Author Archives: Christine Husom

About Christine Husom

Christine Husom is a former corrections officer, deputy, and mental health practitioner. She combined her love for writing and solving crimes crafting her Winnebago County Mystery Thriller series, featuring Sergeant Corinne Aleckson and Detective Elton Dawes. Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, are the first three books. A Noding Field Mystery will be released in November, 2012.

A Death in Lionel’s Woods Third Installment

The book launched on November 16th. In this installment, the sheriff’s department has begun an investigation to uncover the identity of a woman whose body was found by a man returning from a morning hunt, starting with the man who found her.

“Who was the guy that found her? The hunter?” I asked Smoke as we walked to our cars.

“Kevin Lionel. This woods and the surrounding property belongs to him.”

“Do you think we should talk to him first off, see how he’s doing?”

“Sounds like a plan, little lady.”

I followed Smoke’s Crown Victoria back out to the county road, and when he headed north. He turned left into a driveway about 100 yards down on the west side of the road. We pulled up close to the house, parked, and met at the front door. A chill ran through me as I pondered whether I even knew how to interview a witness after all those months behind a desk.

“Like riding a bike. Nothing to worry about,” Smoke said.

“You can read my mind now?”

“Prit’ near. You get a little crease close to your left eyebrow when you doubt yourself.”

“Really?” I’d have to make a conscious effort in the future to keep that little crease ironed flat so I didn’t give myself away to Smoke, or anyone else for that matter. At least when I was working.

He rang the doorbell. “Like falling into a soft pile of snow.”

“More like jumping out of an airplane.”

A lumberjack of a man opened the door. He had several inches on Smoke’s six feet, and was a foot or so taller than my five-five. He had a full dark beard which gave an impressive contrast to the blaze orange stocking cap and matching flannel shirt he was wearing. The man I presumed was Kevin Lionel looked from Smoke to me and shook his head. “Did you find out who she was?”

“No, we haven’t made an identification yet.” Smoke waved his hand into the open doorway. “This is Sergeant Aleckson. Mind if we come in for a few minutes?”

Lionel gave me a curt nod. “Hi. Forgot my manners. Sure thing, come in.” He moved out of the doorway, and we stepped in. Lionel shrugged his shoulders. “I haven’t gotten around to taking a shower and changing yet. I hope the buck scent isn’t too strong and stinky. I can’t even smell it anymore.”

There was an unusual, sour odor clinging to him that I guessed was the doe urine many hunters used to cover their own personal scent. My hunter friends had informed me that deer have a keen sense of smell they use to both stay out of danger and to find other deer, mates in particular.

“Not to worry,” Smoke said.

“That’s all I’ve been doing is worrying. I’m tied up in knots trying to figure out who’d put that poor woman’s body in my woods. And why my woods?” Lionel reached up and scratched his head then pulled off his cap, revealing thick, curly, nearly black hair. He tossed the cap on the shelf in his open entry closet.

“That’s a good question. There’s no evidence that indicates someone else put her body there.”

Lionel shrugged. “Oh, I just figured that.”

“We’ve completed the preliminary investigation, but we’ll leave the perimeter marked in your woods, for now. We’re not posting a deputy at the scene to keep it secure, but it’s best not to advertise where the victim was found.”

“I got the ‘No Trespassing’ signs posted. Mostly so people don’t go hunting without permission. Hope that helps keep people from snooping around.”

Smoke nodded and paused before changing the subject. “No recollection of ever seeing her anywhere before today?”

Lionel shook his head. “No. No recollection at all.”

“You know all your neighbors?”

“Sure. At least to say hey and shoot the breeze awhile. I can’t say I’m close to any of them, but we’re friendly enough.”

“That’s more than most of us nowadays. Mister Lionel, now that you’ve had a little time to think about it, is there anything else that’s come to mind, or do you have any other questions?”

Lionel frowned. “I’m still sort of in shock, I guess. I can’t think of what to ask.”

Smoke nodded then pulled his business card and the plastic-enclosed photo from his breast pocket. He handed the card to Lionel. “Call anytime, if you need to.” Then he held the photo up for Lionel to see. “We found this with the victim. Does the family look familiar to you?”

Lionel reached over and carefully, almost reverently, took the baggie from Smoke. He studied the photo for a second, and a flicker of an expression that signified recognition crossed his face. His eyebrows raised slightly, his mouth pursed.

“You know them?” Smoke asked, leaning closer.

“Ah, . . . no.” He handed the photo back.

“You don’t sound too sure of yourself.”

“Um, well, the woman looks a little like someone I knew.”

“Someone you knew?”

“My wife.”

“Knew, as in the past tense?”

“She left about a year ago.”

“Where is she now?”

Lionel shrugged. “I have no idea. I came home one day and she was gone. Left me a note.”

“And she hasn’t filed for divorce?”

“We weren’t actually, um, legally married.”

