Read Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp Online

Authors: Joan H. Young

Tags: #mystery short story amateur detective midwest amateur detectives cozy mystery small towns women sleuths regional anastasia raven

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp

BOOK: Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp
10.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Paddy Plays in
Dead Mule Swamp

Joan H. Young


Published by Books Leaving Footprints at Smashwords


Copyright 2012 Joan H. Young


Discover other titles by Joan H. Young at

and at
Books Leaving


ISBN: 978-0-9765432-7-5

Edition, License Notes:

This ebook is licensed for
your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or
given away to other people. If you would like to share this book
with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each
recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or
it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting
the hard work of this author.




The story is delightful and heartfelt.”

~~Martyn vanHalm, author


"Ana has more emotion and
depth to her [than in the previous books of the

~~ Ellen Lightle





1Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp


Chapter 1


“Knick-knack, Paddy- WHACK, give your
dog a bone,” I sang, thumping the rubber bone on the rug. The large
Irish setter named Patrick, nicknamed Paddy, lunged for his toy,
but I pulled it out of his reach, and sang the line again, this
time thumping the bone on the other side of the overgrown puppy.
Paddy wasn’t my dog. He belonged to my second cousin, Vic, who was
on a trip to Egypt, doing research for the University of Chicago.
Since I was the one family member with lots of space, and a house
that could stand the dirt, I agreed to keep Paddy for all of July,
and part of August.

My name is Anastasia Joy Raven, and I
live at the end of East South River Road, at the edge of Dead Mule
Swamp. I’ve been here in Forest County since early spring. Most of
my time has been spent trying to revitalize an old house that I
bought with money from my divorce settlement. My ex, Roger, and his
new friend, Brian, now occupy my former home in the Chicago
suburbs, so I moved north and moved on. At least, I’m trying to
move on. Some parts of that are going well, renovating the house,
for instance.

The building is a basic L-shaped
farmstead with a two-story section at right angles to a
single-story. I finished the living room project in June, and the
result is a large cheerful space. I painted the walls in two shades
of blue with white board-and-bead wainscoting and trim, then sanded
and varnished the wide pine flooring. The revitalized room is clean
and inviting. So far, the furnishings consist of a few secondhand
pieces from the thrift store, set on a cheap area rug, but I have
dreams of a country-comfortable look. When July began, I was still
hunting for the right fabric to make curtains, but without close
neighbors, having the windows covered didn’t matter very

I stood up and tucked my light brown
pageboy behind my ears, then tried to convince Paddy that his play
time was over. He was just over a year old, full of energy, and
large. He shed hair like a yak and shook mud balls from the swamp
all over the house, including on my new wainscoting. But I couldn’t
resist his cheerful disposition and deep, love-filled gazes.
Paddy-WHACK seemed to be his favorite game, but he’d only been here
a few days.

That morning I faced the first real
problem that Paddy brought to my life. I didn’t know what to do
with him when I needed to go out, and I had a commitment to drive
out to Hammer Bridge Town and meet Corliss Leonard. I expected to
be gone for hours. I didn’t think Paddy would tolerate being tied
in the yard, and there was no fenced area of any kind on my
property. I supposed I’d have to take him with me.

As soon as I opened the front door and
stepped onto the porch, the neat and finished look disappeared into
apparent disorder. The entire yard was covered with piles—piles of
lumber and plywood, a stack of new shingle bundles, a dumpster full
of old shingles, gray two-by-fours that could be salvaged, a stack
of pre-fab trusses, and a row of new window sashes leaned against a
tree covered with plastic sheeting. The porch was littered with
tools not currently in use, and walkways made of damaged plywood
snaked across the yard between the piles.

This spring I had gotten an itch to
add an upstairs screened porch off my bedroom. I wanted to watch
the sunlight play over the swamp in the mornings and evenings, and
listen to the bird songs and the frog voices. Since the roof was
also in bad shape, I decided to roll all my dreams into one huge
project. Thus, the mess around my house was impressive. Somehow, my
upstairs porch project had grown into a full second story over the
living room. I had to borrow some money to do it and put off a
kitchen makeover for a while, but the roof couldn’t

I wove carefully between saws and
containers of supplies. Paddy simply waded through, tipping over a
carton of nails on the way. While I was scooping nails back into
the box, he began to drag a strip of the plywood walkway across the
yard. The dog certainly brought an extra level of chaos to the

I’d continued to employ Gorlowski
Construction for projects I couldn’t do myself. I’m quite handy,
but some work is beyond my abilities. Robert Gorlowski and crew had
ripped off my old roof, and the trusses from the single-story. So
far, the framing for the new second story had been put in place,
and I already liked how much bigger it made the house look. The
enclosed porch would provide a cover for the lower slab terrace,
and the porch would have access doors from the new large room and
from my bedroom. The terrace would also become a more useful
outdoor space as a result.

I had to endure a couple of lectures
from Robert about why this should have been done before I finished
the living room. However, no one who owns a construction business
in an underemployed county was going to turn down a chance to do a
major overhaul on an old building, knowing that the bank had
already approved the loan.

I smiled as I recalled that day.
Gilbert Messler, Vice-President of the locally owned State Bank,
had beamed as brightly as fresh-minted coins when he escorted me
into his paneled office. His philosophy was that newcomers to the
county were easy to welcome when they were low-risk and wanted to
borrow money. When he heard the particulars of my settlement with
Roger, it took less than thirty minutes until papers and a pen were
set before me. I signed, and became even more financially committed
to the community of Cherry Hill.

