On Thursday, I pressed the button to turn on my desktop computer, and nothing happened. Panic! I don’t know how long I’ve had that computer, but I love it. And I wasn’t ready to give it up, so I hauled the tower into Best Buy and they assured me they could fix it, but it would take a few days. to get the part that fizzled. It made me realize that I have no desire to miss writing time or social media, and I’ve been meaning to buy a laptop as a backup protection and to take with me if we ever take a trip for a while now, so I finally gathered my courage and just did it. I bought a new laptop. Buying computers makes me nervous. They’re not cheap, and I get confused by all the things that go along with them–memory, speed, etc. Plus, for me, there’s always a learning curve when I get something new, ESPECIALLY computers. This time, though, went better than usual. I really like the new laptop.

The big thing I discovered, though, is that I’m a whiz kid when it comes to saving manuscript pages onto memory sticks. Not so diligent when it comes to saving plot points and scapple notes. Luckily, I’ll get my old computer back soon, so I didn’t lose anything, but then….I’m saving EVERYTHING related to my writing. If I ever learned to use the Cloud, I probably wouldn’t have a problem. But I’ve pretty much ignored learning that, and it would be a good idea if I took the time. Then I could pull my work out of the air when I need to. I’ve written for so long, I’ve gotten set in my ways, but it’s time I catch up.

In the meantime, I’m here to remind you to SAVE, save, save your work. All of it that’s important. That includes all of the plot points and ideas you’ve played with to move your story along. For whatever reason, I print my plot points out when I finish writing them, but not as I go along. And that’s not going to happen to me again. Lots of people in my writing group complain when they lose part of a story, and I’m the one who constantly reminds people to save their work. But did I listen to myself? Not as well as I should have. And I’ve learned my lesson. So, I’m telling you what I should have told myself. SAVE YOUR WORK. ALL OF IT.

It’s Not Getting Easier

Being a writer is full of fun and promise when you sit down and start writing your story. I didn’t start out to be a writer. It was never my life dream. I wanted to be the best elementary school teacher there ever was. And my first year was wonderful. My second year was even better. My third year I got moved from teaching first grade to fourth, and teaching became more challenging. SO many subjects to teach! So many kids at different levels of achievement. And believe me, that matters. It takes students with D levels of mentality three months to learn what an A level student might learn in a few days. Add that up with five years of education, and that poor student is WAY behind. But I still loved it.

Writing had sort of a similar journey. I took a class, WRITING FOR FUN AND PROFIT. I turned in an assignment, and my teacher said, “You can sell this.” And two weeks later, I did. Happiness! I started writing short stories and found homes for a lot of them. More happiness. Then I decided to try a novel. OMG. What was I thinking?

I’d send in books. You could back then, and editors would look at them with no agent required. And I’d get wonderful letters back, telling me they loved my writing, but this wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. Over and over again. The letters helped sustain me. The rejections were discouraging. It seemed like I was always writing the wrong thing at the wrong time. The markets were glutted. Cozies were dead. Serial killers were a dime a dozen. Then I got a nibble. Then I got another one, and they gave me hope. But let’s face it, I’d have made more money if I made $2/ht. as a waitress. And there aren’t too many waitresses who get rich. I know. That’s what I did for my first two years of going to college. I worked as a checkout girl for a grocery store for my next two years. They don’t get rich either.

There are a lot of jobs in this world that are hard work and people put in lots of hours and don’t always make much money. Writing is one of them. Yes, there are the authors who sell thousands of books. They make a great living. But that doesn’t happen to most of us. A lot of us struggle to find enough readers to make it worth all the effort.

The thing is, we still write. Maybe it’s an addiction. I’m not sure. But we all have hope that someday, we’ll click and sell more books. But there are SO many authors and books out there now, it’s getting harder to find an audience. I listen to some of my fellow authors and it’s discouraging. A fellow blogger, Jan Sikes, wrote about how hard it is lately. I read her blog and wondered, is it true there are fewer readers? Or are there just so many more writers and books offered up each year?

