SHERIDAN HENDLEY SERIES

The second in the Sheridan Hendley series is a Work-in-Progress.  Here's a teaser - the draft of the first chapter:

Read an excerpt (draft):

The holiday decorations were packed away, the house no longer festive. I’d procrastinated much longer than any other year and New Year’s was a memory. It was sad to put our first Christmas as a family behind us, yet I was truly relieved the hustle and bustle was over. Juggling two families had been stressful. Drinking my coffee, I relished the quiet and uncluttered living area.
“Sheridan, can I go skating with Nedra and Willie? Miss Melina is taking us.”
“Is your room clean? And what time will you be home?” Little did Maddie know, Melina had texted me already. She knew I was volunteering at Pets and Paws today.
“Yes, my room is clean. I’ll be home before dinner.”
“Okay. Let’s make sure you have everything and you’re ready when they get here to pick you up.”
I followed her to her room, Charlie and Bella padding behind us. Sometimes Maddie’s teen version of a clean room and mine didn’t quite look the same. At least on the surface, this time we were on the same page. Even Bella’s toys were all assembled in her bed.
“Heavy socks so you don’t get blisters? Extra layers or a coat? It can get cold out there with the wind.” The weather had been pretty mild for Virginia in January so far, with only a few nights of frost, and mostly in the 40s.
She made a face. “Extra layers make me look fat.”
“But you’ll be warm. What about the thermals? They’re thin and help retain heat and then you might get by without a jacket.”
“Okay. Okay. Can you get my skates?”
“On it. Skates, gloves, scarf and hat coming up.” I ignored her eye roll and gathered everything up as Melina pulled up.
“Hurry up. They’re here.” She bustled out of the room, grabbed everything and was out the door. I waved to Melina from the door.
Only a few more days and Maddie would be back at school and I’d be back to work at Millicent College. I finished my coffee and cleaned up. After letting Charlie out, I headed for Pets and Paws.
Smiling, I remembered the way Mrs. Chantilly had all the dogs decked out in bells, bows, and bowties before Christmas. With the help of Luke, she’d decorated the house, inside and out. She’d always reminded me of Mrs. Clause and for two weeks she dressed the part. More than one of the dogs managed to destroy her holiday trappings around the place from time to time, but she took it in stride.
The house was on the news and people came from all over to view it. Not unintentional by any means, she managed to get many dogs adopted.
I chuckled to myself, recalling when she’d tried singing traditional holiday songs. Unlike me, she had a beautiful voice. The problem was some of the dogs. They tried to sing, too, only the howling was not quite in tune. Sure enough, the decorations were gone from Pets and Paws now, too.
Luke was moving boxes and nodded hello as I arrived. A high school student with some bad habits, like the stray and rescue dogs Mrs. Chantilly collected, Luke was a restoration project. When he first started his community service at Pets and Paws, he scowled a lot and made me nervous. He’d made some attitude adjustments in the past few months and I was glad to see it, though I still didn’t quite trust him. Mrs. Chantilly met me at the door, grandmotherly, softness, and light, only without the Mrs. Claus attire.
“Isn’t this weather just delightful? Sunny, not too, too cold. I heard it’s going to freeze tonight and maybe snow. Those abandoned dogs wouldn’t survive if that happened.”
Now used to her manner of speech, I simply asked, “What abandoned dogs?”
“Over at the Stoneham place, near Blake Buchanan’s. Have you ever been to his home? It is beautiful. His wife studied interior decorating you know.”
“No, I didn’t know. Did they find dogs at the Stoneham’s?”
“That’s what I said. Nobody ever bothered the Stoneham’s for many years. Older couple and all, their children grown and gone, they kept to themselves. They didn’t live there when I was growing up here.”
Mrs. Chantilly had left Clover Hill after high school and she’d only returned when her grandmother died and left her the house, now Clover Leaf Pets and Paws. I was about to ask about the dogs again, and an SUV pulled up.
“Here, they are with some of the dogs. Poor things. Luke and I already fed and bathed the first group Blake brought over. I’m sure glad you’re here to help.”
I followed her as she hurried to the car and greeted Blake. He took her in his arms and then seemed to realize I was there.
“Dora, we uncovered a mama and pups.” He shook his head. “One of them didn’t make it. Dane mix. Where’s Luke? Even malnourished, it’ll take two of us to get her and her pups inside.” Mrs. Chantilly rushed to open the door and see to the animals.
“Mr. Buchanan, can you fill me in? Mrs. Chantilly hasn’t had a chance yet.”
He smiled and his eyes twinkled. We both understood that sometimes she was a bit hard to follow. Almost like putting a puzzle together. Me, I prefer things to be in order when someone is telling me a story.
“The Stoneham house is way on the outskirts of Clover Hill. Heck, it may not even be in Clover Hill proper. They weren’t very neighborly and even when I was Mayor, I didn’t pay them much attention. Last night, one of my shephards, Butch, went out and came home and stood outside howling and barking. He’d brought us a puppy, barely alive. As soon as he saw we were taking care of the pup, he bolted in that direction and I followed in my car.”
“The house was dark but Butch stood at the front porch and dug to get further underneath. I knocked at the door and no one answered. I called Chief Peabody and then with my flashlight got a look at dogs huddled together from the cold under the porch. With help, we extracted six dogs and two more puppies and brought them here.”
He shuddered. “Such bad shape. Butch still wasn’t happy, but that was all we could see. Four of us have been on the property this morning. Butch and Bridgit, my best dogs, are helping us wade through it.”
“Huh? What do you mean ‘wade through it’ – is the house that much of a mess?”
“That’s a mild description. Stuff stacked on top of stuff on top of stuff, and the smell.” He shuddered again. “This mama and pups were in the kitchen. We could hear yelping from other parts of the house.”
“Here comes Luke. We need to get this mama and pups inside. Sheridan, can you start some formula going? These pups are near starved to death. And we’ll have to keep them isolated until the vet can check them out.”
Luke lumbered up and his eyes about popped out as he looked from Blake to the Dane and pups. “Where are we putting all these dogs?”
Mrs. Chantilly’s face fell. “Mama and pups in the house. The side room is empty right now with all the adoptions. You were just in the garage. Is there room in there? Grandpa used to work out there so I think there’s electric heat if we need it. Blake, how many more dogs?”
He pulled her close. “Remember, we need to keep these dogs separate from your other dogs. Let me check out the garage. We can always pull your car out. Work on getting them some food and water. Luke, come with me.”
They disappeared. I turned to Mrs. Chantilly, “You stay with them. I’ll go get water and get bottles going.”
It was about an hour later when the current Pets and Paws residents were relocated to the larger back room. The two mamas and pups were situated on one side of the kitchen. They’d been bathed and fed and rested on a palette. That left space in the other side room. The new arrivals, other than the mamas and pups were medium to large sized dogs and moved to the unattached garage. They’d been fed and some had been bathed, now settled into crates. The heat was on low, but the dogs would all be out of the wind.
Blake hinted there would be more dogs coming. I sent an email out to all the volunteers with a short note about the dogs coming in and need for assistance if they were available. Whatever supplies were needed, I was confident Blake would take care of it.

