And for some reason I wanted a murder mystery, not a celebration. I seriously think I need a shrink. There is no way that analogy is normal. I should be writing about pixies. They like cake. But I think I really just wanted to kill someone off. Fictitiously of course. Possibly because my husband and I are fighting Worker's Comp again. And a teenager called me a dirty name for no reason. And I ran out of chocolate. Angst and Anger in abundance around the Dunning household. Grr. Grumble. Wallowing in self-pity. Crying over spilled ice cream...
So, I'm introducing you to new characters this week, characters I've been kicking around in the back of my mind for a few years. Maybe something will come of it. Would be nice to see another Native American mystery series on the bookshelves...Although, Tony Hillerman set the bar pretty high and I don't think I'm quite there yet..
I offer the following in response: Left to Wither Away
|Left To Wither Away, Heritage Park, Cerritos CA, courtesy SKD|
The smell was the worst of it.
The heat drove Hitchita indoors, not that there were many people claiming residency in the small town. Nearby Checotah scratched out more population in the last census, likely because of Carrie Underwood winning American Idol. It was 104° in the shade, but with the humidity, it may as well have been the surface of Mars: hot, desolate, unable to support life of any kind.
Except for cottonmouths and chiggers.
Patrick Shotpouch looked out for both as he stepped through the dying grass of the cemetery, stringing crime scene tape. It wasn’t the first dead body he was called out to that week: the last two were found on a catfish troller in the middle of Lake Eufaula, victims of stupidity. Too much beer and not enough water made for a deadly cocktail during an Oklahoma August.
This corpse was Patrick’s first of the summer with three gunshot wounds, his first ever in Hitchita, and the only one he wasn’t expecting to find in a cemetery. The population didn’t support a crime rate that didn’t involve teenagers shooting out streetlamps.
“Shotpouch, why you even here? This is Creek territory.” Sweat blackened the McIntosh County bronze of Sheriff Bragg’s uniform and ran from his forehead in rivers.
Patrick wanted nothing more than to ignore the man, but he lost his fight to misery of the heat. “Yeah, I’m aware I’m a Tsalagi in Muskogee.” He wrapped the tape around a tree, ending his perimeter. “And you’re a yonega. Now that we’ve established our ethnicities, can we get back to the vic?”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
Patrick sighed. “Prisoner interrogation at Eufaula. The vic?”
The sheriff shrugged and indicated Patrick should follow. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful a Cherokee Marshal was on scene first. That way, the vic’s family is less likely to cry racism, when the truth of the matter is, we’re just spread thin. Hell, Hitchita ain’t even on the map. In a few years it’ll be a ghost town.”
“Maybe,” Patrick’s nose recoiled from the stench as they approached the ripe corpse. “I got kin up the road. They’ll never leave.”
Face down, the male body stretched across two Brinks family graves. Blood spatter caked the stone marker. “Coroner’s on his way. He’s coming in from Rentiesville, so he may be a while.”
“That looks recent,” Patrick pointed to a trail of small pink puddles near the man’s sneakers.
“What do you make of it?”
“Strawberry ice cream, I reckon.” Patrick tracked the droplets leading away from the body. A few yards off, a cone lay on the ground in a bigger pool of pink and ants. He stooped, inspecting disturbed earth and a partial shoe impression. “Briggs, I think we got a witness.”
“Ice cream that fresh and a body that’s far from it and you think there's a witness?”
“Not to the murder maybe, but the body dump.” He rose, wiping his brow. “And the witness is missing.”