Deadly as a Walk in the Park

2024 Young Or Golden Writer
Book Cover Image
Logline or Premise
Victoria Bentwood is convinced that once again she, her daughter and granddaughter must investigate the hit and run death of her friend Cameron if they are to prove a connection to the similar killing of her husband Robert twenty years before. The second in the Brentwood Women Mystery Series.
First 10 Pages

Wendy Adair

928 Fugate


TX 77009

72,500 words.

deadly as a walk in the park

by W. H. Adair

Chapter 1


Minuit stared at the door. Her brown eyes never blinking.

“Stop fretting. You know what they say about a watched pot. He will be here soon. Come sit.” I looked at my companion and patted my knee.

Minuit continued her vigil. She was not very good with upset routines, and Cam always rang the bell promptly at 7 a.m., not a minute later. It was already 7:15. Not acceptable.

I was about to pull her away when the bell sounded. “Well, about time,” I laughed, walking to the door, leash in hand. Minuit was already suited up in her special vest—the one with the reflective tape and her name embroidered on the side in violet silk: Minuit Brentwood. A click on the harness and the jet-black greyhound was ready for her morning speed walk with our neighbor Cameron Riley. Holding tight to Minuit I opened the door.

Cam apologized as he stepped into the foyer and reached for the leash. “Victoria, I am so sorry. I had to take a call from Matthew Sinclair, and the time escaped me.”

I smiled and waived him in. “I am not the one needing an apology. Your best dog friend has been anxious for the last fifteen minutes. She no doubt imagined the worst had happened and you had found another BDF.”

He laughed and laid his hand on the dog’s head. I stopped him as he took her leash. “Excited about Carolee? We sign everything and finalize her appointment as CEO of the foundation later this morning. It will be wonderful to have her back home.”

Cam smiled as he moved toward the door. “This will be the first time since Edwin and Carolee where in school that we will all be in the same city, at least all of us except Sara.” His excited voice dropped at the mention of his wife who died nearly two years ago. Shaking himself as if dropping the sorrowful note, he smiled. “A perfect time for me to retire and have plenty of time for grandkids.” Again he scratched between Minuit’s ears. “And, no, dear Minuit, you definitely will continue to be my BFD and walking buddy.” The dog wiggled at the affection and pushed against his leg as if reminding him they were late for their walk.

My hand still rested on his arm. There seemed to be something else bothering him. “Are you sure everything is alright? I do not want to impose, but Matthew is my attorney as well. I cannot imagine that you called him just to chat. You mentioned last week you were concerned about an audit. Have you solved it?”

Cam shook his head. “It looks like we may have a problem in one of the international subsidiaries. We’re still checking it out. Turning the business over to Edwin triggered the outside audit, so hopefully we caught whatever is going on before it becomes a significant problem. Edwin has it under control, I’m sure.”

He gathered Minuit to his side and headed out the door. “Don’t worry. It will all work out. Minuit and I will get a good walk today, despite the heat. Hopefully we’ll miss the triple digits despite starting late.” Looking down at the dog he promised. “I’ll have her back in an hour or so.”

I patted his arm as they left. “Wonderful. That will give you time to join me for my special quiche Lorraine. I just put it in the oven, and it will be cooled enough and set when you return.” I nodded again. “Thanks as usual for keeping her in sporting shape. Without you she no doubt would be a couch-potato watching an endless stream of reality TV. You have saved us both. Breakfast is the least I can do.” I watched as Cam put the dog into the back seat and strapped the seatbelt into her harness.

I smiled to myself at Cam’s belief that retirement would open up all this time for him to focus on his family. He continued to volunteer all over the city, not to mention accepting the Governor’s appointment as chairman of the Gulf U Regents. My retirement has kept me as busy as I ever was running my company. Heading the board of the city’s major foundation was not a vacation by any means. And it was definitely as involved as being CEO.

When Grace has my great-grandchild in a few months I will shift focus, I swore to myself. But today, I needed to get ready to meet with my board. At least the pandemic had given us new ways to do business. I was ready for my second and last cup of coffee and needed to set up the computer for my upcoming Zoom meeting. Time to hit the shower and get dressed—and not in a business jacket and lounge pants. The apocryphal images of spilling something during a Zoom talk and showing everyone penguin pajamas seemed too real to ignore. A business meeting required business attire, no matter if we stayed at home.

Chapter 2


Cameron buckled the dog in with a pat on her head as an apology. His day had begun as most others since his retirement as CEO of Houston Financial Group. He lived alone after the death of his wife Sara. Fifty years of sleeping with her by his side, he was still not used to having the queen bed all to himself. He remembered their discussion about moving to a king. She insisted the queen bed ensured that we would always sleep closely together, he smiled to himself.

That exactly right-sized bed now felt enormous and unfamiliar. Her picture in the silver frame watched from his bedside table. A more formal family portrait, from Christmas thirty years ago, hung over the dresser. He woke every morning to his young laughing wife and their two children amidst a pile of presents, wrapping paper. He was there, too, with much more hair.

He was proud of his son Edwin who’d taken over Houston Financial Group. He’d earned his MBA at Rice University and then joined the company. Cameron ensured his son worked his way through all the departments to the executive suite.

His daughter Carolee graduated top of her class from Stanford’s MBA program in non-profit management. He smiled at Victoria’s pride in hiring Carolee to be Executive Director of the Houston Charities Foundation. He knew the ever proper and professional Victoria Brentwood would never let personal relationships rule her decisions. She recognized Carolee as the best in the business and was lucky to get her. Most significantly, Cam’s two children had blessed him (and Sara) with four grandchildren, who he adored.

