Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie's mother Chava wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?
On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles upon a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable rosary. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for her help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?
Barely escaping the fire, Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie's card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only Eddie's memory of the man's face and a photo of his daughter to go on?
Book 3 in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series, which began with One Dead, Two to Go.
About the Author
Elena Hartwell's writing career began in the theater, where she also worked as a director, designer, producer, and educator. Productions of her scripts have been performed around the U.S. and abroad. She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband. For more information go to elenahartwell.com.
Read an Excerpt
As a private investigator, I often deal with the misery of others. And while that's way better than dealing with my own misery, I was still looking forward to a few relaxing days surrounded by the beauty of the Cascade Mountains. My plan was to worry about nothing more serious than whether to have a latte or a cocktail in the late afternoon.
Besides my clients and the attention they required, the circle of people in my life were demanding more and more of my time. I wasn't sure how I felt about not being as footloose and fancy-free as I had been for so many years. Relationships require care, and I wasn't totally convinced I was up to the challenge.
Being a grownup wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
Back in March, my mother Chava had started working security for a casino not far from my Bellingham home. She excelled in her new job, able as she was to sniff out shuffle trackers and con men with the instincts of a bloodhound. Recently rewarded for her vigilance with a hike in pay — after her three-month probationary period ended at the beginning of June — she had generously offered up a mother-daughter getaway weekend to celebrate at the newly renovated Wenatchee Valley Hot Springs Resort and Spa.
Her success was further proof that she had no intention of returning to her beloved Las Vegas anytime soon or that my guest room would return to being my home office in the near future. Apparently I now had a full-time roommate.
Currently that roommate was crouched over the wheel of her bright red Mazda 6, zooming up the road toward our destination.
"You've been down in the mouth ever since that thing with Dakota Fontaine," she'd said last week when she brought up the idea. "I thought you could use a long weekend away."
Just before Chava started her new job, an old friend from my Spokane childhood had shown up in Bellingham, bringing Sturm und Drang with her. The whole adventure had made me a little cranky.
Besides, I'd thought at the time, why turn down a mini-vacation with the added bonus I could make my mother happy? And, as the resort was dog friendly, we got to take Franklin, my one-hundred-seventy-five pound, Tibetan mastiff-Irish wolfhound cross. So I said yes.
An hour into our drive, we passed through Monroe, a town of slightly under twenty thousand souls. It had sprung up around the railroad a hundred years ago. Once we got through town, we stopped for lattes at the Coffee Corral, a small, roadside stand in the parking lot of the Reptile Zoo. One of these days I'd stop and visit Reptile Man and his animals, but today we were winging our way up Highway 2, heading into the mountains.
Road trips always felt like an opportunity for a do-over. A "restart button" to erase life's inevitable, messy complications. Especially if my destination was a place I'd never been, a place where no one knew me. I could begin afresh. A new romance, a new job, I could be an orphan — Chava began singing loudly to the radio and I slammed back into the here and now, her presence tethering me to my current existence, regardless of our distance from home.
Life could be worse though. I could be paying for this little getaway.
I was more excited than I wanted to admit. Chava and I had rarely been on destination vacations together. We'd visited each other in our respective cities over the years, but seldom gone to another location entirely. I'd found excuses to tell everyone I knew that we were going: my best friend Iz, because I had to cancel our Saturday morning workout session at the dojo; Debbie Buse, in case she'd been thinking about meeting at the dog park on Sunday; and Chance Parker, my ex-boyfriend from Seattle who'd taken a job as a police detective in Bellingham last December.
After several tries over the course of the week, I'd "run" into him at Rustic Coffee in Fairhaven and asked him what his weekend plans were. I figured social etiquette would make him ask me about mine.
"I'm taking a few days off and going up to Orcas Island," he said. "Do a little carpentry. A friend's cabin needs a new roof."
Chance was pretty good with home repair projects, so I wasn't surprised, though I wondered about the friend.
"Should be lovely up there," I said. "What's the cabin like?" And more importantly, who's the owner?
"Primitive," Chance said, with a laugh. "We won't have electricity or cell service. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but James is used to surviving in the wilderness, and a few days of roughing it won't hurt me."
I remembered James. He lived in Alaska and took people out to look at bears and walruses and live on sticks and berries.
"Very manly," I said.
"What about you?" Chance asked, proving my expectation about social niceties. I explained about the trip Chava had planned for us.
"Sounds like fun," he said. "You'll have to tell me all about it when you get back." That was a good sign, right? Almost like asking me out on a date.
"Why don't we get together?" I said, emboldened by his easy manner. "When we're both back. Compare notes on our respective long weekends."
"Sure," he said. "We'll figure something out."
That was a yes, right?
"You're smiling," Chava said as we reached the outskirts of Sultan, the first small town after Monroe, and had to slow down.
"I'm content," I said, a little surprised to discover it was true.
