The Light Catcher Murders
Kate Atherton’s idyllic retirement is going well…if you don’t count the two murders, the mysterious drone, and her photographer friend who manages to poke a hornet’s nest of criminal activity, that is.Nestled in the scenic Texas Hill Country, the cozy town of Wheaton Creek seemed to Kate Atherton an idyllic place to escape the world’s harsh realities. And then there was the first murder.Kate once enjoyed a long, successful career with a specialized, highly secret federal intelligence agency. Crises in both her personal and professional life drove her to early retirement and, ultimately, to Wheaton Creek, the perfect place for her and her former-military husband to escape what had come to feel like a world made up of wars, hatred, fear, and untimely death. And, at first, the escape was all Kate had hoped for. Then murder came to Wheaton Creek—a crime that a corrupt county sheriff seems determined to pin on Kate’s photographer friend, Lucy Celek.Lucy’s work has been chosen to appear at a prestigious photography festival, a festival that could take her from amateur to professional standing. All goes well until the gallery displaying her work is broken into, and one of Lucy’s photographs is vandalized. A week later, the man Lucy suspected of destroying her photograph—a fellow photographer who was angry that his own work was not chosen by the festival committee—is murdered. Faced with a sheriff who shows little interest in expanding his list of suspects beyond Lucy, Kate feels she must dust off her puzzle-solving skills to find the real killer. Murder is just the beginning, though, as Kate’s amateur sleuthing begins to reveal a tangled web of crimes that go beyond anything she could have imagined.
Picking her way through the broken glass again, Kate slipped up behind Lucy. She gave the beleaguered deputy a sympathetic smile and gently took hold of Lucy’s elbow. “Lucy, dear. Do you think you might want to calm down? This officer is going to do his best to find out who did this and why. He isn’t the bad guy here.”
Lucy wheeled on her. “He doesn’t have to look far to find out who did this. If he’d just listen to me and quit asking irrelevant questions! I’ve been telling him that it has to be Stewart Wilson. You saw how Stewart behaved after the festival. He’s a horrible, angry, vindictive man! Did you see how he ripped into my mural? The bastard! If I could get my hands on him, I swear I’d rip into him the same way!”
The deputy’s eyebrows shot up, and he shifted uneasily, his pen hovering over his notepad. Kate’s grip on Lucy’s elbow tightened, as did the smile she showed the deputy. “I’m sure Ms. Celek didn’t mean that, Deputy Green,” she said. When Lucy started to disagree, Kate squeezed her arm so tightly that Lucy let out a little yelp of pain. “She’s understandably distraught. If you have more questions for her, might I suggest that you give her some time to collect herself? I’m sure she’ll be more helpful when she’s feeling a bit more rational.”
“Rational?” Lucy flinched again under the renewed fierceness of Kate’s grip and did not finish what she had been about to say.
“Actually,” Deputy Green said, “I think that’s all I need for now.” He closed his notebook and turned his attention to the crime scene photographer who had just arrived.
Kate pulled Lucy a few yards away, putting some distance between her and the scene, then turned a mildly reproachful look upon her fuming friend.
Breathing audibly, Lucy glared right back at Kate. The expression on her friend’s face aroused all of Lucy’s defensiveness, and she folded her arms across her chest. “What?” she demanded.
Kate sighed. “Do you have to work today, Lucy?”
“No. I scheduled a vacation day because I thought I’d be wiped out after the festival. Little did I know I’d be destroyed.”
“That’s a bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think? I can see where this would upset you—”
“I’m pissed, Kate. Thoroughly, absolutely, completely pissed. Don’t start giving me that ‘be reasonable’ or ‘keep perspective’ stuff because I’m so not in the mood!”
Kate pursed her lips. “You’re huffing like a steam engine, Lucy. If you don’t calm down, you’re going to explode.”
“You’re an odd one to be telling me to calm down. Of all the people I know, you’re the least patient with ineptitude, and he’s as inept as they come!” She had shifted her glower back to Deputy Green.
“Yes, well, at this moment, I’m more concerned with keeping you out of trouble than anything else. Besides, Deputy Green isn’t inept, just inexperienced with this sort of thing. And you certainly weren’t helping the situation with your ranting. Instead of being helpful, you flustered him.”
A storm cloud settled on Lucy’s face. “Fine,” she said, though it was clear she was anything but.
“Oh, do stop behaving like a petulant child,” Kate said impatiently.
Lucy’s mouth dropped open. She felt as if she had been slapped, which was just what Kate had intended.
Jo Cassie McRae is a native Texan who has lived near Austin on the edge of the Texas Hill country for over 30 years. In addition to writing, McRae loves to read, garden, and cook. Like Kate Atherton (The Light Catcher Murders), McRae's bookshelves overflow with history books, biographies, historical fiction, and mystery novels. Unlike Kate, McRae does not have a mysterious, secret former career, having worked instead as a rather ordinary legal assistant at an Austin law firm.