Saturday, August 19, 2017

Chili Run by Stuart R. West

Run, don't walk (or at least click here), for thrills and laughs.


More about author Stuart R. West than you ever wanted to know!
Stuart R. West is a lifelong resident of Kansas, which he considers both a curse and a blessing. It's a curse because...well, it's Kansas. But it's great because…well, it’s Kansas. Lots of cool, strange and creepy things happen in the Midwest, and Stuart takes advantage of them in his work. Call it “Kansas Noir.” Stuart writes thrillers and mysteries usually tinged with humor, both for adult and young adult audiences.

Amazing Blurb-o-Rama!
When Wendell Worthy decides to blow off laundry for the day, he has no idea he'll soon be running across downtown Kansas City in his tighty-whities.

But a murderous, psychotic drug dealer has his brother and the ransom's a cup of chili that has to be delivered within two hours. The catch? There are rules in place: no rides, no money, no help. And Wendell has to do it in his underwear. Regardless of the rules, he knows he can’t go it alone.

The only person downtown who might help is Alicia. Too bad their one and only date ended in disaster. Wendell can run like the devil’s on his tail, and he’s gonna’ need to, because all sorts of hell’s about to break loose.

Chili Run: The perfect thriller for the reader on the go.

Where you, too, can add this book to your collection and proudly show it off on your coffee table!
*Stuart R. West's Books We Love Author's Page: http://bookswelove.net/authors/west-stuart-r/ 
*Stuart R. West's (totally inconsequential) blog: Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley
*And the rest (like on Gilligan's Island): Facebook, Twitter

Welcome to Peculiar County by Stuart R. West

Peculiar County, my first YA book for Books We Love, is a cross genre affair. Nominally it's a ghost tale, sure, but it also encompasses nostalgia (in my opinion, all effective ghost stories should be somewhat nostalgic), suspense, romance, humor, paranormal, murder mystery, and a coming of age tale. It's also my attempt at evoking the early sixties in a Midwest small town; a turbulent time not only for my fifteen year old heroine, but the entire world.

Pardon me if I get a bit writerly, but here we go...

The year the book's set, 1965, can be seen as a metaphor for my young heroine, Dibby Caldwell. The first major shock of the sixties had happened two years earlier: the assassination of US president John F. Kennedy. The tragedy portended the end of the easy-going fifties, a time of silly, blinders-on innocence. The world wasn't adequately prepared for the radical changes of post 1963: hippies, the Vietnam War, rampant drug use, free love. Bell bottoms, for God's sake! Culture shock at seismic levels.

On a smaller, more personal front, Dibby's experiencing similar unsettling changes. Fifteen years old, hormones are rattling her to her core. Not just changes to her body, but of her self-perception, an awakening of sexuality and adulthood. The arrival of "cool" bad boy, James--representative of the new, scary times to come--really triggers matters.

But, hey, Peculiar County's also a fun ghost story and murder mystery. It ain't Dostoevsky.

A tale for all age groups, it's perfect reading for the upcoming fall season.

Here. Blurbs always say it so much better:

Growing up in Peculiar County, Kansas, is a mighty...well, peculiar experience. In 1965, things get even stranger for Dibby Caldwell, the mortician's fifteen year old daughter. A young boy's ghost haunts Dibby into unearthing the circumstances of his death. Nobody—living or dead—wants her to succeed. James, the new mop-topped, bad boy at school doesn’t help. Dibby can’t get him out of her head, even though she doesn’t trust him. No, sir, there's nothing much more peculiar than life in Peculiar County…except maybe death in Peculiar County.


Stuart R. West's Books We Love Author's Page: http://bookswelove.net/authors/west-stuart-r/
 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Great Time Had by All at When Words Collide by Nancy M Bell


His Brother's Bride is Book 2 in the Canadian Historical Brides series. You can find out more by clicking here.

I had the pleasure of spending last weekend at the When Words Collide writers festival in Calgary. It's a wonderful bargain, only $45.00 CAD if you buy your membership before Jan 1, 2018. Tons of panels, pitch sessions and blue pencil sessions.
I was happy to sit on a number of panels and spoke to 8 writes during my blue pencil cafes. Such an honour to have writers trust me with their work and be open to constructive advice. Doing blue pencils is one of my favourite things.
The banquet on Saturday night was a roaring twenties theme. Sadly, I left my costume at home but I do have a picture of me dressed for the roaring twenties from a Surrey International Writers Conference a couple of years ago.


