by Hawk MacKinney
In the lazed creep of a near-tropical dawnlit the pungent Turkish coffee permeated Moccasin Hollow. Beyond the kitchen door Lucky, Craige Ingram’s German shepherd gnawed a favorite bone. Looted burial mounds seemed a world away until plundered mounds on Moccasin Hollow land brings amateur archeologist PI Craige Ingram into the crosshairs of kidnapping. Stealthy hideaways are concealed in old colonial brick-lined river grottos beneath the big house of Ardochy plantation. Sex-tape underage blackmail and thrill killings on federal land spur a medical examiner’s preliminary postmortem to more than a hired cleaner’s quickie cover-up passed off as drug deals gone sour. Greed tangles a witch’s pigswill of illicit affairs and murder-to-hide-murder. Shady investigators and shadier politics stir an unexpected concoction that threatens the lives of those at Moccasin Hollow in a spiteful plot against ex-SEAL Craige Ingram and the woman he loves.
He slowed the old pickup to a stop at the edge of the canebrake clearing. Sea-blue shifty-mean eyes cut sharp and cunning as he checked for any uninvited snooping eyes. He brushed the sandy brown lock of hair back from a rugged face that had been called handsome. It was a damning gift, one he bent to his advantage anytime he wanted someone else to cover his backside.
The slippery red-clay ruts mired in a once-upon-a-time gravel road curved up toward the house. The extended eaves of the porches of the great age-worn house that was Redcliffe shadowed its tall windows. Gaunt un-curtained windows gaped like empty eye sockets in a sun-bleached skull. Johnny couldn’t keep his bone-deep trepidations at bay. The old lady had been dead for a number of years, but her cantankerous overseer was very much alive. Crockett half expected the wrinkled, toothless old man to burst out one of the doors, carrying the same long-barrel shotgun as last time. The man had threatened to gut-shoot him if Johnny trespassed again. Johnny hadn’t forgotten. He kept Redcliffe and the peeling stucco hunting lodge located behind it at a distance.
The hunting lodge was the first Redcliffe built nearly a hundred years ago. Eventually the mixed-up facts of the new Redcliffe and the old yard became known to the locals as Ardochy, named after a long forgotten Scottish grandmother whose maiden name was McArdy.
Folks there’bouts still talked about the McArdy family. “Whole McArdy clan was tetched in the head. Comes from bedding down with too many cousins. Kids’re funny looking, pinch-nosed and squat necked with wrinkly, whitish, chicken-skin bodies.”
Folks talked. “Was a god-sent blessin’ most’a them died ‘fore they hardly could walk.” Chugged a big swaller of a cold beer, “Never could’a growed into nuthin’ what could take care of itself.”
During afternoon teas church ladies abuzz amid dainty sips of Methodist cough medicine or homebrew brandy, their talk had nothing to do with facts. They just liked to ogle while they tittle-tattled.
Johnny didn't trust barely nobody, and except for a few, most didn’t trust Johnny Crockett. He should've stuck to what he knew best—bein’ lazy and sneaking beers from the cases on the delivery truck making its daily runs to local joints, including Mother’s Bar.
It’s been a full life of living…and still is. I have had several careers spanning a goodly number of years. I am a retired U.S. Navy officer; was on the postdoctoral faculties in the states, as well as the Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem. My undergraduate, postdoctoral and PhD years involved several medical specialties from general practice with concurrent majors in neurology, language to comparative chordate embryology and majors in international histories.
All of that led to eons and fantasies beyond growing up in the open spaces of the mountainous floodplains of the southwest, where there were horses and dogs as well as numerous farm critters along with assorted “four-legged furry hairy scaly varmits”…not to mention big cats and wolves. These things were simply part of the run-of-mill usual days in the barnyard and chicken pens and scrub brush rounding up stray Hereford calves and heifers. Words paint only the superficial when trying to wrap all of those memories of farming times along with my coalminer in-law relatives, and breathe to life the solitude of my quarter horse and a Doberman. They let lose my imagination on the world. It WAS and still IS great fun.
A quick aside…who inspired me to write? My mother and grand’ma…
In writing Westobou Gold--and the other titles in the series, I have been able to bring to life all those charismatic crotchety wonderful brilliant opinionated delightful “Southrons” I discovered in the haints and traditions of our beloved Southland. All have readily helped me along the way. This title, and the others in the Moccasin Hollow Mystery Series, is about them with a few touches about this author included.