MURDER BITES THE BULLET
Word For The Day
A soft rich candy found on Mackinac Island;
A substitute for an obscene word.
Ever since my friend Kitty almost got shot to pieces, I’ve been determined to change my ways. It’s one thing to rush into a dangerous situation and accept the consequences for myself. It’s quite another when someone else is hurt because of my actions. So I promised myself from now on I would stay out of trouble, work my cases with my brains instead of risking my skin. Or anybody else’s.
I really had the best intentions.
So when Harry Aho (depending on who you’re talking to, pronunciation of Aho is either ah-hoe or ay-hoe) and Chet Hanson started feuding over Harry’s big idea to open a rifle range on his property right where it butted up to one side of Chet’s property line, I said to myself, “Gertie Johnson, you and your Trouble Buster Investigation Company are going to sit on the fence through this one.”
I had meant to sit on the fence figuratively, not literally, but here I was, hooked to Harry Aho’s barbed wire fence, with guns going off all around me and bullets whizzing by. Bales of hay were the only thing that stood between me and the shooting range, which explained why the riflemen couldn’t see me. Unfortunately, those bales didn’t slow down the bullets one speck. And the more I fought the barbs, the tighter they gripped the strands of hair on the side of my head. Ouch, I was stuck!
So much for staying out of the line of fire. But I didn’t have a choice after Chet Hanson showed up at my house and hired the Trouble Busters to dig up dirt on Harry Aho. He needed something damaging to hold over Harry’s head, something that would force him to shut down the range. Chet Hanson had actually put down a nice-sized deposit. Real, honest-to-goodness cash this time, not like the usual--a freezer full of chickens. Or free manicures.
So that’s what I was trying to do, get on the property for an initial investigation.
Here in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, where the Finns and Swedes blazed their way through the wilderness, nationality means a lot. Usually the two sides coexist just fine, although the Finns think the Swedes are drunks. And the Swedes complain that the Finns have superiority complexes, thinking they’re better than everybody else, when they put on their pants one leg at a time just like the rest of us.
Things go along fine for a while, then something like this issue comes along and triggers a feud. In my opinion, Harry Aho (a Finn) shouldn’t have turned part of his land into a rifle range without talking it over with his neighbor first. Not that Chet Hanson (a Swede) would have agreed anyway, but still...
I could see the Trouble Buster truck from where the barbed wire fence had grabbed me. Fred, my faithful German shepherd, howled from inside the rolled up window, watching intently as my dilemma grew more serious by the minute. He threw his black bulk against the door as though he might morph into Superdog. When that didn’t work, he howled again and stared at me with those red dagger eyes that expressed exactly what I was feeling – trapped and helpless.
Cora Mae, my best friend and one of my two business partners, barely made it out her side of the truck without him, slamming the door shut just in time to keep Fred safe from getting riddled with bullets.
Crawling on her belly, she inched toward me.
That’s exactly how I became ensnarled in the first place--crawling to make my getaway. “Watch out for the fence,” I said, seeing Cora Mae’s jet black mane of hair dangerously close to the barbs.
“Holy cripes,” she muttered when she reached me and assessed the tangled situation. Then she began whacking at my imprisoned hair with a buck knife she’d grabbed from the glove compartment of the truck.
“Fudge,” I said, finding an appropriate use for my word of the day without any effort at all.