Savage Rising

A Backwoods Justice Novel

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The diminutive but tenacious Deputy Dani Savage teams up with a pair of eccentric outsiders in this tale of moonshine and murder—a rollicking thriller of the Appalachian backwoods, for fans of Justified.

Still trying to prove to the good folks of Baptist Flats, Tennessee, that a woman who’s five-foot-nothing has the mettle to wear a badge, Dani is called in to investigate the death of a man found in a horse’s stall with his pants around his ankles. At first it appears to be a simple accident, but things turn complicated when the victim’s only ID belongs to an ATF agent. A female ATF agent. A missing female ATF agent.

To make matters worse, a mystery man named Jack Spivey has come to town, asking questions about the ATF agent’s disappearance and promising a world of pain when he doesn’t like the answers. Then an Amazonian ex-Marine joins in, and Dani has no choice but to team up with these shadowy strangers. As they follow a twisted trail of clues into the mountains, they uncover a chilling conspiracy—and a common enemy who’s trained to kill.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Savage Rising

Chapter 1

The caved-in part of Parnell Carson’s skull was in the shape of a horse’s hoof. He was about as dead as you’d expect a man would be with that kind of defect in his head. Deputy Dani Savage stood at the back of the stall and settled in to the summer-baked odor of blood, sweat, and horse shit. Her slight frame barely made a depression in the thick layer of hay that covered the ground. If not for the heft of her boots, there’d be no evidence at all she had even been there once she concluded her investigation and vacated the premises.

It wasn’t often she regretted being first on the scene. She was the most ambitious lawman—female or otherwise—in the state of Tennessee and quite possibly the entire Southeast. But on this occasion, being the first to arrive gave her pause on her choice of career. More unsettling than the condition of Carson’s skull was the fact that his pants were around his ankles and the rather unimpressive erection he’d died with was still reaching for the rafters.

Sam Walker, owner of the barn, had discovered Carson at daybreak. When the pig farmer first arrived that morning, Cherry Pie, the red grade horse now roaming the pasture, paid little attention to the lifeless body she had created. The fat mare simply chewed away on a mouthful of crimson-colored hay, most likely catching a sizable buzz from the alcohol content of the blood seeping out of the dead man’s mouth and ears.

“He’s dead,” Walker said, stating the obvious. The farmer had sweated through his overworn Charlie Daniels T-shirt and was giving off a stench that was in an odoriferous brawl with every other stink in the barn.

“I was leaning toward that conclusion myself,” Dani said. She attempted to save herself from the swirling offending odors by placing a cupped hand over her nose.

“Told him this would happen. A half-dozen times, I told him. Maybe more.”

“Parnell frequented your barn, did he?”

“At least three times a week. He must’ve put it to my stock a hundred times over the last year or so.”

“Put it to?”

Walker blushed and nervously stepped back. He wanted to turn and run from what he’d just said. “That’s the mixed company way of saying he f***ed my animals.” He blushed even more. “I only unmixed it because you’re the law. I apologize to your feminine side.” He attempted a smile, but it came across as a pleading grimace.

“Don’t tell the missus I cussed in front of you. She’s got her particulars when it comes to foul language and the like in front of a lady like yourself.”

“I ain’t no lady, Sam.” She pointed to Carson’s crotch. “And there ain’t nothing more foul than the torqued-up condition of Parnell’s diminutive penis.” She smiled at Walker. “That’s my mixed company way of saying he’s got a little bitty hard-on.” She stepped closer to the body and examined the point of impact above the ear. “Why didn’t you ever report him for trespassing?”

Walker shrugged. “Didn’t see the point. You said it yourself. His pecker’s pinky-sized. He wasn’t doing no real harm to the animals, and truth be told, I thought it was a problem that would eventually self-correct.” He spat chaw-infused saliva onto the hay-covered ground and then with a brown-stained, toothy grin said, “And self-correct it did.”

Dani turned to him. “It did do that. Still, you could have saved ol’ Parnell from such an embarrassing fate if you’d just reported him for trespassing.”

“Then he’d be alive and embarrassed. Least now he’s a dead deviant that ain’t aware his perversion’s been found out far and wide.”

“Far and wide?”

Walker hesitated before saying, “I put out a tweet-photograph from my phone before I called the 911 line.” He let out an unintentional snicker.

“Well, goddamn, Sam, what the hell?”

Walker, puzzled by the deputy’s indignation, said, “It ain’t every day you find a pervert with a kicked-in head in your barn. His man-pole stretching out like that. The fella’s still got a smile on his face. That’s a picture tailor-made for them w-w-w-dot folks. You can make money off a thing like that. Somehow. I ain’t exactly sure on that step in the process. The getting paid part.”

