“Dangerous Ground” by Susan Hunter #GuestPost

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on Tour February 17, 2020 to March 20, 2020

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Take Your Spouse to Work Day—or Not

by Susan Nash

Occasionally someone will ask me what I do, and when I say that I’m a writer, they often respond with “Oh, I wish I could work at home. That must be so nice to set your own schedule and your own priorities.” To which I smile and respond, “Yes, it’s nice to have the work-in-your-pajamas option.” And it is. What I don’t usually add is that working at home carries its own challenges.

My husband Gary is in and out of the house at least half a dozen times a day: to have coffee, to attend a meeting, to go to the hardware store, to visit a friend, to talk to a neighbor, to organize a meeting, to go to the post office, to stop at the library. If an idea pops into his head, he acts on it. And he gets an amazing number of things done in a day.

I, on the other hand, spend quite a lot of time thinking before doing. But once started I like to write straight through for long periods, focused and undisturbed. I usually have plenty of time to do that, as Gary goes through his extremely extroverted rounds. However, on the occasional day when he decides to spend time working on projects at home, things are quite different for me.

This is what my day at the office is like then:

  • 9 a.m. Gary looks at a two-year-old tax return that he has come across “organizing” his files. He calls to me to come downstairs to his desk and look at the item that is disturbing him. I look. It does not disturb me. I go back to my desk.
  • 9:30 a.m. Gary sees something odd on the surface of the river. He goes out to explore. I do not see it because my blinds are closed. He asks me to video what he’s seeing. I go outside to shoot the video. I go back to my desk.
  • 10 a.m. Gary calls me downstairs to hold the tape measure for him. I do. I do not ask why, or what he is doing. That might land me in a project I want nothing to do with.
  • 10:30 a.m. Gary comes to my office to tell me we’re out of toner for the printer. I suggest he might like to run to the store to buy some. He does.
  • 11:15 a.m. Gary returns from the store. He comes to my office to tell me about a person I don’t know, who is doing something I don’t care about. Then he gives me a bouquet of flowers. This makes it harder to order him out of my office, but I do anyway.
  • 11:30 a.m. Gary calls up to me from his desk downstairs. He asks me if it’s going to snow tomorrow. I tell him I don’t know.
  • 11:35 a.m. Gary comes to my office to tell me that yes, it is going to snow tomorrow.
  • 11:36 a.m. I close my door. Loudly.
  • 11:40 a.m. Gary taps softly on my door and whispers—as though the act of speaking softly cancels out the disturbance—asking if I know where his meeting file is. I do not.
  • 11:45 a.m. I have hung a Do Not Disturb sign on the doorknob. I can hear Gary walk down the hall toward my office, then his footsteps retreating after he sees the sign. Then it is quiet. Then I hear him in the kitchen faux whistling an unrecognizable tune—making half humming, half flutey-sounding noises. Then he stops. Then he starts. Then he stops. A few minutes pass. Then he starts again.

I start laughing. Because, well, Gary. I take the sign off the door and catch up on my email instead of finishing the plot line for Book 7 in the Leah Nash Mysteries. Tomorrow is another day.

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Synopsis:

Dangerous Ground by Susan Hunter A Murder Among Friends … Everyone is anxious to connect with actor Ryan Malloy when he returns to town for his 15-year high school reunion. Everyone except crime writer Leah Nash. She doesn’t have many fond memories of Himmel High’s golden boy. But it turns out she’s not the only one who isn’t a fan. Before the weekend is over, Ryan Malloy is murdered. The hard-headed but soft-hearted Leah is unwillingly drawn into investigating his death by the pleading of Ryan’s terminally ill mother. She soon discovers that Ryan’s self-absorbed journey through life trampled on the dreams of a number of people. His old girlfriend, his best friend, his own brother, a local businessman—there’s no shortage of suspects—or secrets. But the solution eludes Leah, until the past and the present collide in a dangerous confrontation that threatens one life and ends another.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Himmel River Press

Publication Date: November 19, 2019

Number of Pages: 364

ISBN: 1698530994 (9781698530994)

