Ann Ranson hates golf and when her drive leaves a man sprawled on the next green, it's clear the feeling is mutual. But then she realizes the man is dead and her golf ball hasn't killed him - he's been stabbed! Sheriff Lark Swenson and State Detective Lacey Smith investigate the murder, with no shortage of suspects. The victim was thwarting developent interests in the increasingly popular vacation spot of Door County, Wisconsin. Add to that a baffling rash of summer home robberies, and Lark and Lacey have their hands full again.
About the Author
Originally from Parkersburg, West Virginia, K. C. Greenlief is a hospital administrator. She and her husband live in Nebraska. She is the author of Death at the Door and Cold Hunter's Moon.
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Death at the Door
By K. C. Greenlief
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2003 K. C. Greenlief
All rights reserved.
May 27, 2001 — 9 A.M. — Door County, Wisconsin
"I hate golf, I hate golf, I hate golf," Ann Ranson mumbled, in time with each step, as she trudged around the green to look for her ball in the rough. Even the beauty of the Gibraltar State Park Golf Course, nestled between Fish Creek and Ephraim, in Door County, Wisconsin, couldn't improve her mood. They were only on hole seven but she was quite sure she had found her personal hell on earth: eighteen holes of golf. With the exception of winning a bet with her husband on the second hole when she had accidentally sunk a twenty-foot putt, her game had sucked. As she brushed the rough back with her sand wedge, she imagined sending each of her clubs flying over the cliff on the next hole. She found her ball and whacked it back onto the green.
Ann decided to start fresh on the eighth hole and put the "I hate golf" mantra out of her head. Not that it did a bit of good. Instead of sailing her clubs over the cliff, she drove her ball over the side and down to another green two hundred feet below. She flung her club down and went to see where the ball had landed.
"Sweet mother," she mumbled, staring down at the man sprawled on the green below. She ran to her husband, John, and their friend Lark Swenson, who were setting up their tee shots.
"John, my golf ball went over the cliff and I think it hit a guy in the head and knocked him out."
"Shit." John Ranson reached down to pick up his ball. "How in the hell did you hit a guy in the head with a golf ball when you couldn't hit the side of a barn from this distance?"
"I don't know." Ann threw her hands up. "Don't make it worse than it already is."
"Did you yell fore?" Lark asked, shaking his head at how much of a nuisance women could be on the golf course.
"Shut up." Ann gave him the evil eye.
"Tomorrow Lark and I'll play golf by ourselves. If you aren't in jail for assault, you can go shopping," John said as they got in their golf cart and sped around the curving lane to the green below.
Ann didn't think the man had moved since she'd seen him from the top of the cliff. He lay on his stomach, his arms and legs spread out from his torso. Lark bent down, checked for a carotid pulse, and felt nothing. He shouted at John to take the cart and get an ambulance and motioned at Ann to help turn the man over. They gingerly maneuvered him onto his back. Ann, a nurse, silently prayed they weren't risking a spinal cord injury.
"At least we know it wasn't your golf ball," Lark said as he surveyed the man's blood-covered shirt. "Looks like the guy's been stabbed." Lark again felt for a pulse while Ann bent the man's head back to check his breathing. He wasn't moving any air so she got in position to do mouth-to-mouth.
"You do compressions." She pointed to the man's chest for Lark to start CPR and began breathing into the man's mouth.
Although the paramedics arrived in less than ten minutes, Ann could have sworn she had been doing mouth-to-mouth for hours. Unbelievably, the paramedics put the guy on a cardiac monitor and were able to shock him back into a heart rhythm. It was a very irregular heartbeat but better than nothing. They put a breathing tube down his throat, loaded him into the ambulance, and sped out of the park, sirens blaring.
Ann's knees creaked as she stood up, reminding her that at forty-three she was no longer a spring chicken. She attempted to smooth her unruly dark blond, shoulder-length hair back into shape and pulled her navy T-shirt down over her khakis. She wondered why, with all the dieting she had done before vacation, her size ten slacks were feeling snug. Thank goodness she'd brought some size twelves with her.
