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Cry For The Fox--2005


Book 2 in the Foxglove Corner Mysteries

When Jennet witnesses the murder of an animal rights activist during an anti-fur demonstration and meets controversial Caroline Meilland, she is drawn into a dangerous mystery. Hoping to find a place for herself in the animal rights movement, she attends a meeting of Caroline's organization, M.A.R.A. Although Crane cautions Jennet about recent violence directed toward female activists, she wants very much to help animals. On the night of the Harvest Ball, Jennet finds a body on the fox trail beside a bloodstained toy fox. Jennet's involvement in the murder is now definite and deadly.


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Chapter 1

Fur Is Dead.

The letters were bleeding, drops of bright red blood dripping down the white canvas like tears. I came to a standstill at the edge of the crowd that had gathered to watch the disturbance in front of Warrington's Department Store, my eyes transfixed on the words.

The small silver-haired woman who marched at the head of a line of orderly demonstrators held her picket high, as if it were a standard. In her blue cardigan that looked too heavy for the warm October day, she was a dignified, neatly dressed matron who had taken to the street on behalf of the animals.

Fifteen people had turned out to march in front of the store's display window, newly decorated to promote Warrington's first trunk show. The event was part of a special "Shop Lakeville" week, designed to lure customers with selections of designer dresses, pricey jewelry, and furs brought in from New York.

Three reed-thin mannequins, wrapped snugly in fur coats, stood on the leaf-strewn floor of the window. Frozen in graceful poses and clutching beaded evening bags in their lifeless hands, they advertised elegance and promised dreams.

But at what cost? Blood - or the best prices of the season, depending on one's point of view.

The demonstration was cleverly timed to coincide with the first day of the trunk show, and the unseasonable seventy degrees might have been specially ordered to suggest that fur was much too warm for comfort.

"But notice that leaves are falling from the maple trees that line Grove Street," the mannequins seemed to say. "Winter is coming. You'll need a fur coat then."

I looked in the display window again. Long mink coats with full shawl collars, a matching hat, a fox headband - they were hideous. The mere thought of wearing the coat of a slaughtered animal made my arms feel itchy under my cotton sleeves.

Fur Is Dead. I didn't need to be convinced.

The picketers were a restrained and courteous group. No one attempted to stop a customer from walking through Warrington's doors. They allowed their painted slogans to speak for themselves: Real People Wear Fake Fur, Protect the Fox (a sentiment unlikely to garner sympathy in the heart of Michigan's fox hunting country), and over and over again the acronym M.A.R.A. in bold black letters.

"M.A.R.A.?" I didn't realize I'd spoken the word aloud.

"It stands for Militant Animal Rights Activists. Those animal rights people again. They're everywhere."

The voice was loud, almost petulant. The speaker, a willowy blonde woman next to me, glanced at her watch. Over her pink turtleneck she wore a brown vest trimmed with fur. "I don't have time for this. Someone ought to call the police."

"They seem peaceful enough, and they're not stopping people from entering," I said. "Just walk on in."

She didn't challenge my statement, but she didn't move either. No one was moving, except for the demonstrators.

I was going to Warrington's myself. Maybe. Until five minutes ago, that had been my intent.

I had a strong affinity for the Animal Rights Movement. The sight of a fur coat made me wish I had a can of spray paint in my purse. But Saturday was the only day of the week I had time to browse in the stores. Today I planned to take advantage of Warrington's trunk show to shop for a dress, something bright, classy, and unique. I wouldn't go near the fur coats.

The blonde said, "The activists must be following the trunk shows. Last month I saw them at Madeline's down in Rochester. I like animals as well as the next person, but these groups go too far. They're fanatic."

This sweeping indictment was met with murmurs of agreement and assorted grumblings. A portly man, who wore his Detroit baseball team's Tigers cap with the old English D pulled down low on his forehead, shouted, "M.A.R.A., go home!"

"We are home."

The woman who spoke these words was tall, statuesque, and dressed in brown. Her long skirt swept down to her ankles, and she wore a dark cowl-neck sweater. A beige shawl provided sharp contrast for the mass of chestnut hair that tumbled around her shoulders.

She detached herself from the middle of the picket line and walked deliberately up to the man wearing the Tigers cap. "Wherever animals are suffering or being exploited, that is M.A.R.A's home."

Her voice was soft and melodious, her tone arresting. Around her, sound seemed to cease, even the footfalls of the picketers. I could hear the rustle of a leaf as it drifted down to the pavement.