“You could have at least let us come in and do an investigation before you let the world know Parnell fancied equestrian relations.”

“What the hell’s equestrian relations?”

“He liked f***ing horses.”

“Oh.” Walker worked the mucus out of his throat with a hawk and a snort before spitting it across the stall. “Not to get technical on you, but he preferred pork relations.”

“Pork relations?”

Walker scratched away on his red, scaly jawline. “He liked f***ing pigs. He normally passed ol’ Cherry’s stall without a hitch in his step on his way to the pigs out back, but something about that red mare caught his interest last night. She was extra sexy to him or something. He made an unfortunate decision, is what he did.”

Dani rolled her eyes. “ ‘Unfortunate’ is the word for it, Sam. Every disgusting detail is more unfortunate than the last.”

“I ain’t told you the worst part.”

“It gets worse?”

He nodded. “It does. Got a batch of piglets that I swear to the good Lord above has got Carson’s eyes. Spooky as Halloween when those things stare you down.”

Deputy Terry Randle approached the stall, deeply distressed over the sun’s decision to rise. The liquor he’d consumed just four hours earlier was still drowning his liver, and his head was giving in after a long battle with a migraine. But, his state of despair nearly vanished in an instant when he saw Parnell Carson with his pecker out and his skull caved in. He eyed the scene for a beat before he said, “There’s a sight that’ll sober you up quick as shit.”

“He’s dead,” Walker said.

“Dead and funny as f***,” Randle said with a laugh. His migraine pounded at the back of his eyes, but he shook it off. “He ain’t got but a nub for a dick.”

Dani backed away from the body and turned to Randle. “You look like shit.”

“Well, thank the Christ for letting me know, little deputy. I was afraid you’d go the day without commenting on my appearance.”

Dani chuckled. “Since when did you get so sensitive?”

“Since I got called in two hours before my shift to work a horse-f***er case.”

“And you know it’s a horse-f***er case because . . . ?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you just got here, and all you seen is a body. Could be any number of reasons Parnell’s found himself deceased in Sam’s barn.”

“It’s a dead cracker in a horse stall with his snow-white, pimple-covered ass hanging out. Simple redneck math, Dani. Plus, I follow Sam on Twitter.”

Dani grunted in frustration. “Sam, take that damn tweet down before Parnell’s family sees it.”

“Ain’t no use,” Randle said. “Thing’s been retweeted from here to Timbuktu. Parnell’s own cousin added ‘hashtag mydumbasscousin’ to the tweet.”

Dani sighed. “Well, at least the awkward’s been taken out of notifying the family.”

“Most ways.”

“What do you mean ‘most ways’?” Dani asked.

“Ain’t no daddy to notify, far as I know. Caught a break there,” Randle said. “But, his momma and her folks most likely ain’t caught wind of it yet. Them people are way off the grid. The only tweets they know come with feathers and bird shit. I ain’t sure they even got a phone. That family’s a mess. They feud about nothing. Most the time, they ain’t on speaking terms with one another. They’s on shooting-the-shit-out-of-each-other terms.”

Dani pointed toward Carson. “I’ll give you a choice. You can process Parnell’s personal items and fill out the paperwork, including Sam’s statement, or you can notify his momma her boy died romancing a horse.”

“Sam’s statement?” Randle eyed the pig farmer. “You got a statement on this, Sam?”

Sam shrugged. “Yeah. I suppose. Parnell tried to f*** my horse. Got kicked in the head by my horse. Got kilt by my horse. That there’s the beginning, middle, and end of it.”

Randle smiled and shuffled toward the body. “I’ll collect horse f***er’s personals. You can break his momma’s heart.” The hungover deputy squatted next to Parnell’s feet and started rummaging through his pockets. “I’m sure Parnell Carson ain’t got but shit for personals . . .”

Dani was headed out of the stall when a “holy f***” rolled off Randle’s hungover tongue.

Dani turned in his direction. “What?”

Randle held up a leather ID holder and let it drop open, revealing credentials for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “What the f*** is Parnell Carson doing with an ATF ID?”

- About the author -

C. Hoyt Caldwell is the author of Savage Reckoning and Bad Way Out. Simultaneously proud of and puzzled by his Southern roots, he isn’t smart enough to be subtle so his work tends to be tasteless and gritty. He’s not out to offend anyone, but he’s also not out to win anyone over, either. His stories are full of sex, violence, humor, and heart.

More from C. Hoyt Caldwell

Savage Rising

A Backwoods Justice Novel

Savage Rising

— Published by Alibi —