Smoke nodded. “And you’ve had no communication with her at all?”

“Nope. I thought maybe she wasn’t real happy, but she never said she was unhappy. I guess you could say I wasn‘t exactly happy either.”

“Okay. But the woman in the photo is not your wife, even though she looks like her?”

“No, she is not my wife and I’ve never seen those kids before. I know that for a fact.”

 

Smoke and I drove down the road to the nearby county park and got out of our cars to chat.

A cooling breeze brushed across my face. “What a way to refer to his ex-wife. As someone he knew. Why wouldn’t he say who she was in the first place?”

“I caught that too. Sounded embarrassed about the whole thing, if you ask me. They weren’t married, he didn’t think she was happy, but she didn’t say she was unhappy. A little communication may have helped their relationship.”

“It may have. The look on Kevin’s face when he saw that photo certainly struck a chord with him,” I said.

“I’d say that’s a given. Could be it’s just what he said it was. The woman in the photo looked a little like his sort of wife, and it struck something in him all right. Brought back some memories, good, bad, or indifferent.”

“I think that if I saw a picture of someone that looked a little like my brother, for example, I’d have a different reaction. I know Lionel’s under stress, but still.”

“You’ve got a point. It could be he did recognize the woman in the photo and his mind is not ready to go there yet, in case it’s the same woman he found dead in his woods.”

“He seemed honestly upset about the woman’s body being in his woods, thinking somebody put her there.”

“He was that. I’ll run a background on Lionel, see if anything turns up. And we’ll keep him in the loop as much as we need to.”

Smoke went back to the office to take care of some business, and to make a copy of the photo to show people I talked to. I stayed in the park and started writing the report on my laptop. After working awhile, I thought I’d better call my work voicemail because I’d been out of the office since morning. No new messages, so I listened to the one I had saved. “You killed my friend.” Who are you, and who is your friend?

My heart pounded and a wave of nausea rolled through me, throwing me into a panic attack. I opened my car door in case I got sick. What is wrong with you? I chided myself. I need to believe in my heart of hearts that Grandma is right, that I will be okay again. Eventually.

I pulled out my memo pad with my case notes, and willed myself to concentrate on Jane Doe. I calmed down as I shifted my thoughts from myself to her. What—or was it a who—had brought her to Kevin Lionel’s woods where she died on a buried stash of money. My report could only include the facts of what, and not any suppositions of why.

When Smoke returned about thirty minutes later, he gave me a copy of the photo. We divided the houses within a one mile radius of where Ms. Doe’s body was found, and spent the next hour canvassing for answers. About half the people were home, and of those I questioned no one knew of anyone in the area who was missing. Nor did any of them recognize the woman and children in the photograph.

I finished my canvassing ahead of Smoke and returned to Jeremiah Madison County Park to wait for him so we could decide on the next course of action. He pulled in a minute before three o’clock and parked next to me, driver’s side door next to driver’s side door. We rolled down our windows and pulled our memo books from our front pockets.

“Find out anything?” I asked.

He drummed the steering wheel with his pen. “My stomach just let me know I skipped lunch, but that’s about it.”

I hadn’t even realized my own stomach was signaling for some attention of its own until he’d mentioned it. The emaciated body of Ms. Doe had undoubtedly quelled my appetite. “Yeah, that’s about it for me too.” I paged through my memo pad. “Not one of the neighbors I talked to knows of a woman who has gone missing, nor remembers seeing anything suspicious in the area in the last day or two—that includes people, vehicles, and activities. And nobody recognized any of the three in the photo.”

Smoke gave a nod and put his notebook back in his pocket. “Yup, that about sums up the responses I got, too. Of course, almost everyone was pretty damn curious about why I wanted to know. When I told them we were investigating a suspicious death in the area, they all got curiouser.” The long dimples in his cheeks deepened when he smiled.

“I can’t believe you’re actually quoting Weber.”

“Correction, I’m quoting a word Lewis Carroll coined.”

“Okay then.”

“Actually and coincidentally, there is another Lewis Carroll quote I think about sometimes. Mostly because it applies to so much of what we do: ‘One of the secrets of life is that all that is worth the doing is what we do for others.’”

“You know, Smoke, you amaze me sometimes, like when you pull one of those quotes out of your memory bank.”

“I’d like to say it’s because I have a steel trap mind, but we both know that’s not true.”

I smiled. “It is a good quote for a service-oriented job like ours, that’s for sure.”

Smoke’s eyebrows drew together. “Is it official? Are you back in the saddle again? Chief Deputy will have to know so he can revise the work schedule, and I surely could use your help, especially on this case.”

The thought of our Ms. Doe being ill and somehow ending up in Kevin Lionel’s woods, and then dying on top of a photo and some buried money tugged at my heartstrings. It ignited my compulsion to do my part to uncover the truth and help grease the wheels of justice. I realized I was nodding. “I want to work on this case. I need to find out what happened to our victim.”

