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Dark Places: A Red River Mystery
     

Dark Places: A Red River Mystery

5.0 1
by Reavis Z Wortham
 

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At the tail end of 1967, the Parker family once again finds it impossible to hide from a world spinning out of control. Fourteen-year-old Top still can't fit in with their Center Springs, Texas, community or forget recent, vicious crimes. His near-twin cousin Pepper, desperate to escape her own demons, rashly joins the Flower Children flocking to California—just

Overview

At the tail end of 1967, the Parker family once again finds it impossible to hide from a world spinning out of control. Fourteen-year-old Top still can't fit in with their Center Springs, Texas, community or forget recent, vicious crimes. His near-twin cousin Pepper, desperate to escape her own demons, rashly joins the Flower Children flocking to California—just as two businessmen are kidnapped and murdered in the Red River bottoms on the same night a deadly hit and run kills a farmer. Constable Ned Parker wonders if these crimes are connected, but he goes after Pepper, leaving the investigation in the hands of Sheriff Cody Parker.
Parker hires Deputy Anna Sloan, an investigator with an eye toward detail as everyone is eyeing her. Yet it is instinct that propels her after killers through a world nearly forgotten, the hunt’s backdrop one of continuous rain, gloomy skies, and floods. When she’s ambushed, the investigation accelerates into gunfire, chases, and hair-raising suspense.
What of Pepper? Out on Route 66, the Mother Road to California, a man named Crow isn't what he seems. Lies, deceptions, and a band of outlaw motorcyclists proves to the Parkers that no matter where you turn, no matter what you do, the world is full of such darkness that even grandmothers are capable of unspeakable deeds.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
07/27/2015
Set in 1967, Wortham’s engaging fifth Red River mystery (after 2014’s Vengeance Is Mine) focuses on two cousins: aptly named Pepper Parker, the feisty 14-year-old granddaughter of Constable Ned Parker of Center Springs, Tex., and Top Parker, Ned’s grandson, who’s a little older than Pepper and is often mistaken for her twin. Bored with small-town life, Pepper decides to run away to California and manages to talk Cale Westlake, a boy she likes, into going with her. Ned and Pepper’s father get on the trail of the clueless hitchhikers, who run into scam artists, hippies, and bikers on their journey west. Meanwhile, a robbery by three town wastrels goes bad and two visiting strangers are killed, a crime that Sheriff Cody Parker and his new deputy, Anna Sloan, try to solve. Wortham nails the time period, the hardscrabble town, and the people, for whom family loyalties are paramount. Agent: Anne Hawkins, John Hawkins & Associates. (Sept.)
CJ Box
Reavis Z. Wortham is the real thing: a literary voice that's gut-bucket Americana delivered with a warm and knowing Texas twang.
MysteriesEtc
Dark Places is the fifth novel in the Red River Mystery series by author Reavis Z. Wortham. This is a great series published by Poisoned Pen Press. I have immensely enjoyed the first four books in the series. Dark Places is a fabulous addition to this series.~~~Reavis Z. Wortham is an excellent author who not only takes the reader back to the 1960s, he weaves a tale that is impossible to put down. The suspense was intense as he wove the different stories together. Young Top and Pepper are still front and center along with their older Parker relatives. The small town tale centered around the disappearance of two gentlemen, the hit and run of a resident and torrential rains that would not quit. And at the beginning of the tale, young Pepper was still yearning to follow all the young hippies out to San Francisco.~~~Dark Places can easily stand alone but I highly recommend that you read this entire series. It is a wonderful journey back to the old timey world of small town Texas in the 1960s. Dark Places was a pleasure to read. I love these characters!~~~Highly recommend!
NetGalley
Very entertaining book. I'm going to check out the other ones as well.
LJ