Excerpt from Sheridan Hendley Mystery #2. Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.


Introduction to the Sheridan Hendley Series

Sheridan Hendley is the protagonist in the 5-book Cold Creek Series. Sheridan and Brett's marriage meant Sheridan moved to his place in a suburb of Appomattox - a fictitious unincorporated town of Clover Leaf. Book 1, A NEW PLACE, ANOTHER MURDER, was released on July 18, 2018. Sheridan continues to connect with some of her friends from Cold Creek, while she also makes new connections and friends in Clover Leaf.

A NEW PLACE, ANOTHER MURDER
Synopsis

Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.

Pretty much settled into her new home in Appomattox with Brett and his daughter, Sheridan longs for something to keep her busy. That is, until Maddie and her new friend are framed for theft and murder. Not quite the distraction she had hoped for, but she’ll turn over every rock to prove their innocence. In the process, she learns about the powerful Buchanan family and the history of the local community. Will the truth come out before the person calling the shots takes Sheridan and Maddie out of the picture? 

Here's a sneak peak at the start of the story: 

Read an excerpt:

My complaints to my close friend, Kim, about boredom were interrupted by the slamming of the front door and I ended my call. Probably something I’d have to get used to as step-mom to a teenager. In the kitchen, I found Maddie, her backpack thrown on the floor. She was stomping around the counter island, her face in a pout.
“What’s up Maddie?”
“You won’t believe what happened today. It’s unbelievable. I still can’t believe it and I was there.”
Her voice rose an octave as she vented and I had no clue what she was talking about. Maddie went to a variety of activities during the week. They were called “camps” but that seemed a misnomer to me. Robotics, theater, and computers were not quite what I thought of as a “camp.” I waited a few seconds and she ranted some more.
“Alex was accused of stealing money from the office. It was in his backpack, but he didn’t steal it. They didn’t even give him a chance to explain. They called his mom and took him away. He was mortified.”
“Calm down and help me understand. Can we back up please? Who’s Alex?”
“He’s one of the kids attending all these camps with me. Of all the kids, he’s been the nicest to me. I don’t understand why they don’t believe he had no idea how the money got in his backpack.”
She finally simmered down and plopped into a chair, a grimace on her face.
“You may be upset for nothing. Once they got him to the station with his parents and got more information, they may have figured out they made a mistake. But why would they think he stole the money and why are you so sure he didn’t do it?”
“I don’t understand why they picked on him. The officer walked in and asked for him. Then asked where his backpack was. Alex pointed to his pack and the officer went over, opened it and pulled out an envelope and money fell out. It wasn’t even hidden. Then they grabbed him. He looked around but nobody helped him. I didn’t know what to do to help him.”
“What makes you think he’s innocent? How else would it get in his backpack?”
“You don’t understand! Alex’s nice. He … He wouldn’t do that.”
“How do you think the money ended up in his backpack then?”
“I’m not sure and Dad says I shouldn’t accuse people without facts. When the police came and asked for Alex, two other boys snickered and fist-bumped. I think they set him up. All our backpacks stay in the main room while we go in and out. They could have stolen the money and stuck it in his pack. Then they must have called the police and made an anonymous report or something. We’ve got to help him.”
She stomped around the kitchen some more and kicked her backpack.
“Maddie, is your backpack in the same place as Alex’s and the others’?”
She turned to me and nodded. “Yeah, why? They’re all together in the main room.”
“Humor me, okay? Can you dump everything out of your backpack and make sure that the only things in there really belong to you?”
I cleaned off the table and she emptied her back pack onto the table. Books, brush, hair ties, crumpled up papers, pens, pencils, stale cookie, and an envelope.
