Down the Rabbit Hole part 2 by Paty Jager

The casino wasn’t large, but it sustained the Miwok tribal members and helped out the community. When Scott first arrived in this county, he’d been surprised at the atmosphere, cleanliness, and how the tribe gave so much to the local organizations.

He garnered a few smiles, and some wary looks, when he entered the casino wearing a green polo shirt with the county emblem and his weapon on his belt.

“Hey, Detective. Dela told me you’d be coming.” A man the age of their suspect walked up to him. “You’re early. Did someone call in a robbery?” The man guffawed at his joke.

“No, no robbery. Do you work the main entrance weekdays?” If the man worked the door, he would see who came and went.

“I’m here from ten in the morning till six at night. I valet park and give directions.” The man smiled, showing two missing teeth on the right side of his mouth.

“When was the last time you saw Mr. Forseth leave the casino?”

The older man scratched his cheek. “Yesterday. He was talking on his phone and walked right out to the parking lot, not even returning my greeting.”

“Did he come back?”

“Not that I know of.” The man studied him.

“Can you remember exactly what time he left?”

“It was about noon. A group of ladies come in from Sacramento talking about getting lunch first.” The man walked toward the casino floor. “Why are you interested in Mr. Forseth? Did something happen to him?”

“Why would you say that?” Scott fell into step beside the valet as they navigated through the slot machines. Only a tenth of the machines were being used at this time of day.

“The last time Elwin was in here, he talked about knowing a way to stop Forseth from desecrating sacred ground.”

Scott stopped the man by grasping his arm. “Dr. Elwin Drake? He threatened Forseth?”

“No, he wouldn’t harm anyone, he’s a healing man.” The valet said with conviction, leading him to a door at the far side of the gaming floor. “Go up them stairs, and you’ll be in the security room.”


Scott walked through the door and climbed the stairs. At the top, he spotted the young woman, Dela Alvaro, sitting in front of a monitor. A hallway was on the screen.

“Ms. Alvaro, are you looking at the surveillance tapes without me?” He grabbed the nearest chair and rolled it over beside the woman.

He’d startled her. She spun the chair and came face to face with him.

“Either call me Dela or Alvaro, I’m not used to being called Ms.,” she said, visually pulling herself together. “I thought I’d get everything setup and ready for you.”

He could tell by the blush of her cheeks she’d already been looking through the tapes. “Have you found anything interesting?” Scott pulled out his notepad, slapping it onto the desk in front of him and watching the screen.

 “Not in the hallway. But my boss also said to take a look at this tape when I told him about Forseth and what we were looking for.” She started with a tape timestamped the night before last.

“Why did you start here?”

 “Forseth had an argument with Ensley, his builder, in the High Limit Room night before last.” Dela glanced at him. “My boss thought it might be important.”

A punch of a button and the High Limit Room came onto the screen.

They couldn’t hear what was being said, but the body language said it all.

“Wow! Those two both look like they’d like to rip each other’s head off.” Dela said.

Scott continued to watch as Forseth turned to walk away. Ensley grabbed the investor’s arm, spinning him back around. Forseth took a swing at Ensley, landing a solid blow to the builder’s jaw. Hatred flashed in the builder’s eyes before floor security hauled the two men off.

“What happened to them after this?” Scott asked.

“My boss said Forseth went up to his suite and Ensley stormed out of the casino.”

Scott stared at the screen as Dela removed the video they’d just looked at and pushed the surveillance tape of the hallway outside the victim’s room back in. “There was a lot of time between when he left and when he was killed.”

“Do you know what time Forseth died?” Dela asked. “I checked his key card. After Vinnie saw him leave, Forseth didn’t return to his room.”

Scott studied her. Did he give her information? Her grandfather was a suspect, though he was beginning to think the man had been set up. “Eight P.M. give or take an hour either way.”

“Then Grandfather couldn’t have killed him.” Dela turned her gaze on him, triumph sparking in her eyes.

Scott decided to take the bait. “Why not?”

“I was on the phone with my cousin at eight and she said her brother had taken some goodies over to Grandfather.”

“Write down their names and numbers.” Scott slid his notepad over in front of the woman.

She pulled out her cell phone and scrolled through her contacts. When she had the names and numbers written down, she pushed the pad back to him. “You should check on Ensley’s alibi.”

