I Think She was Murdered

Note from Tracy:

I’ve spent the last eight days soaking up the sun and vacationing at the site of my next Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder. Next month, I’ll share some photos of my visit.  This month, I’ll tempt you with an excerpt.  Enjoy!

Pre-Meditated Murder  releases January 8, 2018.

We followed the shoreline back toward Cannon Beach. I swung Bella’s leash in my right hand while she herded waves on my left. By the time we reached the rock wall at Arcadia State Park, the tide had gone out enough that we could walk around it without getting wet. Now that it was almost noon, small groups of matchstick-sized people wandered the beach. Some of them were walking toward us.

I reached for Bella’s collar, but stopped. A few hundred feet ahead, a colony of seagulls—dozens of them—dotted the shore. Bella’s eyes begged me.

Please? Just one more run?

Why not? One of us should be having fun. “Okay girl. Go get ‘em!”

Bella galloped after those birds like a cheetah after a gazelle. It was ridiculous, really. All of us—human, canine, and seabird included—knew that Bella would never catch them. But that didn’t diminish anyone’s fun. When Bella was about fifteen feet away, the birds took off in unison, flew a hundred feet down the beach, and landed, still in formation. Bella skidded to a stop, let out a single, loud bark, and tore after them again.

May as well give up, hunter dog.

I reached out my arms and yelled, “Bella, come!”

As trained, Bella turned a one-eighty and ran back to me at full steam.

Three hundred feet … two hundred … one hundred … “Bella, slow down!” I yelled. I repeated the command three more times in a rapid-fire panic. “Slow down! Slow down! Slow down!”

Bella didn’t hear, didn’t understand, or—more likely—chose not to listen. She launched through the air, collided with my chest like a hundred-pound bowling ball, and knocked me flat on my sitting bones for the second time in thirty minutes. A quick German shepherd chin nibble later, she ran a quick circle around me and chose a new destination: a Jenga-like stack of driftwood piled up against the cliff.

I spit out a million tiny particles of sand. “Bella, come!” I commanded.

No response.

I stood, brushed the wet sand off my bottom, and trudged toward my dog. “Bella, knock it off and get over here! Leave it!”

Bella pretended to be deaf.

What on earth was she so interested in? Half-eaten hotdogs? Urine from a particularly studly Golden Retriever? A seagull corpse?

Bella stopped sniffing and commenced digging.

I groaned. It had to be a dead creature of some kind. Bella couldn’t digest real food unless it was incubated in expensive prescription enzymes. I imagined scooping up undigested seagull parts and groaned louder.

“Bella, I said come!”

Not even an ear twitch. This level of disobedience was unusual, even for her.

I broke into a jog. When Bella wanted something this badly, it was a sure bet that I didn’t want her to have it. I skidded to a stop next to my recalcitrant canine and clipped the leash to her collar. “That’s enough girl. Leave it.”

She ignored me.

I tightened the leash and made my voice especially stern. “I mean it.”

Bella refused to move.

Whatever she’d found, it was infinitely more interesting than a five-foot-three-inch yoga teacher.

Bella channeled her inner Ricky, grabbed onto something and pulled, exposing a woman’s tennis shoe.

“Seriously, Bella?” I grumped. “This much drama over a shoe?”

Then I looked closer and gagged.

The shoe was attached to a foot. A foot that was attached to a caramel-skinned ankle. A caramel-skinned ankle wearing a starfish ankle bracelet.

Oh God, no.

Bella had unearthed a body—a woman. She was buried, facedown, in an obviously man-made mountain of driftwood, seaweed, and sand.

I wish I could say I was horrified. I wish I could say I screamed like a scared little schoolgirl. I wish I could say I vomited like I did the night I found my friend George’s body.

But I didn’t. I simply stood there, thinking the same words over and over: not again.

I clawed through the rocks, unearthed the broken body’s left wrist, and forced myself to feel for a pulse. Her fourth finger was bare, except for a band of lighter skin where her wedding ring used to be. I suppressed the urge to run off to warn Michael, pulled out my cell phone, and dialed 911.

“Hi. My name’s Kate Davidson. I found a woman’s body. I think she was murdered.”

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

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