Saturday, June 8, 2013
Saturday's Chapter Framed For Murder by Cathy Spencer
Framed for Murder
by Cathy Spencer
The first book in the Anna Nolan mystery series.
Her pleading eyes stared at me, soft, warm, and compelling, trying to bend me to her will. How could I deny her any longer? Sighing, I threw down my book and stood up.
"Time for your walk, Wendy."
My shepherd/labrador cross jumped to her feet, bottom wiggling with delight, and raced for the front door. My own footsteps were less eager. I slipped on a jacket, snatched up my keys, and together we headed out into the cool October night.
Turning away from the rest of the houses, we followed the road into the country. It was a small town and Wistler Road was always deserted at night, so I let Wendy wander off-leash. The road was slick from an earlier rain, and damp leaves squelched underfoot. I might have been worried about walking alone on a dark country road almost anywhere else, but Crane was the safest place I had ever known. Still, it wouldn’t do to take a tumble on this moonless night.
I heard Wendy snuffling and digging at something up ahead in the bush. Removing the slim flashlight I always carried on our bedtime walks, I shone the beam in her direction, afraid that she had found something disgusting to roll in just before bed. Nothing like having to deal with a stinking, soaking-wet pet when all you wanted to do was crawl into bed.
“What did you find, girl?” I called. The noise stopped, and I waited for her to pop out of the trees and trot back to me. She didn’t appear.
“Come here, Wendy,” I called. All was still, and then I heard a piercing howl that made my hair stand on end and my breath catch in my throat. It was a primitive, uncanny sound, and it unnerved me on this lonely stretch of road.
“Wendy, what’s gotten into you?” I muttered. I stepped up to the trees and peered into the dense shadows.
“Wendy?” She whined softly, and I sidled between the trees, picking my way through last year’s undergrowth. She was up ahead in a small clearing.
“Come on, girl,” I commanded. Wendy lowered her head and nosed at something on the ground.
I trained my beam downward and jumped. It was a man. He was lying face down, dressed in
jeans and a black leather jacket, his arms lying straight beside his body. He wasn’t moving.
“Hello?” I called, “are you alright, Mister?” There was no response. I wanted to turn and run,
but forced myself to creep closer for a better look. Taking a deep breath, I crouched down beside
him. His hair was dark and wavy with silver flecks, but I couldn’t see his face. Wendy leaned
against me and nudged my neck with her wet nose. All I could hear was my own pulse roaring
in my ears. I reached out to touch the man’s hand, and snatched my own back again. His skin
was cold, too cold. I knew that I should check to see if he was still breathing, but the thought of
turning him over repulsed me. Sick with dread, I reached for his shoulder and rolled him over
I gasped and sprang back a few steps, horrified when his eyes seemed to stare straight up into
mine. Wendy barked and shot past me through the trees. I took a few deep breaths and shone
the light full into his face.
“Holy shit,” I whispered. Sculpted cheek bones, blue eyes, a generous mouth. It was Jack.
I stared down at him. My ex-husband, whom I hadn’t seen for four years, was lying dead beside
this country road, and I didn’t have a clue how he had got there.
Looking past his face, I spotted a hole in the front of his jacket, right over the chest. I pulled the
jacket open with hands that wouldn’t stop trembling. The grey shirt beneath it had a big patch of
dried blood spread across the front. I stumbled back a step, a wave of nausea overwhelming me.
Something crackled in the undergrowth behind me, and I whirled around. A brilliant light
flashed in my face and blinded me. I threw up an arm to shield my eyes, but the light dropped
and inched along the ground, coming to rest over Jack’s body. I pointed my own light at the
black shape advancing toward me. Wendy crept toward him with a menacing growl, her jowls
dragged back over her teeth, but the man didn’t budge an inch.
“Anna Nolan, what the hell did you do?” he asked.