“Murder on the Cul de Sac”

We teamed up with six crime writers to create a short story in real-time. The end result was “Murder on the Cul de Sac” which you can read in full below. A special thank you goes out to the participating authors (in order of appearance): Jess Montgomery, D.J. Palmer, Sarah Stewart Taylor, Brian Panowich, Sandie Jones, and Julia Spencer-Fleming.

The full replay of the event is available below:

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“Murder on the Cul de Sac”

At first, Luna didn’t mind that Sammy kept staring at her with big puppy dog eyes.

But after a few hours, it became tiresome. She tried hiding in the kitchen. There he was. Staring. Hungrily.

Finally, Luna sighed. Rita and Roger Ratmore had told her firmly not to leave the house. Rita was in her book club, along with Karen and Sue, who had warned her off the pet sitting job. But Luna needed the money.

Finally, she grabbed the leash. There he was. Staring. Roger, who was fussy, didn’t seem the sort for a coon hound, so out of place in this lavish house.

As soon as they got outside, though, Sammy took off at a trot, nose to ground. Roger always said, “that dog don’t hunt!” But Sammy was hunting something!

They got to a McMansion, the only one in the neighborhood that was never finished. In Sammy dragged her… and there in the vestibule was… Roger. With a knife in his back.

And Karen and Sue, staring at him… just like Sammy had been staring at her.

Luna gasped… “what happened?”

“Well, Luna, someone killed Roger. Duh.” said Karen.

Typical Karen.

As a doctor, Karen was never frightened by the sight of blood. Sue, on the other hand, would faint if there was too much ketchup on her hamburger. But the odd thing was in Luna’s mind was that Sue seemed cool and calm as Karen.

“Has anyone called the police?” Luna asked.

Her heart was hammering in her chest, while Sammy had pulled away from her grasp to stick in the pooling blood of his former master.

“We can’t call the police,” Karen said after a long indrawn breath.

“Why not?” asked Luna.

A faint smile touched Sue’s lips.

“Because one of us killed Roger, and we have to figure out who before the police get here or they may arrest the wrong person.”

Blinking back tears Luna said, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Somebody get the police here and an ambulance. Are you sure he’s even dead?”

Karen stepped forward, and it wasn’t for Sammy’s bark, Luna might not have turned her head in time to see the knife coming at her.

Luna turned to see the diminutive figure of old Mrs Danvers, the elderly grandmother who lived at the end of the cul de sac. As far as Luna knew, Mrs. Danvers was a retired schoolteacher who did nothing more exciting than bake muffins for the kids in the neighborhood. But here she was, arcing a deadly weapon through the air. Luna ducked and the knife barely missed her, sinking into the sheetrock behind her.

“Mrs. Danvers!” she cried. “Did you kill Roger?”

“No,” Mrs. Danvers said. “But I agree with Karen and Sue. You could really screw everything up if you get the police involved. We’re going to do this ourselves. I’ll take the right side of the street and you take the left, Luna.”

They set out to interview the neighbors, but as they knocked on the first door, a bloodcurdling scream came from an upstairs window.

Karen stopped in her tracks and seemed almost calm as she pulled her friends back from the doorstep. “Listen to me, y’all.” This is not going to work.”

Luna felt sick. They all did.

Karen continued. “We all know what that bastard, Roger, did, and why we did what we did, but this plan of ours isn’t going to work.”

They all knew it. Too many people saw it. They all, one by one, looked up at the window where the scream came from and knew what they had to do next. Karen took out her knife, and they slowly descended the stairs into the house to where the next problem had to be handled.

The woman sat there, staring at Luna wide-eyed.

“You!”, said Luna, as her stomach clenched and pinpricks of sweat sprung to every pore of her body.

“Was I not who you were expecting?” asked the woman.

Luna couldn’t breathe; the air feeling as if it was being sucked out of her. She had to get out of there.

Pushing past the other women on the stairs, she ran out onto the sidewalk, stumbling as she went.

Her vision, blurred by the pounding rain, made her stumble. Unable to get her bearings and blinded by dazzling headlights, she fell into the road.

A blast of a horn, a flash of light and she was on the ground, flat on her back.

Scared to open her eyes, in case it alerted the rest of her body of the pain she was in, she listened to the voices that were crowding around her.

It didn’t matter how many there were, it was only one voice she heard….

“Mother?” Luna said. She blinked her eyes against the warm southern rain. Her mother had disappeared five years ago, after starting the book club Luna, Sue, Karen and Rita all belonged to. Some people thought she had run away with a man – Luna’s mother had a wild reputation after her Daddy had left town. Others whispered under their breath that she had gotten drunk and fallen into the river that ran past her run-down house.

But now she was here, alive and well, with her arm linked in Rita’s.

“Mother-” Luna knew this was perhaps trivial on an afternoon when she had seen a body and learned sweet Mrs. Danvers threw a knife like a circus performer – “Mother, what on earth are you doing here?”

“Darling, I’m sorry for all this terrible confusion.” Her mother leaned over and extended a hand to Luna. “I couldn’t tell you. I had to go into the witness protection program.”

“Mother!” Lune felt as if her head might fall off.

“It’s true,” Rita said. She looked at the older woman. “Your mother saw Roger sinking the bodies of two business associates into the river.” Rita smiled slightly at Sue and Karen. “These officers know all about it.”

“What?!”

Karen sheathed her knife and shook Luna’s hand. “We’ve been undercover for a few years now, tracking down the crime ring headed by Roger. He had quite a little business going up here, making inconvenient corpses disappear for the mob.”

Luna breathed deeply. At least that explained why Sue and Karen were always so poorly prepared for their book club meetings.

“But why are you here? Now?”

“They finally got the lead they needed. The police tracking dog uncovered an identifiable body.” Rita snapped her fingers. Sammy trotted to her side, gently whuffing into her hand.

“Sammy!”

The coon hound stared up at Luna with his big puppy dog eyes. “Good boy, Sammy,” Rita said.

That dog could hunt.

* * *

For more information on the participating authors’ books, click here. And once again, thank you to the authors for joining us, and stay tuned because we’ll be hosting another Once Upon a Crime very soon. Until then, keep reading!

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