A FOUNTAIN FILLED WITH BLOOD (Chapter 1)
The yahoos came by just after the dinner party broke up. A few young punks--three or four, picked out as streaks of white in the cab and bed of an unremarkable-looking pickup. Emil Dvorak was tucking a bottle of wine under his arm and reaching to shake his hosts' hands when he heard the horn haloowing down the Five Mile Road like a redneck hunting cry, and the truck flashed into view of the inn's floodlights.
"Faggots!" several voices screamed. "Burn in hell!" More obscene slurs were swallowed up in the night as the truck continued past. From their run in the back, the inn's dogs began barking in response, high-pitched and excited.
"Goddamn it," Ron Handler said.
"Did you see the license plate this time?" Stephen Obrowski asked.
His partner shook his head. "Too fast. Too dark."
"Has this happened before?" Emil shifted the bottle under his other arm. The inn's outdoor spotlight left him feeling suddenly exposed, his car brilliantly illuminated, his hosts' faces clearly visible, as his must have been. His hand, he noticed, was damp. "Have you reported it?"
"It started a couple of weeks ago," Steve said. "Probably kids let out of high school."
"Released from county jail, more likely," Ron said.
"We've told the police. The inn's on the random-patrol list now."
"Not that that helps," Ron said. "The cops have better things to do than catch gay-bashers out cruising for a good time. The only reason we got a few drive-bys in a patrol car is that the inn is bringing in the precious turista dollar."
"Tourism keeps Millers Kill afloat," Emil said, "but Chief Van Alstyne's a good man. He wouldn't tolerate that trash, no matter what business they were targeting."
"I better call the station and let them know we've been harassed again. Thank God our guests have already retired." Ron squeezed Emil's upper arm. "Thanks for coming. I'm sorry the evening had to end on such a sour note." He disappeared behind the inn's ornate double door.
Steve peered up the road. "Are you going to be okay getting back home? I don't like the idea of you all alone on the road with those thugs out there."
Emil spread his arms. "Look at me. I'm a middle-aged guy driving a Chrysler with M.D. plates. What could be more mainstream?" He dropped his hand on Steve's shoulder and shook him slightly. "I'll be fine. Anyone comes after me, I'll break his head open with this fine Chardonnay."
"Don't you dare. That bottle's worth more than you on the open market."
Emil laughed as they made their good-nights. Tucking the bottle under the passenger seat of his Le Baron convertible, he considered putting the top back up. He sighed. He knew he was getting old when a couple of drunken kids yelling out of the darkness could make him this nervous. To hell with them. It wasn't worth a twenty-minute struggle with the roof or missing fresh air blowing around him on a hot June night.
The high-Victorian architecture of the inn dwindled behind him as he drove east on Five Mile Road. He turned right onto Route 121, two country lanes bordered on one side by Millers Kill, the river that gave the town its name, and by dairy farms a
"[Spencer-Fleming] pulls it off again." -Chicago Tribune
"Spencer-Fleming's second cozy-cum-thriller to feature the Reverend Clare Fergusson...is every bit as riveting as her first...with eloquent exposition and natural dialogue, the precisely constructed plot moves effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"The plot is complicated, and the ethical issues are even thornier. Wisely, Spencer-Fleming treats them with the same delicacy she extends to Clare's forbidden love."-The New York Times
"Despite the brutal crimes, this is a quiet and civilized story just right for those who enjoy a modern take on the old-fashioned whodunit."-Rocky Mountain News
"Serious issues...add depth to the story. An exciting mountain rescue keeps the pages turning as the pace picks up at the end."-Booklist
"Even more action, more plot-twists, and more unconsummated romance than in Clare and Russ's notable debut."-Kirkus Reviews