Sampler: The Mah Jongg Murders by Linda Pirtle
February 2, 2020
Review: There’s love, humor, suspense, nail-biting moments and more to be enjoyed in this well-crafted story.
Lillian Prestridge and her husband Bill are introduced to Eli, a standard Poodle when he leads them to the scene of a heinous murder in their normally quiet, gated community in the heart of East Texas.
Lillian lends her investigative instincts to her son Jake, County Sheriff, and his best friend, Grant Perryman, Chief of Security at Leisure Lake as they try to solve not one murder, but two, in the first of Linda Pirtle’s Christian novels: The Mah Jongg Murders.
THE MOMENT LILLIAN Prestridge saw the standard poodle running up the hill, she tuned out her husband who was reading from their current devotional book. She stood, walked to the railing of the front deck to get a better view, and wondered why the owner would ignore leash laws and allow his dog to run loose in the neighborhood. Then, she quickly chided herself. Perhaps, the dog simply got away from his owner. She whistled, and the dog changed direction and ran toward her house. He stopped at the end of the driveway and waited for her. The dog whimpered softly as she approached him.
She chuckled at the sight of the dog, leash in his mouth, walking himself. That is, until she spotted the hair on his face and chest. Both were smeared with blood.
She knelt in front of him. “What’s wrong, buddy? Where’s your owner?”
Immediately, the dog began barking. He turned and trotted a few paces away. Then he stopped, looked over his left shoulder, barked, ran back to her, wheeled around, ran another few feet, stopped, barked, came back.
Lillian looked up at the deck. Her husband Bill was peering over the rail. The dog continued to bark.
“Come out here,” she commanded. “I think this dog is trying to tell me something. Let’s follow him and see what’s going on.”
Bill yelled down from his perch on the deck. “What? What did you say?”
“Don’t ask questions.” Lillian realized he could not hear her over the louder and more frantic barks of the dog, so she beckoned for him to come down toward her.
“Oh, okay I’m coming.”
When Bill reached the end of the drive, Lillian motioned with her head. “Look, there’s blood on him.”
The dog repeated his barking, running away, returning and barking again.
“See. He is trying to communicate with us.” She looked down at the dog. “Okay, buddy, let’s go.”
The dog took off in a dead run. Lillian and Bill struggled to
keep him in sight. He led the couple down the hill and toward the dam at the end of the small fishing lake. He began to whimper again. He dropped down and low crawled toward a figure lying near the edge of the lake. He sat up and howled.
Both Lillian and Bill pulled up short at the sight of a woman’s body. She was on her stomach, face turned away from them. A pool of blood seeped from beneath her chest. Lillian walked around to see the woman’s face and knelt by the body. She reached out, picked up a limp wrist to check for a pulse. There was none.
“Don’t touch her, Lil. I’m going to run back up to the house to call security. You stay here with the dog and try to comfort him.”
“Okay, I will.”
She didn’t touch the body again but began to look around the area in search of clues that might tell her what had happened. She found no traces of a struggle. There were numerous footprints, including hers and Bill’s, but since the dam was part of a popular trail where people came either to fish from the pier or to hike, footprints didn’t help much.
She led the dog over to a bench near the pier and sat down to wait for help to arrive. She pulled the dog close to her and looked at the tag on his collar. “So, your name is Eli. I’m so sorry, Eli, that someone you love has been hurt. Don’t worry, buddy. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
As she and Eli sat side by side on the bench, it suddenly occurred to her how quiet everything was. She concentrated on the sounds she should be hearing, sounds of nature. Nothing. Usually, during the early morning, she could hear the harmonious symphony of the cardinals, blue jays, house wrens, and mockingbirds that gathered around the lake.
Lillian sighed. She stroked the dog’s head which he had placed on her knee. She looked at the lake. Perfectly still. Not one wave rippled toward the bank. Then she saw them, the dreaded evil turkey buzzards. Circling. Circling. Descending slowly on the other side of the lake. Lillian shivered.
“I just hate those things.”
Eli looked up at the birds and emitted a low growl.
“I understand, Eli. You don’t like them either.”
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