, and suddenly she felt her blood pressure rise.

He crossed his arms in front of his face, a mock shield. “Honey, I’m trying to give you a compliment, damn it.”

She let out a sigh and eyed him sheepishly. “You weren’t making fun?”

“No way,” he said, shaking his head again. “I’ve been with officers with special training in forensics who might not have noticed what you just pointed out. You have a knack for this kind of work, woman.”

“I guess it was all those Nancy Drew mysteries I read growing up,” she shot back, trying to stifle a smile.

“Well, don’t stop now. What else can you tell me about what you’re looking at?”

“The man was wearing boots, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot in this area. It might mean something if he was not wearing boots.”

“You got that right,” he said with a sardonic chuckle. He glanced back at the ground and then met her gaze again. “What do you make of the tire tracks?”

She peered at them. The tracks were big, and the tread marks seemed fairly easy to distinguish. They smoothed out near where the tracks stopped. “I’m no tire expert, but it looks like they could be pickup tires.” She glanced at Jake. “But that won’t help a hell of a lot. Pickups are as common as boots around here. Whoever it was must have been in a hurry, though.”

“Why do you say that?”

“The way the tracks smoothed out close to where the vehicle stopped. Again, I’m no expert, but wouldn’t that indicate the vehicle came to a rather sudden stop?”

“Makes sense to me.” He gave her his biggest smile. “That kind of detective work is worthy of a damn good meal! How about it? Friday night?”

She gave in, finally, to his jocularity, allowing her lips to curl upward a bit. “All right. Where are you taking me?”

“It’s a surprise! Somewhere good.”

“I’ll buy the drinks.”

He repositioned himself into a wide-legged stance, crossed his arms across his chest, and thrust his bottom lip out. “Nope. I buy all—or nothing.”

“But we always—”

“Not this Friday night. It’s a special occasion.”

A special occasion?

Her heart pounded.

What special occasion? Some special date he remembered but she didn’t?

They reversed roles about things like that. He was big on remembering dates when they did this or that. Living in the past wasn’t important to her, although she’d never told him that. She had never been big on nostalgia; it just wasn’t her thing. Mostly, she cared about the present. Beyond that, only the immediate future concerned her—how to pay the bills for the coming month, and all that. She almost asked Jake what the special occasion was, but she stopped herself. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

 


 

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