“I’m glad to have you back. More than glad. I’m downright grateful.”

Christine Husom is the author the Winnebago County Mystery Series. A Death in Lionel’s Woods is the fifth in the series.

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by | November 20, 2013 · 5:00 pm

A Deadline Is the Mother of Inspiration for Me by Christine Husom

One of the sayings that I have a lot of practical experience with is, “necessity is the mother of invention.” There are times when a person needs something to work, and has to figure out how to make that happen. Most of us likely find and apply solutions to problems nearly every day. And when we’re working on a more complex project, we need to problem solve over and over again.

I consider inspiration and invention to be closely related. As necessity is the mother of invention, a deadline is the mother of inspiration for me.

As a wife, parent, grandparent, author, public official, and business owner, necessity and deadlines are a normal part of my life. Deadlines, whether they are internally or externally set, are a driving force in my life. I can honestly say I appreciate and, at times, embrace them. I often refer to them as ‘goals,’ but treat them as deadlines.

When it comes to writing, many authors have set deadlines to meet. My readers are the ones who propel me write a new Winnebago County Mystery every year–I did miss one year though. Soon after one book has launched, many people ask me, “When is the next one coming out?” So a new deadline is set.

According to Paul Rudnick, “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.” I can certainly relate to that, although my list of avoidance tactics is very different that Ridnick’s.

On occasion, I get asked, “So you write when you are inspired?” The truth is, when I sit down to write, I write. The act of writing triggers inspiration. Sometimes 1,000 words takes a few hours, sometimes it takes all day, and once in a great while it takes about an hour. If it was always like that, there would be need to dread deadlines.

I love the way William Faulkner put it, “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” I’m not at my computer at nine a.m. every day, but I agree with Mr. Faulkner’s philosophy.

Mary Heaton Vorse said it this way, “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” Very true, unless you write like Ernest Hemingway did: standing up.

Are you a person who thrives on deadlines, or do you work more efficiently without a looming deadline?

Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, The Noding Field Mystery, and A Death in Lionel’s Woods, November 2013.

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I am a County Commissioner by Christine Husom

I had been thinking of running for public office for many years, either at the state or county level. Every ten years, when the census data has been updated–and if population numbers have changed in counties and districts–the government entities are required to redistrict so there are the same number of constituents in each district. Wright County, Minnesota, where I live, had a significant population increase and set new district lines for the five commissioners. It left an open seat in my district, so the time seemed right for me to run. Four others ran for the seat which meant we had two elections; the primary and the general.

District One includes three cities and five townships with a population of 24,500 people. I got to know the area, issues, and many new people during the more than four-month campaign. I made it successfully through both elections, took the oath of office, and began serving the citizens of Wright County this past January. Of the five commissioners, there is only one incumbent. Four of us are new so we had a lot to learn.

In a nutshell, a board of county commissioners oversees the operations of all the departments, approves and manages the budget, and sets the tax levy. They provide for public safety and roads and bridges. In Minnesota, the county board is the ditch authority. They approve planning and zoning, board of adjustment, and other committee recommendations, as well. They make any number of decisions that impact citizens and employees. Many are controversial, and draw public attention and debate. Commissioners are bound by the open meeting law and cannot have secret meetings to discuss issues and agenda items.

At our first board meeting we elected a chair and vice-chair. The incumbent became the chair and I became the vice-chair. We had sixty-four committees to divide up, and to appoint our five board members to. Some committees have one board member, some have two. In addition, we all attend the committee meetings of the whole, such as personnel, technology, building, etc. We have two Human Services meetings each month to discuss the three areas in that department: Public Health, Social Services, and Financial Services. I serve as chair of that board.

My other assignments are: Civil Defense, Labor Management/Health Insurance, Labor Management/Loss Control, Personnel, Technology (alternate), Union Negotiations, Way and Means, Association of MN Counties Public Safety Committee, Central MN Emergency Medical Services Joint Powers Board, the local EMS, Central MN Jobs and Training (Workforce), Central MN Mental Health Center Foundation, Central MN Mental Health Center Board, Central MN Mental Health Center Personnel Committee, Clearwater River Watershed District Board, Highway 55 Coalition, Wright County Law Library, Legislative Matters, MEADA (Meth Education), Public Works Labor Management, Regional Crime Lab, Regional Radio Board (alternate), Safe Communities Wright Co, State Community Health Services Advisory Committee, and Hazard Mitigation. I also attend monthly Safe Schools meetings and the three city and five township meetings in my district when possible. Plus the quarterly township officers and county mayor association meetings.

I enjoy hearing from, and working with, citizens and county employees on a wide variety of issues they have, or problems they are facing. Some are fairly easy and have a good outcome. Others are tough and not resolvable the way the people had hoped for. I am working hard and learning more than I could have ever imagined. And I’m having a lot of fun in the process.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series, Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery. A Death in Lionel’s Woods will be released November, 2013.

