Uh, hi. My name is Jim Duncan. I hate doing these things, but Liz says I have to. I give her enough grief; I figured I should cut her some slack this time.
I’m a Trooper First Class with the Pennsylvania State Police. I live in a little town called Confluence in the Laurel Highlands, near Ohiopyle State Park and the Youghiogheny (pronounced Yock-uh-gane-ee) River, better known as the “Yough.” I like it here. Pretty peaceful, lots to do outdoors. I fish a lot. My ex-wife didn’t like it so much. She didn’t like my job, either. But that’s a different story.
I’m supposed to talk about a “day in my life.” They’re all pretty much the same routine so I’ll pick a first-shift day. I’m up early to report to 7am roll call at the Uniontown barracks, where I’m stationed. Roll call’s quick – unless Corporal Gary Sheffield is talking; he tends to yammer on.
That last is between us, okay?
Anyway, I’m a patrol officer so after roll call I get my car and hit the roads. Mostly I get to pick what I do. I might drive a bit, run radar on one of the back roads, or follow up on a case. The PSP doesn’t have to cover Uniontown because they have their own full-time department, but we can get called in for support. The Turnpike has its own troop, so I don’t have to drive that all day (thank God), but hey. If I happen to be using it and you happen to be speeding, I can and will pull you over.
There are a lot of little towns in Fayette-nam and most of those towns don’t have their own police departments – or they only have a part-time department. That means when a resident dial 911, they get the PSP. I respond to everything from cat-in-a-tree to more serious stuff, like domestics. And yes, the occasional dead body. My buddy Tom Burns from the county coroner’s office is sometimes there. He’s a good guy. Has a bit of a weird sense of humor, but working with death does that to you.
The PSP has a Criminal Investigation division, but I tend to investigate the homicide calls I catch. I don’t feel right passing it off. My lieutenant understands. Plus, those calls can involve Sally Castle from the Public Defender’s Office. More on her later.
What’s Fayette-nam? That’s a nickname we have for the county. It’s hard to explain. See, we get calls that only could only happen in a poor rural area where the residents can be. . .colorful. Lots of calls involve drugs or alcohol. Some pretty tame, like a guy caught in the chip aisle of a convenience store doing things that he really should keep in his bedroom. Others less so. Of course, just about every resident here seems to own a gun of some kind, which can make it. . .interesting. But it’s a lot like any other police force. The public thinks it’s guns blazing all the time. It’s not.
If all goes well, I get off at three. Then it’s home to change and tend to Rizzo. He’s my Golden Retriever and my best friend. Sometimes I’ll call Sally for dinner.
About Sally. We met on a case. We’re. . .friends. Stop smirking. It’s just friends, not friends-with-benefits or any of that. At least for now. She’s smart, funny, and good-looking, especially when she wears those fitted skirts that end above the knee. She calls them pencil skirts. Whatever they’re called, they show off her legs and that’s not a bad thing in my book. Sometimes she’s too stubborn for her own good. But she’s no “damsel in distress” either. I like her. Okay, I more than like her. Satisfied? Rizzo likes her, too. Dogs are good judges of character, in my experience.
Are we done here? Call just came in. Guy propositioning women at Ohiopyle State Park. Wouldn’t be such a big deal if he was wearing pants. Bet there’s alcohol involved.
Ah, life in Fayette-nam.
Murder Most Scenic is a compilation of short stories in the Laurel Highlands mystery series, published by MES Publishing, March 2015.
The Laurel Highlands seem idyllic, but for Jim Duncan they’re anything but.
Welcome to Fayette County, PA known affectionately to some locals as “Fayette-nam.” It’s a place that boasts breathtaking scenery – and heartbreaking crime. In this collection of stories, a young divorcee, a politician’s wife, a local baseball star, the head of the local 4-H, and an up-and-coming brewmaster have one thing in common. They’re all dead, murdered by person, or persons, unknown.
It’s up to Pennsylvania State Police Trooper First Class Jim Duncan to investigate each crime to find the guilty party. Just a divorced guy with a dog, he’s aided by Fayette County assistant public defender Sally Castle. A woman with her own code whose interest in Duncan may rise above the level of purely professional.
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Meet the author
Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people’s stories, for as long as she can remember. She’s worked for fifteen years in the corporate world, but finds making things up is far more satisfying than writing software manuals. A lifelong mystery fan, her short fiction has been published in online magazines, Lucky Charms: 12 Crime Tales, Blood on the Bayou, and will be included in the upcoming Fish Out of Water and Mystery Most Historical. Visit her on the web at lizmilliron.com, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.
All comments are welcomed.
Giveaway: Three people selected at random will receive a copy of Murder Most Scenic, either e-book (open to everyone) or paperback (U.S. residents only) (winner’s choice). Leave a comment below for your chance to win. The giveaway will end December 28, 2016. Good luck everyone!