In the summer of 1967, everyone is headed to the Haight to wear some flowers in their hair, including Pepper. There is nothing to do in Center Springs, TX, and even 14-year-old Top, Pepper's cousin, wants out. On the night Pepper leaves, two businessmen are murdered and a local farmer is killed in a hit-and-run. Const. Ned Parker, Top's grandfather, heads out after Pepper, leaving Sheriff Cody Parker, Top's uncle, in charge of the investigations. Cody has hired a former Houston police detective to be his lead investigator. But no one in small-town Texas takes a lady investigator seriously, so Dep. Anna Sloan has to forge her own way to bring the bad guys to justice.VERDICTReplete with period details and a strong sense of place, this winning fifth series entry (afterVengeance Is Mine) is as much a coming-of-age story as crime fiction. This series is comparable to Rick Riordan's “Tres Navarre”or Joe Lansdale's “Hap Collins and ­Leonard Pine” books.
Midwest Book Review
In 1967 Center Springs, Texas, bored fourteen year old Pepper Parker persuades Cale Westlake to run away with her and join the Flower Children on the road to California. At the same time her slightly older "twin" cousin Top Parker struggles with being a local misfit.~~~On a deadly night someone kills two businessmen and a hit and run leaves a farmer dead. Instead of investigating the three homicides, Constable Ned Parker travels Route 66 to bring home his daughter Pepper and her companion. Leading the murder inquiries, Sheriff Cody Parker hires Anna Sloan as a deputy to work the cases. Her honed instincts lead Anna to the killers; but her gut fails to keep her safe from these predators on their Dark Places home turf.~~~The fifth Red River historical mystery (see The Right Side Of Wrong and Vengeance Is Mine) is a terrific suspense thriller that transports grateful fans to 1967 small-town Texas and Route 66. The Parker brood has their hands filled between corralling the runaways, and capturing a vehicular homicide killer and the businessmen murderers. Aptly named Dark Places, this is a superb period piece.
Reviewing the Evidence
Reavis Wortham notes in his Acknowledgments section that part of our emotional lives are lived in "dark places," the title of his new novel. He also notes that our prejudices want criminals to somehow look "criminal," to exhibit some kind of hint that, if we were astute enough, we could read the book of life and stay out of harm's way. Wortham's premise is that badness is often illegible; it is busy just next door, or down the street.~~~Dramatis personae: Beatrice Parker, also known as Pepper, bored 16-year-old orphan staying with her grandparents; Top Parker, her cousin and the sheriff's son; Cale Westlake, high-school boy of the "in" clique; Miss Becky Parker and Constable Ned Parker, Pepper and Top's grandparents; Marty Smallwood and John T. West, small-town toughs; Freddy Vines, who clings to the toughs because his lisp makes him unpopular; Deputy John Washington, whose African heritage enables him to keep the law on the other side of the tracks; Deputy Anna Sloan, the first woman on the local police force; Crow, mysterious man who may or may not be a Native American; two businessmen; hippies; the operator; waitresses with hearts of…~~~In the late nineteen-sixties, in Center Springs, a non-existent town in the real county of Lamar (county seat: Paris, Texas) on the Red River, two businessmen come to town to buy real estate. They are a little too free in showing their wallets in front of the locals, and bad things befall them. Constable Ned Parker, the sheriff, and the rest of Center Springs law and order begin looking for two strangers, reported missing.~~~On the same night that the businessmen meet their fate, Pepper and the gang see something they should not have. Hating Center Springs as a hick town far too small to contain her talents, and frightened by what she saw, sixteen-year-old Pepper entices Cale, the high school bully, to steal some money and take her to San Francisco, the land of sophistication, where everyone has flowers in their hair. Constable Ned Parker roars off down Highway 66 to rescue the missing Pepper, and readers are treated to a view of the funky motor hotels and diners, crash pads and bars that lined the legendary highway. On the way, Ned picks up Crow, a man who has no other name, seems to be Native American, and seems to want to help. Like all members of the genus Corvus, Crow has an agenda, but he is willing to watch and observe the strange race of men and their doings.