Authors: Bill Crider
Tags: #Mystery: Thriller - Sheriff - Texas
|Bill Crider - Dan Rhodes 07 - Murder Most Fowl|
|Dan Rhodes |
|St. Martin's Press (1994)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Thriller - Sheriff - Texas|
MURDER MOST FOWL
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:
(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.
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
The Carl Burns Mystery Series
One Dead Dean
…A Dangerous Thing
The Truman Smith Mystery Series
Dead on the Island
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
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)
Ryan Rides Back
A Time for Hanging
Outrage at Blanco
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
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
MURDER MOST FOWL
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.