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Hazard of the Hills - PP6 ebook

Hazard of the Hills - PP6 ebook

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A Mighty Fall

This case might just leave Margie feeling nostalgic about the water deaths she has been investigating lately.

A woman is found at the bottom of a 70-meter drop. It is pretty clear from the beginning that she was killed in the fall.

But you can never be sure until the medical examiner’s report comes back. It would appear that there is a lot more to be investigated after all.

Maybe this close-knit community wasn’t quite all it appeared to be.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is another well-written, briskly-paced mystery featuring great characters, lots of interesting glimpses into Canada’s Indigenous culture, and a satisfying resolution all wrapped up in delightful quick-read police procedural by an author who could make a description of drying paint sound fascinating.

Looking for a police procedural set in picturesque Canada? Let Award-winning and Bestselling Author P.D. Workman take you to her favourite Calgary parks, as Métis detective Margie Patenaude investigates a murder in this fast-paced new series. 

These short mysteries are just right for those days when you could use a break from your busy life. Take a walk in a Calgary park with Parks Pat.

Fall into this new mystery today!

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Chapter 1

Margie studied Christina as she prepared to go out with her friends.

“Hat? Sunscreen? Bug spray?”

“Mom!” Christina gave her most exasperated-teenager groan to the word. “I don’t need any of those things. It isn’t like I’m going to get sunburned.”

“Even with your dark skin, you can still get sunburned,” Margie told her, smiling at the rich brown tone of Christina’s skin, very close to Margie’s own. Christina’s Cree features were a little less pronounced than Margie’s. Anyone looking at Margie immediately knew she was descended from one of the First Nations. Christina was most likely to be considered Indigenous, but her smaller nose and more rounded cheeks left enough doubt that people would ask rather than just assuming. “I remember going to an air show in Winnipeg once where I—”

“Was standing outside in the full sun looking at the sky for ten hours,” Christina finished. Apparently, Margie had mentioned the story once or twice before. “And your skin peeled.”

Margie nodded. “Exactly. You get a burn like that once, and your chances at getting skin cancer skyrocket. It isn’t worth the risk. If you would at least wear a hat to keep the sun off your face…”

“No. I don’t want a hat on, and I’m not going to be looking at the sky for ten hours. We’ll be outside for a few minutes, and then be in one of the buildings to eat or look at exhibits. I don’t need a hat and I don’t need sunscreen.”

Margie didn’t bring up bug spray again. Christina was rarely bothered by the mosquitoes. And it was going to be a warm day. The mosquitoes wouldn’t be out until the evening.

“Okay? I’m going now,” Christina informed her. She leaned down slightly to give Margie a hug and kiss her forehead as if she were the child instead of Christina. “Stop worrying. I’ll have my phone with me, there’s security, and you raised me well, so there’s nothing to fuss about. I’ll be fine.”

Margie knew that she probably would be, but that didn’t stop her from worrying. Things could still happen. Girls could be lured and trafficked. There was, unfortunately, an increase in trafficking around the Stampede, with extra girls brought in to serve the tourists and locals looking for some Stampede side action. What if some of those traffickers were looking to increase their stables? Christina was an attractive girl of the right age. And as sophisticated as she was, there was no guarantee she would recognize the danger if she were approached by a teen boy who showed her interest.

“Who is going with you? You guys will stay together, right?”

“We’re going as a group,” Christina said, which didn’t actually answer the question of whether they would stay together all the time. “It’s just some friends from school. You don’t know all of them.”

“Is Tracy going?”

“Yes.” Eye roll. “Tracy is going.”

Tracy, a boy, not a girl, would help to deter approaches by young men, but also brought more worries.

“You won’t go off on your own? It’s not safe for you to just wander by yourself.”

“It will be perfectly fine,” Christina insisted. “I will be okay, Mom, I promise.”

“Maybe I should come along. Seeing as it is Community Spirit Day, and I really should go see the Elbow River Camp. I went a couple of times when I was a little girl, but that was a long time ago.”

“You are not coming with me.”

Margie smiled and gave her daughter a squeeze. “Don’t give me reason to, then. Be safe. Take all the precautions, even if you think that I’m being silly and you don’t need to. Remember I’m a cop, I’ve seen a lot more than you.”

“Yes, Mom.” Christina’s tone was pained. “Now I have to go. They’re texting me.” She flashed her phone at Margie to show her how impatient her friends were. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“When will you be home?”

“I don’t know. It might be late. We might go to Peters’ and then find a place to watch the fireworks.”

