Welcome to Fiction Friday, my opportunity each week to post an excerpt from one of my own books or those of my friends and colleagues.
Today’s excerpt is from my good friend and former neighbor, Patricia McLinn, who convinced me some years ago that her neighborhood in Arlington, VA was a wonderful place to live. She was right. Now both of us have moved away, but luckily we see each other at conferences and have email to keep us connected.
When Patricia told me she was writing a mystery series, I waited excitedly for a peek at the first book. I knew I would love it, and I did. So today we’ll share Sign Off with you. The second book, Left Hanging, came out in June, and it’s on my wish list to perk up my post-holiday slump. Once again, can’t wait.
Here’s what Patricia has to say about herself:
USA Today bestselling author Patricia McLinn’s 30-plus novels are cited by reviewers for warmth, wit, and vivid characterization. In addition to her romance and women’s fiction books, Patricia is the author of the “Caught Dead in Wyoming” mystery series, which adds touches of humor and romance to figuring out whodunit.
Her journalism career included being a sports writer, assistant sports editor, and — for 20-plus years — an editor at the Washington Post. She is now living in Northern Kentucky, and writing full-time. Patricia loves to hear from readers through her website, Facebook and Twitter.
And here’s a bit about Sign Off to get you started:
Elizabeth “E.M.” Danniher’s career as a top TV news reporter has crash-landed — courtesy of her vindictive ex — at tiny KWMT-TV in Sherman, Wyoming. So what next? Try to return to the life she’d known? Give up news while cashing in on her name? Or something entirely different? And what of her personal life? … Wait, what personal life?
As she wrestles with these issues, a little girl named Tamantha Burrell approaches her and proclaims that Elizabeth will help her. Her problem? Her daddy’s being tried in the court of public opinion after the disappearance of Cottonwood County sheriff’s deputy Foster Redus.
Abetted by colleague Mike Paycik, Elizabeth delves into the case, bringing her to the point where she … well, let Elizabeth tell you:
Driving into the hinterlands of Wyoming to interview an alleged murderer alone, in a car that came no closer to four-wheel drive than having four tires, wouldn’t qualify as one of the smarter things I’ve done. Unfortunately, it doesn’t qualify as the stupidest either.
Got your attention now? I’m delighted. Here’s the excerpt. Enjoy.
“Mr. Burrell? I’d like to speak to you.”
Against the crisp smell of vegetation fed by the creek, the pungent scent of cut logs pricked my nostrils. The chainsaw he’d apparently used to section the trunk to fireplace-sized lengths was off to a side with safety glasses beside it. Sawdust covered the ground and stirred with each motion. Even a spider’s web laced between two saplings at the edge of the creek held grains of it like a doily dotted with tarnished glitter. Around the stump he used as a splitting platform, chips littered the ground. On the other side grew a stack of fresh-split logs with not a stick out of place.
A man who didn’t mind making a mess if the result was orderly.
He cleaved a quarter-round of log into a pair of perfect wedges, laid both on the pile, snagged his shirt and started toward me.
I sure wished he’d left the ax behind.
I swallowed as he neared. If Tamantha was wrong about her father, it was going to be very sad for her, but it could be damned tragic for me.
Those kinds of thoughts can slow your mind. So it had almost happened before I realized he intended to walk right past me and into the house. Rushing to stop him, I used what had been my best weapon for most of my life–words. “I’m E.M. Danniher, Mr. Burrell, with–”
“I know who you are.” He stopped just beyond me, turning his head.
“Oh. Well, you might not know that Tamantha–”
“You stay away from my daughter.”
I would if I could. I was tempted to say it, but the straight, narrow line of his mouth didn’t encourage that bit of honesty. “Tamantha came to me and–”
“I don’t care. Stay away from her.”
He turned, rested the ax against the railing and went up the two steps to the deck. Just as I was sure he was about to slam the door on me, he turned back.
“And quit nosing into my life. Quit asking questions about me.”
Of all the unfair accusations–
“I haven’t asked questions about you. I’ve asked about Foster Redus, but I can’t shut people up about you.” I moved to the bottom of the steps, looking up at him. “For some reason they seem to connect you and Redus.”
That one hit. I was glad, until I saw that it made him all the more dangerous. “So, you came to see the scene of the crime?”
“Wanted to see a murderer for yourself, then?”
I was fed up. “No, I came to see the person Tamantha believes in. But all I see is someone who doesn’t care what this might be doing to his daughter.”
Silence. The sort of silence where your own words echo at you like a taunt. He narrowed his eyes. “That little speech supposed to make me break down and say I’ll tell you anything you want to know for my daughter’s sake?”
I stared right back at him. Me and Admiral Farragut damning those torpedoes and steaming full-speed ahead.
“Of course it was supposed to do that. Would anybody say something that sappy if it wasn’t supposed to break you down?”