Books We Love, a division of BWL Publishing, had a table in the merchants corner. Below are some shots of our busy table.


Our table right next to the Writers Guild of Alberta


Me and publisher Jude Pittman manning the table


Author Renee Duke, all the way from Kelowna, publisher Jude Pittman and author Nancy M Bell


The HUGE banner to promote the Canadian Historical Brides series. This banner is only half of the display, another banner of equal size shows the other six books in the series. Wow! That's a lot of banner! LOL


Nancy and author Layton Park, also from Kelowna. Layton did a blue pencil with me and we're working on his novel which he asked me to edit for him at Surrey last year. He got into the roaring twenties theme, he was even carrying a violin case, I have no idea if he had a weapon in there or not. LOL I'm guessing-not.

I also had the great pleasure of meeting Jonas Saul. He's a best selling author and all round nice guy. Pleased to count him among my friends now.

The summer has been busy so far, lots of signing and events to promote His Brother's Bride. September promises to be busy as well. On Sept 8 and 9 I'm taking part in the Mountain View Arts Festival. Some of my fellow Brides authors and I will speaking on a panel about our series and the joys and issues with writing historical fiction. Then I'm also part of ArtWrite which is an event sponsored by the Didsbury Library. A group of artists and poets/writers were matched up with one author and one artists paired. The artist provided a piece of work which the author was required to create either a poem or a story inspired by the art. The artist in turn is supposed to create a piece of art inspired by the writer's work. A coffee table book will be published with art work and poems/stories displayed. It will be available for sale at the festival.

I am also embarking on a library tour sponsored by the Northern Lights Library System. I don't have the itinerary yet, but it is scheduled to begin the last week of September or the beginning of October and run for two weeks, approximately. I'm looking forward to it very much. Also a joy to speak about writing and talk about my books and hear what others are working on.

Until next month, stay well, stay happy and keep reading and writing.

Nancy

I'll leave you with a short excerpt from His Brother's Bride:

July 1st 1916 Dominion Day celebrations were a bit more subdued than previous years. The war to end all wars as H.G. Wells declared on August 14, 1914 was well into its second year of conflict. Luxury items were starting to become scarce. But in the small town of Eganville, Ontario on the Bonnechere River things weren’t as impacted as they were in larger centres.
The harvest promised to be a bumper crop this year, so optimism was high. Annie shoved her hat pin deeper into the nest of her hair, hoping to keep the new straw hat from coming adrift. She was crammed in the bed of the buckboard with her brothers and sisters. Except for Hetty, of course. Riding with a gaggle of siblings was beneath Hetty Baldwin newly betrothed to Clarence Hiram. Dust rose from the well-travelled road, everyone from the surrounding countryside seemed to be headed into town. She leaned over the side of the wagon and peered ahead. Thank goodness, they were almost there. Once Father found a strategic place to park the buckboard, Annie planned to slip away into the crowd and avoid being saddled with her younger sibling. Rotha was two years older than her and could take her turn looking after the little heathens.
On another note, Annie wanted to be out of earshot when Father clambered up onto the back of the wagon and began his hell fire and brimstone preaching. While she admired his convictions and his passion, it was more than a little embarrassing when he got so enraptured that spittle flew from his mouth.



In this bit they go exploring in the Bonnechere Caves which you can visit yourself if you're ever in Eganville, Ontario. Although now there are guided tours and wooden pathways through the caves. When Annie, George and Peter go exploring the caves were only known to adventurous locals. My grandfather, Herb Pritchard used to visit the caves as a youth. His brother, Joseph's name is on the cenotaph in Eaganville.