This day marked exactly twenty months since losing his wife to cancer. She was seventy-two and far too young to leave them. And yes, he was still keeping count of the days, though by now he’d perfected his “getting on with it” face. And everyone had indeed gotten on with it, with life. At least they no longer clucked over him. Widows had given up bringing him casseroles and dropping by to make sure he was eating properly. Their couple friends had stopped inviting him to dinner parties where he would be odd man out. His golf and fishing buddies had gotten back in their old groove. And his children no longer hovered over him as if expecting him to shatter.

Retirement hadn’t changed his morning routine much. He was up at 6:30. A quick shower was followed by coffee and two eggs on toast. Instead of a tailored suit and tie, his sartorial choice consisted of sweats and jogging shoes, and he was ready for his morning jaunt around Memorial Park.

Victoria was right. He had much on his mind these days. It was past 3:00 before his brain finally shut down from spinning in circles the previous night. Too many unanswered questions swarming around him and those he loved. Victoria caught him by surprise with her question about the audit. He’d forgotten he’d mentioned it earlier. Possible red flags at one of the international subsidiaries. But something else was going on with Edwin, he could feel it. And he needed to get Sinclair back to redo his will…again. He left him that message when he called that morning. Another thing he’d have to follow up.

He could barely admit he missed Sara so much that he actually connected with a fringe spiritual group. She would be laughing hysterically if she really was on the other side watching over things. Enough. Calming walk. Then he could get back to business.

He pulled himself back into the present and refocused on the winding road into Memorial Park.


With his left hand steering the Mercedes, Cam reached into the back seat to scratch Minuit behind the ear. She managed a lick across his wrist as she twisted in her seat belt.

“How about we do twice around the park today, old girl? I’ll send your mom a text so she doesn’t worry. Hopefully her quiche will be as good warmed up.”

He pulled into the lot with the closest access to the walking trail. They were later than usual and the lot was nearly empty, so he parked at the end of the row nearest the bench marking the start of the trail. Cam walked around the back of the car to unhook Minuit from the seat belt. They’d done this regularly for the past year, so the dog jumped onto the tarmac and stood waiting for his command to head out.

He’d made it to the back of the car when he noticed an oversized SUV in the middle of the lot. The motor revved. The car headed directly at him. Cam dropped the dog’s leash ordering her to the car. He barely got that out before he was hit and thrown over the hood. A sharp turn and the car was back on Memorial Drive headed for the suburbs.

He was crumbled on the ground, barely breathing. He felt something warm wrap around him and realized that Minuit had leveraged her long body as close to him as possible. Thank God she wasn’t hit. He closed his eyes again and let the pain wash over him.

Chapter 3


I savored my second and final cup of coffee for the day, sipping it, like it was a rare vintage. The remains of my quiche were evident on the Limoges plate. His text apologized for staying longer and missing breakfast, but he was now over an hour late. Cam and Minuit must be enjoying their outing, I thought with a smile, glad that my dog was getting a good workout. He would have to settle for reheated quiche when they got back.

It was only ten o’clock, but already hitting the high eighties in my courtyard. It was ten degrees cooler under the large pecan tree where I sat mourning the loss of my favorite stimulant.

Watching the mourning doves at their daily ablutions, all I could think of was my impending withdrawal. I am not happy about this new dietary restriction. Cutting back on caffeine has to be at least as hard as going cold turkey with cigarettes. Dr. Keene insisted this was the best way to control my blood pressure without adding another drug to my daily routine.

My laptop was keyed into the Houston Charities Foundation website. I was waiting on the Zoom meeting to start. The city was mostly back to normal with face-to-face meetings, but the pandemic did ignite a number of new ways to meet safely. Today it was simply easier and faster for me to join online rather than in person.

We were reviewing the announcement of our new Executive Director. Carolee Riley Cummings was a rare find. Summa cum laude graduate for both her communications degree and her MBA. Growing up next door, I had kept up with her even after she left Houston. With my current work for the foundation, her career seemed to match our needs exactly. She had held increasingly complicated positions in the non-profit world, from marketing and fundraising for a Palo Alto craft museum to chief operations officer for the Getty.

I was clear with the search firm and my committee that Carolee was a family friend. I recused myself from the final vote but was not surprised to get a unanimous endorsement from the entire board. Carolee had the fundraising and the management know-how to run any foundation in the country. But we held the ace—Houston was her hometown. I was not surprised that her mother’s death brought the need for family to the top of her bucket list. In perfect serendipity, our unexpected opening jived with her homesickness.

Cameron was over the moon to have her and her family back in Houston. We had toasted our successful hire over dinner the night before. All that was left was to plan her re-immersion into Houston with a grand announcement.

The morning had gotten away from me, and Minuit was not by my side. What could be keeping them? No way they are still sauntering around the park. Not in this heat.

I shook my head. Minuit was my surrogate child since my daughter refused to let me direct her in anything these days. Now that Grace was soon to have her own child, I hoped to focus my attention on her, if she let me. Independent women…too much like me. I had to smile at that thought and turned to the computer to connect to my Zoom conference.

The link opened on the face of the charity’s CFO. Paul Redman looked surprisingly ruffled. The calm and cool accountant could handle the toughest audit with nary a quiver. So why was he fumbling the connection?

“Paul, are you all right? Technical difficulties?” I could see that most of my board was assembled across the top of the screen, looking as concerned as he did.

He shook his head. “No, no. Network’s fine. But Carolee won’t be able to join us right now. We had just started when she was pulled away for a call. She had to rush off. Family emergency she said. I think her father.

With everyone unmuted, the noise level rose quickly. Waving my hand for attention, I spoke quietly. That always worked to quiet a crowd.

“Everyone, please. Hold on. We need to reschedule the planning session, and I will see what I can find out about Carolee’s difficulty. Paul, please check the calendars and set up a tentative date for the meeting. I will let everyone know what I find out.”