My #2 Happy Place

While I am a HUGE homebody and love being at home more than anything else, I love going to the Oregon Coast. In fact, I try to go a couple times a year for week long writing retreats.

This week I am at Rockaway Beach trying to get at least half of the next Shandra Higheagle book written. I’m getting close!

The week started out with wicked waves and wind. The trees were practically leaning sideways and the old log home that I stay in creaked, moaned, and screeched as tree limbs scraped across the windows.

The waves were not only the largest I’ve ever seen here, they were rolling north rather than straight at the shore. The water level, even at low tide was washing clear up to the edge of the embankment. I didn’t feel safe to walk the beach on those days.

water lapping at the steps to walk onto the beach

Then the wind calmed and the water went back to normal and I was able to take a couple of walks each day. The walks are my reward for getting so many words written in a session.

This photo shows the end of rainbow out in the distance after a night of pouring rain, thunder, and lightning.

This next photo looked like a petrified seagull digging its way out of the sand. What do you think?

The other photos were a bit of color and I always see beached jellyfish. I can see a story in just about anything I look at. I haven’t decided if it’s a blessing or a curse. LOL

I don’t know where the colorful leaf came from but I like the colors. The Jellyfish seemed to me to be looking for a hiding place in the kelp.

Down the road in one of my mystery books, a story that came to me while I was walking on the beach another trip, will be used as the premise/plot in a mystery book.

I need to get back to my writing. I have 8,000 more words to write today so I can go home tomorrow with the number of words I wanted to get done on this trip.

Here is a parting photo:

Itching to Decorate for Christmas & Party!

As hubby keeps saying, “It isn’t Thanksgiving yet!” However, last year for some reason, I can’t remember, we only had the decorations up for a few weeks and I felt slighted. I feel like I need to get the decorations up so I can enjoy them longer. I’ve already started listening to Christmas music- Penatonixs- but I’m still not ready to gorge on Hallmark Christmas movies.

I’m also going to be gone all next week at a writing retreat on the coast. Which will cut into time to get other things done *cough* Christmas presents *cough*. I always sew something for the grandkids. I know my kids enjoyed when my mom would give them things she made herself.

And, I’ll lose a week in December when I travel to Wisconsin with my daughter to pick up pigs. You can believe I’ll be blogging about that trip!

My Norfolk Pine with lights

The more I think and write about this, I will take down some of the Fall decorations and be prepared to have our oldest daughter and her girls along with another granddaughter help me decorate the house the day after Thanksgiving! Then it will be finished and I won’t have to worry about it when I’m on the trip.

How about you? Do you like to decorate or have your house decorated for the holidays? I tend to do something for every season/holiday. It makes the house look happy.

I’m having a “Where in the world is Isabella Mumphrey?” Facebook party to reveal the new covers for my Isabella Mumphrey action adventure/suspense/thriller trilogy. There will be clues and those who leave the correct answers will be in the running for some great prizes. Books, gift cards, tote bags, swag, and other goodies.

So join me Nov. 14th on Facebook. Sign in that you are attending today so you will be ready to join the fun at 5 pm PST.

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

And book 1 Secrets of a Mayan Moon is on sale in ebook for $0.99 through the weekend.

Secrets of a Mayan Moon

Book one of the Isabella Mumphrey Adventure series

Move over Indiana Jones and MacGyver- Isabella Mumphrey has arrived!

Child prodigy and now Doctor of Anthropology, Isabella Mumphrey, is about to lose her job. Unless she can decipher an ancient stone table—and she can. She heads to Guatemala at the request of her mentor, but drug trafficking bad guys and artifact thieves wreak havoc on her scholarly intentions.

When undercover DEA agent, Tino Kostantine, meets Dr. Mumphrey it’s obvious she’s never been in a jungle or outside of the States. Entangled in helping her discover the truth in the tablets may make both of them lost casualties buried forever.

https://books2read.com/u/bzQEE4

Fall Trip to the Steens Mountains

Our granddaughter had this past Thursday off from school for the end of the 9 week period. I told her we were going to the Steens to take photos of the trees changing.

We were about a month too late from the looks of the naked trees. The good thing is Aspen trees are pretty even when they don’t have any leaves.

Aspen trees at Fish Lake

Our first stop was the Peter French Round Barn near Diamond, Oregon. It was built in the late 1880’s by Peter French a cattle baron of the time and area. They used it to continue to train horses to ride and drive wagons during the winter months. Because I had been there several times before the only thing I took photos of were the pair of barn owls roosting on the main center pole of the building.

From there we continued to the mountain.

At Fish Lake, we stopped an took photos of the water, the trees, and the ambiance. It was a peaceful and a beautiful day.