“Here it is!” Peter stopped by some cedar trees.
“Here’s what?” Annie peered around him. The lacy branches of the cedars brushed against the silver grey of the limestone behind them.
“There. The sinkhole.” He moved a bit and motioned her forward.
“Oh my, it’s deep!” Annie stepped by him and leaned over to look through the branches at the deep depression gouged out of the soft stone.
“Careful.” George’s fingers dug into her arm. “The edge might not be solid.”
She shook him off. “It’s fine. I want to see how deep it is.” Annie dropped on her belly cushioned by the thick grass and wriggled closer to the edge. “Have you been in there?” She balanced on one elbow and looked back at Peter.
“Sure, lots of times. Me and Tom been there lots. There’s all kinds of stuff you can see in the walls. Fish and stuff, leaves…” Peter dropped down beside her.
“I don’t think this is such a good idea. You two should get away from there before you fall,” George cautioned.
“Don’t be such a spoil sport, George. It’s safe, honest,” Peter replied.
“How did you get down there?” Annie edged closer to the opening. “It looks too far to jump.”
“For God’s sake don’t jump.” George sounded like he was about to have an apoplexy.
“Nobody’s jumping, there’s a rope.” Peter got up and rummaged around at the base of one of the cedars. “Me and Tom got some candles and matches and stuff here too. You game?” He raised his eyebrows at Annie.
“Yes! I’ve never been in a cave before. Can we? You’re coming too, aren’t you?” Annie looked at George.
“If ye’ve got yer heart set on it, I guess I’m coming. I can’t let you two go off on yer own and maybe get into trouble.” The older boy came closer and leaned over to look between the cedar boughs down into the patch of sunlight at the bottom of the hole.
“If we’re going, we need to do it now while the sun is still high enough to light up the floor of the cavern,” Peter advised. He tied the stout rope to the base of the nearest tree and tossed the end into the hole.
George picked it up and gave a hard pull to test his brother’s knot. Taking off his shirt he padded the spot where the rope rubbed on the rocky edge. The play of muscles under the smooth tanned skin of his back fascinated Annie, she found it hard to look at anything else. Peter cleared his throat and elbowed her in the ribs. Heat that was more than the summer sun could account for suffused her body, even the tips of her ears burned. Pete gave her a cocky grin and shook his head.
“Who goes first?” George straightened up and came to stand beside them.
“I’ll go, show you how it’s done,” Peter boasted.
“Then you go, Annie. I’ll come down last, so if something goes wrong I’ll still be up here to pull you up or go for help,” George said.
“Scaredy cat! You’re just afraid of a little hole in the ground,” Peter taunted his brother.
“Am not! I’m just being careful,” he protested.
“C’mon, let’s get on with it. We still need to get back up river before someone starts looking for us,” Annie urged them.
“Yer right.” Peter grasped the rope and disappeared over the edge. In no time, he called up. “Okay, your turn, Annie.” His voice echoed hollowly.
Taking a deep breath, she tucked the back hem of her skirts up between her legs and tucked it securely into the belt at the front of her waist, effectively keeping the yards of material out of her way and avoiding the possibility the boy below might see something she’d rather he didn’t. “Here goes,” she said, biting her lip to try and hide her excitement and anxiety. Her bare feet found purchase on the crumbly stone of the side and she was glad she wasn’t wearing the new boots with the slick soles. In less time than she thought it would take, Peter’s hands grasped her waist and steadied her until her feet touched the bottom, the sand cool on her bare feet.
“Your turn,” Annie called up to George. She looked up, squinting against the light. George’s head was backlit by the sun, his hair burnished gold, face in shadow.
“Get back out of the way, give me some room.”
A small shower of loose dirt and small stones preceded his descent, cascading down to join the debris already on the floor of the hole. Light flared in the gloom outside the sunlit patch of ground directly under the opening above. The candle’s flame threw Peter’s face into eerie shadow. Annie’s breath caught in her throat, it looked like the engraving of Satan in one of Father’s books. The resemblance faded when he moved back into the light.
“Here, see the funny wee things embedded in the wall?” He held the candle close to the limestone and pointed to what looked like a big bug.