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A Second Excerpt of A Death in Lionel’s Woods by Christine Husom

A Death in Lionel’s Woods will be released later this year by Second Wind Publishing. I first posted an excerpt in April. Detective Smoke Dawes, Sergeant Corky Aleckson, Deputies Vince Weber and Amanda Zubinski are at a death scene in a private woods next to a public county park. This picks up as the medical examiner arrives.

The four of us turned at the sound of an approaching vehicle. The Midwest Medical Examiner’s van turned onto the field road and continued to where the mobile crime lab sat. The van stopped next to it. A short, stocky woman with gray hair moussed into a spikey do got out and walked toward us with deliberate steps. “Bridey Patrick,” she announced before the rest of us had a chance to greet her. Her small brown, not quite beady, eyes narrowed on Smoke. “Detective Dawes.”

“Doctor Patrick. Thanks for making it out here so fast. Team, introduce yourselves.” The three of us gave her our names and got a quick nod in return, then the doctor turned her attention to Ms. Doe. Whatever she was thinking, she kept to herself.

“You photographed the deceased?”

“Yeah, from all angles,” Weber said.

Doctor Patrick pulled on protective gloves and then leaned down and touched the inside of Ms. Doe’s wrist. “She’s as cold as the earth she’s lying on.” Her initial examination was brief, as she ran her hands over the body, looking for obvious signs of what caused her death. Her hand stopped in Doe’s mid-back section. “There’s something underneath her.”

“We didn’t see anything–”

“No, her sweater’s covering the part that’s sticking out. Could be a large knife, or some sort of tool. Let’s turn her over.” Zubinski and Weber had crime lab gear on, so they moved in to help Patrick. Any one person could have completed the task alone, but Zubinski and Weber carefully slid their hands under Doe’s shoulder and hip and rolled her on Weber’s count of “three.”

“What the heck? She was laying on a garden trough?” Weber said.

Smoke and I took a step closer then we both leaned in, almost bumping heads. “The ground is disturbed under the leaves,” he said.

“She was digging something? Weber, where’d you put your camera?” I asked.

“Back in my squad. Front seat, on top of the pile there.” I left to retrieve it.

“Grab an evidence bag while you’re at it,” Smoke called out. I didn’t know what supplies were in the trunk of the squad car I had driven. Since I’d been assigned to office duty, I’d been driving my personal vehicle back and forth to work. The squad car I had previously shared with two others had picked up a third deputy in my absence. I wasn’t sure what would happen after today. Only God knew that. I found the camera where Weber said it was, then I popped open the trunk of the borrowed car and dug through a box of evidence bags until I located one large enough to accommodate the trowel.

I returned with the camera and handed it to Weber who snapped photo after photo from various angles. Zubinski took the evidence bag from me and waited for Weber to finish. When he handed the camera back to me, Zubinski opened the bag and Weber reached down, lifted the trowel, and dropped it in the bag. Zubinski sealed it, and then carried it over to the crime lab where she would date it and give it a number.

“Do you need the deceased while you conduct the rest of your investigation here, Detective? She’s been out here alone for two days, by my estimation. I’d like to take her to the office.”

“No, we’ve got what we need from her. I’ll help you with the gurney.” He followed Doctor Patrick to her vehicle.

“I don’t want to know how uncomfortable that was, laying on that thing,” Weber said.

I stared at Doe’s face again, but her blank expression hinted at nothing. If anything, she looked at peace. “For sure. Something went terribly wrong somewhere. We just have to figure out what.”

“Yeah, that’s what we’re here for.”

Is that what I’m here for? I’ve missed having that strong sense of purpose these past months. The belief, the assurance, that I used to take for granted.

Smoke and Bridey Patrick rolled the gurney to about four feet from Doe’s body. Patrick unzipped the bag as Mandy returned from the mobile crime unit. “We’ll get her for you; she can’t weigh eighty pounds,” Mandy said and nodded at Weber. Ms. Doe didn’t protest in the least when they scooped her up and laid her in the body bag. Patrick zipped her in, unlocked the brake on the gurney, and Smoke pushed it to the back of the van.

“Put her clothes in paper bags and we’ll pick them up later.”

“Right. I’ll call you when they’re ready,” Doctor Patrick said.

“She’s as serious as Melberg. Seriouser,” Weber said after Patrick drove away.

“I love it when you make up words, Vince,” Mandy said and frowned, negating her statement.

“Patrick’s like Melberg at crime scenes and autopsies. Both of them are extremely focused. Some guys can joke, release some steam to break up the tension. Others can’t I guess. Or won’t. Melberg and Patrick fall in the latter category.” Smoke got on his hands and knees. “Let’s scoop up the leaves she was lying on and bag ‘em up. There may be some kind of trace evidence or transfer from her clothes. Or somebody else’s.”

