Sunday, March 6, 2011

#SampleSunday The Witness Wore Blood Bay

In Talented Horsewoman, the first book of the Leigh McRae horse mystery series, main character Leigh McRae discovers a body. She also ends up solving a murder. Along the way she helps her cousin Sammi, who is dating a burglar, and she manages to get out from under the control of her overbearing ex-husband.

Now Leigh's friend Candy, a fellow horsewoman, finds herself accused of murder. Who else would she turn to for help except Leigh? After all, everyone in small town Del Canto knows Leigh has body-discovering experience. Never mind that Leigh is busy finding out who's poisoning dogs in Sammi's neighborhood and she's trying to renovate her home without going broke. Or that her ex-husband Kenneth and former ranchhand Doug Reilly have become roommates in Leigh's guest house.

There's a murder to solve. And her friend won't take no for an answer.

The set up: Leigh and cousin Sammi are returning from a horse club picnic. They're stopping to pick up Sammi's dog from the groomer and Sammi reveals that she needs for Leigh to do her a favor. 

 I’d known when Sammi showed up at my house claiming she was dying to picnic with the horse club, that she had something on her mind. But in all the excitement about the murder, I’d completely forgotten.
“Do I need to guess? You’ve got a hot date and you need a dog sitter so Jeeves won’t scare the guy off before you can have your way with him.”
“Wrong, totally wrong. Unfortunately, I am dateless these days. But I do need you to watch Jeeves for a while. Please?”
“Define ‘a while,’” I said cautiously. Sammi’s sense of time differed radically from mine.
“I couldn’t say, but it’s an emergency. A week, maybe?”
Way too vague. “You know I love the big lug even if he does shed about ten pounds of hair a day and he likes to snack on furniture. I’ll agree to dog sit since it’s an emergency. But you have to tell me. Come on, what’s the mystery? Cruise?” I wiggled my eyebrows. “Romance on the high seas?”
“It’s not a mystery and I’m not going anywhere. It’s all because of my new neighbors, the Barkers. You know that house on the corner, the one that’s been vacant since forever?”
“Yep. The cute Craftsman with the neat lawn and a plastic flamingo family standing around looking tacky next to a palm tree. A couple of gigantic mango trees out back.”
“That’s the one, except the flamingos are gone, replaced by a couple of the ugliest garden gnomes you ever saw in your life. Some people finally bought the place and they moved in a couple of weeks ago. I went over to take them a cake and welcome them to the neighborhood—you know, the way I always do. I think neighbors should get to know each other, especially now when it seems you have more friends on Facebook than you do in real life. And then you’re not sure they’re really who they say they are, but they seem nice and you laugh at their Youtube videos, so you keep posting on their wall.”
I waved my hand in front of her face. “Sammi, you’re way off topic.”
“Yeah, okay. Well, at first I thought the Barkers were nice, a typical middle-aged couple who moved down from some typical state in the midwest to downsize their lives now that their kids are grown. You know how people do. Sell out in Ohio and head to sunny Florida for their golden years. But it turned out they're from Fort Myers and they're not retired yet. They just wanted to move to a smaller place. Next thing I know they’re at my door complaining about Jeeves.” She said this last as though the Barkers had talked dirt about Jesus.
“What exactly is the nature of their complaint?” I pulled into Maggie’s driveway. Surely Jeeves hadn’t gone over to their house and shed all over their porch or peed on their ugly gnomes.
“They claim he dug up their marigolds the last time he got out. They think he barks too much and disturbs their peace and quiet. They even implied he makes their lives a living hell. But I swear, he hardly ever barks and I had the fence fixed so he can’t escape again. Very often.”
I started laughing and couldn’t stop until Sammi grabbed my shoulders and shook me. “Cut it out. This isn’t the least bit funny.”
“I know, I know, but it’s so ironic about their name—the Barkers. And they’re complaining about a barking dog.”
“Right, babe, it’s hysterical.” She folded her arms across her chest. “You know I wouldn’t worry one bit about them and their stupid complaints—except they threatened to report Jeeves to the police for being a public nuisance. They did the same thing to that nice Mrs. Abrams who lives on the other side of them, and then two days later her sweet little dachshund turned up dead in her back yard. The vet thinks he was poisoned. After that the people at the end of the block found their beagle dead. He was fine when they brought him in for the night, but when they got up, he was stiff as a board in his doggie bed, legs poking up in the air like a dead roach. Another suspected poisoning. It’s so tragic.”
“What?” I yelped, staring at her, hardly able to believe someone was killing dogs. “A dog poisoner?”
“I know, right? I can’t imagine someone could be so vicious. But please keep Jeeves until I have a chance to get to the bottom of this. I mean, I’d die if they assassinated him while I was at work. I can’t keep him inside all the time. I have to leave him out in the yard at least part of the day. You know how he is.”