The Tigers cap man swore loudly into the silence. "You're all a bunch of crazies. Get the hell out of our town!"

But he was the one who crossed to the other side of the street and walked away with never a backward glance.

The chestnut-haired woman appeared unshaken by the encounter. She walked over to the curb. The small woman, the standard bearer, had stepped out of the line and laid her sign down on the ground to retie her shoelace.

The two women stood together talking softly, while the line moved on without them. I was about to go into the store when a squeal of tires and the roar of a revving engine cut into the silence. A white car careened down Grove Street, traveling dangerously close to the sidewalk. When the driver was about nine yards from the women, he swerved into the no parking zone in front of the store. Slowing to a rolling stop, he leaned over in the passenger's seat and shouted something through the half-open window. I couldn't make out his words, but the heckling tone was unmistakable.

I had a fleeting glimpse of features obscured by sunglasses and a white shirt open at the neck. A gold medallion rested on his chest.

Apparently startled by the unexpected barrage, the smaller woman started to turn around, but she lost her balance on the curb and tumbled backward into the street. She lay, stunned and unmoving, in the path of the white car. It began to move forward.

In a blur of brown, the chestnut-haired woman flew into the street. Holding out one hand to ward off the oncoming car, she stooped down to pull her friend out of the way.

The white car was picking up speed.

No, I cried silently. Stop! Stop . . .

I heard a sickening thud and an anguished cry as the front of the car struck the tall woman. She fell back beyond the curb where she lay in a tangle of brown and beige. Like a veil, her chestnut hair covered her face.

The man in the white car drove over her companion as if she were nothing more than a blue sweater lost in the street. He accelerated and sped off, leaving his victim lying on the pavement as broken as a delicate porcelain doll that had been hurled to the pavement.

I'd seen what had happened, but the reality of the situation hadn't reached me yet.

I created a different scene. She'd only been stunned by the impact. That couldn't be real blood gushing out from her chest and staining the bright blue color of the sweater. I couldn't possibly be hearing the gurgling sound it made as it left her body.

Somewhere behind me, a woman was screaming. The sound went on and on, gaining in intensity, until the tableau shattered into an explosion of noise and movement.

I was aware of a bitter taste in my mouth and a sharp pain in my lower lip. I unclenched my fists. The incident was real, and I was standing still, doing nothing, while a woman lay in the street, her lifeblood draining out of her.

Several of the onlookers rushed to the aid of the woman who lay in the street, while two young men helped the chestnut-haired woman to her feet. She stood unsteadily between them, pushing her hair out of her face and running her hand along her left hip and leg.

"No, I'm all right," she was saying. "It's Sarah. Help her. Call 911!"

"I already did." The high, thin voice was lost in the noisy crowd, but help was on the way. How many minutes? Five? Ten?

One of the young men gave the woman her shawl. She wrapped it tightly around her shoulders and stared at the body in the street.

At the moment of impact, the picket sign had sailed through the air, coming to a stop when it hit the trunk of a maple tree. It had then bounced back into the street a little way from its owner. It was easier to look at the sign than the fallen woman. Around her head and chest, the pool of red blood widened, quickly drenching the cardigan.

The woman in brown now knelt in the street at Sarah's side. I watched her as she pulled off her shawl and laid it over the still form of her friend, letting the soft beige cover the darkened blue of the sweater and the seeping red blood.

"Sarah! Oh, my God! Where is that ambulance?" She said this without looking up, never taking her eyes off the woman she called Sarah, who appeared to be beyond hearing and help.

"You're going to be all right," I heard her say. "Everything is going to be all right."

A bearded man dashed past me, almost knocking me over into one of the maple trees. He ran across the street and headed for a red truck. While I righted myself and brushed leaves from my hair, he took off at a high speed, no doubt in pursuit of the white car. It was a quick-thinking gesture, but I didn't think he had a chance of overtaking the driver who had a head start of several minutes.

Stunned by the enormity of what I had witnessed, I looked around. The petulant blonde woman who had been fretting about being detained by the animal activists was nowhere in sight. Maybe she had slipped away, not wanting to get involved, while I remained in place like one of those ghoulish spectators who always appeared at accident scenes.

No, that wasn't right. I had been here all along. At the moment I wasn't sure that I could move.

