shell casings The FBI was chasing reports of the terrorists north on I-81 but they were still hiding in the hills east of Scranton waiting for their next target to fill with innocent victims. Sadie’s nose led her into trouble and brought JJ along with her.

From my recently released crime/detective novel, GROUND EFFECT:

Mrs. JJ Kennedy had returned from town. She found the garage door open and no JJ or Sadie. This was not an entirely unusual situation and caused her no heartburn. She humped the grocery bags into the kitchen and flipped on the small television next to the canister set. It was set on the news channel JJ preferred and a younger, blonder hostess in a tight dress was chatting cheerily about bombs and fugitives with the male suit next to her. The volume was just audible but the news feed was scrolling across the bottom taking way too long to come to the point of each story. She couldn’t be bothered and got busy mixing tuna and chopped celery for toasted tuna sandwiches. JJ would be ravenous after marching around the neighborhood at daybreak and mowing the wet grass. Sadie was always ravenous.

She managed to keep her figure from high school, well, almost. The extra twenty-three pounds was well hidden in the loose top and capris. She walked with JJ three or four times a month to humor him but mostly she watched what she ate and had given up beer last year.

The last of the mayo in the fridge got scraped from the bottom of the jar and she replaced the top and opened a new one. The sink was next to the counter where she was working on the celery. She stepped over and rinsed the mayo knife then glanced up to look out of the double window framing a view of their freshly mowed sloping back yard. She dropped the wet knife into the sink and felt a chill envelope her upper body at the sight of a huge black bear hobbling across the lawn headed for the tree line. It took a minute but she finally realized maybe she should get her garage door closed.

She grabbed the empty mayo jar and dropped it into the recycle bin in the garage as she passed, edging up to the open bay door and looking hard to both sides before stepping out into the driveway to hit the locks on her minivan. On the way back she spotted the blood trail left by what she assumed had been the bear as it crossed from the wooded lot below and went up the driveway then around the house to the back. She thought about checking JJ’s truck but retreated back inside and hit the closer.

The first thing he realized was that it smelled awful. It was a smell that meant something to him but he didn’t understand why. And his back was killing him. Then the birds worked their way through the brain fog and started chirping. He tried to open his eyes but they refused. He tried to stretch his legs and ease the stabbing back pain but that resulted in even more and sharper pain down his legs. Shit!

The birds were joined by a rhythmic noise that finally registered as Sadie panting. The synapses in his brain linked and he understood now what the smell was. “Jesus, Sadie, you stink.”

The sound of his own voice somehow loosened his eyelids and he opened them slowly, letting in bits of daylight. But the light was only coming in from the edges. There was a black mass inches from his nose and he was lying in sticks and leaves. How and why he was here still was a mystery but he could hear and smell Sadie panting close by.

But the messages to his brain seemed to break whatever dam had been holding them back and he suddenly went cold and clammy. The pain in his back wrapped around and flared in his gut and he was thirsty, nauseated and scared all at once.

“Sadie?” It came out like a rusted door hinge opening. Now his brain started spooling the memory reel and fed the image of some creep shooting a pistol at Sadie. And bears. Plural. Shit, shit.

Her second call went to the direct line of the barracks. JJ had several business cards stuck to the fridge with magnets. Cops meeting cops. The District Game Protector was an hour out and she still couldn’t find JJ or Sadie. A woman answered and took her information, “I’ll send a trooper out but call back if he shows up.”

Now she had to wait some more. The tuna went into the fridge and when she closed the door she stared at the state police trooper’s card on the front. Probably nothing…

The trooper knew who JJ was. They’d met several times around town and at social functions. Unlike most of the New Yorkers who used the green mountains of Wayne County as an escape from the cities, JJ was soft spoken and didn’t draw too much attention to himself. “The game warden is still trying to get here. I’ll drive around the neighborhood and ask the neighbors if they’ve seen him.” He wrote a cell number on his card and gave it to her. “Call me when one or the other shows up and I’ll come back.”

The trooper followed the blood trail back across the street to the edge of the woods but didn’t really want to mess up his shined boots or his clean uniform pants so went back and drove his car down the street. He could cover more territory on four wheels.

Down the hill, JJ had no sense of time. He kept still because any movement sent sharp and deep pain around his middle and down both legs. Weakness and sleep crept over him and he drifted off numerous times. Sadie was still there each time he woke. She had not moved and her panting slowed. He couldn’t see her but he knew where she was, she was behind him. His arm couldn’t reach her and even if he tried it hurt too badly.

JJ had never been shot before but had seen several gunshot victims, including two he shot himself, and knew he was in big trouble. But he was more worried about Sadie. The picture of the dark haired shooter pointing the gun down at her and pulling the trigger was stenciled into his brain.

The doorbell sounded like it was coming from next door but when someone knocked on the front door of the house, JJ knew it was his chance. Unless it was more bad guys. Either way he needed help, for him and for Sadie.

“I’m here, help me.” It was a pitiful attempt. “Help me.”

The trooper at the front door wondered why the garage door was open but no one was answering the door. He spun back out to the driveway and to his car. Some people were more trusting than others and didn’t worry about such things. He drove on trying to see through the trees between houses. Somehow he didn’t notice the spilled box of shotgun shells and a scrap of paper on the garage floor near the door leading into the kitchen.

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