It’s MuseItUp Publishing Monday again, but there is a small change of plans. Originally, I was going to interview Marva Dasef about her mystery called Missing Assumed Dead, but I’m holding off on Marva’s full interview until next month. She has another novel, a MG, coming out from MuseItup Publishing next month called Bad Spelling. Oh my goodness. It’s got the cutest cover ever. I’ll show you then. Anyways, since Marva is such a wonderful author, I wanted to go ahead and showcase Missing Assumed Dead.
Marva Dasef is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a fat white cat. Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation. Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with several included in Best of anthologies. She has several already published books of fantasy, science fiction, and mystery. A few more are scheduled for 2011 and 2012 from her super duper publisher, MuseItUp.
Prejudice, suicide, murder, insanity. Just the everyday happenings in a remote town in the Oregon desert.
When Kameron McBride receives notice she’s the last living relative of a missing man she’s never even heard of, the last thing she wants to do is head to some half-baked Oregon town to settle his affairs. But since she’s the only one available, she grudgingly agrees.
En route, she and her rental car run afoul of a couple of hillbillies and their pickup in an accident that doesn’t seem . . . accidental. Especially when they keep showing up wherever she goes. Lucky for her, gorgeous Deputy Mitch Caldwell lends her a hand, among other things. Her suspicions increase when she meets the probate judge, and he tries just a little too hard to buy the dead man’s worthless property.
Kam probes deeper into the town’s secrets and finds almost no one she can trust. With Mitch’s help, she peels away the layers of prejudice, suicide, murder, and insanity. Kam must find out what really happened to her dead relative before someone in this backward little town sends her to join him.
And she thought Oregon was going to be boring.
The front yard—if the flat space in front of the house could be given that much honor—was a mass of sharp gravel. Kam was happy to have her tennies on. The bottom of her foot was still sore from her impromptu foot race along the creek.
“Let’s look in the house first. Mirabel said the body was in the shed, so I’d just as soon put that off.”
Kam tried the door. It swung open easily. The single room held only a cookstove on one side and a narrow cot on the other. A small table on the kitchen side had a single chair. Kam opened a wooden cupboard to find it lined with metal—an icebox. Desiccated carrots and shrunken potatoes hung limply on the wire racks that served for shelving.
Kam hunted for evidence of an electrical supply. Not so much as a two-prong socket adorned the walls. Two kerosene lamps stood on either end of the room. But the shack was neat and homey. Salvadore hadn’t had much, but what he had, he kept clean and tidy.
“This is awful,” Kam said, picking up a tin plate from the table. Something had congealed, and petrified itself to the plate.
Mitch was on the other side of the room examining the bookshelf. He held up a photo album. “You wanted to find photos or records. Is this what you’re looking for?”
“Yeah. Mom will definitely want that. Would you fetch the box off the porch and load it with everything from the shelf?” She leaned over one of the kerosene lamps. “I know a guy who collects these. I’ll snag them too.” As an afterthought, she added, “I hope Salvadore doesn’t mind.”
Kam opened the album to the first page. A stern-faced couple stared out of the sepia-tone pictures. She worked her fingernail under the edge and lifted carefully because of the brittleness. She could just make out a faint scrawling on the back. The writing was spidery and elegant, very turn of the century. The name Vasco was clear, but the rest of the notation was in a language she didn’t recognize. Her brief studies on the Basques revealed their language, Euskara, was not at all like Spanish. She decided that when she got back home, she’d help her mother research this side of her family.
Mitch brought back the box with the metal cup inside. “That might be a collector’s item.”
“Maybe.” She put her hands on her hips and stared around the room. “Damn! I feel like a thief, but it’s better for Mom to have these things. She’ll cherish them rather than letting them rot out here.” Kam put the album and a few other books in the box. The titles and authors were in both Spanish and Euskara. They packed everything and put the box in the back of the Expedition.
Mitch closed the hatch, put his finger under her chin and lifted her face to his. “When this is all over, we need to talk. Seriously. About us.”
“What? Well, hold that thought.” Kam took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Okay, let’s look at the shack now.”
She followed Mitch. She didn’t want to admit she was afraid the two rednecks might be lurking out here. Perhaps the judge had contacted them. Maybe he knew she’d found out what happened. The whole situation tied her stomach into a knot. When they rounded the corner of the house, Kam pointed. “The shepherd’s crook. I guess the judge put it there.”
“Why do you think he did that?”
Kam shook her head. “Mirabel said she’d carried it back here from the porch and dropped it. He probably propped it up unconsciously. It’s practically a signpost saying ‘Look Here for Evidence’.”
Brown grass and a couple of loose tumbleweeds obscured the bottom of the wood door. Mitch shoved the dead vegetation aside with his boot and reached for the door handle. He stopped abruptly. Kam followed his gaze to the ground. A rusted axe and shovel lay on the ground almost hidden by the weeds. Kam stared at them. “Rust or blood?”
Mitch shrugged and pulled open the door to the shack. Two dusty windows, almost hidden by the shelves, lit the inside with a diffused, dim glow, just enough to make out the interior. The eight-foot square space had shelves lining every wall where Salvadore had neatly arranged a variety of tools, ropes, and cans. At the far end, a workbench jutted from the wall.
“I don’t see anything suspicious. Looks neat as a pin,” Kam examined the cans and bottles. “Paint, turpentine, weed killer. Just the usual stuff people keep in a shed.”
Mitch knelt down and examined the floorboards. “There’s a dark stain over here. It’s different from the rest of the floor.”
Kam bent to examine it. “The judge cleaned up, but it could be anything.” In her heart, she knew it was blood. A chill raised goosebumps on her arms despite the heat. She rubbed them. “This is really creepy, Mitch. Let’s go outside.”
“We’ll take the axe and shovel.”
“Can you get them analyzed? For blood, I mean?” Kam reached down to pick up the axe, but Mitch blocked her hand.
“Let’s not contaminate the evidence. I’ve got gloves and some plastic garbage bags in the truck.”
Mitch went back to the SUV for the bags and gloves. Kam crouched in front of the shed for a moment, searching the ground for footprints or whatever. With a snort, she straightened. “Huh. That’s dumb,” she muttered. After seven years, the weather would have washed away anything left out in the open.
The growl of a truck engine startled Kam. She was about to follow Mitch, who had already disappeared around the house, but stopped abruptly when a voice called, “Howdy, Deputy Caldwell. Remember me?”