Another murder in small town Cold Creek has tensions rising. Clive Johnson, the groundskeeper at Cold Creek College, is a convenient scapegoat for a police chief who seeks an easy solution. Convinced Chief Pfeiffe has it all wrong, professor and psychologist Sheridan Hendley sets out to help prove Clive's innocence. But not everyone is pleased by her enthusiastic search for the truth. Just as her life is looking up personally, it looks like she might be the next victim.
Excerpt:As we rounded the curve, I first spotted an older man in work clothes. He was black, balding and sported a beer gut not quite camouflaged by the support wrap to protect his back. Some gardening and lawn tools were on the ground by his feet. His gaze was down and his arms just hung by his side. He didn’t look up as we came into view. I assumed that he was Johnson.
A few feet away, a young man sat on the bench. His body doubled over with his head between his knees. Even from a distance, I could see his body shaking. A man in uniform crouched by his side and talked to him. I left Hirsch’s side and walked over to the two of them. I introduced myself and in my calmest voice, I asked, “How are we doing over here?”
“Ma’am, this here is Nick Davidson. He’s still pretty upset, but doing better minute by minute,” the paramedic commented, also in a quiet voice. “Isn’t that right, Nick?”
Nick’s head bobbed as if in agreement, but he didn’t say a word. “Do you still feel dizzy, Nick?” asked the paramedic. Nick shook his head and raised his eyes to look at me. His face communicated a lot. Emotions, from fear to shock to dismay to embarrassment, flitted across his face.
“Nick, can you tell me what happened here this morning?” I asked when I had eye contact. He hesitated, then mixed with deep breaths and tears, Nick told me he had been working with Johnson. He moved in between a cluster of azaleas to get a piece of trash he saw. As he talked about the body and how he tripped over it, he broke down again. I placed my hand on his shoulder and waited for him to gain control. He started to hyperventilate.
The paramedic stepped in and directed him to monitor his breathing. When he was breathing normally, I asked him whom we could notify to come get him. Many of the students at Cold Creek College had family locally. I was hoping he was one of them. He answered and managed to get out his cell phone and hand it to me. He was shaking too badly to make the call himself.
I was able to find the number, call, and advise his mother that there had been an incident on campus. I reassured them that Nick was okay but in shock. He would be transported to the Physician’s Center. They agreed to meet him at the small local hospital. A second paramedic showed up and the two managed to get Nick to stand and walked him toward the cart. The cart took him to the quad and a waiting ambulance.
I turned toward Johnson and hesitated. He looked at me with something akin to hostility. Hirsch must have caught the glare. He took a step closer, looked at me, and waited for my next move. I took another step and Johnson’s glare faded. Again I introduced myself and asked what had happened. He related that he and Nick were cleaning out the beds. He explained that Nick was in the azaleas to pick up what looked like trash. One minute he was standing and the next he was on the ground and screaming and kicking.
Johnson shook his head. He explained he was afraid Nick was hurt, maybe bit by a snake. When he got in there, looking out for a snake, he saw the leg and then body. The shirt sleeve was what they had seen from the path.
He shook his head again and just looked away. After a minute or two, he looked back at me. He said he grabbed Nick and shook him, but Nick was just hysterical. Nick fainted. Johnson pulled him out and radioed it in to dispatch.
This is the second in the Cold Creek series. Missed the first one? Click here for MURDER AT COLD CREEK COLLEGE
(stay tuned for more excerpts!)