She also wondered why she ran into so much trouble on her vacations. Last Thanksgiving her dogs had dragged a boot containing the remains of a human foot into the yard. She glanced over at Lark, who was surveying the green, and thought back to how they had met when he, as the new Big Oak County sheriff, had come to investigate the bones. After the investigation Lark and John, both avid golfers, had become friends.
Now it was a body on the golf course. She wondered if she was being punished for taking a much-needed break from her administrator responsibilities at the hospital. She knew her assistant, also a nurse, had things well under control, but she couldn't stop herself from digging her cell phone out of her golf bag and making a call to Mason County Memorial to find out how things were going.
The Ransons and Sheriff Lark Swenson lived in Big Oak, Wisconsin, about forty miles south of Lake Superior. When they had left home on Friday to drive down to Door County, Big Oak had snow covering most of the ground and ice floating on the surrounding lakes.
The house supervisor told her that things had warmed up on Saturday, and Mason County Memorial had received four near-drowning victims from the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. Teenagers from Park Falls had been out fishing when their boat capsized. They had been stabilized and sent a hundred miles south by helicopter to the big medical center in Marshfield. It was a miracle they'd survived. Summer season had started with a bang in Big Oak as well as in Door County. No one needed her for anything in Big Oak so she hung up and walked back over to John, who was standing on the side of the green.
Ann, John, and Lark were talking with the park rangers when a Door County sheriff's department car pulled up. A short, stout man with a ruddy complexion climbed out of the driver's side. He took off his hat and smoothed his full head of silver hair into place. He mopped beads of sweat off his forehead as he looked around the green.
"I assume this is the place." He glanced up at the cliff face behind them.
"You just missed the ambulance," Ann said.
"Saw it flying out the entrance of the park. Sheriff Ray Skewski." He thrust his hand out at Ann as he glanced at Lark and John.
After introductions, Sheriff Skewski asked them to stick around. He talked briefly with the park rangers before they left to get names and addresses and start preliminary interviews with all the golfers on the course. A sheriff's car now sat just off the highway at the entrance of the golf course. Anyone trying to leave would be interviewed and their identification would be checked.
A state police car pulled up and a short, dark-haired, balding man in plain clothes climbed out. Ann recognized Joel Grenfurth immediately and a smile spread across her face. He had been one of the Wisconsin State Police detectives who had investigated the bones she had found in her yard last winter.
"What the hell are you guys doing here?" Joel asked as he trotted over to them. "Damn, if the world isn't getting smaller every day." The more Ann looked at him the more she thought he looked like the balding guy from the Seinfeld TV series.
"I'm on vacation for two weeks," Ann said. "John's working on a bed-and-breakfast conversion project in Ephraim. He took a week off to play golf with Lark. What are you doing up here?"
"I was driving by and saw the patrol car at the entrance to the park. I stopped to see what was up and the deputy told me to come on back and see Skewski. The sheriff asked the state police for help with some theft cases. People started opening their summer houses last weekend and a bunch of them discovered that their antiques have been stolen. We've been up here since Wednesday working like crazy investigating these burglaries. Skewski's got one officer out on maternity leave, another one out on paternity leave, and his sargent just went down to Madison for heart bypass surgery."
"Grenfurth, glad you're here," Skewski shouted from across the green. "Did you tell 'em about the guy on paternity leave?" he asked as he ambled up to them. "What in the hell is the world coming to? 'Scuse my language, ma'am." He nodded at Ann. "Me and the wife had seven kids and I never took more than a day off. Helgerson wants twelve weeks, twelve fucking weeks, in the middle of our busy season. Sorry about the language, ma'am," he said with another nod to Ann.
"No offense taken, Sheriff, I occasionally swear myself," Ann said, trying to put the man out of his misery. She ignored her husband's smirk, knowing that he was thinking about how she could swear like a sailor when she was frustrated.
