Thursday Sampler: Deadly Dominoes by Linda Pirtle
October 11, 2018
An explosion rips the night skies above Caddo Lake, and it foreshadows one murder after another. Is there a serial killer on the loose? Or is Lillian caught in the middle of a national political conspiracy? The woods of East Texas bury their secrets deep. Read an excerpt from Linda Pirtle’s cozy mystery, Deadly Dominoes.
THE PAVILION shivered once more and then settled back down.
The only sound came from Eli who yowled and used his paws to rub his ears. Lillian saw the dog, still attached to the chair. She went back to him and set him free. He ran down the steps, barking.
Stunned, everyone looked at each other for a moment. Some of the more timid players held onto the edge of their tables for support.
Not Lillian. She followed Eli. With Bill close behind, she rushed down the steps of the Pavilion and ran to the pier. Lillian scanned the sky to see if she could determine where the explosion occurred.
“Bill, do you see that bright glow over there?”
She pointed above the Cypress treetops. “There, left of that old house on the curve across the open area of the lake.” She bent and picked up Eli’s lead. The dog ceased barking, and he, too, looked in the direction of Lillian’s outstretched hand.
“I do, but I can’t tell how far away it is. Pretty dark out here. Let’s go back to the Pavilion before pandemonium sets in.” Bill turned to leave. “Uh oh, too late,” he said.
Others had followed Lillian and Bill. They turned in circles, scanning the sky for some sign of the disturbance that brought an end to their evening. Stymied, they milled around talking among themselves. When Lillian and Bill walked up to them, the once carefree domino players fired questions.
“Good grief, what was that?”
“Could you guys see anything?”
“Of course, they couldn’t, Jim. It’s pitch black out here.”
“I sure hope no one was hurt by that, whatever it was.”
“So do I,” responded Lillian to the last statement.
“I’m going to my RV,” announced one of the men, his voice shaking, “Strike that. I changed my mind. Maybe, Al can learn what happened.”
Heads bobbed in agreement.
“Good idea,” Jim said. “We’ll feel safer if we stay together.”
Al stood on the top step of the Pavilion. He spoke to the crowd. “Come on back in. I’ll see if I can find out what made that noise, get to the bottom of this.”
“How do you propose to do that?” asked Lillian. Holding Eli’s leash, she and the dog were the first ones up the steps.
“I’ll call the sheriff’s office. See if I can find out anything.”
Al stepped off the lower steps of the Pavilion and stopped. “Bill, could you – ?“
“Don’t worry. I’ll stay here with everyone until you return,” offered Bill calmly.
“I’ll help you with that,” Lillian said to her husband. She looked out over the crowd and saw Milly sitting at her table. Unlike the other frightened campers, she looked too cool, calm, and collected in Lillian’s opinion. She joined Milly and asked,
“Aren’t we supposed to have hotdogs tonight?”
“You bet.” Milly stood, turned to the other confused campers, and with feigned enthusiasm announced, “Don’t any of you dare leave here until Al comes back.” She walked to the grill and fired it up.
“Don’t worry about that, Milly,” volunteered a tall blonde with hazel eyes. “I don’t care to be alone in my RV until I know what happened.”
Lillian took note of her and thought it odd that a middle-aged woman would want to go camping all alone.
“Yeah, I think we need to hang around awhile,” agreed one of the men who, in Lillian’s opinion, did not fit in with the other campers. By the new-looking clothes he wore, she decided he was new to camping and as green as she and Bill about RVing.
“Right on, Russell. I’m not going anywhere right now,” said another.
“Does anyone besides me smell smoke?” a panicky female voice asked.
“No, I don’t,” said Guy Steiner, the camper with the loud New Jersey accent, “and you don’t either.”
Lillian sidled up to Bill.
“I smell it as well. Don’t you?” She glanced down at the dog standing beside her. “Look. Eli’s nose is working overtime. He smells it, too.” “We don’t want everyone to panic. If they think there’s a forest fire coming this way, they’ll pack up and leave, and God only knows what they’ll get into,” Bill whispered.
“You’re right. We don’t know which direction the sound came from,” said Guy, close enough to overhear Lillian and Bill talking to each other.
“It came from the north,” Lillian said.
“How do you know?” Guy asked.
“Caught a glimpse of the blaze above the treetops.”
Lillian and Bill climbed the steps by the Pavilion and rejoined the domino players. Eli made one last growl and tipped his canine nose in the air as he walked beside his owner.
Guy stepped back into the Pavilion and in his loud, nasal voice, spoke to all of the campers still standing around. “Since Milly’s cooked enough hot dogs to feed an army, what say we eat dinner while Al is tracking down some information for us?” Guy suggested.
“Grab a plate, everyone,” said Milly. “Al and I can’t possibly eat all of them.”
Lillian and Bill stood aside and watched Milly serve the hot dogs. As Milly passed by them, she stopped. “Here, puppy, you can have one.”
“Yes, he thinks he needs one,” Lillian said. Eli gently grabbed the wiener from her hand and gulped it down. Lillian and Bill laughed at the dog’s greediness.
Milly offered a second one, but Eli looked at Lillian for permission this time.
“She said you may have it.” Milly gave him a second helping.
“Hungry, are you?” Bill asked and then added, “Me, too.” He lifted a hotdog off the platter and took a bite.
Lillian waited until Milly returned to the grill before speaking. “I think we ought to go over to Al’s office and help him,” Lillian said to Bill, quietly enough this time so no one else could hear. And in a whisper, she added, “He might not remember everything he hears. He might even withhold some of the facts.”
“Now, Lillian, don’t start judging Al. If he doesn’t tell us everything, I’m sure he may just be trying to keep everyone calmed down. Why do you distrust him?”
Lillian nodded, “Okay, but I’m not convinced about his sincerity. I noticed that he didn’t volunteer anything until someone pushed him for information. That’s why I’m suspicious of him. If you were the camp director, no one would have to suggest you investigate an explosion.”
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