What do you think? Have you found new authors downloading free books? Do you ever really READ the free books if it’s an author you don’t know? That’s not a leading question. My Kindle has lots of free books on it that I’ve never gotten to. I read my favorite authors first. These days, TIME has almost become more valuable than money. Do you agree? How do you decide what books to read? How does a new author tempt you enough for you to give him/her a try? I’d love to hear what you think!

Poor HH

My handsome husband swears he should have known he was marrying someone with a dark side when I made him promise to let me watch the beheading of Anne Boleyn in the TV series Henry VIII on our honeymoon. Since then, over fifty years later, he insists he’s watched more British mysteries and odd fantasies than any man should have to tolerate. Except, secretly, he loves them. He’s the one who asks to watch Poirot once a week. He just likes to give me a hard time.

The two shows he HAS to watch are the Evening News and Wheel of Fortune. As far as I’m concerned, the evening news is grimmer than Carnival Row–and that’s pretty dark. We just finished the last show of the season last night, and there was more violence, more emotional agony, and more action than we’ve seen for a long time…except maybe when we watch a John Wick. It was a great series, and I loved it, but the plot just kept getting more and more complicated. So complicated, I went back and watched the last episode again just to keep everything that happened and how the subplots intertwined straight in my mind. HH says that’s because I’m such a plot driven person, and I analyze things a bit much, and he’s right. In my defense, though, I enjoy Jane Austen movies and Bridgerton just as much. Poor man. So does he.

I don’t know how it’s happened, but he even loves watching cooking shows with me these days. But then, he’s pretty easy-going. He drew the line at K-drama, though. And gave up on Longmire and Doc Martin, so we compromise. He doesn’t like watching different shows in different rooms, so we have to. That’s fair, because I spend a big block of time every workday in my office pounding the keys, and he has to entertain himself, (which he’s good at).

To end this, I want to mention that I might enjoy killing people on paper and watching, as he calls them, odd shows, but I’m actually a pretty upbeat, positive person. Maybe because writing and reading are outlets for my dark side. So, they’re good for me!

Mother’s Day

HH and I, along with my sister, are driving to Indy for Mother’s Day with my daughter and grandsons. We agreed on no presents this time. Everyone buys me flowers to plant, but I went to McNamara’s on Friday and spent an obscene amount of money for pink geraniums and vines for my front flower boxes, different flowers for the small flower box at our garage window, a huge flat of marigolds for the plot beside our back patio, and two yellow rose bushes. We got lucky and got the flowers in the ground before tons of rain deluged us last night.

My younger grandson moved to a new apartment, so we’ll get to see that when we go down. And Holly’s going to cook for us. My kids are all good cooks, and she’s making one of my favorites–chicken enchiladas. I’m taking down an almond cake made with almond flour, one of her favorites. We’re all looking forward to it.

My sister and I went to visit my cousin at St. Anne’s last night to help her rearrange things in her room. We moved pictures and knickknacks.and ended up laughing and gossiping more than working. On top of the good time, we saw a gorgeous tree on the property. I’d never seen one like it before, so looked it up, and it’s a hydrangea tree. Beautiful flowers! I didn’t even know there WERE hydrangea trees. And then, on the drive home, we saw a pink Oriental Peony tree. Spectacular! But the blooms only last a week to ten days, like other peonies. My sister is a fan of QVC and watches most of the gardening shows, and I realized I’m WAY behind on the flowers, bushes, and trees available now. Maybe a good thing. I’d want them all:) And our yard can only hold so much without looking tacky.

Anyway, Mother’s Day always makes me think about my kids and grandkids AND flowers. Hope you have a good one!

It Doesn’t Take Much to Ruin Your Schedule

HH isn’t much of a sports fan. We don’t spend hours watching sports on TV, but he loves the Kentucky Derby and an occasional golf tournament, always the Indy 500, but he loves the NBA playoffs. We’ve been watching The Golden State Warriors battling the Lakers every other night, and the games go LATE here. It’s usually one a.m. or later when we go to bed.