~~~On that same fateful night in Center Springs, an old man, trying to shoo some cattle off the highway and back into the pasture, is hit by a car. Law enforcement is suspicious. When they are not worrying about Pepper or looking for missing persons, members of the sheriff's department visit and re-visit the dead man's strange wife who, instead of weeping, giggles mirthlessly when spoken to.~~~As always, Reavis Wortham's novels are endowed by the charm of a time that seems simpler to us, and by a place whose emotional landscape seems easy to parse. Wortham dots his scene-painting with childhood pranks, such as an attempt to release a tame monkey in the Baptist church on Sunday, and with products that this reader recalls having eaten or used in those long ago days which have given way to now.~~~In this particular Wortham novel, there are several plots and several mysteries, such as, who is Crow, and where is Pepper and, where did those guys disappear to? There may be a few too many balls in the air here. The parallel plots, interesting on their own, do not always reinforce each other, while Wortham's central premise remains: look to the right, look to the left. Of those sitting close by you now, do you know what darkness drives them forward?
PW
Set in 1967, Wortham's engaging fifth Red River mystery (after 2014'sVengeance Is Mine) focuses on two cousins: aptly named Pepper Parker, the feisty 14-year-old granddaughter of Constable Ned Parker of Center Springs, Tex., and Top Parker, Ned's grandson, who's a little older than Pepper and is often mistaken for her twin. Bored with small-town life, Pepper decides to run away to California and manages to talk Cale Westlake, a boy she likes, into going with her. Ned and Pepper's father get on the trail of the clueless hitchhikers, who run into scam artists, hippies, and bikers on their journey west. Meanwhile, a robbery by three town wastrels goes bad and two visiting strangers are killed, a crime that Sheriff Cody Parker and his new deputy, Anna Sloan, try to solve. Wortham nails the time period, the hardscrabble town, and the people, for whom family loyalties are paramount.
Mystery Maven
My second mystery read was another in Reavis Z Wortham's “A Red River Mystery,” “Dark Places.” This novel is set in the era of flower children in 1967. Pepper, the 14 year old grandchild of our protagonist, Constable Ned Parker from Center Springs, Texas, decides to run away with her sometime boyfriend, Cale Westlake in hopes of reaching San Francisco to start a new, carefree life. The trials and tribulations of being on the road with very little money and no food or supplies soon brings both Cale and Pepper face to face with reality, but not before they run into trouble with some underhanded store owners, some pimps and prostitutes and a bunch of hippies, and a motorcycle gang. Meanwhile, Ned goes after Pepper and meets up with an American Indian named Crow who has some ulterior motives for helping out.~~~“Dark Places” is a nostalgic ride down Highway 66 from Texas to Barstow exploring some of the darker sides of the “summer of love” in 1967. I enjoyed this book every bit as much as Worthham's other books in this series.
Historical Novel Society
It's 1967 in Lamar County, Texas, a place for young and old to easily become bored. Fourteen-year-old Pepper convinces Cale, a boy she sort-of likes, to run off and join hippies in California. Pepper's father and her lawman grandfather chase after them. Meanwhile, back in town, an old dairy farmer gets run over in his own cow pasture, and two men, flashing money and given to wearing suits, go missing. Sheriff Cody Parker and his new deputy, good-looking Anna Sloan, try to figure out the old farmer's death and whatever happened to the missing businessmen. Days of hard rain from a Gulf hurricane complicate everything. Lots going on, but it works.