Monday, February 10, 2014

Hog Insane by Carole Brown

Newly retired, all Denton Davies wants to do is to fish and recapture his wife’s love. Instead, a dead body, a missing motorcycle, a strange key, and dope await them at their first stop in the Smoky Mountains.

None of the campground people, or even the sheriff, pretend to like Denton and his snoopy questions, and everyone seems to be lying. Does a missing motorbike hide evidence what might incriminate the murderer?

The self-centered campground manager seems greedy enough to have hidden the motorcycle for the murderer. So why doesn’t he know where the bike is now? And why is the sheriff ignoring obvious clues? Why leave a bribery note where Denton’s suspicious eyes can see it?

Denton wrestles with his personal demons of self-blame over his nephew’s death while riding a bike. His wife, Alex, resents Denton’s riding roughshod over her feelings.

When he thinks her love is fading, he’s determined to woo her back. But if he doesn’t find the young man’s murderer, their love may stretch to the breaking point.

Excerpt


Chapter One
“You what?”
            “I bought—”
            “I know what you said,” I growled. A vision of my wife’s closet back home, filled with rows of shoes—basic colors like black, blue, brown, and white, and a rainbow of colors—flashed across my mind’s eye and nearly blinded me. Alexandria Davies had more shoes than any middle class lady should admit to.
We strolled toward the campground restaurant. The lights from the office behind us cast weird shadows on the shortcut path. I scowled and opened my mouth to let Alex hear why she didn’t need that eighty-sixth pair of shoes.
An explosive crack split the air around us and blasted the fussing right out of my head. I dropped to the mossy ground and pulled Alex down with me, breathing hard, my eyes searching the shadowy darkness closing in on us.
The throbbing rumble of a fast approaching Hog drowned out the creaks of nightlife, as the bike tore down the road that ran parallel with the path we were on. In a blur of silver and black, the sole rider wove from side to side in an imbecilic pattern.
Before I could dwell on it, a small, dark car roared by, twenty feet or so behind the bike. All the windows were dark except one, and something protruded from it. Something long, narrow, and ominous.
I blinked and hugged the edge of the road even tighter. Couldn’t be a gun. 
Nah. Ludicrous. 
The car roared past us, and I turned my head to get another glimpse. No sign of a gun now.
Alex mumbled beneath me. I scrambled up and helped her to her feet.
“Denton Davies. What on earth is the matter with you?” She reached up and ran her fingers through her hair, then grimaced as she slid her hands over her clothes. With a quick glance at me, her eyes revealed sudden concern. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. You?”
She indicated the hole in her sleeve and stuck out her foot. “What do you think?”
I eyed the long black scratches on the absurd-looking pink things semi-covering her feet, but my mind remained on the bike and car. Could the biker be the guy we were looking for?
Selena Mathias’ worried words from a week ago played like a circus calliope in my mind. He’s in trouble. I know it. I need your help. Please.
“How can you just stand there? Don’t you care you’ve ruined my shoes and my clothes?” Alex propped a fist on her hip. “Just because you’re upset about the shoes I bought today—”
I took her arm and guided her toward our RV. “Sorry. I thought someone was shooting at us.”
She gave me one of those looks. “Sounds like you’re trying to live the last mystery book our reading group discussed.”
“Hardly.” Our love affair with mystery books was the farthest thing from my mind. The image of the bike and those morons chasing the guy on it refused to fade. Had they been a bunch of teens having fun? Like Michael, my favorite, seventeen-year-old nephew, when he died? Kids having a blast.
            “Insane biker.” If I never saw another one, it’d be too soon.
            A quiet sigh escaped Alex’s lips, and she muttered, “I’d love to ride a bike.”
How can you say that? You know what happened to my nephew. You know how I blame—
            “Denton, stop condemning me with your thoughts.”
            I lowered my voice to a menacing growl and repeated the words aloud. “They’re insane. And dangerous.”
            Michael. Michael. The son I never had. The one I taught to ride a bike. I wanted to gnash my teeth.
The risks they took, the craziness they engaged in—yep, I’d had my own run-ins with plenty of bikers, and most of them hadn’t improved my opinion. “What about Michael? You know how—”        
            “Denton, It’s been ten years. It wasn’t your fault then, and it’s certainly not now.”
            That didn’t make the guilt go away.
“If I’d never taught him—”
            “Nonsense. His mother spoiled him rotten and never disciplined him.”
             Taffy, our tan and white Jack Russell, jumped in the air, nosed my arm, and I glanced down at the female terrier. I extended my hand so could she lick it, her way of begging for attention, and then gave her head a quick rub. “Come on. There’s no sense in letting this ruin our walk.”
            Alex gave me the once-over, starting at my shoes and moving up, her lips curling a fraction.
I choked back a retort. I should have never put on the ratty shirt and jeans this morning. Though they were comfortable and great for travel, Alex hated them. That alone started a downward spiral all the rest of the day.
            What a laugh.
            “Alex, you’re the light of my eyes. You know that, don’t you?”
            Her lips thinned, but at least she didn’t walk away from me.
            “You need some time to relax from all that . . . uh, energy.”
            “Energy? You’ve always said you admire my, uh, energy.”
            She was mocking me.
            Besides, I couldn’t have built my business without it.”
            True. She might be a pint-sized woman, but she was a battle tank when it came to determination. And her determination to stay unhappy drove me bonkers. I drew in a breath and tried to calm myself.
            “I can’t stand to see you unhappy.”
            She swiveled toward me. “Then you should have thought about that before you ran roughshod over my plans.”
So, she was still driven to show me my plan of traveling twelve months a year wasn’t all I’d painted it to be.
            I watched her figure sway away from me. Women.
Lifting my arms in a man’s universal expression of defeat, I hurried to catch up with my wife. As we walked up the tree-shaded lane, birds twittered their evening good-nights and rustled the brush as they settled in for the coming night, belying the noisy vehicle interruptions minutes ago. A whippoorwill whistled its lonesome call, and several quail cooed love notes to each other as we reached our destination.
            I tied Taffy to a porch pillar and patted her head. “Stay close.”