“I will.” Scott studied the woman. She had dark circles under her eyes.

His cell phone buzzed. “Harper.”

“This is Sanchez. I’ve nailed down all the people who called or were called by the victim.”

Scott set his notepad on the desk. “Let me have them.”

“Oliver Ensley, he’s the builder for the victim. A restaurant, The Lone Wolfe, it’s—”

“I know where it’s at. Anyone else?” Scott knew the restaurant was at the casino. He’d go there and see who might have had dinner with the victim.

“No one else. But he received a call on his cell phone from the concierge around five-thirty last night. You would have thought they would have called his room phone.”

“Yes, you would. Thanks.” Scott ended the call and glanced at Dela. “Are you available to help me make inquiries in the casino?” He knew having her along would get him more cooperation from the staff.

“Yes, I’m not even supposed to be here until tonight.” She shut down the computer and stood.

Scott nodded to the door leading to the stairs. When she hesitated, he said, “We can take an elevator.”

The woman glared at him. “I can take the stairs. Who are we talking to?”

“I need to question the concierge and see why the Lone Wolf Restaurant called the victim.”

Dela moved ahead of him out the door, but hung back, waiting for him to take the stairs.

Not wanting to make her nervous or self-conscious, he walked down, ignoring the odd cadence of her steps.

Scott filled Dela in on what information they needed from the concierge.

“Hi Reggie,” she said, walking up to the small desk where a man about her age sat.

“What are you doing here this time of day?” he asked.

“Detective Harper has some questions for you.” She stepped to the side.

Scott opened up his notepad. “Who was working here last night around five-thirty?”

Reggie glanced at Dela who gave him a nod. “It was me. I don’t get off until six. Why?”

“Why did you call Mr. Forseth’s cell phone?” Scott studied the man as he thought back to the evening before.

“I didn’t. I wouldn’t even know his cell phone.” He thought some more and snapped his fingers. “That must be who Tommy Joe called. He came in and asked if he could use the phone.”

“You didn’t ask him who he was calling?” Dela asked, moving toward the man as if to apprehend him.

The man took a step back. “No. It was Tommy Joe. I figured anyone he’d call would be local. He’d said something about his burro not feeling well. I thought maybe he was calling your grandfather.”

“Did he make more than one call?” Scott asked.

Reggie shook his head. “No. Just the one.”

Scott flipped back to the page where his investigation notes started and circled Tommy Joe. “Thank you.” He motioned for Dela to move away from the desk. “Take me to The Lone Wolf Restaurant, please.”

“I saw you write that down in your book. They were probably confirming a reservation.”

“Exactly.” Scott hoped to find out who the reservation was with.

After talking to the manager, they learned the hostess who worked that night and the waitress who waited on the table were off and wouldn’t be back until the next day.

“If you want to know why Tommy Joe called Mr. Forseth, you could go ask him,” Dela said. “But you won’t find him by an address.”

“I suppose you know where he lives?” Scott asked.

“It’s out in the middle of chaparral, rocks, and gold mining country.”

Taking the woman was against protocol, but it would save time having her guide him to the prospector’s residence.

Continuing next week…

photo source: Depositphoto

Down the Rabbit Hole by Paty Jager

This is the beginning of a short story I wrote for a contest.

A cage of rabbits nibbled on grass beside the prone body. Hands and arms reached out in front; toes pointed the opposite direction. The position led Amador County Detective Scott Harper to believe the body had been dragged a distance. How far, he wasn’t sure. But the perimeter of the search was endless on the Rancheria.

“Do you know what those rabbits are? They’re the rare Riparian Brush Rabbits from Caswell Park,” Floyd Dickson, Chief of the Jackson Rancheria Police Department said, pointing at the animals. “Elwin has to be the one responsible for these rabbits showing up at the housing development going in next to the Rancheria. This Forseth found out and came here. And look what happened to him.” The chief stared in the direction his two officers had escorted Elwin Drake.

The man in custody was a retired veterinarian, a Miwok elder, and one of the most vocal protestors on this thousand-acre Indian Reservation.

“Who called the body in?” Scott asked, continuing to process the body and area.

“Elwin called it in after Tommy Joe, an older gentleman who considers himself a prospector, showed up to have his donkey looked at.” The chief cursed.