Series: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 6

Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

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Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1 I parked my bike just inside the cemetery gates. It took only a few steps down the tree-lined path for the heat and humidity of a mid-summer Wisconsin day to slide away into the cool dark shade. Overhead, the soft murmur of thousands of leaves stirring in the light breeze accompanied me as I walked slowly toward my sister’s grave. Both of my sisters are buried in the cemetery just a few miles outside of Himmel, Wisconsin. My father is as well. But today it was Annie I’d come to visit. My heart beat a little faster as I neared the gravesite. I’m not afraid of the dead. It’s the memories they leave behind that haunt me. Quiet Annie with her soft voice and big blue eyes, too shy to join the other laughing, shouting kindergarteners at recess—but the first to run over to comfort a little boy struggling not to cry on the first day. Imaginative Annie, commandeering our wide front porch as a sailing ship for her and her cat, Mr. Peoples, to travel around the world. Kind-hearted Annie, sharing her Halloween candy with me when I’m forced to surrender my own treats as penalty for talking back. Sweet, brave, compassionate, eight-year-old Annie, who ran into a burning house to save Mr. Peoples twenty-two years ago, and never came back. Over all the years since, people—my mother, my aunt, my therapist (yes, I went that route once), my best friend—have reassured me that her death wasn’t my fault, that I was just a child. But, I was older. I should have been watching over her. I should have seen her slipping back to the house after we’d all escaped. In my deep heart’s core, I can’t ever forget that. Now and then, and always on her birthday, I go to the cemetery to see her. I know that she isn’t really there. But her grave is an anchoring spot for me. I catch her up on the good, the bad, and the ugly happenings in my life. She knows what hurts me, and she knows what frightens me—secrets I don’t share with anyone else. I tell her what our mother is up to, and how others she knew in life are doing. I say all the things to her that I would if she were still here. I try to make up for the fact that I’m alive, and she isn’t. But, of course, I never can. When I’m talking to her at the cemetery, it feels as though she can really hear me. And I know that she answers. Not right there, at the grave, but later, in unexpected ways. Sometimes, I hear Annie speak to me through a chance remark a stranger makes, or a phrase that leaps out at me from a book, or a sudden flash of insight on a problem I’m wrestling with. I don’t share that belief with very many people. If I did, I might be forced to resign my membership in the Doubting Thomas Society, to which all good journalists should belong. But I can’t accept that those occurrences are just coincidental. I really can’t. So, on the anniversary of her birth, once again I sat down on the bench in front of her grave and told her how sorry I was that she had died. That I hadn’t saved her. That I still missed her. And then I told her what was really going on in the seemingly successful life of Leah Nash, former small-town reporter, current true crime author, and soon-to-be business failure. *** When I say I talk to Annie, I mean that literally. I have a one-sided, out-loud conversation with her, though only when I’m sure I’m alone. Some people already think I’m crazy. No need to give them additional proof. On this particular day, I had a serious problem weighing on my mind. Not long before, I had made what seemed, at the time, like a brilliant decision. The Himmel Times Weekly, the paper where I’d started out in journalism, and where I’d found a home again after a self-inflicted career injury, was closing. I decided to buy it. I asked a wealthy, community-minded, local attorney, Miller Caldwell, to invest with me. And then I asked a lot of other people—reporters, an editor, stringers, office and sales staff—to work very hard, for very little money, in the hope that together we could keep the Himmel Times alive. It was exhilarating at first. But it had become an increasing source of anxiety for me. Just as we were getting off the ground, Grantland County Online, a digital-only news site (and I use the term “news” loosely), had gotten a major infusion of capital and a new publisher. Now GO News, as it’s more commonly known, was kicking our butt. “The scariest thing, Annie,” I said, “is that we’re barely keeping our heads above water, while GO News keeps getting bigger. They don’t have the expenses we do—no print edition, no delivery costs, and they don’t spend a lot of staff time fact-checking. Plus, they started Tea to GO. Did you know that the cool kids say, ‘spill the tea,’ when they mean ‘what’s the gossip?’ “Tea to GO is full of ‘What married school official was seen in Milwaukee with a very attractive staff member last Thursday night? Did we say late, last Thursday night?’ That kind of garbage. It’s almost all blind items—the better to avoid lawsuits, my dear. But people are eating it up. Every time you go into the Elite Café, someone is trying to figure out who the latest gossip is about.” I paused for a bit of a wallow in self-pity. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried to shake things up at the Times, to get us moving ahead, but so far nothing I’d done had made much difference. “We have a good team. Miguel is much happier since he gave up the managing editor job. He really didn’t like bossing people. And Maggie McConnell is doing great in that spot. She’s got the instincts, the skills, and forty-five years in the news business behind her. If she could only spin straw out of gold, she’d be perfect. But since she can’t, we’re making do with a budget so lean it might as well be made out of turkey burger. “I gave Allie Ross—you remember, I told you about her. She’s the high school kid we’ve been using as a stringer. Anyway, I gave her a part-time job for the summer in the office. She’s doing the routine stuff, obits and inside pages copy—weddings, anniversaries, club news. She’s got promise, but she’s only fifteen. Troy, the other reporter besides Miguel, is a little bit of a suck-up—and his news judgment isn’t quite there yet. Still, he’s a hard worker. The stringers are a pretty mixed bag. “Now, here’s a twist I bet you didn’t see coming. I hired Mom to take April Nelson’s place as office manager. I know, I know, it’s a dicey move. But she’s smart, and efficient, and she gets the job done. Plus, she comes cheap. It’s been a little challenging, I admit. Remember when I used to get mad at her and say, ‘You’re not the boss of me!’ and she’d send me to my room? “Well, now I’m the boss of her, only I don’t get to send her to her room. Yes, OK, I’m not supposed to be doing the day-to-day. That’s Maggie’s job. I understand that. But I can’t just hide away in my office and write my next book if the paper is falling apart two floors below me, can I? “Everybody took a leap of faith when we reopened the Times, and everyone is putting everything they have into it. I can’t let them down. I have to find a way to keep us afloat. I just didn’t know it would be so hard, Annie.” I paused for a breath before I wrapped things up. “And then there’s Gabe. I don’t know. I like him as well—no, probably better than—anyone I’ve gone out with in a long time. He makes me laugh, and he’s really smart. And he likes strong women who speak their minds. In my experience, a lot of men don’t. So what’s the problem, right? Well, it’s not exactly a problem. It’s more that I’m afraid a problem might be coming. Lately, it feels like he’s pushing me a little, like for a commitment or something. Can’t we just enjoy each other? Can’t we just be without getting all serious, and defining things, and making plans? I don’t want to change things. That’s when things go bad, when you try to change them.” I slumped back against the bench with a sigh. Usually, when I lay everything out to Annie, it makes the issues seem a little more manageable. This time it all still felt overwhelming. Then, a voice spoke. *** Fortunately for my mental health, it wasn’t Annie’s. I turned and looked behind me. “Coop! How long have you been standing there?” I asked, trying to remember exactly what I’d said out loud. It’s not that Coop and I have major secrets. He’s my best friend, after all. Still, I don’t tell him everything I tell Annie. “Long enough,” he said with a grin that didn’t offer me much comfort. I