Authors: Terry Odell
Tags: #Mystery: Thriller - Police Chief - Colorado
|Terry Odell - Mapleton 02 - Deadly Bones|
|Mapleton Mysteries |
|Terry Odell (2012)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Thriller - Police Chief - Colorado|
A Mapleton Mystery
Copyright © 2012 by Terry Odell
Cover design by
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
This one’s for Joey
Gordon Hepler swung his Mapleton, Colorado Police SUV behind a long row of vehicles that were double-parked and blocking driveways for blocks. Parking tickets waiting to happen. Gordon ignored them all. Screw the mayor and his nagging about how much revenue the tickets would generate for Mapleton. Today was an exception.
After two days of much-needed rain, everything sparkled. Sunlight filtered through the cottonwoods, dappling the sidewalk. Gordon hopped out, adjusted his sunglasses, and hit the remote to lock his cruiser. Rolling his shoulders against too many hours of sitting at a desk dealing with paperwork, he ambled toward Rose and Sam Kretzers’ house.
With still a block to go, a dog’s urgent barking overpowered sounds of laughter filling the air. Within seconds, a blur of speckled fur flashed past him, followed by another blur, this one black, larger, and the source of the barking. Gordon spun, trying to identify the wayward canines. Two youngsters rocketed down the sidewalk after the dogs.
“Artie, come back,” one boy shouted.
Gordon stretched out an arm, waylaying the boys. Both wore jeans, muddied at the ankles. “Hey, there. Slow down. Are those your dogs?”
The smaller of the two boys wiped dirty hands across the bottom of his t-shirt and nodded. “Artemus is mine.” He pointed toward his companion, whose shirt was only slightly less stained. “Midnight is his.”
“You know, dogs are supposed to be on leashes,” Gordon said. “It’s a law.”
The second boy—Gordon figured the two of them were six or seven—caught up, panting.
“Artie had a stick and Midnight started chasing him. He’s a good dog. He won’t hurt anybody.”
“Neither will Artie.” The first boy stood on tiptoe, as if he could make himself tall enough to see over Gordon. “We were at the party for Miss Rose and Mister Sam. My mom said it was okay to bring Artie.”
Gordon scanned the area, but the homes on this street sat on several-acre lots, with plenty of woodland for critters to hide in. “I’ll call Animal Control and they’ll look for them.”
Two sets of eyes bugged wide. “Like the dog catcher? Will they take Artie and Midnight to the shelter and kill them?”
Gordon resisted the urge to tousle their hair. “No, they’ll call your parents. That is, if your dogs have collars and tags. They do, don’t they? That’s another law.” He tried for a stern glare.
The boys exchanged a quick glance and nodded.
“Then I’ll call in a lookout order for them. You can come with me and tell the dispatcher everything about them,” Gordon said.
“We’re not supposed to go with strangers,” the bigger boy said.
Gordon chuckled and pulled out his badge case. “It’s all right. I’m a police officer. My name’s Gordon Hepler. What about you?”
The smaller one stared at the badge, then at Gordon. “Wow. You’re the Chief of Police? Cool! I’m Joey Shore.”
The second boy stood straighter. “I’m Declan Webber.”
“All right, Joey Shore and Declan Webber. I’m going to call this in. But if you want to go get your parents first, that’s fine with me.”
Another exchanged glance and some foot-scuffing. “No, the police are okay.” Joey said.
Gordon strode toward his cruiser, the boys following, calling for their dogs. As he approached his SUV, he chirped the remote. He paused, enjoying the wide-eyed grins on the two boys as he reached for the radio. Sure, he could have called on his cell, but being Chief of Police tied him to a desk. Once in a while, it was nice to feel like a “real” cop again.
After being patched through to Animal Control, he let the boys use the radio, taking turns describing their dogs and answering questions. When they finished, he requested to be informed when the dogs were found. “Okay, boys. That should do it. Time for me to make an appearance at the party.”
“Thanks!” they said in unison.
The boys scampered ahead, and Gordon lengthened his stride to keep up. When they reached the Kretzers’, the boys went straight to the backyard. Gordon climbed the porch steps and paused outside the open door. Big band music played from the stereo. The aroma of grilling meat set his stomach growling. As if she’d heard the rumbling, Rose Kretzer waved at him and wriggled her way across the crowded living room.
“Happy Birthday, Rose,” he said.
Her face was flushed and her eyes glistened. “Gordon. Come in.
Eat. There’s so much food. Angie and Megan—those two.” She wiped her eyes. “Nobody said anything. So much work, so much trouble they went to. You want I should get you a plate?”
Gordon bent down and kissed Rose’s cheek. “I can manage on my own, Rose. Again, happy birthday.”
She flapped a hand. “
It’s just another day. I certainly had no part in the decision to be born.”
“The world is a better place with you in it. I only hope I’m half as good a person as you are when I’m seventy-seven.” Gordon winked at her.
She flushed an even brighter shade of pink. “Go.
“Oh, and Angie—she’s in the yard. In the new gazebo Justin built. A birthday surprise.”
Heat rose to his neck at the mention of Angie’s name. A manly flush, he hoped. Not Rose’s magenta.