When I was young, I could do late nights. I’m not young, and my brain feels like sludge when I get up at my regular time after I go to bed late. In the mornings, I usually read my e-mails and a few blogs to wake up before I start writing. Now, I sit on the couch and drink an extra cup of coffee. Our cat loves it. Coffee time is lap time for him. HIs purrs fill the living room.

HH doesn’t mind starting his day late. He’s retired and considers the Playoffs as a perk he didn’t have when he worked. Me? I’m a lot more flexible since we’ve retired, but I still try to write every weekday I can. During the Playoffs, I just write less. But they’ll be over soon, and life will be normal again until my daughter and her husband come to stay with us for a while. Some things are more important than writing. Their visit ranks high on my list. ANY kid’s visit ranks high.

Today, I lost afternoon writing time because we went to the garden store and bought two new rose bushes and flowers for my flower boxes. I LOVE FLOWERS. I was sitting on my front porch one afternoon and two little girls walked past our house. “This is where the flower lady lives,” the one girl said, and it made me happy!

Tomorrow, I hope to get back in gear and be the WRITING lady again. But who knows? We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Would I come back?

The new mystery I’ve been working on is different in lots of ways. First, I had to write over ten chapters before I got a feel for it and could plot it. It never happens that way for me. I see characters, then I see the beginning, middle, and end of the story. I write a couple of chapters, and then I plot it out. Somewhere after the middle of the book, I might get an idea for a cover. But this book has been more visual for me than most books. I’m doing everything backward. So, this time, I had to write the chapters AND think of an idea for a cover before the book started to come together in my mind. I was beginning to worry that I had the START of a book and nothing else. But things finally started to gel.

The cover could easily change, but for right now, it helps me picture the book in my mind, so I thought I’d share it.

Detective Harrison was shot over twenty years ago, and no one caught his killer. He’s been in happy oblivion until a young officer who he was kind to decides to reopen the cold case. Tommy really wants to find Harrison’s murderer. But soon after he starts digging into the facts again, Harrison’s longtime partner at the station, who’s now retired, is gunned down in his driveway. And all of a sudden, Harrison finds himself in the bedroom of the wife of the man who was the last person he talked to when he was alive. Was he sent back to help solve his own murder? To find who killed his partner? He wants to dig into what really happened, but the only person who can see or hear him is the wife of the man who might have sent him to his death. And she isn’t one bit the type of woman he always pictured as a rich man’s wife.

I’ve only finished the first fourth of this book, so I have a long way to go. But now, it’s all plotted. I have a map to follow, and I’m pretty sure I’ll reach The End. If I were in bliss, though, would I come back to settle an old score?


I’m noticing a trend. No matter what site I go to, even the Foodnetwork sites, more people are leaving ratings but no review. I know that writing a review takes time and thought. But many times when I see a 3 or a 4 rating, I wonder what didn’t quite work for the person who left it. And many times, I can’t guess what fell flat.

I’m a huge fan of The Kitchen every Saturday morning. If it’s on, I”m usually watching it. And a chef shows how to make a dish, I go to print the recipe because it sounds good, and I see that it has a three star review. I click on the review, and there’s nothing but a rating. What does that mean? Does it mean something in the recipe didn’t work or that the reader doesn’t like poblano peppers? Or onions? I can never tell.

When I first started writing, more readers shared a review, and I read all of them. I might or might not agree, but the reviews made me think. Maybe I should make the pace faster, add more or less description, whatever the readers liked or disliked. I took it seriously. When I get three stars, I’m not sure what to think. What worked? What didn’t? Or was this a reader who gave mostly three stars unless the book wowed them? So, the reader liked it but wasn’t wowed.

Ratings are odd. People leave them on FoodNetwork when they haven’t even made the recipe. I’m not complaining. I’m sure happy to get any feedback from writers. But ratings give me a hint of how the reader felt. Reviews give me information and ideas to take into consideration. BUT, I know everyone’s busy these days. So I’m just happy when a reader takes the time to read my book and give me feedback. I’ve just been surprised how much feedback has changed so quickly. More ratings, lots fewer reviews. It’s been interesting.

