Tuesday Sampler: The Mah Jongg Murders by Linda Pirtle

A woman lay dead on the shore of the lake, and a white poodle was covered with blood. It was not an ordinary day at Leisure Lake. Read an excerpt from Linda Pirtle’s cozy mystery, The Mah Jongg Murders.

GRANT PERRYMAN, LEISURE Lake’s Chief of Security, enjoyed his slow-paced job. Once, he had been in excellent shape. He had played college football for Sam Houston State University where he received his degree in Criminal Justice. After college, Grant had joined the Dallas Police Department. He had grown weary of the politics of the city’s judicial system and had returned to East Texas and secured his current position.

Now, Grant was more than a little overweight, and his thick black hair showed streaks of gray. He scowled when he saw Lillian sitting on the bench. Should’ve known she’d be right in the middle of whatever’s going on.

Grant heaved himself from his patrol car and trudged over to the dam. He walked straight to the body and squatted down, and without touching the corpse, he visually examined it for foul play. Grant took a small notebook from his front shirt pocket and began to write.

Jane Doe. Approximately 5’4”

Brunette.

Weight: Approx.100 pounds.

Left earlobe ripped. . . Pierced?

Note: Check to see if earring is in other ear. White blouse.

Torn sleeve.

Designer jeans.

Gold chain around neck.

Could there have been a pendant? No shoes.

Linda Pirtle

The local paramedics arrived on the scene less than five minutes after Grant. He looked up and recognized the older medic Thomas Matthews.

“Hello, Tom. You must have been close by to get here so soon.”

“We came as quickly as we could,” Tom said as he walked toward the body.

“We have a Jane Doe,” Grant said.

“Yes, sir, I see,” said Tom Elder who drew up short when he realized her condition.

“Have you called the justice of the peace, yet?”

“He’s on his way. Should be here in less than thirty minutes. When I called him, he was on his way to his son’s little league game.” “Good. We’ll be glad to help you any way we can while we wait.”

“Ten-four. Two of my security guys are on their way.” He glanced up at the onlookers who were beginning to congregate on the road at the entrance to the path leading down the hill to the scene.

“But it will take them at least ten minutes to arrive.” He nodded toward the group. “Could you make sure they don’t enter the trail. Need to contain the area.”

“Yes, sir.” The two men headed off to comply with his request. Grant put his hands on his hips and gazed out at the lake. The rays of the sun pranced over the tops of the waves as they sashayed their way to the pier and introduced themselves to its support beams. He took a deep breath, turned around, and studied the face of the beloved mother of his childhood friend, Jake. When Grant’s mom died at the early age of forty-five after a long fight with cancer, it was Lillian to whom he had turned for comfort. When he reached the bench where she waited, he sat down and took her hand in his.

I see that far away look in your eyes and I know what you’re thinking.

He spoke gently. “Lillian, are you okay?”

She nodded and looked at him. Grant recognized the pain in her eyes. Those clear blue eyes revealed more. They were resolute and determined. He was overwhelmed with a dread that was almost palpable. He understood Lillian would not rest until the mystery of the woman’s death was resolved. I don’t know how in the world I’ll be able to keep you out of the investigation. I’d never forgive myself if I allow you to be hurt.

“Have you or Bill touched anything?”

Lillian responded in her most businesslike voice, “I touched her wrist to check for a pulse, and then Bill ran back up to the house to call you. I see the ambulance came, too, but I think it’s too late for the ambulance, don’t you?”

Grant ignored her question and continued with the informal interview, “Do you normally walk the lake at this time of day?”

“Usually, we sit on the deck early each morning while Bill reads our daily devotional. Today, the text was from Romans. It was about not doing any harm to one’s neighbor, and just think, someone did just that right here in our community. I just can’t believe it.”

“Lillian, calm down. You didn’t answer my question.”

“Forgive me. What was it?”

“I asked if you and Bill normally walk the lake this time of day.” “No, we don’t. And, for your information, I am calm. Furthermore, I’m angry, angry that someone would do such a thing to one of my neighbors. He will live to regret it.”

“Lillian, like I said, calm down. I’ll take care of the person or persons who did this. All you have to do right now is answer my questions.”

“Sure.”

Grant knew that her ‘sure’ was her way of making him think she would do as he asked. He forged on. “If you and Bill don’t normally walk around the lake, then what caused you to do so today?”

Lillian pointed to the dog.

“I noticed Eli; that’s his name. I read it on his tag. I looked at it so I could identify his owner but saw only the name of the dog. The tag is one of those cutesy tags, not one from a veterinarian.”

“What caused you to pay attention to the dog?”

“He interrupted our morning.”

“How?”

“He came walking down the street holding his leash in his mouth. I thought it was cute, so I whistled to him, and he came running, barking, and making circles. You know, like he was trying to tell me something. Then I noticed the blood on his face and chest. Anyway, I called Bill, and we followed him here. Does that answer your question?”

“I believe it does. Do you have any idea who the lady might be?”

“No. In fact, I’ve never seen Eli in the neighborhood either.”

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