Dog-Gone Dead

Dog-Gone Dead

June 2020 $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-988-9

Who’d have thought mulch could cause such a stink?

Our PriceUS$15.95
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Who’d have thought mulch could cause such a stink?

Low Country dog walker Andi Grace Scott is happy to score some free mulch from one of her brother’s landscaping jobs—until she discovers the dead body buried beneath the bark.

Worse, her brother’s landscaping tools were used to commit the murder. Once the police arrest her brother and seem happy to have "caught their man,” Andi Grace has no choice but to track down the real killer. She’ll risk everything to prove her brother’s innocence. Even if it means turning over every rock in town.

If you love small-town coastal life, dogs, and strong heroines, you’ll love Dog-Gone Dead.

Author Bio: Former Kentucky pharmacist JACKIE LAYTON loves her new life in the Low Country. Walks on the beach and collecting shells are a few of her hobbies when she’s not writing.

Dog-Gone Dead is the second book in Jackie’s new Low Country Dog Walker Mystery series. Jackie also enjoys hearing from readers. Be sure to follow her on Facebook.

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"Low Country Dog Walker series offers a protagonist with substance, heart and personality.”

—Cynthia Smith, Netgalley Reviewer


—Janet Graham, Goodreads

"An excellent and engrossing cozy mystery.”

—Annarella, Goodreads

"Brimming with Southern charm.”

—Breda Arnold, NetGalley Reviewer



Chapter One

A YELLOW VOLKSWAGEN Beetle with white daisy decals barreled toward us, racing at a ridiculous speed on the narrow entrance road of Richard Rice Plantation. The car never slowed or swerved back to the other side of the lane. With my heart pounding, I jerked the steering wheel then slammed on the brakes.

My best friend Juliet Reed screamed from the passenger seat of the landscaping pickup truck I drove. Her hands flew forward as if to clutch the dashboard and brace her body, but the seat belt had her pinned.

From the back seat, my German shepherd barked.

"It’s okay, Sunny.” I fought for control, but we slid off the road and into the sandy grass under an ancient oak, missing the massive trunk by inches.

The VW whizzed past us.

White-knuckling the steering wheel, I glanced at Julia. "Are you okay?”

Her face was pale. "I’m fine, I think.”

"Did you see the driver?” I loosened my grip one finger at a time then reached back and rubbed Sunny’s head. "Good girl.”

"I think it was Wendy Conn.” Juliet pushed the button to release her seat belt, twisted around, and looked out the back window. "I didn’t actually see the driver, but it was her Bug. Had to be. Nobody else around here drives one with all those daisies.”

Perspiration broke out on the back of my neck. Un, deux, trois…I counted to ten in French then edged back onto the plantation’s entry road. "Next time I see Wendy, I’m going to give her a piece of my mind. I don’t care how close you two are.”

"I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re close. Old co-workers, but nothing more.” Juliet glanced behind us. "Wonder why she’s in such a hurry?”

I didn’t care. "There’s no excuse for reckless driving.”

"She’s probably running late for an appointment at the salon. I was always getting on her to be on time when I owned Lovely Locks, but I didn’t fire her because she’s a good stylist. Tuesdays are senior discount day, so she’ll have a full schedule.” Juliet dropped her head back onto the headrest. "Let’s discuss your brother. It was nice of Nate to leave us some mulch for the bed and breakfast.”

I couldn’t help but smile, which lessened my tension. Juliet thought my brother was more than nice. "Don’t try to change the subject.” I turned right.

"Take a deep breath. We were having a good day until Wendy almost killed us. We should count our blessings. Starting with the fact we didn’t crash into that humongous oak.”

I sighed. "You’re right. We’re blessed with good family and friends. Not to mention our morning jaunt to Daily Java for coffee and blue­berry muffins. Wendy’s not going to spoil our day.”

Except for Sunny’s panting, we crossed the large parking lot in si­lence. It was surrounded by oak trees and magnolias. Good shade trees for large groups of visitors during tourist season.

I thanked God for keeping us safe and for providing me with an amazing brother. Even though Nate was younger, he’d always looked out for my best interest, like now. He’d brought over some mulch for us to use on the grounds of my B&B. "His landscaping truck should be toward the back of the lot.”

Juliet pointed. "I see his trailer.”

"But where’s his truck?” Odd. I stopped in the middle of the near- empty lot and reached for my phone. I punched in my brother’s number and waited for him to answer, but it rolled to voice mail. "Nate, we’re here. We’ll meet you at the trailer.”

A dark color SUV appeared from a blacktop drive leading from the river and the plantation chapel or school house. At least that’s what the green and white sign said. Richard Rice Plantation had transformed from a thriving rice plantation on the river to a historical site where visitors came to learn more about South Carolina history.

The SUV’s driver barely tapped his brakes before taking off in the opposite direction from us. He sped away toward the entry lane.

Juliet said, "How weird. Where’s everybody going, and where’s your brother? This early in the morning, it seems like employees should be arriving. Not leaving.”