Margie salivated as she remembered her own trips to the drive-in with her friends those summers she had visited her Moushoom. Peters’ burgers, milkshakes in unending varieties so thick you could hardly suck them through a straw, and big baskets of fries. Back in those days, she could eat things like that without putting on weight.

“Call or text me a couple of times during the day just to touch base,” she told Christina. “Then I won’t call you.”

“Okay, Mom. Bye.”

Christina touched Margie fleetingly on the arm to soften her abrupt reply and dashed out the door. As she left, Margie saw that she was wearing sandals. If she walked in those all day, the backs of her heels were going to be raw.

Christina had promised that she would be okay. She was sure that she could control the outcomes, when all she could really control were her own choices.

* * *

Once Christina was on her way, Margie did a quick sweep through the kitchen and the rest of the house to make sure that all the dishes were in the dishwasher and clothes from the previous night were in the hamper. The house looked reasonably tidy. Christina didn’t always remember to pick up after herself, but she was pretty good about it. Better, Margie was sure, than she herself had been as a teenager. She hadn’t made the best choices herself, becoming pregnant with Christina when she had been barely older than her daughter was now.

The thought made her shudder.

She had thought that she was so grown up. Such an adult. She hadn’t known how much growing up she would be forced to do in a short time to keep her daughter and get herself back on track.

Margie’s phone vibrated in her pocket. She pulled it out, expecting to see a text from Christina, but it kept vibrating in her hand, a picture of Kaitlyn Jones, one of Margie’s fellow homicide detectives, on the screen. Blond, friendly, smiling in the picture. She had made Margie feel immediately welcome in Calgary when Margie had arrived less than a year before.

Margie swiped to answer the call. “Detective Patenaude.”

“Is this Detective Parks Pat?” Jones asked smartly.

Which meant that Margie’s assumed specialty in solving homicides that took place in Calgary’s parks was being called upon. She let out her breath. “What have we got?”

“I don’t have many details yet. Body found in Edworthy Park. A woman. That’s about all I know so far. Meet me there?”

“Will do,” Margie agreed. “Will it be on my GPS?”

“I’m sure it will be. And the scene is actually fairly close to the south parking lot, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to find once you get there. Just look for the yellow tape and people trying to see what’s going on.”

“Okay.” Margie headed over to the door to put on her shoes. “Tell me there isn’t any water at Edworthy Park.”

Jones laughed. “It’s on the river. But you’re in luck this time. The body is not in the water.”

“Thank goodness for that. I’m beginning to think that I’m going to have to invest in a life jacket as part of my on-scene uniform.”

Jones chuckled at that. “See you there,” she said, and hung up.

Chapter 2

The route that the GPS app showed on the map of Calgary was convoluted, and Margie hoped that she wouldn’t miss any exits, or she would be driving all over Calgary before she managed to find Edworthy Park. The computer voice would yell at her to perform illegal U-turns and cross medians while Margie tried to keep an eye on the screen and on the traffic and exit signs all at the same time. One thing that she wished was different about Calgary was how much area the city covered. It was not neat and compact, that was for sure. And very little of it followed the grid system that the city’s forefathers had envisioned.

Margie finished braiding her hair and pinned it up into a bun.

“Okay, be nice to me,” she told the GPS voice, and pulled away from the curb.

She did manage to miss a couple of turns but, thankfully, the GPS was able to compensate without making her perform any illegal turns. She did not get pulled over by a traffic cop. Explaining that she was a police detective and couldn’t follow navigation directions was not how she wanted to start the case.

It was nearly half an hour before she made it to the signs designating the park. There was a steep hill down into the park with switchbacks back and forth. She was immediately surrounded by an impressive growth of trees and bushes, giving the illusion that she was out in the wilds rather than in the middle of a busy city. When she got to the bottom, she could see the series of parking lots for public parking. There was a squad car with flashing lights blocking off one access and a cop redirecting traffic away from it on foot. Margie followed the road that curved through the parking lots, aiming for that entrance.

The traffic cop bent down to talk to her when she stopped, half of his face obscured by a black mask. “Sorry, ma’am, this area is restricted.”

Margie held up her police identification. “Homicide.”

“Ah. Give me a sec.” He moved away from the car and grabbed one of the orange A-frame barricades that also blocked the road. He pulled it to the side so that Margie could get her car past the police car, then pulled it back into place as she drove farther down the road.

Margie continued to follow the road and the waves of various law enforcement officers or park conservation officers along the way until she reached what was obviously the staging area. She stepped out of her car and was met by Detective Jones.

“Didn’t take you too long,” Jones observed, her eyes smiling. “I take it Edworthy Park was on your GPS?”

