EXCERPT - Delicious Torment (A Miranda’s Rights Mystery) - Book II

Miranda was just about to head for the track when she heard the sound of a horse. Not the normal neighs and snorts you hear around a steeplechase, but a fierce, frenzied whinny. A wild screech pierced the air. Then sharp banging, like a round of gunshots. She felt the vibrations through the wall behind her. Along with the sensation of icy fingers snaking down her nerves.

Something was wrong. Bad wrong.

A man shouted. People began to dash toward a stall down the way, yelling like the barn was on fire.

She turned and watched a heavyset man rush to the angry horse. “Whoa, Calypso. What’s wrong, boy?”

Another man reached up and grabbed at the animal’s rope, but it pulled out of his hands. “What’s the matter with him?”

“He’s going berserk.”

Miranda caught a glimpse of a horse’s head bobbing up and down in the stall. Then he reared into the air, as if he’d suddenly gone mad. As if the enclosure was suddenly too small for him and he was frantic to get out.

The heavyset man reached for the beast’s halter, but couldn’t catch hold of it. “I don’t know what’s wrong,” he shouted to the other man. “I left for only a minute to get a bottle of water. He’s never acted this way before.”

The horse came down on his front legs. He ducked his head, and the sharp bang, bang of his back hooves hitting the stall shattered the air once more.

A crowd started to gather.

“What’s going on?”

“What’s wrong with that animal?” a woman shouted.

Another man dared to step close enough to take a look at the enclosure. As soon as he did, his hands shot in the air. “There’s someone in there! Get that horse out.”

“Unhook the latches.”

There wasn't much of a barrier for the door. A movie-theater-like rope and a piece of canvas stretched over the opening.

Someone got it open, and the chestnut bounded out, snorting furiously, his beautiful coat shimmering with sweat in the sunlight. He bucked and kicked his long, graceful legs in the air, as though hornets were attacking him.

The sight was as dazzling as it was bizarre.

Three strong men seized the animal’s halter. Another peered into the stall “It’s Ms. Langford,” he shouted. “My God, what was she doing in there?”

Shrieks came from the curious onlookers.

Panic pumping through her veins, Miranda raced for the stall, pushing her way through the swarm of people. When she got to the barn, she peered through the mesh wire that fenced in the upper part of the enclosure.

The sight took her breath.

Freshly torn and splintered by Calypso’s hooves, loose boards hung from the back wall. The wood was punctuated by gaping holes. And there in the hay, beside the wall, lay the body of a woman.

Miranda glared at the gawking crowd. “Isn’t anybody going to do anything?”

Too stunned to speak, the onlookers blinked at her.

CPR. Her training took over and she marched into the stall, went straight to the body. But as she leaned down, she saw the blueness of the woman’s skin. A finger against her throat told Miranda she was dead.

Good Lord.

She’d seen dead bodies before. Too many, recently. The bodies of children. But that didn’t stop her gut from wrenching hard enough to give her a jolt of pain, her mind from reeling fast enough to make her wobble. She struggled to get hold of herself, forced herself to breath, as she took in the scene.

A girlish, blue-flowered sundress was wrapped around the dead woman. White gloves covered both hands. Delicate, short curls, as red-gold as Calypso’s coat, lay tangled and matted in the hay.

Mid-thirties maybe? Hard to tell from the face. The fragile cheekbones that must have been beautiful a few minutes ago were now broken and bruised in a lacerated mass of bleeding flesh.

Her eyes were open. Sea green. Cat-like. Mangled from the injury, they seemed to gaze in two directions at once.

A smashed straw hat lay upside-down next to her hand as if she’d just taken it off. Except that it, too, had been crushed by the animal’s hooves. There was something under it. A piece of paper?

Miranda felt dizzy. The stall suddenly seemed cramped and close. A strong scent of booze came from the body, but there was also a mix of animal odor, the smell of death, and…a man’s cologne?

“Desirée,” a voice murmured behind her.

Miranda spun around and saw a man standing behind her in the hay.

Tall and rather thin, he was dressed in jeans, a tangerine suit coat and teal-and-green tie.  The festive colors seemed garishly out-of-place at this scene, like a dish of rainbow sherbert in a morgue. But the tie was askew, his coat a bit rumpled, almost like he’d slept in it.

His bleached-blond, shoulder-length hair was thick and wild, and there was stubble under his lip. Tears stained his cheeks. His eyes blazed with shock and grief.

He reached out for the woman as he stepped forward. “Desirée darling, what have you done?”

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Delicious Torment (A Miranda's Rights Mystery) - Book II 

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