Fish Lake

The canyon where we usually stop to take photos of the golds, yellows, and reds on the aspen trees was a barren sight. The trees had already lost their leaves.

Alas, we were too late. This canyon is usually filled with color.

Traveling on, we stopped and took photos at Kiger Canyon. It’s named for the wild Kiger mustangs that were found in the area in the early 1900s.

Kiger Canyon

Then on up to the top. Here we looked over the edge at the Alvord desert below, some irrigated fields, and the road on the SE side of the mountains. Here while our granddaughter tried capturing photos of a small bird, I found a rock with half a dozen ladybugs wandering around on it.

View from the top.
Lady bugs on the rock

Moseying on, and heading down the south entrance road, we stopped at one of my favorite spots about halfway down a canyon. There is a small trail and some interesting rocks and vegetation.

I liked this dead looking tree.

And to cap off our day of traveling the loop on the Steens, we must have seen nearly a hundred wild horses. It is the most I’ve ever seen on a trip up to the mountain. They were scattered all along the ridges and gathered near watering holes.

Wil horses on one of the hills.
Granddaughter taking a photo

I need to get our granddaughter’s photos put on the computer so I can see what kind of photos she took. She tends to like to take photos from ground level or of interesting things, I wouldn’t think to photograph.

She would squat down and get certain plants in the photos or rocks. She would also hold the camera near the ground. She has made some awesome photos on other occasions.

It was a fun day. I hope you enjoyed my little photo collection of a Fall trip on the Steens Mountain Loop.

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

It’s October!

I don’t know why but I’ve always loved the month of October. I think it’s the cooler weather, pretty leaves on the trees and bushes, and gearing up for the end of the year holidays.

I have my house decorated inside and out with fake Fall leaves, pumpkins (scary and plain), and lights and candles. I’m not a huge fan of it getting dark earlier. That means the feeding has to be done earlier and that cuts into the afternoon writing and sewing time.

Yes, you saw sewing. This time of year and through the winter, I tend to sew in the later afternoon and evening. It just feels like I need to stay busy but my brain is fried from writing during the day and sewing is kind of a no-brain work thing. Especially when I’m sewing or cutting pieces for quilt tops.

This is what I’m working on now.

I picked up the “fat quarters” while I was in Hawaii last year. I have always like batik fabric and wanted to make a quilt out of it to represent our 40th Anniversary trip.

We have four cats who stay in my hubby’s shop. I check on them and feed them every morning and evening. Cautious- seen below, is so named because he usually is cautious about people. Lately he’s been coming down off his high perch and greeting me when I feed.

Our daughter raises IPP pigs (Idaho Pasture Pigs). She has a litter that were born not too long ago. This is a photo of one that I thought was cute.

On the writing front- I finished Turkey’s Fiery Roost, book 6 in the Gabriel Hawke series. It is off to critique partners and a beta reader.

Now I’m formatting Collateral Love, novella 4 in the Tumbling Creek Ranch series. That will be publishing for a low price next week, so stay tuned or get on my western romance newsletter list- https://bit.ly/2JVGe4j

And I’m getting excited about my cover reveal party for the new covers of my Isabella Mumphrey Adventure series. That party will be happening in November. Stay tuned to learn more about that.

This month, October 24th, the Cowboy Kisses Authors will be having a Facebook Party on our Facebook Page. I’m scheduled for noon Mountain Time. We’ll be giving away books, prizes, and having fun. Drop by if you have a chance: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CowboyKisses

Looking forward to the rest of this month. I’ll keep you posted of all the fun going on.

Enjoying the Fall Weather

The weather has cooled, we’ve had a bit of rain, though not enough to make things wet. I enjoy wearing sweatshirts and snuggling in blankets while reading books and watching television.

With the cooler weather and more time to go horseback riding, I’ve been riding my horse more.

Looking from halfway up the hill

Since we’ve been riding on the hill, I purchased a breast collar to keep my saddle from sliding back on my barrel shaped horse. LOL I like that Jan, my gelding, doesn’t get fat, but that also means he doesn’t have a belly to keep the cinch from sliding backwards when we go up a hill.

On two of the rides, I had to stop after going up hill, get off, release the cinch, pull everything forward, and tighten the cinch back up.

Jan and the new breast collar hooked to the latigo rings. Too low.

On another ride, I tried the breast collar but it set too low across his chest and shoulder, buckling it to the latigo rings. My saddle is now with a friend to does leather work getting two D rings put up higher on the saddle skirt.

When I get the saddle back, I can get back to riding with my granddaughter.

It is also the time of year when we trek up to the Steens Mountain to see the aspen trees change colors. I would love to do it by horseback, but that’s not happening this year. My daughter is still struggling with finding the best horses for her and her kids. But, I’m looking forward to taking photos of Fall aspens to put on the blog.

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…