Authors: Shelley Freydont
|Celebration Bay Mystery [1.50]|
This Thanksgiving in Celebration Bay, it's murder with all the trimmings...
Event coordinator Liv Montgomery is not only in charge of this year's Turkey Trot in Celebration Bay, she's participating as one of the runners. But not long after the race begins, gunshots are heard and a body is found in a remote section of woods. Did a local crank shoot the man for trespassing? Or is there a darker, more complex motive for plucking this runner before he crosses the finish line? Now it's Liz's turn to race to find the cold-blooded killer...
Includes an excerpt from the newest book in the Celebration Bay Mystery series -
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Shelley Freydont
FOUL PLAY AT THE FAIR
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A Berkley Prime Crime Special / published by arrangement with the author Copyright © 2013 by Shelley Freydont.
by Shelley Freydont copyright © 2013 by Shelley Freydont.
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Berkley Prime Crime Special / August 2013
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Liv Montgomery leaned over and adjusted the laces of her running shoes. She hadn’t done any serious running since coming to Celebration Bay to be the town’s event coordinator three months ago. She hadn’t run in a Turkey Trot in years. Mainly because the holiday season was her busiest and it didn’t allow time for anything but work—that and the fact that New York City, home to the greatest marathon on earth, didn’t have a Turkey Trot.
But Celebration Bay did, and her assistant, Ted, had convinced her that her participation would show serious support of the town.
“Are you sure you don’t need me?” she asked.
Ted lifted an eyebrow, his favorite don’t-be-trying expression. Ted was somewhere in his sixties, she guessed, since he never gave out details about himself; tall, thin, with a shock of white hair and a permanently amused twinkle in his killer blue eyes.
If he’d ever been married, he didn’t say, and she’d never asked. Not that she was looking in that direction; she was just thirty and not ready to settle down yet. Heck, who was she kidding? Event planners didn’t have time to settle down.
She did have one man in her life. He was watching from the sidelines with her two landladies, Miss Ida and Miss Edna Zimmerman. He had white hair too, only his eyes were brown. He stood about knee-high and was a Westie terrier named Whiskey.
Behind them, the park was packed with people. The roped-off holding area must contain more than a hundred participants. The earlier fun run had attracted over two hundred children and adults. The Turkey Trot 50 yard dash was filled with children. The town had already collected two truckloads of donated food.
Edna and Ida waved. They were standing at the very front of the crowd lining the sidewalk that enclosed the town green, which wasn’t so green in the middle of November. Liv loved it here.
She waved back. “Okay, but—”
“No buts. Go enjoy yourself, unless you plan to go for the gold, in which case run like you were pursued by demons.”
Liv grinned at him. “Not me. I’ll be lucky to finish in the first twenty. I’m not exactly in prime shape. And I haven’t attempted a 10K in I don’t know when.” She leaned over to touch her toes, squatted down, and stood again.
“You could have fooled me. You look mean and lean . . . even in hot pink.”
Liv looked down at her bright thermal vest. “Don’t want to be mistaken for a bear,” she said.
“We’ve posted over a hundred No Hunting signs along the route, sent out dozens of announcements, and posted the route with police cruisers to thwart anybody from attempting to hunt that stretch of woods. Besides, we don’t get too many bear hunters around there anyway, deer hunters mostly.” He grinned. “No one would mistake you for either.” He looked past her and his eyes widened. “Though I’m afraid you can’t hold a candle to that guy.”
A tall, buff, Nordic-looking man took his place among the other runners, most of whom were outfitted in sweats, jeans, or jogging suits. The newcomer was wearing shiny black running tights and a red-and-black thermo stretch crew. A black headband accentuated stylish white-blond hair.
He was impressive. But arrogant. Thor leading a band of three less-than-enthusiastic followers, who reluctantly took their places around him.
Two of the men were fortyish, in decent enough shape from what Liv could tell based on how they looked in their nylon running suits. The third was Thor’s exact opposite. Short, paunchy, and bald. He was wearing gray sweatpants and a faded Notre Dame sweatshirt that might have fit him twenty pounds ago. He was already huffing and puffing.
