Starting a new Writing Project

Beginning to figure out the first book, Poker Face.

Last month was the end of my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. After 16 books in that series, I had come to know the characters well. I’ll miss them, but I’m excited to start the new Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries.

The new mystery series has been on the back of my mind since last spring when I wrote a short story for a contest. The more I became invested in the short story and the character, I knew she would be the main character of the next mystery series I wrote. Over the year, she has popped up in my mind many times as I start to fully realize who she is and what she wants out of life.

Dela Alvaro is a disabled veteran who in the latest Gabriel Hawke book is the head of the night security team for the Spotted Pony Casino and helps Hawke solve the mystery of a missing Umatilla woman.

I also drove through the Umatilla Reservation to set the area and roads in my mind. That way when my character travels about, I can mention a real place or thing.

Old Agency building on the reservation

Starting a new series is more than visualizing a main character. I spent a day just drawing up the blueprint for the casino. It is a make believe casino, but in a spot where there is a real Indian owned casino. I had to go online and learn as much as I could about the casino that exists so I could make sure I put in the amenities that are needed for a casino of its size and the working parts of the casino as well. The staff, laundry maintenance, dealers, cashiers, security, restaurants, the works. How they are owned. How the games work. It has been a learning curve for someone who might frequent a casino once a year and most of those were at casinos in Nevada, not on reservations. There is a different set of rules for Indian casinos. Something else I had to read up on.

After I drew the casino layout, I came up with some of the characters who worked there that my character would be dealing with or have for friends. The statics for the casino I’m miming has 2/3 of the staff being from the reservation. That is good to know for coming up with secondary characters.

Because this casino is on a reservation, which makes if federal jurisdiction after the tribal police, I will also have an FBI agent as a secondary character. Guess what? That means I am also digging into what the FBI deals with on reservations and how the workflow goes, as well as reading up on the whole FBI process. I also gave Dela and FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce a backstory from their time spent in Iraq. And,,, that meant digging up info from military police in Iraq seven years ago.

I do tend to go overboard with my research but I hope it helps to make my make believe characters, believable.

That is what I’m doing in my writing. Waiting for my beta and sensitivity readers to get back to me on my last Hawke book, I wrote, and gearing up to write the first book in the Spotted Pony Casino mysteries. What are you up to this month?

Exploring New Cultures Through Reading

I have always been interested in other countries and cultures. Reading has been the way I learn about them. As a teen I read a lot of what is called Gothic Romance. These were set in England, India, Northern Africa. The places where the English ruled because the books were usually about an English governess. I enjoyed reading about the places and the people.

That could be the reason I write Native American characters and culture into my mystery books. They aren’t another country. They are right here living on the same continent as I am, yet their culture is different and they have been treated poorly. The one thing you will always find my books showcasing is injustice. I have deep need to show injustices.

Diwali or deepavali photo with female hands holding oil lamp during festival of light

Back to exploring new cultures through reading. I have read two books in Sujata Massey’s 1920s Mysteries set in India. I’m learning so much about the different cultures and castes that lived in that country at that time. Earlier in the year, I’d read a self-published book that was set in India. I hadn’t realized how badly some men treat their wives and it is normal. Glad I don’t live in that country. And I feel for the women who are trying to get equality in life, work, policies, and laws.

After those books, I moved on to one that I thought would be interesting and indeed it probably would be but I got tired of all the bantering back and forth between the two main characters and not getting into the meat of the mystery.

Now I’ve started a book set in Hollywood, not another country, but it’s in the view of a black woman who has fallen down the actress list. I’m seeing a different view of things through not only her losing her looks and trying to stay afloat but how she interacts with others.

I’ve also read many books written and about Native Americans to try to help me write my characters who aren’t ensconced in the life every day but I want them to reveal tidbits of that culture to my readers and help them see they are just as human as the rest of us.

Are you reading books about other cultures? Do you enjoy learning new things and understanding people better?

Luck or Fate

I don’t know if it’s luck or fate.