I had plenty of company. The crowd was larger now. Clerks wearing nametags and customers, some of them with shopping bags on their arms, streamed out of Warrington's and the neighboring stores. The picket line dissolved, as some of Sarah's companions flocked to her side, while others found themselves trapped in the milling throng. A few more people moved away from the curb toward the women in the street.

"No," the woman in brown said. "Stand back please. Will someone call 911 again?"

Voices swirled around me in a cacophony of confusion, melding into an unintelligible jumble, but there were a few exceptions.

"Yeah, I'll do it."

"Where's the car that hit her?"

"Gone. Took off."

"She won't die, will she, Caroline?"

This last speaker, a pale young girl, had chestnut hair and wore a brown dress styled like Caroline's.

"Everything will be all right as soon as the ambulance gets here." Caroline's voice was steady and reassuring.

I wished I could do something to help, like the running man. I couldn't think of anything, though, so I stood still, watching and listening to the voices until a shrill siren obliterated all other sound. The ambulance skidded to a stop, its lights flashing, the siren cut off in mid-wail.

Everyone except Caroline backed up to the sidewalk to give the paramedics space to work. The crowd jostled me farther from the curb. Another blonde stood next to me now, a girl in khaki shorts who chewed her gum energetically and asked anyone who would listen, "What happened? She must be dead, don't you think? Did anybody see the accident?"

"That was a hit and run," said a gruff voice.

The Tigers cap man had returned. He sounded excited, almost as if he were happy to be part of an exciting event.

"He headed right for her. Serves her right for meddling in other people's business."

"That's a vile thing to say," the gum-chewing blonde girl said. "So you're saying she ought to be run down in the street for demonstrating? That's just ignorant."

The Tigers cap man glared at her. "No one's talking to you, Blondie. Have a little respect for your elders."

"Why you dumb - "

Before she could finish her sentence, a young man appeared at her side and took her arm. "Ignore him, babe. Let's get out of here."

She went with him, protesting loudly; but she went. Now that the situation was defused, the Tigers cap man pushed his way closer to the curb.

Feeling queasy, I leaned against the display window and replayed the accident scene. The images came. A sunny, warm October afternoon, a day to savor. Two women talking at the curb's edge. The sound of a car approaching, shouted words, the tone hostile and insulting. The misstep, the fall, the thwarted rescue attempt and - the end of it. I closed my eyes. I didn't want to replay the end of it. With one fatal misstep, a day to savor had turned into a day to die.

What I had seen was a deliberate hit and run, but it didn't make sense. How could the driver know that his words would have any effect on the women? How could he have foreseen that Sarah would fall in the street and Caroline would attempt to pull her back? Or had his plan been to steer the car up on the sidewalk into the picket line, mowing down any random activist or onlooker in his path?

Most important of all, what was his motive? I'd gathered that the animal activists were unpopular, but surely the deed hadn't been inspired solely by a hatred of M.A.R.A.

A cruiser pulled into the space vacated by the red truck. A lone patrolman of the Foxglove Corners Police Department sat inside, no doubt calling for help from the state troopers. The paramedics were lifting the woman carefully into the ambulance, as if there were still a chance she could be saved. Maybe she would live, but it didn't look good. The pool of blood in the street had grown larger.

Again I noticed the sharp, bitter taste in my mouth. I touched my lower lip and saw the blood on my finger. Absently I reached for a tissue. As I dabbed at my lip, the ambulance pulled away, sirens blaring again, an eerie sense of finality in the sound.

Caroline stood staring down Grove Street until the wail of the siren had died away. Then, carrying her bloodstained shawl, she made her way back to her picketers who waited in the shadow of the window mannequins. As she rubbed her eyes with a clean corner of the shawl, the M.A.R.A. people gathered around her, forming a tight circle.

I heard her say, "I'm not hurt. It's just a scraped knee. But Sarah. . . "

The policeman was out of his patrol car, at her side. "Your friend is being taken care of. You need to get checked out in the hospital, ma'am," he said.

"No, I'm all right . . ."

Another cruiser arrived in a cloud of dust, its siren drowning out Caroline's protests. Two husky blue-clad officers plowed through the crowd that still lingered in front of the store.

The air was thick with an acrid smell that I couldn't identify. It reminded me of burning leaves. This was strange because bonfires were banned in town. The queasy feeling returned. I stood still, willing myself not to be sick, as one of the newly arrived officers made his way toward me.

"Excuse me, Miss."

