Chocolate, Chimpanzees & a Court Reporter at Chute Pond

by Linda Phillips

Chocolate, Chimpanzees & a Court Reporter at Chute Pond by Linda Phillips

“It’s a funny thing.” These are words that haunt Brucie Clark. She’s being stalked by a murderer, and is stuck with an arrogant, way too serious Office of Law Enforcement agent who is assigned to protect her life and help solve the case he’d pushed aside.

A continuation of the novel, Marry Christmas, welcomes back the gang, plus new faces. Chute Pond, Wisconsin, and the trail Brucie takes to hide from the killer, are real places.


KindleNookAppleKoboGoogle PlaySmashwordsPrint

Release Date: November 21, 2023
Genre: Cozy Mystery Romance

~ A White Satin Romance ~


Chapter One

“It’s a funny thing.” Words found in a transcript that sit on a kitchen table in the darkness of an empty room. Two pages of the transcript were wrinkled, as though they were read over and over. Grim. Sorrowful words.

One of the wrinkled pages had the words, “We pray for love; then we curse love.”

The second wrinkled page near the end of the transcript had the words: ‘It’s a funny thing. Your life can change within seconds. You wake up one day and walk outside to the bluest sky you ever saw. Colorful butterflies floating in the air lifting your spirits. Clash! Thunder crashes to the ground and lightning strikes feet away. Life is like walking up to a fuzzy puppy, adding more sunshine and endless kisses. But then you walk next to a pile of leaves and STRIKE, a rattlesnake jumps out of it and bites you. Pain. Your life changes in that one lousy second. Rattlesnake bites. Not your fault. That’s what life is really like.’


* * *


On her daily run, Brucie jolted to a complete stop. “What is that sound?” she whispered. It sounds like something being dragged. That smell. What is it? I think it’s from a cigar. She turned her head back and forth, searching, but it was barely dusk, causing thoughts of her mom telling her to run during daylight hours stinging her conscience. Just as she took off running, the loud cracking of a stick in the forest stopped her once again. Except this time there was a feeling. Goosebumps prickled up and down her body. Instead of running, she took off in a fast walk. Heart racing. Fingers beginning to tremble.

Then she saw a man standing in the shadows, resting his arm on a shotgun.

“Hhhh,” she sighed. “You scared me,” she said, patting her heart. “Guess you’re out hunting. Ca…catch anything?”

Light filtering the sky made it easier now for her to see a man lying down on the ground, wearing a blue, multi-colored flannel shirt. “Looks like your friend is taking a nap,” she said. She couldn’t see the standing man’s eyes, but there was an unfriendly vibe radiating around him. He was big and wore a vest outlined in fur.


* * *


“Well, I need to get ready for work. Have a great day.” She took off running and she heard him make a gruff sound from his throat. Feeling his eyes on her, she glanced back to see he was still watching her, standing motionless. If there was ever a time to run faster than before, now was it. The way he stared at her creeped her out and she felt instant fear.

So he would not follow her to her cabin, she shot across the wooded landscape and ran to the back of her home. It sat on the shoreline of Chute Pond with a view of natural beauty and serenity. With trembling fingers, she unlocked the back door and closed it quietly behind her, then relocked it. She leaned against it until her shaking legs would move once again. Her breaths were heavy, but now balanced as she calmed down.

Brucie ran to the front window and peeked out very slowly, her gaze sweeping the area. “He didn’t follow me.” She blew out a Woosh sound and ran for the shower.

The man, dragging his kill, whom she thought was a friend of his napping, walked through the forest to the shoreline of Chute Pond, close to Brucie’s cabin.

When Brucie finished showering and was dressed, she tore into the kitchen, grabbed the transcript sitting on the table and stuffed it in a briefcase, but then she pulled it back out and shuffled through it to find the two wrinkled pages. She read, while remembering the witness during the court deposition she worked on months ago, staring into her eyes while she typed—the woman speaking directly to her. You think your life is stable. Really good. In an instant, it becomes bad. Unstable. It wasn’t even your fault. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing you could have done about it and nothing you did to deserve the outcome.

“It’s a funny thing; isn’t it? The woman’s eyes, Brucie recalled, were lifeless. Hopeless. Tragic. Completely unfair.

Why can’t I strike these words from my mind, like they strike testimony from the record? She stuffed it in the briefcase, collected the coffee mug and work supplies, then walked outside to the bluest sky you ever saw, butterflies flitting from flower to flower.

