Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by the authors of Second Wind Publishing. Seven authors, including me, are involved in the current story — Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces.
Residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.
Although some of the characters were introduced in Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story, a previous collaboration, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces is a stand-alone novel. The first chapter will be posted on Monday, June 11, and one chapter will be posted every Monday after that.
We hope you will enjoy seeing the story develop as we write it. Let the mystery continue! Whodunit? No one knows, not even the writers, and we won’t know until the very end!
Chapter 33: Melanie Gray
by Pat Bertram
Morris. Melanie shuddered, remembering her encounter with the famous author and his request for photos of necropieces. Well, now the evil old man was just a bunch of dead body parts himself.
The sheriff seemed to be focused on his driving, but a bird-like tilt of his head gave her the impression he was trying to hear her thoughts. Well, whatever other abilities Seth Bryan might have, she doubted he was clairvoyant. He never seemed to understand her or her point of view.
“I don’t know anything about Morris,” Melanie said. “And I’m not sure there’s much to know. Of all the people I’ve encountered in Rubicon Ranch, he seems the least opaque.”
The sheriff made a small noise that could have been a choke of laughter or a grunt of derision, but other than that, he remained silent.
“I mean, he is a despicable human being,” Melanie continued, “and whoever killed him should probably be given a medal for something . . . saving the earth, perhaps. But Morris doesn’t really hide what he is. He might have feigned Alzheimer’s, but that was simply because he felt like it. All that matters to him are his wants, and since he has the money to indulge himself in his evil fantasies, there is nothing to stop him.”
“Nothing?” Sheriff Bryan said quietly.
“Was nothing to stop him.” Melanie stole a look at the sheriff. Did her simple error in syntax make her seem guilty to him? She had no idea how his mind worked, and his eyes hidden behind those silly mirrored sunglasses gave her no clue.
She considered asking him if he knew who killed Morris, but he’d probably use that as an excuse to interrogate her about her neighbors, and she had nothing to say. She didn’t want to tell him about seeing the supposedly decrepit and curmudgeonly old Eloy Franklin laughing and frolicking with his dog as if he were a man half the age he pretended to be. Nor did she want to talk about the new people she’d seen wandering around the neighborhood as if it were a theme park—Murder World, or some such.
And she certainly didn’t want to talk about herself. She wouldn’t like to give the sheriff any hint of her true strength or deadliness, or he might decide to use the knowledge against her.
She stared out the window at the empty desert they were passing and wondered what he would think if she were to tell him about wrestling a boa constrictor in Costa Rica. The pale tan snake with its brown markings had been almost invisible hidden in the undergrowth, and she had tripped over it. Boas were tree-dwellers, so she wasn’t on the lookout for such a creature on the ground. She had since learned to be aware of everything in her surroundings, but back then, she was still unused to seeing danger lurking in innocent places. She figured out later the boa must have been sick or old or weak, otherwise she’d have been squeezed to death before she could unwrap the beast from around her torso. Still, it had taken all her considerable strength to save herself. And Alexander hadn’t lifted a hand to help. He had simply photographed the episode. Not exactly a knight in shining armor.
What would the sheriff have done in that situation? Kill the poor creature in an attempt to rescue the damsel in distress?
A low rumble that Melanie interpreted as a chuckle came from the man beside her. “I can hear your mental wheels spinning,” Bryan said. “Care to share what you’re thinking?”
“What are you, the thought police?” Realizing that perhaps she’d sounded too harsh for what could conceivably have been a guileless query on his part, she softened her tone. “I was just wondering if you were the knight in shining armor type, is all.”
Seth Bryan tapped the badge pinned to his left shirt pocket. “This is all the armor I need.” Then he smiled at her—a real smile that showed dazzling white teeth and a hint of a dimple. “Well, this badge and a bullet-proof vest.”
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+