The End

On Sunday, they woke to rain pounding on the roof and someone pounding on the cabin door. 

Ansel opened an eye.  Seven-thirty.  On a Sunday.  On vacation.  Really?  The idea of cards had appealed to all of them, so they’d stayed up later than usual, sitting around the kitchen table, playing poker until they couldn’t stay awake any longer.  None of them cared if they fished in the morning.  It would still be raining, so they’d decided to sleep in.

Ansel heard Jerod shuffle to the front door.  He shouldn’t open it alone.  What if it was Cassandra’s killer?  Or Mikey?  What would happen?’

Ansel tossed a sweatshirt over his pajama bottoms and went to see who was there.  Jerod was opening the door, and Mikey rushed inside, out of the rain.  He paced nervously. 

“It’s not true.  What everyone’s saying isn’t true.  Cassandra wasn’t like that.  She was always home when I got there after work.  She was a good wife.”

Jerod groaned and rubbed his blurry eyes.  “Whatever, man.  We’re just here for the fishing.  We don’t know why her body ended up in the shed, and we don’t care.”

Mikey collapsed onto a chair.  “I don’t know what to think.  Why was she at your cabin?  Why did she leave our house in the middle of the night?”

Ansel tried to help Jerod.  “Colin didn’t kill her.  He was playing cards with some other tourists.”

Mikey waved a hand.  “I heard.  I’ve heard it all.  He didn’t come on to her.  She came on to him.  I don’t believe it.  She wasn’t like that.”

Ansel and Jerod both sagged onto kitchen chairs across from him.  This wasn’t their battle, but both of them felt sorry for Mikey. 

“Look, man,” Jerod said, “you’re not a detective.  Neither are we.  I know it’s hard, but you’re going to have to wait to see what Cooper comes up with.”

Mikey snorted.  “He came to me a few months ago to say Cassandra was hitting on him, and he thought I should know.  I asked her about it.  She said she felt sorry for Cooper.  She was trying to be nice to him and he took it the wrong way.  She was like that, always trying to help people.”

Jerod and Ansel exchanged glances.  Ansel asked, “Were they all men?”

Mikey glowered.  “Not that many women go to the bar and grill.”

Of course.  Cassandra had an answer for everything.  Ansel tried to think of a way to get rid of Mikey.  “We all want to offer our sympathies.  We’re all married men who love our wives.  We understand how hard this must be for you.”

Mikey blinked.  “I don’t know what I’m going to do without Cassandra.  I felt like I won the jackpot when she married me.”

Oh, crap.  Ansel felt for the guy more than ever.  “That’s how I felt when I met Jazzi.”

Mikey swallowed hard.  “Lots of guys were after her, but she chose me, you know?”

Ansel’s lips turned down.  She knew a steady meal ticket when she saw one.  And someone who’d forgive her anything.  He felt even sorrier for Mikey.

Mikey took a deep, ragged breath.  “Sorry to bother you guys, but she died here, and I sort of needed closure or something.  I’ll be going now.”  He stood and left.

Jerod and Ansel looked at each other, then headed back to their beds.  But before sleep claimed him, Ansel hoped Mikey would be okay when everything came out about his wife.

The muffins and coffee cake were gone, so they ate Didi’s sandwiches for breakfast a little before noon.  The deluge had stopped, so they grabbed their fishing gear and went to the river.  Mikey and his friends were a short distance down from them.  Everyone threw their lines in the water and eventually caught a salmon, but for some reason, one of the men in Mikey’s group couldn’t get a bite.  He finally walked to where they were and asked, “Can I try fishing with you?  I’m not having any luck where I was.”

“Go for it,” Jerod told him.  “I already have four.  I can only keep one more.” 

The guy cast and still couldn’t get a nibble. 

“What are you using for bait?” Thane asked.

“Spawn bags.”  He pulled out his line to show them. 

“You have them placed wrong,” Thane said.  “And everyone’s using them.  I’m catching more with a plastic worm.  Here.  Let’s switch up your bait and rearrange it.”  Thane removed the spawn bag, added a worm, and repositioned it.