“Yes. Didn’t lead me astray this time. Which means I’ll have to be all the more careful next time…”

Jones nodded. “We’re this way.”

She led Margie at a quick clip to a patch of browning grass and dirt with narrow tire impressions, and there it was. Margie stayed well back from the body, looking around to see whether the forensic techs were there yet. There were a couple already geared up and waiting in the shade of the nearby trees. She made a slow circle of the body but couldn’t see much other than what Jones had already mentioned. That it was a woman, and she was dead. The crumpled form was face town, limbs askew, and it was not immediately apparent what had happened to her. She wore a light jacket and long pants, so it had probably been cool when she had gone for a walk in the park and… Margie had to stop there, because she really didn’t have any idea what happened next. The clothes were scuffed and had holes in them. A homeless person?

“Any idea what happened to her?” Margie asked. “Who found the body?”

“Dog walker.” Jones motioned in what appeared to be a random direction, since Margie didn’t see a man with a dog waiting to be interviewed. There were privacy screens up, though, and there might be a witness in one of the blind spots. “As usual. And as far as the cause of death, I would think that was pretty obvious.”

Margie looked again for any sign of violence. There was no spreading pool of blood, no visible bullet or knife wound. No vomit puddles nearby indicating poison or overdose.

“I guess I haven’t had enough coffee yet this morning. What’s obvious?”

Jones pointed up. Margie raised her head and followed the direction of Jones’s index finger. “What…?”

The hill beside them was steep, nearly a cliff. But as Margie looked at it, she realized that the stripes down the side were trails worn by bicycle tires. Margie would not have attempted to walk up or down the steep incline but, apparently, bikers used it regularly. Margie looked at the tire marks through the clearing. What amazed her was how many tire tracks and worn trails there were. It clearly wasn’t just something that one daredevil had attempted, surviving the plunge to the bottom, but something that was done with regularity.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I wish I was.”

“She fell?”

“Looks that way. Went out for her evening constitutional, and…” Jones made a whistling sound.

“Ai-yi-yi! Why isn’t there a fence or a barrier at the top? This is dangerous!”

“They’ve had fences. They gave up because they kept being pulled down by the downhill bikers.”

“They should be put in jail. Or in some kind of institution. How could anyone sane even consider that?” Margie stared up the hill. “I mean seriously, is biking down there even possible?”

“I don’t think I would be able to watch.”

Margie took another look around, analyzing the positioning of the body once more. Not someone who had just collapsed there, but someone who had taken a tumble down the hill and landed in a heap there. The dirt and tears in her clothing not from living rough or sleeping outside, but from falling down the hill head over heels.

“How high is the hill?”

“I asked one of the CO’s. Apparently, it’s about 70 meters.”

Margie automatically converted it in her head. Over 210 feet.

“Crap. She must have been terrified.”

Jones nodded soberly.

“Well, I don’t think we’re going to figure out much more standing here, so let’s have the experts take a look.”

“Yup.” Jones raised her hand high over her head, motioning for the forensic guys to come over. They looked at her for any detailed instructions she might have. “I’ll leave you to it. I don’t have any particular insight into people who fall over cliffs. I guess we should look for anything that she might have been holding and dropped. But I don’t see anything obvious. Record everything you can, and then we’ll have the death investigator take a look at the body and arrange transport.”

They didn’t tell her that they already knew the protocol, just nodded politely and went to work. Margie and Jones scanned the ground for anything that might have been dropped or fallen out of the pockets of the deceased. There was some litter, more likely left behind by the crazy downhill bikers, but it would all have to be gathered together for analysis anyway.

“You can’t be over the police line!” A strong male voice was raised over the chatter of police radios, bystanders, and various people involved in the scene. Margie looked around one of the privacy screens to see what the commotion was about. Detective Gagnon, whom she’d not had much opportunity to work with previously, was telling off one of the bystanders, who was, in fact, properly behind the yellow police tape. Margie turned her head to frown at Jones, who was also looking at the scene with some consternation.

“You want me to confiscate that?” Gagnon demanded.

The man he was talking to had something in both hands like an electronic game. His head was down and he was working the controller in his hands. He glanced up at Gagnon, scowling, and said something back to him.

Margie wanted to go see what was going on, but if she and Jones both went over, it would look like they were questioning Gagnon’s judgment or all ganging up on the bystander, neither of which was a desirable scenario.

“Go ahead,” Jones said. “See if he needs a hand with anything and I’ll supervise here.”

Margie nodded and moved off to join Gagnon at the perimeter. “Anything I can assist with, Detective Gagnon?”