tried to move the conversation away from my chat with Annie, particularly the Gabe part. “What are you doing here?” “Your mom said you were here. I called your cell, but it didn’t go through.” “Yeah. It’s a dead zone—pun totally intended—in the cemetery, except for the hill. What did you want?” “Nothing. I brought something for Annie.” I looked down at his right hand and saw that he carried a small pot of pink flowers. Pink was Annie’s favorite color. Tears sprang to my eyes. I quickly blinked them away. “That’s so nice. Why?” He shrugged. “I know what today is.” I’m all about keeping my tough outer shell polished, but I was so touched, I couldn’t keep up the facade. “You’re a pretty great friend, you know that?” He smiled, but he looked embarrassed, and tried to cover it by moving to put the flowers next to Annie’s headstone. “Did you really come just to put flowers on Annie’s grave?” “No, not just for Annie. I took some to Rebecca, too.” He was kneeling, positioning the flowers, with his back to me. I couldn’t see his expression. “Oh.” Rebecca had been Coop’s wife and my nemesis until she was killed last year. I wasn’t happy that Coop had lost someone he loved, but I couldn’t pretend I was sorry she was gone. She’d done everything she could to break up our twenty-year friendship and came close to succeeding. I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about her. So, I employed the Thumper rule, and didn’t say anything. Coop apparently didn’t want to get into the subject of Rebecca either, because as he stood and turned to me, he said, “I’ll walk out with you. I’ve got my truck. We can throw your bike in the back and you can ride home with me.” “Yes, please. I didn’t realize it was so hot. I just about sweated to death pedaling out here.” “Yeah, I can see that,” he said, taking in my damp, bedraggled hair, slipping from its hair clip, and the beads of moisture coalescing into a river of sweat running down the side of my forehead. “You kind of look like you just took a shower.” He sniffed the air, “Except you don’t have that shower-fresh scent.” “Shut up,” I said. “I’m a head-sweater from way back. Deal with it.” I smiled though, because there’s something very nice and very easy being with a person who really doesn’t care how you look—or in the present situation—smell. We walked together in companionable silence, until I’d decided he hadn’t heard any of my one-sided conversation with Annie. That dream died in the next minute. “So, what’s going on with you and Gabe? He’s a nice guy, Leah. You’re not getting ready to toss him overboard, too, are you?” “No. Why would you say that? And what do you mean by ‘too’?” “You really want to go there?” He cocked an eyebrow. It’s a not very funny running joke between Coop and my mother that I always find a reason to cut my romances short. “No, I don’t. I thought you didn’t believe in illegal surveillance, and what do you call lurking around cemeteries where people are having a private conversation? It’s nothing. Really.” He looked at me for a second, but all he said was, “OK.” Our conversation was cut off as a tall woman in her fifties, her hair pulled back and hanging in a long, gray braid down her back, appeared and abruptly crossed the path in front of us. “Hello, Marcy,” I said. She looked up as though surprised we were there. “Leah. Coop.” She nodded but didn’t stop to talk. We knew where she was going. To the top of the hill on which sat a small granite building that resembled an ancient Greek temple. The family mausoleum held Marcy’s grandparents, her own mother, and Marcy’s baby daughter, Robin. One day, it would hold Marcy, too. We watched in silence as she reached the building, pulled a key out of her pocket, unlocked the door, and slipped inside, like a ghost gliding through a wall. It had been sixteen years since Marcy White’s baby had died, and she still came every week. People said she brought a different book each time and read it to Robin. They said it like it was something weird, or even crazy. Not me, though. I understood why she did it. “You know what, Coop?” I asked, as we continued on down the path. “What?” “I’m calling bullshit on death.” *** Excerpt from Dangerous Ground by Susan Hunter. Copyright 2019 by Susan Hunter. Reproduced with permission from Susan Hunter. All rights reserved.  

