Achilles licked my hand to remind me to get up and take him on our morning run.
I sat up before my hyperactive Belgian Malinois could lick my face. “Sorry I overslept, boy. My souvenir of Istanbul kept me awake.” I touched the still-tender bullet wound that marked my last CIA mission. No twinges. Across the hall, Annalynn’s bed was made and her windows closed. She’d gone to the sheriff’s department early to cajole deputies into taking extra shifts, and she always fed Achilles before she left.
I put on my running shorts and a t-shirt big enough to cover my holster. Returning to my somnolent Missouri hometown to recuperate and visit Annalynn, my childhood neighbor and lifelong friend, I hadn’t anticipated carrying my Glock everywhere. Her husband’s violent death had compelled her to become acting sheriff and me to investigate using my own methods. I’d soon become a K-9 dropout’s owner and the bad guys’ target (Show Me the Murder, 2013).
As a precaution, I ran a different route each day. Annalynn had mentioned a burglary northeast of town (Show Me the Ashes, December 2015), so I decided to drive out and run in that neighborhood. I walked toward the garage, and Achilles trotted ahead to sniff for trouble. Thanks to his nose, my car had suffered more than I had from attempts on my life (Show Me the Gold, December 2014).
Ten minutes later I parked on a wide shoulder (the street had no sidewalks) and let him out of the car. He hesitated a moment at the new smells, but he soon fell into our usual pattern—his running circles around me as I jogged. Aging but well-kept ranch-style houses on large lawns lined the way. A thief could grab a wide-screen TV and a shotgun here, but no diamonds or assault rifles.
Achilles stopped, his nose in the air, his body tense. He growled, gave me his follow-me glance, and loped down a short driveway. Glock in hand, I followed him past a detached two-car garage to a garden edged with head-high tomato plants. He plunged between the plants. I didn’t need to go after him. I could see marijuana leaves from where I stood. “Good boy, Achilles.”
The back door of the house banged open, and a short, white-haired woman in jeans and a floral blouse hurried toward me. I remembered that she and her husband used to run a tire store. Not the typical druglord, but the county prosecuted anyone who grew even one marijuana plant.
She stopped a few feet away, stooped to peer at Achilles , and then faced me. “You’re Jack and Mary Smith’s girl. You helped the sheriff catch the rustler who murdered that farmer” (Show Me the Deadly Deer, 2013).
“Yes.” I holstered my Glock.
She licked her lips. “My husband has arthritis so bad he can’t hardly walk. Pills can’t stop the pain. That’s why we—plant this garden.”
Another thing Annalynn never needed to know about. “You shouldn’t let the plants in the middle grow higher than your tomatoes.”
She heaved a sigh of relief. “I’ll cut ’em back.”
“And don’t tell anyone I trespassed.” We’d both be in trouble if she revealed I hadn’t turned her in. “Let’s go, Achilles.” I jogged back toward the street.
He came reluctantly, puzzled that I hadn’t confronted the woman about his find. I extended my run an extra mile to reward him, and to postpone tackling the foundation’s paperwork awaiting me in the office in my childhood home.
By two o’clock I was so bored that I welcomed an emailed question on a Hungarian start-up from my former employer, an international financial firm headquartered in Vienna.
At four Annalynn called. “Phoenix, could you please go with me for a picnic in the country this evening?”
Hmm. She usually preferred to picnic on her patio with hot food served on china. “I’m free. Why?”
“Two farmers reported that someone stole pears from their trees. I thought we could handle that case.”
“You mean stare at orchards. You remember what happened on our last stakeout.” A late-night watch for juveniles vandalizing country graveyards had turned into a shootout with bank robbers (Show Me the Gold, 2014).
“Lightning doesn’t strike twice.” A pause. “Just in case, wear your bullet-proof vest.”
The night held promise.
Ex-spy Phoenix Smith becomes the target of a vengeful bank robber and frustrated FBI agents in Show Me the Gold, the sequel to Show Me the Murder and Show Me the Deadly Deer (Five Star/Gale, Cengage).
Giveaway: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on January 12 for the chance to win a copy of SHOW ME THE GOLD. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
About the author
Missouri-born Carolyn Mulford became a full-time freelancer after working as a magazine editor in Washington, D.C., and Vienna, Austria. She began the transition to fiction more than a decade ago, selling her first novel, The Feedsack Dress, in 2006. To learn more about her and read the openings of her four published novels, go to www.carolynmulford.com.