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Muddied Waters
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-422-7
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 259 Pages
Published: January 2007
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

‘April showers’ are supposed to bring spring blooms. In mid-western Ontario, they bring washed-out roads, a flood of visitors, and a body floating in a submerged back pasture. With reports of flasher sightings, rumors of cannabis farming and now a local homicide, newspaper editor Gloria Trevisi has more news than the front page can handle.

Her husband, talented violinist Tony Lambert, has returned home from a busy tour for some peace and quiet. Instead, he finds the house overflowing with unexpected company. At least one of these surprise visitors is being watched closely by police… a little too closely for comfort. While local authorities search for a killer, Gloria works overtime to keep her houseguests out of jail, even the ones who know more than they should about the death of a crooked municipal administrator.

The trail of a murderer is muddied by conflicting evidence and treachery, but as usual, The Plattsford Sun has all the news that’s fit to print…


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Muddied Waters (Excerpt)


Chapter 1

"Quite a glorious view from here, isn’t it?"

Margaret Ormsford, middle-aged sheep farmer, contralto chorister and amateur artist, was also quite a pilot, as she demonstrated at an altitude of a couple of thousand feet or so above the soggy, rain-saturated terrain.

Gloria Trevisi, on the other hand, was not a good passenger. She closed her eyes and gripped her stomach with both hands as the twin Cessna wheeled over on a wing tip. Indeed, it looked beautiful, if she actually cared to look. She should have been snapping photos for the Plattsford Sun, the district’s small, weekly newspaper, as the appointed editor, reporter, photographer, staff trainer and sometimes, janitor. Instead, she was struggling to hang onto her lunch while the small plane dipped and bucked in the turbulent, cloudy sky over flat, wet farmland at a vantage point just a few meters short of Toronto’s CN Tower’s height.

"There’s Perkins Hill and Peak Township over there, and East Lister and O’Dell Township just below us. I’ll swing over your place." Mrs. Ormsford projected her voice effortlessly over the drone of the aircraft’s engine.

"If you swing any more, Margaret, you’ll have a very unhappy farmer down there, somewhere," Gloria moaned loudly.

"The only unhappy farmer will be in here, Gloria. The windows don’t open." Mrs. Ormsford handed Gloria a plastic bag from a stash under the seat.

"In that case, I’ll make it," she assured her pilot. Concentrating hard, she made a reasonably successful attempt to snap a photo with her old Pentax camera, showing the river as it bubbled over its banks and drowned a fence line just below the bridge on the Third Sideroad. "I might get some interesting shots, after all," she muttered, grabbing the seat as the small aircraft bumped through a thermal. "This really is exciting," she called to Mrs. Ormsford over the engine noise. "I’ve never flown in a small aircraft before. I’m certain my stomach will get used to it in no time." Maybe; though as she recalled, it hadn’t liked the CN Tower much, either.

The aircraft nearly brushed the treetops as her small, rented farmhouse came into view, perched on a slight rise. Behind it she could see the rough mound of a buried barn foundation, and across from it, the old drive shed where her landlord, John deVos, stored a couple of cultivators over the winter. Close by was a flooded field that should have been under plow two weeks ago. Instead, it was a river of soggy topsoil flowing toward the roadside ditch, the result of storm after storm of April showers that had frustrated farmers all over the corn belt of mid-western Ontario.

"It looks so desolate," she observed as they circled above it. The long lane was a causeway through the waterlogged landscape on either side. The roof, she noticed, was looking in need of some repair over the kitchen. And the furnace chimney...

The aircraft pulled up suddenly and picked up speed. They left Gloria’s house behind and skimmed toward Peak Township and Ormsford’s 250-acre sheep farm to locate some sheep gone astray two nights before, when the mild weather had encouraged a part-time hired helper to turn out a few dozen expectant ewes into a muddy pasture for some fresh air. The onslaught of another sudden torrent of rain and high wind had prompted the helper to round them up quickly. Four, somehow, had separated from the flock.

The flight had been Mrs. Ormsford’s idea. "I’ll locate our lost sheep, and you’ll have a chance to get some spectacular photos," she told Gloria on the phone that morning. "The river is higher than I’ve ever seen it."

The town of Plattsford came into sight far to the left, a bustling miniature metropolis at the crossroads of a provincial highway to cottage heaven at Ontario’s western shoreline, and a busy commercial county highway heading northeast through prosperous farms and south toward Kitchener, London, and some of the largest farm markets and agri-businesses in the province.

"Here we are, on the Sixth Concession. Look where the road’s been washed out." Mrs. Ormsford steered the aircraft over the house and outbuildings toward the far woodlot. "Sheep are tricky creatures in a storm," she was saying. "They’re likely to drown themselves by heading the wrong way. I hope we won’t meet disaster."

Gloria scanned the pastures ahead of them. "I think I see them." Several grayish white creatures were huddled on a muddy, elongated hump rising briefly in the centre of what looked like a lake. A small tri-colored dog was circling the edge of the water.

"Look! The dog has found them, thank goodness." Mrs. Ormsford squinted through the glass.

"It looks as though the gate at the near end of the field was blocked." Gloria gestured toward the submerged pasture bisected by a dark, intermittent line that represented a fence.

"The big ewes might have made it, but the lambs would have drowned. Smart dog! I’m going in closer," Mrs. Ormsford said. The small aircraft spun again on its wing tip and side-slipped a few hundred feet on a strange angle.

Gloria stared at the scene below and worked on a new sensation in her churning stomach. Lying in the partially flooded field, about fifty feet from the oasis of mud, was something stretched out like a waterlogged cross, floating in the ooze. "Margaret, what is that?"

"I don’t know. It looks like...Oh, my!"

"Holy hell." Gloria gazed through the window at a person-a dead person, face-down in the shallow flood. "It’s not-?" She stared at her pilot, whose eyes were fixed below, and suddenly, words failed her. The small plane was still losing altitude, and the woodlot was approaching fast. "Margaret?"

The woman at the controls didn’t respond. Her eyes were riveted to the scene below, and her lips moved soundlessly, taking inventory of the scene. "No, it’s not." She looked up suddenly and adjusted the controls. "It isn’t Bill. I don’t know who it is, or what he’s doing there. But I’d better call someone." She flipped the switch on her radio.

As the small aircraft banked more steeply, Gloria let go of the seat, raised her camera, focused, and snapped. The aircraft engine changed pitch again as the craft rose like a soaring summer swallow. The camera lens bumped against the window and bounced back, hitting the bridge of her nose. "Ouch! Damn it, Margaret, where’s that bag?" she moaned, rubbing her bruised forehead and swallowing hard as her ears popped and her stomach gave another lurch.