Read Bill Crider - Dan Rhodes 07 - Murder Most Fowl Online

Authors: Bill Crider

Tags: #Mystery: Thriller - Sheriff - Texas

Bill Crider - Dan Rhodes 07 - Murder Most Fowl

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Bill Crider - Dan Rhodes 07 - Murder Most Fowl
Dan Rhodes [7]
Bill Crider
St. Martin's Press (1994)
Mystery: Thriller - Sheriff - Texas
Sheriff Dan Rhodes investigates a murder that may or may not be related to a recent wave of emu-rustling. For an officer of the law, Blacklin County, Texas, used to be pretty peaceful, but now, what with the emu-rustling, cockfights, and protests at the new Walmart store—not to mention murder—the sheriff has his hands full.
Hit hard by the collapse of his little hardware store, Elijah Ward has taken to chaining himself to the Walmart doors and generally making a nuisance of himself. And when Lige's dead body turns up, floating down a river in a portable toilet, Rhodes finds he has quite a case to investigate. What was the connection between Lige and chickens? Lige and the Palm Club?
And was he involved in the area's emu thefts? It seems that raising emus is a booming business, so much so that emu are being stolen left, right, and center by would-be emu ranchers with little respect for the law. From theft to murder, the local crime spree seems unstoppable. But with a little help from the computer foisted on him by aging deputies Hack and Lawton, plus some good old-fashioned detective work, Rhodes just may be able to straighten out his county.



Book Seven of the Dan Rhodes Mysteries


By Bill Crider



A Gordian Knot Mystery

Gordian Knot is an imprint of Crossroad Press

Digital Edition published by Crossroad Press

Digital Edition Copyright © 2014 / Bill Crider


Cover images courtesy of:

Nicolas Raymond
(Texas flag image)




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Meet the Author



is the author of more than fifty published novels and numerous short stories. He won the Anthony Award for best first mystery novel in 1987 for Too Late to Die and was nominated for the Shamus Award for best first private-eye novel for Dead on the Island. He won the Golden Duck award for “best juvenile science fiction novel” for Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror. He and his wife, Judy, won the best short story Anthony in 2002 for their story “Chocolate Moose.”  His story “Cranked” from Damn Near Dead (Busted Flush Press) was nominated for the Edgar award for best short story.


Check out his homepage at: http://
or take a look at his peculiar blog at


Book List




The Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery Series

Too Late to Die

Shotgun Saturday Night

Cursed to Death

Death on the Move

Evil at the Root

Booked for a Hanging

Murder Most Fowl

Winning Can Be Murder

Death by Accident

A Ghost of a Chance

A Romantic Way to Die

Red, White, and Blue Murder

“The Empty Manger,” (novella in the collection entitled
Murder, Mayhem, and Mistletoe

A Mammoth Murder

Murder Among the O.W.L.S.

Of All Sad Words

Murder in Four Parts

Murder in the Air

The Wild Hog Murders

The Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen

Compound Murder


The Carl Burns Mystery Series

One Dead Dean

Dying Voices

…A Dangerous Thing

Dead Soldiers


The Truman Smith Mystery Series

Dead on the Island

Gator Kill

When Old Men Die

The Prairie Chicken Kill

Murder Takes a Break


The Sally Good Mystery Series

Murder Is An Art

A Knife in the Back

A Bond with Death


The Stanley Waters Mystery Series (Willard Scott, Co-Author)

Murder under Blue Skies

Murder in the Mist


Stand-Alone Mystery and Suspense Novels

Blood Marks

The Texas Capitol Murders

Houston Homicide (with Clyde Wilson)


House-Name Spy Fiction

The Coyote Connection (a Nick Carter book, in collaboration with Jack Davis)


Western Novels

Ryan Rides Back

Galveston Gunman

A Time for Hanging

Medicine Show

Outrage at Blanco

Texas Vigilante


As Colby Jackson:

Dead Man’s Revenge

Gabby Darbins and the Slide-Rock Bolter


Horror Novels (all published under the pseudonym “Jack MacLane”)

Keepers of the Beast

Goodnight, Moom

Blood Dreams

Rest in Peace

Just before Dark


Books for Young Readers

A Vampire Named Fred


Mike Gonzo and the Sewer Monster

Mike Gonzo and the Almost Invisible Man

Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror


Short Story Collections:

The Nighttime is the Right Time


For Louise Carr and Melva Harvey Turner

who should admit that I never threw the dominoes





Chapter One


lijah Ward had chained himself to the exit door at Wal-Mart again. It was the second time in the last couple of months.

Ward was about sixty years old. He was six feet, four inches tall, and despite his first name, he didn’t look much like an Old Testament prophet except for the gleam of fanaticism in his dark eyes. He had a red, leathery face and black hair with just a touch of gray in it.

Besides about twenty feet of towing chain, he was wearing a pair of faded blue denim pants and a short-sleeved blue shirt that showed the bulging muscles in his upper arms. His unruly hair was only partially covered by a Houston Astros cap.

