Excerpt from The Madd Mountain Murders by Lana Waite, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Madd Mountain Murders

By Lana Waite

The Madd Mountain Murders

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Chapter 1

The voice on my phone that early Sunday morning was cranky and bossy. Jake wanted me at Tall Trees now, this instant, shake-a-leg! "I need you, Maren, dammit! Don’t argue!" He was almost shouting. "Ella’s giving me fits with her lame leg, Charlie’s disappeared…"

Lame leg? What was wrong with Ella’s leg? And Charlie had disappeared? "Who’s Charlie?" I asked. It was hard keeping up here. I was still bleary-eyed, in pajamas, yawning.

Jake ignored my question. He was good at that. "The police are threatening to dig up the entire cellar. It’s all too much. We’re no spring chickens anymore, you know."

"Dig up the cellar!" That woke me up. "Jake, you have to tell me what’s going on. Why should I just pack up and leave here without some idea of what I’m getting into there?" I began to feel cranky myself. Being single, female, and a relative should not make one available at a moment’s notice.

Jake was my eighty-year-old uncle, my mother’s brother. He owned Tall Trees Lodge in the mountains of California. I hadn’t seen him for three years and I was beginning to think another three would be just about right. Except—I had to admit this—his voice was hoarse and a little shaky. I was very much afraid he really needed me. That ubiquitous family loyalty thing—it rears its head at the least excuse.

I gave evasion one more try. "And I'm certainly not interested in getting involved with police."

"Don’t be silly. The police won’t give a hoot about you. I don’t want to sit here and explain all this stuff over the phone. Just come on. I’ll tell you about it when you get here." There was a short pause. His voice became huskier. "We can forget all that stuff that went on before. You can get along with Ella for a little while, can’t you? She apologized, didn’t she?" Yes, she did. And then acted as if she had never hurt me. I’ve noticed it’s very easy to dismiss someone else’s pain.

"She’s not going to like me any better now than she did then, Jake. Will the strain be worth it to you?"

"Hell," he murmured, almost too low to hear. "I’ve never figured out why she treats you like Cinderella. Can’t you just ignore it? I need some help here."

Ella was his wife, his second wife. He’d married her when I was eight and she had seemed to take an instant dislike to me. I’d never known why. Now she had broken her leg in some odd accident and couldn’t run Tall Trees Lodge as she usually did. I could do that for him if he’d let me do it my way. I’d grown up at a Southern California inn. I knew policies and procedures. The fact that I’d escaped to San Francisco and opened a steno/graphics shop did not lessen my ability to run a hotel.

And certainly, if I put my mind to it, I could ignore Ella. At least I could try. I wouldn’t have to defend my work, it would be excellent. Perhaps the rest of the time I could stay out of her sight.

So—did I want to go to Tall Trees now? It wouldn’t be easy. I no longer cared—at forty-plus—to answer to other people, in this case Jake. Being one’s own boss is addictive. Still, he was family and I’d always loved him. He’d made childhood vacations in the mountains lots of fun. In addition—and this was inevitable—I could feel my curiosity growing. Curiosity is one of my most assertive traits and I never apologize for it. According to Samuel Johnson it’s a permanent characteristic of a vigorous mind. And now, the thought of someone called Charlie disappearing, searches, digging up cellars—all that really teased me. Harriet and Irma, my shop associates, could get along fine without me for a while—I hoped.

From The Madd Mountain Murders by Lana Waite. Copyright 2004 Lana Waite.  All rights reserved.

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