Clearcut: Murder in a National Forest
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by Lynda Douglas
Description: Claire Mitchell Evers and her husband Kyle leave their jobs with the Forest Service behind while they honeymoon in North Carolina. There is more behind the trip than romance, though. Claire wants to search for her family roots in the communities around Asheville. She soon discovers more is hidden in the mountains of Appalachia than her long lost relatives. A Native American girl is dead and their friend, Hank Sawyer, a fellow Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, is accused of her murder. Someone goes to great lengths to place the blame squarely on Hank's shoulders. Kyle must risk everything to save his friend. The lines between Claire's search for her family and her husband's search for a murderer keep crossing, muddying up the facts. An attempt on Claire's life seems to be tied to the murder investigation. The question is why? Unless the killer is closer to home than they think.
eBook Publisher: Treble Heart Books, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: January 2006
16 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [339 KB]
Reading time: 233-327 min.
Now that Claire's eyes had adjusted to the subdued lighting, she moved with greater ease. She'd passed the outhouse and was approaching the barn when she suddenly stopped. Why would Aunt Addy be out here at all? What could possibly induce her to go to the creek this time of the night, and even if she had, how did she ring the bell? She wouldn't be on this path at all.
How she knew this now and hadn't realized it before, she couldn't say. Claire retreated up the path a few feet until she heard something moving between her and the house.
An old panic rose in her throat, and she shivered from a cold that had nothing to do with the dew or the night air. She turned slowly, looking at the trees. She heard their leaves telling her what leaves long ago had said. "Run! Run! Run!" And she did run, straight toward the creek, and away from the sound of feet squishing through damp leaves behind her.
The path ended at the water's edge. The babble of the stream's music became a menacing roar that drowned out the approach of danger. Claire listened, inclining her head first right, and then left. The only sound was the rush of water over rocks worn smooth from a lifetime of spring thaws.
How deep is the creek at this point? She tried to remember. There were rocks above and below the water and deeper pools where the fish swam. Should I try to cross here or should I work my way up stream?
She stole a look behind her. Nothing. Am I imagining things? Not the bell. Someone rang that bell. And where is Aunt Addy? Whose plaintive whispers did I hear?
She skirted Aunt Addy's viewing rock. Hunkered down behind it, she peered into the darkness shrouding the path she'd just left. She saw no one. The sounds she'd heard--thought she'd heard--were silent now.
Have I lost my mind? Have the terrors of last year finally driven me to this, to panic over everyday events?
Disjointed pictures flashed through her mind. The bell rope's coil, the hook that held it to the railing, the unexpected peal of the bell in the night. Had they conspired with the wind to create a threat? Was it only a perceived threat? Could the wind in the early evening rainstorm have torn the bell rope loose, even made the bell ring?
Claire swiped at tears of despair. Couldn't she trust her instincts anymore? How like a fool she must look hiding here in the dark, hiding from her own nightmares.
Her legs ached and the soles of her feet throbbed from stone bruises. She'd lost one of her slippers. She sighed, pushed her palms against her knees, and stood up.
A sudden impact from behind propelled her into the water. Her ribs burned. Her elbows scraped against the sandy bottom. Her cheek pressed into the sand and pebbles. She couldn't get her head above the water. She couldn't breathe.
Her head-down position put her at a disadvantage. She couldn't get up. She couldn't roll free of the weight pressing between her shoulder blades. Drawing her knees further into the water succeeded only in pushing her head in deeper. Icy water poured down her throat and into her stomach. She tried to hold her breath--had to hold her breath. Her muscles were flaccid now. Her body went limp in the water. She was slipping away. A rush of bubbles from her nose percolated around her face and rose to the surface. I'm going to die.