Table of Contents
Unhappy Trails to You ...
“My God,” I said.
“Who is it?” Crystal asked.
“What’s the matter?” Seth shouted from his horse.
I drew a deep breath, closed my eyes, opened them, and used my hands to part the bushes. It took a moment to make a clear visual path, but when I did, I recoiled as though bitten by a snake.
“Who is it?” Crystal repeated.
“It’s Mr. Molloy,” I said. “I’m afraid he’s very dead.”
Murder, She Wrote
A Little Yuletide Murder
Murder in Moscow
Murder On the
The Highland Fling Murders
A Palette for Murder
A Deadly Judgment
Martinis & Mayhem
Brandy & Bullets
Rum & Razors
Manhattans & Murder
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First Printing, May
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eISBN : 978-1-440-67356-6
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For Danielle Perez and Cindy Chang
cowboys and cowgirls: Joseph
Webber, Mandy Nesbitt, Joel and Melanie Fonder,
Amber Kilgore, Jon Sadler, Andy Wallace, and
And with special thanks to
the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association
“Nice and easy, Jessica. Don’t jerk the controls. Just a little nudge here, a slight turn there, and the plane pretty much flies itself.”
I gently, tentatively placed my hands on the control yoke of the single-engine Cessna 172 and moved it an inch to the left. The plane responded by starting a slow turn.
“That’s it, Jessica,” Jed said in his low, calm voice. “See how easy it is?”
Jed Richardson had been a top commercial airline pilot for years before moving to Cabot Cove to start his own small charter airline, flying out of a bare-bones, compact airport on the town’s southern edge. Jed is a central-casting image of a pilot, a wry, knowing, infectious grin always on his round, tanned, deeply creased face. He wore his usual uniform, a distressed brown leather aviator’s jacket, white silk scarf about his neck, and a blue peaked cap with Jed’s Flying Service emblazoned in gold on it.
“This is so exciting,” I said, barely able to control my glee.
“Makes you feel free, doesn’t it?” he said, smiling. “As many years as I’ve been doing it, I always get a little excited when I take off. Look down, Jess. Pretty sight, huh?”
Below and to my right was Cabot Cove, laid out neatly before me.
“Let’s go take a look at your house. Turn right. While you do, add a little rudder pedal with your right foot. Makes for a smoother turn. That’s it, just a midge of pressure.”
A few minutes later, with Jed at the controls, we passed over my home.
“It looks so small from up here,” I said.
“Picture-perfect, isn’t it?”
I drew a deep breath, grinned, and peered through the windshield into the pristine, blue, late August sky that surrounded us.
You’ve done it
, I told myself.
You’ve actually done it!
A half hour later, Jed had me guide the aircraft to the airport, make a series of turns that lined us up with the runway—“We always land into the wind,” he said—then took the controls for a smooth touchdown. My first flying lesson was in the books, literally, as Jed filled out my spanking new flight log and signed off on the lesson.
“There’s Doc Hazlitt,” Jed said, taxiing the Cessna to a corrugated metal hangar on which a large red sign, JED’S FLYING SERVICE, glistened in the late morning sun. He shut down the engine, flipped some other switches, and reached across to open the door for me on the right side of the plane. I stepped down, patted the fuselage, and walked to where my good friend and Cabot Cove’s leading physician, Seth Hazlitt, waited.
“Well, how was it?” he asked.
“Wonderful, Seth. A special feeling, so free, so liberating.”
Jed joined us. “She’ll make a fine pilot,” he said.
- “Has a nice touch,” Jed continued. “Real easy on the controls.”
“We flew over my house,” I said as we walked to where they’d parked their cars.
“Did you now?” Seth said.
Jed looked at me and winked. We both knew Seth was against my taking flying lessons. He offered myriad reasons: I didn’t even drive a car; it wasn’t ladylike; it was too dangerous; peering into the sun would give me lines around the eyes, as it had for Jed; and, I suspected, a modicum of jealousy.
Seth had talked over the years of one day taking flying lessons, but never got around to it. When I suggested he sign up with me, he dismissed the notion as folly. “Too old for such nonsense now,” he’d said.
“Too old? I never thought I’d hear you say that.”
“Takes a young person’s reflexes,” he said.
“Not according to Jed. He says flying a plane is easier than driving a car.”
“Fine for him to say considerin’ he’s been doing it all his life. No, Jessica, I’ll not be taking flying lessons from Jed Richardson, or anybody else. And neither will you.”
I should explain the tenor of my relationship with Seth Hazlitt. We are the best of friends. I haven’t the slightest doubt that he’d do almost anything for me, and has in the past. I, of course, would do the, same. Because we are such good pals, we are quick to overlook our respective foibles and idiosyncrasies. Mine are legion, but Seth has his, too, the most evident of which is a tendency to try to keep close tabs on me, rein me in when he thinks I’ve reached too far, protect me and ... well, on occasion, run my life. I know he means well, and I seldom allow him to nettle me. But he’d come close over the issue of my signing up with Jed Richardson for flying lessons.
“Same time tomorrow?” Jed asked as we prepared to leave the airport.
“I’ll be here,” I said.
“Lunch?” I asked Seth.
“Was plannin’ on it.”
After clam chowder and tuna fish sandwiches at Mara’s Luncheonette on the town dock, Seth drove me home.
“Coffee?” I asked.
“Don’t mind if I do.”
I admit to being somewhat of a coffee snob, and take pride in mixing flavors to come up with what I consider the perfect blend, at least to my taste. We settled at my kitchen table, breathed in the rich aroma from our mugs, touched rims, and sipped.
“Excellent, as usual,” he said.
“Thank you, for the compliment and for the lunch.”
“My pleasure. Jessica, about this flying lesson nonsense, I—”