DEATH BY POISON by Abigail Keam
SERIES: A Josiah Reynolds Mystery #17
GENRE: Cozy Mystery
PUBLISHER: Worker Bee Press
RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2022
Josiah Reynolds is hitching Morning Glory, her American Paint Horse, to an antique pony cart when horse whisperer, Velvet Maddox, hurries over to them. Pointing a thin, crooked finger at Josiah, she announces that Josiah can’t participate in the annual Shawnee Trace Horse Parade. “I see death standing next to your horse. Beware, Josiah. Beware.”
Startled, Josiah is worried as Miss Velvet is never wrong about such things, but decides to plunge ahead. Surely this time Velvet is mistaken. No one can see death. The event goes off without a hitch until spectators surge forward onto the parade route and surround the horses, causing them to spook. Morning Glory rears up and the pony cart runs over something. Josiah stops her horse immediately and peers over the side of her cart.
There is a shoeless leg sticking out from underneath the cart. Josiah realizes that Miss Velvet was correct. Death was, indeed, hovering near her horse.
I got into position and so far, so good. Hunter stood next to Glory and had a firm grip on her, which gave me the confidence I needed. She was munching on cracked corn and peppermints from Hunter as enticements for her to behave. Baby had settled in the cart where I wanted him, calmly chewing on the new toy I had given him. The strategy was working very nicely. Straightening my dress and hat, I firmly rearranged the reins in my kid-gloved hands. I was ready to begin.
People from all over the state had come to witness the annual horse parade on Shawnee Trace Farm, which followed a paved work road winding through the farm. For this event, the farm owners dismantled fences on both sides of the narrow farm road and placed bleachers for onlookers. Once the horses passed this area, they would follow a farm road back to the staging area where they could be loaded up into trailers and leave. Other horses, such as the large draft horses, would be placed in selected pastures for a couple of hours where visitors could feed them carrots and handfuls of cracked corn under the watchful eyes of their handlers and have pictures taken with them.
I would guess there were four thousand people gathered for this occasion. Though most sat in the bleachers, many had brought their own chairs and were sitting with grandchildren on their knees. Others sat on blankets alongside the tree-lined roads. Some climbed trees, perched on top of their cars, or fences to get a better look.
A bell rung and the parade started.
Though all horse breeds were not exhibited in the parade, I thought we had a fabulous lineup. First in line were two State Police officers on Morgans carrying the United States and the Kentucky state flags. Next were children aged three to fourteen with their horses: Miniatures, Shetlands, Welsh ponies, Pintos, New Forest ponies, Haflingers, and Grades.
The Dressage horses then took center stage—American Saddlebreds, Dutch Warmbloods, Hanoverians, Westphalians, Oldenburgs, Friesians, and the flamboyant Gypsy Vanners. These horses were the divas of the equine world and they knew it. I was astonished at the number of women who were Dressage riders, looking so splendid in their elegant black riding attire. I felt my heart give a little tug of envy.
After the Dressage horses came the Western and pleasure-riding breeds with many of the riders dressed as cowboys and cowgirls, most of whom wore Stetson-like hats and jeans, except for those with Native American heritage, who were decked out in brilliant native costumes honoring their tribes. This class of horses included Palominos, Andalusians, Tennessee Walking Horses, Paso Finos, Rocky Mountain Horses, Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses, Missouri Fox Trotter Horses, American Paint Horses, Appaloosas, and every grade horse in between. This group was quite a favorite with the crowd. Many of the riders sat upon Western or Spanish saddles with sterling silver accents and intricately tooled leather.
There was a short break in the parade line as the performing horses were next. These included trick riding horses, barrel racing horses, and drill team horses. Four athletic young ladies took turns doing trick riding on their mounts by standing in the saddle, hanging off the side of the horse by holding on to the horn, and jumping onto each other’s horses. Then came the barrel racing Mustangs and Quarter horses with their riders carrying colorful flag banners. After them came a drill team composed of various breeds but of uniform height and brown/tan color. They did pinwheels, figure eights, and interlocking circles much to the delight of the audience.
The magnificent hunters and jumpers followed along with the polo ponies. Elegant and aloof, Arabians, Argentines, Irish Sport horses, Selle Francaises, Trakehners, and Holsteiners, with their braided manes and tails, walked past, barely taking notice of the crowd.
The hot bloods followed, exuding nervous energy—the racing breeds for which Kentucky is known—Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, the superstars of the equine world. Kentucky Derby winners, retired from racing and stud, proudly strutted past the crowd with jockeys wearing the owners’ signature racing silks. As people recognized the two Derby winners in the group, they stood clapping.
After the racing category, my group was in line—the working horses. This included various breeds of horses, mules, and donkeys pulling chuck wagons, plows, carts, buggies, covered wagons, and buckboards. To close out the parade, the gentle giants of the horse world stunned the crowd—the draft horses, which included Shires, Jutlands, Percherons, Belgians, and American Cream Drafts. And for the big finale, the crowd-pleasing Clydesdales would finish the parade. Who doesn’t like the Clydesdales?
I positioned myself in front with the smaller horses when one of the managers gave the signal to move. Hunter turned and gave me a brave smile, before gently pulling Glory’s bridle. We started moving forward. Baby crept closer to me as he had just realized that there were a lot of people pointing at him. I took one of my hands off the reins for a moment and petted Baby. “It’s alright, big boy. It’s just like being at the farmers’ market.”