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Author Bio:

Susan Hunter Susan Hunter is a charter member of Introverts International (which meets the 12th of Never at an undisclosed location). She has worked as a reporter and managing editor, during which time she received a first place UPI award for investigative reporting and a Michigan Press Association first place award for enterprise/feature reporting. Susan has also taught composition at the college level, written advertising copy, newsletters, press releases, speeches, web copy, academic papers, and memos. Lots and lots of memos. She lives in rural Michigan with her husband Gary, who is a man of action, not words. During certain times of the day, she can be found wandering the mean streets of small-town Himmel, Wisconsin, looking for clues, stopping for a meal at the Elite Cafe, dropping off a story lead at the Himmel Times Weekly, or meeting friends for a drink at McClain’s Bar and Grill.

Catch Up With Susan Hunter On: LeahNashMysteries.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Susan Hunter. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on February 17, 2020 and runs through March 21, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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#Review “Dangerous Flaws: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 5” by Susan Hunter

Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter Banner~

4/5 Stars!

Bait and switch, sleight of hand, and mind-boggling plot twists accompanied my initiation into the Leah Nash mysteries and Himmel, Wisconsin—a small town with a high murder rate!

When a local academic is murdered and the police are closing in on her ex-husband/ex-boyfriend, Nick, as the killer, Leah knows they are looking in the wrong direction. But how does she convince them of this?

Not without proof, and “consulting” on Nick’s legal defense gives her the avenues, if not the access, to ask the hard questions. But Leah has to ask herself the hard questions first. Nick is an ex for reason—he’s a consummate liar—and his endless lies about his whereabouts the night someone killed Laurel Sheridan only aid the police in their case against him.

Though her confidence takes a few knocks and bangs, Leah perseveres even when her judgment is clouded.

Leah is surrounded by some great folks in Himmel, with managing editor, Miguel, being my favorite, and they’re all a great support network for Leah. The exceptions to this are Courtnee and Andrea and I wonder why/how either of them are in Himmel. Sherry Young also isn’t a friend, but her brash exterior hides a heartbreaking story.

But it’s going to indirectly take most of Leah’s tribe to solve the murder of Laurel Sheridan. There is no direct path to the killer, but bits of old files and remembrances of prior conversations… and plain old curiosity gives Leah a lead to an angle she, nor anyone else could have imagined.

Coming into the series at book 5 puts me at a loss on much of Leah’s backstory, but I found her intrusive and controlling. To be fair, she was told this more a few times by those around her and she’s trying to reform… with missteps.

But a good investigative journalist has to be intrusive… and nosy, to turn and flip the pieces of the puzzle until they fit together. I may not be in love with her personality, but Leah Nash is a puzzle master and her dogged determination not only solves one murder but two others.

Dangerous Flaws is a page-turner. Is it the Father? Son? The scorned co-worker? Or is Nick Gallagher lying yet again and is the real killer? Download this read today.

Enjoy!

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Synopsis:

Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter

A chilling murder shocks a small Wisconsin town.

True crime writer Leah Nash is stunned when police investigating the murder of a beautiful young college professor focus on her ex-husband Nick. Leah has no illusions about her ex, but despite his flaws, she just can’t see him as a killer. Reluctantly, she agrees to help Nick’s attorney prove that he isn’t.

But Nick’s lies make it hard to find the truth, and when a damning piece of evidence surfaces, Leah plunges into doubt. Is she defending an innocent man or helping a murderer escape? She pushes on to find out, uncovering hidden motives and getting hit by twists she never saw coming. Leah’s own flaws impede her search for the truth. When she finds it, will it be too late to prevent a devastating confrontation?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Himmel River Press
Publication Date: December 11th 2018
Number of Pages: 392
ASIN: B07KK2HM6M
Series: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 5
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads
KINDLE UNLIMITED

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Susan Hunter. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on February 1, 2019 and runs through April 1, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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#BlogTour “Dangerous Flaws: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 5” by Susan Hunter

Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter Banner

Synopsis:

Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter

A chilling murder shocks a small Wisconsin town.

True crime writer Leah Nash is stunned when police investigating the murder of a beautiful young college professor focus on her ex-husband Nick. Leah has no illusions about her ex, but despite his flaws, she just can’t see him as a killer. Reluctantly, she agrees to help Nick’s attorney prove that he isn’t.

But Nick’s lies make it hard to find the truth, and when a damning piece of evidence surfaces, Leah plunges into doubt. Is she defending an innocent man or helping a murderer escape? She pushes on to find out, uncovering hidden motives and getting hit by twists she never saw coming. Leah’s own flaws impede her search for the truth. When she finds it, will it be too late to prevent a devastating confrontation?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Himmel River Press
Publication Date: December 11th 2018
Number of Pages: 392
ASIN: B07KK2HM6M
Series: Leah Nash Mysteries, Book 5
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads
KINDLE UNLIMITED

Read an excerpt:

How did everything go so wrong? But then again, why did she ever think that this could come to anything but disaster? She knows now there are only a few ways this can end and none of them are good.