“How amazing, what is it? Do you know?” Annie leaned so close her nose almost touched the damp stone.
“Nope, not an idea. Some kind of creature that lived long, long time ago. Tom, he knows about these things, he calls ‘em fossils.” Peter moved the candle and showed her what looked like the imprint of leaves and then a curly something that resembled the top of a turban.”
“Who else knows about this place?” Annie whispered, the dark recesses of the sink hole sending sibilant whispers back like ghosts mocking her. Annie shivered.
“Just me and Tom, that I know of. We ain’t told anybody. This is our special place, a hidey hole if we ever need one, unless maybe your brothers know about it too, like you said.” Peter moved further into the shadows. “C’mon, you gotta see this.”
Annie moved toward the sound of his voice, aware of George close behind her. The dirt and rocks beneath her feet were damp and a bit slippery. The wavering candle light threw shadows off the rough walls and ceiling.
“Oh my goodness!” She halted so abruptly George ran into her and caught her around the waist to keep from knocking her over. His sharply indrawn breath matched her own gasp. Peter’s light revealed rock formations hanging from the ceiling like icicles, shining damply in the cool air. Below the odd creations others rose to meet them from the floor. Annie reached out a hand to touch one, cold slick wet rock met her questing fingers. George’s hand was still warm on her waist and gave her the courage to venture further into the passage after Peter.
Far ahead the sound of rushing water carried to them on the wafts of moving air. “Careful, it’s wet further on,” Peter called from ahead of them.
“What do you think made this?” Annie wondered.
“The river most likely,” George answered. “Look at the way the rock is carved out, it looks like waves.”
“It does.” Annie was astounded. “Can you imagine what power? It must have taken years.”
“I imagine it did,” George answered. “Peter, I think we’ve gone far enough. Come back.”
“Oh!” The cry escaped her before she could stop it. Icy water lapped at her ankles.
“Careful, Annie. The last thing we need is for one of us to fall and break something. Petey!”
The light bobbed back toward them and Peter’s blond hair came into view, lit from below by candle. “You gotta see this. It’s just a few feet more. It’s worth it, believe me.”
“I don’t think it’s wise…” George began.
“What is it?” Annie was reluctant for the adventure to end.
“You have to see it,” Peter urged her.
Annie followed him for a few feet and around a twist in the passage that cut off any light from the sink hole opening into the upper world. Peter cursed softly and the candle snuffed out. The darkness in the cave was a palpable thing, closing around her throat and smothering the breath in her chest. She opened her mouth to scream but no sound emerged. George grasped her upper arms and pulled her back against him.
“Don’t move,” he hissed in the stygian blackness. “We can’t know where to put our feet. Peter, have you got another light?”
“Aye, just a minute, the matches are damp.”
The sharp scritch of match heads striking brought Annie’s heart into her throat. Finally, a tiny flame flared and Peter touched it to the wick of a new candle.
“Oh, thank God!” Her hand clutched at her throat.
“Enough, Peter. We need to get out of here,” George’s voice was thin and sharp as spring ice.
“But, it’s right here. You have to see this.” He insisted.
“Annie?” George’s hold tightened on her arms.
“We might as well see what it is that’s got him so excited seeing as we’re already here.” Curiosity got the better of her fear. Together they moved toward the candle light. Her gaze was drawn downward as they came abreast of Peter.
Mere feet below where she stood water rushed past, appearing and disappearing out of the darkness.
“It’s the river!” Peter declared. “Tom says this is how the caves were created.”
“What river? The Bonnechere?” Even George sounded impressed.
“The same. You know where the river disappears under the cliffs? Well, Tom says it travels underground through these channels it makes for itself and them tunnels come out again further down.”
“How amazing!” Annie bent down to stare at the dark waters swirling by, running so fast it actually have tiny white crests on the waves where it collided with the walls.
“We should go now,” Peter said. “This is my last candle.” He moved past them and headed back into the smothering darkness.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Short Story - Maude, There's A Body - Janet Lane Walters




