Eleven Little Piggies (Jake Hines)

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Chief of Detectives Jake Hines’ new-parent nightmares about an impending ecological disaster on a Minnesota farm have a deadly real twist.   Forced to choose between the land they love and the easy money they’d get if they sold it to sand miners for oil drilling, a hard-working Minnesota farm family resorts to loud family fights. But when the body of the best farmer of the group is found in the trees behind the field where Chief of Detectives Jake Hines is hunting geese on his day off, the discussion becomes deadly serious.


“Isn’t it fun to see Minnesota farmers in the winner’s circle for a change?” Rosie Doyle said. “But I have to tell you, I have seldom been more confused than during my first few minutes with the wife.”

“Oh?” I watched her flip pages around. “What was confusing?”

“Well . . . she was baking bread when I got there,” Rosie said. “And crying.”

“Crying? You mean bawling out loud?”

“No, weeping silently.” She tapped her notes with a pencil, thinking how to say it. “Kind of eerie, actually – a tall, good-looking woman in a big white apron, with dough and flour spread out all over this butcher block table. Kneading the daylights out of the loaf she’s making and watering it with her tears.”

“So she already knew about the . . .”

“Well, see, that’s what I thought. So I said, “Oh, so you already know?” And she said, “Well, of course I know, I been out on the road with them since four o’clock this morning.”

“I said, “What? Out on the road where?” and she said, “Where they got hit, County Road 230, by the back pasture gate.” I just kind of stared at her, very confused, till she said, “Aren’t you here to ask about the accident?”

“I said that’s what we’re trying to figure out, if it was an accident, and she said, “Of course it was an accident, nobody runs over horses with a truck on purpose.” So then of course I had to say I didn’t know anything about horses getting run over by a truck and she said, “If you don’t know about the horses why are you here?”

“I felt like the whole investigation was sliding out of control about then so I said, “Ma’am, do you know where your husband is right now?” and she drew herself up like this . . .” Rosie did the best a short Irish redhead can do to imitate a statuesque German blonde, adding, in case we didn’t get it, “Kind of like a Valkyrie, but with flour on her nose . . .”

“OK, Rosie,” I said, “well-built blonde does power farm wife, I think we all got that part.”

“I’m only trying to convey to you,” Rosie said, retreating behind her stoic street cop’s face – it means she’d like to throw a brick at your head but is waiting for a better time – “this woman is not your average country hausfrau. And she doesn’t seem to match the dead man we found.”

“But she answers to Doris Kester? The horse lady?”

“Yes. And there’s a barn full of elegant horseflesh at the bottom of the yard, which I have no doubt she can handle with ease. Turned out she was crying because two of their show horses – “including the best quarter horse I ever owned!” she said – somehow got out on the road and got hit. Jumped right in front of a big tanker hauling milk, and both of them had to be put down. That’s where her husband was, she said, fixing the break in the fence.”

“Are you sure this bread-baking scene wasn’t staged for your benefit? It felt real to you?”

“Absolutely. She cut and kneaded six loaves of bread and a panful of biscuits while she talked to me. Handles dough like a baker.”

“OK, she’s good at everything. What did you say to her?”

“I asked her if the pasture she’s talking about borders the field where the goose-hunters were shooting. She said yes, up on the north end, it does. They own that cornfield too, but the hunters rent it in the Fall. Then I said we’d found a man shot just inside the goose-hunting field, and we’re here to find out if it might be her husband. She said, ‘No, no, soon as we heard the horses were out on the road Owen sent two men out to inspect the fence line, and they called his cell in just a few minutes and said they found the break.’

“I said I was surprised they could find it in the dark and she said the break wasn’t far from the gate, so Owen told them to stay there and watch it so no more horses could get out. He went up to the barn to load the pickup full of fencing gear, to take out to them. ‘He’s down there now, somewhere near the county road,’ she said, ‘wherever they found the break, and he’ll stay out there till they get the fence fixed. It must be one helluva break, it’s taking forever. I expected him back an hour ago.’ ”

Rosie blew hair up and said ruefully. “Then I showed her the picture.”


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