She sighs, then bends down to put the leash on Tenny, her crazy little mixed-breed dog, looking up at her with big brown eyes. He’s so happy and so oblivious. Despite her sense of coming catastrophe, she can’t help smiling at him. He begins wagging his tail, then dancing around eagerly in anticipation of his nightly run. She can barely get the leash hooked.

“Come on, then, you heartless beast. I’m in the worst situation of my life, and all you can think about is getting out and having fun. Tell me again why I bother with you?”

They leave and walk down the road—no sidewalks here—toward the county fairgrounds, an expanse of 80 acres just a short distance away. She loves the odd mix of town on one side of her home and country on the other.

She shivers a little. Her exhaled breath leaves a small trace of vapor in the air. Under the silvery light of the full moon, everything stands out in crystalline splendor: the piles of snow left by the plow, untouched yet by the dirt and grime of passing cars; bare branches of trees shimmering with frost; the stars themselves, flashing and glittering like sparkling beads sewn on the black night sky. It is incredibly beautiful. But she barely notices. She is too lost in thought.

Should she do as she threatened, confess and bring everything to a head? If she does, there’s no going back. And she isn’t the only one who will suffer—or be saved. Because isn’t it possible that freedom, not tragedy, will be the outcome? Things do, sometimes, turn out better than we expect. She feels a momentary spark of optimism, but it fades. This is too important for wishful thinking. She must be realistic. Once the truth is out, the consequences will be devastating. But this—the way she’s living now, lying, denying, pretending that everything is fine—is crushing her. So intent is she on her thoughts that she doesn’t hear the crunch of footsteps behind her.

Doesn’t notice the increasing agitation of her little dog. Doesn’t recognize the impending danger.

“I finally caught up with you.”

Startled, but not alarmed—she recognizes the voice—she turns.

“What are you doing here?”

“We didn’t finish. I need to know you understand.”

She doesn’t want to have this conversation. Not tonight. Not when her mind is so filled with jumbled and conflicting thoughts. Her reluctance shows on her face.

“You said you want to do the right thing. I do too, but you’re wrong about what it is. Please, let’s talk.”

“Tomorrow would be better. I—”

“No! It wouldn’t be!”

The words are said with such force that she takes an involuntary step backward. Tenny growls softly at her side.

“I’m sorry. But we’re talking about my life! Don’t I deserve a few minutes at least? I’ll walk with you. Please?”

She sighs. But now Tenny is pulling at his leash, eager to run free on the frozen surface of the pond.

“All right.” She slips off her gloves and bends down to release the dog. Her cold fingers fumble and his eager jumping makes it hard work. He spies something on the ice and springs forward with excitement. Both the collar and the leash come loose in her hands, and he dashes away.

She tucks them into her pocket as she stands. It’s then that she notices the barricades around a large hole in the frozen pond.

“I forgot about the Polar Plunge tomorrow. Let’s go that way, in case Tenny gets too close. The barriers should keep him out, but he’s a wily little devil.”

They walk around the edge of the pond. She is silent; she doesn’t interrupt. But she isn’t persuaded. Her focus turns inward, as she searches for the right words to explain. All the while she knows they will be unwelcome. As she struggles for a way to be both truthful and kind, she misses the rising tension in her companion’s voice. She doesn’t register the transition from desperation to danger.

A loud series of barks causes her to look up. Tenny is chasing a muskrat across the ice. Both of them are heading toward the barrier-shielded hole in the frozen pond. For the muskrat, it will mean escape. For Tenny, it will mean calamity.

“Tenny, no! Come here!” She runs out on the ice, calling him, moving as fast as she can on the slippery surface, trying to distract the dog. But intent on his prey, he ignores her. He dashes under the barricade just as the muskrat slips into the water to safety. Tenny slides to a stop, gives a few frustrated yips, then turns toward her. His expression clearly says, “Thanks a lot. I almost had him.”

She reaches the edge of the barricade and pushes it aside, holding out the leash and collar.

“Tennyson, come here right now.”

He makes as if to obey, but when she leans to get him, he scampers away. She calls him again.