He seemed like all the other policemen I had encountered in my lifetime: Brusque, detached, and efficient. Like the killer driver, he wore sunglasses.

"Jennet Greenway," I said.

"Address? Profession? Date of birth?"

His questions assailed me like a barrage of bullets. I concentrated on giving him the answers he demanded and felt the nausea slowly recede.

"Did you witness the accident, Miss Greenway?"


"Will you describe what you saw, please?"

Discovering that I wanted to talk about it, I called up the images I'd stored in my memory and summarized the incident.

"What was the make of the car?" the officer asked.

"It was a Ford Taurus, and there was rust around the door."

"Did you see the license plate number?"

"No. It happened too quickly, but . . . "

A last image came to me. "A man went after him. I'm pretty sure that's where he was going. He had a brown beard and left in a red truck."

Obviously hearing something that he considered important, the officer surveyed the crowd. "Did he come back? Is he here?"

"I don't see him. Maybe he's still trailing the driver."

"I'll look into it. Thank you, Miss Greenway."

He was already moving away. I asked, "Is she dead?"

"That I can't answer," he said. "Thank you."

Clearly he was through with me, already descending on his next witness. Left alone, I looked for the bearded man again, for the gum chewing blonde or even the man in the Tigers cap. They were all gone, replaced by new people. Passersby paused to ask questions of those who had been there longer. They stared at the pool of blood in the street and then went silently on their way. The crunching of footfalls on leaves was louder than their hushed voices.

It was back to business as usual and life goes on, although the atmosphere around Warrington's had turned positively funereal. I'd been looking forward to the trunk show all week, but now I regarded Warrington's with a lack of enthusiasm.

The picket lay in the street, resting in a bed of maple leaves as red as blood. Apparently the M.A.R.A. people had forgotten about it.

Fur Is Dead. Sarah had carried the sign proudly. Carefully I closed my hand around the thin wood stake. I held it for a minute and then leaned it against one of the maple trees.

"Well, Jennet."

With my attention riveted on the dead sign, I'd failed to see the third patrol car pull up in the no parking zone. Deputy Sheriff Crane Ferguson stood in the street. With his silver-streaked blond hair and frosty gray eyes, he was like a burst of light on a dark, chaotic scene. Foxglove Corners' favorite lawman had come to restore order in the county, and the sun was shining on his badge, turning it to gold.

He was looking at the picket sign I'd moved, and he wasn't smiling. "Were you part of this demonstration?"

This was not a time for the smile that reached all the way up to his eyes and from there to my heart. He was, after all, on duty, and this was a somber occasion.

I said, "No. Just a witness. It was terrible. The driver ran over the woman intentionally."

"That's what they say."

Crane's gaze shifted to the sign again. "The poor lady. What a senseless way to die. Was that the picket she was carrying?"

"Yes." I knew that Crane would tell me the truth. "She is dead, then?"

"She must have died instantly. Fur Is Dead. Those proved to be prophetic words."

I blinked. Was more blood drizzling down from the words?

"I moved the sign out of the street." I didn't know why I was feeling guilty. Unless - I had tampered with evidence. Yes, that was what I had done.

Crane reached over and took possession of the sign.

"You're a long way from the byroads of Foxglove Corners, aren't you, Crane?" I asked.

He smiled then. "I do get into Lakeville sometimes, Jennet, like today. Did you come into town for the trunk show?"

"Yes, but I don't feel much like it now. I think I'll head on home."

"Good. Drive carefully. I'll see you there sometime soon."

Taking the sign with him, he walked over to talk to the officer who had interviewed me. Crane was with others of his kind. In spite of the people who still lingered on Grove Street, I felt alone.

It seemed colder. I wished I'd had the foresight to take a sweater. The crowd had thinned to a trickle, with only blood on the pavement to mark the day's tragedy. Before long, someone would come to clean the street, erasing the last trace of the woman who had died. The only constant was Warrington's window display. The mannequins still wore their fur coats. The trunk show must go on. As for the hapless little fur bearers, they had lost a friend today. They had better run for cover.

My shopping expedition seemed like a frivolous waste of time. I had plenty of party dresses at home. Having given my statement, I had no reason to linger. Turning around, I retraced my steps to Willow Street, where I had left my car. It felt good to know that I was going home and that Crane would see me there sometime soon.



"...a brilliant novel and a great mystery!" Read the full review, by Beverly Forehand, at Rountable Reviews.


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text © 2003 Dorothy Bodoin
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