Megan Wyatt, Rose and Sam’s ward, intercepted him at the dining room table. “I’m glad you made it. I can’t believe we pulled it off. Rose was totally shocked.”
The fact that Megan had been hiding out at Angie’s meant it had been a week since Gordon had managed any alone time with Angie. He looked forward to rectifying that later. Another rush of heat. Time to switch topics.
“How did you manage to get all this—”Gordon gestured to the array of food—“in here without giving everything away?”
“I told them I was coming in last night, not last week,” Megan said. “To celebrate Rose’s birthday with a quiet family get-together. Justin showed up a week ago and built the gazebo. He told Rose a few neighbors were coming over for a ribbon-cutting. That way, she could do some cooking, but most of this is from the guests. We knew Rose would never accept gifts, so we asked for food.”
“How is Justin?” Gordon asked. Justin was Rose and Sam’s grandson; he and Megan had hit it off—very well—on their last visit.
“Fine. He’s probably hanging with his parents. It’s their last day visiting.”
Gordon checked her face for any sign of a blush. Apparently he was the only one who had trouble with someone mentioning relationships.
“Ozzie’s out back, manning the grill,” Megan said.
“Then I’ll start out back,” Gordon said. He picked up a plastic plate.
Megan gave him a conspiratorial grin. “Make sure you check out the gazebo.”
That heat returned to Gordon’s neck. Small town fishbowls. Why bother trying to be discreet and keep a low profile? He might as well park the Police Department SUV outside Angie’s apartment overnight. Something he pointedly avoided.
With what was undoubtedly a useless pretense of nonchalance, Gordon strolled toward the industrial-size grill where Ozzie, Angie’s business partner and Daily Bread’s portly cook, reigned supreme.
“Hey, Chief,” Ozzie said. “Glad you made it. Angie’s over by the gazebo.”
Gordon suppressed a sigh. “Thanks. How about you hand over some of those ribs first.”
Ozzie’s white teeth shone against his coffee-colored face. He scooped a generous portion of ribs onto Gordon’s plate, followed by a helping of baked beans. “I like a man who knows his priorities. Slaw, potato salad and some rolls over yonder.” He motioned with his double chins to a table set up against the wall of the house. “And Angie’s got the rest of the day off.” Ozzie winked.
Shaking his head, Gordon grabbed a soda from an ice-filled tub and wandered toward the gazebo. No point in trying to pretend running into Angie would be a chance encounter.
He spotted her short-cropped blonde hair, glistening in the late-afternoon sunshine. She was perched on the rail of the gazebo, chatting with a group of women, her back to the house. Not watching for him, then. A twinge of regret flipped through his belly.
She shifted slightly, and he noticed the mayor’s new trophy wife was part of the group. Which meant the mayor was likely here somewhere, too.
. He scanned the yard for the man, and finally discovered him holding court with a group of potential voters. With the election only a few months away, every appearance was a campaign stop.
Rather than intrude on the women, or make himself visible to the mayor—no matter that he’d finished all the paperwork the man had demanded of him on a
—Gordon slowed his steps, glancing around for a quiet, out-of-the-way spot to eat. His mouth watered at the tantalizing aroma of Ozzie’s ribs. Finishing that damn report meant Gordon had skipped lunch.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of Angie’s companions elbow her and gesture in his direction. Angie swiveled around, and her smile, as always, gave him that zing in his chest. She jumped from the rail and trotted down the gazebo’s steps.
Taking the soda from him, she slid her arm around his waist. “I was afraid you weren’t coming.”
He stepped back. “Miss Rose’s Lucky Seven party? Never.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Oh, so Rose is the only reason you’re here?”
“I heard there was going to be some good eating.”
She elbowed him in the ribs and tilted her face up. “Dare you to kiss me hello.”
He felt that damn heat spreading again. Inhaling Angie’s scent—a hint of cinnamon, like her trademark rolls—didn’t cool things down.
“If you could see the expression on your face,” Angie said. “It’s like I asked you to kiss a rattlesnake.”
Angie fingered the silver chain she wore around her neck, sliding the lapis pendant back and forth. The necklace he’d given her. Another zing in his chest. She looked at him expectantly. Gordon glanced around the yard. The mayor was still regaling his entourage. Everyone else seemed busy with their own food, drink, and conversation. What the hell. As he leaned down, his cell trilled the ringtone from Dispatch. Saved by the bell? Or not. “Sorry. Gotta take this.”
“Hepler,” he said into his cell.
“Chief. Animal Control got the dogs.”
“Thanks,” Gordon said. “I’ll let the kids know.”
“There’s more. One of them had a bone.”
“That’s not unusual, is it? Dogs and bones. Kind of go hand in hand. Or paw in mouth.”
“No, Chief. This one’s different. They think it’s human.”
Gordon cursed under his breath as he parked his SUV as close as possible to the coordinates Sandy, the Animal Control officer, had given him. His stomach rumbled again, and he gave a longing glance to the two foil-wrapped plates on the passenger seat. One with his late lunch which was likely to be an even later dinner, and the other, a platter of desserts Rose had insisted he take with him, “to share with everyone at the station, to thank them for their service.” Days like this, he wondered if he’d be better in a dull, nine-to-five job. At least he’d get regular meals