IVY GET YOUR GUN284
IVY GET YOUR GUN284
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“It is not easy to combine humor and murder, but Cindy Brown does it effortlessly.” – Rhys Bowen, New York Times Bestselling Author of Malice at the Palace
There’s a new sheriff in town—and she can sing! When Gold Bug Gulch’s actor-gunslinger Mongo winds up shot for real, actress and part-time PI Ivy Meadows goes undercover as the ingénue in the tourist town’s melodrama. Unfortunately, she’s distracted by a pack of marauding Chihuahuas, a problematic love life, auditions for Annie Get Your Gun, and a personal mission: to show people the real Annie Oakley.
What’s more, the no-good, yellow-bellied varmint who killed Mongo isn’t finished with the Gulch—or with Ivy. Will our heroine prove she can get a man with a gun—before the killer gets her?
Related subjects include: cozy mysteries, women sleuths, murder mystery series, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), amateur sleuth books, book club recommendations, humorous murder mysteries, private investigator mystery series.
Books in the Ivy Meadows Humorous Mystery Series:
THE SOUND OF MURDER (#2)
OLIVER TWISTED (#3)
IVY GET YOUR GUN (#4)
Part of the Henery Press Mystery Series Collection, if you like one, you'll probably like them all...
Author Bio: Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s the author of the Agatha Award-nominated Ivy Meadows series, madcap mysteries set in the off, off, OFF Broadway world of theater. Cindy and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, though she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities. She’d love to connect with readers at cindybrownwriter.com.
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|Series:||Ivy Meadows Mystery , #4|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)|
Read an Excerpt
"Ivy, come quick! Lassie's in trouble!"
The caller hung up, but I knew it was Marge and I knew it was serious. Marge never hung up without saying goodbye.
"Gotta go," I said to my friends and flew down the stairs and out the door.
Lassie. What could have happened? I beat down my rising panic and redialed Marge as I ran across the theater parking lot.
"You okay?" I said when she picked up. "Maybe you need to call the vet?"
"No, but I called 911. They said it wasn't an emergency."
Phew, things must not be too bad.
"They, they, they ..." Marge started to cry.
Dang, things were bad. Not only did Marge never hang up without saying goodbye, she never cried. "I'll be there as soon as I can." I jumped into my latest used car, a 2005 Nissan pickup, and squealed out of the lot. I'd met Marge last spring when we both did a show at Desert Magic Dinner Theater. I loved my friend and her dog. My throat swelled at the thought of either of them in pain.
It was Saturday, so I made pretty good time from downtown Phoenix to Marge's retirement community, west of town. I turned into an entrance flanked by rock walls and two signs, one that said "Sunnydale!" and the other "America's Favorite 55+ Community!" I zoomed past palm trees, a golf course, and a bunch of golf carts toodling down the road and pulled into Marge's driveway.
I didn't even ring the bell. I just shouted as I walked in the door. "Marge?"
Heels clicked on the tile floor as Marge rounded a corner into the foyer. "What happened?" I began, then stopped.
Marge was pale. Marge, who suntanned for all of her sixty-plus years and had skin the color of calf leather, looked positively white. She teetered on her heels. "Lassie ..."
I put an arm around her and steered her back into the living room, where we sat together on a pastel sofa. The surroundings were familiar: I had stayed here last spring, taking care of the house and Lassie while Marge was ill. But though I knew the dent in the sofa like it was my own, I didn't recognize this version of my friend. Marge was "Arizona's Ethel Merman," a bold, brassy former Broadway star. But today she crumpled onto the sofa like a used Kleenex, clutching a cellphone in her hand.
I scanned the room for Lassie, afraid he was lying on the floor somewhere. Yeah, Lassie was a boy, just like all the Lassies in the movies, but that's where the resemblance ended. Lassie was a pug. And he wasn't in the room.
"Tell me," I said gently.
"You're a detective, so you'll find him, right? Right?"
Though I worked part-time at my Uncle Bob's PI firm, I didn't have my license yet, so I wasn't really a detective. I also wasn't about to correct Marge in her present state. "Tell me what happened," I said again.
"Lassie wanted a walk, but I was on the phone, so I let him out in the front yard." There was a small courtyard in front of Marge's house, ringed by a decorative iron fence. "He was taking his time, sniffing everything five times before peeing on it, so I went inside, keeping the door open so he could come in when he was done. Then I heard them."