“They don’t let anyone run without signing the waiver, do they?” Liv asked Ted.
“Not a chance,” Ted said through a grin. “That’s why you have that nifty turkey sticker on your chest. No turkey, no trot.” Laughter got the best of him.
“You’re such an inspiration.”
“Okay, chop-chop, they’re getting ready to start.”
She took a final stretch, pulled her headband over her ears.
“Come on, Pudge,” one of the men said. “You agreed to the run. It’s good for you and it’s good for business.”
“Yeah,” Thor said. “It’ll make them think you’re just like them.”
Their shorter and definitely “pudgy” companion frowned. “I’m here, aren’t I? But I’m freezing my tail off.”
“Surprised you could find it in all that extra flab,” Thor said.
The two other men exchanged looks. “Max, lay off,” the taller one said.
Pudge laughed. “It’s okay, Joe. Max here doesn’t bother me. Let him have his fun. I know how to throw my weight around.” Pudge patted his stomach.
The other two chuckled. Thor grinned. “Five says I can run the 10K and beat you back to the hotel bar before you even finish the 2K.”
“C’mon, Max. It’s just a friendly race,” Joe said.
Pudge looked sideways at him. “Why not make it ten?”
Liv frowned at Ted. “Do you think I should say something about not betting?”
“For ten bucks? I don’t think you need to bother. If they were taking bets from others, that would be another thing.”
Thor narrowed his eyes. “Deal.” He adjusted his headband. “Eric, Joe, and I will be waiting for you in the bar. Loser buys the drinks.” He grinned; it was competitive and smug.
Liv hoped Pudge got there first. She didn’t like people like Thor.
The bullhorn sounded to announce the start of the race. Everyone took their places.
The four men crowded in ahead of her. She couldn’t resist. She said loud enough for them to hear her, “The winner should donate to the Celebration Bay Youth Program.”
The second horn sounded and the marathon began. Thor shot out in front. Liv doubted if he could keep up that pace, but she didn’t really care. She planned to run her own race at her own speed.
The route ran east toward the lake and then south down Lakeshore Road.
A half mile later, those running the 2K turned west and began the loop back to the town square. After another quarter mile, those running the 5K course also turned off.
The 10K course continued south into farm country.
Trees lined the side of the road, at first as windbreaks to the fields behind them. Later patches of woods shared the vista with farmland. Every few yards, No Trespassing and No Hunting signs were posted on fence posts and trees.
Liv only noticed them in a blur. She forgot about side bets, award presentations, quilt demonstrations, Pilgrim’s Feasts, and everything else as her feet and body settled into a familiar rhythm. She was in the zone, and running was everything. She overtook a small group of runners. There weren’t many; most participants had signed up for the shorter races.
Liv saw the first water and first aid station up ahead. She didn’t slow down but grabbed a cup of water from a volunteer, downed it, and dropped it to be picked up later by the cleanup committee.
The route entered the woods, the air became considerably colder, and Liv readied herself for the long haul. Her goal wasn’t to win, but to enjoy, and she settled into a steady, comfortable stride. Time ceased to matter, the cold disappeared, and it was just Liv and the pulsing rhythm of the run.
For a while she was alone on the road. She hadn’t passed Thor, and she hadn’t seen him in at least twenty minutes, so he must be way ahead. No one had passed her.
Her legs began to burn. No doubt about it, she was out of shape. She probably should have stuck with the 5K. She tried to get in a run at least three times a week, but between her job, her dog, and the weather, she hadn’t been as disciplined as she should have been. She’d feel it in the morning.
She saw another water station ahead.
“Go, Liv,” the volunteers cried. She recognized Fred Hunnicutt as she grabbed water and kept running. She was fifty feet past them when a loud report rent the air. Liv slammed to a stop. A backfire probably, but cars were prohibited from the course until the race was over. There were No Hunting signs posted all along the route and at every road, track, or path through the woods.
Still . . . She turned and ran back to the water station.