“You that skeptical of the vet or of this Tommy Joe?” Scott asked, glancing at the chief.

The tribal officer had his gaze set on a woman around the age of thirty who strode their direction. Her gait was uneven, but it was closing the space between them. “Neither.”

“Don’t let anyone other than law enforcement back here,” Scott said and returned to taking photos and collecting evidence.

“That’s Elwin’s granddaughter. She works at the casino.” The chief met the woman about twenty feet from the crime scene.

Scott would have preferred the officer had met her further away, but the woman had been intent on getting close.

 “What are you doing here, Dela? This is a crime scene.” Chief Dickson stopped the woman.

“I came to see if Grandfather had any luck healing a bird I brought him Tuesday.”

Scott caught a glimpse of her peering over the chief’s stout shoulder, trying to see what was going on.

“How could you lead Grandfather out of here in handcuffs? He wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

“It doesn’t matter what I think. All that matters, is the fact that your grandfather has vocally protested Forseth’s housing development, and now, the man’s body is found on Elwin’s property next to stolen rare rabbits that have appeared at the building site.”

“You know Grandfather. He is too smart to leave the body here.”

Scott stood and walked over to the conversation. “So, you do believe your grandfather capable of murder?”

The woman turned her steely brown eyes on him. “No! Don’t turn my words around. I’m only pointing out my grandfather isn’t this stupid.” She pointed to the body. “How did he die?”

“I can’t tell you that. This is a crime scene. You need to go on to work.” Scott pivoted and headed back to the body. He didn’t need relatives of the possible murderer hanging around mucking things up.

He’d gone three steps when the woman said, “He was staying at the casino. I can go pull surveillance tapes and find out who came to see him.”

He spun back around. “How can you get surveillance tapes?” From her nice build and face, he presumed would be pretty if the scowl and anger in her eyes were gone, Scott had thought she worked as a waitress.

“I’m second in command for security at the casino.” Her eyes held a challenge.

Did she think he didn’t believe her? “I see.” He studied her. Would she show him all of the tapes even if her grandfather was found visiting the deceased?

“I’m going to be here another two hours.” He glanced at his watch. “I’ll meet you at the casino in three hours—at noon. We’ll have a closer time of death, and you can pull the tapes I ask for.”

The woman nodded. “That will give me time for a cat nap and a shower. Ask Vinnie at the door to call me when you get to the casino.”

The woman smiled at the chief, strode to the back of the house, and disappeared.

“She was in a bombing in Iraq. Lost her left leg,” the chief said. “Damn shame. She would have made an excellent deputy.”

Scott pulled his gaze from the retreating woman. He’d wondered about the awkward stride. Now he understood her pushing back and being adamant about her grandfather’s innocence. She believed in justice.

Continued next week….

Where is Summer Going?

Thinking about how much I still need to get done and this is the last month of summer, I’m glad Covid cancelled my conferences! I know, I shouldn’t say things like that, but I figured my year, after conference cancellations would be filled with more down time. Instead, I feel like I am just as far behind as I would have been had I gone to conferences and judged at county fairs, like I normally do in the summer.

George saying “Hi”

Between animals, family, and writing, I have been so busy, I can’t believe we just entered the 8th month of the year.

August. For us, usually, the last summer month. Come September we have one week of hot weather then it starts tapering off in heat and light to where we are ready for the cool weather, long nights, and less work. 😉

This summer, I’ve written a book and a novella and if all goes well another book will have been written by the end of August. We’ll see. I will be busy the end of this week and most of next week with little writing getting done.

My 15th book in the Shandra Higheagle Mysteries released., Capricious Demise has a unique murder method and a surprise ending. So far the reviewers are liking it. Here is the info and cover:

Capricious Demise

Book 15

Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series


Shandra Higheagle’s deceased Grandmother enters Shandra’s dream, showing her two lost children. Her grandmother never comes to her dreams unless there is a murder to solve. But whose? The children? Or someone related to them?

Ryan is called out to a suicide, that isn’t. While contacting next of kin, he finds the victim’s husband also murdered and their two children missing.

Using her dreams, Shandra helps locate the missing twins whom they take into their home as foster children. The hunt for the reason the parents were murdered becomes urgent when the children reveal they may have seen the killer.

Universal buy link:

I should have another release to tell you about when I blog again. Yes, it has been a busy summer!