"Them?" I couldn't imagine what she meant — no gangs in Sunnydale, no motorcades, or groups of juvenile delinquents or anything else that could qualify as "them."
"I don't know how they got in — maybe Arnie left the gate open when he got the mail — but they were yipping and ..."
My stomach dropped. Coyotes. I'd seen them around, skulking around the oleanders, looking mangy and underfed. But wait. They were usually out at night. "Marge, what time —"
Her cell rang. A flicker of hope crossed her face, then died as she saw who was calling. "Arnie," she said to her husband as she picked up. "Ivy's here, but Lassie's still ..." She couldn't go on.
"It'll be all right, babe." Arnie talked so loudly I could hear him, even though Marge wasn't using speakerphone. "He'll be all right." His voice broke too. My eyes filled up just listening to them. I adored these guys, and Lassie. Oh no. Tears were beginning to leak out of my eyes now. I wiped them hurriedly so Marge wouldn't see. "Let me talk to Ivy," Arnie said. Marge handed the phone over to me. "Thanks for coming over, kid," he said. "You know that little dog means the world to us. Do you think you can find him?"
"I ... sure. Of course, but ..." I tried not to think about what I might find, what a pack of coyotes might do to a little black pug.
"The last thing I heard, the pack was skirting the golf courses. Food and water, you know."
"Of course. There are the water hazards, and the bunnies."
"Yeah." Oh boy. Didn't want to transfer the bloody image in my mind to Arnie's head so I simply said, "Food."
"Food, huh? Seems like they'd go more for pretzels and protein bars and stuff. I hear people throw their snacks at them to keep them away. Bunnies seem a little big, even for a pack of Chihuahuas."
"A pack could easily take down — did you say Chihuahuas?"
"Yeah. Didn't Marge tell you? It's that pack — you've seen 'em on the news."
Sunnydale had recently made the national news, courtesy of a pack of, yes, feral Chihuahuas that were terrorizing the neighborhood. "The Chihuahuas carried off Lassie?"
"He joined them. Little hoodlum." The affection in Arnie's voice turned to concern. "But it's not safe. They could get hit by a car. A few people even said they'd take pot shots at them if them saw 'em. And then there are the coyotes ..." He didn't have to say more. We both knew what could happen to the snack pack of tasty little dogs. If I could just find Lassie before ...
What was that noise? "Arnie, was that a gunshot?" I whispered, sliding a look at Marge. Either she didn't hear me or the news didn't bother her.
"Yeah." He chuckled as several more shots rang out over the line, followed by ... applause? "But don't worry, it's just — oh my God!"
The line went dead.CHAPTER 2
Marge heard that. She grabbed the phone out of my hands. "Arnie? Arnie?" Wild-eyed, she thrust the phone at me. I put it to my ear — definitely dead. I put the cell on speakerphone and redialed. The phone rang. And rang. And rang. Then it picked up. "You've reached Arnie. Leave me a message and —"
"Marge, were those gunshots?"
"Try him again." Marge leapt up from the sofa and began pacing.
I stood up too, the muscles in my legs jumping from tension. I redialed. Same message. Marge grabbed the phone from me and tried dialing herself. "You've reached Arnie. Leave me —"
"First Lassie, then Arnie. No. No, no, no."
"Come on." I grabbed my keys from the coffee table where I'd dropped them. "We'll go see what's going on."
I bundled Marge into the cab of my truck, hoping Arnie would be okay to drive home. No way the three of us would fit in my pickup, unless one of us rode in the back. It was amazing, the strangely normal worries that came into your mind in times of crisis. But maybe there wasn't a crisis. "Maybe Arnie forgot to charge his cell phone," I said as we pulled out of Marge's driveway.
She shook her head. "Saw it on the charger last night."
"Okay." My stomach dropped, but I put on a calm demeanor. "Where to?"
"Head west on Grand."
I didn't ask where we were going, and she didn't tell me. I just kept driving west, and she just kept dialing Arnie's number. "First Lassie, now this ..." she mumbled to herself.
City turned to desert. "Keep going?" I said.
