A FATAL CHAPTER
While out walking Sarge, Tricia is led by the agitated dog to a man lying in a gazebo. She’s startled when she recognizes Pete Renquist, the president of the Stoneham Historical Society, who appears to be suffering from cardiac arrest. When Pete later dies in the hospital, the discovery of a suspicious bruise and a puncture mark on his arm suggests he may have been murdered.
Haunted by Pete’s enigmatic last words to her, Tricia begins to consider who had a motive to kill her friend. Did Pete take his flirting too far, only to have a jealous husband teach him a lesson? Or did he discover something in the town’s historical records that his killer wanted kept secret? Tricia is determined to get to the bottom of things before someone else becomes history…
“Engrossing! Credible characters lead realistic lives in a cozy that will make readers feel very much a part of the idyllic town of Stoneham.”
“Barrett, as always, balances her tale between the murder and the ever-changing lives of Stoneham’s residents. And the result is another winner.”
–Richmond Times Dispatch
“Tricia pieces together the clues in this nicely crafted mystery that ramps up the fear as a menacing figure stalks the picturesque scenery. The clues are good and the ending is a shocker!”
–RT Book Reviews
“This one will blow the reader out of the water. The late night petal-pincher mystery was a great diversion that kept me from pinpointing the true murderer. Tricia, as Pixie describes her, is a “stand-up chick” and one of my favorite female sleuths. Because of the unfortunate demise of Haven’t Got a Clue in the fire, Tricia is at her lowest, most vulnerable I’ve seen her in the series. However, if you like the Booktown series, this fatal mystery shows Tricia Miles, a stand-up chick at her best!”
Quill says: “Lorna Barrett, a cozy mystery queen, just might have been writing with a perfect pen when she wrote A Fatal Chapter!”
–Feathered Quill Book Reviews
“To say this story was a wild ride just doesn’t do it justice. Lorna Barrett hits this one completely out of the park and then some.”
—Escape with Dollycas into a book
“A perfect blend of crime, puzzles and clues, along with some great recipes offered up in the back of the book, readers are never left wanting when it comes to this fantastic series.”
–Mystery Scene Magazine
Suddenly, Sarge began to pull at the leash and bark. Tricia held her ground, looking around for the squirrel the dog had no doubt seen but which she couldn’t locate. Sarge barked even louder and fought to pull her toward the gazebo.
“Oh, all right. You can have a look. But when there’s nothing there, you’re going to feel pretty foolish,” she admonished the dog.
But she’d been wrong. There was something in the center of the edifice.
Tricia halted, her heart skipping a beat when she saw the pair of rather worn leather loafers attached to a pair of legs. She hurried up the steps to see a man lying face down. Crouching beside him, she held out a hand and forced herself to touch him. The skin was still warm. She stared at his chest and noticed he was still breathing. She reached and grasped his wrist and found a weak pulse.
She let out a breath. Thank goodness this one was alive. She’d found more than her fair share of corpses during her tenure in Stoneham. Sarge had stopped barking and did what dogs do best—held a sniff-athon, his nose taking in as much of the fallen fellow as possible, considering how tightly Tricia held the leash. She thought she recognized the clothes and the hair, and scooted around the still form until she could see that it was indeed Pete Renquist. What on earth was he doing lying unconscious in the gazebo on such a lovely summer’s day? He didn’t seem to be bleeding. As far as she knew, he didn’t suffer from seizures, but he obviously needed medical attention. Tricia pulled her cell phone from her slacks pocket and punched in 911. Seconds later, a voice spoke in her ear.
“Hillsborough County 911. Please state your name and the nature of the emergency.”
“My name is Tricia Miles. I’d like to report an accident in Stoneham Square. A man’s been hurt.”
“Hurt how?” the dispatcher asked.
“I’m not really sure. He’s lying in the gazebo and he’s unconscious. He seems to be having trouble breathing. Heart attack maybe? His pulse is rather weak.”
“Do you know his name?”
“Peter Renquist. He lives here in Stoneham.”
“Do you know how to perform CPR?”
“I’ve never had to do it, but I think I could if necessary,” Tricia said, her fear escalating.
“The Stoneham Fire Department’s rescue squad has been dispatched—” Sure enough, Tricia could already hear the squad’s siren. “Please stay with the victim until they arrive.”
The word victim made her shudder. “Of course I will.”
She ended the call and spoke to the man beside her. “Pete? Can you hear me? It’s me, Tricia. Help is on the way. I’m sure everything will be all right. Just hang on.” She said the words with what she hoped was reassurance, crossing her fingers they’d be true.
Pete’s eyes shot open, startling Tricia. His arm jerked up and he grasped Tricia’s arm with what could only be described as a death grip.
His lips moved, and she bent down to listen, but couldn’t hear what he was trying to say. “I don’t understand,” she said.
She bent lower so that her ear was close to his mouth.
“I never missed my little boy,” he said, gasping. His eyes closed and the grasp on her arm slackened as he fell into unconsciousness.
The rescue squad pulled up to the sidewalk and the EMTs practically spilled from the vehicle. They paused to grab their gear before jogging to the gazebo.
Sarge’s barking went back into overdrive. “Hush!” Tricia said, but she didn’t have the same kind of control over the dog as her sister did. He strained at the leash and Tricia hurried down the steps to intercept the EMTs. She scooped up Sarge and his barking quieted; instead, he began to growl at the newcomers. “Hush!” Tricia told him again, still without results.
Tricia recognized one of the EMTs as Danny Sutton. “It’s Pete Renquist,” she told him. “I think he might have had a heart attack.”
He nodded. “We’ve got it,” he said and he and his partner hurried up the stone steps to attend to their patient.
“Tricia!” Russ Smith called, running across the grass toward her. He’d no doubt heard the call for the EMTs go out on his police scanner. He had his camera slung around his neck and held his ever-present steno pad and a pen in hand.
Tricia stepped away from the gazebo, walking fast to close the space between them. “It’s Pete. I found him.”
“He’s dead?” Russ asked, shocked.
“No!” Tricia asserted.
“Well, you’re not known for finding live bodies,” Russ said with irony.
Tricia glared at him. “It looks like he might have suffered a heart attack.”
Russ looked toward the gazebo. “Poor guy. Did he say anything to you?”
“Nothing that made sense.”
They turned their attention to the road where an ambulance pulled up at the curb and another set of EMTs were soon hurrying to join the firemen, hauling a gurney along with them.
Tricia and Russ edged away, yet remained close enough that they could hear the EMTs.
“He’s gone into cardiac arrest,” Danny said and began CPR.
“Oh, no,” Tricia said, feeling close to tears.
“Well, at least he started out alive,” Russ said.
“Hey, don’t count Pete out yet,” she grated, glaring at him.
Russ just shrugged.
They watched as the EMTs worked in a fluid motion to transfer Pete to the gurney and whisk him off to the ambulance. By then they noticed a bunch of rubberneckers that had gathered around the edges of the park and were watching the show. Poor Pete.
Less than a minute later, the ambulance took off with its siren wailing. Sarge began to wiggle in Tricia’s arms and she set him down on the ground. The firemen packed up their gear, stowed it in their squad, and left the scene.
With the show now over, the gawkers began to drift away.
“That’s it,” Russ said. He cocked his head and addressed Tricia. “What were you doing in the park, anyway?”
She brandished Sarge’s leash. “What do you think?”
He shrugged, looking back to the road, then at his watch. “Looks like Pete and I won’t met to talk about that article after all. I sure hope the poor guy makes it.”
Heavy-hearted, Tricia looked toward the road where the ambulance had receded from sight. “Yes, me, too.”