"I just spoke to him yesterday." Susan gasped in shock as she read over Harry's shoulder the name Roscoe Harvey Fletcher, forty-five, who died unexpectedly September 22. She'd jumped up to see for herself.
"The paper certainly got it in the obit section quickly." Harry couldn't believe it either.
"Obit section has the latest closing." Susan again read the information to be sure she wasn't hallucinating. "Doesn't say how he died. Oh, that's not good. When they don't say it means suicide or--"
"They never tell you in this paper how people die. I think it's important." Susan snapped the back of the paper.
"'The family requests donations be made to the Roscoe Harvey Fletcher Memorial Fund for scholarships to St. Elizabeth's. . . .' What the hell happened?" Harry shot up and grabbed the phone.
She dialed Miranda's number. Busy. She then dialed Dr. Larry Johnson. He knew everything about everybody. Busy. She dialed the Reverend Herbert Jones.
"Rev," she said as he picked up the phone, "it's Mary Minor."
"I know your voice."
"How did Roscoe die?"
"I don't know." His voice lowered. "I was on my way over there to see what I could do. Nobody knows anything. I've spoken to Mim and Miranda. I even called Sheriff Shaw to see if there had been a late-night accident. Everyone is in the dark, and there's no funeral information. Naomi hasn't had time to select a funeral home. She's probably in shock."
"She'll use Hill and Wood."
"Yes, I would think so, but, well--" His voice trailed off a moment, then he turned up the volume. "He wasn't sick. I reached Larry. Clean bill of health, so this has to be an accident of some kind. Let me get over there to help. I'll talk to you later."
"Sorry," Harry apologized for slowing him down.
"No, no, I'm glad you called."
"Nobody called me."
"Miranda did. If you had an answering machine you'd have known early on. She called at seven a.m., the minute she saw the paper."
"I was in the barn."
"Called there, too."
"Maybe I was out on the manure spreader. Well, it doesn't matter. There's work to be done. I'll meet you over at the Fletchers'. I've got Susan and Brooks with me. We can help do whatever needs to be done."
"That would be greatly appreciated. See you there." He breathed in sharply. "I don't know what we're going to find."
As Harry hung up the phone, Susan stood up expectantly. "Well?"
"Let's shoot over to the Fletchers'. Herbie's on his way."
"Know anything?" They'd been friends for so long they could speak in shorthand to each other, and many times they didn't need to speak at all.
"Let's move 'em out." Susan made the roundup sign.
Tucker, assisted by Brooks, sneaked into the roundup. She lay on the floor of the Audi until halfway to Crozet. Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, both livid at being left behind, stared crossly as the car pulled out of the driveway.
Once at the Fletchers' the friends endured another shock. Fifty to sixty cars lined the street in the Ednam subdivision. Deputy Cynthia Cooper directed traffic. This wasn't her job, but the department was shorthanded over the weekend.
"Coop?" Harry waved at her.
"Craziest thing I've ever heard of," the nice-looking officer said.
"What do you mean?" Susan asked.
"He's not dead."
"WHAT?" all three humans said in unison.
Copyright © 1998 by American Artists, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.