The desert northwest of Phoenix was scrubby, devoid of any interesting features except the craggy bare mountains that ringed the valley. Still, Marge stared out of the window as if mesmerized.
After ten minutes I said, "You doing okay?"
Marge looked at me as if seeing me properly for the first time. "You come from the theater?"
She eyed my green-paint-spattered jeans, t-shirt, and ball cap, which kept my bi-colored hair (brown roots, blonde hair) from being tricolored. "You working backstage?"
"I was painting some flats for New Vintage Theater."
She nodded. "Good outfit. You doing a show for them? I thought you were auditioning for Annie Get Your Gun."
"I was just helping some friends. And yeah, I did audition. You won't believe it, but ..."
"You got a callback?"
"Crazy, huh?" Arizona Center Stage was a regional theater company. A callback for them was a big deal, a definite step up career-wise. "How did you know?"
"I got big ears. And I know the assistant director."
"Did you ...?"
"Nah. You got it on your own, kiddo. I knew you could."
I waited, but that seemed to be the end of our conversation. I rolled down my window to let the cool November air stream in (and to save gas by shutting off the AC). After another ten minutes of no sound but wheels on asphalt, I asked, "We going to Wickenburg?" It was the only place I could think of out this direction, a small desert town that still felt like the Old West, maybe owing to its history of cowboys, mining, and massacres.
"No. That new Western theme park, Gold Bug Gulch. It's just this side of Wickenburg."
"I didn't know it was open yet."
"It's half-open, what they call a soft opening. Just weekends for now. The saloon and restaurant, reptile house, and blacksmith shop are open, plus they have horse rides and roping and ..."
"Gunfights. That's what we heard on the phone." Phew. "Maybe Arnie yelled because it surprised him." I didn't say anything about him not picking up the phone. I was sure Marge hadn't forgotten about that.
"He knows about the gunfight. He's been out there almost every day the past two weeks. He's an investor."
This was not good news. Arnie fancied himself an impresario, but he'd left a string of bad business decisions in his wake. He finally had a winner with Desert Magic Dinner Theater, where I'd met him and Marge. The theater's success was really due to Marge, who headlined about half of the shows. People whispered that it was Marge's money that kept the theater afloat, since Arnie didn't have much of his own.
"You're the investor," I said. "But why? Doesn't seem like your kind of entertainment."
"You're right there, kiddo. My idea of the outdoors is the walk from the taxi to the theater. But Arnie was really hot to go with this one. Mostly because his son is the mastermind behind it." She looked at me, arching an eyebrow.
I bit. "His son?"
"Yeah. Nathan showed up on our doorstep three months ago. Literally. The bell rang, Arnie went to open the door, and I hear 'Papa!' I guess the kid, Nathan — he's not really a kid anymore — was the result of some brief fling Arnie had with a dancer back in the day. Arnie never had a clue he was a father. Nathan's mom told him about his dad when he got older. Guess he tried to look for Arnie for a while, but this was pre-internet, and he gave up after a year or two. Then, coincidentally, Nathan buys this ghost town he wants to turn into a tourist trap, not a half hour from our place."
"Coincidentally?" I asked. My uncle had taught me there were very few coincidences in this world.
"That's what I thought too, but Nathan swears he had this all planned out. And he did have the place nearly up and running when he found Arnie."
"Which he did how?"
"Said he was reading the paper —"
"How old is this guy?" Most newspaper subscribers were over forty-five.
"Maybe forty? He said he was checking on an article about Gold Bug Gulch and happened to see a preview article for Desert Magic Dinner Theater right under it, with a quote by Arnie."
"I checked the paper. The articles were on the same page, so he could have been telling the truth."
"But you don't believe him?"
"I don't know what to believe. This guy shows up out of nowhere, claims to be Arnie's son, and by the way, he's looking for investors in his newest venture."
"It does sound suspicious, but then again, the guy also sounds a little like Arnie."
"I know." Margie's voice grew warm. "You should see Arnie, grinning from ear to ear when he introduces people to 'his boy.'"
A blue sign ahead said, "Highway adopted by Gold Bug Gulch — where the Old West lives on!"
"It's another quarter mile or so on the left," Marge said. "So anyway, when Arnie asked, I said sure, we could invest a little money. Can't take it with you, you know." Marge tried to smile, but couldn't manage it. "God, Ivy, if anything happened to him ..."
