Murder on the Interstate is the third novel in Jean Henry Mead’s Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series featuring two feisty 60-year old woman amateur sleuths. After their friends are systematically killed in A Village Shattered, the friends buy a motorhome and travel the West, solving murders in the process. A young woman’s murder along the Arizona interstate places their own lives in danger as they uncover a plot by homegrown terrorists to take down the country.
Lulled by a lack of traffic and the steady beat of rain, Dana was in danger of nodding off when a convertible roared past, followed by a late model pickup. The heavy downpour obscured her view, but they appeared to be coupled like boxcars. Why were they driving that dangerously close, and why so fast in the rain?
An I-40 highway sign signaled an approaching curve so she clicked off the cruise control and slowed to forty-five. Taillights had vanished and she glanced in both side mirrors. The earlier truck traffic had disappeared and no headlights were visible in either direction. Darkness was closing in on her.
Sarah groaned from the passenger seat, apparently still asleep. Must be the anchovies. Her friend had insisted on stopping for pizza at a Kingman roadside cafe. Dana groped for the Tums. As she rounded the curve, she noticed two sets of brake lights not far ahead. The motorhome swayed as she stepped into her own brakes and skidded on the pavement. Road signs had warned of animal crossings. The convertible appeared to have swerved to avoid hitting a deer and had gone off the mountain road. Dana pulled onto the shoulder as the pickup following the convertible screeched back on the pavement. Why didn’t the driver stop to help?
Bolting upright in the passenger seat, Sarah said, “What happened?” Her words were thick with sleep.
“We’re about to find out.”
Headlights angled upward from somewhere off the road, illuminating a huge digger pine. It had to be the convertible. Dana opened her door and climbed down. The steps were slick with rain and she nearly lost her balance. She heard the passenger door slam as she started down the embankment. Chilled and miserably wet, she slipped and landed in a bed of pine needles. Why hadn’t she grabbed the flashlight?
Dana glanced up at her friend, who stood shivering on the shoulder. “Sarah,” she yelled, “Call 911 and hurry.”
The smell of gasoline was strong, despite the heavy rain. The convertible had missed several pine trees but a boulder had stopped its forward motion. Both doors were locked. Peering through the driver’s window, she could see nothing more than shattered glass, a dime-sized hole centering the web design. She then heard several backfires and a ping of metal as though the convertible had been struck with a rock. Realizing it was a gunshot, she dropped to her knees in the mud.
Slipping and clawing her way up the slope, she crawled onto the shoulder. A pickup was parked behind the RV. The driver had a nervous foot. A moment later another set of headlights emerged from the curve down the road. Tires squealed as the pickup roared off. As it passed, the RV’s headlights caught a dark red truck, which appeared to be a newer model.
When Dana glanced in the passenger window, Sarah was crouched between the seats, the cell phone clutched in her hand. She took her time unlocking the passenger door.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m not sure.” Sarah patted her chest, breathing heavily.
“He shot up the motorhome.”
“Did he shoot at you?”
“I don’t think he saw me, Dana. He only seemed interested in wounding Matilda.”
Dana hated the name Sarah had christened the RV, but that was the least of her worries. Grabbing a flashlight, she climbed back down the steps. A quick inspection revealed inside tires still inflated but the outer ones in the back were flat. She heard an engine shift down and was caught in the glare of headlights. Signaling with her flashlight, she was relieved when the big truck slowed and pulled in behind the motorhome. The driver seemed to be endlessly checking gauges before descending from the cab. Once on the ground, a warm, plump hand gripped hers in greeting.
“The name’s McCurdy,” the husky voice said. ”Everybody calls me Big Ruby.”
At nearly six feet, she was Dana’s height although nearly twice her girth.
“I’m Dana Logan. There’s a Mercedes convertible down the embankment. Gas is leaking and both doors are locked.
“Lead the way.”
Jean Henry Mead has published 16 books, half of them novels. She writes the Logan & Caferty mystery/suspense series as well as the Hamilton Kids’ mysteries. She also writes western historical fiction and is an award-wining photojouralist. Her articles have appeared nationally as well as abroad. You can find Jean at: jeanhenrymead.com
Click here to read an interview with: Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, protagonists in “Murder on the Interstate” by Jean Henry Mead