"Thank you, ma'am. My wife wants me to quit swearing. Says it's bad for our grandchildren. She's got our kids and grandkids after me too. I gotta put a quarter in a damn sugar bowl on the kitchen table every time they hear me swear. She also thinks it's wonderful that Helgerson would take time off to be with his wife and new baby." He rolled his eyes. "I told her she might wanna rethink that since she probably won't see me all summer because of it. The damn county attorney says we've gotta give him the time off. Course the county attorney looks like he's about twelve years old. What the hell does he know, poor bastard?"
Ann smiled sympathetically.
"Between this and all those damn burglaries I may be sleeping at the station. The season is just beginning and this place is already going straight to hell with a bullet." Skewski shook his head, his face grim. "I can't ever remember this much crime in Door County." He flipped open his notebook. "That's enough of that, let's get to work. The park rangers gave me an Illinois driver's license for a Paul Larsen and a business card for Larsen and Associates Architects in Chicago. Another damn FIB gets his ass in a sling up north. You know what an FIB is?" he asked, glancing around the group. "A Fucking Illinois Bastard."
No one laughed.
"Any of you from Illinois?"
Lark stuck out his hand. "Lark Swenson. I'm the sheriff of Big Oak County but I was a Chicago homicide detective before I moved up here."
"No offense meant." Skewski patted Lark's arm. "Heard about the murders you solved last year. Good job. Glad to call you a fellow cheesehead." He didn't seem to notice Lark's grimace.
"Larsen Architects," John said. He was staring at the sheriff but his hazel eyes appeared far away. He ran his hands through the salt-and-pepper sides of his abundant dark brown hair and stuffed his left hand down in the pocket of his khakis as he walked over to stand beside Ann. John was only six feet tall but he seemed to tower over his five-foot-two wife.
The sheriff whirled around and locked his eyes on John's face. "You know this guy?"
"I don't think so, but the name's familiar."
"John is also an architect." Ann jumped in when she saw how distracted John was. "He's working on a project in Ephraim."
"You doing the Gradoute place?" the sheriff asked, not taking his eyes off John.
"Yes," John replied, pulling a pack of cigarettes and a lighter out of his pants pocket.
"Old lady Larsen used to work for the Gradoutes. That ring a bell?"
"Sorry, it doesn't." John glanced at the sheriff. "Maybe I met him at a professional meeting. Larsen's a pretty common name up here. Maybe that's why it sounds so familiar."
"No shit, Sherlock. There sure are a lot of Larsens in this neck of the woods. If this guy's got connections up here, we'll have it figured out lickety-split. Everybody knows everybody's business. Nobody here keeps a secret for long."
"Did anyone find Larsen's golf cart or clubs?" Ann asked, looking around the green. The only golf carts in sight were on other holes and obviously in use by other golfers. "I didn't see another cart up on the eighth hole."
"Good catch, little lady," Skewski said. He glanced over at Joel. "Since you're already here, how about helping me search the course?"
"Sure," Joel said. "Let's bring Sheriff Swenson and the Ransons along. They might notice something since they've been on the course for a while."
Skewski nodded and headed for his car. He called the clubhouse and found out the cart issued to Paul Larsen had not been returned.
They followed the trails on the golf course, checking out each golf cart they saw. They all belonged to other players farther along on the course. Word had spread throughout the course that a player had been injured. Everyone they talked to fished for details about what had happened. They saw the park rangers busily taking golfers' names and questioning people.
They finally spotted an abandoned golf cart with a set of clubs in the back. It was in the side yard of a large home with a backyard abutting the golf course. The house was locked up and it didn't look like anyone was home. No one answered Skewski's knock at the door. The sheriff called the station and confirmed that the woman who owned the home was a widow who lived there alone. Skewski called the woman's son, who ran a restaurant in Egg Harbor. He told the sheriff that his mother, Juanita Tyson, had gone to Milwaukee to see her family now that her grandchildren were out of school. When the son realized what was going on, he agreed to drive up immediately to let them search the house.
No one was inside the house, and as neat as the place was, it looked like no one was ever there. No one was home in the house across the street. The son promised to get ahold of Mrs. Tyson and have her call the sheriff as soon as possible.
The abandoned golf cart belonged to the Gibraltar State Park Golf Course and had been signed out to Paul Larsen. The luggage tag on the golf bag identified the clubs as belonging to Larsen. The golf bag contained the usual tools of the golfer along with two key rings, one with car and house keys and another with house and miscellaneous keys.