I began my career writing short stories but I don't write them any more. This is the last one I wrote and it took me more than two months to write. In that amount of time, I can have half a book written. But here's the story for you to enjoy.


By
Janet Lane Walters

"What’s a nice girl like me doing in a dump like this?" Maude Forest laughed. Girl was pushing the envelope, but dump said it all. She shifted position on the moth-eaten sofa and grabbed her cell phone. Maybe her best friend had returned from her latest jaunt. Maude was in dire need of diversion.

Why would a self-made millionaire want to find his roots? She looked at the faded, water-stained wallpaper and prayed her husband of thirty-five years would come to his senses. He’d dragged her to this farmhouse on the edge of nowhere because his father, grandfather and who knows how many greats had lived here.

What was wrong with a cruise or a visit to Broadway? Even a golfing vacation would have been more fun. No, George had to see the home of his ancestors, his unexpected inheritance and the place his mother had fled when he was a few months old.

She dialed a familiar number and heard her friend’s voice. "Sue Ellen, regale me with tales of civilization."

Sue Ellen Pinewood laughed. "The Parker wedding was a gross extravaganza."

"Was I missed?"

"Absolutely. Without your caustic comments, I was bored. Let me tell you about the dust-up at the Women’s Club luncheon."

The phone crackled. Maude couldn’t hear her friend. "Sue Ellen, are you there?"

"Sorry. My driver hit a rut. Where was I?"

"At the Women’s Club."

While Sue Ellen gave a blow by blow, Maude felt envy blossom like the roses on the trellis outside the window. She’d give almost anything to walk on concrete instead of dirt, but budging George was impossible.

"Ma, Ma, git out here," George bellowed.

"I’m not your mother."

Sue Ellen chuckled. "Is Ma his new pet name?"

Maude sighed. "Since he’s in the hills, he’s turned us into Ma and Pa Kettle."

"Where are you?"

"Midway between Luke and Stumpy Point."

Sue Ellen giggled. "So when will you be home?"

"Who knows when Pa Kettle will find the roots his
mother severed when she left his father."

"Have you done anything interesting?"

Maude rolled her eyes. "We appeared at a strawberry festival. Shame I’m allergic."

Either Sue Ellen or the connection sputtered like eggs frying in bacon grease. Maude held the phone from her ear.

"Woman, come here, now," George shouted.

Sue Ellen giggled. "What’s got him so riled?"

"Probably a cow wandered by. Where were we?"

"Your exciting days."

"We’ve toured cemeteries and read tombstones." Though it had taken more than a year after the death, she wished the lawyer hadn’t found George.

"Maude, there’s a body on the lawn. Hurry."

Sue Ellen shrieked. "Did he say body?"

"Probably a groundhog or a possum. Call you later."

"Sure can’t wait to hear what he’s found." Sue Ellen’s voice held supercilious tones. In the past year though she’d become Maude’s best friend, Sue Ellen barely tolerated George.

Maude opened the screen door and stepped onto the weathered boards of the porch. Her portly husband clung to one of the pillars. He turned. "Maude, do something."

The panic in his voice startled her. Fear from a man
who’d defeated corporate raiders and hostile take-overs?

Her gaze followed his finger. A figure, wearing overalls and a red shirt, lay on the grass. Shaggy pale hair resembled straw. "It’s a scarecrow."

She walked down the creaking steps and gingerly crossed the rough-cut grass. She stumbled over a black rock and nearly fell. When she reached the figure, she saw the shirt had once been white. The stain looked like blood. She stared at the man’s face, felt light-headed and crumpled to the ground.

The sound of sirens roused her. She glanced at the body. Not her imagination. The dead man wore her husband’s face. Though much older than George, the shaggy eyebrows and the nose, often referred by friends and foes as "the eagle’s beak," were prominent features of the stranger.

In the middle of the man’s chest, a knife with a gold dollar sign for a handle stood erect. She knew the knife; she’d had it made for George. He had reciprocated with a similar one for her. She wiggled away from the body and rested her head against her knees. The sirens stopped.

"Ma’am, you okay?"

"In shock, but I’ll do."

"Your name?"

"Maude Forest."

He pronounced Maude as Mud. Even after she corrected
him, her name remained mud. "You know the victim?"

"Never saw him before." She looked up and, for the second time that morning, fainted.

When she roused, three men knelt around her. She blinked. "Is this some kind of joke?" Though of different ages, all bore the same genetic stamp -- shaggy eyebrows and eagle beaks. "George, are you trying to drive me crazy?"

He patted her hand. "I’m as puzzled as you are."

"Why did you drag me to this god-forsaken spot?"

"Ma’am, this is God’s country," the youngest of the look-alikes said.

"Clone County."

"No, ma’am. Wayne County." The older man grabbed George’s arm. "Come along."

The younger man jumped to his feet. "This is a matter for the Sheriff."

