Palmetto PoisonWell crap. Not literally, although I’ve stepped in my fair share of the real stuff when I visited clients. When I went to work with the Department of Agriculture, I had visions of Americana, you know? Helping the family farmer put food on the plates of everyone in the United States. The job took me outside several times a month, riding around the countryside, checking crops, making sure the farmer still had his cows and hadn’t sold them and run off on to Tahiti or something. Steady employment that exercised the intellect God gave me, set up a good retirement for later, and let me relish Mother Nature at whim.

But I solved a case with a lying, thieving hog farmer last year, which turned into a big real estate scam. A really big deal. People died—including the farmer and my ex-husband which still messes with my head. Brrr. Still gives me these crazy nightmares from hell.

But the powers that be in the government’s ivory towers felt my sleuthing talents could be best utilized in headquarters, in the concrete jungle of Columbia, the hottest damn city in the state of South Carolina. The jury’s still out on whether I made the right decision. I’m good at this, I think, but people can be shady. And I’m not talking about just the bad guys, either.

So now I solve problems. Agriculture problems. Sounds silly, right? Honey, when money’s involved, people get greedy, nasty and ornery, and that includes all your humble farming types in their overalls and John Deere caps. You know how many ways you can die on a farm? And disappear so nobody finds your remains? Hogs are carnivores, you know.

Anyway, now I investigate. Sorta, kinda – with a badge, but they don’t let me arrest anybody. They send me to check out missing money or falsified documents, that type of thing. The easy stuff. What the guilty parties call misunderstandings. If I stumble across someone, say, murdering, dealing or stealing, some antic that calls for jail time, I call the Feds. The agents. The legit guys with the guns.

Or at least I’m supposed to.

You can’t stop water flowing downhill, I say, and when I open a case I like to finish it. Real agents don’t often like that.

Yes, they have federal agents with the Department Agriculture. Never heard of them? Well, bet you never heard of NCIS before Mark Harmon, either. Federal law enforcement isn’t just pumped up FBI or skulking CIA boys.

Do you know how sexy cowboy boots are? With a five o’clock shadow, bad boy beard and a badge on his belt? Um, um, um. Can’t help smiling about USDA’s Senior Special Agent Wayne Largo.

Focus, Slade. Dang it, I’m almost there. I’m on my way to see about a new case. This time concernng the friggin’ governor, no less! I don’t expect a discussion on soybeans, chickens, or tractors this time. He knows my boss; she’s also a politician. This is some sort of favor deal, and I’m likely stuck in the middle of it. “Here, let me help,” she probably told him. Then she phoned me and sent my butt over here. He penned me in. When a Governor squeezes you into HIS schedule, something ain’t right!

Wayne won’t like this. He tells me to stay out politics. Tells me to pick and choose my cases. Wants to know what I’m up to, and tries to steal my cases away from me. He says I overstep my bounds. I say he’s overprotective.

The man has a point, though. I’ve been shot and stabbed more times than he has.

Dang! The guard showed me right in at the gate when he heard my name. The receptionist escorted me to some Queen Anne chair in the Governor’s personal office. Look at this place. God, my mother would skin me for wearing flats. And my linen pants look like wadded toilet paper from the heat. Forgot my friggin’ lipstick!

I hope this has nothing to do with the Governor’s brother – a peanut farmer arrested last week for dealing drugs. Please don’t drag me into that. DEA has that case. I accidentally ran into their agent a couple days ago. A tight-ass, compact, dynamic package of police prowess who I suspect needs no help doing her job. Plus she’s Wayne’s ex-wife. Nope. Don’t want to go there.

I stand. “Hello Governor, I’m Carolina Slade. Nice to meet you.”

I sit, nod, and listen to his plea . . . and get suckered right in. “Sure, Governor. Whatever you say, Sir. Happy to help.”

Well, crap. There goes my nerve, and my week.

What’ll I tell Wayne this time?


You can read more about Slade in Palmetto Poison, the third book in the “Carolina Slade” Mystery Series, published by Bell Bridge Books. The first book in the series is Lowcountry Bribe. Books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most retail and online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by February 14, and you will be entered to win a copy of Palmetto Poison. One winner will be chosen at random. U.S. entries only.

Meet the author
HopeC. Hope Clark has a degree in agriculture from Clemson University and can talk the talk of Carolina Slade. Once offered a bribe by a client, Hope welcomed two real agents. They never caught the culprit, but she later married one of the agents. Cigar and bourbon at the ready, today they frequently sit on their back porch overlooking a lake in central South Carolina, and spin tales off their investigative past. Hope is also editor of the award-winning FundsforWriters, a website chosen 13 times for Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers.
chopeclark.com / fundsforwriters.com / Facebook / Twitter


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