I invite you to travel with me to Winnebago County, Minnesota and follow the challenging cases Sergeant Corinne “Corky” Aleckson and Detective Elton “Smoke” Dawes get assigned. Ordinary people in the county find themselves in circumstances far outside the ordinary in the suspenseful police procedurals with psychological and thriller elements, the Winnebago County Mystery series.
Or for a cozier mystery adventure, go to Brooks Landing, Minnesota and the Snow Globe Shop Mysteries where you’ll get to know Curio Finds manager, Camryn Brooks, and other intriguing and quirky characters that get tangled up in all kinds of adventures and mysteries to solve.
Deputy #714 Is Down is now available on Ingramspark, Amazon, and Smashwords. I will be scheduling signings, so please stay tuned!
The back cover blurb: When Deputy Vincent Weber is gunned down in a café, Detective Dawes and Sergeant Aleckson respond to the scene and work to keep
their friend alive till EMS arrives. Then it’s all hands-on deck to track down the shooter. After a deputy in another Minnesota county iskilled, the FBI is called to lead the investigation. They follow leads and paths, then set a trap for the suspect. No one could’ve predicted the stunning way it would end.
From the first pages:
I clicked the call button on my Winnebago County Sheriff’s radio. “Six oh eight, County. I’m clear the traffic stop.”
“Sergeant Aleckson, you’re clear at nine twenty-three,” Communications Officer Robin confirmed.
The person I’d stopped drove away at a reduced speed, as per usual. I glanced at Whitetail Lake beyond the safety barrier. Waves rippled across the surface, and it appeared the lake was teeming with spawning fish. Not the case that gray November morning. I entered the stop time in my log and pulled back onto County Road 35.
Robin was back on the radio before I’d gone a mile. “Winnebago County and Oak Lea police, go to channel three.” Her voice sounded panicked, and my body tensed as I switched from channel one to three.
“Officer down,” she said. “Seven fourteen’s been shot. Brookings Café, Oak Lea. Suspect fled, unknown direction, or if he’s on foot, or left in a vehicle. Tall. Wearing a long black robe with a hood over his head and face. And gloves. Seven twenty-eight’s onsite, multiple witnesses, ambulance en route.” Robin was mute for a moment then said, “Keep channel three open for. . . this.”
Vincent Weber shot? No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
I pulled onto the shoulder. My vision tunneled, the periphery blurred, my heart hammered against my vest, and my respirations puffed faster than I dared count. My arms and legs felt like they were encased in concrete.
“Three twenty, County. Shooter’s point of entry?” Detective Smoke Dawes asked.
“Front door, Detective.”
“Copy. “All responders use the café’s east side entrance,” Smoke ordered. “On my way from the office.” He’d get there ahead of me.
Oak Lea Police Officer Casey Dey responded next. “Ten four. Two thirteen’s en route from the station.”
“Seven ten, en route from a mile south of Little Mountain.” Todd Mason.
“Seven twenty-three, ETA in three.” Brian Carlson.
“Oak Lea PD, and Winnebago County deputies, the County copies,” Robin said.
It sounded like Smoke was running when he said, “Two thirteen, preserve the scene at the front entry. Seven twenty-three, you’ll be the first deputy there. Assist Seven twenty-eight inside.”
“Ten four,” Dey said.
“Copy,” Carlson said.
“Be on the lookout for the shooter. Seven ten, start canvassing the neighborhood, ask residents and business owners if they saw the suspect running from, or getting into a vehicle, near Brookings,” Smoke said.
“Ten-four,” Mason said.
“Communications, get a statewide alert out to all Minnesota law enforcement agencies,” Smoke directed.
“Copy that, Detective,” Robin responded.
“All available units, report to the area, meet with Seven ten to divide up the search efforts,” Smoke said.
“Seven ten copies.” Mason again.
More radio chatter. Each voice held urgency. An army of officers responded. Communications officers repeated Smoke’s directives, and instructed them where to report.
A fog surrounded and entrapped me. I had to push through it. Respond. Seconds ticked by before I hit the call button. “Six oh eight, County. ETA in four.” So near, yet way too far away.
“Ten four, Sergeant,” Robin said.
“Sergeant, report inside the café,” Smoke said.
“Copy that, Three twenty,” I said.
