Intervention [Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series Book 3]
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by Marilyn Meredith
Category: Mystery/Crime/Suspense/Thriller Quasar Award Finalist: Cover Art
Description: Tempe and Hutch's romantic weekend at a mountain lodge is spoiled by the arrival of disgruntled guests from the movie industry and an unezpected blizzard. The loss of electricity and phone service compounds the situation when a someone is found murdered. Tempe's search for the killer puts her own life in danger.
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: April 2005
12 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [223 KB]
Reading time: 127-177 min.
"I love the Tempe Crabtree books. The characters are so real, so mixed up, so flawed, and so wonderful, that I find myself wanting so much for Tempe. I would truly like to introduce her to the world, so if you haven't discovered Marilyn Meredith as an author, you might be cheating yourself out of some great reads. Yes, she's that good. The quality doesn't fade as this series progresses, it only grows stronger. 4 Crescents!"--Patricia Lucas White, Crescent Blues Book Views
"Meredith has created in Tempe Crabtree a character who is strong and savvy. Between the lines of a smartly crafted mystery is woven Native American culture and spiritualism. This is a series that will continue to please."--Sandy Tooley, author of When the Dead Speak, Nothing Else Matters, Restless Spirit
"Ms. Meredith's characters are all well fleshed out with wide ranging motives, especially her lead characters with their fully developed opposing personalities and egos. With sensitivity and insight, she brings them together in love and respect for each other, never melding the two personalities, never subjugating one to the other, but gently reconciling the differences in their religious cultures. As tense as a snow laden power line Intervention roars to the solution like an avalanche, keeping the reader book-bound until the very end. Thanks for a superb read. 5 Daggers!"--All About Murder
HE'D BEEN PACING for over an hour and was not any nearer to a solution than he'd been before. Somehow he had to get through to her. In his mind, he'd rehearsed one speech after another, but he also knew what she was like. No matter how he presented his case, she probably wouldn't let him finish.
She must hear him out. He bashed his fist against the door so violently it flew open and banged again the wall.
He wouldn't let her interrupt or walk away this time.
She was going to hear him out. Somehow, someway she would come around to his way of thinking--no matter what he had to do.
* * * *
DESPITE THE HAPPY circumstance and the wondrous surroundings, an ever-increasing sense of gloom settled over Tempe Crabtree as they drove higher into the Sierra. Forcing a smile, she turned to her husband, Hutch, as he maneuvered his old Ford truck around the switchbacks of the narrow road.
"Bet we get snow before dark." Hutch grinned.
Perhaps the dark clouds gathering overhead, blocking out the sun and creating a premature twilight caused Tempe's dark mood. "Hope it holds off until we reach the lodge." She didn't add that she wished they'd driven her Blazer.
As he often did, Hutch seemed to read her mind. "This old truck will do fine in the snow. I've got chains. You know why I didn't want you to drive the Blazer."
She nodded. Because she was the resident deputy sheriff for Bear Creek, her vehicle, with its official seals and emergency lights, instantly identified her official status.
"This weekend we're going to forget about our jobs. I don't want anyone to know you're in law enforcement. This is going to be our second honeymoon." Behind the tortoise-framed glasses, Hutch's gray eyes sought her affirmation.
Tempe caressed his lightly freckled cheek. His thick auburn hair needed combing as usual. "Most of the people who live in Tapper Grove year-round know I'm the local deputy."
"But we shouldn't run into many of them. With any luck, there won't be a lot of guests at the lodge." His eager anticipation contrasted sharply with her own apprehension.
Tempe wanted to blame her mood on the threatening storm, but suspected her anxiety had more to do with her experience at a recent Indian ceremonial. Though part Yanduchi, Tempe had never considered her ancestry an important part of her life ... until lately.
Although now she treasured memories of her grandmother and the Indian legends she'd told in the past, the wonderful stories had lost importance when Tempe had reached high school. Her straight black hair, golden skin, and high cheekbones had been enough to cause some of her classmates to call her 'half-breed' and other demeaning names.
When her first husband, a highway patrolman, died in the line of duty sixteen years earlier, leaving her with their two-year-old son Blair, Tempe's ethnic mix was the least of her worries. It wasn't until she began working on cases involving other Yanduchis that she again became aware of her heritage.
The recent ceremonial experience had given her a heightened awareness. It wasn't something she fully understood, and certainly not anything she could discuss with her husband, a preacher in the local Christian church. Her previous interest in the spiritual side of her Native American heritage had already caused problems in their relationship.
"Hey, sweetheart, take a look at that." Hutch turned right onto a narrow, paved road leading into a grove of giant sequoia trees. The road curved downward past a meadow surrounded with dark, snow-dusted hillsides. A grazing deer, startled by the approaching truck, lifted its head and stared before leaping gracefully into the thick undergrowth of manzanita and fern. "This is going to be a wonderful weekend."
"I'm sure it will," Tempe said, still trying to shake the oppressive feelings.
The lodge was off to the right, smoke curling upward from stone chimneys at either end of the long, steep roof.
