An Axe to Grind

This is an excerpt from the first chapter of An Axe to Grind, the latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series which I write as F.M. Meredith.

* * *

Sergeant Abel Navarro fought to keep from gagging. It wasn’t only from the smell, though that was bad enough.

“Somebody really did a number on the poor slob.” Officer Gordon Butler spoke from the open front door.

“You could say that.” Abel shook his head, had to be the understatement of all time. His wife, Maria, would have a fit if she knew hewas in a room with this much spilled blood without any protective gear on. As a nurse, she’d lectured him many times about how airborne droplets of blood could contain the HIV virus along with other terrible diseases. He’d have to take his chances. Until the detectives arrived, there wasn’t anything he could do except make sure no one messed with the crime scene.

“You didn’t touch anything, did you, Butler?”

“Nope. Only poked my head in the door. It was obvious from here the guy was dead.” Gordon was the newest and youngest officer on the Rocky Bluff P.D. Mostly because of his gung-ho attitude, he had a record of mishaps. He’d calmed down a bit, and finally earned the respect of most of his fellow officers.

There wasn’t any need for medical help, though the EMTs would arrive soon. The victim’s body lay sprawled in a pool of blood that had emptied from the neck cavity. The head was missing. Abel couldn’t spot it from where he stood about two feet inside the modest living room. Globs of blood and rivulets decorated the plain white walls, the beige slip-covered lumpy couch, and light green overstuffed chair. In fact, there didn’t seemto be any surface free from congealing spots of blood.

“What brought you to the scene?” Abel asked.

“Paperboy,” Gordon said. “Poor kid’s pretty shook up. Got him sitting in my unit now. He was collecting, went to knock on the door and realized it was open. Gave it a shove and this is what he saw. Jumped on his bike and went racing down the street. Flagged me down. I took one peek inside and called it in.” Gordon’s cheeks flamed red. Obviously, what he’d seen had shaken him too.

“I got your call about twenty minutes ago, around seven-thirty and notified Milligan and Marshall. They should be heading for the crime scene about now.” Abel longed to be outside to breathe in the fresh sea air. He would never get used to the pungent coppery smell of freshly spilled blood, the sickening stench of evacuated bowels and urine. Though murder wasn’t unknown in the seaside community of Rocky Bluff, this was one of the most brutal and gory he’d ever seen.

“Anyone around when you drove up?” Abel asked.

“Nope.” Butler nearly filled the open door with his bulk. His arms were crossed over his massive chest, and dark glasses hid his eyes. Bright pink colored his cheeks.

Abel glanced again at the victim, ignoring the gore, he took in the fact that the body was that of a white male. Including the missing head, he would be around five-foot-ten, slim build, no noticeable tattoos on his arms. The body was clothed in a striped polo shirt, khaki pants and sneakers. He had on a watch, but no rings. Studying the rather plain room, except for the body and the blood, nothing seemed out of place. It was an ordinary living room in an ordinary small rental.

The sound of squeaky brakes announced the arrival of at least one of the detectives. Taking care to walk out exactly as he’d come in, Abel stepped outside. Fog was beginning to roll in, softening the reality of the old beach neighborhood. Built in the thirties as vacation homes for people who lived in the Los Angeles area, most of the small houses were in variousstates of disrepair. Abel knew that even though they weren’t kept up, they brought in relatively high rents because of their proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, Rocky Bluff hadn’t reached the popularity of its neighboring cities of Ventura and Santa Barbara.

Except for tonight, Abel loved living here. It was a great place for Maria and him to raise their daughter. Maybe no one had been around when Butler arrived, but now people had come out of their houses, peering curiously at the unusual activity, huddling in small groups.

Frank Marshall stepped out of his battered Pontiac that he’d parked behind Gordon Butler’s police unit, just as a red, vintage MG came to a screeching halt across the street. Doug Milligan joined Frank and they both strode across the dry Bermuda grass toward Abel, pulling on latex gloves as they came.

“Who’s the kid?” Frank gestured toward the unit. He wore a navy jacket over a plain white T-shirt. He had on a well-worn pair of faded jeans. Abel suspected Frank had been relaxing in front of the TV when he got the call.

Both detectives were taller than Abel—for that matter nearly everyone in the department was taller than Abel. “Paperboy. He discovered the body. Butler says he’s pretty shook up. When you see the body you’ll understand why.”

