Mud Run Murder

Mud Run Murder coverMerry Wrath - Book 5

Ex-CIA Agent turned small town Girl Scout leader, Merry Wrath, thinks she has her hands full getting her troop ready for the Mud Run out at scout camp. But a trip to the movies, where she sees her whole career played out on the big screen, turns her world from little girls to great big lies. Turns out her former handler, Riley, is hiding something and the Agency is on the warpath, thinking Merry has leaked classified intel.

From a bizarre organization called Coats for Cats to redecorating her guest room with bullet holes, her life is turning into a Merry-go-round of misdirection, miscreants and misdemeanors. Can she clear her name, or will the Mud Run turn into a run for her life?

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Chapter One

If you ever are given a choice between defending yourself against two hit men in a back alley in Qatar, armed only with a wire coat hanger (don't ask), and giving a pill to a cat, I'd suggest you go with the former. And I'm speaking from experience. In both situations.

Philby, my Hitler-doppelganger cat, could keep her mouth closed as tightly as two steel rods fused together and doused with water in Antarctica. It turned out that she didn't like pills. Unfortunately for her, the slipped disc in her back wouldn't stop shooting pain up her spine until she took them.

Maybe I should have tried Kevlar oven mitts? The cat hadn't bitten me yet, but she was struggling like a pissed-off feline on speed.

"I'm doing this for your own good," I insisted through gritted teeth.

The vet had suggested (while suppressing hysterical laughter) wrapping her tightly in a towel with only her face exposed. I'd done that, but all I got was an angry cat burrito whose lips refused to budge. I tried to figure out a way to hold the beast and pry her lips open. Once you got past the lips, there was a whole new litany of problems, including having to deal with the tiny, interlocking teeth, inserting the pill, and getting her to swallow the damn thing. This venture made the planning of D-day look like a walk in the park. A literal walk in the park

"Philby! You won't get better if you don't take this! The vet said this stuff will relax your muscles, allowing the disc to slip back into place!"

Have you ever tried reasoning with a cat? In my career in the CIA, I'd had to reason with a Belgian nudist wielding a meat cleaver, a paranoid Mexican drug lord who'd had way too much LSD and believed he was a sloth, and a very hostile nun in Chile brandishing knitting needles. None of them were this stubborn. Well, that's not entirely true. The nun was behaving like a toddler throwing a tantrum. But that wasn't the point.

I tucked Philby, still wrapped in a towel, under my left arm. Bracing against the counter for the illusion of some semblance of support, I held the upper jaw in my left hand and the lower jaw in my right and squeezed. The lips parted with a juicy smack, but the teeth wouldn't give.

An idea popped into my head. While still struggling with the cat in the towel, I said the one word that would open her mouth. A name that usually sent her into a vicious hissing spree and, most of the time, ended with her on her side, helpless and spent.

"Bobb," I said directly to her. I even went the extra mile and pronounced the second b. She didn't like the name because a guy named Bobb once tried to kill her. I couldn't blame the cat.

Philby hissed, and I wedged my fingers between her teeth. Using my left index finger, I shoved the pill into her mouth and then slammed it shut and held it closed.

"What are you doing?" Rex appeared behind me. He must've used his key to get in.

"Great timing," I said as my cat squirmed, hissing in my arms. "A few moments earlier, and you could've helped."

"Why is Philby foaming at the mouth?" he asked.

Philby was foaming at the mouth. Really foaming. She looked like a rabid feline dictator who'd just swallowed saliva-activated bubble bath.

"Oh crap," I said as I leaned forward and blew into her face.

The cat's eyes grew wide, but she swallowed. I don't know why that worked. The vet had suggested it. I can tell you that if anyone held my face shut and blew on it, swallowing wouldn't be the first thing to pop into my head.

"It's tramadol," I explained as I unwrapped my furious cat. "If he holds it in his mouth and doesn't swallow it foams up." I ran the towel over her mouth. "Which is kind of a bizarre side effect, if you ask me."

Philby gave me a death stare that in her mind probably paralyzed me with fear, but in reality made me wonder what Rex was doing over here. The hunky detective (who was also my boyfriend) lived directly across the street from me.

"Why are you here?" I tossed the towel on the counter and scooped up Martini—Philby's kitten who looked a lot like Elvis. She still loved me. Hmm…I'd have to sleep with one eye open tonight. Philby was probably plotting something.

"We have a date." Rex kissed me on the forehead.

"Oh wow! I totally forgot." And I had, but I was going to blame my evil, non-pill-swallowing cat for that.

"Pizza's on its way," Rex said over his shoulder as he headed for the door.

"I'll be there in a few!" I shouted, but the door had already closed behind him.

Why had I forgotten about our date? It was Friday, and on Friday nights we always had pizza and rented a movie. Sometimes I took the cats, and my awesome boyfriend even had a litter box and food for them.

Martini suddenly decided I was evil. She hissed at me as she jumped down to the floor and, with her head held high, trotted off down the hallway to find her injured mother. So I was guessing the felines wouldn't be joining us tonight.

It took me about fifteen minutes to take a quick shower and get dressed. I slipped out the door and crossed the street. The pizza guy must've arrived because a run-down pickup truck sat in Rex's driveway. Just as I passed the car, I saw it.

The pizza delivery dude was slumped over the steering wheel, and it looked like there was a small-caliber gunshot wound to the temple. Glassy eyes stared at his lap. He couldn't have survived a gunshot at that close a range, but I reached in to take his pulse to be sure. Yup. Dead. I dropped to a crouch behind the truck, in case whoever had murdered this kid was still around.

I hadn't heard a gunshot. But then, I had been in the shower. Did Rex know?

And that's when it hit me.

The dead guy wasn't in my driveway. For the first time in a while, I had nothing to do with a murder! Woo-hoo!

It was wrong of me to do the end zone dance and even worse of me to high-five myself (which, if you haven't tried, isn't easy to do). But I couldn't help it. This was just too good to be true. Well, maybe not for the pizza guy, but definitely for me.

For the first time, Rex would be the one scrutinized. Not me! Yay!

Not that I was really worried about that. Rex was a detective with the Who's There, Iowa police department. Suspicion wouldn't really fall on me like it would if the pizza guy had just parked about fifty feet in the opposite direction.

I stopped dancing (mainly because it made me look like an idiot) and headed for Rex's front door. Yes, I was evil. I could not wait to tell him what had just happened. Rub it in his face a little.

I stepped onto his stoop and reached for the doorknob. But it wasn't there.

I mean, of course it was there. It was just forward a little farther because the door was open. That seemed bad because maybe whoever shot the delivery kid was in Rex's house, getting ready to shoot him.

I slipped inside the doorway and pressed myself up against the wall. It was very quiet. That, in my experience as a spy, wasn't good. At all. Rex was in trouble, and if I hadn't been grandstanding over the dead guy in the driveway, I could've saved him.

Footsteps echoed in the hallway, and I dropped into a crouch, placing my hands on either side of my feet. As the footsteps grew close enough, my left leg shot out and tripped the intruder.

His body went down with a thud, but not before he pulled a gun and pointed it at me.

"Hold on." Rex looked up at me from the flat of his back as he hit the mute button on his phone and lowered the gun. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Sorry! Are you okay?"

"I think I would've been safer if you had been the intruder."




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