~~~Wortham's people speak as they did then a car's accelerator pedal is the “foot feed” and every locale feels real. Readers will cheer for and ache with the good folks, and secondary characters hold their own. Melva, the dead farmer's wife with her out-of-place giggling, is a scene-stealing enigma. Crow, a wandering Native American, is one clever badass. Even a cadaver-smelling Springer spaniel, brought around to help search for the missing, is authentic. The “dark places” inhabited by the malevolent perpetrators are indeed very dark.~~~The novel's short chapters fit both the fast pace and the deftly spare actions and details. Some readers not familiar with Wortham may struggle a little with the opening chapters, which hop around among many characters, multiple points of view, and several locations. But the rhythm of Wortham's writing, transporting us back in time, soon takes hold and is well worth the reader's efforts.
FMAM - Cynthia Clark
DARK PLACES is part of the series Red River Mystery. However, one does not have to read them in order to enjoy and understand what is going on. DARK PLACES is a standalone book within a series!~~~Reavis Wortham is a charming, delightful writer than interjects humor with a mystery to keep the pace moving. DARK PLACES is a fun ride! Highly enjoyable!
Dallas Morning News
In this fifth novel in his Red River Mystery series, Frisco writer Reavis Z. Wortham has felt compelled “to explore the darkness that surrounds us all.” And explore it he does, in a well-written, multifaceted tale of murder and cultural discontent in a small, northeast Texas town near the Oklahoma border in 1967.
Library Journal
08/01/2015
In the summer of 1967, everyone is headed to the Haight to wear some flowers in their hair, including Pepper. There is nothing to do in Center Springs, TX, and even 14-year-old Top, Pepper's cousin, wants out. On the night Pepper leaves, two businessmen are murdered and a local farmer is killed in a hit-and-run. Const. Ned Parker, Top's grandfather, heads out after Pepper, leaving Sheriff Cody Parker, Top's uncle, in charge of the investigations. Cody has hired a former Houston police detective to be his lead investigator. But no one in small-town Texas takes a lady investigator seriously, so Dep. Anna Sloan has to forge her own way to bring the bad guys to justice. VERDICT Replete with period details and a strong sense of place, this winning fifth series entry (after Vengeance Is Mine) is as much a coming-of-age story as crime fiction. This series is comparable to Rick Riordan's "Tres Navarre"or Joe Lansdale's "Hap Collins and Leonard Pine" books.
Kirkus Reviews
2015-06-15
1967: a fifth trip back to Center Springs, Texas, focuses on one regular's attempt to bust out of the place for good. "Focuses" may not be the best word, since once all the cylinders start firing, Wortham interleaves four different stories. Pepper Parker, still recovering at 14 from the traumas visited on her by earlier installments (Vengeance Is Mine, 2014, etc.), yields to Baptist preacher's son Cale Westlake's suggestion that the two of them hit the road together, bound for San Francisco. Pepper's same-aged cousin, Top, tells his own story of missing her while he tries to stay out of the way of all the grown-ups looking for her and convinced that he knows where she's headed. Pepper's father, James Parker, and his own father, Constable Ned Parker, fan out along the winding road to California looking for the missing girl, making new friends and enemies at every turn. Anna Sloan, the new deputy Top's uncle, Sheriff Cody Parker, has brought from Houston, makes increasingly pointed inquiries about the hit-and-run death of inoffensive farmer Leland Hale. The first story, in which Pepper fights off both menacing bikers and the folks who rescue her from them as she chases the Summer of Love, is the one most deeply rooted in the period; the second is the one most obviously calculated to appeal to series fans; the third, tangling Ned with a Comanche who calls himself Crow, is the most eventful; the fourth packs the most mystery and, despite all indications, the biggest surprises. Once again, Wortham supplies something for everyone—especially fans of summer movies who love chase sequences so much that they don't care who's chasing whom.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781464204241
Publisher:
Poisoned Pen Press
Publication date:
09/01/2015
Series:
Red River Series , #5
Pages:
370
Sales rank:
548,170
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Dark Places