Fate: the principle or determining cause or will by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do: Destiny

Luck: a force that brings good fortune or adversity- the events or circumstance that operate for or against an individual.

Over the weekend I was able to connect with a young woman who is part of the MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) movement. Through a series of emails to first authors I knew in the areas where my next Hawke book will be set, and then people who work in the domestic violence program at the reservation I was able to connect with this woman.

She filled me in on things I didn’t know about the movement. Yes, it is a movement and not an organization.

Movement: a series of organized activities working toward an objective; an organized effort to promote or attain an end.

Organization: an administrative and functional structure

These are family members of missing and murdered Indigenous people across the United States and in Canada. This has become an epidemic.

One of the things I didn’t know was how hard it is for families on Reservations to get law enforcement involved in looking for a missing woman or as they also started to use the acronym MMIP- Missing and Murdered Indigenous Person. There are also children and people of the LGBQT communities who disappear or are murdered.

My conversation with her was to help me get started on my next Gabriel Hawke book. In this book he is called to the reservation by his mother to help find the mother of a child she watches. When Hawke’s mother can’t get the tribal law enforcement or the Pendleton City Police to look for the woman, she calls her son who works for the Oregon State Police who has a dogged determination to always solve things that perplex him.

My contact is willing to help me in every way I need. She even has contacts on the tribal police and assured me she is as excited about my writing about this movement and why it’s needed in my book as I was connecting with someone who is so open and willing to help me make my book the best it can be with real facts.

I’m learning so much by writing this book and I hope I open the eyes of my readers while also entertaining them.

2021 is Here!

One of my goals this year is to try and remember to post here more often. I put it down in my date book, but then something else needs my attention and I tend to put this off and deal with everything else. I’m sorry!

With 2021 I am finishing up a murder mystery series. I hope my readers like the way I ease out of the Shandra Higheagle mysteries. I felt like it was time to do a graceful exit with the option to pick it up in the future. 😉

I’m starting a new murder mystery series which is requiring a LOT of research. I want to make sure the setting rings true and the stories are riveting. If you, or someone you know, works for an Indian Gaming Casino, I would love to visit with you. You can email me at patyjag(at)gmail(dot)com.

Hawke is set to get two new books this year. The one I’m starting on next week will also require a lot of research. I’ve been reaching out to people for help. Hopefully, a few will come through.

Right now you can get the first book of my Isabella Mumphrey trilogy, Secrets of a Mayan Moon for $0.99 through a bookfunnel event I’m participating in: Strong Women Leads. https://books.bookfunnel.com/strong_female_lead/rbrgaya5oy

My two horses and George, the donkey, had their hooves trimmed yesterday. George and my mare needed it done. Jan, the gelding, just needed evened out. If the ground wasn’t frozen with some icy spots, I could ride, but at my age, I prefer to ride in adverse conditions. 😉 We have had very little snow so far, but it is only January. There are still two months in which we could get snow. That’s the good and the bad of living in the high dessert. We do get snow, usually in small amounts that melt quickly. Or we get a foot and it stays really cold. And you never know when you’ll have either.

George and the horses

I hope you have a wonderful year and keep coming back here to see what I’m up to. I’m hoping things ease up and I can attend the three conferences that were cancelled last year. We’ll see!

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are spending this day, or weekend, with people you care about or how you wish to celebrate or not celebrate this time of year.

We are spending the day with our family who live down the road. We see them all the time, and we live rural. One of the perks of being rural. 😉

As always at the end of the year, I figure out what I’ve accomplished and where I want to go with my writing. I am ending a mystery series. The last book is written and will be published in early 2021. I’m starting a new murder mystery series that I’m nervous and excited about. It’s requiring a lot of research because it is set in a business I know nothing about- Indian run casinos. And the protagonist is female disable veteran. Lots to learn!

I’m excited to write the next Gabriel Hawke book which will deal with Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. I know that sounds bad to say I’m excited about writing it. But what I really mean, is I hope by using this as a premise in my book, I can shed more light on the problem. And 75% of the proceeds from this book will go to the MMIW organization.

