Authors: Janet McNulty
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Ghosts - Vermont
|Janet McNulty - Mellow Summers 06 - Where Trouble Roams|
|Number VI of|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Ghosts - Vermont|
Mystery: Cozy - Paranormal - Ghosts - Vermontttt
Where Trouble Roams
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents within 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 location 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.
Where Trouble Roams
Copyright © 2013 Janet McNulty
Illustration by Robert M. Henry
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Printed in the United States of America
If you purchase this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book”.
~For any who have ever wanted to go on a treasure hunt.
I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel of the car as the state trooper approached. Jackie fidgeted a bit. “Will you stop?” I hissed at her.
“I can’t help it. Cops make me nervous.”
“You aren’t nervous around Detective Shorts.”
“Yeah, well he has saved our bacon a few times. Besides, it’s your fault we got pulled over.”
“You’re the one that wanted to take my car,” I said.
Last Christmas, I totaled my car while trying to escape from a murderer. As a favor, Tiny and his friends bought me a brand new car. Of course, they decided to “fix” it for me by painting it black with flames on the hood and the sides with the silhouette of a naked woman. They also added the playboy bunny on the trunk and put a small figurine on the hood of a naked woman, which would constitute as tw
o naked women total on my car.
On the back roads of South Dakota, this car stands out. So naturally, when you are only doing five over the limit and you’re the only one on the road you get pulled over.
“License and registration,” said the state trooper as he reached the driver’s window.
I handed him my driver’s license and car registration without delay.
“Vermont, huh? What brings you out here?”
“We’re on vacation,” I said.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”
Why do cops always ask that? As though it took a genius to figure it out. “Because I was speeding,” I said trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.
The state trooper gave me a reproachful look. He handed me a ticket. “Next time, slow down.”
I just took the ticket and muttered, “Yes, officer.”
“They must be desperate to meet their quota,” said Jackie once the cop had left.
My Aunt Ethel had sent Jackie and I brochures for the Skagway Ranch; a sort of dude ranch for city folk to experience the “Old West”. Actually, it was more of a tourist trap for people who spent way too much time in the city or had nothing better to do. Right up my aunt’s ally.
Since I knew there would be no turning my aunt down we accepted. Also, I was only taking one class this semester: an independent study course. My professor didn’t mind me taking off as long as I emailed her updates about my project.
I turned on the lone, dirt road that my aunt’s directions indicated. Almost immediately, my left, front wheel hit a pot hole. Great, there went the shock absorbers.
“How far does this go?” asked Jackie.
“No idea,” I said, looking at the miles of grass in every direction, except for where the mountains loomed over us. A few, lone trees dotted the landscape as though they had just decided to plant their roots there for lack of anything else to do.
Where were the people?
“I see it,” exclaimed Jackie. She pointed at the sign that indicated we had entered the ranch.
I turned the car onto the second gravel road of our trip and slowly drove along. “How far are we supposed to go?”
“No idea,” said Jackie as she turned the map around.
Frowning, I just continued along the lonely stretch of dirt hoping to find some sign of civilization. Eventually we saw a white building up ahead. Figuring that was where we were to go, I headed for it pulling into the gravel parking lot.
“Is this it?” asked Jackie.
“It better be,” I said, turning off the car.
I watched as others pulled up emptying suitcases from the trunks of their vehicles. I pulled our bags out of the car handing Jackie hers. “Let’s find Aunt Ethel.”
“Mellow, darling!” A crazy old lady in a neon pink, button up shirt, jeans, and a cowboy hat slammed into me.
Ok, so Aunt Ethel found us. I hugged my aunt and smiled. She wasn’t a bad person to be around, just annoying sometimes. Or, a lot of times.
“So good of you two to make it,” continued my aunt, “Well, let’s get you girls checked in.”
We followed my aunt to the lobby where there was a front desk. “Name?” said the lady at the desk. Her name tag said, Sal.
“Mellow Summers,” I said. “My aunt—”
“Here,” Sal handed me a key. “Room two sixteen. Second floor.”
“You two girls go up to your room. I’ll meet you outside once you’re settled.”
Jackie and I carried our bags up the staircase to the second floor. The lodge we seemed nice. The lobby had couches and a television which was turned to some rodeo show. And there seemed to be a cafeteria of sorts. We found room two sixteen easily and used the key to get in.
This was a real key, not a card like many modern hotels use nowadays. The lock clicked and I opened the door to a spacious room with two beds and a small bathroom to the side. A dresser and two nightstands filled the crevices and a closet next to each bed. They weren’t big closets but had enough space for our things.
“At least your aunt let us bunk together,” said Jackie as she plopped her suitcase on one of the beds. “Oh, no. No. No. No. I’m not wearing that.”
I turned to see what Jackie referred to. On her bed was the most tacky outfit: a yellow plaid shirt with cuffs on the sleeves and old lady slacks.
I checked my bed. Sure enough, something similar laid on it. I guess Aunt Ethel had done some shopping.
“You don’t have to wear it,” I said.
“No way am I going to. Now, let’s make a pact, Mel. This time we are here to relax.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, lately, every time we go somewhere you tend to trip over a dead body.”
“Jackie,” I replied, “it’s not as though dead bodies fall at my feet.”
I opened the closet to put Aunt Ethel’s suggested outfit in there. Just as I opened the door out fell a body; landing right before my feet. So much for famous last words.
“You were saying,” said Jackie as she walked up to see what had caused the noise.
“Wow,” said a familiar voice, “I don’t think he’s breathing.” Rachel had materialized right beside us.