A Red River Mystery


By Reavis Z. Wortham

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2015 Reavis Z. Wortham
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0424-1


CHAPTER 1

The oil road stretching into the darkness made me feel queasy, giving me a sense that I'd been there before. Some folks call it déjà vu, but in Lamar County, Texas, we call it swimmy-headed.

The dull, sick feeling came from dreams of a flat, empty highway disappearing into a dark fog. The problem was my dreams have a bad habit of coming true.

My grandmother, Miss Becky, says it's a Poisoned Gift, and she's right. I'm not the only one who has it. My Uncle Cody sometimes dreams of what's to come, and not too long ago, I found out my Grandpa Ned once had a vision that no one ever talks about.

That's another reason I's half-sick. We were close to that spooky old Ordway Place. I was as afraid of that house as I was of a bear, and it scared the peewaddlin' out of me to even ride past in the truck. I'd seen ghosts coming down the staircase when Pepper lived there, and then only a few months ago, it was a slaughterhouse when Grandpa, Uncle Cody, and Mr. John Washington had a bloody shootout with a bunch of Las Vegas gangsters.

And here we were within spittin' distance of it again.

It hadn't been dark long, and we were shining flashlights every which-a-way, up in trees, and on each other. I bet from a distance that night, the six of us kids looked like a search party coming down the road.

Pepper kept her light pointed at her feet in case there was a snake on the still-warm road. Lots of folks who don't know us think we're twins. They can tell right quick though, after they've been around us for a while, that we're nothing alike.

Pepper loved adventure, but I'd rather have been home with a book. Instead, I was out cattin' around with a bunch of fart-knockers to keep her out of trouble.

The head fartknocker was Cale Westlake. He gave me that look that he thought was cool, but it only made me know for sure I still didn't like him worth a flip. He'd taken to keeping his long hair out of his eyes with a silly strip of leather, like an Indian.

I usually didn't want to have no part of Cale and his gang of jerks, but Pepper'd been acting like she didn't have good sense because she started liking him again. He found out right quick that Pepper wasn't going to sneak out of her daddy's house and go adventuring with him that Friday night without me.

The Toadies rolled their eyes and held flashlights under their chins, making spooky faces. I was already bored with that. "Let's go over to Mr. Sims' pool."

Cale shined his light in my face for pure-dee meanness, blinding me. When I closed my eyes, he grabbed me in a headlock. I tried to push away, but he squeezed tighter. "Holler calf rope."

"No!"

He twisted his arm, grinding my head. "Holler calf rope!"

I tried to play possum, but it hurt too bad. "Okay! Calf rope!"

He turned loose. "You don't get to talk out here, Mouse. Remember that. You're just along for the ride, so shut up." He'd taken to calling me that to get my goat. "Frankie here says ol' Doc Daingerfield bought the Ordway house and has a monkey chained to that big pear tree out back. That's where we're going."

I felt sick at my stomach again as I rubbed my tingling ears.

Frankie felt pretty important to have information we didn't know. "Daddy said Doc Daingerfield has more money than he has sense to sink all that cash in putting this house back into shape."

Cale worked the beam of his flashlight over Pepper while Frankie talked, like he was painting her with a brush. The yellow light went up from her belt, past the fringe vest and big-sleeved shirt, and then stopped on her chest. I don't think he realized he was a-doin' it, because when he glanced over and saw me watching, he shined it back on Frankie. "I don't give a shit about that. Tell them about the monkey."

"Oh." Frankie stopped to regain his thought. "Uh, well, him and Daddy were talking about Daingerfield retiring from his vet'nary practice and moving here from town. That's when I saw the monkey climb out of the tree and pick up something off the ground. Then he shinnied back up there quick as you please. They got a harness on 'im and a long dog chain, so he won't go nowhere."

Pepper stuffed her fingers in the pocket of her jeans. "So what difference does it make?"

"We're gonna steal that monkey."

To tell the truth, the idea of a monkey was intriguing. "What are you gonna do with a stole monkey?"

My question threw Cale off. "Well ..."

The idea popped out of my mouth before I realized it. "Hey, how about letting it loose in the Baptist church on Sunday morning?"

For the first time since I'd come to live in Center Springs a little over three years earlier, the kids looked at me with some respect. Even Pepper was shocked. "Shit! That's brilliant, but why the Baptist church?"