Did I ever. Jeeves could last only a few hours alone in the house before he got neurotic. He’d once eaten Sammi’s couch and then had her draperies for dessert while she was on a date that lasted longer than she’d planned. The new procedure when she wasn’t home was that he stayed either in the garage or in the fenced yard, though he’d been known to escape from the yard.
“Of course I’ll dog sit.” I would never forgive myself if Jeeves were murdered because I refused to help.
“Thanks, babe.” Sammi jumped out of the car and blew me a kiss.
She scurried inside the grooming shop. Since Maggie Cameron had inherited money from her sister Rita and expanded her boarding kennel, she’d relocated the grooming shop and renamed her business Maggie’s Pet Spa. And raised her prices.
Sammi disappeared inside the shop and reappeared a moment later with Jeeves leaping up and down beside her as if he were on a pogo stick. Maggie had put a red bandanna around his neck, and I wondered how long it would take for him to find a way to eat it.
“Jeeves, settle!” Sammi shook her finger at him and opened the back door of the car. Jeeves rocketed inside, knocking Benji’s toy tractor off the seat. Then he leaned forward to rest his head on my shoulder. A haze of doggie cologne drifted in front of me and I waved my hand to disperse it.
“Hey, I don't need a co-driver, Jeeves. Back off.”
“Jeeves, you know better.” Sammi pushed her dog down on the back seat. “He doesn’t recognize his boundaries yet. I’ll come over tomorrow afternoon and give you a few pointers.”
I raised both eyebrows. Somehow I suspected that a few pointers on Jeeves-wrangling weren’t going to be all that effective, especially since he didn’t seem to mind Sammi terribly well, either. I’d never kept him for more than a day or so and wasn’t exactly looking forward to the mess from his shedding or the possibility of him turning my furniture into sawdust. Still, I did owe Sammi and I didn’t want her dog to be in danger any more than she did. I had a fenced yard where he could stay while I was at work. I didn’t know what she intended as far as sleuthing to find out if the Barkers were dog murderers, though. I mean it wasn’t as if she could search their house for poison or follow them around to make a citizen’s arrest if she caught them feeding arsenic-laced hamburger to the neighborhood canines.
“So how well did you know him?” Sammi asked as I pulled back onto the highway.
“Jeeves?” I glanced at her sideways. I thought we’d covered the topic of his behavior.
“No, silly. I mean, Richard—the murdered guy.”
“Wow, that was random. I thought you said we weren’t interested in the murder.” A vulture flopped to a landing on a dead armadillo about a hundred yards in front of my car and then, looking up and seeing how close I was, ponderously took off again. 
“I never said we weren’t interested in the murder. I said you were not going to get involved.”
“Yeah, I said the same thing. So what do you mean? Like what he was like and what he did for a living?”
“I was only curious.” Sammi tossed her hair back over her shoulders and stared straight ahead through my grimy windshield.
Note to self. Wash the car. And remember to ask Sammi why she was “only curious,” while I was “nosy.”
“I didn't know him that well, but I heard he was a womanizer and after he had a couple of affairs, Francine was going to leave him, but he promised to go straight. I heard all this second-hand from Nancy."
"Hmm. So maybe one of his exes killed him for revenge."
"I thought of that, but then why would whoever killed him frame Candy Lowell?" It made no sense. "Richard manages—managed—that seafood restaurant in town near the harbor. The Fin and Claw.”
“Really?” She sounded impressed. “I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s fabulous.”
“I heard the same, but I think fabulous means expensive.” I wondered if I should try it. Not that I could afford the prices. Still, now that Richard was dead, his job was opening up. Someone might get promoted. In this economy a job or even a promotion might be motive enough for a murder. My forehead muscles pulled into a frown so tight it's a miracle they didn't cramp up.
“Oh, no, you are not,” Sammi shrieked, slapping my shoulder with the back of her hand.
“Ow. Don’t hit the driver. What are you talking about?”
“I can so read your mind, babe. You think one of Richard’s co-workers might have killed him and you’re planning to go snooping around the Fin and Claw.”
“I admit the thought crossed my mind for the briefest of seconds. But it’s too farfetched.”
“Of course it is. And you are not going anywhere near that place unless you have me for backup.”
“Don’t worry. I'm not going near the Fin and Claw.” I rolled my eyes. It had only been a stray thought, not an actual plan. Thoughts couldn't hurt, could they?


  1. I look forward to reading your excerpts every Sunday. Great dialogue.

  2. This is great. I can picture Jeeves lol Thanks for sharing.

  3. I already love Jeeves. I see him in a little butler uniform. The Barkers! lol

  4. Thanks for stopping by. I always appreciate visitors and great comments.