No Grater Evil
Jane Marsh plans a reunion for her gourmet dinner club, first camping in the Rocky Mountains with lavish menus and provisions, then a getaway to Estes Park at a luxurious cabin. Before they can break their boots in, gunshots explode in the middle of the night, and Jane discovers the body of the campground host.
Since the club members are packing revolvers to practice at the firing range, her friends become prime murder suspects. Heading into dangerous terrain, Jane explores the dead man’s reckless past to solve the crime before their wilderness adventure goes up in smoke.
“Wes! Look what you’ve done.” Libby grabbed hold of his hand, but he was wet all over by the time he sloshed out of the pond.
“You’re going to freeze. Should we turn around?” Jane tried to hold her lips still, so she wouldn’t burst into laughter.
He shook himself like a dog. “Nah. It’d be quicker to keep going.”
Libby brushed some of the moisture off his sodden pant legs, but he pushed her hands away, then took the lead as they continued past the pond. The sun traveled behind a low cloud and the wind kicked up, as they climbed upward. Soon, large, icy drops of rain sprinkled onto their heads and shoulders and made circles in the dirt on the trail.
“Did you bring rain gear?” Jane opened her small pack.
Libby slung her pack off and unzipped the pocket. “No, but I did bring a hoodie.” She dragged the gray sweatshirt over her head and fitted the hood around her face, while Jane slipped into her thin plastic poncho.
A flat cap with a brim covered Wes’s bald head. “The storm will pass quickly, you’ll see.”
He was right. They only hiked about a quarter of a mile more before the rain stopped. The quick-drying raindrops spotted the otherwise dusty ground, giving off an after-rain, wet-earth smell. Jane shook her rain gear to shed the few beads of water clinging to the plastic before stuffing the poncho into her pack. The three friends soon emerged from the piney woods and paused at a rock outcropping near a bend in the trail. Jane’s chest expanded as she took in a deep breath of the crisp mountain air. “Someone lives over there.” She shielded her eyes with one hand and pointed with the other across the narrow box canyon to a log cabin nestled in a fluttering aspen grove.
Smoke puffed in white clouds out of the short chimney stack and sailed to the east. A lone man with a German shepherd lumbered out the door. She waved both arms above her head in greeting, but the man was staring the other way, down into the short ravine.
“What’s he looking at?” Jane’s gaze fell to the bottom of the gully just a few more steps down the path. Next to the shallow, winding creek, an amphitheater with rows of gray, splintered wooden benches encircled a smoldering fire pit.
Near the pit, a man lay still, his legs crumpled underneath his body.
Her heart flew into her throat. She raced down the steep trail, her friends on her heels. “Are you okay?” she shouted as she came close.
Libby drew in an audible breath, and Wes mumbled, “What the heck?”
Jane recognized the campground host. Dark red blood stained his light jacket and pooled beneath his back. Tracked in the blood were several large animal prints.