A Day in the Life with Phoenix Smith by Carolyn Mulford

Show Me The AshesAnticipating a boring day of paperwork, I opened the Coping after Crime Foundation’s email account. I’d created the nonprofit to give Annalynn a suitable job after her husband’s violent death (Show Me the Murder). I hadn’t anticipated being stuck running CAC while my lifelong friend finished an appointment as sheriff.

The first five subject lines invited me to meet Russian women and enlarge an organ I’d never had. The sixth, “Despirit,” puzzled me. I opened the email and read, “Im despirit. My boyfiend drove my car into a tree drunk and the ensurence won’t pay. A money order for $1000 will do fine. Thx.”

Dealing with CIA informants and venture capitalists had taught me many ways to say no. I chose the direct approach: “We won’t give you any money.”

My cell phone chimed, Annalynn’s emergency ring. I flashed back to the call that had taken us to a fatal shootout with bank robbers (Show Me the Gold). “What’s up?”

“I don’t know,” Annalynn said.. “Walmart reported three young men are buying thirty pre-paid cell phones—burners—with cash.”

Not against the law, but surely intended for illegal use. I reached for my Glock. “I’ll be in the store in eight minutes.”

“No, please take Achilles to their car—a red Nissan in row 9—to sniff for drugs.”

Clever. “You’re looking for probable cause to hold the buyers.”

“Right. Wear your bulletproof vests, and carry your reserve deputy ID. Bye.”

I whistled for my Belgian Malinois and took our vests and my jacket out of the closet.

Achilles barked in excitement—or dread. He’d learned the despised vests meant danger during our pursuit of a murderous burglar (Show Me the Ashes).

Speeding toward Walmart in my banged-up Camry, I speculated on who wanted so many burners. A terrorist cell? Unlikely. Stupid to risk such a conspicuous purchase. Drug dealers? More likely. Meth still plagued rural Missouri (Show Me the Murder). Small-time entrepreneurs? Possibly. They could resell the burners to illegal immigrants, dopers, suckers.

I turned into the store’s lot and parked two rows over from the red car. Annalynn’s unmarked SUV sat in the same row closer to the store. “Let’s go find, Achilles.”

His good ear flicked forward. He’d flunked out of K-9 training, but he loved to sniff out drugs (Show Me the Deadly Deer) and explosives (Show Me the Gold). He stayed close to my left side as I sauntered over to row 9. Passing the red car, I took out my phone, pretended to answer a call, and said softly, “Find, please, Achilles.”

He circled the car and those on both sides of it and returned to my side to await the next command.

I rang Annalynn. “No drugs. Now what?”

“Get out of there. They’ve left the store. They’re wearing red letter jackets.”

I disconnected and spotted one black and two white teenagers striding toward me, each carrying a plastic bag. I would have expected them to be using fake IDs to buy beer, not burner phones. What were they up to? I held my phone out in front of me and exclaimed, “Damn it!”

The boys turned aside to walk around Achilles and me. “Excuse me,” I said with the overly loud voice of the hearing impaired. “Would you guys happen to have a cell phone I could borrow for half a minute?”

The two shorter boys—football players judging from their broad shoulders and thick necks—doubled over with laughter, and the tall blond one smirked.

Achilles snarled.

The tall boy jumped back and sobered. He drew a smart phone from his jacket pocket. “Sure, ma’am. Calm down your dog.”

“Certainly. Thanks.”

Snout extended, Achilles stared at the boy’s pocket.

I stroked his head to signal I’d received his message. I punched in Annalynn’s number and said, “It’s not in the car. He must have put it in his coat pocket.”

“On our way.” She disconnected, and I heard car doors slam.

To hold the boys’ attention, I shouted into the phone, “No, you idiot, I looked there.” I stepped back as Annalynn and a deputy ran up with their service weapons drawn.

“Hands on your head, gentlemen,” she ordered. “Our K-9 deputy has signaled that you possess illegal drugs.”

“Just one joint,” the blond boy protested.

I studied his phone. He had two calculator apps, one too many. I opened one, gained access by solving an equation, and hit pay dirt: a nude photo of a girl about fifteen. “They’re collecting and selling photos of underage girls.” I handed Annalynn the phone. “He gave this to me voluntarily. It’s admissible as evidence.” I doubted that was true, but the boys’ alarmed faces showed they believed it.

