BEARS WITH US
Genre: Mystery Mundania Press
Trade Paperback, $12.99
eBook (PDF), $4.99
Tempe Crabtree is the resident deputy of Bear Creek, a small mountain community in the southern Sierra. Her continuing interest in the spiritual side of her heritage often causes unrest in her marriage to her minister husband.
In Bears With Us, Tempe has her hands full when bears turn up in and around her town, becoming a threat to kids and adults when an elderly woman is horrifically killed. But are bears really responsible, or is there something else afoot?
This book is part 9 of the Tempe Crabtree Mystery series
The phone ringing at night usually meant bad news. On Tuesday evening, the phone rang right after Tempe and Hutch settled into bed.
Hutch rose up on an elbow and lifted a curious eyebrow. “What do you suppose is going on now?”
Usually after midnight the small mountain community of Bear Creek quieted. And it was Tempe’s second night off of her job as resident deputy of Bear Creek. If there was an emergency in town, the 9-1-1 dispatcher should have directed the call to her shift replacement. However, her husband’s number was listed in the phone directory so she often received calls directly from the person in distress. As pastor of the local church, Hutch was as apt to receive a middle of the night phone call as she was.
Tempe answered. “Deputy Crabtree.”
The female voice on the other end sounded frantic. “Someone or something has broken into the house.”
“Who is this? And where are you?”
“Rachel Yates.” She paused. “Oh my, God, they’re tearing the place apart.”
The name didn’t mean anything to Tempe. “Where are you? What’s your address?”
“I’m the Hamptons’ daughter. I’m not sure of the physical address, I only know their P.O. Box.”
Tempe knew where the Hamptons lived. “Okay. I know how to get there. Where are you right now?”
“I’m in an upstairs bedroom. So are my folks.”
“Stay put. Don’t come down until you hear from me. I’ll be there as quickly as possible.” She replaced the receiver and jumped out of bed.
Hutch sat up. “Oh oh, sounds bad.”
“A break-in. Someone who isn’t quiet about what he’s doing. Maybe he thinks no one’s home. In any case, I’ve got to get there fast.” She pulled on her uniform trousers and closed the zipper.
“I’ll go with you.” Hutch headed for the bathroom before she could protest.
Though she didn’t encourage civilians to go along on a call like this, she’d welcome his presence.
Both were dressed and out the door within minutes. Hutch’s auburn hair stuck up in tufts. Tempe’s dark hair hung down her back in a long queue, no time to fasten it up like she usually did while working. They climbed into her official white Dodge truck with the words SHERIFF printed on both sides and the Tulare County logo on the door. Before she backed out of the driveway, she radioed her destination to the Dennison sheriff’s office.
She drove over the bridge that crossed Bear Creek and out onto the highway where she turned right.
Hutch said, “I don’t know the Hamptons well, just seen the two of them in the grocery store a couple of times. Besides the fact they are elderly, do you have any other information about them?”
“I don’t know much. Once about a year ago the son called and asked if I’d check on their welfare, which I did. He made a few comments like he thought they ought to sell their home and move closer to town. I got the idea that he wanted me to confirm his suggestions.”
“So what did you think?”
“The husband seemed quite capable. Though the wife was pleasant enough, I had the feeling she might be in the early stages of dementia. All the more reason to get there in a hurry.” She switched on her emergency lights. No need to put on the siren, the road ahead was empty of cars. They sped through the little town of Bear Creek, passing the Saloon, the Café, the gas station and grocery store, a couple of gift shops, and the Bear Creek Inn. All was quiet. A bit farther along they drove past the A-frame Community Church where Hutch served as pastor.
The highway twisted more and more the higher into the mountains they drove. Tempe slowed to turn into one of the few roads that left the highway. Also two lane and much narrower, it wound around even more. “Watch for the mailbox with their name on it. I think it’s a shaped like a house with a shingle roof.”
Tempe switched off the emergency lights. No need in alerting a burglar of her approach.
“There it is,” Hutch said.
She pulled into the lane, pine trees bracketing either side. The lane climbed a bit before widening into a flat spot. A silver Scion sat off to the side of a three car garage. A wide porch ran around the front and sides of the two-story cedar structure. All the windows were dark.
Tempe grabbed the shotgun from its holder under the dash. “Don’t shut the doors. Be as quiet as possible.”
Chimney smoke scented the pine and cedar laden fall air. Holding her flashlight in her other hand, she kept the beam low as the climbed the three steps leading to the front door. It stood open. Unfortunately, many people living in the mountains didn’t think it necessary to lock doors.
The minute Tempe stepped inside, she knew what was happening.
The tell-tale snorts and slurping sounds told the tale. It was no longer necessary to be quiet. “Bear.” Bears had gotten smart over the years, learning how to open trash cans and open doors. Sometimes just leaning their heavy bodies on the barrier popped the latch. If a window was left open, a screen never stopped a bear.