If you haven’t had a chance to start the Shandra Higheagle murder mystery series, or have been putting off getting the 7th book in the series, Yuletide Slaying, it is available right now at all ebook venues for $0.99. It was picked by Books2Read for a special Christmas promotion. http://d2d.tips/diehardchristmas 

The best part of Christmas to me is finding the perfect gift for each friend and family member. I love the search, wrapping the gift, and then the look on their faces when they open the gift. That and spending the day together, playing cards, visiting, and enjoying good food.

Wishing you a fabulous Christmas and a New Year that brings you all the joy and love you could ever wish for!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

It’s November!

My! Where has the time gone? I saw my last post was about October… I’m slacking! In defense, I’ve been trying to get several large projects finished.

One is the latest Gabriel Hawke book which is with a critique partner and a beta reader. Waiting for it to come back, I’ve been updating the Isabella Mumphrey books to make the insides as shining and spectacular as the new covers!

I’m having a “Where in the world is Isabella Mumphrey?” Facebook party on November 14th. Come on over to the party and join in the fun. I’ll be giving clues to find my character Isabella Mumphrey, famed anthropologist and Indiana Jones fan who uses a survival tin like MacGyver.

At the party I’ll be revealing new covers, picking winners for prizes throughout the two hours, answering your questions and will give out to larger prizes to two people who discover where Isabella is. To join the party just go here and say you’re going to attend! https://www.facebook.com/events/471554667120961

I’ve also been busy working out the kinks in my new mystery series that will be coming in 2021, while also starting the next Shandra book and gathering information for the next Hawke book. Yes, I have been occupied!

Took this photo while scouting the area where the latest Gabriel Hawke murder happens.

And I’ve been working on the binding on one quilt and piecing together another one and coming up with handmade gifts for the grandkids for Christmas. Life is never boring for me!

This is the quilt I’m putting the binding on.

Come hang out at my party on the 14th! I’d love to visit with you!

https://www.facebook.com/events/471554667120961

Time and Focus

Lately I’ve been struggling to find the time for things I want to do and staying focused when I do get the time.

Writing is one of the things I do for me. Not only to have some money to spend how I wish but also because I don’t feel settled if I’m not writing. Years ago, I would fantasize bad things happening to the people I loved when I was apart from them. Once I started writing, I stopped having those fantasies. My imagination had a creative outlet by writing stories.

These days, I write nearly every day. It is very rare that I find my mind going to places I don’t direct it to. I enjoy the flexing of my brain while trying to figure out a new book’s plot or coming up with characters.

Writing mysteries is my favorite thing to do. I can bring justice to the world in my imagination while I can’t to the real world.

I’m getting ready to reveal something big in the coming months. One is the fact I will be publishing my 50th book, the other is a new mystery series.

So stay tuned for all the new fun things that are going to happen in 2021.

And I’d like to add that this week only you can purchased the first three Gabriel Hawke Novels in an ebook box set for $0.99! That’s at all ebook vendors.

Books 1-3 in the Gabriel Hawke Novels

Oregon State Trooper Gabriel Hawke works the Fish and Wildlife Divison in Wallowa County. He not only upholds the law but protects the land of his ancestors.

Murder of Ravens

Book 1

State Trooper Gabriel Hawke is after poachers in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest. When he comes across a body wearing a wolf tracking collar, he follows the trail of clues.

Mouse Trail Ends

Book 2

Dead bodies in the wilderness. A child is missing. Oregon State Trooper Hawke is an expert tracker, but he isn’t the only one looking for the child.

Rattlesnake Brother

Book 3

State Trooper Gabriel Hawke encounters a hunter with an illegal tag. The name on the tag belongs to the Wallowa County District Attorney and the man holding the tag isn’t the public defender. 

Universal Book Link: https://books2read.com/u/3LgqpJ

Down the Rabbit Hole- The End by Paty Jager

Oliver Ensley was picked up and brought in for questioning. Scott tried his best to get the man to talk, but he stonewalled and kept repeating he wanted to call his lawyer. They had no choice but to allow him to make the call. They didn’t have any evidence against him, other than hearsay.

