Excerpt from Death by Malice

Prologue 

Sandy Sloan knocked on my door. She waited several minutes before waving at the security camera. She knew it took me a long time to walk to the front door and check the security monitors. I had a bad leg that acted up from time to time and slowed me down. 

Finally, I opened the door. “Hello, Sandy. What’s cookin’?” I asked, looking down curiously at Sandy’s mutt, Georgie. 

“Josiah, I have a favor to ask. My mother has taken ill, and my husband is working very long hours. Can you take care of Georgie for a few days? Please. I’m in a real bind here.” 

I gave Sandy a long stare before I said yes, as Sandy’s mother had died several years before. I know this for a fact since I had attended her funeral. What would cause Sandy to tell such a lie? 

Wondering if I should call Toby, her husband, I asked, “Sure. I’ll help, Sandy. Where ya going again?” 

“That’s great you’ll take in Georgie,” answered Sandy, ignoring my question. She handed me Georgie’s 

leash with the dog attached to the other end and a bag. “Here’s all her stuff–her bed, toys, and food bowl. Can you spot me some of Baby’s food until I get back?” 

I started to say something. 

“Great. Thanks a lot,” interrupted Sandy, kissing Georgie goodbye before hopping into her van. 

Georgie and I watched forlornly while the disappearing vehicle rushed down the driveway, spraying gravel onto newly-mowed grass. 

Georgie started to whimper. 

I picked her up clumsily because Georgie was heavier than she looked. “Don’t worry, Georgie. I’ll take good care of you until Sandy comes back. You’ll have fun while she’s gone. You’ll see.” 

Little did Georgie and I know that Sandy Sloan would soon become a missing person. 

1

Sandy Sloan waited patiently in line until it was her turn for the bank teller. “I would like to close my account, please,” she stated softly. 

“Yes, Mrs. Sloan,” replied the bank teller, looking at his computer. “You said you wanted to close your joint account?” 

“Yes.” 

“Would you like that amount in the form of a cash- ier’s check or shall we transfer it to another bank?” 

“Cash please.” 

The bank teller tore his eyes from the computer to Mrs. Sloan’s blotchy face. It was evident she had been crying. “Are you sure, Mrs. Sloan? That’s a lot of cash to be carrying around.” 

“I’m sure. I want my money and I want it in cash. Please.” 

“Just one moment.” The bank teller left his post and hurried over to the bank manager. He leaned down and whispered to the manager, who swiveled his head 

and looked in alarm at Mrs. Sloan.
Mrs. Sloan stared back.
Since the bank manager and Mrs. Sloan worshipped 

at the same church, he thought he could be a little more familiar than usual. He walked over. “Sandy, Tom tells me you want to close your account for cash. Is that right?” 

“Yes. Is there problem?” 

“Not really, but we don’t advise people to carry such large amounts from the bank. They could be robbed.” 

“Do you have the money in the bank or not?”
“Yes. We can cover it.”
“Then I want my money now. In cash.”
The bank manager went to the front door and 

looked out into the parking lot. There were no other cars, but Sandy’s. He quickly left the bank and went over to her navy minivan, checking the inside. No one was in it. Scratching his head, the bank manager wondered if someone was forcing her to take the money out like he had seen on TV crime programs. He went back inside and questioned Sandy. “Is something wrong, Sandy? Is someone forcing you to cash in your account?” 

“No. I just want my money. Is there a law against closing out my account and getting my money in cash?” 

“No, ma’am.”
“I want my money. Now. Today.” 

Knowing he had no choice, the bank manager nod- ded to Tom. “Give Mrs. Sloan what she wants.” He tugged at his shirt collar. “I hope you know what you’re doing. You could tell me if something is wrong.” 

Sandy flashed the bank manager a brilliant smile. “Nothing is wrong, but thanks for looking out for me. I won’t forget it. Really, I won’t.” 

The bank manager left Sandy standing at Tom’s station while the teller closed out the account. He just couldn’t shake the feeling that something about this was not right. Not right at all.

2

Sandy scattered bills throughout the living room. The total she had taken from the bank was thirty- two thousand dollars. 

Content, Sandy surveyed the money thrown helter-skelter on the furniture and the hardwood floor. Locking the front door, she strained to pick up the five-gallon gas can she had brought in from the barn. Carefully, she poured the gasoline around the room all the way to the kitchen. There’s no turning back now, she thought to herself. Standing inside the kitchen, Sandy struck a match and threw it into the living room. 

It died.
She struck another one and threw it.
It died too.
Determined, she struck one more match and placed 

it in the large kitchen matchbox. After a few seconds, the box became alive with fire. Smiling, Sandy threw it into the living room. 

FLASH! 

Tall flames danced about the living room floor and the furniture. Soon the entire room became engulfed in fire. 

Sandy emitted a maniacal laugh, dancing around in the kitchen doorframe, watching the money and the living room burn. 

She even laughed when the fire licked her toes.