“Thanks.  I usually fish from a boat.  I’m not used to fishing from shore, but I wanted to spend time with Mikey today.”  The guy tossed his line in the water, and a short while later, a fish tugged on it.  He pulled it in.  “Awesome!  By the way, I’m Austin.  I’ve known Mikey a long time.”

Thane nodded down the shore toward Walker.  “Like me and him.  BFFs since third grade.”

Austin hesitated.  “Mostly.  We’ve had good years and not so good.”

“Yeah, well nothing’s perfect.”  Thane grinned.  “Walker and I had a few bumps, too.  He disappeared for a while and I thought he might be dead.”

Austin blinked, surprised.  “And then he just came back?”

“It’s complicated,” Thane said.  “His dad died, and his mom finally felt safe moving back to town.”

“But he was the same man you knew before?  Nothing had changed?”

“It wasn’t his fault they left town.  He missed me as much as I missed him.”

Austin’s gaze went to Mikey downstream.  “When Mikey met Cassandra, he dumped all of us.  All he thought about was her.  Then we learned he didn’t treat her that well either.”

Ansel was fishing next to him.  “That’s not what we heard.  We heard that Cassandra used Mikey for security and then played around on the side.”

Austin froze.  He turned to look at Ansel.  “How long was she doing that?”

“I got the impression it started right after he put the ring on her finger, but he never caught on.  Maybe he didn’t want to.”

Austin’s entire body stiffened.  A fish tugged on his line, but he didn’t notice.  “I’ve been a horrible friend.”

“Did you know about it?”  Ansel was under the impression Cassandra was usually pretty discreet.  She didn’t get sloppy until she met Colin.

Looking down, Austin rubbed his face.  He dropped his fishing pole, and Thane picked it up.  “I’m the one she cheated with year after year.  I believed her when she told me that Mikey married her, then neglected her.  I should have known better, but Mikey was always busy—volunteering as a fire fighter, working long hours at the lumber yard, and hanging out with his buddies  Now that I think about it, though, Cassandra encouraged him to keep busy, said she liked a man who was secure enough to do his own thing and let her do hers.”

Thane snorted.  “You mean let her do other guys.”

Austin flinched.  “I’ve been an idiot.  I thought she only came to me for comfort.”

With another snort, Thane said, “I don’t think she was looking for comfort with Colin.  She wanted a good time.”

Austin gave a strangled reply.  “She came to my house that night when Mikey was called away to fight a fire.  She was in the mood to party, but I was tired.  She told me Colin had come onto her in the bar the night before, and that worried me.  I wanted to make sure she got home safe, so I followed her when she left.  But she didn’t go home.  She drove to your cabin and parked on the brim of the road where the trees are, where no one would see her.  She was sneaking through the back yard when I called to ask her what she was doing.”

Ansel’s lips pinched in an unhappy line.  “You killed her, didn’t you?”

Austin’s face twisted as he fought for calm.  “She laughed at me.  Said I was nice to cuddle with but she was getting bored.  Told me the redheaded guy looked like a good time, and she meant to have some fun.”

“How did you open the shed?” Jerod asked.  They’d all stopped fishing to listen to his story.

“She turned to walk away, and I saw the ax inside through the window.  I gave the door a hard kick, and it flew open.  It was a cheap lock.  She didn’t even turn to see what I was doing, just giggled and told me to keep the noise down and to go home.  And then…  Well, I lost it.”

Mikey and his friends had come to see what they were talking about, and Mikey stared.  “You killed her?”

Tears streaked down Austin’s cheeks and he covered his face with his hands.  “I’m so sorry.  I really am.”

Jerod reached for his phone and called 911.  Mikey just stood there, looking blank, like he couldn’t believe it.  His friends gathered around him.  Austin’s legs gave, and he sank to the ground, sitting with his knees up and his arms wrapped around them, his face buried. 

When Cooper came, he handcuffed Austin and took him away.  Mikey’s friends took him home. 