"Because I don't want to scare Miss Becky at the Assembly of God, and yours is the biggest one we have, next to the Presbyterians, so there'll be more people."

"That's it, then." Cale waved his hand, as if he was blessing the idea. His daddy was the Baptist preacher, and he didn't have much use for any of the other churches. He led off, with the rest of us lined up like baby ducks. "Lights out."

We used the silvery light of the three-quarter moon to cross the pasture toward the road. Bringing up the rear, Pepper whispered in my ear. "It's a good idea for these dumbasses, but what'n hell are you doing?"

I realized that I was tired of being by myself all the time with only Pepper to hang out with, and lately, she was being a horses' ass about anything and everything if it didn't have to do with them hippies and California.

"Hey, it sounded like a good idea to me."

"Well, it ain't smart."

Her sudden turnabout had me off balance. I never did understand how her mind worked. "None of this is smart, but we're out here 'cause you been making goo-goo eyes at that fool up there in the lead."

"They're not goo-goo eyes. He's not so bad to hang out with now that he's let his hair grow out, and besides, he hates Center Springs as much as I do. I'm scared to death I'll never get anywhere other'n where I'm from."

She'd been complaining about our community for quite a while, mostly after she started listening to that new kind of rock 'n' roll music and watching them hippie kids talk about peace and love and the new generation.

"You're only going to get in trouble hanging around with him." I sounded like Grandpa.

A ball of fear caught up with me again when that big ol' spooky house full of bloody murder and ghosts came into view. It rose above the trees like a nightmare and it took everything I had to get moving. Stomach clenched like a condemned man walking to the gallows, and shivering like a Chihuahua, I crossed the road.

We stopped beside the tired old garage. I'd already spotted the chain wrapped around the pear tree. Pepper leaned around me and then ducked back against the peeling boards. Her whisper wasn't much more quiet than her everyday voice. "Shit! That chain's on there with a bolt. We don't have any tools with us."

"No problem." Cale unfolded a sharp pocketknife. "Frankie says Cheeta there is wearing a harness. Rex, we'll cut it off and use your belt as a collar until we find some rope."

"It won't fit around a monkey's neck, it'll be too big."

"We'll poke another hole in it."

"Nope, it's new and Mama will kill me if she found out."

Cale glared like Rex owed him money. "All right, then. We can wrap it around his chest a couple of times and pull it tight like a girth."

I wanted to tell him that I doubted the monkey would sit still while strangers hacked at his harness with a pocketknife and then strapped him tight with a belt, but I decided not to open my mouth.

Goosebumps rose as I snuck up to that gnarly pear tree. The chain disappeared into the darkness. I shuddered, staring upward, every muscle in my body twitching like I'd stuck my finger in a light socket.

Cale and the others strolled right up to it like they were supposed to be there. Frankie grabbed the chain and gave it a tug. He must have felt that since he'd been the first one to see the monkey, he knew all about them.

He gave it a second yank, harder, like pulling on a vine. I guess he thought the monkey might just fall out, or come down like a puppy. "It's tight up there. You think it's wrapped around a limb or something?"

Cale studied on it like he was doing an arithmetic problem, but I knew his grades and there wasn't any hope he could figure it out. "Swing on it and see."

Before Rex could bear down on the chain, I aimed my light up in the tree and the whole world went to pieces. Two dogs came roaring at us from under the porch. I guess they were sound asleep and woke up when we started yammering at one another. We were lucky they were chained to the porch or I believe they'd have eaten us alive. Instead of trying to bite us, they got tangled up and went to fighting.

I wanted to scream, but nothing worked right. Pepper grabbed my arm and for a moment, I couldn't breathe. That's when I thought I was gonna die.

I guess that old monkey didn't like for anyone to shine a light on him in the middle of the night, or maybe he was laying asleep on a limb and the barking dogs startled him. He fell.

