An excerpt from “The Bad Break.”

Photo by Jennifer Roberts

The sun was rising as I drove home from the hospital. I’d get home just in time to take Coltrane out for his morning walk, shower, and change before heading to meet Mayor Lancett. I called out to Coltrane when I walked inside, expecting him to come bounding to the door like always. But he didn’t.

“Coltrane!” I called again, tossing my purse and keys onto the entry table. “Come on, buddy. Let’s get you outside.”

Again, nothing. This wasn’t normal; it was too quiet. All of the sudden everything around me seemed sharpened into high definition. I stood still, looking around at every surface of my house. Where was Coltrane? Was someone here? There was no broken window — I could see all the way to the back of the kitchen, where the deadbolt was firmly in place. Coltrane slept in my room with me, usually on the bed. I wondered if it was possible he was still asleep. Maybe all the excitement last night with the phone call and all had made him extra tired.

I crept down the hallway, carefully and quietly, and peeked through my bedroom door, which stood open. No Coltrane. But there was something new there. A plain white piece of paper sitting on my bed. On. My. Bed.

Trembling, I picked up the paper and read: DAVENPORT DESERVED TO DIE. YOU DON’T. STOP PLAYING SHERIFF.

Gravity shifted around me like a slipping transmission and I had to steady myself to stay upright. Someone had been in my bedroom. Could they still be in my house? Where was Coltrane? I was paralyzed with panic. I’m not sure how long I stood there immobilized by fear, but it was a faint scratching noise that brought me back to life. It was coming from the back door. Coltrane.

I ran to the door and almost collapsed with relief when I saw my dog standing on his hind legs looking through the glass on the back door. I threw open the deadbolt and let him inside.

Coltrane nearly mauled me, sniffing every inch of me like he was trying to make sure I was all right. He jumped on me and licked my face, soft whines escaping him every few seconds. I ran my hands through his fur to make sure he was unharmed and nuzzled into his neck, telling him, “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

My heart was beating too fast and I struggled to think what I should do. Someone had been in my home. In my bedroom. Near my dog. I texted Carl’s private number and told him I needed to talk to him ASAP.

“The Bad Break” is Jill’s second novel in the Riley Ellison mystery series. The first novel, “The Good Byline” came out in 2017. “The Bad Break” will be available from Barnes & Noble this month.

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