In the Sheriff’s office, Scott paced back and forth. “We have to find Tommy Joe and get him to talk. He’s the only one who can give us the information to make Ensley talk.”

“Are you sure it is Ensley and not Tommy Joe who killed Forseth?” the sheriff asked.

Scott stopped and stared at the sheriff. “What do you know about Tommy Joe? Everyone else seems to think he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

“He isn’t the simple man he portrays.” Sheriff Quinn tossed a file to the edge of his desk nearest Scott. “Take a look.”

The file was on Raymond Forseth, the victim. His family and business. Thomas Joseph Forseth was Raymond’s brother and second in line in the investing company.

Scott shook his head. “I don’t understand. I was under the impression Tommy Joe, Thomas Joseph, was here for many years. And no one said he was a Forseth.”

“He never gave a last name. And he has been in and out of here for years. I believe he was prospecting to find what he finally found, that tunnel with gold. His brother always did business on sure things. Go talk to Raymond’s secretary and wife. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping a look out for Tommy Joe.”

Scott left the office and returned to his desk. He called Mrs. Forseth first. She said, that at the death of her husband the business would go to her brother-in-law, Thomas. After adding that to his notes, he called the business and talked with Raymond’s secretary.

“Oh yes, those two brothers would get into it all the time. Thomas felt they needed to take more chances, and Raymond always made sure he had the information necessary to make an intelligent decision.”

“What will happen to the company now that Raymond is gone?” Scott asked.

“Thomas will take over, and who knows what will happen.” The woman sniffed. “I’ll be retiring. I won’t work for that man.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Raley.” He started to hang up and said, “Do you have any idea where I might find Thomas?”

“He has a cabin in the Sierras.” She rattled off the address and hung up.

Scott told dispatch to send three cars to the address and bring Thomas to the Sheriff’s Office.

He decided to have a better look at the photos and forensics. Staring at the photos, a thought struck him. Scott strode down the hall to the interview room, stopping at the door. “Is Ensley alone in there?”

The deputy standing guard nodded.

“Good. If his lawyer shows up, try to stall him.” Scott entered the room.

“Where’s my lawyer?” Ensley asked. He was a bald-headed man with broad shoulders and a permanent scowl.

“I don’t know. But I have some questions for you. Who did you work for? Raymond or Thomas?” Scott settled into the seat across the table from Ensley.

“What do you mean?” The man seemed to be perplexed. “I’m the builder for Forseth Development.”

“I know that. But were you working for Raymond or Thomas?”

The man shook his head. “I don’t know any Thomas.”

“Okay, let me rephrase it. Did you work for Tommy Joe?”

“The smelly old prospector? No.” The man laughed. “That’s a good one. He doesn’t have a nickel to rub between his fingers.”

“But you told him you’d take care of Raymond the other night at The Lone Wolf Restaurant.” Scott watched him.

“Yeah. He wanted to make sure that Raymond looked at the survey stakes and made sure the land Tommy Joe claimed wasn’t on our development. Tommy Joe was worried he was encroaching and didn’t want to get started digging and have Raymond take it away from him.” The man sounded sincere.

Scott studied him. “That’s all he wanted to know?”

“Yeah.” Ensley pursed his lips as if in thought. “When I talked to Raymond about it, he asked me where Tommy Joe lived. I gave him directions to that camp of his.” His eyes widened. “Wait a minute. You think Tommy Joe killed Raymond!”

#

While waiting for the deputies to bring Tommy Joe in, Scott received a call from the state forensics. “What did you find?” he asked the forensic technician.

“The victim was killed by a blow to the head after having been in a fight. We noted the bruises and scrapes consistent with fighting.”

“And the evidence recovered at the crime scene?” Scott asked. He hoped it was good news for Dela’s grandfather.

“The blood on the donkey was that of the victim’s. The animal had been used to move the body. The mining equipment you sent from the camp was tested. A shovel had the victim’s blood on the spade end and was consistent with the head wound. Your suspect’s prints were on the handle.”

