Fiction Mystery Crime

Unlike most people in the fall who dread raking leaves, Joan was thoroughly enjoying it. Not only was it satisfying to revel in the clean yard afterwards, but it was also great exercise and an opportunity to enjoy the crisp, sunny day outside with her eight-year-old daughter and three-year-old German Shepherd mix.  Chelsea was joyfully helping her mother gather the leaves into a pile and jumping into them afterwards.  Buster made it his duty to dig at the unraked leaves with his paws and roll in them. Joan smiled at them both as she wiped her forehead with her kerchief. Suddenly, she noticed Buster’s casual burrowing become increasingly frantic.  “What is it, boy?” said Joan as she hurried towards the dog. Then, she froze when she saw the dog’s muzzle covered in blood as he proudly held a severed foot in his mouth.

“Buster, drop it,” Joan screamed. “I mean it, now! “Reluctantly, the dog obeyed. She grabbed him by the collar and shouted, “Chelsea, go inside and get Buster’s leash and some treats. We need to get him in the house.”

Joan hooked the leash onto the dog’s collar and lured him with Milk Bones to get him to hustle with her to the house. Chelsea marched alongside them, appalled, as Joan took Buster to the utility room.

“Mommy, what are we going to do?”

“We’re going to keep him here till we can clean him up.”

“But he looks so gross! He has blood all over his mouth.”

“I know, Chels. We’ll deal with it, but right now, I’m calling 911. Come on. Shut the door.”

Five minutes later, two Hinsdale police officers arrived. Chelea sidled up to her mother while Joan recounted the incident.

“Where is the foot now?” asked Officer Connelly.

“Over there,” said Joan as she pointed her quivering finger to the edge of their yard.

Chelsea twirled her dark brown ringlets around her index finger and looked up at the statuesque, attractive Black female officer.  “Mommy made him drop it. He didn’t want to, but he’s a very obedient dog, so he did.”

Joan and Chelsea followed the two officers as they sauntered over to examine the bloodied foot.” It’s fresh blood,” said Toomey to his partner and bagged it.

Joan and Chelsea stared at each other, horrified.

Connelly looked at Joan. “Where is your dog now? Could we see him?”

“Sure, no problem, “but can I ask why?”

“We want to see if he has any other, um, body matter on him.”

The color drained from Joan’s face as she steadied herself.

“Are you all right, Mrs. Simms?” asked Connolly. Joan shook her head and led the two officers, with Chelsea in tow, to the utility room where Buster was scratching on the door to get out.

Joan looked at her daughter who also looked peaked. “Mommy is Buster going to go to jail?” whispered Chelsea.

Joan stifled a smile, thankful for the comic relief. “No honey. They’re just looking for evidence.”

When Connelly and Toomey entered the utility room, Buster stood at attention. Both officers looked at each other, then at Joan. “He’s a rescue. He was being trained to be part of the Chicago Canine unit, but he failed.”

“Why’s that?” asked Toomey as Buster gazed up at the tall, burly man and wagged his tail so hard it looked like it was about to fall off.

“Because he was a bit too energetic and, as you can see, too friendly. “

“That happens, but he was acting like a trained K9 today, “smiled Toomey  and patted the dog’s head.

“Is it just you and your daughter, and Buster, who live here?” said Officer Toomey.

Joan smiled nervously. “I have a husband, Rob, but he’s in Pennsylvania on business.”

“How long has he been gone?”

“Eight days.”

The officers glanced at each other. “Is your husband always away this long?” said Toomey.

Joan, who felt as though the officers were judging her marriage, said, “Not usually. He’s tying things up in his Camp Hill, Pennsylvania office.”

“How long have you lived here?

“We moved in two weeks ago.”

“What does your husband do?”

“He works for CICO, an IT and networking company. “

“Is Camp Hill where you’re from?” said Connolly looking up from her notes.

Joan shifted from one foot to the other. “We both grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, but we lived in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania for 12 years.”