Skewski called the clubhouse and told them he would be taking the cart back to the station. He left a park ranger with the cart and gave instructions for its transportation, then herded everyone else back to the clubhouse to take their statements over lunch.
May 27 — The Nineteenth Hole, Gibraltar State Park, Fish Creek, Wisconsin
Like every other nineteenth hole in the country, the Gibraltar State Park clubhouse served an abundance of beer, sandwiches, fries, and snacks. The television in the bar showed a golf tournament with Tiger Woods in the lead. Skewski and Joel went to the bar with everyone's food order.
"Bad thing about Paul Larsen," said Ben Johnson, the young bartender who took their food order. "I wondered when someone would fall off that cliff on eight. People have thrown their clubs over it, but this is the first time someone has taken a header off it."
"Looks like it wasn't an accident," Skewski said as Johnson set a bottle of Coke down in front of him.
Johnson shook his head and dropped his towel down on the bar. "Is he dead?"
"Paramedics shocked him and got him back.
They took him down to Door County Memorial," Joel said.
Johnson nodded. "A couple of guys just came in and said the police questioned them out on the course. I had a feeling it was bad."
"Did Paul stop in this morning before he hit the course?"
"Yep, he got two large black coffees to go."
"Did he mention who his golfing partner was?"
"No. We talked about the latest round of letters to the editor in the Door County Ledger."
"That last County Zoning Board meeting was a rough one. There doesn't seem to be a happy medium on land development," Skewski said.
"Tempers sure burned hot that night."
"No matter what a person's stance is, there's no excuse for threatening someone." Ben pulled beers off the tap with a little more enthusiasm than necessary. "I listen to rich guys in here all day long talking about their latest land development schemes. Those bastards aren't going to stop until every inch of Door County is turned into a shopping center or paved into a parking lot."
"Why don't you tell us how you really feel about it?" Skewski said.
Ben smiled at him. "Sorry, Sheriff. People come up here for the nature and the beauty of the land and the shoreline. Once it's all built up, the main attraction will be gone. Even my mom and dad are thinking about selling. They've got an offer for the orchard that is beyond their wildest dreams. I've got one more year of school and I'll have my MBA. Then I want to come home and buy them out. That orchard's been in our family for five generations." He was interrupted by several guys shouting over one of Tiger's brilliant shots. "Anyway, I agree with what Paul Larsen was trying to do on the zoning board. We've had enough development."
"You mentioned threatening. Who was being threatened?" Joel asked.
Excerpted from Death at the Door by K. C. Greenlief. Copyright © 2003 K. C. Greenlief. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
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Was hoping there were more books in the series
In Door County, eastern Wisconsin, Ann Ranson, her husband John and Sheriff Lark Swensen of Big Oak play golf at the Gibraltar State Park course. Ann isn¿t a good player so when her shot goes off the mark, she thinks she injured the man lying on the ground. When they go to investigate, they discover that he is bleeding profusely from a knife wound. A call to 911 has State Detectives Lacey Smith and Joel Grenfurth work the scene because the local sheriff is short on help. Lacey and Russ drag Lark into helping them since the three of them have worked on a case before, with a little help from John, and brought it to a successful completion. Russ and Lacey are in the area because they are working on a string of burglaries where antiques are taken from summer residents but there is no sign of forced entry and nothing in the houses are disturbed. When Paul Larsen dies, Lark, Lacey, Russ and find themselves spread thin working both cases not realizing that there is a link between the two crimes and if they find it, they will also find the killer. K.C. Greenlief has written an exciting police procedural set against a back deep of beautiful backwoods country. The case is solved by tried and true investigative techniques but the who-done-it is interesting because anyone living in the area could be the killer or the thief. The relationship between Lacey and Lark is a hoot because he spends so much time trying not to show his feelings though they are obvious to everyone including lacy. Ann and John add civilian support that leads the police to some significant clus. DEATH AT THE DOOR is an incredible reading experience. Harriet Klausner