The distinctly Western Washington small towns whizzed by outside the windows. Startup, Gold Bar, Baring — places with grocery stores and ski rentals mixed in with taverns and restaurants, all of which had seen better days. Not to mention the string of funky espresso drive-thrus, including: a windmill, a barn, and a tiny brick building, all with clever names. After Google and Amazon, coffee was the most popular business in our area. Or maybe all that coffee was why we had the tech business to begin with.
Stands of evergreens mixed with deciduous trees covered in moss stretched out along the banks of the Skykomish. The rushing, westbound river competed for space with a railroad track and the road we were on in the corridor up to Stevens Pass. We crossed bridges with the river underneath us and sped under bridges with the railroad overhead, sometimes occupied by a moving train.
I could feel my tension ease as we left civilization behind. The trees were green. The river was clear as glass, first reflecting the sky, then turning into rapids, then forming deep quiet pools in the eddies of a bank. Franklin snoozed contentedly in the backseat, chin tucked against one armrest, feet pressed against the door on the other side.
A green sign flashed by — STEVENS PASS, ELEVATION 4061 — as we raced alongside the ski resort. Summer had turned the snow-covered paths into bare wounds with the zigzag of ski lifts stitching them together. Chava hurtled over the crest and swooped down the other side, like a downhill skier setting a record. Though I'd never admit it, it was always fun being her passenger.
Off in the distance, a thin column of smoke appeared. The plume rose straight up from the dense forest before fading into a gauzy haze and disappearing altogether. A resident probably had a burn pile going — that was how many of the locals disposed of trash or yard waste. It could also be part of a planned burn, designed to clear dangerous underbrush before a spark from a careless camper or a zap of summer lightning lit the mass of tinder. The rest of the sky was clear as far as I could see.
Despite the treacherous and fast-spreading wildfires common out here in the western United States, there were none currently raging in the Cascades. I'd checked into that before we left. There was one burning in Utah, but nothing in our area. Fire season began in summer and could go into October, depending on conditions. Human beings started most early-season wildfires, but luckily that hadn't happened this year. We'd also had record-setting snowfall the previous winter and a cool spring, which helped delay the start.
"What do you see out there? Any signs of Bigfoot?" Chava's voice broke into my thoughts.
"Only the carved wooden one outside the Espresso Chalet," I said, referring to the statue near Index, a tiny community we'd passed just before we crossed the King County line. "But the scenery is beautiful."
"It's something, isn't it?"
"Breathtaking," I said. "Thank you for this."
She smiled and scanned through the stations on the radio again. Driving with Chava meant sampling a wide variety of musical styles. She'd pause to groove with some hip-hop group I'd never heard of, then pop over to a country station, putting her best twang into a duet with Tammy Wynette, before landing on an aria from Rigoletto.
At least with the aria, she didn't try to sing harmony.
I began to hum along with the melody of an old Eagles tune. It was going to be a perfect getaway. What could possibly go wrong?
Three hours into our drive, we arrived at the turnoff to the resort. The Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth was a mere eight miles up the road. I looked forward to visiting it over the weekend. Based on the Dutch-inspired village of Solvang, California, Leavenworth had been rebuilt in the late sixties, starting with the Chikamin Hotel, now renamed the Edelweiss. The whitewashed exterior was accented with dark wooden timbers and decorated with Bavarian-themed paintings. The hotel proved the scheme successful and the rest of the businesses followed suit. Somehow the renovations managed to be charming, not cheesy. Besides, who didn't love a good bratwurst and beer?
The sign guiding us to our resort was carved from wood and mounted on two tall posts, as if sprung fully formed from trees. The Pacific Northwest theme was evident in the three-dimensional black bears climbing across the top, a mother and two cubs. An arrow pointed us down a long valley between steep-sided peaks. Curving around the west side of the valley floor, the road brought us to a driveway that turned east into the resort, before continuing out of sight. I wondered if anyone else lived on the road, though the canyon looked to end not far away.
The resort was a series of separate buildings. Each one stood on stone foundations, with walls of logs and cedar-shingle roofs. Despite the rustic nature of the materials, the overall effect was grand. The main lodge was stately, with a covered area to park under while you checked in. The summer day was perfect — mid-seventies, blue skies, soft breeze — but a stay here in the winter would most likely include rain and snow.
We parked under the overhang and made our way through the double glass doors to the reception desk. I loved the deer antlers mounted for handles, their texture smooth and warm under my hand. The floors were a rich yellow pine, and an enormous freestanding stone fireplace split the room, open on either side. The scent of wood smoke lingered in the air, conjuring up images of lumberjacks and logging camps. The front section of the main lodge contained soft leather sofas and bentwood chairs, grouped around the space in intimate gatherings despite the public nature of the room. Once you stepped around the fireplace, the reception area came into view, a long counter made of logs sawn in half, sanded, and polished to a high sheen.
