Play Fetch: An Avery Barks Dog Mystery (Avery Barks Dog Mysteries Book 3) (6 page)

“Ground team one to command,” I said.

“Go ahead ground team one.”

“We have a B-200.” I gave the code for ‘subject found and able to move, but needs assistance’.

“Ten-four on a B-200,” they answered with cheers in the background.  “We have an ambulance on stand-by and a four-wheeler on the way.”

“Ten-four. Don has our location,” I said.

I helped Anna stand up and said, ”Jump on my back little friend and I’ll carry you to the pasture piggy-back style.”

As I walked through the woods with her on my back, it felt as though the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.




Chapter 13


Once I handed Anna off to her grandfather and the paramedics, I had a chance to sit down on a fold-out chair under a canopy near the command post and grab something to eat.  As I rummaged through my pack for a snack, I glanced up to see the three men that were partying during the other search sitting in their truck.

“Here’s some nabs,” Don said as he handed me a package of peanut butter crackers from his pack and sat in the chair next to me.

“I see the entire family is here again,” I nodded toward the trio of men and the biggest one waved back at us.

“At least they’re concerned this time around.” Don said. “They’re planning to head over to the hospital to pick up Anna when she’s released.”

I popped the first cracker in my mouth, and one of the guys from the command team brought a big bag of hot dogs out to us.  “We’ll debrief after you have a chance to eat,” he said.

I looked through my pack to grab a bottle of water when I saw Anna’s sweatshirt stuffed inside.  I pulled it out and held it up so Don could see it. 

“So that’s the infamous skull artwork,” he said.

As I bent over and laid it out on the grass in front of us, stretching the sleeves to the side, Don’s words echoed in the back of my mind.  Something struck a chord, and I suddenly felt like I might pass out.

“Oh no,” I whispered, and dropped my head into my hands.

“Avery. What is it? You look pale,” Don said.

I just shook my head.  “I made a huge mistake.”

“What is it?” he asked again as he put down his bottle of water.

“Look at this artwork,” I said.

“A black skull,” he said.

“Yea, a meticulously STENCILED black skull,” I agreed.  “Remember all those stencils and paint in Miss Brenda’s craft room?”

“Okay,” Don said, squishing his eyebrows together.

“The black skull on the sweatshirt the shooter wore at the school was spray painted by free hand.” I said as I touched the design on the sweatshirt. 

Don looked off in the distance. “Hmm.  Travis said the kid that shot at him had a shirt with a skull design that looked like it was hand drawn,” he said.

I grabbed the collar of the sweatshirt and looked at the tag.  It was an adult’s size Large.

“Don, the sweatshirt the school shooter wore was way too big on him to be a size large,” I said.

I tried to remember the exact words Anna used when she answered my questions about the USB drive.  “Anna said Austin was arrested, and her cousin had told her it could get him arrested…. I had assumed she was talking about the same person. “

“You’re babbling,” Don said.

“Listen, Anna has another cousin.” I glanced up at the artist sitting in the truck with the two older men. “The same young man that sat in front lawn drawing pictures during the search for Mr. Leeder.” 

“And?” Don urged.

“I think Anna might have been actually telling me that – Austin was arrested, and she overheard the cousin, the artist, say it could get him, meaning Austin, arrested.  That’s why she hid it, to help Austin.”

I looked over at the trio sitting in the truck, and they stared back.

“You think it’s a set up?” Don asked.

“Maybe.  She found Austin’s hat on the porch outside, with the USB conveniently tucked inside the pocket for someone to discover.  What if they set it up for deputies to find it after a school shooting tragedy?  But Anna found it first.” My mind was racing and anger rose up inside of me.

“We can ask Anna when the paramedics release her,” Don said.

“Don, someone shot at me and I’m going to find out if this young artist draws skulls by freehand,” I said.  I grabbed the sweatshirt and waved it in the air for the three men to see, then walked determinedly up the long driveway directly toward their truck.

I heard Don call from behind me, “Avery, don’t.”

It was too late.  The biggest one revved up the motor and hit the gas, driving straight toward me.  I stared them down as they approached, but my presence did not intimidate them in the least.  

As the truck roared toward me, I closed my eyes and dove out of the way, hearing gunshots as I rolled on the ground.  Don shot two of their tires out at close range and the truck limped down the road before several deputies boxed it in.

I jogged over to the scene as the guys were dragged from the truck and put face down on the pavement.  One of the big guys yelled out, ”I had nothing to do with it!”

I threw the sweatshirt down on the road and yelled, “Prove it!”

“They wanted the land,” he cried as a deputy knelt on his back.

“Shut up,” the biggest one growled, then spat at him.

The young one rested the side of his head on the road as the deputies cuffed him, revealing an orange flame design on the side of his black sunglasses.

Don and I looked at each other, stunned.

“You might want to check for evidence regarding the school shooting this morning,” I told the officer arresting the kid, before being asked to back away from the scene for my own safety.

