Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams steered his SUV off Route 15 and toward the new housing development with the grandiose name of Scenic Hilltop Estates. Scenic Hilltop? Yes. The homes perched on a knoll of what had once been a family farm, overlooked scenic rolling pastures dotted with beef cattle and a couple of horses.
But Estates was pushing it a bit. A half dozen houses sided with beige vinyl and a few bricks—different designs, but clearly the same building materials—occupied the existing lots. Not one of them qualified as an estate in Pete’s mind.
He’d received a number of complaints from one resident in particular, including another call this morning. Stephen Tierney lived alone. He’d build a huge privacy fence around his property, which led Pete to wonder if the guy really hated his scenic hilltop view. . .or was he hiding something behind that barricade?
Pete cruised through the opening in the fence and parked in front of the garage. He made it halfway up the sidewalk before Tierney slammed through the front door and strode to meet him.
Rail thin and wearing dark trousers and a pale blue dress shirt, Tierney looked like he belonged in a downtown high rise instead of on a rural hilltop. “Took you long enough.”
Pete ignored the jab. “What can I do for you today?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Tierney extended both arms as if signifying the entire world.
Pete paused. A quick look around revealed nothing but the pristine lawn and the inside view of the fence. He listened. Birds chirped in nearby trees. Insects trilled in the distance. The throaty rumble of a tractor floated on the air from somewhere up the valley. “Why don’t you just tell me?”
Tierney wrinkled his nose. “Can’t you smell it?”
Tierney waved a dramatic hand in front of his face. “Heavens, yes. It’s awful. Not to mention the flies.”
Pete had been in a couple of dairy barns since he’d moved here from Pittsburgh years ago. The faint hint of manure wafting on the mid July breeze was nothing. But he doubted this guy wanted to hear that. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“You need to make him stop.”
“The man who’s making that racket.”
Pete assumed Tierney meant the tractor, which was almost a mile away at the moment. “Leroy Moore? His family’s owned that farm for generations.”
“Doesn’t say much for his level of intelligence or education.” Tierney sniffed. “The man should find a more suitable line of work.”
Pete eyed Tierney. “More suitable? You mean something other than providing food for your table?”
Tierney glared at him. “Let someone else do that.”
“Someone…who doesn’t live next door to you.”
Tierney smiled. “Precisely.”
“Tell me something, Mr. Tierney. Did you bother to look around before you built on this lot?”
The smile faded. “Of course I did.”
“You didn’t notice the farm over there?”
“It was February.”
Pete ran a hand over his face. Tierney had the nerve to belittle Leroy Moore’s intelligence and education—which Pete happened to know included a master’s degree in animal husbandry—yet couldn’t think far enough ahead to realize a working farm might be quiet in the winter, but not so much in the summer. “I’m afraid there isn’t anything I can do. Mr. Moore has every right to earn his livelihood the same as he and his family have always done.”
“Don’t I have a right to live where it’s quiet and doesn’t smell like a stockyard?”
Pete doubted Tierney had ever seen a stockyard, much less smelled one. “You could move.”
The man’s face flushed. “I’ll not be run out of my home.”
Pete shook his head. “Mr. Tierney, why did you choose to live in the country when you obviously hate it so much?”
His eyebrows shot up. “I don’t hate it. I love the country. I just don’t want cows smelling up the place and tractors disturbing the peace and quiet.” He jabbed a finger at Pete. “And you’re a peace officer, are you not? Talk to him and make him quit.”
Pete sighed and reminded himself he could be dealing with armed drug dealers in the city streets. He’d chosen to live in the country, too, after all. “I’ll stop in and talk to Mr. Moore.” Pete pictured the conversation and the following belly laugh over the city slicker. Not to mention a glass of Mrs. Moore’s homemade lemonade.
“Good.” Tierney gave a quick nod and turned, leaving Pete standing there alone.
Yes, he could be spending his days choking on exhaust and dealing with drive-by shootings. He much preferred complaints about manure and flies.
Check out Bridges Burned to see a more serious (and deadly) confrontation between Pete Adams and Stephen Tierney. Bridges Burned, the third book in the “Zoe Chambers” mystery series, published by Henery Press. The first two books in the series are Circle of Influence and Lost Legacy.
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About the author
Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. Circle Of Influence, which has been nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, was published in March 2014, followed by Lost Legacy (September 2014) and Bridges Burned, available in April 2015. Her short fiction includes a 2007 Derringer Award nominee featuring the same characters as her novels. Visit Annette at www.annettedashofy.com.