Footsteps woke me. I sprang to my paws. Still night. I sniffed. No stranger, no danger. Annalynn was pacing again, grieving for her dead mate.
Phoenix, my human, stirred. No need to wake her. I would comfort Annalynn. I trotted across the hall to her.
She knelt to hug me. “Oh, Achilles, I miss him so. The congressman’s accident last night brought back that horrible moment I heard Boom had died.”
I whined my sympathy and licked her hand.
She gave me a gentle shove. “I’m okay, sweet boy. Go back to sleep.” She closed her door the moment my tail went through it.
Her door was still closed at daylight. Phoenix and I kept quiet until we went outside. As usual, she wore her gun under her jacket. As usual, I checked for intruders while she stretched. Then I took her on our morning run. I headed for the park to meet my friend Toby. There Phoenix threw my Frisbee for us to catch. I gave him a head start. After all, a Belgian Malinois is much bigger than a terrier.
When I came up to take my human home, Toby’s human was sniffling. Phoenix patted the woman’s shoulder.
After I led Phoenix away, she said, “I hope the dog walker’s wrong, Schatzi. She thinks the congressman’s death wasn’t an accident. If Annalynn hasn’t heard that from her political contacts, I won’t tell her. No need to know.”
I barked my disapproval. Annalynn got angry when Phoenix said “no need to know.” So did I. Secrets meant trouble.
We had a quiet morning. Annalynn talked on the phone. Phoenix worked at her computer. I patrolled for cats, chased squirrels, and practiced running hurdles. Bored, I barked for Phoenix to join me. I tempted her with a clean tennis ball.
“Sorry,” she said. “I have to find an abused wife a safe place to live.” She rubbed behind my ears. Wonderful. “This afternoon we’ll go inspect where the congressman’s car crashed. That should be interesting.”
I looked forward to going. Until Phoenix got behind our car’s steering wheel and told me to curl up at Annalynn’s feet. Only a terrier could fit in that space. I whined.
“It’s a short drive, Achilles,” Phoenix said. “Ride there or stay home.”
Annalynn moved her seat back to give me more room. “Come, Achilles. We need you.”
I jumped in, settled on Annalynn’s feet, and studied them. Phoenix was calm. She hadn’t put my bullet-proof vest on me. Annalynn was sad. She didn’t wear her gun. I relaxed.
Soon the car stopped. A back door opened. Two women climbed in and sat on my seat. I put my paws on Annalynn’s knees to raise up to see the passengers.
“Down,” Phoenix said to me.
The two women ducked out of sight.
Odd. I dropped down.
Annalynn talked with the women in my seat. I didn’t understand their words, but I heard grief. I sat up to rest my head on Annalynn’s arm.
I smelled fields. I don’t like fields. Bad humans shoot at us in fields. The car went down a giant hill. Phoenix stopped the car at the top of the next hill. Cats and toads! We knew this hill. A bad, bad place. I whined a protest.
All four doors opened. I hopped out so Annalynn could move. Smells smacked my nose. Many people and cars had been here. Bad! We should go home. I pushed past Annalynn to jump back into the car. I ignored her coaxing me to come out.
Phoenix came to me. “It’s okay, Achilles. No shooter today.” She held up the thin gloves she wore for searching. “We came to find.”
I loved to find. And poor Phoenix couldn’t smell drugs or explosives. I jumped out. We walked down the hill. One woman cried. She and Annalynn went back to the car. Phoenix walked off the road into a field. A car had run over baby trees. A mistake? A bomb? I loped down the car’s path sniffing for explosives. None. No drugs either. I turned back toward Phoenix.
“You’re right, Achilles. No marijuana, no meth, no bombs. Find a glove, please. Find—uh—whatever doesn’t belong here.”
I didn’t understand. Was this a new game? No, not a game. I put my nose to the ground and moved in bigger and bigger circles. An unexpected odor. Crushed grass covered a cell phone. Not a weapon, but not right. I signaled Phoenix.
She praised me. We all three searched. The woman found a glove. I, of course, made the big find, a thermos of coffee. I smelled it from far away. Too far away.
Phoenix picked it up and took off the top.
Whew! Danger! I barked and nudged her hand to warn her. She put the lid back on. “Thanks, Achilles.”
The trouble started there.
Phoenix Smith rather than Achilles tells the story in Show Me the Sinister Snowman, the fifth book in the “Show Me” mystery series.
Former CIA covert operative Phoenix Smith must play detective again when Achilles, her K-9 dropout, sniffs out a unique murder weapon at the scene of a congressman’s “accidental” death. Suicide? Murder? Collateral damage? Phoenix suspects either a corrupt political insider or an enraged abusive husband set out to kill. To catch the culprit and protect intended victims, Phoenix and Achilles accompany her friend Annalynn to a candidates’ gathering at the late congressman’s antebellum mansion in rural Missouri. A blizzard traps them in the isolated house with multiple suspects dissembling inside and a snow-loving psychopath lurking outside.
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About the author
Carolyn Mulford worked on four continents as a nonfiction writer/editor before switching to fiction. Her award-winning Show Me series features Phoenix Smith, a former CIA covert operative who returns to rural Missouri and adapts her tradecraft to solve crimes with old friends and a K-9 dropout. You can read the first chapters of the five books in the series on her website at carolynmulford.com.
Giveaway: One person (a U.S. resident) who leaves a comment by May 30, 2017 will be selected at random to receive a print copy of Show Me the Sinister Snowman Good luck everyone!
All comments are welcomed.