Deputy Amanda Zubinski was with Vincent Weber. I prayed for them both and for mental clarity as I activated lights and sirens and accelerated east on County 35 at the fastest speed possible. The weekday mid-morning traffic was light so few vehicles had to pull over to clear my path. I was in Oak Lea in a minute and at Brookings—a brick structure built in the 1950s, located a block south of the Highway 55 and Highway 25 intersection—in another three. Weber’s, Zubinski’s, Carlson’s, and Smoke’s squad cars, along with Officer Dey’s Oak Lea police car, sat in the half-empty lot. Smoke was parked near the entrance. The ambulance had not yet arrived.
I parked in the nearest stall, snatched my work cell from the dashboard, and radioed Communications my location. Oak Lea Police Chief Bud Becker drove into the lot and lifted his pointer finger as I got out of the car. We exchanged a quick glance and a brief sense of calm washed over me. Oak Lea was “his town” and he meant to keep everyone in it safe. Officer Dey was stringing a yellow “Crime Scene Do Not Cross” banner between two front posts.
I entered the café’s east side entrance and did a trained visual scan of the area. Booths sat on either side of the café with three picture windows on the walls above them. Round and square tables filled the center area. A group of around a dozen people—staff and patrons—huddled in the back across from the side entrance. Their faces displayed bottled up emotions: shock, fear, uncertainty, disbelief.
A crack of thunder and bolt of lightning tightened my muscles and drew an array of audible gasps and words from the crowd. One woman screamed. Chief Becker touched my elbow on his way toward the witnesses.
My focus went to the crime scene as I moved forward to join the team. Nothing about it seemed real. Weber was sprawled face up on the floor next to a booth, eyes closed, his ruddy complexion pale. His uniform shirt and bulletproof vest were open, the flaps pushed aside.
Smoke had his hand and forearm positioned under Weber’s left shoulder and the other gloved hand pressed on his upper chest area. Blood circled around the outline of Smoke’s hand and spread on Weber’s T-shirt. Smoke glanced up at me and said, “Bullet entered his chest under his armpit, just outside of his vest.”
Amanda Zubinski knelt beside Weber, one hand under his chin to keep his head tilted back and his mouth open. Her opposite index finger and thumb pinched his nostrils shut as she delivered life-giving breaths.
Brian Carlson knelt on Weber’s other side. An open AED case was on the floor beside him. When I moved in beside the team, I spotted a small hole in the back of the booth.
What reviewers are saying:
“It kept me wide awake and turning each page a little faster. It’s a heart-pounding race against time. A winner!” ~Timya Owen
“It started with a bang and kept me breathless in anticipation, a “can’t put down” mystery you won’t soon forget.” ~Julie Seedorf
“It puts you smack dab in the middle of the action while the story whisks you along on the trail of a deadly gunman.” ~D. M. S. Fick
“Corky Aleckson helps us experience the authentic difficulties faced by law enforcement. You’ll love the ending!” ~Colin Nelson
“In her latest thriller, the reader is drawn into an investigation to find the killer before he strikes again.” ~Thekla Madsen
“A fast-paced, engaging mystery, a worthy addition to a fine series.” ~A. W. Powers
“When one of their own becomes a mark, things start moving really fast. The most intense of the series yet.” ~Rhonda Gilliland
Cold Way To Go, the fourth Snow Globe Shop Mystery launched November, 2022.
For those who haven’t met her, Camryn Brooks is the protagonist and first-person narrator in the series.
Here’s a condensed version of the first 13 pages of Cold Way to Go:
Alice “Pinky” Nelson flapped her arms like she was ready for takeoff. “Cami Brooks, you might have known something like this would happen when you got roped into taking over as the Brooks Landing mayor.”
“Pinky, really. How could I? First off, Mayor Frost asked me to take the vacant seat on the City Council and then died before I gave him an answer. “I know. You felt guilted into it after poor Frosty passed the way he did.”
“I admit that was part of it. You know how dumbfounded I was when the council voted me in as their new mayor. Then they delegated me to talk to the police chief about his frequent and extended absences. It’s not like I’m seasoned in service to the city, not like the rest of them.”
“That why. They’re scared if you ask me. You don’t know Chief Newel or how intimidating he can be. He probably makes every single councilor shiver in their boots.”
I put my hand on my heart. “Reminding me how he scares people is not a good way to boost my confidence.”
“Sorry, but I need to give my best friend an honest opinion, that’s all. And think about it. You worked in Washington D.C. for a senator who’s not a nice person, so you have experience with difficult people in power. That awful woman fired you over something her philandering husband did. And would not even listen to your side of it.