"I'm sure everything is just fine," I said, right as we turned a bend and saw Gold Bug Gulch. Couldn't have missed it. Not with all those flashing blue lights.CHAPTER 3
I bumped the truck into the rutted dirt lot, steering around the knots of people who stood talking. Some were crying. I grabbed Marge's hand across the seat. "Don't worry. We'll find out what all this is about. I'm sure it has nothing to do with Arnie."
I parked as close as I could to the town's entrance, where "Gold Bug Gulch" was burned into a wooden sign that swung between two twentyfoot posts. I jumped out of the cab and ran around to help Marge. Those high heels of hers were going be a liability out here. I took her by the arm, and we headed toward the town
"Sorry, ladies." A uniformed state patrolman held up a hand. "Gold Bug Gulch is closed this evening."
"We're family," I said. "We got a call."
The cop shook his head. "How would I know —"
"I'm one of the owners." Marge somehow made herself look bigger, like she was facing a bear. "And I'm happy to take down your name and badge number."
"Yeah, all right." The cop waved us through. As I passed him, I said in a low voice, "Can you tell me what happened?"
"Guy got shot," he said, loud enough for the vultures circling above to hear us — wait, were those really vultures? "Killed."
At that, Marge dropped my arm and picked up her pace. Heels or no heels, she was headed like a shot to the clutch of people standing in the dirt road and milling around on the wooden sidewalks of the buildings on either side. I caught up with her.
I'd read a little about Gold Bug Gulch. Some entrepreneur from back East (Arnie's son, I guessed) bought the remains of an old mining town, planning to turn it into a "true Old West Experience." At one time, the original Gulch's population numbered a couple thousand, but once the gold mine was played out, the town dwindled to just a few desert rats. Arizona's dry weather must have preserved a lot of the buildings, which were strung out along the main dirt road. Wooden buildings with false fronts, like the ones in movies, lined the north side of the road. The south side sloped down a hill, bordered at the bottom by a stand of shivering cottonwoods. A couple of squat adobe-looking buildings — one with bars on the windows — crouched on the top of the southern side where the hill flattened out. The adobe structures and first couple of wooden buildings were all cleaned up and sturdy, obviously the backbone of the theme park. Farther down the road another dozen or so buildings awaited repair. And in the distance beyond the creek, an industrial, jumbled-looking platform — something to do with the mine? — stood black against the darkening sky.
"Arnie!" Marge shouted. "Arnie!"
No answer. The people in the street formed a ring around something. "Arnie," Marge called again. Nothing but the buzz of flies and worried people.
"It can't be Arnie. Remember? He said 'Oh my God' after the gunshot." Of course, they could have been his last words after he'd been hit, but I wasn't about to admit that.
Marge aimed for the clot of people in the road. I followed, elbowing my way through a mishmash of state patrolmen, paramedics, and people in old-fashioned Western garb. "Got him in the heart," I heard someone say. "The other guy was some shot."
"Ma'am." A uniformed officer grabbed my elbow.
"People," another state trooper said in a loud voice. "As I said just, oh, two minutes ago, everyone who is not law enforcement or medical personnel needs to wait inside in the saloon. The sooner we can get this sorted out, the sooner everyone can go home."
People began moving toward the saloon. Marge took advantage of the crowd's cover to creep closer to the body.
"You can't be here," the officer who held my arm said to me.
"I know. I'm trying to stop —" I pointed at Marge, who had somehow managed to get within a few feet of the shrouded body.
"Ma'am! You! Stop!" The officer waved his arms at Marge, releasing his grip on me.
I sprinted toward Marge — at the exact same time another guy did. We connected headfirst and pow — as Uncle Bob liked to say — right in the kisser. We both fell down in the dirt.
"Ow ow ow." I pressed my hand against my face and it came away bloody. "Ow."
The officer who'd held me back glared at all of us, then planted himself in front of the corpse with his arms crossed, as if to say "serves you right." Marge stretched out a hand to help me up. At least my split lip had kept her from reaching the body.
The guy I'd head-banged scowled at me as he picked himself up. "Dammit, woman, why didn't you look where you were going?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Ivy Get Your Gun"
Copyright © 2017 Cindy Brown.
Excerpted by permission of Henery 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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