 “Is that near Philadelphia too?”

“No, it’s in the suburbs of Harrisburg.”

“So what made you buy here?”

 “CICO offered my husband an executive position in Chicago.”

Connolly looked at Joan, perplexed. “You say you both grew up in the suburbs and then moved to another suburban area. This isn’t quite the suburbs. It looks as though your closest neighbors are at least a mile away.”

“You’re right, we have eight acres. Our dream has always been to own a farmhouse, some horses and maybe chickens. I can live anywhere because I’m a writer, and with Rob’s substantial raise, we could finally make it happen.”

“Are you nervous being here by yourselves without your husband?” asked Connolly.

Joan was a bit taken aback by the question. If it hadn’t been asked by a woman, she would have been offended. “I’m very self-sufficient and we have a good burglar system.” She didn’t tell them about the gun Rob had legally bought her.

“I didn’t mean to imply that you weren’t, Mrs. Simms. It’s just that I would think a woman and a girl out here by themselves could seem a bit daunting.”

Joan thought about the argument she and Rob had over the phone the previous night. “You’re not coming home till Friday? Rob, you promised you’d be home tomorrow, “said Joan.

“I know, honey. It’s just taking us longer than we thought to tie up loose ends.”

“You have a replacement. Let her take over.”

“She’s almost ready to do that. Then I’ll be there for good. I promise.”

Joan was brought out of her reverie when Toomey came back from looking around the property. “I’m going to bring one of our dogs out in about an hour.”

When Toomey left, Joan excused herself to tell Rob what was going on. “Honey are you two all right?” pleaded Rob.

         “We’re OK and one of the officers is still here with us. The other one left to go get one of their dogs. “


         “I guess so, but we’re handling it. We have no choice. You’re not with us.”

         “Come on, Joan. We’ve been through this. “

“I know, Rob, but Chelsea and I are out here in the middle of nowhere. No neighbors nearby. I know this house is our dream, but you need to be here too.”

“I will be soon. I told you that, Joan. Have you been doing your target practice with the gun I bought you?”

“I haven’t exactly had a chance since Chelsea and I are trying to do all the unpacking by ourselves.”

Joan could hear the annoyance in Rob’s voice. “You need to make time. Will you promise me you’ll do that?”

“OK, but a gun and a burglar system do not substitute for you being here Rob. I need some moral support while getting used to this place, especially after this happened.”

“Believe me, I’m worried too.”

“You should be. A severed foot for god’s sake! Somebody may have been murdered near here!”

“Let’s not jump to conclusions.”

“What could it be then? Chelsea and I are scared to death. Why was the foot cut off? Did the murderer cut the victim up in little pieces? Are Chelsea and I next?

“Calm down, Joan. I’ll reschedule my flight to be home as soon as I can. “

 “I know you have to wrap things up in Harrisburg, but you’re also enjoying some last days with your colleagues while Chelsea and I are out dealing with a crazed maniac, without you, without …”

“I’ll get home this evening, at the very least tomorrow morning.”

“Since you’re leaving Harrisburg two days early, will you have to go back again after that?”

“Probably, but let’s not worry about that now, OK?”

“I want us back in our old neighborhood, Rob. It was your damn company that brought us here. Is the extra money, worth it if you’re absent, and we’re away from our family and friends?  I want to sell this god forsaken house now!”

“Come on, Joan. This is our dream…”

“I don’t care about having a huge garden and horses and chickens. We can go riding at Hidden Acres Stables any time we want. And our little backyard garden was fine. And they sell organic eggs at Whole Foods! I want to go home!”

“You know you don’t mean it.”

“How do you know what I mean?” Joan said and hit the end button on her phone.