He cast an irritated glance at her, which Margie fully understood. She wouldn’t want anyone trying to poke their nose in when she was handling a situation either. Only sometimes, it did help to have someone else on hand.

“This joker thinks that he doesn’t have to respect the police line,” Gagnon pointed out.

Margie looked at the man a few feet back of the police tape. But as she stood there, something caught her attention out the corner of her eye. She turned her head and looked up. A bird or squirrel? But the movement hadn’t been an animal in the trees. It was a small box floating in the air. There was a very faint whirring coming from it that she could barely hear over the other ambient noise of the murder site.

A remote-control drone of some kind. And it was, in fact, significantly inside the police line. In a position where its camera would be able to view over the privacy screens to where the body lay. Margie looked back at the man with the controller in his hands.

“Do you want me to arrest him for obstructing an investigation?”

Gagnon’s jaw clenched and he gave a curt nod. “Might as well, he won’t listen to anything else.”

Margie took a step toward him. “Sir, I’m putting you under—”

“I’m not doing anything!” the man protested, looking at her for a moment before looking back down at the controller in his hands, twiddling the joystick that controlled the craft’s direction. “I’m not interfering. I’m back here behind the police line, just like he said. I haven’t touched anything or gotten in anybody’s way.”

“You’ve been told that thing can’t be over the police line. You’ve failed to comply. So I’m putting you under arrest. We’ll impound the drone and the judge can decide whether—”

“It’s here. It’s here, it’s not over the line anymore.” The little box hovered over the man, then ducked slightly behind him, as if it were a child hiding behind his father.

“What’s your name, sir?”

“Howard Ross.”

“Have you got some ID?”

He looked as though he would argue. Then he bit his lip and used his controller to bring the drone down to the ground, so that he could put the controller down to go through his pockets. He pulled a wallet out of his breast pocket and dug out his driver’s license for Margie to look at. He had given his correct name, and she quickly jotted down his name, address, and birth date, as well as the operator’s license number in her notepad.

“Have you ever been arrested before?” she asked him.

“You can’t arrest me! I’m doing what you told me to.”

Margie looked at Gagnon, raising her brows. “I’m pretty sure I can,” she argued. “Wouldn’t you say?”

“Of course.”

Margie nodded. “So, is this the first time you’ve been arrested?”

“I’ve never been arrested before. Look, all I was doing was using my drone. I didn’t think there was any harm in it.”

“When a peace officer gives you a command and you don’t comply, you’re in the wrong. Period. It doesn’t really matter what you think.”

He opened his mouth to argue, then apparently thought better of it. “Yes, ma’am.”

“This is a police perimeter. You can’t cross a police perimeter with a drone.”

He nodded his understanding.

“I think you owe Detective Gagnon here an apology.”

“I’m sorry,” Ross said immediately. He turned slightly to face Gagnon directly. “I’m sorry, sir. I should have listened to what you said. I really don’t want to be arrested. I wasn’t trying to do anything wrong. Do you think…”

Gagnon gave him a fierce look, unblinking. Ross lowered his eyes and looked at the ground near his feet.

“I am. I’m sorry. I’m not just saying that. Please don’t arrest me or confiscate my drone.”

“Why don’t you pick up your drone and get out of here?”

“Okay. Yes, sir. I will.” Ross turned around and bent down to pick up the small drone and beat a hasty retreat.

Gagnon turned and looked at Margie.

“I hope you don’t think I was interfering,” Margie said. “I was just offering to help out.”

“You have a teenager at home?”

“Yes,” Margie was surprised that he knew. She hadn’t had much to do with Gagnon at the office, and she didn’t talk a lot about Christina or have pictures on her desk. She tried to keep her personal life and job from intermixing too much.

“I thought so. There’s no one as intimidating as a mom with a teenager.”

Margie laughed. “Thanks!”

“He didn’t back down for me,” Gagnon pointed out. “But he wasn’t going to cross Mama Bear.”

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P.D. (Pamela) Workman is a USA Today Bestselling author, winner of several awards from Library Services for Youth in Custody and the InD’tale Magazine’s Crowned Heart award, and has published over 100 mystery/suspense/thriller and young adult books.

Workman loves writing about the underdog. She has been praised for her realistic details, deep characterization, and sensitive handling of the serious social issues that appear in her stories, from light cozy mysteries to darker, grittier young adult and mystery/suspense books.

P. D. Workman does not shy from probing the deep psychological scars of childhood trauma, mental illness, and addiction. Also characteristic of this author, these extremely sensitive issues are explored with extensive empathy, described with incredible clarity, and portrayed with profound insight.
—Kim, Goodreads reviewer