I've been scared before, but nothing like the horror I felt when that chain-rattling creature suddenly dropped on me and grabbed aholt with hands. The monkey clawed at me and I went to squalling and a-running. It was screaming in my ear and all I could see were lips pulled back to show a mouth full of man-eating teeth.

If I'd been one of them dope-smoking hippies, I would have probably understood strange sensations on and in my head, but it was the monkey's tail wrapped around my throat that sealed the deal. That kind of thing is unnatural.

Pepper dropped her light and fled the scene, running across the yard, thinking there might be another killer monkey about to attack her. Racing through the darkness, she was short enough to run under the empty, sagging clothesline. Cale wasn't so lucky and dang near throttled himself.

While they went one way, I skinned off away from the Death House. Despite the monkey, I was making a pretty clean getaway too and had a good head of steam when I hit the end of that chain. The monkey had such a tight grip on my head that when we ran out of slack it yanked me right off my feet.

The last thing I saw was my P.F. Flyers rising in the moonlight. I slammed to the ground like a poleaxed steer and lay there with the wind knocked out of me, which is probably what saved me from further monkey molestations. Cheeta didn't like being on the ground, so he bit my ear for good measure and scampered back up his tree to sit there, jabbering and throwing rotten pears at anything that moved.

Somebody picked me up and set me on my feet. "You all right, son?" My head spun for a second until I could focus on Doc Daingerfield. His white head almost glowed in the moonlight. "I said you all right?"

I nodded.

"You're Top Parker, right?"

"Yessir."

"C'mon in the house. Let's doctor that bite on your ear."

I didn't answer, because there was nothing to say.

Once on the porch, Doc Daingerfield held the door. I stopped in the spill of yellow light. Cale, Pepper, and the Toadies were long gone.

He gave me a little nudge into the foyer. "Did you learn anything tonight?"

"Yessir. Don't mess with a monkey in a pear tree."

CHAPTER 2

The warm nighttime breeze carried a blend of fresh popcorn, cigarettes, and the smoke from burning mosquito repellant coils into the crowded '51 Dodge truck. Marty Smallwood rested his left elbow next to the silver cast-metal speaker hanging in the open window, a can of warm Miller High Life dangling loose between his fingertips. John T. West, celebrating his recently regained freedom, mirrored Marty's position from the shotgun seat. He'd only been out of the Fort Worth jail for a month, and still had the stink of the place in his nostrils.

Freddy Vines was, as usual, the baloney in the sandwich, trying to watch the picture around the windshield's center dividing post.

On the only drive-in movie screen in Chisum, Texas, Warren Beatty stuck a cigar in his mouth and hefted two pistols in Bonnie and Clyde.

Marty wished he was alone in the truck with his ex-girlfriend, Shirley Fields. He'd-a lot rather have his hand under her sweater and thinking of Faye Dunaway than sit with the same two boneheads he'd been running with since they were all knee-high to a grasshopper.

"Watch this." He pulled the headlights on, lighting the car ahead, and the startled couple snuggled up in the seat. A horn honked as the couple flipped them off in the glare. Other horns answered from across the drive-in.

Marty laughed and slapped the lights off.

"That wathn't burry funny." Freddy's lisp had been a lifetime embarrassment. He was careful to disagree with anything Marty and John T. said or did, because they might not let him hang out with them anymore. Sometimes they made fun of his speech impediment, but neither one ever turned down his offer to pay for food, gas, or beer.

"Who's that?" John T. squinted through the smoke rising from a cigarette in the corner of his mouth. Right hand occupied with the beer can, he pointed with his little finger. He always moved with a minimum of effort.

The well-dressed man in question threaded his way through the rows of cars, balancing a cardboard tray full of popcorn and watered-down soft drinks. He was obviously a stranger to Chisum, because no one wore suits to a drive-in on Friday nights in northeast Texas. He stopped at a 1964 Impala parked ahead and to the right.