Zubinski retrieved a small shovel from the van and Weber waited with a large evidence bag, open at the top as far as he could stretch it. Mandy bent over and scooped a small amount of the leaf matter, dropped it in the bag, and scooped another, taking some dirt with it.

“What have we here?” Smoke asked. He bent over for a closer look, then used his pen to push a few leaves aside.

“She buried something here?” I asked as I leaned in myself.

“Photo man, we need some more shots,” Smoke said, needlessly pointing at the ground.

Vince sighed as he handed the leaf-filled bag to Mandy and then lifted the camera that hung from a strap around his neck and rested on his chest.

The disturbed area on the floor of the woods was about twelve inches by eighteen inches. The dirt appeared to have been dug out, then put back, and patted down.

“Curious,” Mandy said.

“And curiouser,” Vince said. “And I didn’t make that up. It came from something I read as a kid.”

“You read Alice in Wonderland?” Mandy’s eyebrows squeezed together.

“I don’t know. Maybe,” he mumbled and hitched a shoulder up.

Mandy smiled and I shook my head.

“Let’s see what might be in this rabbit hole,” Smoke said. He held out his hand for the shovel which Mandy handed over, and then set about carefully digging around the edges of the “rabbit hole.” After he’d had dug a little trench around the perimeter, he knelt down and started brushing away some dirt from the surface. He stuck his pen in the ground a few places. “There’s something here.”
Mandy, Vince, and I leaned in even closer, growing cuiouser by the second.

Smoke stood and used the shovel to scrape thin layers of dirt from the site. “I got something.” He uncovered a gallon-size plastic bag, then bent over and lifted it from its burial plot, shaking off the bit of soil that clung to it.

“What the heck?” Vince said.

“Bags of money in there?” Mandy said.

“That’s a little on the strange side. But I have heard of people burying money before,” I said.

Smoke gave a quick nod. “We’ll need two of you take these bags, one by one, and count to see how much is in each bag. First let’s see just how many we got here.”

“I’ll get another evidence bag so we can transfer them as you pull them out,” Mandy said. She was gone and back in a flash.

Smoke reached in and withdrew one sandwich size baggie after the next and handed them to Mandy who kept count, then dropped them in her bag.

“We should be able to get fingerprints, find out if there are any other ones on them besides our victim’s,” I said.

Altogether, there were nine bags of varying thicknesses, depending on the stack of bills in each one of them. On the bottom of the gallon bag was a single picture in its own baggie. It was the last baggie Smoke removed. He studied the front of it for a long moment. “I’m guessing it’s our Miss Doe, but she has a whole lot more muscle and tissue on her body. She’s with two little kids.” He flipped the bag over and read out loud what was written on the back. “Looks like M-A-I-S-A, Maisa, L-E-L-A, Lela, S-E-S-E, Sese. And Georgia. Georgia, I’m guessing that’s where they were when the picture was taken.” Smoke looked at me and handed the photo over. “Those sound like Swiss names to you?”

“Could be I guess. I really don’t know.”

“Swiss names?” Mandy asked.

“Our sergeant here thought maybe Miss Doe was a member of the Swiss Apostolic clan in Kadoka.”

“Huh. Are those the ones who wear those kinda drab colored dresses and have those head coverings?” Vince wondered.

“Yeah.”

He jutted his chin out. “Oh. I thought we had a little group of Amish around here somewhere, but never asked nobody about it.”

“I think they’re mostly in southern Minnesota near the Iowa border. Around Harmony,” Mandy said.

“Peace loving people that they are, they musta picked that town for its name,” Weber said.

“There’s a fairly large population northwest of here too, in Todd County,” I added, my eyes fixed on the photo.

Weber shrugged. “Had no idea.”

“Any of you guys been to Georgia?” I asked.

“When I was a kid,” Mandy said.

“I’m trying to remember my geography. They have mountains there?”

“Sure, the northern part of the state,” Smoke answered.

I admired the setting. “Picturesque. Woman holding a toddler, another little one at her side, standing in front of some trees with the leaves about a hundred autumn shades of green and red and orange and gold. The mountain peak behind them in the distance.” I handed the photo to Mandy who held it up so Vince could look at it with her.

“Kids have regular clothes on, shorts and tee shirts, but the woman looks kind of old-fashioned in that dress,” Mandy said.

“How old do you suppose she is there?” Vince asked.

“Twenty-five, maybe younger,” Smoke said.

“The little girl can’t be two. The boy maybe four, five?” I said.

Smoke reached for the photo and nodded. “I’d say that’s about right.”

A small wave of sadness rolled over me. “They look happy.”

“It would’ve been nice if she had put the year on it, too. Give us some idea of how old the kids are now,” Mandy said.

“They might not be hers. Do you suppose they’re from Georgia, or were they on vacation, visiting someone there?” I asked.

“It’s a puzzle, all right. And we still got the question of why she had all these bags of money,” Smoke said.

