I thought you might want just a taste of Murder Spins a Tale. Hope this whets your appetite for the complete story. Enjoy!
It wasn’t as if I were unfamiliar with death coming without warning in a brutal fashion. It had happened before. But one was never ready for it; and it always, as is the nature of such things, came as a terrible surprise. But I’m getting ahead of myself. There was nothing that winter morning to warn me except the call of the great horned owl, who in some Native American cultures is the portent of death.
Enjoying the call of the owl, I snuggled a little deeper into my wool jacket and settled my Pyr hair hat down around my ears. My breath steamed in the still morning air. A layer of frost glistened from the fence posts and the gravel crunched underfoot as I walked to the barn to feed the animals. The stars were still bright; it was not often that February skies were so clear. A cold nose went under my coat and a white shoulder gave me a nudge as Falcor reminded me that there was a job to do that didn’t involve star gazing. A large white shadow emerged from the side of the shop and Denali joined us as we moved toward the barn. The Great Pyrenees were my livestock protection dogs and companions. Nothing made a coyote more uncomfortable than a guardian the size of a large gray wolf with equally sharp teeth.
“Maaaa,” Koa, the Icelandic sheep, greeted me as I started to pull down the hay. Coco, the angora goat, gave me a gentle nudge. The rest of my eclectic spinning flock began to move in for their share of the food. I caught a glimpse of Sable, the Siamese cat, as she stalked a mouse real or imaginary in the straw of one of the stalls. The warmth of the barn, the gentle sounds of my animals eating and the pungent odors that came from the mixture of hay, straw, grain and one goat, five sheep and two alpacas surrounded me as I opened the large barn doors that gave them access to the outside world. Lost in early morning musings, I was gazing across the pasture when a white streak went past me and Falcor raced across the pasture with Denali in hot pursuit. They were barking alarms as they went. Then I heard the coyote yip and his call echoed by another. Both dogs were at the fence line now and telling the world in no uncertain terms that this pasture and this flock belonged to them. No predators were allowed.
It was time for me to leave the barn and start my day. My flock was safe and the Pyrs would make sure that they stayed that way. As I walked up the back steps to my porch, I turned for one more look at the dawn streaked sky before day claimed it.
My name is Martha Williamson. Nearly five years ago, the Air Force moved my husband John and me from the sun-drenched beaches of Honolulu, Hawai`i, to the mist-shrouded forests of Puget Sound. While John flew C17s, I worked as a personnel trainer with the state of Washington. John was going to retire after this tour; so when we were house hunting, we looked for a place that would be a comfortable, permanent home. We knew we'd found it when we were shown this small 25-acre farm nestled among the trees just outside Black Hills, Washington. At the time, it was a long way out and a major commute for both of us, but we fell in love with the tranquility and peace it provided at the end of a busy day.
However, life has a way of turning the best plans upside down, and it did with ours. John was killed on Halloween four years ago while driving to work on Interstate Five. A trucker fell asleep at the wheel and smashed John and his Toyota into the center barrier. John had flown many hours in combat operations and arrived home safely only to be killed on our highways.
I was in shock, but the small community of Black Hills rallied around and helped me through this most difficult of times. Gradually I began to make the changes necessary under such circumstances. I left my job with the state of Washington and opened The Spider’s Web, where I sell supplies and teach classes in spinning, weaving, knitting and crochet. It has become a gathering place for people who enjoy fiber arts and allows me to make a living while combining my passions for fiber and teaching. It’s a peaceful life and one I have come to savor and enjoy.
Today I had a breakfast date with my best friend, Ellen. Following John’s death, we did this on a weekly basis to help keep me on an even keel. Now we manage it about once a month just for the fun of it. Realizing I would need to hustle a bit if I was going to be on time, I showered quickly, combed my waist-length auburn hair into a single braid and pulled on jeans, a flannel shirt, and handspun, handknit socks. I slipped my feet into Birkenstocks and grabbed my coat as I went out the back door and to the Ford pickup. Bright red and my workhorse vehicle, it had been my first major purchase after John died.
Black Hills Road makes a loop off of State Highway 8 to get to the town. My farm is at the west end of the loop not far off the highway. Black Hills is mainly a wide place in the road that once served timber families as home. With the downturn of the timber industry, it has become a bedroom for Olympia, the state capital, and a place where tourists can stop for a quick bite to eat, obtain gas or find lodging.
As I started to follow the curve of Black Hills Road, I noticed something odd. The door to the beauty parlor was wide open. Janelle was not an early riser and didn’t usually open until ten. The shop was in the corner of a small cluster of stores, none of which opened early. I pulled into the empty parking lot and got out of the truck. Looking around, I saw nothing out of the ordinary except the open door.
“Janelle,” I called out as I walked closer to the shop. “Janelle.”
Getting no answer and hearing nothing except the sound of my own voice and the hum of traffic on the highway some distance away, I decided to poke my head inside.
“Jan…,” my call died on my lips as I saw the disaster in the shop.