Jerod picked up his catch for the day and started back to the cabin.  “I’m done fishing.” 

The others followed his lead.  Jerod cut through the yard, staying as far away from the shed as possible.  “I hate looking at the yellow crime tape.”

They cleaned their fish, then cleaned themselves and heated up Jazzi’s lasagna for supper.  “I don’t want to go the bar tonight, not even for a beer,” Walker said.  They all agreed.

The next morning, they ate enchiladas for breakfast.  All of the other food was gone.  Then they gathered their things, picked up the cabin, and locked the door behind them.  Jerod took the key to the fish cleaning table and dropped it into its drawer, like the owner had told him. 

Then Walker, Thane, and Radley got in Walker’s truck, and Jerod and Ansel got in Jerod’s to drive away.

“I sure enjoyed fishing with you guys,” Jerod said on the way home, “but if we do it again, let’s go to some other river and some other town.  There are plenty of fishing spots in Michigan.”

Ansel glanced in the rearview mirror as they drove farther and farther away from the cabin.  “It was a nice place, but I don’t ever want to see it again.  It will make me think of Mikey and the murder.”

For the first time, Jerod grinned.  “Jazzi’s going to be jealous that we solved a murder without her.”

“Are you nuts?  She doesn’t like messing with them any more than we did.  She’s going to be glad she wasn’t with us.”

“I’ve got to give Gaff and Caden credit.”  Jerod reached to turn on the radio.  “They handle stuff like that every day.”

“I’m glad we’re putting it behind us.”  A song came on about a guy with a broken heart because he’d lost his girl.  Ansel reached to change the station.  Then he leaned back to enjoy the scenery.  He pointed.  An eagle flew into a forest as they passed it.  He cracked his window and breathed in the scent of pine.  There were so many good things about this trip.  Those were the memories he’d keep.

Part Three

They fished the entire morning.  The salmon were biting, and they each had a string of them when they returned to the cabin for lunch.  They cleaned the fish and put them in the freezer, then washed up and got ready to eat.  Ansel put the scalloped potatoes and ham in the oven, then they gathered around the charcoal grill to cook a few of their catch.

Radley had brought cedar planks with him. 

“It’s a pretty day,” Thane said.  “We should eat outside at the picnic table.”

Ansel shook his head.  “I don’t want to look over at the yellow crime scene tape.  It makes me think of Cassandra.”

“I don’t want to see it either,” Jerod said.  “I’d rather eat inside.”

The salmon turned out flaky and tasty.  The potatoes added needed starch, and they downed their meal with beer.  They were feeling pretty satisfied when they returned to the river.

The salmon were still running.  When Ansel caught his fourth one in a row, he turned to Jerod.  “You fish at your mom and dad’s lake cottage every summer, too, don’t you?  How much fish do you eat?”

“Usually twice a week.  Once salmon, once some kind of lake fish—blue gill, perch, or walleye.”

“You should be healthy,” Radley said.  “Since I married Elspeth, she’s big on lean meat and lots of vegetables.”

Jerod snorted.  “And then she makes you a dessert every day?”

Radley chuckled.  He had his brother’s coloring—Ansel’s white-blond hair and sky-blue eyes.  Norwegian.  “She does love to bake.”

“How’s the bakery going with Fazal?” Walker asked.

“They’ve been busy since they opened.  Fazal bakes a lot of the breads for restaurants in town and bread sticks for pizza parlors.  He does some specialty desserts, but Elspeth makes all the cakes and pies, brownies and things like that.”

“Cookies?”  Jerod loved cookies of any kind.

Radley nodded.  “Lots of them.  They sell out fast.”

“We sure love the desserts she makes for the Sunday meals,” Thane said.

Radley gave a happy smile, proud of his wife.  “I love fish, but Elspeth’s not as sold on it.  She smears tartar sauce all over it so she can eat it.  I’m going to have to find some salmon recipes she likes.”

“Jazzi has a bunch of them.”  A fish tugged at the end of Ansel’s line, and he gave it a yank.  “I’ll ask her to copy some for you.”