I took his advice and trotted over to the side of the road next to Don.  “Did that whole thing really just happen?” I asked.

“Yeah, you almost got killed by those fools twice in the same day. You’ve really got to stop with your wanna-be detective routine,” Don chuckled.




I rested under the search and rescue canopy watching the bag of hot dogs get cold until Don returned from the chaos out in the road.

“Geez Avery, you sure have some great intuition,” he said.  “One of them is rolling over on the other two.  Turns out, the big one put his kid up to the whole thing.”

“Not the father of the year, I take it.”

“Not by a long shot.  The artist kid uploaded the drawings and DNA test to the USB drive and spray painted a black skull on his Dad’s white hoodie, creating our local sniper.” Don said.  “The big guy didn’t want Austin to get any land rights since he wasn’t a blood relative, so they set him up figuring he’d get kicked out of Grandpa’s will.”

“How did Austin end up with all that money from the Biltmore’s?” I asked.

“The artist kid told Austin it was from the lottery, and asked him to hide it because he wasn’t supposed to play,” Don said. “And get this, the big guy dropped Austin off near school this morning, but made sure to delay his arrival. That’s why Austin was walking out on the road when we nabbed him.”

“So, does Austin even know he was adopted?” I asked.

“Not yet, but I’m sure he’ll find out now.”


Chapter 14


The best party in town had just come to a close.  Cameras clicked away as Anna handed out take-home paper bags filled with candy.   Helium filled balloons tethered to the barn stalls floated in the air around us as did the excited chatter of ten happy children as they left her eighth birthday party.

It had been a challenge to set up a kid’s party at the sanctuary, but everything fell into place when we turned part of the barn into a play area.  The kids spent the last two hours jumping in piles of hay, throwing the ball for Chevy and watching the new calf nurse from its mama.

“You may have a calling as a children’s party planner, Avery.”  Miss Brenda said as she took a big bite of Miss Millie’s famous chocolate cake.

“Only if it involves animals, because entertaining all these kids wore me out,” I chuckled.

Anna’s grandfather came over and gave me a big hug.  “All the visitors are gone, are you ready, Avery?”

“I can’t wait,” I said as I rubbed my hands together and got ahold of Chevy.

He waved for Austin to stand next to him, then called out to his granddaughter, “Anna, come tell Avery good-bye.”

The earflaps on her trapper hat flopped up and down as she ran across the dirt floor of the barn.  “Thanks Avery, this was the best birthday of my life!” she said, and clasped her hands together.

I knelt down next to Chevy and looked directly into Anna’s eyes. “Chevy has a special favor to ask of you,” I said as we both petted his soft fur.

“What is it? I will do anything for him,” she said as Chevy licked her cheek.

“He has a little friend who is all alone and needs someone very special to love her, and take care of her and teach her how to play tennis ball.”  My eyes started to tear up. “Chevy thought you were the very best choice to be a mommy to his little buddy.”  

Chevy sat at Anna’s feet as Don snuck around the corner holding a fluffy nine-week-old puppy with golden fur.

Anna burst out in tears and hugged Chevy as she sobbed.  “Is she for me, Chevy?”

“She’s for you,” her grandfather said.

Don placed the pup in Anna’s outstretched arms, and everyone in the room clapped and congratulated her on the new family member.

When things quieted down a bit and Anna finally stopped weeping, I asked her, “What are you going to name your puppy?”

I barely heard the words that were muffled through the happy tears, but repeated what I thought she said.

“You’re naming her Elsie?” I asked.

Anna nodded her head.  “Yes, I will name her L.C.,” she said.  “That stands for Little Chevy.”


The End


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More Books by Mary Hiker


If you haven’t read the other books in the
Avery Barks Dog Mystery
series, now is a great time to take a look.

Avery Barks dedicates all of her spare time to training search and rescue dogs and helping the animals. That dedication soon lands her unemployed and out of options.

While helping an elderly friend, Avery and her butterfly loving dog, Chevy, find the unthinkable – a dead body. The sleepy North Carolina mountain town she calls home is shocked and shaken to the core.

When Avery realizes that the dead man is the very man that got her fired, she knows she's landed smack dab in the middle of chaos.

With her trusty canine companion by her side, Avery must follow the clues and solve the murder mystery before she winds up on the suspect list.

is the first book of the Avery Barks Dogs Mysteries series



Avery Barks, a volunteer search and rescue dog trainer, is close to landing her dream job at the new animal rescue sanctuary outside of town. With her fun-loving golden retriever Chevy by her side, all seems to be coming together nicely for Avery – a new job, a case of puppy love for Chevy, and a potential new boss that's not so bad on the eyes.

She soon discovers that she should be careful what she wishes for. Before her interview is even over, a cadaver dog finds a dead body at the sanctuary.

As strange things keep popping up at the new job site, she and Chevy find themselves at the center of a potentially dangerous game they never signed up to play.

is the second book in the Avery Barks Dog Mysteries series. 



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