Somehow, I had the feeling that this would prove to be a more interesting vacation than I had anticipated.
“Mellow dear, what is taking you so—Oh!” Aunt Ethel stopped the moment she noticed the dead man on the floor. “I thought we were past all this.”
I rolled my eyes. Past all this? It’s not like I wanted a dead man to show up in my room.
“Better call Joe.” Aunt Ethel left the room.
I soon learned that Joe was the foreman of the ranch. A no-nonsense sort of man, you didn’t want to fidget around him or give him anything but straight answers. He came into the room within minutes of my aunt running to get him.
“What happened?” he demanded.
“Well,” said Jackie, “there appears to be a dead guy in our room.”
Joe glared at her, not appreciating her sarcasm. He inspected the body. “This appears to be Michael Evans.”
“Evans?” I said, my curiosity getting the better of me.
“Arrived here two days ago. Kept to himself mostly. I better call the sheriff.”
Jackie pulled out her cell phone. “You can just use my phone.”
“You won’t get a signal out here,” said Joe. “Cell phones are useless. There is a main line in the lobby and a phone in each room. Though the one in here isn’t working properly. I’ll have to have a talk with Sal about putting guests in a room without a workable phone.”
“Well, girls, it looks like we got ourselves another case.” Rachel threw her arms around Jackie and me.
“Mellow darling, you have got to quit finding dead bodies,” chided my aunt. “It really is a bad habit.”
“What? It’s not like I set out to find him. Someone put him in my closet,” I blurted out.
“Well, you certainly have a habit of finding such things,” continued my aunt.
“You’re the one who got us these rooms.”
Jackie immediately shook her head trying to get me to quiet down.
“Well, Sherriff Judson will be here in a bit,” said Joe as he reentered our room; his boot clomping on the wood floor. “You all are to remain in here until he arrives. He has questions for all of you.”
Within thirty minutes the sheriff arrived. He inspected Michael Evans’ corpse before having the body carted out. He took all of our names before beginning the questions.
“Name?” asked Sheriff Judson.
“Where are you from?”
“Vermont.” I handed him my driver’s license. He looked it over, frowned, and gave it back to me.
“What brings you to South Dakota?”
“I’m here for a fun time,” I said. My sarcasm did not go unnoticed.
“I understand that you found the body.”
“Yes,” I replied, “I opened my closet and he fell out.”
“Made a nice loud thud,” said Rachel, but only I heard her.
“Yes,” I said.
“Did you touch the victim at all?”
“Did you know the victim?”
“No, this was our first meeting.” I kicked myself for that response. Sarcasm and police do not go together.
“Miss Summers, I would appreciate it if you took this more seriously,” said Sheriff Judson.
“Look, I don’t know the man. Never met him before. I came in here to unpack my suitcase, opened the closet, and out fell a body. That is all I know.”
The sheriff didn’t respond to my outburst. He questioned the others with the same results. No one knew the victim, other than that his name was Michael Evans. No one knew why he was at the ranch or what he did for a living. All we knew was that he was dead and in my room.
“I guess that finishes this up,” said the sheriff. “We’ll dust for prints, but there is no blood or anything. My guess he was killed elsewhere and put here. You girls should have your room back by this evening.”
Stay in this room. Was he nuts?
“Nice hat.” Rachel flipped the sheriff’s hat off of his head as he walked past her. He jerked around and glared at everyone, before picking up his hat and walking out.
“I want a new room,” I told Joe.
He nodded. “There is a vacant one at the end of the hall. Help yourself.”
Jackie and I grabbed our suitcases and headed straight for the other room.
After we had finished unpacking, the phone in our room rang. I answered it.
“Miss Summers?” It was Detective Shorts. “A little bird informs me that you found a body.”
“I have connections. You make a few when you’re in law enforcement. And your recent driving record is showing a traffic violation on it.”
Damn, that was quick.
“And a Sheriff Judson called back to talk to me about both you and Jackie. Imagine my surprise when I learned that it was you who discovered the body.”
“Uh, in my defense,” I said, “someone put that guy in my closet.”
“Stay out of it.”
“You heard me, Miss Summers. Stay out of it. Let the local authorities solve this one.”
“I wasn’t planning to—”
“Just stay out of it,” ordered Detective Shorts.
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“I mean it, Miss Summers.”
“I’m just here for a relaxing vacation.”
The silence on the other end told me he didn’t believe me. Not that I blamed him. How is one supposed to relax when a dead man turns up in their closet? And t
he detective knew me too well.
”See that you do,” said Detective Shorts.
I hung up.
“What was that all about?” asked Jackie.
“Detective Shorts got word of the dead guy.”
“He wants us to stay out of it.”
“Doesn’t he know that asking you to stay out of a murder mystery is like asking an alligator not to eat the first thing that falls in its mouth?”
The door burst open as Aunt Ethel let herself in without knocking. “A mystery! How fabulous!”
Wasn’t she all upset about it a minute ago? What changed?
“I don’t know who’s worse. You or her,” Jackie whispered in my ear.
“The chase is on,” continued my aunt, “Not much is known about our unfortunate victim, but we will seek justice in his name.”
“Huh?” I said.
“You’re going to solve this of course,” said Aunt Ethel.
“I wasn’t planning—”
“Oh, nonsense, dear. That sheriff doesn’t know anything. Well, it’s time to eat and tomorrow we learn how to ride horses.”
Aunt Ethel left all excited about me solving another case.
“Is it too late to go home?” asked Jackie.