Poisoned GroundI’m just the dog.

Nobody pays much attention to me, except for my people, Tom and Rachel. They know I can spot a bad guy when I see one, and if I give them a warning they listen.

Take those city fellows in suits that showed up at the farm not long ago. Tom and Rachel and me, we live on this nice little sheep farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains that used to belong to Tom’s mom and dad, and we like it here. But one day three men in suits turned up, talking about buying the land and putting an airport on it. The second I saw them standing down there in the road, I knew they were trouble. I don’t talk a lot, so when I growled, Rachel took it seriously. She got her guard up before she walked down to the road to see what they wanted, and I went with her in case she needed backup. I have to admit it tickled me when I growled and one of those guys decided he’d feel safer if he put some distance between us.

Rachel handled herself real well, I thought. I like her. She’s got gumption. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted a veterinarian living right there in the same house with me, but it’s worked out fine. She comes home smelling like alcohol most days, but that wears off, and sometimes when she’s petting me I can tell she’s trying to sneak a look at my teeth or my ears, but she’s pretty cool about it and I don’t mind. I even like her old cat, Frank, and her noisy parrot, Cicero. She rescued both of them from bad situations, and they’ve got their own stories to tell. Rachel and her animals liven up the place — and boy, did this house need it. Before Rachel came along, Tom was lonesome and, to tell you the truth, the job of keeping him company was a lot for me to handle. I still go to work with him some days, but now that he has Rachel, I have more time to do things I enjoy when we’re at home, like chasing rabbits and keeping deer out of the yard.

Not that Tom and Rachel haven’t hit some bumpy patches. Like I said, she’s got gumption. She won’t let anybody BillyBobtell her what to think — and that includes Tom. She can take care of herself, but, being a man, Tom wants to look after her. That drives her nuts, I can tell, and there’s been a time or two I’ve wanted to bite him on the ankle to make him shut up and let her be. She’s not afraid to get in trouble, either, if she has to do it to help somebody. Rachel can’t stand seeing anybody get hurt, and she’ll jump right in and try to help, especially if it’s a kid or an animal that can’t take care of themselves. Tom worries about her, but I’ve got a feeling he loves her for being that way and wouldn’t really want her to change.

Most days and nights around here are peaceful enough. But you can’t predict how humans will behave. You never know when somebody’s going to get it into his head to do something underhanded to another person — or even kill somebody. So I stay sharp in case Tom and Rachel need me. To everybody else, I’m just the dog, but my people depend on me to look out for them, and I won’t let them down.

You can read more about Rachel, Tom and Billy Bob in Poisoned Ground, the sixth book in the “Rachel Goddard” mystery series, published by Poisoned Pen Press. The first book in the series is The Heat of the Moon. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Meet the author
Sandra Parshall writes the Agatha Award-winning Rachel Goddard mystery series. In her sixth book, Poisoned Ground (March 4), the small Virginia mountain community of Mason County is divided and driven to violence when a developer tries to take over farm land to build a sprawling resort for the rich. Sandra lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two cats.

Visit Sandra on her website or on Facebook.

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