“What? Where did that come from?” Her eyes opened wide. She went to grab the envelope and I caught her hand.
“Don’t touch it. You don’t know where the envelope came from or what’s inside?”
She shook her head, eyes wide. “Am I going to get arrested now, too?”
“I don’t think it will come to that. Your dad will be home in a little while and we’ll show him what we found. He’ll decide what to do. But don’t touch the envelope in case there are fingerprints or something else that might help identify who handled that envelope, okay?”
She nodded and sat down, staring at the mess.
“Is that everything? What about the pockets? Everything out, even the crumbs.” I realized this was going to be the cleanest this backpack had been since she got it almost a year ago. Maddie emptied and gasped as she found another envelope in one of the outside pockets.
“Sheridan, there’s another one here. Oh, no, I touched the edge!”
“It’s okay. Let me see if I can find something…” I rummaged through the kitchen drawer and pulled out serving tongs. “I’ll use these tongs and pull it the rest of the way out.” It took a few tries, but I managed to get the envelope out and dropped it with the other one. Then I released the tongs and left them on top.
“Now what?”
“Why don’t you go through all the stuff you just dumped here and either throw it away or put it back in the backpack. Except the two envelopes. In the meantime, I’ll work on finishing up the meatloaf and potatoes for dinner. Later, after we talk to your Dad, you might wipe the whole thing down with a sanitizer.”
She made a face. “This cookie doesn’t look so good. Did you make any more today?”
I looked at the cookie she’d picked up out of the pile. “That one bit the dust. Yes, there are more cookies over on the counter – only one, please. We’ll be eating in an hour.”
Somehow, my boring day seemed preferable to the drama. The idea of the camps was giving Maddie something to do. A big benefit, the camps provided an opportunity for her to make friends before starting at her new middle school in the fall. As with most 13-year-olds, middle school was a big deal. It was convenient she attended the camps at Clover Leaf Middle School where she’d be a student. And it had been working until then.
***
Maddie and I finished the dinner preparation and set the table as Brett pulled in the driveway. He raked his hand through his dark curly hair. That was a sure sign that he was tired or stressed. This situation with Maddie would push him over the edge, likely add a few gray hairs. Meeting him at the door, we kissed and that at least brought a smile to his eyes.
“Hungry?”
He looked past me to Maddie. I followed his gaze. Shoulders dropped and mouth quivering, she’d lost her independent teen, “I can take on the world” attitude.
“What’s wrong?”
He’d barely got the words out and she was in his arms, sobbing. Her long brown hair fell over her shoulders.
“Maddie’s friend, Alex, is in trouble. He’s been accused of stealing money. Maddie thinks he’s been arrested. The police found an envelope with money in his backpack.”
“Do you want me to see if I can find out what happened with your friend?” He caught my expression and his jaw clenched. “That’s not all, is it?”
“Afraid not. Maddie is sure he was set up, that somebody put the envelope in his backpack. When she told me both their backpacks were unattended in the room, I had her empty out hers. We found two envelopes that aren’t hers.”
His jaw clenched, he mumbled. “We’ll figure this out. Let me call Chief Peabody and have him send someone over.”
“I’ll finish putting dinner on the table. I imagine they’ll be tied up for a while.”
Brett nodded and walked down the hall to our office. Maddie moved as if to follow him and I stopped her. “He’ll take care of it and you can help me in the kitchen.”
A few minutes later, he joined us. “There was a shooting. It’ll be a while. Envelopes under the tongs?”
“We used the tongs so we wouldn’t touch them.”

He nodded. It was a quiet dinner, the envelopes grabbing our attention and dampening our usual dinnertime banter. We cleaned up and waited.

Excerpt from A New Place, Another Murder. Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.

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