This incident hadn’t posed the intellectual challenge of proving a confession false (Show Me the Ashes), but preventing teenage girls from becoming victims made my day.


Show Me the Ashes is the 4th book in the “Show Me” mystery series, published by Five Star/Gale, Cengage, March 2016.

Ex-spy Phoenix Smith puts aside paperwork to chase a dangerous burglar and investigate an imprisoned young mother’s confession to manslaughter and arson in Show Me the Ashes, the sequel to Show Me the Murder, Show Me the Deadly Deer, and Show Me the Gold (Five Star/Gale, Cengage).

All comments are welcomed.

About the author
CMulfordCarolyn Mulford worked on five continents as a nonfiction writer and editor before beginning the award-winning “Show Me” mysteries set in her native Missouri. Her character-driven series features three women: a former CIA covert operative, a newly widowed civic leader, and a struggling singer. They grew up together in a small town, separated for decades, and reunite to face personal crises and solve crimes. A Belgian Malinois assists them with both. To read the first chapters of all four “Show Me” books and the upcoming YA historical Thunder Beneath My Feet, go to www.carolynmulford.com.

Giveaway: Leave comment below for the chance to win an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of SHOW ME THE ASHES. US and Canadian entries only, please. The giveaway will end January 15 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

35 responses to “A Day in the Life with Phoenix Smith by Carolyn Mulford

  1. Barbara Tobey

    Sounds good.

  2. Doward Wilson

    Thanks for introducing me to another author and series to add to my TBR list. Thank you for the chance to win, this was a really interesting post.

  3. Prentiss Garner

    I love your reviews and giveaways.

  4. Drew me right in,

  5. I would like to read this book! Thank you for a chance to enter.

  6. I haven’t read any of this series but I hope to really soon. Sounds like a wonderful and exciting read.

  7. Yes! Vivid prose quickly drew me in as well. (How else to say it?) I’m newly inspired to read the entire series. New to Dru’s as well. Great blog! Thanks for leading me here.

  8. i love this series and have been looking for forward to the release of this book.

  9. Definitely must check out this series! Love the blurb. On my way to Amazon to buy one.

  10. I have been planning to start reading the “Show Me” series. I was born and raised in Kirksville so I feel “connected”.

  11. New Author, and series to me. I’ll have to check it out.

  12. Sounds like an exciting read. Must read this one.

  13. This book sounds captivating and special. Thanks.

  14. What a wonderful opportunity to enter this giveaway for an ARC of this new book. Thank you for sharing information about it. robeader53@yahoo.com

  15. Alice Anna Reese

    Will “despirit” show up again? Is Annalynn going to abandon sheriffing and run the foundation? Will the not-quite fearless Achilles be killed in battle? What a delightful series.

  16. Thanks for the comments from everyone. The idea for the story came from two sets of news items. I give the background at http://carolynmulford.com/mysteries/show-me-series/from-headlines-to-short-story.

  17. I’ve never heard of this series. It sounds truly fascinaying. I would love to win this one!

  18. I’d love to win an ARC of this book – it sounds like a very exciting series.

  19. Eleanor Jones

    Great post! Congratulations!

  20. Just reading that excerpt drew me in—I want to read that book/ Thanks for the contest.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

  21. Wow…why haven’t I heard of this series before…I’m going to look for them.

  22. Mary Jane H.

    Sounds awesome and hilarious. Can’t wait to read it!

  23. Vicki Highley

    What a great series and book.

  24. Hi Carolyn — The book sounds like another winner!

  25. Susan Slovinsky

    Not my usual cup of tea, but it sounds interesting so I’m planning to give it try.

  26. Great post. Glad to see some of the series are available for Nook and I look forward to reading them soon.

  27. Thanks to all for your comments.

  28. I love the idea of using news items as the basis for this–truth truly is stranger than fiction.

  29. Della Williamson

    Loved the blurb. Looks like an exciting read. Thank you for this opportunity to get a copy sooner. So hoping.

  30. Thanks Carolyn for commenting and interacting with my readers.

    Contest is closed.