"Can I help you?" a cheerful clerk asked as we walked up. "Are you checking in?"
We told her we were and hoped they'd let us into our room, even though it was only one o'clock and check-in wasn't until three.
"Your cabin is all ready," she said, bringing out a map of the grounds. "We have you in a dog-friendly suite." She walked us through the various delights the resort offered: the mineral pools — both indoor and out — the spa, with mani/pedis, massages, and mud wraps, and the restaurants. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served, along with happy hour or late-night drinks and snacks.
It wasn't five yet, but I was feeling pretty happy. I thought it might last a lot longer than an hour. Was there such a thing as a "happy weekend"?
"I didn't realize we had a cabin," I said as we went out to move Chava's car to the parking place in front of our accommodations.
"I wanted to surprise you," she said.
We drove to our little home away from home, crossing a bridge over a small stream that cut through the property. Stepping into our "cabin," we found a large front room, which included a fold-out sofa bed for me and a dog bed for Franklin in one corner, a bedroom for Chava, and a full bathroom complete with a Jacuzzi tub.
"It's perfect," I said.
"You're sure you don't mind taking the sofa bed?" she asked. "We could switch tomorrow night."
"I'm sure," I said. "This will suit me just fine."
After unpacking, we took Franklin for a walk around the grounds.
"That's where I'm going to be tomorrow morning," Chava said, pointing to the nine-hole golf course, driving range, and putting green. "Are you sure you don't want to join me for the lesson? I bet I can add you in."
"I'm sure. I'm going on a hike. There's got to be a way to get up on top," I said, pointing to the steep-sided hills around us, "and I intend to find it."
"'Atta girl," Chava said. "Just don't get lost."
"I'll be fine," I said. "How hard could it be to follow a trail?"
The following morning — before Chava went to her golf lesson — we dropped Franklin off at doggy daycare. While he got treated to his own day of beauty, we enjoyed the buffet breakfast. This kind of fare could add ten pounds to my almost six-foot frame in a few days if I didn't exercise. Good thing I was going on that hike. Though, given how yummy it was and how relaxed I felt, I wasn't sure I cared.
"Do you want to get together for lunch?" Chava asked, tucking her blonde beehive under a bright-pink scarf. She looked like bubble gum, but I wasn't going to say it aloud. "My lesson will be done by noon."
"I have no idea how long I'll be out," I said, rethinking my harsh fashion observation. After all, the pink went well with her purple eyes, the only feature we had in common. "Will you be able to pick up Franklin?"
He was going to be bathed, blow-dried and poofed out, nails trimmed, and whatever else an expensive doggie spa could do to a canine. Chava had been excited about treating her grand-dog as well as her daughter.
"I promise to pick him up," she said, "though doggie daycare sounds like a lot of fun. We should let him play with the other dogs for a while."
I might not be the only one in this family who never wanted to go home.
We walked out of the restaurant together and I headed over to the main building by myself to get some information on hikes.
It was kind of nice to go off on my own with no one expecting me to show up any time soon.
Of course, that also meant no one would know where to find me if I went missing.
I turned back to tell Chava I wanted her to know what trail I was going up. After all, it made sense to let someone know where I'd gone. Even experienced hikers fell or got injured. But she'd already disappeared. I'd have to look out for myself.
Intending to take advantage of the resort's natural beauty and not just the delicious restaurants, I went in search of supplies. I stopped at the gift shop and bought a reusable water bottle. It cost me an arm and a leg, but it had a handy strap to wear like a little purse across one shoulder, with the name of the resort glittering in sparkly red and silver script. If I got lost, it could also be used as a beacon to signal my distress. With a couple protein bars in my pocket, I felt duly outfitted. Finally I asked the sales clerk — Kim, according to her nametag — to suggest an easy walk with a view.
"There are a number of great hikes in the area, but if you'd like a view, I'd recommend the one that starts right across the road from our driveway," Kim said. She explained it went up along a ridge, with a beautiful view of Lake Wenatchee out to the west. "You can't get lost. It's straight up and straight back with no turnoffs."
"That sounds perfect," I said.
"It takes you into the Wenatchee National Forest," she said. "You also cross from national forest to the Lake Wenatchee State Park, with a little bit of private land mixed in. But don't worry, the entire trail is publicly accessible property and you won't be trespassing. Do you have a dog with you?"
"I do," I said with the still newfound pride of dog ownership. "But he's over getting a shave and a haircut this morning." I fought the urge to knock "two bits" out with my knuckles on the countertop. The clerk looked a little young to get the joke.
"Dogs can be on the trail as long as they're leashed. Just make sure he doesn't chase wildlife."
Excerpted from "Three Strikes, You're Dead"
Copyright © 2018 Elena Hartwell.
Excerpted by permission of Coffeetown Enterprises, Inc.
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