He comes tantalizingly close, then eludes her grasp and retreats with a cocky grin on his face.

He likes this game.

She sets the collar and leash down on the ice. She gets on one knee and reaches in her pocket.

When her hand emerges, it’s holding a dog treat. In a honeyed, coaxing voice, she says, “Hey, Tenny. Look, sweetie! Your favorite, cheesy bacon.”

She stays very still as he approaches. When he gets within range, she intends to scoop him up, scold him, and never let him off the leash again. He moves slowly, maintaining eye contact with the treat, not her. She stretches her hand out ever so slightly. He streaks forward, snatches it from her open palm, and runs away across the pond. Then his attention is caught by a deer just reaching the middle of the ice. He gives chase.

She sighs with relief. At least he’s away from the open water. She starts to rise. Without warning, a strong shove from behind sends her sprawling. Her head hits the ice. She’s dazed for a second. Then terrified as another shove pushes her forward and into the hole cut in the pond.

The shock of hitting the water takes her breath away. The weight of her clothes pulls her down.

She struggles back to the surface, disoriented and confused. Her breathing is shallow and quick—too quick.

She swallows a mouthful of water and starts to choke. Panic rises. Her arms flail.

One hits something hard. The edge of the ice. Her fright lessens as she can see a way out.

She works her body around so she can grab the icy lip of the opening in the pond. She begins to move her legs, stretching out as though she were floating on her stomach. As she transitions from vertical to horizontal, she’s able to get one forearm on the ice. She tries to lift her knee. If she can get it on the ice—she’s too weak. The weight of her water-logged clothes pulls her back into the water. She feels the panic rising again. She pushes back against it with her desperate determination to survive.

She tries again, kicks her legs again, stretches out again, gets her forearms on the ice again.

But this time, she doesn’t try to lift herself. Instead, she begins to inch forward with a writhing motion, like a very slow snake crawling on the ground. She fights for every awkward, painful inch of progress. How long has it been? Five minutes? Ten? Twenty? It feels like forever.

Her arms are numb. Tiny icicles in her hair slap gently against her face as she twists and turns her body out of the water. Tenny is nearby. He’s barking, and then he’s by her left arm, tugging at her sleeve.

“No, no, Tenny, get back.” She thinks she is shouting, but the words are a whisper. She has to rest, just for a minute. She stops. She closes her eyes. But as her cheek touches the ice, Tenny’s bark calls her back to life. She will not give up. She will not die this way, this night.

Again, she begins her hesitating progress forward. She can do this. She will do this. Almost her entire upper body is on the ice now. Just a little longer, just a few more inches, just another—hands grab her shoulders. Someone has come. Someone is pulling her to safety. As she turns her head to look up, she realizes the hands aren’t pulling, they’re pushing, pushing, pushing her back.

No, no, no, no! She tries to fight, but she has nothing left. She’s in the water.

The hands lock onto her shoulders like talons. They push her down, down, down. Water enters her mouth; her throat closes over. She can’t breathe. The last sound she hears from far, far away is Tenny’s mournful bark. Then darkness closes in.

***

Excerpt from Dangerous Flaws by Susan Hunter. Copyright © 2018 by Susan Hunter. Reproduced with permission from Susan Hunter. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Susan Hunter

Susan Hunter is a charter member of Introverts International (which meets the 12th of Never at an undisclosed location). She has worked as a reporter and managing editor, during which time she received a first place UPI award for investigative reporting and a Michigan Press Association first place award for enterprise/feature reporting.

Susan has also taught composition at the college level, written advertising copy, newsletters, press releases, speeches, web copy, academic papers, and memos. Lots and lots of memos. She lives in rural Michigan with her husband Gary, who is a man of action, not words.

During certain times of the day, she can be found wandering the mean streets of small-town Himmel, Wisconsin, looking for clues, stopping for a meal at the Elite Cafe, dropping off a story lead at the Himmel Times Weekly, or meeting friends for a drink at McClain’s Bar and Grill.

Catch Up With Ms. Hunter On:
leahnashmysteries.com, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

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