“I’d rather not take a trip down that particular memory lane. But you bring up a good point. If Senator Zimmer wouldn’t listen to me after all our years together, why should Chief Newel? Especially since I haven’t even met him yet,” I said.
“When you go in for the big showdown, you want me to hang around in the hallway as your backup?” She raised her eyebrows, stepped forward into what looked like a karate move, and snapped the towel she held.
I stifled a laugh. “You have quite the weapon there. I guess it’d be a good defense if a dish you’re drying decides to attack you. Or a pan gets out of line.”
She waved the towel in a circle above her head. “Very funny, Cami.”
“Got any advice on how to approach Chief Newel, what to say?”
She puffed out her chest. “Besides show up for work or turn in your badge?”
“Besides that, yes. One thing I’ve thought about, maybe Newel’s got an illness he’s kept secret. Some people are proud that way,” I said.
“Or he’s been leading a double life like a lotta people suspect.”
The doorbell on Pinky’s shop, Brew Ha-Ha, dinged and two young women blew in from the frigid outdoors in puffy parkas. They stomped their boots on the welcome mat in Minnesota fashion to release any snow caught in the ridges. Both released loud exhales.
An open archway separated Brew Ha-Ha and my shop, Curio Finds. I slipped back in there while Pinky whipped up coffee drinks for the pair.
I picked up a delivery box, carried it to the counter and removed a snow globe with a winter wonderland scene. It featured kids on a skating rink that could be about anywhere in Minnesota or Wisconsin. As I unpacked the box, I mulled over what approach to take with Newel. Kill him with kindness or sock it to him with my best shot? I decided a direct, firm, and respectful approach was best.
I glanced at the clock on the credit card machine. Almost show time so I slipped into boots, put on my thermal coat, wool cap and mittens, then poked my head in Pinky’s shop. “I’ll be back to close up shop.”
“I can’t wait to hear what Chief Newel has to say for himself.” Pinky made fists and squeezed them into her chest in an excited move. “Bye. Oh, and fingers crossed. Break a leg. Lotsa luck.”
“Thanks.” I shook my head and headed into the dark and frosty, late afternoon air. It was two blocks to Brooks Landing City Hall and the Police Department that adjoined it. I’d dealt with a lot of high-powered people in Washington and survived, so how bad could Chief Newel be? Compared to Senator Ramona Zimmer, for example?
It was after city hall business hours, but the police department was open to the public until 5:00. I stepped into the spacious atrium entry area at 4:42 then into the police station. No one was around.
“Chief Newel? Anyone back there?”
He stepped out of his back office. “I’ll push the button to release the lock.” I heard a click, pulled open the door, and headed down the hall. When I reached his door’s threshold, he was at his desk.
He looked up at me as he finished licking an envelope, then stuck his tongue out partway, maybe trying to get rid of the taste. Then his eyes and mouth opened wide like he’d seen an apparition. He dropped the envelope as he reached up and clutched his neck then stood and gasped to catch a breath. I was frozen with fear as he collapsed into his desk chair without another exhale.
I rushed into the room, put my hand on his shoulder, and shook it. Had he suffered a sudden heart? I searched for his pulse, but I couldn’t find one.
I struggled to get my phone from my coat pocket and dialed 911.
“Buffalo County Dispatch. Is this an emergency?”
“A major one. Chief Newel, in his office, needs help now. Not breathing, no pulse.”
“My partner is dispatching EMS. Who are you?”
“Camryn Brooks. The, umm, mayor.”
“Mayor Brooks, can you do CPR?”
Newel was huge. No way could get him to the ground to do chest compressions. “If he was on the floor. But he’s in a chair.”
“Have you been trained to use an AED, an automated external defibrillator? I know there’s one at the PD.”
“No.” In my current state, would I be capable even if I was trained?
“EMS will be there in four minutes. Not to worry; I’ll stay on the line with you until they arrive.” Four minutes. How long had it been since the chief stoppedbreathing, besides forever ago? I’d heard getting a heart started soon after it stopped was critical. The sooner the better.
I turned away from Newel. His open eyes appeared to be fixed on my forehead. I somehow stopped myself from running away, from screaming at the top of my lungs.
“Mayor, are you still with me?” the dispatcher said.
“Are you doing all right?”
“Not the best.”
“EMS just announced they’ve arrived at the PD’s back door. Can you let them in?”
“Yes.” I beelined to the exit.