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FOXE HUNT by Haley Walsh, Book #2 Skyler Foxe Mysteries

Excerpt for FOXE HUNT, book #2 in the Skyler Foxe Mysteries

High school English teacher Skyler Foxe finally hooks up with gorgeous assistant football coach Keith Fletcher. But is the man what he seems to be? Skyler still has his doubts when he spies Keith in some shady circumstances. And there are still some unanswered questions as to what exactly is going on at the high school. Who thought high school could be so sinister? Meanwhile, Skyler’s friends and former hook-ups from college have their own problems. Lovers and partners, Evan and Jeff were kicked out of the Army for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the depressed Evan is found dead. Suicide, says the police, but Skyler thinks otherwise. It’s Skyler Foxe on the hunt for a killer once more!

“This is a well-written, cohesive mystery, with relatable characters, realistic situations and just the right amount of wit. A full five stars out of five!
—Bob Lind, Echo Magazine on FOXE TAIL

“The writing is fresh; the high school students, particularly two juniors having real interrelationship issues, are engaging, and Skyler’s friends are entertaining.” –Lambda Literary on FOXE TAIL

Intro: This is what I call my Scooby-Doo chapter and as you read it you’ll see why. Skyler is a high school English teacher and he is investigating in the middle of the night with two of his friends: Jamie a web designer and Rodolfo, an Ecuadorean pastry chef who is jealous of Skyler's new love interest, Keith Fletcher. The S.F.C. that they refer to is what Jamie has coined the Skyler Fuck Club, because all of Skyler's friends are former hook-ups, except for his best friend Sidney, his female childhood friend and now a police detective.   

Jamie insisted they not call Philip because he was a spoilsport and would talk them out of it.
Which didn’t seem like such a bad option after all when Skyler turned down the dirt road in the dark with Jamie chatting nonstop beside him and Rodolfo clinging to his seat back. 
He turned off his headlights, hoping to be a little stealthier about it. And then he decided to ark well up the road and walk the rest of the way in.
Jamie zipped his weathered Fossil leather jacket and looked down at his Converse All Star Duck boots. “These will get ruined,” he said.
“They’re just shoes,” muttered Skyler, using his flashlight discreetly.
“You say that, but you know it isn’t true.”
Rodolfo put his arm around Skyler. “Uh, Rodolfo, honey. What are you doing?”
“It’s scary out here. I thought I’d protect you.”
Skyler could see Jamie’s smile even in the dark. “Rudy is so sweet, isn’t he?”
“He’s adorable, but he needs to keep his hands to himself.” Skyler grabbed the hand on his shoulder and pushed it gently but firmly away. “I’ll be fine.”
“You used to be more fun, Skyler.”
“Yeah, I know. That was before…never mind.”
Jamie looked smug. “You were going to say ‘before Keith’ weren’t you.”
“I don’t know what’s so great about this Keith,” said Rodolfo, saying his name with particular vitriol.
Jamie snickered. “Are you blind? He’s fucking gorgeous, that’s what. And if he’s half as good in bed as he looks like he is—” He glanced at Skyler for confirmation. Skyler nodded enthusiastically.
“See? I think you should give Skyler some credit. He’s never had a boyfriend before and he’s just feeling out the new territory.”
Skyler sniffed. “He’s not my boyfriend.”
“Then he’s a Fuck Club member,” said Rodolfo
“No, he isn’t that either. He’s not likely to ever be that.”
“Oh my God!” said Jamie, lurching to a halt.
“What? What is it?” Skyler waved his flashlight around, peering into the darkness ahead.
“Do you realize that this might be the end of the S.F.C. as we know it?”
“Jesus Christ,” breathed Skyler.
“No, I mean it. An era is ending. Rudy, you might just be the last inductee.”
“Goody for me.”
Skyler grabbed Jamie’s arm and urged him along. “Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?”
“Well, I suppose. God, it seems like we’re all growing up.”
“We’re twenty-five. Don’t you think we should?”
“Ahem,” said Rodolfo.
“Oh yeah,” said Skyler. “You’re older than twenty-five. By the way, dude, just how old are you?”
Rodolfo’s shirt shimmered in the darkness. “I never kiss and tell.”
Skyler smiled. The man was probably pushing forty, though he wasn’t pushing it very hard. He always looked damned good.
Skyler turned his attention to the path ahead, aiming his flashlight down along the rutted dirt road. The air in the canyon cooled and the swaying of the eucalyptus trees on either side of them cast eerie shadows along their starlit path. A rustling in the underbrush to the left stopped them all cold.
Two sets of hands grabbed him and he gave a startled squeak before he realized it was Jamie and Rodolfo. “Would you guys stop doing that!” he whispered. No one moved. The rustling in the foliage continued and Skyler whipped his flashlight in that direction. He couldn’t see anything past the deepened shadows. “Probably just a raccoon or possum.”
Everyone seemed to relax…until the screech.
They all screamed and ducked as the white apparition swooped over them and then arced up into the distant trees behind them.
Skyler waited for his heart to slow before he could trust his voice. “A screech owl.”
“Damn,” whispered Jamie. “I guess there’s a good reason they call them that. What a horrible sound.”
Skyler huffed an uneasy laugh. “I had a trick once who pretty much sounded like that.”
Jamie gasped. “Doug, right? Dark-haired guy with a star tattoo at each shoulder? I did him, too.”
“Maybe he should start his own fuck club,” said Rodolfo.
Jamie giggled. “He could call them the Screech Owls.”
“Yeah,” said Skyler, feeling more at ease, “cause ‘Hooters’ is already taken.”  
They collected themselves and started out again. Skyler looked around, eyes adjusting to the dark, and saw lights in the distance up on the hills above the railroad tracks that snaked through the canyon. There were a lot more houses in the canyon than there used to be but this stretch of it was still fairly lonely. Nothing but fields, a few horse ranches, and one orchid farm. If someone jumped them here it would take a long time for a rescue, if one ever came.
He swallowed. Once again, he had led his friends into danger. But even with the fear tickling the edge of his senses, there was also an adrenaline rush, the kind he felt while prowling at Trixx. Could he be an adrenaline junky?