 When we stepped inside the restaurant, I sniffed at the aroma of fresh bread and something vanilla-scented wafted toward us. Hmm. Now if the food tasted as good as it smelled . . .
A tall white-haired woman greeted us and led us to a table by a large window overlooking the lake. Yellow checked placemats held polished silverware and wild flowers sat in the middle of each of the wooden square tables. Pretty snazzy for a down-home type restaurant. Well, at least the campground manager hadn’t exaggerated.
            When the waitress approached for our orders, I knew what I wanted. “A T-bone, medium, baked potato with lots of real butter. And is homemade bread what I smell? I’ll take some. ” I pointed at the words on the menu.
            Alex laid down her menu and leaned forward. “I thought we decided to change our eating habits on this trip? Steak and all that butter isn’t good for you. Why don’t you try . . .” Alex picked up her menu. “. . . grilled chicken with stir-fried vegetables and a salad with light dressing?”
            She looked up at the waitress who scribbled on her pad. “I’ll have the same, and let’s try some homemade wheat crackers.”
When the waitress walked away, she gave me a smile. “You did promise, remember? One of the conditions of this—trip.”
            I growled a little, but what could I say? I had promised in a moment of weakness, and she was right, even though I didn’t want to admit it. Grilled chicken was far better for my health, but it wasn’t what I craved, unfortunately. Her gentle voice though weakened my insides. Married as long as we were, her voice still caused my bones to melt. Even when she unhappy with me.
            The door slammed, and a young man rushed up to the hostess. If I’d ever seen a case of nervousness, this young man displayed it. Even from where I sat I could observe his heaving chest, the sweat-beaded brow. The hostess led him to a table by a window, but he shook his head and pointed to a corner table. Once seated, he ignored the menu she’d placed in front of him and gave the whole room a prolonged study.
            I bent toward Alex and kept my voice low. “Hey, look at the young guy in the corner. See the leather chaps and jacket?”
            She shifted to study the young man. “What are you thinking? Selena’s nephew?”
            “Of course not. He wouldn’t pop up out of the blue. ” Exasperation threaded my tone. “But it could be the biker we saw awhile ago. What’s the matter with him?”
            Alex smiled in the man’s direction.
His darting glance skimmed her face, then returned to rest there, eyes narrowed. After a moment of study, he returned her smile. His haunted eyes glowed with questions. Uncertainty. Terror.
            Her left eyebrow lifted, and an amused chuckle escaped her lips. “He looks terrified, and he could be the biker who tore down the road while we were getting shot at.”
             “Quit laughing,” I motioned at her to cool it. “Yeah, that one. We weren’t the target. I think he was.”
            The waitress set down our salads, and after a short blessing, Alex picked up her fork and stabbed at a bit of lettuce. “A car probably backfired.”
            Was she right?
            I kept my eye on the young man. He ordered coffee and pie, but after one bite, he laid down his fork and sat with his hands cupping the mug.
            Ten minutes later he left.
            When we finally headed back to our RV, the night had settled down in earnest. Taffy needed her nightly walk, so we strolled on one of the paths leading around the lake.
            Alex breathed in, then puffed out a little. “It seems strange to be on our very first vacation after our retirement.”
            Her voice held an edge of tension I wished wasn’t there.
“Not strange at all. I’m glad to retire early. It’s what we’ve worked for.” I stopped walking and looked at Taffy, who stood stiff, her head cocked to one side.
            “Come on, ole girl. Let’s keep walking.” I tugged on her leash, and she trotted beside me for a few feet then stopped again.
            I frowned. “What’s the matter with you?”
            Taffy ignored me and pulled on her leash, her hackles raised, a low growl rumbling inside her throat.
            “Denton, what’s wrong with her? Something’s bothering her.” Alex squatted and smoothed Taffy’s head. Our small dog glanced over her shoulder and growled. “Do you think it’s a bear? Or is someone out there watching us?”
            “Why on earth would they do that? Let‘s let her loose for a bit. Maybe she’ll get it out of her system. ” I really didn’t like to let her off her leash in unfamiliar territory, but I bent to unhook her anyway. As soon as I loosened her, she took off.
            We scurried to follow. Taffy loped about fifty feet, then disappeared into some underbrush. Alex bent to crawl after her, but I gripped her arm. “Wait. There’s a narrow path snaking its way through all the brush up here. It’ll be much easier.”
            I whistled softly, and Taffy whined in response. I jerked my head to the left. “Over here. Sounds as if she’s found something.”
            We hurried to catch up with her and came upon a small clearing. In the center a firepit had been dug and several picnic tables sat scattered around. A couple of large trash bins stood on either sides of the area.
            We’d left the lights of the campground behind. The round, bright moon illuminated the field until it almost looked like daylight.
Taffy ran back to us, her bark a shrill call for attention. I hushed her and moved forward, but something caught my eye. At the opposite end of the clearing, an object protruded from the woods line. Long. Dark. Could it be the bear Alex had mentioned? 
            I held out my arm. “Stop. I want you to stay here. There’s something over there, Alex.”
            She must have read my mind and clutched at my arm. “What if it is a bear? You can’t go over there with no weapon.”
            What to do? Taffy ran twenty feet or so and looked back. When I didn’t come after her, she turned and scampered to us.
            “She wants me to see what she’s found.”
            “Well, whatever it is hasn’t moved. Maybe it’s waiting there for us to approach.” Alex joked, but her voice quivered.
            Courage exploded inside me, and I picked up a large stick. “I don’t think Taffy would tackle a bear. I’ll be back in a sec.”
            As I approached the dark object, I realized it couldn’t be a bear. Too narrow. But maybe a wild cat? Nope. Too dark. I squinted.
            Was that a foot? It looked like . . . I stared for a minute then hurried forward.
            Taffy stood stiff-legged beside a man’s body sprawled half in the clearing, half in the brush. Bike gloves covered his hands. His black leather jacket scrunched up a little on his back and showed a bit of his belt. His booted feet lay toe down, as if his feet had dug into the ground.
            I squatted and pressed two fingers alongside his neck. No pulse.