Vince elbowed Mandy’s arm. “Speaking of which, let’s go count, Zubinski, see how much she was protecting when she died.”

Zubinski gave me the baggie-protected photo and I reread the names. Maisa, huh? And Lela and Sese. Unusual names, all right. Maybe they are Swiss.”

“We’re a melting pot nation.”

Smoke’s phone rang. “Dawes. . . . Okay, Doc. I’ll have someone from our office there, too. . . . Right, bye.” Smoke closed his phone. “Doctor Patrick. She got Miss Doe scheduled for autopsy tomorrow afternoon at two. They’re going to work on a computer sketch of what she might have looked like at a normal weight.”

“How’d she get that done so fast?” She can’t have gotten to Anoka yet.”

“I’d venture to guess she was conducting business over the phone on the drive over. Let’s check on our team.”

Smoke and I went to the doorway of the mobile crime lab and watched them work. “These stupid gloves slow down the operation,” Weber said as he fumbled to lift a five dollar bill from one pile to set it on the waiting pile on the narrow counter.

“One hundred and sixteen,” Mandy said and wrote it down on the outside of an evidence bag. She was the one who spoke the numbers out loud as she and Weber finished counting the bills in the bag they were on. She wrote the agreed total on the bag. Then she replaced the bills in the original baggie, slipped it inside the larger evidence bag, sealed it, and put her initials over the seal. “Two down, seven to go.”

“A hundred-forty-three bucks in that bag. How much in the first?” Smoke asked.

“One thirty-six smackeroos,” Vince said.

“Different amounts, so not consistent that way.”

“No.”

“Largest denomination was a twenty in the first bag, a ten in the second,” Mandy added.

“And what would be the reason for all the smaller bags inside the big one? They weren’t marked, like the one-forty-three was for the electricity bill, and the one-thirty-six was for groceries,” I said.

“Yeah. Huh,” Vince agreed.

“Until we can find her family and or identify her, I think we’re stuck with way more way more questions than explanations,” Smoke said. “Weber, Zubinski, carry on here. Get your evidence taken care of, but I’ll keep the photo to show some folks. Aleckson and I will start talking to the neighbors in the area.”

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Wouldn’t It Be Fun? by Christine Husom

It started as a wild suggestion, thrown out to see how my siblings would react. “Wouldn’t it be fun to meet in Norway on Dad’s 100th birthday?”

And there was a story behind that. In 1970 my dad took us on a family trip that began and ended in Norway where his ancestors had lived. 1970 was the 100th anniversary of when the last of them had immigrated to America. It was a different kind of 100th anniversary, but significant nonetheless.

My father died in 1997 just shy of his 84th birthday. He was proud of his heritage and happy to be able to take us to the breathtakingly beautiful Oppstryn area of Norway, Erdal Valley, where our relatives still farm. So next month, in his honor, four of his five children will be in Oppstryn Norway to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our beloved father.

Because of time constraints, I have to keep this short and sweet, but will give more details on my next blog.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series

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The Endearing Vince Flynn by Christine Husom

When Vince Flynn, a Minnesota thriller author, announced he had stage three metastatic prostate cancer in 2010, it didn’t sound good. But he was determined to beat it.  In an interview last year with USA TODAY, Vince discussed his illness: “The first 48 hours of my diagnosis were hellish,” he said. “Things just seemed to get worse and worse. We (he and his wife) were sneaking around the house, whispering so the kids wouldn’t hear us. It was horrible.” But then he said, ” I feel great now. . . .We have this under control.”

I never met Vince in person, but made it to one of his book signings. Unfortunately, the line was a mile long. We decided to have lunch, then get back in line, but it was still a mile long. I had another appointment and couldn’t wait, so I snaked my way around to get a close up look at him.

He was even better looking in person than in any of his photos. But the thing that set him apart was how engaging he was with his fans. He made eye contact, joked around, and expressed his appreciation, showing he cared they had bought a book and were standing in a long line to have him sign it.

I learned Vince had died when I checked the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime page on Facebook yesterday afternoon. One of our members wrote, “I thought he’d beaten the beast.” That’s what I’d thought also.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series, Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery. A Death in Lionel’s Woods will be released in Fall, 2013.

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A Day of Coincidences by Christine Husom

May 20th is a special day in our family. Our daughter and nephew were both born on that day, in the same year. Back before cell phones and the ability to be in nearly constant and instant communication, we tried to call my husband’s brother and sister-in-law off and on for hours to tell them we’d had our baby. They’d been doing the same. Somehow we finally connected and were amazed to learn we’d delivered on the same day. Especially since our babies were due weeks apart. Our daughter was a week late, their son was born earlier than expected.

