It’s Friday Features, today we’re learning more about
Nancy Lynn Jarvis
Enjoying discovering this voice in Cozy Mysteries.
Here’s an excerpt from A Neighborly Killing (A Regan McHenry Real Estate Mystery):
Regan was one more flutter of eyelashes away from sleep. When she startled awake, her eyes wide open, she didn’t trust what she had heard. She thought she might have imagined the sound in the split second before sleep came.
Tom, lying in bed next to her, flinched slightly with the second report.
“What was that?” she asked, rolling in his direction and putting her hand lightly against his back.
“A gunshot. A rifle shot.” His voice was barely louder than a whisper, but it held no hint of sleepy haze.
She pushed an elbow under her and propped herself up so she could see over his shoulder to the outside. After promising El Niño rains in January, the skies had dried and temperatures hit record highs, leaving California still in a drought on this leap year last night of February. A rainfall Miracle March looked possible, though, and their house, at sixteen-hundred feet elevation on the windward side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, was under promising clouds, teasing that they might produce rain. She couldn’t see anything clearly in the diffused light of their mist-filled cloud cover except the bricks of their patio which glistened with moisture.
“Do you think it’s pig hunters?”
It had been several years since Bonny Doon had an outbreak of wild pigs. That episode was ended by experienced pig hunters who asked only for the meat they killed in exchange for ridding the countryside of the destructive beasts.
“Not on a night like this and not so near houses. The pig hunters gave notice a few days before they started hunting, too, so no one would be concerned when they heard shots, and they onlyhunted right after nightfall and right before dawn. Besides, I haven’t heard anyone complain about pigs lately. Have you?”
“No, I haven’t …”
Two more shots rang out in rapid succession, the second shot sounding before the echo of the first ceased.
Tom sat bolt-upright in bed. “Those blasts were close, I bet not more than thirty yards away.” He swung his long legs to the floor. “Whoever is shooting, they’re moving in our direction and getting awfully close.”
Regan usually loved the glass wall on the back side of their house which provided wonderful views over Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Tonight that feature made her feel exposed and vulnerable. As the gunshots came closer, she would have happily traded the view for substantial bullet-stopping walls.
Tom was out of bed, robe-less, and searching for his rubber-soled slippers. As soon as he found them and wiggled his feet into them, he reached for the putter he had stowed between his night stand and the window. He gripped it tightly in one hand as he stood at the bedside sliding door, open a couple of inches for fresh air, and peered into the night.
Regan’s tone was apprehensive. “You’re not going to …”
“I can make out a light,” he said in a soft voice. “It’s blurred and small; could be from a flashlight. It’s close, coming from the hillside below our patio and moving toward us.”
Regan thought she could see a faintly brightening patch beyond the patio’s edge, too.
“I want you away from the windows.” Tom barked a command at her in a husky whisper, “Go! Open the ga
age door and get in your car. Be ready to leave.”
“No. Not unless you come with me.”
The light outside stopped moving. There was another shot, but it sounded different from the previous shots. It lacked the power and resonant sound of rifle fire and was just a pop. The hillside light moved downhill a few feet and stopped.
As they waited for what would come next, Regan forgot to breathe. She strained to hear any sounds through the narrow door opening.
Was she imagining it or were there voices outside? Tom cocked his head. She wasn’t imagining; he heard something, too. The voices grew loud enough to fill the night. Words reached Regan and Tom’s ears, but they were shouted and full of emotion … and impossible to understand.
After a time, the voices ceased and all grew quiet again as the night was suddenly more brightly illuminated than it had been. The silence was rent once more, first by a long wailing cry, and then by another pop. The sky darkened abruptly, the small light wavered, and after a couple of seconds, pointed upward like a wispy beacon.
Regan slipped out of bed and pressed against the wall by their headboard with zeal, as if proximity to wood framing covered in sheetrock might offer some protection from a bullet.
“Go! Now!” Tom snapped, but she made no movement to do what he ordered.
Regan and Tom froze into tense poses, still and listening. The night remained silent. The bedroom wall clock, ticking off seconds with earsplitting abandon, was the only sound they heard.
After listening to the oppressive quiet outside for a good two-minute interval, Tom instructed, “Stay where you are then, if you insist, but beready to call 9-1-1 if you hear anything … anything … and if you do – I mean it – leave, get out of here.”
He slid the door open fully before she could protest, and pushed the screen slider open enough to squeeze through, crouching low as he cleared the door. He rested the putter on his shoulder and moved stealthily toward the edge of the patio, stopped there, slowly raised his head to peer over the low brick wall, and strained to see into the darkness. Then with a sudden move he vaulted over the wall. He stayed bent low, and using the golf club like a ski pole to aid his balance, he began descending the steepening slope that separated the civilization of their patio from the woodlands below. He disappeared from Regan’s view.
The tension Regan felt seemed to stretch time; even so, she didn’t have to wait long to see Tom reappear. He had added a flashlight to what he was carrying and moved rapidly uphill. The features of his face, lit from below by the flashlight, looked haunted.
“Call 9-1-1. Tell them I found … I can’t be sure, but I think it’s our neighbor, Paul.”
“Is he dead?” Regan asked even though she knew what his answer would be.
More about Nancy Lynn:
Nancy Lynn Jarvis finally acknowledged she was having too much fun writing to ever sell another house, so she let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her twenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.
After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC.
Nancy’s philosophy is that you should try something radically different every few years. Writing is her latest adventure. She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. The murders are made up, but the real estate details and ideas come from her own experiences.
She is working on book seven in the series and then plans a new series called Geezers With Tools (double entendre intended) about two retired men who start a handyman business, one because he is recently widowed and needs a way to fill his time, and the other because he’s a player who thinks it will be a good way to meet women.
About A Neighborly Killing:
Waking up to gunshots and discovering the body of their neighbor just outside their bedroom door is bad enough, but when the Coroner rules the death a suicide, Realtors Regan McHenry and her husband Tom Kiley don’t believe it for a minute.
Never mind what the physical evidence says; they heard their dead neighbor arguing with someone in the moments preceding his death.
What really happened has become more than just a mystery they’dlike to solve because the circumstances of their dead neighbor’s past keep interfering with their present and putting them in danger.
Connect with Nancy Lynn
at her Webpage
at her Facebook page,
and on her Goodreads page