They caught their limit of salmon, then left the river early and went through the ritual of cleaning and scaling, then freezing.  Ansel stared at his stash.  “We can each keep fivc salmon a day plus some for eating while we’re here.  We’re going to have enough to last a long time.”

“That’s the point,” Jerod told him.  “You won’t run out.”

“That’s great and all,” Walker said, “but I don’t want to see another salmon today.  I vote we go back to the bar for sandwiches tonight.”

“I’ll second that.”  Radley jammed his catch in the freezer and made a face.  “I’ve seen all the salmon I want today.”

They loaded into Jerod’s truck and headed to the bar.  The parking lot had more vehicles than the last time they came. 

“Saturday night,” Thane said.  “People are ready for some fun.”

They saw one open table for eight and headed for it.  A guy and his friend were doing the same thing from the other direction.  When they reached the table at the same time, they looked at each other.

Thane stared.  “You must be the other redheaded tourist.”  The man had red hair bushing around his face.  No one would call Thane handsome with his crooked nose and long chin, but the other guy was super good looking with riveting blue eyes, high cheekbones, and perfect features.  His wild hair just added to his charisma. 

The guy smiled and motioned for them to all sit.  They crowded around the table, and he said, “I’m Colin, and this is Tex.  I’m glad Mikey didn’t punch you.”

“He wanted to,” Thane said.  “Walker stopped him.”

Colin glanced at Walker.  “Do you have to be over six feet to join your group?”

Radley laughed.  “No, we’re all just family and friends.”

“I wish I’d have grown up with your drinking water.”  Colin was probably five-ten, his friend an inch shorter. 

Jerod raised an eyebrow.  “Sounds like you do all right anyway.  Mikey said you were all over his wife.”

Colin snorted.  “If that makes him feel good, I get it.  But his wife was all over me, and then when someone she knew saw her, she blamed it on me, said I wouldn’t leave her alone.”

Ansel frowned at the flip in the story.  “She came on to you?  Not the other way around?”

“I came here to fish, not to get in trouble.  I steer clear of women with rings.”  Colin turned to Tex.  “Vouch for me, bud.”

Tex grinned at his friend.  “Colin doesn’t try to find trouble.  It finds him.  I think it’s the wild hair.  We came up here to fish and drink beer.  Period.  A low-key vacation.  But that waitress took one look at my buddy and made a beeline for our table.”

Their waitress came for their orders, and they got beer and the special—brats and sauerkraut.  When she left, Colin grimaced.  “Cassandra was so flirty, I figured she was single until I noticed her ring.  Then I started to backup, but she still kept going strong.  She might be married, but I’d lay money I wasn’t the first guy she hit on.  Mikey had himself a wife who liked a little on the side.”

“She wasn’t working the night we came here,” Walker said.  “We never met her.  So, why did she come to our cabin?”

“Because I wouldn’t tell her where I was staying,” Colin said.  “Someone must have told her there was a guy with auburn hair at your place, and she came to see you.”

Jerod whacked his forehead with his hand.  “Of course!  I get it now.  Mikey’s a volunteer fireman.  He was called out for a big fire that night.  She must have thought she could go look for fun.”

Their food came, and they all quieted while they ate.  When they finished their meal and sipped a last beer, Tex said, “The way I figure it, Mikey didn’t have a clue his wife was a cheat.  So, I don’t think he killed her.  But I’d bet she was seeing someone on the side and gave him some sad story about how Mikey wasn’t good to her, how she felt so alone, and how she didn’t know what she’d do without a friend like him.  Whoever that guy was, he probably went into a tailspin when Cassandra hit on Colin.”

Ansel stared.  “What makes you think that?”

Tex shrugged.  “Because I was that guy with Bianca.  Every day, she told me how horrible her husband treated her, how he ignored her, wouldn’t sleep with her.  I was her backup guy.  She told me she didn’t know what she’d do without me.  Until she met Carlos.  Then she dropped me like a hot potato and divorced her husband.”

“Whoa!  Pretty cold,” Thane said.  “Do you hate her now?”