Deputy Jones stuck his head in the room. “They’re bringing him in,”

Scott stood at the door of the county station watching Tommy Joe, dressed in slacks, a fancy shirt, and shiny leather shoes, be led into the station. The man glared at everyone. Gone were the whiskers, the longish hair, and the stench. He smelled of two-hundred-dollar cologne.

Relieved the right man was in custody, Scott called Dela.

“Hello?” the woman questioned, answering the phone.

“It’s Detective Harper. We have the person responsible for Forseth’s murder in jail. I’m pleased to tell you, it’s not your grandfather.”

###

Have you figured out which character could show up in a mystery series of their own?

Image from Depositphotos

Down the Rabbit Hole part 4 by Paty Jager

The deputies arrived in two vehicles. Scott instructed one deputy to take Dela back to the casino and the cufflink to the Sheriff’s department.

He and Deputy Jones entered the tunnel. They traveled close to a quarter of a mile when they found the end of the tunnel and what looked like gold ore. He pocketed a piece to be examined.

It was growing dark when they exited. If the GPS was accurate, the ore and end of the tunnel were on the edge of the victim’s property.

“I don’t think Tommy Joe would have killed over gold. He’s spent his whole life looking for it. Kind of a hobby,” Deputy Jones said.

“You know Tommy Joe?”

“Anyone who’s lived here more than a year knows Tommy Joe.” The deputy gave him a stare that said, ‘where have you been working?’

Scott had arrived in the area and started his job as Deputy with Amador County eighteen months ago. This was his first encounter with Tommy Joe.

“Enlighten me,” he said, as they walked back to their vehicles.

“Tommy Joe lives simple. You saw his tent and camp.”

“But does he live that way because he wants to or because he has to?” Scott asked.

The deputy stopped. “I always thought because he wanted to. He’s always happy.”

#

Scott shook his head and climbed into his SUV. Tommy Joe was high on his list of suspects. He called in an All Points on the man. He’d get some sleep and be at the casino bright and early to talk to the hostess and waitress.

The yeasty scent of rising donuts and sweet icings had started Scott’s stomach rumbling as he walked by Margaret’s Café in the casino. He glanced in and spotted Dela sitting in a corner booth. He changed course and approached the table behind a man carrying a plate with a maple bar and a cup of coffee. After the man placed the two on the table, Scott stepped around him and sat in the booth. “I’ll have the same.”

The man glanced between the two.

“It’s okay Jerry, he’s not here to arrest me,” Dela said, picking up her coffee.

Scott laughed. “She’s right.”

Jerry nodded and disappeared.

“How did you find me? This isn’t the Lone Wolf.” Her eyelids were half shut as she sipped the coffee and looked at him over the rim of the cup.

“I wasn’t looking for you. I expected you to be tucked in bed after missing sleep yesterday.”

Jerry reappeared with another cup of coffee and a plate with a maple bar. He walked away, and Dela picked up her bar.

“I figured you’d be coming in to talk with Tina and Ruth. I planned to be at the restaurant when all of you arrived.” She yawned before taking a bite.

“I’d say after missing your sleep yesterday and working all night, you better let me drive you home.” He sipped his coffee, watching her.

A myriad of emotions flexed the corners of her mouth as she swallowed and stared at him. “Why? Do you think I don’t have a friend who would give me a ride home?”

He held up his hands. “I didn’t say you didn’t. I just wanted to make sure you made it home without an accident. Safety is a Police Officer’s main goal.” Setting his cup down, he picked up the pastry and ate, not saying another word. When he’d finished, he asked, “What time will the hostess and waitress arrive?”

She nodded to the door. “They’ll be coming in here before they check in. It’s kind of the hangout of employees either before or after their shifts.”

“Is that the real reason you were sitting here? To talk to them before I did?” Now he was wondering if she was interfering with his investigation. And why?

“I was sitting here to detain them if you were late.” She took another bite of her maple bar and chewed, her brown eyes daring him to think otherwise.

