Excerpts from the Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat mysteries ii

from book 2                           watch the book trailer

Sweet Corn, Fields, Forever  swcffFrtcvr

“Sometimes a new beginning is someone else’s end,”
— from “The End’s in the Beginning” by Tyler McCloud

There’s one thing about writin’ a country song. You have to know where to begin. It might be you start at the end. Or you start with a chorus that highlights the main point of the song. It don’t matter where. It just has to be the best place to start.

I came into this song a little ways into the second verse, but the song itself started way back, before my guitar was built. So I reckon we’ll just start off at the beginning.

I’m Tory McCloud.

Some days before I pulled into Albany with my band, Jason Fields and his friend Mackenzie Wilder — Doctor Mackenzie Wilder, she’d tell you — walked the halls of his fancy new Research and Design Center. Jason was showing off his new building to her. Besides his friend, Mackenzie is his company doctor. He’s a bit sweet on her, too, but nothin’ serious.

I wasn’t there, of course, but Mackenzie and Jason eventually told me all about it. As Mackenzie told it, they were on the last leg of their little tour and headed back to meet up with the press when they noticed a problem with one of the conference room doors.

Now, you all should know that Jason Fields is a detail person, and he designed most of this complex himself. A door having a problem, however tiny, wasn’t something Jason would put up with. So they had to check it out.

Jason reached out to pull it shut, but as he started to grip the knob, his movement pushed the door inward. It bounced back. Frowning, Jason pushed it again, harder.

It bumped against something and held, sounding exactly like someone bumping a door with his toe. Now, no one bumps toes against doors in silence, says Mackenzie, unless they are hiding. Or unconscious. Or maybe dead. She started worrying right then.

Jason put some force behind things and pushed the door open enough to get through. He slid into the room, flipping on the light, and turned to look behind the door.

It was Mackenzie who saw the toe of the cowboy boot first. Saw that it lay at an angle that meant it was still on someone’s foot. When she told me that, I thought about how I would have known what was what quicker if I’d been the one to see that boot.

She pushed in alongside Jason as he squatted down beside this young cowboy dressed in a twill jacket and jeans. He was face down, arms pressed palms down like he was ready to do some push-ups, knees bent a little like he was pullin’ them out of the way of the door.

Mackenzie checked for his pulse. Nothing. She hurried to check his neck, and her fingers found what her eyes had missed: a silver strand embedded in his flesh. He wore his hair styled long and colored blonde, and it covered that part of his neck pretty well. The first thing she did when she felt that strand was to brush his hair out of the way. Then she saw the color of his face.

“Jason! Help me!”

They grabbed the young man’s shoulders to roll him over, and regretted it right away.

It’s one thing, Mackenzie told me, to see someone dead. She’s a doctor; she expects it now and then. It’s another thing to see someone who’s been strangled.

I closed my eyes when she told me. I didn’t want to picture it.

And then she realized that he was barely dead, or newly dead, however she put it. Point is, whoever murdered this cowboy had to still be in the building. Jason had turned away from the contorted face. He reached for a wall phone with only a ‘possum pallor on his cheeks giving his emotion away.

“Security. This is Fields. We’ve a problem in Conference Room L24. Call 911 and secure the building and grounds.” He listened as someone protested. “Foster, we have a dead body in here. Do what I said.”

Mackenzie smoothed the jacket back over the man’s shirt. It was a Western shirt, red and black and white with silver threads shot through it. A shirt that didn’t belong on a dead man. Silver threads that seemed to match the wire cuttin’ through his flesh. She stood up.

“You okay? This is pretty grisly.” She checked Jason’s pulse surreptitiously, resting her hand on his wrist as she talked. It hammered. “You okay?”

He nodded his head to the question in her voice, but didn’t seem to hear her. In fact, his head began to circle and bob as he stared at the body spread out on the carpet. She stepped in front of him to get him to focus on her.

“Jason. You’ve got guests out there that are going to want to know what’s going on. Chamber of Commerce. Media people. Can your men handle it? Do you need to go out there?” She snapped her fingers in front of his nose.

He came back for a moment. “I’ll handle it, Mackie. Excuse me.” He moved her aside and knelt beside the figure. With long fingers he brushed strands of hair away from the forehead and eyes, eyes bulging from the blood-suffused face, and then pulled his hand back and stared.

His own eyes reddened and teared. Mackie took a step forward, but there were footsteps sounding down the hallway, heavy muffled thuds rushing closer. Jason rose, shaking his head.

“I know this guy, Mackie. He has ? had a distinctive face. Even like this I could tell it was — his name’s Tyler McCloud.”

“Tyler McCloud — the country music singer?” The footsteps had halted outside the door. Someone grasped the door handle.

” Yes. I knew him some years ago. A solid performer. Good songwriter, too, but a little tricky to deal with. Real star personality even then. He’s the guy ”

The door swung open.

” He’s the reason I don’t write country songs anymore. ”

New York State Trooper Ted Matheson strode into the room.


continue reading excerpts …

Where the Bodies Lie Buried (book 1)

Flying Purple People Seater (book 3)