When the officers and their Belgian Malinois Max returned at 11:12 a.m., Joan showed them the 8-acre property framed with Sugar Maples, Bur Oaks, and White Oaks. Immediately the muscular brown dog, with the black snout, focused on his job as he sniffed every slight indentation of the earth, the four stables in the expansive metal horse barn, and beneath every tree. When he reached the perimeter of the property, though, the dog stood squarely on all fours, sniffed the air, and sprinted towards the red wooden barn on the adjacent property. “Who lives there?” asked Connolly pointing at the rustic farmhouse.

“Sam Monroe. He’s a farmer, probably in his 50s.”

“Have you met him?”

“Only once when we were first looking at this property. He’s lived here for decades. A bit eccentric from what I gathered.”

“How so?”

“He came over to check us out when we were first looking at the house and the property. He seemed a little cantankerous, and he was holding a shotgun. He said he always had it with him lately because a coyote had been killing his chickens.

“Let’s go talk to Mr. Monroe,” said Toomey as he looked towards the humble old farmhouse beyond the barn.

The officers weren’t welcomed with a warm reception when they asked Mr. Munroe if they could check his property and possibly his house.

“Go ahead and check if you want, but you ain’t gonna find anything untoward here. And, if you don’t mind, I’m gonna walk with you. Don’t want you disturnin my crops or your dog goin after my animals.”  

The two officers and the K9 searched the barn including all the cow stalls, the pig pen, and the goat area, with Sam following closely. As they headed towards the chicken coops, Max made a beeline to the third one and barked incessantly. The officers moved quickly to where the dog rigidly stood. There, huddled inside the coop was an unconscious bearded man, no more than 35, lying in a fetal position with his bloodied shirt wrapped around his ankle. Connolly checked his pulse. “He’s alive. Call the medics!”     

 “Is that who I think it is?” asked Toomey.

Connoly pulled up the police data base on his phone. “Yep, it’s John Morris in the flesh,” she beamed.  Law enforcement had been searching for Morris for the past seven months since he escaped from the Statesville Correctional Center near Chicago. “Ten days ago, the marshals were on his trail but lost him in the 110-acre Egermann Woods Forest Preserve, in DuPage County, and there hadn’t been a siting since. “

While waiting for the ambulance, Toomey sneered,” I can’t believe our luck. All these months looking for John Morris, and we finally find him in a pile of chicken shit.” When the officers returned to Joan’s house, they told her that she and her daughter were safe. “The foot belonged to a notorious bank robber who had escaped from jail recently. He’s going to the hospital, then directly back to jail,” said Toomey.

“How did he lose his foot?” Joan asked.

“Mr. Munro set some traps for the coyotes that had been killing his livestock. Apparently, Morris stepped into one, and it severed his foot, “said Connolly.

When the officers left, and Buster was all cleaned up, Chelsea asked,” Mommy, are we going to move back home?”

Joan stooped down to look her daughter directly in her eyes. “Honey, this is home.”

“But aren’t you scared after what happened?”

“I was, but it’s over now. We’re safe.”

Chelsea chewed her lip. “What if something like this happens again? You know, more robbers escape from jail and come here?”

Joan grinned at her delightful little girl. “I promise that won’t happen. It’s unusual for prisoners to escape from jail, let alone come to where we are.  Besides, Hinsdale has a great police force. They’ll keep us safe.”

“Where is the footless robber now?”

“He’s in the hospital for today, but when he’s better the police will take him back to jail. And you know what, Chels?”


Joan pushed a curl away from Chelsea’s face. “We’re two strong resourceful ladies. We handled the situation, didn’t we?”

Chelsea nodded and bent down to scratch Buster behind his silky ears. “And we have a great police dog, even if he did get kicked off the force for being too nice.” 

Joan chuckled and patted the dog’s large head. “Absolutely.”

“Mommy, when will Daddy be home?”

December 09, 2022 13:09

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Lonnie Larson
21:22 Dec 14, 2022

Interesting to say the least. Very fast paced, but then short stories have to be. Well written. Keep up the good work.


15:30 Dec 24, 2022

Thanks Lonnie for your feedback and encouragement.


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