The more he was around this woman the more intriguing he found her.

She sat up. “There’s Tina.”

A tall thin woman in her fifties walked through the door.

“Tina, come have a seat with us. Detective Harper has some questions for you,” Dela said, patting the seat beside her.

The older woman studied him for several minutes before sliding onto the bench beside Dela, making her slide around toward him. “Why do you need to talk to me? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“It’s nothing you did. I’m hoping you can remember who Mr. Forseth had dinner with the other night, and what they were talking about.”

Jerry appeared from the back with a cinnamon twist and cup of coffee for Tina.

“Thanks Jerry. Hey, bring out Ruth’s usual, too, please.”

The man nodded and retreated.

Tina raised her hand and waved. Another woman, this one a bit younger with bright red hair, walked toward the booth. She scooted in beside Tina, who made the introductions.

Dela shifted closer to him, but still remained closer to the women. He wondered if it was to show solidarity with the women or avoid being close to him.

 Scott repeated what he’d said to Tina. “Do you remember waiting on Mr. Forseth two nights ago?”

Tina’s nose wrinkled. “I always remember when Tommy Joe comes around. I have to spray the booth to get rid of his body odor.”

“Tommy Joe? Is that who Forseth was having dinner with?” Scott asked.

Ruth shook her head. “Mr. Forseth had dinner with Mr. Ensley. When Mr. Forseth left, Tommy Joe sat down with Ensley.”

“Did you, by any chance, hear what they were talking about?” Scott pulled out his notepad and wrote this information down.

“Bits and pieces. Ensley lowered his voice when I’d walk up, but you know Tommy Joe…he would just keep on talking as if I wasn’t standing there.” Tina folded a paper napkin. “Seemed to me there was mention of gold, boundaries, and Ensley said he’d take care of Forseth.” Her eyes widened as she stared at Dela. “Do you think he killed Mr. Forseth?”

Scott had to give Dela credit. She just shrugged and said, “I don’t know. But I’m sure Detective Harper will know what to do with this information.” She twisted her neck and stared at him.

“I never believed Elwin killed Mr. Forseth,” Tina said.

“Me either,” added Ruth.

Dela smiled. “Detective Harper didn’t have to hold Grandfather on the murder charge. But he’s still in trouble for removing the rabbits from Caswell Park.”

Tina laughed. “You know, only he would have thought to use an animal to get the building stopped.”

Scott grinned. “Thank you for the information ladies. Come on, Dela, I’ll drive you home.”

The woman blushed as he slid out of the booth and offered her a hand to help her slide out his side.

Continuing next week…

Down the Rabbit Hole part 3 by Paty Jager

An hour after Dela said she knew where to find Tommy Joe, Scott was navigating his county SUV over rough terrain. “You’re sure he lives out here?”

“There it is!” Dela pointed to the right.

 He caught a glimpse of an old army tent before they dipped into another washout.

Scott weaved his vehicle between the chaparral, releasing the earthy musk of the plant and bouncing over rocks.

They rolled over a knoll and there was the camp. He felt as if they’d walked into an old newspaper ad for the gold rush of 1849. Not a single item looked less than a hundred years old.

Dela slipped out of the SUV and walked toward the banked fire ring. “Tommy Joe? Tommy Joe, it’s Dela Alvaro.”

Scott hurried to her side. She was a civilian he shouldn’t have brought along. But after bouncing over all the ground they did, he’d realized he would have never found the place on his own.

He watched the woman bend at her waist and feel the fire. “Cold.”

She straightened and scanned the area. “He was at Grandfather’s this morning. I saw him.” Dela listened. “I don’t hear his old burro either.”

“According to what Chief Dickson learned, Tommy Joe found the body when he was bringing the burro to your grandfather.” Scott grasped a pick and studied the pointed end. “This looks like it’s been used recently. See how shiny the half inch of the tip is?”

“I don’t doubt it’s been used. That’s all Tommy Joe does. He wanders around digging, looking for gold.” Dela walked over to the tent.