"We know Wendy doesn’t work here. The other driver probably doesn’t either. Too bad the dark windows concealed their identity.” The plantation wasn’t open for guests this early in the morning, in fact it’d be a couple of hours before patrons could enter. So what were Wendy and the mystery person doing here? It wasn’t even eight o’clock. The parking lot was empty except for Nate’s trailer at the back. He’d parked parallel to the edge, giving us easy access to what we needed.

A random car sat on the opposite side of the lot. The driver had parked in two spaces as if he didn’t want anybody to hit his vehicle. "I know. The only other vehicle in the lot is that blue sports car.”

"It’s a brand new Audi. See the four circles on the hood?” She whipped out her phone and snapped a picture. "For my dream board.”

I laughed. My friend had a weakness for fancy sports cars, and I had a need for big dependable vehicles for my dog walking business. "If I ever wanted a cool car, it’d be the red one on Magnum.”

"It’s a Ferrari 488 Spider in the new series.”

I laughed. "Of course you’d know that, but I’ll never splurge on one. I’m still saving up to visit France.” I backed up to the trailer so we could load mulch into it easier. "Let’s get to work. Nate keeps shovels attached to his trailer.”

Juliet pulled her hair into a bun and checked her reflection in the truck’s side mirror. "It’s warm for January, and we’re going to sweat like pigs if we do all the work ourselves. I don’t mind waiting a little longer.”

"You look fine. Come on.” I hopped out of the truck, and Sunny followed me to where the trailer had been parked parallel to the edge of the blacktopped area. A few months earlier, I’d suspected Juliet cared for my brother, and this was one more clue to add to my list. I called to her over my shoulder. "I don’t want to wait all day. Nate will help when he gets here.”

Juliet glanced around before she joined Sunny and me at the land­scaping trailer.

Mulch lay scattered on the ground, and I frowned. "Nate always cleans his work space before leaving at the end of the day. He must be around here somewhere.”

"Should I get a rake and a broom off the rack in back?”

"Not yet. Something’s off.” My scalp prickled. Nate had scrimped and saved to buy the side dump landscaping trailer. With the front section he could pour out mulch or grass clippings with ease, saving him time and energy to focus on creating beautiful outdoor settings. I patted the ledge. "Our mulch is in here.”

Juliet inspected the deck space at the back of the trailer. "There’s no wheelbarrow.” Juliet planted her hands on her hips.

I hurried to check it out. "I wonder why there are still shovels here. Today the men are scheduled to plant shrubs around the building where you pay to take tours of the plantation.”

"It makes me think his crew is late or working at other sites. Call him again.” She ran the zipper of her jacket up and down.

I hit redial, but still no answer. After leaving another message, I turn­ed to my friend. "Let’s stay calm. Do you see Nate’s truck? He would’ve pulled the trailer here this morning, because the bin is full of mulch. I just can’t figure out where he went with his truck.”

Juliet snapped her fingers. "Maybe he drove to town to get us coffee.”

"No, once he starts working, he only drinks water and stuff with electrolytes.” My stomach tightened. Big time. "He might’ve driven to another area of the plantation. Maybe he had trees or concrete pots in the back of the truck and drove to the exact area where he’s working. Let’s see if we can find him.”

Juliet nodded. "Should we split up?”

"No. We stick together.” Nate had promised to meet us here, and he was a man of his word. "It’s not like him to stand us up.”

"I know.” She stuck to me like glue. "He could’ve run into a snake or alligator or fallen into a hole. Anything could’ve happened.”

My heart thundered. In June, I’d found Peter Roth’s dead body. Bad things happened to good people. I shook my head, stopping the negative thoughts beginning to form. "It could be as simple as he lost track of the time.”

"You said Nate was supposed to landscape around the welcome center. Let’s go to see if he’s there.”

"Good idea.” I patted my leg. "Sunny, come.”

My brother was going to be fine, and we’d laugh about the mix-up later. My dog sniffed around a pine tree, paused, then bounded toward me.

"Good girl.” The three of us traversed the parking lot and took the path to the entry gate. Birds sang their morning songs as the sun con­tinued rising. A normal morning, except it didn’t feel normal. A shiver stole up my back, and it wasn’t due to the brisk January breeze.

Nate’s truck sat in the grass near the gate. The tailgate was lowered, and the bed was empty except traces of dirt.

The flower bed around the gate held camellias and winter daphne. Buckets of liriope at the side waited to be planted, and a half-full wheel­barrow of chunky brown mulch needed to be spread in due time. There were also artistic pots of bright colored pansies. Yes, it all looked like a typical day for a landscaper, apart from a pair of men’s running shoes poking out of the mulch. I did a double take. Yep, it was definitely a pair of shoes. My gaze traveled from one shoe to a black sock, a flash of skin and blue jeans. I gasped. Was it my brother? Nate almost always wore work boots on a job site. Not Adidas. It didn’t make sense he’d change his work habits.

Juliet screamed. "No!”

"Call 911.”

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