Hoping for a romantic honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch, hairstylist Marla Vail and her husband Dalton arrive to find a series of mishaps plaguing the resort. A nearby ghost town is suffering similar problems. Is it mere coincidence that Dalton’s Uncle Raymond owns both properties? When Raymond asks for their help in finding the culprit, Marla and Dalton eagerly accept. Then news of a local forest ranger’s death raises the stakes.
With sleuthing more natural to Marla than horseback riding, she delves into the investigation. But as she digs deeper, she discovers skeletons in the family closet. Someone means to drive Raymond out of business, and the reason may be linked to his past misdeeds. Raymond isn’t the only one with secrets. The trail leads Marla from an environmental activist group to saguaro poachers to water rights proponents to an abandoned copper mine beneath the ghost town. She’d better saddle up, rein in the clues, and find the killer before she becomes the next spirit inhabiting the haunted hillside.
The door banged open, and a wrangler stuck his head inside. “Have any of you seen Carol?”
Doc Harrigan shook his head. “No, why?”
“She went for her usual ride this morning. Her horse has returned with a limp. She wasn’t on it.”
“Dear God. Has Wayne been informed?”
“He’s gathering a search party as we speak. Do you want to join the posse, Doc? Carol might be hurt if the horse tossed her.”
“I should tend to the beast, but maybe I can be of some use.” Dr. Harrigan jerked his thumb at Marla and Dalton. “You guys wanna come along?”
“I’ll join you.” Dalton stood, and Marla followed suit. “Can you get a horse ready for me?” he asked the wrangler.
“Yes, sir. Won’t take me but a minute. Meet me in the corral out back.”
“I can’t go,” Marla said in a disappointed tone. “I’d slow everyone down. I’ll wait for news in the main lobby.”
Wayne might return to his office eventually, or at least he’d notify one of the other managers when they’d found Carol. Her heart thumped as conjecture flashed ugly images in her mind of possible scenarios. Carol was a seasoned rider who wouldn’t fall from her saddle without reason
Outside, the men rode off in a cloud of dust toward the trail Carol normally took each morning. Their group got smaller and turned into specks against the mountainside. Marla recalled a time in the recent past when she’d been warned to vary her morning routine by a killer who’d taken advantage of her habits. With a possible saboteur on the ranch, Marla should have given Carol the same advice.
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