It turned out that I was nervous for nothing. I had forgotten how much Baby liked being the center of attention. He straightened up and looked quite regal, especially after I gave him a treat for being such a good boy.
As we moved forward, I heard well-wishers shout my name. Waving, I yelled back. It was then I realized that I was actually having fun. Glory seemed to be having fun, too. It was almost like she was prancing. Hunter had to pick up his pace to keep up with her.
What a lovely day I thought. The weather was perfect. The horses were well behaved, and the parade had gone on without a hitch. That is until people spied the Clydesdales. In order to take pictures of the famous horses, people crawled under the rope line cordoning off the road. In an effort to get closer, they tore down the rope barriers and crowded at the road’s edge, with some darting between the animals taking pictures. This spooked the horses, causing them to act up. Glory was one of them.
As the parade’s organizers tried to push people off the road, the horses became more and more frenzied. I called to Hunter, “Let’s stop!”
Hunter suggested, “Let me get Glory into the pasture behind the bleachers.”
As Hunter maneuvered Glory, I surveyed the crowd and was surprised to see Miss Velvet, Shaneika, Linc, Renata Gomez, Colton Battersea, Seth Vanmeter, Regina Keller, Jim Tolson, and Britney Beamer positioned close together in the throng of people moving onto the farm road. It was then a sharp blur of color caught the corner of my eye and flew in front of my horse. Glory screamed and reared up, causing me to lose the reins and tumble backward. Then the cart ran over something.
Ever hear a horse scream? It’s a gut wrenching cry. I knew something horrible had happened but didn’t know what. Had someone injured my horse?
Now others were screaming—both horses and people. What had happened?
The parade marshals pushed the crowd of people back from the pavement, giving the agitated horses room. Glory was still rearing and wanting to run, but Hunter kept a tight grip on her. Velvet and Shaneika ran up to the horse. Miss Velvet threw a jacket over Glory’s eyes while Shaneika helped Hunter to hold her, eventually quieting the horse.
People were taking pictures. I was worried about Morning Glory and was attempting to disembark from the pony cart when I spied a leg sticking up from underneath the cart. Oh, my goodness! That must have been what the cart ran over. My heart dropped. Please God, don’t let it be a child. Not that adults are not worthy of life, but a child’s death makes an accident seem more horrible. I didn’t know if I could live with a child’s death. I hoped whoever was beneath my cart was slightly injured. It was possible. The cart was stationed high off the ground.
I peeked at the leg again. No, it was an adult leg, and a woman’s leg at that. She was wearing crop pants, and the poor woman’s shoe was missing from her foot exposing manicured toenails.
There was no way I could get out of the cart without possibly stepping on the poor victim trapped underneath. A man came forward, holding out his arms. “Ma’am, trust me. I’ll get you down safe.” Since he had a Semper Fi tattoo on his forearm, I leaned over and threw myself upon his tender mercies. He effortlessly lifted me and put me on the ground without uttering a grunt. I thanked him profusely and looked beseechingly at Baby.
“Ma’am, I think you better keep your mutt in the cart.”
“Yes, I will. Thank you again, young man.”
The man went to Hunter and spoke with him.
Hunter nodded. I circled the cart and went to stand with him. The marine motioned to his buddy, and they moved to the back of the cart. Giving a signal to Hunter, they lifted the cart forward very gingerly until one of the marines yelled, “STOP!”
I froze and closed my eyes. When I opened them, I saw a woman with blood staining her face and white blouse.
Who was she and was she alive?
Death By Poison • Abigail Keam
Worker Bee Press © 2022 used by permission
Abigail Keam is the award-winning and Amazon best-selling author of several series including the Josiah Reynolds Mystery Series about a Southern beekeeper turned amateur female sleuth. “I hope my readers come away with a new appreciation of beekeeping from my Josiah Reynolds Mysteries.”
She also writes the Mona Moon Mystery Series–a rags-to-riches 1930s mystery series which includes real people and events into the story line. The series is about a cartographer who is broke and counting her pennies when there is a knock at her door. A lawyer, representing her deceased uncle, announces Mona has inherited her uncle’s fortune and a horse farm in the Bluegrass. Mona can’t believe it. She is now one of the richest women in the country and in the middle of the Great Depression!
The Last Chance For Love Series tells of strangers who come from all walks of life to the magical Last Chance Motel in Key Largo and get a second chance at rebuilding their lives, and The Princess Maura Fantasy Series.
One thing Miss Abigail loves to do as an author is to write real people and events into her stories. “I am a student of history and love to insert historical information into my mysteries. My goal is to entertain my readers, but if they learn a little something along the way–well, then we are both happy.”
Abigail loves honeybees and for many years made her living by selling honey at a farmers’ market. She is an award-winning beekeeper who has won 16 honey awards at the Kentucky State Fair including the Barbara Horn Award, which is given to beekeepers who rate a perfect 100 in a honey competition.
She currently lives on the Palisades bordering the Kentucky River in a metal house with her husband and various critters. She still has honeybees.
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Enjoy her books!
sounds so good.
Koved the excerpt