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Authors: Sue Henry

The End of The Road

BOOK: The End of The Road
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Table of Contents
 
MAXIE AND STRETCH MYSTERIES BY SUE HENRY
The Serpents Trail
 
The Tooth of Time
 
The Refuge
OBSIDIAN
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
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Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
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New Delhi - 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632,
New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
First Printing, November 2009
 
Copyright © Sue Henry, Inc., 2009 Map copyright © Eric Henry, Art Forge Unlimited, 2009
All rights reserved
 
OBSIDIAN and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Henry, Sue, 1940-
The end of the road: a Maxie and Stretch mystery/Sue Henry.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-15128-0
1. Women dog owners—Fiction. 2. Dachshunds—Fiction. 3. Suicide victims—Fiction.
4. Alaska—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3558.E534E63 2009
813’.54—dc22 2009021237
 
 
 
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
 
PUBLISHER’S NOTE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
 
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

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With the author’s sincere thanks,
this one is for
the many generous and helpful people
at the end of the road in Homer,
from the top of the kill to Land’s End,
who patiently answered many questions
and provided information that greatly
assisted in the creation of this book.
ONE
I WOKE LATE ON FRIDAY, THE FIRST OF NOVEMBER, having stayed up late with a favorite book that I was reading between trips to the door in answer to the intermittent summons of several pirates, a robot costumed in cardboard boxes, a couple of skeletons, and a steady stream of other trick-or-treaters whose attire defie d analysis in combination with their winter boots, coats, hats, and gloves. “Trick or treat!” they called out when I opened the door and gave them back a “Happy Halloween!” along with their expected treats, a couple of which fell into the depths of large, optimistically offered pillowcases.
One of the earliest visitors was a small blond fairy wearing blue wings over her down jacket and clinging shyly to the hand of her father—my next-door-but-one neighbor, Jack Gifford.
“What do you say to Mrs. McNabb?” he prompted her, after I had dropped several candies into the plastic pumpkin she carried in her other hand.
“Thank you,” she told me in just over a whisper.
“You’re very welcome, Shelly,” I told her, then watched with a smile as they went down the drive, remembering how my own two children had loved dressing up for Halloween.
The tradition was clearly alive and well in Homer, Alaska, and I enjoyed the parade of costumed spirits that mittened expectantly on my door. For the first time in several years, I had not driven my motor home down the long Alaska Highway in the fall of the year to spend the winter in warmer southern climes. During the school year, RV parks are often short on children and long on retired senior citizens. So it made me feel very much at home to recognize the children of my neighborhood, now grown a little taller than I remembered them.
Rolling over that morning after All Hallows’ Eve, as my Daniel liked to call it, I sat up and swung my feet over the side of the bed to feel for the slippers I had left on the floor beside it. Instead, one foot brushed the warm back of my mini dachshund, Stretch, already wide-awake and waiting attentively, holding down one of my blue fuzzy slippers with both paws as if he expected it to attempt an escape.
“Good morning, lovie,” I told him, giving him a pat before reaching to retrieve the slipper and standing up to put on the fleece robe I had hung on the bedpost before retiring. “I know it’s late and you want to go out, don’t you? Well, let’s go down and you can do your business while I start the coffee.”
I scooped him up and carried him down the stairs and into the hallway next to the kitchen.
Unlocking and opening the door just enough to let him scamper out into the cold first of November morning, I was reminded by the icy breath of the early Alaskan winter that it was arriving as anticipated, though we had yet to see snow. So I quickly closed the door after him and stepped to the nearby thermostat to turn up the heat, which I normally lower several degrees at night, preferring to sleep cool, but not cold.
With the coffee gurgling cheerfully through a filter into the pot, I turned to fil l Stretch’s water and food bowls, then went back to the door in response to his scratching on the other side. Cold weather meant he didn’t take time to tour and inspect the yard before wanting to come back inside—his usual practice before the temperature drops significantly.
Though the weatherman had predicted the possibility of clouds rolling in later in the afternoon, it was bright and sunny outside that morning and the thermometer outside the kitchen window read thirty-four degrees—just above freezing.
Sitting at the table with a mug of coffee and an English muffin liberally spread with peanut butter and peach jam made earlier in the year by a friend, I enjoyed the view to the south over the wide waters of Kachemak Bay that were sparkling in the sunshine and the Kenai Mountains rising beyond, white with a line of snow halfway down.
It was, I decided, a perfect morning for a walk.
“Want to go walkabout?” I asked Stretch, who had finished his breakfast and gone to lie down by the sliding door to the back deck, where he could keep an eye out for any squirrel or bird trespassing in the yard.
Though walkabout was one of my deceased husband Daniel’s Aussie terms, which I had adopted, Stretch, originally his dog, knew immediately what I meant and was on his feet in agreement with the idea.
“Good. We’ll stop by the post office and pick up the mail, then go out on the spit and walk the beach for a bit. Okay?”
His enthusiastically wagging tail was answer enough, so after a quick shower, I pinned my hair up in its usual twist, noticing a bit more gray at the temples, dressed warmly, and put his red plaid coat on Stretch. Though it was sunny I knew we could count on it being cool, especially with the breeze that usually whispers in across the waters of the inlet and flows over the long, narrow arm of land that forms the spit. This narrow natural extension of land reaches five miles out into the bay and holds the marina and port of Homer, along with condominiums, small tourist shops now mostly closed for the season, huge parking lots, and the Land’s End hotel and restaurant.
After pouring the rest of the pot of coffee into a thermos, I added sugar and a splash of milk, and took it with me, along with a bottle of water and a plastic bowl for Stretch.
We were on our way shortly in my small car, Stretch riding shotgun in the basket that hangs from the back rest of the passenger seat, a considerable and welcome boost for a small dog who likes to be able to see out the window.
I drove west on East End Road through Homer’s main downtown intersection where it becomes Pioneer Avenue, then turned left on Heath Street and went down the hill to the post office, parked and went in, leaving Stretch in the car. There was little mail, a couple of fliers of no interest to me, which I discarded into a recycling bin left for that purpose, and took only the latest issue of
Alaska
magazine and two envelopes, one large, one small, back to the car with me, glancing at the return addresses as I walked.
The large one was my bank statement, which I tucked away in my day pack without opening. There would be plenty of time later for that.
The smaller one bore a familiar address, and I tore it open as soon as I was back in the car with the engine running to keep us warm. Inside I found a bright Halloween greeting card from Jamie, the daughter of a now-departed dear friend in Colorado, with whom I had kept in touch after meeting her the year before. Along with the card was a photo of her small son dressed in the cowboy costume he had evidently worn trick-or-treating, and she had written a few lines to let me know that she had recently moved from Salt Lake City into the house her mother had left her in Grand Junction and I should address any mail to her there. This pleased me, for Sarah’s historic Victorian house was a real treasure and I knew Jamie would be happy living in it with her boy. She included an invitation to stop and stay with them any time I was traveling through Colorado.
BOOK: The End of The Road
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