Scott hurried in front of her. He grabbed the edge of the flap and flipped it back. Only the stench of unwashed body, bedding, and supplies were inside.

“Maybe he’s out digging.” Scott strode alongside the tent, his gaze on the ground. “This looks like a trail.” He led the way along the path.

They came to a small gulch that had once held a stream. The trail went down into the stream bed.

“Do you think he’s working this dried-up stream bed?” Dela asked.

 “We won’t know until we look.”

Scott started down the five-foot incline. He glanced up at Dela. The July sun was hotter down in the gulley without a wisp of air stirring. He couldn’t read what she was thinking behind the sunglasses she wore. Making her navigate down the slope if she couldn’t, didn’t set right with him, but he was uncomfortable leaving her alone.

“Need a hand?” he offered, holding a hand up to her.

She looked down at him, then raised her head a fraction and pointed. “Down there about thirty feet, I saw something shiny.” Grasping his hand, she kept her gaze on a spot down the gulley. She slid one foot down into the dry stream bed while the other gave her motion.

Scott held onto her hand as they continued down the dried bed.

“There.” She pointed to what looked like a miniature train track disappearing into a tunnel in the side of the gulley.

“I’ll be damned.” Scott pulled out his phone. He took photos of the gulley and the opening before flipping on the flashlight app on the phone. Entering the tunnel, with the woman behind him, he bent over at the waist and walked about twenty feet into the cool, musty earth.

“I wonder how far it goes?” Dela murmured.

“We don’t have the equipment to find out. We need to find Tommy Joe and ask him why he was calling the victim.” Scott motioned to the woman to back out.

Once they were standing out in the sunshine, blinking at the bright light and replacing their sunglasses, Scott nodded up the stream bed. “Let’s go back to the camp and see if we can figure out where to find Tommy Joe.”

“We should have kept going to see if the tunnel went into the development.” Dela leaned on a rock in the side of the embankment.

“How close to the development is this stream bed?” Scott pulled out his phone and tried to get a signal. It was no use.

“I’d say less than fifty yards.”

“Really? That close?” He had an idea this tunnel may have something to do with the murder. Proving it could be a different matter. Maybe he did need to go back in and see how far the tunnel went. Scott studied Dela. Did he dare leave her out here alone? If Tommy Joe returned and he was the murderer, he might want to keep the tunnel a secret.

Instead of reentering the tunnel, he decided to call in backup. That meant going back to his vehicle and using the radio.

“I think it could be even closer,” Dela said, staring at the streambed.

“We’re going back to my vehicle. I’ll call in a couple more deputies.”

This could be what Tommy Joe was calling the investor about. He’d discovered gold on the building site and wanted to…what? Stop the building so no one discovered his mine?

Dela slid off the rock she’d been sitting on and walked over to a spot two feet in front of him. She bent at the waist. “Look!” The woman pointed at a space between two rocks.

Scott knelt and studied the area she’d indicated. Something shiny nestled between the two rocks. He took photos with his phone. Dela handed him a tissue. He picked up the silver piece of men’s jewelry. It was a cufflink monogramed with a F. The victim had been missing both cufflinks.

He shoved the piece of jewelry into a pocket. He hadn’t expected to find evidence. All of his equipment was in his vehicle.

“You need to get that to the Sheriff’s Office,” Dela said, hurrying ahead of him as fast as she could with the one less cooperative leg.

Scott passed her and held out a hand to help her up the five-foot embankment where the trail left the stream bed.

“Thanks.” Her tone sounded as if he’d just insulted her.

“Hey, you’d have helped me if you’d been the first to the top,” Scott said, wondering what branch of the military she’d been in.

“Yeah, sure,” she muttered.

At the vehicle, Scott started the engine to get the air conditioner going.

After bagging and tagging the cufflink, he grabbed the radio and asked for assistance at their location.

“Now what happens?” Dela asked.

“We sit in the cool vehicle and wait for assistance.” Scott shifted sideways. “What branch of the military were you in?”

She gave him a look that might have quelled a weaker man. “Marines.”

Continuing next week…