"Tapper Lodge," Hutch announced.
The rustic hotel dominated a community of scattered cabins and vacation homes, some occupied year-round by hardy individuals who didn't mind snowy winters or the torturous drive for supplies to Bear Creek where Tempe and Hutch lived, or twenty miles farther to Dennison, the nearest city. Wide wooden steps led to a verandah that wrapped around the stone-faced front of the lodge, built from trees harvested on the site nearly a hundred years ago. Hutch parked the truck between a wine-colored Jaguar and a black BMW.
Obviously disappointed, he said, "We aren't going to be alone."
"Maybe they're only here for dinner. We'll have the rest of the weekend to ourselves," Tempe said. Though she didn't remember seeing the Jag before, she recognized the BMW. It belonged to a resident of Tapper Grove.
As Hutch opened the truck door, an enormous Chow and St. Bernard mix, golden and furry, galloped down the stairs toward them, tail wagging vigorously. "Hey, there, boy." Hutch leaned over and scratched behind the dog's ears.
"Don't bother the folks, Bear!" An old man lumbered after the animal.
Tempe recognized the lodge's handyman, Aaron Lumb. "Mr. Lumb, how are you?"
Squinting at her, his nut-brown face deeply creased with wrinkles, Lumb asked, "I know you, don't I?"
Smiling, Tempe said, "You certainly do, Aaron."
Limping over to her, one hand outstretched, he said, "Ah, yes, it's Deputy Crabtree. Could hardly recognize you without your uniform. Are you undercover or somethin'?"
Shaking his calloused hand, Tempe laughed. "Just on vacation. I'd like you to meet my husband, Hutch Hutchinson."
"Humph. Never took you for one of them modern females." Lumb scowled at her.
Hutch stepped forward, grinning broadly. "Don't worry, sir. Except for the fact it made it simpler for my wife to keep the name everyone knows her by, our marriage is quite conventional."
"Don't approve of all these newfangled shenanigans. It's no wonder the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Where's your luggage?"
Bear, still wagging his bushy tail, circled them.
Hutch swung their two suitcases out of the bed of the truck. "I can manage," he said, as Lumb reached for them.
"'Spect you can, but if everybody starts taking care of their own bags, Missus Tapper'll be thinking there ain't no use for me around here, and I'll be out of a job."
Hutch handed him the cases.
Tempe and Hutch followed the old man up the steps. Stacks of logs flanked the door; a snow shovel leaned against a woodpile.
"I doubt if you need to worry about losing your job, Aaron," she said. "You're a permanent fixture."
"It's true I been around longer than anyone. Started working here for Mr. Tapper's grandpa when I was just a boy." Lumb threw open the heavy front door and waited for them to enter.
Tempe had been to Tapper Lodge on business several times, but this was her first visit as a guest. She viewed the lobby with a new curiosity.
Becky Tapper, the owner's wife, smiled from behind the reception desk beside the wide staircase. To the left, multi-paned French doors closed off the dining room and bar. On the right, duplicate doors opened into a sitting room dominated by a rock fireplace at the far end.
"Deputy Crabtree, Pastor Hutchinson," Becky said. "Welcome to Tapper Lodge." She turned a large, leather-covered book toward them, handing a pen to Hutch. Her bleached-blonde hair was scooped upward and knotted in place by a blue scarf. Tendrils spilled around her plump, pleasant face. Silver bobbles and rhinestones decorated her blue Western shirt tucked into her jeans, emphasizing her oversized bosom.
"I'm afraid we're going to be full-up tonight." She leaned across the scarred, wooden counter and whispered, "Do you know Mallory Benoit?"
The name sounded familiar, but Tempe couldn't place it. "I'm not sure."
"She's one of those movie people. Lives here in Tapper Grove with her kids. Got a big weekend planned for a bunch of Hollywood folks."
A face joined the name in Tempe's memory. Mallory Benoit was in her mid-thirties. She had a fondness for dark, dramatic clothing. Several years ago she'd won an Oscar, but Tempe couldn't remember why. She was sure Mallory wasn't an actress.
Sounding apologetic, Becky continued, "It was kind of a last-minute thing. I didn't know about it when you made your reservation, Pastor Hutchinson."
"We understand," Hutch said. "We're going to have a wonderful time no matter what." He hugged Tempe. "Isn't that right, sweetheart?"
The beginning of a headache increased her foreboding, but she forced a smile for her husband. "Most certainly."
Leaning closer, Becky lowered her voice. "I gave you our nicest room. The one I keep for honeymoon couples." She handed Hutch, a large, old-fashioned key. "It's kind of off by itself where you won't be bothered. Dinner isn't until seven, but there's coffee, tea and some of my carrot cake in the sitting room to tide you over."
"Sounds wonderful," Tempe said, wishing for an aspirin.
"Take their bags up to the Spring Room, Aaron," Becky directed, unnecessarily, since the old man was already halfway up the steps.
