A walk in the park, online connections, and dangerous discoveries.
When the cybersecurity expert who checked out Stacie’s computer turns up dead, Stacie and her good friend and IT whiz, Trina, find themselves entangled in the ensuing murder investigation. Who killed Sam and why? Was the motive personal or was Sam silenced because he discovered potentially illegal activity as part of a client’s routine security audit? With Stacie at her side, Trina reaches out to other tech people who knew Sam in an effort to connect the dots and, in the process, places both women in the sights of a killer.
abundance of people out and enjoying the pleasant spring weather made it hard to find a parking space at Beckman Park. Jasper bounced around, excited and eager to get out of the car. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a dog park here. There were a variety of paths and only some led to picnic areas or play areas for children. I locked up the car and hooked Jasper’s leash as I watched which paths the masses selected.
We came to the park often with Kevin and his dog, Shaq. And sometimes with my friend, Ronnie, and her little girl, Elle. Choosing to avoid the masses, I headed for the less trodden path, used most often for longer walks rather than to find a picnic area. The path was clear with only a few branches down after a recent storm. I tossed them into the woods as we walked. As dogs will do, Jasper had to stop every few yards and sniff and mark his territory. A squirrel scampered by and Jasper tried to take chase, surprising me as he pulled at the leash.
Overall, it was peaceful and nature at its best. Wild flowers added color and music piped into my ear buds. Walking and thinking go together in my mind. I had some decisions to make. With money I’d inherited when my husband was killed, my longtime dream of getting a graduate degree and more training in trauma care was within my reach. But I enjoyed my job as a human resource specialist at Foster’s Insurance group and it provided me with stability. More and more, I’d considered getting the additional training and not necessarily a degree.
A man and woman jogged past me with a “Great weather” and a smile for Jasper. A few other runners passed us. We walked some more and met up with a woman with a Labrador. We each kept to our own side of the path.
“Have a good day.” I shouted as we passed them.
She answered with a smile. “You, too.”
A few minutes later, what sounded like a gun shot shattered the peacefulness. Loud shrieks ensued. The path curved up ahead and I couldn’t see anything. I pulled Jasper to the side and dialed 9-1-1 as people ran by us, some screaming.
“Hi, this is Stacie Maroni. I’m at Beckman Park and there’s been a shooting. At least I heard a shot and people are running and screaming.”
“Is anyone injured?”
“I don’t know. Not that I can tell.”
“Stay back. Help is on the way.”
Jasper growled as people moved too fast, one of them colliding with me and knocking the phone out of my hand. I picked it up, however the call had disconnected. A few more stragglers passed by with furtive glances behind them. Then all was quiet. I took a few steps and Jasper pulled at his leash. We moved slowly, further down the path, almost to where it curved. As what started out as faint sirens grew louder, I assumed help was on the way.
I approached the curve and wished there was some way to let the police know my location in the park. My phone pinged but the message made no sense to me. Some app asking to track my location. Another ping and a text message from Rick Murdock, a Beckman Springs police officer.
“Near the shooting? Allow location on the app and we can find you.”
I activated the app and continued to walk forward, following Jasper’s lead. I spotted someone on the ground and took another step. Then I heard someone coming and, picking up a hissing Jasper, ducked behind a tree, glad I was wearing dark, boring clothes. Jasper shook and I tensed when a twig snapped nearby. Hidden, I whispered to Jasper to be quiet. More sirens and I heard another step, away from me this time. A minute or two later, someone called out my name.
I recognized Rick’s voice and stepped out cautiously. I moved to the far side of the path opposite the body. Jasper stopped shaking and wanted down. He ran in circles and barked when he spotted Rick and Officer Lahomes coming toward us. They were partners. Officer Marina Napoli, Officer Reardon, and Bill came from the other direction. Marina and Reardon were partners. I wasn’t sure why Bill responded alone.
Turning to face Rick, I asked, “Did someone go past you just now?”
“A man ran by and yelled ‘Shooter. Shooter.’ Then he kept going.”
“I think he was coming in this direction until the second set of sirens. Jasper didn’t like him. And by now the shooter would be long gone.”
Bill nodded and took charge. To Rick and Lahomes he said, “Each of you write down what he looked like. He may be the shooter, doubling back to be sure this guy is dead.”
Turning to me, Bill asked, “Did you get close to the victim? Touch anything?”
I shook my head. “I called when I heard the shot. People were running past me and I waited to walk in this direction. I’d gotten this far, spotted the body ahead of me, and then heard someone coming. I ducked behind some trees and waited for you.”
Marina walked to the body, leaned over, and then came back to us. She shook her head. “He didn’t make it.”
Reardon put his hand to his ear. “Paramedics are here. I’ll walk out and bring them in.” Bill nodded and Reardon left.
“Lahomes, can you go back to the next intersection with the other paths and stop anyone coming this way? We need to get as many pictures as possible before we do anything else. Probably won’t be helpful, but eyes on the ground and the greenery for anything that doesn’t belong. Long shot, but maybe the killer left a calling card.”
Bill snorted and everyone grumbled. Lahomes nodded and walked back down the path.
“Stacie, I need you to tell me everything you can remember.”
“Afraid I can’t tell you much. Jasper and I were walking just like any other walk in the park. I like this path because it’s not as popular as some of the others. No picnic areas or benches until you get to the main part up ahead. Some people passed us before the shot. Runners. Then the shot rang out and ten, maybe fifteen, people barreled down the path. One woman picked up her baby and left the stroller. Everyone kept looking behind them and stuck to the tree line in case they needed to hide.”
“Saw the stroller. No one looked out of place? Jasper?”
It may seem silly for a police officer to ask about my dog, but Jasper’s reputation for sensing danger was well known. He had proved more than once he was a better judge of character than me.
I groaned inwardly as Rick picked up Jasper. “He gave a steady low growl from the time of the shot. Then he was a shaking, hissing mess when it sounded like someone was coming toward us.”In Rick’s arms, Jasper curled up under his chin. Rick had bonded with Jasper when he investigated my husband’s murder. We’d dated for a while and then we broke up. Calling the police for anything was sometimes awkward as a result.
Excerpt from Connections, Conflict & Murder. Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.
The Stacie Maroni Mysteries
Prestige, Privilege & Murder
Foundations, Funny Business & Murder
Deception, Denial & Murder
Connections, Conflict & Murder
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Who doesn't love a good murder mystery.ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping by, Chelsea!Delete
Really neat new release! I like suspense and mysteries.ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping by Calvin! Hope you enjoy this one.Delete
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What a wonderful cover it definitly perks a readers interest. It's been added to my list of books to check out.ReplyDelete
Glad you like the cover, hope you like the book as well. Thanks for stopping by, Robin.Delete
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Mistery: The more, The betterReplyDelete
I loved the first few books so can't wait to read the latest installment!ReplyDelete
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