Marty barely took his eyes off the gigantic screen. He fancied himself as cool as Beatty. "I dunno. Some guy I saw in front of the courthouse a couple of days ago, hanging around with another guy, taking pictures in front of the statue and hammin' it up."

The man passed drinks through the open window. Marty twisted the speaker dial and lowered the tinny volume. "Guy dressed like that needs somebody to bring them down a peg or two."

"I can do it." John T. drained his rodeo-cool beer and pulled another from the cardboard box under his feet. He levered a triangular hole in the top with a church key hanging on a string around his neck and cut a vent hole on the opposite side.

"Whath the matter with you guys? It cost uth a dollar and a half to get in here and you're talking over the movie. We're gettin' to the beth part."

"Thut up, Freddy." Marty's response was without emphasis or expression. "I bet they're rich."

"What makes you say that?"

"They're driving a brand new car and wearing suits to the drive-in. Only rich people would do that."

The man opened the driver's door, but the dome light only allowed a glimpse of dark suits and oily hair slicked back and smooth. When he slid into the seat and slammed the door, the metal speaker jumped off the window.

"Dumb bastards." John T. lit snapped his Zippo alight with a practiced flip the girls always liked, and blew smoke into the night air. "You can break the glass that a-way."

"Rich people don't care."

Marty studied the car before turning his attention to the sedan beside them. He could only see a girl's leg, since she was sitting under the driver's arm. He tried to peek under the roofline, but with no luck. "Why do you think them rich guys came here tonight?"

John T. shrugged and watched two giggling teenage girls pass on their way to the concession stand. He unconsciously pulled the short sleeve of his tight tee-shirt higher over his bicep.

Marty reached past Freddy and flipped the pack of Camels from John T.'s other sleeve. He shook one out, lipped it, and scratched a kitchen match to light. "Let's have some fun with those city fellers."

"Like what?"

Marty blew a thick stream of smoke through both nostrils. "Like take 'em on a snipe hunt."

The cruel Southern rite of passage involved taking an unsuspecting victim into the dark woods and leaving them there with the empty promise that a fictional bird would run into a bag.

John T. cut his eyes through the smoke. "Strangers won't go with you. That sounds like something Knothead here would say."

Freddy wished they could get back to the movie. "How about thome popcorn? I'll buy."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Dark Places by Reavis Z. Wortham. Copyright © 2015 Reavis Z. Wortham. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

As a boy, award-winning writer Reavis Z. Wortham hunted and fished the river bottoms near Chicota, Texas, the inspiration for his fictional Center Springs. The author of Doreen’s 24 HR Eat Gas Now Café as well as the acclaimed Red River mysteries, Reavis is humor editor and frequent contributor for Texas Fish and Game Magazine, writing on everything from fishing to deer hunting. His work has also appeared in American Cowboy, Texas Sporting Journal, and several other magazines. A retired educator of 35 years, he and wife Shana live in Frisco, Texas.
www.reaviszwortham.com

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Dark Places: A Red River Mystery 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
PoCoKat More than 1 year ago
Dark Places is the fifth novel in the Red River Mystery series by author Reavis Z. Wortham. This is a great series published by Poisoned Pen Press. I have immensely enjoyed the first four books in the series. Dark Places is a fabulous addition to this series. Reavis Z. Wortham is an excellent author who not only takes the reader back to the 1960s, he weaves a tale that is impossible to put down. The suspense was intense as he wove the different stories together. Young Top and Pepper are still front and center along with their older Parker relatives. The small town tale centered around the disappearance of two gentlemen, the hit and run of a resident and torrential rains that would not quit. And at the beginning of the tale, young Pepper was still yearning to follow all the young hippies out to San Francisco. Dark Places can easily stand alone but I highly recommend that you read this entire series. It is a wonderful journey back to the old timey world of small town Texas in the 1960s. Dark Places was a pleasure to read. I love these characters! Highly recommend!