“I’ll go talk to the boy and let Gordon take him home,” Doug said. Milliganhad two children of his own, though they lived in San Diego with their mother and her new husband.Even though he no longer had a wife to watch after him, his tan sport jacket and slacks were neatly pressed.

Marshall rubbed his bald pate. “Okay, let’s see what we’ve got here.”

Gordon moved out of the doorway. Abel allowed Marshall to enter first.

Marshall halted. “Whoa. What an unholy mess. Do we know the identity of the victim?”

“Nope, haven’t touched a thing,” Abel said, and hoped he didn’t have to.

“Know where the head is?”

“No, but I didn’t look for it either.”

“Butler touch anything?”

“Said not.”

“Good. Did you call the coroner?”

“Did that before I left the station.”

“Start snapping pictures, Navarro. Get the cameras out of my car,and take the scene that way first. Be sure and get some good shots of the blood spatters. Then I want you to video the evidence collecting.” Marshall already had his notebook out and started writing.

Abel knew the detective was methodically putting down everything he could see.

By the time Abel returned with the cameras, Marshall had moved across the room. He gestured toward an alcove that served as a diningroom. “Killer thought it would make a nice centerpiece, I suppose. Be sure to take a photo of it.”

Placed exactly in the center of a square wooden table, blue eyes stared from the long, pale face of a male, early to mid-thirties with brown hair cut extremely short emphasizing his large ears.

Abel photographed the body from every angle, the gory blood spatters, and
the head. He tried not to think about what he was recording as he methodically went about the task.

* * *
An Axe to Grind can be purchased from all the usual places, and as an e-book from Amazon for Kindle. For an autographed copy, go to my website at

Review snippets:

With her masterful storytelling, Meredith includes many twists and turns to keep you guessing who the real culprit is. But what I like best about all the Rocky Bluff P.D. books is that the pace doesn’t slow down. Every new clue leads to something else, and before you know it, you’re at the end of the book and eager to read more. I impatiently await the next book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series by F.M. Meredith! –reviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos for The Book Connection

An Axe to Grind is another winner by author, F. M. Meredith. Ms. Meredith has been fortunate to have police for neighbors and a son-in-law who is a police officer. With these types of contacts, it’s no wonder her mysteries have a ring of truth. She has done her homework and every detail is well researched from the blood spatters on the wall to the condition of someone who is living on the streets.” —-Reviewed by Penny Ehrenkranz

Who ever thought reading about a decapitated corpse couldn’t be funny hasn’t read, “An Axe To Grind.’ –Mason Canyon, Thoughts in Progress

Author F.M. Meredith has a delightful and wonderful writing style and voice that will instantly click with readers male or female. Her writing is in-depth and really speaks of police procedure research, making her story even more authentic and enjoyable. While reading, I found myself utterly hooked and unable to place the book aside, without yearning to return. The flow of the story is smooth, believable and just plain excellent. An Axe to Grind is the perfect book to curl up with and lose yourself in for a couple of hours! –Café of Dreams

The good news for any mystery fan is that An Axe To Grind reads well as a stand-alone book, so do not hesitate, jump in and meet the officers of the Rocky Bluff Police Department, you just may find yourself delightfully entertained for an hour or two.–Rundpenne Blog

I realize that this book is the sixth in the Rocky Bluff P.D. Series, and yet I had no trouble reading An Axe To Grind as a stand alone novel. That said, I will definitely be looking at reading the rest of the series, as I was very impressed with the writing style of Meredith and I was very impressed that my attention was held throughout this book. I highly recommend it and give it a huge thumbs up! –A Mom After God’s Own Heart

The people of Rocky Bluff are as real as your neighbors. Meredith is the American version of England’s Barbara Pym, a writer known for characterization and sketches of village life. Of course Pym’s books are comedies of manners and Meredith’s are murder mysteries, but good characters and good stories are what make any genre work.

The Rocky Bluff PD books are police procedurals given depth by attention to how the officers’ personal lives are affected by their work. Over the course of the series, there are deaths, divorces, and weddings. Friendships are made then, in the next book, frayed. Each book is a stand-alone, and they needn’t be read in order, although I know many mystery fans insist on doing that. It may be a bit better to do that, but I haven’t and I’ve enjoyed the three I have read thus far. –Michael Ornduff, author of the Pot Thief mysteries

1 reply
  1. Donna Fletcher Crow
    Donna Fletcher Crow says:

    Marilyn, This was my first opportunity actually to read your work, rather than just reading about it. What a great way to hook your readers! Thanks for sharing.

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