Fred and the other volunteers were looking frantically around.
“What was that?” she asked, gulping for air. “A backfire?”
Fred, who was her event traffic controller, shook his head. “More like a gunshot.”
“A hunter? He could hurt someone.”
“I don’t think—” Another shot rang in the air.
“Definitely gunshots,” Fred said. “Damn hunter. Didn’t he see the signs?”
“We’ve got to stop him,” Liv said. “Can you tell where it’s coming from?”
“I think it came from that direction,” Fred said, pointing into the woods.
“Sounds like it’s coming from Henny Higgins’s place,” said Rufus Cobb, another volunteer.
“I thought he was off visiting his daughter.”
“He is, least he was.” Rufus chewed on his mustache, a habit when he was perturbed.
“Who is Henny Higgins? We have to stop him,” Liv said. “There are several hundred people at risk.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Fred said. “Rufus, you stay here and keep everybody on the road and headed back to town. Liv, you can keep running. I’ll check it out and if it’s Henny, I’ll make sure he stops. Darn fool.”
“I’m going with you,” Liv said. She had a responsibility to keep things running smoothly and safely, though never in her wildest dreams had she thought she’d need to keep people from getting shot at during a Turkey Trot.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
“I’m going.” She lifted her chin.
Fred gave in. “All right, but stay right behind me.” He started toward the woods. There was an opening in the brush, barely more than a path. Fred pushed the brush aside and Liv followed on his heels into the woods.
The brush immediately closed around them. They could have been in the wilderness. It was eerily quiet except for the sound of their trampling feet and their own breathing.
After what seemed an eternity, Fred stopped and stuck out an arm, halting their progress. Liv stretched to see beyond him. They were standing at the edge of a small clearing. A dirt track ran off in the opposite direction, just wide enough for a car or truck to pass through.
At the edge of the clearing, a wooden shack sagged in on itself. A thin stream of smoke curled from a brick chimney. A rusted-out shell of a truck was set up on concrete blocks among several piles of scrap metal, and a newer truck was parked in front of the shack.
The newer truck wasn’t in much better condition than the other one. The back window was covered by plastic, which was kept in place by gaffer tape, and the back bumper was held up by wire. The paint job, which had once been green, maybe, alternated between rust spots and patches of primer that had turned to a dirty gray.
“That’s Henny’s truck,” Fred said. “He musta come home early. Henny! It’s Fred Hunnicutt. Don’t you go shooting anybody. Henny? You hear me?”
“Henny? Henny, you come out here and talk to me.”
“Look. Over there.” Liv pointed to the dirt road that ran into the woods.
“What?” Fred asked.
“I thought I saw somebody. A bit of color. There. There it is again.”
“Henny?” Fred hurried toward the road. “Don’t shoot.”
“Is this Henny inclined to shoot people?” Liv asked as she ran after Fred.
“Oh yeah. Bitter old misanthrope, that’s Henny. Didn’t you see all those No Trespassing signs we just passed?”
Liv shook her head. She’d been too busy looking for a wounded deer or bear and praying that she wouldn’t find a wounded human. “Everyone was told no hunting or shooting of any kind between the hours of ten and two.”
“But Henny’s been gone for weeks. He wasn’t supposed to come back until after Christmas.”
Fred slowed. The road was narrower here, and a smaller track branched off to one side. Fred hesitated.
“Where does this road go?”
“Comes out on the county road. But we put up signs over there, too, even though the race comes nowhere near. Better safe than sorry.” Fred shook his head. “Better let me go first, Liv.”
“Not a problem.” Liv was having second thoughts about insisting on coming.
They’d barely gone another thirty feet before Fred stopped abruptly. Liv only barely managed not to plow into him. Her foot hit a patch of wet leaves. She skidded and had to grab Fred’s jacket to keep from falling.
Then Liv saw what had caused Fred’s abrupt halt.
A man was lying on the ground. One of the runners. Black running pants and red-and-black thermo stretch crew jacket, black headband and white-blond hair. And kneeling beside him was another man, holding a shotgun across his knees.