The road made a long curving sweep to the right and the shadows seemed to deepen. Crickets softly chirped in the background and the breeze kicked up just enough dust to obscure their path, making the use of the flashlight a necessity.

“I’ve never been out here at night,” said Jamie quietly. “It’s really lonely here.”

“This reminds me a lot of my town in Ecuador,” said Rodolfo.

Skyler turned to him and tried to discern his expression in the dark. “You never talk much about life back in Ecuador.”

He shrugged. “There was a lot of discontent. And a coup. That’s why I’m here.”

Jamie smoothed his hand over Rodolfo’s shoulder comfortingly. “I’m sorry you had to leave your homeland, but whatever the reason, we’re glad you’re here.”

He took Jamie’s hand, kissed it, and smiled. “Me, too.”

Skyler sighed. If only Rodolfo and Philip could get along as well.

They continued on in silence, and after a careful walk that seemed to go on forever, Skyler's flashlight beam finally swept over the greenhouse ahead. He switched the light off and everything seemed to fall quiet in the darkened night.

Skyler crept forward toward the shack. It was slow going without his flashlight on, but he managed to get near enough to see that no one was there. He returned to his friends and motioned for them to follow. He got to the front of the greenhouse and tested the padlock. It was secure. Then he tried looking through the windows and even shone his flashlight through, but there was no way to see through the dried soap. “Let’s go around the other side,” he said quietly.
Jamie took Rodolfo’s hand and followed. “I still don’t know what you expect to find, Skyler.”
“I don’t know either. But Evan obviously had some reason to keep that card.”
“Maybe he just wanted some flowers,” said Rodolfo.
“No. Jeff said they both hated orchids.”
“So the reason to have a business card,” said Jamie, thinking, “is that you intended to do some kind of business?”
Skyler nodded. “Makes sense.”
Rodolfo took the lead and pulled Jamie along, right up next to Skyler. “But what kind of business?”
“Don’t know. That’s what we’re here to find out.”
Jamie’s eyes were bright in the darkness as he looked anxiously around. “Why are we doing this at the dead of night again?”
“Because…” Skyler stopped. “Um…because I wanted to just look around without anyone stopping me. And I wanted to take my mind off this stupid black eye.”
They all picked their way carefully over the rutted dirt path as brambles and other dark foliage stretched out branches to snag on their clothes.
“What about that, amante?” said Rodolfo at his ear. Skyler felt the man’s hand resting on his shoulder. “Are you going to report that guy for hitting you?”
“Yeah, Skyler. That was physical assault. It could even be classed as a hate crime because he only hit you because you’re gay.”
“I don’t know. I figure Sidney would hear about it and then I’d be doubly in trouble.”
“She’s gonna hear about it anyway. You know she will. She’s got Spidey sense or something.”
“I know. But the longer I can put it off the better— Hey! Another door.”
He turned the flashlight on it and examined the door with its peeling paint and soaped window. He turned the rusty doorknob but it seemed to be corroded in its position. Yet when he pulled on it the door moved. He pulled harder and it slowly scraped along the ground, dusting Skyler with dried bird droppings and flaking paint. “Whoa.” He yanked and pulled it opened just enough for him to slip through. He was about to go in when Jamie stopped him.
“Skyler, this is breaking and entering.”
“But the door is open.”
“It’s still breaking and entering. I thought we were just going to look around.”
“We are. Inside. A little.”
“Skyler,” said Rodolfo in a harsh whisper. “This can get you into lots of trouble.”
“I’m just going to look.” They both stared at him. “A really quick look and then we’re out of here.”
“I don’t know what you expect to find,” said Rodolfo, leaning against the doorway as Skyler took a few steps over the threshold. He clicked his flashlight on and moved it around. Lots of plants. Expected. Wait a minute.
“Dude. Do these look like orchids to you?”
They both stuck their heads in, careful not to cross the threshold. Skyler shined his light on the nearest row of plants in boxes. They were bunched together on long wooden planks with tubes of drip lines strung along them. The potted plants seemed to go on for a long way, row after row of them.
“Skyler,” whispered Jamie. “These look like—”
“Marijuana,” said Skyler. Lots and lots of marijuana plants.
See also FOXE TAIL, Book One of the Skyler Foxe Mysteries by Haley Walsh

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