So we went through the years celebrating the birthdays of the “twin cousins”, as they’ve been dubbed. After they reached adulthood, coincidentally, our nephew had a nephew of his own born on their birthday. And a few years later, to add to the wonder of it all, our grandson–our daughter’s first nephew–was born on their birthday. What are the odds of that happening, I wondered. When I posed that question hypothetically, my sister had the answer: 365 times 365 times 365 times 365.

The other coincidence is that May 20th was also their grandmother’s/great-grandmother’s wedding anniversary. I guess that means to calculate the probability of all those descendants being born on their anniversary is 365 times 365 times 365 times 365 times 365. Seems like fairly low odds to me, but maybe it’s not in the world of statistics and probabilities.

Happy birthday twin cousins and second cousins, Morynn, Ben, Ethan, and Christian on the special day you share.

I’d love to hear about coincidences that have intrigued or tickled you.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series, Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery.

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A Death in Lionel’s Woods excerpt by Christine Husom

This is an excerpt from the fifth book in the Winnebago County Mystery Series.

Chapter One

“You killed my friend.” I hit the 2 on the phone to replay the message. “You killed my friend.” I’m sorry. So very sorry, I mouthed. It was the fourth time that morning I had been drawn back to the muffled voice that accused me, held me guilty, with four short words. You. Killed. My. Friend. The caller–I couldn’t tell if it was a male or a female–didn’t name me specifically, or say who he or she was. But the message was sent to my voicemail and was personal nonetheless. I felt compelled to keep it to myself for a while. More correctly, between the caller and me. You killed my friend. Did he or she somehow share in the same grief I couldn’t shake?

My sadness was persistent, and at times I was afraid it would consume me, swallow me whole. It had been months since I had blindly led the man I was dating to his death, but that tragic moment in time was never far from my conscious, subconscious, or unconscious thoughts. I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live with the burden.

Many people assured me, some over and over, that time was the great healer. And I had to believe the weight of guilt would lessen, but I knew my life would never be the same. The other thing people tried to drum into my brain was that it wasn’t my fault. I almost believed that on one level, but on another level, which caused persistent gnawing at my heart and gut, I was convinced my police training and innate skills should have alerted me of the danger ahead. By the time I sensed something was hinky, it was too late to stop the rapid chain of events that resulted in the death of two men. Eric Stueman’s was at the hands of an evil man. The evil man died by mine.

It was like watching the videos of Twin Towers going down on 9-11. I knew it would be exactly the same no matter how many times I viewed it. Yet the part of me that didn’t want to believe it had really happened hoped if I watched it one more time the ending would be somehow different. That’s the way it was every time my mind’s eye watched Langley Parker shoot Eric. No matter how much I willed for a different ending, it never varied one iota. The images in my brain had become my nearly constant companion, along with the smell of fresh salty blood mixed in with sweet blossoms in the warm late Spring evening air.

Winnebago County Sheriff Dennis Twardy had pulled me off the road as a supervising sergeant, and assigned me the special duties of helping in the evidence room, checking outstanding warrants on offenders, and any number of other details the department was backlogged on. When I was at work, I forced myself to be focused. When I was with family and friends, I was coaxed from my grief for short periods of time. When I was alone, I fell apart as often as not.

I had added Doctor Kearns, my psychologist and new best friend as number 8 on my speed dial. The only professional–or his voicemail, at least–I had access to by hitting two buttons. Since I hadn’t slept through the night for months, he’d talked me into getting a prescription for a sleeping aid from a medical doctor. I’d done as he suggested and had the unopened bottle sitting in my bathroom cabinet, in case. I chose to self-medicate with wine in the evenings instead. A glass or two or three dulled the pain, but didn’t allow me slip into a dreamless, guilt-free night which I didn’t feel I deserved anyway. I had no idea what I had to do, or how long it would take to pay the penance that would get me out of my personal prison. I hoped one day Doctor Kearns would pull a rabbit out of a hat, something brand new, and he’d say something that would magically help me forgive myself.

My cell phone rang midmorning. It was Detective Elton Dawes, my mentor and dear friend. I forced myself to sound mildly cheerful so he wouldn’t pry into what was wrong. “Hey Smoke.”

“Got a lot going on in Warrants?”

“You know it never ends around here.”

“Tell me about it. You heard Weber call me out to his suspicious circumstances call?”

“I did. How suspicious are the circumstances?”

“I’d go with quite suspicious at this point. We’re don’t really know the extent of what we got. I’d be obliged if you’d come out here. We’re up to our eyeballs and it seems that half the guys I usually count on are off deer hunting.”

A wave of panic rolled through me. “Smoke, I . . .”

“Sheriff says you’d be putting your talents to better use on this case than in the office. If you’re ready to get back out here, that is.”

“What have you got?”

“A woman. Dead a couple of days, it looks like. Skin and bones. Waiting on Melberg and the crime lab team which is only Zubinski, with Mason out today. The chief deputy hasn’t found anyone to reassign yet, but he’s still working on it. Weber will fill in as long as he can.”

