Country Cousins Mysteries Book 10
Not since the days when Vlad the Impaler rampaged the quaint countryside of Wallachia Romania, has anyone deserved to go to prison more than George Shulz. Unfortunately, we have to prove he did something wrong first.
Self-proclaimed sociopathic lawyer George Shulz is a cross between the “get off my lawn” guy and Hannibal Lecter. A less likeable individual would be hard to find in Deer Hollow. So, when he’s arrested at the site of a recent murder involving a missing deer, Shulz’s car, and a body with a clear set of tire tracks painting his backside, there doesn’t seem to be much question whether he’s guilty.
Everybody wants him to be.
Unfortunately, for everybody, Shulz keeps insisting he didn’t do it. And worse, he wants me, Joey Fulle, and my boyfriend Hal, the PI, to prove his innocence.
I really just have a hankerin’ to grab a pitchfork and join the lynch mob.
Unfortunately for me, Hal and his brother Cal are on the job, intending to prove the horrible man’s innocence.
On the plus side, I get to spend some quality time with my bestie, Felicity, from the big city.
But I’m thinkin’ I might occasionally drift over to the torch and pitchfork side, just for fun.
" I really like this series! The characters are always entertaining and fun. Joey and Hal’s pets add so much uniqueness, cuteness and humor. The storyline is interesting. It’s always nice to revisit Bumpkinville and find out what new adventures Joey, Hal, Caphy and the rest of the gang are getting into. I’m already looking forward to the next one!"
More from this series
Praise for Rumble Bumpkin
J. Johnson - Amazon Reviewer
Fun story with laugh-out-loud moments, a good page-turner of a story, and all the necessary requisites of a well-written murder mystery. Yep, this cozy has it all. So take a chance on this story that gives you characters that you love to love and love to hate and settle in for a good fun whodunit that will leave you glad you did.
Voracious Reader Jodi - Booksprout Reviewer
What another wonderful story the stars Hal Amity and Joey Fulle. I love being introduced to her cousin Felly and Hal's brother Cal. They have a full blown mystery on their hands. I love the interaction with the 3 pets. I love their hijinks so much that I think I might want to get a potbelly pig my self. As always this story was very funny and I didn't guess who done it. This is a highly recommended story and series. I look forward to the next one.
Read an Excerpt
No really,” I told the cranky Siamese cat who was currently draped across my underwear. “You can’t come with. I promise we’ll only be gone a day. Just twenty-four little hours. It will be fine. Lis is going to come stay with you, Caphy, and Ethel Squeaks.” I reached out and gently poked the cat’s sleek hip, earning a heartfelt hiss for my efforts.
I sighed. “You like Lis. I know you do.”
“Woowoowoo,” sang my blonde, green-eyed Pitbull. Caphy topped off her song by licking my ankle.
“See,” I told the perennially unhappy feline, “Caphy likes Lis.”
LaLee snapped her tail against my hand and then got gracefully to her feet, turned her back on me, and flopped back down on top of my favorite satin and lace bra.
I sighed. My cell rang and I glanced over to see my boyfriend Hal’s picture on the screen. The photo was inspiring. I was glad for the hundredth time that I’d taken the time to figure out how to personalize his calls with his own picture.“Hey,” I said with a smile. “Are you on your way?”
“I’m getting gas. I’ll pick up Ethel Squeaks and be there in fifteen minutes. Are you ready?” I ignored the doubt threading his deep voice. If he doubted my ability to prepare to leave town on a tight timetable, he wasn’t wrong. But I couldn’t rush my fashion choices. I was competing with my cousin, Felicity’s perfect fashion sense. I needed to give myself plenty of options.
Grimacing, I said, “I’m almost ready. I might need to bring the cranky feline with me, though. She’s refusing to leave my suitcase.”
He chuckled. “That sounds about right. I’ve got another call. I’ll see you in a few minutes. Be the alpha.”
Be the alpha. I sighed. I had no problem being the alpha. But I’d probably only have power over a pack of one. Caphy would happily let me pretend I was in charge. But LaLee would scoff at the idea that anyone could be alpha over her.
Ceding defeat on the suitcase, I decided to go pack my makeup bag instead. Maybe LaLee would get bored if I wasn’t there for her to annoy and she’d leave.
Hope sprang eternal.
I went into the bathroom and brushed out my shoulder-length, red-blonde hair, pulling it up into a high ponytail before examining my lightly-tanned oval face in the mirror and deciding a little blush and eyeliner to set off the blue of my eyes wouldn’t be a bad idea.
My phone rang before I had all my toiletries laid out to pack. It was Hal again.
“Please tell me you’re not here already.” I hurriedly started shoving stuff into my bag.
“Unfortunately, no. And it doesn’t look as if we’re going to Indianapolis today.”
I stopped shoving, disappointed. “What’s up?”
A door slammed on the other end of the line, and I figured that Hal had gotten out of his car. The sound of wind soughing through the connection verified it. “Arno called me in on a potential case,” he responded.