            But I had known there wouldn’t be. The bullet hole in his head said it all.



About The Author


Carole Brown has written four children’s character building books besides her debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman.
A Genesis semifinalist, Carole loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy. She is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas.

Carole and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled across the country. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons? 

Purchase Hog Insane at:

Amazon

Books A Million


Barnes & Noble
Carole Brown is giving away a copy of Hog Insane. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.





9 comments:

Sharon A Lavy said...

This is a great story. I hope our winner will enjoy reading this one as much as I did.

Lisa Lickel said...

This is going to be a fun series. I read this one and think the others will be a hoot. I love your little dog, and I'm not-sorry-much of a pet person.

Anonymous said...

This sounds great! mandn(at)wisper(dash)wireless(dot)com

Susan Johnson said...

While I love reading stories about young people, I really love reading stories about people closer to my own age. This sounds great.
susanmsj at msn dot com

Jackie McNutt said...

Carole, what an intriguing excerpt! I love mysteries and this looks like a good one.
Thank you
mcnuttjem0(at)gmail(dot)com

Cindi A said...

I really like Carole's writing style. Her book The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman was excellent.
Please enter me in the drawing to win a copy of Hog Insane.
Thanks!
cindialtman(at)gmail(dot)com

Caroline said...

Thank you, ladies! Wish you all could win. :)

I'm also running a February contest to win some of my books & other great stuff here, if you're interested:
http://www.sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com/

Thanks, Karen, Sharon, Cindy, and Lisa for reading TRofCH

Linda Kish said...

This sounds exciting. Count me in, please.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Patricia Bradley said...

Hog Insane sounds like my kind of book! What made you decide to write about a not so young couple as your protagonists? pat at ptbradley dot com

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