Saturday Sampler: The Mah Jongg Murders by Linda Pirtle

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. Read an excerpt from the first of Linda Pirtle’s cozy mysteries: The Mah Jongg Murders.

Sampler

More sirens blared as two Leisure Lake security vehicles arrived. The officers relieved the paramedics of their guard duty and quickly sealed off the area with yellow crime tape. One of the officers instructed the onlookers.

“Okay, folks, this is a crime scene. You’ll have to move farther back onto the road.”

His partner set up barriers, thereby establishing parameters for the crowd that had gathered.

Howard Bernard, Justice of the Peace for the precinct parked his car on the side of the road. He shoved his way through the crowd and walked down to the scene.

“Sorry to interfere with your watching Bobby’s game,” Grant said.

“Don’t worry about it. My son knows I’m on call twenty-four seven.” He completed his paperwork, signed off, and looked at Grant.

“Do you have everything you need here? If so, I can release the body to the paramedics.”

“No, Sir. I need photographs of the scene. My men should be able to do that in thirty minutes or so.”

“I understand. FYI: I called the county sheriff. He should be arriving with his detectives any minute now. I’m sure he’ll want photos as well.”

“Jake will. Do you need to wait on him?”

“No. In fact, I’ll let the paramedics know that Sheriff Prestridge will release the body.”

“Thanks. You go on. I know your son is anxious for you to be at his game.”

“If you need me, give me a call later. I won’t mind coming by your office first thing tomorrow.”

“Ten-Four.”

 

Linda Pirtle

Sheriff Prestridge arrived just as the justice of the peace was leaving. Grant noticed Bernard lower the window on the passenger side of the car as Jake approached. The two men shook hands, and the justice drove away. Grant waved a greeting to Jake and turned back to the crime scene.

Lillian looked up when Jake approached. She stood to greet him, but he motioned for her to stay put. He walked past her and nodded to Grant.

“Thanks for coming out,” Grant said.

Jake nodded an acknowledgment and walked around the body.

He then joined Grant. They stood, talking, with their backs facing the park bench.

“Bring me up-to-date.” Lillian heard Jake say.

Grant pulled his notebook from his shirt pocket and thumbed through the pages to his notes and read them to Jake. But as her son turned to glance at her, Lillian knew they were discussing more than the body lying before them. You two think you can keep me out of this business, but be forewarned, I will find the culprit who murdered that woman with or without your cooperation. I heard Grant tell you it was your dad and mom who found the body.

Bill spoke, “Grant, Jake, do you need us anymore?”

“Yes, Dad, I’d like you to tell me why you and Mom decided to hike down the hill this morning.”

Bill confirmed everything Lillian had told Grant.

“Have you seen the woman before this morning?” Jake wanted to know.

“Never,” responded his dad. “I’ve never seen the dog before either.”

Grant pulled his cell phone from his pants pocket. “Well, I guess I’ll call the animal shelter to pick up the dog.”

“You can’t do that.”

“Why can’t Grant make that call, Mom?” Jake asked.

“I promised Eli that I would protect him.”

“People don’t make promises to a dog,” Jake shook his head.

“Why am I not surprised to find you right in the middle of whatever’s going on here?”

His mother ignored his comments and stood her ground. “I do. And as you know, I always keep my promises.”

Grant sighed and explained. “He will stay at the shelter until we know where he belongs. The victim may have family members who will want him.”

“He can’t stay there. I promised Eli that I would not let anyone harm him. I’m taking him home with me.” She stood and squared her shoulders. “Come on, Eli. Let’s go.”

Bill walked over to stand behind his wife. He put his hands on her shoulders as if to restrain her. Eli growled and moved between them.

“Sit, Eli. Bill won’t hurt me.”

The dog obeyed but kept his eyes on Bill who put his hands in his pockets. “Now, Lillian, you can’t interfere with Grant doing his job. He knows what’s best. Besides, Jake agrees with him.”

Grant just nodded. He knew it wouldn’t do any good to argue with Lillian, the flamboyant matriarch of the neighborhood. He looked at the gentle, loving woman and tried to decide how to phrase his next statement.

“Lillian, I just thought of something that would help us solve this mystery.”

“What?”

“The blood on the dog’s hair could be critical evidence.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.”

“So, I think it best that you don’t take him with you right now.

The medical examiner will need to cut some of his hair with the blood on it for DNA analysis.”

“How long will that take?”

“Not long. In fact, I won’t call animal control. I’ll transport him to the shelter myself if that will make you feel better.”

“Yes, it does. Thank you.”

“I’ll call you when it is okay for you to come down to the shelter. You’ll need to complete the necessary paperwork before you take him home with you.”

Lillian reached up and hugged Grant and looked over his shoulder to her son. “It’s good you’re here. I think Grant is going to need all of our help.”

“Mind you, this will be only temporary until we find a relative of the victim. Are you okay with this?” Grant asked, ignoring her last remark regarding the “help” he would need. Hope Jake can help. . .help keep you out of this mess.

Lillian nodded, bent down and patted the dog on his head, and reluctantly turned Eli over to Grant. “Eli, you’re going to be cared for. Grant’s your friend. I’ll see you as soon as I possibly can. Be a good dog, now.”

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