I sagged down onto the closed toilet seat, my disappointment tripling. “So, probably no Indianapolis for a while then?”
He must have heard the disappointment in my voice. “I’m sorry, honey. But I could use your help with something. Or, really Caphy’s help. Would you mind coming out here and bringing her with you?”
I perked up. “To the crime scene?” I glanced toward my bedroom, where my pibl was currently pawing at the mattress near my suitcase to make LaLee wobble. The feline hissed enthusiastically with every vibration, a circumstance that only spurred Caphy to greater heights of pawing. Her tail wagged manically at the cat’s very satisfying reaction, her pretty green eyes bright with pleasure. “You sure you want to unleash the pibl on a crime scene?”
Hal greeted someone on the other end of the line, but I couldn’t decipher the answering rumble of a response. Then my PI returned to our conversation. “I have to go, honey.” He quickly gave me his location and reminded me to bring my dog.
I disconnected with a sigh, watching Caphy twist herself into half a pretzel before slamming her paw down on the mattress and launching LaLee out of the suitcase. The cat landed on her tiny, dark paws and shot off the bed, hissing heartily as Caphy did celebratory zoomies around the room.
Despite my frustration at missing our outing to Indy, I grinned at my dog’s antics. Then I climbed to my feet and called out to her, halting her manic circling. “Come on, pretty girl. We’re going for a ride in the car.”
She shot out of the room and barreled down the stairs to the front door.
LaLee gave one last glance in Caphy’s direction and then leaped gracefully back to the bed, climbing back into my suitcase with a final glare in my direction.
I shook my head. “You can have the suitcase for another hour or so. Then, I’m going to be unpacking. And you’re going to have to find another place to sleep.”
“Yowl!” the cranky cat responded. Something told me I wasn’t getting her out of that bag without a few claw tracks on my arms.
I was starting to worry I’d missed a turn or something when I drove up a hill, took a curve, and finally saw the lights of several police cars in the distance. I stopped my Jeep behind Hal’s big Escalade and clipped Caphy’s leash to her collar. The pitty was already warbling with excitement and bouncing in her seat.
I followed her line of sight and saw my PI heading our way.
“Who’s coming to see you?” I asked my excited Pitbull.
Caphy whined and lunged at the side window, her muscular tail flailing the leather seatback.
I laughed. My sweet pibl loved herself some Hal Amity. Opening my door, I’d barely gotten one sneakered foot on the ground before Caphy shoved past me and strained at the end of her leash to reach Hal. I knew how she felt. I generally strained to get near him too.
Six feet four inches tall, with thick, shiny black hair that was swept straight back from a wide, unlined brow and curled softly against his muscular neck, Hal was a Greek god in a close-fitting black tee, stylishly aged jeans, and scuffed brown boots.
Thick black lashes framed his dark green eyes and his wide mouth was full and kissable. He had a square jaw with a dimple in the center and broad shoulders that strained the round-necked tee shirt. His only visible flaw was the razor-thin scar that ran from just in front of his left ear to the corner of his eye. I’d asked him about the scar once, but he’d been vague. I had a feeling it was the result of a situation that had scarred him on the inside more than what was visible. He clearly didn’t want to talk about it.
Which made me want to know all the more.
“Hey, Beauty,” Hal said, crouching down to scratch my dog’s floppy ears. He looked up at me. “Sorry to drag you out here, but we have a dilemma we thought our girl could solve.”
I nodded, scanning the area. There was a small, muddy, and severely damaged sedan parked cattywampus across the grass, several yards from the road. There was a messy trail of tire tracks in the wet grass, where it appeared the car got stuck in the mud and dug in, slipping and sliding.
A distance away from the abandoned car, something lay on the ground covered in a thin blanket.
“What happened?” I asked, lowering my voice. “Is that a body?”
Hal sighed. “Unfortunately. We appear to have a vehicular homicide. But nothing is adding up.” He threw a look toward the cluster of police cars and I noticed a pair of skinny legs sticking out of the back seat of one of them. Deputy Kim Schmidt appeared to be asking the person who owned the legs questions, jotting notes and nodding her head. Whoever was inside the car, he or she was wrapped in a blanket like the one covering the corpse, and looked about as muddy as the abandoned car. “Who’s that?”
Hal sighed, the skin around his eyes tightening. “That is our resident sociopath.”
My eyes went wide. “Shulz?”
George Shulz was Deer Hollow’s only lawyer. He maintained the arrogance and disdain of the most reprehensible of his peers, but also worked under the self-proclaimed mantle of sociopathy. Shulz was sans all real human emotion or filters, and he was pleased to be that way.
For the rest of us, the trait moved him well beyond annoying and into hurtful territory.
The first nigglings of worry stirred in my middle. “Why did Arno call you in?”
Hal’s gaze suddenly didn’t seem able to meet mine. He scratched Caphy’s scruff and stared off into the distance.