Paddy barked as two Gorlowski
Construction trucks pulled into the yard, and five men spilled from
the doors. One truck was pulling a trailer carrying a large hog
hoe. The pup bounded over to them and planted his front feet on
Robert’s chest.

“Down, Paddy!” I ordered. But the dog
ignored me. Robert gently pushed Paddy aside, as he had every
morning this week.

He laughed. “Good morning. I think you
are going to have to work a little harder on Paddy’s training
before he gets as big as a pony.”

“I know. He’s quite a handful, and
it’s been a long time since I had to deal with a puppy.”

Robert’s tone became more serious.
“We’re going to set the trusses today, and it won’t be good for him
to be running around loose. That’s a dangerous enough job as it is.
I’d rather not have to watch out for him all the time.”

That settled it. “I’ll just get his
leash and take him with me for the day. I need to find out how he
behaves in the car, so we might as well give it a try.”

“Sounds good. Take your time. You
should really be able to see the shape of your ‘new’ house by the
end of the day.”


Chapter 2


Fortunately, Paddy liked to ride in
the car, so he sat quietly on the passenger seat of my navy blue
Jeep Cherokee, sniffing the light breeze that blew between the open
windows. His leash dangled from his collar where I would be able to
grab it easily should the need arise.

This was my first time traveling over
to Hammer Bridge Town. I’d been told it wasn’t much of a town, but
the remnants of a settlement that had sprung up for the
construction crew when a bridge had been replaced in the 1980s. I
wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the town or from the man I
was planning to meet. Corliss Leonard was my first

Not long after Cliff Sorenson’s
funeral, I had decided to start attending Crossroads Fellowship
church. The people seemed genuine and caring, and although I value
my independence, I was ready to find a group of people who would be
friendly. I hadn’t been attending church for quite a few
years—Roger really wasn’t interested—but so far I was enjoying the
upbeat worship times. The church also provided a way for me to be
of service to the community, since they sponsored a family help
program, called Family Friends.

My friend, Adele Volger, coordinates
the program, and she had just assigned Mr. Leonard to me. Corliss
had called the church and asked to be enrolled in the adult
literacy program. I wasn’t yet qualified to be a reading
instructor, although I did have some experience teaching at a
community college. Instead, I would be the first contact to find
out if the church might be able to help in other ways. All I knew
so far was that Mr. Leonard was in his mid-fifties and had called
requesting a tutor, and he was open to other types of

Hammer Bridge Town is in the northeast
corner of Forest county. Hammer Bridge doesn’t span the Petite
Sauble River, but rather Hammer Creek, a tributary that flows in
from the north and runs deep in the springtime. Most of the land
east and north of my property is in the Thousand Lakes State
Forest, on both sides of the Petite Sauble River, and includes a
lot of Dead Mule Swamp. There aren’t many roads that run through
the area, and it’s wise to choose which side of the river you want
to reach before heading into the State Forest because there are
only two bridges. One is on Centerline, about three miles west of
my house, and the other is far to the east on Kirtland Road, which
is also the county line.

“We don’t have time to take the long
way today, Paddy,” I said, patting the dog on the head as we turned
off South River Road onto Centerline. “Adele says Centerline north
to Sheep Ranch Road, and then straight east is fastest. Do you want
to go fast?”

Paddy stuck his long nose out the
partially open window and as his ears began to fly in the wind, I
swear he grinned. Paddy was fine with fast.

Adele had written on a page from a
small notebook, “Just before Hammer Creek look for a blue trailer
on the right with Snow White and three Dwarves in the yard.” These
directions seemed sketchy to me, but she assured me I’d find it
easily enough.

Sheep Ranch Road was paved. It looked
like the main east-west road north of the State Forest, and in just
about twenty minutes the road began a gradual descent which
suggested I was approaching Hammer Creek. On the right, splayed up
the face of a gentle hill were about thirty old trailers, mostly in
a sorry state of repair and widely spaced. I could see the variety
of shapes and every single peeling, flaking and fading facade. One
main driveway accessed the entire complex, but once the drive
crossed the ditch a maze of sand paths wound to the fronts and
backs of every trailer. Other than the trailers, the only thing
that made this settlement look like a town was a building on the
north side of the road that had once been a gas station and
convenience store. Grass grew between the cracks of its pavement,
several windows had been boarded over, and subsequently the plywood
had rotted and broken into a jagged patchwork. Beyond the
settlement, the road dipped again, and I assumed the creek was
beyond that. The entire tenth-mile sprawl of the “town” was faded,
broken-down and immensely sad.

Although I had already been
contemplating what had prompted a man in his fifties to decide to
learn to read, the desolation of his living situation further
piqued my curiosity. But I didn’t have to wait long to answer that
question. There were several trailers with some blue on them, but
only one was painted in a pure garish sky blue with ceramic Disney
figures in front. Snow White and her dwarves leaned at precarious
angles, just beyond the edge of an unpainted, plywood-enclosed
porch attached to the front of the trailer. When I say the blue was
“pure,” I only mean that it had once been a solid color. The paint
was now curling in large flakes like a pine cone opening on a warm

BOOK: Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp
10.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

My October by Claire Holden Rothman
Love Lessons by Harmon, Kari Lee
Amos Goes Bananas by Gary Paulsen
Goldberg Street by David Mamet
Messy and Shattered by Mercy Cortez
Brainfire by Campbell Armstrong
The Clairvoyant Countess by Dorothy Gilman
Bound by C.K. Bryant
Cyclogeography by Jon Day