* * *

The trial began with an intensity in the air. Never had there been a murder in this small, rural area of Wisconsin. As spectators waited in the hallway to get into the courtroom, two very burly men walked through the middle of them. The heavy stomp of each footstep intimidated the people. The rudeness of these men was uncommon in these quiet, friendly towns.

With sneers, the men literally used their upper shoulders to push through the crowd of people. The officer at the doors halted their entrance. Like the officer was light as a feather, the bigger of the two shook his head, eyes glaring, and with both hands pushed him out of the way.

Feeling somewhat embarrassed, with steam invisibly coming out of his head, the officer addressed their rudeness, but the bailiff yelled out to him that spectators were allowed in now. Officer Carter looked them over and pushed his top lip upward, then turned around and invited the rest of the spectators inside.

A courtroom packed with enthusiastic spectators waited impatiently for the trial to begin, as though they were part of an episode of some weekly crime television program. They chattered endlessly.

There was a mixture of reasons people in the area attended the trial. For some, nothing better to do; for others, a fear of crime in the neighborhood and they wanted to see justice prevail. And then there were those crime busters using it as a form of entertainment.

After all the opening statements and preliminaries, the first witness was called to the stand.

Brucie Clark sat at her station, ready to begin court reporting the testimonies during the deposition.

Conversations and speculation between spectators grew annoyingly loud. Finally, the judge pounded his gavel for complete silence. Then Judge Sloan warned the spectators to keep quiet or they would be escorted out of the courtroom, and testimony began.

MS. PENDLETON: “Please state your name for the record.”


WITNESS 1: “****** *******”


COURT REPORTER: “Your Honor, a moment, please. Did he say his name was Mickey Mouse or Mmmm Mmmm? It sort of sounded that way.”

Brucie mushed her words together and held her hands up looking at the judge.

THE COURT: “No. He said his name is Donald Duck. Couldn’t you understand that?” He produced a one-sided grin at Brucie, then looked at the witness. “Sir, please open your mouth as you speak, and speak clearly and very slowly. Actually, spell your first and last name...very slowly.”

The mouth puckered tightly as the witness snarled.

WITNESS 1: “H-a-f-s-a V-a-k-i-l-o-v.”

The judge cocked his head and whispered to Brucie. “That doesn’t sound at all like Mickey Mouse.”

Brucie chuckled under her breath. Her court reporting teacher would have scolded her for laughing, she couldn’t help but think.

MS. PENDLETON “What country are you from, sir?”


WITNESS 1: “Azarbaijan.”

Judge Sloan and Brucie stared at each other.

The defense attorney noticed and walked up, then handed them both the witness’s personal information.

THE COURT: “Ms. Pendleton, do you happen to know where it is located?”


MS. PENDLETON: “Your Honor, he says—from the best I can understand—the boundary of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.” She typed something into her phone and held it up for him to see.


THE COURT: “Thank you, Ms. Pendleton. Now, please proceed and make certain he speaks very slowly.”


MS. PENDLETON: “Yes, Your Honor. Now, Mr. Vakilov, what is your connection to the defendant, Mr. Azar Rzayev? Sorry if I mispronounce either of your names.”


WITNESS 1: “We are cousins.”


MS. PENDLETON: “What brings you to the United States, particularly Chute Pond, Wisconsin?”


WITNESS 1: “Work.”


MS. PENDLETON: “What type of work do you do, sir?”


WITNESS 1: “Ranch work.”


MS. PENDLETON: “What type of livestock do you care for?”


WITNESS 1: “Livestock?”


MS. PENDLETON: “Animals. Cows, horses, pigs?”


WITNESS 1: “Yeah.”


MS. PENDLETON: “Yeah, what? Cows, horses or pigs?”


WITNESS 1: “Yeah.”

She shook her head.

MS. PENDLETON: “Let’s try this: Do you care for animals on this ranch? Sorry to say, but I have never heard of any ranch on Chute Pond.”


WITNESS 1: “Yeah, animals.”

She shook her head again.

MR. SCHULTZ: “Your Honor, I would be happy to get to the bottom of this quickly, if you would like,” Prosecuting attorney, Richard Shultz offered as he pushed himself up from the chair.


MS. PENDLETON: “Objection! It’s not my fault the witness doesn’t understand our language. Have some patience.”

Her glare didn’t intimidate Mr. Schultz.

THE COURT: “Ms. Pendleton, please have Donald Duck get to the point. I’m getting rather impatient myself.”

Brucie and the audience chuckled.


↑ Return to Top ↑