“Hal?” I let my growing discomfort thread my voice.
He sighed. “Shulz wants Amity Investigations to find the person responsible for all this.” He swung his arm to indicate the car and the body.
Discomfort swelled into horror. “You’re working for Shulz?” I didn’t like the dolphin-like pitch of my voice but I didn’t seem able to contain it. “Have you lost your mind?”
Hal turned an angry gaze my way and I flung up a hand, palm out. “I apologize. That didn’t come out the way I’d intended. What I meant was, do you really think that’s a good idea?”
Hal studied me for a long moment. My heart thudded too fast in my chest. The last thing I wanted was for George Shulz to, even inadvertently, cause a rift between me and my PI.
Finally, he looked away. “I haven’t agreed to it yet. I know it would be stupid. The man’s a demon.”
I nodded, agreeing completely with the sentiment. Not in a euphemistic way. No. I really believed Shulz was a demon from the fiery pits of Hades. Hey, if I believed in God, and I did, then it only made sense the devil existed too. Shulz was a perfect advocate for the devil. So…demon he was. “But you’re considering it, aren’t you?”
“Only because Arno asked me to.”
I let my brows rise.
“It’s the election. He’s worried Shulz will use his connections in the legal world to cause problems for him.”
“Why on earth would he be worried about that?” I asked.
“Because Shulz told him, I’ll use my connections in the legal world to cause problems for you if you don’t get me Amity.”
I pulled air into my lungs and released it in a frustrated rush. “What kind of problems?”
“Shulz has threatened to make a series of ads featuring high-powered lawyers from Indianapolis, to fling innuendo and plant doubts about Arno’s role in the Mayor Robb mess.”
Our former mayor had gotten mixed up in a kidnapping and murder case that had dragged our former sheriff down with him. Deservedly so.
But Arno hadn’t had anything to do with it, except that it had fallen into his lap to clean up.
It was the reason Deputy Sheriff Arno Willager, a darn good cop and my childhood friend, was currently running for Sheriff. A cynic might believe that, since Arno stood to gain from Sheriff Mulhern’s ouster, he could very well have framed the sheriff to get his job. The fact that Arno worked that case made the accusation even more plausible. That was, if you didn’t know that Arno Willager was the most decent, honest person one could possibly find.
“Arno doesn’t have anything to worry about,” I told Hal. “Nobody who knows him would believe he did anything wrong.”
“Yeah,” Hal agreed. “Unfortunately, not everybody who will be voting for Arno really knows him.”
“Amity!” The voice hailing my PI from across the grass belonged to none other than Deputy Arno Willager himself. When we looked his way, he motioned for us to join him near the body.
I didn’t need to encourage my dog to follow, she leaped ahead of us as soon as we started walking. If I didn’t know her better, I’d be concerned she was trying to get closer to the body to check it out. But I suspected her love-filled gaze was focused more on the deputy sheriff than the body he was overseeing.
Arno smiled when he saw the pibl straining on her leash to get to him. “There she is, the girl of the hour.” Arno bent to scratch my pibl under the chin and got a wet swipe of her tongue across his cheek for his efforts. “You ready to do some work, girl?”
“What’s going on?” I asked the two men. “What did you want Caphy to do?”
Arno turned his intense brown gaze in my direction. A gentle breeze caught in his longish blond hair as he straightened. Standing next to Hal, his six-foot two-inch frame looked smaller than it was. However, with his lean frame, narrow hips, and broad shoulders, Arno was anything but small. He gave me his worried face, which consisted of two indented lines in the space between his dense golden eyebrows. “Amity didn’t tell you?”
“We hadn’t gotten around to that,” Hal admitted. “We got hung up on my potential client.”
I gave Arno a look and he shook his head, putting hands to hips and trying to look intimidating. He usually had no trouble looking menacing, but I’d known him since grade school so he had a harder time making my knees quake. “I asked him to consider taking the Shulz case as a favor,” Arno said. His tone was stern, but there was something almost vulnerable in his eyes.
“I don’t believe you’re really afraid of Shulz’s threats,” I told my friend.
Arno crossed his arms over his chest, the twin lines deepening on a frown. “Let’s just put it this way. I don’t believe, ultimately, that his lies would hurt my career. But I don’t see why I should have to deal with them, given that I think he’s innocent.”
Silence pulsed between us at his admission. Hal shifted from foot to foot, seemingly discombobulated by Arno’s disclosure. I was pretty sure my eyebrows were tickling my hairline. Even Caphy cocked her head in question.
“How is that possible?” I asked, too loudly. I lowered my voice after drawing Deputy Schmidt’s speculative gaze. “Shulz admits that he’s a sociopath. You have a victim and you have Shulz in the vicinity.” I glanced at the car. “That’s Shulz’s car, right?”
Arno glanced toward Shulz. “I’ll explain later. Right now, the Pitbull has another corpse to find.”