From the landing, the staircase curved to the left, opening onto a long hallway, which ran both directions. Hutch and Tempe hurried to keep up with Lumb. He disappeared around the far corner.
They caught up to him as he pushed open the only door in that section. It led to a room built under the slope of the roof, creating an extremely low ceiling on one side. A brass bed covered with a tulip quilt, and a pile of matching pillow shams was pushed against the wall. Rose-decorated wallpaper trim accented the white paint and floral-printed curtains framed the only window. Despite the mélange of patterns and large-scaled, mismatched furniture, the effect was homey and comforting. There was no phone or television.
Lumb put the suitcases on the floor. "Have a nice stay."
Hutch reached into his pocket for a tip.
Backing away, Lumb said, "No, sir, don't want anything from you. Glad to have some decent folks around. Just hope you won't be bothered by all those outsiders we're expecting."
"I'm sure we can keep out of their way," Hutch said.
Once Lumb had left, Hutch pushed the door shut and held out his arms. "Come here, sweetheart."
Stepping into his embrace, Tempe tried to lose herself in his kiss, to focus only on the strength of his body pressed against hers, the sweetness of his lips. But in the back of her mind, mingled with the niggling pain of the worsening headache, the sinister oppression was impossible to ignore.
Hutch peered at her. "Is something wrong?"
She should have known he would sense her discomfort. Massaging her temple, Tempe said, "I'm getting a headache."
He stepped back and pursed his lips. "Oh? It's going to be like that, is it? Our second honeymoon and you're going to use the headache bit?"
Frowning, she said, "No, Hutch, really..."
"I'm kidding." He smiled and pressed his lips against her forehead.
She laughed, but her head still throbbed.
"We'll have to do something for you because I intend for this weekend to be special for us. Did you bring aspirin?"
"In my suitcase."
Stepping into the bathroom, she found a glass, filled it with tap water, and washed down four pills. Looking around, she smiled. "Come take a look at this."
Hutch leaned against the doorjamb and chuckled. "I wonder how these movie people are going to take to this old-fashioned stuff."
Claw-footed and enormous, an ivory-colored bathtub perched on a platform. A showerhead jutted from exposed pipes, and a rod circled the tub, holding a floral-patterned shower curtain. The old-fashioned toilet had a pull chain. A gathered, rose-covered skirt hid the sink's plumbing; simple shelves on either side held thick, mauve towels with space left for guests' grooming supplies.
"As long as it all works, they shouldn't complain," Tempe said, hoping the medicine would banish both the headache and her disturbing feelings.
Hutch hung his clothes in the armoire while Tempe put her underclothes and nightie into the drawers of a tall dresser. While carrying sweaters from her open suitcase, she said, "I wonder if our clothes will be appropriate."
"What does it matter?" Hutch shrugged. "Even if this group dresses up all the time, we'll fit in with Mr. Lumb and the Tappers. We don't have to mingle with the others."
Tempe closed the drawer, and turned. "This place isn't all that big. A certain amount of togetherness is inevitable unless we stay in our room all the time."
A mischievous twinkle lit Hutch's eye. "Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea."
"Maybe not." Tempe tried to ignore the headache, praying for the medicine to take hold.
Slinging an arm over her shoulder, Hutch said, "Why don't we go downstairs now, before everyone gets here? Have some coffee. Maybe the caffeine will help your head. Won't be too long before dinner, and afterwards we can come back here and try out the bed."
Despite her discomfort, his remark made her laugh. She caressed his cheek. "We could try it out now."
"No matter what, we're going to have a great time."
* * * *
BETWEEN TEMPE'S FIRST and second cup of coffee, Hutch convinced her to sample a sliver of Becky Tapper's carrot cake. Hunger had replaced her headache, and dinner was still a couple of hours away.
They sat among a pile of pillows, striped in dark green, blue, and wine, on a plump couch facing the fireplace. Periodically, Lumb came in to add logs to the crackling fire, but he was the only one.
The large room seemed crowded because of the variety of furniture styles. A Parson's table near the fireplace held two urns, one with coffee and the other hot water, varieties of tea, mugs and saucers, and the cake on a platter. Other tables were squeezed in randomly, stacked with magazines and books. Some held wooden or brass bowls piled high with red and green apples.
Tempe settled herself more comfortably; it was almost as though they were alone, just as they'd hoped. Maybe the haunting feeling meant nothing, merely caused by the headache, which had disappeared, thanks to the combination of caffeine and aspirin.
With his arm draped around her, his thigh pressed warmly against hers, Hutch said, "Isn't this wonderful? I could sit here and enjoy the fire for hours."
"Until dinner anyway. I can't believe how hungry I am."
"Do you want another piece of cake?"
"No, no. I've heard Becky is a terrific cook. I don't want to ruin my appetite." Tempe rested her head against Hutch's shoulder and closed her eyes.
She'd nearly drifted off when a loud, angry voice startled her.
"I don't care what kind of business you're involved in, Mallory. You knew I was coming to talk to you this weekend. We'll come to some kind of agreement about this, or you're going to be very sorry."