"Wrong, Sonny. Town has jurisdiction. And we got the lock-up."

"What?" George yelled.

"Body was found here. Anybody can see there’s a connection."

George straightened. "I have never seen this man before."

"What about the knife? Cain’t be too many like that
around."

"It’s much like the one I keep in my home office."

The officer led George to one of the squad cars. Maude struggled to her feet. "What are you doing with him?"

"Taking him for questioning."

"What about that...that..." She pointed to the corpse.

The younger man patted her shoulder. "Ambulance is on the way. You’ll be okay. Nothing much happens around here."

"You call a dead man nothing?"

The older man turned. "There’s a couple motels in town. Recommend the Cozy Nest."

His recommendation sounded like a command. Maude nodded. "I’ll go there."

"Figured you might. Be available for questions."

The ambulance arrived and the patrol cars left. Maude returned to the house and dialed her friend. Instead of Sue Ellen’s drawl, Maude heard a canned message. Of all the times for her friend to be out of touch. Maybe Sue Ellen was with the man she’d recently met, the one Maude didn't know.

In the house, Maude put the luggage on the lumpy bed. At least tonight, she wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked by bedsprings. She lugged George’s single case and her four, plus the hanging bag to the Mercedes. After all,
a woman had to be prepared for most occasions.

As she drove down the narrow road George had called a
blacksnake trail, she gripped the wheel. Every rut sent a surge of dread along her spine. The road was edged by posts and thick strands of wire she didn’t believe would keep the car from plunging down the mountain.

Her cell phone beeped. She stopped in the middle of the road.

"Hello." Her friend’s honeyed drawl sounded. "Sue Ellen, I can’t talk now. I’m on a road that makes a rollercoaster seem tame."

"Where’s George? Doesn’t he usually drive?"

She wasn’t about to tell anyone her husband had been arrested. "He’s otherwise occupied."

Sue Ellen said goodbye. Maude continued the white-
knuckle drive. When she reached the main highway before heading to town, she sat and shook.

The Cozy Nest wasn’t a luxury hotel, but was nicer than the farmhouse. The room was clean, the king-sized bed comfortable and the air-conditioning worked. She found a local phone directory and called the jail and the lawyer who’d gotten George into this mess.

While she waited for the lawyer, Sue Ellen called. "Tell me about the body on the lawn."

Maude quickly described the corpse and the other George look-alikes. Though she mentioned the victim had been stabbed, she refused to mention the knife. She kept that fact to herself. "The police took George away. Please

come. I need a friend." The long silence made Maude edgy.

Finally Sue Ellen spoke. "Not today. Why don’t you come home."

"And leave George?"

Again there was a pause. "I suppose not."

"Would you stop by the house and bring several black dresses? The way things are going, I’ll need them."

"No problem."

Maude brewed coffee in the set-up in the bathroom. She settled at the table in a corner of the room. George wasn’t a killer. He had a ruthless streak, but that was reserved for business.

She picked up the local paper and read the headlines. "County To Run Out Of Coal." The article spoke of the loss of tax revenues and mentioned potential mining sites where landowners refused to sell.
A rap on the door interrupted a sudden thought. She braced for another encounter with a George clone. Since coming here, she realized what her mother-in-law’s dying words meant.

"I left my husband because he was too busy plowing fields."

Maude had thought Estelle had meant George’s father had been too busy farming to pay attention to his wife and son.


Wrong! Maude opened the door and gasped.

"Mrs. Forest, is something wrong?"

She felt relieved. The lawyer had none of George’s features, though there was something vaguely familiar about him. "Come in, Mr. Birchwood."

"I haven’t seen your husband yet."

"Isn’t he entitled to legal representation?"

He nodded. "He’s refused to see me."

"Why?"

He shrugged. "I have no idea."

"Who was the body on the lawn?"

"That’s a puzzle. Appears to be George Senior, but I saw him buried."

"Could I see a copy of the will?" She’d been George’s secretary, wife and executive assistant. He’d always seen the big picture while she handled the details.

He patted her hand. "Wouldn’t do you much good. Full of legalese."

His refusal raised her determination to find a copy. "What happens next?"

"Soon as I see Mr. Forest, I’ll plan my strategy."