I sucked in a breath and blew it out, mentally ordering the feelings of fear and anxiety to leave with the expelled air.

“All right.”

“The closest address is twenty-two-nineteen Quinton Avenue, in Swedesburg Township. We’re in a private woods next to in the Jeremiah Madison County Park off County Two, a quarter mile in. A guy found her after the morning deer hunt.”

“Man. Okay. I’ll be out there in about twenty.” I disconnected and glanced at the clock on the office wall, hoping reading the time would give me a sense of urgency that would propel me into action. Ten-fifteen, Friday morning. The start of a long, sad weekend for the victim’s family. That thought spurred me and got me moving.

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Writers Write by Christine Husom

Writers write for many reasons. For some it is personal therapy, laying their thoughts and feelings down to sort through and analyze. Some like maintaining a diary of activities, a record to later refer to. Others keep a log when they travel to record details they may otherwise forget. There are technical writers who spell out detailed information in various manuals. There are textbook, non-fiction, screen play, musical lyrics, advertising, and greeting card writers. Written words are everywhere.

People may write solely for personal reasons, having no intention of ever getting published. For others, that is their main reason; getting published so others will read what they wrote. Whether it’s a poem or a play or a book of fiction, they want to share their written words. The audience may be small and specific or worldwide and astronomical. Again, there are a myriad of reasons. If it’s an expose on a botched murder investigation, the writer may be seeking justice. A biography may be written to tell the world what a great person, or total jerk, the subject was. The writer may feel compelled to share a philosophy or to simply entertain. He or she may want to tell of a personal journey to offer hope to others who are faced with a similar circumstance.

Many years ago I read formula romance novels purely for entertainment. My children were young and when they went to bed, instead of settling in front of the television, I read. I digested about five books each week for a couple of years. Along the way I told myself, “I can write a romance novel. I have the formula memorized and can come up with a decent story.” So I wrote two romance novels. I made a weak attempt at publication, but life was busy with my husband, four kids, career, and volunteer work, so I let it slide. And I had quit reading formula romance sometime before then. In fact, I had gotten bored with the genre and was reading anything but. I had switched to mainstream and mystery for the most part.

In addition to the completed romance novels, I have a number of manuscripts for mainstream novels that I started writing and never finished–like a lot of writers. I have completed plays, poems, short stories, and notebook pages full of ideas for others. I am a writer, but one who has not always actively written. A writer who is constantly creating stories, scenarios, characters, dialogues, but one who gets only a small percentage of those things on paper. I quit telling myself I’d remember a snappy bit of dialogue, or a cool way to describe a person or place or emotion, a long time ago.

When tragedy struck my family sixteen years ago, I had no way of knowing it would give birth to a mystery series. Without a satisfying explanation for my father’s death, I wrote Murder in Winnebago County to tell the story of what my imagination thought could have happened. When I entered the book in the “search for the next best crime writer” contest on-line, I had no idea I would meet the man who would become my publisher. That was five years and four published mystery novels ago.

As I work on the fifth book in the series, I know the reasons I’m writing it: I like my Winnebago County characters and am curious what they are up to; my readers are waiting and asking when it will be released; I learn a great deal of new information doing research for each book; and it keeps me connected to a community of writers and readers.

My goal as the author of a mystery series is not to write the great American novel. And that’s what most of the other authors I converse with tell me. My hope is to entertain, to share some police procedural information, to take my readers on a journey that will take them away from their workaday world to Winnebago County where mystery, romance, and all sorts of unexpected things continue to happen.

Please tell us what you’re looking for as a reader or writer.

Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery

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GPS for 911 by Christine Husom

I serve as a county commissioner in Minnesota, and at a recent meeting we were discussing upgrading some phone computer software when this question was raised, “I live in a city that is on the border of our county. If I dial 911 on my cell phone, will it go to our county, or to the neighboring county’s sheriff’s dispatch, since I live closer to them?” Good question.

A 911 call should go to the county dispatch where the call is made. If another county gets the call in error, they will immediately forward it to the correct county. Technology and equipment continues to become more sophisticated, including the ways Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are used.

Newer cell phones have GPS which is the space-based system that gives location and time information, provided there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.

But let’s say you have an older phone without GPS, and realize you are in personal distress. You dial 911, utter the single word, “Help,” then pass out. Sheriff’s dispatchers, by triangulating cell phone towers should be able to figure out where you are, by how far you are from a tower. 

GPS was originally developed for military intelligence, but President Ronald Reagan issued a directive to include use by civilians as well. Fast forward to the current decade when the Federal Communications Commission decreed that all cell phones must have GPS capability by 2018.

Some might argue that ruling is an invasion of privacy. Some have disabled the GPS in their cell phones. I value my right to privacy, but I also hope that in the event of an emergency, responders would be able to locate me quickly. What are your thoughts?

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series; Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery.

 

 

 

 

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