“No, now I know that some women will tell you anything to get what they want.  I was young.  Stupid.  I know better now.  But Cassandra’s backup probably thought she wouldn’t make it without him, until he realized he was just being used.”

Colin finished his beer and looked at the clock.  “It’s getting late.  We have some friends to meet for a card game.  It was nice running into you, lookalike.  Stay out of trouble.”

“Did Detective Cooper question you?” Thane asked.

Colin nodded.  “But just like you, I couldn’t have done it.  Tex and I were playing cards until the early hours with our friends.  They crashed at our place.  He’s digging deeper now.”

They all paid their bills, left tips, and headed to their cabins.

The first drop of rain fell when they turned into the gravel drive.  By the time they parked, they had to dash into the house to keep from being drowned.  Jerod looked at the weather prediction on his phone.  With a sigh, he said, “This isn’t going to let up until late tomorrow morning.” 

“So, no fishing until lunch?” Thane asked.

“A big no.”  Jerod scowled at the downpour.  “They didn’t predict this when we left.”

“It’s fine with me,” Radley said.  He walked into his bedroom and returned with a deck of cards.  “Grab some beer, boys, because I’m going to take all of your money.”

Jerod rubbed his hands together.  “I haven’t played cards for a long time.  Still pretty sure I remember how.”

Walker smiled.  “Boys, you’re in trouble.  When my mom moved to Kentucky, I learned brand new hobbies.  Poker was one of them.”

They each carried two beers to the table and got ready for serious fun.

Part Two

Jerod started from the beginning.  They’d rented the cabin.  They arrived yesterday afternoon.  The shed was locked.  They fished, then went to the bar and grill for a late supper, and a man tried to punch Thane.  He thought Thane had bothered his wife.  They came home, went to bed but heard noises after midnight.  Looked outside but only saw raccoons.  But this morning, the locked shed door was open, so they went to check on it.  Found the woman’s body.

Officer Cooper listened to them and took notes.  “Have you ever seen the woman before?”

They shook their heads.  Jerod said, “All we’ve done is fish and go to the bar and grill for a late supper.  She wasn’t our waitress, and I don’t remember seeing her there.”

“You wouldn’t have,” Cooper said.  “She’s the wife of the man who took a swing at you.”

Ansel scratched his head, confused.  “Why was she here?”

Cooper gave them a sympathetic look.  “That’s what I’d like to know.  Unless Cassandra was looking for the guy who manhandled her, there’s no reason for it.”

Thane and Walker walked out of their room and stopped when they saw a law officer sitting at the kitchen table. 

Cooper pressed his lips together when he saw Thane.  “No wonder Mikey mistook you for the guy hanging around his wife.  He never met him, but you sure fit the right description.”

With a frown, Thane looked at Jerod.  “What’s going on?”

Cooper answered for him.  “Your friends found Mikey’s wife, dead, near the backyard shed.”

Thane’s gray eyes widened in surprise.  “Dead?”

“Murdered,” Cooper added.  When Thane’s shoulders sagged, Cooper went on.  “I don’t think it was you.  I think you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Ansel frowned, trying to put the pieces together.  “The husband?”

“Mikey’s a volunteer fireman for the area.  He was fighting a blaze at a marina two towns away most of the night.”

“Is the other redhead still in town?” Ansel asked.

Cooper smiled at him.  “Can’t answer that.  It’s an ongoing investigation, but if you run into him, you’ll figure it out.”

Ansel locked gazes with Jerod.  “Then I hope we do.  I don’t like a murder hanging over us.”

“Understandable.”  Cooper stood to leave.  “In case you hear anything or think of anything else, here’s my card.”  He handed it to Ansel.

The men watched him walk to his car and drive away.  Then Thane sighed.  “We leave River Bluffs for a long weekend, and this happens.  I thought it was only Jazzi who got pulled into murders.”

Jerod finished the last of the coffee and started for the door.  “I didn’t come here to solve murders.  I came to fish.  Let’s go.”

Walker and Thane grabbed their fishing gear and followed him and Ansel.