Maude sighed. "I guess I must wait."

He walked to the door. "Keep your chin up."

Maude closed the door. She finished the coffee and
called the jail. "This is Mrs. Forest. When can I see my husband?"

"He doesn’t want to see anybody."

Surely he didn’t think she was involved in this mess. Of course, George was used to being in control. "Tell him I’m looking for details." She grabbed her purse and headed for the courthouse. In the record room, she stopped at the desk. "I’d like to see a copy of George Forest’s will."

The young woman looked up. "It’s not here."

"Who has it?"

The girl shrugged. "Can’t say.

"Did you happen to look at it?"

The young woman’s glance darted around the room. "Sure did. Made me mad. Left his land to strangers. A son no one ever heard of and if he was dead, to a daughter. Both strangers."

"What’s wrong with that?"

"’Cause that sweet Nell took him to her house and cared for him when he was dying."

"Where does she live?"

"Not in town. Haven’t seen her much since the old man died."

What now? Maude left the record room. She saw three men approach and for a moment, thought George was with them. Did all the men in town look like him? Though she felt
dizzy, she refused to faint again.

"Ma’am, we have some questions," one of the men said.

She nodded. "So do I. Why won’t George see me or the lawyer?"

"He has his reasons." They escorted her to an office. "Tell us about this morning," the one who looked the most like George said.

Maude complied. The men stared. She felt like a fly about to be swatted. "What’s going on? There has to be a pattern."

"Imagine you know since you called 911 to report the murder."

She shook her head. "Wasn’t me."

"You had a cell phone in your hand and you were the only woman around."

Maude swallowed. "I was talking to a friend when George called. What are you trying to say? George didn’t kill that man."

"Perhaps."

"Who was the dead man?"

"Your husband’s father."

"Then who was buried more than a year ago?"

The man who looked the most like George shrugged. "Maybe your husband’s uncle. Too late to tell, but all Forests look alike."

"Do you have any more questions?" Maude wanted to cry.

"Not at the moment. Make sure you don’t leave town."

She walked to the door. "Not while George is here. Tell him I’m looking for the trees." She stopped suddenly. Those words triggered an idea she didn’t want to believe.

"Is there something else?" one of the men asked.

"I’m not sure. I have to make a phone call." She left and walked back to the Cozy Nest.

Was there a way to find proof against the lawyer? Mr. Birchwood had to be the key.

When she reached the motel, she entered her room and reached for the cell phone to call Sue Ellen. Before she had a chance to put her purse down, someone knocked at the door. Maude answered and saw her friend. "I was just about to call you. Sue Ellen Pinewood, thought you couldn’t come today." Sue Ellen smiled and Maude swallowed a gasp. Why hadn’t she seen this before?

"I thought of you all alone and had to come." Sue Ellen breezed past a stunned Maude. "We have adjoining rooms." She opened the door that connected the rooms. "We can spend the evening talking about how you’re going to spend George’s money."

"What are you talking about?"

"He’s going to be convicted of the murder. After all, the knife was his."

Had she told Sue Ellen that? She’d only said the man
had been stabbed. "How did you know about the knife?"

"How else? She was there." Mr. Birchwood entered from the adjoining room. He smiled. "I’d like to be the first to let you know your husband’s been released. He’s on his way here."

Maude grasped her purse. "Sue Ellen, why?"

"My daddy should have left the land to me. There’s coal there and I’m going to be rich."

"Why are you telling me this?" Maude asked.

Sue Ellen laughed. "George is going to be surprised." She pulled out the companion knife to George’s and strode toward Maude.

Maude swung her purse and knocked the knife from Sue Ellen’s hand.

Someone banged on the door. On the backswing, Maude slugged Mr. Birchwood. She opened the door.

Five men entered. "Nell Pinewood, you’re under arrest for murder,"

One of them said. "And you, Mr. Birchwood as an accessory."

Once the men and their prisoners left. Maude put her arms around George. "Can we go home now?"

"After I complete a real estate deal."

She shook her head. "George, I was so busy looking at the Forests, I nearly missed the trees."

George laughed.

Chili Run by Stuart R. West

Run, don't walk (or at least click here), for thrills and laughs. More about author Stuart R. West than you ever wanted to know...