“You can get in, but you can’t get out,” Ward told the crowd that had gathered in the glassed-in entranceway.

“That’s right,” a woman said. It was Ward’s wife, Rayjean, who was no more than five feet tall and as thin as a pick handle. She had thin lips and a thin, foxy face. Her thin brown hair was pulled back into a tight bun. “You can get in, but you can’t get out!”

She was holding a sign tacked onto a piece of wood that might have been a fence picket at one time. The sign had been printed by hand with a black marker. Whoever had made it had taken the time to do it right:








“They’ve ruined your downtown,” Ward told the curious crowd. “Look at all the empty buildings you’ve got, nothin’ in ’em but pigeon nests. Think of all your neighbors that went broke there, just tryin’ to make an honest livin’.”

“You can get in,” his wife said waving her sign toward the doors that opened into the store, “but you can’t get out!”

No one was trying to get in, however. Everyone was too interested in seeing what would happen to the Wards.

Even the store employees were interested. Most of them had left their positions behind the cash registers and in the departments where they worked to come see what all the commotion was about. They were all wearing their blue Wal-Mart vests, and they stood just inside the closed glass doors, looking out at the crowd and at the Wards.

Elijah Ward rattled his chains. “You can get in, but —”

“—you can’t get out!” Rayjean said.

“You can get in, but —”

“They can get out through the back door in the automotive department,” Sheriff Dan Rhodes said, as the crowd made way for him. “Or the manager will just let them out through the ‘in’ doors, the way he did the last time you tried this.”

“Maybe so,” Ward said, unconcerned about Rhodes’ intervention. “But if they come through the front, they’ll have to duck down under that little bar they’ve got across there to keep people from sneakin’ out that way. Got ’em a guard there, too, that they call a ‘greeter.’  Guard is more like it. They don’t trust folks like I did, back when I had a store.”

“Things aren’t like the way they were then,” Rhodes said.

“They sure aren’t,” Ward agreed. “You might as well leave me alone, Sheriff. I’m not leavin’ this time. I’m willin’ to go to jail for my beliefs.”

“Me, too,” Rayjean said, pumping her sign up and down. “Take me to the pokey, Sheriff. That’s the only way you’ll get me out of here.”

She was probably serious, Rhodes thought. The last time this had happened, he had been able to talk the Wards into going home peacefully. It looked as if this time might turn out to be different.

“People don’t realize what this store’s done to Clearview,” Ward said, shaking the chain, which clinked against the glass of the door. “They think it’s just a good place to buy things on the cheap, and they don’t think about all those empty downtown buildin’s where stores used to be.”

As Rhodes was well aware, one of those empty buildings had been occupied by Ward’s own hardware store, but after ten years of trying to compete with discount prices, Ward had been forced to close his doors. While his profits had declined, along with those of the two clothing stores, the drug store, and the five and dime store, he had watched a steady stream of his former customers driving to the big new Wal-Mart on the outskirts of town.

“It’s competition,” Rhodes told him. “It’s the American way.”

“Not the way the big boys do it,” Ward said. “The way they do it, there wasn’t any way I could compete with ’em.”

There was a bit of mumbling in the crowd, and Rhodes wondered if some of them were beginning to agree with Ward. Ward seemed to think so, and he followed up his advantage.

“They’ve run us small merchants out of business,” he said. “And now they’ve got it all.”  He looked around at the crowd. “Look there. There’s Willard Ames. You oughta be ashamed of yourself, Willard, comin’ out here. Your daddy traded with me from the time I first opened up. Bought all his fishin’ rods from me. Lures, too.”

Ames was a young man in his early twenties, and he looked down at the floor as he spoke. “Well, you don’t have a store anymore, Mr. Ward. And I needed me a light fixture.”

“You’ll get it, too,” said a man at Rhodes’ back. It was the Wal-Mart manager, Hal Keene, a nervous-looking man with a fringe of graying hair and a pot belly. He was carrying a pair of bolt cutters that he handed to Rhodes. “Here, Sheriff. You cut that chain and arrest that man.”

Rhodes took the bolt cutters, feeling vaguely guilty. He’d bought a lot of Old Roy dog food at Wal-Mart. Maybe he’d contributed to Ward’s delinquency.

“You won’t be able to cut this chain,” Ward said, rattling it. “It’s not that cheesy Japanese stuff that you can cut with a dinner knife. It’s good American chain, left over from my store.”

Rhodes walked to the door handle and applied the cutters to a link of chain. He pressed down on the long handles and sheared through the chain.

“Looks like that good old American chain won’t stand up to a solid pair of bolt cutters,” the manager said. He looked around at the crowd. “Made right here in the U. S. of A. We’ve got ’em for sale in our hardware department.”

Rhodes started to unthread the chain from the door handles. “I’m going to have to take you to the jail,” he told Ward.

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